Lemuel Young Sr.
Donald Paul Williams
was transcribed as part of the Civil Rights Documentation
for this project was provided in part by the Mississippi
the National Endowment for the Humanities, and
Department of Archives and History.
Charles Lemuel Young was born on August 27, 1931, in Meridian,
Mississippi, Lauderdale County. His parents were E.F. Young,
Jr., and Velma E. Beal Young. He was the second of three children
born to this union.
Charles attended school in
the public school system of Meridian. He was graduated from
high school in 1947 and attended his freshman year of higher
education at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas. He then transferred
to Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee, where
he earned a B.S. degree in Business Administration.
After finishing school, he
was drafted and served in the U.S. Army where he received
the Bronze Star and other medals of honor for his service
in the Korean Conflict. After being honorably discharged from
the Army, he returned home to assist in the family business
where he worked and became extensively involved in the civil
He was the first African-American
to join the Chamber of Commerce and to break many other barriers
in the community. He was appointed to serve on the first Board
of Corrections in the state of Mississippi and was elected
to the House of Representatives in 1980. He currently chairs
the Universities and Colleges Committee. He is a member of
Newell Chapel Church. He has received many community, state,
and national awards. He has been recognized as one of Mississippi's
outstanding businessmen. He is very active with the youth
in the community and sponsors a tennis camp for over 100 children
Family's business 1
Bronze Star in Korean Conflict
Harris High School in Meridian
Wiley College in Marshall, Texas
Tennessee A and I University
Election and seating in Mississippi
House of Representatives 4
Universities and Colleges Committee
Governor's State University
in Illinois 5
Committee membership 5
Church affiliation 5
Newell Chapel and MAP Head Start
Integration versus absorption
Registration to vote and poll
Holbrook Benevolent Association
The Weekly Echo 8
Public buses 8
NAACP in Meridian 10
Mississippi Democratic Conference
Freedom Riders 11
Freedom Schools 13
Contributions of churches 14
NAACP Youth League 16
Medgar Evers 17
Hubert Humphrey 19
Freedom Democratic Party 19
Committee of Concern 20
This is an interview for
the Civil Rights Documentation Project. The interview is with
Mississippi State Representative Charles L. Young and is taking
place on November 14, 1998, in Jackson. The interviewer is
you ready for me to ask you some questions?
yes. Whatever you need to ask me, ask me.
right. Mr. Young, my understanding is that you're the president
of a company?
does your company do?
YOUNG: We manufacture
hair care products. We are the oldest manufacturers of ethnic
hair care products in the world.
So, the Johnson people in Chicago, did you know them?
we did. But we are a much older company than Johnson was.
We are the oldest black hair care manufacturer in the world,
right now, since Madam Walker is not marketing their product
anymore. Our company was started in 1931, by my father, E.F.
Young, Jr., and we have been in existence ever since. And
that is family-owned business.
you market the stuff all over the world?
I can't say we market all over the world, no. We have a small
niche in the world. We are not the largest black hair care
manufacturers. We try to make sure that we stay afloat and
pay our bills and live, but we don't have the largest volume.
And that is because we haven't ever marketed for the largest
volume. In those areas where we market, we command a pretty
good share of the market.
Let me ask you some other questions. You know, I had faxed
you the pre-interview questionnaire.
I didn't bring it with me. So you can go down it and I'll
try to answer.
(A segment discussing scheduling
of the interview is not included in this typed transcript.)
where were you born?
YOUNG: I was
born in Meridian. Lauderdale County, Mississippi.
when were you born?
you were too young to be in the army during the Second World
I didn't make the Second World War. I was drafted for the
You did go to Korea.
And while I was in the Korean Conflict, I was awarded a Bronze
was your rank in the army?
YOUNG: I was
sergeant, first class, when I got out.
you spent from what year to what year in the military?
YOUNG: I went
in the military from 1952 to 1954.
you made sergeant, first class in two years?
YOUNG: I made
it in less than two years.
that's pretty good.
When I got out of basic training, they tried to talk me into
going to OCS school, but my father had passed, and my mother
was operating the business and so I had a need to get back,
so therefore I took the two-year hitch and I went in. After
I got out of basic, I went to supply school. And, in going
to supply school, after graduating in the top part of my class,
they shipped me straight to Korea.
Where did you take basic training?
Jackson, South Carolina.
then you went to supply school at--
Jackson. And then I went to Korea, and I went to Second Division
Artillery Unit which was an on-line unit. They stayed on the
line at all times and I went there. The supply sergeant was
a very nice gentleman and he was ready to try to come back
to the states. So, by me having a background in accounting
which was my under-major, I took up business administration
in college, and with an emphasis on accounting.
school did you attend?
A and I University. They had a great Mississippian there who
was the president when I was there, Dr. Davis. Dr. Walter
Now what high school did you attend?
Harris High School in Meridian.
Harris. And that certainly was an all-black school.
did you graduate from T.J.?
YOUNG: In 1947.
And then I went to Wiley College [?] my freshman year.
that's over in Texas, isn't it?
in Marshall, Texas.
how far did you go? Did you obtain a degree?
I did. I got my B.S. degree from Tennessee State.
State. In accounting?
YOUNG: In business
administration. They didn't have a degree for accounting.
You could take it with an emphasis in accounting.
Now, let me try to get back into just a little bit more about
what we are trying to do. We are trying to get information,
oral history on what had transpired in the civil rights movement
across the state. And we want to take the data and put it
in the Oral History Department at USM and also at Tougaloo
College in the Archives so that we can have those documents
available for scholarly research and for students, or for
historical purposes and things like that.
How long have you been a state
YOUNG: My election
took place in 1979. I was seated in January, 1980.
district is that?
in the eighty-second district.
biggest portion of Meridian.
Does it overlap into other counties as well?
Just a little bit of it goes outside of the city of Meridian,
but not very much. Most of mine is inside the city of Meridian.
ever since 1982, you have been--
since 1980. I was elected in 1979. I had one opponent in 1979
and I haven't had any--
haven't seen any since?
(laughter) And, what committees are you on and chair?
now I chair one of the major committees, which is Universities
and Colleges. We are responsible for seeing to it that all
of our universities and colleges are properly addressed in
the state. We work very closely with our Appropriations Committee
on making sure that the funding is there. We handle all of
the bonding with the Ways and Means Committee, as far as our
universities and colleges are concerned.
know Tom Lazell?
I know him very well.
went to Governor's State University in Illinois and he was
the Director of Administration when I was there.
YOUNG: Is that
And I had the opportunity to talk with him at least once.
I am going to get back in touch with him, but I was one of
the student activists at Governor's State when he was at Illinois.
Well, I serve as chairman of that committee. And then, I am
on the Ways and Means Committee, on the Banks and Banking
the Ways and Means, who is the chairman?
YOUNG: On the
Transportation Committee, on the Fees and Salaries Committee.
How many is that?
the '50s and '70s, what churches did you attend?
a Methodist. I am what you call a C.M.E. In the olden days,
it was known as the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church. Later
on, after we started the desegregation movement, it changed
its name from the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church to the
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.
when did that change come about? What year?
YOUNG: I don't
remember the exact year. I would have to look in the archives
of the church history to get that date. But it was either
in the latter '50s or the early '60s.
Now what particular church did you attend, that you were a
Chapel C.M.E. Church.
Now that was an all-black church?
YOUNG: Oh yes.
Oh yes. There was no such thing as a mixed church. In fact,
you find very few churches mixed today.
Was Newell involved at all in the civil rights movement?
YOUNG: Oh yes.
Firebombs were thrown on Newell Chapel on several different
occasions. To show you the involvement, Newell Chapel was
the first place that MAP held a Head Start meeting.
That's Mississippi Action for Progress, right?
That's where we just left from.
And you are the vice-chairman of the MAP Board?
YOUNG: I am
the vice-chairman of the MAP Board, yes. The chairman has
been ill for the past four or five years and has not been
able to come to the meeting, and we decided that we would
not remove him as chair because of the work that he had done
in the past.
Who was the pastor of Newell Chapel?
the '50s, and '60s, and '70s.
we had several different pastors. We are a Methodist Church,
so we would go and come. Let me think of some of them. Reverend
Charles Jones was pastor. Reverend V.T. Thompson was pastor.
Roland, what was Roland's last name?
can come back to it. What were some of the other things that
they did as it related to the civil rights movement?
church was very active in holding the meetings there and it
was very active in guidance of the voter registration project.
It was very active in the desegregation of a lot of activities.
Well, and let me explain one thing, now. I don't like to refer
to the term of integration because I have not seen integration
take place. I have seen absorption take place, but I haven't
seen integration take place. By my definition, when I look
at integration, I look at something where two or more parties
come together and comingle and join together in activities
for the good and common cause of all involved. I haven't seen
that take place.
I have seen that we have been
absorbed into another economical society and have left ours
by the wayside. What I am referring to: when I was a young
boy and would come to Jackson, I would go to Farish Street
to get the best meals in town. When I come to Jackson now,
I go to Dennery's or the Walthall Hotel or the University
Club or Steak and Ale or somewhere like that. And, none of
these are basically owned or operated by people of color.
Back in the olden days, we were forced to go to places like
Shepherd's [?] and other restaurants. Edward Lee and them's
place of business there at the hotel. If you wanted to get
some good food. So, when we look back over the rim of what
we have done, we have melted into a society, but we haven't
kept any identity in the economic field.
Well, let me ask you this. When did you first register to
YOUNG: I first
registered to vote back in the '50s. And, at that time, we
had to pay poll tax which was a $2 taxation for every year,
and you had to have two poll tax receipts before you could
vote. Fortunately, my father and grandfather were pioneers
in the arena of rights of people over in our area. And, I
was a registered voter.
your father, can you tell us some of the things that he did
in terms of advocating black independence? Certainly, he had
a successful business. That says a great deal. So that automatically
makes him a leader in the community.
you go back into the history, my family saw the disadvantages
that we had to overcome and they started an organization that
was known as the Holbrook Benevolent Association. In short,
they called it the HBA. And the HBA was a benevolent organization
that pulled all black folks together for the common cause.
At that time, in the early days, and I doubt that you are
old enough to remember, [there were] two key things that we
never had an opportunity [to get]: we never could get decent
burials in those days. We never could get, hardly, any type
of medical care.
If you went to the hospital,
you were put in the basement where all of the crud and everything
else was. Black doctors, the few that we did have, were not
able to service the clientele. So, my parents, my grandfather,
my uncle, my father, they pioneered this HBA organization,
and it was very, very strong until, basically, we started
to melt into the other society. And, they were very, very
active in making sure that people in the HBA were encouraged
to go out and advocate voter registration and join together
on doing business ventures.
Just about what period of time was this?
YOUNG: I would
say the HBA started back in the latter '20s or early 30s.
And they had a newspaper out called The Weekly Echo.
you know where I could get some documentation on that organization?
is one lady that is still living, and I don't know what kind
of condition she is in, but her name is Ms. Mattie Larkin.
does she live?
lives in Meridian. And there is another man that lives in
Meridian that maybe could give you some information on it
and his name is John L. Smith.
Let me ask you this. And I just want to go fast forward and
get to, certainly, the Korean War. Well, let's start off with
the Korean War. Now you were a young man, and you got drafted
in the military. Now what was happening in Meridian at the
time just before you got drafted?
very much. As I say, my grandfather and them had worked on
things like the bus situation, you know, to make sure that
even though we were confronted with having the signs in the
buses at that time, their first steps were to get the signs
to be a rotating sign. If you understand what I'm talking
it to me.
I mean by a rotating sign was that blacks had to go to the
back of the bus, but if the back of the bus was filling up
faster than the white [part] of the bus, then the sign would
be moved up. You follow me?
I see. OK. Right..
YOUNG: So then,
this meant that we didn't have to have people standing up
with vacant seats up there, just because the sign said, "Whites."
Their attitude was, let's let the signs be adaptable to whatever
the need is. They couldn't remove the sign, but it did mean
that we could slide the sign up, and we could rotate the sign.
how did you guys resolve that? Did you take any direct action
no they did it through negotiation. My father and my grandfather
and my uncle and them were very strong in the business side
of the community, and they were able to go and sit down and
talk with the leadership in the city to get certain things
like that done. They never would have been able to have gotten
the sign removed, you know. But they did get it whereas that
it would slide up, you know. There was many other things like
that that took place, you know, in the community. Meridian
was not one of those towns where it was so hard-pressed until
you couldn't have some dignity about yourself in that day
and time. Don't get me wrong, you were always considered as
a colored man out there, but there was a
degree of respect that you could attain.
Now, around the beginning of the '50s, what was the population
was the second largest city in the state at that time. And
it was right at 50,000.
what percentage were African-Americans?
YOUNG: I would
say that it was in the neighborhood of about 37 percent. Which
it has maintained about that same percentage, now.
that so? Now, what form of government did they have back then?
had a mixed. From year to year, it changed from a strong mayor
form of government to a city council form of government and
it had both. It wavered from time to time.
When was the first time you had black city councilmen?
that was many years later. It was in the latter '70s or early
'80s before that took place.
What organizations do you think were important during the
'50s, '60's, and '70s in Meridian?
YOUNG: I think
the NAACP was very important. I think the church was very
(There is a brief interruption
in the tape.)
an important organization?
came on later on. In the earlier years, the organization that
was the effective organization was the NAACP which was headed,
in Meridian at that time, by a guy named C.R. Darden.
he still alive?
Oh, no. He's dead.
do you spell his last name?
He was quite instrumental in a lot of the activities, in voter
registration, and etc. Darden worked for a jewelry company,
you know, that would sell class rings. And that was a highfalutin
job in that day and time for a black man to have. And he was
it was a white-owned company?
YOUNG: Oh yes.
It was Joslin, I think the name of the company was.
was the NAACP director?
YOUNG: Of the
Meridian area, yes. In fact, for a while, he was state president.
was he able to function in that particular role, given the
kind of resistance that occurred in--
YOUNG: I think
it was because his job was not local. He traveled from town
to town, you know, calling on the schools, for their class
rings and class pictures. So, I think that was the reason
why he could do that.
he would primarily sell rings to black schools.
yes. That's all. Please believe me, it was nothing that was
crossing that line.
I just want to go over some of the trials and tribulations
in the area. I understand that the Klan was very strong in
YOUNG: It was.
you tell me the most dramatic thing or the first thing that
comes in your mind in terms of what black folks were trying
to do and the reaction of white folks?
again, you had to combat two things. When Darden and some
of them were advocating, you know, integration, and breaking
down some of the barriers, you know, some of the school teachers
and etc. were not allowed to belong to the NAACP. If they
joined the NAACP, then they lost their job. You know. So,
it was those type of things I think that started the wheels
to actually rolling there. So, it moved from that era on into
the era of the '60s and that is when Aaron Henry, Charles
Evers, myself, and a few more started making moves in the
political arena. We viewed that if we were going to solve
some of the problems that we were confronted with that we
were going to have to harness some of the political power,
and that is where it really started. The first meeting on
putting the Mississippi Democratic Conference together was
in Meridian. Because we knew we couldn't crack the party.
And a fellow that was in the labor movement helped us at that
time. A white guy by the name of Claude Ramsey.
Ramsey. I remember his name.
So that's where it really got started, and then we started
making moves toward the Young Democrats and then we got into
the era of when the Freedom Riders were coming down. Well,
Meridian was the first town that the Freedom Riders hit, you
know, when they came. I don't know whether you are familiar
with the Freedom Riders or not?
me, what happened in Meridian in terms of the Freedom Riders?
there was a group of us that met the Freedom Riders at the
year was this?
YOUNG: I apologize.
I don't keep up with those dates.
first year of the Freedom Riders.
first busload of the Freedom Riders, this is where they came
to, was Meridian, and that was the stop. And Albert Jones,
myself, and a guy named James Bishop met the Freedom Riders
and we were able to convince the chief of police whom we had
dealt with on many occasions--
what was his name?
Gunn. As you can tell, I can remember names better than I
that's what I need to know because I can track down dates.
Roy Gunn was the chief of police. Roy Gunn was a segregationist.
He didn't believe in the integration of the races or anything
like that, but he was not a Klansman. He was not of that persuasion
that he had to beat you up and kick you around. He'd rather
sit at the table and fuss with you and curse you out and all
like this, and then see how could you work together to get
something done that both of you could live with. So Roy made
sure that nobody really got hurt. We still had people there
with confrontation and it was strictly because of the seating
on the bus. You know. So, that was one of the incidents that
took place. I am sure you know about several others that took
place in Meridian with COFO. We were starting to integrate
the lunch counters and things of that nature, and then we
had SCLC to come in for a little while, but everything kind
of centered around two organizations: and that was the NAACP
do you remember some of the folks in COFO that you worked
What was Joe's last name? I don't remember what Joe's last
name was. You had a guy out of Louisiana. Oh what was his
name? I'll think of his name in a minute. You had Ponder,
Preston Ponder. I think Preston came out from around Hattiesburg.
I don't know whether Preston is still living or not. Dave
Dennis and them never did come to that area very much, but
that is where it started. And you had another gentleman there
that was very instrumental in a lot of activities in Meridian
by the name of Reverend Charles Johnson. Reverend Johnson
is the pastor of the Nazarene Church in Meridian.
he still there?
YOUNG: He is
still living and still pastor of that church.
I need to talk to him. I will definitely call him.
Reverend Charles Johnson.
Meridian, you know, I had talked with--. I'm trying to think
of the name of that dentist over there.
Now did he--
(The interview continues on
tape one, side two.)
in his house several times. And, can you tell me, what kind
of repression was going on in Meridian?
I've had my house shot into over there. I still let the bullet
holes stay up in mine, in my last house. Where, in my other
house, my first house--
you tell me about what year that was?
was about twenty-five years ago.
what was happening at that time, that they came to attack
I was fortunate during the movement because I was one of those
persons that some of the Klan targeted, but some of the people
that was associated with the Klan, as I say, would always
somehow, when they were going to be shooting in some of our
homes, we would always get the word, somehow. I had a man
that was a newspaper reporter, and his name was Terry Keaton
[?]. He is in Memphis now. A white reporter that was very
sympathetic to our movement and he would always--. I shouldn't
put it in writing because Terry might be still living.
But we had people that would
let us know whose homes were going to basically be targeted.
And we would get prepared for it. Now, we were not of the
nature at that time, you know, the nonviolent movement. All
of my neighbors, when we passed the word that I would be a
target for that night, would be sitting up in their windows
with their shotguns, and etc. But then when we went out and
was marching and things of this nature, we stayed strictly
with the nonviolent movement. It was incidents where churches,
Lauderdale County, had more churches burned during the movement
than any other county in the country. So there was a lot of
underlying hostility that existed in that community.
Let me ask you, what kind of activities. Now you mentioned
you had voter registration going on and that some of the churches
were doing, I suppose, voter education. Did you guys have
the Freedom Schools?
And how did that operate and who was involved with that?
YOUNG: We had
many people that was involved in the Freedom School. The Freedom
School was operated by some of the leaders of COFO. Joe Moss,
I think the guy's name was, was there. We had a lot of local
people that was involved in the Freedom School. Polly Heidelberg
was involved in the Freedom School. She's dead now. You had
quite a few of our community. We had a very productive [Freedom
School]. It was a young white girl there by the name of Gail
that was very instrumental in the Freedom School. And a lot
of the people that [traversed] from other areas to come into
our local area. That is the place where they offered the most
assistance, in the Freedom School.
Now you had people from formal organizations coming in, like
COFO, but what local support, other than students?
the churches contributed to it, heavily. We had churches that
would raise funds for it. We had churches that would prepare
certain things for it. We had churches that put on book-gathering
programs for the children to read, and etc. So that was not
a one-sided thing. The activity was comprised of local people
and people that came into the community. It wasn't just the
people that was coming in. The thrust of it came from local
people. Ms. Annabel Gathwright was one. C.R. Darden was another
one. You know, it was just many people that supported it.
Now, let me ask you something. Now, in Jackson, you had Lanier,
and the students from Brinkley. I mean it was just like young
Turks just exploding and suddenly we had some leadership from
teachers and from the cadre of the civil rights organizations.
How did the young folks in Meridian, the high school students,
participate in the civil rights activities?
whenever we would have, especially mass meetings, as we would
call them during those days, and things like that, we would
get a lot of student participation. But on a day-to-day basis,
unless it was something that was taking place after school
hours, you didn't have nearly as much activity. Students were
very strong in assisting us with picketing in the afternoon,
and etc. But we strongly advocated that that child would stay
in school and keep their education going as much as they possibly
could do. We did not advocate them staying out of school.
If they joined the NAACP, the principal in most cases would
send them home, in the schools.
other words, the principal, if they found out that they had
membership in the organization, they would expel them from
Were the principals black?
it was an all-black school? So, was this, in a sense, trying
to control the kids?
any of the teachers active, or--
few. If they became active, or too active, they would lose
you remember any teachers that were active, that might have
gotten fired because of their activity?
have to think back a bit on that, to get the names.
you said that students would participate in picketing, what
kind of direct activities were you doing? When you say picketing,
what were you picketing?
YOUNG: We were
picketing, basically, places for employment. And frontline
Was this central downtown? Or was it just all over?
YOUNG: It depended
on which store. Reverend Charles Johnson was primarily the
leader in the picketing program, and it would just depend
(Doorbell rings. There is a
brief interruption in the tape.)
mentioned that the young folks were picketing. So, who would
organize the young folks and how would you assemble them.
How would notify them?
Ponder was a very good organizer and there was a boy from
New Orleans, [Matt Suarez,] who was a very good organizer
and Joe Moss was a very good organizer. We had some pretty
good organizers in our community. Yes. And C.R. Darden had
been working with children for a long time in the youth branch
of the NAACP, you know. So that made a lot of things a whole
you give me one specific direct-action picketing that you
did. You mentioned something about--
yes. We had picketed the grocery stores at that time. There
was a chain of grocery stores in Meridian called the Help
Yourself Stores. We picketed the Woolworth's Store. We picketed
the Cinderella Store, you know. It was just all over. As I
say, Charles Johnson did a lot of that.
what kind of reaction did you get from the authorities as
there were some arrests made, yes. Roy Gunn did not appreciate
it. You know, he didn't like it, but Roy was one of those
policemen that, if the law said that you had a right to do
it, as long as you stayed within this certain boundary, he
was going to make sure you stayed within those boundaries,
and he wasn't going to like what you was doing, but he was
going to kind of stick with the law. He was going to try to
talk you out of it.
said that the Freedom Riders would come through Meridian.
I guess you had a Greyhound Bus terminal there?
YOUNG: We had
a Trailways Bus terminal. That's where they went to.
you explain what happened, you know, the first time that that
know, the Freedom Riders was only a one-trip venture. And,
they came in and they sat at the lunch counter, integrated
there, and we were able to convince Roy Gunn, the chief of
police that the cheapest thing to do was to let them eat and
then, rather than locking them all up for violating the law
of Mississippi, that it might be best if we would let them
eat. Just let them have their freedom. Albert Jones was the
leader in that group at that time, and he was very influential
on getting things done of that nature.
organization was he in?
Albert was a strong NAACP man. He was chairman of the Legal
Now, there were a number of things, like the three, Chaney--
and Schwerner. That came on, later on.
Now I understand that he had the NAACP Youth Organization
or Youth League? Is that what they called it?
I understand that they were active in Meridian.
young people, yes.
Can you tell me a little bit about that? How that was organized?
was organized primarily by C.R. Darden. That's what I was
saying a few minutes ago. He had his youth department of the
NAACP and he had his children involved in it, and etc., you
know. And it was very strong and very effective. It helped
to get a lot of people registered to vote. It helped to pave
the way for a lot of teachers to be able to start keeping
their jobs because the children would go out and they would
flash their NAACP cards, you know, at school, and things of
this nature. So it was quite active and very strong.
you ever meet Medgar?
yes. I worked with Medgar.
Tell me, what is your impression about Medgar?
Medgar was a very, very dedicated person. You know, he came
from the Delta, from around the Mound Bayou area, up there.
Their original home was over not too far from Meridian, in
Decatur. So, we worked very, very close together on voter
registration. Medgar had come over and given speeches in our
community; come over and worked with people trying to get
their rights and protect their rights in the school system.
He was very effective and very easy to work with.
you know Charles Evers back during the '50s.
I really got to know Charles more when he came back from Chicago.
My father and uncle and Medgar were pretty close together.
And Aaron would come in every now and then. Charles came in
with a more aggressive attitude than Medgar had there, so
it kind of fitted the style of younger people with that aggressiveness
and Charles was a little bit more abrasive than Medgar. Charles
would speak up. Charles had always been an independent thinker,
whether you agreed with him or not. He had been basically
an independent thinker. So, Charles and I worked together
for many years, when I was the person that would put a lot
of the strategy together for the political activities. And
Charles and Aaron would be basically the executors, you know.
you talking about running people for office?
then, just talking about the Democratic party and the strategy
that we were going to use and how we were going to get certain
things accomplished in the party, you know. We had to circumvent
the party because we couldn't get the Democratic party because
the whites already had that locked up and when we was getting
ready to go to New Jersey to try to win some seats on the
Democratic party. It was very difficult to do. But then we
had to come back and we used the strategy of operating through
the Young Dems to start getting an inroad into the Democratic
was that a mixed group?
it was. That group came out of a mixture of a man that used
to be in the newspaper business here by the name of Hodding
Carter. Hodding Carter was one of the leading newspaper[men]
in the Delta.
is a white fellow?
Out of Greenville. Very historical family, as far as black
rights and human rights were concerned. Hodding is a big-time
publisher now. But Hodding Carter, Pat Derian and several
others were very instrumental in working with that group of
the Young Dems. You had Vardis Induall [?] and Wilky. What
is his name? He was a newspaper reporter for the Boston
Globe. What is Wilky's first name? I can't remember his
first name. [Curtis Wilky]
I'll find out. Do you remember when Medgar got assassinated?
you tell me, what was the general emotion or feeling in Meridian?
YOUNG: I think
that it was one of the most earth-shaking things that has
happened as far as black folks are concerned in this state.
I think that they became more angry at the death of Medgar
than at any other point that I have seen black folks being
angry with. We were very disturbed because Medgar was such
a mild individual. He was never abrasive.
He was different from Charles. Charles would rear back up
and blow and huff and puff. Medgar was not of that nature.
So, therefore, it took a different turn in the minds of black
folks, what happened with [Medgar,] there. So it was something
that reached every community, even those
people who might have been afraid to speak out found ways
of funneling their thoughts and their dollars into the NAACP
because of Medgar.
did you hold any office in the NAACP at the time?
YOUNG: On the
local level, I did. I didn't hold any office under Medgar.
I did under Aaron.
Aaron Henry was the statewide?
At first, C.R. Darden was the president, statewide. And he
worked with Medgar. Then Aaron ran against Darden for the
state presidency and he unseated Darden for the state president,
and Medgar was the field secretary.
And, Meridian had its own branch of the NAACP?
Meridian had its own branch. My uncle started the branch of
the NAACP in 1931.
And what was your uncle's name?
Roy L. Young.
Now you mentioned Atlantic City? Can you tell me just a little
bit about Atlantic City?
YOUNG: I didn't
go to Atlantic City. I, unfortunately, had a mishap to happen
in our little business, and I couldn't go to Atlantic City.
Aaron went. Darden went. Fannie Lou went. And several others
of the delegation. Guyot. I think Frank Parker went, too.
was he with SCLC?
Lawrence Guyot. But I know what took place in Atlantic City.
Hubert Humphrey was very instrumental with them at that time
in trying to do what they wanted to do and a big clash came
between Aaron and Hubert Humphrey, and they finally got it
worked out, because Hubert was trying to get us to take a
few seats with the whites and Aaron just didn't feel that
was a comfortable position. He felt like they needed to move
on out of the way and let a truly Democratic party be put
Now Freedom Democratic Party. What impact did it have in the
Freedom Democratic Party had an impact all over the state
of Mississippi. Because it was organized and even though some
of the leaders might have clashed with some of the leaders
of the NAACP, it wasn't to the extent that it was a terminal
type relationship, if you understand what I am talking about.
It was a relationship whereas they were for some of the same
things even though they might not have wanted some of the
same leadership positions to be filled like they were filled.
But the Freedom Democratic Party was very effective and it
played a role, especially with the statewide mock election
that it had. When Aaron ran for governor and Reverend King
YOUNG: Ed King
ran for lieutenant governor.
the Meridian area, I know that Jackson just got your school
superintendent from Meridian and brought him down here. I
want to look at the local politics. When did politics and
the input of black people making inroads into the political
offices of Meridian, when did that occur?
that started when we had the mock election.
was what year?
have to look it up.
I'll find it. I should know all that stuff, since I am the
interviewer. I should know all the dates. (laughter) I am
going to get all that together.
can look up the dates and it will give you the mock election.
Robert Clark is pretty good on dates.
got all the documents. I have read, I don't know, maybe a
thousand pages over the last month or so about dates and statistics
and stuff. I'll get that together. But, can you tell me the
transition and when black people began to get power? And some
of the problems that you had in terms of resistance?
I think some of the problems were, number one: I'd say the
biggest problem was the educational process that we had to
go through to get black folks to understand that this was
for real. That we could elect black folks to office, and I
think that when we started putting it together, it goes back
to how we really got to that point, because it started off
with blacks seeing other blacks in positions that we had never
held before. Like seeing a black policeman in a uniform. Kornegay
was one of the keys in helping train black policemen. His
office was the place where we took the prospective black policemen
and taught them how to take the Civil Service Exam.
And I think once people saw
these type things taking place, then it starting dawning in
their subconscious minds that it could be a reality. And that
would mean that people could win slots. And then when we started
fielding candidates, it gave black people a reason to get
out to vote. And the first thing we had to do was to make
sure that we did have a potential of winning a particular
office and then the next thing about it, we had to put it
on a program that would turn out the vote.
what kind of intimidation or backlash [occurred], because
black folks are getting more involved politically? Was there
any Klan activity?
was always Klan activity going on, but Meridian played a little
different role. Like on public schools. You had a Committee
of Concern, which was a committee of quite a few whites and
blacks in the area that said that inasmuch as the law said
that this is what it's going to do, we might not like it,
but we are going to go about it in basically a peaceful type
of way. You know, we had the renegades to go out and burn
down my church parsonage over there, Newell Chapel. But it
didn't do anything but cause the community to rally together.
When we got through raising money, where we had had an old,
broken down, wooden parsonage over there, that we couldn't
even repair, and didn't have money to build a new one, when
the Klan burned it down, the community rallied, black and
white, to the extent that we were able to build a brand new
brick, three-bedroom, air-conditioned parsonage. The school
situation was the same way.
You had a man here in Jackson,
I don't know whether he is still in Jackson now or not, that
was very instrumental in doing that. A guy by the name of
Duncan Gray. Duncan Gray is a bishop in the Episcopal Church.
I don't know whether you've ever heard of him or not. Duncan
was the director at the Episcopal church right across the
street from the governor's mansion for quite some time. Duncan
was one of the chief persons in assisting James Meredith when
he was going to Ole Miss. Duncan was transferred from Oxford
up there to Meridian and this type of activity followed with
him. He organized a group called the Committee of Concern,
to help with those issues, and therefore, we were able to
get over some of the barriers.
Several members of his church
decided they didn't want him to be their pastor anymore, so
he told him that he would assist them in transferring their
membership to one of the other Episcopal churches if they
wanted to, but he had to take this particular road. You know,
that this was something that he had to do. So that helped
us out a whole lot as far as making sure that even though
they didn't like it, but it was not a big violent threat.
Jackson, and also, in the Delta, if somebody's kid or somebody
belongs to the NAACP, they would publish their names. Was
that very widespread in Meridian?
it wasn't any question about that, but again, you know, that
is something that a lot of people didn't mind doing. But then
on the other hand, a lot of school teachers would reject that
and they would always get their membership cards in an anonymous
Now, is there anything that really galvanized Meridian? Is
there any one particular incident or series of incidents that
occurred in Meridian that stands out in your mind?
I think the Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner situation did a
lot for it. I think black elected officials around Meridian
have, and I guess I'm not trying to toot my own horn when
I say this, but I think it is often something more than emotions.
As you well know, a lot of elected officials thrive off of
just the emotional type things that they can create. I think
that a lot, including Kornegay, Jim Smith, Reverend Brown,
Coleman, Jesse Palmer, Q.V. Sykes, you know, I think that
they have advocated more than emotions. And I think this has
been one of the strongholds that have helped Meridian.
So you have a good, solid leadership base.
(The interview continues on
tape two, side one.)
question] I wanted to ask you was, you know, you are the chairman
of the Universities and Colleges Committee. Is that the correct
think that is a significant accomplishment given that we had
a segregated school system, and couldn't go to Ole Miss, couldn't
go to Mississippi State, and all this, and you essentially
oversee as a legislator the whole university system. Let me
ask you, what do you think was accomplished out of the civil
rights movement? Where are we now and where should we be going?
YOUNG: I think
one of the things that was accomplished during the civil rights
movement was the recognition of talent. You know, we for so
long, have had expertise and the whereabouts going all the
way back to Benjamin Banneker, George Washington Carver, Booker
T. Washington, and W.E.B. DuBois, you know. We had the knowledge
and ability to do, but was never allowed the opportunity.
Even though that is still not 100 percent today, the exposure
has given us the opportunity to show the world and to exhibit
a lot of our talent. I also think that it helped set us back
some, especially in the economic field, because nothing from
the primary white community has ever drifted over to the black
It used to be, you got ready
to build a house, the average carpenter out there was a black
carpenter, a black bricklayer. You found that once the scale
of dollars and cents got up to a certain level, we didn't
maintain those positions anymore. I think that these are some
of the gains. Educationwise, I think that it exposed us to
a new type of educational culture, but it was a one-way street.
It was blacks going to so-called white institutions. They
have never decided that they needed to come over to the black
institutions. So I think that it is a balance of up and down
that has taken place here with these situations, and we've
still got to overcome those type hurdles.
You know, looking at Mississippi today, where do you think
we are politically in terms of elected officials, in terms
of participating in the democratic process as a result of
the civil rights laws and the breaking down of the Jim Crow
laws and those things.
YOUNG: I think
God has given us an opportunity. And if we take advantage
of that opportunity, I think we can make some very strong
strides. If we don't take advantage of that opportunity, then
I think that we will be cast to the side. That opportunity
that we are talking about now really comes through the power
of the vote. The power of the vote is very, very strong. When
you look at some of the races that are across this nation
that have taken place right here in November, I think you
will see that a lot of credit is given to the black vote and
the black turnout. I think this is the thing that we have
got to do. We still didn't turn out strong enough. We should
have been more of a silent turnout than a vocal turnout. If
you go back and study the books of the state of Mississippi,
more poor whites registered under the voting rights act than
black folks did under the voting rights act. So, I think that
we have got to make sure that we have a good turnout and that
we actually participate and stay up-to-date on the issues
that are confronting us on an intellectual basis rather than
an emotional basis.
do you think that there is any difference between black folks
voting during the height of the civil rights struggle, registering
and voting, for instance when the Freedom Democratic Party
ran King and Aaron and Charles, and black folks voting over
the last few years?
voting is a very dull thing to do. It's not exciting. It's
very simple. It's not consuming. It takes you less than two
or three minutes to vote. The only gratification you can see
in it is that you are favoring a candidate or getting behind
a specific candidate. Other than that, to vote is just about
emotionless. It doesn't strike a bell with you. It's not like
the football team out there playing and a guy runs a split
tackle or touchdown. You know, that you jump up and hurrah
all about. So, I think that we have got to make sure that
we have a reason to vote, and I think that during the early
years, the reason was more outstanding than it is today. I
think that people in that day who had never voted before and
had never seen a black in office before were just gratified
in doing that. When I ran for my election in 1979 and was
sworn in, on the swearing-in day in January, I brought people
over by the busloads to be there. All of them were there to
just show me their appreciation and how proud they were that
here I was a member of the House of Representatives of the
state of Mississippi, one that had kept us even out of the
capitol building before, one that had Bilbo's statue in the
rotunda down there before, one that had promoted segregation
to the extent that they wouldn't even let Robert Clark sit
with [anybody] when he came here, you know. So this was a
milestone. This was an historical thing.
You mentioned Robert Clark. He was the first elected, in 1967,
was the first black representative since Reconstruction. So,
when was the second black elected to the House?
YOUNG: I really
don't know. I would have to look it up in the archives.
But when you came in 1979--
Banks was in there, Horace Buckley was there, Anderson was
there, Clark was there.
was a tough row to hoe when you guys went in. So, you struggled.
You got there. So what was your impression of the state legislature?
naturally, you would go in with a good feeling there, but
you didn't have to be there very long before you would see
what some of the obstacles were. It was quite prevalent, especially
from two things: from the racial situation and the political
situation. In the political arena, I guess just about like
Newt Gingrich. I disagreed with the way that the Republicans
in the House of Representatives threw Newt out, you know,
just because he didn't call the election right. There's going
to be many elections I'm not going to call right, you know.
None of them expected the black turnout to be what it is but
I don't think they should technically blame Newt for that,
you know, for the black vote turning out like it did. So therefore
it becomes a pretty cold issue with some people and they are
ready to automatically kick out anything that didn't fit what
they thought it should be.
you think the black caucus has been successful?
YOUNG: I think
it has opened a lot of doors.
I think it has opened a lot of doors, especially during the
redistricting era. Redistricting of the state's voters was
very, very important. I think one of the highlights of the
caucus was its involvement in the redistricting of the state.
The other thing I think it does is that it opens up a lot
of opportunities for us to have good dialogue between other
representatives and other states.
think I'm just about through right now, and I want to thank
you very much for taking the time and going over your experience
and I think it is going to be beneficial for the young black
folks. It has certainly been beneficial for me. And again,
Tougaloo and the University of Southern Mississippi would
like to thank you.
(End of the interview)