KC: This is Kenneth Chumbley of the University of Louisville Archives, the dateis September 12, 1978 and I'm talking with Mrs. Goldie Winstead Beckett today as part of our Black Oral History Project. Mrs. Beckett if you'd just begin by telling me where you were born and as much as you can about your parents, what you remember about that.
GB: Well I remember quite a bit. I was born in Nebo, Kentucky. That's HopkinsCounty. I was born on April 6, 1914 and I was the second of four children. My grandfather, my great-grandfather on my mother's side was a full-blooded Cherokee Indian. And the Indian profile is still in the family. And my great grandfather on my father's side was white and of course my brothers grew up with their children in Hopkins County. And they still are in contact with each other. My father had seven brothers and sisters. To which none survived. And we were farmers, we lived on farm. And we attended a rural school which we had to walk about six miles to school in the morning and back in the afternoon. And I finished a real small high school in Madisonville, Kentucky after which time I was given a job by the Superintendent of Instructions of the State of Kentucky at the Kentucky State College, where I finished my college work in three and a half years. And then I taught um at Western High School in Owensboro, Kentucky for three years and then I was married to William W. Beckett and moved to Louisville.
KC: Um what did you receive your degree in at Kentucky State.
GB: Home economics.
KC: Home ec? And then you taught in public schools for three years?
GB: In public schools for three years Western High School in Owensboro.
KC: What was Kentucky State like?
GB: Well Kentucky State was smaller than it is now but it gave us a goodbackground for work. And um we had a good football team in the early '30s and I had the privilege of being elected Miss Kentucky one year. So uh college life was very exciting in those days.
KC: Did you work while you were in college?
GB: Oh yes, I worked for a business office and I worked year-round. I worked insummer to claim my schooling in the fall. And this is how I got through school because when I was 13 years old my father and my oldest brother was in a car accident and both were killed. So my mother was left with the three children to rear on a farm and of course we were very poor. And uh this was the only means I had of getting to school. Superintendent, I won't forget him. His name was Keller and he was Superintendent of Public Instruction of Kentucky. And I wrote him and told him that I wanted to go to college and how poor we were. So he got me this job. And when I graduated, I remember he was on the stage and he asked the president if I was in that class and he pointed me out to him. And he smiled and I smiled and bowed my thanks to him during the ceremony. He's responsible for my college.
KC: Did, at your high school, did many of your classmates go on to college? Orwere they too, too poor?
GB: Um a few went to college, about a third of us I suppose of my class. Theclass was small, about 18 or 20. Not many were able to go to college in those days.
KC: Mostly from rural farming backgrounds as you were?
GB: Yes. And um I feel like that um of course when I got married, I wanted mybrothers to go. But um, to college, they um did not get to go to college but they've been successful. I think my brother's turned out to be quite a business person, especially in public relations.
KC: Tell me again how many brothers you have.
GB: I have two brothers. I had three, course one was killed in a car accident.So I have two living brothers. And I'm the only girl.
KC: Are they, are your brothers and you in business here at the funeral home or.
GB: Well, I work for him.
KC: I see. Okay.
GB: And I am secretary, treasurer of the corporation. The business is incorporated.
KC: And his name is Winstead--
GB: Calvin R. Winstead.
KC: Now, tell me when you met your husband. Did you meet him in Kentucky? He wasfrom Baltimore wasn't he?
GB: When I taught, he was from Baltimore, Maryland, he was born in Baltimore andat an early age, his father moved to St. Louis, Missouri. His father was a coach in the one of the high schools in St. Louis and he was the first Negro, his father was the first Negro, to get a Master's degree in Physical Ed. And he got his degree in 19 and 2, from Springfield College. Springfield, Massachusetts. However my husband chose the business field and he bought A. B. Ridley Funeral Home in Louisville, Kentucky. And came here to operate the business.KC: That was after he had been graduated from Morgan College?
GB: Yes, he graduated from Morgan College in Baltimore and then from St. LouisSchool of Mortuary Science.
KC: Was Morgan College a liberal arts school? Or, do you know much about Morgan College?
GB: I don't know too much about Morgan College. I think it is a liberal arts.
KC: Did he receive then a liberal arts degree?
KC: And I might say now, that we've talked about your husband. His name is William.
GB: William Washington Beckett.
KC: And then he went on you say to college to St. Louis College of Mortuary Science.
KC: And how long was he at that institution?
GB: Just a year.
KC: And I guess he completed his work there.
GB: He completed the work there and passed the Missouri state board and then hecame to Louisville and took the state board here and passed that and then bought the business.
KC: I see. At that time, what was it like for a Negro to try and get into thefuneral home business or into business itself. As you recall, was it difficult?
GB: The only difficulties that Negros had with funeral business, it was one ofthe businesses that they could go into without any problems. The only problem was borrowing money. It was difficult to borrow money to set up the type of business that they would have liked to have had.
KC: And were you able to get the capital?
GB: Um the people who owned the funeral home financed it for us.
KC: I see, and tell me again the name of that funeral home. The first one.GB: A.B. Ridley.
KC: And you all were married at that time.
GB: That was one of the oldest establishments in Louisville. One the threeoldest establishments.KC: Where was it located or where is it?
GB: It was located at 11th and Walnut Street.
KC: And that's in the old Walnut Street area?
KC: What do you recall about the old Walnut Street area? What were yourimpressions of that?
GB: Well they were the happiest days in my life on Walnut Street. Because peoplerespected us and um they looked after us and they watched my children. Walnut Street was a very active street. There were many small businesses by Negros and by Jewish people had a lot of businesses on Walnut Street. And Walnut Street was sort of like the haven. People would just walk up and down Walnut Street. So I thought that in those days we made more progress than we're making now. Because we had so many more businesses than we have now. And maybe it was because it was centrally located.
KC: How were, as you recall, how were most of the merchants in the old WalnutStreet area able to get the necessary capital to be in business. Was it a matter of saving and saving and saving?
GB: Well they started small so they wouldn't need much capital. Just the rent ofa place and as they grew, they would remodel and keep doing that and getting bigger.
KC: You were telling me about the different businesses there.
GB: I remember that at 8th and Walnut there was a was the Moorman fillingstation, at 6th and Walnut there were the domestic insurance as well as Mammoth Insurance, there were a drug store at 6th and Walnut. Many eat shops, there were two theaters on Walnut Street at one time. And many eat shops and many bars and restaurants to which were owned and operated by Negros. And um they did not cater only to Negros because on many eat places, any night you could see the mixed people in there.
KC: Everyone got along well?
GB: Everybody got along well, especially the bars. Nobody had too much trouble.The only trouble that we had, they could come to us but we could not go to their places. And um of course there were churches on Walnut Street as well as on Chestnut, where I thought was not as busy as Walnut Street was. And then along came the housing project, which took a lot of the businesses away and made the area look better. And still on the east side of Walnut Street were many, many businesses until the Urban Renewal came along. Of course to me Walnut Street was never the same.
KC: You mention that both whites and Negros ate together and in the old WalnutStreet area were there, I know there were many Negros living in the area but were there many whites living in the area? I'm wondering why the whites would go to the Walnut Street area when they had their own place. Was it considered fashionable?
GB: Well, um there was one bar on Walnut Street that was supposed have been thelongest bar, the Top Hat is correct. And many people came down to hear the music, to see the sights. To see people and just to--and for food too. There were many people, white people who came for soul food. Because I had a friend who ran a restaurant and on weekends, he was busy sending food to the hotels, Seelbach Hotel, to people who would order the food.KC: I've heard the old Walnut Street area compared, by Negros, compared to Harlem. Is that a fair comparison?
GB: I think it's a good comparison. And they say in every city there is one.Like a Memphis Beale Street, Louisville Walnut Street and Harlem 125th Street. So it was safe to be on Walnut Street, it wasn't that bad, just a lot of people doing what they wanted to do and they would work and in the evenings they were ready to socialize and be free.
KC: When the old Walnut Street area closed down in effect, because of the UrbanRenewal and all, did that have, what did that do to the Negro community? Did that, certainly that said things.GB: Yes people began to spread out all over Louisville at that time. That was the beginning, I suppose, of the movement that carried Negros to all sections of Louisville. Many moved to the west end and there eventually the west end became crowded and they began to spread in all directions. I was one of the last ones to leave Walnut Street.
KC: Did um, from your, I guess you still had the funeral home there. Whateventually pushed you out? Did you leave because you had to?
GB: Well my business fell off. See and then we were given a period of time inwhich to get out.
KC: By Urban Renewal?
GB: By Urban Renewal, right.
KC: Did your business fall off because there simply weren't many people livingnear by anymore?
GB: No no it fell off because everything was being torn down around me. Thesituation was horrible looking.
KC: Is that when you moved to this place?
GB: No I sold my business. I auctioned off everything that I had. Of course Isold the building to Urban Renewal and I pushed my clientele to my brother, who had bought G. C. Williams Funeral Home. And it was located on Chestnut Street at that time. And because I couldn't get any employment in Louisville I finally went to Philadelphia where the Becketts originated. And I had no difficulty at all. I immediately was appointment in the junior high school in the city of Philadelphia as a Home Economics teacher. And I taught there three years and then I moved to Abington School District, Abington Pennsylvania. And Abington School is the third rated school district in our country and it still is today. I taught there six years.
KC: Now let's back up just a bit. And return to your husband. He ran foralderman as early as 1945. I think that was the first time he ran for alderman wasn't it? At least that's my information. He was elected in '51.
GB: He was actually elected in '51. And he served until '61. I was thinking itwas '49 the first time.
KC: What it's not so important about dates. I read that when he was firstelected in 1951 that he had the backing of the Democratic Organization and I'm wondering what do you recall about the Democratic Organization and how did Negros fit in to the Democratic Organization?
GB: Well Negros were predominantly Democratic at that time. There was a matterof getting them organized and getting people registered to vote. Once that drive was started, it wasn't too difficult to get a candidate open.
KC: How did your husband become interested in politics? Was it an interest thathe had had since say college days? Or how was he brought into it?
GB: He was interested in people and he always wanted to leave a footprint. Hewas interested in people and helping people. And um he never wanted credit or anything like that. He just got enjoyment out of seeing the city grow. I think he really loved Louisville. And I'm sorry he didn't live to see the Riverfront Development because he would have been really, really proud of that. When we got the new police building, I think his name, the name of the alderman on that building. And the new fairgrounds building. He's just very proud of those moves. That was the beginning of our building program. So far as I see.
KC: Did um, you mentioned that at least at first, um there was a lot of workdone to register Negros to vote. Why were there so many unregistered Negros? Was it because it hadn't been emphasized? Because for the large, for the most part, Negros just didn't think voting would accomplish anything?
GB: Well that could have been part of it that they felt no one had ever run forpublic offices.
KC: You mean no Negro?
GB: Correct. And I don't think that anyone had been interested enough to justteach them that this is your--you earned this, you're a citizen of the United State and you have the right to vote. And you have the right to vote for the man that you think would do the best job for you. So when the Louisville citizens began to push registration and to get somebody on the ticket, the various tickets, that's when we started to see the light. And everybody began to wake up.
KC: And this was you think during the '40s, late '40s?
GB: During the '40s, yes.
KC: Early '50s?
KC: What was it, did your husband have any difficulties at first convincing theDemocratic machinery if there were any to support him in his campaign for alderman or did he have enough Negro votes to avoid that kind of--
GB: No, I'm afraid we did not have enough Negro votes. Because, I suppose, hisconnections, the people that he knew in Louisville. He was always meeting people and discussing the problems of Louisville with various outstanding people, leaders of Louisville. And I think they also felt that it was time to recognize everybody as a citizen. Give them a chance. But he began working with the party, and he was a likable person. So I think they just naturally loved him.
KC: Did he begin as a Precinct Captain? Or working in someone else's campaign?As you recall, how did his involvement begin?
GB: His involvement began by going to the Democratic meetings. And then hebecame involved in the precinct work. That was the beginning.
KC: This was, now he came to Louisville in 1936. Was this shortly after he cameor when does his involvement begin?
GB: Well we were married '39 and his involvement started just shortly after that.
KC: So he had a good ten years--
GB: And I think some other people like Hortense Young and attorney Anderson,Charles W. Anderson and people like that who were interested in Louisville. He was thrown with them and became interested in politics. I don't know that he was a good politician. They say that good politicians have to be people who can do dirty things sometimes. But he was always thought of as fair and straight. And I think he showed this in his personality.
KC: Was he, when he was elected in '51, was he elected overwhelmingly or by justa slight. He was elected then in 1951 and you were telling me he was placed on some different committees.
GB: Yes, in 1951 he was elected there were several standing committees and hewas placed on the Fire and Police Committee. At that time it was noticed that he wasn't put on an important committee. They didn't feel that the Fire and Police Committee was of much benefit so he was placed on the committee but he worked well with that committee because he was sympathetic to the police and the fire. That was when he started working for integration in the fire and police department. At that time they had a separate Negro Fire Department on 13th Street and it was just a short time after that he started working with, that they integrated the Fire Department.
KC: You mentioned that the Fire and Police Committee wasn't very important orthat he was placed on it but that it wasn't an important committee. Was he placed on it because he was a Negro? Or was he placed on it because he was inexperienced as an alderman, had no formal political training? He didn't bring to that job any other political work.
GB: Well this was a consensus of opinion of many Negros that the first blackwould not be placed on important committees like Finance or, I think he was qualified for Finance Committees but he instead [unintelligible] the Fire and Police and he was put on the Visions Committee. I hardly think that, I wouldn't say that they were prejudice on putting him on those committees. Whatever they put him on he did the best that he could. He took the grievances and tried to work with them. One of the grievances he got was the integration of the Police and Fire Department and he started working on that.
KC: Did he meet much opposition in doing that? Among the other aldermen?GB:Maybe at first but eventually, I think that they agreed with him.
KC: What was his, what was the relationship between him and the mayor? It was aDemocratic administration at the time.
GB: Dann C. Byck was President of the Board of Aldermen and Mr. Byck was a veryfair, honest man. He and my husband became very close friends.
KC: Now this was during the Farnsley administration?
GB: '51? I believe so. I think Mr. Farnsley was mayor at the time.
KC: Let me just note some of your um well, let me ask you about your husband'sefforts. You mentioned his efforts to integrate the Fire Department. What about some of his other efforts? He did introduce legislation for an ordinance too. To bring integration to eating establishments.
GB: Before the eating establishments, it was the parks. Negros had only one parkand that was Chickasaw Park and it was just filled to capacity. He started working on that. And he did that by sitting down, just discussing it with the aldermen and trying to get them to see that if they opened the parks there would be no problems and finally when he presented it formally, it went through. But they have a little, what would you call that? A rider on it. That they would open the parks and but he was not to give any information to the news media for 30 days. If any Negro went to any park, they would treated as any other person. All the Police Department were notified not to bother anybody in the parks. So at the end of the 30 days it was given to the news media.
KC: Why was it kept from the media? I don't quite understand.
GB: Why it was kept from the media I suppose, I'm thinking now, that theythought, the aldermen thought that huge numbers of Negros would rush to parks all of a sudden. And then people would look around and it would be quite noticeable. So in doing this this way, people began to gradually go into the parks, gradually go into the parks. Our people, by not telling us immediately that we could go into the parks. But this is how he liked to do things too. He liked things to move smoothly.
GB: Why it was kept from the media I suppose, I'm thinking now, that theythought, the aldermen thought that huge numbers of Negros would rush to parks all of a sudden. And then people would look around and it would be quite noticeable. So in doing this this way, people began to gradually go into the parks, gradually go into the parks. Our people, by not telling us immediately that we could go into the parks. But this is how he liked to do things too. He liked things to move smoothly. So if you move from one place to another, move smoothly. And this is what happened. So nobody made an issue of it. Now the next thing that I can remember, that he did. Was the integrating the airport restrooms.
KC: Standiford Field?
KC: You mentioned that early on and I suppose it was before he began to work tointegrate the airport that the proprietor of the restaurant was willing to let you all eat there.
GB: Yes. My husband or his family eat there. And of course this was a no-no.From going out, just talking and talking and convincing the men, the manager of the restaurant that people would come in and they would eat and they would go out. Nobody would even notice that the policy had changed. And eventually he tried it and it so happened.
KC: It was a privately owned restaurant?
GB: I think so. His first ordinance for public accommodations was introduced in1950. And it was rejected on legality of the issue as it regard to the section 25. And my husband met with many people in the city. Negros and whites. Separately and together. And he met with the hotel manager of the hotel chains and they had many meetings together. I think it was Mr. Harold Hatcher that was President of the Association of Restaurants. He tried to talk his way into integrating them like they integrated the parks. And he used the parks as an example of what would happen.
KC: You mean that it would be peaceful.
GB: It would be peaceful. Because so many people in those days weren't makinggood salaries and they couldn't afford to hotels for dinners. And um, live in hotels or anything like that. And it was only the small restaurants that was terribly upset. Like Blue Boar, those who had medium priced meals. Then after the ordinance was turned down, he would come back and I suppose he wrote at least three more--consulting lawyers.
KC: He had an opinion from the Attorney General too, didn't he? of Kentucky?
GB: Yes he did. And he worked with Wilson Wyatt. He was the Lieutenant Governorbefore he was made Governor. And um [long pause] However, I don't see, he tried in every effort to convince the board, the boards, that it was time for this ordinance to go, to be presented and to be acted upon. Other cities had done so. Of our size. But in the final analysis it was voted down. And um most of the Negros were so hurt that they had to take it out on somebody so they took it out on their lone alderman. As a result, the Republicans were using everything they could get their hands on to they had started their registration drives and they had gotten somebody to run for office and it was a matter of Republican versus Democrat at this particular time.
KC: You mean the Republicans were using that issue as a kind of wedge?
GB: They used it. They weren't trying, they actually used it. So when they, whenthe election came up, the next election in '61 the Democrats lost out. And the Republicans were in. Now the day after the election, I believe Mr. Cowger was elected mayor. Mr. Cowger called us on the next morning around 8:00 and he asked for an appointment. He wanted to come to our home. We received him and he sat in my living room.
KC: Was that here or what that at the--
GB: In Louisville, here, on Walnut Street. He came to our residence on WalnutStreet and he's sitting in the living room and he said, Beckett I came down to tell you that we would not be in office had you not presented the ordinances and had it not become an issue. And I want you to know that I feel, I think I'm a little ahead of myself. This was after the Republicans got in and then the Republicans presented the ordinance and it was passed. After the ordinance was passed, see the Republicans were forced to pass it because this is how they got in. After the ordinances passed, he called up and he came down to our house and he said the ordinance would not have passed if you had not made the issue. And the Republicans went in on this basis. And I want you to know, he said, that you are responsible for the passing of this ordinance. And I thought that was quite broad and quite fair and honest and for him to come down and say that to us. But he did.
KC: What was--what then began to happen? The ordinance was passed and yourhusband was still an alderman.
GB: No no, he was not an alderman after the--you see he lost the election andthe Republicans went in. And then shortly after the Republicans were in, the ordinance was brought up again because the people would not rest until it was passed.
KC: Who introduced the legislation a second time for the ordinance?
GB: Oh I think Mrs. I can't recall her name, she was elected--Louise Reynolds. Ithink she introduced the ordinance. And it was the first one that she introduced was passed.
KC: She was obviously a Republican.
GB: Yes she was a Republican and because she went in the office with Mr. Cowger.Then at that time my husband's health was getting noticeable. I don't think he ever really had a good day in the next two years. Because this was in '61 and it was in '61 that we discovered he had a cancer. And um the doctors gave him two years to live and he lived two years and two months. He died in '63.
KC: Um backing up just a second. He also was involved in efforts to--and I'mjust reading some things here--to integrate civil service. And I guess you mentioned the Fire Department early on. What was the outcome of that? Integrating the Fire and Police Departments. Did that succeed?
GB: Yes, that was a success.
KC: And that was in the '50s?
GB: That was in the '50s.
KC: Did he meet much opposition there? He seemed to meet a lot--
GB: There was opposition but at the time I think, the time was just right. WhatI couldn't understand was, why could they integrate the Police Department and the Fire Department and not the eating places. But still there's working together I guess and socializing together might have made a difference, in just an ordinary citizen's mind.
KC: And then the--
GB: Well the Fire Department had a good record, the all Negro Fire Departmenthad an excellent record also. And maybe this was the turning point too.
KC: And then there was--he introduced a non-discriminatory clause--LouisvilleTransit Company.
GB: In the buses, right.
KC: Will you talk a little about that? Were Negros allowed to ride the buses.And if they were, were they told to sit in the back? Did he want to change that, exactly what was he after there?
GB: I think it was the hiring. There were no Negro bus drivers.
KC: Not even in driving the buses in the areas where Negros lived?
GB: No, no, no.
KC: What was the outcome there? Did that succeed?
GB: That was a success.
KC: And the transit company began to hire Negros.
GB: And to train them.
KC: Did it hire many at first?
GB: I think um there was a gradual thing. First they had to find somebody tohire. Because Negros never thought they'd be able to drive a bus. And I think they took a small number in to train. Maybe they accepted two or three of the group. And it just grew from that.
KC: Did your husband make any other efforts, efforts in any other areas to gainmore equitable opportunities, employment opportunities for Negros? Say in the areas where Negros didn't work for the bus company he got jobs for them there. And you mentioned earlier that he did a lot to get jobs--
GB: He was ever alert, looking for large concerns. That had no Negros employed.And he would go make an appointment and go and talk with them and always taking somebody with him though, one or two people with him. And most times without an issue, they would say, well I like, we'll do that, send me somebody.
KC: So he didn't have to--
GB: To make a issue out of it. And then quite a few white business places wouldcall up and say, I'd like a Negro girl in my office. Maybe this particular business man received contracts and he didn't want his information, his contract, leaking out. And one or two people were placed in those positions. I remember a Negro girl who worked for a printing place that bid on contracts. And you and I can see their point. Then my husband did something. He was told that Negro students were weak in English. And he made an effort to try, he passed the word along to Negro educators, you know that, strengthen the students in English, this is a weak point. So a lot of things that he was busy doing that the public didn't know about. It was true that our Negro students were weak in English at that time. Many of them now are holding nice jobs, for the companies.
KC: Of course he was introducing this legislation during the '50s and '60s whilea lot of other people were demonstrating and were marching and all for public accommodations and the like. How did he feel about people who were out there demonstrating? Did he think that they were jeopardizing their chances to gain public accommodations, ordinances and the like?
KC: He was supportive of those efforts as well
GB: He was supportive.
KC: Did he participate much in any demonstrations or any--
GB: No, go back to the parks. He didn't feel like demonstrations there wouldhelp. It depends upon the condition. You know, some demonstrations can get out of hand and can be more damaging than helpful.
KC: So demonstration wasn't a principle with him. He didn't think it waswarranted in every instance.
GB: Not in all instances, no. But in some instances, yes.KC: Another thing that didn't set well or wasn't approved by the Board of Aldermen was this, I'm not sure, was the Human Relations Commission or Committee. Commission, that didn't succeed either. What do you remember about that time for him?
GB: I don't remember too much about that. At that time I was busy with thebusiness. I don't remember really too much about the Human Relations.
KC: Well let me just read here some of my notes. It says that this ordinancefailed as well. It says that opposition by headed by a man named Garner Petrie of the First Ward who noted that the state legislature had passed a similar bill empowering a commission to work throughout Kentucky and it seems that Mr. Petrie claimed that if this other commission were established in Louisville that it would duplicate the services and also add to expenses. He also noted that neither commission would have the authority to force integration but should encourage race relations. I guess he thought that if there were a commission forcing integration that it wouldn't encourage more equanimity.
GB: Maybe he had in mind that if there was the commission, Human RightsCommission established then there would be more relationship between the races would ease the tensions and so forth. And people would get to know that it's not as bad as we thought.
KC: Was your husband ever, did these failures, so called, quote unquote, to havethe integration bill passed in the Board of Aldermen, and then with the Human Relations Commission, did these things make his despondent, did he kind of feel that things weren't going well? Was he unhappy with the progress that was being made?
GB: He was unhappy because he wanted them done so badly and then, as I said, healways wanted to leave his footprints and he felt that this was the thing that was needed for Louisville. But as far as getting despondent, if he was it was not noticeable. He was very let down with the Board when he was the only man who stood. But he stood tall.
KC: The Republican administration later passed the Human Relations Commissionbill or ordinance as well. Now your husband is the second Negro to be elected to the Board of Aldermen, at least then. Of course others later-- The first mad was a man named Eugene Clayton. Do you know anything about Mr. Clayton? I'm not even sure when he served as an alderman.
GB: I think he served in the late '40s. But I don't remember anything that heparticular did.
KC: But did you know the man? Did you all know him?
GB: I just knew him, I know him by name, I really didn't know him.
KC: Is he still alive?
GB: I don't know that either. But he was not close to the media, the people. Thepeople who, the Negros who were trying and had trying to do these things and trying to improve their race and the race relationship, I don't think he was very close to them. I think he was, he was put on there just as a token.
KC: Do you think that the Board of Aldermen defeated these two ordinances, onethe Human Relations Commission, the other the desegregation or integration ordinance because there were constitutional or legal problems or because of some kind of unexpressed racism or just being behind the times--what do you think the reasons were? Do you think it really was a constitutional matter, issue?
GB: I think most of them had their eyes on returning, of the positions and soforth, and I believe pressure was put on them by people, their voters, people who voted for them and they were just afraid. I sincerely believe that half of the Board of Aldermen at that time, were good men, very good men. I don't believe that within themselves, they thought they were voting for the right thing. I really feel like they were in sympathy with Beckett, they wanted to vote for him, but they couldn't. Because of the fact that pressure was being put on them.KC: You mentioned that Dann Byck was a good friend of your husband's. Did your husband have many other close friends? What was his relationship to most of the other aldermen? Did he have difficulty because they were white and he was a Negro?
GB: No he didn't. He mixed quite well with them and they received him. Hetreated them as if they were just another individual that he worked with. Mr. Rider, [Clarification: Kessel P. Rider] you remember him as an alderman? He was very close, his wife, we campaigned together and his wife was a friend of mine. She even wrote me and sent me pictures of their move from the city. Mr. Broaddus, Andrew Broaddus thought a lot of my husband too. They respected him and when Mr. Broaddus went away, once there was an alderman, Mr. Broaddus and several other aldermen were invited to another city to look over a certain city operation. My husband stayed behind. And Mr. Broaddus told him he was very happy he stayed behind because he certainly didn't want to leave the city in the hands of the other aldermen who would, if Beckett had gone, would have been the mayor for the period while he was--
KC: This was in 1955 I think. I think they went to Miami and he was mayor for aday. I think it was a Monday. What do you recall about that day? Did he, I know I'm sure it was a big day for him.
GB: Yes, I recall quite a bit.
KC: I think there were a number of magazines--
GB: The mayor's limousine came down to pick him up that morning to take him tothe office. And there were oodles of people there just to see if he's actually serving as mayor or if he was just sitting in the office. A newspaper called me from New York to find out if he was actually in the mayor's office--
KC: There was a radio station that came down.
GB: --from Alaska called and quite a few radio places did call at that time tofind out. They not only called the residence, but they called the mayor's secretary to find out if he was actually in the office. After they checked with me they would check up there to see he was actually there.
KC: How did he actually get to be the mayor for a day? How did they--youmentioned that some of the aldermen were out of town.
GB: It wasn't just for a day, I think he was in charge while they were gone. Ithink they were gone two days.
KC: I think now that I recall that it rotated among some of the remainingaldermen and his turn came up and he was mayor for a day so to speak. Okay. What was the, your husband was a member of the A. M. E. Church and I'm wondering what the role of his church in civil rights might have been. Course Dr. King was a Baptist pastor and A. D. King was a Baptist pastor and the church seemed to, the black church, the Negro church, seemed to be on the forefront or in the forefront of civil rights, the Civil Rights Movement.
GB: As I remember correctly, the church did not take an active part, the peoplein the church were, I mean the church did not go out you know and say we endorse the Republicans or we endorse the Democrats. It was left to the membership. I think maybe it just so happened that King's a Baptist, it so happened that his people that he drew to work with him might have been Baptist. I don't think the church has much bearing on it. Baptist or Methodist or Catholic or whatnot.KC: But just as a kind of general question, do you think that the church, the Negro church is primarily responsible for what civil rights Negros have today, simply because of the pressure the Negro church put on government.
GB: Well you see, I happen to know the background of the march and Martin LutherKing. This Martin Luther King, what he did, that idea was a seed of three men whose names are not ever mentioned. One was a funeral director and his name was W. E. Lee from Birmingham, Alabama. The other two men, I don't recall their names but they were Pullman porters. They conceived the idea, those three men and they needed somebody to push out front. And this is where Martin Luther King came into the picture. They got him. I don't know what churches they belonged to or anything. They were just people who without too much education, had a vision.
KC: So you think it was a secular as opposed to a religious movement, at leastin the beginning.
GB: Right and I've talked with those men and they used to stop at our house whenthey were heading the marches in Birmingham, when they were boycotting the buses and they would come through here in a station wagon, going to Detroit to buy other station wagons to go back and haul all the people back and forth to work. They stopped at our house. And then they told us the problems they were having with Martin Luther King and getting him to do various things and keep him in line. Then eventually these men passed on. W. E. Lee died about five years ago. He was the last of the three. But his widow is a friends of mine. I know her. And the Movement was beautiful but now we need another movement. We need one to deal with youth. Not only the Negro youth, white youth too. There has been this, I think this movement started out with um [tape turns off and on again]
KC: --leaders in the need for someone, I guess, work with the young people, helpthem. That's seems to be the--
GB: I as saying that the movement, the hippie movement since the Martin LutherKing movement, the hippies and the long-haireds and the beard people has had an effect on the educational level of our youth. Both black and white.KC: Do you see education as the key? You've been in education all your life. Apart from business too. You've been in education all your life, do you see education as the thing--to speak just about black youth, or Negro youth for a moment.
GB: Education has to be the thing. You can be educated in many ways. Just beingneat and clean and your word is your, is the thing. You have to be, people have to have confidence in you. So you can be, I think there should be more trade schools. Our Negro youth are not being trained in various trades and there should be a lot of work done. And I really think that the church has let down. I know the church is on the Christianity teachings. Teach us about Christianity. But they can also teach our children and the parents. For example, I have a teacher to tell me that she had kids to come into her room, this was her first year of teaching in an integrated school and she had Negro kids to come in with the fuzzy house shoes on and the rollers in their hair and that sort of thing. And she would take the shoes and put them in the wastepaper basket. And she would take the rollers out of the hair and wouldn't give them back to them. Now parents--
KC: Is this a white teacher or a black, Negro teacher?
GB: Negro teacher. Talking about Negro students. There are parents who wouldn'tbelieve that this teacher is telling the truth and we've got to believe that our kids are not perfect and we've got to listen to somebody else, as parents. And we're going to have to tighten down on them. Because they aren't getting anything. Everybody's looking for something free. And there's just nothing ever free anymore now.
KC: Louisville, it's been said that Louisville is a progressive, or was aprogressive city in race relations. The Klan didn't ride up and down the streets terrorizing Negros and there weren't lynchings and the like, at least we don't know of many or any. Do you think from your experience and from what you remember of your husband's experience, that indeed Louisville was a progressive city in race relations?
GB: Yes I think Louisville was progressive.
KC: Even though the Board of Aldermen waited and waited and waited to approve aHuman Relations Committee and integration ordinances?
GB: And I think what we need to do now, is to have more people who want to do,who want to be in newspaper business or who want to be in this kind of business or that kind of business. And if they want to be in that business, then get behind them. You know. But there's not too much of a desire. I'm talking about majority. Many of our youngsters here are doing well. Don't misunderstand me. And they have some excellent jobs. But there could be many more.
KC: Why do you think Louisville was a progressive city? Any one thing that madeit so?GB: I think people began to know each other. I think the passing of the ordinances, integration ordinances and the fact that many people got better jobs and became associated with other people and working together. This was the key, working together.
KC: And before ordinances were passed, there wasn't any kind of smolderingracial tension in Louisville. Why do you think that was? Because it was closer to the north? Because generally Negros who lived here were mostly urban dwellers who hadn't had any dismal experiences?
GB: Well Louisville was known as the jumping off point. Negros migrated from thesouth on the way to Detroit or Chicago they would stop here. And get a little leeway, a little more money or more capital and then they would move on to Chicago or Detroit. It could be that many of them stayed here they got jobs that was available to them. In those days were many jobs were available. Except in hotels and homes and that sort of thing. People began to want to make greater progress than just on the one level. There was no, they didn't have jobs where they could move up. So when that became available to them, many of them have made great progress.
KC: What other, we've talked a lot about the work your husband did in way of theimproving the lot of Negros in Louisville. Tell me some of the things, some of the other things, some of the non um some of the other ordinances or bills that he pushed through, that he helped to get passed. Things that didn't deal with racial issues.
GB: Well the police building.
KC: That's the building that was built at 7th and Jefferson there.
GB: The fairgrounds bill. That was a big issue. Let's see if I can think of anyother. There's several overhead passes too.
KC: You mean expressways?
GB: I think it's, didn't they put some overhead passes over railroad crossings,over a street?
KC: I'm not sure.
GB: I'm not sure about that either.
KC: Did he go on to, as he worked as an alderman, did he go on to work on moreresponsible quote unquote committees? He started with the grievance committee and the fire and police committee. Did he then go on to other committees?
KC: What was the last committee on which he served?
GB: I can't recall. I believe I might be wrong, but I believe he finally was onthe finance committee.
KC: Did he chair any committees himself?
GB: Not sure about that.
KC: What was your husband's greatest accomplishment? Both as an alderman and asa person?
GB: Well, as an alderman, I think the fact he did integrate the PoliceDepartment, the Fire Department rather and the Police Department and the parks. I think those might have been the greatest ones. He was, in my estimation, responsible for the passage of the bill. Because if he had not presented it, it would not have been an issue. And then I think as far as his business was concerned, he was in line for the presidency of the National Funeral Directors Mortician's Association. They met in August, the first week in August and he died the third week in August. So they made him, sent him a telegram, that he was because of his health, well this was done because of his health, he was made honorary president. But he had worked himself up to the second, first vice president. He would have gone in office had he'd been able to, made the meeting.
KC: I want to thank you for your time Miss Beckett. It's been enjoyable.
GB: Okay, it's been a pleasure talking to you.