Mount Airy, N. C.
Marcy 12th, 1920.
Hon. T. W. Bickett,
My dear Governor:-
Replying to your favor of the 10th, I am greatly surprised at the contents of your letter, and especially at the position Mr. Collie has placed Surry County and the highway commission in.
Now, Governor, I am going to be perfectly plain and try to be square in my reply to your letter. I don’t think the State Prison can or will turn down our request for these convicts, after making the arrangements we have and going ot expense we have. In the first place, we have bought about ten thousand dollars worth of equipment. Mr. Collie has been advised about this all the while, and he has repeatedly advised me Surry County could have these convicts.
We went ahead yesterday and employed a man at three thousand a year and have signed the contract with him to work these convicts. Last night Mr. Collie phoned me these convicts would come and he would send the contract today. I must say he failed to send it when he promised to do so about ten days ago.
Furthermore, I want to say that Mr. Collie told me that Mr. Page had appealed to you and objected to these convicts coming to Surry. Why Mr. Page has any law or reasons for these convicts not coming to Surry, I would like to know.
For your information, I want to say to you that I have been approached several times in regard to the State Prison employing convicts to a man, from the city of Louisville, to work on his farm in the State of North Carolina. I have had to battle with this a number of times and I have stood right square to the board. As you are aware, I fought it and told them it was the wrong thing to do. I don’t think we had any right to employ these men from the farm in Halifax to work for a man from Louisville, Kentucky on his farm in North Carolina. It was the intention of the board to do away with this farm and put the convicts on the highways of North Carolina. It was not the intention of the board to place them on the main public highways through the state, or, at least, I didn’t have this information.
I furthermore want to call your attention to the fact that we have a number of men working in different counties, if you will investigate, on different projects that are not on the main highways of North Carolina. This is for your information.
I do feel that Surry County is as much entitled to these convicts as Gaston County. Mr. Page and the State Highway Commission are in a hole, like all the rest of us, in regard to labor, and they can’t carry out their projects as they desire, which we all regret very much and know it is not their fault. We don’t believe Mr. Page wants to put Surry County in the hole by not letting these convicts come to this county, if he knew the position we are place din and the preparations we have made. If we had been advised before taking the steps we have, it might have been different, but owing to the position this will put us in, we still ask for the convicts promised us by Mr. Collie.
I regret to say that I feel there are a few members on the State Prison board who are not favorable to Surry County, for the reason I fought the chair factory in the State Prison, and, with your endorsement, defeated it. If I never do anything more for the State Of North Carolina, I consider I have done enough in defeating this proposition, for I think before the plant had run many years, it would have placed North Carolina in a very bad light.
As I have said to you, Governor, I have let our county go ahead and make these investments for working these convicts, and we must insist that these convicts come to Surry County as soon as they get through at Bridgewater.
I furthermore want to state to you that I was informed yesterday that Gaston County had been promised these convicts at Bridgewater, and, if I am not mistaken, these are the convicts Mr. Collie promised us. I can’t understand why we should be let go so far in the way expenses, and then at the time these convicts were to come here, some objections are put forth. I feel if a thorough investigation was made, you would have no objection to these convicts coming to Surry.
I would like to have an immediate reply on the above, because we are in bad condition if we don’t get this labor.
Thanking you for your letter and trusting you will receive my letter in the same spirit I am writing it, I am
A. E. Smith