Tracy K'Meyer: This is an interview with Georgia Powers conducted by TracyK'Meyer on March 24, 2000. I thought we'd start, since like I said, I have all this stuff from the book, is I did want to ask questions from pre1962. Because it seems like in the book, your civic involvement started with your work for Wilson Wyatt in the 1962 campaign. I just wanted to make sure, was there any other activity before that you were involved with? Any political or civic activity?
Georgia Powers: No, since 1962.
TK: I just wanted to make sure of that. And the other thing that isn't discussedin the book very much, I just wanted to double check, is you talk about the march on Frankfort and that activity. But were you involved at all in the local accommodations battle?
GP: Oh, yes.
TK: Could you tell me about that a little bit?1:00
GP: That wasn't in the book?
TK: Um um.
GP: It wasn't? Well, I guess I left it out. Yes, I got involved in 1964 with --wait, just a minute, let me think. . . beginning in January 1964, I got involved with the Allied Organization for Civil Rights. That was organized by Frank Stanley, Jr. He asked me if I would what was I doing? Organize the office. Sort of director for the Allied Organization of Civil Rights. Now, that group was made up of several civil rights groups. The NAACP [National Association for the 2:00Advancement of Colored People], the Urban League and other civil rights groups. And some major black churches in the city. And, not just black churches. There were several white churches, too. That was my first experience in the civil rights movement. We were organized to support the public accommodations bill that had been introduced in Frankfort. . . I'm trying to think when the ordinance bill was passed. That was '63, wasn't it?
GP: Yeah, I was involved in that, too. . . '63, yes, '63, because. . . The Board3:00of Aldermen, I think an ordinance had been offered and I don't know who. It's been so long. I'm trying to think how we got involved or how I got involved in that because we were marching every day. Reverend A.D. Williams King, who was pastor of the Zion Baptist Church at 22nd and what was Walnut Street, now Muhammad Ali [Boulevard]. He offered us an office next door to the church. It was just a little shotgun house. We used that and every day that was opening housing, though.
TK: I think A.D. I can't remember when he got here but I think he was mostly4:00open housing.
GP: Yeah, he got here in
TK: He got here around '65 or so?
GP: No, he was here before '65 because he was [unintelligible]. He was[unintelligible] involved in the Frankfort march. It was after that. So it was between that January. But I'm trying to think how I got involved. I just can't the year is not clear to me. We were marching every day. As a matter of fact, 5:00you said it was '64? Yeah, it was '64, it was after, no, it was before the march on Frankfort was on March 5, 1964. I'm trying to think we were marching every day. It was open housing. That must have been after, no, it was before the march on Frankfort, so it was before '64. Because we were marching every day. We rented a school bus and after we took the school bus out there, a couple of teams, the opponents threw rocks and broke out the windows and so we were unable to rent the buses again. Then we resorted to renting one of these big trucks that had a back door on it. We'd be standing up in there like sardines and we just had the air coming up through the bottom of the door. And once we get there, and just as soon as we drove into [unintelligible] Park on Taylor 6:00Boulevard, we will be surrounded by people who was throwing rocks and pieces of cement and eggs and tomatoes and everything else. We were unable to move once we got there. But we just had our rally right there by the truck. And we did that for a long time until at least, it seemed like a long time until the ordinance was passed here in Louisville. And of course, the next thing was the march on Frankfort. We had an office at 3rd and Main Street. The man that owned the building had given us space in that building. I think he was Bonnie, something Bonnie. And during that time the river overflowed and all the electricity was out. It was about two weeks before the march. And Lukie Ward, I know you've 7:00heard her name, she and I were in the office everyday until midnight trying to get the march together. The water was high and Frank Stanley brought some little gas heaters in and gas lights. And that's what we worked by.
TK: Really? Because the electricity was out?
GP: It was off, yes. Because of the water, because we didn't have the flood wall.
TK: So that's the flood of '64 that I've heard about.
GP: It must have been.
TK: OK. Was this office that you were in, was that the office of the AlliedOrganization of Civil Rights?
GP: Uh hum.
TK: Was that one just to organize the march?
TK: For that express purpose.
GP: Yes, in support not just for the march but in support of publicaccommodations. That was public accommodations because we didn't get it passed until 1967, '68. I got confused on that. That's what that was. It was all public accommodations.
TK: How did you know Frank Stanley or how did he know you?8:00
GP: He was a publisher of the Louisville Defender and he was well known in thecommunity. His father was the publisher, I guess, or editor, but he was managing. And he was well known in the community. He also belonged to Zion Baptist Church. And his father was well known. I met him through his father. His dad was active in politics and when I was working for Wilson Wyatt (interruption) I worked in the office at the Seelbach [Hotel] in '64. (interruption)
TK: So you're talking about the Allied Organization of Civil Rights and how youknew Frank Stanley.
GP: Right. Well, I met his father during the Wilson Wyatt campaign. I worked forhim in '62 in the primary and the general. He, of course, was defeated. In '63, 9:00I worked in the same headquarters for Edward T. Breathitt for governor, in primary and general, and of course he won. In '64, that's when I got involved with the AOCR. And we organized a march what we did is we involved all the branches of the NAACP, Galen Martin was director of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights. He was very active. And he had contacts in all cities. So he would contact his people. That's how we gathered so many people for the march. It was over 10,000. They said it was 2,000 but we think it was a lot more.
Of course, in being one of the organizers, I knew when Dr. [Martin Luther] Kingwas coming in and when Jackie Robinson was coming in. So my brother had been 10:00part of a funeral home and had access to a limousine. I went out with him and picked him up from the airport and then we drove together straight to Frankfort. It was my first time to meet either one of them. And the bill, after the speech, and the weather was bad, it was sleet, [unintelligible] cold, windy after all the speeches at the rally and of course, Peter, Paul and Mary were here also to entertain. They played several numbers. We went into the governor's office who was Ed Breathitt. There was about eight of us. Of course, I had worked for him 11:00so I knew him. And when we walked in the door his office manager then, June Taylor, during the campaign she was his office manager here. But after he won and went to Frankfort, she became his staff person. They don't call them office managers, staff person. Anyway, she was standing at the door and she said to me, "Georgia, I never thought you would do anything like this." I said, "You know, June, I never thought you all would win, come to Frankfort and never offer me a job. I never thought you would do that either." But anyway, we went in and talked to the governor. And the governor smiled and he was very polite. He told us he was working on something in the background and that he was going to do all 12:00he could to get it passed. This was in '64. And after that we had it was Frank's idea we had a sit in the balcony of the House, because that's where the bill was. For a week. And one of the sitters was my son. He stayed a week. But it still didn't affect the legislation in the house. And of course, the session ended and no legislation was passed on public accommodations.
So after that, the leaders started gearing up for the '66 session. Be preparedfor that. So we gathered quite a bit of support in those two years. In the meantime, in 1965, there was the march on Selma, Alabama. A.D. King called us 13:00and the ministers together and he asked Lukie and I, invited us to come. As a matter of fact, we were the only two women there. We always felt like they had the women there so they could do the writing and the secretarial work and that sort of stuff. And yet, we were able to contribute to the conversations, too. So he asked the whole group if it wanted to become involved in the Selma march. Now remember, Bill Summers III, Reverend Summers, we elected him chairman of this group. So we started to get organized for the summer march. And what happened 14:00is, Lukie and I spent a weekend because time was close in that office soliciting funds to lease Purdue University's football [unintelligible]. And the lease was $3,200 which was a lot of money then, but it's not a lot of money today. So we stayed on the phones for the weekend and we raised that money so that Kentuckians could go to Selma and join in the march. Actually, we went to Montgomery into the Montgomery airport. Just as we deplaned, the march was right at Montgomery. I remember Dr. King was not in the march because en route to Montgomery, we stopped off at Atlanta and picked up Dr. King and two or three of 15:00his staff members. So they went on into Montgomery with us.
Once we got there, Harry Belafonte, he was at the front of the line and theywere waiting for us. So we just jumped over and talked to them for a while. Then they told us what was going on that evening. That we were going to stay overnight at St. Jude's and they had entertainment there. And the next morning at a certain time we were going to meet out on the highway and we were going to march on into Montgomery, which was five years. The next morning, we gathered on the road and we marched on into Montgomery. Just before we got at the Capitol steps, we stopped off at Dexter Baptist Church, which was a church that Dr. King 16:00had previously pastored. But anyway, we went on to the steps and he made his speech about how long, how long, I don't know if you recognize that speech. And afterwards, there were four of us running together, Lukie, Reverend Sampson
TK: Yeah, I need to find him.
GP: He's in Detroit. And I was just given a picture last month of us marching.And Reverend [unintelligible] and Lukie and myself. There were four of us in the car. And we were driving, we were on the same road, there were so many cars 17:00behind the car that Viola Liuzzo was in when she was shot. And that's Dr. Sampson and me marching in Selma and Montgomery. So, of course it was spread all over, we knew about her being shot. And then we went back to the, we were on our way to the airport because we were going to be leaving out. We got to the airport and there was a man lying on the ground like something happened to him. It was, what's the name, he was head of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.
TK: A. Phillip Randolph.18:00
GP: A. Phillip Randolph, that's who it was. But anyway, he wasn't dead. I guesshe had just fallen down or something. But anyway, we had to get the plane and we came on back to Louisville. And that was '65. In 1966 I have to take it by years 1966, the session started again. The General Assembly opened. In the meantime, I asked my representative, who was Norbert Blume, to find me a job in the General Assembly so I could be there every day and promote the bill and still have a job that paid. So he did. He found me a job. He got me a job in the bill room at the House of Representatives. And what that meant was placing bills in folders for the legislators and put them on their desk every morning. So as I would do that, I would talk to the representatives. They were very arrogant. They were not very 19:00kind to employees. It was like they were too important to talk to the employees. Anyway, I said to one, it was a prophetic statement, I said he said he couldn't vote for it and he was telling me all the reasons and I said, "Well, I think what I need is my own seat up here. If I get a seat up here, I'll know how to vote and I'll vote right."
And, in 1967 of course, it passed in '66, it did pass in 1967 I was reading thepaper one morning and I saw where the senator was moving to the East End. One thing I learned while I was working there, that you had to live in the district 20:00that you represented. So I said, oh, I said to my husband, "You know, I think it would be a good thing if I filed for the seat." He said, "Yeah, if you want to. Fine with me." So OK, I called a couple of people and asked them to meet me down at the courthouse. I was going to file for the state senate. Nobody thought I could win but I thought I could win. By that time, I had worked for candidates for five years. I had been involved in politics politically and civically for five years. I had learned how to organize precincts, I learned how to get endorsements. I had learned how to win and I didn't see any reason why I couldn't win. So I went to the courthouse the following day and I invited two women who were in a club called Charity Pity Club. It was a church club. This 21:00group had asked me to speak to them at their club. So I asked a couple of them to sign my papers. And the next day when I got there, every member of the club was there. Well, I only needed two signatures. I just took an extra sheet and got them all to sign.
So that was the beginning of my campaign. And the first thing I did was, Iarranged to meet with the executive board of the AFLCIO [American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations union]. I had a friend who was on that executive board named W. C. Young, who was from Paducah. He was a unionist. So he arranged to get me an appointment with several of the board members. Well, they endorsed me right away. And of course, that endorsement meant money and inkind services. They had a big operation up on East Broadway. They had a 22:00printing machine, all kinds of equipment. So I could get all my equipment printed free and access to telephones, plus money. Because I didn't have any money personally. So they really furnished just about all that I needed. But others endorsed me, too. The civil rights groups endorsed me, the Louisville Education Association, the Kentucky Medical Association and the Kentucky Educational Association. I was endorsed by a lot of groups. When they endorsed me and they gave me money, I told them that I appreciate the money but I wanted them to understand that what that money would do would give them my ear. That it would not influence me in my vote or any legislation that I might promote. So I 23:00made that clear. So they said fine and they gave me the money anyway.
And I had two opponents, actually. I had one official one, Dr. Charles Riggs,who was a chiropractor, was white and Catholic, lived on Northwestern Parkway, had been raised in that area all his life, well known. The makeup of the racial population was about sixty-five percent white at the time and was [unintelligible] the district was the entire West End, west of 22nd Street. Within the city limits. And of course, the Portland area. And they had a poor voting record, too. So Norbert Blume, the same representative who got me the job 24:00in Frankfort, endorsed me. Although he was a member of the church that Dr. Riggs was there. They were both Catholic. But I think Norbert saw the handwriting on the wall, because the West End was in transition from white to black. And plus, I think he did it probably because he wanted to help me. Because in '63 I was his campaign chairman for Congress. He was defeated. But it was like, I helped you, now you help me. So he endorsed me and he gave me a lot of tips on what to do and how to do it. He'd been in the House for a number of years. And so in the primary, I did win the primary.
And what happened is, the local Democratic Party said that they were not going25:00to make an endorsement in that race. There were thirtysix races on the ballot in the primary. They said they would stay neutral in this race. But Norbert put me wise to that. He said, you be prepared. And on election eve, I received several calls from precinct captains telling me that they had received their material from Democratic headquarters and my opponent's name had been stamped in his block, handstamped. So the next morning, Raoul Cunningham and William Gatewood 26:00were my campaign chairmen, [unintelligible] had just come back from Washington. He had been at Howard [University] and he had been involved in the Democratic National Committee, young Dems, so he pretty much knew politics. So when he came back here, he came back to his church and he was director of the youth choir. About seventyfive young people were in his choir. So what we did was utilize his choir. We had them to come to the headquarters on Broadway, 30th and Broadway, after school, and we'd have plans for them we started out with voter registration. We always used voter registration to make the people aware that there was an election that was going to come soon. Make sure you're registered to vote and that kind of thing. So these young people, we would have food for them from Frisch's or one of the fast food places, hamburger, french fries and a 27:00drink. And they would eat and then they would take the material well, first go out and register voters. And then when the booths were closed, we used them to pass literature out from door to door. They were very helpful.
And election night, I just stayed home, and Raoul went to the Armory, and hefound out I had won, so he called me back and told me. I got dressed, he picked me up and we went to the 10th floor the Seelbach, where they were having a Democratic party. When the elevator door opened and I stepped out, it was just 28:00like I had won the governorship. Well, what happened is, that was in the general, not the primary but I won the primary and then won the general also. And the transportation man was running for governor, I can't think of his name [Henry Ward]. But anyway, he lost. There were not too many I don't think any Democrats won that year, statewide. Because they were telling me that I was the highest office that won. Said I should have been running for governor instead of the State Senate. But anyway, that was the state general, and when I stepped off the elevator, it was just something.
TK: I was going to ask a sort of background question to this election. I didwant to ask about something else too, but all this working with the Democratic 29:00Party, what was the relationship by this point between the black community and the Democratic Party?
GP: Well, at that time there was a woman by the name of Lennie McLaughlin, shewas running Democratic headquarters.
TK: Was she white or black?
GP: White. She was one of the old time, mean people. You know, she just ran theparty, really. And when I was working for Norbert Blume for Congress and I working out of the office there, I heard her speaking negatively of black people on the telephone. So I never had much use for her after that. But until [unintelligible] they had a candidate for mayor, he was with the Board of 30:00Education, what was his name? I'm forgetting all these names. Anyway, he made a statement that he could win without the black vote. So we went out and worked against him and we voted for [William] Cowger.
TK: And that was right before the public accommodations bill. Milburn, I thinkwas his name.
GP: Milburn, that's who it was.
TK: I thought that might be who it was.
END OF SIDE A
START OF SIDE B
TK: So another question I wanted to ask was the timing of this, you know, you'vealready done the Selma stuff, so you're already identified as a civil rights person. What's the relationship between your civil rights activity and your campaign? 31:00
GP: Many people thought I should not march because they said, because of thewhite vote over in the Portland area. I said, well, I have to do what I think is the right thing to do. I'm going on principle and I marched every day. It did not affect me. But I thought that my opponent would get most of the votes in Portland anyway. But he didn't get them all, he didn't get a lot of votes. Because Norbert Blume was over there working for me.
TK: I've interviewed him.
GP: Have you? How's he doing?
TK: He's doing well. I really enjoyed it. He talked all about old union politicsand stuff.
GP: Yeah, he knows. He taught me.
TK: This is another question about the open housing stuff. At what point did32:00SCLC [Southern Christian Leadership Conference] arrive in Louisville?
GP: In 1965. We formed what we called Kentucky KCLC Kentucky ChristianLeadership Conference, which was a chapter of the SCLC. That was in '65. A.D. King was responsible for that.
TK: Who else was responsible for that besides him?
GP: Oh. . .I'm trying to think of the Presbyterian pastor's name out on RudyLane. He was involved. He was one of the white ministers. Anderson, Olaf Anderson. He was involved. Lukie Ward, Raoul Cunningham, myself, William Summers 33:00III. . . there are others but I don't remember.
TK: About how big was the organization here in Louisville?
GP: It was well supported. But I'm naming the people who were involved in theformation of the organization.
TK: And what role did it play in open housing?
GP: It played a big role because it was a major organization because of ReverendKing. Open housing was in between '64 and '66 when it passed.
TK: I read something about a little bit of a controversy about SCLC coming. Some34:00debate about whether SCLC should have come during open housing. Do you know anything about that?
GP: No, I don't except I know in 1967 that we had Dr. King here three differenttimes during that year supporting voter registration. Of course, the first time he was here the SCLC National Board met here. And then the second time he was here was on voter registration. The third time he was here was supporting black candidates, West End candidates because Blume was in it too. West End candidates.
TK: I didn't know that. I didn't know SCLC met here.
GP: Yes, national.
TK: So what other kinds of things did SCLC get involved with besides for openhousing? Or KCLC, I guess I should say. 35:00
GP: That was a big thing. That was the major thing they were involved in. Ofcourse, when the Derby came up in '67, that was in support of the local open housing. There was some talk about stopping the Derby. Of course, that didn't work.
TK: I was going to say, that's always a real popular idea.
GP: But that was '67.
TK: One other issue that came around the same time as open housing was the PoorPeople's Campaign. Were you involved in the organizing of that at all?
GP: Oh, yes.
TK: Can you tell me a little bit about that?
GP: OK. . .it was '68 because A.D. and KCLC started to talk about it and36:00organize for it. Because Dr. King had talked about it on the national level and to the national board members. And of course, if he got involved in it, his brother was going to get involved in it, too. So he got all of us involved in it. Yes, we had the Western [unintelligible] to come through from California and the western states. And those buses rolled in and we provided Kentucky Exposition Center, I believe. Freedom Hall they call it now. That's where the Red Cross provided the cots and the Catholic diocese provided hot food and others provided other things. So it was a concerted effort. There was something 37:00that we wanted, I remember A.D. telling the mayor of somebody that if we didn't get it, they'd just have to stay here in Louisville. They couldn't go on. I've forgotten what is was now. But anyway, we kept them overnight. Provided for what their needs were. And then some of us joined them and went on to Washington. Of course, I didn't go on the bus but I went, I flew. Of course, the what do you call it
TK: Shantytown or something like that? Resurrection City.38:00
GP: Resurrection City. It was a terrible place. Smelly, you know, mud. It was terrible.
TK: It rained a lot.
GP: Yeah, rained a lot. And some of the people told us it was better than whatthey had back home. From Marks, Mississippi, and different areas of Mississippi. So it was pretty bad.
TK: Could you describe in the book you talk about your personal reaction toKing's assassination but not very much about what happens in Louisville. What was the reaction in the Louisville movement to King's assassination? What effect did that have on the movement?
GP: It had a great effect, of course, on his brother. You read all about it inthe book. That I was there and what happened was after the session adjourned 39:00March of '68, Lukie asked me if I wanted to go to Florida with her for a month on vacation. I had never been to Florida. And then I was in the process of being divorced and I thought yeah, let's get away. So she and I drove, she drove me because she drove her car to Florida. We were just enjoying the beach a couple of weeks and then I got tired of just walking the beach and picking up shells. I thought this was silly. And Lukie's watching the television every night and watching what's going on in Memphis. So I asked her, I told her, "I'm rested now. I'm ready to get to work. I think I'll go to Memphis. Will you drive me to Memphis?" Well, I didn't have any idea that the direction 40:00
TK: Was not exactly on the way.
GP: Not exactly on the way. So she says no. I said, "Will you just take me tothe airport and I'll fly to Memphis." She said OK. So anyway, she decided after a couple of days in the meantime I had called Dr. King in Atlanta and his secretary informed me that he was in New York. So he called me back and he said, "Senator, why don't you come to Memphis to help us?" I said "I will. That's the reason I called. I'll be there on Tuesday" I think it was. Or it was a Thursday. Well anyway, it was the day before he was killed. So in the meantime, I talked to A.D. here in Louisville, and he said "Why don't you just wait and I'll fly 41:00down to Florida and then we'll just all three drive to Memphis."
And that's what we did. And we got into Memphis and into Lorraine [Motel]courtyard about 11:00 that night. It was kind of misty raining. And we drove in the courtyard, a staff member was there but nobody else around. We asked where Dr. King was and he told us he was at the Temple, Mason's Temple. That was the name of the church. So we drove, he told us how to get there, we drove over to the Temple and when we got there it was dark. It was over. So then we drove back to the courtyard and we had checked in. I had checked in. A.D. had checked in. 42:00His room was right underneath where Dr. King's room was on the second floor. My room was on the first floor, it was an L-shaped building like this. My room was on the first floor down here. Dr. King's room was on the second floor. I could see his door from my room. Anyway, we were sitting there talking and I guess about 12:00 or something, a taxi drove in the courtroom. And Lukie was standing at the door and she said, "Here's Dr. King now." He got out, [Reverend Ralph] Abernathy and Bernard Lee, out of the taxi. I was in the room and I heard him say, "Where is the senator?" He said, "She's here." And they came onto the room. 43:00And so we sat there and talked a long while on what was going on about the injunction that had been issued and all. And the rest you read in the book.
TK: So when you come back to Louisville how long did you stay there?
GP: We left the next morning. After the assassination, when the woman screamedand said they shot Dr. King. I was doing this in the mirror. I was getting ready to go in the courtyard and join the others because Dr. King was on the balcony talking down to Jesse [Jackson] and Ben Branch and others. And I said I'm ready. So I'll just go on out in the courtyard. Because he had asked me to ride with him over to Reverend Billy Kyle's house for dinner. So I said I'll just go 44:00outside and wait. I was standing there doing this and I heard the shot. And I heard the woman scream, "Oh my God! They've shot Dr. King." So I went to the door and the door was as close as we are to that wall. So I opened the door and when I looked to my right, I saw these uniformed policemen I guess they were policemen or firemen or something they were in uniform. They came into the courtyard and I thought, how'd they come so quick? When I looked the left, I saw his knee up in the air and I saw the bottom of one foot. So what I did is, I went right up these steps that were next to my room, across the balcony, stepped inside his room where Abernathy and Andy Young were trying to get the ambulance on the phone. Now I keep reading where Billy Kyle's was in that room. But he 45:00wasn't in the room.
TK: Because you were on the way to his house.
GP: Yeah, but he was there, though. He was on the premises because he came topick Dr. King up. But he was not in the room. So many things I hear people talking about that just didn't happen. Everybody wanted to be the last one to eat dinner with him. The last one to see him, talk to him and all that stuff. Well anyway, finally, while they were on the phone trying to get an ambulance that soon after the shooting, I stepped back out on the balcony. I walked down and he was lying there and I looked down and I said, "Oh my God, he's dead." That bullet had severed his tie right here. The knot and the little end of it was sticking up like that. The only person I've heard say that you know, for years I thought
TK: Did I make that up?46:00
GP: Yeah was Billy Kyle's this year. He was speaking here for a group and hetalked about the knot and the little tie. Then I know that I wasn't the only one who saw it. But see, when the medics get there, you know how they do, they take your clothes and do that. So, it's probably the reason nobody saw it. Because immediately they start ripping your clothes off. He was bleeding profusely. He had turned a grayish color and in a matter of seconds, he was lying in a pool of blood. So I just turned around and came back down. Passed the room and by that time the ambulance was coming into the courtyard. I went down into the courtyard. And then, after they took him to the hospital, his brother, A.D., 47:00Lukie and I went to Billy Kyle's house.
And that's where we used the phones to call people to let them now. And thelines, all the circuits were busy. To get a line, we'd have to say we're calling for Dr. King's brother. He's trying to reach the family, or something like that. Then they would put us through. We never did get dinner. We weren't hungry anyway after that. So I think we were all in shock. So the next morning, A.D., I think, sent a plane after the body, I think his wife Coretta was in it. A.D. met the plane and he rode with the body back. So he asked Lukie if she would drive us to Atlanta and said he would have a room for us at the Marriott Hotel. So we drove to Atlanta. He wanted us to come to help whatever we could do. So we got there and we stayed at the Marriott. And we stayed the week. The funeral was that week. A bus picked us up at the Marriott to take us to the funeral and the 48:00bus was filled with celebrities. Allen what's his name, he's a comedian anyway, he just kept making jokes and made me so nervous I was just about to scream. Sidney Poitier was on there with his two daughters. Bill Cosby the bus was for celebrities. But we were the only two on there who were not celebrities. So 49:00everyone's looking us, who are these women? This is a celebrity bus. But they didn't know we were [unintelligible].
TK: So he wasn't on the bus with you, A.D.?
GP: Oh no.
TK: So I guess you're not back in Louisville for a week or so. The next bigevent in Louisville was the riot at the end of May. Can you tell me what you remember about that?
GP: I was at Joe's Palm Room on Jefferson Street having dinner with people fromthe news media. I don't remember if they were from the Courier-Journal, some of them were from the Courier-Journal, whether they were TV or radio. But anyway, I 50:00was the speaker for that night. And just as we had finished dinner someone came up to me and whispered, "There's a riot at 28th and Greenwood." So I made the announcement and they took off. And I did, too.
TK: There goes your audience.
GP: Because, you see, by that time I had furnished the office. I had a house at28th and Greenwood, it was a duplex, and I had allowed Kentucky Christian Leadership Conference to use the first floor for an office. So I went on down to the house. [unintelligible] was already there and Lukie was there when I got there. It was just bedlam after that. The National Guard was called in. And they 51:00were not only in the street, they were on the porch. Just lined up. I've got pictures of them, too. Pictures of the National Guard, pictures of looting and that kind of stuff.
TK: Yeah, Darryl had some memory of stopping by your place but that's all hecould remember. That he was there, that he stopped by your place and then he [unintelligible].
GP: It was 1024 S. 28th Street. The riot had started on the opposite corner.That's where they had had the rally.
TK: One quick question before I get back to some political stuff is whathappened to the KCLC?
GP: After A.D. left, after his brother was killed, after the Poor People's52:00Campaign was over, he came back to Louisville but just for a short time. We knew he was leaving and going to Atlanta to be an associate pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. It was very sad for him. Very, very sad. He was depressed. He was despondent. I don't think he ever got over it. No, he never did. And even today, I think it probably was an accident that he drowned. It may have been.
TK: Did KCLC just sort of fold when he got out?53:00
GP: Faded out.
TK: Faded out. Because I don't hear very much about it at all.
GP: What happened is later, Reverend Charles Kirby, he tried to carry it on butwith not much success. Because all the impetus was gone, nothing much going on.
TK: Now I'll switch back to politics. So I'm going to ask some general questionsand then some specific questions. After open housing and after you worked on the open housing bill, because that story is told in the book, I always get the impression when I read about the civil rights movement in Louisville that that was the main issue for quite some time. Then what?
GP: Also public accommodations.
TK: Yeah, after public accommodations and open housing, what were the nextissues? What other issues were people concerned about working on?
GP: Implementing the law, because it wasn't easy even in public accommodations.Businesses not readily invite black people in. So there was a lot of tension in 54:00the air. When you went into a business that previously served all white you felt the tension. And then prior to public accommodations, black people could go in stores and back. You could go in department stores and buy goods but you couldn't try them on. And you couldn't return them. Like Stewart's and other stores. But there were two stores on 4th Street, O' [unintelligible] and Louis, that sold to poor whites and blacks on credit. Of course the material was inferior, the goods were inferior, to what you would buy at better stores. So 55:00now that we have the law, public accommodations, and the first year I was in the Senate I had a problem getting a room at a hotel in Frankfort. I had to stay in a private home. In 1968.
TK: And that was, obviously, after the bill for public accommodations law?
GP: It had been in effect two years. It was so easy for them to claim no moreroom. But it was a difficult period in executing these laws. You still felt the tension when you appeared some place you hadn't been before.
TK: And when you were running in your campaigns and also other political56:00campaigns, what issues did you campaign on or what goals
GP: On these issues. On decent housing, on public accommodations, open housing.I was for collective bargaining for workers. My father was a union person.
TK: So that sort of family tradition.
GP: Um hum. There were always lots of issues.
TK: Who would you say in the time that you're in office, and especially I'minterested in the late sixties, early seventies, mid-seventies, who were other major black political figures at that time? Either people actually in office or just behind the scenes, people, too that you would say were important?
GP: I would say that well, of course, Representative Mae Street Kidd. She and Iwere elected the same time.
TK: She was in the House and you were in the Senate.
GP: She was in the House but she was not the first woman in the house nor thefirst black. Because Tucker was the first woman elected in about 1964. Amelia 57:00Tucker. She was the wife of Bishop Eubanks Tucker. He was a civil rights lawyer and judge. She was the first black woman to the House. Charles Anderson was the first black male in 1936. They were around. Of course, the Stanleys, they were influential because they had the newspaper. They could print up stuff on you. So they were influential. There were quite a few Hortense Young, who was the mother of president Dr. Milton Young here. She was active. I met her during the 58:00Democratic campaigns. Verna Smith. She was the person who actually got me involved in politics. Her husband was secretary treasurer of the Domestic Life and Accident Insurance Company. She and I belonged to the same church. The primary was coming up for Wilson Wyatt and she wanted to integrate his campaign headquarters.
TK: She's an African American?
GP: Yes. She asked me if I would be interested. I told her no because I was onleave of absence from my job from the census bureau. But anyway, every Sunday she said, "I wish you would just go talk to the campaign manager." I thought the 59:00only way I'm going to get this woman off my back is to go down there. The best thing I ever did. So I talked to the campaign manager and he asked me a few questions and he said, "We'll hire you." I said, "Wait just a minute. I'll work one week. If I like, I'll be back. If I don't like it, I won't be back. You won't have to pay me." He said, "Oh, we'll pay you." I said OK. The third day I was there the chairman of volunteers was in an automobile accident down in Kentucky. They said that he would not recover soon enough to come back. So they came to me and asked me if I would take that position. Now, what that meant is at that time we didn't have computers, we had mimeograph machines. We'd have to mimeograph all the material
END OF TAPE I
START OF SIDE A, TAPE II
TK: and he ran for Senate?
GP: Yes, right. Then you'd have to address the envelopes by hand, lick it and60:00stamp it by hand. We had some fun. We had to, of course, seal the envelopes. So there was work to be done so we had volunteers. And the volunteers were mostly were affluent white women from the East End. Like Wendell Berry's wife. Lukie Ward, that's how I met her.
TK: Is she Mike Ward's mother?
GP: Yes. And there's others. But they would come in and I would keep the workorganized, so when they came in, I would have things for them to do. Folding and stuffing or licking or something. So that worked out real well.
TK: That's something I always wondered, because I read so you had never beeninterested before this? Did you pay much attention?
TK: And then just boom? Wow, that's really interesting.61:00
GP: Well, see, I worked for these candidates for five years before I ran. So Ilearned a lot. I saw these like I told you, the third day in I became chairman of volunteers. I saw what was going on. I said this is where I need to be. I want to empower myself. I see nothing wrong with having power. I think it's the misuse and abuse of power that's wrong. I said this is where I need to be. These people are controlling everything in the state. The water we drink, the air we breathe, everything. So this is where I want to be.
So I worked there five years. And I'd tell young people see, so often they thinkall they have to do is get their name on the ballot. It costs twenty dollars. But it doesn't mean that you know how to organize a precinct or get an 62:00endorsement or even how to speak publicly. There are a lot of things you need to know and learn before you step out and put your name on the ballot. And they -- everybody's going to run out and vote for you. They don't even know you and plus they're not going to run out and vote for you anyway. So I taught them to get involved in community affairs and get known. Get your name out there. Because once I was involved in the civil rights movement, everybody knew me because they more or less came across me somewhere because I was leading something. Because I've always been one who could organize people and coordinate events, stuff like that. So they had to know me.
TK: One thing I'm curious about, you worked for the candidates and thenobviously in your own campaigns, over the time that you were involved in 63:00politics from the beginning, how would you say the role of blacks in the Democratic Party changed? Or did it?
GP: It changed in about 1964.
GP: Locally. I'm talking about locally. What happened is see, and I give creditto Norbert Blume credit for this, too. I had never heard of sidewalk elections and district elections. Every presidential year, after the primary, it's always in the fall, it's in November, after general election. Democrats were to have what they called street elections. In every precinct people meet and they select three people, a woman, a man and a youth. Then two weeks later in some 64:00designated place, these three people from each precinct meet and they select chairman of the district. Now chairman of the district automatically becomes a member of the Jefferson County Democratic Executive Committee, and they set the policy for the whole county for the party. So I ran in '64 for that position and won by two votes.
TK: The legislative district chairperson?
GP: Um hum. And the same woman, Verna Smith's husband, ran in the district hewas in and he won. Now, the party supported him. They didn't support me but I won anyway. I pulled a Robert's Rules of Order on them. I made a motion for a secret ballot. And the lawyer said, "You can't do that." And I said, "It says right here in Robert's Rules of Order that I can." And that's how I won. Because 65:00they would not dare vote against Miss Lennie for me
GP: Yeah, publicly. So that's how I won that. And I stayed on there for twoyears. It was a four-year term, but I was so disappointed because every new idea I'd come up with or progressive idea, these old men would sit around a table, "That's very nice. Thank you." And they'd keep talking about something else. So I resigned from that. I resigned from it because. . .
TK: What was the Unity Slate?
GP: The Unity Slate was a slate of African Americans for mayor, Jefferson County66:00judge, Jefferson County clerk, in those positions. Neville Tucker was one. Mrs. Eubanks Tucker's son. He was a lawyer here and moved to California. But he was one of them. And Raoul Cunningham was running for Jefferson County clerk. But that's what the Unity Slate was. And that's how and alderman, too, because Lois Morris first, she supported the Unity Slate and then she decided to run against the person who was running.
TK: And then she was elected.
GP: She was elected, right.
TK: We have her papers in the library. She's mostly a little bit later than I'm67:00interested in but I'm going to look at some of it. I have some general type questions I want to ask. I ask everybody these general questions which are sort of reflective questions. One I like to ask everyone is if you were going to write a book on the Louisville civil rights movement, when would you start it and when would you end it?
GP: . . .If I were going to start it I would start back in 1870 with thetransportation here in Louisville. The streetcars, when black men had to stand on the front of the car, rain, shine or whatever, on that little part in the front. And those men went to the mayor and they were doing some of the same things later. Marching, and at that time the city contracted with three 68:00different companies who had control of the street cars. And when the people started throwing rocks and other things at the street cars, the mayor called these three companies and told them that they would have to ride everybody. And that's when the transportation in Louisville became desegregated.
TK: And always was, right?
GP: Since 18 yeah. It wasn't before that.
TK: Right, but I mean since then it always was. So start all the way back.
GP: So I would start back there and then I would come on up to the time that theblack teachers were receiving 15% less in salaries.
TK: In the thirties, yeah.
GP: Than white teachers. And of course, one of the leaders of that movement was69:00Naomi Lattimore. She was the wife of Dr. Lattimore. She was threatened, her job was threatened. And the others' jobs were threatened, too. But anyway, they won that. Then I would come on up to Lyman Johnson filed a suit with the University of Kentucky. That was a major benchmark. To go to graduate school. I don't know what year that was.
GP: OK, that's when I thought it was. And then. . . I'm trying to reflect on theera preceding '62.
TK: School desegregation.
GP: Oh yeah, '54. That was big. Busing. I was very much involved with that.70:00
TK: You were?
GP: Yes. As a matter of fact, Governor Julian Carroll, there was a bill in theHouse. I knew it was coming so when it got to the Senate, I had gotten enough support to defeat it when it got to the Senate. And he wrote me a personal note, I still have it, asking me to please release my commitments because he needed this for some reason. For federal money for transportation and stuff. So I had to release it because if I hadn't, they were going to go anyway. The governor had something to offer but I had nothing. So I realized that. But oh yea.
TK: Because I am definitely going to talk about busing. I just don't know how71:00far after busing to come up. One of the other questions I like to ask everyone is in your memory, who would you say were the most important leaders, locally, in the civil rights movement? Since World War II and I guess the period that you were involved.
GP: . . .I would think that Lyman Johnson, Frank Stanley, Senior and Junior. . .I've forgotten so many people. Of course, I thought Mae Street Kidd did a very good job, too. We were a team. We worked well together and we got a lot 72:00accomplished in twenty years. We did. In the legislature. She promoted the low cost housing. I worked with her on that. And that created the Kentucky Housing Corporation, which is making millions of dollars now. And of course, I initiated the open housing in the Senate. A lot of people thought it started in the House but it didn't. It was my bill in the Senate that passed first and then went to the House and then became law without the governor's signature.
TK: And then was it her and [unintelligible] [Hughes?] McGill in the House?
GP: They were in the House. Now, McGill is the husband it was Verna Smith's soninlaw.
TK: Oh really? See, everybody's all connected.
GP: And he died while he was in the House and his wife, Charlotte, Verna Smith's73:00daughter, became a member of the House for several terms after that. Charlotte McGill.
TK: Yeah, I've heard that name, too. OK, so that's a relationship, too. Youknow, it's interesting how you find all these
GP: William Summers III, I thought he was influential. He was manager of WLOU[radio]. Anytime you have communications avenue access, it makes you influential.
TK: He's passed away, right?
GP: Yes, he has.
TK: But his son is still in the community. I'm going to try to interview hisson. There's a couple people I thought I'd interview about their parents, like [unintelligible] Young's son and I . Willis Cole's son might still be around.
GP: Lattimer Cole.
TK: Yeah, that's right. Whatever happened to Lukie Ward? Did she stay involved?
GP: She died.
TK: I know she died in the last couple years, but after all this74:00
GP: She got involved when her son ran for Congress. She didn't stay involvedmuch in politics.
TK: After the SCLC thing
GP: No, I mean as far as politically, until her son ran for Congress. Of course,she got active then. But she was more involved in the civil rights movement then she was in politics.
TK: In the political side. One of the questions I like to ask everyone is whatdo you think makes the Louisville movement, the Louisville story different or interesting? What do you think is particularly different or interesting about the Louisville story?
GP: I think because Louisville has been looked upon as a laidback city. It's75:00been looked up as a city that had no racial problems. It's been looked upon as a city where black folk were happy with the situation and the way things were, which is all untrue. But I think it surprises people outside of Louisville that the things we have actually accomplished in Louisville and in Kentucky because legislation, Mrs. Kidd and I passed legislation that was some of the first in the country. Particularly the South. Open housing was the first bill in the South. And low cost housing that she promoted, nothing like that had ever been done.
TK: So that would have made the local open housing ordinance the first one. The76:00first local ordinance?
GP: No, the state ordinance.
TK: Was before the local ordinance? I cant' remember when I'll have to look upthose dates because I know they're right, they're about a year apart.
GP: Well, see, the difference was the state law was the first one in the South.And of course, celebrating Dr. King's birthday was one of the first in the South. But the difference was it wasn't mandatory (Interruption)
TK: You were talking about some of the first Martin Luther King [observances],but it was optional or voluntary?
GP: It was voluntary. And of course, I believe what's his name, he's governor'sliaison now Gray, [unintelligible] Leonard Gray. He was in the House and he made 77:00it mandatory.
TK: His name sounds familiar.
GP: He now works in Frankfort, he's liaison out of the governor's office. Andthen, let's see. . .oh, there are just so many. . .
TK: Well, I can look that up.
GP: Those are the major ones.
TK: The last question I always ask off tape
END OF INTERVIEW