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Three Negroes Turned Away from Atlanta Restaurant at Gunpoint

July 3, 1964 - Three Negro ministers were turned away at gunpoint today after an attempt to integrate the restaurant of Atlanta segregationist Lester Maddox (right).

A crowd, composed mostly of Maddox’s customers and some of them carrying ax handles, came up behind Maddox as he intercepted the Negroes before two of them could emerge from their automobile.

“Get out of here and don’t ever come back,” Maddox yelled, pistol in hand, as he slammed a door of their car. The driver was the Rev. George Willis of Youngstown, Ohio. The Rev. Albert Dunn of Hillsboro, Texas, got out of the car and began to put on a jacket when Maddox and others drove him back inside the car.

The other minister was the Rev. Woodrow Lewis of Sumter, S.C. All three are students at the Interdenominational Theological center in Atlanta.

The crowd had gathered prior to the incident. The three had attempted to integrate the restaurant earlier in the afternoon, but the restaurant was closed. They had said they would return at 5:30 p.m.

As the Negroes pulled into the restaurant’s parking area, Maddox started for their car. Maddox kicked the car, and someone in the crowd struck it on the hood.

Maddox took an ax handle from a person in the crowd and struck the 1963 automobile across the top as the Negroes drove away. Others in the gathering poked at the Negroes through the car’s open windows.

The Negroes drove slowly by the restaurant as press and photographers questioned the three. “We are still hungry,” said Rev. Willis. “We’ll be back.”

The crowd continued to grow, until by the time the restaurant closed at 8:45 p.m., three hours after the incident, an Associated Press estimate placed the number of white people there as near 200.

Many of those carrying ax handles, picked up from boxes just inside the restaurant’s entrance, were women and children. Maddox said: “I appreciate anybody’s aid who wants to help me protect my property.”

Rev. Willis said he does not know when the three will return to the restaurant, “But we will.”

The three discussed returning this afternoon, but they decided against it. “I am worried about what they would do to my car,” the Rev. Willis said.

Maddox said his policy will continue to be the same.

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