DC: [first few words cut off] oral history interview with Mr. William J. Ealy.Today is August 5, 1977. My name is Dwayne Cox. I'm from University of Louisville Archives and today I'm here to talk to Mr. Ealy about his life and his work as a journalist in Louisville especially with I. Willis Cole, the editor of the Louisville Leader from 1917 until 1950. That is, Cole was editor of the Louisville Leader during that period. Mr. Ealy worked at the Leader. Just reminding him of the biographical sketch that he wrote of Cole and the issue of the Leader just after I. Willis Cole had died. 1:00
I suppose we ought to start off a little bit with Mr. Ealy's background: wherehe came from, who his parents were, maybe if there was some incident in his childhood that caused him to become a journalist and to develop the inquisitive nature that it takes to be a newspaper reporter. I ought to say that before I came down here I called Mr. Ealy and he put me off for a while, he said he had to do his leg work, so I knew that I was dealing with an old newspaper man, an old hand at getting at the facts. So as much as possible I'd just like to turn it over to Mr. Ealy and let him start out with his, a word about his parents, his childhood, where he was born, and how he came to Louisville. You're not from 2:00Louisville, is that right?
WE: That's correct. Well I was born in Russellville, Logan County, Kentucky onApril 8, 1912. My mother's name was [Mona Lee Morton?] and my father was Milton Valentine Ealy. He hated that Valentine part, however, that was his name. I stayed in Russellville until I was five years of age. Looking back, I can understand the domestic situation which brought about the separation of my 3:00parents. My mother was an orphan herself, her mother having died at an early age, and she had two sisters and they practically raised themselves. My father came from a great clan of Ealys. I think I had about seventeen uncles and aunties. They were a close knit family while they were young, but as they got older each one of them moved away from the other. They kept in close contact. They never saw each other unless it was time of trouble, then they appeared on the scene. But they had it in their minds at that time, each of them do his own thing or her own thing and they did that. I'm very proud of my family background 4:00on both sides. The educational background is not outstanding. However, the down-to-earth spiritual quality of both the Ealy's and the Mortons and the Tisdells. You know in a small town most everybody's related. So it was a family affair more or less.
However, my mother and father could not agree, as that's human nature[customarily?], and my mother came to Louisville where she had an auntie who was the younger sister of her mother. They lived at 510 South 16th Street, which at 5:00that time was primarily, was predominantly I say, an Irish settlement. In those days it was considered a very fine home. I came here in the summer of 1918. Being a country boy and very inquisitive, I immediately began to take a survey of my surroundings. I was impressed by the water pumps on the corner -- nobody had inside water. Nobody had water in the house, and everybody went to a 6:00community pump to get the drinking water, bathing water. People incidentally bathed religiously once a week.
I remember the saloons with the swinging doors. The peculiar thing aboutLouisville, I would say, is the well-knit complacent way in which the town made its transition from the slavery days to the post-Civil War period. Louisville was considered the gateway to the South, and while we had Union troops in Louisville, at one time stationed here, you had mixed sentiments in regards to 7:00the Civil War and it seems to have been a truce declared among the people in the city of Louisville.
The Negroes, and I use that term because I think that it more completelyidentifies the racial connotation of these people, of us people, should I say, than black. Black just is too vague. You've got too many black people in the world for a Negro to consider himself black and be assertive. The Negro in Louisville was just a bit different from Negroes anywhere in the country. I 8:00attribute it primarily to the fact that they were originally house servants of the people in Virginia. The aristocrats who settled in Kentucky, in this portion of Kentucky, came from Virginia, they brought their house servants with them. And of course, when came they brought their house servants with them, they followed the same old pattern. A great deal of affection grew up between the Negroes and the people with which they worked.
Third Street was considered one of the aristocratic neighborhoods in the town --I think Mayor Sloane and his association dubbed it "Old Louisville." That is true, St James Court, that was the aristocratic section of town. They were 9:00straight-laced people. They had carriage houses that were built on the back of their houses then the Negroes lived in those carriage houses. Salaries were low, but nobody worried about money because they could get what they wanted when they wanted it.
There was a pecking order among the Negroes: the preachers were perhaps numberone and the professionals -- the doctors particularly, schoolteachers, and following that probably the waiters, the public house workers, then the 10:00domestics. Now a peculiar thing is, you had the river commerce and of course you had people who followed from the Mississippi River, the river towns. Now they were in a different category. They were the hustlers, the roustabouts, river roustabouts, the steel mill workers. We had up on The Point there the manufactory called the [Rolling Mill]. . .
DC: Up on "The Point" where --?
WE: The Point it's just on the westerly end of what is known now as Butchertown,11:00that's the point right on the river. And of course now, Walnut Street was a main thoroughfare and it was dead until Thursday. But Thursday was cooks' day off.
DC: Cooks' day off?
WE: That is right. All the cooks that were living on the place, they would comein town and have a day off on Thursday. And of course, they were easy prey to the hustlers, the gamblers and so forth, because if they lost all the money they had, following the usual custom of enjoyment that they had, drinking whiskey, 12:00you know, maybe shooting a few craps. That was that element that made up the hard working group, there, you might say. Now the peculiar thing -- that is one phase of Louisville life that we can get into in depth a little later. I'm trying to give you a feel of the town.
Now here you had the social set up, which was composed primarily of thedomestics. Now it's a peculiar thing, seemingly by osmosis the domestic or house servants acted with more cultural adaptability, if that's the right word. Well 13:00anyway, they had assumed the attitude, and the airs and mannerisms of the people for whom they worked. It was lovely to be around them. When they put on an affair, it was beautiful. They naturally wanted to be cultured because they were accustomed to it -- they knew fine food, they knew wines, and consequently they went into teaching of culture. You had your dramatics, you had your singers, you had your -- what do they call it, you know? The tap dancers and so forth? What do they call that dance? 14:00
DC: I don't know.
WE: Oh, you know--It's ridiculous, it's right on the tip of my tongue. You know,the artists, they come out and they tap dance and so forth. Well, they had that, in fact they had every sort of a cultural, social outlet that they possibly could. They encouraged readings. They would have speakers. I know one particular Roscoe Conklin Simmons who was a noted post-Civil War orator. Remindful somewhat of William Jennings Bryan. Anyway, people would come from miles around to hear Roscoe Conklin Simmons. He more or less made Louisville his home because he 15:00married one of the Ebbs -- I forget her first name but he married one of the Ebbs girls. I think that was around 1919.
Now, you have that secondary group, then you have your school teachers. Now yourschool teachers -- and I cannot convey by word of mouth or even write the intensity which those old school teachers approached the problem of teaching ignorant blacks. They were dedicated teachers, they weren't making any money. But now we start off to show you that Louisville was an educational center also. 16:00We'll start off with the Bonds. Now the Bonds had gone all over these United States and established themselves as intellects. There was Dr. James Bond, there was Dr. Jane Bond, man and wife. The Bonds, they were the grandparents of Julian Bond, the Georgian legislator. Then you had in that era Dr. C. H. Parrish, Sr. who was a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in London. He had a doctor of 17:00divinity and a doctor of philosophy. I don't know, I imagine it was religious philosophy, however, he did have those degrees. At that time we had what was known as Simmons University which was located at 7th and York Streets. Children, young men and young women from all over Kentucky came to it, it was a Baptist school.
It's important at this point to say that the educational background of most ofyour old time black educators, Negro educators, were from religious 18:00institutions. The Presbyterians they would establish a school for blacks, the Baptists would establish a school for blacks, the African Methodist Episcopals, they would establish one. In fact, the religious school is the background of post-Civil War education. And they not only taught subjects, liberal arts and so forth, they went into the religious connotations. There were at one time around 1500 students at Simmons University. Dr. C.H. Parrish was the president of that school at that time. All the black schools were universities -- [laughs] all of them were universities. However, they brought out the best in people. One of its 19:00top notch teachers at that time was Todd Duncan. You should put that down because Todd Duncan was an internationally famous singer. Now Todd had his family ties here in Louisville, in fact one of his nephews is now the administrator, I believe is what he is, of the Mammoth Life Insurance Company, LaVal Duncan. Have you met LaVal?
DC: I know him.
WE: Yeah well he is one of Todd's relatives. Then you had Harvey C. Russell.20:00Russell was president of the state university. That's what they originally called Kentucky State. They called it State University. He was a highly religious man and had an excellent background. Incidentally each one of these people that I'm naming to you passed their educational inspirations onto their children and you have a family of educators.
It would be ridiculous for me to proceed further without telling you that atSimmons University they also had a dean of men named Dean Lawson. Dean Lawson 21:00had three sons and his second son, James Lawson, was what we term a very [heavy?] person. He became the president of Fisk University. In fact he just retired a couple of years ago after the death of his two brothers. It was just too much for him so he gave it up. But Jim Lawson was the president. Of course he got his inspiration from Dean Lawson, his father. Then we cannot ignore the Clements. There was the bishop. All of them went into the teaching profession 22:00with possible exception of George. I don't remember George ever teaching. But yet George had a gift of communicating probably superior to any of them with the exception of Rufus Lawson, I mean Rufus Clement. Now the bishop raised his kids, he was pastor of the Broadway ME Church at 13th and Broadway. He passed quite a few years and at one time he lived at 15th and Walnut. Then as his family got bigger, he moved to this great big old house at 17th and Jefferson, he moved 23:00over there. I think he died there.
However, the school, the college that I attended was Louisville MunicipalCollege. It was a division of University of Louisville. Rufus Clement was the Dean of Men out there.
DC: When did you go there?
WE: I went there in 1933. And I departed in '35. I saw no need, I knew I had thebasic tools to shape up my own education as far as making a living is concerned. I didn't want to spend the rest of my life going to school. 24:00
Mr. Clement was one of the most expressive instructors that a man could possiblyhave in my opinion. He made things come alive for you. In fact, out of all the instructors I have had, I don't think any of them rival Rufus Clement. However, he later became the president of Atlanta University.
We had the DuValle sisters. The outstanding educators, black educators inLouisville are legion. Practically everybody -- we had [Sloney? Salome?] Worthington, William H. Perry. The Perrys also evolved into a family school of 25:00teachers. Now Mr. Perry was down on nine something Southwestern Parkway -- William H. Perry Sr. They are a long-lived family and they are fraternal men, with a tendency toward Masonry. All of them 33rd degree Prince Hall Masons. Now I said "Prince Hall Masons" because we don't recognize any branch of masonry but Prince Hall Masonry. That has a slave-time connotation. Prince Hall was a very 26:00cultured Negro from England and he got his charter from England and came over and set up chapters of Masons throughout the United States.
DC: So you're saying that there's still in Louisville the Prince Hall Masons.
WE: Oh yes, yes!
DC: Maybe they date back even before you came to Louisville.
WE: Before I came to Louisville -- all of the Prince Hall dates back to the 1700and something. That brand of Masonry is the Masonry. Now where do I want to go 27:00from here? I'm getting around it now.
DC: That's alright. Well, you've talked about your impressions of Louisvillewhen you came here. The black class structure, important individuals, especially educators. How did you come to know these people? What did you do between 1918 and 1933?
WE: Alright, now, we'll get right into that. This is peculiar. My uncle, whocoincidently is named James F. Gray. He was a Berea graduate out of Versailles, Kentucky. My auntie who was named Sarah Gray, she attended Berea, where she met 28:00Jim Gray, and later finished at Fisk University. So after my mother died in 1918 or early '19, I don't remember just exactly which, they took over, they more or less adopted me. Not legally, they just took me in. I had a very unnatural childhood inasmuch that my play was really means to study. So I never actually went to school to learn anything at all. I got most of my education at home. 29:00Between the two of them they tried to keep my foot in the road so to speak.
When I got to 12 to 13 years of age I rebelled. I knew that that wasn't for me.I had too much of the alley cat in me. So I ran away from home. I stayed on the road till about 1927 or something like that. Just prior to the Depression. I traveled the country, I learned the dirty roads, I learned the underworld [?], and I began to think about what was good for me. So I decided to go on back 30:00home, they left me alone. I came on back home, started back in school. Of course going to school was just a formality with me that's all, because you know it doesn't matter. Just so you have a piece of paper, you don't have to know anything. It's just, see how it went, everything's okay. However, I progressed normally from then on until I decided to marry--
WE: I think that my work experience has been an education in itself to me. First31:00of all, I went to work at the L&N as a laborer. I worked there for a while, how long I don't know exactly. Anyway, I left the L&N because I knew there was no chance for advancement at the L&N in those days. So I began then to become interested in politics, in fact, I had been interested in politics prior to that, helping to shape up the first Young Democrats Club in the city of Louisville. Now that is even prior to '37, that was around '33. That was during 32:00the days of Mickey Brennan. Mickey Brennan was attempting to get a winning slate. There was another faction of the Democratic Party, the E. Leland Taylor faction. Taylor was the, is still their man.
DC: Can you talk some about how the Democratic Party, the party that you werein, how did they attract the black vote?
WE: Well, now. That is very interesting. Brennan, Mickey Brennan, had a verycommon touch and he was a familiar. . . Big Bill Thompson in Chicago who had 33:00flourished during the Al Capone days, and been made infamous by his underworld associations, and then of course there was the Prendergast Gang in Kansas City, Missouri. So Mickey Brennan had been thoroughly indoctrinated and educated in practical politics. And of course E. Leland Taylor represented the aristocratic portion of the Democratic Party. He -- Mickey Brennan -- did a lot of leg work. He got, I think we formed the Young Democratic Club down to 20th and Walnut in the house of a Mrs. Barbara [Lawrence?] in the [1920s?]. At that time there were 34:00I guess about 40 or 50 of us. We were young guys out of high school hanging around the swimming pool at 17th and Magazine, and we got out and we laid out--
Brennan knew everybody. If he met you once next time he saw you, he could callyour name. And one of his peculiarities was -- peculiarities were -- that each morning, he would go to the bank, he would get maybe a couple of hundred dollars worth of ones, put them in one pocket. Get a couple hundred dollars worth of fives put them in another pocket, get some tens, he'd put them in this pocket and you could always tell how you ranked with Mickey Brennan by the bill he gave 35:00you when he met you. When he shook your hand, he laid something in it. So he had his two dollar men, he didn't have anybody lower than two dollars. But you could meet him and he was going to give you some money, that's the first thing. But he went to every one of the precincts and he built him up a very strong organization. In dealing with the political setup of Mickey Brennan we are by-passing the events which made Mickey Brennan possible. See now, we've got to go back.
We had the Republicans run this town, they ran it up until 1927. The Democrats36:00got in for about 6 months with a fellow by the name of O'Neal -- I forget his name. However, here's what happened. They had two brothers, the only one that I can think of, the other one his name isn't available, but I can remember Ches Searcy. The Searcy brothers were the white Republican bosses. Nobody at that time, that is the political organizations, attached too much importance to the black vote. They selected their men and in this instance the Searcys selected the men. In this instance the man's name was Harvey Burns, he was a funeral 37:00director. And they would deposit in the bank a certain amount of money for Harvey to spend for the black vote. So of course you, nobody attached too much importance to the vote, you'd go out and buy the vote. Voted tombstones and everything else, it made no difference -- you know, to win an election.
But we had men in town like Will Warley, I. Willis Cole, A.D. Porter, EliForbes, those men were highly conscious of how the black people were ignored in political consideration. So they formed this Lincoln Club and put A.D. Porter up 38:00to run for mayor on the Lincoln ticket. Now that was a protest against the Searcys and the regime of Harvey Burns. Harvey Burns was a [city bearer?] and not speaking ill of the dead because he did what he thought he had to do, but they had the roadhouse, they had whiskey and they had women, in other words they followed the path of least resistance to make some money. Of course these other people, the Porters and the Warleys and so forth, they resented being sold. So they formed this Lincoln Club and they had this ticket and of course they had a gang of a bums. . . I said bums for the lack of a better word, but anyway they 39:00were cohorts of Harvey Burns and the Searcys and they would bomb them out. It was a -- you know, break out their window lights in the establishment, run them across the river. If the Republicans got in and you voted against them, or had spoken out against the Republicans, boy you had to leave town, if they won the election. They also had these little magisterial districts; police used to go around and lock up every known black that would agitate for the Democratic Party.
Now that situation led up to the eventual creation of the Negroes involved in40:00the Democratic Party. Now I have mentioned the youngest ones. There was some old established Democrats who had been Democrats probably all their lives. We had a Clark Jefferson, better make note, too, because Clark Jefferson was -- he had a park, an amusement park out on Preston Street. Clark Jefferson, Alec [Alex?] Morris. Incidentally, it's interesting to note that Alec Morris was the district man whom our present candidate for mayor, Stansbury, succeeded in the Fifth Ward up there. That's right. He was about 90 years old then, and couldn't get around and he brought the books to me. Bill Stansbury, the man that's running for mayor now. 41:00
DC: Say that again, "he brought the books to me. . ."
WE: See, Alec Morris was so old that he couldn't get around the Fifth Ward. Atthat time Mr. Stansbury lived on Washington Street in Butchertown and I was a bright, enterprising young gentleman so Uncle Alec had schooled me in politics and I had the books. So when Democrat headquarters selected Mr. Stansbury to be the Fifth Ward district man, he had to come to my house to get the books. So, we sat down and had a long discussion on black politics. You didn't handle it that way.
DC: Is Alec Morris is he still alive?
WE: Oh no, Alec Morris has been dead. Yeah, Alec's been dead a long time. Alec42:00Morris, Clark Jefferson, Chester Ware-- and now those two brothers we had one named Ollie Ware, they called him "Goat" Ware. Now Goat Ware was a top-notch man, street man for Ches Searcy. Now those men -- Harvey Burns played the intellects, Goat Ware did the dirty work. In other words, they were an outfit. It was known they were out to steal the election if they could.
DC: So the Republicans had a team. . .
WE: Oh, they had a team to cover every eventuality, yes. So this Lincoln Cub was43:00formed in protest against it, and we went on. Then that throws me back into, I first got a job, a sidewalk inspector, that was the first city job.
DC: Talk about that. When was that?
WE: Oh, Lord. I was still in school then. I think it was around about '33 or'34, something like that.
DC: That was for the Democrats?
WE: Oh, yes, that was the Democrats. Of course my people were [?] Republicans.They liked to died when I announced that I was a dyed-in-the-wool Democrat, but we made [?]. I'm really not doing much of anything just scabbing around, until 44:00the establishment of WPA -- that was after Roosevelt got in. Then, the beginning of a real active life in Louisville began when I received a WPA appointment as -- in the Federal Archives, that was the first spot, Federal Archives. But in those days they had men about my age now in the Federal Archives, and the excuse was offered to me they thought that I was too young to be thrown in with these men. I really actually, and to be honest, I believe it was because of my color. 45:00
However, they switched me over to "American Imprints," and the American Imprintswas a project that dealt with first editions, rare editions, and locating old books. Naturally, working with that, I got a whole lot of history. You know they didn't have the book burning in Massachusetts for nothing. They didn't want this younger generation knowing some of the rotten, despicable things that they did and some decent bird had written all this down and so they had a book burning. They didn't want their children learning it. So some of those books -- all of 46:00them weren't in Massachusetts. So anyway, I would get to read and I got highly interested. I collected first editions. Incidentally, there was a man by the name of John Wilson Townsend. He was the head of the project and he'd been in the rare book business. He was from Lexington, Kentucky. He'd been in that business for quite a few years and then he got me interested, he took a personal liking to me, talking quietly about finding books and about the project. I stayed on that project until the beginning of World War II.
At the beginning of World War II, I went to Jeffersonville Quartermaster at Jeff47:00Boat and got a job as a laborer. It's very interesting to note how I got an advancement. Now they can say what they want to about the Army, and the segregationist policy of the Army and so forth. The Army has always, in my opinion, been composed of practical men, and see white men and Negro men never have no trouble until women become involved. Then they both get a hall of an attitude. That's a fact. They can get along fine until the question of womanhood breaks in, trouble begins. However, when I went over there I got a job as a laborer, they were paying a $100 a month, which was a hell of a salary. Wasn't 48:00nobody making a $100 a month then. I went over there for a $100 a month and you got it once a month, too. That's right. As a laborer.
So I go to moving around and that was a captain over there named Lancaster whowas head of the division and I went to Lancaster and told him I said, "I can do labor work. I've learned how to do everything including steel , if necessary." I said, "I want a better job." He says, "You do? On what basis?" I says, "On the basis of work experience and educational background." He says, "Okay, come here tomorrow and I'll give you a better job." I'd been in the warehouses, moving 49:00those #1,000 barrack tent stoves, you know those long barracks they used to have. Well, they had big old thousand-pound stoves. [Laughing] Can you imagine little me up under it? But I could handle it, because I knew how to get the leverage and balance and I could handle it pretty well. However, went back the next day to this gentleman and he says, "We are going to make you a messenger." Said, "Now there's a bicycle." He said, "You take the messages out of the office, carry them out to the different warehouses." So I learned it -- one day. I got to be devious and smart like this. So I caught him in what I thought was a good mood, I says, "Captain, you probably misunderstood me. I didn't say I wanted an easier job, I said I wanted a better job." And he broke out laughing, see? He said, "Boy," -- that's the honest fact -- he said, "Boy, what kind of 50:00educational background do you have?" I ended up [?]. I said, "Well, I've got lawyers and schoolteachers and everybody else working back there, all of them black, working in labor pool." He says, "What?" I said, "Yeah." You see I could see they were building all these warehouses over there at this time and you could just see the coming war, and they were making preparation for it. So I wrote my qualifications down, and gave a sheet of paper to everyone of them and I did have a lot of the schoolteachers, I could name some of them, but I don't want to go into their names because they wouldn't like for it to be known that 51:00they did that type of work to make a living, but they did.
However, I brought it back and he looked over it and he shook his head. He says,"This is preposterous." He said, "Our system just wastes manpower." But he says, "Ealy" -- he didn't call me "boy" this time -- he says, "Ealy you've got a machine here." Says, "See if you can work with it, we've got to make a nomenclature of these materials." I got the book, it was an embossograph machine. I don't mind telling you this part was, this was an attorney, he and I were later best friends, attorney Alfred Carroll. He took that embossograph machine and we got to, we -- it was a single shot machine. But we got to the 52:00place where we could turn out maybe ten thousand numbers a day, working as a team and we'd set it up. We set up the system for the embossograph machine. So we made all the numbers [part?] Anytime of the day. He said, "Tell you what, we're going to make checkers out of you all."
Checkers were men who checked the orders that were being shipped out on freightand so forth, and they had plenty of checkers but no blacks. Incidentally they did have, I later learned there was a fellow there as white as you, he was sitting in the office and was working and he was passing for white, and he was 53:00white, and this ridiculous idea that we had was for his identification, why he was termed a Negro but he was as white as you are. Anyway, Smitty we laughed about it later, but he came to us and told us. He said, "You all are not the first black checkers, I'm the first black checker!" Anyway, he made us checkers, raised our salary one week, one month was 1440. The next month, it was raised to 1800. Then from 1800 I think it went to 2100, 2200, something of that sort. Of 54:00course the boys, the other checkers, they kind of resented it, because after. . .we got so good at it, the head checker brought us into the office. It was three of us, Alfred Carroll, myself, and a fellow by the name of Jackson. We checked all the checkers' work. Boy, it was hot. The Jeffersonville Quartermaster in those days was a hotbed of Catholicism. If you [were?] a Catholic, boy you were going to catch hell at the Quartermaster. Catholics and Negroes caught hell.
We broke down the segregated union. I saw a guy, he was a schoolteacher, I saw55:00him and he had the most delicious-looking sandwich and everything. I said to him, "French, where did you get that sandwich?" "Got it over at the cafeteria." But he didn't tell me had gone to the backdoor. I walked over to the cafeteria to get me a sandwich. They refused me admittance. I said, "Well, French got a sandwich." "He went to the backdoor and got it." So I said, "Well, I'm not going to the backdoor." I went back and told Carroll about it. Now Carroll was a lawyer. He was a Howard graduate. He had gotten his A.B. at Central State in Wilberforce and had gotten his, what is it, his L.L.D., his law degree, he'd gotten that at Howard, and also his Masters. So I went back and I told him, I 56:00said, "You got to do something about this." He says, "You're damn right." He says, "Here's the thing about it, first of all, those people are subleasing, they are subleasing that cafeteria from the government itself," said, "We're going to get to work on it." So we went to work on it. Course we caught hell. Course me being a hothead I finally got fired. I'll be perfectly frank with you.
I hit somebody in the mouth [?] one night and that was it. Oh yeah, if you gottwo [?] somebody had to go. I got fired, I admit it. But now after I left the Quartermaster I went into this. . .imprint business and there was a school in 57:00New York. American Institute of Journalism. I forget just what the address was, but they had correspondence courses. It was a two-year course and I dug into it religiously. I learned reporting, make-up, editorial writing, headline writing, [?]. Different styles, and then of course I started writing, I always had ideas. 58:00I started writing everything I could and the Louisville Defender picked me up. I did columns for them.
DC: About what time was this? After the war?
WE: This is about '41, '42. When did the war end?
WE: Forty-five. Yeah, this is about '42, '43, somewhere along in there. The warwas winding down. However, they had a two or three war correspondents. Vincent Tubb, Fletcher Martin, who was the man that talks so authoritatively on the television, what's his name? He's working for Chicago now. Wears his hair 59:00slicked back. Gray-headed fellow. Oh God, you know, I know I him much better then I know you. [?] But he's strictly an establishment man but he was in that group. He's a high-ranking officer. Oh, I see all his information, what was his name? Golly. I think he writes for the Chicago Daily News right now. Okay, we'll come back to it. [?] But that was the lineup, and from columnist work and then being short, I went right into police work, police reporting. I saw many a 60:00things in that police court.
DC: So you were a police reporter for the Louisville Defender?
WE: That's right. I also was doing the stringer work. I was doing stringer forPittsburgh Courier and also [?]. It didn't pay much, but what they could use, they would use me. Bring in a few bucks [?].
DC: Talk some about your police court reporting.
WE: Well, in those days they had, the court stenographer took everything downshorthand. I forget what his name is, he's been there for many years. But the 61:00court was very small. You're talking about all the credit, the juries run the court. But the funniest thing that I ever saw in all my experience in the court was the day that. . .
DC: (first few words cut off) Covering police court for the Louisville Defenderbeginning around the 1940s and you just said the funniest thing you ever saw...
WE: Oh, yeah, now Reverend C. Ewbank Tucker, who later became Bishop Tucker, wasfrom the West Indies. He came here, he got interested in politics, and became a power in the Democrat Party. However, the most interesting thing about it was he 62:00was a heck of a lawyer, no question about it. But he used to do most of his briefing on the back of an [??]. [Laughing] He was more interested in the racehorses! Anyway on this particular day, now Frank Cahill was supposed to be one of the topnotch criminal lawyers in the city of Louisville. They all practiced in the police court because that's where the money was.
They had a real nice hustle going then in the police court in those days. All ofthem had maybe four or five runners and these runners would get out and check on whose cases were coming up and whether they had the money and so forth and so on. They'd be working for a particular lawyer and if the lawyer got the case then naturally you'd give them a little piece. That also is part of the bail 63:00bond situation, which as you know has been eliminated. They all had plenty of evil in their skin. However, Ewbank Tucker was representing a defendant and Frank Cahill was representing the plaintiff, I believe. You know, they were on opposite sides, anyway. One was representing the plaintiff and the other the defendant. In the heat of the discussion, the jury was listening very nicely to both of them, and they were dealing with personalities and so forth, which is naturally not permissible, but the juries want to hear it anyway. So it finally 64:00got to the place where Cahill called Tucker a nigger. Boy, he floored him. Cahill was a big guy too. Tucker wasn't small in those days, very robust, but he knocked him down in court and they had to adjourn court that day. That's a fact. But Tucker was fiery, he would hit anybody and he would win the case, too. He was a darn good lawyer no question about it. His son, Neville -- he was a father, Bishop Tucker was Neville's father. Now, Neville was born right after the flood, in '37, and the mayor of the town was Neville Miller, so Tucker was 65:00tight with the mayor and he named his son... Now, that is a racket that my people have played, to the nth degree. The women started that, years and years ago.
I'm digressing again, but it clicks something with my mind, I have to tell it.You know, a woman would have a baby, she'd be working for, say, Mr. John Smith over here, so she'd have a baby, she'd name that baby John Smith Jones. Every time that baby needed a pair of shoes, she'd go to Mr. John Smith and say, "Little John needs a pair of shoes." The old time con game, see. Well, now that 66:00is basic.
Now if that, see one thing triggers another thought. And Lord knows you're goingto have to cut this thing from stem to stern to get what you want out of it. However, this is a fact. That gives you the basis of why your Negro leaders sought and need submissive wives. No Negro leader that you know of, wife was prominent in his lifetime. He would not allow her, because he didn't trust her around white men, he didn't trust her judgment. He didn't want her in his business. Then of course you had this other type of Negro who was utterly dependent on his wife, his girlfriend or the woman he's living with to bring him 67:00a crooked arm. Have you ever heard now what the crooked arm is?
DC: No, tell me.
WE: Alright, the crooked arm is this: the cook after she feeds the people thatshe works for, she brings the remainder of the dinner home to her husband. So she brings it in her arm, they call it the crooked arms. Quite a few guys are dependent on the crooked arm to live. Naturally they just didn't rank in the house, because the woman was making more money. And to maintain some sort of balance, it was very crude, very harsh, but all of your outstanding Negro 68:00leaders were tyrants to their wives. That's right. That goes for all them. All of their lives I've investigated, I've gone on back from the days of William Walker, Monroe Trotter, and all those. Wives couldn't breathe. But the minute they expire, die of something, the wives come out and take over.
WE: Yeah, it amuses me very much. There's little question about it, Mrs. King isan educated, cultured, lady. But human nature doesn't ever change. Times change 69:00and techniques may change, but basically we all do the same thing. Now the minute that Martin Luther King got off the scene she came on, came on very strong. Mrs. Booker T. Washington did the same thing. You never heard of her prior to time [noise of car] [?]. Cole was in the same category. Warley was in the same category. The first Mrs. Stanley was in the same category.
DC: Talk some about them.
DC: Warley and Stanley. . .
WE: Oh, well now, let us deal primarily with the different attitudes of the twomen. I'll take Warley first. But -- let me get one thing straight before I start 70:00on Warley. It is, we're about to speak of newspapers in town. It should be interesting to you to know that we had four newspapers operative at one time in this town, prior to the Louisville Defender. We had the American Baptist, which was owned, published and edited by Billy Steward. We had the Kentucky Reporter, which was owned, edited by Berry, I forget what Berry's first name was. 71:00Incidentally, they built that building that Cole later went into. The Berrys did. That's right. That was the Berry Building before Cole ever got a hold of it, at 10th and Walnut, they built it. Then there's, see after Kentucky Reporter, then there was the Louisville News, and then the Louisville Leader. You had four papers going at one time in this town and the Louisville Defender had not yet appeared on the scene. Of course, now, let me see. Now, very little is known-- [Tape cuts off at interviewee's request.]
About to give you a little background about what I know of William Warley. Now72:00very little is known about the early life of Mr. Warley. It's just known that he was a native Louisvillian. Much has been said about his antecedents, but nothing documentary at all. However, Mr. Warley, to the best of my knowledge, received his education in the Louisville public schools. He was a commoner, belonging to the working class of people, that is the laboring class of people, and the hustlers. The gamblers and the pimps and so forth. Mr. Warley was a very 73:00forceful writer and his sheer genius of writing was shared by one of his friends who worked in the post office by the name of Huntley Goodall.
Goodall never edited a newspaper in his life, but he did quite a bit of ghostingfor Will Warley. They would get together and discuss a subject, come to a conclusion, and if Warley had just gotten off a drunk, why, Huntley Goodall would write the article for him. The primary difference between Warley and Mr. 74:00Cole: Warley had to print his paper by any means possible. If it was necessary for him to sponsor a different politician that he could, not bend his principles, but see a long range goal he might obtain by supporting that particular political candidate, he would do it providing that he got his paper out. And there's no question about it, he was very, very forceful and he was an [associate?], particularly after he fought the case of this restrictive 75:00covenant. Now it's interesting, the man that he fought that case for is still living.
DC: Who is that?
WE: Oh, Donaldson or something. I can get the name for you because he belongs toour retired men's YMCA Club and I'll run that down. You might be able to get even a little bit more personal background on Warley through this man. Now I'll run that down for you. I told you I'd been doing quite a bit of leg work on this, and he's still living and active.
I don't think Mr. Cole had too much personal liking for Will Warley, but Mr.76:00Cole was a man who gave credit where credit was due. He kept up the friendly relationship with Mr. Warley. As a little sideline here, you might say, that Cole would tell me, he says, "Ealy, the difference between me and Will Warley is simply this. Will gets a problem, he gets drunk. After he gets drunk, he's still got the problem. I get the problem, I solve my problem. Now, [?] getting drunk. 77:00Oh I'll take a cocktail every now and then, but let it go at that." That's just to give you an idea of how he felt. But he did admire Warley and they would collaborate if things got too hot.
I remember the times, and I say times, I mean various periods, when this part oftown couldn't get the paper printed fast enough for the people at city hall. They wanted to see what they had to say. At that period of course, the impact of the Negro vote had become highly important and they wanted to know what people 78:00were thinking down here. They didn't spare, tell them exactly what they thought about him, whatever it was. They went right to the nitty-gritty.
Now the difference was, Mr. Cole was an aristocrat. In appearance, he wasimmaculately dressed at all times. You never caught him out of balance. I met Mr. Cole's father in Memphis, Tennessee. That was in my runaway days, I met him. 79:00Met him at the little Baptist church. And it's my personal belief that the Coles originated somewhere in Mississippi because Memphis is the junction for people who live in Arkansas and Mississippi and usually they're heading up toward St. Louis and they stop off in Memphis. Well, you have the biography, you know that background. Mr. Cole's dad he says, "You know, you're from Louisville, you must know my son I. Willis." I said, "Oh, yeah I live just right down the street from him." I didn't live right down the street from him, but I had an auntie that lived at 23rd and Walnut and the Coles lived between 22nd and 23rd on Walnut so 80:00they were in the same block. Of course, I observed Lattimore, Ruth and Tella Marie and them when they were nothing but babies.
Anyway as I said, Mr. Cole was a very immaculate man and he was notorious, Isaid notorious for the beautiful white on white shirts that he wore--[?]. They had a saying which gives you a little picture of him. They'd say, "I. Willis Cole: as black as his name and as crooked as his nose." He had a prominent nose you see. Apparently, there's a lot of Indian in the family. Anyway, his enemies would throw that on him. He was argumatic, dogmatic, but he was a Christian person and he attempted to really do things. The thing about it, I don't know, but Mr. Cole came here selling Bibles. And he was so eloquent in explaining the 81:00Bible that the people in this town just fell in love with him. All of them had the Christian background 'cause as I told you know the schools and everything were religious schools. He got into events with Will Warley. He lost his shirt. He was on his way to Chicago to enter the ministry. I don't know this to be a fact, but it's my belief that [H.E. Hall,] the founder of Mammoth Life and Insurance Company, was instrumental in getting Cole not only started in the 82:00business, but he subsidized him until his death. Because as I recall during Mr. Cole's heyday as a newspaper editor in this town, he had his press and everything, his whole newspaper business, in the basement of the original Mammoth office, which was between Walnut and Cedar on 6th Street. That's when he really put out a paper, no if's and ands about it. He had plenty of printers and course like all one-man operations, as your strength ebbs so does your ability to produce. Of course, it just dwindled on out more or less, yes, 'cause he just 83:00didn't-- He always had the desire to print a daily but of course as he got older he couldn't get the force. Then he wasn't the easiest person in the world to get along with. He was a stickler for formality. There was a certain way you did everything.
DC: Talk about that some. There must be some funny stories associated with that.
WE: Well, first of all, he's a man who had preconceived likes and dislikes. Hecouldn't stand Frank Stanley. Frank Stanley, the editor of the Louisville Defender. He couldn't stand Frank. There's a -- it isn't a funny story at all, it's a tragic situation because it deals with human frailties, but it does point 84:00up the characters of the two men and how fate sometimes steps in to better or worsen a condition. Mr. Cole, after he had been publishing his newspaper, became a civic and political power in this community. We had a superintendent of public schools at that time by the name of Frederick Archer. Mr. Archer was a stanch segregationist and like all people of that ilk, he had certain people that he 85:00listened to. If you wanted to get into the public school system in the city of Louisville you had to pass inspection of two black men. One was I. Willis Cole, the other was W.B. Matthews, who was principal of the high school. Matthews' favorite: everybody from Georgia. And you'll find that most of the high school teachers of that period were from Atlanta. 86:00
Now Atlanta University had a lot of athletic scholarships. Frank Stanley was atop notch football player in his youth. He played with the varsity team at Atlanta. Immediately when he got out of school, why he came here. There is so much and things just, it rolls back to you, you know? There are so many important things to tell you, which make up the composite picture of Louisville, it gives you the feel of the town. You've got-- that makes me think -- you've got the Kean brothers. They were nationally known athletes and athletic directors. You had the Whedbees, Mel Whedbee and Ellis Whedbee. Now those are 87:00all native Louisvillians. Frank Stanley stirred them loose.
However, now getting back to Frank and connecting back where we were. [Briefportion redacted.] Frank Stanley, Jr. was born, he and [Ione?] were living at 88:00the Allen Hotel. Frank was waiting table, Frank Stanley was waiting table for a living.
The Louisville Defender had started. It had been started by a man by the name ofAlbin Bowman. Another prominent Louisville family, Albin Bowman. The cost of printing was prohibitive in those days and you had all -- papers printed throughout the entire United States belonged to a chain of newspapers. Now the 89:00Abbott papers, Chicago Defender, that is where the Louisville Defender had its printing done. It had the Kansas City Call. No, I don't think it had the Indianapolis Recorder, but there were two or three newspapers that were printed, Kansas City Call was one of them. Louis Martin, that bunch. You've probably heard something of him, Louis Martin?
WE: Okay. Bowman had gotten into deep financial difficulties with the printersin Chicago. He was indebted to them. Old man Abbott had died and his nephew John 90:00Sengstacke had taken over the paper and so the Louisville Defender was into the Chicago Defender too much for them to let the paper fold. So they came to this town to find somebody to take over that paper and run it for them. They searched around, they searched around, I forgot just who recommended Frank. But Frank was an excellent English major, in fact, Frank Stanley was one of the shrewdest manipulators that I've ever worked with. He was very cold hearted but if he 91:00promised to pay you $10 a week you got your $10 religiously. Frank got out and rang doorbells, he hustled ads, and he and a fellow by the name of Frank Gray, they incorporated the Louisville Defender, they went to work and incorporated. They stayed with the Chicago Defender up until the time they had the printers and typographical-- Well, anyhow, they had a strike, the printers had a strike and all it cost--
DC: You were talking about Frank Stanley and the printers strike--92:00
WE: Oh yeah, the printers strike, well and after they had the printers strike,Frank wanted to get out. But in the meanwhile he and John Sengstacke had struck up a heck of a mutual acquaintance and friendship, and Frank bought out, he bought out of the chain. And then he reverted to the practice that Warley had to, in other words he more or less had to farm out his newspaper. He would go here and get it printed, and go there and get it printed, but in the meanwhile he's building up the paper. Of course, I left the Defender after I told him that I wanted $8,000 a year. He says, "You'll never get it here." I said, "Well, I've 93:00[already?] quit here." So I left the Defender then, and went to the Courier.
DC: That was when?
WE: That was in '43 or '44, somewhere along in there. You know when you get upin a certain age, you get confused on the actual years. But I had the advantage of this: at the same time that I was working with Mr. Cole, I was also the public relations officer for the Mammoth Life Insurance Company. I printed their 94:00house organ, which was the Pioneer, and it was handmade on the duplicating machine, [?], and I got shrewd enough to use colors and so forth. I worked for John Holloman, he was a general agent. John Holloman was a very good friend of I. Willis Cole, so I was able to do a whole lot of collaborating along about that time. Now I stayed with the Mammoth Life and Insurance Company until the... John Holloman was a very generous man, like I talked [--?...], you'll weave it in some way, I guess. Old Man Hall, the founder, and I say that with reverence. 95:00I say "Old Man Hall" -- I don't mean that derogatory at all.
DC: Sort of like general, the old man.
WE: Yeah, the old man. And he was the old man. He was stingy! [Laughing] Hiswhole family's stingy right today, [Hilda?] would die if she heard me saying that, but the whole family of Halls was stingy. Julius is even cheap, he's the president now.
Anyway, he and John Holloman, who incidentally had this whole history behindhim, he came from Brownsville, Texas, right, way back yonder, he was in that, see? And he went to Chicago, and did some great deal of insurance [?] there, and the Mammoth was in the process of expanding, so Hall had him come in here as a 96:00general agent. And Holloman would give incentives to his agents, and I think Holloman got about $150,000, or $200,000. Well now, you know in an organization of that kind, there's always a game called "politics." So, Old Man Hall passed away -- I'm getting a little bit in front of the story, I'll back up in a minute. He passed away, and when he passed away, the company immediately formed what was known as the Hall Trust. That was stock that was divided between his heirs, Mr. Hall's heirs. John Holloman was indebted to the company, so he needed 97:00some help, so he sent for his son, his son was named Bob Holloman. Bob was an eccentric sort of person, very matter-of-fact, but beyond a shadow of a doubt, much shrewder than his daddy ever dared to be and his daddy was a whip to begin with. See, these were giants in Negro business. Bob Holloman came here, and within six or eight months, he had pulled that agency out of the red, and into 98:00the black.
Incidentally I lost my job as public relations man, not because of inefficiency,but because I wasn't a stockholder. Mae Street Kidd had the stock, and there was some interoffice politicking. So she got the PR job, your legislator, she got the PR job, which she was entitled to under the conditions, see? And of course, I had to look elsewhere for a job.
I'll give you an anecdote on H.E. Hall. Holloman's desk was here, I had my desk99:00over there, and I knew everything that was happening -- that would lead up to something I'm going to tell you later, that will show you something. Here comes an agent in. He says, I forget his name, I do know what his name was, name was Ford. Ford wanted two hundred dollars from the board, two hundred dollars from the company. So he goes up to Mr. Hall, and says, "Mr. Hall, I need some money." Mr. Hall looks up at him and says, "Well, how much you need?" He says, "I can make do with two hundred dollars." Mr. Hall says, "Two hundred dollars!" "Yes 100:00sir." He said, "Well I gotta think about that." He sat there for about two, three minutes. John Holloman's sitting over there at his desk, and I'm sitting over there in the corner, at my desk, and John Holloman says, "Tell him to come back after a while, H.E." So he says, "Come on back after a while and I'll talk to you." So immediately when he closed the door, Old Man John says, "How much debit has that man got, H.E.?" Says, "I don't know." Called over to the district office, now see, they'd moved into the 6th street office then, so the district office was over at 6th street where the original home office was. So he calls over there, and says, "Let me know how much debit Ford's got over there." I 101:00think they had about eight or nine hundred dollars a week debit. So Hall turned around, says, "John, he's got about nine hundred dollar debit." Old Man Holloman says, "H.E., you're not using your head. There is a man who has $900 of your money before you see it and you don't want him to have $200 -- give that man that $200 before he takes it away from you!" And boy, that tickled the heck out of me. Mr. Hall says, "Well, I hadn't looked at it quite like that," but he 102:00laughed, he laughed. He had a heck of a sense of humor and decided to give the man, so they made him out a check and gave him his $200. Now I can backtrack. I done lost you now.
DC: Well, we were talking about, we sort of got onto that talking about I.Willis Cole, and William Warley and the differences between the two, and Frank Stanley--
WE: Yeah. Yeah, [?] the particulars on of each of them. Each one of them hadgood qualities. They had their humanistic qualities, each of them. I don't too much believe in dirt-digging. Early in my journalistic career the example of 103:00Jake Lingle in Chicago taught me that it's better to kept dirt hid. You don't dig dirt. A good journalist and a healthy journalist doesn't dig dirt, you see. But each of those men had their humanistic frailties and Will's was drinking. Now incidentally, when Will Warley died, he was not sovereign. He was buried by 104:00an old line Republican white who had sought to be mayor of this town for years and years but he was a commonality, and whites wouldn't accept him, Negroes loved him -- Charlie Ryan.
DC: Heard of him. Yeah.
WE: Yeah, well, Charlie Ryan, everybody loved Charlie Ryan. Every black manpractically, in town with Charlie Ryan loved him. He was in rapport with the group -- in fact his father was a representative to the Kentucky legislature from the district there. Incidentally the house that the Clements moved into on Jefferson Street was previously a Ryan's residence. That's right, they lived 105:00there 17th and Jefferson on the other side of the old graveyard. Now, trying to evaluate their abilities, their journalistic abilities--
Oh yeah, I should tell you this. For years and years, what I'll say, until theyput the publicity, political publicity, in the hands of agencies, I wrote the black-oriented news releases for all parties, Republicans and Democrats. Did 106:00that for years. I used to take my kids and distribute. And they [allowed/] me quite a bit. And I fell out -- Let me see--who was it.
This big guy they sent to the penitentiary, this genius we had here at one time,and he was a genius. He was crazy as hell but he still was a genius. I think it was the Ned Breathitt campaign. Pritchard! Pritchard, Pritchard, yeah. Miss Byck was in on that too. Of Byck wearing apparel. She was a pretty good politician at one time. I was following my usual tack, submitting copy, I make up my political 107:00stuff. I would to submit it and get it approved, and I had me a printer over in Clarksville, we'd go there and we'd print out a beautiful little edition, but it would be black-oriented. Pritchard told me he liked to work, so he said. This agency out on 4th street is where Ned Breathitt put his money. And he said, Pritchard told me he said, "Now, you go out to this agency, submit your copy and everything will be okay." Then they've got to check it. I went out there, first. Now here I am a journalist, he's a journalist too. I am trying to get some money 108:00out of him, and he's going to pass judgment on my work, whether it's worthy or not. I went out there and in the middle of his critique, I just reached and got my stuff. I said "You forget it. I'll be damned if I want you to pass an opinion on my work. You're a journalist, we are in the same position. Only thing is you've got the money and I haven't. I can do without the money; give me my copy back." Now I severed my own connection on that, yeah, but I mean that's the type of person I am, see, and of course at that time, never--
DC: So you're talking about Pritchard, was...?109:00
WE: Pritchard was the manager. He was Breathitt's campaign manager. He was
Top notch and he was a sharp young cat, no question that-- If they hadn'tknocked him off, I think that was deliberate and I think it was pre-meditated. I don't think that man was guilty of whatever it was they accused him of because he was too shrewd. But they knocked him down. But I'll give you a little bit of political history, here, just to make sense of what I'm talking about. I can't give you all of this in one day, nobody can. Anyway, after Mickey Brennan became more or less the boss, Alben W. Barkley, vice-president Alben W. Barkley was a [filler?..?..] brought in Lennie McLaughlin -- she came from Martinsburg, Kentucky -- and made her executive secretary because Barkley was going to 110:00Washington and he wasn't going to be interested in local politics, only inasmuch as it involved him, and he wanted this young lady to be taken care of. He turned her over to Mickey. She became the only woman power in this area, but Alben Barkley brought Linda McLaughlin into town. She learned her political strategy 111:00under Mickey Brennan. She did a damn good job, too, no question about it. However, that brings me -- incidentally, she hated blacks. She couldn't stand a black [person?], because-- You had three men in this town who were outstanding under Mickey Brennan. There was John Walker who was a Fisk graduate. Very cultured gentleman who danced a tight rope between respectability and the underworld. He was one. Then you had E.E. Pruitt, Earl Pruitt, who was a Pullman 112:00porter. Then you had John Petrie. Now those three men run black Louisville politically as far as the Democratic Party was concerned.
Those gentlemen sold jobs. [Siren in background.] John Walker entered into thejuke box business. Earl Pruitt went back to school, got his degree, and became a ranking member of the Louisville Municipal Housing Authority. John Petrie opened up a joint, and each of them were powers in certain different categories. Now 113:00you hinge on some of the happenings. There was a guy named Rivers, I don't know what Rivers' real name was. Anyway, he had a nightclub and he gambled and did everything else he possibly could, but he had some-- he was trying to maneuver and Walker and Petrie and them forced him to go into legitimate jukebox business and he made a fortune. [Laughing.] He got richer then any of them, yeah, he got richer than any of them. 114:00
Now it's important, because those three men set the pattern for the Democraticattitudes toward blacks in this town. For instance, when Franklin Delano Roosevelt ran for a 4th term, I went to Chicago to make up the Louisville Defender that particular time. The Kentucky delegation had the thirteenth floor of the Stevens Hotel -- they had the entire floor. The ranking man at that time was Keen Johnson. 115:00
WE: That's right, Keen Johnson was. So the secretary, the executive secretary ofthe Democratic organization at that time was Johnny Dugan. Johnny Dugan later became associated with the race track, the turf exchange and so forth. Anyway Dugan was the man, so Dugan says, Dugan called a meeting. I was a reporter. But I always managed to get in on meetings, anything that was confidential they didn't have to worry, they could talk freely, that wouldn't go it into the story. So he assembled all the delegates from Kentucky in this big auditorium on 116:00the thirteenth floor. That's the only hotel I know of that has a thirteenth floor.
DC: Most of them don't.
WE: That's right. That's what I'm talking about. Anyway, we got in, Dugan says"Gentlemen, now you know we've got this entire floor, right? And we have got to raise some money to pay for it. Now I'd like you men to ante up, so who's got some money in here?" Nobody opens their mouth. Keen Johnson didn't open his. I can't remember just the pecking order. But anyway (go ahead, help yourself). Anyway nobody opens their mouth and here's John Petrie sitting back in the corner smoking a big cigar, big Havana cigar about that long. He raises up, 117:00says, "Well, I got a little money left." Says, "How much you got John?" "I think I got $15 or $16,000 left from the last campaign." "Okay, give us that." From that day to this, not a black man in the city of Louisville is into having any real money in a political campaign. That cut that off. Now you know they had a lot of money in there, but everybody kept quiet except this monkey and he told me he had $15,000, $16,000. And you know exactly how their computerized minds worked on that, see. He offered it freely. So no blacks [would have any more 118:00money?] I said, "Out of this game is where I got to get." And that is a fact.
But prior to that, election year was the time to get fat in this town. This oldguy that I was telling you about way back yonder? The first time I ever saw some money was a place called Ninth and [..?]. Harvey Bernstein came in with some cast this big and it was filled with crisp money. He had drawn it out of the bank himself because the Searcys deposited it to his account. That money was for what he called repeaters. They would have a gang of men that would go out and they would have the list of all the people that were in the precinct. Some of 119:00them might be dead, quite a few of them were in jail, if they were known Democrats they would grab them on election day and put them in jail and hold them, you know, until after the polls close so they couldn't vote. Now these repeaters would go in, "I'm John Smith." John Smith's on the book, okay, John Smith would take out a pocket notebook, "I've got one." Now that would be an interesting thing after the polls would close to go back to see the payoff. Man, you know has all his known repeaters, says, "John Smith." John Smith would walk over there. Say he repeated four times. "Oh no, oh no! I repeated eight times." 120:00Of course, [when they asked they came off eight times,?] he probably didn't repeat but once or twice, you know what I mean, but that was repeater money. Of course we had the old ballot box where you dropped your ballot in it. By a little legerdemain the vote could be changed and so forth. Oh man, it was awful. It was really something.
They had one notorious character by the name of Walter Simons, white Jewishfellow, and he ran a joint at 11th and Walnut called the Little Doggie. Millions 121:00of dollars passed by there. He was a hard, in the wool Democrat and a heck of a work-- he'd do anything to get the Democratic Party in. Then you had another man who I know during his career gave the Democratic Party about another million and half dollars -- Sheik Parrish, Rufus Parrish. He had what was known as the Golden Horseshoe. Now the Golden Horseshoe -- he made so much money it was pathetic. He just piled money into the Democratic Party. Police captains, ranking officers, used to go out to his place, this game would be going. He'd plant them a whole fifth of Old Grand-Dad, Old Forester, whatever they wanted you know. That was something. Then you had your old Negro gangsters. Louisville 122:00was the only city in these United States that had black gangsters. Not even Memphis. Now Memphis was a hot town for cars. You're car-- in Memphis--
WE: Now Capone had his alcohol-making establishment in Cicero, Illinois and whenhe would ship that stuff south they would bring it by truck through the K & I Bridge. These gangsters would greet these men, at that bridge, take that alcohol away from them. Now, right across from what is known as the Louisville Gardens, 123:00it was the Armory then, there was a little fruit stand. No one knew at that time -- we knew they didn't sell any fruit though. But it was a fruit stand. That was Al Capone's headquarters in Louisville. After they kept on repeatedly taking Capone's alcohol, they sent a hit man down here. There was a little fellow by the name of "Spots." They found him over in the cornfield, wrecked. Course that broke up stealing Al Capone's alcohol, but they actually took his alcohol.
This town -- it should be pointed out particularly and you'll have to put this124:00in somewhere: the entire attitude of the town changed in 1919. You had an influx of Southern immigrants to come in here, and Louisville became a wide open town. You had professional gamblers, you had your prostitution district and you had your dope hustlers. All of them were waiting for this cook's day, this was Thursday. These people would come out of these people's homes because it was easy money; they could clip them very well, you know. And they'd say, "Oh well, 125:00go on back home, you know." Few dollars gone -- they might have saved up money for six months. I've even remembered some of the girls calling up and having the chauffeur bring them a couple hundred dollars, they'd get out and get to having such a good time.
There was a particular joint, I want to hook this in with you while I think ofit, run by a man by the name of Emmett Adams. He was an underworld character. He had a joint called the Moon Glow. That was between 6th and 7th on Walnut. Mr. Adams did not allow a policeman in his place. If a policeman came in his place 126:00-- he was a small guy, not much bigger than I am. He would put his foot in that officer's posterior to get him out. The town was so open that we had a Director of Safety that on every Monday morning Mr. Adams used to report to City Hall and the Director of Safety come out and get his week's take. The police take -- now remember I'm mentally and actually documenting the events at this time, 'cause those records have long since been destroyed. But from the blocks of 6th and Cedar, to 13th Street, over to Broadway, back down to 13th Street, there was 127:00better then a $1600 a week take. That went directly through the Police Department, which does not include the Director of Safety's take. Everybody got paid. This is true. We had a chief of police here once who built a $50,000 home with his two little lily white hands. Course he retired as chief of police. Man, I'll tell you, this town -- the police now are Sunday school teachers. They used to really take this town. Now, I've wound along generally, can you into 128:00something that would be of specific interest to you so that I can try to dwell on it and not digress?
DC: Well, what we could do, you said a while ago that you didn't think you'd beable to tell everything today.
WE: No, ain't no way, no way!
DC: What we could do is, maybe we could stop right now and I could go back andlisten to the tapes and you could think about what we talked about today...
WE: I think you probably need a little more elaboration on the Lincoln Club. Youprobably need that and I think that you perhaps need elaboration on the merits of the segregated school system -- merits or faults or whatnot. I think the 129:00education instructors of that period should be pointed up perhaps a little bit more. [Pause.] Don't you want some more Coke?
DC: No, I've--
WE: Well, I don't drink too much of it of it either, but-- [Pause.] I'll tellyou this, I would like to put this in right now, while I got it on my mind. I 130:00had the biggest laugh with my wife just prior to the time that Bill Cowger got to be Mayor of the City of Louisville. You know when they decided that they were going to revitalize Louisville. See, Louisville was run down at the heels and everything was decayed but we were decaying gradually. We were mindful of an old aristocrat still wearing his old fine suit but just threadbare, been patched and so forth. Well, what actually happened in this town is that all the [older heads?] went to Wall Street with their securities and became blue-tooth bond clippers. Alright, prior to that time we were dependent on the Nortons, the 131:00Belknaps, the Ballards, the Knebelkamps, [Hurts?], and there's a host of people who actually did nothing but sponsor.
I might inject this right now. Now you have this -- this is the final results ofSimmons University out here at 18th and Dumesnil. Okay. It's interesting to note that that place today is functioning under the auspices of an old tobacco man, Wood F. Axton, who so loved to-- the Philip Morris people. Now Wood Axton 132:00endowed that school, and that school is able to run today off of the interest of the money that he deposited to their credit, with the stipulation that they survive off the interest and that's the way that that school operates. But was a powerful school at one time. But we had quite a few rascals, materialistic rascals, in our age group too. That's part of our problem. I thought that would be important. I thought I better get that in so you can place it somewhere. 133:00
The American Baptist of course is still in print, just as it was the day thatBilly Steward turned [?] over to them. They didn't change the format or anything. It is strictly a religious paper. It tells what Reverend So-and-so did. Has absolutely no value to the community. Course the Stewards have died. Now one of Billy's Steward's daughters is still living, you want to talk to her. [Tape stops and restarts.]
One of Mr. Steward's daughters still living, her name is Mrs. Carolyn Steward134:00Blanton. [Ms. Blanton's personal information redacted.] Now, she's in age now, but it's interesting to note that she's the widow of J.O. Blanton. J.O. Blanton was the president of the first Negro bank. We had two. We had two banks, two insurance companies, a co-operative grocery, dating back to 1918. Perry Grocery 135:00Company, name of it. It's interesting to note that both of the black banks in this town were solvent until the National Bank of Kentucky went under.
DC: What were those banks? WE: They both were at 6th and Walnut.
DC: What were the names of them? I don't know of them.
WE: Alright, it was First Standard Bank and the president of that bank wasWilson Lovett. Now all these businessmen were buddies and -- but they had their disagreements. Consequently, they would launch out on their own. Now the other 136:00bank, was Mutual something, I can't remember. It was on the other side of the street. They always got on the opposite side, you know? When they established their business it would be on the opposite side, so that the bank, the Mutual bank -- and that isn't the correct name of it -- but it was there. Now the funny thing about it, those banks issued little certificates, I tease my wife about it now, because she got caught in a [?]. They had little bank books printed and they would issue those bank books to school children. The school children would 137:00pinch off their lunch money and save so much of that money per week. They would deposit to that account and they could go. But of course, after National Bank of Kentucky went under, their money went by -- my wife was a heavy contributor to that fund, I tease her all the time about how they went South with her money, you know, just something to raise the devil about, kind of get her stirred up. Let me see, what else is of high importance. Are you aware of the Domestic Life and Insurance Company?
WE: Right. Now here were the-- Oh, incidentally, the theaters, all the exclusive138:00theaters in town had what where known as buzzard troops. Black people saw all the shows that came into town. I remember going to the McCauley and Temple Theaters seeing the Smarter Set and Blackbirds. There was the McCauley Theater, the Strand and the BF Key [Skating?] which was right across the street there from the Armory or Louisville Convention Center. Later on the Graham Brown torn 139:00it down to make a parking lot. Right. Now it's -- here are the theaters that black people operated in this town. In the Pythian building at 10th and Chestnut there was a theater. I don't the name of it, that was before my time. However, it did turn out to be the UNIA headquarters for Marcus Garvey. You're aware of that?
WE: Okay, then we had the Lyric Theater which was at 6th and Walnut. We had theGrand Theater and the Palace, which was at 11th and Walnut. The Palace was run 140:00by [Chick?] Sanders who later turned out to be the wealthiest Negro in the city of Louisville. Old retired school teacher. Now that brings you, brings us right up, I want this while it is fresh in my memory because [--?] into the channel that I think you wanted to go. We must think of the benevolent organizations which made for group unity among the black people in the city of Louisville.
Nothing can be said without mentioning Bessie Allen. Allen had an evening Sunday141:00school which all religious denominations and blacks could attend. It was strictly a Bible situation. Now the attraction that Bessie Allen had for the youths was the fact that as long, there was a limitation I don't know what it was, but if you went to Bessie Allen's Sunday school, at Christmastime you could request the one thing that you wanted most and you would get that one thing. Now. Jim -- we had a famous musician, he was a trumpeter. Jim somebody in World 142:00War I, and he had a crack band in the United States Army and he trained musicians. One of his trained musicians was a fellow by the name of Lockwood Lewis. Now Lockwood Lewis was hired by Bessie Allen to form a band and he was a topnotch music teacher. He trained -- the policy was that you would say what 143:00instrument you wanted to play. Bessie Allen would buy that instrument for you and give it to you. Lockwood Lewis would train you. Bessie Allen's important because some of your jazz greats grew out of this Sunday school. Foremost in mind being Helen Humes. [Gentleman ?], Bill Beason, Gut Tinsley, Bill Hobson, James Perkins, and a host of others that I can't think of right off the top of my head. But they became jazz greats from this period out. Louisville has a 144:00black heritage far exceeding any city of its size anywhere in these United States and that includes Atlanta, Georgia.
DC: Where was Bessie Allen's school?
WE: 9th and Magazine. She had that building there. I don't know the name, theyjust tore it down in recent years. They tore it down about the same time they torn down the old Central High School down. I forget the name of the building, but we all called it Bessie Allen, you know?
DC: Is there any organization existing today that sort of grew out of that or isit just completely disappeared? 145:00
WE: No, I can only think of one organization and I think of it in association toHenry Allen, who was her husband, and that was the exclusive Menelek Club.
DC: Exclusive Menelek Club?
WE: Yeah, Menelek. You know Menelek the son of Solomon and Cleopatra? They hadthe Menelek Club. Now that was the, made up of the self-styled black leaders, businessmen, professional men. They made charitable donations to the city and they interested themselves in civic affairs. Of course, nobody pushed too hard on anything, but they pushed hard on the restrictive covenant, because the plan 146:00was, that they weren't supposed to, blacks were not supposed to go below 18th Street. They were at 18th Street and [?] for years to make this what it is today. They started on this fifty years ago.
Oh yeah, I started to tell you a while ago about when Bill Cowger [--?...]. Icame back to something else that reminded me about this. I tell you this and then I'll let you go, but the funny thing about it was when the people came in, they got all these billboards and they printed signs. "We like Louisville" and I said to my wife, "Damn right," I said, "we're going to eat Louisville up," I said, "you watch." They tasted it, they like it. I said, "They're going to eat 147:00Louisville up." And sure enough they moved in. But dealing personally, that year I had decided to play with the Republicans. Democrats had gotten so rotten and I liked Bill Cowger real well and introduced him to some people. In fact, I suspect I was the first one to put, I don't say I was the first one, but I was one of the first I'll say -- he had such a pleasing personality and such an understanding attitude toward things that I said to him, "Mr. Cowger, you ought to run for mayor." He laughed you know, but sure enough he did. But when he ran for mayor, I was with -- oh, what the heck is his name. Man owned Fort 148:00Lauderdale lock stock and barrel. He had to leave Louisville -- Marcus! That was [Bert Marcus?]! Bert Marcus was bucking what we called the "blue ribbon boys" in the Republican Party. See you had your lower element, they always had a name for everybody, you know, derogatory name. So they called all the bluebloods, like J. Ross Todd and all that bunch. See I can tell you all about those, you know, get into it sometime. Anyway, I was with the Three C's -- that was the branch, that was Bert Marcus's branch. Dan... what was Dan's name, Dan Taylor? Dan Taylor was 149:00in there and oh, [Parkey Archer?] there was a whole lot of them. All those judges that they got up there. I knew those bums when -- Kunzman, George Kunzman, and all that. I had knew those bums then, you know! They haven't changed a bit -- see me in the corner, you know, throw up their hand, you know. I mosey on out. I never was materialistic at all.
Anyway, here's what happened. I bought out. I got to thinking. I'm thinkingalong the lines of Jet Magazine. So I said now, if I can just shape up a brochure, an all-inclusive brochure, political brochure, that you can stick inside your pocket, that'll be more effective then anything else. [--] So I 150:00shaped it up. I unreservedly can say that I changed the written style of political propaganda in this town. Now you see them, all of them, but I broke that out during the Three C's meeting. Bill Cowger adopted it in his campaign. From then on both parties have done that. They tried to include all their information in one little brochure. Before that time, all you had was broadside of this, a leaflet of this or a letter of that. But I think I can take credit for that, I really did that. I better let you go, it's quarter of twelve and I've intruded on you.
DC: No, no, I've enjoyed it.151:00
WE: Well, I've rambled, run on my big mouth -- I don't know whether -- there issome wheat in that chaff. We can talk about a whole lot of other things. But to hold me on track, you're just going to have to sit down and say, "Well now either we're going to adhere to this and get everything on this, then we'll go to that," because I have that tendency, I know this. I'll ramble in a minute. But I don't write that way.
DC: No, no.
WE: I don't write that way. I write directly to the point.
DC: Why don't we stop now and think about it a little bit more.
WE: Well, there are a few more sources I want to tap. I particularly would liketo see C.H. Parrish, Carl Forbes, and old man Perry. I think you're going to 152:00find the fraternal angle highly important. That was the predecessor of insurance companies -- burial associations and so forth. This town was very burial conscious. That Pythian Building there at 10th and Chestnut where the "Y" is. That's the results of it.