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Jim Price is elected the first black sheriff of Colusa County, Mississippi, with the help of northern organizers. A hotbed of racial prejudice, Colusa has a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. Retiring incumbent John Little, though he believes he was fairly defeated, offers Price no help on the new sheriff's first day. Price is greeted only by Mayor Parks, a local patriarch who admonishes Price to consult him before appealing for outside help in solving problems. Price shows his desire for moderation when he refuses to deputize a black militant. Price's first arrest, on a charge of manslaughter, is John Braddock, the son of an influential white. Driving while drunk, Braddock caused the death of a child in an automobile accident. That night Price's deputy Bradford Wilkes is beaten by a group led by Little's former deputy Bengy Springer, who had vowed to kill Price. Price next arrests black George Harley for raping a teenaged girl, and in doing so he risks alienating the black community that unanimously elected him. Braddock, Sr., arrives in Colusa and angrily demands that Price release his son, whose bail is set at $25,000. Braddock threatens to take the boy by force, whereupon Little arrives and accepts the deputy's badge. Braddock departs, but Price, knowing that he will return with a mob, makes an unsuccessful request of the mayor to call in Federal troops. As the Braddock mob approaches Colusa, Price and Little enter Junior's Place, a bar for whites only, to look for deputies. Failing to recruit any, Price and Little set up a barricade at the edge of town. Just as Braddock's men approach, however, the whites from Junior's join the sheriff and disperse the mob.