P. Miller Sr.
Stephanie Scull Millet
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.
Mr. J.P. Miller was born October
11, 1931 in Blaine, Mississippi, in Sunflower County; he is
the oldest of eight siblings born to Laura Williams Miller
and George Henry Miller. As a child, Mr. Miller helped his
parents to make a living as sharecroppers. In 1951, he and
his wife left the Mississippi Delta and resettled on the Mississippi
Gulf Coast in Pascagoula. In the post-World War II economy,
jobs were scarce, but Mr. Miller was hired by International
Paper Company. As soon as was possible, Mr. Miller joined
his local union.
In 1966, Mr. Miller was fired
for making a suggestion to his supervisor, regarding changing
and improving a procedure at work; additionally, Mr. Miller
was charged with insubordination. His union took up his case,
and he was reinstated with his seniority intact; however,
his new position was one of the most difficult and most dangerous
jobs at International Paper Company.
On a month-long vacation, Mr.
Miller moonlighted as a crane-operator at Ingalls Shipbuilding
Corporation, and he decided to stay on there, switching career
paths. Later, he worked a year at Cooper Stevedore, as the
first African-American union member to do so. Ultimately,
he returned to Ingalls.
Mr. Miller is a lifetime member
of the NAACP. During the sixties, Mr. Miller became more active
in the NAACP and also attended mass meetings. From a safe
distance, he even attended a Klan rally. His civil rights
work included filing suit against International Paper Company,
paving the way for African-Americans to be treated on a fair
and equal basis on the job.
Slaughtering time on the farm
Crops grown, stored, consumed
Segregated schools 9
Boxing as a hobby 11
Harvesting wood with cross-cut
Making cane syrup 14
International Paper Company
Segregation on the job 22
Unjustly fired from International
Paper Company 23
Union files grievance 24
Easton King 25
Working in the "bull pen" 28
Ingalls Shipbuilding Corporation
Rehired at Ingalls Shipbuilding
NAACP Legal Defense Fund 42
Mass meetings 44
Cross burning 46
Klan rally 46
Medgar Evers 49
Aaron Henry 50
Registering to vote 51
AN ORAL HISTORY
This is an interview for
the Civil Rights Documentation Project. The interview is with
Mr. James P. Miller Sr. and is taking place on May 24, 2000,
in Moss Point, Mississippi. The interviewer is Stephanie Scull
is an interview for the Civil Rights Documentation Project
of Tougaloo College and The University of Southern Mississippi.
The interview is with Mr. J.P. Miller, and it is taking place
on May 24, 2000, in Moss Point, Mississippi. The interviewer
is Stephanie Scull Millet. And first I'd like to thank you,
Mr. Miller, for taking time to talk with me today. And I'd
like to get some background information, which is what we
usually do, and ask you: could you tell me your name and where
and when you were born, please?
that's fine. My name is J.P. Miller Sr., and I reside in Moss
Point, Mississippi. I was born October 11, 1931 in Sunflower
County, Mississippi, in a little town called Blaine, B-L-A-I-N-E.
do you have brothers and sisters?
I have three brothers, three sisters, and an adopted brother.
So, that would make eight of you.
in total. Where do you occur in there? Are you the oldest
or youngest or in the middle?
the oldest. Number one.
the oldest. Number one son. And would you mind, for the record,
giving us the names of your brothers and sisters?
George H. Miller Jr., Frank Edward Miller, Tandy Jerome Miller,
and my adopted brother is Byron Miller. My sisters are Julia
Green Williams, Brenda Miller Johnson, Attorney, Betty Ruth
Miller Mitchell. Is that three?
Thank you. And I wonder if you could tell me something about
your parents. We would start with your mother's name and when
and where she was born.
My mother's name was Laura Williams Miller. She was born,
to the best of my knowledge, in Sunflower County, Mississippi.
Do you want to know about my grandmother, too? Would you like
to hear that?
My grandmother was named Corinne[?]. Let me think a minute.
Corinne Williams, and I think she was born in Leflore County,
you know about what year your mother was born?
fourteen. OK. And your father? His name and when and where
he was born?
name was George Henry Miller. He was born in Winston County,
Like Winston cigarettes. And he was born in 1910.
ten. Way back there. So, how long did you live in Sunflower
County? Did you stay there till you were nearly an adult?
I left there, I believe, in 19--. I left there permanently
in 1950. But I had gone away for a short while, for a few
months before 1950.
what were you doing in those short months?
Miller: I went
to New Orleans, Louisiana, to live with an aunt, and worked
for a while on the docks.
That must have been a little different than being in Sunflower
that was a whole lot of difference. Big city, and trying to
find work to do. A lot of excitement.
how old were you when you went to New Orleans?
And, can you tell me a little bit about that? What happened?
You only stayed four months, but what were those four months
was really rough because I didn't know the city, and people
had a tendency to give you wrong directions. You're looking
for work, and they might tell you a street is four blocks
over, it might be two or three miles. But anyway, I stayed
there about four months, and I came on back to Sunflower County
for another year. Made another crop, really. A cotton crop.
My parents were what they called sharecroppers. So.
you help on the farm, with getting the crops in?
yeah. I left something out, too, now. See, I married. My wife
and I married when she was seventeen and I was eighteen. So,
then I got--. After I married, we became sharecroppers, too,
until I left and went to New Orleans to try to make it on
my own. Tried to make a better life for my family. And so,
I came back to Sunflower County and made one more complete
crop after leaving New Orleans. Then I left and came to the
Mississippi Gulf Coast. Pascagoula, to be specific.
you remember the year?
fifty-one, I believe.
fifty-one. So, when you were a child in Sunflower County,
I'm wondering if your school stayed in session for the whole
this may not be in the proper sequence, but I'm recalling
a lot of things that happened.
fine. It doesn't matter what the sequence is at all.
Our school, the black schools--. Of course, that was in the
days of segregation. Black schools were supposed to stay open,
I believe, about seven months a year, and the white schools
stayed open nine months a year. And the reason for that was
the black children in general had to help with the crops.
And therefore, you couldn't go to school even the full seven
months, because you had to break for harvesting the crops.
was actually shorter than the seven months.
I would say we were lucky if we got five months, totally,
in during the school year. And also, concerning school, the
black children, we lived about three miles out in the country.
A little town called Belzoni. Not Belzoni. Inverness. Inverness,
Mississippi. And I went to a school in town, we'd call it.
It was a--. Well, first of all, my first experience with school
was in black churches. Black churches in the country. Every
few miles you'd find a black church that had school, and the
first school I recall going to was a black Baptist church
called New Hope Baptist Church. My first two or three years
school experience. Then I went to Inverness Vocational High
School. We called it high school, but it only went to ten
grades. Ten grades, and if you--.
the church school, was that first grade or kindergarten?
was from like--. It seems as if they had from kindergarten
on up to maybe sixth? No, it wasn't sixth grade. Had something
called kindergarten and then to first grade.
In the church?
from second to what grade, would you have gone somewhere else?
Miller: I believe,
now, Stephanie, I really don't recall how old I was when I
went to kindergarten. Probably three or fours years old. That's
just a guess.
then we went to what we called first grade. And then if you
finished so-called high school, that would have been tenth
grade at the school I attended.
that was considered that you finished the vocational school,
when you completed tenth grade.
Even though I really don't know why it was called vocational,
because there wasn't much vocation to learn in the so-called
vocational school. Going into the why's of that, we were supposed
to be taught in the vocational school, like farming. We had
something like learning how to raise chickens, hogs, cows,
how to care for them. How to preserve poultry, beef, and pork.
But really, we didn't. What really happened, the little equipment
and facilities we had, we got it from the white high school.
When they finished using it,
and it was pretty well messed up, of no use, then they would
send it over to the black high school. But we did have, now,
we had some people that were proficient in preserving meat.
Like I remember we used to slaughter. Well, the people in
the neighborhood would slaughter cows, and they taught you
how to preserve it. I forget what we called that.
you have a smoke house?
Now, the hogs, my folks, my granddaddy and my daddy after
him, he had smokehouses, and we preserved our own pork which
was very good. It preserved and smoked it and put the--. What
did you call it? Well, first of all, you would cover it up
Salt cure it.
cure it. And then I don't know how long we smoked it. Once
we got it salted down and everything and took it down and
hung it up on ropes or strings or something. I guess some
type pretty sizeable rope like quarter of inch rope, or something,
and you preserved it.
kind of wood would you use to create the smoke?
wood of choice was hickory wood, but I think if you didn't
have hickory, you just used some other kind of hardwood. You
didn't use pine. You'd use hardwood to preserve it.
Millet: I didn't
realize you couldn't smoke beef. So, it was not a practice
to smoke beef, then?
we didn't smoke beef. We did something else. I'm trying to
think. They'd pickle it; they called it. Had some kind of
solution. I don't recall what was in it, but you pickled the
beef, and that would preserve it just like the smoke would
preserve it, the pork, but that was a rarity. I mean, everybody
had preserved pork. Even, we made pork sausage. Made what
we--. Have you ever heard of what they call souse and hog
head cheese, I can remember my grandmother having it.
Well, we made that, too. At hog-killing time, they would save
certain parts of the hog. Well, the head, the feet, and they
made what we call hog head cheese or souse. I never knew the
difference in it because it looked the same and it kind of
tasted the same once you seasoned it. And we saved certain
of the hog's intestines and made what we called, I guess,
smoked sausage, now. Well, pork sausage. And like, now you
can go to the store and buy the little (inaudible) sausage
which tastes good to me. They've got a plant up in Alabama
somewhere. But we would stuff the--. We'd grind certain parts
of the hog up and you'd stuff that meat in the hog intestines.
And you smoked that, too, and preserved it. So, you had, like,
now you go to the supermarket and buy you, if you like pork,
you go buy you some pork sausage. Some Jimmy Dean or whatever
they've got, now. But back in that day, you took care of all
that at home. You had the smokehouse for your meat. You had
a potato-house for your--. No, you didn't have a potato-house;
we used to store the sweet potatoes, like you harvest them
out of the ground. Dig them up, and we put them under the
earth. I forget what you call that, but, and you cover them
with straw, and everything. And up where I was born, it's
real cold in the winter. You know? Just like, what I hear
it's like up North. But when I was growing up, we would get
snow sometimes for weeks. Snow would be sometimes two or three
or four feet on the ground up in the Delta.
lakes and ponds would freeze over.
you could still get those potatoes out of the ground, under
I kind of got out of the right sequence there. (Laughter.)
After we gathered them, we put them in this, something like
a cave-like, but it's under the ground. And you'd cover them
up with straw and different stuff. Otherwise, they would,
the cold weather--. You'd put them in there before the winter.
Then you'd cover them up because if you didn't, they would
be something like frostbitten, and they'd taste bad. But we
had a way of preserving them through the winter. You know?
But you had to cover them up properly, under this--. I forget
what we'd call it, but--.
you would dig a hole out, and put the potatoes in there, cover
that with straw. And what time of year was harvest time for
sweet potatoes? Do you remember?
Miller: I believe
it was, like, in the summer, like June. Maybe even July.
start harvesting in June, almost right around this time of
year, and they would stay through the winter?
through the winter. You had sweet potatoes, nearly all year-round.
they weren't frozen when you pulled them up out of the ground?
frozen. Once in a while, you might find one was a little frost-bitten
and it tasted funny, but for the most part, they were just
you get those potatoes? Did you grow them?
else did you grow besides sweet potatoes?
me tell you a little bit more about that sweet potato, first.
trying to think. We used to just stick the vines. Are you
familiar with flowers and things?
Millet: A little,
but we should assume that whoever is reading this, wouldn't
be. So, go into as much detail as you want to.
I'm trying to think in what sequence we did that, but you
could--. Oh, I know. In order to get the potatoes, you would
plant the whole--. You could plant the whole potato, and it
would have little buds come out on the sides.
they call those, "eyes?"
Eyes. Same thing. Irish potatoes, eyes. And then you could
stick the eye in the ground and it would reproduce, or you
could let them sprout some vines. Just cut maybe a foot long
vine that's got the little bud on it and stick the vine in
the ground, and it just would reproduce. And you'd have a
lot of sweet potatoes and Irish potatoes.
from one potato, you could get many plants?
a lot. A lot. Plenty plants. We also planted peanuts, and
we'd harvest peanuts by the sackful. You'd lay them out in
the sunshine and let them dry, if you wanted peanuts to parch.
But if you wanted to just boil them--. A lot of people like
green peanuts, and you boil them in salty water. So, we raised
cotton and corn. Corn by the acres. You'd shell your own corn.
You'd raise it; you'd let it dry out. Put it in what they
called a crib, a house that holds the corn.
when you shelled it, did you do that by hand? Or were their
a long time, it was just by hand. But then they invented a
little hand rotating corn sheller. You'd put an ear of corn
in it, and turn this crank on the side, and that was much
better. You could shell a lot more corn.
did you shell it by hand? Can you describe that process?
was hard on the skin. You'd have kind of like if you--. Like
I know, I used to work with brick masons. Help brick masons,
and handling those rough brick would get the skin off your
hands. Shelling corn by hand was about the same thing.
you shell it, do you actually wind up with those individual
corn kernels all off of the cob?
Individual kernels. You'd shell you--well, depending on how
much you wanted--maybe a bushel or two bushels. Then you took
it through the--. They called it the grist mill, and a guy
had a gadget there would grind the corn up, and make meal.
Corn meal. Or he could set his die in there and grind it up
fine enough to be what we called grits.
So, he could control how coarse or fine the corn kernels [were
ground]. Now, did the kernels have to be dry? They couldn't
be still soft and green like right off the corn plant, could
They had to be--. Once you put--. Well, first of all, when
you harvested the corn, you'd let the corn stay on the--.
The corn that you wanted to save for cornmeal or grits, you
let it stay on the corn stalk until its season is over, and
it kind of dried out. And then that way you could just pull
that an ear? An ear of corn?
An ear. Pull the ears off. Then if you wanted to have fresh
corn, we called it, you'd just pull it off while it's green
and you'd have what we called, I think we called it roasting
roasting ears. Uh-huh. Yeah. And you would eat that right
away. Was there any way to save the fresh corn to eat later,
like we do today in a can or frozen?
yeah. We used to can it. I remember right after I married,
I had bought me a pressure cooker that high. [Gesturing.]
What is that? About two feet high?
And I used to be good at canning and stuff before my wife
learned how. I used to cook and everything, but, as the years
passed on, she's one of the best cooks you want to find, now.
Cook anything. But I used to cook.
Who taught her to cook?
I guess mostly her mother. But I do remember distinctly, when
we first married, I used to cook pies and cakes. You know.
But I don't know how to do that anymore. I lost it.
taught you to cook?
She didn't reserve that just to the girls in the family?
Because I was the oldest one in the family, so I did a lot
of things. I learned how to do a lot of things like wash and
iron and cook.
what was a typical day like for you as a child? I'd like to
know, like, a typical day if you went to school. A typical
day if you worked in the cotton field. And a typical day if
you, say, had to get up and wash clothes and cook something.
So, what was a typical day like in school? How did you get
you had to get up early. Because if I recall, we were supposed
to be there about, maybe eight o'clock. And we had to walk,
so we had to get up early. Now, I never did have to milk the
cow like some children did. My daddy did that. He milked the
cows and it was sure enough rough, like in the winter time
going to school because, like I mentioned a little while ago,
it was cold, cold up there. And you had to walk to school
in the snow, the ice. Sometimes you didn't have too good of
footwear, either. Sometimes you'd be about frostbitten when
you got to school. It was really, really rough.
And this was even as that little three-year-old going to the
that was closer in the neighborhood.
still had to walk, though?
had to walk. Still had to walk.
you said Inverness was three miles away. So, were you walking
three miles to go to school?
miles there and three miles back.
And now, all this time when we were walking, the Caucasian
children, they had, if I remember, nice buses. And they would
pass us and pick at us. Throw out of the window something.
Call us names. And this is something that just stuck in my
head over the years. You know. I can think about that. So,
then, when you went to school, once you got to school, another
thing I remember clearly, I hear people that's younger than
me, they recall having what we called chapel in school. Maybe
once a week, but when I was a little child going to school,
we had chapel every morning.
what they did, they would have something kind of like at church.
You know, they would sing, profess, or some teachers would
pray. And we'd sing spiritual songs. Then after you go through
what we called chapel, singing, praying and singing maybe
a couple of spiritual songs, you would break off and go to
your classrooms. But this was a daily occurrence on that chapel,
the prayer in school.
what would you do when you got in--? What was your favorite
subject when you went to school?
I do believe. Of course, we didn't have too much information,
like the kids have, now. But for some reason, we didn't have
access to information that the white kids had. But we had,
somehow or another, we got ahold to some literature on people
like George Washington Carver, you know. We read about [how]
he did so many things with the peanut. Invented so many things
with the peanut, and some other black person, I believe it
was Benjamin Banneker, he had made something. And then of
course, later on, we had a--I don't know if you would call
it idol--but, see, I was real small, still, when Joe Louis
grew up. And he won the title from Maximilian. So that was
a big celebration.
And I remember, all this was
out in the country. Now, I remember when, out in the country
where I grew up, we didn't have any electricity. We had a
wood stove and wood heaters, but as time went on, my daddy
he was a pretty good jack of all trades. He didn't have much
formal education at all but he learned, I guess by the grace
of God, to do many things that, now, you have to have a lot
of schooling. Like my third boy, now he's going to take electrical
something over at J.C. Junior College, and to do wiring and
telephone, stuff like that. But now, my dad didn't have no
education, and I don't know to this day how he could do so
many things, but I remember he wired all the houses up out
on this particular plantation where we lived and he repaired
the houses, did the carpentry work. He fixed his own automobile.
When something would go wrong, he would take the engine out,
hang the engine up in a tree by a chain (inaudible), change
the pistons out, and it was just amazing how he knew how to
do so much and didn't have no formal training. And so, he
was an electrician, a carpenter. Plus now, after farms got
mechanized, he drove the equipment out there, the tractors.
And he was just an all-around man. So, it was something growing
up out there, and reflecting back on how things were then
and how things are now. My boy that's going to school now
for an electrician, he's getting some--. The teacher, she
takes them out in the field sometime, and actually do work
for people. You know. O.O.J.--On-the-job training. And you've
got to have that certificate showing you can do that or you
can't do it.
all regulated these days.
all regulated. I guess that's a safety factor, but I never
remember Daddy having any kind of accident due to faulty work.
People find out, say, "Well, George Miller, he can do that
work." And people would be coming in from all around. "George,
could I get you to wire my house?" Even the plantation owners.
You know. They would find out he could do it. If they didn't
have nobody on their plantation to do it, they would get Daddy
to do it. Of course, it didn't hardly pay much in those days,
but it's good to know how to do these things.
So, you had to get up really early to go to school. About
what time did your school day end? Do you remember?
I recall, it was about 3:30 or so.
what happened after you left school? You didn't go home and
That was before the days of television. (Laughter.) We just
walked home. And a lot of the boys, somehow or another, we,
a lot of the neighborhood boys got involved in boxing. Because
we had several, I guess, idols or role models back then. All
the way back from Jack Johnson. I don't know if you've heard
of him. Probably, he's way before my time, but I heard about
him. He was a black heavyweight champion, too. So, I guess
that was about the only thing we had to idolize, because otherwise,
I mean, of course, now, there was plenty of black people who
went on despite the conditions. They went on and did well.
You know. A lot of them, I guess, were self taught, but like
when I was coming up I remember pretty clear that it seemed
like the kids loved to congregate at our house, and I had
several cousins, and somehow or another we got us two or three
boxing gloves. (Laughter.) I was a little fellow. I mean,
small in stature, but it was unregulated, so it didn't matter
if there was a 200 pound fellow came in our yard and wanted
to box, I would try him. (Laughter.) And my brother-in-law
right now lives in Cleveland; my wife's brother. I had forgot
all about that. We was up in the Delta a few months ago, and
he brought up how, said, "Brother, you know, you was tough
with them boxing gloves. You remember you beat up old So-and-so?"
I said, "Man, I never would
have thought about that anymore." (Laughter.)
anybody ever knock you out?
man! They never did knock me out, but they hurt my head a
how did y'all learn? Did anybody teach you?
just kind of went in there whaling?
was just instinct. (Laughter.) So far as knowing the safe
way to do it and protect you and all, we didn't have any head
gear. We'd just get in there and slug it out and just pick
it up on your own how to try to be defensive, and what moves
to make. But it was a lot of fun. We also used to like to
high jump. You know. You put a cane or something, or two guys
hold a rope or something and gradually just move it up and
see who could jump the highest. Things like that. We had something
to keep ourselves entertained.
you did some athletic activities after school, just organized
on your own?
you not have to do chores when you got home from school?
We had to. I'm glad you brought that up. We used to, my daddy
and them, the men and the boys, once they got big enough,
they would harvest wood, I think, once a year, preparing for
the winter. So, you would go out in the woods, and you would
cut these logs. Cut the tree down. Some of the trees might
be, from, say a foot in diameter to maybe four foot in diameter.
And you haul it to the house.
you using a chain saw?
What we called a cross-cut saw.
saw. All manual.
manual. Somebody on each end. And those older men, you know,
they'd fuss at us boys because they called it riding the saw,
when you mash down on it too hard. It makes it hard for your
partner to cut. So, if you got the right rhythm, man, you
could cut up some wood.
long did it take you to cut down a tree that was four feet
man. Probably at least an hour. You'd be sawing on there.
And the men knew how to block out one side. You know. Cut
a niche in the opposite side, and as you saw, the tree would
get, I guess you would call it, it didn't have much fiber
holding because you'd be cut--. And you'd be notched it out
maybe eight or ten inches deep. So the tree, you had to know
how the tree was leaning and all that. So, it would fall.
tried to control the fall direction.
yeah. You had to control the fall.
people get hurt.
So, we had to do a whole lot after school. We did all this
boxing. We also had to saw the wood in fireplace lengths.
You know. So, everybody mostly had a fireplace you'd burn
logs in. And then, you'd cut some other wood in a shorter
length because you had wood stoves.
I didn't realize you had to have different sizes for the stove.
You had to have smaller wood for the stove?
Smaller, but now, if it fell your lot to--. If you didn't
have any smaller, we had what you call wedges. In other woods,
if you cut a log maybe in four-foot lengths, and it's too
big for the stove, so you had something they called wedges
you'd drive down in there and split it.
the wood. Make it the size you want. The diameter you want.
So there was a lot of things you had to do to make things
say, "Wood warms you twice: once when you cut it, and the
second time when you burn it." You worked up some warmth when
you were cutting that wood.
yeah, man. I'm telling you.
other kinds of chores did you have? Did you have to work with
the livestock any? Or in the garden?
said you had to wash clothes, too.
Had to wash and iron.
kind of garden did you have? You said sweet potatoes and corn?
had all kinds of vegetables, like squash, beets, peas, and
probably canned all that stuff, too.
man. We just had cans for days. You know, you just can it
up and maybe put it back in a box or something. And so, there
was no shortage of food. Now, you might not have what you
like all the time, because I remember, I didn't--. It took
me--. I was an adult before I developed a taste for, like,
cabbage and collards. I love it, now, but back when I was
a child, I didn't like it. And we used to have to make--.
Well, my mother did. Excuse me. My mother used to make. Sometimes,
we didn't have any--. We also grew cane in small amounts.
cane. So, we'd take that. Had a mill for that.
would you get white sugar out of it like you get in a sugar
we got the white juice out of it, and then you put that juice
in some kind of kettle, or something. And you cook it. Just
cook it, cook it, cook it. And they had a mule or a horse
turning this thing around, grinding up the cane stalks, and
the juice coming out in a container. And so, then they would
actually make sugar cane syrup out of this stuff.
But, now, if you ran out of cane syrup, my mother used to
know how to just take some sugar, and put it in a skillet
or something in a little water, and you boil that, and it
would turn into syrup. Your white syrup instead of, you know.
Now, I like that Blackburn Syrup. Of course, I'm not supposed
to eat any of it, now. I'm diabetic, but it's got a kind of
brown color to it, but that sugar cane syrup you made at home,
it was white. And it just--. Try to dig up you some fat back
or some bacon, if you're lucky and cook you some biscuits.
And you had syrup that you didn't buy from the store. You
good to me. So, when you got the cane juice, you said they
would cook it and boil it? Then did it granulate when they
were cooking it? Did it turn into a--?
I guess they had a certain stopping point because it would
just be, some of it would be thicker than other syrup, so
I guess it depended on how long they cooked it. It probably
got thicker and thicker the more you cooked it.
the goal was to have the cane syrup, when you had cooked it.
the syrup. And, man, you talk about it taste good in the winter
time when it's cold. Oh! That syrup and some hot biscuits,
and we had our own butter. Daddy kept a cow or two.
your mother did some churning.
I did some churning.
did some churning.
Miller: I did
a lot of churning. (Laughter.) Churn that fresh buttermilk
and cook a fresh pan of cornbread, put some butter in between
it. And so you had fresh milk with the butter churned out
of it, but then you put some butter in the cornbread, and
that made it taste better. So, we had what we called sweet
milk which meant it wasn't--.
didn't homogenize it. Yeah. Clabbered milk.
you eat clabber as you were growing up? As a child?
Clabbered milk with some fresh cream over in there. Put some
cream over that and it would make it rich, and then put you
a hunk of cornbread over in that. Boy! You had some good eating.
remind me, when you're churning, you put the whole milk in
the churn, and it separates into what? Now, some people probably
wouldn't know what churning is. Could you just describe what
the act of churning is?
is, OK, when you milk the cow, and you put the fresh milk
in a container.
a crock, a container.
as time goes by, the milk turns to clabbered milk they called
it, which means it would be lumpy. And then on top of that
clabbered milk, the cream would come to the top. That cream.
So you skim the cream off the top of the clabbered milk, pour
it in what we call the churn. It's a container with a lid
on it, and it's got a lid on it, and there's a hole in the
top of the lid. So, then you've got a--.
you call it a paddle?
it was kind of a round thing on a handle, and you put the
paddle, I forget the proper name for it, but you put it in
there, and then you put the top on, which had a round hole
in it, over the round stick, and you just pump it up and down.
And as you pump, what happens?
you pump, that cream just turns to butter. What we know as
butter, today. And you could just skim it off there and shape
it like you wanted in some kind of container. You could make
it a round piece of butter. You could make it square. Pretty
well could shape it any way you wanted. So, people back in
those days, too, if you had enough butter, you could sell
it to your neighbors or sell them some fresh eggs out the
henhouse. We had chickens.
had chickens, too?
And it was some kind of experience.
did you keep the butter fresh? You didn't have refrigerators
like we have, now.
It's amazing. It's amazing. Things today, you can't do butter
and stuff like you could. It just seems. I don't know what
it is, but we just--. They had the ice man running way back
in those days. Had the ice man come around maybe three or
four days a week, and you could buy twenty-five pounds, fifty
pounds, a hundred pounds, and if you had a--wasn't a refrigerator.
We called it an ice-box. And you put your butter and your
milk in there and it stayed cool, but now, even back then,
you didn't hardly catch any milk turning sour. Like now you
go to the supermarket and you put your milk in the refrigerator,
and sometimes it will turn sour in there.
from being in the car, sometimes, on that trip home from the
back then, you actually could leave some vegetable something
on the stove, and it would stay there for a few days without
turning sour. But you can't do that, now. I don't know what
it is. But, yeah, we pretty well kept some ice in the ice-box,
and we had cool milk, cool water in there.
(End of tape one, side one.
The interview continues on tape one, side two.)
you think back on your experience in school, do you think
you got a good education from the schools that you attended?
Miller: I got
about what they had to offer. They didn't have too much to
offer, but, now, I'll tell you, like I said before. Part of
that is my fault because I know children that went to school
with me, and they had access just to this tenth grade, then
about twelve miles over in Indianola, they had a black high
school, and so, some of them went on to finish high school
and just went all the way to the top despite the hardships,
you know. Some of them are coaches and doctors, lawyers. Believe
it or not, up there in the Delta, when I was a teenager, there
was a black lady in Indianola. I don't know where she came
from, but she was a doctor. You know. And people got the news
all around, "Dr. So-and-so." You know. And she was a black
lady, and it was just kind of unbelievable.
But now, we had quite a few, back in those days, teachers.
In the black schools, [teachers] didn't have to have a college
degree. I knew plenty of teachers went to tenth grade, and
lower grades than that. In other words, they could read and
write, and add, subtract, divide, and multiply. So, they did
a good service, because they gave the kids what they had to
give them. So, I guess it's just like, today. Now, it just
amazes me. I see children, especially black children, that's
got all kinds of opportunities, you know. They've got a bus
to ride to school, if they--. I think, it's a mile. If you
stay a mile from the school, I think. I'm not sure, but they've
got an opportunity of riding the bus. Then they've got all
kinds of grants, and they've got some companies paying you
to go to school. And some of them just will not go to school.
And back in my day, you know, we didn't have opportunity.
We had to get out there and harvest the crops. Pick the cotton.
Chop the cotton, and all that. Get the corn in. Now, they
don't have to do any of that. All they've got to do is stand
on the corner, and the bus will pick them up. They won't go.
know that's true of not only black children, but children
of all races. And, I guess, each one of us is just an individual
who has their own reasons for the things they do in life.
But, I think as we get older, we realize what those opportunities
were that we missed. It's so easy to look back and second-guess.
But, you know, I remember being a teenager, and I really didn't
understand what an opportunity I had. I just seemed to take
it for granted. That was just the way it was supposed to be.
Did your parents ever get to
own their own farm?
they did not. Daddy sharecropped until he came down here to
the Mississippi coast. In fact, I came down here before he
did, but then, he came down here, and he did well. He didn't
have a lazy bone in him. He worked construction for a few
you know how old he was when he changed? Did he give up sharecropping
and decide to come to the coast and work?
Right. He had a sister; he had two sisters down here, that
left the farm, and so, he decided to come down here and try
it down here. So, he ended up, his last years he spent as
a longshoreman. ILA, here in the port of Pascagoula. Well,
he went other places. If work got scarce here, he'd go to
Gulfport, Mobile. Even went to New Orleans, but that's--.
He retired as a longshoreman.
a longshoreman? Do you know if he joined a union?
Local 1752. I got a card in my pocket, now. (Laughter.)
great. That's great.
Local 1752. And he got in the union when he came down here,
and he worked hard, but when he retired, he had what we call
a gravy job. You know, real easy.
Yeah. Good. By that time, he had earned it, hadn't he?
yeah. He had earned it.
I forgot what I was going to ask you. Let me think for a minute.
Miller: I had
so much I wanted to tell you.
we leave anything out? Can you think of anything about your
we left a lot of stuff out that I thought of between the time
I started making this note, and then I stopped and went and
finished cutting the grass. And the stuff I was thinking about
while I was cutting the grass, I said, "I've got to tell Stephanie
about this." (Laughter.) It left me.
Millet: I remember
my question, now.
I just ramble on?
course you can.
Miller: I tell
you. Some things I remember that just upset me. You know.
Stuff I had to go through. And now, the children. We was talking
about the children a while ago; they don't have to go through
any of that, and they won't take advantage of the opportunities
they have. Now, I remember back in the days. This is probably
unbelievable to--. Did you grow up in Mississippi?
Millet: I grew
up in Gulfport.
OK. You're salt water; you're alright. (Laughter.) I used
to work with some guys from Gulfport. Wilson Evans. He was
ILA president over there. But he's gone on, now. But I think
about back when I was coming up, and even, I would say up
until I was in my late teens, there was an unwritten law that
a black man, black male could get in some serious trouble
by just looking at a Caucasian woman. You know. That was just
against the rules. You don't look at them. And another thing
that, I don't know if they had a law on the books for it,
but if you were walking down the street, and you met a white
person, you just had to get in the ditch, in some cases, because,
you know, you just wasn't supposed to pass beside, too close.
matter if you were seventy-five years old and the person approaching
you was fourteen, you still had to give way.
had to move over. Now, that probably wasn't the case 100 percent,
but you did run into that, like, where I grew up, up in the
Delta. And you mentioned about the age difference. That was
another thing that kind of rung a bell. When you were, say
from birth, a black man, a white man may call you, "Boy,"
and then, maybe, on up till maybe sixty or sixty-five, you
were, "Boy." Then, when you got that age instead of giving
you proper respect as an elder, they'd call you, "Uncle,"
or even call you, "Preacher." And at any time back in those
days, if you happened to, well, I'll use the term "dress up."
You know. You'd look decent to go to town or wherever, even
if it was on the job, they'd call you, "Preacher." If you
kind of had on some pressed khakis and a nice shirt, well,
you were, "Preacher," then.
they were making a kind of a snide comment?
Miller: I guess
someone wanting to, I don't know--.
Miller: I never
did figure out why they would want to call you, "Preacher,"
or "Uncle." I really never did get the meaning of that, but
I know that signified letting you know you were still a black
man, because, now that you're old enough to be called, "Sir,"
due to your age, or due to your stature, also, you could be
a Ph.D. in a bunch of fields, but you still were just, "Boy,"
or "Uncle," or "Preacher."
"Doctor," or "Mister," or "Sir."
Right. And I just notice how much things have changed, now.
You know. Most people you meet, now, white people, they're
courteous. You know. They're courteous; they say, "Sir." Right
now, of course, I'm of that age, now, I guess they see I'm
grey-headed and bald-headed, and they'll open the door for
me, and I say, "Thank you."
They say, "You're welcome,
sir." You know. And that's insignificant to a person that
never was exposed to this stuff.
So, but to me, I often make the comment to my wife, say, "Man,"
I say, "Honey, you know, things have changed." Because you
just see now how--. Now once in a while you run into somebody
that's thinking back to slavery time, but for the most part,
you run into white people, now, they're intelligent, and they
give you the proper respect. Show respect whether it's in
the street or wherever. So, we still got some problems, because
you run into problems every once in a while, but things have
changed so much. Stephanie, I remember, since I've been on
the coast, when a black man, maybe went to the bank for help.
Maybe you had a steady job. I've been lucky since I've been
down here. Thank God. I always had a job. In fact, I had two
or three jobs. I was working three jobs at one time. Working
midnight, day, and then second shift till I went back at midnight.
just took a nap wherever I could. You know. On my own lunch
break, or something. But now, even at this age, you would
think that people in financial institutions would be afraid
to maybe help a fellow at my age, because you know, I'm getting
close to what God promised me. In about a year and a half,
I'll be reached that seventy years.
we're promised in The Word. But I can go to--. Well, I started
to say either one of two major banks, but we've got so many
major banks around here, now. But I can go to two of the major
banks, and if I need some financial help, I just tell them
what I need, and they just let me sign and let me have it.
No security. And I remember there was a time if you needed
financial help, and a black man, you would have to be a millionaire
to borrow a hundred dollars, because they just wouldn't let
you have it. It was off limits, but thanks be to God that
things have changed, and nowadays if you do halfway right,
and be responsible, you can get help.
Millet: I have
a theory that maybe in the coastal counties, on the coast,
there is more tolerance, maybe, than in [north Mississippi].
I think maybe the farther north you go in Mississippi, the
more you might run into intolerance. And as I say, I grew
up in Gulfport, and none of my friends, none of my teachers
were Southern. You know. They were from different places,
with Keesler Air Force Base being there and a harbor town,
and so close to New Orleans, and Mobile, there were just people
from all over the world. And so, you know, we may be more
fortunate in this part of Mississippi than in some other parts.
But I was thinking back to about 1950, when you first got
here. What did you do after you arrived at the Gulf Coast.
You were, I guess, about eighteen, and your wife was seventeen.
Did she come with you? And what did y'all do? How did you
make your life?
Miller: I had
an aunt living in Pascagoula. God bless her. She took me in.
And the third day after I got here, I had walked. Well, I'll
tell you why I came here in the first place. My aunt, this
particular aunt, she used to come home up in the Delta. She
had an automobile. She had a purse full of money, because
she was working. That was during World War II, she was working
at Ingalls in the rod room or something. Anyway, she had a
steady job. So, she would come home, and she always had money.
And she would talk about Ingalls Shipyard, Ingalls Shipyard.
So, I said, "Man!" So after
I married, I had a lot of cousins and uncles and things had
migrated to, like, Chicago, and Michigan, and places like
that. So, I said, "Well, I'm going to the coast. I'm going
to Pascagoula, and I'm going to get me a job at Ingalls. And
then, I'll go on to Chicago, and make that my permanent residence."
OK. So, you were coming here on your way to Chicago.
my way to Chicago. Just stopping through.
years ago. (Laughter.)
So, man, I got down here and World War II was over, of course,
And where there had been, according to what I heard, people
just in droves working at Ingalls, making money. But that
had dwindled down to maybe a hundred people, so there wasn't
no work at Ingalls in fifty-one, when I came here. Man! So,
I had never heard of International Paper Company. Hadn't heard
of a veneer mill. They had, they call them BVD now, I think,
in Pascagoula where they make siding like that, or paneling.
And that's a veneer?
mill. Yeah. They called it veneer mill, then. Now, I think
the official name is Pavco. P-A-V-C-O. Man! I walked. I went
to every union hall. Of course, now they had a black union
hall on Canyon[?] Street in Pascagoula. That's another peculiar
thing that just amazed me. They had a black woman who was
a secretary at this labor union hall. And the white fellow
was a business agent. The black lady was one of the Barryall[?]
ladies from Pascagoula. She was secretary. So, I said, "Man!
That's amazing. This lady's got this responsible job. A black
woman." And so I went down to the laborer's union hall every
day. Sometimes checked two or three times.
Walked over to the veneer mill,
and everybody told me, "Man. Just people in droves looking
for jobs. No work."
So, somebody mentioned the
paper mill. They said, "Apply to the paper mill." I'd never
heard of the paper mill.
Said, "Where is the paper mill?"
Said, "Oh. That's out over
there in Kreole, past Moss Point." They had what they called
the two, one bus, then. It used to run from Kreole. There's
a place out from Moss Point called Kreole. In fact, that's
where International Paper, they actually was located in Kreole.
It's just a suburb of Moss Point. So, I scrapped up. I think
you could ride a round trip from Pascagoula, all the way out
to Kreole, and back to Pascagoula for about twenty cents,
on the two, one bus, they called it.
to get twenty cents at that time?
man! I think when I arrived down here, I might have had four
or five dollars in my pocket when I got here.
was a lot of money, then, though.
knowing that I was going to work at Ingalls.
You know. Nobody had told me that Ingalls was just about closed
down. So, I made it out to the paper mill on the two, one
bus, and Stephanie, there were people just all around the
personnel office. Every direction you looked there were people
just trying to get a job. It was hard times here, then. This
is the third day, now, that I'm here. And so, it was in November.
Kind of getting cool. So, I had on some kind of felt hat,
and I had on a plaid sports jacket. Just to keep warm. Not
to try to be sporty. It was kind of cool. (Laughter.) And
so, that was before the days of--. Back in those days, if
you were black, even here in Pascagoula and Moss Point, there
were certain jobs that you could hold at these plants. They
had "white" jobs and "black" jobs.
that kind of unofficial? Or was it way out in the open?
that was in the open. Like in the contract book, they had
about six locals represented at the paper mill at that time.
And five of them were white, and one served all the black
people at the paper mill. That was before the days of black
women at the paper mill, too. We didn't have any black women.
Had a lot of white women working in certain departments. So,
I'm standing out there about middle ways of, I guess, a group
of people about 150 feet long, and they were all the way up
to the steps of the personnel office and back in all directions
where you could get a spot to stand. So the personnel director,
I think he was standing on, either at the top of the steps
or maybe even, the bannister had a wide arm rest. But anyway
he looked way over there, and he said, "Hey, that boy over
there with that so-and-so kind of hat and that plaid jacket."
I said, "Man, that sounds like
me." So, I made my way up through the crowd, man. Made my
way up through the crowd, and like I say, then your credentials
didn't mean nothing because you have a certain job you were
going to do, anyhow.
So, he said, "Boy. Where you
I said, "I'm from Inverness,
He said, "Where the hell is
I said, "That's up in the Delta."
"Oh, yeah, I've heard of the
Delta." Said, "You want to work?"
I said, "Yes, sir. I want to
work. I'm looking for a job."
"If I hire you, are you going
to come to work every day?"
"I sure will."
So, he said, "Go on in there."
Sent me in the office. The personnel office. And they asked
my name, social security number, all that good stuff. Said,
"Can you go to work? Start to work tonight?" This was late
in the evening, like five o'clock or after.
I said, "Yes, ma'am."
So, they told me, "Go out there
and catch that two, one bus. Take this slip and go down to
Dr. Weatherford[?]." I believe he was. A doctor that was here,
then, in Pascagoula. And said, "They're going to give you
a physical." So, I went on down there. I think about four
of us made our way down there, and that was November. I believe
that was November 3, fifty-one. They examined me and sent
me back to the paper mill, and I worked twelve hours my first
night. I went and worked--
seven o'clock in the evening until seven the next morning.
And I spent nineteen years and three months out there before
I finally quit and went to Ingalls.
from that first twelve hours, nineteen years and three months.
now we could deduct about three and a-half months, because
I got fired in the midsixties. Unjustly. Let me tell you how
I got fired, now.
hold on just a second.
(There is a brief interruption
in the interview.)
I had two thoughts when we broke just then. Maybe the other
one will come to me when I get this first one out. We were
speaking about how I spent nineteen years and three months
at International Paper Company, but I mentioned deducting
maybe three months because I got terminated in sixty-six.
And I want to tell you how that came about. Back in those
days, well, you just didn't question. In those days, we had
all white supervisors in the department I was in. So, you
just didn't question anything the supervisor said. You didn't
question it. So, we had a big crew working up there on a repair
job on number two machine. At that time, we had five machines
at the paper mill, plus (inaudible). And so, I suggested a
better way to do what we was doing, maybe, because I worked
in what they called, the official name was the general yard,
but the nickname was the bull gang, because it was hard work.
All the hard work, you had to do it.
And so my supervisor, he told
me, said, "Don't talk back to me. And just go on, and do what
I said to do, and don't ask no questions."
And so, I said, "Well, I'm
not talking back, but I'm just telling you how I feel about
So, he said, "I tell you what.
You go see the general foreman." His name was Mr. Daphney[?].
Clyde Daphney. And my supervisor, God bless him. He's gone
on, now, but his name was Aubrey Strahan[?]. So, he sent me
to see Mr. Daphney. And the trucks for the supervisors, they
were radio-equipped. So, I guess he had called him on the
radio and told him he was sending Miller back there.
So, when I got back there,
he said, "I tell you what. Just get your stuff, and go on
home." He said, "I heard about you was up there sassing Mr.
Strahan." And so, they fired me. Fired me right that same
day. Fired me, [and] charged me with insubordination.
you'd been there over ten years.
Miller: I had
been. Let's see, in sixty-six. Yeah. I'd been there over ten
From fifty-one to sixty-six.
years. So, for making a suggestion to your supervisor after
fifteen years, they fired you?
They fired me. So, we had a good International representative
then, even though he was a native of Jackson County, a guy
named Claude Ramsey[?]. In your getting around, you'll probably
hear of Claude Ramsey because he stood up for everybody. So,
naturally, I was a good union man. I got in the union the
minute I was qualified to get in the union, so, I called my
union president, a fellow we called Preacher Houston[?]. He
was a bona fide preacher, and his name was L.A. Houston.
So, he said, "Well, Brother
Miller, what did you do?" I told him. He said, "What!?" He
said, "Well, I'm going to call Dan Martine[?]," that's the
business, the International rep, "and let him know." Said,
"We're going to protest it. We're going to file a grievance."
So, we filed a grievance and went through a grievance procedure.
So, it went all the way to the division level which was in
Mobile. In the, I guess you would call it industrial relations
or labor relations. The vice president was a man named Doug
Barrow. He lived in Mobile. His office was in Mobile. And
he had a division level job. So, man, they had turned me down
every step I went; I lost the case. Because everybody testified
must have been afraid to stand up and tell the truth.
Yeah. That was the case. We had one black man who testified
against me, but Preacher Houston said, "Man, if you couldn't
tell the truth, you should have just kept your mouth shut."
And so, we had a meeting after that and the black man that
testified against me, he said he wanted to retract what he
said, and that I didn't--. See, his testimony was that I had
did this supervisor bodily harm, and wanted to fight, and
all that. Which I didn't. I've never been much for (inaudible)
humbug. You know. But anyway, so, they told him, said, "Well,
since you told one story at first, and now, you're telling
a different story, we just won't listen. We don't want to
hear nothing you've got to say from this time on." So, man,
it was looking bad. Our next step was going to be arbitration.
Going before the arbitration board. Meantime, I've been off
three months, now. And so, I came home one--. I was sitting
in my house. In the meantime, I was getting some work to do.
I was going down in the affluent neighborhoods on the beach
and all, and cutting grass. Doing handyman work. Whatever
I could find to do. Painting. Even driving a man's two daughters
to the movie, because he was a big man, and he took a liking
to me. In the meantime, now, during this time, this three
months, this man down on the beach, he took a liking to me.
He and his wife were real good. They would bring food and
stuff to my house.
Do you remember who that was? What his name was?
Easton King[?]. He used to be the associate editor of the
old Chronicle Star in Pascagoula. Mm-hm. Easton King
and Irene King. I think the oldest daughter was named Elizabeth.
you were getting to the arbitration level?
Yeah. So, our next step would be arbitration. So, I was sitting
up in my living room one night, and I always did like to read
and watch TV, like detective stories like Perry Mason and
folks like that. Columbo, solving his cases. So, I said to
myself, I said, "Man. The only way I'm going to win my case,
I've got to take a lie detector test." And that wasn't provided
in our contract agreement. So, I didn't know Mr. Barrow's
number, the man in Mobile, but I called information. Told
her I wanted to make a call to Mobile, Alabama.
She said, "What's the name?"
I said, "Doug Barrow."
She said, "Well, I've got two
Doug Barrow's." And so, she told me the residence of both
of them. So, I know the Mr. Barrow I was looking for, he was
big in the company. Big man, so, she said, "I've got a Doug
Barrow in something-or-another towers."
I said, "That's a high-class
place." So, I said, "Let's try the one in the towers." I forget
the name of the complex, but it was "towers." So, it must
have been 8:30 or 9:00 at night. The phone rang, and he answered.
I said, "Mr. Barrow?"
"Yeah. This is Doug." Said,
"What can I do for you? Who are you?"
I said, "I'm J.P. Miller."
I said, "I've been in your office a couple of times."
"Oh, yeah. I remember you.
From the Moss Point mill." And said, "We're going into arbitration
on your case." Said, "It looks pretty bad for you."
I said, "I know that. That's
why I called you." I said, "I know you've got the power to
try to help me, if you will." I said, "And what I want to
do. The only way I'll prove my innocence, I've got to take
a lie detector test." And I said, "I want the supervisor to
take one, too. And all the witnesses, if necessary."
He said, "Well, Miller, that's
not provided for in the contract."
I said, "I know it's not" I
said, "But I believe you've got the power to do it because
I want to prove my innocence."
He said, "Well, I'll think
about it." The next morning about 10:30 or 11:00, my International
representative called me.
"J.P." Said, "Company called
this morning, and they want to have a meeting at the Moss
Point mill personnel office at 1:00 this evening. Can you
I said, "Sure. I can make it."
So, "OK. Now, don't let me
down. We're looking for you there."
A few minutes later, Preacher
Houston, my union president, he called. Said, "Brother Miller,"
said, "the company called a meeting." Said, "I don't know
what's up, but you need to be there."
I said, "OK." So, we got up
there in the meeting, and everything just had changed around.
My accuser, they didn't call him in, but they called the division
level people, and big shots at the local mill. So, they said,
the International division personnel said, "Miller, we looked
at your record, and," say, "you've got a good record. You've
been out there all these years, and," said, "you're a faithful
worker and everything." Said, "We want to figure out a way
to give you another chance for your job."
I said, "Well, I appreciate
He said, "There's a couple
of stipulations that we've got to take care of."
I said, "What is that?"
He said, "One thing, did you
get your retirement, yet?"
I said, "Yeah." I said, "Man,
Chase Manhattan sent me that retirement check in two weeks.
They sent it right on to me--$1600."
And, he said, "Well, man,"
said, "that's one of the things we've got to do." Said, "We've
got to put that retirement money back in the pension plan."
The other said, "Well, Miller,
can't you go to the bank and borrow it?"
I said, "No, I owe the bank,
and they won't let me have no more money. No way I can get
some money from the bank."
(There is a brief interruption
in the tape as Mr. Miller introduces his son.)
Said, "Sure you can't borrow
I said, "No. Can't borrow it."
So they [said,] "Let's take
a recess. About a 10-minute recess." So, the little folks
cleared off. So the big division people and all, labor relations
and the mill manager out there, they all stayed in there.
They called us back in. Said, "Well, we decided you don't
have to restore that pension money." Said, "We decided we're
going to give you another chance to support your family and
all. So, we're even going to give you the same clock number
back. Card number."
I said, "I appreciate it."
So, they reinstated me that same day with my same seniority.
I didn't lose my three months. But what they did, they transferred
me. Back in those days, if you was a black man at the paper
mill in Moss Point, and you got into it, especially with a
white person, they would put you on something like punishment.
I mean, put you in a hard job. And I was small in stature,
then. Well, I'm small, now, but at one time I was about 197
pounds. But I was small at that time, so they sent me on the
wood yard. You had to be a man to work the wood yard because--.
that was tough, huh?
was tough. You was handling--. We was getting all our wood
in on flat-bodied rail cars, and some rail cars that had doors
to them. Had double doors, so you had to get in those rail
cars and pitch that paper wood out by hand. You had a hand
hook to throw it off in that conveyor. And I've seen a many-a
person wasn't able to do that. Just, I guess, they couldn't
catch the sling to it, plus they just wasn't physically able.
had to be able to lift a heavy weight to move it.
of it you couldn't lift, you had to just roll it to the door,
and roll it out. So, everybody knew that if you were a black
man and got in trouble, they'd send you to the wood yard.
you showed up in the wood yard, they knew you'd been in trouble?
and you won't be there long, because you wasn't able to take
it. (Laughter.) But, and they had some informants out there,
you know, told everything that was said. So, they got to talking
that people was bad about jigging at you in those days. Picking
at you. Saying, "Well, little fellow, you ain't going to be
able to stay here." (Laughter.) And these were black people
picking at you.
So, I said, "I'll tell you
one thing. I'm going to stay here as long as I want to." I
said, "When I leave, I'm going to leave because I want to
leave." I was determined to stay. So, I stayed out there on
the wood yard nine years.
when I left, I left on my own. What happened, I had been at
the paper mill nineteen years. And that was after things had
begun to open up. Equal job opportunities for minorities.
So, I had a good friend who was one of the first blacks that
learned how to weld at Ingalls, and he was a veteran, too.
He'd been to war, and all, but we was in Pascagoula, shooting
pool and drinking a beer one morning, and he said--. He was
in the same department I was in at the paper mill, so he said,
"J.P." He said, "Man, I'm telling you. I'm tired of the paper
mill." Said, "I'm trained to burn rods." Said, "I'm a welder."
and said, "That paper mill is a regular job, and steady."
He said, "But, I just feel like I want to burn some more rods."
That's what he called welding--burning rods. So, he said,
"Will you take me out to Ingalls? Man, I'm going to go put
in for a job back at Ingalls, and I'm going to get the hell
out of this paper mill because I don't like it."
I say, "Yeah." So, I took him
out to Ingalls. That was when Ingalls had 25,000 employees.
So, I went out there. Man, people just milling around. And
so, I said, "I wonder if I could--?" I was on a month's vacation,
too. I had a month's vacation. So, I said, "I wonder if I
can get on out here and work two or three weeks of my vacation
and make some extra money?" You know?
my partner said, "Yeah. You ought to try it." So, they had
a black fellow working at Ingalls in the employment office.
He's the late Father Fisher. He was a black fellow who stayed
in Pascagoula. He's gone. He's expired, now. He worked up
to be bishop of some big area in California before he died.
But at this time, he was working at the shipyard in the employment
office. So, I said--. What was Fisher's first name?
Unknown male voice:
Unknown male voice:
Unknown male voice:
Oh, Carl Bishop.
So, I said, "Carl, you reckon I could get on out here?"
He said, "What do you want
to do, Mr. Miller?"
I was looking out through there.
I'd done moonlighting all my life. You know, two or three
jobs. I have had three jobs at once. So, I said, "I'm looking
out here at these cranes." Said, "I'd like to operate one
of those cranes." And I had done work like this with the longshoremen.
You know. And so, anyway, he sent me.
He said, "Go down there and
see a man by the name of Jordan, I believe." But I went to
the wrong place because I was telling him I would like to
be a crane operator.
He said, "Well, you're in the
wrong line of progression if you come through me." Said, "You've
got to go talk to--." I'm trying to think of that man's name
over the gantry cranes. But he told me what office to go to
down in the yard.
And so, I went down there five
days, and every time I'd get down there to the proper place,
they'd say, "Oh. That's So-and-so. He flew out to Philadelphia
this morning on company business. Or he went this place or
that place." And so, the last, the fifth day I was down there
a fellow came through.
He said, "Say, Bo." Said, "What
kind of job are you applying for?"
I said, "I'm applying for a
crane operator's job."
So he says, "You ever run one
of these cranes?"
I said, "No, I haven't." I
said, "But I have run a crane." I told him what I'd run with
He said, "Well, if you can
run them, you can run this crane," said, "because we're the
only company in America got this type of crane." It was a
crane made in Holland, I believe. Anyway, he called them Hensons.
They were 200-ton capacity. Big crane. So, he said--. Oh.
I know the man who I was supposed to have been interviewing
with. Gerald Starling[?].
So, this guy that was talking to me was named Taylor. We got
to be good friends later on. By the way, he was a white fellow.
So, he said, "Well, Bo," said, "man, you'll never catch up
with Gerald." Said, "He'll be gone more than he'll be in the
office." Said, "He's gone somewhere, now, to buy some equipment
for Ingalls." He said, "But I'll tell you what." He said,
"I'll get Chief Gleason[?]." They had a Cherokee Indian was
what we called section manager. They used to have. I think
they've still got that position at Ingalls. Said, "I'll get
Chief Kenny Gleason to talk to you." And said, "Because you'll
never in hell catch up with Gerald Starling. He don't stay
still long enough." So, Kenny Gleason spoke to me and talked
with me and asked me did I want to work, and all that stuff.
I told him, "Yeah."
So, he said, "Well, I'm going--."
He gave me the papers to take it back up to the proper office
and we started processing them. So, I got my physical and
all this, and as I was saying, I was on vacation from the
paper mill. So, man, they put me on the crane with another
operator, and my time was drawing to a close. I had to either
go back to the paper mill or take a chance at Ingalls, and
I didn't have my thirty-day probationary period covered.
you weren't guaranteed a job.
guaranteed nothing. Big gamble! So, man,
I had a problem, so I had a good friend who was president
of the black local out at the paper mill, and me and him used
to--. By the way, I was vice president by that time, and shop
steward and all that, but we fought a lot of cases about discrimination.
You'll probably see him before you leave here. And so, I called
him. Some times we'd sit up all night talking about some tough
case we had. You know. Fighting a company about discrimination.
So, I said, "Well, State," I said, "man, what you think I
ought to do."
He said, "J.P." said, "I'll
tell you." Said, "It's a hard decision." Said, "But, only
you can make it."
And I said, "Well, tell you
the truth, I'm a little frightened. I don't have my probationary
period in, and they might cut me loose without any warning."
He said, "Well. How you like
it out there at the shipyard?"
I said, "Oh, I like it, man.
I like it."
He said, "Well, it's your decision."
So, the last day, let's see. It was on a, I believe, it was
on a Friday, I called Kenny Gleason, the section manager,
and I said, "Well, Kenny," said, "I--."
In the meantime, I had met
with the mill manager at the paper mill. And that was the
only time they showed some concern about my faithfulness in
all that fifteen years. So, he said, "Man, you're thinking
about leaving the paper mill and going to Ingalls?"
I said, "Yeah."
So, he said, "Well, all I can
tell you," said, "you're supposed to report Monday morning
for the ten to six-thirty shift. And if you don't be here
by ten-thirty, that'll be it."
I said, "You're going to fire
He said, "No. You'll just be
quitting if you don't show up."
So, I called the section manager
at Ingalls. I said, "Look, I won't be in Monday morning."
I said, "I'll come in. I've got to go to the paper mill."
Because I had done made up my mind. Said, "I've got to go
to the paper mill Monday morning and clear out." No, I said.
I told him, "I've got something to tell you that you didn't
He said, "What's that?"
I said, "I had a job when I
came here, and y'all hired me."
He said, "Oh, I know that."
(Laughter.) Man, he had my rap sheet, he said. He had my whole
history, he said. "I know you went there in November of fifty-one.
Got fired in sixty-six."
(End of tape one, side two.
The interview continues on tape two, side one.)
he knew you were part of a suit charging discrimination.
He knew I was part of a suit, and he said, "There's no use
not to come in Monday morning." Said, "Why don't you just
work five hours and then go out there and clear out in the
I said, "Well, Chief, listen.
I'll tell you." I said, "I'm a little frightened because I
haven't gotten my probationary period over, and I'm just wondering
what's going to happen to me."
He said, "Well, Miller, I'll
tell you what." Say, "As for as me," said, "I knew all about
your situation of what you've been through and how long you've
been working. I know all what you've been doing." Said, "But,
as far as we're concerned," said, "we like your work out here."
And said, "Don't worry about the probationary period." Said,
"You've got a job at Ingalls as long as you want to work."
they waived the probationary period for you?
Mm-hm. So, I worked till noon. Went on to the paper mill that
afternoon to clear out, and Stephanie, when I went in personnel--I
think that's where I had to start--to clear out. No, I didn't.
I went to the store room. You had to go to the store room
in case you had some safety glasses or whatever that you had
to check back in. See if you owe them something. So, they
said--. I think our mill manager at that time was Mr. Brady[?].
Said, "Mr. Brady want to see you in his office." This is the
top dog out there, now. So, I went in there.
He said, "Miller, what's this
I hear about you coming to clear out?"
I said, "Well, I don't have
a job anyway."
He said, "Yes, you do."
I said, "Well, you told me
if I didn't show up for my ten to six-thirty shift, that I
would be quitting.
He said, "No. I changed my
mind." Said, "You can stay here." Said, "Man, you've been
here all these years." Said, "You've got a good
record, and we hate to lose a good man like you."
I said, "Well, I appreciate
it, but I've decided to clear out and try my luck at Ingalls."
He said, "Man, have you thought
about all the good insurance you've got here? And you've got
a months' vacation every year." Said, "It won't be long, you'll
have five weeks coming up."
I said, "I realize that." I
said, "I've sure got some good insurance, but I like that
Ingalls, the few weeks I've been there." So, everywhere I
went on my clear--. I even met the general foreman that helped
fire me. That started the process of firing me. At that time
I was working for his brother. His brother Clyde Daphny[?]
was over the general yard and Alton Daphny[?] was over the
wood yard. So, I met both of them, and they both gave me,
man, they gave me such good marks. "You're a good man. I hate
to [lose] you."
when you were leaving. All those years you were [there], they
weren't willing to tell you that.
when I was leaving. Never told me. Never gave me a good compliment.
No kind of compliment. So, I finally got out of there, and
the word had spread that I was leaving. People stopping me,
black and white, wanting to know am I giving up all these
years [of] seniority and no guarantee at Ingalls. So, anyway,
I went to Ingalls and stayed there. Well, I'll tell you what
happened. Like I told you, I did a lot of moonlighting in
my life, so I was working with the longshoremen on the docks
every chance I got. So, it came a time that the longshore
union had an opportunity to get an operator to run the cranes.
The truck cranes and track cranes and like that. Up until
then, we had just been running the equipment on the ship.
Shipboard. The cranes on the ship.
that was for people in a particular union?
at that time. The ILA local in this area, it was about 99
what does ILA stand for?
Ninety-five percent black?
more than that. Maybe 99 percent, at that time. Because you
just didn't find white men wanting to do that kind of work.
That's hard work, too. But now I'll tell you what we did have.
We had--. So the president of the local had a chance to put
a black operator on these other kind of cranes off the ship.
Up until that time, they were all white operators. So, most
of what we had white in the ILA local, was we used to use
a lot of policemen and deputy sheriffs and things as checkers.
Check the cargo. Keep count of the weight and all. But later
on, now, what little work they've got, it's probably 99 percent
of that is done by blacks. Because finally, the blacks got
in on that, but at the time, wasn't no black operators, as
I said. So, I was working at the yard, so the president of
the local union knew I was at the yard. He knew I was operating
the crane at the yard, and he wanted to make a good showing.
This was the first time we got the chance to put one of our
union members on the job, so he said, "J.P., would you consider
leaving the yard?" He said, "I got a chance to put an operator
out of the local."
I said, "Well, what's happening?
What's the deal?"
He said, "Well, Cooper Stevedore
is coming to town, and they have agreed to let the local supply
a black union member as operator." And said, "To tell you
the truth, I want to make a good showing. And so, I've heard
that you're a good operator at the shipyard." And said, "What
you'll do," say, "any time they've got work in the port, you'll
be the operator, plus you'll go to work an hour early, and
you'll work an hour late and all to secure the crane and take
care of maintenance and all that stuff." And said, "They've
promised to try to find you some work, if there's any way
that's possible, to find you some work when work is scarce."
So, I wrote a nice letter of resignation to my superintendent
and I came out of the yard and worked for a year for Cooper
Stevedore, but what happened was work got so scarce until
one week I got a total of four hours.
you were just getting paid by the hour, not on salary.
paid by the hour, not on salary. And a lot of days, you know,
they'd let me just come out there and piddle around, we called
it. Maybe painting the crane or doing something to make some
time, but this particular week, I made four hours. And so
one of my good friends, the guy Taylor from the shipyard I
was telling you about that told me--. He encouraged me I could
run the cranes at Ingalls. He used to call me all the time
because, see, we used to go fishing together, drink a few
cold beers together. He had a boat. We'd go out to the island.
So, he was always calling me. Say, "Hey, Bo." Say, "When you
coming back to help us out at Ingalls?" That was one of his
favorite phrases, "Bo." (Laughter.) And so, I didn't want
to be bothered with Taylor that day, really. It was on a Saturday
evening, and I was getting ready to watch Mohammed Ali and
somebody, in a heavyweight title bout.
So, I told my daughter, I said,
"See what Taylor wants."
She said, "He wants to talk
So, I said, "What can I do
for you, T.?"
"Hey, Bo." Said, "When you
want to come out here and help us out?"
And I was trying to get rid
of him in a hurry. I said, "T., I'll tell you what. If I come
out there Monday, will you hire me Monday?"
He said, "Hell, yes." He said,
"Just go on to the personnel office, I'll be done called them
and tell them you're coming." And sure enough, I went on out
there that Monday morning, and they started processing me
in that same morning. Finished processing me and I made overtime
the first day. (Laughter.) I think I stayed till about maybe
five or six o'clock.
me through lunch and everything. Back in those days, people
appreciated good help, and everything wasn't computerized
then, so if I was working for you, and you tell me to come
in, and you say, "Well, don't punch in." Say, "I'll just fill
your time card out." And so, that's what they did. They started
my time at seven o'clock that morning, and took it on through
lunch and paid me for lunch and everything.
Millet: A little
So, now one thing I can say about Ingalls. I stayed there
till I retired. But now I'm sure a lot of people caught it
rough out there. But boy, I didn't have nothing but those
people showed me they appreciated a good faithful worker coming
to work every day. And if they got in a bind, as they call
it, or in a tight, say, "Miller, will you stay and help us?"
If it wasn't a matter of life
or death, I'd stay there and help them. Only one time out
of all my about twenty-six and a half years, I had decided
we were going out of town on vacation, and we had radios in
the cranes, so you could hear them talking all night. I was
working second shift at the time. Three forty-five to twelve
fifteen. So I could hear supervision talking about what was
coming up, and we're going to need so many (inaudible) and
so many operators to be doing so-and-so. So, they was talking
and so they said, "Well--."
(There is a short interruption
in the interview.)
So, I could hear the rigging
foreman talking to the operator foreman, "Well, look like
all them so-and-so's going to turn you down. There's overtime
Said, "Well, Smitty[?] you
ain't got to worry." Said, "Po' J. is here." That's my nickname
and C.B. handle, Po' J. "One thing about it, you ain't got
to worry, Smitty." Say, "Po' J. will stay in there and help
you out after midnight."
I said, "Lord have mercy."
So, after a while, Smitty called
me. Said, "Are you going to be able to stay and help us out
I said, "No, Smitty. I got
to turn you down." I said, "Soon as I get home, we're already
packed. We're leaving on vacation."
couldn't believe it.
believe it. So, I said, "The best thing for you to do is start
calling the day shift or somebody." So he asked me would I
stay about an hour and something, until he did secure some
help. So, I stayed for a little while till he got some help.
But they couldn't believe that, because I always would stay
when they was in a jam.
Miller: I think
that's why they treated me so nice.
it makes a big difference.
I was thinking about the years of your life. And in sixty-six
was when you were--. That was the year that the supervisor
gave you trouble about making a suggestion. And two years
earlier in sixty-four, we had the long, hot summer here in
Mississippi, and in the early sixties, things were pretty
much heating up. And I'm just wondering what your perspective
is of the sixties, and the civil rights movement. And were
you active in the NAACP and in the movement? And what was
Freedom Summer like for you? You probably might have had something
to do with integrating the Mississippi Coast beaches? Were
you involved in that?
I supported them, but I never went over there and participated,
myself. But, yeah, now the NAACP. I have an undying love for
was your involvement with the NAACP?
a lifetime member.
did you join?
first time I joined--. Well, I didn't join. My father--. This
is a different story, but I've got to tell it to make you
understand. My father went to Chicago back when I was maybe
nine or ten years old because his brother was in some trouble.
In fact they had him charged with a crime in Sunflower County,
Mississippi. So, he got away and went to Chicago and spent
years and years in Chicago and somehow or another, they found
out where he was. So, the authorities from Sunflower County,
back up in where I was born, in Sunflower County, if the authorities--.
[It] didn't have to be the authorities. If a white man said
you did something, whether it was a crime, or whatever it
was, you were guilty. If Mr. Charlie or Mr. Sam says you did
it, you did it. So, that's the kind of thing my uncle was
involved in. The local authorities found out he was in Chicago.
So, they went up there some kind of way, and he ended up being
arrested and put in jail in Chicago, in Cook County. So, my
daddy found out about it, and he went up there to lend support.
I was so little, I don't know what kind of support it could
have been, but once he got up there, he would write my mother
telling her when court was going to be, and what's happening
and all this stuff. You ever heard of a newspaper called Chicago
in Chicago. So, my dad would send us the paper back. Every
time it would go to press, he would send us the paper, and
he had it marked out. My relatives in Chicago, they may have
been active in the NAACP. I don't know, but they acquired
a lawyer to represent my uncle that was an NAACP attorney.
NAACP attorney to represent him for this crime that he was
accused of in Mississippi?
Mississippi. Right. Uh-huh.
he going to have to return to Mississippi to be tried?
it's a long story. Now, this is completely a different story,
but I hope you have time to listen to it.
If you have time, I do.
Daddy, he would circle the picture, and he would say, "This
is Attorney So-and-so representing Sam." His brother was named
Sam. So anyway, Daddy would fill us in on all what happened
after it was over. But my uncle became clear of the charges.
That was pretty unusual.
So, Daddy wrote my mother and said, "The white people said
they had put out threats." Because Daddy had witnessed them
being embarrassed. OK, in the courtrooms, this black attorney,
they wanted to address my uncle as, 'Boy,' and first name,
and all this.
And he'd say, told the judge,
you know. I've never been to too many trials, but he would
make them address my uncle in the proper fashion: "This is
Mr. Sam Miller, and he's not, 'Boy.' He's 'So-and-so.'" And
so, they asked for what evidence they had that my uncle committed
this crime in Sunflower County, Mississippi.
So, they didn't have any evidence;
they just said, "He done it." They'd been accustomed to our
system, down here, in Sunflower County.
they said was law.
they said was law.
Daddy was worried. He said, "Well, they said they were going
to take me off the bus and beat me up."
were going to do that to your father?
he got back to Mississippi. And my mother, she was worried,
so she talked to the man whose plantation we were living on.
His name was W.F. Fleet[?]. He was a small fellow, but he
was affluent. He was on the boards uptown, and had a farm.
Plus he was a churchgoer, and he was kind of different from
most of the white men up there.
was he different?
he showed respect for you. And when you gathered your crops,
seemed like he tried to do halfway what's right with the finances.
Because, see, a sharecropper, some people call sharecroppers
tenant farmers, but it's about the same. But the way that
works supposed to be if I've got a farm and you're a tenant
farmer on my farm, and we raise twenty bales of cotton and
harvest twenty bales of cotton, you get half the bales. You
get ten bales; I get ten bales. But the way they'd actually
work was that the sharecropper or tenant farmer paid all the
expense. Like (inaudible) you use for your machinery, seeds.
Just whatever expenses you incur, your tenant farmer paid
it. And the owner of the land had his ten bales--
He didn't have to put any up-front money.
So, I guess he probably got his seed and stuff on credit.
I don't really know, but I know like they have what they call
a commissary. And the tenant farmer, the sharecroppers, whatever
you needed all year round, you'd go to this commissary and
they'd let you have your whatever you needed: staples. Meal,
flour, rice, whatever. And you paid for it once a year when
you harvest the crop and sell them. But now, a tenant farmer
didn't pay for it. You didn't see any of the paperwork. The
owner of the land paid the bill, and so, in most cases, they
would say, "Well, Stephanie, you didn't come out this year."
owe me some more money." (Laughter.)
only do I have no money for you, but you owe me."
But now, this fellow, Bill Fleet, as far as I know he was
pretty fair. Daddy always came out with at least two or three
or four hundred dollars. And maybe it paid for his old car.
He kept an old car out there in the country. So, Bill Fleet,
I think was a fair man. Now, getting back to my daddy and
Chicago and all this. My mother was worried. She told Mr.
Fleet, said, "They're talking about taking George off the
bus." I think it was in Memphis. Somewhere between Chicago
and Sunflower County, Mississippi. "Talking about they're
going to beat him up."
So, he said, "Well, Laura,
don't worry about it." Said, "I'll tell you what I'm going
to do." Said, "I'm going to meet the bus." I guess it was.
And so he did. He met the bus at the station and took Daddy
in his vehicle and brought him on home to the country and
put the word out. You know. "Don't mess with George Miller."
You know. "That's my man. Don't mess with him." (Laughter.)
he offered him a measure of protection.
now, I'll tell you what my daddy did, now. He suffered a lot
of injustices, now, but he had some--. Like I said, this man
seemed to have been pretty fair minded, but Daddy--. This
is not funny, but it's true. There was a white fellow that
owned a farm right adjacent to where we farmed our land. And
he had married a rich, Italian lady. And this white fellow,
he wasn't a man of means, at first, but he lucked up and got
this Italian lady, and she had just boocoodles of land and
money. Her parents had money. So, he fooled around, and he
was fooling around with a young, black girl. I think she was
about sixteen. She was well-matured, and all. And my daddy.
See, I was the oldest, so I kind of knew what would be going
on. Anyway, I would ride to town with Daddy on Sunday morning,
get the paper, and he'd buy--. On Sunday morning, it was a
regular thing for him to buy a round steak, and that was breakfast
in the country. We'd have a special breakfast. We'd have steak,
rice, and gravy, and maybe some preserves or something. So,
I kind of knew. I was big enough to know what Daddy was doing.
So, he was fooling around with this young girl, too. Both
of them was breaking the law because she was too young. But
the only thing is, Daddy was black and she was black. But
this white fellow, boy, he hated Daddy's guts because he knew
they had the same woman. So, he would always pick an opportunity
to try to give Daddy a hard time, kind of under the cover.
So, I remember one time, he went to town and pressed charges
Said, "Old George Miller passed
my house, speeding, threw a rock, and broke my window out."
So, in those days, if they said you done it, you done it.
So, Daddy had to pay a fine for speeding.
I'm trying to think of another incident that Daddy had to
pay a fine, on account of this same man. But now getting back
to my Uncle Sam that came clear of the charges in Chicago.
I never have been able to figure out just what happened, but
he was a free man, and they drafted my uncle for the military,
and he came home on a furlough, and that was in the forties,
because we had--.
was for World War II.
was for World War II. Well, the war wasn't over then, but
while the war was going on, they had a lot of German prisoners
up in the Delta, working the farms. You know, they didn't
do much work, but they were out. They were prisoners; they
would be out in the field with us picking cotton, chopping
cotton, or whatever. And it was during this time my uncle
came home on a furlough. Man, he was sharp. Had on brass buttons,
shining. Had his uniform on. And the farmer, we could see
each other's house and all from where the fields were located.
So, this guy, there was another white guy there, he was something
like a constable. He saw my uncle out there in the field with
us and the German prisoners. And, when we knew anything, man,
I haven't been able to figure that out, yet. I wish somebody
could tell me, but, we knew anything, looked, there was two
jeep loads of military police pulled up there and say, "Are
you Sam Miller?"
So, he said, "Yeah." You know
them military people put my uncle--. Well, I can't say they
put him in jail, but anyway, the tried him, again, in Sunflower
the same offense?
he'd been tried in for Chicago? That's double jeopardy, I
jeopardy. But I still haven't been able to figure out just
how that happened, but they put him in Parchman. And he stayed
two or three years. Then, when they released him from Parchman,
I guess the Parchman officials let the military know they
were releasing him. They come got him and put him back in
the military, and he spent--.
back in the military? I thought you were going to say the
were going to charge him with being AWOL!
No. They put him back in the military, and he finished serving
his tour of duty. I don't remember how long it was.
they probably subtracted those two years. He didn't get credit
for those two years he was in prison. He probably had to stay
some extra time.
Miller: I really
don't know, but even way back there, I knew what double jeopardy
was supposed to be. And I said, "Now, how'd they put my uncle
back in jail for the same crime that he was cleared of?"
law. Well, so, you had a lifetime membership in the NAACP.
I'll tell you. I keep losing my train of thought.
so while my daddy was in Chicago to support his brother, he
heard about the NAACP because there was an NAACP lawyer defending
his brother. So, I guess his people told him about the youth
department. So, anyway, he put me in the organization. I was
about nine or ten.
You were nine or ten. Yeah.
so, then I kind of lost track of it until I came off down
here in fifty-one, and I heard about they had an active branch,
I got back in and been in it ever since.
have you been active in it?
tell me about that. What have you done for the NAACP, and
what have they done for you?
one thing they did, when our case come before the courts and
things, concerning the class action against International
Paper, man, they sent a battery of lawyers down here. And
I wish I could remember their names, but they had a--. I thought
I'd never forget them ladies' names, especially.
Was it Mrs. Piel?
Miller: I don't
think. She was young, though. It was a black lady and a white
lady. Plus, oh, we just talked to numerous lawyers on the
phone. You know. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund. But they came
down here and fought that case for us, and over the years,
like, I got active in this branch, and, like, we used to have
an old gentleman here named Justice Robinson. He was president
of the branch for a long time, and he didn't miss a state
convention. Most of the times, seem like it came in the fall.
I remember it being real cold sometimes, but we'd go. I'd
ride to Jackson with Brother Justice, and I got a chance to
meet so many prominent people in the NAACP. I knew Medgar
Evers, personally; went to his house. And I remember, I took
some funds up there from our branch to the state. You know,
Medgar was field secretary for the state of Mississippi. And,
so, I've been to his house; then, he, one time during the
long, hot summers, I met his brother, Charles [Evers], Dr.
Aaron Henry, and there was another person in that group. But
anyway, they came by my house. I lived in Pascagoula on Victor[?]
Street. In fact that house is still in my family. My boy that
was here, he owns that house, now. And I had a cross burned
in my yard, see, because word got around. See, the white people
knew, like when we was fighting job discrimination and all
that at the paper mill, people knew what you were doing. They
knew who was involved in what, and we had some black leaders,
like in the local union, they were afraid to speak up for
injustice. So, after State Stallworth got in as president,
and I was the vice president there for a couple of terms.
And I was chief shop steward. So, the fellows before us, they
said, "Man, I won't stick my neck out." You know. Because
there ain't no telling what would happen to you. Which it
was dangerous, now. It was dangerous to be involved in something
like that because we used to have rallies at the K.P. park
here in Moss Point. The night riders came by and shot up in
there one night.
you there that particular time?
I wasn't there.
you know if people were injured or killed?
got killed; just scared to death. And--.
you think it was the Klan who burned the cross in your yard?
Do you know who it was?
Miller: I believe
it was because they were very prevalent, especially at the
paper mill, at that time.
had an active Klan here?
I've had this fellow, Claude Ramsey, I was telling you about?
And this fellow Easton King I was telling you about, the editor
of the paper? See, me and Easton King got to be just like
blood brothers you might say. And this was something very
unusual back in those days. He found out they had fired me
at the mill; he saw me down on Washington Avenue, cutting
grass one day, and he stopped. Said, "Sir, do you cut grass
for the public?"
I said, "Yes, sir. I sure do."
So, he said, "Come by my house
on Westwood Drive. Let's talk." Said, "I'd like to see if
I could get you to cut my grass." So, from that, we got to
talking. He wanted to know, you know, what did I do for a
living and all. I told him about how I was terminated from
the paper mill. And he said, "Oh." He called me James. Said,
"James," say, "I just got to tell you," said, "that paper
mill," said, "that's a hot bed of the Klan out there." He
even named some white people that was involved in it. And
he said, "I'm going to get ahold of Claude Ramsey, the state--."
What did they call it? They called it the state something
or another, AFL-CIO.
I said, "Well, I appreciate
it, but I already talked to Mr. Ramsey." But he stuck right
with me until he left here, and like I told you earlier, he
would use me at his house. Sometimes I would be down there
working in the dark. And him and his wife would come home
for lunch every day, and his custom was, Ms. Irene would come
In the meantime, he had told
me, said, "Now, James," say, "You know, anything you see in
this house you want, just make yourself welcome." You know.
And he showed me his bar. He was a pretty big drinker, you
know. But he took care of his job; he just liked a social
drink. So, he opened the bottle. Had all kinds of bourbon,
scotch, anything you could think of. Said, "Now, James, if
you want to take you a drink," said, "go ahead, but just don't
overdo it so you won't know what you're doing." You know.
I said, "OK." So, I don't think
I ever did that but maybe once or twice when he come in. Him
and Ms. Irene come in. He'd fix me a drink, fix him one, but
she would come in first, and she would have Mr. King's cocktail
sitting on his special table. He'd come in, cross his legs,
get his paper, and start taking his refreshment. (Laughter.)
So. I'm trying to think of something else that happened right
along in there.
see. We had the shots fired. And was that in a mass meeting?
Or an NAACP meeting?
meeting. But now--.
you remember when the mass meetings started around in the
I don't. I know it was in the sixties.
it was the summer of sixty-four. There were a lot of pickets,
and protests, and mass meetings? Did you go to any mass meetings?
me about some mass meetings.
you just had a lot of people talking about the problems, and
protesting, and trying to figure out what's the best way to
go about changing things.
they organizing so that people would have more political power?
Now, back in the sixties, I don't know what year, but somewhere
along the time when they burned the cross in my yard, and
the COFO workers were coming. We'd be talking about that in
the NAACP meetings. Who's coming down to help us out? And
trying to get the schools set up for voter registration education
and all that stuff. So, my wife and I kept at least five students
from out of state. They were all white, at our house.
college students who came in?
college students. Mm-hm. We had a house on Victor Street in
you remember their names?
remember the first one's name. I sure don't, but I remember
they would leave the house and go to the meetings. And the
police, back in those days, too, Stephanie, the police, to
me, was regarded as enemies because they didn't protect you
if you was involved in civil rights. If anything, they'd knock
you up side your head.
were there to protect you. That was supposed to be their role
as public defenders.
in truth, not only were they neutral, they probably were going
to hurt you.
There were some that were violent. So, I'll tell you what,
now. We had a mass meeting on Highway 90 right by where Travel
Lodge is now, on 90. My oldest boy and a lot of neighborhood
children went to the mass meeting. We had a sheriff named
Cecil "Red" Byrd at the time. His son is the sheriff, now,
of Jackson County, Mike. But it was just children up there
like that. But they wasn't rowdy or making trouble or nothing.
They just was meeting, and listening to people speak.
they in a building?
they was out on a big lawn. We had a doctor here named Dr.
Reuben Morris[?]. He's dead, now. And it was his lot. And
Red Byrd went up there. Stephanie, that man, his troops had
everything from submachine guns to shotguns, and they loaded
those kids up by the truckloads and busloads and took them
to jail, for, just like they're on that lot listening to civil
the local jail, here?
the local jail. Well, they took some in Pascagoula, and then
they had some to spill over so I think they brought some to
Moss Point, too. So, back in those days, I guess it's still
a law, you could bond people out, just if you had property.
More than one piece of property. So my wife and I had. I always
was, back in my younger days, trying to get ahead. So, I think
I had three pieces of property in Pascagoula, right adjacent.
So, they let me bond a lot of them out of jail. But, man,
I'm telling you, it was some scary nights because the police
would drive by my house all day and all night, and I'd never
thought of it as being a protector, I thought they was coming
by to see what was happening and try to hurt us. So.
that was frightening.
was very frightening.
me about the night the cross was burned. Can you describe
it was just after midnight, and I didn't hear no peculiar
noise or nothing but just happened we saw a glow out, we called
it the picture window.
you awake? Or did it wake you up?
were awake. Didn't really wake me up, but I think the glow
from the burning got my attention. And so, I went out there,
and that's what it was, a cross was burning. But so far as
seeing anybody, I guess they just stuck it up in the ditch,
and took off. I guess.
big was it?
it was about four or five feet by, maybe, three feet across.
Yeah. So, I considered that a warning. You know? I'm supposed
to stop whatever I'm doing because I'm doing something unacceptable
to the Klan. But I'll tell you something else, now. I guess
I was a little--. No, I wasn't crazy, but I was just curious.
After that, we saw in the paper that the Klan was going to
have a rally up here on Jefferson Street, here in Moss Point.
And so, my wife and I decided we would go to this Klan rally.
(Laughter.) So, I saw a couple of guys that worked at the
shipyard. That was after I was gone to the shipyard.
were white men who worked at the shipyard, were there at the
white men, yeah. They were at the Klan rally. One of them
worked in transportation, and one of them worked in heavy
lift, the same group I was in. And so, we went up there. That
was amazing how they carried out that rally they had.
was that like?
had, like, people patrolling on horses. You know. Like, OK,
this is the middle of the rally ground. [Gesturing.] And they
had people on horses patrolling the perimeter. Of course it
was way out.
around in back of the people who were listening?
around. Right. And, like I say, it was on Jefferson Street,
so the horseman was coming right beside Jefferson Street and
going. I'm trying to see if the National Guard Armory is there
now or Dr. Stewart's[?] office. I think that's the National
Guard Armory there, now. But anyway they had horsemen patrolling
that perimeter, round and round. They had shotguns, rifles.
They were well-armed. And the speakers was giving the niggers
and the Jews hell. And they sure enough talked about the Jews.
"Them so-and-so nigger-lovers." And I had a good friend at
the time. He was in the Army. And he came by that night, and
he'd been drinking. And his name was--. What that boy's name?
He's a Richardson, now. Jimmy Richardson[?]. That's his name.
He works at Ingalls, now. He came by there and (inaudible)
was bad. We were on this side of Jefferson; the Klan over
there in the street. So, we're on this side just opposite
Jimmy said, "Po' J." That's
when I was a C.B.'er. Po' J. was my handle. "We ought to go
over there and kick butt." You know. (Laughter.)
I said, "Jimmy. Man! There's
a couple of hundred people over there. They're on them big
horses and got all the arms." (Laughter.)
Millet: A little
we stood on up there and listened to all that rhetoric. Man,
they did some talking. They talked bad, and it was about three
or four more people came over there and stood up there with
us. The late Rip Seagram[?], and his wife Mrs. Seagram. They
were both--. Well, Rip worked at the yard.
are these African-Americans?
Everybody on our side was African-Americans. And, I guess
it took a few guts to do that because you're right across
the street from them. They could have shot over there and
Well, how did they react to your presence there?
it just looked like they talked more bad talk about us. We
wasn't no good.
Millet: I guess
they had an audience.
had a big audience. They had a big crowd, too, man. And one
of those fellows that was attending the rally, he--. After
I went to--. Well, I already was at Ingalls, but a friend
of mine that's still at Ingalls, he was telling me about he
was a part-time supervisor at the east bank, and he was telling
me about how he found Klan literature on his desk and all
in the office. So, he knew he was working with some Klansmen,
but he couldn't put his finger on them.
left it on his desk for him to find?
he shared a desk with the day-shift supervisor. He was second-shift
supervisor. So, he said he would always find some literature
pertaining to the Klan on the desk, but he didn't know who
left it. So, the Klan used to have quite a few rallies around
here. Man, they'd be on all the main streets, and they'd be
on pickup trucks.
they [perpetrate] violence when they were meeting like that?
they talked about violence. They talked about killing and
everything, but I never knew them to actually start any violence
on the site.
would wait, I guess, and do it under cover of darkness.
Yeah. So, I was trying to think if I remember ever hearing
of any killing or anything right around the Pascagoula/Moss
Point area. Right now, I can't, but you heard a lot of talk.
I was thinking about Emmett Till earlier when you mentioned
that unspoken rule that an African-American man was not supposed
to even look at a Caucasian woman. And of course, Emmett Till
paid the ultimate price for even the alleged
[infraction of that rule]. You know. Later, the woman, I think,
said, "No. He really didn't whistle at me or call me, 'baby.'"
Or whatever it was they'd accused him of doing.
you know, up there. That's an adjoining county from where
I was born. Emmett got killed in Leflore County, and Sunflower
County is adjacent to Leflore County. In fact, I have some
relatives in Greenwood, in that area.
the ultimate kind of horrible crime: against a child.
Do you think there is much
Klan activity here, now? Or, are they meeting? They may not
be burning crosses, but do you think that's still a problem
in our modern-day life? In the year 2000?
Miller: I believe
so, but I can't prove it. I know I worked with some guys at
Ingalls that I suspected of being Klansmen. That kind of goes
back to I was talking about my partner saying he found this
literature in the office, but just by listening to their conversation,
sometimes. What's so scary to me, now, is from what I've read
and heard about the Klan--.
(End of tape two, side one.
The interview continues on tape two, side two.)
you were saying the Klan is prone to be--
be, or they claim to be highly religious.
You know. Like sanctified people. Like saints. But they also,
in their discussion, if they're talking about--. They might
make a statement about a certain person is not treating their
family right. So, they might say something like, "Well, you
ought to take that S.O.B. and string him up." Or do something
violent to him. Even kill him. But at the same time, these
are people, when they're talking maybe about something else,
they're talking about Jesus Christ and God and just good church
seems like it doesn't fit. It doesn't seem like those things
should fit together. But in their minds, somehow, it does
Like, I read about the fellows--. I've read about so much
violence concerning the Klan, so I get my stories mixed up
sometimes. But if I make no mistake, the guy that killed Schwerner,
Goodman, and Chaney. A lot of those people were Church of
God, Church of Christ, and sanctified. I don't know why folks
refer to them as Holy Rollers, sometimes, but they're supposed
to be just highly religious. But in their mixed-up minds,
they'll go around and kill up somebody, and they even have
nerve to say they're going according to the word of God.
really a puzzle, isn't it?
is. And so, I believe there's some around here because a couple
of guys that I work with at Ingalls, they talk good, but then
when you hear them talking about doing violence to somebody
because of their lifestyle or something. Like, for instance,
they'll say, "Oh, John over here is a damn queer. Man, that
so-and-so ought to be killed." Or something.
intolerance is showing. Yeah.
So, it makes me think they're Klansmen or something because
it seems like they think the same way.
can take the "law," so to speak, into their own hands. Unfortunately,
homosexuals are not protected by the Civil Rights Act,
but maybe someday they will be. I know, recently we've been
concerned with hate crimes in America, and some intolerance
growing, again, in our country.
We've covered most of the questions
that I had prepared, and I'm just trying to make sure I haven't
missed anything. What are your memories of Medgar Evers? What
kind of a man was Medgar Evers?
Evers was a real energetic fellow. His energy seemed to be
limitless when it comes down to human rights. And I really
believe that the young man was a God-fearing man, and he might
have had some fear in him, against his foes, but he didn't
let it show. Man, he was ready to go and stand up for what
was right. So, I think--. I met Charles, his brother, too,
but I think Medgar was one of the best men I ever met that
truly stood up for what was right. And he was a good family
man. It's too bad he had to die so young like that, but doing
it for the cause of good. You know. Not for the cause of evil,
but for the cause of good. That somebody would just ambush
him like that.
In 1993, I was able to attend about three or four hours worth
of the trial in Jackson against Byron de la Beckwith, and
Mrs. Evers was there. So finally, you know, after all these
years, justice is served, but it's very sad that we lost him
in that way.
what about Mr. Aaron Henry? What do you remember about him?
boy. He was a warrior, too. He was a warrior. And he stood
up. I believe he would have stood up before a whole army because
he believed in what he was doing. Same about this old gentleman
that I was telling you that I used to ride to the state convention
with, Justice Robinson. It was a lot of warriors back in those
days. Because Brother Justice would put a statement in the
paper or something about voting or whatever, if it pertained
to human rights or civil rights. And back in those days, you
just had to be a brave man to speak or come in on something
like that because you was putting your life in jeopardy.
lose your anonymity when you put something in the paper, don't
become a target to a lot of people.
Never know what nut [is] out there, willing to kill you for
What about registering to vote? Did you attempt to register
to vote in your lifetime?
you're bringing up a lot of stuff I had forgotten. (Laughter.)
Yeah. See, my grandpaw, I guess on my mother's side. He was
old, but he was an avid reader, man. And he used to take the
Chicago Defender; I think we got it by mail. And
there was another black paper called the Pittsburgh Courier.
And Grandpaw Peter would be reading those papers. And you
know, they tended to have a lot of news about injustice, and
that was back in Theodore Bilbo's day. You ever heard of Theodore
So, my grandpaw--. I'm going to get to my voting, now, after
while. My grandpaw would be sitting on the porch, reading.
And he was a mean, old man. Boy, he would start cussing. (Laughter.)
"That so-and-so Bilbo said so-and-so. And he's trying to do
this to the black folks." And so, I was always aware from
just hearing my grandpaw talk that things just wasn't on an
equal basis. Wasn't no level playing field, even though he
was out there on the farm and didn't have no voice, but one
of his main topics sometimes would be talking about how unfair
it was that the black people was paying poll tax. Because
he was paying them, but he couldn't vote. And so, after I
moved down here and got active in the NAACP and all, and we
always was talking about trying to get somebody--. Even before
the hot summer, talking [to] people trying to get on the rolls
to vote. So, I remember going down there to the registrar's
office. This must have been like, fifty-two or three, I guess.
To try to register. And this was supposed to be a good part
of the state, but when I got down to the registrar's office
and started the paperwork, one of the first things they asked
me was to interpret the Constitution to the satisfaction of
the registrar. So, I couldn't do it the first couple of times.
But I say, I guess God's grace took me over because after
I tried maybe one or two more times, I passed it. And I don't
remember what the questions were or nothing, but I was always
out there trying to encourage--. Excuse me, just a minute.
(There is a brief interruption
in the interview.)
was always out there trying to encourage folks] to register
and vote. So, and I never could understand. Now, believe it
or not, there's some young people right today, both--this
is one of my grandpaw's phrases--"both black and white," that
don't believe in voting. And one good friend of mine at Ingalls,
he used to say--. We'd be talking politics, and stuff, and
he'd tell you in a minute, say, "Well, it ain't going to do
no good. Them so-and-so's are going to do what they want to,
anyhow." And he's a white fellow.
And then, I know some younger
black people, they just say the same thing: "They're going
to do what they want to." And I'll try to encourage them to
exercise their rights because a lot of people died, black
and white for that great privilege. And it's a lot of power
in that vote.
when you organize.
So, I'll just never be able to understand. Something else
that used to puzzle me, and it's still puzzling. A lot of
friends of mine--. I didn't go in the military, because I
was eleven when World War II broke out. Then, when the Korean
War broke out, I was married, and I had dependents. And so,
I tried to volunteer, but they said, "We get plenty of men
without drafting them." So, I never served in the military,
but I know lots of guys, some of them my good friends, served
in World War II or worked in the Seabees, or worked every
branch of government and they just don't think nothing about
I said, "Now, you guys fought
so everybody would have the right to this business."
Put their lives on the line. Yeah.
it's just hard for some people to seem to understand how important
know, this is something that's unbelievable to me. Like, Medgar
Evers, I was reading in a book, Local People, that
Medgar Evers served in World War II. And when he got home
to Decatur, [Mississippi], he and some friends of his went
to attempt to register. And they were met by an armed mob.
And I just can't understand how someone could expect Medgar
Evers and other African-American men like him, to go put their
lives on the line [in defense of the United States], and then
deny them the rights that they were fighting [to protect and
preserve]. I just can't understand that, at all.
Me either. I'll never understand that.
Miller: A lot
of people got mixed up minds, though.
Yeah. And maybe it really defies logic. You know. It might
have more to do with some kind of strange psychological, I
don't know, defect or something.
But after you tried to register
and then after you did register and voted, did you feel like
you faced any economic pressures as a result of that or any
threats of violence or actual reprisals?
I can't recall any. Because really when I went down there
and did qualify, I felt so good, but I never just said--.
I never talked about it except maybe, if the conversation
come up about registering and voting and somebody said, "Well,
do you vote? Are you registered?"
I say, "Yeah." But just to
volunteer and come up and mention it, didn't too many people--.
I don't think the officials, like down at the county level,
after they found out I had qualified, I don't think they passed
the word to try to give me a hard time.
Miller: I sure
some parts of the state, they would actually publish people's
names in the paper.
Up in the Delta, they did it.
they couldn't be anonymous about it, there. It was really
public. Do you know if your parents were able to register
to vote? Do you know anything about that?
dad. I don't think my grandparents ever did. But my dad and
did? They did succeed in registering to vote?
Oh, yeah. Daddy would tell everybody around, "Don't forget
to go vote, now. If you have to go on your lunch break, go
And we haven't listed your
children in the interview. People kind of like to do that
to get it on the record. It's up to you, if you'd like to
tell me who your children are.
That would be a real pleasure to do that.
Do you need to take a break? Are you getting tired?
going to do that--try to--in
the proper sequence from my oldest down to the youngest. I
might put one in the wrong place, but that won't matter, will
That won't matter. That won't matter at all.
James Karl, K-A-R-L. Of course, he's oldest. Shirley Ann.
do you spell the first name?
the second name?
Oswald Brent. That's him who just walked through here.
You've got the Oswald part?
Millet: I think
Yeah. Everybody knows how to spell that.
Lee Harvey, I guess. (Laughter.)
James P. Jr. How many is that?
I've got three more to go. I have to dig up three more. (Laughter.)
Karl, Shirley Ann, Hallie Bonne, Oswald Brent, James P. Jr.
I've got them, looking at them right now, but I can't think
of their names. (Laughter.) Oh, Dreau. D-R-E-A-U. Undrea.
that's beautiful. So, these children were probably going to
school sometime when integration was occurring, weren't they?
you have any memories about that that you would share with
and Karl went to an all-black school, Carver High. Hallie
went to Carver High, all except her junior and senior year.
James P. Jr., he went to Pascagoula High and Moss Point High.
were those schools segregated or integrated?
were integrated when he came along.
it difficult for him, or had things--?
you know, he also went to St. Peter's Catholic School. That's
a good school, too. Not St. Peter's. O.L.V. downtown.
Lady of Victories. You know, I never heard them complaining
after the schools integrated; I never heard them complaining
about any harassment or anything. I sure [didn't].
was it easy to register then? You didn't have to file a lawsuit?
Somebody else had paved the way by the time they got to high
I know Franzetta Sanders had to file a lawsuit for her children.
yeah. I was just kind of sitting back following that up by
conversation and reading the paper and TV.
their experiences in going to the public schools were fairly
good, you would say?
good. Yeah. Uh-huh. Sure was.
now, my baby boy, Dreau, too, he went to Catholic school a
while, I believe, but the only problem we had, they talked
about putting him in special education one time. My wife went
down there and talked with them, so he didn't need to be in
special education. So, they had a pretty pleasant experience
that's something to be thankful for.
is. I guarantee you.
surely is. Well, if you had to think about lives and opportunities
that were available for African-Americans before the civil
rights movement and after the civil rights movement, how would
you describe that on the Mississippi Gulf Coast?
I think now--. Well, like, back before integration, I'm sure
there was quite a few limitations not that I personally know,
but I just imagine, like in the trade schools, at the high
schools, I just don't believe they had ample facilities, or
adequate facilities like the white high schools had. But in
this day and time, since they're all going to school together,
and we have a good shop over here in Moss Point High, since
I've been in Moss Point. Only thing that would--. If anything
would cut the black students short now, I think it would be
of their own doing. I believe the opportunity is wide open.
And as far as public accommodations in buses, and beaches,
and restaurants, all of that is wide open as well?
open now. And you'll be extended all the courtesies. We stop
in restaurants and things pretty often, now. We had occasion
to come from Birmingham Sunday night. My third sister got
a law degree this weekend, so we went to the--. I guess you
call it the--. Anyway, they presented them with their caps
Now, where does she live in Alabama?
Miller: A college
I've never heard of, but I was talking to a friend of mine
today, and she says she's heard of it. Miles College.
yes. I've heard of Miles College. Yes.
They had quite a few people that was awarded a Juris Doctorate
degree and just in all other fields. There was a house full.
already a Postmistress in Birmingham, and she decided to keep
furthering her education. Said she wanted to get a law degree
so she could help somebody legally.
I don't know if she plans on quitting that good job at the
post office and just be a sideline or what.
she'll retire and then start her second career.
Start the second career. Because that's what her husband's
doing. He finished his military career. Now he's working somewhere
up there. You ever heard of Pea Ridge, Alabama? (Laughter.)
Millet: I haven't.
No. Pea Ridge?
live in Pea Ridge, Alabama, and he retired from the Coast
Guard, and some real estate agent found him a house. Just
two cars can't pass the way you get to his house. It's out
there. And so, he's got him five pretty horses.
I bet it's beautiful.
billy goats. (Laughter.) Fish pond. But he still, he didn't
stay out long. He got him another job. So, she'll probably
retire from the post office and start that second career.
I'll bet she will.
do you think that African-Americans have representation among
elected officials in this area?
a big change.
yeah. That's a great change. But you know what's so strange.
Now, we've got ample representation in this area, on the coast,
but you'd be surprised the representation African-Americans
have got up where I was born in Sunflower County.
really? Is it good there, too?
more representation than down here. Yeah.
Miller: I think
it's because up there, people had it so bad and so now, they
appreciate having the right to vote and all. And they're taking
advantage of it.
Millet: I believe
in Holmes County, they still have regular meetings. They're
still organized. If there were an issue that became important,
they're ready to go. They're still having those meetings at
least once a month. I think.
we have. I guess I go to about half the meetings, but we meet
once a month. Yeah. Sure do.
you think the movement was helpful. If the movement had not
come, where do you think we would be?
if the movement had not come, I don't think we would even
be a third of the way, so far as advancement, had the movement
not come. It was a lot of work done, a lot of tears shed,
sweat, a lot of lives lost. And so, I don't think we would
have been nearly this far had that not taken place.
really pushed things along.
things along in a hurry. Even though, you know, one of the
favorite sayings for opponents of civil rights and equal rights
was that--well, it's still being said, "You're trying to go
too fast. Trying to push too fast. Slow down!"
They wanted to do it in their own way. Mm-hm. Well, is there
anything that I have failed to ask you that you would like
to comment on?
that I can think of, now. You know I told you about, I have
a mental breakdown.
having a mental breakdown today? (Laughter.)
No. Well, that's the wrong phrase, I guess. But anyway I tend
Millet: I know.
I do, too.
when you leave, man, I can think of twenty or thirty more
things I should have mentioned.
Well, thank you for allowing me in your home today, and for
sharing your memories with us.
(End of the interview.)