Charles Pickering: In 1966 Bob Lee told me what the Klan was doing in Laurel. He gave me a list of 130-40 acts of violence and terror, including shooting into houses, fire bombings, etc., not typical 'klan' stuff… Dr. Bush had a number of tenement houses across the street from the church which were rented by colored people; right by First Baptist. And one night they all burned to the ground. But FBI said the KKK [Klu Klux Klan] wanted to burn the COFO [Council of Federated Organizations] house, but it wouldn't burn. The fire department kept putting it out. So the KKK burned the tenements to occupy fire dept, while they burned the COFO house.
We were becoming aware that we were becoming a lawless society. Chet and I wrote in the wake of klan violence a statement condemning these actions. Henry Buckle also signed the document. We went to Merrell Pickering and Buckle (who was suspected by the klan). The four of us called a press conference and signed a petition against violence. We wanted the business people to sign it, and so on. We wanted to make the public aware that the klan was present--the klan and the communists were alike but the klan was worse because they pervaded our communities.
Some churches, after our statements, some churches had articles that Chet and Charles Pickering would be better advised to put their time into the fight against alcohol.