the guy who's going to die, and worry that man and beg him for the truth like it's going to be helpful to him. "Did you kill him? Did you kill that man? If you did, tell the truth. When you go up before the governor tomorrow, tell him the truth. If you killed him, tell."
He and his family lived in Birmingham. Sometimes he brought out his wife and his daughters. They were pleasant to us condemned. Other times the reverend, he came in with a white preacher. The white preacher lived right at the prison. He went around trying to be a regular guy, talking about baseball, like he was a sport. But he'd worry the guys in the death row just like the black preacher, he'd try to get everybody to confess. A man who confessed murder, he was telling the truth. If not, the way they figured, they were not getting the truth. Once the white minister made a crack at us boys I couldn't figure out. "Your time is drawing near," he said. "You will die when the clock strikes thirteen."
When it wasn't guards and preachers it was just plain Alabama citizens. They came in to look around. People just like to look at somebody due to die. And the prison just loves to show people the electric chair.
At night there was some peace. Death row settled down. A man might talk out sharp from his bed once in a while as a man will if he's going to die. And every hour a flashlight shined in your face. Jimmy Howard, a rookie guard, the prison hadn't yet made him mean, he would come by the cell and check whether you were there. As if you could get out. . . .
IN the death cell I held a pencil in my hand, but I couldn't tap the power that was in it. I couldn't write. I couldn't spell. I was a man without learning. It came back to me how in Chattanooga I hadn't cared much about learning. My parents, they had fixed it so that I had a couple terms of reading, four or five months altogether. I had picked up reading quickly. The teacher