The Heritage Research Center and Black History Month:
The “A files”
African Americans-Civil Rights Movement-1971
This February the Heritage Research Center’s entry will focus on our vertical file covering the shootout between the Black Panther Party and the High Point Police Department. Labeled under our subject headings index as African Americans-Civil Rights Movement and African Americans-Civil Rights Movement-1971. The files are a mixture of articles published by the High Point Enterprise the year of 1971 depicting the events, and articles from various years highlighting reflections of those that were involved. This is an event that is infamous in High Point but through continued documentation, growth of information dissemination via digitization, and public speaking engagements by those who were in involved, it has gained regional and national attention.
For those who are unfamiliar with the events on Hulda Street, February 10, 1971, I will give a general recap of the events that took place. A Black Panther Party Community Information Center opened at 612 Hulda Street in High Point in the fall of 1970. Constant harassment from the police made it impossible to thrive. It closed by 1972. The High Point Black Panther Party Community Information Center was short-lived but held free breakfast for children and free clothing giveaway programs during its short period of operation.
A confrontation between 20 heavily armed Police officers and four Black Panther members took place at the 612 Hulda Street Headquarters on February 10, 1971. Police Chief Laurie Pritchett stated about serving an eviction notice to the Panthers, oddly enough at 6 in the morning, "we went to the house hoping the use of force could be avoided." The 20 heavily armed officers fired tear gas into the Panthers dwelling despite his statement and a firefight ensued.
Four members of the panthers engaged in gun fire with the police that morning. Larry Medley, Randolph Jennings, George DeWitt and Bradford Lily were arrested and later convicted after the confrontation ended. George DeWitt was later acquitted of discharging a weapon during the shootout.
Most High Point Panthers who had been trained at the Winston-Salem Chapter returned to that city. The location on Hulda Street was demolished in the 1980s and the street renamed Taylor Avenue. Fairview Family Resource Center, 401 Taylor Avenue, now sits in its place serving the local community and echoing the Panthers efforts and legacy of service.
In the more recent decades Larry Medley, Randolph Jennings, and Bradford Lily have reunited to give talks about the events of February 10, 1971. One of the more notable reunions documented in the Heritage Research Centers vertical file collection is recorded in the February 4, 2011, edition of the High Point Enterprise. The 40th anniversary of the Hulda Street Shootout not only reunited the three surviving Panthers, but also included HPPD officers who were there that day: Tim Robbins and Tommy Bryant, now retired. Men who were once on opposing sides had come together to talk about the experience with churches and civic groups that year. Through this article, we learn that Medley, Robbins, and Bryant had become friends through reuniting and discussing the events that happened 40 years prior.
The documenting of this event has many layers and spans decades. We encourage you to come explore this topic through our vertical file resource. The Heritage Research Center’s vertical files contain articles from 1971 documenting the developing story, articles from various years revisiting the event, and more from the recent past documenting men of substance making efforts to heal old wounds and forge a path to continue bond a community.
Marcellaus Joiner is Supervisor of the Heritage Research Center of the High Point Public Library where he specializes in family and local history and Archivist for the High Point Museum.