To begin with, an anniversary: Sep­tember 20th of this year marked a decade since the death of Alabama Representative Ray Burgess. The Honarable Ray, described at the time of his death by the New York Times as “a volatile segregationist and sometimes [sic] lay preacher,” had a habit of bringing his pistol onto the floor of the Alabama House of Representatives. When some of his brother legislators took exception to this practice and threatened a resolution to forbid it, he agreed to stop. But he vowed to carry his sidearm elsewhere and announced that he had armed his entire family. His life, he said, was “a gift of God, and God gave me the ingenuity to protect that gift.”

After his death, his colleagues eulo­gized him as a man who “contributed immeasurably to the enrichment of our cultural, economic, and everyday lives.” Mr. Burgess was shot in the head by his wife during a quarrel.

The Preston Brooks Society ob­served September 20th as a day of mourning and self-examination.

* * *

As everybody knows, the Southern tradition of self-reliance goes way back, and who is to say it’s not needed as much as ever? Here is a grand story from the Memphis Commercial Appeal for June 17, 1884:

There is a bold gang of robbers and housebreakers working this city now, and it behooves every citizen to keep a well-loaded shotgun near at hand and ask no questions of unseasonable visitors, and crack away at every unusual noise. Better kill a cat or two through mistake than be robbed of all your worldly possessions, and perhaps get a broken head for interfering.


Down here even men of the cloth know how to take care of themselves and their own—although they some­ times make mistakes, too. In Houston, the Associated Press reports, a Baptist preacher, the Reverend Larkin Power, was leaving his Rotary meeting at the Holiday Inn when he encountered his wife being led away in handcuffs by the police. In his righteous anger he hit a sheriff’s deputy “right where it hurts.” Unfortunately, Mrs. Power had been duly arrested, at a “party” arranged by the vice squad. She was charged with prostitution, he with ag­gravated assault.

Joe Bob Briggs, the inimitable for­mer drive-in movie critic of the Dallas Times-Herald commented: “I’m sure [Mrs. Power] was just in there witness­ing to some sinners, and matter of fact, I wish she’d come up here and witness to me.”

* * *

Despite what you see on The Dukes of Hazard, hell-for-leather driving is not a universal Southern pastime. In fact, the five states with the highest rate of compliance with the 55 m.p.h. speed limit, according to the Federal Highway Administration, include West Virginia, South Carolina, Ar­kansas, and Georgia. (The worst are Nevada and Massachusetts.)

I mention this because it appears that its dangerous to rush Southern­ers. Or so the New York Times implied: an article last year warned visitors to Texas not to honk at other drivers. “It’s considered rude. You could get shot.” The Times sniffed that “people from other parts of the country take the view that shooting people is a bit rude itself.”

Of course, people get assaulted in New York for no reason at all. The contrast between Southern and North­ern attitudes was illustrated a couple of years ago by the case of Mrs. Roberta Leonard, a 65-year-old visitor to the Big Apple from Sylacauga, Alabama. Shortly after arriving at the Port Au­thority Bus Terminal, Mrs. Leonard used her cane and a .32 she happened to be packing to stand off a welcoming committee of young New Yorkers who wanted her pocketbook. When the police arrived, they arrested nine peo­ple. One of them was Mrs. Leonard, charged with carrying a pistol without a permit.

One of the most interesting things to emerge from the Bernhard Goetz affair was a list of who is licensed to carry handguns in New York. It included the publisher of the New York Times.

* * *

Finally, last year saw the trial of a chiropractor accused of murdering his wife, dismembering her with a chain saw, and throwing a miscellany of body parts into the river. Relax, Tex­ans: the 36-year-old bone jockey, his wife, and the other woman (named Terry) were all from Davenport, Iowa.