Larry Johnson interview
Wednesday, April 19, 2023 - 2:54 p.m.
Larry Johnson is a farmer who was previously convicted of marijuana distribution.
Detectives Armstrong and Murphy interviewed him at the Yoknapatawpha County Sheriff's Department.
- Detective T. Armstrong
- Detective S. Murphy
- Larry Johnson
Detective Murphy: Thank you for talking to us.
Larry Johnson: Certainly. I'm glad I can help.
Detective Murphy: Would you please tell us your name and address?
Larry Johnson: My name is Larry Johnson, and I'm living with my mother right now. Her address is 1420 East Highway 4, Holly Springs.
Detective Murphy: And your occupation?
Larry Johnson: I'm an associate pastor at Mt. Pleasant Primitive Baptist Church.
Detective Murphy: How did you get to know Charles Tatum?
Larry Johnson: It's funny. I often tell people in my church that Charles Tatum busted me, throwed me in jail, and saved my life.
Detective Armstrong: Uh, can you be more specific?
Larry Johnson: I was leading a pretty sinful life back then, and Mr. Tatum arrested me for distribution of narcotics.
Detective Murphy: You were selling dope, is that correct?
Larry Johnson: Yes, I'm afraid it is.
Detective Murphy: How did he catch you?
Larry Johnson: Well, I don't reckon I was that hard to catch. I was sure full of myself back in them days, but now, I realize I wasn't no criminal mastermind or nothing. If I remember correctly, he arrested some boys I had sold dope to out at Sardis one day. I used to ride out there and just hang out. College kids come out to drink and hang around. Country boys go out there to fish. Lots of potential customers.
Detective Armstrong: We're familiar with it.
Larry Johnson: Anyway, I sold some dope to these boys from down to Water Valley. He busted them a couple of days later, and they told him who they got it from. Only took him about two weeks to find my whole crop and take me down.
Detective Armstrong: Where were you growing it?
Larry Johnson: At the time, I was working as a farm hand for Rich Cruley. He's got that big place just off Highway 7. He's got literally hundreds and hundreds of acres out there. I just did the usual chores: baling hay, cleaning out stalls, helping with the harvest—the usual stuff.
Detective Armstrong: And that's where you were growing it?
Larry Johnson: Right. Anyway, he had this big crop of corn towards the back of the farm—just this ocean of corn. I used to sneak way back in there and plant me a few dope plants in between the corn. He never knew it was there.
Detective Murphy: So Tatum busted you?
Larry Johnson: Yeah. Luckily, Mr. Cruley didn't lose his farm or nothing. In some states, they can confiscate the land that's growing dope.
Detective Armstrong: How did you feel about Tatum busting you?
Larry Johnson: Back then, at the time, I was right upset. I was so full of anger and malice towards that man, I wanted him dead. But let me tell you something: the walls of Parchman can cause a fella to reassess his life. I guarantee you that.
Detective Armstrong: You don't say.
Larry Johnson: As I sat in my cell, I started to recognize how evil my life was. This preacher man used to come up and down the cellblock, talking to anyone who would listen. At first, I talked to him just to hear someone's voice. I wasn't studyin' no God. I just wanted to hear someone talk about life outside.
Detective Armstrong: And so?
Larry Johnson: And he give me the Bible. I didn't have much to do in jail; I was too scared to spend much time outside my cell. So I started reading the Bible, and I felt the Lord come into my heart. He helped me realize how evil I had been up to that point in my life, and He helped me realize how much work I had to do when I got out.
Detective Murphy: How long were you in?
Larry Johnson: 'Bout two and a half years, if you count the time I did in County and all before Parchman. They let me out for good behavior and parole and all that stuff. You know what's funny?
Detective Murphy: What's that?
Larry Johnson: The laws are so darned complicated that I never really understood how long I would be in prison when I first got there. Most people have their sentences mapped out to the exact day, but people would ask me how long I had, and I told them I didn't rightly know. I aimed to stay until they set me loose. Maybe I'm just stupid.
Detective Armstrong: May be.
Detective Murphy: So you were mad at Charles Tatum when you first were arrested. How about when you were released?
Larry Johnson: I recognized him as the man what saved me. I sent him a letter thanking him for putting me away and helping me find my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He was a good man. I was sure sorry when I heard he passed. I wanted to speak the Word at his funeral, but they said they were all full up with speakers.
Detective Murphy: That happens.
Larry Johnson: I think they just don't want me to, which I understand. I also understand why y'all are talking to me. I'm a sinner now, and I was certainly an evil man before I went to prison, but you can ask anyone in my church. I said a prayer for Charles Tatum every night. I wished him no ill will.
Detective Murphy: What were you doing the last ten days or so?
Larry Johnson: Nothing special. Went to church, studied my Bible, helped my mother out around the house, the usual thing.
Detective Murphy: Okay, we need to get a list of folks from you that can corroborate your activities, and then you can go.
Larry Johnson: Sure.
Interview ended – 3:09 p.m.