An Oral History


James P. Miller Sr.

Interviewer: Stephanie Scull Millet

Tougaloo College Archives

This interview was transcribed as part of the Civil Rights Documentation Project.

Funding for this project was provided in part by the Mississippi

Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and

the Mississippi 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.

Table of Contents

Childhood 3

Slaughtering time on the farm 5

Crops grown, stored, consumed 6

Segregated schools 9

Boxing as a hobby 11

Harvesting wood with cross-cut saws 12

Gardening 13

Making cane syrup 14

Churning 14

International Paper Company 21

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 29

International Longshoreman's Association 33

Rehired at Ingalls Shipbuilding Corporation 35


NAACP Legal Defense Fund 42

Mass meetings 44

Cross burning 46

Klan rally 46

Medgar Evers 49

Aaron Henry 50

Registering to vote 51




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 Millet.

Millet: This 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?

Miller: Yes, 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.

Millet: And do you have brothers and sisters?

Miller: Yes, I have three brothers, three sisters, and an adopted brother.

Millet: Ah. So, that would make eight of you.

Miller: That's right. Eight.

Millet: Eight in total. Where do you occur in there? Are you the oldest or youngest or in the middle?

Miller: I'm the oldest. Number one.

Millet: You're the oldest. Number one son. And would you mind, for the record, giving us the names of your brothers and sisters?

Miller: Yes. 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?

Millet: That's three.

Miller: OK.

Millet: OK. 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.

Miller: OK. 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?

Millet: Sure. Yes.

Miller: OK. My grandmother was named Corinne[?]. Let me think a minute. Corinne Williams, and I think she was born in Leflore County, Mississippi.

Millet: Mm-hm. Leflore?

Miller: Leflore County.

Millet: Do you know about what year your mother was born?

Miller: Nineteen fourteen.

Millet: Nineteen fourteen. OK. And your father? His name and when and where he was born?

Miller: His name was George Henry Miller. He was born in Winston County, Mississippi.

Millet: Winston?

Miller: Right. Like Winston cigarettes. And he was born in 1910.

Millet: Nineteen ten. Way back there. So, how long did you live in Sunflower County? Did you stay there till you were nearly an adult?

Miller: Yeah. 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.

Millet: And 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.

Millet: Ah. That must have been a little different than being in Sunflower County.

Miller: Man, that was a whole lot of difference. Big city, and trying to find work to do. A lot of excitement.

Millet: About how old were you when you went to New Orleans?

Miller: Eighteen.

Millet: Eighteen. And, can you tell me a little bit about that? What happened? You only stayed four months, but what were those four months like?

Miller: It 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.

Millet: Did you help on the farm, with getting the crops in?

Miller: Oh, 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.

Millet: Do you remember the year?

Miller: Nineteen fifty-one, I believe.

Millet: Nineteen fifty-one. So, when you were a child in Sunflower County, I'm wondering if your school stayed in session for the whole year?

Miller: Now, this may not be in the proper sequence, but I'm recalling a lot of things that happened.

Millet: That's fine. It doesn't matter what the sequence is at all.

Miller: OK. 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.

Millet: It was actually shorter than the seven months.

Miller: Right. 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--.

Millet: In the church school, was that first grade or kindergarten?

Miller: That 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.

Millet: Mm-hm. In the church?

Miller: In the church.

Millet: So, 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.

Millet: Wow. That's young.

Miller: And 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.

Millet: So, that was considered that you finished the vocational school, when you completed tenth grade.

Miller: Right. 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.

Millet: Did you have a smoke house?

Miller: Yeah. 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 in salt.

Millet: Uh-huh. Salt cure it.

Miller: Salt 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.

Millet: What kind of wood would you use to create the smoke?

Miller: The 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?

Miller: No, 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?

Millet: Hog head cheese, I can remember my grandmother having it.

Miller: OK. 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.

Millet: Right.

Miller: And lakes and ponds would freeze over.

Millet: And you could still get those potatoes out of the ground, under the straw?

Miller: Well, 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--.

Millet: So, 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.

Millet: You'd start harvesting in June, almost right around this time of year, and they would stay through the winter?

Miller: Stayed through the winter. You had sweet potatoes, nearly all year-round.

Millet: And they weren't frozen when you pulled them up out of the ground?

Miller: Wasn't 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 perfect.

Millet: Where'd you get those potatoes? Did you grow them?

Miller: Grew them. Yeah.

Millet: What else did you grow besides sweet potatoes?

Miller: Let me tell you a little bit more about that sweet potato, first.

Millet: Oh, OK.

Miller: I'm 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.

Miller: So, 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.

Millet: Do they call those, "eyes?"

Miller: Yeah. 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.

Millet: So, from one potato, you could get many plants?

Miller: Oh, 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.

Millet: Now, when you shelled it, did you do that by hand? Or were their machines?

Miller: For 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.

Millet: How did you shell it by hand? Can you describe that process?

Miller: It 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.

Millet: When you shell it, do you actually wind up with those individual corn kernels all off of the cob?

Miller: Yeah. 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.

Millet: Uh-huh. 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?

Miller: No. 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 the corn.

Millet: Is that an ear? An ear of corn?

Miller: Yeah. 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 ears.

Millet: Oh, 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?

Miller: Oh, yeah. We used to can it. I remember right after I married, I had bought me a pressure cooker that high. [Gesturing.]

Millet: Uh-huh. What is that? About two feet high?

Miller: Yeah. 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.

Millet: Uh-huh. Who taught her to cook?

Miller: Well, 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.

Millet: Who taught you to cook?

Miller: My mother.

Millet: Uh-huh. She didn't reserve that just to the girls in the family?

Miller: No. 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.

Millet: Well, 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 to school?

Miller: Well, 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.

Millet: Right. And this was even as that little three-year-old going to the church school?

Miller: Well, that was closer in the neighborhood.

Millet: You still had to walk, though?

Miller: Still had to walk. Still had to walk.

Millet: But you said Inverness was three miles away. So, were you walking three miles to go to school?

Miller: Six miles total.

Millet: Three miles there and three miles back.

Miller: Right. 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.

Millet: What happened then?

Miller: Well, 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.

Millet: Then, what would you do when you got in--? What was your favorite subject when you went to school?

Miller: History, 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.

Millet: Mm-hm. Right.

Miller: Now, my daddy--.

Millet: It's all regulated these days.

Miller: It's 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.

Millet: Mm-hm. So, you had to get up really early to go to school. About what time did your school day end? Do you remember?

Miller: If I recall, it was about 3:30 or so.

Millet: And what happened after you left school? You didn't go home and watch television.

Miller: No. 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.)

Millet: Did anybody ever knock you out?

Miller: Oh, man! They never did knock me out, but they hurt my head a many-a time.

Millet: Well, how did y'all learn? Did anybody teach you?

Miller: No.

Millet: Or just kind of went in there whaling?

Miller: It 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.

Millet: So, you did some athletic activities after school, just organized on your own?

Miller: Right.

Millet: Did you not have to do chores when you got home from school?

Miller: Yeah. 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.

Millet: Were you using a chain saw?

Miller: No. What we called a cross-cut saw.

Millet: Cross-cut saw. All manual.

Miller: All 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.

Millet: How long did it take you to cut down a tree that was four feet in diameter?

Miller: Oh, 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.

Millet: You'd tried to control the fall direction.

Miller: Oh, yeah. You had to control the fall.

Millet: Otherwise people get hurt.

Miller: Right. 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.

Millet: Mm-hm. I didn't realize you had to have different sizes for the stove. You had to have smaller wood for the stove?

Miller: Yeah. 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.

Millet: Split the wood?

Miller: Split 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 work out.

Millet: They 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.

Miller: Oh, yeah, man. I'm telling you.

Millet: What other kinds of chores did you have? Did you have to work with the livestock any? Or in the garden?

Miller: In the garden.

Millet: You said you had to wash clothes, too.

Miller: Yeah. Had to wash and iron.

Millet: What kind of garden did you have? You said sweet potatoes and corn?

Miller: We had all kinds of vegetables, like squash, beets, peas, and beans. Okra.

Millet: Mm-hm.

Miller: Peanuts. Sweet potatoes.

Millet: You probably canned all that stuff, too.

Miller: Oh, 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.

Millet: Sugar cane?

Miller: Sugar cane. So, we'd take that. Had a mill for that.

Millet: And would you get white sugar out of it like you get in a sugar bowl, today?

Miller: Well, 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.

Millet: Cane syrup. Uh-huh.

Miller: Yeah. 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 made it.

Millet: Sounds 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--?

Miller: No, 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.

Millet: But the goal was to have the cane syrup, when you had cooked it.

Miller: Have 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.

Millet: So, your mother did some churning.

Miller: Oh, I did some churning.

Millet: You 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--.

Millet: Clabbered?

Miller: We didn't homogenize it. Yeah. Clabbered milk.

Millet: Did you eat clabber as you were growing up? As a child?

Miller: Yeah. 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.

Millet: Now, 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?

Miller: Churning is, OK, when you milk the cow, and you put the fresh milk in a container.

Millet: In a crock, a container.

Miller: Then 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--.

Millet: Would you call it a paddle?

Miller: Well, 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.

Millet: Mm-hm. And as you pump, what happens?

Miller: As 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.

Millet: You had chickens, too?

Miller: Yeah. And it was some kind of experience.

Millet: How did you keep the butter fresh? You didn't have refrigerators like we have, now.

Miller: No. 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.

Millet: Just from being in the car, sometimes, on that trip home from the grocery store.

Miller: But 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.)

Millet: When 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.

Millet: Very unusual.

Miller: Yeah. 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.

Millet: You 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?

Miller: No, 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 years.

Millet: Do you know how old he was when he changed? Did he give up sharecropping and decide to come to the coast and work?

Miller: Yeah. 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.

Millet: As a longshoreman? Do you know if he joined a union?

Miller: ILA Local 1752. I got a card in my pocket, now. (Laughter.)

Millet: That's great. That's great.

Miller: Yeah. 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.

Millet: Oh. Yeah. Good. By that time, he had earned it, hadn't he?

Miller: Oh, yeah. He had earned it.

Millet: Yeah. 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.

Millet: Did we leave anything out? Can you think of anything about your childhood?

Miller: Well, 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.

Miller: Can I just ramble on?

Millet: Of 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.

Miller: 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.

Millet: Didn't matter if you were seventy-five years old and the person approaching you was fourteen, you still had to give way.

Miller: You 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.

Millet: So, they were making a kind of a snide comment?

Miller: I guess so.

Millet: About 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."

Millet: Never "Doctor," or "Mister," or "Sir."

Miller: Right. 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.

Millet: The other way.

Miller: Yeah. 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.

Millet: Oh, man.

Miller: And 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.

Millet: Oh. Congratulations.

Miller: That 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."

Millet: Oh. OK. So, you were coming here on your way to Chicago.

Miller: On my way to Chicago. Just stopping through.

Millet: Fifty years ago. (Laughter.)

Miller: Yeah. 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.

Millet: Uh-huh. And that's a veneer?

Miller: 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.

Millet: Hard to get twenty cents at that time?

Miller: Oh, man! I think when I arrived down here, I might have had four or five dollars in my pocket when I got here.

Millet: That was a lot of money, then, though.

Miller: Just 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.

Millet: Was that kind of unofficial? Or was it way out in the open?

Miller: Oh, 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 from?"

I said, "I'm from Inverness, Mississippi."

He said, "Where the hell is that?"

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--

Millet: Isn't that something?

Miller: --from 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.

Millet: So, from that first twelve hours, nineteen years and three months.

Miller: Yeah, 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.

Millet: Well, hold on just a second.

(There is a brief interruption in the interview.)

Miller: OK. 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 it."

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.

Millet: And you'd been there over ten years.

Miller: I had been. Let's see, in sixty-six. Yeah. I'd been there over ten years.

Millet: From fifty-one. Right?

Miller: OK. From fifty-one to sixty-six.

Millet: Fifteen years. So, for making a suggestion to your supervisor after fifteen years, they fired you?

Miller: Uh-huh. 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 against me.

Millet: People must have been afraid to stand up and tell the truth.

Miller: Yeah. 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.

Millet: Oh. Do you remember who that was? What his name was?

Miller: Yeah. 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. But anyway.

Millet: So, you were getting to the arbitration level?

Miller: Yeah. 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 make it?"

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 it."

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 just $1600?"

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--.

Millet: Oh, that was tough, huh?

Miller: That 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.

Millet: You had to be able to lift a heavy weight to move it.

Miller: Oh, man! Yeah.

Millet: Sounds dangerous, too.

Miller: Some 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.

Millet: If you showed up in the wood yard, they knew you'd been in trouble?

Miller: Yeah, 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.

Millet: Oh, my goodness.

Miller: And 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?

Millet: Yeah.

Miller: So, 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: Who?

Miller: The priest.

Unknown male voice: Which one?

Miller: The priest.

Unknown male voice: Oh, Carl Bishop.

Miller: Yeah. 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 the longshoremen.

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[?].

Millet: Starling?

Miller: 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.

Millet: So, you weren't guaranteed a job.

Miller: Wasn't 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 me?"

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 know about."

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.)

Millet: So, he knew you were part of a suit charging discrimination.

Miller: Yeah. 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 afternoon?"

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."

Millet: So, they waived the probationary period for you?

Miller: Yeah. 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."

Millet: Only when you were leaving. All those years you were [there], they weren't willing to tell you that.

Miller: Only 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.

Millet: And that was for people in a particular union?

Miller: Well, at that time. The ILA local in this area, it was about 99 percent black.

Millet: And what does ILA stand for?

Miller: International Longshoremen's Association.

Millet: Mm-hm. Ninety-five percent black?

Miller: Oh, 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.

Millet: And you were just getting paid by the hour, not on salary.

Miller: Getting 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 to you."

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.

Millet: Oh, that's funny.

Miller: Paid 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 bonus, there.

Miller: Yeah. 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 tonight."

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 after midnight?"

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."


Millet: They couldn't believe it.

Miller: Couldn't 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.

Millet: Right. Yeah.

Miller: I think that's why they treated me so nice.

Millet: Well, it makes a big difference.

Miller: Yeah.

Millet: Well, 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?

Miller: No. I supported them, but I never went over there and participated, myself. But, yeah, now the NAACP. I have an undying love for that organization.

Millet: What was your involvement with the NAACP?

Miller: I'm a lifetime member.

Millet: When did you join?

Miller: The 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 Defender?

Millet: Yes.

Miller: Published 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.

Millet: An NAACP attorney to represent him for this crime that he was accused of in Mississippi?

Miller: In Mississippi. Right. Uh-huh.

Millet: Was he going to have to return to Mississippi to be tried?

Miller: Well, it's a long story. Now, this is completely a different story, but I hope you have time to listen to it.

Millet: Sure. If you have time, I do.

Miller: So, 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.

Millet: Wow. That was pretty unusual.

Miller: Yeah. 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.

Millet: What they said was law.

Miller: What they said was law.

Millet: Unquestioned.

Miller: So, Daddy was worried. He said, "Well, they said they were going to take me off the bus and beat me up."

Millet: They were going to do that to your father?

Miller: When 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.

Millet: How was he different?

Miller: Well, 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--

Millet: Without any investment.

Miller: Clear. Uh-huh.

Millet: Clear. He didn't have to put any up-front money.

Miller: Right. 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."

Millet: "You owe me."

Miller: "You owe me some more money." (Laughter.)

Millet: "Not only do I have no money for you, but you owe me."

Miller: Yeah. 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.) So.

Millet: So, he offered him a measure of protection.

Miller: Yeah.

Millet: That he could.

Miller: And 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 against Daddy.

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.

Millet: Didn't even argue.

Miller: And 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--.

Millet: That was for World War II.

Miller: That 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 County.

Millet: For the same offense?

Miller: Same offense.

Millet: That he'd been tried in for Chicago? That's double jeopardy, I think.

Miller: Double 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--.

Millet: Oh, back in the military? I thought you were going to say the were going to charge him with being AWOL!

Miller: No. No. They put him back in the military, and he finished serving his tour of duty. I don't remember how long it was.

Millet: So, 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?"

Millet: Mississippi law. Well, so, you had a lifetime membership in the NAACP.

Miller: Oh! I'll tell you. I keep losing my train of thought.

Millet: That's OK.

Miller: See, 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.

Millet: Wow. You were nine or ten. Yeah.

Miller: And 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.

Millet: And have you been active in it?

Miller: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Millet: Well, tell me about that. What have you done for the NAACP, and what have they done for you?

Miller: Well, 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.

Millet: Was it Piel?

Miller: Piel?

Millet: Piel? 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.

Millet: Were you there that particular time?

Miller: No, I wasn't there.

Millet: Do you know if people were injured or killed?

Miller: Nobody got killed; just scared to death. And--.

Millet: Do 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.

Millet: You had an active Klan here?

Miller: Yeah. 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 home first.

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.

Millet: Let's see. We had the shots fired. And was that in a mass meeting? Or an NAACP meeting?

Miller: Mass meeting. But now--.

Millet: Do you remember when the mass meetings started around in the coastal areas?

Miller: No, I don't. I know it was in the sixties.

Millet: Maybe 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?

Miller: Oh, yeah.

Millet: Tell me about some mass meetings.

Miller: Well, 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.

Millet: Were they organizing so that people would have more political power?

Miller: Yeah. 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.

Millet: The college students who came in?

Miller: The college students. Mm-hm. We had a house on Victor Street in Pascagoula.

Millet: Do you remember their names?

Miller: Don't 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.

Millet: They were there to protect you. That was supposed to be their role as public defenders.

Miller: Right.

Millet: But in truth, not only were they neutral, they probably were going to hurt you.

Miller: Yeah. 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.

Millet: Were they in a building?

Miller: No, 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 rights talk.

Millet: To the local jail, here?

Miller: To 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.

Millet: So, that was frightening.

Miller: It was very frightening.

Millet: Tell me about the night the cross was burned. Can you describe that night?

Miller: Well, 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.

Millet: Were you awake? Or did it wake you up?

Miller: We 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.

Millet: How big was it?

Miller: Oh, 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.

Millet: These were white men who worked at the shipyard, were there at the Klan rally?

Miller: 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.

Millet: What was that like?

Miller: They 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.

Millet: Circling around in back of the people who were listening?

Miller: Circling 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 them.

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 outnumbered.

Miller: So, 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.

Millet: Now, are these African-Americans?

Miller: 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 shot you.

Millet: Yeah. Well, how did they react to your presence there?

Miller: Well, it just looked like they talked more bad talk about us. We wasn't no good.

Millet: I guess they had an audience.

Miller: They 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.

Millet: They left it on his desk for him to find?

Miller: Well, 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.

Millet: Did they [perpetrate] violence when they were meeting like that?

Miller: Well, they talked about violence. They talked about killing and everything, but I never knew them to actually start any violence on the site.

Millet: They would wait, I guess, and do it under cover of darkness.

Miller: Yeah. 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.

Millet: Well, 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.

Miller: Well, 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.

Millet: That's 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.)

Millet: So, you were saying the Klan is prone to be--

Miller: To 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 folks. And--.

Millet: It's seems like it doesn't fit. It doesn't seem like those things should fit together. But in their minds, somehow, it does fit together.

Miller: Right. 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.

Millet: That's really a puzzle, isn't it?

Miller: 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.

Millet: Their intolerance is showing. Yeah.

Miller: Mm-hm. So, it makes me think they're Klansmen or something because it seems like they think the same way.

Millet: They 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?

Miller: Medgar 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.

Millet: Mm-hm. 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.

Miller: Yeah. Absolutely.

Millet: And what about Mr. Aaron Henry? What do you remember about him?

Miller: Oh, 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.

Millet: You lose your anonymity when you put something in the paper, don't you?

Miller: Yeah. Right.

Millet: You become a target to a lot of people.

Miller: Absolutely. Never know what nut [is] out there, willing to kill you for standing up.

Millet: Mm-hm. What about registering to vote? Did you attempt to register to vote in your lifetime?

Miller: Man, 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 Bilbo?

Millet: Oh, yes. Mm-hm.

Miller: OK. 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.

Millet: Surely.

(There is a brief interruption in the interview.)

Miller: [I 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.

Millet: Especially when you organize.

Miller: Right. 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 voting.

I said, "Now, you guys fought so everybody would have the right to this business."

Millet: Mm-hm. Put their lives on the line. Yeah.

Miller: But it's just hard for some people to seem to understand how important it is.

Millet: You 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.

Miller: No. Me either. I'll never understand that.

Millet: No.

Miller: A lot of people got mixed up minds, though.

Millet: Mm-hm. 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?

Miller: No, 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.

Millet: Right.

Miller: I sure don't.

Millet: In some parts of the state, they would actually publish people's names in the paper.

Miller: Yeah. Up in the Delta, they did it.

Millet: So, 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?

Miller: My dad. I don't think my grandparents ever did. But my dad and mom did.

Millet: They did? They did succeed in registering to vote?

Miller: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Daddy would tell everybody around, "Don't forget to go vote, now. If you have to go on your lunch break, go vote."

Millet: That's wonderful.

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.

Miller: Yeah. That would be a real pleasure to do that.

Millet: OK. Do you need to take a break? Are you getting tired?

Miller: No.

Millet: OK.

Miller: I'm 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 it?

Millet: No. That won't matter. That won't matter at all.

Miller: OK. James Karl, K-A-R-L. Of course, he's oldest. Shirley Ann.

Millet: A-N-N?

Miller: Uh-huh. Hallie Bonne.

Millet: How do you spell the first name?

Miller: H-A-L-L-I-E.

Millet: And the second name?

Miller: B-O-N-N-E. Oswald Brent. That's him who just walked through here.

Millet: Is it B-R-E-N-T?

Miller: Yeah. You've got the Oswald part?

Millet: I think so. O-S-W-A-L-D.

Miller: Yeah. Yeah. Everybody knows how to spell that.

Millet: From Lee Harvey, I guess. (Laughter.)

Miller: And James P. Jr. How many is that?

Millet: Five.

Miller: OK. I've got three more to go. I have to dig up three more. (Laughter.)

Millet: James Karl, Shirley Ann, Hallie Bonne, Oswald Brent, James P. Jr.

Miller: OK. Marilynn. M-A-R-I-L-Y-N-N.

Millet: Two more.

Miller: OK. 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. U-N-D-R-E-A.

Millet: Oh, that's beautiful. So, these children were probably going to school sometime when integration was occurring, weren't they?

Miller: Yeah.

Millet: Do you have any memories about that that you would share with us?

Miller: Shirley 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.

Millet: Now, were those schools segregated or integrated?

Miller: They were integrated when he came along.

Millet: Was it difficult for him, or had things--?

Miller: Well, 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.

Millet: Our Lady?

Miller: Our 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].

Millet: And was it easy to register then? You didn't have to file a lawsuit?

Miller: Yeah. Somebody else had paved the way by the time they got to high school.

Millet: Mm-hm. I know Franzetta Sanders had to file a lawsuit for her children.

Miller: Oh, yeah. I was just kind of sitting back following that up by conversation and reading the paper and TV.

Millet: So, their experiences in going to the public schools were fairly good, you would say?

Miller: Fairly good. Yeah. Uh-huh. Sure was.

Millet: Well, that's wonderful.

Miller: Except, 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 in schools.

Millet: Well, that's something to be thankful for.

Miller: It is. I guarantee you.

Millet: It 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?

Miller: Well, 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.

Millet: Yeah. And as far as public accommodations in buses, and beaches, and restaurants, all of that is wide open as well?

Miller: Wide 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 and such.

Millet: Yeah. 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.

Millet: Oh, yes. I've heard of Miles College. Yes.

Miller: OK. They had quite a few people that was awarded a Juris Doctorate degree and just in all other fields. There was a house full.

Millet: That's wonderful.

Miller: She's 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.

Millet: Oh, that's great.

Miller: So, I don't know if she plans on quitting that good job at the post office and just be a sideline or what.

Millet: Maybe she'll retire and then start her second career.

Miller: Yeah. 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?

Miller: They 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.

Millet: Oh, I bet it's beautiful.

Miller: Three 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.

Millet: Yeah. I'll bet she will.

Miller: She's energetic.

Millet: Well, do you think that African-Americans have representation among elected officials in this area?

Miller: Absolutely.

Millet: That's a big change.

Miller: Oh, 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.

Millet: Not so good?

Miller: Oh, yeah.

Millet: Oh, really? Is it good there, too?

Miller: Oh, more representation than down here. Yeah.

Millet: Oh, that's great.

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.

Miller: Well, we have. I guess I go to about half the meetings, but we meet once a month. Yeah. Sure do.

Millet: So, you think the movement was helpful. If the movement had not come, where do you think we would be?

Miller: Man, 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.

Millet: It really pushed things along.

Miller: Pushed 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!"

Millet: Mm-hm. 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?

Miller: Not that I can think of, now. You know I told you about, I have a mental breakdown.

Millet: You're having a mental breakdown today? (Laughter.)

Miller: No. No. Well, that's the wrong phrase, I guess. But anyway I tend to forget.

Millet: I know. I do, too.

Miller: Now, when you leave, man, I can think of twenty or thirty more things I should have mentioned.

Millet: OK. Well, thank you for allowing me in your home today, and for sharing your memories with us.

Miller: My pleasure.

(End of the interview.)


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The University of Southern Mississippi | Last updated
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