was transcribed as part of the Civil Rights Documentation
Funding for this
project was provided in part by the Mississippi
the National Endowment for the Humanities, and
Department of Archives and History.
Ms. Johnnie Faye Inge was born
on July 14, 1948 in Laurel, Mississippi. Her parents were
Laura Holloway Inge and Reverend Clinton Owen Inge Sr. She
was the fifth child of eight children.
Faye Inge was one of five African-Americans
to first integrate the then all-white Meridian High School
in 1965. She, along with four other black females, graduated
from Meridian High School in 1966. She attended Meridian Community
College for two years. Inge was then hired by Citizens National
Bank where she was the first black hired. She worked for Citizens
National Bank for one year in the bookkeeping department and
then continued her education in Dallas, Texas at Bishop College,
the name of which was later changed to Paul Quinn College.
After graduating from Bishop College, she attended Southern
Methodist University in Dallas where she studied journalism
and received an internship at the Dallas Morning News.
Inge worked in radio and television
for a number of years in Meridian. She later attended Mississippi
State University where she received her teaching certificate
and her Master of Arts degree. She served on several boards
including the National Association for the Advancement of
Colored People (NAACP), the Lauderdale County Keep America
Beautiful Commission, and the Lauderdale County Chapter of
the American Cancer Society. She also served a term as secretary
for the NAACP during the mid-1990s. She presently teaches
English at Marion Park School in Meridian. She has one son,
Lonzy Moore, III.
Bishop College 1
Membership in NAACP 2
Harris High School 5
Meridian Baptist Seminary 5
Freedom schools 5
Slain civil rights workers Chaney,
Goodman, and Schwerner 8
Integrating Meridian High School
in 1965 10
Meridian Junior College 13
Integrating the Meridian Junior
Miss Pageant 13
Assassination of Medgar Evers
Assassination of Martin Luther
Andrew Young 16
Integrating Weidmann's Restaurant
Dr. Hobert Kornegay 19
Obie Clark 20
This is an interview for
the Civil Rights Documentation Project. The interview is with
Ms. Johnnie Faye Inge and is taking place on November 28,
1998, in Meridian at 12:10 p.m.. Also present is Ms. Inge's
mother, Mrs. Laura Inge Love. The interviewer is Don Williams.
(A segment discussing scheduling
of the interview is not included in this typed transcript).
were you born?
I was born in 1948. July 1948. Down in Jones County, Laurel,
Laurel. How far is that from here?
That's about fifty miles.
you had spent some time outside of Mississippi? Have you lived
When I went to school, I lived in Dallas.
what school did you attend?
At that time, it was called Bishop College. Now, I think it
is changed to Jarvis Christian College, [or Paul Quinn. Yes,
it's Paul Quinn College, now.]
I've heard of that.
But I attended that school, [Bishop College which is now called
Paul Quinn College.]
And that was near the campus of SMU? Am I correct?
Faye Inge: Both
schools are in Dallas.
have a friend who went to Jarvis, that I went to school with
in Syracuse. What church do you attend?
New Hope Baptist Church here in Meridian is my home church,
which I am a member of.
how long have you been a member of that church?
I understand that your father was the pastor of that church?
Yes. That is how we got to Meridian. My father was called
to New Hope Baptist Church and we moved in 1959 when he became
the '50s and through the '70s, what organizations do you think
were important here in Meridian?
Well, during that time, the most important, because the only
organization I really was aware of, was the NAACP. CORE and
SNCC, I had heard of these, but the NAACP was the main organization
that I was really aware of.
you actually a member?
Not at that time.
you eventually became a member?
did you become a member?
Oh, I became a member, probably in the '80s, by a membership
in terms of money. You know, you sign the little card.
I became more active, really, in the '90s. I served as secretary
for a couple of years for the NAACP.
high school did you attend?
I attended Harris High School for tenth and eleventh grades,
and then, in 1965, when the Supreme Court said that Meridian
Public Schools had to integrate, and, what they did, they
began integrating at the twelfth grade. Their reasoning behind
that was they felt that, "Who would want to leave their senior
year and go to the high school?" Everybody would want to graduate.
But I went in 1965. I, along with four other black girls.
We went to Meridian High School in 1965, which was the all-white
school. We integrated that school in 1965.
what was the name of that school?
Meridian High School.
High School. And the school that you attended was?
Harris, which was the black high school.
High School. OK. Can you tell me a little about Harris, when
you were attending there? It was all black?
It was all black. Harris was all black. We also had a junior
college, Harris Junior College, too. But Harris, my memories,
you know, are great memories, because friendships, organizations,
football games. Had our own band. The teachers, caring teachers.
My boyfriend was there. So the memories of Harris are good
you remember any teachers who might have had a great impact
on students at the time? Who influenced you the most?
Well, really, it wasn't in high school. It was in junior high.
But the high school and the junior high were located in the
same little area. The high school was right here, it was Carver
[?], and she taught me ninth-grade English. I mean, I just
remember her because she was a good English teacher. She was
very professional. You know, some teachers just stand out
in your mind for certain reasons, and she was one who stood
out in my mind. Not that she was active or vocal in civil
rights or anything like that. She was just a good teacher.
good teacher. And kind of motivated you.
eventually, you get a degree in English from?
From Mississippi State. I went to Mississippi State.
And when did you graduate from Mississippi State?
Let's see. Maybe about three years ago, Mother?
Laura Inge Love:
I was working. My background is in journalism. And I worked
at Charles Young's TV station. I worked there--
Well, at that time, we had a sister station which was WLBM,
here in Meridian. Of course, now WGBC TV. I don't even know
if Mr. Young even owns any of the stock. I don't know. Different
things have happened. But, I worked at WLBM or WGBC for a
while. Then, because I am familiar with the way small-market
TV is: you are subject to have a job for three or four years
and somebody else comes in and takes over. So I went, and
I decided that I had better go ahead and prepare myself to
do something else. So I started going to school, working on
my teaching certificate, and that is what I eventually did.
Yes, from Mississippi State. We have a branch here in Meridian.
I see. You earned a B.S. in education?
I got my Master's degree and I got my teaching certificate.
I took the NTE [National Teacher Examination], and took a
lot of English courses.
So how long have you been teaching school?
This is my second year.
Let me kind of flash back to your high school days, and we
are talking about what years?
My high school, let's see, maybe '63 through '66. I graduated
in '66 from Meridian High School.
you first integrated in?
In '65, Meridian High School.
kinds of things were going on in Meridian, well, Harris High
School, before you left, because you are talking about, you
were there in '62, '61?
No, I was there in '63. Tenth grade, '63, '64. Eleventh grade.
In '65, I went to Meridian High School.
what kinds of things were happening in terms of students and
in terms of the movement, here in Meridian?
In terms of the movement, basically, I can only speak about
during the summertime. Because, we had the freedom schools,
and we went to, I think, several summers, they had freedom
school at Meridian Baptist Seminary which is a large building,
very old now, but it was the first building, the Meridian
Baptist Seminary was the first school to award, was it high
school diplomas to students? I don't know, but is it in the
state of Mississippi? Or? I am not sure about the history.
But they were awarding high school diplomas to black kids
when no other school was. So, we held the freedom schools
at the Meridian Baptist Seminary here in Meridian, and I would
attend, like, me and my younger sisters and brothers, we attended
the freedom schools during the summer. And the three civil
rights workers who went to Philadelphia, they were also at
this same freedom school. Chaney was there at the same freedom
school, and I saw them several times. My mother taught his
daughter piano lessons, Chaney. So, these are things that
I saw. These are things that I experienced at the freedom
Goodman and Chaney, were they teaching at the school?
The freedom workers. Yes. They would come down and they would
ask questions and they would talk about nonviolence and ways,
things you could [do to] protect yourself, say, if you were
attacked, and all these types of things. Basically, when I
think back, they were basically college students, some were
probably, may have been working on writing, may have been
writing, you know. But they would ask us various questions,
and talk to us about various things.
who was the head of the seminary at the time. Do you remember
[Daddy. Daddy had a lot to do with the Seminary.] Maybe Charles
Johnson was heavily involved in that.
this a black religious organization or was it mixed?
This was black. Yes. Meridian Baptist Seminary. It was all
black. I was trying to see, did I remember any ministers,
other than my father. Charles Johnson. Wasn't Charles Johnson?
was your father's first name?
Reverend C.O. Inge. Clinton Owen Inge.
OK. Can you remember any of the other teachers that were involved
in the freedom school?
I don't remember any teachers, really. I think probably they
were afraid. I don't remember any teachers. I doubt it seriously
if any teachers participated because they really were afraid.
They could easily lose their jobs.
What about the civil rights workers themselves? Do you remember
anybody that stands out that participated in the freedom school?
No. I just vaguely, I remember, all of the teachers of the
freedom [school]. I remember one black guy and he basically
had a guitar, and he would sing, lead us in freedom songs,
but all of the classes, seem like, were conducted by white,
they probably were white, young college students. I was young
at the time, but thinking back, they were probably young college
[students]. They were young, maybe in their early twenties,
and they were probably young college students, because many
of them had come down from the North. And, they were young
college students, but in terms of anybody black? No, I can't
remember a particular black person who stands out in my mind.
I really can't.
this was predominantly in the summer time, right?
In the summer time, the freedom school.
many students would you say were accommodated? The largest
group of students?
Oh let's see. It was quite a few kids. Oh, gee. I don't want
to be inaccurate.
just within ten, twenty, fifty, a couple of hundred, a hundred?
It may have been, I don't know, maybe fifty to one hundred.
I'm not certain, see. But it was a number of kids.
Can you tell me a little bit about the curriculum and the
You mean at the freedom school?
And some of the things that you've done. What stood out in
OK. I remember, basically, we would gather. I don't even know
what time they started. We would gather together. We would
sing songs. I remember singing Oh, Freedom. And I
remember this black guy. He kind of was more Spanish looking
than anything. He had his guitar, and he would always lead
us in songs like Oh, Freedom, Oh, Freedom. There
were a number of songs he would just kind of pick out on his
guitar. And then we went to classes and I remember the class
that I went to. I remember the young white girl teaching,
and I was trying to remember the kinds of questions she was
asking us. She would ask us types of questions about various
it tending to be contemporary things or historical things?
Did you get any black history?
No. I don't remember any black history. I think her questions
were probably more concerned about, maybe, what our life was
like in the South, kinds of things that we were not getting
or were denied. Her questions seemed to be more those type
when she asked you those types of questions, how did you respond?
How did you feel? What did you think?
Well, I remember responding to a question, and I really wish
I could remember. But it was so long ago. But I tried to answer
as best as I could, and I tried to answer as honestly as I
could, but I can't recall. I really wish that I could.
you know, we have a blackjack out there in the car, if you
are going to clam up on us now. (Laughter) We'll fix you up,
now. OK. Now, do you remember any of the other students at
the school that stood out? You know, especially someone who
had gone through the school and who got involved in the civil
rights movement or obtained some type of achievement in life?
I mean, who stood out?
Well, I was trying to remember what other kids were there.
I'm trying to see, did the Hopkins go? I don't remember. Across
the street from--
Laura Inge Love:
(Inaudible) who played the piano.
Who? Well, I don't think Pat, I don't know if Pat went. Pat
Stennis. See, I can't remember. I know that I, my younger
sisters and brothers were there.
what are their names?
OK. My brother Clinton Inge Jr. He is in a facility because
he is an old Viet Nam veteran and he got messed up. My sister
Vera in Jackson.
Viet Nam vet. Is he in the state of Mississippi?
Yes, he is out in Jackson. He is in a facility, though.
veteran's place out there on South Street.
No. Where is it, Mother? It's a correctional facility.
Laura Inge Love:
Yes, it is a correctional facility.
Yes. He had problems.
I see. But he did go to Viet Nam?
He went to Viet Nam. He also went to--. In fact, my brother,
let me tell you, my brother was going to go to Philadelphia
with Chaney, Schwerner, and my father was adamant and said,
"No, you are not going." There would have been four. In fact,
he was just upset, because he really wanted
to go. He got furious because my father would not allow him
to go, and my father said, "No! No, you are not going." And,
but it would have been four, because my brother would have
been the [fourth]. My brother was going to go with them, and
my father told him he couldn't go. But, he probably wouldn't
have been here right now.
That's Clinton Jr.
Yes. He also attended the freedom schools.
Let me just stop this for a minute.
you knew Goodman and Chaney and--
me what you knew about them.
Well, basically, I saw them. I would see them. They would
come back and forth. I know about where they stayed, over
in a house next to Berry and Gardner Funeral Home. In fact,
they spent that last night, before they went to Philadelphia,
they spent their last night in this house. And, my brother,
Clinton Inge Jr., he was going to go to Philadelphia with
them, and he was upset because my father would not allow him
to go and my father said, "No. No, you're not going." But
it would have been four civil rights workers instead of three,
because my brother was definitely going to go with them. I
remember, three civil rights workers. I remember Chaney, walking.
I remember seeing them. It would have been five, I guess,
instead of the three. Schwerner, Goodman, yes, four. I'm sorry.
Four civil rights workers. But my brother was definitely
going to go, but it just so happened that my father discovered
that my brother was going to go, and he was adamant
and said, "You are not going to Philadelphia. You are definitely
not going." And he didn't go.
you remember who owned the house where they stayed?
Yes, I do. The house was owned by S.P.'s father, Mother. Sims.
Frank Sims. He owns Berry and Gardner Funeral Home.
he still alive.
No, he's not, but his wife and his son, they still own the
funeral home. And the house. I'm not certain if that house
is still there. Because I tried so hard to get my niece [to
draw it]. My niece draws. I said, "Please draw that house.
This is the house that they spent their last night in. Draw
that house. Draw it!" But sometimes, people don't understand
the importance of history. The significance of certain things,
and so she didn't draw it.
Frank Sims, his son, what is his name?
We call him Bunky. Robert! That's his name. Robert [Kennedy.]
And his wife's name is?
I don't know her name.
Sims. She's still--
She's still--. Yes. In fact, the house is right across--
you talk to her? Is she--
Laura Inge Love:
Is she a foreigner?
Well, oh, she's been here a long time, Mother.
said a foreigner?
Well, no. I think he met her when he went over--. I don't
know if he was in the service or something. She has been here
for thirty or forty years or so.
Laura Inge Love:
Now her son is not his son, you know. She had this boy by,
I guess, some American soldiers, when the war was going on.
Yes. One of those things that happens.
Now, let me ask you about when the civil rights workers were
discovered missing. What was your reaction? What was the mood
of the town?
My reaction was, my heart just sank. You know, it was overwhelming
to me because, see, I had seen them. You know, I had seen
them going back and forth a number of times. I had seen Chaney.
And, then what made my heart sink even more is the fact that
my brother, I knew that my brother had wanted to go and my
father had just had to be just hard on him and said, "No,
you're not going." So, my heart just sank when I first heard
that they were missing. And, I was trying to be optimistic
and say, "Well, maybe, maybe, they are in jail. Or maybe nothing
has happened." But then when they didn't find them and then
they finally discovered, they found the truck down inside
a river, or something, then we knew, that was it. They're
dead. You know. They've been killed, you know. So, it was
hard. It was difficult. You know. It was difficult. It was
scary. Because, see, these are people who had been right here
in Meridian, Mississippi, that you had seen, going back and
forth. So, it was hard. It was hard.
you remember any other violent activities here in Meridian?
Well, in 1965, you know, when we integrated Meridian Public
Schools, there were five black girls that integrated Meridian
you remember their names?
Yes. OK. Sadie Clark, Patricia Stennis, Sandra Falkner, and
How do spell that?
I think it's L-O-R-E-A-C-E. And, Hopkins. Now these are their
maiden names. All these people are married. And, myself, which
would be Faye Inge. And one girl is still here, I believe.
Maybe Sadie. She's out in the county, somewhere. But during
that time, one of the girls, Sadie Clark, her house was shot
into. Also, was it during that time that New Hope Baptist
Church, that Daddy's church was set on fire, Mother? It didn't
burn because it was brick, but it was set on fire. But it
Laura Inge Love:
It smoked it up really bad, and it burned some of the furniture.
Was it during that time, or was it during the freedom school?
See, my memory fails me.
Laura Inge Love:
Her house was shot into. Somebody passed by and just shot
some bullets into the house. Now, none of the other girls,
our homes were not shot into, but they shot into her house.
So, that was, other than the fact of what we went through
of constantly being thrown spit-balls, constantly being thrown
eggs at, constantly being harassed, other than that, that
was the only act of violence. (Inaudible) somebody coming
along shooting bullets into her home.
how were you guys able to handle that, all that harassment
Well, one thing, you know, we had our families. We had our
families. In fact, when it was first decided, I remember I
always had this funny feeling that I would not graduate from
Harris High. I remember Clintoria, my oldest sister, graduating
from Harris High. And my parents were so proud. And I remember
thinking, saying, "Well, one day my--." And Clintoria was
getting ready to go off to Tougaloo. And I was thinking that
my turn would come one day. And this little strange feeling
came over me and said, "You will not graduate from Harris
High." And I would have this feeling again and again, that
I would not graduate from Harris High.
And I knew that when they said
they were going to start integrating Meridian High School,
Meridian Public Schools, but they are going to begin at the
twelfth grade--. And so, my father was active in civil rights
and he kind of wanted me to go, and I knew, I knew
that I had to go. I knew that that was what that little voice
meant, that I would not graduate from Harris High School.
I knew then that I had to go to Meridian High School, and
my father, I remember we met at Sandra Falkner's house. We
would meet together and we would talk about how my father
drove us over there. He would pick us up, and he drove us
over there, and he would drop us off every morning. And we
got together and talked about things and what would happen.
And so the school principal
told us, he said, "Don't try to mix with
them. You know, just go in, but don't try to mix." Which,
we knew, we never tried to, you know, mix.
We just--. But, family support is basically--. If we had not
had strong family support, it would have been very difficult
because this was a constant, you have to understand, this
was a constant thing every day. Constantly being thrown spitballs.
Constantly walking through halls surrounded by white men,
and the guys were a lot worse than the girls. Constantly being
called, "nigger." Constantly being made fun of. I remember
going up a flight of stairs, and the stairs were crowded,
so you know, you couldn't--. And somebody coming up behind
me grabbing my hips, and I really felt violated, but I had
no way of knowing who it was, you know. Things like that happening.
So, those were the kinds of experiences. Somebody coming up
behind you, stepping on the back of your heels, you know.
Those kinds of things. So those were just some of the things
that we went through, constantly, every single
So, but we made it through.
We made it through. We graduated. And at least three of us
were on the honor roll. We, you know, made the honor roll.
I know I made the honor roll. I think Pat Stennis made the
honor roll. I think three of us, at least, made the honor
roll while we were there under that kind of stress.
How did the teachers treat you or relate to you?
You know, I really think that they were very selective about
the teachers that they gave us. Because, in all of my classes,
I had teachers who didn't tolerate, who would not allow students
to pick on us. So I think, Meridian didn't want trouble. They
really didn't want trouble, so they kind of tried to--. In
all of my classes, none of my teachers would tolerate another
student, a white student, picking on us. Now once we left
that teacher's class, it was hard, because, you know, you
were just surrounded by all these kids and you might have
a spitball come your way. Somebody might say something or
somebody might walk up behind you. You know, imagine you sitting
there and somebody comes up, "Pow!" You know,
just make a loud noise and you jump. So, that was the--. I
wrote this poem called "Braving the Halls." I don't know where--.
I have to find it.
Find that for us.
OK. Braving the halls, you know, just getting through the
halls, where you had to change class. That was the most difficult
thing, because you had to deal with all of this. You had to
deal with the name-calling, and the guys saying things, and,
you know, if you could make it from one class to another,
going across the campus to the music room. It was just, you
the faculty predominantly white?
Yes, the faculty was all white. At that time, the only black
people over there were janitors. And maybe the people in the
cafeteria. But the faculty was all white. But I really believe
they were selective about the teachers that they gave us.
there any white teachers that stood out that gave you positive
reinforcement at Meridian High? Or that you thought were empathetic
or concerned about you as a student in the learning environment?
Let me see, there was a lady named Ms. Dannon[?]. But I can't
remember if--. I'm trying to remember, did she teach at Meridian
High or was she at the junior college? I remember that she
was a very kind and empathetic woman, because she made the
statement, you know, she said, she was telling the class,
"Do you know what empathy means?" And then, nobody said anything.
And she said, "Empathy means to put yourself in the other
person's place." And I think she was trying to get them to
try to, you know, think, to put yourself in the other person's
place and see how you would feel if you were in that position.
Her name was Ms. Dannon[?]. But, my first year, once I left
Meridian High School, I went to Meridian Junior College, and
at that time it had not been integrated either, see. You see,
because you had the black junior college
which was Harris Junior College and you had the white junior
college which was Meridian Junior College. And so, the Meridian
Junior College had not been integrated either. So, once I
left Meridian High School, I really wanted to go off to college,
but I knew my father couldn't really afford it because he
had, I think Gloria was at Tougaloo, and I had another sister
in college, so I knew, he said I would have to go to the junior
college for two years. So I went to Meridian
Junior College. So at that time,
it was integrated. So I remember Ms. Dannon telling her class,
it was like a history class, or something, explaining to them
what empathy was and to try to put yourself in the other person's
place. And that stood out. I could tell that she was a kind--
(The interview continues on
tape one, side two.)
you mentioned your sister. And one of your sisters, you were
just telling me about. What is her name?
Her name is Katy Inge Predium. And Katy--
how do you spell that?
P-R-E-D-I-U-M. Katy was the first black to enter the Miss
Junior Miss Pageant here in Meridian. It's the pageant that
Meridian usually hosts every year, and she decided that she
was going to enter. And she entered it. My parents supported
her. And she--
year was that?
That was, gee, it was in the '70s some time. Oh, golly. I
graduated in '65. It may have been (tape skips) 1968 or '67.
I'm not certain.
How did she turn out in that?
Well, you know, she didn't come in first, second, third, or
fourth, either one of that, but she did well. The audience
was very receptive. She did a, her talent was a dramatization.
And she did a good job. And the audience was polite, but she
had the nerve and the gall just to do it. And we were all
there, her family, standing there, supporting her.
there any resistance on the part of the pageant officials
to prevent her from entering?
No. We had no resistance at that time. I think one thing Meridian
never really wanted: they wanted to keep a tap on their racial
problems. They really didn't want a lot of trouble. In fact,
they worked closely--. My father was one of the ones that
a lot of the city officials worked closely with, trying not
to make Meridian a powder keg of things that would just become
explosive, so they tried hard to keep things from exploding.
From having a lot of problems.
know, I interviewed Representative Charles Young. Can you
tell me a little bit about the relationship of your father
to Mr. Young and some of the things that you know about Mr.
Well, I really don't know what kind of relationship my father
had with Mr. Young. I just know that they knew each other.
They respected each other. I mainly knew Mr. Young, I had
heard of Mr. Young, but I got to know him better because I
worked at his TV station. The TV station here in Meridian
that he built, and that is how I got to know him better. I
do know that as a politician, he has done a lot for the city
of Meridian. And also, one thing I admire Mr. Young about
is that he is an advocate for black people. I know that, that
the black caucus, I remember they stalled or something a few
years [ago]. I remember him saying, "Did you read about what
we did?" Because, I can't remember what it was, but the black
caucus, what you call a filibuster, when they--. It was something
like that. I can't remember exactly what the issue was, but
they were successful in not getting something done, the black
caucus. But I do know that he has been an advocate for black
people and he has helped the city of Meridian out a lot.
said that his family has owned a business here for quite a
Right. The E.F. Young Manufacturing Company.
mentioned that the city officials and the black community
tried to work together to keep the lid on, you know, of activity
in the city. Who were some of the leading black personalities,
and some of the leading white personalities, during this time?
Well, at that time, I know Reverend Charles Johnson was very
active. Probably Charles Young, I'm certain. My father was.
Now, in terms of some of the whites, I'm trying to think who
was mayor. Rosenbaum. I don't know if Mayor Rosenbaum was--.
Rosenbaum was the mayor at that time, I believe. I'm not certain
about that, who the mayor was. Robert Ward, who at that time
owned WTOK TV. Robert and I went to school together. I remember
him at Meridian High School. He was--
is black, right?
Robert is white. He is a white guy. He owned WTOK TV. But
I remember that later on, you know, my father and Robert Ward
would talk. They would talk about maybe some of the problems
in the cities and trying to, you know, not let things get
out of control. That wasn't during the period of when the
schools were integrated. That was maybe later on. Maybe in
you remember when Medgar got killed?
I remember hearing about it. I was trying to remember, what
was I doing? I remember hearing about it, and it just kind
of scared me. That's all. My first thought was, "They're trying
to kill our leaders. They're trying to kill them all." That
was the first thing, you know. And I was a young girl, but
I remember thinking, "They're trying to kill our leaders."
That was my first thought: "They're trying to kill our leaders."
That was the thing that came to my mind.
imagine you were in grammar school, then?
No, that happened when I was in Meridian, so I had to have
probably been in junior high school, probably, I guess. Junior
high or high school. What year did he get--?
OK. In '63, I was probably in the maybe seventh grade. That
was the year Clinton graduated.
were 14 years old.
Yes, I would had to have been because I was born in '48. I
was in junior high school.
tell you one thing, you sure don't look like you're fifty
Yes. Yes, I turned fifty this year.
look like you are about thirty-two to me.
Well, thank you.
Laura Inge Love:
What about your momma? She's almost eighty. (Laughter)
Well, we are going to get to you. We're going to work you
Laura Inge Love:
My memory. I don't have a memory.
Martin Luther King. Of course, when Martin Luther King was
shot, that was in sixty--. Was that 1968? April of '68? I'm
trying to think where--
Sixty-eight. My mind jumps back before I talk about Martin
Luther King, my mind jumps--
was a year before you went to Dallas.
OK. My mind jumps back to Andy Young. And I'm mentioning Andy
Young because Andy Young and some more civil rights workers--.
Mother, you may remember this. Over at the parsonage, Andrew
Young, and some more civil rights workers were traveling at
that time, and they needed some homes for them to stay in,
you know, just to get some rest. And Andrew Young, came to
our house. You remember, Mother?
Laura Inge Love:
And he spent a few hours just sleeping, in the front bed,
in the guest bedroom, because, see, he was young, and they
were tired, and they were traveling, and he spent a few hours
in the front bedroom of our home which was over on Twelfth
Street at that time. And I remember, being a young girl, and
everything, I remember thinking how cute he was. (Laughter)
You know, I was a young girl.
was kind of a lady's man.
Yes. (Laughter) I was a young girl. And I was thinking, you
know, how cute he was. But I remember that. He came to our
house. I don't know who else, but I do remember him. He laid
across the bed. I guess he laid down for a couple of hours.
And, I've never forgotten that. Martin Luther King, I remember
when Martin Luther King came to Meridian and he spoke and
I was trying to remember what church. Was it First Union?
It may have been First Union. But I didn't go. He spoke that
night, but I wasn't able to go to hear him speak. This was
in the '60s.
When Martin Luther King got
shot. I'm trying to remember. In '68. In '69, I went to Dallas.
OK. I was at Meridian Community College. I think this was
my second year. It was my sophomore year at the junior college
and I remember it was on TV, and we were out in the student
lounge. Being at the junior college was a little bit different
than being at the high school because, you know, we could
kind of come and go. Once you got through with your classes,
you could go. You know, college. But I remember being in the
lounge and I remember, it was on TV. You know, that was all
that was on TV. They were having his funeral, you know. Pulling
him in the wagon, and I remember that one of some of the white
kids had maybe kind of said something or done something disrespectful
and I really remember one of the teachers saying, "Don't do
that." She was trying to say, you know, respect them. This
man has died. And I never forgot. That stood out in my mind
that she would say--. I can't even remember who the teacher
was. But she kind of did like this to the white kid. Don't
do, you know. And they were polite about it, let me say it
that way. But when he was shot.
I'm trying to remember exactly
when I first heard that Martin Luther King had been shot.
I don't know if I was at home, if I was at school. I just
cannot remember, but I do remember at the junior college,
being in the student lounge. And we had more blacks, it was
a few more blacks there then, and the funeral of Martin Luther
King was on the TV, and I really remembered seeing the wagon,
pulling him in the wagon, you know, him being pulled in the
wagon, and some of the white kids saying something that was
not too nice and one of the teachers kind of doing like this,
telling them, "No, don't do it." You know, "Be respectful.
Don't do that. Because this man has died." So, I remember
that. That stuck out in my mind.
Let me ask you this, now. I understand that there were some
boycotts and picketing in Meridian. Did you ever participate
in any kind of demonstrations and picketing?
Let's see. I was trying to see, was it one of the Woolworth's?
I'm trying to recall. It was one of the lunch counters, and
blacks couldn't go. Oh, Mother-- Daddy. Where did he and some
ministers go? Where was it? And they went to--
Laura Inge Love:
Oh, yes. This all-white cafeteria.
What was it? What restaurant was it? Was it Weidmann's?
Laura Inge Love:
Yes, it was Weidmann's.
OK. When they first integrated, when they passed a law saying
that blacks had a right to go to these restaurants, Daddy
and some other ministers--. I don't know who the other ministers
were, but they were ministers. They went down to Weidmann's
Laura Inge Love:
I can't think who those other ministers were.
Were they served, or did they just go and sit? I can't remember.
But I do know that they went, and I don't know what the response
was. I can't recall, because--. But I remember Weidmann's
Restaurant. They went to Weidmann's Restaurant and they sat.
But were they served, Mother? Did they get served?
Laura Inge Love:
I don't know. I remember they went there. I remember Reverend
Johnson may have been there.
Probably Charles Johnson may have been with them. I don't
remember. But I do know it was ministers. It was all ministers
who went down and sat at this restaurant.
of ministers, you talked about Reverend Charles Johnson and
certainly your father. Were there any other ministers that
were active, you know, supportive of civil rights activities?
At that time, the only two that I really remember is my father
and Reverend Johnson. I can't remember anybody else. Mother,
do you remember anybody else? In fact, my father would drive
us--. When we integrated Meridian High School, my father was
the only minister who was there. The only
minister. And he would drive us over there. He would pick
us up and drive us over there. And eventually we got to the
point where, you know, I remember that sometimes I would catch
the bus home because they had some kind of little system,
like if you made the honor roll and you could be off sixth
period or something and sometimes I would get off. If you
didn't have a sixth period class, you could go home, if you
were like an honor roll student. And there were times when
I would catch the bus home. But my father was the only minister
that I remember, you know, being active. Then Reverend Charles
Johnson was active. He didn't participate in terms of us,
when we integrated Meridian High School, but I know he was
active in civil rights. But I don't remember any other ministers.
If there were any, I don't remember who they were.
about business folks. Now, I know Charles Young had a longstanding
business operation. Were there any other, let's say, black
business elite in Meridian?
What about Jones? How active was Jones?
Laura Inge Love:
Oh, yes. I had forgotten about Jones.
Of course, he's dead now. But Jones. What's his name? What
was his first name?
Laura Inge Love:
Albert Jones. Albert Jones.
what kind of business did he have?
He owned a restaurant.
what were some of the things that you remember him doing?
Was he-- what was he active in? He was something with the--.
Was he in the NAACP or what?
Laura Inge Love:
Yes, I think that's what he was in.
I can't recall. But now Obie Clark. Have you talked to Obie
yet. I have him down on my list. What about the dentist, Mr.--?
Oh, Dr. Kornegay?
Doc was the first black city councilman, as far as I know.
Wasn't that true, Mother?
Laura Inge Love:
Dr. Kornegay was the first black city councilman, here in
the city of Meridian.
what year was that?
Mother, when was that? Do you know? Was it the '70s or '80s?
but he's no longer a city councilman now?
No, he's not. He served several terms. Then after that he
ran for supervisor, and he served a term as supervisor. But
I'll never forget, his wife told me once that, of course,
he being a city councilman, and you know, how they have like
the American Cancer Society and the symphony and all of this.
And naturally, all the city councilman would get invitations.
Well, he and his wife, you know, of course, they go. I think
this was something Meridian Symphony. And she says, when they
walked in there, people just gasped. It's like they really
didn't expect them to come. They were like, "(Gasp) You're
not supposed to be here." You know, they really didn't expect
him to come.
And she was talking about how
cold most of them were, and she was saying there was one person,
the man is president at Citizen's, Archie McDonald. I think
it was Mr. McDonald. She was saying that he was the only one--.
No, it wasn't McDonald. I can't think of the man's name. But
he's a bank president. And she said he was the only person
there who was kind of warm and friendly. And she said, maybe
because he is a bank president, and he knows, maybe--. But
he was the only person there who was kind of warm and friendly.
And she said, they didn't stay very long, you know, they left.
you remember what bank that was?
Oh, let me see, was it Trustmark? I wish I could think of
his name. It wasn't Citizen's. It couldn't have been Citizen's.
Either Trustmark, First National--.
Laura Inge Love:
His wife may remember, if you want to call her and ask her.
find that out. You mentioned Obie Clark. Tell me a little
bit about Obie Clark.
Well, I've always admired Mr. Clark because he has always
stood up for black people. And even at the expense of his
life. I think his home has been shot into. He's been threatened
a number of times. You know how they used to say that Malcolm
X was black America's manhood?
Well, in Meridian, I felt that way about Obie Clark because
Obie was arrested. You know, he was arrested, taken down to
the police department and you know, things like that, and
he probably went through a lot that people don't even know,
but I have always admired him because I felt like he stood
up, being president of the NAACP. He is now president of the
NAACP. He served for a number of years, and then somebody
else served for a term, and then he was reelected. But I felt
like he had always stood up for black people in this city.
At least, tried to stand up. You know, things that were reported,
he would try to check them out or get the organization to
check them out. Things like that.
Obie is still kicking around?
Yes. He is now the president of the NAACP.
Laura Inge Love:
It's his second term, isn't it?
Oh, Mother, he's served a number--. He's served for years.
Laura Inge Love:
side of town does he live on?
Obie lives out this way. We can give you the numbers and all
You know, I need to get ahold of a Meridian telephone book
some kind of way, too.
Oh, you mean you want one to take back. Mother, you got one
that you can take back? Make sure it's no writing in it, Mother,
because sometimes I write numbers in it.
Laura Inge Love:
I don't know if I have one or not.
I might have one in my room.
Now, let me ask you this. Reverend M.C. Thompson. Do you remember
me a little bit about Reverend M.C. Thompson. What? You ain't
gonna tell me nothing? All right. OK. You take the fifth amendment.
Do you remember Howard McGlothin?
Oh Howard. Yes.
Tell me a little bit about Howard.
The only thing I know about Howard was that, he went by another--.
He had a nickname. He had, I think he owned a video company
at one time or something. I did a little work with him. Howard
was OK. I remember him saying something, "You know, if you
look on TV, it's really us. It's black people." You know,
I just remember him saying something like that. That, you
know, the shows on TV, and when they have blacks on them,
you know, really what catches your eye, it's us. (Laughter)
And I remember he did a documentary on the city of Meridian.
I can't remember.
(A brief segment of the taped
interview regarding the Meridian telephone book is not included
in this transcript.)
I don't know a lot about Howard, but he seemed like a nice
person. He seemed to be black, if I can say, black-oriented.
If you can understand what I'm trying to say.
you remember anything that he did in the movement here in
No, because I didn't know Howard at that time.
What about Jo Lynn Polk?
Jo Lynn, I think, she attended the freedom school. I think
she and Douglas, that's her brother Douglas, I think both
are doctors. And they lived right around the corner. We grew
up, we played together. They'd come over to our house and
eat dinner and that type thing. I knew Jo Lynn. I knew Douglas.
you know the mother?
Yes. The mother, Mrs. Polk.
Laura Inge Love:
They used to come over here. They were members of our church.
Yes, they were all members of our church. They all grew up
in our church.
Laura Inge Love:
Reverend Inge baptized the whole family.
They lived right in the back of us. You know, just in the
back of where we lived. And Douglas used to come over to our
house and just eat all the time. So, the only thing I remember
about Jo Lynn is that I think Jo Lynn and Douglas, I think
they came to freedom school. That's about all that I remember.
her mother was involved, too. As a matter of fact, I'm going
to interview her, next week or so. She comes over to Jackson.
Do you remember Dave Dennison [?]?
I don't remember him.
about Al Fielders?
OK. The only thing I knew about the Fielders is that they
owned the pharmacy, downtown on Fifth Street. In terms of
civil rights, I don't know that, anything.
you remember Mr. William Miller, the attorney?
No, I don't. Is he black or white?
I don't remember. Seems like I remember hearing a name about
a Miller, but I don't know that much about him.
Is there anything that you think is important that we haven't
covered? I mean, just go at it.
You know what. We talk about the students who integrated the
high schools, and that's good. I think that's very important.
But one thing I was thinking about, too. What was it like
for black teachers? See. Let me share this with you. There
was a teacher and she was one of the first teachers who went
to Poplar Springs. Poplar Springs Elementary School was considered
the school where the rich white kids, the doctors, the lawyers.
So they were very careful about who they sent to Poplar Springs.
was her name?
Her name was--. I know how to find out. I can't think of her
name. Was it Jenkins? The lady who stays with Ms. Fredna Lewis
[?], Mother. I cannot think of her name.
Laura Inge Love:
But Ms. Lewis can--. Ms. Ware. Ware. W-A-R-E. I knew it would
her first name?
I can't think of her first name, but her last name is Ware.
she still in Meridian?
As far as I know she is. But I remember her telling me that,
you know, the teachers had a table where they sat at lunch.
And like the salt and pepper, things like that, the students
were not allowed to come to those tables and get the salt
and pepper. So one of the little white students came up there
and got the salt and pepper, and she said, "No. You're not
supposed to come up here and get the salt and pepper."
A white teacher said, "Here.
Take this." You know, what she was doing was saying, "Well,
you know, you're a black teacher. You can't tell this white
child what to do." And you know she was saying how that stuck
out in her mind. You know, just little things like that. And,
even sometimes, with the parents, you know. Parents maybe
trying to second-guess the teacher or the things that maybe
black teachers had to go through who went to white schools.
I remember one teacher saying that she had written a word
on the board. She wrote it on the board misspelled. She did
that on purpose because she wanted to see, would the students
notice that. Well, what happened, a white teacher passes by
the room. She sees that the word is on the board, but it's
misspelled. She goes back, she tells the principal that Miss
So-and-so misspelled a word. She tells the other teachers,
Miss So-and-so misspelled a word.
And then she had to explain,
"Well, I put the word. I knew that it was misspelled. I put
it up there on purpose because I wanted to see if the students
would see that the word was misspelled." You know all that.
Little things like that. I thought it would be interesting
if we could find a teacher, too, who, or teachers who went
to schools and what it was like for them. What they had to
go through. What they had to deal with in terms of being maybe
the first black at an all-white school. What is was like for
them, too. What they had to--
I guess this is kind of a big, open-ended question I am going
to ask you. You went through the '50s, '60s, '70s, and the
confrontation and the conflict, the activity and the reaction.
Where do you think the white community is now in Meridian?
Do you think there have been changes, progress? Are there
things that we need to do?
Well, you know, I think that there are always things that
we need to do. Progress has been made. I think you have more
blacks who are really wanting to get in to own their own businesses.
Of course, one of my major concerns is black youth, especially
young black males. Because I teach school and I teach in an
alternative school and so I see. And one of the things I hear
black males always saying, "Yes, the white man this. The white
man this." And, you know, my thinking is you have to take
responsibility for your own life, now. You can't blame. We
had people who died, who were shot, who were killed, for us
to have certain rights. But now it's up to you to take responsibility.
So don't try to blame anybody else. And so that whole attitude,
that whole thinking. Stop being the victim, you know.
I don't know if you are familiar
with T.D. Jakes [?]. He's a pastor. He's a preacher out of,
I think, Houston, Texas, but he talks about, "Hey, stop being
the victim. You don't have to be a victim. You can take control
of your own life." Too many of our young black males--. Maybe
it comes back from just having a lack of enough positive black
role models. They have this victim attitude. Or this, "The
white man this. You can't do nothin' for the white man." That
bothers me, because, to me, today, it really is no excuse
for anybody not to make it. I know racism is out there and
it will be out there for a long time, but if you are willing
to work hard, if you are really willing to do what it takes,
you can make it. And see, I just believe that now. That if
you are willing to just do what you have to do to make it,
you can make it. And you can really make it because there
are so few out there trying to make it until if you really,
you know, you can succeed if you really want to, and I really
mentioned the struggle, the blood, and the sweat, and the
sacrifice of previous generations. Do you think young folks
today realize the connection?
See, that's part of the problem, is that they don't. I think
young people today, first of all, they don't know their history.
They don't know that they come from a great and powerful people
and they need to know that. If they knew from where they came,
from whence they came, you know, I think they would fly. If
they could understand that you come from a great and a powerful
people. That our people, according to--. Black people were
the original people of the earth. We're the mommas and daddies
of the earth, and if they could really understand their history
and Africa, the great kings and queens and the kind of civilization
that was in Africa. If they really understood that, then maybe
they could fly.
But they don't really know
their history. They're too caught up in their past, maybe.
Too caught up in blaming the white man. Too caught up in the
nowness of their own little lives, you know. And
like I said, a lot of it is just the lack of maybe the right
kind of models, having the right kind of role models. Maybe
some of them are into drugs. Not all. I know, not all. But
too many are, you know, into that. But if they could really
understand their history, know where they came from, and fully
understand where they came from. This is one reason why I
do admire Minister Far--
(End of interview.)