The Brinkley Experience of Johnny Jones John Jones

The first day at Brinkley was memorable. At assembly that morning we heard from the black principal (a holdover and kind man), followed by the white co-principal (a military type looking for trouble). They both told us that the eyes of the nation were on us, that if we could make integration work at Brinkley, it could work everywhere.

Before the white co-principal got a minute into his speech he was Shouted down by the assembly, which made him furious. This was unprecedented for us, and we sank into the seats and tried to disappear. Right as the confrontation built toward critical mass. a bump from the rear of the auditorium followed by an eruption of screaming drew our attention. We saw a 300-pound white history teacher named Crowson tumbling over backwards and a black male (he looked ten years older than us but was apparently a student for that day) finishing his haymaker punch. He’d clocked Mr. Crowson. He stepped over the poor man and rapidly descended the stairs two at a time, flinging away the hands of teachers trying to grab him. and ran out of the auditorium holding his fist in the air in a black-power salute of pure defiance. The whole place went nuts. Within the first hour at Brinkley we saw our first and last mutiny where both principals spoke, followed by general chaos that drew police officers, firemen in their ladder trucks and two ambulances (which were completely disconcerting). We had no teachers, no class had even met, and we just sat there for a couple of hours waiting on order to be restored, scared to talk and draw the attention of the crowd or, worse, an angry looking for a white to pick on. I don't remember how the assembly ended, but I do recall thinking that the whole integration thing was over.

That same day my friend Tinker Miller and I walked into shop class for fifth period. A very dark African American classmate named “Wolf” (if one had any doubt, he wore on the day after Labor Day a black leather motorcycle jacket cut to shreds from, we inferred, knife fights, with a crudely drawn green and yellow wolf‘s head on the back, over which was written his moniker in old-English "saint") walked up behind me and put a straight razor to my throat. “We don't like white people around here?" he hissed. “I don’t either?" I got out, and two of his pack mates and then Wolf laughed. He withdrew the razor (it was dull) but kept his wolf type aggression for as long as he could see we were still scared, and that was a while. But we didn’t report him, even to our parents because the response would have been inevitable; somehow it didn’t seem that threatening. By my senior year Wolf was the centerfielder for the Murrah baseball team, looking the same - Wolf, menacing, even when his cap sat on his Afro without contacting his head till he cut it to play ball, which showed me a lot - but now I considered him a friend.