A Draft Dodger Comes Home

Pitts CBS

Preston King came home to Albany, Georgia with a presidential pardon for a draft-dodging conviction he earned in his youth for standing up for himself and his people. CBS News Correspondent Byron Pitts has the story - a long-awaited sequel to one man's civil rights struggle in the 1960's.

With a British accent and broken heart, Preston Theodore King finally came home, an occasion both happy and sad. He came home to bury the brother he last saw nearly 40-years ago, back when the South was old and angry, and Preston Theodore King was young and afraid.

Thirty-nine years ago, Preston King was ordered to serve 18 months in prison for refusing to join the Army. He was called a draft dodger, but he had his reason.

For years in letters, the draft board had always addressed him as "Mister" in its letters to him. But on the day Preston King showed up in person, the all-white board suddenly began calling him by his first name.

King considered that racism, and still does. "I was willing to serve my country," he says, "but I refused to bow before Jim Crow."

Instead, he fled to Europe. "Quite clearly to put this person in jail, rather than to put him in the Army, they weren't concerned to get him into the Army, rather to teach a lesson of submission," King explains. "It's not just the uppity nigger. It's what he represents."

Thirty-nine years later, retired Federal Judge William Bootle agrees. He was the man who sentenced King to prison, and two years ago, he wrote a letter asking for a Presidential pardon.

"In a way, race had nothing to do with that trial," the judge explains."In another way, race had everything to do with that trial."

Now 97, Judge Bootle says King taught him a lesson and in a small way, helped change the South. "We came by racial discrimination naturally," he says. "It took people like Rosa Parks and Mr. Preston King to call our attention to it."

Today, Preston King is a college professor in England. His daughter is a member of Parliament. He's sticking to his guns.

"Virtually nobody calls me 'mister,'" he says, "but in this case, in the South, where everybody was given a title if they mattered, I'm sorry. It will have to be used."

At 63, Preston Theodore King says it's unlikely he'll ever make a home in America. But 39 years ago, he did make his point.

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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