The Sunset Theater Incident

The “Little Castle,” 232 Sunset Avenue, Asheboro, date unknown.

Despite his detailed memories of the Hop’s Barbecue Sit-In, Melvin Marley said that the most memorable event of the Asheboro sit-ins was the night “when they would not let the young girls out of the Sunset Theater.”   His interviewer (who was actually the grand-daughter of Burrell Hopkins) didn’t question him about that incident, which was evidently the one time where the peaceful protests threatened to get out of control.

“It was nonviolent for a long time until one day some black girls went to the Sunset Theater, which is right beside of Little Castle and Hop’s, in that area.  And they went upstairs, you know [Negroes could only sit in the balcony], to see a movie, and when they got ready to come out, they wouldn’t let them out.  They [white people] had them surrounded and said they were going to kill them and all that stuff, and called them all sorts of names, and so somehow the word got back to the church that they were being held and the police wasn’t doing anything about it.  And so that’s when, actually a little bit of violence came into play.  The way they had them get out of the theater was that somebody went up and shot a shotgun in the middle of town and fled, and so they came out running and just kept on running and they were hitting them and kicking and all that, but they got away.”

That’s all of Marley’s account, but the next day’s local newspaper adds some detail to this or a similar incident:

[The Little Castle was under the canopy to the right.  The roof of Hop’s is visible to the left.]

Drug Store, Theater hit By Sit-In Wave

Courier-Tribune, Feb. 17, 1964

Arrests continued here this weekend as Negroes sat-in at the Little Castle, Walgreen’s Drug Store and the Carolina Theatre.

There were 52 Negroes arrested and charged with trespassing and resisting arrest.

Two white men were also arrested and charged with carrying a concealed weapon, interfering with an officer performing his duty, inciting a riot and one of the men was charged with using indecent and profane language.

These arrests came at 4:10 p.m. in front of the Little Castle and the men arrested are Charles Douglas Deese of Salisbury and Edward Donald Powell of 416 Levairn Drive. Deese is 32 years old and Powell, 29.

Sgt. B.S. Cagle reported that “while I was assisting in the arrest of demonstrators… [Deese] called [the demonstrators] s.o.b.’s…”

Deese was arrested, and while he was being placed in the police car, passed a .22 caliber pistol to Powell. There were approximately 120 persons in the area at the time.

Both men were placed in Randolph County jail and later released on $1000 bond each for appearance in court March 17.

Of the 51 Negroes arrested, 40 were adults (19 females and 21 males) and 11 were juveniles (8 males and 3 females). One person was arrested three times.

The names and addresses of the adults are as follows:

Sandra K. Nicholson, Rt. 4, Asheboro; Phyllis Ann Lineberry, 327 Dunlap St.; Irlean Williams, Rt. 1, Siler City; Helen Fox, 814 Frank St.; Queenie Green, 623 Cross St.; Pauine S. Laughlin, Rt. 1, Asheboro; Gracie Massey, 109 Booker Washington Road; Rosa Marie Siler, Siler City; Barbara Ann Massey, Rt. 4, Asheboro; and Judy Brooks, Siler City.

Also Mattie R. Laughlin, 107 Booker Washington Road; Annie Ruth Laughlin, Randleman; Katie Snuggs, 544 Loach St.; Ann Ledwell, 511 Loach St.; Callie Lowery, 818 Brewer St.; Christine Hallmon, 815 Brewer St.; Elzie Coble, Rt. 4, Asheboro; Pauline Coltrane, Rt.2, Asheboro; Cacille McMaster, 503 Loach St.; and Russell Lee Siler, Ramseur.

Also William Percy Shoffner, 610 Greensboro St.; Elven L. Marley, Ramseur; Thomas Lee Timmons, 422 Spring St.; Tommy Lee McMaster, 503 Loach St; Macy Holly, Thomasville; Howard Junior Spinks, Siler City; Lionel Baldwin, 443 Watkins St.; Edward McNeil, 426 N. McCrary St.; and Eugene Hoover, 730 Tucker St.

Also Harry D. Laughlin, Rt. 1, Randleman; Charlie Harrison Laughlin Jr., Rt. 1, Asheboro; Wilber Franklin JR., Rt.1, Asheboro; Lemuel C. Brady, 451 Loach St.; Charlie Leak Jr., 411 Woodlawn St.; Charles Wilson Harris, 410 Spring St.; Eddie Tom Horton, Siler City; Lindo O. Mason, Siler City; Shelton Rogers, Siler City; and Floyd C. Thomas Jr., 429 Loach St.

All the demonstrators were detained in jail overnight and released on bond between 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. Sunday.

 

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