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Remembering Dr. King and the civil rights movement 50 years ago

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By Jim Wallace - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) –Frances Anderson was the Albany Police Chief's secretary and got an up close look as history was made.

Frances Anderson met all the key characters in the Albany civil rights movement in December 1961 as they walked through her office in the Albany Police Department. And still 50 years later she remembers it well.

Frances Anderson looks through pictures she has of the Albany Police in 1961. She was in her early 20's, the only woman at APD, Chief Laurie Pritchett's secretary. And she got to see history move through her office daily.

Anderson said "the first time I met Dr. King he came in the office one morning with Reverend Ralph Abernathy and Andrew Young. And he said "good morning miss, how you feeling?" And I knew who he was, and so he talked to me a few moments."

Dr. King spoke in two Albany churches, and the next day he led a march of about 250 protestors to City Hall. All were arrested for not having a permit to march, including Dr. King. Anderson said Chief Pritchett made sure it was done peacefully.

 Anderson said "It was his policy, it was going to be none violent, and that's what he stuck to."

While under arrest, Dr. King again visited Anderson's office on the way to the Chief.

Anderson said "He was clad in blue silk pajamas, you know. He still greeted me and spoke to me and talked to me for a few minutes and then went on into the Chief's office. That day they came out, well they were just joking with each other you know. So they got along real well. There were no bad feelings."

FBI agents monitoring the situation stayed in her office, and Anderson answered the phone when the Attorney General called.

 Anderson said "While Dr. King was still in jail, Bobby Kennedy called one morning. And he identified himself as to who he was. He talked to me a few moments. He was calling concerning the safety of Dr. King and the marchers."

Frances Anderson said at the time she did not fully realize the history being made in Albany, but she was there.  And she was there four years later when Chief Pritchett integrated the Police Department, hiring six black officers.

Frances Anderson said she was proud that Albany Police were able to keep violence to a minimum in 1961 and '62, when Dr. King led the civil rights movement here. She retired after 35 years at APD, and is their department historian today.

In July 1962 Dr. King was convicted of leading the December march, and refused to pay his fine, and was sentenced to jail. Two days later his fine was paid and Dr. King left Albany, but the civil rights movement continued here.


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