African-American Oral Histories
Clip 5: Transcript
Time in Prison
Running Time: 6 min 11 sec
AE: It was a brand new prison, first of all, called Frenchburg Correctional Facility, in Menifee County, Kentucky. It was a brand new minimal security prison. I was the first inmate. My number was one. When I first got there, there were no other inmates, period. I spent four days, just me, and one guard, and the secretary, and the warden. Then they brought in two guys who had killed a girl in a drunk driving wreck. Then they brought in a couple thieves. And it went on, and on.
But there were no books on the entire campus. So I began to complain about not being able to read. And they finally called a book mobile in, and I ordered some books. And I kept on ordering books. And then finally I convinced the warden to let me start a library. And I started a library. And then I convinced the warden to let me start a school. And I started a school, and I taught school. And I ran the library. I was captain of the basketball team; I was captain of the softball team. I taught myself to play piano, a little bit with one hand, and we created a little quartet, two White and two Black, and we’d go downtown to sing gospel, just as a way to get out of the joint.
JR: Who was teaching the school?
AE: I was.
JR: You were teaching.
AE: Me, and another inmate that came in was an older guy in his sixties, and he had been an accountant, or a teacher himself, so he and I put together a curriculum, because these guys were, almost all of them, high school dropouts. So we just [taught the] basics, reading and writing, and basic math. At least it gave them something to do. It taught them something. It got them to reading, and, I thought it was a good thing. I think the whole prison did. It got to a point where, I was censoring the mail. Being the first inmate, I had seniority, and I had said, I had two hard and fast rules: no homosexuality, and no racial fighting. And, for the entire time I was there, there was only one instance of homosexuality, and they got sent off the same day. There was only one instance of racial fighting. Most of us guys were down on the softball field playing softball, and some of the guys stayed back in the gym and played basketball. And they chose up teams, all white against all Black. When I was there, I didn’t allow that, had to be integrated teams. I knew what would happen [laughing] and it did. They played, they chose all white against all Black, and the Black guys won. And the white guys got mad, started throwing weights at them, and [laughing] everything they could find. Run ‘em all out of the gym, and, there was a lot of tension that night—
JR: Did that change the, the racial climate from then on, or?
AE: No. The guy who was the perpetrator of most of the violence, throwing all the stuff, was a big, six-foot-seven kluntz from my home town. Eighteen-year-old kid. I was twenty-one at the time. Danny Krump. And [laughing], his bunk was across the hall from mine. And I went to him that night and I said, “Krump, this ain’t going to work, man. You’re not going to be able to sleep tonight in the barracks, if you don’t apologize. You were wrong.” And he started sniffing around, and I said, “Dan, be a man, apologize.” I went back up to the day room everybody’s sittin’ out there. And he come clompin’ out in big clod-hoppers [stomping], and walked up to the television set, turned, hit the off knob, turned to us and [in different voice] “I apologize to all the niggers.” [laughing] Turned the T.V. back on and went back to his bed. That was good enough for me. That was good enough for the rest of us [laughing]. It diffused everything.
I went up for parole in April, and was turned down. Even though people who’d come in after me had already been paroled out, and I had created all this stuff that nobody else had done. I was also, worked as the cook’s assistant.
JR: Do you have any idea why you were turned down?
AE: Yeah. The warden finally told me. I got paroled on June 19th, 1970. Juneteenth. And he told me, “I’m sorry to see you go.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “We were on probation ourselves. This is a brand new prison, and if you hadn’t done what you’d done, we might not have got our funding.” They kept me there, I believe, to make sure that they got the funding, to keep things cool. The warden left before I could [laughing]. The guys, number two and number three, the two white guys I told you came in for killing a girl, they got to be buddy-buddy with the warden, and the warden would occasionally take them out at night, and have a few drinks with them. And the assistant warden didn’t like it, was angry, was jealous. I was jealous, ‘cause he wouldn’t take me, and I was number one. [laughing]. But, I don’t know how the word got to the governor’s office, but one night, the warden took these two guys out, they were having a few beers, and they came back to campus, there were some state troopers there. And, he packed his bags [laughing], the warden was gone.
JR: He got fired.
AE: He got fired on the spot. So, back at that time, they had a state law that you could not be paroled unless you had a job waiting for you on the outside. I didn’t have a job waiting for me on the outside. I was paroled to college. And, when I got out in June, even though college didn’t start until September, I had already been readmitted to UK. So, I went back to the University of Kentucky.
“Oral Narrative as History.” Students received class credit for this work, and were under the supervision of Dr. Martha Norkunas, director of “The Project in Interpreting the Texas Past.”
Every effort has been made to transcribe the audio recordings exactly. On occasion a word, or phrase, was difficult to hear and this is indicated by a question mark in brackets.
Date of Interview:
April 23, 2004
Mr. Evan’s office at NOKOA, the Observer, Austin, Texas