Tennessee tax collectors stripped naked by taxpayer
Memphis, Tenn. (UPI) — An irate dry cleaner who wouldn’t pay his taxes forced three state revenue agents to march naked out of his store and held a fourth hostage while demanding a conference with the governor.
About an hour after Gov. Winfield Dunn arrived at Memphis International Airport from Nashville, black militant dry cleaner LaSaunders Hudson dived headlong out the door of his store into the back seat of a waiting Cadillac driven by black city officials.
The Cadillac sped him away to a meeting with Dunn, whom Hudson wanted to see about his $197 in back taxes. A crowd of 2,000 observing the development on predominantly black Park Street raised a mighty cheer when Hudson made his acrobatic exit.
A few minutes later the hostage revenue agent was brought out by police, supporting him by each arm. From the distance at which newsmen were kept, his face appeared black, whether with bruises or some colored substance it was impossible to tell. He was rushed away in a police car.
Police took up positions in a Black Panther headquarters next door to the black brick dry cleaning store and used a college student friend of Hudson to communicate with the cleaner. The youth, John Smith, frequently scurried out of the Panther headquarters to shove a note through the mail slot of the BHK cleaners. In a few minutes, a reply would pop out of the slot into the street then Smith would take it back to police.
Police said Hudson, who with his partner has refused to pay state taxes “because of the way the black man is treated,” forced three agents — two of them white and one black — to strip to the buff and march out of his store, much to the astonishment of the passersby in predominantly black Park Street.
The three agents spotted a nearby moving van and, obscuring their nudity as best they could, hobbled frantically over to it and grabbed up furniture pads to wrap around themselves. The crowd cheered and applauded.
In the store, police said, Hudson held Don Dunca, chief of field operations for the collection division of the Department of Revenue. Duncan was allowed to remain dressed.
Authorities cordoned off a two-block area around the store. Among the crowd was Isaac Hayes, widely known soul singer clad in pale blue jumpsuit and gold cross, who joined police in a Black Panther office next door trying to convince Hudson to free Duncan. Authorities said Hudson had two young men with him.
Police said Hudson promised he wouldn’t hurt Duncan, but refused to free him until he saw Dunn.
“Is the governor going to talk to us or are police going to have to come in and kill us?” he shouted.
Duncan and agents Vince Tuminello, Lee Mullins — who is black — and John Mabile went into the dry cleaners to collect $197 in back taxes.
“I certainly hated to walk out the door without any clothes on,” said Mabile. “I was embarrassed.
“A crowd of people had already gathered on the street and they cheered and clapped when we walked out,” he said. Shortly after the agents got themselves wrapped with furniture pads, the minister of a nearby church produced three pair of ill-fitting trousers for them.
The agents donned the trousers, tossed away the pads and, bare chested and bare footed, joined police trying to convince Hudson to give up.
Mabile said as the agents were removing their underwear, Hudson advised them that “this is part of the punishment we are going to give the white man for injustices done the black man.”
Word of the excitement spread quickly through the Orange Mound section of Memphis and a crowd of 1,000 or more gathered quickly around the barricades, many expressing disappointment at having arrived too late to see the agents make their initial appearance.
Mabile said when the four agents arrived Thursday at the store, a woman working in the office said Hudsom was not there but called him. Hudson soon arrived, Mabile said.
“He wanted to know how much money he owed and we told him $197,” said Mabile. “He wrote out a check for that amount on the Tri-State Bank of Memphis but I informed him that we could only accept a certified check or cash for back taxes.”
Nonetheless, Mabile said he left the other three agents in the store and went to the bank with the check, where he found insufficient funds to cover it.
“When I came back and handed the check to Hudson and told him it was no good,” Mabile said, “He whipped the gun out and said ‘start taking off your clothes.’ ”
“He made Vince, Lee and myself undress completely and go outside. He kept Don hostage and said he wouldn’t be released unless Gov. Dunn talked to him personally,” Mabile said.
Follow-up articles elsewhere say that Hudson met with Dunn for an hour and then was taken into custody. Duncan was given medical treatment for swollen hands caused by his hands being bound while he was a hostage (no idea why his face appeared blackened to the reporter). Hudson and his business partner, Wesley Benn, had written letters to state officials announcing that they would refuse to pay taxes because “it is impossible for black citizens of the state of Tennessee and of America to be on a par with other citizens of America.”
It took me a while to find out any more about LaSaunders Hudson and about what happened to him after this incident. Jet magazine did a follow-up, and reported that “Hudson was charged with assault with intent to murder, after a charge of kidnapping was dropped. He was released on $2,000 bond.”