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Interview with Price Davis

Davis, Price
Murphy, Hope
Date of Interview: 
Pineville; Cherry Neighborhood; Morgan School; Second Ward High School; Second Ward Alumni Association; Police Brutality; Racism; Segregation; Truck Driving; Enjoying Life; AME Zion; Ku Klux Klan; Interracial Relationships
Price Davis was raised in Charlotte, NC and attended segregated schools such as Morgan School and Second Ward High School. He discusses his encounters with instances of racism, and police brutality and how that affected his outlook on life. After high school he left Charlotte to escape the intensity of racism in which he held a position as a truck driver for a New York based company. He tells of his experiences and what he has learned from them, and how to forgive people and enjoy life.
Charlotte, NC; 1920s - 1960s
Interview Setting: 
Second Ward Alumni House Charlotte, NC
Before Brown Collection
Interview Audio: 
PD (Price Davis): 2004, is that right? 0-4. [long pause]
HM (Hope Murphy): OK. This is Hope Murphy with the Before Brown Project. I'm interviewing Mr. Price Davis and we are at the First Ward High School--, oh Jesus, Second Ward, I'm sorry, Alumni House [laughs]. We are off to a bad start already. And the date is the 25th of May. Sorry I didn't sleep well last night. Mr. Davis if you could just tell me, to start out with, a little bit about your upbringing, where you were born in Charlotte and about your folks and kind of what they did.
PD: Yeah, I was born--, I wasn't born in Charlotte but I was born about 40 miles up the road here in Lincolnton, North Carolina. My mother and father were schoolteachers, my father also was a minister and pastored churches. And I moved to Charlotte in about 19--seems like to me it must've been 1930, about 1930. Coming out of--Hoover had just lost the presidency and Franklin Delano Roosevelt was just coming into the office. Believe it or not, when I moved to Charlotte I moved about two blocks off of Queens Road on Providence Road. Providence Road was just being finished up then. And we moved out there and stayed there and I walked to Cherry to a Morgan School every morning. Walked. Because there were no school buses for blacks back then. And I walked to Morgan School and for about a year or so we lived out there. Weren't many houses on Providence Road, maybe two or three houses, but we knew the people who were living out there; they were white people but we knew them. And about a year later my mother and father bought a home in Cherry on Torrence Street. Cherry was a nice bustling neighborhood where you found a lot of professional blacks. You find you had lawyers, you had teachers, you had morticians, you had small business owners, a lot of them lived in Cherry and Cherry was a very bustling-it, it wasn't a lot of money around then but it was a place wherein you could make connections business-wise and whatnot.
HM: OK. What denomination was your father ministering--
PD: My father was an AME Zion minister. And he pastured one church here in Charlotte, when he moved to Charlotte his teacher career was about coming to an end. But he did teach down in Pineville, North Carolina. Drove a horse and buggy, and went to work down in Pineville every morning drove backwards and forwards to Pineville and pastored a church, and this church was Cathey Memor- Cathey's Rowe: that's what it was named now. They have moved the church since then and the church is now called Cathey Memorial.
HM: OK. And when you were walking from Providence to Cherry how far was that?
PD: I would imagine that was about 6 miles--6--about 6 or 7 miles one way.
HM: My goodness, that's a lot. [Laughter]
PD: Uh-huh, but you got up and we did it. Me, my sisters and brothers we got up every morning and we walked to school.
HM: And you had how many brothers and sisters?
PD: There were 8 of us all together but there were only 6 of us at home. My oldest sister and older brother had gone off.
HM: OK and where do you fall in that?
PD: I am the third from the bottom if you start at the bottom. [Laughter] I have to do it that way, the third from the bottom.
HM: OK [Laughter] and can you tell me a little bit about, you said Morganton was your school in Cherry?
PD: Morgan School. It was called Morgan School and the principal there was Miss Anderson and I had the opportunity to work with a couple of my former teachers in organizing the second ordination of the Alumni Foundation. Now all of my teachers now have passed on but at least I did have an opportunity to work with some of them when I first came back to Charlotte they were still alive.
HM: OK. Could you tell me about your school days there at Morgan. Maybe about your favorite teacher and what you liked to do at your favorite subjects.
PD: My school days at Morgan School were--it was really the molding of my life I guess you would say. Now I had gone to school to my father and that was different and I came to Morgan School under Miss Anderson and that is beginning--that was different, but Miss Anderson was a principal that was like--all the teachers were like your parents. They were people that you really looked up to, people that really had your welfare at heart. And it was an extended family.
PD: Uh-huh.
HM: Did you have a favorite teacher that you were?
PD: Yes, God rest her soul in peace she just passed away about 2 years ago. Her name back then-- she was right out of high school and college herself-- and that was Mildred Phillips. She eventually married Doctor Brody and she became Mildred Brody.
HM: OK. Did the teachers--were they allowed to teach after they got married? Do you remember?
PD: Oh yeah they could get married and teach uh-huh.
HM: OK. And do you remember what the school looked like at all?
PD: It was a beautiful school. The first time that I had ever attended a brick school and it had indoor plumbing and it was a brick school and it had been built in 1925 so the school was almost new.
PD: And it had a playground, which was different from the average school that I that my father and mother taught at. They had a playground and it didn't have a fence around it but at least it was cleaned off and a place where kids could go play.
HM: OK. Now that's--from the other folks I've talked to they've talked about you know, the wooden schools and having no playground.
PD: Uh-huh.
HM: Do you know why your school was different?
PD: I believe that this was the first city school built by maybe the state I imagine built by the state. Because back then most black schools back then were built by this foundation I think it was called Rosenwald.
HM: Yes sir, so it wasn't a Rosenwald.
PD: No it wasn't a Rosenwald school. I think it was really the first state school that I remember for blacks.
HM: How interesting.
PD: Uh-huh.
HM: OK. Did you--do you remember your teachers how they disciplined--
PD: Yeah.
HM: --because you didn't get into trouble when you were in school [laughter].
PD: No. School was different then, kids were different. And kids looked at school different then than what they do now. And I don't, well I hate to say it, it was better then but, kids had respect for authority adults now let me put it like that. And you had respect for your teacher, for your school. It was just different from today, from today's kids.
HM: So you never got into trouble?
PD: No. I never, never got into trouble. No, No because the teachers knew my family too much, you know. Miss Anderson--they were old friends my father and my mother and the teachers, no.
HM: Did your teachers ever come into your home or?
PD: Always would come to your house to visit. Back then you did not have what you call special ed this and special ed for kids. You kept up with the class. And you kept up--if you, if you fell behind or whatnot your teacher would either come to your house or send for your parents and they would stay after school and keep you and make you keep up with the class.
HM: Wow.
PD: Uh-huh.
HM: So did you have a favorite subject in school?
PD: I liked History.
PD: I loved History, but since I have become a grown man and have been able to look at history and look at different histories in different-- I must say that the history that I learned in school to me, this is only for me I can say this, its not really history. It's just something that man set down and put together and uh, its not history.
HM: [chuckle]
PD: I'm so glad that I'm--but to make a point. I'm glad that I am alive, the girl that was captured in Iraq and went to the hospital in Gadan. They were getting ready to tell me another farce about she shot until her gun barrel melted off. And I'm glad that I'm alive for her to say, and I know that she said it, "I didn't even have a gun. Don't put that in; don't make me read phony stuff." So I can go back and look at history, what they call history that I learned in school and I can find a lot of things wrong with it that I don't believe, you know?
HM: OK. Did you--so did you ever learn like any black history or?
PD: No. That's another thing that I did not learn. We only learned one thing and I believe I learned that because he was alive and that was there was a peanut farmer George Washington Carver. That was the only black history that I learned. I knew nothing about the Black Buffalo Soldiers, Marcus Garvey, I knew nothing about those people. That wasn't taught.
HM: Really?
PD: Uh-huh.
HM: OK. Did you get lessons in other things like etiquette or behavior?
PD: Yes we did. We got-- this is in elementary school they taught us--especially I'm trying to think of what subject it was not called history it was called something else. But it had a lot to do with the workings of the government. I can't think of what the book was.
HM: Civics? Or?
PD: It was a Civics book but they it was called something else. But I was very interested in it because to be honest with you I really wanted to be a lawyer.
HM: Did you?
PD: And I felt like that I could be a good lawyer because now we had a black lawyer that lived right above us that would come and sit and talk to my father a lot and he would tell me that, "Why don't you be a lawyer". And his name was Lawyer Bowser.
HM: Bowser.
PD: Lawyer Bowser was one of the first black lawyers that I knew in Charlotte. And I wanted to be a lawyer and I would've been a lawyer until we got--could you turn it off for a minute?
HM: Sure.
PD: OK, now I'll call Mr. Lovestein-
HM: OK so tell me about, you said you wanted to be a lawyer?
PD: I wanted to be a lawyer in the worst way.
PD: Because Lawyer Bowser had impressed me and I can't think of this book that I was reading and it went into the system of how the government was running and whatnot and I was very interested and that's why he wanted me to be a lawyer he said "That's a subject that you need to take".
PD: So anyway, what was the question you wanted to ask me now?
HM: So then you said that you were discouraged from becoming a lawyer--
PD: Yeah I was discouraged from becoming a lawyer because whenever this white fellow came out to talk to us I told him what I wanted to be and they did not mind using the N word.
HM: So you told me that you wanted to be an artist?
PD: I told him I wanted to be an artist because I could draw well and I wanted to be that or a lawyer. And he told me "Oh no we don't, you don't have no nigger artist, no nigger artists". And I didn't know about Regnier back then, I did not nobody told had me. And, "Nigger lawyer, you're going to starve nobody's going to give you any work" and whatnot like that. And that changed my mind a little bit. Then I started to thinking about other things. Just let me get out of Charlotte. Let me go back let me go back and say this, Charlotte was like Mayberry with racism.
PD: Because back then, now this, I don't mind calling names because these were public figures. Back then you had Senator Bilbo; Senator Eastland of Mississippi, Senator Bilbo I think came out of Mississippi. And you also had my main man, who I like to call him my main man because God knows I prayed for him just before he died and that's Strom Thurman. And those were the people that set the mood of the country. Those were the people that to me who caused the problems because they were the ones who spewed the racism. And they spewed the racism and caused me to say I'm going to leave this hellhole. I called Charlotte a hellhole and that's exactly what it was for me. I could not wait to get out of Charlotte. Because Charlotte was brutal; your policemen they were brutal should we talk about this?
HM: Yes please because people often talk about how, you know Charlotte was this you know wasn't that bad, it wasn't Mississippi.
PD: No, it was like Mississippi. Charlotte was just as bad as Mississippi. And let me just say this, see I had begun to get to be a ten or begin to get to be just before I went to high school, Hitler was on the rage. And I would read about Hitler and I would say I can't see the difference between life under Hitler and life under--but now Roosevelt was a person and Mrs. Roosevelt they were people who had compassion for people at least they did not spew hatred and whatnot. But getting back to Charlotte I knew that if I could get that diploma in my hand, I needed a high school diploma because back then if you were a white person and you didn't have a high school diploma you had a problem now, you had a problem. But what caused me to leave Charlotte was the racism and hatred because you had a certain part of town here where all of your policemen came from. These were white policemen, back then, there were no black policemen. And your policemen came on and this is documented and this has been said by some of the older policemen, most of them dead now they came on the job they had no training and most of them were ignorant they couldn't read and write. They would just come on and bring brute force and hatred and you can get on the police force. I knew this for a fact. And I had to get out; I had to get out. The night I left Charlotte running from this racism and hatred and whatnot they wouldn't even let us come into the bus terminal because they had a lot of white soldiers that was with their families I don't know what it was. But they told us "You blacks go down on the corner" they didn't call us blacks back then they called us coloreds "You coloreds go on the corner of Grahamand Trade Street and you wait there the bus will come and get you" and they did.
HM: Was this during World War II or?
PD: This was after I finished high school, God I'm jumping too far.
PD: But going back to going back to elementary school, I hate I jumped that far, going back to elementary school this man--I might've been the person who settled, I mean who-- I might've been the person who argued the Brown versus case in front of the Supreme Court if he had just let me go ahead and pursue my dream.
HM: So was this a school official nor was he just-- do you remember?
PD: I don't know if he was a school official or not. But-
HM: But this was in the school building.
PD: It was in the school building. He came to talk to us, to wee little children. You have to understand the times back then. Because there was this furniture company that ran a contest and I know that my mother won this contest. And I know that my mother won this contest and I think it was a 25 pound of dog food. And my mother won this contest and we went up I went up town with my mother to pick up her prize. I remember going into this store and this man's voice will stay with me forever because it was one of those southern draggy voices. We walked in and my mother said "I'm Alice Davis and I came to get my prize". And I'm a little fella and still in elementary school, and this man hollered just as loud as he could in this furniture store "Mr. Write" that was--oh don't want that used the name--"here's this nigger woman up here she said she done won this prize". He stuck his head out the office door way back in the back and he said "We're not doin that anymore". And remember my mother saying "Thank you" and we walked out.
HM: So even as a child you knew.
PD: Even as a child I knew that something was wrong. I knew that--and especially to have your teachers or your parents embarrassed like in front of you. Now I heard my mother discuss it with my father but she didn't say a word to me, she just grabbed my hand and we walked out.
HM: OK. So in general, your teachers--those kind of issues weren't really addressed. Did they buffer you in any way? Did they ever tell you how to deal with that?
PD: Your teachers? Well our teachers--
HM: Yeah your teachers or--
PD: Yeah even in high school my teachers would tell us how to deal with it now. At least they told certain--they told me. Now my parents would always tell me about survival. Be courteous and when a policeman or a white person stop you, be careful what you-- always say "Yes sir" and "No sir". But that was the trick, the trick was that the policeman that stopped you he is going to talk to you long enough where you are going to-- you're scared to death to start with, you're going to talk to him long enough where you're gonna forget to say "Yes sir" and "No sir". And there's when your problem comes in. And I've been beat on a many time--that Rodney King beating that was something that happened every day and I've been beaten a many times because I forgot to say "Yes sir" and "No sir". I remember, no I don't want to jump that far, that's going on up to high school. But this is back during as a child. Even before I had come to Charlotte, I think I'd throw in one thing here, I'd like to throw in this thing about the KKK it entails real North Carolina. My daddy was teaching in Taylorsville, God we lived there-- every year we moved somewhere. And my daddy was college educated and a lot of white people in Taylorsville would come to my daddy and he would sit down and help them to figure out certain things they were doing and they would get him to check it and whatnot. And this man I will never forget this white fella he would come by every morning going to work and we called him Dicky Daddles because he would walk with a with a gallop-like.
PD: So one day he came by and right above us in Taylorsville, North Carolina there were two women that lived up there, not that I'm putting white women down but they ran a goodtime house.
HM: OK. [laughs]
PD: And they came down and sat on our porch one day with just my daddy and that was a mistake that my dad made. Dicky Daddles stopped one day and told him "We don't want to see you sitting and talking like you're enjoying yourself with these women." And Dicky Daddles began to dress up in his KKK sheet and things and on election day I never will forget now whether the blacks voted back then in Taylorsville I don't know, I don't think so but on election day Dicky Daddles would dress up in his KKK uniform and go to town to vote. And I'd ask my dad "Where's he going" and my dad said "Well he's going to vote" but I don't think blacks voted then. But he got to the place where they would come and they would stand in front of the house, and in Taylorsville this is before streetlights there were no streetlights or nothing back then you couldn't see your hand that close in front of you. But they would come and stand around the house at night and talk, smoke and walk up close to the house I don't know why they came close to the house under the windows to use the bathroom and whatnot. And I remember my daddy taking wee little children and taking us in a room that we called the pantry that's where we kept all the food. And I remember this old shotgun that my daddy had it was a single barrel shotgun and I remember my daddy asking my mother "Can you stop the baby from crying" and she said "I'm so scared" and he said, "I'm going to do the best I can" he called my mother Sister Alice he always called her Sister Alice. He said "Sister Alice I'm going to do the best I can please just stop the baby from crying." And we would hear Dicky Daddles and that crowd those out there walking around the house and whatnot. Now they never did bother us, but I look back on it now, they could have burned us out and whatnot, and then what would you gonna go do and tell anything. You couldn't tell the sheriff the sheriff was probably walking out there with them he was probably leading the charge. And those are the kinds of things I lived under here and I had always heard that up north things are better. And I always had it in my mind that I'm going to leave here one of these days I'm not going to stay here anymore.
HM: So these klansmen then they were around your house in particular were they trying to intimidate?
PD: Yeah because they told my daddy to his face "You you're an uppity nigger" because some white people there had told him that my daddy was helping people to figure out whether they were getting paid the right money.
HM: Ooooh.
PD: And what not and things like that and a lot of people couldn't read and write back then.
HM: Right.
PD: You get what I mean?
HM: Yeah.
PD: And my daddy was always respected by the majority of white people that he came in contact with. Majority of white people even here in the Deep South were law abiding people, I'd like to say that. And I knew it for a fact they were but it was that segment that you had that was the problem.
HM: Do you remember where your father went to college?
PD: My father went to the finished Livingstone College that's an AME Zion college supported by the AME Zion church here in Salisbury, North Carolina and when he went into the ministry they did not have a seminary there. He came to Johnson C Smith and went to the seminary.
HM: Wow.
PD: Uh-huh.
HM: OK. Now where did he meet your mother?
PD: My daddy met my mother because my daddy was teaching up there in Morgantown, North Carolina. And my mother was much younger than my father; she was my father's student.
HM: Oh my goodness. [Laughter]
PD: [Laughter] Now he did it right he waited until she finished high school. [Laughter] He waited until she finished high school and they got married. [Laughter]
HM: [Laughter] OK. That's funny.
PD: Yeah. [Laughter]
HM: OK so, that's really funny. Did so you spent these years at Morgan--
PD: At Morgan school. Morgan went until eighth; well I thought it went to seventh grade. Yes it went to seventh grade. Seventh grade, I had to count it, God that been so long ago.
HM: I didn't know you-
PD: Morgan School went until seventh grade then I graduated Morgan School and went to high school.
HM: OK and you went to Second Ward.
PD: Went to Second Ward that great school.
HM: OK. Now you're still we're sitting in the Alumni House you're still very involved--
PD: Uh-huh.
HM: So we'll get later about--
HM: You know what about Second Ward made it but we won't, tell me about Second Ward tell me about going.
PD: About going to Second Ward?
HM: Yeah.
PD: Second Ward I had finished elementary school and I worked anytime that I wasn't in school I worked and saved money to buy clothes to go to school.
PD: To buy clothes and books and whatnot because there were so many of us in my family and you know and my father had taught us to all to be self supporting and be supported. And I spent the summer looking forward to going to Second Ward and the day that I finally made it to Second Ward; to me it was like walking into a new country. We were kids that were kept really close to home unless we went to went out to walk to work or something like that cut grass, or cut hedges, or something like that we always had some little job to go to. And I remember my first day in Second Ward I was lost because it was something different to me. And the second picture there she's dead now, God rest her soul in peace, that's Doctor Mildred Baxter Davis.
PD: She sorta took me under her wing and a classmate of mine because she was, I guess she was she knew a lot more about Second Ward than I did my first time being there. And she told me how to change classes when the bell rings; this is where you go you go to the second floor you go to room so and so you know.
HM: OK so she was a student there?
PD: She was a student. Yeah she was a student just like me.
PD: And I took some classes with her but she then went back and taught school at Second Ward.
PD: Second Ward was something different; God it was something different. Now I knew I wanted an education I didn't go to Second Ward to be just be going to school or whatnot. I might not have been the brightest student but I did go there to get an education and not just to play. And I loved it. I loved it; I loved my the four years in high school were some of the greatest years in my life. If I could stay away from the gang of boys that would run us if we if-- they liked to throw rocks at us it wasn't like kids nowadays who will pull out a gun and kill you they would run us and whatnot.
HM: And these were black boys?
PD: Yeah these were black boys. And Brooklyn now is where you'll find Adams Mark Hotel it was some of the worse slumps down in that neighborhood there. We laugh about it now I have breakfast; I belong to a breakfast club that is called the Winston Morning Breakfast men that a lot of those boys who lived over there used to run us.
HM: [Laughter]
PD: And we laugh about it now, it was kids.
PD: I came to Second Ward and graduated in the class of 1939 and somewhere along there they begin to have the draft. Hitler was running wild and America had begun to prepare for war. And I knew that I was going to leave but I couldn't leave because you had to register with the draft board. See I'm jumping the gun this is after I left Second Ward.
HM: That's OK we can--. [Laughter]
PD: But anyway in Second Ward now what do you want to ask me about Second Ward. Now let me tell you this Second Ward was an extension of Morgan School. When I got to Second Ward teachers were different then, teachers really took you as their extended family. Teachers God teachers, they worried about you if you couldn't keep up in class they helped you, they were just they were an extended family. And--
HM: And I'm sorry.
PD: And its like I say to go out and see your teacher embarrassed with racism and whatnot that hurt. You didn't want to see that and that stays in your mind it gets in your mind because let me tell you something; living through segregation and whatnot is the most dehumanizing thing that you can put a person through. I look back on it now I don't know who's idea that was it was dehumanizing; God I look back on it and think how can you do that to a person but then I have people now not black people this is white people I sound like I'm tearing down the white people all the time but I'm not. But I just have to tell you my experience and this just happened the other day I took my car to the gas store to be serviced and this man over there he's a racist and I told the people over there in the company that I am never going to buy another car from you because I can't stand this racism, this man always has a racist joke to tell me and he was telling me a racist joke the other day. But anyway he is one of the white people that will tell you the Holocaust never happened; people can't do that. But let me tell you something man can be cruel to man take it from me I've experienced it; man can be cruel to man the more you hurt the more the better some people feel. And if they tell me that Hitler did this to Jewish people he did it. Do you get what I mean?
HM: Definitely.
PD: But because I look at my situation and I'm telling you about this segregation it done something-- it done something to me. It stunted me until I became about twenty-one years I'm jumping the gun about twenty years of age then I became to realize what life is about how I was a voting person and whatnot and my vote and you know I had a voice. And now but now I look at the country when I hear the words "We the people" I am included in that "We the people" maybe not much but I got my foot in the door.
HM: [Laughter]
PD: Do you understand what I'm trying to say? I do feel like that I am part of that "We the people." Because right now America's [laughter] America's got a problem. America's got a sick racist problem that is sick.
HM: So when you were speaking of racism and so did you signed up for the draft?
PD: No they took me down to the, yeah I signed up for the draft. Now this is when after I am out of high school. Knowing that I had got my diploma God when I got that diploma then my daddy cried he had wanted me to go to Johnson C. Smith. But this man had turned me off I'm talking about this fellow that turned me off telling me that there were no artists and whatnot. This had turned me off so I thought I'm gonna try my hand at something else but did I think I was going to drive a truck that wasn't what I had in mind. I wanted to explore a little bit and see what is out here and then go from there, but I still had to be careful because [laughter] my daddy finally said "Yes you can go." I had an insurance policy and it was worth $300 and $300 was a lot of money back then. For $300 I told my daddy I'm gonna give you all $100 of this money and I'm gonna take $200 of this money and let me please go to New York and let me try my hand there because my older brother lived there.
HM: Oh.
PD: And he told me-- he'd come down to visit us and he said, "I don't see how you can stand it" he said. Now you're gonna run into the same thing in New York but its different they don't have the brutality with it. Here they had the racism, the segregation, and the brutality. Oh God it was terrible; I can't explain it to you. And I don't want to call out names but I was on the bus one day coming uptown and this black woman got on the bus and she was ready to have that baby and these three white men beat her down to the ground and this bus was loaded with white people.
HM: What year was this?
PD: This was about 1940, 41.
HM: Why did they beat her?
PD: They beat her because she pushed one of the white men he said she pushed him because she was trying to get unto the bus and he walked up and--but that was the thing back then you had to wait and if a white person wanted this thing you had to stand back and you'd go into grocery stores back then checkouts at supermarkets were just coming on the scene. And if you were in the line and you were in front and this white person came up and they wanted to get out of there in a hurry you had to move back and let them get up there. But that's how the racism situation worked in the south it was just bad; God it was bad. I can't say it was bad enough. But do you know something, do you know I have no hard feeling against anybody and I even saw Strom Thurman walking like a mummy and whatnot and I prayed for him. We were sitting here for a meeting and he came up and this is just before they found out he was hollering all these orders this racism and whatnot and then at night he would go out and dip it in the chocolate. Is this on?
HM: Yes it's- [Laughter]
PD: [Laughter] Yeah he was heard as hollering all this racism and whatnot and talking about kill them, kill all the blacks and whatnot and yet still at night he's going out dipping it in the chocolate. And the only thing I hate about Strom and [laughter] I hate it that she did not come out before he died. I wish she had come out and back when they were having the marches and Dr. King and those were struggling so hard. I wish that she had come out then. But I had heard about it way back I guess it was during Dr. King's time I had heard about it and somebody had begun to talk about Strom hiding all this and still he had a black daughter that he is denying and whatnot.
HM: Yeah my father went to Fisk and he said that it was pretty common knowledge.
PD: Yeah.
HM: There that--[laughter]
PD: Yeah absolutely! Yeah it was common knowledge. Yeah but when it came out you still had- I'll have to call his name, I won't do that, but from South Carolina and he said he still doesn't believe it and she looks just like him. She looks just like him for the world. [Laughter] But you know what I'd like to take you back a little bit and take you back a few years before I get up to where I left here running and tell you this I know for a fact. Even know racism was running ramped and there were lynches and whatnot you still had races getting together. I know it for a fact because my brother did it. My brother he is dead now I can talk about him. My brother was, to me, a very handsome dude, took after my mother he was handsome in his young days. Dressed, loved to dress and whatnot. And this white girl and my brother they couldn't stay away from one another. Not only my brother but I saw a lot of others doing it, especially chauffeurs. I guess every man goes up and kills every-- if he's got a chauffeur he's going to go kill his chauffeur now. But they did it even up in Taylorsville. The goodtime house that the two girls were running up-- I don't know if they were sisters or whether they were mother and daughter.
HM: [Laughter] My goodness.
PD: But it was a goodtime house and it was for white only. But in the daytime whenever the action died down we would go to the window we were little kids we didn't know what was going on but we would go to the window because we saw my mother doing it my mother looking out of the window--
HM: [laughter]
PD: --to see this black dude coming out of the woods lay down in the field and wait for the white fellows to leave and he would go into the house.
HM: Oh funny.
PD: And these women these were all white women and whatnot. But this was the way it was. They holler one thing and do another. Do you get what I mean? And me, I myself one of the worst beatings I've ever gotten by a policeman, I myself was caught with a girl she wasn't white there were twenty-one children in this family.
HM: What?
PD: Twenty-one twenty-two children in this family. And they lived out here on Central Avenue and their last names were Longs and I don't mind telling this because she was single I was single I was a young kid out of high school but my daddy used to tell me "Son you'd better quit going out there because the policeman is going to get you one night" and sure enough I'm walking her home after a dance and here these policemen rode up. "Nigger where are you going?" "I'm taking my girlfriend home and" --no he didn't say, "Where are you going?" He said, "Nigger what are you doing with that white girl?" and I said "That's my girlfriend" instead of saying "She isn't white".
HM: Oh no. [Laughter]
PD: Instead of me saying she's not--
HM: "She ain't white". [Laughter]
PD: I should've told them "She is black". They took me out behind a building on Central Avenue and they stomped me. They beat me; God they beat me, and I was scared to tell my daddy now. I'm out of high school now and I was scared to tell my daddy since he told me that's what's going to happen to you.
PD: And they did they whipped me down to the ground and I was ashamed to tell her about it but I told a lot of other people and a lot of other people found out about it. And I ran up on the policeman one day and he saw me and he wanted to jump me and beat me again but he wouldn't but he stopped my brother and my daddy went down to the police department and I still I never did tell my daddy about me getting beaten. But my daddy went down to the police department and told them "This is wrong, you can't be jumping and beating these kids like this" and the police told him "He's getting ready to go to the army and he just he just need to take it out on somebody" and that was the end of it. And I know that deep in my heart I got on my knees and prayed that when he gets hit by a bullet he doesn't die right away that he suffers because he beat me just like Rodney King-terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible. So that's some of the experiences I've had here in Charlotte but then I've had some good experiences here in Charlotte too.
HM: Let's talk about some of the good stuff-- well before I forget, you said you saw your teachers having racist--
PD: Yeah you go to a place and I remember and I remember going--a teacher took us on a field trip to see the fire trucks, we went down to the fire station there was only one fire station in Charlotte and that--and that was here on Davidson between Trade and Fourth Street I believe it was. And I remember he got ready to call it in and he called her gal and that hurt us.
HM: The--I'm sorry the fire--
PD: The man there at the fire station.
PD: "Hey you gal you bring your kids and come on up". And that hurt us because to us gal was a derogatory.
HM: Sure.
PD: It was a very derogatory and that's another time that we were insulted very much so. This man that was showing us around the fireplace-- of course it was just I guess some of them it was just loose tongue.
HM: So this was a field trip, I'm sorry.
PD: This is a field trip.
PD: We were kids out of Morgan School.
PD: And we were there admiring the fire truck and whatnot and we couldn't touch the fire truck and whatnot. And he told us "Don't you all wish you were white?" so he was joking around the fire truck.
HM: [Gasps]
PD: Now really truly. And I doubt if I raised my hand to that and swear to the Maker because I don't have to tell a lie about it. And those are the kind of things, you know at my church I be careful what I say to young kids because it affects a young a child. A child may not say nothing to you then but it stays that child's mind these kinds of things stayed with me all my life. Do you get what I mean?
HM: Sure.
PD: But let me just tell you this, there are a majority of the white people out there that didn't use the N word they knew it was wrong but they couldn't say nothing they were scared just like everyone else, do you get what I mean?
HM: Right.
PD: And I know some people especially the people I worked for, white people, oh God they wouldn't be caught dead. They wouldn't be caught dead low rating themselves with racism and whatnot, regardless if they had that racist view they would keep it to themselves. But I can understand the policemen, too. White America, the better class of white people would have not been caught dead with the policemen. They would say to be I don't want to call people's names I'd get ready to go home and they'd say "Price you be careful now and go straight home and be careful and don't go into any close corners or come in contact with the police if you can help it."
PD: You know what I mean?
HM: Now this was in high school?
PD: This is when I was in high school.
PD: Maybe just before I went into high school because they knew and they would laugh at the policemen and say that they were well I guess what white America now calls "White Trash" or "Trailer Park" or whatever that term is that they use.
HM: Uh huh.
PD: And these white people knew it. They knew that the better type of white people were looking down on them.
PD: And they knew this and that's why they were so mean sometimes.
HM: [Hmm]
PD: Uh huh. So--but I wouldn't give nothing for my experience but I wouldn't want to experience it anymore, especially the segregation part and the police brutality. I wouldn't that part but I look back and say that they took a lot of my good, young life from me, they really did.
HM: You've talked some about prayer and faith, in school was that part of something that was in the school?
PD: Prayer you said prayer and a bible verse every morning and when they took prayer out of school I knew we were going to have a problem. Yeah prayer was a big thing in school back then. You prayed every morning before you started your day's work in school you'd say a little bible verse or whatnot because I remember when I was a little teeny kid I wore "Jesus wept" I wore it out. [Laughter]
HM: [Laughter]
PD: Hoping I could say it before someone else did. [Laughter]
HM: Oh my goodness. This is kinda unrelated to anything but your teachers were they mostly female or were they?
PD: Yeah at Morgan School they didn't have a male teacher at Morgan School.
HM: Really?
PD: All women.
PD: When I got to high school that's where I begun to deal with men teachers.
HM: And did they call them teachers?
PD: Yeah they were.
HM: And did how about the number of like boys and let's talk a little about dating and social life. Were there was there a pretty much equal ratio of boys to girls or boys leaving to work--
PD: Yeah it was pretty equal yeah it was pretty equal. Everybody had a little boyfriend or little girlfriend and whatnot and you didn't infringe on someone else's territory.
HM: [Laughter]
PD: [Laughter] I'll put it like that.
HM: And did you have school dances?
PD: We had school dances and football and track. We had everything, basketball we had everything that you could name in sports.
HM: Did you ever play sports?
PD: No--
HM: Did you do any--
PD: I was too small. Uh-huh. I was the smallest thing in my class.
HM: You're kidding.
PD: Yeah a small teeny little frail thing. Uh-huh.
HM: [Laughter] Did you do any clubs or what did they have clubs like?
PD: Yeah now what you mean--
HM: Like chess club or I don't know--
PD: No they didn't they might've later on in life but no they didn't.
HM: OK. [Mumbles] What else did I want to ask you? So did was that did your social life center around school or--
PD: Yeah during my young days my social life was mostly school but now I worked because my daddy always had a car. He always had himself a nice new car and he would let we kids have the car but we had to keep it up in gas and whatnot and keep it up but he would let us go to the beach we couldn't go but to one beach and that's down at a beach called Atlantic beach.
PD: That was the black beach.
PD: And we could go to that beach and we could take his car and go anywhere to the mountains or on Sunday take your little girlfriends and go and whatnot. And we loved to go I drove--
HM: [Laughter]
PD: The young boys, my sisters wouldn't go with us they didn't care about going with us but me and my other brothers we would go and take our little girls and go to the mountains and whatnot but my daddy would always give us that talk before we would leave "Son survival. Survival is the thing." And I tell you I've run into so much-- here we go back getting unto that racism again because back then you were not supposed to look profitable or anything or whatnot. You weren't supposed to look like you were doing well and the first thing the police would stop us and "Who's car?" and we would tell them "Our daddy" and then we'd always try to tell him that our daddy was a that "Our daddy Reverend Davis" or something like that and they wouldn't bother us so much. But God, you got stopped every twenty minutes because everybody didn't have a car; cars weren't plentiful back then. And my daddy just happened to have a car and the police they wouldn't bother us, especially out of town police wouldn't bother us in town they would stop us and check us out and whatnot. But, I saw the change coming, you now you might be too young to have heard Sam Cooke sing the song "I Know Change Won't Come" its such a sad song to me it's a sad song because I did see the change come. I saw changes coming to Charlotte because I would come to visit I would come to visit my parents every month to that--
PD: Once a month I'd come to visit my parents and I saw change coming I saw the change in the attitude of the police. I saw change coming because the police man would stop you, you could tell that they begun to get educated people, college people. You could tell when the cop got out and stopped you he didn't jump out with this, "Nigger where you going?" he'd jump out and say "Young fella could I see your license and registration?" or something like that. And he didn't get out with all of this racism and this hatred and whatnot and I saw the change slowly come, but this after '54 the Civil Rights Bill and whatnot. I saw the change come. And some of the old police men that used to be around they began to die or retire and I was glad to see that to either die retire or die and get out of the way--
HM: [Laughter]
PD: --because you are holding up progress and you are you don't fit in society out here because this was a changed world. And I saw the change come and I begin to not be afraid to come to Charlotte because I was afraid because I'd buy a new car every year. I had to have a new car because I'd come from wherever I'd been Texas, California whatnot get out of the boss's truck and crawl right into my car and come home with my boss's uniform on. But my boss even used to tell me "Price wear your cap as you go down the road it makes you look like a chauffeur and maybe they wouldn't bother you" because my boss was worried about me, too. He was worried about me coming down South. But I never ran into a bad problem coming down never. But once I get in Charlotte I would run into something, the cops would stop me and whatnot and see me around and they'd stop me and want to know what's what.
HM: Speaking of transportation how did you get to and from school?
PD: When I went to Second Ward my dad would let me drive the car. But coming from Myers Park we walked.
PD: We walked. Maybe once in a while if my daddy was not on his job or something he would bring us to school in the horse and buggy. This is going back now, this is going back way like western days.
HM: [Laughter]
PD: Yeah it was it was something.
HM: So were your brothers and sisters at Second Ward with you?
PD: Yeah but they came at a different time. They came after me.
HM: OK after you.
PD: Uh-huh.
HM: So your eldest the ones that were older than you they didn't--
PD: No they my older brother he had gone to Virginia State and he had finished and had taken a swing at teaching but that didn't work out for him he didn't like that so he drove a truck for the same company that I did but he was a dispatcher there at this company. When I first went there he was a dispatcher he could dispatch the trucks and whatnot but New York had its part of racism, too; it did. It was a novelty to drive and I called my younger brother and told him "Come on we got to get you a good job"
HM: [Laughter]
PD: He came to New York and he got a job and another fellow that left here but both of them are dead now my younger brother and this other fellow. But there is one thing I say about my boss the people that I worked for, God they were some of the nicest people that I have ever met in my life because when I went there as a young fellow eighteen years of age Mrs. Hammond sat me down and told me "Price you're not going to run out here and run to the racetrack--
HM: [Laughter]
PD: --and gamble up and waste your money like the rest of the guys here that work here". Every day Monday morning the sheriff was out there looking for somebody out for non-support.
HM: Oh my goodness [Laughter]
PD: And she said "I don't want you to do that" and she said "I want you to be able to when you leave this job if you retire from here I want you to have something to show for it" and she was the first person who told me "Go buy a house if you can" and whatnot.
HM: Do you think that-- I mean you said that you were one of the first black truck drivers--
PD: One of the first blacks to drive a truck at Haymarket Trucking that was the trucking company.
HM: Did you feel well prepared for your adult life by your school experiences?
PD: Without Second Ward I would not have been able to function out in the world. Because in the first place, I was disillusioned with, I don't want to say the world, I was very disillusioned with America because before I left here I would see America bring German prisoners here who had done killing and killed Americans that had more freedom than I had. Do you-- that disillusioned me and I could never understand the racism. It was hard for me understand it and I guess I cried all the time, "Am I gonna have to live like this the rest of my life" and I would close my eyes sometimes and try to die, I really would. I didn't want to hurt and die but just close my eyes and die because, God hope you never have to go through that race, that sickness, that-- oh God.
HM: Did you ever talk about these things with your peers in school or was that something you tried not to deal with or--
PD: Yeah in school we would talk about it because you had to talk about it because like I was gonna tell you when I left school the little boys would throw rocks at me but if I come and walk down Fourth Street and go to Cherry I've got to deal with the police.
PD: And the police loved to beat you; they just loved to pick at you and they knew that the intimidation got to you and they would just love to do it. They would love and like I said if you talk long enough you're going to forget to say "Sir," you're going to forget to say it and when you forget to say it then that's when they would look for anything to beat you.
HM: Did you have any dealings with white youth at all?
PD: I grew up with a white fellow I hate to tell this because see somebody might know this but I'm not going to call no names.
HM: [Laughter]
PD: He worked for funeral home the poor fellow got killed one day in an ambulance come left out of there. We were inseparable you couldn't keep I couldn't live without him he couldn't live without me. But he worked for a funeral home- this was in high school- and we the first thing I would ask him in the evening "Are we going out of town?" We would hope somebody died out of town so we would have a long ways to go.
HM: [Laughter]
PD: But I had a lot of white friends, even in Taylorsville where the KKK was because I saw KKK's around here in Charlotte. They would put on their little dunce caps and things on and walk around now and again but I'm talking about that having a run in with them or whatnot or getting close to them no. But yeah I always had white friends I've done that and especially in New York. The day that they called me from the back I was back in the back there doing something that and they called me and said they wanted to see me in the office and I went up in the office and Mr. Hammond [coughs] was there that was the man that owned the business and he--excuse me--but you know this is off the record I just read a book--
HM: [indecipherable]
PD: Life to me is so good and even with all that sickness of racism and segregation that I went through I wish and I told this in a board meeting and Second Ward's board with whites and blacks on it--
HM: Oh really?
PD: We had three whites on the board then and I made this statement and the statement was that I wished I could sit down and talk to Strom Thurman would be one of them and the others would be the police men or the guy that came to Morgan School or the guy at the fire station who said well the guy at the fire station didn't tell me that I wouldn't be nothing but the guy that came to Morgan School told me I wouldn't be nothing. But I would like to sit down and have coffee with him and tell him that I retired at age fifty about fifty or fifty-one and let me tell you something life to me- like this guy says in the book- life is so good because I, Price Davis, a black in America, that done this sweaty nasty job that other drives from those other companies would sit down and tell one up you asked me if I had friends that were white person the two best friends I've had in New York one was Italian and the other was Jewish Sam Jankowitz. I think Sam Jankowitz is still living but we call him Doc but his name was Colin DeBrenza who taught me sit me down and showed me how to run that route. The first night that they gave me those keys I was scared; I just couldn't get up to Harlem I was scared to death and he told me meet me up in Hyler's Restaurant and bring your papers and I'm gonna write it down for you because I've run that route before and if you do the way I do it you'll be back here on time. But anyway I would just like to tell the world since you have this mike on that I, Price Davis, a black in America, I've had it all. You're talking about happiness, now this is with the sadness because that sadness that segregation has something that makes your heart ache because it does something to you but with all that I found time to get myself a good job and make some money and I've had it all; I've had houses, new cars, clothes, money, pretty girls I've had it all. And I'd like Strom to know that--
HM: [Laughter]
PD: --and I'd like that man that said I wasn't going to be nothing I'd like him to know it and if I ever run up on him in the next life that's the first thing I'm going to tell him that I retired as a young man and here I am almost eighty years old I'll be eighty next month coming up I ain't done I got to say it the black way--
HM: [Laughter]
PD: I ain't done nothing but play golf and went out and went to nice places to eat, drink, and travel, and be merry.
HM: [Laughter]
PD: That's right I've had it all; all of it. Of what you call happiness in America. And you can have it and you can have it and my daddy always told me- this the only thing that kept me sane as a young child is my daddy always told me "Son the person that puts you down and always is putting you down with this racism and this hatred, he's merely trying to put your light out to make his shine brighter you have just as much right to live in this world as he does." And that is the only thing that kept me sane, I guess sane. And I can say now, truthfully say, that I can go and meet my maker and go on to Judgment and I'm not mad I'm not mad at anybody not even the people who have done things to me and whatnot. I've let it go and enjoyed the better things in life and I do like good things in life. I like going to the theatre and to this and that and seeing those things because I was exposed to that in New York. Because you'd go up in the office when you come in on Friday morning when you get back in New York you go back in the office and you look through the salesman and whatnot couldn't use tickets and you'd pick out two tickets and go to a Broadway show. Take your little girl and go to a Broadway show and whatnot and I've seen all the good Broadway shows and didn't have to pay.
HM: That's great.
PD: Yeah, great. And like I say now I'm still enjoying life still traveling and Mrs. Hammond that was the lady, the wife of the husband that owned the business. When I got ready to retire she told me "Price you go to..." because they took me as their child, she said, "You're getting ready to retire, you come up and show me how you're going to do it." And she said, "Be honest with me I don't want to know every nickel you've saved but show me where you're going to retire and what you're going to do." And I did. I put it on paper and I went up there and sat down and showed it to her she told me, "Price it'll work; just stay outta debt, it'll work," she said "I see where you've got it figured out where in you in once in a while you buy a new car but you won't do like you've been doing up here".
HM: [Laughter]
PD: I said well I don't have to travel and run and try to get back and leave New York on Friday morning and see my parents and have to leave from down there on Sunday morning coming back in order to go out Sunday evenings because the guy that's gonna pull my truck would be the first one to be pulling up front. I can't block up traffic, you get what I mean.
HM: [Laughter]
PD: I said and that's why I bought a new car most every year, now some years I'd miss and not buy a new car but I always had somebody that would buy my car and give me a good price for it or either I would bring it down here and give it to my brother and go back and buy me a new car and whatnot. But like I said, I've said had it all; I've had it and still enjoying life. Still I know my union now I've been retired from my union for thirty years come December the 17th coming and I know that my union wished that I would die or go to the moon or leave town or do something.
HM: [Laughter}
PD: But they have paid me ever since I've left there but one time a check did bounce, a union check.
HM: A union check bounced?
PD: They claimed that they changed the banks yeah and that check bounced.
HM: Oh my goodness.
PD: Yeah the check bounced.
HM: So in your retirement one of the things that you're doing is you're involved with the Second Ward alumni--
PD: With Second Ward and I dedicate as much time as I can to it and I love doing what I'm doing for Second Ward because Second Ward entitled me to retire at that age.
HM: So tell me a little about the activities that you all do here.
PD: The activities that we do here we just had a-- now this was not the this was not the national alumni this is a Charlotte chapter. The Charlotte chapter just had what they call a Rockery review a review that comes out of New York, that's how they raise money to gives scholarships and whatnot and that's what we try to do even to the national.
HM: So there's a national?
PD: Yeah this is the national, now we used to have a lot of chapters--
PD: But now it's getting to the place where there are no chapters because Second Ward people are dying. Second Ward people has been closed since 1969.
HM: That was going to be my next question. Alright.
PD: Yeah.
HM: But so you still give out scholarships?
PD: We still give them, the Charlotte chapter and whatnot they still give Charlotte the help with the scholarships have benefits for certain things. But we also have come together-- the national has come together and put this museum together.
PD: And before you go you gotta look upstairs, too. They got--
PD: And they got so much stuff in the basement because they have to place to put it.
HM: Alright.
PD: And that's what they're going to do. Right now we're trying to see if we can expand and get a larger place because we didn't know we were going to get all this stuff. We didn't know people were going to come and support us as good as they have supported.
HM: Wow.
PD: Uh-huh. And we go and try to give displays-- put on displays and some of those displays I'm very proud of because I'm chair of that committee.
PD: And I've put on some good displays I don't say it because it was me I say it because it was good.
HM: So I guess in conclusion, again what is it about Second Ward that keeps folks coming back for years--
PD: I'll tell you about what's good about Second Ward. The majority of the people in Charlotte, North Carolina: that's politicians, doctors, lawyers and whatnot they came through Second Ward. Second Ward was the first black high school here. It was the only school that blacks could go to and you take Greer Heights do you know where Greer Heights is?
HM: Yeah uh-huh.
PD: It was considered in the county you couldn't go to Second Ward, you had to pay it cost you six big dollars, and six dollars was a lot of money. I know because my ten cents-- each kid that wanted to help bring ten cents or whatnot to help some of the kids out there that couldn't afford to go to Second Ward.
HM: So other students collected money to help?
PD: A lot of students gave money to help and the teachers would do the same if you didn't have clothes to wear to school your teacher would buy you some clothes or make you some or do something. That is why people have such a love for Second Ward and you take Jim Richardson who was a County Commissioner I think when he died but he was a senator from Charlotte, North Carolina senator he was from out of Second Ward. You'd be surprised at the life that Second Ward touched so many lives out here and afforded so many people-- if a person's in fifty or sixty years of age they went through Second Ward.
PD: And that's why people don't mind supporting it. And we do have a board that meets every quarter.
HM: OK. You said that there were white folk on the board?
PD: Yeah there were some we have one white person on the board now.
HM: Did they go to Second Ward?
PD: No.
HM: OK [laughter]
PD: But we wanted a board where in we could try and include everybody and these people we knew and they were asked if they would serve on our board. We have one white person on the board now and that's Pam Grundy that teaches up at Davidson, North Carolina and has really brought a lot. All of them have brought-- I can't think of the other two who was on the board but they brought a lot to Second Ward and they helped to put together a book which really sold. They put it together about Second Ward and about the black neighborhoods of Charlotte.
HM: [Hmm]
PD: And it's really something. And like I said Second Ward afforded me I'm still able to go and pay to play golf and travel and do what I want to do and go where I want to go. You can't buy a new car another year but when one starts to give me trouble I go and buy another one. [Laughter]
HM: [Laughter]
PD: And that that comes from Second Ward.
HM: So by that do you mean the academic background that gave you or the social background or all?
PD: The academics-- I had to have that academic background of Second Ward in order to do what I did because that's the first thing the judge asked, "Before I hand down this decision, do you have a high school diploma".
HM: Oh really?
PD: Yes. And I said yes and I sent home and get mine because you had to go take and show it to him; he's not gonna take your word for it.
HM: [Laughter]
PD: And Second Ward-- and can you count? That was one of the first things my boss asked me when he sent me out "Can you count? Can you count in your head without putting it down in front of you and counting on your fingers and things like this?"
HM: [Laughter]
PD: Can you count because you need that because when you go and pick up a load and whatnot you go out there you got to know what you're doing in order to fill out that manifest. You need to know what you're doing and whatnot.
HM: Right, right.
PD: I went out there and you gotta keep mileage and you gotta figure mileage and whatnot. And I went out there and I could do it and believe me when I tell you I was one of the best drivers out there; I really was. It didn't take me anytime to get those longs runs.
PD: Of course it was with those long good cross country runs was where the money was.
HM: [Laughter]
PD: Five cents a mile and I believe nine dollars an hour before I left five cents a mile yeah five cents a mile.
PD: Uh-huh, that's where the money was; that was good money.
HM: Yeah that was good money. [Laughter]
PD: Yeah it was good money back in them days [Laughter].
HM: I was going to ask some questions--
PD: Yeah you ask me some questions because I've been flap jawing; take your time. [Laughter]
HM: And I wanted to get on the tape that you mentioned the judge and when we talked about that before I had turned off the tape.
PD: Uh-huh
HM: Tell me a little about that the judge and the case.
PD: What happened was Adam Clayton Powell asked us, he asked me, and my brother, and there was another fellow from Charlotte here, Louis McCalla, he was visiting me there and he asked us what we would be doing and I told him that we were loading trucks and he said working on the dock, he said "Have you ever drive" and I said "No never drove" he said "Well can you drive a truck" "Yes" all Saturday morning they would take us to West Street where look at the Queen Mary which was docked there, on West Street there in New York and they teach us how to drive a tracker trailer up under the overpass, upstairs is the expressway. And we knew how to drive that was no problem and had the credentials the license the chauffeur's license-- that's what the union called it.
HM: Uh huh [laughter]
PD: And Adam Clayton Powell started this class action lawsuit he said "I'm gonna start this class action lawsuit" and I didn't know what he was talking about.
HM: [Laughter]
PD: I said "Oh Lordy, I'm going to lose my job" and he said "No you can't lose your job you're union".
HM: Oh so you were in the union, OK.
PD: Yeah I had to join the union the first night I went to work and he started and the union he brought the union on the carpet and somebody else I can't remember somebody else outside of my union there was somebody else in on it; a third party. Anyway he told us that we were likely to go to court and we was ready to go to court because I remember that my boss come and told us he said "I'm gonna tell you all something but I don't want you to tell nobody" he said but "You all are some of the best workers, you blacks are some of the best you colored" or whatever he called us. "You all are some of the best workers" because we were good workers and would come to work because we could not walk out of his job and walk across the street and get a job. This is in New York but Joe Stewart and those could do that, they could get a job. But we would come to work and we some of the best workers so my boss came and said "I'm gonna send my lawyer down there to represent you all but don't you all tell nobody I that I did that."
HM: So he was in favor of you?
PD: My boss he wanted it he wanted it long before Powell he told me. But he'd gotten a letter and he said, "I'm going to my lawyer down there to represent you fellows." We went downtown that morning down to the courthouse and whatnot. A whole bunch of us and we were there and the lawyer Whittenburg walked in; I liked old Whittenburg but he got killed in a car accident.
HM: Oh my goodness.
PD: But he was just a regular-- he was a nice person and Whittenburg told us we wanted to not be down there wasting sleep and he said "Well I'll tell you just write these things down I tell you here and you all can go on home" and he said "I'll take care of it from here" and that's what he did. And then he came on the job one night and told us he said "They're going to hand down a decision soon-- no we're going to court soon" then came back and told us "You all aren't going to have to go to court because the unions and the jury they're gonna get together and they're gonna settle it out of court."
HM: So the union was preventing it?
PD: Yeah.
PD: Yeah. So you don't go 202 no the union was the one on the carpet to start with. My boss it had never had nothing do to with my boss the only thing was that he was a part of the union and he had to pay into the union, you know, we all had to pay into the union they brought the union on the carpet and the union said "Let's use seniority and let's not go to court," because back then Harper was on the carpet Bobby Kennedy was after Harper--
HM: [Laughter]
PD: --for racketeering and things and whatnot I'd better not go into that but racketeering was something.
HM: [Laughter]
PD: It was really something out in those days. But they did-- they settled it and the only requirement was you had to take your diploma down to the court and let the person who was in the office there register your diploma.
PD: And my parents sent me mine and I took it down there and that caused me to live the good life that I'm living now and life I say I can die and go into glory and not be mad at people because I do say and I want the world to know that I do feel like when they say "We the people" I'm saying it again I am a part of that "We the people." America has come that far.
HM: But you didn't feel like that when you were in high school?
PD: God I didn't feel like that for a long time. I didn't even feel that during the civil right's marches and whatnot, I never felt like it because I wasn't. But you know, there's a lot out here that people don't know that I have just found out here in the last ten years because I do like to read a lot. And I gotta say this, that you would be surprised at blacks who had some of these five-hundred companies out here. They're heading five-hundred of these companies but you don't hear-it's not a big fanfare. But my point is this were I a young kid now coming along I couldn't waste my time with a video machine and whatnot.
HM: [Laughter]
PD: Because it's out there for you but they're not going to give it to you you're going to have to go out there and work for it. And if I were out here now as a young person and had my family: my mother and father, who were very good parents very supportive parents very demanding parents that you do right and do you make something out of yourself. You can become what you want to become out here now.
HM: Did your teachers tell you that also?
PD: My teachers-no, well. my teachers would not tell us "You could be what you want to be" because it wasn't open to blacks no.
PD: When television first started, God you see a black person on television, God you'd "Come on there's somebody black on TV!"
HM: [Laughter]
PD: Skid or Flip Wilson or whatnot. I'd go back to a black program you had Nat King Cole who had the Nat King Cole show but nobody would support it. Businesses wouldn't support it because businesses were threatened. If you support that show and take out an advertisement we're not going to buy your products and this is this is documented, I'm not just saying this just to be saying it; but this was the way things were. But right now and this is we just talking right now let's get back to mistreatments and the KKK and the lynches and things that went on. I do believe and I keep saying it that I'm a part of the "We the people," if the KKK burns a cross in my yard now I do believe that America is going to go all out and find out who did it and gonna prosecute to the hilt. But when I came along you had J. Edgar Hoover who was head of the FBI who I question his manhood.
HM: [Laughter]
PD: I do, I question his manhood I've never seen him with a woman.
HM: [Laughter]
PD: I question his manhood he always hollered and screamed and said "As long as I'm head of the FBI there would never be a nigger working in this organization." But now I know some personal and personally I know some FBI blacks, they're not my complexion; they're real blacks.
HM: [Laughter]
PD: You know that they're black, do you get what I mean. But I can sit and talk like this and the N word doesn't bother me it doesn't bother me because I heard it so much when I was a kid I began about I became immune to it. Do you get what I mean? And it doesn't bother me because I see so many blacks now that are millionaires and some of them have worked hard from the guy who's bringing the basketball team here. He in there working over and over worked hard for it. But there's so many people out here nowadays, blacks out here, like I say that head some of these companies you'd be surprised. I'm not going to call them because you're taping this.
HM: [Laughter]
PD: I'm not but you'd be surprised at where America has come from, because I know America back when the war was going on and you had black women who wanted to join the WAC's, that was an outfit. And I remember when I had a friend, she, God rest her soul in peace, she's dead now but she was my little sweetie pie and she wanted to join and when she got ready to get her uniform she went uptown to a department store to get her uniform and they did not allow blacks in there; she had to go through the back door to get her's.
HM: Oh my goodness. So she was serving her country but--
PD: Yeah, but that was the way it was. But America has woken has awakened to the point where in America it says green is what counts. [Laughter] I know some white people right now here in Charlotte told me "If they'd try to get back to the old way there's ain't no way" he said "My business depends on blacks".
HM: [Laughter]
PD: I got to tell you this because this happened this happened a year ago. I'm over here in Gastonia, God rest her soul lady, soul I hope she's still living. This was a very elderly white woman and she told me she said "You know its getting so bad out here" she said "I wish things were like they used to be."
HM: Oh no.
PD: She said "Don't you think don't you wish things could be were-- don't you wish things could be like they used to be?" and I told her I said "Lady..."
HM: [Laughter]
PD: This wasn't a joke, I had just bought this new Ford that I had I said "Ma'am no! I have to tell you this, ain't no way I'm going to trade in my new white Ford Explorer for a white mule."
HM: [Laughter]
PD: "No sir, no, no, no." Her husband died laughing. I said "Ain't no way I'd give up my white Ford Explorer for a while mule." So like I say I've seen it all and nothing surprises me and you can say-- and believe me when I say it I'm not angry at anybody because those were the times. It was just the politicians got to some people but they couldn't get to all people and you take people like Strom and whatnot they got out there using the N word the one they didn't have no other plan they didn't have to say anything save the blue jay or let's clean up the water.
HM: [Laughter]
PD: Just use the N word the one that hollered it the loudest is the one who won and now that's the way things were. But I'm not angry with any of them not even the cops that beat me and whatnot; it's in the past because I grew up to be a man, and a man who was working and was able to enjoy some the better things in life. Good thick steak, good whiskey.
HM: [Laughter]
PD: I've enjoyed it all. That's right I've enjoyed it all yeah, and still enjoying it and still enjoying it all. So that's my story. [Laughter]
HM: [Laughter]
PD: Now what you do we have anything to talk about. [Laughter]
HM: No I don't on that note I don't think we've left anything out.
PD: Well you can ask me some questions because when I get to talking I just I just flap jaw and flap jaw but--
HM: [Laughter]
PD: I did it, and I did it my way, and I lived a good life all on account of Second Ward. And you can start off the East Coast and go the West Coast and you can stop at any police precinct and 99 percent of 'em will probably tell you, "Yeah, we had old Price. Yeah, he's been in our jail." And you say, "What did you have him for?" "He was overloaded, he had a light out on the truck, he had lost a flap..." But they'll tell you, "He was never involved in anything criminal. The only thing criminal, he might have stolen a box of our doughnuts."
HM: [Laughter]
PD: And I would take those doughnuts and throw the trash in ya'll- give me a box a doughnuts and kindly let me go. But my point is, you can get out here and make yourself a good decent living without getting on the crummy side of life. You can get out here and make it decent, wherein somebody knock on your door you say, "Can't be the police, 'cause I ain't done nothing." Do you get what I mean?
HM: Right.
PD: And I've enjoyed it all. I've enjoyed the heck out life; I've enjoyed it all. Like I say, I wish, to me, I wish there could be more trust between the races that distrust is worst. What did cause a lot of problems, I think, in the country, now I'm getting political, ain't I? Getting off base, suppose you got this thing turned off? But I'll be just talking, but I do wish that we could- there could be more trust between the races and let people make a living and go on and do your thing. And the heck with that other guy let him make his living and you make yours, and whatnot. Because you ain't going to be here, you ain't going to be here forever. And you take it from me, it just seems like the other day I was working or I was in high school, and the first thing, you know, I used to talk about the old folks, I woke up one day and I was the old folks! Life goes on, it passes you by. But before you go to your grave, don't go to your grave hating, with all that hate and whatnot pinned up in you, because I for one, do believe that there is a hereafter. But, everybody, every Sunday morning, that jumps up talking about- let me put it the black way, talking, because it's an old Negro spiritual- everybody's talking about heaven and man ain't going there.
HM: [Laughs]
PD: You better believe it, because how can you love God when you don't even love your fellow man. And that's the reason why- well I always was a forgiving person; I always was a forgiving person. And when I tell you that I've prayed for people who mistreat me, I really have. [Pauses] There comes somebody in a car.
HM: Well, I think, then, we can since someone's coming we can conclude. I want to thank you.
PD: OK! [Laughter]