Stephanie Scull Millet
interview was transcribed as part of the Civil Rights Documentation
Funding for this
project was provided in part by the Mississippi
the National Endowment for the Humanities, and
Department of Archives and History.
Mr. State Stallworth Sr. was
born in Beatrice, Alabama, on July 24, 1933. He was the only
child of Caldonia Black Stallworth, who separated from his
father when Mr. Stallworth was very young. Except for one
year he spent at St. Peter's Catholic School, Mr. Stallworth
attended Pascagoula Negro High School from pre-primer through
twelfth grade. Enjoying athletics, Mr. Stallworth played all
the team sports available during his school years. After high
school graduation, Mr. Stallworth married, and he went to
work at International Paper Company, joining the International
Brotherhood of Pulp, Sulfite, and Paper Mill Workers (now
the United Paperworkers International Union). In 1954, Mr.
Stallworth, without incident, registered to vote.
After beginning his career,
Mr. Stallworth became active in the union and in the civil
rights movement. He ran for the president's office in the
union, and he won. Later, he joined and became president of
the local NAACP. After meeting Thurgood Marshall and Jack
Greenberg, he became a community aide for the Legal Defense.
In 1961, with the legal counsel
of the Honorable Fred Banks, Mr. Stallworth filed a class
action suit against International Paper Company for racial
discrimination in employment and in unions, finally resolving
the case in 1971. In ensuing years, Mr. Stallworth filed similar
suits against banks, post offices, city hall, and merchants.
In 1964, Mr. Stallworth was
the member of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party who
sat in the first roped-off Democratic seat on the convention
floor. Additionally Mr. Stallworth helped bring the Head Start
program to the Gulf Coast. As a result of his civil rights
activities, Mr. Stallworth was the victim of death threats,
including a drive-by shooting into his home. Currently, he
serves on the Jackson County Democratic Executive Committee.
Mr. Stallworth retired from
International Paper Company four years ago. He is the father
of four children, and he and his wife have been married forty-seven
Pascagoula Negro High School
Segregation at International
Paper Company 10
Working on the loading dock
Getting active in the International
Brotherhood of Pulp, Sulfite,
and Paper Mill Workers and
in civil rights 12
Legal Defense 16
Filing a class action suit against
International Paper Company
for racial discrimination in
employment and in unions 17
Resolution of case 18
Suing banks, merchants, institutions
Medgar Evers 25
Thurgood Marshall 26
Racism in childhood 27
Registering to vote 32
Bob Moses 34
The Mississippi Freedom Democratic
the 1964 Democratic National
Senator Dwayne Morris 37
Mr. Stallworth takes the Mississippi
seats, Atlantic City, 1964 37
Lyndon Johnson 40
Fannie Lou Hamer 41
Head Start 45
AN ORAL HISTORY
This is an interview for
the Civil Rights Documentation Project. The interview is with
Mr. State Stallworth Sr. and is taking place on May 25, 2000,
in Moss Point, Mississippi. The interviewer is Stephanie Scull
is an interview for the Civil Rights Documentation Project
of Tougaloo College and The University of Southern Mississippi.
The interview is with Mr. State Stallworth, and it is taking
place on May 25, 2000, in Moss Point, Mississippi. The interviewer
is Stephanie Scull Millet. And first, I'd like to thank you,
Mr. Stallworth, for meeting with me, today.
Well, you're welcome.
the time to talk with me. And I'd like to get some background
information, which is what we usually start out with, and
ask you to tell me, state for the record, your name, and where
and when you were born, please.
My name is State Stallworth. I was born July 24, 1933, in
Beatrice close to a city that we would remember or recognize?
Monroeville. Close to Monroeville.
And do you have siblings? Do you have brothers or sisters?
No brothers. No sisters.
an only child?
have mercy! (Laughter.) And what about your parents? Your
mother's name and when and where she was born?
Alright. My mother's name is Caldonia Black Stallworth. She
was born, also, in Beatrice, Alabama. She's deceased, now.
And my father's name was George Winter[?] Stallworth. I think
he was born in Beatrice, Alabama, also. But my mother and
father separated when I was young.
you were young. About what age? Do you remember?
I don't remember.
who did you live with, then?
My mother. My mother raised me, and, well, they both are deceased,
now. My mother and father are deceased, but I had no relationship
with my father.
whatsoever. Uh-huh. Well, that sounds like it might have been
a little tough, then, for you as a kid, growing up with a
Well, it seems that way, but really it wasn't. No, she did
a great job.
was your childhood like? What would you like to tell us about
your childhood, that maybe a hundred or 200 years from now
you'd like future generations to know about the way you grew
Well, one way I grew up, like I said, my mother raised me.
And, more or less, I was a spoiled brat. (Laughter.) Yeah.
I didn't want for anything. Like, I had all the toys that
a boy could have. I had a natural boyhood life, really. I
didn't have no real diehard to want for anything. I had a
good relationship with my other friends around the neighborhood,
and I had a good relationship with all the other parents around
the neighborhood. And I just had a growing-up, just like a
boy. And so, I didn't have the problems that one would think
that I would have just by not having any brothers and sisters
and not having no relationship with my father.
So, my mother somehow filled all those needs.
Were you in a country setting? Or a city setting?
No, I was mostly raised in Pascagoula. See, this is Moss Point.
So, Moss Point and Pascagoula are so close, but as far as
I can remember, I was raised up in Pascagoula.
your mother moved from Beatrice where you were born?
Moved from Beatrice, yeah, to Pascagoula. But from time to
time, I would go and visit my mother's parents, who were my
grandfather and my grandmother. I would go visit them real
often. And I had two uncles: one was older than me and one
was younger than me. So, more or less, for all practical purposes,
they were my brothers. We grew up together, played together,
and had a good relationship together. But from time to time,
I would go to Beatrice, Alabama, to visit my grandparents.
But I was raised in Pascagoula. I was raised up in Pascagoula
and went to school in Pascagoula.
was school like? Did you start out in a church school? Or
the public schools?
No, I started out in the public schools.
didn't have kindergarten, then. Did they?
No, I don't think, but the only thing I remember. I remember
when I started school, I started school in the public schools.
And I went to a school there we called Pascagoula Negro High
School. Yeah. That's what it was. But it went from the--.
Well, then, I think what we had, what you called a primer.
That might have been kindergarten, but they didn't name it
kindergarten. Anyway, we started from the pre-primers to the
primer, and then you went on from there, on up through high
all of your school years were spent at Pascagoula Negro High
School, from the first day, to the last day.
it go through twelfth grade?
Yes. It went through twelfth grade.
No. Now, for one time in my
life, I might have been in maybe the third or fourth grade,
I went to the Catholic school. Yeah, I went to St. Peter's.
Peter's for one grade?
Yeah. For one grade, I think. Yeah. That was because of my
friends. You know. I had some friends; they were Catholic.
And by virtue of them being my friends, they kind of had a
lot of influence upon me to go to Catholic school. So, I went
to Catholic school for about one year. Yeah.
did you not like it? Is that why you--?
Well, yeah. I liked it. I liked it all right. But then I switched
back to the public schools, and the reason I switched back
to public school is because the public school was more involved
in sports than the Catholic school.
And you liked sports?
And I liked sports. Yes.
me about your sports life when you were in school. What was
Well, my sports life: I was a pretty fair athlete. I played
basketball, football, softball, baseball. I played all of
it. And had I followed through with it, I believe I could
have earned some scholarships. I just didn't follow it up.
scholarships to go on and get a higher education?
Millet: I would
assume that all of those were segregated sports at that time?
Oh, yeah. My whole--. All of my time of going to school was
Do you feel that you got a good education that way?
At that point, I didn't give it any thought, but now, looking
at it now, I would say that I had an inferior education.
Yeah. It was inferior. It's no doubt about it. And that's
not saying that the teachers--. It was no fault of my teachers
or no fault of the faculty. It was because of the facilities.
The facilities really wasn't there to make it comparable to
the white schools. I mean, you could see it. They had far
more advantages than, and far more opportunities than we had.
you think of some specific examples? I know that some of the
female interviewees we've had would talk about how in home
ec, they loved home ec, but the sewing machines didn't work.
Do you have some memories like that about other parts of the
Well, one thing we had, what we called a lab. You know. To
take science and biology and all this stuff. And the only
thing we had in our lab, I think it was a bottle of alcohol
with a frog in it. That's all we had.
Yeah. So, that was our biology lab. So, science lab. So, we
had no facilities compared to--. I know the girls had this
thing with the home economics, but we had no--. And the only
thing we had insofar as vocation was brick and carpentry.
like masonry and carpentry?
Yeah, brick and carpentry. And so, we had no mechanics or
nothing compared to the vocational school, the vocational
opportunities they had at the white schools. So, those and
other reasons, too, that, well, you take, just like typing,
for instance. That was a no-no. We had none of that.
didn't offer typing classes there?
No. No typing. No music. Like I said, the laboratory labs
about your books? What were your books like?
Well, we got secondhand books. You could see they had been
used; practically worn out. Some pages missing.
so they were from the white school?
Yeah. After they was used.
when they got their new books, they relinquished the old ones.
So, that's all we got.
makes me sad.
Yeah. So, that's why I say, my looking back at it, our education
was inferior. It wasn't casting no reflection upon our faculty
or our teachers. You know.
do you remember about your teachers?
I loved all my teachers. The only thing about it, though,
when I began to be a teenager, and grow up from school, I
didn't want to be a teacher.
Well, because I could see the disadvantages and the things
that my teachers had to cope with and put up with simply because
of their color, that I didn't want to be bothered with it.
you remember some specific things?
Well, you take when they first started talking about the civil
rights movement. See, I finished school in 1954.
was the year Brown v. the Board of Education came
That's right. If you mentioned NAACP or anything about the
civil rights movement in the schools, our teachers would tremble.
Because they felt that if it was any way that civil rights
was being talked about around or in our schools at that day
and time, it probably meant their jobs. That was the system's
way of controlling black education, and black people, and
the black community.
sort of blackmail, really.
Yeah. And see, at that time, the only opportunities open for
blacks was to teach school, or get a job as a janitor, or
a maid. Those were the only vocations open. You know. Probably,
well, you had one or two in the medical field. You had one
or two black doctors. You had no black nurses to speak of.
None at that time that I can remember.
were the hospital privileges like for patients and physicians?
They were segregated. They had special quarters for blacks
and special quarters for whites.
Millet: I would
imagine they weren't equal.
No, they wasn't. No, the black quarters were shameful. Really
shameful. So, I didn't see any--. Well, as time went on, in
the year 1954, we had one black doctor.
was that? Do you remember?
Our first black doctor was a doctor by the name of Dr. Pendleton[?].
I think he's still living. I'm not sure.
He would be old, now, wouldn't he?
Yes. Very old. And our next black doctor was a doctor by the
name of Dr. Morris[?]. He's deceased.
Millet: I would
love to talk to Dr. Pendleton, if I could.
So, when you came home from
school, did you have chores that you had to do? Or did you
go get your homework right away? Were you a good student,
who would come do your homework before you'd go out to do
your chores, or before you'd go out to play?
Well, to be honest, I was lazy about homework. Yeah. I spent
most of my time, really, playing. Most of my time I spent
out on the ball fields or out on the basketball court. I studied,
but I didn't study hard. I studied very little. I did just
enough to get by. I wasn't interested in trying to be a genius.
I wasn't interested in trying to be the leader of the class.
I was just interested in getting by.
the kind of student I was, too. To tell you the truth. (Laughter.)
Yeah. I just wanted to get by.
Millet: I just
wanted to do enough to not get fussed at, and be able to play.
You know. And have fun. That's the kind of student I was.
And of course, now, you know, I look back and see that that
didn't have the best consequences for me.
Right. Well, somehow or another, it was a point in my life
where I didn't have no ambitions about education because I
didn't see the use in it. I didn't see the sense in it.
there were those three things that you could do, and you didn't
want to be a teacher.
That's correct. So, I didn't have to have a Ph.D. to go out
here to be a janitor or a maid. I didn't need it. And if I
was a genius, I couldn't do anything with it. You know. So,
So, that's the way I summed it up to myself.
Yeah. I can understand that. I certainly can understand that.
Well, among all the subjects that you did take, did you have
Somehow or another, I liked figures.
Yeah. I liked arithmetic. I liked geometry. I liked algebra.
I liked figures. So, I mean, with the little effort I put
to it, I think I did well at it. Had I made some effort like
you just mentioned to study to try to really be good at it,
I could have been good. Yeah.
another thing that I've learned just recently. Of course,
I never learned any of this in public school, you know, about
the lives of African-Americans, in Mississippi, particularly
where there was so much oppression, and really, you know,
a reign of terror because of the lynchings, but some schools
in Mississippi did not stay in session very long. Some black
schools. Do you know if your school had a shortened session
compared to the white schools?
No, we wasn't bothered with that side of it, but I understood
and I began to understand that most of that took place around
the Delta and the farming parts of Mississippi. I think that
was because--. I've made some acquaintances with some of my
friends from around the Delta, and they used to tell me about
[how] school was out because they had to go work. And they
had to go farm, and they had to pick cotton. And they had
to do this, and they had to do that. But, see, we didn't have
that here. The difference, I think, had we had that here,
we probably would have had [a shorter school year]. But by
us not having it, the biggest thing that was going on here,
was shipyard work, the paper mill work, and of course, they've
got a lot of fishing. A lot of fishing industry was here.
But that didn't affect our schools any. They had another industry
here they called the woolen mill. That's where they made garments.
Fruit of the Loom. BVD.
they actually mill the cloth? Or make the garments? Or both?
I think they mostly just made the garments. Now, during this
period of time, the BVD didn't hire any blacks. See? Now,
International Paper Company hired blacks on certain jobs,
laborers and this kind of thing. Shipyard hired quite a few
blacks, but mostly for the hard, backbreaking jobs.
The hardest jobs.
Yeah. The hardest jobs. You know. And then, servant type jobs,
too. So, we didn't have that season thing for our schools
to close for the youngsters, the kids to go work.
Yeah. We didn't. You know. Because to work at the shipyard,
they didn't need it. International Paper Company didn't need
it. BVD didn't need it. So, you know, they didn't need the
type work to close the schools like they did in the northern
parts of Mississippi, where the black schools were closed
for the kids to go work.
maybe it needed a little more training?
to pick cotton, really there wasn't that much [training required].
No. And then most of the jobs. Most of the jobs down here
were unionized jobs.
So, I mean, they wouldn't stand for it, and so, but, the BVD
was not unionized, but I imagine that policy just spread out
over them. But International Paper Company was unionized.
So was Ingalls Shipyard. They were unionized, and the waterfront
work was [unionized] with the ILA longshoremen. So, they wasn't
going to put up with that.
that's probably what stood in the way of child labor along
I think so.
The unions. Mm-hm. That's interesting. So, we've already covered
this about that you did not go on to get a higher education.
So, when you were graduated from high school, were you eighteen
at that time? What did you do after that?
OK. No, now, during the course of my life, I just fooled around
in school. Well, I didn't half go to school. In other words,
I went to school just long enough to play ball, and after
the ball season, I would quit, and I just went to school at
will. So, I lost about two years in school, so, really, when
I finished school, I was twenty. So, then, when I got out
of school--. Well, during my last year in school, I got married.
My senior year, my wife and I got married. That was forty-something
how old was she?
She was eighteen.
Yeah. She was eighteen. I was twenty.
have been married a long time.
Yeah. We've been married, yeah, a long time. So, that following
summer, when I graduated, I went to International Paper Company.
And luckily, they hired me.
that pretty easy for you to get on?
you feel that you faced discrimination there?
It wasn't easy. The way jobs worked then, it depended on who
did you know. So, I happened to have bumped into a friend
of mine. He's deceased, now. He had been at International
Paper Company for a number of years, then. His name was Pim
was he white or black?
He was black. And the way these companies did, then, depending
on what type job they needed, dictated as to what color employee
they looked for. See, if they had a high-paying job or a good
job, then they know that they had to look for a white boy
or a white man. But if they had an old back-breaking job,
or a laborer's job, or a porter job, or a butler job, or something
of that nature, then they knew that they had to look for a
that would probably not pay very much and/or be really hard
That's correct. So, but even at that, you had to know somebody
to get that.
to get something that might not even be desirable?
That's right. So, I knew Pim; Pim knew me.
that Pim? P-I-M.
Pim. I don't know how you spell Pim.
Millet: I thought
you said Kim.
OK, we'll just fake it on the spelling.
Yeah, Pim. Dubose. D-U-B-O-S-E. I know that. So, anyway, he
was already working with International Paper Company, then.
Well, and he was the type of fellow that if the whites needed
a black, they would ask Pim, and probably some more blacks
that had been there just as long, "Hey, you know any boys
out here want to work?"
"OK. Tell them to come on."
they would give you a recommendation, and that's how you got
Yeah. And so whoever they recommended. That's right. That's
how I got on. And that was in 1954, in June.
kind of job did you get at that time?
I got a job, then, I was working on the loading docks.
was that like? Tell me about that.
Oh, yeah, that was hard work. Working on the loading dock:
that was all the paper that had to be shipped by train or
truck. They came out of the mill to the loading docks, and
they had what they called loading crews. So, I was on one
of those loading crews. So, we loaded the boxcars, and we
loaded the trucks. And whatever. And you had to be there a
while in order to learn the different techniques that they
used in loading these boxcars and loading these trucks, and
the different types of material that had to go in them and
how it had to be loaded, and all this. It was pretty interesting,
and it was pretty hard, too, but it was interesting.
you have training to do that? Or was it something--?
No. No training. No, I mean, you trained in that crew. And
you learned from them.
That's right. That's right.
those first days of working were probably greater risk for
getting hurt because you didn't know what could really happen.
You didn't know. That's right. Keep from getting run over.
Because it was busy. It was busy. Going and coming. Going
and coming. And I worked at that dock; I worked in that crew
for about seven or eight years. We had white jobs and black
that unofficial? Or official?
No, practiced. See. It was practiced. Because, like I say,
it wasn't in the contract, per se, that these jobs were white
jobs or black jobs. They practiced [it]. You knew this. You
see. Like, they had the white water fountains, and the black
water fountains. It wasn't in the contract, but practiced.
And you saw the signs, saying, "white" and "colored" and so
forth. So, that's what brought the fight on. That's what got
me involved in civil rights. See. Up unto that point, I was
not involved in civil rights. Matter of fact, I didn't pay
it too much attention.
you started trying to make a living?
Right. It was at this point, at this junction:
the company hired a young white boy, and put him out in the
loading docks. Now, sometimes, they would do this until they
find a good, suitable white job. They would take him out of
the loading docks and put him on the--. You see? He would
just work with us until they found a place for him. So, they
hired this particular white boy and put him out in our crew,
and he worked with us. And I was the youngest black in the
crew. So, at last, one day they told me that they was going
to lay me off. And I asked them then about the white boy.
"Why isn't he getting laid off? He hasn't been here as long
as I have."
Yeah. Well, I felt like he was taking my job, because this
was the black job.
You see. That's what really got me. I could understand it
if I had went over and tried to take one of the white's jobs,
which there was a lot of those whites younger than me. But
I wasn't talking about that. What I was trying to get them
to understand was, "You've got white jobs and black jobs.
Now, why is it that I've got to go home, and you're going
to keep this white boy on my black job?"
And they couldn't understand that. They couldn't understand
what I was saying.
were you a member of the union at that time?
Yes, but I wasn't an active member. See, I was just a dues-paying
member. See, all I would do is work, draw my check, go home,
and forget about it until the next day or the next whenever
I go back.
sound like you were pretty easygoing.
Oh, yes. You know. Like I say, I wasn't involved with no civil
rights. I wasn't involved with nothing.
Just wanted to make a living and have your life.
did you talk to the union first?
Yes. Well, to my surprise, all the union officials--. See,
we had white unions and black unions, then. See. So, we had
an all-black union to represent all blacks on all-black jobs.
They had white unions to represent all whites on all-white
jobs. So, I go to the blacks and tell them to register my
complaint, and my concern, and they were afraid. So, that
further disturbed me.
didn't want to help you?
didn't want you making a lot of noise?
No. Because they were afraid.
were going to upset the status quo, the way things were.
Right. And I couldn't understand that because they couldn't
understand me. See. I felt that I wasn't trying to make no
waves. They had made the waves because they
came over on our job.
changed the rules.
That's right. (Laughter.)
When it was convenient for them.
Right. And I couldn't get them to understand that. So, I got
so angry and upset, then, I started being active in the union.
I'm a Catholic by faith, so I took a copy of my contract up
to the priest, then.
was the priest?
He was named Father Lawler.
Right. Father Lawler was his name. Father E.J. Lawler.
that thought, but I just want to ask you while I'm thinking
about it, were you a member of a church, and what church?
Oh, yeah. St. Peter's.
Peter's. And I assume the churches were segregated, as well.
Oh, yeah. Yeah. St. Peter, the Apostle.
So, what did Father Lawler say when he looked at your contract?
He told me that I was right. And I told him how upset I was
and how I was concerned about it. So, he told me I was right.
And he told me I should look into it; I should pursue it.
And he told me that pressures would come on, but I couldn't
I assume he was an African-American priest?
he was white?
Yeah. That's right. (Laughter.) Yeah, he told me, he said,
"Now--." What had already happened, he told me that, too.
Said, "The people that supposed to help you are going to be
afraid. They're going to be scared." He said, "But you have
to go on." He says, "And the pressure's going to come on you,
but you're going to have to go on. You know. You can't start
this and then, because things get rough or get tough, stop.
It don't work like that. In this type situation, once you
start, there's no stopping. You know. Once you draw that light
on you, you can't stop."
was the next step, after that?
Oh, I took him at what he told me, and then I did what he
told me to challenge it. So, I ran for office in the union.
And I won.
I don't understand how, if you no longer had a job, you could
still be in the union.
Well, now, see, because I was temporarily laid off. See, what
they would do, they didn't lay me off permanently. See, they
would lay me off temporarily. Lay me off, like, if work slowed
you didn't have a paycheck.
Right. See, when work slowed down, they said, "Well, but this
other boy [is] still working." Sometimes I would work maybe
one or two days a week.
Millet: I wonder
if they were doing that to any of the other African-American
Yeah. Well, see, that's when I started my campaign. I started
my campaign among them and among the other black workers that
knew that it wasn't right, and they needed something done
about it. So, I won the union election. Then, I met Medgar
was your title when you won?
of the union. And what was this union?
Then, it was the International Brotherhood of Pulp, Sulfite,
and Paper Mill Workers. It ain't no more.
is it, now?
United Paperworkers International Union, now. UPIU.
And you met Medgar Evers as a result of becoming president
of the union?
No, I met Medgar Evers because Medgar Evers come down here
on some kind of civil rights business.
was field secretary of the NAACP?
Field secretary of the NAACP. That's right. He stayed down
here, oh, a couple of weeks, or more. And I got acquainted
with him. In talking with him, he convinced me and converted
me. (Laughter.) Yes, he did!
you join the NAACP?
I joined it. I joined it. I joined it. I sure did. And then,
I joined it, and become president of the NAACP, too. But not
About what year was this that you met Medgar Evers?
I worked at the mill in 1954, and seven onto 1954, carries
you to about sixty-one. Somewhere in the sixties.
were heating up in the civil rights movement.
Yeah, it was getting warm. Plenty hot. Yeah. And that's when
I began to take--. Before then, I wasn't paying too much attention
to the civil rights movement and its developments. I'd hear
it on the radio and read it in the paper. But when this happened,
then I met Medgar, I started focusing on it. I started keeping
track with it; getting information about it. Started going
to NAACP meetings, where I met Medgar. And then, after I met
Medgar, I met Aaron Henry.
State president. Then, after that I met Roy Wilkins.
I forget. I know he was with the NAACP, but--.
Yeah, he was the president. Executive president. And then
after that I met Thurgood Marshall. I met Jack Greenberg.
Yeah. So. Then, I became a community aide for the Legal Defense.
Legal Defense is? Tell me about that. What is that exactly?
OK, the Legal Defense, the NAACP is an organization, like
it says, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored
People. They've got chapters all over the United States and
probably out of it, too. And they've got chapters all on these
college campuses, and so forth. They are organized. And they
are community-organized, where a community group will address
their community. They deal with things in their community.
The college folks, they deal with things on their campuses,
and around in the community there. And whatever the needs
are in the community, insofar as racial inequities, they address
that. Now the Legal Defense, that's a whole different ball
game. That's all lawyers. That's when you get Thurgood Marshall
and Jack Greenberg. All they are interested in is going to
court, doing battle.
Uh-huh. Over inequities.
That's right. Over the things that's brought to them by these
and from these different communities. Yeah. That's all they
do. They concentrate on filing legal, whatever it takes legally.
Legal, you know, lawsuits and doing interviews or what they
Taking affidavits and all that business. And they're into
a lot of action. So, I got involved in all of that. So, after
Medgar Evers talked with me--back to the International Paper
Company thing--we filed suit against the International Paper
Company for racial discrimination in employment and the unions.
it for just you? Or for several people?
Oh, no. Class action.
action. Uh-huh. Do you remember which attorney from the Legal
Defense Fund would have been representing you?
Oh, yeah. Yeah.
A fellow by the name--he's living, now. He's up in Jackson,
now. Fred Banks. I don't know if you've ever heard of him.
Millet: I think
we have an interview with Mr. Banks.
Fred Banks. He's with the Mississippi Supreme Court.
pretty sure we have an interview with him.
Fred Banks. Yeah. Now, at first, it was another guy there
before Fred Banks, Reuben Anderson.
Millet: I remember
You remember that name? Reuben? Yeah. Reuben and Fred. It
was a bunch of them. Well, some of them are dead, now. Jack
Young, Jess Brown.
I don't know if you ever knew Eleanor Jackson Piel? Who came
down from New York, and especially in the summer of sixty-four.
I didn't know her. I do know Mr. and Mrs. Paul Breath[?].
never heard of them.
Yeah, that was a man and his wife. They were with the Legal
Defense, but they left the Legal Defense when Thurgood Marshall
got to be Supreme Court Justice. They went to be clerks for
In Washington. Yeah. Mr. and Mrs. Paul Breath.
what was the outcome of your class action suit?
It took ten years.
That's right. It took ten years.
Right. When we brought it to a resolve, the company had to
do away with all segregated jobs, and oh, we went through
a series of things during the course of this. You know. Like
you mentioned: did they send me to a school? Did we have to
take training? They set up tests and all that business. So,
as a result of that suit, we proved in that suit, the only
criteria was, to get a good job, was to be white. Education
had nothing to do with it because we had blacks finish high
school. We had blacks had college experience. We had blacks
with college education, working under the supervision of whites,
finished third grade. Couldn't fill out time cards. So, education
was not the parameter.
So, we won that.
it go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court?
No. No, no, no. I think we were on our way there and somehow
or another, the company worked out--this company, I'm going
to tell you about. Now, it went through the Fifth District
Court, down in Biloxi, and we were on our way to the United
States Supreme Court. I think the company knew this, so, we
worked out a thing down here in the Fifth District Court.
This was the settlement that we got. The unions had to give
up white unions, and black unions. So, we merged the unions.
They had to give up the idea of white jobs and black jobs.
So, we had to use seniority and put the blacks on the jobs,
where their seniority put them. No testing. The only education
requirement we had to reach, if they had a white fellow over
there with a third-grade education, that's all we had to meet.
To be on par with that job.
That's correct. See. We didn't have to have a college degree,
and he finished third grade. So, that's what they were trying
to tell us. But anyway, they integrated all the jobs and changed
the whole seniority. See, the blacks couldn't use the seniority
against nobody but blacks. You see. And so, I think the court
did a good job, and come out with a monetary settlement.
from all those years lost. Yeah.
Yeah, but it didn't come nowhere near what it should have,
but it was something. It was a starter. But they did. They
had to pay some monetary monies to the blacks that was there
and also for blacks that tried to get jobs and they didn't
hire over a period or span of time, and especially black females.
interesting. So, it was a double whammy against you if you
were black and female.
Yeah. That's right. They didn't hire black women at all. So,
they had to. I think we did a pretty good job of raking them
over. I think we did.
them up to standard.
you really made a big difference in a lot of lives with that
decision that you came to.
Oh, yeah. Yeah. Because, well, you could see it. Because I
didn't realize the far-reaching thing to this until I did
witness what you just said. I seen some blacks go on jobs
making $25.00 an hour. Yeah. I've seen some blacks move up
in management. You know, which, my focus at that time was
right there where they had took my little, old black job and
gave it to a white boy. (Laughter.) That's all I--.
perspective widened. (Laughter.)
Yeah. That's right. So, I feel really--. And then after, as
far as getting involved with Medgar and Medgar converting
me, and then getting acquainted with Thurgood Marshall and
that bunch, and working with the Legal Defense, that really
broadened my perspective a lot. I got involved in the community
with the banks.
so? Tell me about that.
OK. The banks would only hire blacks for janitors or maids.
Make coffee and clean up. Empty trash cans. I got a group
of blacks--young, black ladies together. I got them to go
to all the banks and the state and federal loans and so forth.
Go to every one of them and make application.
Or attempt to make application. See, some, they let them make
application; some of them they didn't. Some of them faced
insults. So, we documented all of that, and we sent it in
and the Legal Defense filed suit against all the banks, all
the savings and loans, and now we've got blacks in all of
them. Tellers and cashiers, and first one thing and then another.
Same with the post office, city hall, all our city merchants,
all the stores, and different ones. J.C. Penny's, and you
of that was done through lawsuits?
That's right. We went and we used the same approach: we sent
people around to attempt to make applications. To make applications
or attempt to. And from that point, we sued all of them.
in hiring practices, you just addressed each, like, different
kinds of institutions.
That's right. Well, the first approach was--. Even I put myself
on the line, which I didn't have to, but I did. I met with
all of the banks at different times. I would go to Pascagoula-Moss
Point Bank and ask to meet with the president, and we'd sit
down and talk. And I would tell him what my business was and
what I was wanting to talk with him about, and he didn't voice
no concerns. Didn't show no concern. Just said, "Well, I'll
tell you. We'll hire some blacks in this bank, if you find
some blacks with some experience. We don't hire non-experienced
people. And, you don't have nobody qualified. I mean, if you
bring me somebody qualified, I'll hire them."
So, my thing to the bank then
was, I said, "Well, I don't have anybody qualified, but I
got some just as qualifiable as the ones you've got. You know,
giving them the same opportunities you gave
those people." I said, "They could do you a good job."
"No. That wouldn't suffice."
to have experience already.
Have to have experience. Right.
he wasn't requiring that of white people who came in and applied.
When we filed the charges and the feds came in to investigate
and pull the records of the employees they already had, the
employees that we sent to them was more qualified than the
ones they had. The only difference was, they were black. Because
the ones that they had, come in from out of the kitchen, into
the bank. They were, you know, daughters-in-law, sisters-in-law,
and cousins and friends, and so forth. Where the ones that
we sent to them had been to college. And
had worked in other places. They had a working experience.
These people had no experience working nowhere.
they just had--
(End of tape one, side one.
The interview continues on tape one, side two.)
So, the federal people said that the bank officers had lied
about the experience of the white people.
Yeah, what they told us their criteria was. They lied. Because
they challenged us with getting them somebody qualified, and
told us what they had to meet. And the ones they had, hadn't
how did you settle that?
Well, they had to pay these people a monetary settlement.
it have to go to court?
They settled out of court. Well, what it was, see, we challenged
them through their insurance.
How does that work?
OK. You know you've got it. If you go to the bank, you are
covered by that. Your money's insured.
The Federal--. I can't remember what it stands for.
Right. F.D.I.C. That's what it is. See, so, we challenged
them on that, whereas if they didn't discontinue the discrimination,
or make this discrimination satisfactory, we had the F.D.I.C.
to pull their insurance license. And if they pulled the insurance
good for the bank. Not good for anybody's money.
No. That's right. (Laughter.) So, that made them settle up
got their attention! (Laughter.)
Yeah. "Come on. Sit down. Let's talk. We've got to work this
thing out. (Laughter.) You know, and see, can we look at it?
Look here. We didn't understand what you said, you see, when
you said it. Why didn't you tell us this was what you wanted?"
Yeah. That's right. You should have made it more clear.
Yeah. "You've been knowing me, State. You know me. Me and
you can work this out. So-and-so."
Yeah. "Hire them tomorrow." (Laughter.)
you say that?
they hire them?
Yeah. They hired them quick as they could. They paid them.
Paid them some money and told them, "Now, look, let's don't
go no further. Now, give us a chance. Give us a chance."
You know, that's a funny thing. That's what all of them cried.
Every last one of them cried that.
give us a chance. Give us some time."
Yeah. "We didn't--. State, we didn't--." Look. When I first
went out there trying to get them to understand, they told
me, the mill manager told me, said, "I heard about you." Said,
"You ain't nothing but a damn troublemaker. We don't want
you working here. Do you want to work here, boy?"
"You don't act like it. All
these practices and traditions been going on around here for
all these years. You're trying to change it. I'm going to
tell you right now. Ain't a damn thing going to change. Do
you understand me, boy?"
And he went on, chewed me out,
went up one side and down the other side.
And all you could say was, "Yes, sir."
Just sit there and say, "Yes, sir." But the only thing I rebutted
on is when he opened the door for me.
He says, "Now that this meeting
is over and you understand everything, you got anything you
want to say?"
"Yes, sir." Well, he shouldn't
have did that. (Laughter.)
did you say?
I told him, I said, "Well, you know, I understand what you're
telling me about the practice and traditions, because I see
it every day. You know." I said, "But, when it comes down
to getting laid off," I say, "You laid me off." And I explained
to him that they took the white boy and took my black job,
and I'm not allowed to be black and take the white job. I
said, "Now, the contract don't mention nothing about that."
I say, "If the contract would have said that white people
can take black people's jobs," I say, "I probably wouldn't
have complained, but the contract don't say that. See. And
the contract don't say that black people can take the white
people's jobs." I said, "So, you know, if you had spelled
that out in your contract," which I knew he couldn't do--
I said, "Then, probably me and you wouldn't be having this
discussion. You wouldn't be upset, and I wouldn't, either.
But that's not clear in there. That's not what the books says,
and that's not what the contract says." Well, that ended that
meeting. But, now, when the feds come down, then, to, like
I said, come down with this court order, now then, they understood.
(Laughter.) And they wanted me to drink coffee with them.
And they wanted me to laugh and talk with them. They understood
now, but they didn't understand, then. And they were apologetic,
and so forth.
And they promised me, told
me that any time that I saw any problem going on, that was
racially contrived or had any racial applications or anything
in it, right then, let them know. "Don't wait. Let us know.
Now, don't go filing no more complaints. Don't go telling
all these others. (Laughter.) Come tell us."
want to know."
Mm-hm. And so, well, they knew that I didn't too much trust
them. But they said, "Now, if we don't straighten it out,"
they said, "then, you go do what you want to do." Well, I
made that deal, because that sounds pretty good. Said, "State,
if you come tell me about it, and if I don't do nothing about
it, then, you do what you want to do."
did that work out?
It worked pretty good.
the future. Did you stay and continue to work for them? Until
Mm-hm. I retired four years ago.
Did you get to be promoted and move up in management the way
you wanted to?
No, no, no. I didn't go to management. I stayed in the--.
See, if you were in management, you'd be exempt from the unions.
I had no idea.
Yeah. See, if I wanted to go to management, I would be exempted
from the unions, and really, I didn't trust them that much.
But, there were some blacks that did go over in management.
all these years, you had really three full-time jobs in between
working for them at your regular job.
for the NAACP.
working for the union.
were a busy man.
I was. (Laughter.) Yeah. I was. Believe me.
I wouldn't be surprised if you were active in the sixties
in the mass meetings and marches.
Well, I'd like to talk about that. I did want to ask you about
Medgar Evers and Aaron Henry and Thurgood Marshall. You know,
there are already a lot of things written in history books
about those men and dates that they did things, but there
are probably some experiences you had with them, that nobody
else knows about. But, how would you describe Medgar Evers?
What kind of man was he? Do you have a memorable event that
you had with him?
No, the only time I met Medgar and he and I had any kind of
a relationship, it was dealing with the NAACP or something
about the NAACP. I never met him, you know, like, when he
wanted to play golf, or playing cards, or playing poker, or
anything like that. I've never been with him socially. Whenever
I met him, it was really on the occasions of the NAACP and
its business. Now, he impressed me. He was real sincere. He
was real. He was wrapped up in what he was doing, body and
soul. I've never seen a man so dedicated as Medgar. He would
sit here like you and I talking, and he would be talking about
things and, literally, start crying. That's how sincere he
was. So, that's the kind of--. So, many times, I didn't want
to see him in that type of situation. I would try to find
some way to get away from him.
it heartbreaking and intense? Was that the--?
Oh, yeah. Sometimes. Depends on what the situation was, because,
see, he was the field secretary. He would go and be involved
in something that I never would be involved in. Like, up around
the other parts of Mississippi, he would go and see some,
visit some family that had got beat up or--
Yeah. That's right. Some man or some lady got beaten, killed,
stoned, burned, and those kinds of things. And he would be
talking about it. And see, by me not seeing it, it didn't
affect me that much. But I understood what he was saying.
The field secretary--. I mean the state president, Aaron Henry,
same way. The only time I saw Aaron was on strictly business,
but I did see him in another uniform, though. He was hooked
up in this political thing, too. You know, he was one of the
state legislators (inaudible). And he was also with the Freedom
the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Yeah. Victoria Gray.
Yeah. And I was, too.
I was there.
We've got to talk about that. Yeah. Well, what about Thurgood
Thurgood. Briefly, I saw Thurgood and Jack Greenberg. Not
on no social call, but mostly on strictly business. And Thurgood
used to constantly--. He was a fellow that firmly believed
in litigation. He didn't believe in talking and negotiating
and this kind of business. Thurgood believed in litigation.
That's all. And if you didn't want to talk about litigation,
if you wasn't going to do no litigation, he didn't want you
to waste his time. That's the way (inaudible). That's what
he would tell you. That, you know, if you--. That's what made
me--. He's the one endowed me with that attitude about the
banks and all these local people around here. See.
"Go to them. If they don't
do it, sue them. Go to them. If they don't do it, sue them.
Go to them, sue them. You know. Don't go
with nothing else." (Laughter.)
cuts through all the unimportant stuff. Go right to the heart
That's right. And that's the way Thurgood was. You see. Now,
you know. "Sue them. Get the papers to me." He'd tell you
how to sue them, and this kind of thing, and he's through
with it. Now, if you wasn't going to do that, you know, singing
and marching and preaching and going on, Thurgood wasn't like
that. No. Mm-mm. "Let's go to court. And if you ain't going
to court, don't waste my time." (Laughter.)
I have asked people, you know, what did singing freedom songs
do for them. And people mention that it created solidarity.
You know. And that's important. I mean, I understand Justice
Marshall's reasoning. He had, probably, felt like his life
was too short to get all this done, that he had to get done,
but I see the value of the other stuff, as well.
Well, I do, too. I saw both sides of it, but I'll have to
say Thurgood on a scale of one to ten, he was nine and a half
right. On a scale of one to ten, that marching and singing,
I wouldn't dare put it with litigation. I wouldn't dare. It's
all right for a little fellow down the street with an ice
cream parlor, but when you're talking about integrating banks,
and you're talking about integrating the unions, and you're
talking about integrating industries, and you're talking about
challenging discrimination in schools, marching and singing
ain't going to get it.
No, it won't get it.
right. It can change the consciousness of people who are involved
and who witness it, but as far as the teeth
to enforce it, it's the litigation.
Yeah. To make the change. To make the change.
important to remember that. Well, I had talked to you about
this question of when did you become aware of racism. I have
a feeling it's backtracking, but I know that we talked about
how it was the discrimination at your job. But I wonder if
there are any other incidents that stand out in your memory
that got you started thinking about racial issues.
Well, up until then, racism, I always knew it. I can't think
of when I didn't know it. See, I always knew it, but, it didn't
register with me to do nothing about it, until this happened.
When I was growing up, a kid, I used to love to go to the
movies. And I noticed they had a white side and colored side
to the movies. I knew where to go. And I didn't bother about
trying to go around on the other side. It didn't dawn on me.
I didn't care. You know. And I bought popcorn through my window.
I went around to the ice cream parlor, and they had white
and colored. I went on around to the colored side. I accepted
that. It didn't bother [me]. I didn't care nothing about going
around to the other side, buying ice cream. Me and my mother
rode the train a lot. And I'd see the signs, white and colored.
That didn't--. You know, in other words, I knew we was living
in a racist society. I knew it all the time. Going to school.
I knew that the whites had a school, and the blacks had a
school. And it never dawned on me or bothered me about trying
to go to the white school. That never crossed my mind. In
other words, I accepted it. And like the white job and the
black job, I accepted that. But the only time it really thundered
me or hit me, was when they laid me off.
They were interfering with your living.
I mean, but, see, what they did, they took my black job. That's
what. (Laughter.) See, if they would have just said, "Well,
OK, State." And moved me over there with another black job,
I probably would have--. Well, something else would have happened
to bring it about, but I'm just saying, you wanted to know,
how did it affect me. And so, me, as an individual, I always
knew that we were living in a racist country and a racist
society. I always knew it, but it didn't dawn on me to challenge
it or do nothing about it until this happened to me.
It took away that real basic thing, [your means to make a
living]. Even though it was a part of what you thought you
had accepted, when they took that away, that was kind of the
Yeah. Well, I didn't have nowhere to go. You know, I figured--.
Well, see, during that time, we had four kids, three girls
and a boy. They were all in school. And I said to myself,
"Now, how can I support my family, and they done took my black
job. Where can I go? How can I tell my kids when they get
up in the morning, they ain't got no breakfast; they ain't
got no dinner; they ain't got no clothes; ain't got this;
and ain't got that. They done took my black job."
they pushed you in a corner.
That's it. So, that's when I really made up my mind to really
dig in and try to do something about it. But I knew it was
Tell me about your children. How many children do you have?
have, still, only four?
Four is all.
you want to give us their names, for the record, or would
you prefer that they remain anonymous?
Oh, no. My oldest daughter is named Cecilia. My next daughter
is named Agnes. Then, my son, State Jr. And then, my youngest
daughter, baby daughter, Robbi.
I wonder if you have memories about their public school experiences.
Did they have to go through any troubles to get into the integrated
Well, they all went to Catholic school. Except, see, our Catholic
school went to the eighth grade. After the eighth grade, then
they went to the public schools. But I'm sure that they had
racial encounters. Some of them I knew about; some, I didn't.
they tell you about them?
Some of them. Yeah. My daughter had one. My oldest daughter
had one at the Catholic school.
no. What was that about? Do you remember?
Well, it was a name-calling thing. I had to go down to the
school to talk with the principal. With the sister. Somehow
or another, my daughter Cecilia had some kind of encounter
with a white girl out in the hall. And in this encounter,
they got into calling one another names. And after the name-calling,
then they got physical with each other. Well, you know, I'm
not boasting about it, but my daughter got the best end, I
believe of the physical. So, then, they called me down to
the school. And the other parents. And then, they told us
what it was about. So, that's what it was about. Somehow or
another, one bumped into the other one, and then the name-calling
took place. Then after the name-calling, they got physical,
and I think my daughter got the best end of the scuffle. And
that was all.
And no more trouble after that?
Well, no. Not that I know of. Well, I apologized to the other
parents. You know, I didn't want them to think--. I let them
know that I don't raise my kid to meddle people, bother people,
and fight people. You know, because of their color or for
any other reason. But I also let them know, and I also told
(inaudible) I always raise my kids: "I don't teach you to
fight, but I'm not telling you not to fight."
You might need to sometime.
That's correct. And I made that clear to them down there,
that I didn't tell my daughter to fight, but I didn't tell
her not to fight.
If she has to defend herself, then she has to defend herself.
In situations. That's right. If I'm not there, nobody's there,
she has to do what she has to do. And so, you know, and I
apologized for all the bad words she said, but although the
other girl said bad words, too. But, see, you don't have to
right. They seem to learn that on their own, somewhere. (Laughter.)
They get it somewhere. That's right.
a Catholic school, too. It makes you wonder. But as far as
the public schools, do you know about what years they were
entering public school?
Oh. See, time. I know events. But time, I can't keep up with
I just wonder if it was more like the end of the sixties?
Oh, no. They went to integrated schools. Yeah. The schools
were already integrated, so they didn't have to be the ones
who were filing the lawsuits to get in, like Ms. Sanders.
Right. Oh, you talked with Ms. Sanders?
Oh, that was a pleasure.
Yeah. Well, Ms. Sanders was real involved. That's right. But
no, my kids, then, was in the Catholic school. So, well, like,
well, you hit it. See. The Catholic schools, St. Peter's,
we had schools for our kids, although they were segregated.
St. Peter's Parish is predominantly a black parish. But we
had schools that go from first grade to the eighth grade.
But then, by the time my kids finished eighth grade, the schools
were integrated. So, that's--. And I really had in mind keeping
my kids in Catholic school all the way through, but I didn't
do it. See. I didn't do it. So, that's why they was involved.
When they went to Moss Point, they went to Moss Point High
School. All of them graduated from Moss Point High School.
When they went to Moss Point High School, it was integrated.
you feel like they got a good education there?
Yes. Yes, I feel like they did. They got the best they could,
but I'll say this: and I don't want to offend, or mean to
offend, but I have to say in my strongest opinion, from what
I watched my kids, when they went to the Catholic schools,
then they went to the public schools, they was that far ahead
of the public schools. So, you know, I can't say that they--.
See, because, when they went to the public schools, they didn't
have to study. And still maintained good grades.
had been so challenged by Catholic school and had to come
up to a higher standard, I guess, there. Yeah. Isn't that
Yeah. So, I'm not saying. It wasn't a black school, either.
See, I could understand if it was a black school, but the
Catholic schools, they are so much--. The public schools got
to come on and come up with the Catholic schools. I mean,
they got to come on. I mean, I think that's all over.
I do, too.
Yeah. I think it's all over. I don't think it's just here
in Mississippi or here in Moss Point.
Millet: I know.
I have to agree with you. Yeah. Those parochial schools do
a really good job of teaching kids. And it's interesting,
because usually those teachers' salaries are lower than the
ones in public school.
But I think that's the difference.
do it because they love it?
You see, dedication is one thing, and doing it for the money
is another one. I realize, and I will say that the teachers
deserve to make more money than what they're making in Mississippi.
Now, I don't know about other states. But in Mississippi,
they deserve it. It ain't no doubt about it. In public or
Catholic schools. The teachers deserve it, because if I was
a teacher, and if I could go to Timbuktu and make more money
teaching, that's where I'm going. And I mean, that's just
Yeah, but to get back to the other part, now. I feel like
you've got more dedication in the Catholic schools, and money
is not the reason. I think if you go to the Catholic school,
you'll see they've got more discipline. And without discipline--.
Because they've got more discipline, they can teach more,
and teach better. In the public school, you can see it; you
don't have the discipline compared to the--.
much of a teacher's time has to be spent just getting some
kind of control.
Yeah. You can see it. See. And one just has to realize that
and recognize that and just be fair and earnest with it. That's
the whole thing. If you go to a Catholic school, you're going
to see more discipline and better discipline than you'll see
in the public school.
are your children doing, now?
I tried to get all of them to go to college, but they didn't
want to go. My boy told me he didn't want to go to college,
so he's a first-class pipe fitter.
He's probably making more than college graduates do.
He is. He told me that I could save my money; that he didn't
want to go to college. So, he's a first-class pipe fitter.
My oldest daughter, she didn't want to go to college, but
strange as it seems, now she's going. And she's trying to
go into real estate and something else. My youngest daughter,
she's over in New Orleans, and she's in some type of management
position with Home Port.
not familiar with Home Port.
Depot. Oh, the office--. Well, they sell all kinds of stuff.
Yeah. They're just something like Lowe's. They sell everything.
for the home, I guess.
Everything you can mention. Yeah, and so, she's been with
them, now, for twenty-odd years, I think. And, my other daughter,
she's not doing anything. She's a homemaker. She's staying
that's an important job. Very important. One of the most important.
Just like teaching.
have the future in our hands when we have the children in
Did you register to vote?
what was that like? Were you successful on your first try?
Strange as it seems, I had no problem.
do you remember when that was?
Yeah. That was in 1954. That's the first thing I did when
I turned twenty-one, was pay my poll tax. We had to pay poll
tax. I'm glad we mentioned that. See, here's a copy of the
Like a receipt.
But they're not mine. These are a friend of mine's.
Look at that.
But I thought I would get them just to show you what they
is so interesting. Wow, 1965. Two dollars.
Yeah. Had to pay it.
they had, "male, female, age." They didn't fill out her age.
Cecil Byrd was the sheriff. James Ira Grimley was the sheriff
in sixty-three, sixty-two, sixty-four, sixty-five, sixty-six,
1959 receipt. Did you have to take a test? A literacy test?
do you remember what that was like?
Well, now for some reason, I didn't take it. But I know what
it was like.
was it like?
They would ask you questions like, "What civilian has executive
power over the military?"
Millet: I wouldn't
president of the United States would be my guess, but I didn't
actually realize he was a civilian. But, yeah.
That's right. They would ask questions like that. Or they
would ask you, "What is ex post facto?" I've done
forgot what all else.
I don't know what ex post facto is.
Well, that's, when we was coming down here, you know them
red lights we come through? All them red lights we come through.
Now, suppose those red lights was not there, and we come down
that highway. Then, they put them up. Then, they want to arrest
you for running a red light that wasn't there.
it wasn't there. Then that would be an ex post facto
Ex post facto. That's trying to convict you of a
law that didn't exist at the time--.
you broke the law?
That's right. There was no law at the time that you did this.
See, you have to go to Yale to understand all that.
Millet: I should
Yeah. So, they had all kind of stuff like that.
with your background, you probably know this already. I didn't
know until I started doing research into civil rights issues
that Theron Lynd, for example, would ask the African-American
people who came to register to vote, "How many bubbles are
in a bar of soap?" And, you know, (laughter) that's absurd.
That's absurd. But--it's absurd--but it kept
people from voting! It kept citizens from
being able to take part in their own country, and sometimes
they were citizens who had gone and laid their lives on the
line in World War II or Korea or World War I to defend
That's right. So, you know, during that period of time, that's
when--. I don't know exactly when it was, but you know, they
sent SNCC down here. Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
I got acquainted with them and got involved with them.
was that like?
That was a new ball game. I didn't believe it was going to
happen. We had been to Jackson and met several times in Jackson
saying that, "Hey, we've got a hot summer coming in Mississippi,
and this, and that, and the other."
I said, "Ah. They're just talking."
that Dave Dennis?
Yeah, Dave Dennis and--.
Yeah, and a fellow named Moses.
Bob Moses. You met Bob Moses.
I am so jealous because he is just, from all accounts, the
wisest, most fabulous man.
He is, but he's a little, quiet fellow. Yeah. A little quiet.
Because, you know, when I first heard, "Bob Moses is coming
down. Bob Moses."
I said, "Oh." I was looking
for a great, big, old giant. (Laughter.)
And I looked around and heard
somebody whispering, saying, "I'm Bob Moses." I looked around.
I said, "This little squirt?"
(Laughter.) But you're right. He's all knowledge. He is. And
he's wise, and he does his homework. And he can take a big
mountain of confusion, and he can simplify it. And that's
not (inaudible). And he seemed to never get upset. He's cool
all the time. Yeah. I met him, and I met quite a few of the
people with the SNCC. Anyway, when I got involved with them,
and I started meeting with them, and they started organizing
and (inaudible), which a lot of the things they were talking
about doing didn't make no sense to me.
Well, when they was talking about organizing the community
and setting up districts and all that, I said, "What in the
world are they talking?" You know. And I said, "We've already
got districts." You know. I didn't see where they was coming
from till after they put it all together. And when they put
it all together, then I understood it, because blacks was
disenfranchised. We wasn't allowed to participate. See, like
when they set up the Democratic Party, the Freedom Party,
and all, I was involved in it. But it took me awhile to understand
it. And I didn't quite understand it, until we went to Atlantic
what happened to make you understand it?
Well, what made me understand there, then, clear as a crystal,
was that we challenged the others. And I said, "Oh, now, this
is what this is about." Because they didn't allow us to participate
to get to Atlantic City. They wanted to be there in Atlantic
City pretending they were representing us, when they didn't.
They wanted to pretend that they supported the Democratic
Party, when they didn't. They wanted to pretend that they
supported the platform and the program of the Democrats, and
they didn't. But see, I didn't understand all of that until--.
See, I knew what was going on at the polls. They didn't support
the president. They didn't support the Democratic party. They
didn't support the platform. They didn't support nothing.
They weren't elected by African-Americans.
were either not allowed to register to vote, not allowed to
vote, or only allowed to register and vote if they really
had no power.
That's right. That's correct. And so, it took all of that
to make it sink in, to what was actually, really going on.
And Moses was there with us, too.
In Atlantic City. Yeah, he was there. Aaron Henry was there.
Oh, the whole--.
Fannie Lou Hamer and I rode the bus up together. And back
together. And something else I've got to tell you. I don't
know if you remember. Do you remember during the time when
Lyndon Johnson and Hubert Humphrey was going to be nominated
this night. Well, Lyndon was going to be nominated, the Democratic
nominee, and the old, regular Democrats and the loyal Democrats
couldn't come to no agreement, and the Executive Committee
there said that they was not going to seat the Democrats,
the loyals nor the regulars. They was going to rope the seats
off, and wasn't going to let us in, and wasn't going to let
them in. And lo and behold, during the course of that convention,
one loyal Democrat sneaked in some kind of way and took the
seats. And the whole building come down. And you know who
that delegate was?
why did you do that?
That's what I can't understand. Why did I do that? (Laughter.)
Here again, it didn't dawn on me what I had done till I did
it. (Laughter.) OK. I was standing outside the convention
hall. They had the security guards and everybody there, guarding
the gate, to let nobody in but the delegates with the credentials.
You had to have your credentials. So, I was walking around
outside and this fellow walked up behind me and said, "Hey,"
says, "You from Mississippi."
And I said, "Yeah."
He says, "Do you want to go
in the convention?"
I said, "Well, it really don't
He said, "If I get you some
credentials, will you go in?"
I said, "Yeah." (Laughter.)
He said, "OK. Wait till I come
I didn't know him. I didn't
know who he was, but I found out he was Senator Dwayne Morris
from Oregon. He goes in. He comes back. He says, "Here's your
credentials." Said, "Put them on." He say, "Now, what we want
you to do, we want you to take the Mississippi seats. Will
you do that?"
I said, "Yeah, I'll do it."
He said, "Now, we're going
in past these guards." Say, "You go and sit with New York."
See, I had New York credentials. So, I walks in as if I was
from New York. The guards let me in. I walked on in, and had
on my little, old suit and tie. Well, they didn't know me
from nobody else. So, I walks on in and sit down with the
New York delegation, and the Mississippi seats were right
across from New York. See. But they was roped off.
were strategically placed.
That's correct. And I had me an end-row seat, too. Right on
the end. All I had to do was just step right over there. So,
I'm sitting there and all the other delegates are watching
me. You know. The New York delegates.
must have been in on it.
They was. And they was (inaudible) me, and they would (inaudible)
one another to get on down to me. "Now, when we give you the
signal, you step across the rope."
I said, "OK." And they was
clapping, and we was clapping. And we was clapping, and after
awhile something happened.
They said, "OK." Said, "Step
across the rope." And I stepped across the rope. And when
I did, whew.
The news media swarmed down on me like a swarm of vultures.
They wanted to know who I was; where did I come from; how
did I get in there; what was going on; what was my name. "Where
you from? You from Mississippi? How did you get in here?"
Whoa, man. Good gracious. I mean, just, whew.
did you feel?
Well, I was busy, then, trying to--. I hadn't lost my hand,
then. They had the seats bolted to the floor, and the marshals
had me, trying to pick me up to throw me out.
were going to try to pick up your whole chair or just you?
No, what I did, I grabbed the chair. Well, see, by me holding
the chair, they couldn't pick me up. (Laughter.)
those years loading all that stuff at the paper mill. You
had those strong arms. (Laughter.)
Yeah. So, I was holding the bottom of the chair. And having
the news media come over there and start putting the camera
on them. If it wasn't for that, they'd have threw me out.
that's very interesting.
Yeah. See, by the news media coming over, and putting the
cameras on me, the marshals say, "Get back. The cameras are
on. The cameras are on." And I was just holding the seat.
So, then, Aaron Henry, and all of them, they came from somewhere.
I don't know where they came from.
they sat down?
Oh, yeah, we all did. We took the seats. And so, that was
a big excitement.
is a great story.
Yeah. That was something, man. And I still got those credentials.
New York credentials.
might think about leaving those in your will to Tougaloo College
or something like that. I'm sure they would love to have them.
yeah. Those should be archived somewhere.
Let me see. I've got them here somewhere. I know I've got
them. (There is a brief interruption in the interview.) Lyndon
Johnson sent a special plea to us not to upset the doggone
did he do that prior to the time you took the seats?
Yeah. See, he's the one that offered that compromise. Said,
"Listen, don't upset things." Said, "I'll tell you what we're
going to do. We ain't going to seat you, and we ain't going
to seat them."
Millet: I see.
That was the compromise.
Yeah. He said, "We know they're dirty rats." You know. Him
and Hubert Humphrey. Said, "We know they don't support nothing.
They don't support nobody." Said, "But I'll tell you what.
We ain't going to seat you, and we ain't going to let none
of y'all sit. We're going to let a committee--." No, they
offered to compromise, along with that not to let nobody sit,
they wanted to seat just Aaron Henry, who was our president,
and I don't know who the other president was. Let the two
presidents sit over there. See. With equal status.
So, we told them, "No. No."
Say, "They didn't want nothing to do with us back here, we
didn't want nothing to do with them up here."
"We're not going to be working together like that." Just out
so it looks good to the media.
Well, plus the fact, the other thing we told them: our challenge
to them was more serious than trying to do some political
juggling. Our challenge to them was about people's lives.
You see. To come back here to Mississippi and try to participate
in politics meant your life. It wasn't a political thing,
and we wanted them to understand that. That was our reason
and our rationale for not compromising on those terms. You
see. Because to come back here to Mississippi, and then in
order to try to participate, you'd be found floating down
a river. You'd be found hung up in a tree. You'd be found
burned or bombed or killed. And this is the kind of thing
we was concerned about. Not so much about the political ramifications.
being given a seat. And then what happens after that? After
the convention is over?
That's right. And as strange as it seems, I don't know about
others, but Lyndon Johnson really surprised me.
did he do that?
I had ranked him with the other Southerners.
He was from Texas.
Yeah. See, I said, "Well, Lyndon Johnson ain't no different
from the rest of them." When we're talking about these things.
And his voting record dictated that. See?
He seemed to be like the other Southerners, based on his voting
His voting records when it come down to issues like this,
it was the same. Identical. You see. But strange enough, when
he got to be prez, he made a complete--. See. I figure Lyndon
Johnson did more for civil rights during that time than any
man we had up there.
the time of his presidency?
During Lyndon Johnson's time of his presidency, he navigated
the Civil Rights Bill. He navigated the Voting
Rights Bill. See, and that healed all that. That Voting
Rights Bill healed all them wounds that we were talking
about. What I mean, it put teeth in it. He come up with the
did the Poverty Bill do?
The Poverty Bill dealt with Head Start.
the Child Development Group in Mississippi?
That's correct. That's right. See, that was done under Lyndon
you involved with those beginning years of Head Start?
Oh, yeah. I really was. And I'm proud of that program, today.
Millet: I should
say. It's a program to be proud of.
That's right. I'm proud of it today. In my opinion, that's
one of the best programs the Democrats come up with.
you think of anything else that happened during his presidency
that was helpful?
Well, the Civil Rights Bill, I know. We talked about
the Civil Rights Bill, the Voting Rights Bill,
and the Poverty Bill. Well, one thing he did here,
he shut Brookley Air Force Base down.
what Air Force base was it?
Brookley. You had an Air Force base in Mobile, called Brookley
Air Force Base.
I didn't know that. How do you spell it? Do you remember?
Brookley. B-R-O-O-K-L-E-Y. Brookley Air Force. OK. That was
a military base in Mobile, and what happened was Lyndon Johnson,
I mean Lady Byrd came down here on a tour, some kind of Lady
Byrd train thing. And the folks in Alabama, the Klan in Alabama,
threatened her. Sure did.
the first lady's life?
Yeah. L.B.J. come on the tube that night, and you could tell
he was angry. And he told the Klansmen, "If you're wearing
the gown, get out of it. I'm coming at you. I'm coming after
you, so if you want to survive, and you're in there, you'd
better get out. You'd better run, now. And get out before
it's too late, because if I get in behind you, it's too late."
Thirty days afterward, he shut Brookley down. Brookley is
he came out against the KKK?
that was helpful to the movement.
That's right. He did. And then from that point on, up until
Lyndon resigned, you didn't hear of no sheets. Nobody wearing
those sheets. (Laughter.)
weren't very fashionable anymore.
That's correct. And the reason I know that, now, after that
he sent Katzenbach. Katzenbach was the attorney general; he
came down to Mobile. And Katzenbach gave them the same warning.
And he told them, he said, "When the Klan rides at night,"
he said, "we ride at night."
agents. We'll be after you.
That's right. He said, "When you ride at night, you ain't
going to be out there riding by yourself." (Laughter.) Yeah.
He did. He made them do a big, long cool-off until Lyndon
left office. So, we might as well go on to the countdown,
do you remember about Fannie Lou Hamer? What was she like?
Fannie Lou. Real sweet lady. Real sweet, simple-minded, good
lady. I understand that she showed at Atlantic City; she testified
before the committee. And testifying before the committee,
she had them in tears.
The Democratic National Executive Committee. You see, we had
to present, to show the evidence that--.
(End of tape one, side, two.
The interview continues on tape two, side one.)
So, she was testifying to the Democratic National Executive
Committee that African-Americans in Mississippi were terrorized
into not voting.
Right. And she was arrested.
In Mississippi on more than one occasion.
Millet: I remember
she was beaten very badly in Winona, [Mississippi].
That's right. She was put in jail and beaten for her participation
into the political process. And she showed the scars on her
back, and that brought tears from most of the committee that
was there. They was watching it, and you could see the tears
rolling because that was solid evidence. And she told them
how they arrested her, and how they beat her, how they treated
her. And it was just--. And you know, when I say she was a
plain, simple, good person. I think she might have finished
second or third grade.
She had lived on a plantation.
Yeah. She lived on a plantation. That's right, and she had
that amount of courage to do, and she taught voter registration.
You know. It was amazing. So, she was an inspiration to talk
a book, Local People. Have you seen that book, Local
very well done by a professor who taught at Tougaloo for a
number of years who is not an African-American. He's Caucasian.
His name is John Dittmer. He talks about how Fannie Lou Hamer
did not know, and someone told her, what power there was in
voting. And she said it opened her eyes. You know. That she
had no idea until someone taught her, "You can elect African-Americans
who make policy, who can make your life better in Mississippi.
And not just your life, but everybody's life." I remember
talking to Mrs. Sanders about, I don't remember what piece
of literature it is in, but somewhere it says, "Ask not for
whom the bell tolls. It always tolls for you." And if I tolerate
someone taking your rights today, tomorrow they can take my
rights. And so, it's for all of us. It's for every single
one of us and our children.
(There is a brief interruption
in the interview as Mrs. Stallworth hands to Mr. Stallworth
the New York credentials which opened the door for him at
the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, New Jersey,
There you go.
You know, if your children don't want to keep this, you really
should have it archived somewhere. At Tougaloo or there's
the Amistad Center in New Orleans at Tulane. You know, one
of your children might really want to keep that, but if not,
it should be [archived]. That's an important piece of history,
right there. Very important.
Yeah. Nineteen sixty-four convention. That's it. This is the
badge I had and from New York.
was a revolution in our country, and that was part of it.
You know? There really was. There really was a revolution.
mentioned losing your hand. How did you lose your hand?
At International Paper.
Yeah, I got it jammed in a machine.
my goodness. Oh.
Yeah. Got it jammed and crushed it.
was it surgically, actually, they had to--?
Well, it was just crushed so bad till the doctor had to. He
saved all he could. It was a miracle that he saved the thumb.
See, it's below the knuckle. See, it's crushed. And the doctor
told me if it would have been cut, he could have put it back.
it was so badly damaged, there was nothing to put back.
That's right. We had a piece of equipment we was working on.
Machinery, and it had broke down. And you know, we was scrabbling,
fooling around there, trying to get it going, and really didn't
know what we were doing. And I happened to engage a switch
and didn't know it. A piece of electronic equipment, and when
that switch engaged, then I couldn't get my hand back in time.
Just [snaps fingers]. Just like that. Yeah. That happened
a little bit after I got back from Atlantic City. And it wasn't
nothing purposely done. It was a pure accident.
Yeah. I'm sure. A pure accident. Because it was more my fault
than any. I mean, what I'm saying is the way the accident
happened, it couldn't have been nothing somebody planned.
Millet: I see.
See. That's what I'm getting at. So, it wasn't nothing planned.
It was just a pure accident.
quite an experience, in itself.
there are a couple of things that I think are important. You
know, as I've said before, people will be researching into
this 100 years from now, 200 years from now, if the world
lasts that long. (Laughter.) The way we're going, sometimes
I wonder. But I'm wondering about Freedom Summer and about
the Child Development Group in Mississippi and Head Start.
What your experiences were with that, and also about the struggle
to integrate the beaches, here. So, why don't we just start
with Freedom Summer of sixty-four. What do you remember about
Freedom Summer, 1964?
Well, the highlight in my mind of the Freedom Summer of sixty-four
was the preparations that was put into, and the things that
was involved that we had to do in order to go to Atlantic
City. And that was my big involvement. At that time, I wasn't
wrapped up in beaching and going to the beach. I know it's
a thing that's good. I know. And we've got just as much right
to the beaches as anybody else, but at that time, I was all
wrapped up mostly with this political thing and with jobs.
legal suits for stopping the discrimination in hiring and
promoting. And the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party bid
to unseat the regular delegates.
Right. And you know, you couldn't hardly do that and fool
with the beaches, too.
did any of your children want to go to the freedom schools,
here? Do you remember?
No, they didn't mention it. They didn't too much mention it.
But, Head Start, too, I was involved in that.
was that like? Tell me about that.
Well, first of all, when Head Start was first introduced to
Jackson County, people perceived it as being a civil rights
organization. So, whites shied away from it. Most white people
shied away from it. And a lot of blacks shied away from it
out of fear because they thought it was the civil rights movement.
But we had some courageous people in this community that really
put their shoulders to the wheel, and we got our first Head
Start program we landed here, we were just a few dollars short
of a million dollars, because it was based upon the population.
You know, the amount of kids you had to enroll and how you
had to have your centers structured, and this kind of thing.
that for the whole state?
just for this area?
Just for this area. Just Jackson County. See. And so, I never
will forget that.
And we thought that was real
did you get that money?
It came--. Whew!
you have to write a grant?
Oh, yeah. The legal fellow we had working with it; we had
a white lawyer here to volunteer his time, named Bernard Gautier.
was a local man.
he helped you write the proposal.
Yeah. He was the attorney here, locally, for us. And the government
had an attorney named Capheart[?]. I believe was his name.
Yeah. I don't know how you would spell that. And then we had
another fellow called Dr. Gentry.
he a physician or a Ph.D.? Do you know?
Dr. Gentry. No, I don't. But I do know he had a lot to do
with setting up the program. Like, setting up the medical
side. He might have been a doctor.
have been a physician. Was he an African-American?
was white. And what about Capheart?
Capheart, he was white fellow, also.
Gautier was white. Mm-hm.
so, how were you involved?
Well, I was the first chairman of the board. At it's initial
starting. You know. We had to have all different parts of
the community involved. We had to set it up. We had to have
a board. We had to have a Head Start board. I've done forgot
how many people we had to have on the board, but we had that
amount of people on the board. And I was the chairman, and
we set up the medical side. We set up the education side,
and we set up the nutrition side. I think those are the three
main sides of the Head Start program. You know, how it's set
up. And then we had a dietician, so that--. See, that was
the main thing about it. What made the Head Start so good,
and the reason it's still got a good standing today, Lyndon
Johnson, somehow or another knew that there were poor communities,
and in particular, blacks, but white folks, too.
Poor communities where kids, the reason they didn't learn
in school, it wasn't because they didn't have learning abilities,
and it wasn't because of the parents' being lazy. It wasn't
because of none of these things, the myths that we had been
told. But the reason a lot of kids fell short of learning,
is because they had health problems. Some of them had hearing
problems, eye problems, dental problems.
would cause chronic pain.
Yeah. Throat problems, stomach problems. All kinds of problems,
and so, that's what that medical side did. We had it set up
where all those kids would be screened by the local doctors.
The doctors would give them thorough examinations. Eye doctors,
nose and throat, ears, the whole gamut. And if that kid needed
anything, wouldn't care what it was, from an aspirin tablet
to a major operation, under Head Start, he got it. See. And
then we saw to them getting balanced diets. Nutrition. See,
that's where that came in. They all had a balanced diet for
breakfast, dinner, and afternoon.
they were fed at the Head Start Center.
That's right. And they were making preparation. And the thing
it is, again, the reason a lot of kids couldn't learn is because,
coming out of a poverty environment, they didn't know properly
how to go to the restroom. They didn't know how to properly
take care of their teeth.
some of them had never held a pencil in their hands.
There you go. See. So, this is what it was about. And some
people try to misconstrue it today to be an education program,
but it's not. It's still a program getting the kids ready
for school. See. You get ready to learn. But at the same time,
because it's a learning process by him mingling with other
kids. That's a learning process in itself. You learn how to
mingle with other kids, but the main thing you learn, when
you go to school, you already know you don't have no problems
seeing. You ain't got no problem breathing. You ain't got
no problem hearing. You ain't got no problem. You ain't starving.
had a year of good nutrition from those two meals and afternoon
That's right. Now, you're ready now to pay attention and learn
something. You see. And you don't have no problem, and the
teacher's got no problem because she ain't worried about this
kid over here don't know how to go to the restroom; don't
know how to set down at the table and eat; don't know how
to--. You know. So, these were the things that really Head
Start did. You had to go there to see it. And to really appreciate
it. My wife worked at it. Yeah, and she enjoyed it.
was her role? What did she do?
She was a teacher, and what they did, they played with the
kids. That's what they did. They'd go out there and play with
them. You know. And we put as many mothers in there as teachers,
as possible. See.
they probably learned some things, as well.
We had classes for them. You know. Teach them this and why
and how. And so forth.
them better parents, I'm sure.
That's right. And then the parents would have better care
for kids that's small. See. It's different from a person that
just went to school and learned a kid how to [count] one,
two, three, four, five. And you know, I mean, you go to a
lower level. I mean it's another level to teach a kid other
than trying to teach them A, B, C.
of their developmental--. Where they are, developmentally,
and they can do certain things, and they cannot do other things
just because of their coordination or physical--.
That's right. And a mother would understand that better than
anybody. See. And so, you know, I really do. I think Head
Start is one of the best things. Also it proved that kids
got learning abilities and you don't have to wait till they
get six years old. You straighten a kid out with his eyes,
his ears, his throat, and so forth, and you'd be surprised
what that kid can learn. I got a doggone little, old great-granddaughter.
I tell you the truth. She's almost a genius. (Laughter.)
Millet: I have
a friend who says that these days they're born going to college.
She's almost a genius, but smart!
old is she?
She's four. Four years old. Oh, she's some kind of smart.
I mean, it's just amazing. I watch her, and I pretend that
I'm not watching her. And she knows, when she wants you to
do something, she knows how to con you into doing it. She
can con you. Yeah. Yes, she will, too. (Laughter.)
and I'll bet you can tell her, "No," anytime you want to,
can't you? (Laughter.)
She'll con you. Let me tell you. Kids are smart. They really
are. I mean, they're born smart.
Yeah. But anyway, the other part that we talk about in the
civil rights movement, for some reason I never was too warm
on, you know, I wasn't warm on integrating hamburger stands,
and hot dog stands, and ice cream parlors. And, like you say,
beaches. Number one, I felt that we had so many important
things, other than that, that we shouldn't waste our time
and efforts and energy with that.
some people gave their lives for that.
Yeah. Yeah. I really couldn't see that. Somehow or another,
Thurgood Marshall really overwhelmed me or programmed me.
See. Just sitting and talking. He wasn't a guy to get up and
make no whole lot of speeches, but he would sit and talk and
his whole idea and thing was, and it makes sense. He said,
"Now, we don't have the time and energy to be arguing over
a hot dog and a hamburger, and walking in water out on the
beach." He said, "Now, these things are important." He said,
"But, if you get--. If we make legal breakthroughs and get
the access to equal education, and get access to equal and
fair employment, and get equal access to equal justice in
the courts, you ain't got to worry about that."
empowerment. Yeah. Those things will be taken care of.
They'll fall in place. See. But if you put that first, what's
going to happen to your legal thing? What's going to happen
to your school thing? What's going to happen to your--.
resources are spread too thin.
Yeah. I mean, why do you want to have the right to go buy
a hamburger, and ain't got a job to make the money to buy
the hamburger? So, you know, that sold me. And I just, today,
I'm that way. And I look at it other ways, too. Now, you know,
I just played with International Paper Company. When you look
at it economically, those same people who was practicing that
discrimination and thought that they were doing something
big or something, it shows how foolish they were.
does that follow?
OK. You're the manager of a factory. And your whole thing
in running this factory is to make money and drive your cost
down. Not your cost up. Now, you're going to bother yourself
about your employees not going to the same restroom; so, you're
going to build two.
Not drinking at the same water fountain; you're going to build
two. Not going to the same pay window; you're going to build
two. And you've got good, productive employees out here that's
one color is a better productive employee than the other color,
but because of his color, you're going to hold him down. You're
losing money. You're driving your costs up.
Yeah. But, so, that's the same thing. I told (inaudible).
I said, "Now, I'm going to come back out here, and I'm going
to put a proposition before that we want separate restrooms,
now. We want separate water fountains. We want a separate
They told me, said, "State,
you're crazy." (Laughter.)
"But at first, when I tried
to show you how crazy you was, you said I was (inaudible).
Now, who's crazy?" (Laughter.)
were separate cafeterias, too?
Yeah. Separate everything. So, now, the same argument goes.
If blacks get better jobs and make more money and equal education
and equal justice under the courts--.
can vote, can elect representatives.
Then Holiday Inn going to tell them they ain't going to accept
them because they're black?
they're going to say, "Bring on that money. Sign this line.
Pay me." (Laughter.)
This is what Thurgood was saying. So, why? You don't have
to boycott Holiday Inn. You've got that money in your pocket,
that'll do it. And you got the education. So, that's it. And
so, he really programmed me. And did a good job. And right
today, I see that priest, Father Lawler, I was telling you
about. Every time I see him, I hug him. He's old, now, and
I think he's--
a little slippy in the head?
Yeah, that Alzheimer's is getting him. He hardly recognizes
me, now. I see him every now and then, but--.
was a wise man; he gave you good advice.
He gave me good counsel. Well, see, I knew Father Lawler.
Father Lawler married me and my wife. Father Lawler baptized
all my children. And he confirmed them all. He confirmed me.
So, he's my family minister.
he an American or was he an Irish priest?
He's an American.
from this country.
But most of the priests that served the black parish here
are Irish. Most of them are. Father Lawler, now he's American.
he was a rare individual.
you feel frightened in your life about reprisals, like for--?
you receive any threats? What was that like?
Phone calls. "You black S.O.B. We'll get you." "You GD n
troublemaker. We're going to get you." Yeah, I got all that.
They shot in my house.
shot in this house?
Not this house; I was living in Pascagoula. Yeah. They shot
in my house and I was asleep.
night. They came at night, when it's dark, and nobody could
Right. That's the way cowards do. They don't realize it, but
cowards wait and hide in the dark, and shoot and throw a brick
Or dynamite. Yeah. That's the way cowards do. And then they
mostly kill little children. You know. That's what they mostly
do, and that's bad. But now, that's what they mostly do. And
they have people afraid. That was one thing that made me not
be afraid. Because I said, "Well, when I'm asleep, I put my
self in the hands of the Almighty to look after me." Because
I wouldn't know what's going on when I'm asleep. But I ain't
got to worry for nothing when I'm walking around in the daytime
because they're cowards. They ain't going to face you. They
won't. Now, they'll face you if it's a hundred of them on
one. You see. The whole police force, and the whole sheriff's
department. See. But that's nothing to really be afraid of
because if you don't change it, that's going to forever be.
Like little, old Emmett Till, fourteen year old boy, and they
took the whole sheriff's department and half of the town to
go pick him up and do him like that because they say he whistled
at a woman. You know. One sheriff or one policeman could have
gone over there and got him. They took half of the town. But
anyway, yeah, I got those threatening calls, and I was threatened
about what all might happen, but, well, I ain't going to say
I didn't pay it any attention, but I didn't let it bother
me. I didn't let it stop me.
let it stop you.
Yeah. I really thought about it because I didn't want nothing
to happen to my wife and my kids. But I wouldn't let it stop
Millet: I think
Winston Churchill said, "When you have a child, you give a
hostage to the world." You know? Yeah. That's where they can
really get to you is with your children and your loved ones.
Yeah. But, then again, though, I said this. I smiled. I said,
"I must be doing something."
drawing fire. (Laughter.)
That's right. I said, "I must be doing something. Other than
that, they wouldn't pay me no attention."
And you survived. You did.
Yeah. Sure did.
those shots in the night are close calls.
Yeah. They are.
know, I guess I really do believe a Higher Power decides all
that, and some people just go earlier than other people. Like
Well, I say, it's just a thing of fate. You see. If, you can
say if, if Medgar Evers just would have been out of town that
night, all night, it probably wouldn't have happened then.
they were after him. They probably would have gotten him.
Yeah. They'd track him down. Yeah. They'd track him down.
It's just the thing of something that happens. Like, for instance,
that night when they shot in my house, it just happened I
wasn't up. If I was up--.
they have gotten you, you think?
I think they would have.
on where the shots came in?
Right. But, see, they shot in. We leave the lights on in the
bathroom window. You know. Because the kids was small. So,
they could go to the restroom. And then, you see, that's the
room they shot in.
there was a light on.
There was a light there. And they used a shotgun with hunks
of lead in it.
for the record, because 200 years from now, people won't know:
what does shot do when it comes out of the gun?
Yeah. See, but these was buckshots, but they wasn't buckshots.
The buckshots had been took out, but the shell was loaded
with hunks of lead. See, that means that would knock a hole
in that wall big as my thumb.
were probably jagged and take more--?
They'd take more flesh. See, where if it hits your body, it'll
make a bigger hole. See, it'll just tear your body up.
It probably has a different trajectory [and] the way it impacts
That's right. See. Now, had I been up, I would have been looking
at TV. They would have saw me. But it happened, you see, I
say act of fate. Something just told me, said, "I don't feel
like watching TV tonight. I think I'll go on to bed."
did you report it to the police? Could you expect any kind
of help from law enforcement at that time.
[Shakes head.] But I reported it.
the law enforcement neutral, on your side, or against you
at that time?
Well, to be honest, law enforcement was against me, but they
wouldn't say it.
law enforcement at that time was probably infiltrated by the
were not going to help you, and might even do you harm.
Right. But I called the FBI.
what happened when you talked to the FBI?
The FBI came down, and they investigated. Like they told me
that they used these buckshots. See, they took them out the
wall; cut them out the wall. You see, they can't trace a shotgun.
See. You can trace a rifle or a handgun, but you can't trace
a shotgun. But they stayed in constant contact with me for,
oh, over a year. Yeah.
they give you any kind of protection for the future? Like
I think from time to time they probably did, but not visible.
See. Not visible. But from time to time, they would get in
touch with me, and I would get in touch with them, and we
would meet safe places and talk. But they did it in a secret
manner. They didn't overtly do it. But I did. I called the
FBI. And the reason I called the FBI is because the police
told me not to. (Laughter.) He didn't know what he was telling
me, and when he told me not to do it, that's what I did. That's
what I did. Yeah. You see. See, that opened the window on
them. They said, "Let us handle this, now. Don't call the
FBI. We're going to take care of this."
I said, "OK."
Sure they were going to take care of it. They'll be back the
I told him, "Yes, sir." But just as soon as he left, I called
the FBI. I told the FBI what he told me.
what was their reaction to that?
They laughed. Because they knew what I knew. [The police]
wasn't trying to protect me.
did you tell your children at that time?
I think they understood. I told them exactly, so, they understood.
a tough thing to have to tell to little children. They couldn't
have been very old at that time.
No, they wasn't. Well, see, one of my daughters used to do
my typing for me. Agnes. She was the one used to do all my
typing. She's pretty good at a typewriter.
she was reading other events that were going on?
had a real liberal education at that point in her life. Yeah.
That is really a touching story. Your whole family really
was together and solid and unified around that issue. I guess
you felt like you had a lot of support from your wife?
Well, yeah. Had I not had the support from my wife and my
family that I had, I don't believe I could have made it. You
see. Because I had to have somewhere to come where I could
feel welcome or felt needed or felt appreciated.
you were getting all these messages out there of troublemaker
That's right. "We don't want you. We don't need you. We're
going to kill you. We're going to run you off." Oh, yeah.
But things, now, we still got racial discrimination. We still
got a lot of inequities, but it's far better than it used
to be. It's not near what it used to be.
improved. What are the improvements that you see?
Versus, I used to ride down the street, and I could see racial
discrimination all around me. Just by looking. Just by riding.
I looked at all the policemen; they were all white. And they
were none of my friends; all my enemies. I go to the post
office; all the mail carriers and everybody behind the counters
were white. The only black I see, was a janitor or a maid.
I go to the bank to do my banking, all white, except the janitor
and the maid. I go to town to tend to my business, to pay
my utilities, all white. I go to the courthouse to pay my
taxes, to do my other business at the courthouse, all white.
I go to work, all the supervisors, all the management, everybody
in personnel, everybody up, was white. School, when I was
going to school, you could pass a school, and you could tell
the white school from the black school, just look out on the
what did you see?
If they were all black, you'd know that was a black school.
And sometimes the windows be half torn out of them; they got
maybe one or two little pieces of equipment on the ground.
You pass by the white school, you'd see a big, pretty building.
You see all kinds of equipment out on the playground, and
you see the playgrounds is well kept and well groomed. And
you knew, that was a white school. Now, to show the difference.
You go to town, now, and you
see the police cars and you see white and black. Pass the
fire departments, you see white and black. You go in the city
hall and do your business, you see white and black. You go
to the post office to do your business, you see white and
black. You go to the courthouse to do your business--you see
white and black. You go out on the jobs, and you look up and
down the ladder, although, the further you look up, the fewer
the blacks get. See. But once, you didn't see a few; you didn't
see any. Still, improvements need to be made. But the further
you look down, the darker it gets. So, these are the changes.
But it's not near what it ought to be. But some changes have
been made for the better. And once upon a time, you'd get
your ballot, all of the candidates was white.
If you could get a ballot.
Yeah. If you got a ballot. That's right. But, now, it's been
made possible that you can get the ballot, and all the candidates
are not white. So, you know, to say progress has not been
made would be a misstatement.
I think there are more physicians who are African-Americans,
now. More attorneys. They don't ask schoolteachers to sign
something that says, "I don't join the NAACP." You know, and
they used to do that years ago.
That's right. So, but, far, far from what it used to be.
we're talking about really a relatively short time, from the
sixties to the end of the nineties, I guess. That's why I
say we had a revolution. I think we really did.
Yeah. It was. Because back then, if you could bring our foreparents
back now, that was back then, and let them see what's going
on, now, they would be overwhelmed.
It would be a shock.
Yeah. They would. They would be overwhelmed. All but a few,
now. I think people like Martin Luther King and Thurgood Marshall
and Roy Wilkins, and you go on down the line. The three civil
Goodman, and Schwerner.
Yeah. Even Fannie Lou [Hamer]. I think they'd be disappointed.
Yeah. In spite of the progress. I think they'd be disappointed
in a lot of things that's going on because some of the things
that went on, goes on, shouldn't go on. But I imagine it goes
with everything else. You know. But, like, Martin Luther King,
he told them, said, "Don't bother about giving me no rewards.
Don't even bother with that." But the minute he died, you
couldn't hear nothing but all over the place, they would name
a street. Everybody went street-naming crazy. They named a
street after Martin Luther King, and every once in awhile,
they have a day when they want to hold hands and march all
over the place. I'm not opposed to that, but when it comes
down to things that we really ought to be doing. Like we really
ought to be going out here on election day, voting. They don't
vote. That's what I'm talking about.
seen a downward shift in participation at the polls.
See, that's what Fannie Lou Hamer and Martin Luther King and
Roy Wilkins and all them would be disappointed over. You see.
you think of anything that we could do that would make young
people want to be more involved in the electoral process?
I don't know. Well, what I think is--I don't think it will
happen, but I think what you've got to do, you've got to go
where the kids are. You've got to go to the school. Now, I
really don't think that they are pushing the kids hard enough
to be involved into politics in schools like they should.
They've got some kind of old, crazy way to answer to say that
they can't do it, but I think they should. That's one of the
things. Because that's the way the kids are.
The next thing I think that
all of the churches, the preachers or the deacons or somebody
ought to teach it in church. Not that you're endorsing a party,
but they ought to show them that they ought to be involved.
process. How to do it.
That's right. But these preachers will find some way to say
he can't do it, or they can't do it, but he can talk about
everything else. See, that's where the kids are.
School and church.
Yeah. So, I think if they did a better job in that, then you
would have better involvement or more involvement than what
they have. And it would help the adults, also, because if
they start talking these things and teaching these things,
in churches and in schools, it's got to get back home to the
And some of the parents would probably be doing the teaching.
They say that you really learn something when you teach it.
You know. That's when you really learn it.
Yeah. So, you know, these are the things that I think that
our shortfalls and our longfalls and so forth, and so.
African-Americans have representation among elected officials
in the coastal counties?
Oh, yeah. We've got, I would boast to say--. OK. In the state
of Mississippi, I think we've got more black elected officials
in the state than any state in the union. That don't say that
we are where we ought to be. But we could say, we're leading
that's really something considering what it was like here
thirty years ago or forty years ago.
It was zero. That's right. Well, here in Jackson County, we've
got one black on the board of supervisors, out of five. Here
in Moss Point, we've got a black mayor, and we've got four
black board of aldermen out of seven.
a majority, isn't it? Or, at least--?
Yeah. In Pascagoula, you've got one black councilman out of
five or seven. There ain't but one black.
all the African-Americans were voting solidly, would that
picture change? Is that because people are not going to the
I would say if more black Americans would go to the polls,
you might be able to get one more black councilman in Pascagoula.
But population-wise, the population is so heavy, you've got
far too many white voters over black voters, I think, to land
a mayor. You know, unless, in the white community you have
a big change of thought, which I don't--.
Unless people could be color-blind and just vote with the
issues and candidate.
Right. So, but I think you're probably minus one black councilman,
that you would have if you had a good black turnout. If you
had a good, black turnout all over the state of Mississippi,
you could get rid of Trent Lott. (Laughter.) If you could
get that. Not that--. I'm on the Democratic Executive Committee.
I'm on the Jackson County Democratic Executive Committee.
There are some Republicans that I could vote for. There are
some Republicans I couldn't vote for no kind of way. There
are some Democrats I can't vote for. So, I mean, because of
my estimation of the moral situation. See. Like Gene Taylor,
he's a Democrat. I can't vote for Gene Taylor. See.
you want to comment on that? Why? Or, you certainly don't
Well, Gene Taylor is nothing but Gene Taylor is a Republican
wearing a Democratic uniform.
a Republican in Democrat's clothing.
That's right like a wolf in sheep's clothing. So, that's what
Gene is. He's that sacrificial goat; Judas goat. You know.
That goat that's trained to make pretend that he's leading
other goats to safety.
and he's taking them to slaughter.
Taking them to slaughter. So, that's Gene. So, I just couldn't
vote for Gene Taylor. You know. If he wanted to be a Republican,
be one. I've got no problem with that. Probably if he were
a Republican, I might could vote for him. (Laughter.)
least, he would be honest, huh?
Yeah. So, you know. Trent Lott, I just can't vote for Trent
Lott because Trent Lott, when he talks, he talks a good game,
but when you look at his voting record, it's a shame. It's
a shame. Every time they vote to do some improvement on social
security, Trent votes against it. Every time they vote to
make an improvement in Medicare, Trent votes against it. Every
time they voted to raise the minimum wage, Trent votes against
it. Every time they try to improve anything for old people,
poor people, working people and black people, Trent votes
against it. Every time. But yet, when he runs, all these segments
that he votes against are voting for him.
talks a good talk.
He talks a good game, and he gets away with it.
Because don't nobody check behind him. See?
And I wonder if people know how. You know, maybe people just
don't know how to do that.
Maybe they don't. Yeah, see.
I think they would care.
So, here, that's what I'm saying. That's why I think that
they ought to talk about it in church. They ought to talk
about it in church. They ought to talk about it in schools.
And that way, you won't have that.
Millet: I think
that's what they did in mass meetings in the churches. You
know. They talked about strategy and how you find things out.
Who's doing what, and what we can accomplish if we unify and
unite. But I guess the mass meetings are scarce, now. I think
in Holmes County, they're still holding Mississippi Freedom
Democratic Party Meetings. I'm not sure how often, but they
are organized to the point that if an issue came up, the community
would be mobilized. You know. They would just be able to bring
it up in a meeting, and they'd be ready to go.
And you know, I can understand that there are some blacks
that's warm toward the Republican party, and I have to say,
in this day and time, I don't understand it.
Yeah. I would say right now, all blacks ought to be Democrats.
I'll say that. I'll say it for this reason: when you look
(End of tape two, side one.
The interview continues on tape two, side two.)
prior to the Emancipation Proclamation--
Yeah. That I could see why blacks was so warm to the Republican
Party because the Republican Party was the liberal party.
See, it was the liberal party, but they didn't do nothing
for blacks. But they were the liberal party, and Abraham Lincoln
did sign the Emancipation Proclamation, but he didn't sign
it with the intent of black people being free.
did he sign it with the intent of?
The intent was to keep the Union together because the South
and the North was fighting, and he didn't want the Union split.
So, if the South would have won, you wouldn't have had no
United States. You see. So, Abraham Lincoln did it to save
the Union, not to free.
the fighting and save the Union.
Yeah. OK. But there are blacks interpret that to say, "Well,
he did it to free blacks." If he did that to free blacks,
what are we talking about?
Millet: I don't
know. What are we talking about?
We're talking about civil rights. About freeing blacks. So,
him signing the Emancipation Proclamation didn't free blacks
because had it would have, we wouldn't have this problem.
OK. Now, so, let's say that: because, they were the same,
then. The Democrats was racial and so was the Republicans.
OK. Now, that brings us up to the change of the thing was
to, when Roosevelt took office. When Roosevelt took office,
then everybody was down to their eyeballs. They didn't have
nothing. They didn't have a dime or penny or nickel or nothing.
were all in the same boat.
Now, what has happened. All through those years by any party
to help any group of people, or all poor people: the Democratic
Party is the party that started the WPA, the CC camps, and
so-called them "poverty programs."
a hundred years from now, people are going to wonder: what
is the WPA and the CC programs. Basically the federal government
created jobs for poor people and paid them to do those jobs.
example, there were artists who were unemployed who painted
murals, and the government paid them. And there were other
people who weren't artists who maybe went and cleared paths
through the woods for something because that was needed for
government paid those people. So, the government got jobs
done that needed to be done and paid people in the WPA. I'm
not familiar with the CC--.
CC camp was similar. The CC camp was something like, more
or less, something like a military situation, where you wasn't
in service, but what you did, too, you cut trees, and you
cleared the land and cleared the forests.
mother had a brother who did that when he was seventeen.
Yeah. They called that CC camps. And so, that helped millions
and millions and millions of people. Then, they come up with
the minimum wage. There was no minimum wage at all. The Democrats
come up with the minimum wage.
that helped people.
That's right. Then, the Democrats come up with the forty-hour
Well, I'm glad for that. I didn't know who invented that.
That's right. Democrats. And time and a half for all hours
paid over forty. The Democrats come up with that.
you could make a living, with minimum wage.
That's right. That's correct. The Democrats come up with the
federal reserve banks, that we were talking about. Poor people
lost their money to rich folks. They worked, put their money
in the bank, and they go to the bank, and they ain't got none.
The rich folks done took the money from the poor folks. Roosevelt
shut all the banks down, and when they came back up, they
was federally insured that you wouldn't lose your money. The
Democrats did that. That helped poor people. But I have to
say, the Democrats come up with the Welfare. You know, the
soup lines, and all that, because there was a need
for it, then. But, as you come up, you can see that it was
the Democratic Party that answered the call for poor people,
in particular, black people and old people, but poor people
in general. We were talking about the Head Start. The Democrats
come up with Head Start.
ease human suffering rather than to make money.
Right. And Head Start don't help only black folks. Head Start
helps all poor people, white people or black people. See.
And so, when you look at it, the Democratic Party have done
more for old people, poor people, and black people, and poor
white people than any party. They come up with Social Security.
That was the Democrats come up with Social Security. That
started under the Democratic Party, but the only thing the
Republicans can do, now, is find some other way to use it
besides what it's put there for. That's the problem. See.
You know. If Social Security that people were paid from the
time the Democrats started, was paid for what it was put there
for, it wouldn't be under no threat, but every time the Republicans
get a chance, they want to use it for something else, and
then they say, "Social Security is going broke."
"Yeah. It's going broke because
you're using it for what it wasn't intended for."
At your convenience.
That's correct. So, I can't understand black people being
Republicans. Now, I know some will see this, and they will
challenge me. They'll say, "You're crazy. I've got a right
to be what I want to be." That's true.
But now, I'll say this: name me one black Republican, one
black Republican, even a black Republican could read this
and challenge me on it, name me one and that one himself,
I challenge him to do what the black Democrats did. Now, if
you're a black Republican and you say you've got a right to
be one, I'm a black Democrat. I've got a right to be one.
I challenge the Democratic Party to help
make it what we think it ought to be. I don't see no challenge
from no black Republican trying to make the Republican Party
nothing to bring concessions to poor people and old people.
I don't see any.
So, now, to you black Republican
that reads this or wants to challenge my statement, I challenge
on the record!
Yeah. To do what we did. If you do that, then I applaud you,
and I salute you. And say, "Yeah, you've got a right to be
a Republican." But just to be a Republican just to sit over
in the corner and do what the Republicans are doing to poor
people and old people and black people, no, I don't see no
reason why you ought to be one.
Millet: I don't
see any reason why anybody ought to be one! (Laughter.) This
is a great interview. It really is. I thank you so much.
I appreciate it.
I just--. My last question always is: is there anything I
failed to ask you about that you would like to address for
No. I think we--. We covered more than I thought we would.
it's been a pleasure and a privilege, and this will educate
people for years to come. As long as the archives are intact,
and the Internet is still working, it'll be on there. Thank
Thank you, too.
(End of the interview.)