The Crusader Newspaper Group

Pastor Mitty Collier reveals southern white cops robbed her band on tour

Reverend Mitty Lene Collier, who continues to enjoy a successful life of ministry and music, including her most famous and memorable song, “I Had a Talk With My Man,” recalled for the Chicago Crusader how dangerous it was for her band, traveling in the South to perform, not knowing if they would be killed by racist white cops who robbed them of money they had just made.

Collier, pastor of the More Like Christian Fellowship Church, says she is blessed to have had a successful music career but that it came with a heavy price. She tells of fearing she would be murdered by white racist police during her nighttime travels to several southern states during the early 1960s.

During the 1960s, Collier said she worked with many singers, including Jerry Butler, the Impressions, Gladys Knight and Patti LaBelle. “We had some bad experiences,” she relates.

She vividly recalls one night in Tennessee where she, her husband and their band were at the mercy of several white highway sheriffs who stopped them without cause.

“We weren’t welcome everywhere during that time. Sometimes when we were on the highway, we didn’t think we would make it home safely. We could have been buried under one of those houses on the highway out there.”

“It was really, really bad,” Collier told the Chicago Crusader.

“We had to be together. We traveled together, even the ones who were big enough stars to have their own cars. They still had to travel together, and we couldn’t go into any hotel. The hotels like the Sheraton, the bus had to pull up to the back door, and we had a Jewish man who was the road manager, and he would go in and book the rooms in advance.

“We had to go through the back door, through the kitchen, up the freight elevator to our rooms, and when you got into your room on a certain floor, you couldn’t go up a floor higher than the one that you had. When it was time to eat, we had to come back down the same way,” she recalled.

“We then had to go to the places that had been lined up for us to eat. I thank God for the Black people who had restaurants that were set up for us to eat. That is what we had to do.

“I remember once when we were traveling along with the bus, and they got out of hand with us.”

She said her husband had been driving. “The police got behind us coming out of Tennessee, going up the mountains, and they stopped us for nothing, They were going to take my husband down to this little courthouse. It was at night. They told me to wait, but I didn’t. I got behind the wheel of the car. I was right behind them, screeching right behind them. They asked us what money we had. My husband said just a small amount for gas, and they said we want it all.”

“They went in my purse, and they took the money and even went all through the car to see if we had any more money. They took every penny that we had on us. They didn’t care if we couldn’t make it any further, but they didn’t get the amount that I had put down in my bosom. We had just gotten paid from a nightclub where we had just performed in Nashville. They didn’t get that money, and that is the only way we were able to make it. They sent us on our way. We were on our way to Birmingham because my son was there.”

When asked her reaction to police stealing their money, Collier said, “I feel it was just invasive. It was really bad for us, and the prejudice was so heavy at that particular time. I think about that, when we could have lost our lives in times like that because things don’t change, and people don’t seem to appreciate,” she said, the road of danger they traveled just to perform and share their music with everyone.

“Those were some of the experiences that we had, and it was not fun,” she said.

“When I first saw a mixed audience in the Royal Peacock Club in Atlanta, Georgia, it shocked me because they would often be separated. We were good enough to perform for them, but we were not good enough to eat with them,” she recalled.

“I have seen them get out of the swimming pool when we come out the door going toward the swimming pool. They didn’t want to be in the pool at the same time we were there.

“It’s been a road that has been paved by us for a whole lot of people who don’t seem to appreciate what was really done, and the lives that could have been lost,” Collier said.

Born on June 21, 1941, in Birmingham, Alabama, Collier is having a birthday party on Saturday, June 22, at 1 p.m. at the New Beginning Full Gospel Ministries, 16440 S. Cottage Grove, South Holland, Illinois, headed by Apostle Melvin Moore. She will feature an exclusive viewing of the play, “The Mitty Collier Story, From Man to God.”

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