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I was amazed by Ross Paswell’s life when I first researched his mug shot. He was arrested for highway robbery in 1945 and spent most of the next 10 years in jail, much of the time in solitary. By the 60s, he was something of a local political radical and, in the 70s, he became an inspirational penal reform campaigner whose work was recognised by the state.
I met Ross’s son, Jamie, on a trip to New Castle a couple of years ago. There’s a lot that Jamie doesn’t know about his father’s life — Ross wanted it that way, only letting slip the merest hints about covert involvement with the Black Panthers and other such groups when asked to explain where he’d been on his periodic disappearances from the family home. But it was fascinating talking to Jamie, looking through the souvenirs of his father’s life and listening to his theories about what made his father into the man he became.
The full story — well, as full as possible — of Ross Paswell’s life is featured in the Small Town Noir book. To support the book, and receive a copy when it’s published, go to the publisher’s website. Please do! And spread the word!
This video is mostly an excerpt from the documentary “MUGSHOT“, and is presented here with much gratitude to the director, Dennis Mohr.