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African-American family in Alabama split on Jeff Sessions' civil rights record

Statement against Sessions
Civil rights activist prosecuted by Jeff Sessions speaks out against him 02:30

PERRY COUNTY, Ala. -- What does Evelyn Turner think of Jeff Sessions?

“Oh my God. Do I have to? I just despise the guy,” she said

Eighty-year-old Turner’s opinion of the Alabama senator and candidate for attorney general is just as stinging today as it was 33 years ago.

Turner and her now-deceased husband Albert were long-time civil rights activists.

Evelyn Turner CBS News

“We would go out and help get people registered to vote. Because some of the people couldn’t read and write,” Evelyn said.

The Turners and a third man were accused of altering ballots.   

They became known as the Marion Three. After a grand jury indicted them, the case was prosecuted by the U.S. attorney’s office for southern Alabama, which Jeff Sessions headed.

CBS News correspondent David Begnaud asked Evelyn what she believed the charges were attempting.

Jeff Sessions reacts to being called a "bigot" 02:31

“Stop black people from voting. That’s all it was,” she replied.

The Marion Three were acquitted but during the three-month trial, the Turners had to sell the family farm. Evelyn lost her job.

Albert Turner, Jr. CBS News

“Is there a chance that maybe 30 years has softened a man’s heart?” Begnaud asked.

“Have you ever seen a leopard change his spots,” she replied.

But Evelyn’s son Albert Jr. sees things differently now. He’s now a commissioner in Perry County, serving in a building dedicated to his dad. He thinks there’s a balance to Sessions’ record on race.

“I know Jeff Sessions prosecuted a white Ku Klux Klan, sought the death penalty and got it for the killing of an African American,” he said.

“I never saw indications he had a racist attitude or disdain for African American people or other minorities.”

In the case of Jeff Sessions, the Turner family remains divided.

“My son says I should forgive him. I say I might forgive him in order to go to heaven, but I will never ever forget as long as I stay black. And I don’t see no chance of me turning white,” Evelyn said.

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