Voter Registration in Covington

(1963-1964) Griffin McLaurin was with the second group of people who attempted to go to the courthouse to register to vote in May of 1963. Included in this group was Ozell Mitchell, Norman Clark, Dan Wesley, Roberta Clark, Shadrach “Crook”Davis, and the Russells. Upon reaching the courthouse and informing those present of their intention to vote, the group was instructed to seek commodities from the Welfare Office. After asserting that they had not come in search of commodities the group was directed to wait out under a tree for several hours. During their wait the group was surrounded by onlookers with guns and big dogs, many of whom had just been deputized in order to assist in the harassment of the would-be voters.

Eventually, the Sheriff and the Registrar along with several other white men came out to inquire as to what the group wanted. Henry McCullogh addressed the group, sending them away. A few days later the group returned and attempted to register again. On this particular encounter, they were asked whether they had paid their poll taxes. Some individuals explained the poll tax to them, and gave them a form with almost 100 questions on it. The group did not know how to fill out all of the questions, all of which were arbitrary and designed to harass black voters.

It took until either August or September of that year and a lawsuit before McLaurin was able to vote. The suit was implemented by Mel Leventhal of the Constitutional Defense Committee. They eventually registered 696 blacks (in beat four there were only 96 registered white voters).