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05 June 2010

Ray Charles Arrested For Drugs (1961)

As early as 1955 Ray - and his band and Mary Ann Fisher - had already made headlines in the African American press after a drugs related arrest in Philadelphia. His arrests in 1961 and 1964 made it to mainstream media all over the world.
On November 14, 1961, Charles was arrested on a narcotics charge in an Indiana hotel room. The detectives seized heroin, marijuana, and other items. Charles, then 31 years old, stated that he had been a drug addict since the age of 16. The case was dismissed because the evidence was obtained in an illegal way. By 1964 he was arrested again for possession of marijuana and heroin. Following a self-imposed stay at St. Francis Hospital in Lynwood, California, where he kicked his drug habit "in 96 hours" (the total treatment took 3 to 4 months, though), Charles received five years probation.
Ina archives (ID CAF97016550) has a 20 second news clip titled Ray Charles Arrêté Pour Trafic De Drogue, showing how he leaves a plane accompanied by police men. It was aired on 15 November 1961 on TF 1 News. [Update: this news flash was compiled from archival footage shot in July, at Orly airport near Paris]. 

"I'm Black, I'm blind, I once fooled around with drugs, but all of it was like going to school - and I've tried to be a good student. I don't regret a damn thing," he later said.
Washington Afro-American, 28 Nov. 1961
Baltimore Afro-American, 21 Nov. 1961 (front page).
  Baltimore Afro-American, 21 Nov. 1961 (p. 2, cont'd). 

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