A New Warden: Prisoners Get Holiday To Mourn For Politico

Red Hat
Infamous “Red Hat” cellblock built in 1935 and now on Register of Historic Places. Angolite file photo

The Item (July 10, 1943) Part 5

By “Wooden Ear”

It is September, 1935. Word travels rapidly over Angola that the friend and political patron of most of the employees had been mortally wounded. A holiday is declared when he dies … a day of mourning for the man who once said he could “house the convicts cheaper in a Baton Rouge hotel.”

But the holiday brought a day of surcease from toil, and for that the inmates were grateful. It was, however, marred by one incident:

“Brother” Moocher was the Angola chaplain. A man of little learning, either in the Bible or the world, he was nevertheless an ardent discipline of the politician. His religious pedigree was unknown.

A meeting was called of all the inmates, the day after the patron died. Moocher tearfully related the events leading up to, and subsequent fatal wounding of the politico. Then, in the midst of a prayer, he declared: “That man was the greatest since Jesus Christ!”

Before the election of Richard Leche to the governorship, Angola began to change … for the worse, if it can be said that way. “Lode B. Green,” Webster parish political tout, former bodyguard of the politician, who was pardoned following a dramatic conviction in a Baton Rouge court for having brutally beaten an aged man, was appointed warden. “Green” was given the Angola guardianship, lock, stock and barrel.

“Bad Eye” was relegated by “Green” to the captaincy of a minor Negro camp. “Green,” after a search of the records, told the general manager that “Bad Eye” had killed, or had caused to be killed, no less than 20 men during the term of his employment with the state.

“Green” immediately proceeded to make himself felt and heard on Angola. His word, more than that even of “Bad Eye,” became law.

Armed All Employees

A free employee, wishing to leave the farm even for a few minutes, must first obtain permission from “Lode B. Green.”

So deep was Green’s fear and hatred of convicts that he caused each free employee to carry a pistol. He, himself, many times carried not only one, but two! He masqueraded his fear behind a “hard-boiled” attitude which cooled no one but himself.

Green’s first move, after taking office, was to fortify Angola thoroughly. He found, on examination, that over half of the 12-gauge shotguns in use on the farm were of no account. They would not fire.

He instituted a system of guard towers completely surrounding the penitentiary, and located at all strategic points, all connected by telephone with a central bureau. He appointed squads of $2-a-month guards and hired a man, who had been discharged from the Army, to give the guards some semblance of military drill.

(It was while following out the edict of this man, going through the maneuvers of a quasi-military drill with an almost ancient 12-gauge, loaded shotgun, that “Johnson,” a lad from Oregon, was killed. While attempting to “port arms” in the military manner the shotgun was jarred, setting it off, and the charge almost severed the boy’s head!)

Alongside the front gate of the penitentiary Green had built a six-room house. It was stuccoed outside, emblazoned with the pelican shield of the state, and rather presumptuously furnished inside. A staff of inmate servants, from cook to porter, was installed, and the house became the domicile of a troop of state policemen.

Shifts of these officers would patrol the penitentiary in state cars from dawn until dark. It was called “training” by Green who also said that the troop would be there in the event of a “break.”

The only instance they were ever of assistance was in the case of “Pocahontas.”

“Pocahontas” was a short, elderly recidivist spending his last years in Angola. He was doing “life.” He was quartered at Camp G.

Hid In Haystack

Thoughts of freedom becoming too strong, “Pocahontas” burrowed into a large haystack in a barn about a mile from the Camp G building and a search was immediately instituted when the count showed him missing.

State police aided by convict guards, with the inevitable bloodhounds, threw a net around the farm. A large, two-acre pile of wood near Camp G was torn apart and moved with the thought that the fugitive might be in hiding.

And during the removal, which saw some 300-odd men cursed, cuffed and beaten, state police looked on and pointed out those they thought were “slacking up” in the rush and needed punishing.

Stool Pigeon Gives Tip

A “stool pigeon” three days later tipped off “Pocahontas'” rendezvous. State troops were called to the scene and the brave fellows dragged from his hiding one lone, small, aged, hungry and cold convict, perfectly harmless!

Needless to say that he was later beaten within an inch of his life for his escapade, but newspapers told how the “state police had succeeded in capturing a dangerous criminal who had hidden out!”


Next issue:  Reward Guards For Killing

Hell On Angola – The Wooden Ear Series
Ex – Inmate Tells Of Brutalities
Slow workers scream as ‘The Bat’ goes to work
Kicks, Curses Part Of ‘Convict Guards’ Cruelty
Bugs, Heat, Dirt Give Little Chance To Sleep
A New Warden: Prisoners Get Holiday To Mourn For Politico
Reward Guards For Killing
Work Goes On In The Rain
Death For Some: Many Bear Scars On Mind and Body
Even Medical Care Of Prisoners Run By ‘The Regime’
‘Brutal Bill’ Cures Epilepsy With Beatings
New Warden Arrives And Hope For Better Days Lies Ahead
Mess Hall Walkout Brings End Of Starvation Diet Era
Politics Alone Can’t Eliminate All Evils Of ‘The System’
Can Happen Again; Only The Ballot Box Holds Answer