'Draft Dodger' Returns After 39 Years

Preston King is back in the U.S. after a journey from London that took seven hours – or, reports CBS News Correspondent Byron Pitts, 39 years.

Surrounded by familiar names and unfamiliar faces, Preston King called it "a wonderful homecoming."

"I've got a lot to learn," he said. "I'm a veritable Rip Van Winkle. I go out one day and 39 years later I come back."

Nearly four decades ago, he was a young man in the Old South. When an all-white draft board refused to call him "Mister," King refused to serve in the U.S. Army, and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Out on bail, he fled to Europe, where he became a college professor and raised a family. His son, in fact, is a member of the British parliament.

This week, President Clinton gave him a full pardon. King still insists he did not dodge the draft: He simply defied "Jim Crow."

"This was simply a matter of civil disobedience in the face of unfair governmental behavior," he told CBS News.

Despite the pardon, King will return to London on Saturday to resume his life overseas.


©1999, CBS Worldwide Inc., All Rights Reserved
The all new
CBS News App for Android® for iPad® for iPhone®
Fully redesigned. Featuring CBSN, 24/7 live news. Get the App