By DAVID R. FRAZIER
I was a 25-year-old police reporter for the STATESMAN, recently back from Army service in Vietnam with more interest in getting an exclusive story than my personal safety.
When a riot broke out at the prison on Warm Springs, it was almost a social gathering of old cops, former sheriff’s deputies, and assorted law enforcement groupies. They all joined the posse along the sandstone walls of “the joint” armed with rifles, a stereotype image of the Old West (or Deep South). I stood among them, armed with a camera and note pad.
A deputy warden at the prison suggested to me, “You should go down there in the yard and talk with the inmates. Sometimes they just want to talk to a reporter.”
That sounded like an interesting proposition and sensing a “scoop,” I clambered down the ladder provided by the fire department from outside the wall. The screaming felons armed with everything from barbells and baseball bats to crudely fashioned “shanks,” kept their distance as I descended.
I approached a group of inmates and asked something brilliant like, “Who is in charge?”
Knowing I had come from the top of the wall and my coat and tie were not inmate attire, they came back with, “Not you, @#%&,” and they angrily charged me. Rather than discuss the matter or try to explain I just wanted a “scoop,” I reversed course up the ladder two rungs at a time–like a cartoon character–as the oldtime coppers raised their rifles to cover my retreat.
It was after the successful retreat that I made the picture of the rioting inmates from the top of the wall, never thinking it would end up being a historic image 42 years later.
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