tv QA CSPAN August 29, 2016 6:00am-7:01am EDT
♪ announcer: this week on "q&a," author laurence leamer talking about his latest book "the lynching: the epic courtroom battle that brought down the klan." brian: laurence leamer, you are now an owner of 15 books you have written. why did you do books? laurence: i could not make a living writing magazine articles. i tried. i could not write fast enough, so i wrote books. i did not make much of a living for a while. but i kept at it, the secret is persistence. brian: how do you pick your books?
laurence: it is a stupid thing to do. i should choose an area and keep at it, but i wanted to do something much different. experience different lives. when you write a nonfiction book, you are thinking back in somebody's life. i want to piggyback on as many lives as i can. brian: of the 15 books, which one sold the most? laurence: "the kennedy women," by a longshot. a multigenerational book about women. nobody had ever written a multigenerational book about women. to put women at the forefront just totally changed things. brian: what about the kennedy women do you most remember and what did the audience want to hear when you talked to them? laurence: it was a book -- i suggested that you do not have to be a woman to love the kennedy women. it was a book read by women. women of that generation read that book and they just loved that it was their story and they could all identify one way and
another with the evolution of women in america. brian: you did a trilogy on the kennedys. which one came first? laurence: the kennedy women. brian: 1994. then what? laurence: i went on to do other things, i worked in a coal mine, earlier. when i was in magazine writer. i broke my finger in the coal mine, went back in. lived in west virginia in a trailer for six months. developed a love for country music. i went down and wrote a book about country music, which did not sell very well. then a publisher came back and said we want to do a book, the kennedy men, and if you do not do it we will find summary else to do it. that convinced me i should do it. brian: what was special about that particular book? laurence: it was the story of the men through the five generations, just the way the
kennedy women had been the women. i was supposed to tell the entire story, but i did not. ingot so long we broke it two. the second volume was the young generation that came after that. sons of camelot. brian: did you get to talk to any of the kennedy men? laurence: yes, and the women. brian: of all of those, who did you like the most, or who did you get the most from? laurence: mrs. shriver. since we have an hour, i'm going story. you the i went to the minneapolis games and i got in the car with the shrivers and spent the whole week with them. i just hung out with them. i came back and i set up -- she agreed to an interview. i have a journalist's soul. the phone rings, i'm going to answer the phone. answers the i know
phone the same way, on the first ring. the phone rang that morning of the interview, and i have to answer the phone. i totally panicked, do not know what to do. what can i do? i knew this woman who gave this wonderful oral history for the kennedy library. i did not know if she was still around. book,ed in the phone there were still phone books then. there she was, living in georgetown. i called and said -- yes, i'd be happy. can you come over right now? i took a cab, walked in. would you like to see my memorabilia? here is winston's cigar. i said, this is fascinating. i'm good this book on the kennedys, can we talk about the kennedys? yes. how are the kennedys? great. i think the history of the family changed with the
assassination of president kennedy. he's dead? so, that was my day. that would have been about 1992. then mrs. shriver did talk to me. i became quite close to her. i would go out to the events that she would have over there. it was interesting because we talk about the special olympics, which to my mind is the best thing the kennedys have ever done. changed our attitude towards those with intellectual disabilities, all across the world. they started that in 1968. rosemary kennedy, of course, who had the lobotomy in 1941, was mildly intellectually disabled and her father tragically want to be on the cutting edge and gave her this lobotomy they gave her the mental age of a three or
four-year-old. they started the special olympics. but mrs. shriver was convinced that the special olympics had nothing to do with her sister rosemary. i said, of course it is. i was made the mistake of calling her eunice, you don't do that. shriver."ays "mrs. of course rosemary had something to do with that. of course she admitted maybe she did, but you cannot intellectually bring herself to do. but i think the special olympics should consider rosemary the cofounder. brian: where do she fit in with the family? laurence: she is the second oldest sister. brian: what about one of the men you talk to? laurence: i talked to teddy. brian: how open was he? laurence: the tragedies remained
an open wound to him his entire life. you bring up his brother and you think -- we have all had our parents -- we talk about our parents we felt so much about them. we do not tear up when we hear their name. but when you mention his brothers and their loss, it was talk.ard for him to doing that book i also spent not thanksgiving day, but the wednesday evening before things i was invited to a dinner party in hyannisport at the kennedy home with all the close friends. my wife and i were the only people who were not close friends were there that evening. it was the strangest thing. even among intimates, everyone is watching teddy. if teddy wants to watch the football game, they watch the football game. and i thought, what a mad way to live? even in intimacy of your home, people cannot be themselves. brian: why do they trust you?
laurence: if people advise me on being a journalist, was the most important thing? i would say to have a good reputation. you get this over time. it bothers me when journalists lie because it comes back to haunt us all. i have had a problem -- you just have to keep your word. people are shrewd, they are a good judge of people. i also take my interviews as much as i possibly can. when i read a book, i can usually tell when it has been tape recorders or whether people make casual notes and try to remake it afterwards. that saved me from lawsuits.
i was sued by judith exner, jfk's mistress. she sued me because i talked to peter lawford's manager who said she was paid to sleep with kennedy. she said, "i never said that, you made this up." thank goodness i had the tape and i quoted precisely what he said, and that really saved me. brian: what happened to the lawsuit? laurence: $400,000 later it was thrown it. this the tragedy of journalism writing books. yes, there is libel insurance but there is a deductible. that cost me $50,000. we won, it cost me $50,000. thank goodness the kennedy women was a very successful book. i could afford it. it does not matter. there was a stellar reporter who wrote a biography of donald trump, said he was worth $600 wasion and trump said that
billions he was worth of dollars. trump sued, it was thrown out. when he had to come up with the deductible. trump lost, but trump won in terms of causing trouble for that writer. brian: how many different publishers have you had? laurence: it used to be one publisher forever, that is no longer true. i cannot even count how many i have had. we are all mercenaries. you go wherever you get the best deal. nobody is loyal to anybody in america. corporations are not loyal to you and you are not loyal to them. people move on. authors move on. brian: you live in washington dc and palm beach florida. laurence: i used to hate people who lived in two places. what a jerk they must be. i live in florida partially because -- i do not like the winter and there's a big tax advantage of
living down there. i'm not making them much money anymore, it does not really matter. i like to play tennis, like to play year-round. and i work very hard. really what i do, i can work anywhere. brian: one of the books you have written over the years is a book the subtitless," is " under the royal palms, love and death behind the gates of -- behind the gates beach," which i have read and when i read it i thought, how does mr. leamer survived living in palm beach? what is the story? laurence: i had never been to palm beach before. remember the willie smith trial when he was accused of ripping this woman in palm beach? a kennedy relative. he was the precursor to oj. there were hundreds of
journalists down there and i was one of them. i stayed at a hotel in palm beach. i said, this is the strangest place i have ever seen. there is no life. nobody is there, nobody in the streets, no bathroom on the beach. there is no place to eat if you want to get a cup of coffee or something. this is bizarre. i thought, i'm going to get a place here and write a book about it. i got a place -- i tell this story in the book, we get this condominium and suddenly everybody treats me terribly. i mean, they come in, i had a --k and the people came in the board members, they would not sit down. no, they would not sit down. they were just incredibly unpleasant to me. i could not figure out what it was. christmas rolls around and my wife is the world's ultimate shopper. she said we needed a christmas tree. she said the only place was boynton beach, about 20 miles. we go to boynton beach and here's the place we go -- a guy out of "deliverance." a 90-year-old guy.
toothless guy. the tree is too big to put in the trunk of a car. i have to take the side roads. we are late, we were supposed to go to a dinner party. the garage is in the basement underneath the building. we are late. my wife says, just take the tree. carried the tree. and i said, i cannot carry the tree, it is enormous. she said grandpa carried a tree, why can't you carry a tree? i said i'm not grandpa. , my wife is 5'2". she says, i will get it. she takes the tree, holes it off, takes it into the service elevator. this is a very ritzy building. there are all these people going to parties and here's my little wifey carrying this tree down the corridor. i realize what it was -- i am not jewish. everybody thinks i'm jewish, ok? but i'm not jewish. as a methodist.
the reason they were so cruel -- and they were cruel -- was because they thought i was jewish. it was a wasp building. aside, palm an beach has changed. we have all kinds of people in the building. i am on the board. it is a different palm beach and a different building. that is in my book, and it is partly about the jewish world of palm beach and the wasp world of palm beach and how they have very little to do with one another. it is one of the good things donald trump did when he bought mar-a-lago. when he bought this palace, during financial hard times, he wanted to build a bunch of big fancy homes on the land. the town did not like it into they would not let him do it. so he had dinner with a jewish lawyer and said we have these wealthy jews coming, most of them cannot do into the country club. if we start mar-a-lago, they
will all come and join it. that is precisely what happened. brian: we have all heard about mar-a-lago. i think i look it up. what is that sea to lake? , what is it? laurence: it is one of the most incredible buildings in america. marjorie meriwether post belted in arump -- built it into time when people thought no one wanted these big homes anymore, trump got it. if i had billions of dollars, the lasting out want to do is hang out with a bunch of wannabes. wannabes in every way. but they are there with him every weekend. people call, if donald is in town, the place is full. they want to be around him. and he wants to be around them. this is before he ran for president, but even now he does that. it is funny because i had dinner easter sunday at trump golf
course in west palm. and it is a very fancy buffet they have. a person buffet. all these fancy cars are out there, very wealthy people. they're getting the lobster and the fancy things. and i know better than any of them and i go get a steak. i looked to my right and there is donald. there is donald trump he wants a hamburger. he gets a hamburger, he gets it cooked until it is charred and he puts an inch of ketchup over the top. i thought, this guy -- he is a populist in his food, whatever you say about him. brian: have you talked with him? laurence: yes, he was in my book. brian: it starts off, the great donald might have been the son of a wealthy real estate developer but the protestant mogul is the uncrowned king of the new yorkers. laurence: yeah.
in his flamboyance, i mean he is it. brian: why do people want to live the way they do in palm beach, and would you describe why i asked the question? laurence: when i cannot figure out is, if i had that money, i would want the most interesting people around me. i would want to have -- you know -- what is the point? but it is segregated in terms of its wealth. now i know somebody who has earned around $400 million. he does not go down there because he is not wealthy enough. ok? , you look at me and you do not think how much i'm worth, you do not care how much i were -- him worth. ok? they look at you and know precisely how much you are worth so you are on their level. brian: how do you fit? laurence: i do not fit. i am the odd man out. brian: how do they know that? laurence: thanks to my book. my book came out, i was driven off the road. the police chief said i should
hire security. there is a video on youtube of someone screaming at me about how much of a big it i am. bigot i am. the book is the truth. i was astounded that of all my books, that would be the most controversial. brian: kennedy, rush limbaugh, donald trump -- i'm sure you can name other people that lived in and around palm beach? what is the draw for these folks? what can you say about donald trump now that you have lived there? why does donald trump want to live in that world? laurence: he doesn't want to -- look, i wrote a book about arnold schwarzenegger. he was the same way, he did not want to be alone. he could not stand to be alone. is that way, too. so they love to have these people around. and he is a wonderful host. uncle, he likes to go to
ho's chinese buffet in upstate new york. mr. trump is it a better host. he would be there at the entrance greeting people. he just likes people in that way, no way around it. brian: what kind of a president would he be based on what you know of his activities in palm beach? laurence: i do not know. i have been writing a novel called "victor's way." it is the story of a flamboyant new york businessman becoming president of the united states. brian: when did you start it? laurence: a few months ago. i finished it. i -- my editor said it is a terrific novel, terrific, that we do not know if people are going to want to read it next spring. we think when our national nightmare is over, nobody is going to read about this kind of character. well, it is not a track. you can read this book either way. it is about the rise of this man. i'm not sure where i'm going to do, whether to send it to publishers. i might just self publish it next month, i'm debating what to
do. it is not just about him, it is -- arnold schwarzenegger is in there. unique characters. teddy kennedy is in this book. brian: the arnold schwarzenegger book was 2005? was that before or after he left his wife? laurence: before. i did not know about that. i knew about his womanizing but not that. brian: how much time did you spend on the schwarzenegger book? laurence: two years. brian: and you did not know he had a child by the woman who worked in the house? laurence: nobody did. believe me, if i had known it, it would have been in there. brian: what was your reaction when you first heard it? laurence: i was stunned. but then people would say about other things. i mean, i remember his closest friend telling me this story. ran, into the week
before there was a scandal peas in the l.a. time about all these women and how he liked to touch their breasts. he was denying this. maria went on television and said you can either believe me or the l.a. times. the california people believed him. his close friend said arnold had called him and said, well -- they say that i like to touch these women's breasts, it is not true. touchy said i liked to their butts, i would not have a problem, but they did not say that. that is what he liked to do and that is why he liked this woman. brian: why is the public drawn to these people? laurence: that comes with it. it certainly -- i think bill
clinton would be going down in history is a great president if not for monica lewinsky. i mean, it hurt him dramatically. brian how political are you? : laurence: i try not to be that political. brian: i saw you on c-span when you announced that you were a liberal democrat. laurence: yes. but i try not to -- this novel i have written is not a liberal democrat's book. and i try to keep it -- look, the kind of journalism that you and i represent is pretty much gone. who, what, where. when i went to columbia journalism school in 1969, the way we are taught to write. objective and fair. kornbergofessor john was of that school. if he saw the new york times, he would die. if he saw the front page of the
new york times or the washington post he would not believe it. when i read the newspapers, i am editing. you cannot say that, you should not say that. let the reader decide. but that is gone. brian: why? laurence: if you want to be a journalist, successful, you have to have an edge. if you want to go on television, you want to go on his cable networks, you better have an edge one way or the other. or forget it. try to be fairy and in the middle, forget it. they are not going to want you. brian: have you developed an edge? laurence: not enough. a few years ago, it was ted kennedy's birthday and i got a call from bill o'reilly's producer asking me, could i come on that evening to talk about ted kennedy. and i said, sure, that would be great. they said we want you to talk negatively about him. and i said, why do have to speak negatively? said, because we have got someone speaking positively at about him. i said, i'm not going to do this. get one of your usual right-wing hacks. and i hung up. i had a few drinks that evening.
i usually do not have drinks, but i did that evening. then the phone rang and it was the producer and they said the person who was supposed to speak positively could not do it. could i speak positively about him on the phone? no time to get me to the studio. i said, ok. i am on with this guy from the national review. he is playing anti-kennedy. i said you live in an intellectual prison that you cannot escape. i just destroyed the sky. i was unbelievably good, i just shattered him. i walked out saying come i'm so good at this. i'm back in washington, would you come on this evening? i said this is great, they wanted to talk about teddy again. they bring me down to the studio. i am sitting there waiting and then i realized that number one, the picture of o'reilly, number one, his head it is about twice as big as mine.
the sound is louder. in they say, we're talking about ted kennedy and the sexual molestation of the priests in boston and ted kennedy -- what are you going to say? i said, i think we should really start talking about the history of the catholic church -- i don't want to hear your pathetic look at history, i want to know how this sleazebag -- has allowed this sexual predatory to get away with it. he just totally destroyed me. i went out of there limp, devastated. i never wanted to go on television again after that. brian: you know it is very successful and profitable. why? laurence: roger ailes, he is so despicable. i would like to see fox do a story about their guy. in this air of objectivity. the reality of his life. these other women have come forth. there is a culture they are that is just disgusting and
degrading. i wish more and more people would come forward and talk about it. brian: what about the culture in terms of palm beach? laurence: the world of palm beach is the country club world all across america. that story of palm beach is everywhere. what money does and what people do with their money. brian: who ran you off the road? why did they want to? laurence: i don't know. television crew was taking me around and somebody tried to run me off the road. i thought they would use that footage but they did not. brian: at this stage in your life, what do you think of the united states? laurence: i fear the best days are behind us, in so many ways. brian: why? laurence: i just think we have such a marvelous thing going and the greatness of the country and think we are not
dealing seriously with the problems. i do not think either candidate is. my brother is a candidate for vice president with his professor at boston university who is running for president. my brother gets three votes and he is the vice presidential candidate. i do not know if the ticket is called, but they are out there trying to get publicity. he just did this essay about how he thinks every bill -- there should be a rule -- how will it affect the future? how is it going to affect the next generation? i mean the infrastructure of , this country -- you cannot believe this is the united states. you go to europe, you get on the roads, their trains -- this is the richest country in the world. in terms of the poor people, the democrats ignore them, then they moved to the republicans, the republicans largely ignore them. now they have come to trump. i feel that trump, if he becomes
president, will not do good for them anyway. but they deserve to be treated better than they are being treated and have opportunities they do not have. brian: of everyone you have written about, who is the most interesting in your opinion? laurence: mrs. shriver is pretty darn interesting. the bottom climber who climbed mount everest in 1963 and was the director of the peace corps who died, he was fascinating. morris, in my new book, the cofounder of the southern poverty law center, he is fascinating. the thing is there are so many fascinating people, you could write books endlessly. so many interesting people. brian: let's talk about the new book. it is called "the lynching -- the epic courtroom battle that brought down the klan." in order to get started on this, you mentioned morris. tell us who he is. laurence: he made a lot of money, poor boy, made a lot of money in the direct-mail
business. then founded habitat for humanity. in 1971, he founded the southern poverty law center. a civil rights law firm. brian: let's look at morris. is he still active? 79-years-old. laurence: yes. brian: here he is. clip] video >> the judge is beginning to tell the jury what their role was in the case when all of a sudden he leaped to his feet. he had been brought there from prison and they jumped up because they thought he was trying to escape. he turned to the judge and said, your honor, can i say something to the jury? he cleared his throat. donald, can you forgive me for what i did to michael?
she kind of reared back in her chair and looked at him in front of the jury and i will never forget what she said -- i would live to be 100. she said son, i have already forgiven you. brian: that was 1999. that video right there. talking about michael donald and his mother. who are they? laurence: michael donald was lynched in 1981 in mobile, alabama. his mother -- that is the lynching. the two young men the klansmen , were convicted. one was executed and one spent 25 years in prison. and now believe it or not, is a kosher chef. morris thought this was not just these two young men who did this, they had been led to do this by a violent philosophy klans ofby the united
america. so he filed a civil lawsuit united klans of america. robert sheldon, the head of the klan. it was such a controversial thing that the five lawyers of the southern poverty law center thought it was the prosodic case that would be thrown out. they do not like the fact that when wars was going after the clan come the officers had been firebombed, there had been death threats against morris, people showing up at his ranch with assault weapons. they had been driven off. they did not like this. there was some security at the offices. morris was going to head this new matter what. the five lawyers all quit. they brought a new team of lawyers. morris continued and fought this lawsuit. brian: here's some video of robert sheldon. before we show it, is he still alive? laurence: no. he was the head of the united
klans of america. the imperial wizard. brian: what did he do as a living? before the klan? laurence: he was a prelaw student. he was a smart guy. at the university of alabama. dropped out and went to the army. he saw the black soldiers dating the german women and that is what made him realize he should join the klan. he rose quickly in the clan. brian: here's the voice of charlie. this is the voice of 1965. robert sheldon. [video clip] >> imperial wizards and grant longer avoidons no the press. clan leaders sport crew cuts, button-down collars and well
tailored suits. the most publicized and best organize clan leader is in robert shelton of united klans nights of the kkk. he spent much of his time in his tuscaloosa, alabama office constantly listening to tape recordings of martin luther king jr. while he examines pictures of civil rights demonstrators. those he can identify are circled and filed. shelton explains why. >> i might add to this that it is effective. we uncover a lot of evidence that other departments might miss. [end video clip] brian: klan bureau of investigation? laurence: thank you the success of the lawsuit, it does not exist anymore. they have used the lawsuit against other large white supremacist organizations. there are not too many of them now. the book points out that robert shelton was close to george wallace, the governor of alabama. brian: what got you interested in the story? laurence: in 1967, i was a graduate student at the university of oregon.
international affairs and i was bored to death. i took a course in magazine writing. i talked my way, with a grant from the wallace foundation, i talked my way into george wallace's plane. the readers digest wallace. i should've explained that. i talked my way into the plane. i spent four days with him. i submitted an article to the "new republic" about laws which a state publisher i got a student magazine, they sent to alabama to interview wallace in his office a couple months later. then i got a fellowship to come to the university of journalism but had no background in journalism. but i think because of those two things. that november, they sent me back to alabama on election night. so i go back a long way with
george wallace. brian: what was he like up close? laurence: feisty guy. he loved to spain his tobacco. spitoon.spit into this you hoped it would not end up on your shoe. he was a good spitter. so he did not do that. brian: we have some video of him. this is george wallace. [begin video clip] >> i would like to point out to all the people of the state that segregation is in the best interest of our constituents. i see -- a system based upon what we believe in our hearts to be in the best interest of all concerned. [end video clip] brian: did he really believe that? laurence: he did not believe that. he is a smart guy. he knew that segregation was going to end. he knew it, but he thought -- to souththe clerk was
africa who worked with nelson mandela to end apartheid, he could have done that or could have tried to do that. he thought, i can rise to power if i'm the most militant supporter of segregation even though he knew it was going to end. in that way, that is the parallel to me with donald trump. i mean, donald trump needed a device to rise into power. i think when donald trump talks driving people out of the country and not letting muslims -- into the united states, i think he knew he needed something to get attention. that is what it was. brian: back to the store, morris deese worked for george wallace? laurence: he started out as a segregationist. he would say that everyone is a segregationist and so was he. he was a student at the university of alabama. in 1958, he took office semester from school to be wallace's student campaign manager for the state. three years later, as a young
lawyer, he defended the klan leader who led the beating up of freedom riders in montgomery. he defended him. on the last day of the trial, he came out and one of the freedom riders said, how can you do this? how can you defend the freedom -- these people? then he had an epiphany and knew it was wrong. three years later, when the 53 baptist church was bombed by the united klansmen of america, killed four black girls, he was a baptist, he got up and said, folks, we have some fellow baptists in trouble. this baptist church in birmingham, these poor little black girls were killed. they said, we don't want to hear about this, morris. this is not our business. he said, we must help them. we are christians. folks, let us pray. he bowed his head and prayed.
when he raised his head and looked up, there was nobody left in the church. that is how divided things were in alabama at that point. that was the risk he was taking to stand up. brian: morris deese married five times? laurence: yes. now is with a lawyer that he adores. now he may be married a sixth time. brian: what kind of guy is he like? laurence: he wants to be atticus finch. the hero in "to kill a hasingbird." atticus finch probably destroyed by lawyers -- destroyed more lawyers man anyone else. if you can't be atticus finch, you don't want to be him. he is more like schindler. he is like a greedy businessman, he saved thousands of jews. morris deese israel. he used to drive his motorcycle
100 miles per hour. on weekends he would go into rodeos. this is the same time he is doing all of this. he is just an unbelievable character who has done so much good in the world. he's very controversial. if you look up his name, you will find very positive and very negative things. but he has done all this good in the world. he deserves some the top awards that any american gets of his generation. he has not gotten them because of his controversy about them. brian: let's watch a little bit more of morris deese from the same speech. [begin video clip] >> i have family members i love in spite of them. we all know about families. and you know the reason i love some of my family members, i had a couple of uncles who were members of the kkk. they ran a little country store. because i knew them personally and i knew the good things about them. i knew them as individuals. and i am not talking about that
kind of love you have for your girlfriend or boyfriend or the members of your church or the people you work with, i'm talking about that love for people who are different than you are. [end video clip] brian: you say in the book he is 6'8"? laurence: he is tall. but not that tall. brian: back to the original story. you have the picture of michael donald hanging from the tree. but they did not hang him from the tree? laurence: there was a klan meeting three days before the lynching. there was a black bank robber who shot and killed a police officer. to have a fair trier, they brought him down to muldoon. the klansmen that night decided that if this guy got off or there was a hung jury, they would find a black man a and
hang him, lynch them as retribution. there had not been a hanging in america since 1955. they did that. friday evening, they go out, and michael is a teenager and is trained to be a bricklayer. he is the youngest of seven children. he is home with his mom in the house. his can't wants him to go get her a pack of cigarettes. nt wants him to go out of get her a pack cigarettes. she gives him a dollar. he goes out and an old pupils of behind him. tiger noses him in the buick and pulls out his gun and orders him into the car. he knows when he gets in the car what is going to happen. a black man in alabama, you know. they drive him down the countryside, he gets out. he's not a fighter. he is a timid man. he fights with heroically against these people. three times he is knocked down
and he keeps fighting. finally they hold him down, pull down the lynching rope, single -- strangling him to death. then they slit his throat. they throw him back in the truck. they do not leave him back in the woods or throw him in the ocean because they want to make an example. they drive him back to mobile , alabama and hang him in the , tree. why that? they want to set an example. from about 1870-1955, there was an average of one racial lynching a week in the south. it was a brilliant psychological device to hold down a race. if you were black, you were afraid this would happen. how do you raise your son if you are black mother? brian: back to the original clip, talking about tiger knowles in the courtroom with michael donald's mother in the courtroom. what was the circumstance after all the trial? when was it held? laurence: 1987.
brian: who prosecuted it? laurence: morris deese was, it was a civil trial. it lasted four days and it was in mobile. brian: how did you verify the story about tiger knowles? who else was with him when they put the noose around his neck? michael donald's neck. laurence: the other killer that was executed. henry hayes. brian: they went to this whole trial, how did you find out about the story and verify it? laurence: i had all the court documents. the southern poverty law center was great. they gave me a all the documents i needed. i also went out on my own. i knocked on a lot of doors on
the countryside to find the klansmen, which was interesting. i interviewed tiger knowles. i interviewed one of the killers. a kosher chef now after 25 years in prison. brian: what was he like? laurence: he was only 17 years old when this happened. it was as if he was talking about somebody who is not him. it was not him anymore. i think after 25 years, he got out and would not be any more trouble to anybody. brian: what was the reason they wanted to kill him? where did the hate come from? laurence: that was so interesting. hate was the ocean they lived in. they weren't living with hate. what the klan would do, they had missionary activity. the favorite missionary activity was to beat up a black man. when you left them there bleeding, you say, go to the police.
we have klansman all over the place and we will kill you. those are the kinds of things that did not reach the newspapers. just like mrs. donald. she wanted her son to be remembered because she was old enough to know that black people would just disappear. they were just gone. , did notew, the police care. that was the south. that is why we have to remember. just the way we remember the holocaust as part of our lives. we have to make it part of our memory of our country. thanks to all of these wonderful historians now that are beginning to look at slavery. we are beginning to do that. we desperately need to do that as a people and country. brian: is mrs. donald still alive? laurence: she died shortly after the verdict. she did not care about the money. it was a $7 million verdict, but the klansmen only gave $50,000.
it was enough to bankrupt them. for her to get a nice little house, but that is all it was. brian: the photographs, how did you get your hands on those photographs and why do people want them published? laurence: i debated that. whether i should put it in the book. but why hide it? this is a horrendous thing. that was happening in the south in 1884, i believe, it was a lynching in texas and there were 12,000 people there to see it. it was a family event. you would bring your family to see it. the church, you go to the church and then you go down to the lynching. this,s why the cost of the cost of racism is not just to african-americans, it is the white race also. what it is like to be in a culture where you do this. what is the cost of that to you? brian: this book took you how long to write? laurence: two years. brian: how much time did you find in alabama?
laurence: a lot. brian: what did you find in alabama about race today? laurence: it is still a troubling scenario. i saw that the restaurants are integrated but you will not see too many african-americans in the restaurants. the schools. there are three target schools in montgomery. they are excellent schools. they are a mixture of african americans, whites and asians. excellent education. there are two big korean auto plants right near town. i would send my daughter there in a minute. but the black schools are terrible. they don't educate very well. the races -- it is funny, i asked morris. i can speak candidly to him. i said morris, where the not -- why are there no african-americans at your parties? yet these big parties. he said, they don't want to be
here. they do not want to be a token at my party. brian: how does the southern poverty law center make its money? laurence: it raises money. it is a phenomenal -- you know, that is one of the criticisms of it. they have an endowment of over $200 million. that is because morris is such a brilliant fundraiser. people criticize him. say, why do you spend that money -- but he wants to make it so solid that the mother what happens to the economy or anything else, it will go on and on and on. and with that kind of money, it certainly should. brian: how big of an organization is it? laurence: about 50 lawyers. it is still in montgomery. one thing i admire is that he loves alabama. ok? it would have been easy to move it to washington or atlanta, but he loves that place. he loved it when he was
totally ostracized and people turned their back on him. now, it is a pain going to dinner with this guy and montgomery. you walk into a restaurant and every table, somebody stands up and says hello to him. it has kind of turned around. down there, people admire what he did and does. brian: how many african-americans did you talk to that might have been around back in 81? laurence: when morris was growing up, he had mainly black friends. which is very unusual. now with segregation, it would not come into the house for dinner but his father was known as somebody who is fair to black people. that meant he had a cotton gin and that meant the black people who brought the cotton would get the same price is a white person would get. into that was not that usual then. morris still has these friends. i talked to a lot of african-americans in montgomery about those times.
civil rights leaders and others. brian: why were his friends mostly african-american? because he was a segregationist himself. laurence: those were his buddies. brian: have you given much thought to another book? laurence: i'm desperately looking for a subject. i am driving my wife crazy. i wrote this novel because i was wondering. while, i am going to do this. they yet, i am always looking for a subject. brian: where did you grow up? laurence: i was born in chicago. my father is a professor at the university of chicago. then i moved to new york. my father went to harper college, i went to a three-room schoolhouse. brian: you have lived all over the world? where have you lived? laurence: i went to antioch college. antioch college had a year
abroad study. i worked in a factory in france. they made the engines for french trains. that is how i learned french, working in a factory. brian: why were you doing that? laurence: antioch had a work-study program. which is great for a writer. you work all these jobs. then i went to the peace corps to nepal. it was the most fabulous place. i was a two day's walk from the mountains. i was there for two years. brian: what did you get from all that? peace corps. laurence: the best group of people i've ever been with. i'm still close to many of them. we still have our reunions, everything from people that went colleges, people that went to harvard. just a mix of people. one of these guys i still play tennis with occasionally. a marine officer says it was more difficult in the pre-score -- peace corps been in the -- than the military.
it was tough. it was not easy to do this. and people at a lot of health problems. some of them still do. living in those conditions for two years. but it was a great experience. brian: what do you think of the peace corps today? laurence: i took three months off when obama was elected to push him to keep his promise that he made many times during the campaign to double the size of the peace corps. he unfortunately has not done that. and i also worked at bringing a new leader to the peace corps to really revitalize it. my best candidate was tim shriver who is the head of the special olympics international. not because the name and his father was the founder of the peace corps, but because he would have done a great job. but he did not get it and we have not doubled the size of the peace corps. brian: what did you do during the three months when you are
trying to get him to double the size of the peace corps? laurence: we lobbied. we could lobby all the senators and congresspeople. brian: were you with tim shriver all the time? laurence: no, tim shriver had nothing to do with it. just as knocking on doors, we petitioned. we did an event new the whitebr: house. we marched on the white house, asking them. we did all these things. we worked hard. it was inspiring. it was said we couldn't get -- we had some luck raising the amount. you could just do this as an american. the essence of democracy. the citizens do not do as much as they should. actually, i have another friend. because i covered the war in bangladesh. offriend worked with a group bengalis to change american foreign-policy. we tilted towards pakistan
with henry kissinger at the time. they had nothing. they had knocked on doors. this little group without power or money changed american foreign-policy. david, a couple years ago, he retired as one of the top bankers at the chase manhattan. he won an award for what he did. from the bengalis. so again, it is what you can do. it shows what you can do in a democracy if you take advantage of it. brian: you are in a classroom with writers and asked this question, can you make a living off of writing books? laurence: i hit the wave. i hit it. to tell youshamed how big several of my advances were, ok? they were enormous, ok? 74-ll tell you, i am years-old, ok? i got a million-dollar advance for the kennedy women. three times i got a million-dollar advance. now i get 10% of that sometimes.
ok? that is what is happening to publishing. it is hard to make it living. people are discovering new ways. that is why i am thinking of self-publishing. just last week i was thinking about that. maybe we can do this. new ways to do this. that is the greatness of the entrepreneur greatness of america. we're constantly reinventing ourselves. brian: did the publisher get their million dollars back? laurence: they sure as hell did. brian: besides the advance, he got more money -- you got more money? laurence: when i started writing, nobody would ever talk about money. i embarrassed i even said that. writers,d a group of no. now, people talk about it all the time. even if they are writing books that will not make it. there used to be mid-list writers who would never have a bestseller.
but you are respected and honored and a decent human being. made a decent living. that is not true anymore. brian: under the current circumstances, what is the chance he would live this life again talk --life again? laurence: i am persistent. i think if you really want to do something, you can find some way to do. i think if you really want to do something, again the greatness of a america. you can find some way to do it. i think i would find some way to do it, i feel so passionately about it. brian: what is the biggest mistake people make writing books? laurence: not being persistent or rewriting. brian: how often do you rewrite? laurence: you know, it is funny. with the computer now, he don't even know how many times. you can do it again and again and again. do you spend more time in washington, d.c., florida? laurence: are you with the irs?
[laughter] about half and half. brian: there is no state tax in florida. that is why so many people retire down there. the name of the book is "the lynching." the epic courtroom addled that clan.t down the there are 14 other books. our guest has been lawrence leamer. a new york times best-selling offer. thank you very much. laurence: take care. thank you. ♪ announcer: four free transcripts ordered to give us your comments about this program, visit us at q&a.org. you and a programs are also available as c-span podcasts.
announcer: if you liked this interview, here are some others you might enjoy. ck lehr on the film " the birth of america" and its portrayal of african-americans during the civil war era. and the state of race relations and politics with artur davis. you can find these interviews and more online at c-span.org. >> at c-span.org, you can watch our political affairs and clinical public anytime at your convenience. hear us out. go to our homepage and click on the video library search box. type in the name of the speaker, the sponsor of the bill, or in event topic. click on the program you would like to watch or refine your search with our many search
tools. if you do not want to search the video library, our home page has many programs available for your immediate viewing. c-span.org is a public service of your cable or satellite provider so if you are a c-span watcher, check it out at c-span.org. >> here on c-span, washington journal is next. at 10:00, we'll hear from former budget direct or and former defense budget director. about priorities that need to be addressed by congress into the next president. later, a look at counterterrorism strategy between the u.s. and europe. on today's washington journal, columnist and pollster on the 2016 presidential race into the role of millennial voters. after that, the urban institute
on what some cities are doing to make housing affordable for residents. later, a look at federal funding for disaster assistance from the accountability office. host: good morning. it's monday, august 29, 2016. on today's three-hour "washington journal," we'll discuss polling in the election, the availability of affordable housing in united states, and we'll take a look at federal disaster assistance spending in our weekly "your money" significant am. we begin at the intersection of sports, politics, and social justice. on friday, san francisco 49ers quarterback colin capper nick sought to call attention to the black lives matter movement and protest police violence by remaining seated as the national anthem played.