I was working in a poor section of Charlotte when a fellow stopped me on the street and asked, “You remember me?”
“Hello, Wolfman,” I said. “How you been doing?”
I had met him the year before, when he was an inmate in the Mecklenburg County Jail. He had helped me with stories I wrote in 1966 about problems in the jail, problems that help defeat a long-time Democratic sheriff.
“You should write stories about that new Republican sheriff,” Wolfman said, referring to Sheriff Don Stahl, a former FBI agent who had defeated J. Clyde Hunter, the Democratic candidate.
Wolfman had been back in jail since Stahl took over, and he didn’t like it.
I asked him if Stahl’s jailers had whipped up on him.
No, he said.
Or denied him food or medicine?
Well, what then?
“They locked me up,” Wolfman said.
I started to explain that that’s what happens to people in jail — they get locked up, but Wolfman cut me off.
“It won’t that way when Sheriff Hunter was sheriff,” he said.
Before this new sheriff came along, Wolfman said, he had been a trusty. He had to work a little, mop floors and such, but he pretty much had the run of the jail.
He said a jailer took him to a grocery store every so often to buy candy and snacks which he resold to other inmates at a tidy profit. Sometimes he was allowed to bring back a bottle of wine, too.
As the head trusty, Wolfman said, he got to pick the woman trusties.
“And I didn’t pick nobody that wasn’t friendly to me. You know what I mean?”
I told him I thought I did.
One evening, just before the election, Wolfman said he and a woman trusty took a plate of turkey drumsticks, a bottle of wine, and a box of postcards, and went up on the roof of the jail. He said they spent several hours eating, drinking, and addressing post cards urging voters to “Re-Elect Sheriff Hunter.”
To see The Charlotte Observer’s story about the old jail, published on March 1, go here.
Coming Friday: The Crazy Hiker, Part 1