The South/law: A Flying Sheriff

In the boondocks of the Cotton South, that stretch of rich soil spreading from Georgia west to the Mississippi River, every black knew one unwritten law: you did not mess with the county sheriff. Oldtime courthouse minstrels in Alabama still guffaw at the memory of P.C. ("Lummie") Jenkins, sheriff of Wilcox County from 1939 to 1971. "Old Lummie had blacks so scared," one such regular recalls, that "all he had to do was pass the word he wanted some nigger in his office in the morning. Sure enough, that nigger'd be there—or he'd fled the county."

But written law makes the office...

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