Title: Interview with Ruby C. Ammons (June 15, 1973)
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00007106/00001
 Material Information
Title: Interview with Ruby C. Ammons (June 15, 1973)
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publication Date: June 15, 1973
Spatial Coverage: Lumbee County (Fla.)
Funding: This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00007106
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location: This interview is part of the 'Lumbee County' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: LUM 119A

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LUM 119A

Kurby Carnell Ammons (A)
North (rolina State Department of Corrections
June 15, 1973
Interviewer: Lew Barton (I)

Typed by: Paula Whidden

I: This is June 15, 1973. I'm Lew Barton recording for the Doris Duke

Foundation's and the University of Floridats History Department's

American Indian Oral History Program. Today we are near Lumberton,

North Carolina, at the offices of the North Carolina State Department

of Corrections, Robeson County Unit. Sir, could you tell us the

number, does this have a number?

A: The identification--state identification number--is 4540.

I: 4540. And would you mind telling us your name and rank?

A: My name is Kurby Carnell Ammons, I'm an officer--correctional officer--

with the Department here in Robeson County.

I: ;yll, we certainly appreciate your being kind enough to give us this

interview. First I'd like to ask you for some biographical details

about yourself. Could you give us your name, and I'd like to ask you

if you're married and that sort of thing, your age and so on. You

certainly are a husky fellow. (laughs) You could certainly handle

yourself in any encounter if you had to, I'm sure about that.

A:/ My first encounter with the Department of Corrections was when all over

the state of North Carolina, Indians were brought together and placed in

Robeson County facility. This was around January 15, 1950. And at

that same time, my father, Delbert Ammons, was an employee in the

Department of Corrections.

I: That's D-e-l-b-e-r-t A-m-m-o-n-s, right?

LUM 119A 2

A: That's correct. And, uh, it was a state house, uh, residential facility

for employees of the Department of Corrections--for some employees. When

the unit was first established, it went under Indian control with Mr.

Harry (S.?) Locklear. And, later on that same year, I think it was in

August of 1950, he left the Department and my father became Superintendent.

I: I see.

A: And he was Superintendent until the first of 1957.

I: I see. And what was your mother's maiden name?

A: She's a Wilkins.

I: What's her first name?

A: Ludahlia.

I: That's L-u-d-a-l-i-a, and that last name is spelled W-i-l-k-i-n-s. I put

this in for the.....

A: Right. I think the first name of her spelling...the way she spells that

first name is L-u-d-a-h-l-i-a.

I: Uh-huh. Thank you.

A: The Department was...in other words, I was brought up in this prison unit.

My home stXi-\/S I And, uh...

I: How does it feel to be brought up in, you know, in a prison?

A: Well, there's no fear, for one thing. A lot of children, I guess all over

the United States, not just here, are brought up with the opinion or

feeling tat they should fear a badge, a policeman. Instead of the image

they should project as being protectors of society, (they'reO rather

pigs. This is zmoghit...I don't know why this is brought about, I guess

it's by the influence of parents, by television, all types of mass media.

LUM 119A 3

I: I know when I was coming up, I was sort of taught to fear, and I suppose

we should have...we certainly ought to have a great deal of respect for

the law, and so on. But I think you're right about that approach that

we should consider law enforcement officers as our friends and protectors

instead of somebody to be afraid of. I guess parents sometimes, though,

they say, "If you don't behave, we're gonna sic the police on you" or

something like that.

A: That's absolutely true. I'-e---eid-?--it myself.

I: I wanted to know, how tall are you?

A: I'm five-ten.

I: Five-ten? And you weigh about...?

A: Two-thirty-eight.

I: Two-thirty-eight. You certainly are well-proportioned, and all that.

Are you married?

A: I have had two children. I am married to the former Miss Mary Ellen

Lowery from around Prospect.

I: What are the names of your children...could you give us their names and


A: Okay. My little girl., she's, uh, she'll be five July 25, and her name is

Cordelahia Sue Ammons. And my little boy's a junior--Kurby Carnell Ammons,

Jr.--and this past May he was three years old, May 7.

I: Uh-huh. And how do you spell her name?

A: Uh, let me try it, C-o-r-d-e-l-a-h-i-a.

I: Great. Do you believe in large families?

A: NoI don't. I believe in two or three children, no more. Because they turn

out to be underprivileged because of the large population.

LUM 119A 4

I: Do ou think being underprivileged leads to crime?

A: Not directly. Indirectly, yes, it does, there's other influences involved,

but, yes, indirectly it does lead to crime.

I: I understand you're a student at PSU, is that right?

A: Yes, I am. I'm in my third year at Pembroke State University, and I'm

studying for a sociology degree. I guess the main reason I'm doing this

is because I'm interested in what I'm doing here. I took the job as a

passing thing until I could find something better, even though I was

brought up here, and I thought I wouldn't like the city. But sometimes

you find opportunity at your own back door--just accidentally step into it.

I: Absolutely.

A: So I've been very interested in rehabilitation, and I believe in the

programs that we're doing now, and the forms of positive reinforcement

that we're using now instead of punitive force--punishment.

I: So ou approach it from the standpoint of rehabilitation rather that


A: That's correct. I call it treatment, like a doctor would treat a patient.

I: This is saying quite a bit, because our young people today are pretty

discriminating, pretty hard to satisfy as to anything--I mean, and I say

this in a complementary way of course, they ought to be. They question

things aid I think this is a very healthy attitude. You are apparently...

you're satisfied with the program and what the state's doing in the way

of correcting people who have made a mistake, and I think this tells a lot.

A: Yes sir, also, you have to start from the ground up, even to a truant

officer. A man who's a truant officer has a heavy responsibility, and I

don't know whether his pay is adequate or not for such a heavy undertaking.

LUM. 119A 5

I: Well, I'm sure our pay...the pay in this state isn't all that is should be,

and I imagine most of the states could make...even most of the states could

make the same claim.

A: That's very true.

I: But it seldom is. Like teaching, for instance, I don't think you ever pay

a teacher for what they do. And a policeman or whatever, law enforcement

officer--they're usually underpaid. Yet we have so many good ones. It's

surprising that we do have so many really dedicated people in the field of

law enforcement. I suppose this is a calling about like some of the teachers

who regard themselves as being called to teach, actually.

A: Well, law enforcement work in any form calls for certain qualities. Some-

times one has to be a minister, sometimes he has to be a doctor, a psychol-

ogist...you just about name it and at one time or another he has to use

these things.

I: Well, your courses at PSU will certainly be helpful, I'm sure.

A: I find they already are.

I: That's good. Of course you're taking some courses in psychology and you're

majoring in sociology...

A: Yes, I am. That's correct.

I: That's a good thing to major in. I like both these fields myself. But to

somebody in your type of work I'm sure these courses would be invaluable.

A: Well, for one thing, right now I'm involved in advanced fieldwork here at

the unit while I work at the same time. And some of my off-duty time is

spent here too, in advanced fieldwork. Last semester I did fieldwork on a

different scale, not advanced. It had to do with opinions, overall opinions

of inmates, how they get along. Yeah. Most interesting thing about this

particular unit is the balance of race. This is approximate numbers, but

LUM 119A 6

we have about eighty blacks, approximately ninety Indian, and probably

fifty whites. And there's almost no racial problem.

I: And do you think this balance has something to do with this?

A: I'm positive it has. Because if we had only two blacks and whites, or

Indians and whites, or blacks and Indians, I suppose there'd be a heck of

a line of demarcation between the two racially, because this has happened

at other units.

I: Do they have a tendency to be clannish, to draw together into different,

you know)r SC r."*

A: Yes, they do, but, I guess, when a limit comes about, when something comes

up, the clans break. The clans break, then, and they all pull together

mostly. Naturally, like in any society...I called, in fact I did a report

last semester on this particular unit, and I called it "Members of a Mini-

Society"--a small society. And, actually, it's comparable to our free

world--our outside world. There's a replica, at least a replica of some-

thing inside this unit for everything that happens outside the unit--"on

the street" as the inmate calls it. There's a lingo, if you're not here

and understand it...there's a lingo that the unit has that you'll never

understand unless you work for a while and understand what they're talking


I: Is that right?

A: Examples are: "sundown"--the word sundown means a man with a life sentence.

I: I never knew that.

A: (laughs) Go on, I'm sure you knew it. There's a lot of things like that.

We do have a small problem, not since the Community Volunteer Program came

into effect. At one time we really-had a problem with sodomy--homosexuality--

LUM 119A 7

I don't know whether that's good or whether that's bad. But now we don't

have too much of a problem. One of the expressions that they use for...a

name for a homosexual is "mama."

I: That's interesting. (laughs) Is this a derogatory term or...?

A: Some use it for a derogatory term, for some it's a pet name. It all depends

on who says it and how it's said.

I: Well, I would imagine that homosexuality would present a problem for men

who are confined and seldom even see women. I think it does some good,

and I'm basing this on my experience in the Navy when we'd be out to sea

for months and months. It was awfully nice to see a woman, just see one,

you know. You see men all the time, but you don't see any women. Maybe

this does something to a fellow's ego or his morale and all these things,

subtle psychological things...but do you have a set of ways that you deal

with a problem like this?

A: Well, I class...there's two types of homosexuals, I class two classes.

This isn't something, this is my own little class. There's a habitual
tC tt
homosexual. He professes things like this Inmate X we have here right

now, professes that God intended him to do this, and there's no way any-

body's going to convince him that it's any different. So we don't try.

He's hard core. There's other people...well, when they were younger, in

prison, was forced into this thing, and can be brought out of it, and

probably never commit it again once they ever walk out of here.

I: So you think most homosexuality in prison, then, is a matter of just plain

old raw sexual need and not necessarily tendencies in that direction.

A: Yes, it's raw sexual need, and there's money involved in it, too. There's

a lot of inmates here that in the past received no visits from home, no

LUM 119A 8

income whatsoever. We have canteen facilities. They can be issued state

tobacco and soft drinks and things like this and never get it. And the

only way to get this--if their parents don't bring it and they don't have

a way of making any money inside the unit--then, if they smoke, they may

end up doing this just to get money.

I: Well, this can be a problem, then, for this reason alone, can't it? Do

you have many people like this who seem to be forgotten by the outside

world virtually, by their relatives and so on?

A: This is an educated percentage guess. I'd say about, in our unit, I'd

say around fifteen percent.

I: That's still too high, isn't it?

A: It's too high. One percent's too high.

I: Because no human being can function well with the knowledge or with the

belief even that he or she is insignificant, forgotten, not cared about

by anybody else...I believe that psychologists say that the need to be

loved is one of the most deeply seated needs of human nature. And I'm

sure this is true of men as well as women. I don't know many of the

details, but I'm certain that this is very important--the need to feel

that you're cared about. Some people, they get to the point (c\ (Jb l

"Nobody cares whether I live or die, so why should I?" Do you think

they can develop an attitude like this?

A: I talked to one only last night that said the same thing, but I don't

think he really meant it.

I: That's very sad, isn't it? How about your chapel services, does this

help, or do people like this become bitter and say, "Well, what's the

use, I don't think God cares about it"?

LUM 119A 9

A: 1T( 01& pressure society sometimes, this mini-society I

reported on last semester? Most inmates that attend church, when they

leave that church and return back to the prison facility--this is the

only unit church--they get razzed quite a bit. They get laughed at

because they think...the other inmates think, and sometimes this is

warranted, that the only reason the inmate is doing this is for an

ulterior motive of some kind, and not really to attend church. And

this is true to a certain extent. If we have a church service and,

say, it's a Protestant open service and there's young girls out with

modern dress on--today's mod- well, how short the dresses are--you'll

have a higher attendance, that's a natural thing.

I: Well, this has always been a natural attraction on the outside as well

as on the inside.

A: (laughs) Right. It's a mini-society!

I: I wrote a poem about...it's called "Women's Fashions:" "The hemline she

is going up/The neckline she is falling/ And if this thing keeps going on/

The end will be appalling." (laughs)...some silly lines like this. When

I'm working.in the Poetry in Schools Program, I read this to young people

in high school sometimes. And I say, "Now, girls, I'm kidding, I think

your mini-skirts are very cute, really." (laughs) But perhaps they're

not as used to it, I mean, men who are confined, they don't see many

women so naturally they don't get used to it as we do on the outside

where this is a common everyday occurrence. It can be provocative to

guys on the outside as well.

A: Right.

I: But I think we're all pretty well adff8Vtie Do you think...things like

pornography, do you have rules about pornography?

LUM 119A 10

A: We did have. Now our unit is open. To the adult inmate at this unit

any type of pornography that he wishes to have as long as he keeps it

not displayed.

I: I'm certainly in agreement with this because there have been studies

made and no one could prove that any sex crime was committed, or any

significant number anyway, because of having been exposed to pornography.

It might even work the other way around, you know.

A: Well, some criminologists say...like we.have the-rapists, some rapists here.

Most criminologists say that the rapist does not tend to re-commit that

same crime. I think it's one-tenth of one percent commit that same crime


I: It's a single thing, a single fulfillment in his life, according to the

way he develops...

A: So is murder.

I: It'd be very difficult to say that anybody was a habitual rapist or

habitual murderer, then.

A: That's true. There's, you know, exceptions to every rule, but as a whole

you couldn't say anyone was a habitual rapist or murderer.

I: Somewhere I've read something about the problem of rape in the United States--

throughout the world, for that matter--that the rapist really doesn't rape

because he's all that sexed up. or because he has such a great need, but

often it's because of hatred or something like this. Is this so?

A: I've read some statistics on this in the criminology line of work, and I've

found that most of them say that rapists are under-sexed rather than over-


I: That's very interesting, isn't it?

LUM. 119A 11

A: It sure is.

I: It's a paradox. Usually, it's to get back at somebody, isn't it?

A: Yes, I think it's a method of rebellion.

I: Well, sir, since we're talking about this, I guess one of the most harm-

less of all sex offenders would be considered the exhibitionist, who

doesn't actually come into contact with his victim but simply exposes him-

self, and in the act of exposing himself brings about orgasm or something

of this nature. Do you ever have people who are here for exhibitionism?

Ai No sir, not that I can recall. Usually, I guess if we have somebody like

that they're sent to State Hospital.

I: Uh-huh. There must be a screw missing somewhere onsomething like that.

A: Right. Well, really, I don't know whether you could say that there's a

screw...I don't know, people...insanity is not a healthy term to use, it's

a legal term. That's what they use this for, legality only. Cause who

could declare another man insane? He may be just as sane as anybody else,

maybe saner. It's just that if you don't do what society wants you to do,

what society expects out of you, then you may be declared insane.

I: The same is true of normal and abnormal, isn't it?

A: That's true. What is normal? What society wants normal to be.

I: Sometimes we bring aobut those labels and base them on incomplete statistics.

We have no statistical means of knowing how everybody feels and how every-

body reacts.

A: Well, getting back directly to this unit here, there's a lot of people here

now who could consider themselves political prisoners and not really the

hardenened criminal. There's some blacks who've been caught, you know, say-

with marijuana. They consider this also as being a part of the revolution

to legalize marijuana .......................................... ........

LUM 119A 12

Therefore they're political prisoners and not really...well, they try to

convince you they are, and they are...political people. The new breed of

prison inmate we have now--corrections inmate--he's a lot more intelligent

than the one we had before. That means he's a lot harder to work with.


I: Intelligent enough to give problems, then?

A: Right. (laughs)

I: What do you think about marijuana, is it a great problem in Robeson County,

do you think?

A: Yes sir, it is. I think it should beControlled, especially with age because

marijuana can graduate--especially the young impressionable person--to some-

thing a lot harder than marijuana. I don't think marijuana's that bad, but,

uh,...marijuana, I compare it with, say, beer...but, uh, marijuana will let

you graduate, especially young impressionable people.

I: I remember when some of the towns were trying to leglaize beer, and I came

out with some newspaper articles on behalf of some control. I said some

legal control is better than none. I was speaking over at PSU, and some of

the students asked me about marijuana, says "What do you think about mari-

juana?" I said, "I don't know a thing about it." "Would you believe us if

we told you it wasn't as bad as alcohol?" I said, "Well, I'll have to take

your word til I find out more about it, and the problem to me as a newsman

hasn't been serious enough that I've given any attention to it." And that

was just a couple of years ago. It seems that the advent of marijuana in

Robeson County has been very recent. Am I correct in that, in assuming...?

A: Yes sir, I'd say within the past two or three years.

I: It's just become a problem.

LUM 119A 13

A: Right, well, I think the Vietnam conflict had a lot to do with the step-

ping up of the use of marijuana. Because it's as free to get over there

as a pack of cigarettes in a store is here. And people could bring it

back, and-completely C. gL 6\Vn'cr -TtE when they came

back, and introduced it into the U.S. culture. It was here before, nat-

urally, but it was a lot more pronounced by this)conflict in Vietnam. I

myself was in Vietnam a total of eighteen months, and it was as plentiful

as reaching out and picking it up.

I: And there's no penalty attached to it at all though, 4s there?

A: Under the military, yes. I belonged to a young security agency, with a

top-security crypto-clearance, and because of my Indian descent I didn't

have any trouble getting that clearance. I got in in five months, which

is pretty fast for a top-secret crypto-security clearance. Didn't have

any foreign relatives.

I: Well, you being an Indian yourself and being very knowledgeable in these

things, I wanted to ask you about a statement that has been made relative

to Indian people in the past. Do you think Indians are peculiarly suscep-

tible to alcohol or to drugs or to something like this?

A: This may have been true two hundred years ago, because of....

I: A novelty then, perhaps.

A: Right, a novelty, it was something new. But now, I've...I've did this

on myself, I've tried it. I've had drinking matches overseas with white

people, and most of time I out-drink them and I'm still walking around

and acting as usual, (laughs) and they...

I: Go under the table. (laughs) That's very interesting.

A: I zafzm prove it to myself, not to anybody else.

LUM 119A 14

I: Yeah, I know. Well, I"ve done some drinking myself in the past and

I always seemed to be able to consume enormous quantities before I ever

felt anything at all. But I suppose it can grow on you and that sort of

thing. I've heard another statement that I'd like to ask you-for your

opinion about, and that is that--well, I don't know if it's exactly an

opinion or not, but the statement has been made that Indians who commit

crimes...well, let's state it this way. There are few actual arrests

among Indians than among either of the other two racial groups. But

when an Indian commits an offense it's usually a more serious one.

Would you go along with that, or...?

A: No, I wouldn't. I wouldn't say that because...I can only talk from ex-

perience here in Robeson County. He's found guilty more of the time, I

think, as well as the blacks are found guilty a lot more of the times.

Because if you look at the breakdown of the races here in Robeson County

and compare it to the people who are incarcerated here at this unit,

you'll see there's something a little funny because...I stated those

counts a while ago at about eighty blacks, and about ninety Indians, and

about from forty to fifty whites. Now, the newspaper, the local news*

paper states that the white population in Robeson County is the third

largest minority of the three minorities--there's no majority in Robe-

son County--so the largest minority is the whites, so it does not com-

pare with this prison population. And so this could be explained by

this statement that you just asked me about on the seriousness of crime,

but I think most of this is done in a courtroom, and not in the actual


I: Do you think the minority offender, or the minority accused, let's say,

stands less chance to come out with justice than, say, white people?

LUM 119A 15

A: Yes sir. I've been to courts--well, to court trials sometimes--and even

down to the prosecution, some statements made by the prosecution...and

you can feel the prejudice in the remarks that he makes. Such state-

ments as "a drunken savage" are being used in courtrooms. If the man

happens to be a white man he can't be a drunken savage, he can just be

a drunk. (laughs)

I: Right. (laughs) Well, I've heard statements like that that were made

in the courtroom and immediately the defending attorney would object,

and of course the objection would be sustained, but already the jury

had heard this remark...

A: The damage was done.

I: Right. You can say, "Well, I'll wipe it out of my mind" but it doesn't

work that easily.

A: Yes, it doesn't work. The point is made. And uh, selection of jurors

sometimes...well, uh, sometimes the moxy gets a little bit out of hand,

but it's better than what other countries have. We're lucky people

here in the United States. To be a minority)even,here in the United

States is pretty lucky.

I: Yes, I feel that way, too. I'm sure it is.

A: I've hadiminor incidents myself and, uh, as a child--being told to go

on back to the, uh, place. I'm twenty-eight years old and I can remem-

ber a lot of hated places, but...it's all gone outwardly, but inwardly

there's still some. No matter how long you live--this doesn't neces-

sarily have to be racial prejudice--there's going to be some guy...I

couldA Cf l (L T60ts ati. (laughs)

I: Right. Some way, in some cases anyway, a person can always find a way

to fight this prejudice if they want to. Something my daughter and I...

LUM 119A 16

my half-brother and I went with some other people to a place, you know, to

get some sandwiches, and we had some people, some Indian people. They were

legally Indians and they were a little dark as Indians are. And we sat

there waiting for the people to serve us...of course there were children

there, they weren't very old, they were probably in their early teens. They

never did serve us and we kept sitting there--we wanted to see what was going

to happen. Finally this boy who was working in the kitchen turned his back

to us and just ran his hand down under his belt and scratched himself. And

that did it. We drove home--we didn't want any food he served...(laughs)...

in good condition. But this is how far prejudice can go.

A: Right. Now, there's one thing I'd like to speak out against more than any-

thing else, and it's not been brought up yet. In fact, we don't have to

face this problem. Here in Robeson County, we're productive. When I say

"we" I mean the Indian population--we're productive people. We have people

playing baseball in the major leagues, we have doctors, we have attorneys--

everything else that anybody else should have...can have. We just don't

have a president. (laughs)

I: Right. We may even have a line to the White House. We could get there if

we had to.

A: Right. But what I'm speaking against is reservations. Reservation to me...

I've visited some. It's something similar to a human zoo. I think it'd be

degrading. Sure your culture's preserved, but so's your ignorance.

I: Right, that's a good thought. What do you think about our culture? When

people say we don't have a heritage they don't know what they're talking

about, you might as well say the courthouse doesn't have a heritage. And

every community in America has a heritage, because they're all individual

to that extent that they do have these individual things, to them

LUM 119A 17

and no other. And what do you think of ours, do you think we're over-

emphasizing, underemphasizing, or do you think this could be a tool to

generate pride in ourselves and thus to do away with the old feeling of

inferiority that so many of us have unconsciously, you know?

A: Well, this feeling of inferiority--I was brought up in it. But once I

lived here, I joined the service,AI attended school...several different

races, several creeds, several religions. And I found that I did okay.

And when I took my college entrance examination, it turned out I was in

the upper third of the nation. So I'm not inferior, and I know it.

I: Well, that's certainly fortunate with your passing the same IQ test

that other people passed, standing up to the same standards that other

people have to meet. It's more difficult, let's face it, for the minority

group person, perhaps, as some people say. But it gives you a lot more

pleasure, doesn't it, to accomplish this?

A: Just to prove it to yourself is when you've really won the battle of man.

I: You prove to yourself that you're not inferior to anyone.

A: I hear a lot of people say about being free. What is being free? I think

the first step toward becoming free from anything is being aware. Once

you become aware, that's your first step.

I: You have to know what your sphere of freedom is, you know, or what you want

to be free from or free toward, or whatever.

A: Maybe you try to be free from yourself, and don't really know it.

I: And I suppose the only way we could absolutely be free would be to inhabit

an island alone with nobody else to deal with, and that would be a poor

kind of freedom, wouldn't it?

A: Yes sir, and you couldn't really call that Utopia because if we don't have

this social climbing, if we don't have some kind of goal to reach out for,

life's just not worth it.

LUM 119A 18

I: Everybody has to feel that there's hope, else there would be no progress, n

no human progress, or you might assume that, I guess. Because I guess

this is the complaint with Indian reservations particularly as they existed

yesterday, or yesteryear...that there's not the same incentive there perhaps

as there is on the outside. At least I've heard this argument used.

A: I think it'd be better to say competition. Who do you compete with on a

reservation besides your next door neighbor? Or, young people, I'm sure,

are leaving the reservations now.

I: No matter what happens or what the problems are, a person on a reservation

is, I believe, able to reach any (height?) in the Bureau of Indian Affairs

and hopefully the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Whereas you and I, with-

out reservations, living here in such freedom as we have--we don't have the

same freedom as other people, don't you agree? Always

A: Yes sir, I agree.

I: But it's still superior to not being in the competition, rather, in the

social sphere or the economic sphere or whatever.

A: This is correct. We've made several steps forward in the past ten years,

I'd say, ten years--more than fifty years before. For the first time we're

actually getting a voice in our state government, something we've never

had before. Isolated times, we've had some great Indian people who've had

voice in the government but it was sort of a token thing, and not really...

I: Right. They had no real authority, perhaps.

A: That's correct.

I: I've thought about the methods used in appointing such people too often in

the past has been for this very purpose, and the choice of a person who

perhaps didn't know his duties and would have to go to somebody else for

advice, "Now you tell me what to do." Instead of appointing as you would

LUM 119A 19

normally expect a truly qualified person, you end up with this kind of

appointment. I remember in my childhood, one of the first things I ever

protested in the newspaper--and this was in my early teens--was the fact

that the governor had appointed on the Board of Trustees of PSU a man

who was totally illiterate. I said if this makes sense, then I don't have

any. I know he was fine, he was a wonderful man, he knew how to make

money, he had plenty of all these things, but he wasn't trained in the

field of education, so I just figured this was sort of bad, in fact. I'm

very proud when somebody makes it on their own apart from formal education,

a self-made man--this is fine, but for a position like this, I wonder

how any man can be expected to make educated decisions about education

if he doesn't have any himself.

A: That's like giving a man a big truck to drive when he's never been behind

the steering wheel before.

I: Right, the very same sort of thing. But of course, the theory is--perhaps

this may sound a little bitter, but I want to see if you agree with me--

the theory seems to be anyway that he will never actually be doing any

driving. He might have his hands on the wheel but there'll be somebody

else steering the car. (laughs)

A: That's right. (laughs) I'm somewhat of a poet, I'll write you up some

of the poems...I've got some at home I'll bring to you sometime.

I: Well, that's fine. Do you have any kind of statistics you would like to

mention? Have you made any statistical studies at all?

A: Some here at the unit in my fieldwork I ahve. This Work-Release Program

is one of the most popular and North Carolina's professing to be one of the

pioneers at this Work-Release Program.

LUM 119A 20

I: Oh, yes, I believe this. This is one field in which I'm really proud of

this state. I believe it's away out front.

A: And welfare, that welfare system is dropping, you know. We don't have to

pay out as much in welfare now beto-se of Work-Release. These people

that are incarcerated now, they have families. They don't necessarily

have to receive welfare help because they can earn their own...support

their family while in prison.

I: Have you had any serious complaints about it, especially when it was get-

ting started? Were people very skeptical?

A: They still are. But it's on a personal basis. One of the college kids

last semester made the mistake of going into one of largest stores...

allegedly one of the inmates here, allegedly, raped and murdered his

sister, and this young unknowing fieldworker from the University went

in and asked him a question--he was doing a report on the Work-Release

Program and who would be interested in hiring an inmate to work--and he

made the mistake of asking this man, not knowing what had happened.

He got rather embarrassed in the store and he was thrown out. But this

is just isolated incidents. Most people are afraid--it's the old saying

how bad news travels like wildfire and good news travels slow. So if

anything does happen out at this unit or any prison unit, it's going to

be publicized. Anything good happens, you may find it on the back pages

of the paper; You may not find it at all.

I: Hidden under the want ads...

A: Right. So we may have one incident every three or four years--that'll

last until the next incident! And a lot of people are a little shaky

about it. But after they actually try it once, and work with some of

LUM 119A 21

the prison inmates, they find that they're pretty good people. I'd say

we'd been successful eighty-five percent, successful.

I: That's great. That eighty-five percent should not be allowed to suffer

because of the...

A: ...the fifteen percent.

I: Right.

A: Well, everybody tends to generalize it a little too much.

I: Well, that's the fault of...I'm inclined to do that on occasion but I try

not to...................................................................

Side Two of the interview with Mr. Ammonso We were talking about general-

izations. I would like to ask you about another generalization here and

that is about the so-called habitual criminal and the one who is not habitual.

What is the chief distinction? I'd like to ask you what a habitual criminal

is like--the kind of person--could you tell me the kind of person does, you

know, commit crimes again and again? Would you do...this is a big general-


A: It sure is. In my own opinion, now this is a private opinion of my own,

I don't think there's really a habitual criminal here--not at this unit.

There may be in closer security units than this, this is a medium-custody

unit. Now, society makes a man a habitual criminal. Society makes him a

repeater--his treatment upon release, word may get around where he works

that he's a parolee.

I: You mean out of desperation?

A: Out of desperation he may do this. There's times when a man feels secure

in prison--a lot more secure than he would on the outside. Once he ever

adapts...if he ever adapts to prison it's hard to readjust to the world

outside. The misuse of the word rehabilitation--people use it as a con-

LUM 119A 22

notation, but rehabilitation doesn't really say--there should be another

word. Because when you say "rehabilitate"--I guess the root words are "re-

habit"--okay, to "rehabit" somebody, it seems to be to place a man back into

society like he was. Now, if you do that and place him back into society

like he was, he'll go back to robbing banks, committing armed robberies,

stealing cars, doing all the things he did before. And you've rehabilitated,

actually rehabilitated him, you've placed him back like he was. To "habit"--

maybe, as some say in "rehabit"--maybe to habit a person while he's in an

institution may be a lot more effective.

I: You want to send him out better prepared than he was when he comes in.

A: Yes sir. And society sometimes is the one that causes this to lag, generally

acts to drag it back because of *e- attitude--not the inmate's attitude,

society's attitude.

I: Well, right here in Robeson County we're supposed to be one of the poorest

counties in one of the poorest states in the United States. That's a little

overgeneralized but not much. Do you think this adds, this very thing adds

to it...to the number of people convicted of crimes and so on?

A: Yes, poverty has a lot to do with it, and ignorance, too--course ignorance

is a by-product of poverty. Many people right now in prison are in prison

because of they were ignorant of the fact that their rights (are important .

Even having them explained to them in specific terms, or say, at his arrest

he was read his rights...I'll read his rights...here, I have a copy of them

somewhere. And when you read a man's rights to him, say, a person in Robeson

County, I know a lot of people here in Robeson County that don't understand

their rights even having them read to them. They don't know what's really

being said to them. Just a minute...let me find it here...

LUM 119A 23

I: So ignorance certainly has a direct bearing on it, doesn't it?

A: Absolutely! :It tells the difference between probably being incarcerated

and not being incarcerated, cause if you don't understand the rights, there's

no defense. Here's a warning that says every policeman in the United States

reads it off to a person about to be arrested. "You have the right to remain

silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law."

Number three. "You have the right to talk to a lawyer and have him present

with you while you are being questioned. If you can not afford to hire a

lawyer, one will be appointed to represent you before any questioning if you

wish one." Nine times out of ten, just out of nervousness alone, you're not

listening to what the man's saying to you. And I personally know Indians in

Robeson County who didn't. That's simple. Anybody should understand it.

But they don't. What's usually said...what should be said is "You have the

right to have a lawyer. We shouldn't question you unless you have a lawyer

present." That should be well enough to tell anybody before you arrest them.

But the way it's read...it reads here, it says "You can..." It's not "The

advice is given you..." It's assuming that everybody is intelligent enough

to understand and it's the simplest words almost as possible but there's

people that just don't understand that.

I: Do you think they usually understand what it means about whether they're able

hire a lawyer or not?

A: No, I don't think they understand that either. To be deprived of a defense...

a lot of times a man will hire a lawyer here in Robeson County, and up until

recently, the only defense an Indian had in Robeson County was with a white

lawyer. And a lot of times if he didn't have the money in, and his father

had a farm, his father had to mortgage the farm to pay the attorney. Well,

the attorney probably knew before the man ever went to court that he'd never

LUM 119A 24

get him off. Maybe he promised or gave some indication that maybe he could

get the man off scot free, knowing that the deal's going to made in the

courtroom later on. Now this can't be proven so I'm not using any isolated

cases, but where there's smoke there's fire. And if you'll, say, compare

our inmate population here in Robeson County Unit to the county-wide counts

of population, you'll see there's a little something wrong.

I: In other words, if we had adequate lawyers, if we had enough Indian lawyers

to go around, this would improve, it ve laudablyX to a great extent,

Indians being set free on charges of which they were not guilty?

A: Yes sir. There's innocent men in prison. There's exceptions to every rule.

There's innocent men in prison, and...it's the best system in the world.

I: But it's not perfect.

A: But it's not perfect.

I: Well, I certainly hope that we can make further progresses...encourages you

then to hear about those fine Lumbee Indian lawyers.

A: It certainly does. We have one practicing...

I: Ol. graduated from high school just last week /_ ./_//.

A: Right.

I: This gives us seven lawyers among our people, but they're not all here,

they're up...they're all in Indian service. Now we said something about the

man who may commit a crime--or did we--who may commit a crime because of

ignorance. You know, there's a statement somewhere that says ignorance of

the law is no excuse, but do we actually have people who commit crimes

because of ignorance of the fact that they are committing a crime?

A: Yes, but I think they're mostly minor crimes--misdemeanors. Well, for one

thing, nationwide we don't have a stable code on a lot of things such as

statutory rape, for instance. In the state of North Carolina, the age of

LUM 119A 25

consent for statutory rape proceedings is eighteen years old. I think in

Kentucky, in Kentucky it's fourteen. What may be a crime punishable by

capital punishment in this state, one state over may be nothing more than

adultery, maybe.

I: Right. Or fornication.

A: Right.

I: This matter of statutory rape is quite tricky because of these differences

and so forth, and our laws aren't always uniform, but.....how do you feel

about capital punishment in general?

A: Only in absolute extreme cases should one man take another man's life for


I: When it appears that this is the only sensible thing to do.

A: Yes sir, and it's going to be very few.

I: In this state I believe I've heard it said that we have six or eight capital


A: Let's see if I can read'em off to you...there's seven of them.

I: Seven.

A: Right, seven. Let's see, there's midnight burglary, arson of an occupied

dwelling, and, naturally, treason--that's a government thing, but we could
aCCa-p t
a rts ? treason, too--first-degree murder, rape...uh, two more. I

don't recall them now, I have my index somewhere.

I: How about arson?

A: Arson of an occupied dwelling, and midnight burglary.

I: I remember reading a book written by a warden in California several years

ago. It was called Eighty-eight Men and Two Women. This warden of...what

was the name, San Quentin?...was advocating the abolition of the death

penalty and he treats all these people. And of course the title of the

LUM 119A 26

book points up the fact that you have more men dying than women--in one

section of the book he says women have committed as horrible a crime as

anybody. And he says...one of his arguments is that it's not truly a

deterrent, that when most people commit crimes, they do it on the spur of

the moment and they had no idea they were going to do it, they wouldn't

have doneAif the conditions hadn't been right, or conditions conducive to

that particular thing. And he has a lot of good arguments in there.

A: I don't think capital punishment should be used as a deterrent. -1- i'C,"'

What you're doing there is setting an example for somebody else, "Hey, if

you do this you're going to get the same thing this guy is getting." I

don't think that's what it...capital punishment should be used for. It

should be used for what it says, capital punishment, p-u-n-i-s-h-m-e-n-t,

of an individual. Because there's some crimes that are so sadistic...this

point again of this legal term of insanity, yet they find a man--they some-

how find him sane, so what will you do with him? Do you release him? If

he committed a crime like this that's just so sadistic, it's something

that's almost unbelievable that a person could do--like, say, kill thirty-

four people and bury them in the orchards like those out in California--

what's wrong with that man? You couldn't possibly...what you gonna do, you

gonna put him prison and rehabilitate him?

I: That would be impossible, wouldn't it?

A: Impossible. And yet they find him sane, so you can't put him in an institution?

He's a sane man. So what do you do with him? I was influenced a lot by
13,erm;s ?
(Mr. Deemis-Brooks?) he's dead now, minister here...

I: Oh, yes.

A: And that's how he felt about it. I don't copy that from him, I just agree

with him.

LUM 119A 27

I: Well, he's one of the most earnest Christians I've ever known, (Mr.

Deemis Brooks?) he was the minister of the Gospel. He did more good

among our people than any one man I've ever (lived by .

A: Self-sacrificing...

I: We shall not see his like again, not exactly.

A: Well, I think...speaking about difference in races, now, again...I think

the most prejudiced people in the world are Indian. They're so race-

conscious it's pathetic. Not just us here in Robeson County, but all over

the United States. That's why the white man, when he first settled this

country, done it so easily. Because he could cause conflict between two

different tribes, two different regions, two different nations of Indians.

While there was conflict he could be moving forward, farther west.

I: What you're saying is that this prejudice is usually directed toward some

other segment of his own race.

A: That's correct. )j5t6_CK '

I: And that he's self-defeating all the time, isn't it?

A: That's correct.

I: We know that when the first white settlers reached this country there were

two minds among our people from the very beginning--those who said "Let's

fight" and those who said "No, they have something to offer, there's land

enough for everybody, let's adopt some of these ways and adapt some of these

methods" and so on. But this is very sad and I'm afraid you're right. I

wish I could say you are not but -stupect you are. Some statistics have

come out, for example, that there is the highest suicide rate among the

Indians of any other ethnic group. Do you think this is true of our people

here in Robeson County?

A: I can't make a qualified statement. People that do commit suicide in our

LUM 119A 28

area that are Indian...doesn't seem to have any apparent pressures.on

most of them. In fact, my first realization that there was such a thing

as suicide, I was five years old--four years old. I can remember when

the man next door took a shotgun to his throat and pulled the trigger.

But khL ft/J m1nf 411 l/ 'ethey say. I can't remember enough to

say whether he wasn't or what. Out of frustration I guess most people

commit suicide. I think suicide is more or less an Oriental thing, and

it's with honor like the samurai in Japan.

I: How does that work?

A: If he commits suicide, if the samurai commits suicide he goes to what's

comparable to our happy hunting ground or heaven or what-have-you--with

honor. But he must have his robe and his samurai sword to fall on and

all this. It's different beliefs. And I read an article, or a portion

of one of my books in sociology that a man was killed in Alaska because

he refused to lay with the Eskim6's wife.

I: Now tha"s a turn of events, isn't it?

A: It sure is. It's customary when somebody comes to visit for her to wash

herself down with blubber (and wantgl him that night--be with him

sexually. Just the customary thing.

I: It's a matter of pride involved in A' custom, also.

A: Right. This white man refused to do this. He thought it was immoral,

but it was their custom so they had to kill him. What's right and wrong,

what's right here could be wrong over there and what's wrong there could

be right here.

I: That's right.

A: And this could be the same way as close as the next county--just about

some things.

LUM. 119A 29

I: I came into contact with a very interesting case a few months ago--I didn't

come into contact with it, but read it in the paper, rather, the county

paper. And this was the most interesting crime I've ever heard of. What

happened was this: this guy looked through the window and saw this beautiful,

quote--"girl"--unquote, and went inside the building with the intention of

raping. And when he got th+ants down, he discovered for the first time that

this, quote--"girl"--unquote, was not a girl at all but a boy with long hair.

Did you read that? (laughs)

A: I did. (laughs)

I: It said he turned around and said, "I'll see you later!" It's seldom that

a crime or the attempt to commit a crime is funny, but this is downright

funny. I just had to laugh about this. I can imagine the shock and surprise

on the would-be rapist's face when he discovered his horrible mistake.


A: Well, I think there's very few people who haven't considered at one time or

another some type of crime, or planned crime out of desperation, out of

worry, out of compassion--something that he's actually plotted to do. Some-

times a man can be in a situation where, say, his family's hungry--this

has happened--and maybe from his carelessness or maybe not from his care-

lessness he can't feed them, and, say, he's getting behind on his bills,

and there's no way.to borrow any money...he's just completely frustrated.

He may attempt to rob a bank, or maybe he may consider it. What really

makes most of society look down on criminals, what really makes'em down on

criminals because they see a little bit of themselves in those criminals.

I: And they're afraid of that, aren't they?

A: They're afraid of themselves. There's a criminal part in all of us. Be-

cause some people are born without that (inner?) control called the

LUM. 119A 30

Ego and just live under the Id. Some people even have, you know, Super-

ego...and, uh...some of that control's gone, that Ego's gone. And you

just live under the Id. And a lot of-people have the urge to live under

the Id at times, just to do it. But that Ego--"Uh-uh, can't do that!" I

think some think some people call it Conscience. Some people think you're

born with it--no way you can be born with it!

I: Is that right? It's something that's developed?

A: Right, from training. There's a big Eeper-ap ? about-violence on tele-

vision in the criminology class I had last semester. They measured some

children, it was a hundred children that watched "Captain Kangaroo" every

morning for a year. And another set of one hundred children that did not

watch "Captain Kangaroo." When they became adults, the highest crime per-

centage was in the children who had watched "Captain Kangaroo."

I: That's sure interesting.

A: And there's some violence, but violence to a child is funny. To see a

car wrecked at a demolition derby or to see a car wrecked as a child is

fun. It's a fantasy and nobody really gets hurt. It doesn't apply to'em

when somebody's bleeding. These old Westerns where gets

shot off his horse and rolls down the hill. It's only a flesh wound but

he's been shot fifteen times. It's a game to them, and that game gets

to mean reality after a year old. All kids like to play soldier and Indian

and cowboy, but when they put real guns in their hands with real bullets,

i(they don't want to played .

I: Ceases to be a game to them, doesn't it?

A: Right.

I: It certainly-is fascinating, the kind of things people do and why they do

them. In a courtroom, though, the motive, it doesn'tusually play too big

LUM. 119A 31

a role in the sentence, does it? I mean if you're guilty, you're guilty...?

A: I'd say Ac, l ...there's an inmate here, Inmate X--another Inmate X--

who was married to this girl maybe two or three years older than him. They

had one child and they lived away, I think it was Detroit, I'm not sure.

He came up from work one day and she was gone, and so he went looking for

her. He traced her back here to Robeson County. When he found her, she

was at a...I don't know, I guess a local name for it would be a bootleg

house...she was at a bootleg house. She was pregnant, she was about eight

months pregnant, seven months. And he asked her what had happened, and

she called him some names I won't mention, very rude names, and told him

that the child she had had was not his and the one she was carrying was

not his, and some other vile things. Si was under the influence of al-

cohol. He returns to his truck, he has a hunting rifle in back, takes it

out, he goes back and shoots her eight times. Naturally she's dead.

Now for that crime he only received eighteen to twenty-four years. That's

a'life sentence for that man. But the circumstances and the motive had to

be taken into consideration in this particular case.

I: Right. What is it they call a crime of passion, is this...it's not neces-

sarily sexual crime, is it?

A: No sir. Say,..,, re) Ar example, say, you walked into your house and you

found your wife sexually being with some other-man on your bed, and you

pulled out a gun and you killed him. That's a crime of passion.

I: Something that happened with provacation, on the spur of the moment, and

this sort of thing?

A: On the spur of the moment.

I: Do you think the Indians, our Indian people, basically then, are they

different from other people that under the same circumstances, the same

LUM 119A 32

conditions, anybody in any other race would probably react about...in

approximately the same way?

A: That's absolutely correct. We have hard-shell Baptists, we have Methodists,

we have .saf Catholics, we have Greek Orthodox, we have some Lutherans--

you name it we have'em *'*.* And that's one of our influences, that

influences us especially in the South, everybody--our morals, our codes,

our senses of right and wrong. And we're no different from any white,

predominantly white neighborhood--or for that matter, any black neigh-


I: What do you do with this person who unfortunately hasn't developed a conscience,

and he is, I believe the term is amoral? Is there a place in society for

such a person, or is there any repair or is there any chance of developing

a conscience where none exists?

A: I think in olden times, I'd say way back in history in the A.D.--in the B.C.'s

a man of that standard would make a perfect soldier. But we

have now, there's no place for a man that lives on his Id, especially if

S Ca3 ...we have some people in our free society right now that live just

basically on the Id, on this personality. He may urinate..;.well, the Id of

society's personality.-..he may stand and urinate facing a highway, a

crowded highway. This is very common in, say, Germany, it's no big thing.

So his Id's not working for the U.S. Maybe it's okay in Germany-but he's

not in Germany.

I: It's considered to be horrible here, isn't it?

A: Right. I remember the first time I saw somebody killed in a foreign

country. It was the Philippine Islands and a small child was ran over on

the street and those people stepped over it like it was maybe a box that

got run over or something. Finally, somebody came along and pulled it out

LUM 119A 33

of the street. It was dead, or it was dying. Nobody seemed to worry about

it. I got frustrated about the whole thing, but their conception of death

is not like our conception of death. And it's hard to...I think the word

is "culture shock"--an immediate change of culture from one culture to
-ko .c.r /' i. r / another. It just shocked ets-r > Md- / (i____

01l d--rights and wrongs their morals are a lot different from ours.

We could be wrong. I'll bet we are! (laughs)

I: Who's to say who's right and who's wrong? How about, uh, let's just think

about for a moment the crime of rape is not a beautiful thing. A woman's

body belongs to herself preeminently, to no one else. And a guy comes

along and he violates her. But is it...when he leaves her he hasn't hurt

her physically, although he certainly very well may, very probably will

have hurt her emotionally, mentally, and so forth--shock and all these

things. But is it a crime, do you think, bad enough to warrant death?

Should a man die for his...? Now I'm asking for your opinion, don't give

it if you don't want to. I've often wondered about this.

A: Well, this would have to do with individual cases. Any man that's tried

to rape and convictedo of rape is not guilty of rape. Maybe she

consented and was in the wrong place and almost got caught and decided

the easy way out was to holler "Rape!" Now, there's a big move, even the

Indians right here in Robeson County, the female forces have this Women's

Liberation. They're hollering for equal rights. They think',d- J" '-

aetun -eceive all equal rights that a male has, they're gonna have to

receive equal responsibility. So how can there be rape if there's equal

rights? If a woman resists a man, if she resists him, he's gonna have to

hurt her in order to rape. Now there's such a thing that's called "under

duress," "under threat"--in that case, this couldn't be a liberated woman.

LUM 119A 34

Cause if some woman walked up to me right-now and said, "Okay, if you don't

go to bed with me, I'm gonna kill you." That wouldn't work (laughs). Why

can't it work the other way? If they want, if women libbers want all this,

then she could say, I know, as well as she could say this. But rape law...

it's a fine line there. I think there's a lot of people in prison for rape--

they didn't actually rape. I think there's one called "contributing to the

delinquency of a minor," (rather than saying "statutory rape"--I don't

know what the difference is.

I: Well, in this state, iC the age...sixteen or eighteen?

A: Eighteen.

I: It seems a little strange among teen-agers, for instance, when I was coming

along I didn't know this. If I had been guilty of something like this, I've

wouldn't have known I was guilty of a crime, because guys just naturally

assume...maybe the guy was a minor himself, you know. But a lot of people,

I'm sure, in this particular case, it seems to me, don't actually know about

this matter of statutory rape. No matter what the girl does, if she gets

on her knees and begs you, "Will you please take me, please," it's still

statutory rape. But would these conditions be taken into consideration in

a courtroom, and would they mitigate or change the sentence that was being

passed down, would these then be taken into consideration?

A: I doubt it. I'm pretty sure they wouldn't be. I don't know of a case in my

own personal experience in a courtroom that they have taken this into con-

sideration at all. About the only way a man can get a charge changed is

through some type of extra money or political pressure. Sometimes pleading

guilty to a lesser charge when the man's not guilty of either charge is a

crime in itself, but it happens all the time.

I: And people justify it, including judges and lawyers, on the grounds that

it expedites the business of the court?

LUM 119A 35

A: That's correct.

I: This is pretty horrible to me. I think we have to respect the law, we have

respect whatever punishment that we mete out, and it's almost impossible

to respect a system entirely that practices this--for the layman, I'm saying.

I don't know about the mechanics or the motivation for it or...if it's in-

tended to expedite matters and to make it easier for the court and less ex-

pensive for the state.

A: Actually, I think an experimental case ought to be done just to prove a

point. Number one...if you wouldn't...you'd probably get (tried ? for

taking up the court's time, but I think this experiment should be tried.

It may be worth it. You may get twenty years for it. But zuppose this one

fellow left his wife, left his home one afternoon, going for a drive. And

he's gets back at midnight. And all this time he's just for a drive. And

say this young lady lives in the house by herself and she forces the door

open and all this good stuff, messes up the bed, and maybe she's had some-

thing sexually to do with him in the past twenty-four hours and all this

stuff. And all of a sudden she runs to the phone and calls the police and

says, "This man is out driving around. He's raped me." Okay, the police

is gonna pick him up.

I: They have no choice.

A: Um-hmm. (affirmative) Okay, when it gets to court, this is a set-up thing.

The girl knows he didn't really rape her and the man knows he's gonna be

tried for it and everything. I'll bet you he'll be found guilty. He can't

prove his whereabouts cause he was out for a ride or he went to a movie.

And he will be found guilty, just on l_ _0AlA O -__ i O__ Cause the

doctor's gonna check her, and she's had that sexual intercourse within the

past twenty-four hours--that's as close as he can arrive at something like

this to begin with. And, then, after it's all over, stop, and show them

LUM 119A 36

exactly what you planned and show how poor the court system is about some


I: Sometimes it makes you shudder when you think about...

A: It would be a nightmare if somebody would go to your house and say, "Hey,

a girl just turned you in" and you just happen to not know...not have any-

body to corroborate your story. It'd be a nightmare. And if she stuck to

her story, you've had it.

I: You couldn't prove you didn't do it, then.

A: Right.

I: And this is a violation of the principle of being considered guilty until

proven guilty, too.

A: This is especially true if you happen to be in a minority. I think our

worst thorn in our side right now in Robeson County is the courtroom. As

far as crime is concerned.

I: It's bad, but man's justice is so inaccurate...man's justice is so unjust.

A: Well, here's another example, let's get away from rape for a while, let's

pick first-degree murder. We have a fellow here, another inmate, Inmate A--

(we'll have B and C next time)_ so...he's a policeman, he's a city police-

man--pretty good one. Okay, his wife gets mistreated by a service station

attendant. The policeman's off duty, just getting off duty and his wife

comes in, she's shaking and crying. This man made advances down at the

service station, physical advances. He goes to the station to talk to the

man, service station. He still has his service revolver on. When he's

trying to talk to the man, the man comes at him with a tire tool. He

shoots him once in the leg, he doesn't stops The next time he shoots him

it's through the heart and he's dead. He's tried, convicted of first-

degree murder and receives a life sentence...And it's all done C4< J% ( :j' Q

with one testimony from the station attendant's wife who says that the

LUM 119A 37

policeman called and said he was going to kill him. The policeman says

he did not say this. He did not call (her' And, by the way, this

policeman is white, he's not Indian. That's another example. But because

he's a policeman, that's part of his trouble right there, because he carries

a badge. He's a more guilty citizen.

I: Society expects more out of him.

A: Superhuman.

I: Do you think our society is very prejudiced against law enforcement of--

ficers? This is a form of prejudice, you know.

A: According to what we were taught...according to what I was taught when I

first went into the services law enforcement, the first !1(00/ I

was ever in,1t -1 Number One, a teacher is the most--resents a

policeman more than anybody else; Number Two, a minister; and on down

the line through society, J f C Ip) .

I: Is there a reason...?

A: They resent the authority, eminently.

I: Although they should be in a position to know better than anyone else,

perhaps, how important...

A: That's why...that's why today our children call policemen pigs.

I: That's awful. If we'd called policemen pigs when I was coming up, all he'd

have to do was to tell my parents about it and they would have whipped the

pants off me. We didn't...we weren't allowed to speak disrespectful to

teachers or anybody like that--not even older people. And I'm not so sure

that that wasn't a better system than we have today, in some respects.

A: Well, getting back to our own little Indian place here in Robeson County...

my father after he left here was a policeman in Pembroke, and he was

totally disabled as a policeman in Pembroke. This had to do with a drunken

LUM 119A 38

brawl. It oculd have happened in any town, U.S.A.1 We seem to get pub-

licized more. When a crime is committed by an Indian, he gets a little

more publicity out of it. When he does something good, you have to look

mighty hard if it's even in the paper to find it.

I: Yes. You know, there was a professor interviewed on.this same program

who was a little harsh in his statements about Indian people: "I never

lived in a community where there was so much cutting and shooting" and

all that sort of thing, you know?

A: Then he's never lived in a community as poor as Robeson County, has he?


I: No. (laughs) And evidently he hasn't lived in nearby Fayetteville, which

has a very high crime rate, I understand.

A: And Charlotte, which has the highest amount of unsolved murders in the

United States....And no Indians.

I: Weel, that was his opinion, of course. I don't agree with it, but this

is the general sort of L&-lP that's held toward our people--don't fool

with them, they'll cut you, they'll shoot you, they're always killing

each other. I think there's too much murder, period.

A: I think a synonym forhate is fear, and a synonym for fear is hate. That's
prCJ ('ce
why we have this PreZjucitcC here in Robeson County because we're feared for

this shooting-cutting thing. And because you're feared you're hated. I

think the Bible...we got it backward in the Bible. It has one, I don't

know which, I think it says in the Bible to fear is to love, but to fear

in Robeson County is to hate.

I: I want to thank you very much, Mr. Ammons for giving us this very enlight-

ening interview. This is one of the most enjoyable interviews I've had,

and I certainly want to thank you for giving it to us. You've helped us

a whole lot.

LUM 119A 39

A: Thank you for talking to me.

I: Yes sir, and good luck now.

A: Good luck to you.

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