SRC- 3 Boone, page 1
G: This is Susan Glisson and I=m here in Atlanta, Georgia with John Boone. It is July 1, 2002. Thank
you very much for your time Mr. Boone, I look forward to chatting with you about the Southern
B: Thank you for inviting me. This is a great opportunity because except for the organizations and the
people that worked with me in the Civil rights movement, the Southern Regional Council was the
best. They reenforced the work we tried to do. I unwittingly fell into the Southern Regional Council
and I think it=s a pretty good place to start with because it=s what I=m worried about. I=m
worried about the overzealousness of the top people in the penal system who control for social
control, especially the overzealousness in their anxiety on what will happen if you open up give and
take between the races, a little bit over protective. What happened, I became the first Black thanks
to the G.I. Bill of Rights, I was enabled to go to Moorehouse College and to continue on to the
Atlanta University School of Social Work because of the G.I. Bill of Rights. I went into social work
and we had Mrs. Hortense Cochrane who was married to one of the most distinguished leaders
Atlanta has ever had Warren R. Cochrane. Mrs. Cochrane was the professor of case work and I
was a case worker, but in looking at the field of social work, I incorporate all the processes, who
put community tolerazation and case work. Those forces were what I saw badly needed in the
South, especially among Black people so I went into a discipline called psychiatric social work with
delinquents. I got a feel of work placement at the New York State Training School for Boys. Mrs.
Cochrane had opened up trainingships at this training school and they had several students on the
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school of social work there. I went there and worked there for my bac peal placement. Ironically I
met a young man who died last year, he wrote a classic, it=s still a classic, Carl Brown, Man Shot
in the Promise Land. We called them patients instead of inmates, he was a patient at Warrick and
he wasn=t on my case load, but some interesting things happened as a result of meeting him. To
make a long story short, when I came back to Atlanta, Mrs. Cochrane had began politically to ask
why is it that you don=t have any Black corrections officers at the Atlanta federal prison. To make
a long story short, they employ me and a man named Henry C. Johnson as the first Blacks, and
this was in 1951. We had to go to war, I almost died in the Phillippines and come back home
before I forget... and get ajob in prisons. I=ve been always worried about prisons because I was
born in Cedar Town, Georgia. I was a toddler in Atlanta, my grandfather was AME minister so he
didn't get along with the bishops because he didn't like the way the money was handled. He
didn't cooperate enough to get adequate things, so he became sort of like a surrogate priest.
They sent him to Cedar Town to pastor, and that's when my daddy met my mother. Ironic
because my daddy was a hard-chair Baptist and my mother was an AME. He was bold enough to
take my mother to church, and this tells you a little bit about Black people and their attitudes. One
Sunday, and that Sunday was communion Sunday, and they came to my mother and they pass
over the communion to her and pass to my dad, and my dad quit the church then and joined the
AME church. So he was a rebel. Anyway, my dad was a fine... he didn't say much, but he
worried about conditions. Gene Talmadge was running for office for governor again, and my dad
was bold enough to take... I was born near Deposavich, near the City Hall, Tagers City Hall to
hear Eugene Talmadge speak. Gene telling me, speaking about what a Black man was worth and
what a White man was worth. He said a White man was not worth but $5 a week and a Black man
was $1. My dad, he just squeezing my hand. A few Blacks were there, he listened. What
SRC- 3 Boone, page 3
happened is we had playmates, we used to rock barrel with White boys of our own economic
class, we lived near the factory. One day these boys said Mrs. Boone, can John and Joe B my
brother they called him pick-a-din-peep Joe Boone B can John and Joe go to pick berries with us
today? Mom said no, you aren=t going today, you aren=t going with those bad boys today. Lo
and behold they went and about one o=clock that night they were lynched. We just by the snap of
a finger missed getting lynched. Frank Jones went and took his son, pulled him out, and I met an
old lady who saw them fight and they fought like cats, and say they finally hit the life, one them
that was killed was fourteen, hit him and we found him and I never shall forget. William
Hector=s father was real mad. We used to have a waitress in the houses, I=ve never shall forget
his little gray casket in the sort of pseudo-middle class area seen it happen. His cousins lived
right behind us, a sort of little white coffee stand, said never shall forget. But I never shall forget
that incident. That=s just a part of the southern scene, but we moved back and forth to Atlanta and
of course in Atlanta my daddy had to move around to work and he went to West Palm Beach,
Florida and he talked about so-called geeches and while hurricanes going on, they would be
looting West Palm Beach. It was interesting, my dad, I never shall forget, he came home and
bought me a pocket watch and an ABC thing, it was quite a treat. A little nostalgic. But my mother
was very attractive, very fair, and there were a little innuendos even in Cedar Town there. We
survived and we survived. We were anointed as middle class Blacks because my grandfather was
a pastor and I was born near Deposavich and all of that. I=m spending too much time on this, I
don=t waste the whole time on this, but it tells you about us. I was invited to, picked to teach at
the school of social work, and in that meeting Mrs. Cochrane said Mr. Boone, what do you do at
the federal prison? And I told them what I did. At that time, it shocked me. She said you all help
people just in prison. It was my first time questioning prison. We were doing that. We helped all
SRC- 3 Boone, page 4
kinds of prisoners but just in prison. I started questioning the philosophy of imprisonment at that
time. I finally finished and I got a job at the federal prison, that's when she had me to interview. I
was fortunate, I moved on up the ladder and I had a masters degree. The warden had an eighth
grade education. We had sort of a pact with Black men, and White men too because at that time it
was a farming year and you couldn't get much money making grits and meal, so they made corn
liquor. So a lot of me ended up Black and White in prison and of course I had a lot of poor Black
and White people in Atlanta Federal Prison. I had learned group therapy in the army and I started
doing group therapy in prison. At that time, prison was segregated. Dr. Beamus who was a
psychoanalyst decided he wanted to leave prison. They said Dr. Beamus, who=s going to be our
group therapist? They said we want Mr. Boone, but the group was full White men. Finally, they
came and asked me to be their group therapist. I told them I don=t know anything about group
therapy and all that. So they brought a book and put it on my desk. I started doing group therapy
and I did it on my own time for three years, three times a week. They asked the warden, Mr.
Boone is doing group therapy, can he get time off from that? Tell Mr. Boone if he can=t do it under
the present circumstances, to turn it over to Dr. Brown, a psychologist. They didn't want Dr.
Brown. So I started doing group therapy. I learned a lot from those prisoners. Finally, we began
integrating the group. I just became famous talking about prisons, especially federal prisons. If
you get a chance and go out into Atlanta, our church, the movement church is on the corner of
Brauly and Parson Street. There=s a monument there about our work in the civil rights
movement. We had all of them, John Lewis, Julian Bond, Lorna King, all of the civil rights people.
They put them off of ITC, Internomaly Center. They didn't like it because they had a tent there.
We=d been to tent city and so the preachers put them off. I happened to be chairman of the
board of trustees at the United Church of Christ and that's how me and Connie became
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acquainted because the United Church of Christ had a media program, we literally integrated the
media. They came Mr. Boone, said we just wanted to have a tent. Can we move up to your
church? That=s closer to the university than they=d been. I polled the trustees, I didn't have a
meeting, I polled the trustees and they gave me the green light. So we had them move, they
moved right next door. But it got funny because we had some racist Blacks there too. So when
they got there, my brother took a guy in church who was Episcopalian, he wanted to join the church
so he could minister to hippies out in Peace Tree, just for his own reasons, but those guys
having a honky to join this church, so we had to struggle with them. We finally said, we don=t
have honkies in this church, we have people in this church. We got integrated and everything.
Very interesting history. I=m sorry my brother didn't work for Southern Regional Council, but he
would be interesting to interview.
G: Tell me how did you come to know about the Southern Regional Council and how did you come to
work with them?
B: That=s what I started out in. The book I=m going to leave with you, did I give it to you yet?
G: Is that it?
B: Yes. Look at the chapter under John Boone and you can see Attorney General Saxby, when he
killed the bill, the best rule... I don=t know, look at Boone on page 235 1 think. Anyway, they came
and what happened was Vernon Jordan is my cousin. Vernon is one of the top people who was
called into that Southern Regional Council. I went to Terre Haute, Indiana to implement and work
hard for six months trying to get jobs in the community. We had a federal bill, and you=ll read
about it in that chapter, we implemented it to that. I was getting ready to start so we had a press
conference, me and Merlin the director of the federal bureau of prisons. We had a press
SRC- 3 Boone, page 6
conference and we were going to do all these things to help change the prison system. We were
going to send men into town to help fret over their family, they can bring the children there and all
that, they can go to school in the community and everything. I announced that I was going to
implement it. J. Edgar Hoover got in his plane and came all the way to Terre Haute, Indiana and
he told Merlin Gunn, he=s just the director of the federal bureau of investigations, but Merlin was
director of the federal bureau of prisons. They=re counterparts, he said. He can do this only on
my dead body, he=ll never do this. So I resigned bamjust like that. And knew John
Boone resigns So Vernon called me and said John, the Ford Foundation just gave us a
grant to develop southern jails and prisons. That=s when I met Miss Aims and all that, and I went
all over the South. I have some material 1=11 send to you about the people I pulled together. We
depopulated... We worked with segregated prisons all over the south. Women wanted to... asked
let us paint the jails, let us help. We went into one, into Traper prison, I was sure somebody was
dead in that prison. They had some elderly men, and Lee v. James and he had a suit, I think
Cutter was involved in this too. They were in the... elderly men in the balcony, this was a prison
for youth, and I testified before Judge Johnson, it was the only testimony that Chuck Morgan was
with ACLU at that time and Chuck Morgan, we were fortunate enough to go to Washington to the
Supreme Court hearing and Thurgood Marshall, that was the first time he sat in the Supreme
Court. He had refused to sit because he was involved in so many cases, but he sat on that case, I
never shall forget the Supreme Court judge of Mississippi asked him what do you all do when a
Black man and a White man get drunk on a Saturday night at the same time and you have a one
jail caboose, who gets to jail? Him. That suit resulted in segregation of all the jails in the South
and it=s in the book.
G: So, were you=re going around trying to desegregate, get folks to desegregate the jails?
SRC- 3 Boone, page 7
B: I was getting them to do everything. Incidentally, what happened and this is it, I quit in Terre Haute
and Alexander was trying to get me to go Lorden, that's the first Black superintendent, but I was
here because of this thing. Anyway, I eventually went, but I got a job in the Southern Regional
G: What year was that?
B: This was in 1965. I taught him, there was a brilliant young man, Bill Farmer, he=s dead now,
Connie knows him. Bill Farmer was a brilliant, he was an Episcopalian minister and he got on
drugs and was writing checks and everything. He got in Terre Haute and he was the associate
wardens secretary, he decided he wanted to be my... he became my secretary at Terre Haute.
When I resigned from Terre Haute, I talked Merlin Alexander into paroling Farmer to come with
me to the Southern Regional Council. Bill Farmer, didn't tell you about him, he needs to be
written about anyway. When he got... I made him deputy director of the Python jail and he did a
magnificent job. Lo and behold, when he mentioned and decided to go, we called him first Black
superintendent of Lorden prison for men in the District of Columbia. He and a lot of other people
followed me to work with me in D.C., only Black prison in D.C.
G: What was the climate like at the SRC when you came there in 1965?
B: It was great. It was ongoing. There were some silent kind of feelings.
G: Like what?
B: Some of the people I admired were not like not like Radical Gill. I won=t call his name because I
used to read him, not Radical Gill, the guy that Bill Farmer told me, he said John, he happened to
marry a young lady, but he said John, you know whatchamacallit don=t like you. He felt I was a
little too militant and my brother was militant But he doesn't like you. I didn't
the pig, I still went along with it. But there were two different opinions. The philosophical
SRC- 3 Boone, page 8
difference in whatever they knew sound meant. If you get this, I=m going to try to find that
menace. Monohan and this guy, I almost called his name, wrote for a national magazine,
labeled us as cherries because we were trying to get Black and White people to work together. I
didn't like that. It almost changed the philosophy of the Southern Regional Council. That was a
G: Tell me about the two different opinions in the Southern Regional Council, what were the two
B: The New South... I think it was a funny interpretation of what integration meant. It was not
wholeheartedly assimilating, sort of half stepping or something by song. By and large, I find on the
board to be great people, but they were equivocating in some instances. I like to feel that our
attitude was a little extreme.
G: How did they respond to those that some might have viewed as militant? How did the SRC
respond to the questions that you all posed?
B: They were prudent.
G: In what ways?
B: They were prudent in that you didn't have outspoken disagreement with whatever their concept of
integration was. When we boycotted, when they tell you about that boycott, and incidentally a lot of
Whites joined us in this boycott, that issue was just that issue and I can=t... I guess I just don=t
want to believe that there was that underlying kind of feeling there that it wasn=t exactly coming
together. Incidentally, the guy from Alabama was most border stiff of courage. He had a special
project. There were a few others who were a little ambivalent about wholeheartedly embracing
Blacks. I won=t beat Tony because I still love him. He never did... I tell you one thing, we=d go to
eat together after he was testing us, we used to go to eat and we would buy Chinese. He was
SRC- 3 Boone, page 9
saying one day I was almost fell out of my chair, he started singing a song saying nigger, nigger,
nigger or something like that.
G: Who was this?
B: Pat Watters. And that was a shock because Pat was the most astute writer and he was close to a
lot of... he and some, he and I believe wrote that piece with him, it was very good, it was about
lynching, I don=t know who it was but he has New South, he was good. Anyway, there were some
kind of underlying innuendos there. That didn't destroy the relationship, I=m still thinking we
could've worked it out. What devastated me was to see Monohan and I later on went to my
institution Berrywick, and Monohan and this guy Hugo and labeled us terrorist. I tell
you what, I broke a direct order. Don Jones was a Jewish from Miami, Florida. Don Jones sent
us to Mississippi because at that time in Mississippi, a deputy sheriff named Gutport=s daughter
had got... they just integrated the school there, and that was our task. This was when Camille hit,
you probably weren=t born, Camille hit that area and at that time there was discrimination in the
rewards that you got for your house and so we tried to mediate that kind of stuff. The sheriffs
daughter was fighting and this Black girl pulled her hair by the roots. We went up there to mediate
this dispute, and those kids White and Black kids would come and say Mr. Boone, our boy is
winning the football games and said every time that we had a game we can't go out there, those
White girls go out there and they're kissing players and all that, we can=t do that. Our job, mine
and Maury=s job was to talk them into mediation and everything. We did a pretty good job. That
was our task, to build bridges between the races, wherever we went. We did it well in Mississippi,
well in Alabama. We did these things. Why the direct order I violated, Don Jones told us by no
means, you don't go to New Orleans. But the guy, the president of the NAACP said you all got to
SRC- 3 Boone, page 10
come down here, there=s a shot in a garage. I said well get down there, I assure you. Me and
Marge, she was White and I was Black, went to Louisiana and I put my fingers into it, machine gun
where they=d shot into the garage, into the door. What you had, you had Black militants. They
had a meeting every Thursday and I walked into that meeting I said something=s going on here
because the church was packed with people. Lo and behold what was happening is this, these
Black, and some of them they moved to Atlanta and all that, they were activists and they were
probably terrorists. They would call all the people in the Black community, I saw a handful of
Whites there, church would be packed. What are these people doing here on Thursday? They=re
sitting there calling Miss Jones, are you coming to the meeting tonight? And said no, I can=t
come tonight. Said if you=re not coming, you better go, you better leave the house. Ninety-nine
houses were burned and I=m convinced that I put it right there, I put it in my report. I=m going to
tell you something about the report too that I didn't like about community relations I
became, put it in my report that they said you better leave home. Ninety-nine churches and
houses in the Black community burned, and Black folks were burning them, these Black activists
were burning these churches.
G: Who were they? Do you know who they were?
B: I know exactly who they were, some of them moved here, and I=m reluctant to call their name
because they were activists.
G: Were they part of an organization?
B: Yeah, they had their organization whatever it was. The NAACP, when I saw him, we walked in the
community, we saw him and it was a middle class community, someone in the middle class, and
this guy had a store that T. Eldest was putting Black against Black, bourgeois against... And so
when I walk in there he had a rifle on his shoulder a pistol on his arm guarding his community
SRC- 3 Boone, page 11
because they were invading his community and all that. We weren=t supposed to go there. Hard
to say now, but we went to see the White police, White FBI agents, they didn't want to deal with
us. They didn't want to deal with us at all. Same thing, J. Edgar Hoover, J. Edgar Hoover did not
want to tolerate what I was talking about doing in Terre Haute, Indiana. The same thing I see, I=m
afraid I feel something going on about the attitude toward Black sectarianism right now and we
are careful we aren=t going to end up with some funny stuff. That=s for the record. We got to be
careful because Black people love America and they aren=t about to go nowhere. We live in
America and if we can get to them and I had a meeting, Black and White people are getting
together, and the potential is greatest in Atlanta, far better, and I always have believed that. I had
trouble in Washington D.C. because some of the Muslims, and some of my dear friends are
Muslims, I don=t down them as a group because I think they're trying to get themselves together
too. I was on the cutting edge of all of that kind of stuff.
G: You had a difficult role, though. You had Whites, some of whom thought that you were too militant
on one hand, and then on the other hand you had Blacks who were so militant they were
threatening people with violence not the meetings.
B: That=s right.
G: So you have those who are saying you=re doing too much maybe, and some that are saying
you=re not doing enough.
B: In Massachusetts, I went to Massachusetts as the first Black commissioner. All of that is in that
book, that's mostly about Lorden, I have some other stuff. I have my case study, I=11 send that to
you. Harvard made it and Peter Goldbar, which the governor back here gave me two years. I
was terminated in the midst of political treaty in eighteen months, three weeks, and three hours. In
that three hours, I taught the governor how to find me. I said governor, what I want to do is I want
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to select a guy to replace me so I can keep this thing going. I said governor, all I want you to do is
to be sure the guy to replace me keep up the work that John and me were doing. Peter Goldbar,
he was a Harvard graduate, cum laude, governors decision has been made, he joined the other
crowd. So I got terminated right then and there, and we left. But you had Blacks in
Massachusetts who didn't like it because an outsider had been appointed as commissioner, or
corrections had, and they got mad because they didn't get the jobs and all that. I got the job in
the end, but I select the best man for the job so I was in the middle all the way. That=s what you
have, you=re interviewing an enigma this morning and I shall always be an enigma because I
believe that if were doing something wrong, we got to get it right or else were going to end up in
trouble in America.
G: Would you tell me more about the boycott? You mentioned that you and John Lewis organized a
boycott against SRC.
B: Oh yes. That boycott was supported by a lot of White people. Connie has to tell you whether or
not she did, I think she did. Me and John Lewis were sort of leaders, and all the Blacks, every one
of the Blacks, even Roo, Paul Atinis= administrative assistant... We admit Vernon probably
wouldn't have joined anyway, my cousin didn't join the boycott. We let him sit on the sidelines in
the back, I wish it were Vernon most likely would turn out to be the leader if this thing happened
right. So Vernon didn't participate in the boycott. We wouldn't let him participate. He didn't
want to participate anyway.
G: Would it have jeopardized his position to participate?
B: It would jeopardize his position. Vernon has always been sort of elitist and he=d sort of go on
along with the power structure wherever it was. It was a city to busy to hate, we know hate is ripe
in Atlanta. He was our leader in the NAACP, got a lot of memberships, my brother was too, he got
SRC- 3 Boone, page 13
a lot of [memberships], he was still an activist. Vernon and I worked together and all of that, but
Vernon was sort of like a moderate leader. He was sort of like the Jesse Hills and politically neat
and all of that. He would sort of be patient and wait until we could negotiate what you all are trying
to get at.
G: So you let him stay on the side lines.
B: He stayed on the sidelines.
G: And you and John organized it. What were you angry about? What was the issue or issues?
B: I wanted to get... Paul Atinis agreed. He wrote and in this piece I want to, I have the article he
wrote in another article, I=11 let you read that, maybe you could peep the whole card. He was
pleading for them to keep together and not separate.
G: For who? For VEP? For who to keep together?
B: For the Southern Regional Council. He saw us sort of separate. We were separate, but equal in a
way, equal in a sense of our objectives.
G: Blacks and Whites were separate within SRC?
B: Not exactly. It=s a philosophical issue. I=m sorry, I=11 look for that stuff. I will send you a copy.
Paul Atinis= essay, and he=s a good writer, he=s dead now. I=11 send that and you can read
B: And that would tell you, you can get at, and I=11 try to find the whole... I=m going to the archives,
incidentally, archives as all kind of work that me and Bill Farmer did there. Bill did most of it. I
was going to give you a copy of it. It=s 221 letters or essays or documents there.
G: At Atlanta University?
B: Atlanta University.
SRC- 3 Boone, page 14
B: In the archives. Tell Mrs. Treat, Helen Treat, that I told you to ask for the archives, the Southern
Regional Council archives.
G: So there was a difference of opinion in philosophy?
B: It was a philosophical difference in... I don=t know whether it was timing or what. That was it. You
G: What led to the boycott?
B: Yeah. We got it up and we decided it was a Black and White thing because 100 percent of the
Blacks, except we let Vernon go. I said we don=t be fools. Let=s say hey, Vernon may not be as
White as we think he is, so he can end up with his power, and it=s power because he had contact
with foundations and everything. He=s on boards, he=s on all kinds of boards. That was power
there. Vernon wasn=t a fool and we figured that Vernon would end up... and Vernon is responsible
for me coming to Southern Regional Council telling me do you want to take this grant? What get=s
me is, I=11 show you the memorandum where they declined to give it. The Ford Foundation of all
people declined to give us the grant because we were moving too fast, too organized.
G: They gave you some money and then they didn't want to give anymore?
B: They didn't restore grants to most of the organizations of the Southern Regional Council that year.
G: Do you remember what year that was?
B: It=s all in that book, I=11 give you that. But they did not do it. There was one study that I disagreed
with a little bit that Les was in and I=d like to feel that Les would have disagreed with the final
opinions because you had some more conservative Blacks on that. Classmate of mine, used to be
president of...Sam Cook of college, university in Louisiana, a community, kind of wishy-washy.
I=m sorry, I have all this stuff there. I believe somebody kind of let this pivotal report of the
SRC- 3 Boone, page 15
Southern Regional Council, it was an annual report, slip out. But I=m going to find, I=m going to
look for it. You look for it in the archives. Tell Helen Treat to let you look at it. Helen will get you
the deep, so that you can look at that. If it=s missing, you know somebody slipped it out.
G: When you instituted the boycott, what did you want to change at SRC?
B: Let=s say we wanted to share the power of wherever the direction was at that time. Maybe it
wasn=t quite passed the devil, whatever. I don=t know exactly what it was, but that was any
bumped. In case, Connie, and I would think if anybody was on that it would have been Connie.
There were a few Whites. Bob [Anderson] might have been there. If he wasn't there, he probably
didn't participate either way.
G: Did it yield any results? How did SRC respond to the boycott?
B: I think we gave and took in whatever the issue was, I don=t know exactly what it was. It ended up,
in a sense, all right. When I left, I was fired from... Let me show you something, what I most
agreed about Ford, I want you to look at, if you can just send this book back to me.
G: Were you fired by the SRC?
B: No. I was not fired by SRC. I left the SRC to go to become the chief classification parole of
Terre Haute, Indiana. Then I left Terre Haute, Indiana, bring Bill Farmer back to SRC. Then I left
the SRC to go to be the first Black superintendent of Lorden, so it=s sort of mixed up there. But
here=s what shocked me, and you have to see this. What I=m worried about. I respected this guy
until I read this, James Q. Wilson, you=ve heard of him I=m sure. That knocked me off of my feet.
G: And this is from?
B: James Q. Wilson.
G: James Q. Wilson, Thinking About Crime.
B: Yeah, and he helped dethrone me in Washington.
SRC- 3 Boone, page 16
G: Al do not take up the problem of police and judicial corruption though it exists and in some places
in endemic. I am rather tolerant of some forms of civic corruption. If a good man can stay in office
and govern effectively only by making a few deals with highway contractors and insurance agents,
I do not get overly alarmed. But I am rather intolerant of those forms of corruption that debase the
law enforcement process, discredit it=s agents, or lead people to believe that equal justice is
available only for a price.@
B: See, that there thumped me for a flip. He is a PhD and all that he tolerates. That=s why we are
now. That is devastating. You can keep that and cogitate on that because that has moved me
because I=ve seen so much of it. I went into a prison where, two prisons that tolerated prostitution
in prison. One of them tolerated in Massachusetts. A head of a prison guard union would tell a
prostitute it=s your time to lie down today. I saw associate warden used to bring in loads of liquor,
they have $500,000 a year drug habit. This is all bringing drugs in, swab them in a broom and all
of that. Absolutely corrupt. Massachusetts same way, absolutely corrupt. I went in to clean up,
and I cleaned it up. They had to get rid of me. I could not tolerate it. The prison knew it. My thing
was primary prevention. I refused to turn the mob on prisoners rioting. I=m going to give you a
copy, I=m writing an autobiography, it gives you a glimpse of the corruption.
G: Was that some of the kinds of things that you did in the prisons in the South for SRC? What were
some of the kinds of things that you did?
B: Let me tell you what I saw in the South. When my daddy took me to visit his first cousin when I
was nine years old, the jail, the prison camp was up near the border of Alabama and Georgia.
When I went up there I saw hoards of Black men packed, something like  or 300. Hoards of
families there, and two big black pots of black-eyed peas and creamed corn and bacon.
Everybody eating, it was like a carnival. The trustees was running the loot. You could buy
SRC- 3 Boone, page 17
anything you want. From buying conjugal visits with people and everything, gambling, everything.
The visiting was disgraceful. You see a Christian mother sitting beside her son when the family
[End of Tape A, side 1]
G: You were talking about some of the conditions you=ve seen in prisons.
B: Oh yeah, the corruption. Buy anything you wanted to for a price. The trustees, on visiting day you
had three prison guards, all White B wasn=t no Black prison guards B with shot guns, three.
During the week, you had the prisoners on ball and chain, lockstep, both in North and South. They
did work on public property you have them do. Wanted them to work for the state, they=d do
your yard, do anything and all. What I=m saying is, on weekends, they let the prisoners hound the
money making stuff. You come there, you buy stuff for your husband or your boyfriend or
something like that and they split with the guards, the three guards. When I got to Boston, got to
Lorden, you had 2,000 prisoners there. This gives you a glimpse of it. This is a glimpse of what I
decided to do. I decided not to try to put down I decided to go in by myself. You can
read that. This is just a draft, give you a glimpse of how I handled myself both in Lorden and in
Massachusetts. They=d have a fit because I would not let them go in. When I went to visit my
wife, we weren=t married then, and the lights went out. It was in the thunderstorm in Washington
D.C. When the lights went out, when I went to... the police you had them everywhere from
Maryland, Delaware, D.C., fire trucks and everything. The director of the prisons who employed
me was up there and said you all better stop that, I=m going to put the guards on you if you don=t
stop that, I see you rioting, you better stop this rioting. I didn't see a riot, I didn't feel a riot. I saw
SRC- 3 Boone, page 18
one or two little fires. So I said there=s no riot. I said I=m going in there and see. The prison,
they hated me. I fought the guard unions in Massachusetts and in D.C., that's why
One White guard, excuse my language, he said let the Black son of a bitch go away in there and
he=ll see what happens. So I walk slowly on to the back gate, I went in the back gate. The guy
who later on became director said John can I go in with you? I said yes, Devon, you can go in with
me, but going on my way in I realized Devon only cared that he... I said Devon you wait here until I
get back. So I went there I saw nothing but prisoners scared, shaking because before that they
had a guard fight, and you=ll read about it, where prisoner went in there and shot up prisoners and
we got in court for that and all of that. I walked by Colin and I said look, I told the prisoners I=m
going to bring you all up front where there=s light, we aren=t going to have nobody getting killed in
this prison tonight. I said you all walk in this rain up there and don=t move until I tell you to. After
awhile I thought it took them too long and I saw them slowly walking with blankets and everything
toward the front gate where all the lights were, televisions and everything. They walked up there.
The guards almost fainted. They told me, said Mr. Boone, the guys are afraid to come up here.
Can we go back and tell them it=s all right? I sent four of them back. I told two White
superintendents I could trust to take twenty-five men and get them out from under the beds and all
and tell them wait on the recreation field behind until I give the signal, until the sun came up. That
morning, the sun was bright as ever. They came up and one man had escaped. He walked, he
got a guards uniform, walked out, he came back the next day. Nobody getting through, nobody.
So I decided then they had enough. I would have never I went to Massachusetts, they
almost paid me. Two weeks after I left, they had a guards riot. The guards started a riot. I said I
don=t believe this. I went out there and I asked this guy, Warpool, I said what=s wrong here?
You talking about racism, there=s nothing worse than ethnic cleansing in the North.
SRC- 3 Boone, page 19
Those Italians and Irish don=t like each other, and they knew how to start riots. We had about
seven men on medications, and if they didn't get their medication in five minutes, they=d start a
riot. So they=d hold them up from getting their medications because if they started rioting, these
guys they had what they called, the union had job pick, with seniority you can get your job. So
they=d get up in the tower at midnight and sleep all night and go and run their barber shop or
plumbing during the day. So they would sleep and all of that. What happened was when I
became... I went to Bedford to live. I didn't want to live in Lockfield where the Black cry, I
didn't want to become the commissioner for Black prisoners, they had enough of that. So I got to
Bedford. You know, I couldn't get a plumber to do work for me? The union closed it up, my
house. I couldn't get nothing. I survived and finally the pressure got on the governor and they
said hey governor, you have to get rid of this guy, and all that. So the pressure rolls. I said
governor, I talked them out of firing me. All I want to do is stay here to get somebody to replace
me. Peter this will be all right, governors decision has been made. Peter was the man for Mayor
Lindsey. He didn't get him, he wanted to make Sonny, Sonny would have made Mac
president, but evidently didn't knock Dukakis out. Because Dukakis, William Horden, fifteen
years after William Horden killed that prisoner, that was fifteen years before. They laid the
on him, that's why Dukakis didn't get... So I was just a lot of people about
G: When did you leave the Southern Regional Council?
B: I left the Southern Regional Council in 1965 to go to Lorden.
G: When did you go to the Southern Regional Council? When did you start working on the...
B: Wait a minute. I went to work for the Southern Regional Council after I left Terre Haute, Indiana.
This was in 1965.
SRC- 3 Boone, page 20
G: How long did you work for the SRC?
B: I worked for the SRC for about two years.
B: Until we got the jails... anyway, when I got ready to leave. When I left, let me get this right...
G: While you worked for the SRC, you worked primarily on a prison project?
B: Ease and improve the prisons all over the South with the help of Church One United. They=re the
ones that would have me to go to jail with them, beg the jail to let them paint the place and all that.
I was fortunate that Chuck Morgan, I became the only witness in many cases. In Washington v.
Lee, I was the only witness there. We went to...
G: What kinds of cases were they?
B: To desegregate the prisons. I was the only witness that resulted in desegregation of southern jails
in prison. I went to Alabama. James was the plaintiff. While I testified in the James case, I made
testimony about the conditions I had observed in the hole. I walked in that place, they had two
cages. One cage had seven men in it, one White man and one Black man. One had six Black
men, other cage had six White men and one Black man. Show you how cruel and inhumane those
guys were. The Black man they had in the prison with the White man was a homosexual. The
White man they had in all White prison with all Black prisoners, and you know what the purpose of
that was. When I walked into this place, I heard moaning, I said somebody got to be dead in this
hole, they call it the hole. I went back there and I could not tolerate it it was so hot. Said how do
you all live in here? I went back and told the judge get a sledgehammer and they
knocked down that hole right then and there. That the kind of stuff we did all over the South. We
did that from prison to prison. We had one jail, they had one woman at Fountain prison, Black
female guard, and they used her for one purpose that's shake down, strip search women. She
SRC- 3 Boone, page 21
would have women to put off all their clothes except their dress, and then she=d look up to be sure
they didn't have any dope. Inhuman kind of behavior. I asked the doctor, the doctor would come
once a week on Wednesday, I said doctor, what do you do here on Wednesday? He said by and
large Mr. Boone, I just sew up cuts. The men they cut each other I just sew them up. We had
terrible times in southern prisons, but we desegregated them. I=11 send you that Washington v.
G: The Ford Foundation was funding that particular...?
B: No. Ford Foundation funded that study, because Les Dunbar formed the study after I left the
Southern Regional Council. Ford Foundation but what happened was we were sort of
astutely bringing Black and White people together because that's one skill they had trying to
ameliorate race relations. We did that beautifully, me and Bill and all of them. They didn't like it.
I want to find this article where not only the Ford Foundation, the government was... that's why I
worry about Bush=s terrorism policy and the FBI=s role because Bush... they definitely label the
effort to bring Black and White people together if the terrorists strike. Why? I don=t know. I don=t
know what the FBI=s attitude is. I=11 give you all this stuff, I=m sorry that I=m so... I=m packed
with so much information and I want to give it to you because I hope to get a credible report of what
the Southern Regional Council could have been, and it was a big mistake.
G: In your estimation it could have done more if it had had better funding or...?
B: It could have done more if they had just refunded the proposals that were proposed. I don=t think
they refunded one.
G: These were the northern foundations that refused to fund?
SRC- 3 Boone, page 22
B: Ford Foundation refused to fund us. The Field Foundation funded me after I left, Les Dunbar and
all that. But most, they didn't refund. They didn't fund Southern Regional Council, they just
didn't fund it.
G: I just want to ask a couple of concluding questions. In your experience with the Southern Regional
Council in the couple of years that you worked with them, what would you list as their strengths?
B: Their strength was the effort to promote good race relations in the South. It was a good job. They
brought church groups together, they had these aims and church women who years before used
to stop lynching. Who during my tenure, we went to Mississippi, and there was a state policeman
taking our tag numbers down, the FBI, whoever. This was interfering with promoting interrelation
race relations. I think that they wanted to do it, but they wanted to do it gradually and you can=t do
anything like that gradually.
G: The SRC wanted to do it gradually?
B: One force wanted to do it. There were some great men, I=m going to look up their names, the
doctors that did, please read Hunger in America. If you don't have that, you have to get that.
That=s a great document by the Southern Regional Council. They talked about how Black children
went to... saw their mothers were hungry. They saw how hunger generated violence. That=s a
powerful study. The studies alone was enough to open the eyes of the South and the North.
G: So the information that they provided was a strength?
B: The information was a strength, the information was great.
G: But you think that there were some in the organization that wanted to move too gradually?
B: Some had deep seeded racial problems, very deep seeded racial problems.
G: Would you be comfortable saying the names of those people?
SRC- 3 Boone, page 23
B: I would say that Pat must have had them although I didn't have any personal... other than when
he did that nigger song, that shocked me. He=s dead now, his wife is living, I wish you could
interview her, Glenda.
G: Yeah, she=s in Louisiana.
B: Glenda would be magnificent. Glenda was open-minded, broad-minded and she and John Lewis
were very close. Interview John. I don=t know whether John... I=m not exactly pleased right now
with John and to show you my radicalism, and I don=t consider it radical, I come down with
Cynthia McKinney, although I don=t like Cynthia=s daddy because we made Cynthia=s daddy
quit the police department and all that. Cynthia and Tyrone Brooks, Tyrone who modified this
flag and bent the little corners of the flag, the confederate flag. I told Tyrone I said Tyrone, that's
a good mall there, but you left one corner down, you should have... what=s that singers name?
Singing southern trees produce strange fruit?
G: Billy Holiday.
B: Billy Holiday and all of that, you know. He was willing to moderate that far. But see now John went
back to Washington and immediately hauled that flag saying he didn't do it. That=s the
difference in making a statement about what really needs to be... You need equality, unadulterated
equality. There=s got to be such a thing as that. If we do that, and I know north is
bad. You know what happened to me? When I went to Bedford the second day I was there, there
was a man that looked just like me in the line to vote. Look at him, haven=t even got here, he=s
out voting. They thought it was me. When you cross the bridge from Roxbury to Cambridge, in
Beverly you have a policeman, never more than two Black men and a fireman. It was bad.
Roxbury, I was terminated and Mel Bernstein gave me a job and I was on the United Church of
Christ adversity media, adversity program, and we desegregated. I organized BCMC, Boston
SRC- 3 Boone, page 24
Media Cooperative in Boston because it was segregated. They didn't have, and I integrated and
all of that, but you had White people invading Roxbury. I was ready to go get a total race riot. I
did not know the school of Boston was not segregated. I almost fainted when I found out that, so I
went wild. Just haven=t been outside to help you do it.
G: What role do you think that SRC should be credited with in terms of the civil rights movement?
Should it be given credit for some role in the Black freedom struggle?
B: Yes. Number one, I think they prevented some rioting and brutality.
G: How did they do that?
B: With building bridges between, let=s say the church community because they were a little leery of
some communities. They could have done more in trying to... But there were some Blacks that
were a bit militant. So they were right, I guess, in moderating that, maybe they weren=t right. I
think they could have done a better job in helping those guys to better relate across the board.
G: Is there something else that I should have asked you about the SRC that I didn't?
B: I=m just happy this is being done. I=m going to talk to Les and write him a note because I think
it=s overdue. Because the SRC... Communications, if you read the archives, you=ll see what I=m
talking about in terms of the kind of people I was able to pull together because of Les or Bob with
the money I got from Les Dunbar. I got Richard Chapel who was a very, very liberal probation
officer and stood for depopulating prisons, only violent people should go to prison. They were
putting everybody in prison then. Only violent people. With psychopaths and domestic violence,
we should put them into something, but maybe we shouldn't call them prisons, maybe we should
call them something else to get help for them. They need help. We made people sick and tired of
America. We need to develop something and don=t call them prisons. I believe that we could=ve
done that if I could=ve hung around Southern Regional Council, me and Bill Farmer and all that,
SRC- 3 Boone, page 25
awhile. We could=ve done that and we would=ve done that I believe. I=m just gratified. I want to
polish up... I want you to digest that. 1=11 finish the introduction to that, that forward to my
autobiography. That=s it over there.
G: I just want to confirm your address is 2549 Greenwood Circle, East Point, Georgia 30344.
B: Yeah, and let me tell you this. One thing they picked too carefully, and maybe Southern Regional
Council because if they had picked too carefully, I wouldn't have been picked. I want to accuse
them of picking too carefully. The North and the South, careful of appointing who they appointed in
high positions and corrections. And this, I was the only Black person in this document.
G: What is that document?
B: It=s on colohium plans for... it=s on prison construction. The title of it is... Bob Montilla, he=s
deceased now, Bob Montilla caused me to go to Washington Massachusetts. Bob
Montilla after he got fired from Brick by Ken Harding was sent to Massachusetts. He said you all
need John Boone up here. He tapped me and I became the first Black commissioner over there.
Bob did that.
G: Any last comments about the Southern Regional Council and your time there?
B: No. I don=t think I should bother you with this, unless maybe you would want to just look at this.
This is something I did a long time ago. I=m the only Black person there, the rest of them were
G: That=s great. May I borrow these and send them right to you?
B: Yes. You have the James Q. Wilson. You know James Q. Wilson, he was part of my demise. He
had become the police chief in Washington D.C. The prison guard union and the police union
came together and said Boone B what happened was I was depopulating prisons and they got
SRC- 3 Boone, page 26
excited, oh, just like slavery. My God, were losing our slaves, my God, were losing our
prisoners. They said that in Washington, they said that in Massachusetts.