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Interview with Dr. Reginald A. Hawkins

Interviewee: 
Hawkins, Dr. Reginald A.
Interviewer: 
Desmarais, Melinda H.
Date of Interview: 
2001-06-11
Identifier: 
OHHA0077
Subjects: 
Hawkins, Reginald Armistice, 1923-2007; King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968; Chambers, Julius L. (Julius LeVonne), 1936-2013; Swann, James E.; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools; Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education; North Carolina. Department of Commerce; United States. Supreme Court; Mecklenburg Organization on Political Affairs (Charlotte, N.C.); Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (United States); Voting Rights Act of 1965 (United States); Civil rights movements; African Americans--Segregation; Busing for school integration; Segregation in education; School integration; Black power; African American women political activists; Social structure; Trials, litigation, etc.; North Carolina--Charlotte; Interviews (Sound recordings); Oral histories
Abstract: 
In this interview, Dr. Reginald Armistice Hawkins discusses his significant involvement in the civil rights movement nationally, within the state of North Carolina, and in Mecklenburg County. Hawkins candidly describes his experiences during the era of segregation, as well as his activities as a political activist when he was a student at Johnson C. Smith University during the early 1940s, and after his return to Charlotte to practice dentistry in 1948. As a member of the local NAACP, and as the organizer of the Mecklenburg Organization on Political Affairs (MOPA), Hawkins was closely involved with local political protests for many years. Hawkins discusses his role in advocating for school integration during the period following Brown vs. Board of Education. He also highlights his involvement in the landmark Swann vs. Board of Education case, which introduced integration through bussing in Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools. Hawkins' also describes the reprisals he experienced in response to his activism. Of particular note were bomb attacks on his and other local black leaders' homes in 1965. Hawkins describes his involvement with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the local response to Dr. King's tragic assassination in 1968. He closes the interview by stressing the important impact that black women had on the civil rights movement, and the significance of his local political action group, MOPA.
Coverage: 
North Carolina—Charlotte; circa 1920 - 1999
Interview Setting: 
Dr. Hawkin's home, South Carolina--Tega Cay
Collection: 
Oral History Collection
Collection Description: 
The Oral History Collection consists of an eclectic mix of interviews relating to the history of Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, and the local region.
Interview Audio: 
Transcript:

MD (Melinda Desmarais): Today is June 11th. The year is 2001. This is Melinda Desmarais, the interviewer, and I am here today with the Reverend Dr. Reginald Hawkins, at his home in Tega Cay, South Carolina. I'm conducting this interview for the Digital Sound Archive Initiative for the Special Collections Department of Atkins Library, located at UNC Charlotte. Dr. Hawkins, tell me your full name.
RH (Reginald Hawkins): Dr. Reginald Armistice Hawkins.
MD: And what was your date of birth Dr. Hawkins?
RH: Eleven, eleven, twenty-three.
MD: And that's 1923?
RH: 1923.
MD: And where was your place of birth?
RH: Beaufort, North Carolina.
MD: And what were your parents' names, Dr. Hawkins?
RH: My father was Charles C. Hawkins, and my mother was Lorena Smith Hawkins.
MD: Where were they from?
RH: My daddy was from Beaufort, and my mother was Croatan Indian born in Newport, North Carolina.
MD: And did they, did your mother move to that area when she married?
RH: My mother, well, was an Indian, and her mother married an African preacher, and he made my mother get rid of all of her Indian children. And my mother was raised by her sister, and her sister was residing in Beaufort, North Carolina, and that's how my mother got to, to Beaufort, was that her sister Esther raised her. And my daddy met her there, and he said he wasn't going to let her go back to Newport, so he kept her there in Beaufort.
MD: And did you have brothers and sisters?
RH: Oh, one brother and two sisters.
MD: What were there names?
RH: My oldest sister is Hazel, and my brother James and my sister Marmie, which, who is the baby. I'm the third child.
MD: And what did your parents--. How did they make a living?
RH: My daddy was a government employee. He worked for the United States Bureau of, of, of, of Interior and then it became Commerce. He was an ethologist, worked at Pivers Island, North Carolina, in fish culture and in ecological surveys in that area. They, they, they evaluated the waters from Nova Scotia to Tortugas, Florida doing ecological survey, replenishing work and restoring sea life where it was being damaged or destroyed by storms or by pollution, whatever. So that was what he did. My mother was never educated. She was Indian, and the state of North Carolina did not educate Indians.
MD: Did she stay at home, work at home?
RH: She was a housewife. My mother did not work.
MD: Did you spend your entire life there until you came to Johnson C. Smith?
RH: I was in Beaufort until I was 15 years old and I entered Johnson C. Smith at the age of 15 and turned 16 in November in 1941.
MD: So that's how you got to Charlotte?
RH: That's how I got to Charlotte.
MD: What were your first impressions as a freshman at Johnson C. Smith. I mean what were your impressions about Charlotte?
RH: Well, I came from a very cosmopolitan area Beaufort, seaport town. And when I got to Charlotte it was a very segregated town. We had segregation in, in Beaufort, but it was never enforced, and people got along very well. Oh we had--. I finished an all black high school, but we had entered relationship with a white high school, sports. And everyone knew everybody in Beaufort, and when I got to Charlotte, you know, it was like a fish out of water, you know. It was very big, very polarized and I, I, I really didn't like it at first. I had to grow into liking Charlotte.
MD: How would you--. I know you say it was polarized and very segregated.
RH: Oh right, right.
MD: Give me an idea of how you saw that, learned that, knew that here in Charlotte. Were there examples that you can tell me that, or an immediate example that you saw when you first got here?
RH: Yeah I had an experience when I first came here. I carried some clothing to the Five Points, to a clothing, I mean to a laundry.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: And the guy messed up my clothing, and then I went to him to, when he tried to get me to take it, you know. And I refused and asked him to do it again, and he drew a gun on me because I asked him to do it again. And I told him. I left out. I went to the school, got the dean and all of them. We boycotted them, and ran him out, out of that area because of that incident. And from there, it was ride the bus. ( ) people knew that--. Well, with the blacks too. If you were a Johnson C. Smith student you were set aside, you know, and we--. Certain sections of town we could not go in and then on the bus, sit at the back of the bus, which a lot of us refused to do. We ran into a lot of hostility from whites. So it was--. Charlotte during that time, in the, and the war was on, too, was a very hostile town towards the races of concern. It was a very police state. Littlejohn, Chief Littlejohn was the chief of police, and my impression of Charlotte was that it was a police state although we were in a sanctuary, Johnson C. Smith. Dr. McCrorey wouldn't allow the police on the campus, but then I became very active in the struggle, and as I said the incident at the laundry, and when Tresbont Anderson in 1943 was running they boycotted and picketed in the post offices where they were refusing to hire black postal people. And at that same time A. Phillip Randolph was running and protesting Washington for equal employment for blacks. And so it was done here, and I joined in as, as a leader on the campus at Johnson C. Smith and one who believed in eliminating that form of segregation, employment and whatever, so I joined in and marched. That was my first actual march in protest against segregation—was in 1943 in Charlotte. General Younts was the postmaster, who you see all his names on all these highways and all. He was the postmaster who refusing to hire blacks. That was the tenor in the South at that time. Employment opportunities, education opportunities, you name it, were denied to blacks. And I never appreciated that, and I vowed that I would do something about it from the time when I was six years old. My mother used to always talk to me about it, and I had a tremendous experience on the, at the island. The, the supervisor son and I were the same age, Sam Hildebrand. And we grew up together as buddies, you know, I guess Buckwheat and whatever the other name is. But anyway, the black and white kid, we mingled with the professors doing research, and wherever he went during that time I went. But then when I got—-, entered school, I think I entered school before he did. But anyway, he had a party, and he didn't invite me. And the professors, a lot of them from Duke and Wake, leading universities, asked me if I was invited, if I was going to Sammy's birthday party. And I didn't--. He didn't, didn't invite me; then I saw all these white kids on the, in his home, you know. I was there on the island. He was out on the island. And I went home and asked my mother why was I not invited, and she began to tell me about segregation and denial based on color and so forth. And I think that caught Sammy and beat the living hell out of him because of that, and that was my first experience. But my mother, who was Indian and very well entrenched in the inequities and injustice in this country and in this state, would tell me about it. And then my daddy came from a very militant family, preachers, you know, who were people who had organized demonstrations within the church group who were ministers: First Presbyterian, Congregational ministers, builders in AME Zion church, the AME church. And that's all I heard was really, how to eliminate the inequities, voting rights and doing away with the de facto and de jure segregation and all of this. And so when I was a senior, I was editor of the newspaper, in my school newspaper, and I wrote an article about the injustice and the denial of facilities in--.
MD: In Charlotte? About Charlotte?
RH: In Beaufort.
MD: Oh. Um-hum.
RH: While I was in high school in Beaufort. And the principal kept that article, and they tell me until when he was on his dying bed, he was showing that my intent as a, as a, as a youngster, you know, fighting the injustice that existed in this country. So I think I've--. I was very well indoctrinated, and I had the experience of running into people who at Johnson C. Smith, the teachers, and at Howard University the teachers and the lawyers. The people that I've came in contact with were, were people who were very interested in eliminating the inequities in this country.
MD: Who were the people at Johnson C. Smith? Do you remember any in particular?
RH: Oh yeah, I remember them all of them. Dr. Steele, Dr. Anderson, Dr. Atkins, Woodruff, and Dean McKinney, and Ms. Adams, the registrar. All of them, I was the chairman--. I was head of the student committee and head of the Panhellenic Council. And at Johnson C. Smith, they talk to us but not as strong as they did at Howard University. When I entered Howard, Miss Mary Church Terrell, who was quite an active figure in Washington, and then the Dean Hastings and Dr. Nesbitt, and Thurgood Marshall, and Leon Ranson in law school every Sunday. They found out that I was head of the student organization at Johnson C. Smith, and they would invite us Sunday to classes on our constitutional rights, and after we left the classes, we would go—I mean well it was a seminar type—we'd go down and sit in at the Peoples Drug Store, we would go and picket the National Theatre where they had denied Marian Anderson the right to sing and the Constitution Hall, all that. So, doing plebiscites on sites on voting, we did it all. So, when I got to Charlotte to begin my practice, I was well indoctrinated, and Kelly Alexander who was president of the NAACP had been told about me by Dr. Cobbs, so Kelly was waiting in my office when I got there. When I opened my office to practice dentistry among the first people waiting to induct me into the NAACP here in Charlotte. So that began, really, my involvement in Charlotte.
MD: And this is what about in 1948?
RH: 1948. Right. 1948. The summer or 1948.
MD: Had things changed here in Charlotte in terms of race relations in '48 when you came back?
RH: No, not a bit. Matter of fact they had gotten worse, because during the war and after the war a lot of blacks came back home and were making demands because of denials and so forth.
MD: Was that true here in Charlotte?
RH: That's what I'm saying, in Charlotte. Charlotte is a funny town. It's typical of North Carolina, rather than to be they seem, and very sophisticated in its denial. And it tries to pick the black leadership, like why they lost that election, the referendum. I told you that there were going to lose it because they was no leadership in this town, white leadership in this town. So that's what they tried to do years ago. They would pick and determine who would be the leaders, and a lot of us who were more indoctrinated and all would not take that. So when blacks make protest, there's always a stir among the power structure who did not want to yield, and they would not yield. The only things that we got, that we got were through protestation. And you know the record going back with me, back to '48 and going to--. The reason I had to go to the Army, I was really deferred but because of my civil rights activity with Kelly, the white dentists in this community who were on the draft board in evaluation--. I was declared essential because I was the only black dentist doing oral surgery, hospital surgery. I was trained to do that, and in order to get rid of me they changed my classification. And I went to Washington, to the Surgeon General and protested, and they said well the local people had come up with this and had gone this far, but I'll give this chance to pick Fort Bragg or Fort Jackson in oral surgery and allow you to come home every weekend and see patients. And that's, that kept--. And at Fort Bragg, because of my activity, I bought the respective general and at Fort Bragg because of segregation at the post, after the Truman Doctrine that they put me on the desegregation team. And I was very active in desegregating Fort Bragg, so I got training there. Immediately when I left Fort Bragg, I went out to the airport, which was denying black and Indians the use the facilities out there. And that's a matter of record that was the first sit-in in North Carolina was done by us.
MD: At Fort Bragg?
RH: No, at, at Douglas airport. Well at Fort Bragg we did it too, but we were able to desegregate Fort Bragg because we had a federal doctrine, same was at that time, that was the forerunner to the Civil Rights Act. But we have a inspector general. And I brought the inspector general down to Fort Bragg because they were sending black kids to Fayetteville, white kids staying on the post. Housing, (weird) housing. They were putting blacks in one area, whites in the other. The housing officer and the officers at Fort Bragg were being sent down in, into Spring Lake, which was in violation with what we called 3400. So I, I, I did all that. But the (major) thing that all of the guys who are still living are there, that they had a swimming pool, one for blacks in one part of the post, and in the main post they had the one for whites. So I had a fellow dentist named Dr. Stovall who couldn't swim a bit, but he--. I recruited him to go with me, and the two of us jumped into the swimming pool. And all the whites ran. As soon as we hit the water all of the whites disappeared, but then the captain of the recreation center came to me, and he knew it was wrong, but he asked me wouldn't I like to go down to, I think it was ( ). They had the black facility , and I told him, "No!" and that desegregated--. Plus the general, General Malonee , who was at that time--. I was here. I was survey officer. I would have to get all the troop ready for oversea, make sure all their dental cares were taken care of, and those that needed surgery I assigned to my clinic. And I went to General Malonee after I had brought the inspector general, he was a little slow moving and implementing, and integrating the Airborne 505 and 504 while he was still moving slowly. So I took my entourage to his office and told him I was coming in for an inspection for his teeth, and I went in and told him all his teeth had to come out, and I expected him in my office on Monday morning. This was probably [Laughter] Thursday or Friday. And he jumped up and said, "I get the message," so, you know he get the message. They honored me at Fort Bragg, the black troop did, about twenty some years ago, ( ). Then I'd go into Fayetteville get black officers and bring them out on the post. I made them build facilities for the blacks, and a lot of the teachers in all that area when they had free, free time, I would bring them in for social activity
MD: Well back
RH: on the post.
MD: Back here in Charlotte between the time that you came back here and you left in '48, you know.
RH: I left in '51.
MD: '51. Tell me what--. I know you say Mr. Alexander tapped you to work with NAACP early on and you guys were active and there were some things that you were doing in the community that you think led to you being drafted in that way.
RH: Right, right.
MD: What kind of activities were you in--.
RH: I was involved--. I was a member of the Junior Dental, American Dental Association at Howard, and when I came here to practice I made application to the North Carolina Dental Society. And it was a dentist here was working for the Health Department, Dr. Stat, who was Jewish who signed for me to be taken into the North Carolina Dental Society, and they refused me. And I'm a member of the American Dental Association as a junior in college, I mean in the dental school, and they refused me based on my race. And I raised sand about that and that's why those dentists in order to get rid of me, they thought, would send me to the Army, you know. And I carried that to the Surgeon General in documentation that it can only be because of my race and my civil rights activities to desegregate that dental society that they used as vengeance against me. And that's happened to me all through. Vengeance because of that I have fought to right the injustices that have existed in Charlotte. Charlotte is a very vengeful, reprisal city. It still is, against whites and blacks. It's a very bad city; that's why it's going to go down, that's why no leadership. They've had economic exploitation by the banks and so forth. They have done nothing for the city as far as upgrading employment. A nine-dollar minimum wage, you know. I met with the blacks there, and I said, you know, they--. It's ridiculous. At first I told them that it was a trick to split the black community, but the fact of a mayor making a statement such as he did, he wasn't fighting for socialism but giving a living wage. Well that's Charlotte for you. That's why everything that Charlotte has done, it's what I made them do, my organization. And they take credit for it. All that they brag about, all of the schools and the housing and the economic setup. I met with Hugh McColl back at thirty years ago when he was with North Carolina National Bank, and he told me segregation never killed anybody, you know. We were talking about hospitals, desegregating the hospitals. This was their mentality, Rush Dickson and all the people that I had to fight to open up Memorial Hospital. They've now named buildings after them. Same thing out at UNCC where you are, we had to fight for our suit in the Atkins Building. All them, Bonnie Cone, all of them were rank segregationists. They were rank segre--. They don't want to hear it, they say, because I'm a villain. I'm not afraid to, because I speak with truth and love, you know. But they were rank segregationists, and they thought that Julius and I, Kelly and I had horns. They did everything they could to demonize us because of the fact that we'd fought to save every area. But first thing I got--. I had contacts with people, through network. When we started on the YMCA, here a great Christian institution, you know.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: The people that I had to fight and the other ministers who were from--the Presbyterian ministers-- from Catawba Presbytery joined with me were Presbyterians and Episcopalians.
MD: Um-hum. White?
RH: White.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: Who fought to, after the Civil Rights Act, to deny us admission to the YMCA, and the same things all the way through. They--. I call them the downtown Ku Klux Klan. It wasn't the more common or what they called the rednecks. That was not my problem in Charlotte.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: My problem's with the power structure, because I knew where to go after them. If you can't affect the economic situation in Charlotte, you just whistling "Dixie." And I knew how to disturb and upset the economic power, and I still do. That's why they hope I die, but I've went in and put the word out that I still have some tentacles in Charlotte, but you know. It's, it's, it's ridiculous. But I use politics. I learned from Washington, Miss Mary Church Terrell, that you could do more in one day in a ballot box that you could do ten years otherwise, so what I did, I organized MOPA, Mecklenburg Organization on Political Affairs. And they mobilized the black community in politics and then moved that with civil rights. That's where we were successful. Because we'll put you in office; if you don't do us right, we'll take you off. How we were going to deny you the right to sit in office. And bonds--. I've defeated bonds in the city of Charlotte, and bonds and things of that nature. If you didn't come straight we would, we would punish you. I believe in reward. I'm an athlete. I am a boxer and wrestler, you know. If you'd lower your chin, I'd knock your head off. See, you had to be tough. And that's why they couldn't get me to compromise. A lot of them, they were put on committees, and I refused after Terry Sanford. I served and helped to get Terry Sanford elected. I served on committees with him. I served on committees in the North in the National Democratic Committee and all of that.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: But I wouldn't serve on any committees here in Charlotte. Because how could I sit on committees with them when they outvote me.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: And not going to allow me to come out with a minority report. And then they will say that I'm not fair because if I sat in the committee, then I come out and fight them. So I said, you can't join them and fight them too, so I had to make a decision. You know, I've been honored by every Christian organization in the world except the Council of Christians and Jews in this community. Organized everybody. All that I have done as a Christian. Honored by the United Presbyterian Church, World Council of Churches, the Council on (Catholics), somebody lady's Huff--what's her first name. Anyway she--. Huff was head of it. I never, I've never--. They honored everybody else that they could control.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: But the fact in Charlotte, why my name is anathema, they couldn't control me, and then they say I brag because I tell the truth. But I'm a minister, and I'm not going to get out and lie, and I'm not going to give them credit for the sin that they committed against the people, black and white, in this community. Because I believe in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. That's been my whole point. That's why I say God has put his hand on me. They say that I'm a prophet outside of Charlotte, you know, "You're a prophet." But my church and all have said that I have insight and that reason that I have been successful in longevity because the Lord has taken a liking to me.
MD: And when you say that sin that you think that the power structure in Charlotte has committed, do you think that is keeping whites and blacks apart? Is that what you're referring to?
RH: Sure. Sure. Sure. Exploitation. I'll go back, it's been their, it's been their salvation. Nine dollars--. Taking about if they give nine dollars an hour. Don't you think McCrorey said that by himself. If they give nine dollars then, other shops would have to raise their employment money. Denying them. What is that but exploitation? Who can live on nine dollars an hour now? I mean the city of Charlotte talking about a 324 million dollar arena for basketball and all the others that they've done. A 140 thousand dollars to raise the minimal salary to nine dollars an hour, and they call that socialism. With that same attitude, when I saw it, I go right back--. We used to go down the city council before the school board and ask him for building facilities and material in black schools. And they would tell them, "We can't give you that. We don't have the money." And yet they're building schools all in the suburban areas, you understand? And when we, we used to do it, black and whites lived together in the city of Charlotte. My first thrust was geographical desegregation. There wasn't a school that was built where blacks could not have gone to.
MD: That they were, you know, had to go past?
RH: That they were together. The Dorothy Counts--. The Irwin Avenue that I kept from being organized for six weeks. Blacks and whites lived together, so what did they do? They went way off and built Harding High School to get away from the blacks. Same thing with Central, Central High School. Right in the Center City, black and whites lived together. That's how we first got the applications. We got applications of blacks that lived right in the mouth. That's how I got Swann's application. He lived right in the --. Seversville School. Right in the mouth of Seversville School. The Abraham's and all going working out in Methodist Home, and the kids living there at Methodist Home, right at, right at the school. We didn't go outside. Bussing is something that we came up with. We won the decision, which I was against the way it was done. I guess you know that. That's another thing that they hate me for.
MD: Let me ask you--. Let me go back just a little bit of an earlier time and ask you one question. Then I want to talk to you about what's known as the Swann case.
RH: Okay.
MD: Were you here in Charlotte when the Brown decision came down?
RH: That's right.
MD: In '54?
RH: Yeah.
MD: What kind of affect did the Brown decision have?
RH: Well, let me--.
MD: On the black and white community?
RH: Well let me tell you that before in '53 they were talking about closing West Charlotte. Mrs. Brooks, it was president of the local NAACP, Kelly, and I was treasurer, went down to the school board fighting to keep West Charlotte High School and to build a new high school. West Charlotte was where Northwest was at that time.
MD: And it was an all black?
RH: It was all black, and they wanted to do away with West Charlotte High School. So when the Brown decision came, Thurgood and all of us—Jack Greenberg and all of us got together—you know, we can no longer fight for separate but equal. All right, so Kelly and I and Mrs. Brooks went down. Bishop Spaugh, great Bishop Spaugh, was, was chairman of the school board. He come down and tell us, you know, that he couldn't do it. He couldn't get ahead of the state. We were talking about geographical deseg--. Couldn't get ahead of the state and so forth. So then they came up with the Pearsall Plan. My son--. Pearsall Plan was, is named--. My son filed a suit. This fellow (is the name) in my suit. Pupil assignment was done away by me. My son Reggie was the, was the plaintiff,
MD: Um-hum.
RH: which was the forerunner to Swann and all.
MD: Right.
RH: But every time we would go down to the school board, and we had all these applications. Now when Brown came in we got application from every black like I said that lived in the vicinity.
MD: And was that spearheaded by you all and the NAACP?
RH: Yeah, yeah. Me and--. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That's who did it. Kelly, Mrs. Brooks, and I, we were the ones that got out at night.
MD: So what would you do? You'd go down to somebody that you know who?
RH: Well, we'd go down--. Well we knew everybody in the black community, and they had confidence in us. And before building up to that, we had meetings every Sunday in some black church, in some vicinity.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: We had activated the black community prior to the Brown, because I had sat in out at the airport
MD: Um-hum.
RH: in '53. We had started out civil rights activity prior to Brown. Brown gave us a boost, but we had started it, protesting
MD: Um-hum.
RH: for equal rights and for integration.
MD: And was it mainly you all who were in the NAACP in that early time who did it?
RH: NAACP. At that time it was NAACP. I organized MOPA in 1956 because of the fact that I said that I could do more in one day
RH: in the ballot box I can do ten years otherwise. I knew and felt then that we had to get a political clout.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: There was no political clout in the blacks. All we were doing filing suits and begging. We already filed a suit against Bonnie Brae Golf Course,
MD: Um-hum.
RH: which we won. I was one of the plaintiffs. Had to drop out because they inducted me in the Army, but we had filed at Bonnie Brae Golf Course, at Revolution Park back in the '50s, early '50s. We were fighting the airport. We were fighting--. I was fighting the dental society and all of our activities. When Kelly got up with me, I guess it was Lord-ordained. We started--. Before he was out there by himself, all he had to do was, was issue proclamations. But then when I came, I was an activist. I believed in direct action.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: Okay? And I carried the NAACP with me as far [Laughter] as they would go, kicking and screaming in the area of direct action. Because they had never done that before.
MD: Um-hum. And so you started the actual protesting and the marching?
RH: Protesting. Right and the marching. I'm the one that did that; that's my thing.
MD: So when Brown comes what was, what was the reaction of the white community in Charlotte?
RH: I told you, Bishop Spaugh and the white community was anti-Brown. Every time we would go down and ask for pupil assignment, they would deny us.
MD: Would they be real verbal about why?
RH: Yeah. Yeah. Very verbal. I got all kinds of threats. Read my work. I got threats, bomb threats and everything else. Kelly did, too, back in the early 50s. And when I carried--. When I led Dorothy Counts out of the school and into school, man, I got all kinds of threats.
MD: Let me ask you about that, about that sort of what the--. I know the Charlotte school system at that time called voluntary desegregation.
RH: (That was Bishop Evans) and Governor Hodges.
MD: Luther Hodges?
RH: Luther Hodges.
MD: And I know that you were there that day with Dorothy Counts.
RH: That's right. I carried her in.
MD: Can you paint me a picture of what that was like?
RH: Well, I've never seen such anger. Now I'm a war veteran, twice. I've never seen such anger on the face of people as I saw on the face when I carried Dorothy in and out of that school.
MD: Did you like escort her?
RH: Oh yeah, I went along. Dr. Thompkins and I carried her in to school, and I had to bring her out. And that's when they tore our clothes off of us and spat on us and everything.
MD: At the end of the day?
RH: At the end of the day. The Charlotte Observer don't carry that picture. They don't carry the story. I carried Dorothy. I carried Gus. [Pause] Well, what's Gus' last name? I did know.
MD: But he was another one of those on that day?
RH: He was the one at Central Avenue. I carried him. Then we carried the little girl over Alexander Graham, and we carried them over there and then I had to go and get Dorothy out of the school, because I saw the venom that was exemplified at the Harding. So when I--. When we came out of the school, that's when all hell broke loose.
MD: And you say that people were, were they all types of people? Were they?
RH: All types of people
MD: Men, women?
RH: But the thing that hit me so were these kids. I mean usually kids are not that hateful, but the thing that really got to me was the hate on the face of these young kids, that had manifested itself in the fact. Now here's a girl in the school with them, and they have this kind of hatred. So that was the tenor of Charlotte; very, very hateful. Still is.
MD: So you think that wasn't anomaly? You think that was indicative of?
RH: I think it's indicative. And I keep saying in my thesis everything has changed but nothing is different. I think those kids didn't come up with that. That was told to them and so forth. You know, the whole school. Nobody came--. None of those white kids came to Dorothy's aid, none of them. And that first day, couldn't find the principal. Even the principal wasn't even there, none of the teachers.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: No white person showed any affinity towards this single black girl and me and on that day. We were turned out to the wolves. Police were standing off and let them do that to us.
MD: And you say that they actually tore your clothes away?
RH: Oh sure.
MD: What kind of things were they saying to you?
RH: Oh, calling us everything in the world and then spitting on us, you know.
MD: Um-hum. Um-hum.
RH: Everything in the world. And I had to keep Dorothy calm and protect her, you know, because of--. And throwing things at us and all that. It was a terrible scene, but as I said the police did nothing to protect us. The school board did nothing to protect us. The school itself did nothing to protect us.
MD: Do you, did that kind of thing happen at the other schools that day?
RH: No, no. Wasn't at Central. Central was entirely different, and Alexander Graham was entirely--. Just Harding High School.
MD: Why do you think that was?
RH: Because black and whites lived right in there together. It was an integrating community right down to Irwin Avenue. All that area, west Charlotte, was black and whites lived interspersed. All of them lived right in there together, and it was done. It was deliberately done by--. Well they picked it up from the school board. The tenor of the city, the power structure of this community did nothing. So you know how word get around, you know. You know, I know the parts of intercommunication, and that's what happened. But I expected it.
MD: Do you think class mattered? The class of whites?
RH: No, no. Doesn't make a difference. Don't ever get on to that. No sir, there's no difference in you white folk all over the world. Now I'm saying that not to be derogatory, but I know. I've been all around the world and there's no difference. They have different ways of manifesting this, this [Pause]
MD: Oppression?
RH: oppression. There is no white person--. I've said this before the largest white congregation in the world. [Laughter] There's no white person that feels that I'm equal to them. I don't care. I've got six degrees, and I am not poor. I have all of the things that would make me an achieving white, but there is no white person that feels that I'm equal to them. At least I have not met one and fulfilled it, and I said I have a lot of white friends like they say they have a lot of black friends. Like I used tell Harry Golden who used to play the thing that (he was an outsider). I'd say, "Harry, there is a place on that train where you will get off when it comes vis a vis race." "Oh no, Hawkins," (you ought to know better), and he was on the board of SNCC. And the minute that SNCC came out opposing the Jews, he resigned from the board. And I went back to him and I said, "Harry, I'm right." I said that to them. I've dealt with kings and queens and presidents. I've told President Kennedy that, and I rode the train with Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson
MD: Um-hum.
RH: all over the South, in the political demonstrations. And during the night we were all friendly. During the day when they had debate, political discussion, [Laughter] we couldn't be found. Governor Hodges, all of Terry Sanford, I've dealt with them. I've been there. As I tell the world I was a white man for 25 years. I made decisions for the whole world, serving, being white as far as the, the policies and the decision-making, but I knew good and well that I was black. And I know how to read white folk, and then they'd know.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: And when they do that I can tell. I can tell the reactions and everything through the --. And the, so I know when the heat is on. My mother used to tell me that. This came from my mother.
MD: Sort of a something that you learned about dealing with whites?
RH: Something that I learned about in dealing with whites.
MD: That's passed down?
RH: Which has been my survival. Which has been a survival of blacks, because blacks in a mass of deceit. We know; we can read them. I can go down and sit in a white meeting and come out there and know how to counteract them at the first minute. I can tell the way they discussing, how they talk, and how they reactions are. Because of the fact, had we not known that--. See I was a waiter and bellhop and a bartender working through school, and whites considered me invisible. The only country that I ever felt secure in, I still said, is Canada. And I've been all around. No other predominantly white nation in the world, and I feel as secured as I do in Canada. And that's why they go back to the slave trade and all, with the Canadian and Tories and so forth. The beginning, with those who were not for the Revolution fled to Canada. But actually with the Indians, the Indians used to tell me--. I looked more Indian then that I do now. But when I worked up on the Great Lakes I would go up to Port Arthur, the Indians would carry me into camp, and they thought I was one of them.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: You understand? But there is that feeling, all over the world. It's not peculiar to Charlotte; it's not peculiar to North Carolina. It's manifested more in Charlotte. They have laws in the United States. They had laws in the South that forces segregation that I knew that I had to knock out, but I knew good and well that I would never change that attitude and then. And I'm a member of a predominantly white church. I had--. I am one of the founders of the Commission on Religion and Race and had to try to desegregate the, the, the church. Had 34 million dollar budget. And I knew what I ran into, and I knew what I had to do, but Charlotte is primary, because it is primarily Presbyterian. And I knew what I had to do in Charlotte. We knew what we had to do, but the powers to be that I've had to fight in Charlotte were Presbyterian.
MD: Tell me a little bit, talking about you were mentioning Swann, and we had talked a little bit about Dorothy Counts. To move onto Swann, I know you've said that this was, you know.
RH: This is my case.
MD: Your case, yeah. Exactly
RH: I started it.
MD: Tell me. Tell me about it.
RH: It came out of the, it came out of the, the, the, the Harding High School protests back in 1962.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: '62, '63, that area, where they wanted to turn Harding High School into an all black school and move the white kids out to the new (Harding) school. I protested it, well I'm going to say, I mean my organization
MD: Is this MOPA, you mean?
RH: MOPA. MOPA protested it, and at that time we filed a suit. Tom Wyche, who was a jewel, was the only black lawyer that would file a civil right case, because he was a little more economically secured. And the courts and all were all were (manned with) black lawyers caught hell in the courts, so Tom filed a suit in federal court. Mrs. O'Rear, who was a member of MOPA, was the plaintiff along with all the others that we had (thought) of. And the western district court threw it out, and they threw it out and said we had not timely filed the suit--you know, technicality.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: Braxton, Craig Craven, and the other guy I think was Braxton, who was the judge. So I went to Jack Greenberg, and told him that we had a situation in Charlotte and that we needed to so something about it. Jack was the director of the Legal Defense and Education Fund. Julius Chambers at that time was an intern at legal defense. I knew about Julius; hadn't met him. But I talked with Jack about sending Julius to Charlotte, to reopen the case that was filed. Okay?
MD: Um-hum. The original?
RH: The original case. I had gotten Swann's application along with others.
MD: to move to a different school?
RH: To go into. To desegregating the schools.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: Swann was, is a fraternity brother, was a classmate, and he had been in one of our missionaries in India and China. So I got--.
MD: Darius' father?
RH: Huh?
MD: Darius' father? The child's father?
RH: Yeah, father. So I was able to get his application along with many others, and we in 1965, we reopened the case, Julius and I. And I'd stay up all night. I was a lawyer, and mimeograph and running off all those cases and everything. So when the case came up, I--. So many cases were named after me. Made my name number one, so I said well, let's, let's put Swann's name number one. My name's number two. They never mentioned the other plaintiffs. There were seventeen of us.
MD: Uh-huh.
RH: on that suit, so I put Swann's name number one as the lead plaintiff in that case. Swann left; he was never here. I was bombed. We filed that case January, 1965.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: Then we filed petition against the Shrine Club because they refused Kirkpatrick's entry as a participant in the Shrine Bowl. November the 22nd 1965, Kelly, Fred, Julius and I were bombed, because primarily of that school case.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: They never yet reopened us. And I know that some FBI informants told me that it was the local police and the FBI carrying out instructions of the power structure to kill us, because of that school suit. So we fought and labored in and out of court, through Judge McMillan, through the Fourth Circuit Court, and to the Supreme Court. I was the one that carried the burden. Swann had gone. Swann, Swann wasn't even here. After I got his application, he left. He wasn't even here, but his name was number one on the suit. And that's why it became the Swann suit. Okay? But it was my suit. I followed it. I did it all the way through. Even the bussing, to which I objected to the way that they did it, we won the suit before the Supreme Court. As I said I would not compromise, but Legal Defense had won this memorial case, and they didn't want to carry on the struggle. I was against bussing black kids out of the neighborhood into white schools.
MD: What did you want to see happen?
RH: I told them--. Huh?
MD: What did you want to see happen?
RH: I wanted to see them cross integrate. Whites could be brought into white schools; blacks could be brought into--. Nearest to their homes. But what they did, the Maggie Ray committee [Citizen's Advisory Group] and all, got Sarah Stephenson and all of them, they told me to shut up. They got us to go along, got the black community to go along, with bussing the black kids out of the black community, and I told them that was going to destroy the black community. It's going destroy our leadership. It's going to destroy the churches and everything else. And I'd be--. Me and Ferguson were the only two, who Ferguson had just come in at that time. We're the only two that opposed it, all the other blacks and all were so glad to be going to these white schools. At that same time I had run for governor in 1968, and I had to fight like hell to save the black schools, where the state--I mean black universities-- because the state of North Carolina wanted to close them. And I saw what was happening. But, you know, we've gone through this long legal fight and NAACP had won this suit on bussing, and so we relinquished out of a sense of trusting, and that's when we got screwed. That's why were are in this trouble we're in now, because of the fact, that here again, I was prophetic. That's why I can say what I want. But there's a record; you can go check the record. It is there that I opposed the form bussing and in the court I made that statement, so.
MD: And what impact, I mean, do you think that it did indeed destroy those?
RH: I think it destroyed the black community. It destroyed the black churches, plus the fact the same time they were doing urban redevelopment was black removal, they had every black in the community trying to build a church, trying to buy a home and trying to buy a car. Kelly and I fought urban redevelopment because we saw that as a sort of disenfranchisement of blacks economically. Then the Voting Rights Act, which was '65. They put me in jail because I put 16,000 people on the books in six weeks in 1964 for Lyndon Johnson, and they said that I was responsible for our people voting registered who could not read and write, according to them. And then after that I won the suit against the dental society. I caught the school board stealing dental money and medical money and ESEA, Poe and all of them. And so to get back at me-- I had just won the suit against the dental society--they accused us of malpractice. Well they first accused us of having charged too much, he couldn't justify that. And then they tried to say we didn't do the work, which was not true. No black parent ever complained. No parent ever complained about the work that we did. It was the school board and the dental society who came in and said--. They were really after me. They threw Nash and Stinson in, but they said that we had committed malpractice. I had put in over 4,000 fillings, eleven of them they said dropped down and that was malpractice. And children, too, who had never been to the dentist before. So that's the kind of reprisal. Newspapers, and all of them jumped on me because I had exposed the school board for stealing ESEA money that was supposed to go for freedom of choice, giving those kids the proper treatment that they deserved. I exposed that. I was very tight with Lyndon Johnson. The interesting thing that federal government, the federal money never came in on us. It was the, it was the school board and the dental society. The federal government whose money it was--. The ESEA sent investigators down and said there's nothing to this.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: But that's the kind of thing, the kind of reprisals that they would use to try to get me, to hurt me economically and whatever way that they could. And we filed suit against--. Dr. ( ) I filed a suit against Medicaid because--. Are you running out?
MD: No. We're good.
RH: We filed suit against Medicaid, because it would pay white doctors more than they were paying black doctors. And then they tried to get me for Medicaid, and they couldn't so they went and intimidated patients, and they had patients lying saying that I had not done the work. And then when they examined, they found out that I had done all of the work and more, and that there were three patients who I had committed-- who I had finished their dental plates and so forth. (You--might be obvious for you). We call them dentures, but they went to those people and told them not to come back to my office to get those plates. I was a fool. I should have put them into registered mail and sent them to them, you know, but they came in and took the plates
MD: Um-hum.
RH: And accused me of not delivering dental service. And they went to patients individually, my patients, violating patient and doctor relationship. And because of the (federal)--. That's what I say. But it's faith based. If they get it in that, they are going to get it in the (hill.) Because the fact, if the federal government if they want you, and you're not hoeing (towing the) ( ) in line, they going to use something. Like they held back those papers against McVeigh. This is, this is the kind of government, and when you get involved in that, you get into politics, you see the dirt that exists within our government. And people overseas and around the world know us better than we know ourselves.
MD: Well you mentioned Lyndon Johnson, and you mentioned, you know
RH: Kennedy.
MD: Kennedy.
RH: Right.
MD: You know, the federal government in some ways [Pause] helping.
RH: They did help me.
MD: How did, do you think that the people here in Charlotte had felt--like the African American community who were pushing for civil rights-- that they felt backed up by the federal government or do you think?
RH: The blacks did. I couldn't have desegregated these hospitals, without Bobby Kennedy and the Department of Health and Education, Welfare under the Hill Burton Act, because they were taking the money
MD: Um-hum.
RH: and yet denying us adequate health care and facilities, you see? And the same thing with the schools. Had it not been for Lyndon Johnson, we wouldn't have gotten the ESEA. We wouldn't have gotten Medicaid and all of these programs, and I was privy to information. I have worked on the Civil Rights Act. Me and Harry Golden helped write TITLE VI with Lyndon Johnson. I was very active in helping to write the Civil Rights Act. I made appearances before Congress, you know, on welfare. Civil Rights Commission that's reporting, I appeared before the Civil Rights Commission on the dental society and on voting. The Voting Rights Act of 1965, which they did not institute in Florida, came out of my case. Intimidation of poll workers is in there, because that's what the whites were doing.
MD: So you think that that has an impact on the way things turned out here?
RH: Oh sure, they helped me. I said politics. Had I not used politics, had I not been politically involved, we would not have desegregated
MD: Um-hum.
RH: many of the things in Charlotte. Like I say, you can do more in one day at the ballot box you do ten years otherwise. I helped elect Lyndon Johnson. We kept Charlotte from, Mecklenburg County, from coming under the Voting Rights Act because we put all these people on the books and voted them.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: That's why they're not. But see they don't want to give us credit for that, but that's it. In other areas of North Carolina that's not under the Voting Rights Act because we had massive voter registration under the Voter Education Project and put these people on the polls and voted them for Lyndon Johnson in 1964. And earlier, on the hospitals, with Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy was there from the Justice Department and Lyndon Johnson, President Kennedy. You go look at the work. I have personal letters.
MD: Yes.
RH: Did I tell you how I met--.
MD: I've seen them.
RH: I met President Kennedy. I was--. In 1956. I was--. Luther Hodges was governor, and I was very active in politics, and they had an affair for then-Senator Kennedy at the Queen, Hotel Queen Charlotte. Spencer Bell and all of them was there, all the big wig polititi--. And I was considered the only black politician in Charlotte, which I was, my organization was, so they invited me to come up to a meeting they were having at the Hotel Queen Charlotte for Senator Kennedy, who had tried to run for vice president and was defeated. So I was, I was going up there, and I was going up the elevator and the manager of the hotel saw me going there and he came with a big doberman pincher and he told me that I couldn't use that elevator, that I would have to use the servants' elevator. And I said, "Never in your life." So I said, "Let me use your phone." I called Governor Hodges. I said, " Governor, I'm sorry. I'm here. I'm downstairs at the elevator, but the manager said that I can't use the elevator to come up, and I refuse to use the servants' elevator. Just give my regards to the Vice--to Senator Kennedy and that I'm, I'm leaving." Before I could get to the door, Kennedy, Hodges, Spencer Bell were there to bring me back upstairs, and from then on you see that I got personal letters from Kennedy, Christmas cards, personal. See his museum there in Hyannisport wanted all those papers. I gave them to Charlotte, but they were asking me for those papers for that library there in Hyannisport. Those are very valuable papers: the one from Martin Luther King, Lyndon Johnson, all that. So that's how I met the president, and we became very good friends, with all of them. I became very good friends with all of the leading politicians, but they knew, they let me know, I was black. But they relied on me because as they said they called me the elder statesman as far as giving out ideas as how to win elections and all that. And they'd always pick my brain as to what should be done.
MD: Try to mobilize the black community?
RH: That's right. How to mobilize the black community. How we won for Kennedy, I was there in Washington when Martin was in jail and when they--. I already had a relationship with Martin, you know. I brought Martin in Charlotte in the 50s . And Frank Reeves working for minority affairs for the Democratic Party. I was down at the National Democratic Committee, and we encouraged President, wasn't president at that time, candidate Kennedy to send this letter to Martin down in Birmingham and to offer his help. And immediately we got out flyer sheets and put them on every bus going in the black community that we could.
MD: Here in Charlotte?
RH: Uh-huh.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: In Charlotte, all over the United States, before that election that Tuesday morning for presidents. That's how Kennedy won, with the black vote. The same thing was done in Florida, which they stole the vote. In Florida the issue was not the count, the issue was disenfranchisement. Same thing that I fought. And the Democratic party did not support the Black Caucus on that. That's what the issue was, and I told Jessie and all, he's wrong, you fighting wrong down there hollering about a count. The issue is disenfranchisement, and the votes in Florida should have never have been counted-- I mean they should have never been certified-- because the vote, the election law. The Voting Rights Acts denied them that right.
MD: I'm going to switch.
RH: Well.
MD: This is the second portion of my interview. This is Melinda Desmarais. Today is the eleventh of June 2001, and this is the second portion of my interview with Reverend Dr. Reginald Hawkins in Tega Cay, South Carolina for the Digital Sound Archive Initiative at UNC Charlotte's Atkins Library. Let me ask you to go back with the Swann case that you had talked about earlier.
RH: Okay.
MD: Tell me about your organizing the Irwin School boycott.
RH: Yeah sure.
MD: Can you tell me a little about that?
RH: That's what I was telling you about.
MD: Yeah.
RH: We organized the boycott because they wanted to take kids out of Northwest Junior High School" with
MD: Um-hum,
RH: blacks and move them into an area. But it was anathema and a stigma because they refused Dorothy Counts's admission, and we said we don't want any second-hand schools. If it wasn't good enough for Dorothy, it's not good enough for us.
MD: Was there a lot of support in the community?
RH: Oh the whole community, we blocked them. We held up organization of the Charlotte school board for six weeks, and they were about to loose all their monies and everything else. That's why they gave us J. T. Williams because of the fact that the school board could not function.
MD: How did you go about the organizing the people?
RH: Organizational skills. I, I, I, I don't want to brag any more, but I was--. People had trust in me.
MD: Um-huh.
RH: When I spoke in the city of Charlotte, blacks spoke. They had that much confidence in me.
MD: Were the parents really involved?
RH: Parents really sacrificed. They kept their kids out of school.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: You can't organize a complete boycott of a school unless you have the, the cooperation of the parents, and a lot of those parents see me today and a lot of those kids, and they're so glad that we, we carried on that boycott. And then as I said I kept it going all the way up to Swann.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: Swann was filed because of that boycott.
MD: Because of the boycott?
RH: Because of the boycott.
MD: Let me ask you about--. I know you have kind of talked about what you see as the byproducts of Swann in the black community. How do you see Swann as affecting the white community here in Charlotte?
RH: Well, the white people never accepted Swann. This community, the power structure for business purposes, the Charlotte Observer, tried to make it seem as if the whites--. But white people never accepted school desegregation. That's why the back of desegregation was on the blacks, and we should have never had to born that burden ourselves. And we, it hurt
RH: the black community because it took away our best teachers. And the students were disarray, we could not get because of, of cohesiveness that we had on the segregation. Which I didn't want segregation. I want you to get, I want to get it clear though. I'm not for doing away with what is black. I fought for black distinction, not black extinction. And I said to them I don't believe that the philosophy that you have. That two schools side by side one black and one white, and the black school is superior in every instance. You close the black school because white folk won't go to it. I never bought that. I never bought that. And I say that, that, that ran anathema to everything that I believed. I believe in pluralism more so than I do integration. I still believe in that, and that strength and power is what runs this country. If you don't have the power to execute change, you don't get anywhere. You can't make a difference in this country if you don't have power, and power comes through strength. And in order to have strength you had to have ideologies and all this linked towards that which is wholesome. And mine was embedded in Jesus Christ. And mine was embedded in Jesus Christ, and it still is. And that's what kept, that's what kept the whites off balance, because I told them I took Jesus Christ and beat the hell out of them with him.
MD: Um-hum. And were churches in general, African American churches specifically, really important in the civil rights struggle here?
RH: Was it, was it. That was ( )--. We brought them together. As I told you, Kelly and first. There were churches that wouldn't let us come in the early 50s.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: And we--
MD: Why is that?
RH: Scared, scared of destroying the good race relations
MD: What they saw--?
RH: And rabble-rousers. Yeah.
MD: Um-hum. Um-hum.
RH: The Baptist preacher go down to Belk's and Presbyterian, talk to them and give him a suit of clothes. Doctor so and so, you know. Putting them up, and that, it was, I could call names, but I could call leading black Baptist, Presbyterian ministers--were on the take!
MD: Um-hum.
RH: Kelly and I in here talking about struggle, and we're talking about sacrifice, and, and
MD: So these people were more accommodationists than y'all?
RH: That's right. They were accommodationists Uncle Toms, preachers, black preachers. But then we young turks, as they called us, Martin and all of us, came out of a different school, out of the Liberation Theology
MD: Um-hum.
RH: Philosophy. And they claimed that we were destroying the good race relations. But then when they saw that their parishioner sitting down there in the pews with us, they changed. The successful civil right leaders during that time were all preachers, and the black church had to come in kicking and screaming. And that's true with the white churches. The churches always the last, but we had the leadership from the church.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: We had preachers who were making the sacrifice, even though their parishioners said wait a minute, "Now I work for Mr. Charlie and you ought not to be saying that," they say, "The hell with you; we're right." We're carrying on the militancy of Jesus Christ.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: So we got the, we got the leaders. And then in the 60s you couldn't find a black church that was against it. I could not have run for governor and been successful had it not been for the black churches.
MD: As being sort of organization?
RH: Organization, money, and everything.
MD: Let me ask you this. I want to ask you this about the African American community here in Charlotte too, but let me start with this. Were there complexities within the white community, I mean were there some people who were helpful?
RH: Yes.
MD: In the civil rights movement?
RH: Oh yeah. Yeah.
MD: Tell me about who the people here in Charlotte.
RH: Unitarian Church, Unitarian Church, St. John's Baptist Church, some Presbyterian ministers.
MD: Why do you think?
RH: Davidson College. Some professors at Davidson College.
MD: Why do you think they were particularly [Pause]
RH: Helpful?
MD: Active or helpful?
RH: Because they knew we were right. Claude Broach and --. They knew we were right, and I've tried to think of the minister who wrote a special book on my approach when I said when they were throwing stuff at me, "Lord forgive them because they know not what they do."
MD: I said that during the Dorothy Counts incident, and then I can't think of the minister's name. It's in the papers, who wrote it. He was very popular here in Charlotte; he was a Lutheran minister who wrote a book about that statement, you know, during--.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: So there were, then there were a lot of people who could not come to the fore who helped, who would call and give money and so forth, who were afraid of reprisal. But they were a lot in the white community, Harry Golden.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: All of Harry Golden's papers--. Kelly and I gave him every idea that he had on vertical integration and all that. But Pete McKnight, The Charlotte Observer, and some of the reporters. The reporters in The Charlotte Observer were very helpful because I helped them. I let them know what was happening in other parts of the world, and they would get the chance to write the story before it happened, you know.
MD: Right.
RH: And get in on it so, we had a network. And then I had a (pause) a deep network among whites, a lot of them, (like I say). And then had those who were against us. I said I can't write my book now because a lot of them still are living, you know, but.
MD: But I know that you've said in the past, and, you know, this was when I read your papers and things, that you know you had said that the Charlotte Chamber was really the worst enemy in terms of the civil rights movement here in Charlotte.
RH: Power structure. I said I had to learn to defeat them. The committee of five that they put in the city council, I defeated them. The Charlotte Chamber of Commerce was--. That was the ones who had us bombed.
MD: What were your impressions of their role, I mean. Some people have said that they were the ones who wanted to see change because of economics.
RH: No they didn't. They stole it. They didn't want to see it at first. But they stole it, what we did. Brookshire and all of them, after we became successful it became popular, then they didn't want the stigma that the Birmingham's and so forth.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: So then they stole what we had forced them to do and saying that they did it voluntarily. That was the Chamber of Commerce went out collecting some blacks who they would pull out from under the bed so forth and said that they integrated, and that Charlotte voluntarily did all that.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: And that's a bunch of crap. Everything that they did was forced, and I called the Chamber of Commerce the power structure the downtown Ku Klux Klan. They were the ones that came up with the reprisals. They are the ones that told the police department. They were the ones who were in control, and I know them all by name, and I had a personal relationship with them. That, that's, that was the power; it still is. Those are the ones who wanted to force this arena.
MD: Now you've mentioned that bombing several times, and I'd like to kind of get you to talk a little bit about--.
RH: Yeah. Yeah. And they still haven't brought it up, and they still haven't even tried to find out who did it. And I've raised all kinds of--. (Except) why is it that this is going unsolved? Four people bombed and you haven't done anything to try to find out who the bombers were.
MD: Take me back to that night. I know it happened in the middle of the night.
RH: Yeah. It was rainy, misty, November the 22nd
MD: '65?
RH: '65 two years after they had assassinated President Kennedy, on the same day: November 22nd.
MD: And were you in bed sleeping?
RH: Well sure. It was about two o'clock in the morning. And they were trying to get that bomb on my bedroom. They knew, whoever it was--. They had already. They knew where all of our bedrooms were, and they were going to bomb. It had just happened that we had, had a party a Julius' house, and he didn't go back to his bedroom. And Kelly and them, I don't know how they missed it. But mine they threw the bomb and I had dogwood trees in my backyard and the limb on the dogwood tree deflected the bomb and it fell in front of my playroom which was all glass and everything.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: And blew all of that out, but were trying to lob those bombs on our bedrooms and they knew exactly where our bedrooms were. They knew our habits, because normally if it had been a Wednesday night I wouldn't have been there, because I would have been in New York or somewhere with the United Presbyterian Church. See I was very active with the church at that time doing social education and action through the Commission on Religion and Race, so they knew whoever did that knew our habits, they knew where we were, and they had to time it. I immediately ran out of the house with my--now I am a hunter--with my high-scope rifle. The train was coming through--. I lived in McCrorey Heights. The train had Andrill Terrace blocked off. Whoever did it came down and found they were blocked, and they were coming back down Andrill Terrace, and I could--. I had a scope on them, and my wife grabbed me and said, "Don't shoot. Don't shoot. Don't shoot." But it was a black car, high-speed car. I was living on a hill. They were down the hill. I could have shot in there. Then three minutes after they had gone by, the police came to my house said "Get back in! get back in the house. There might be other bombs." All of us were bombed within four minutes time, the bombing. Well planned. The FBI informers that I have, they had over here, my phone was tapped and everything
MD: Um-hum.
RH: told me that it was done by the FBI and the local police. I still believe that until I die. I know that they had me on the Un-American list, and I know that they had that because the church's gotten all those papers. And I was denied admission to Canad-- to Cuba and all of that. I know that Julius and all of us were listed as communists, and J. Edgar Hoover had done everything he could [phone rings] to demonize us.
RECORDING INTERRUPTED.
RECORDING RESUMED.
The kids weren't intimidated. They were--. The kids would have fun. People--. They knew the phones were tapped, and the guy who was working at the Southern Bell, Robinson, told about how they had kept my phone illegally, and immediately they sent him out of town and got rid of him.
MD: Did it surprise you that someone would take that kind of violent step to--.
RH: No, it didn't surprise me at all.
MD: Quiet you?
RH: I was shot at 13 times in house, in my office. Red paint put all over my name in my office, my office broken into and all my papers trying to see whether I was a communist. All of that. A lot of papers you don't have because they were stolen. All of the ones that I'd done on the poverty program in appearance before the Senate Sub-Committee, I mean Select Committee, all of those papers were stolen. And the papers in preparation for the National Institute of Planners. I was considered a planner, too, and ideas and all that me and Bayard Rustin and all of us that had collaborated on about how to, what to do before I ran for governor
MD: Um-hum.
RH: and all of that, all of those papers. You see, I didn't just jump up and run for governor; the church prepared me. And they said I was the best candidate, had I not been black, I would have been elected. But I knew everything, and I still do know everything about the government. And I had people, like I said researchers: Bayard Rustin and a lot of--. Dr. Jackson. A lot of people who helped me in preparation for the office. They stole all those papers, which I know it was the FBI that did it.
MD: In terms of the impact that that act of violence, in particular the bombing, had on Charlotte. What? Did it impact Charlotte in any positive or negative way?
RH: No, no, no, no. Sorry because they didn't kill us.
MD: Do you think that it brought--
RH: They had a show. Brookshire and all of them had a big to-do out at Ovens Auditorium.
MD: At Ovens Auditorium? Did you go to that?
RH: Julius and I wouldn't let our--. I went to it, but I would not speak because it was a farce. Kelly and Fred, for that time Kelly was a waning. Kelly and Fred bought it, but Julius and I never bought it.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: And I made the statement to the papers, if you read the papers, that it was nothing but a farce and that I would never succumb because if I, I had an idea of who had done that, you know, so. But they put up a show, mainly a face to try to lure business. You know Charlotte's a good town: good schools, you know, good race relations. We voluntarily did this. We voluntarily did that which was a lie and dehumanizing to me, and it still is dehumanizing to me.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: For what we had to do, the sacrifices that we had to make for them to steal our humanity is very--. I'm very bitter, one reason why I've written a lot of things, because I am still--. I guess age has done it to me, back there then I was not bitter, but I am bitter now, because I see everything making a full cycle again, you know. If it has, it is I said everything has changed but nothing is different.
MD: Um-hum. Why do you think--. Let me ask you this, Dr. Hawkins, one of the things that I find really interesting and researchers have found, are looking at, is that in places like Detroit for example, you know, people took to the streets, you know . The African American community didn't feel that change was happening fast enough and they, you know, in terms of desegregation, in terms of the school questions, they took to the streets and instead of taking to the courts or whatever. And so there was sort of a higher level of exposure and even violence to some degree, you know for example the night after, the night Dr. Martin Luther King was killed there was a lot of violence you know on the African American parts, communities in other places. But that sort of covert, excuse me, not covert but overt sense of acting out, wasn't really here? Or was it?
RH: You know who prevented it?
MD: Who prevented it?
RH: Me.
MD: Tell me about--.
RH: Martin was killed on the day that he was supposed to have been with me, you know on a campaign, April 4th, 1968.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: I spoke with him--. We had planned it. He was supposed to tour all of the major cities with me by airplane in my political campaign in '68. The, we got a call from his office the, the telegram is there in the papers, stating that they wanted to postpone it because of the fact they were having trouble in Memphis. Okay? I got on the phone at twelve o' clock in Raleigh and I called Martin, because Miss Rollins--. You see my commission was in touch with him. We were paying the salaries of a lot of the people on his staff.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: And I talked to him at twelve o' clock to set up, to set up another date, because I had made contact with the airports and I needed to confirm that that day. I submitted to him that we would postpone, and I talked to him about twelve o' clock. And around six o' clock I got the word that he had been assassinated.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: Every major city that we went to except Charlotte went up in flames in Charlotte-- in North Carolina. The people, my people, Ben Chavis and all of them, called me and said should we burn Charlotte down. And I said no. Ray Worsley, Dr. Rev. Dr. Ray Worsley, Ben Chavis and all of them will tell you that. I saved Charlotte. But we did have every major city except Charlotte that we were to visit on that tour went up in flames. So there was the violence here in North Carolina. And Charlotte would have been the main target if I had given the word.
MD: How about after the bombing of your houses?
RH: The blacks wanted to burn this city down. Go back and look at the literature. All of the ministers in Charlotte came to me in my house, "What shall we do?" Reverend Bishop Lee Cary. "What shall we do?" Julius Chambers and I calmed this city. They wanted to burn it, especially the Muslims, wanted to burn Charlotte down. We saved Charlotte.
MD: So it was through leadership?
RH: It was through black leadership.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: Because we said this is our town, too; we can use other means. See the others acted out of frustration because they didn't have the strong leadership that we had in Charlotte,
MD: Um-hum. Um-hum.
RH: You understand? The other areas of the state, although they were beholding to me and through my campaign. I got 99 and 9/10ths percent of all the black votes in this state when I ran for governor. No other candidate has ever done that. But the fact of the matter is leadership. They had confidence in me. They had confidence in Julius's, and I was non-violent at that time. And I said this does not jive with my non-violent philosophy. The other cities did not call me, so I couldn't stop it
MD: Um-hum.
RH: In those. But in the Charlotte group, Dr. Rev. Raymond Worsley was my lieutenant, who was a Presbyterian minister, still living, will tell you that I did--. He called on all the Presbyterian church supported me, and I said this does not jibe with my non-violent philosophy, and it will look bad if my town-- and I'm running for governor-- and my town would be burned because of that. We can handle it in other ways. And this is written in Martin's work. I was--. I went to his funeral, and I was recognized and everybody except Charlotte don't want to make the connection.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: Yet some time ago they had a picture of me with Martin and said this is a real jewel you know, the picture when Martin and I were signing a book or papers or something, you know. But I brought him to Charlotte. We was very good friends, very close friends. Came out of the same mode of theology, you know. And Ralph Abernathy, Y.T. Walker, Shawn Lewis, all of us, young turks at that time had they--. And they would call me the philosopher, the Jessie Jackson, as I told you, called me the Daniel and called Martin the Hosea. All of us had a network all over the country. What was happening in one area--. If they needed help with us. As I said, I was using my influence through the Presbyterian Church, all those bonds and all for those kids in Mississippi and all, the United Presbyterian Church was putting up the money. Paying the staff as the SCLC. We would pay that, because the fact that we were relying upon one another. It wasn't any one person, no one leader out there, I had support all across the world. I still get support from all across the world.
MD: And in Charlotte did you see that there was a network of leadership? I mean were there?
RH: Yes there were.
MD: Was there, were there complexities within the black community in terms of--. Sounds like there might have been more militant people here than others in terms of--
RH: Some more violent people.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: We had a lot of blacks who were violent like Ben Chavis and Phyllis Lynch and all this started the Black Panthers. Now I had to tame down T.J. Reddy and all of those kids was ready to act but, they had faith in me.
MD: Um-hum. So there was a
RH: Oh yeah.
MD: sort of a Black Power Movement here?
RH: Oh yeah. Yeah. All of us are Black Power, but we were non-violent.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: But there was a violent contingency among the young kids.
MD: So there was a difference in terms of age?
RH: Age, there was a different concern. I'm telling you, Ben Chavis. You go out the University of North Carolina, T.J. Reddy and that group.
MD: Who later became sort of "The Charlotte Three"?
RH: Became the Black Panther. Huh?
MD: Who later kind of got charged in that whole--.
RH: Yeah, yeah. They trumped up charges on him and the Wilmington Ten.
MD: Um-hum. Um-hum.
RH: They did that to him, but the fact is the youngsters wanted to go to war. It was Kelly and I who kept them from going to war with my non-violent philosophy and preaching to them. That's how I said I saved Charlotte, because if I had given a word in many incidents, it would have gone. They were ready to go.
MD: Did they have a pretty big following, I mean these more sort of violent?
RH: Oh yeah. Yes sir, all these youngsters. These young 18-25 year-old group. In Charlotte, during that time for what they were doing to us, and what they had done to me, were ready to--. Even my kids. That's why some of my kids went Muslim
MD: Um-hum.
RH: because of the fact they lost faith in the Christian church. A lot of them, a lot of these of kids at that time were in transition. They had gone through the integrated schools, and they saw what they was happening. They saw they were still being treated second class, and they were fed up with this country. Had it not been for us preachers, black preachers--Martin and all the rest of us, we would have had a revolution in this country. It was that serious.
MD: And you think that--
RH: Even Thurgood Marshall recognized it.
MD: Here in Charlotte?
RH: In Charlotte.
MD: Because it's interesting, I've talked to other people who say, "Oh there wasn't a big movement like that at all."
RH: That's bull. That's big crap. Bull. That's bull. I wish someone, Reverend Leak was living and Cary. We had to meet with those young people. Ben Chavis, I tell you, Benny Harriston, Berryl Jordon, Phyllis Lynch, and --.
MD: So you would go meet with them and say--.
RH: T.J. Reddy. These were kids who were ready to burn this town down.
MD: And what would you tell them? "This was not the way?"
RH: "This is not the way. Follow us." I had trouble with students at Smith. Oh, oh. Talk with Dr. Yancey about it. She was one of my protestors, and that was an incident that I had already been proved that we would march and the city would open to what we were asking for.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: And I had told the students that we were going march, and I was telling them that we were going to withdraw. And three African students jumped on me and said, "We can't trust them, Doc. We can't pull back." And I couldn't tell them that I'd already gotten a commitment, you know.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: But they accused me. I had students--. Because I wanted to relinquish on one of our protestation, they wanted to jump on me. And the students at Johnson C. Smith were ready to move. I mean they were ready to go. Charles Jones, and all those and those early on. Students were mad. You had an activist group of students, young people 18-25, at that time that we had to keep in check. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee was ready. Don't you ever think that John Lewis, is a congressman now, that he wasn't ready. You know, I know him. I know them all.
MD: So was there a big SNCC movement here?
RH: Yes sir.
MD: At Johnson C. Smith?
RH: At Johnson C. Smith.
MD: Very active chapter?
RH: Well active chapters. You see, they weren't organized like we were, but they were together. These kids were, all of these black college campuses, all over the state. They were ready to move. And I tell you, I had to fight like mad to keep them from moving. They did move, they did march on the, who now Supreme Court Justice Butterfield, was one of the leaders of the group, who is now on the Supreme Court justice from North Carolina Central, marched on the legislature. And it hasn't been recorded has it? But they did. They marched on the legislature.
MD: And they also sort of followed the Greensboro example of the sit-ins?
RH: Well you had the Johnson and all of them with the communists. They had joined the communists. They called them communists. The Greensboro shootout and all that was during that time. Students ready to tear from University of North Carolina, it was then the University of North Carolina supported me, you know. Orange County was one of my strongest areas of support, and I had to talk to the white students, because they were ready to burn down.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: Students at that time, they mobilized, and it was out of confidence they had in us. We'll try your way, and we were showing success, that's why I was telling Governor Sanford we've got to show some success. We've got to show some gains. Like I said, I had gotten commitments out of a lot of things by negotiating on the inside. We got to show some success don't. We're going to burn this town down.
MD: So you think you it was still, you could still be an activist and militant, yet work within in the system?
RH: Oh yeah. I was doing that with the United Presbyterian Church.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: I was doing that with Kennedy and Johnson.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: But I also--. That's the thing. The NAACP was strictly court, but I was court and activist.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: I was a protestor. Though I could still make things move, and I will still talk, but I had to--. But I didn't leave from there with my hat in my hand and so forth.
MD: So let me ask you this. I know that you kind of started your own, you know, MOPA.
RH: Right
MD: Was that because you felt like the NAACP here wasn't being political enough?
RH: Right. NAACP is a non-partisan organization. They could not endorse. They could not direct voters. Okay? And we needed that. I said my philosophy, Miss Mary Church Terrell and all: you can do more in one day at the ballot box than you can do ten years otherwise. You get rid of all the rascals. So you got to become a political activist; you got to be in the rough and tough of politics.
MD: And they weren't? They were more legal?
RH: They were proc, sending out proclamations
MD: Um-hum.
RH: and writing letters and having news conferences and going to court. Court time take ten years.
MD: And you wanted to see more immediate action?
RH: All here now. All here and now.
MD: Well let me say this, because I think it's real interesting. You know I've looked back, back at the newspapers
RH: Right.
MD: and everything, and it's just real interesting. You and Mr. Alexander worked in tandem a lot.
RH: Right, right
MD: And it's interesting, I, I kind of picked up from the article in The Charlotte Observer that they kind of tried to pit you all against one another.
RH: Oh they did. They did everything, but Kelly called it a prima donna because of my stand on the schools. And white, the white people do that. They always try to pit. They used Dr. Tross for years, and they tried everything that I'd come out with, he was against it you know.
MD: Uh-huh. And Dr. Tross was more of an acommodationist?
RH: More of an acommodationist.
MD: And he was here in Charlotte?
RH: Oh yeah, he was an AME Zion minister. And they tried the same thing with Kelly. And he--. Kelly was weakening in that time.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: He was getting old and battle scars, you know. And he became president of the NAACP Conference, and there were a lot of the things that happened nationally, so he couldn't be as pronounced as in the local level as he should have.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: And we talked, and I say Kelly, you know we can disagree and agree, but I do not agree. I was on the board of the NAACP, national board. I do not agree that we can allow these bastards, excuse my pulpit language, these bastards to get away without some protestation.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: I said I'll file suits. I've got more federal suits filed in my name [laughter] than anybody in the country, you understand? But that ain't going to get it. We got to protest. We got to vote. We got to organize, and we got to communicate. And because of my educational background, I don't brag, but I sought education, because of my educational background. I was a little more into the ministry and everything than Kelly. Kelly didn't have that kind of background.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: See I had it from civil rights, and from training at Howard University, and training in liberation theology, working with young ministers who graduated from top schools in the country. We had a coalition, and Kelly at times could not understand what we were talking about. All the old guard. My daddy didn't understand what I was doing. He gave me hell. In fact, he was supposed been a radical during his time. He had, give voting registration and everything. He, he couldn't understand why I wouldn't be satisfied and accept what some of the things. An incident happened to me, and I'll go back. I was in the Army, and on the island, Atlantic Beach and all. We had done ecological surveys, and as a ki.
RH: I swam all over that beach. So the state of North Carolina at Fort Macon organized a state party denying blacks the right to go to the ocean. And man I went there, my daddy, and uncle. And Daddy didn't think they were going to deny--. We been going there--. He owned property. Once he sold it, owner would let him--. So we got there. The guy, the guard and all said, "Sorry. You can't come on the beach. You have to go to a black beach up in Jones Beach, son." I said, "Like hell," and I went on it anyway.
MD: [Laughter]
RH: Daddy said, "Well come on. Let's go." I said, "Like hell." I mean look, as a kid I swam on this beach." But I knew the law. I knew that the Department of Commerce controlled the beaches. I knew you can't keep anybody off a beach, a ocean beach. You cannot own the ocean, fifty feet below the shoreline. I already knew that, you know, from studying that I learned at Howard University and the constitutional rights. You understand? I had Dr. Lowe down with me. So the guy, the guy was so astonished when I quoted the law to him. Ben Douglas, who was former mayor of Charlotte, was head of the Department of Commerce in Raleigh. He came to my office. " Now I can't we work this out?" I said, "Hell no. You talking about my heritage." You talking about my heritage, denying my people, my mother's people, my daddy's people the right to use a beach that they'd had all their lives. Matter of fact they own the beach. The only reason they moved back was because of the storm. Them white folks came and took all the beaches because they hadn't paid taxes on it. Kiawah, Hilton Head, Edisto, all that were black. Blacks were thrown off the boats and swam ashore during defumigation during slavery, and they survived. And that's how they inhabited those areas, you understand? And my people were sea captains on my grandmother's side. And we knew that. I knew and daddy worked for the United States Bureau of Commerce, and I knew good and well they couldn't keep me off that beach. But then when we went in there all the white people scattered, but--. Fort Macon Beach. That was in 1951 or '52. Ben Douglas as I said was head of Department of Commerce, and he came and talked with Kelly. He came up to my office to see if we couldn't work it out. "We'll work it out. I said, "You going to desegregate every beach in North Carolina." That's what they hated about me, because I didn't go in there scratching my head and my--. I knew the law. I had researchers.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: I never made an attack. I never appeared before television or anything unless I had the facts. And people, the newspaper man followed me around during my campaign. I made 32 appearances, and he said he's never been with anybody who made 32 appearances in a political campaign and never spoke on the same issue.
MD: Well speaking of television and you know we, I told you about how I kind of saw how the Observer, you know. And they were I guess reflecting a difference in your ideologies.
RH: Right.
MD: A difference in--. Did the media play a role?
RH: I use the media. The Charlotte Observer hated my--. I made them eat crow. I made them change [Laughter] editorials and everything. Same thing with WBT. They would come out with their editorials, but I knew that I had, that they had to give me free time.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: So what I would do, I'd let them come in. I'd go in and appear on television and present my side or else I was going to challenge their license. I let them know that.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: So then they said this man's a fool. We'd better [Laughter] go along with it. And then I had contact with national television who would come in. I could get on the wire. I could pick up the phone and call New York and it would be on the air just as I talked. Same thing with Chicago. I had that kind of contact.
MD: How about the Observer? I mean you said in some cases they were good.
RH: There's something. Well when they were, when they were independent they were good, good reporters: Obendofer and Batten and Sawyer. You can read the editorial bylines. They, they were good, but then Ridder came in here, I mean Knight came in here and bought the newspaper. Pete McKnight called me, and there were tears in his eyes. "Hawkins, we can't support your position now as readily as we did before because we have been bought by a newspaper, and our interest is economic. We had to play to the economic forces in this community."
MD: So was this like in the 60s?
RH: It was in the 60s.
MD: Um-hum. So when civil rights was heating up?
RH: Yeah, that's right. It was heating up. Big change, you could, at least you can tell a difference in their articles.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: There was a guy whose name pops up occasionally who was associate editor who wrote a blipping article on why we should desegregate, and they ran him out of town. He went to Chapel Hill. His editorial is in my works. I can't think of his name right now.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: But that was the tenor of this community against The Charlotte Observer at that time because they called it the liberal press because it was supporting our cause. And they changed because of the fact that the economic Chamber of Commerce got on them and said that they were promulgating integration.
MD: Were there people in particular, that [Pause] were more verbal in the Chamber of Commerce than others or was it an explicit thing or was it a sort of?
RH: They spoke as one,
MD: Behind the scenes?
RH: Behind the scenes. I had, I had [Pause] hidden booby traps in the waiters at the City Club. That's where they would meet and plan and scheme.
MD: So you would have, people who, African Americans who were--.
RH: They were waiters. You see, they always considered us to be invisible, so they were set out and plan. And I would know before it left the, before they left out the door what they were planning and how what they were going to do.
MD: Like what kind of things would they?
RH: Oh, they were planning how they were going to treat us economically, and who they going to pit against. They tried to pit Dr. Rann against me. They tried to pit Caleb Wyche. They would pick black leaders who they were going to support. The newspapers,
MD: Um-hum. Um-hum.
RH: They were going to play them up to try to diminish my influence in the back community.
MD: And so these waiters would come back and?
RH: Oh they'd tell me, call me up and tell me what they were talking about. Same thing with maids in houses where they were in their homes where making their plans and making statements. And they would even tell the help that they shouldn't come to me in my practice, you know. They would try to do that. Held up money. I had people who insurances and so forth, where they were supposed to pay. And they would hold up and come up with all kinds of rigmarole to keep from paying their bills. All kinds of economic reprisals were done against me.
MD: Um-hum. Um-hum.
RH: Mighty, mighty power structure, and like I said the school board was stealing the money, and we caught them stealing the money, so then they were going to blame me. They going to kill the messenger, see. So all of that has been manifested in the city of Charlotte. The city of Charlotte is a lot worse than Greensboro or some of the other cities in North Carolina.
MD: And some people have, have made the argument that race relations and everything on the surface things were smooth in Charlotte. And integration, I know you've heard the arguments, integration was easy in Charlotte, compared to other places and race relations were good, and so you see a very different
RH: Well, I was in there.
MD: Charlotte.
RH: It was a lie. That's what they had done, that's what they had done with the state of North Carolina, Charlie Johnson and all of them sociologies up there in Chapel Hill. Saying North Carolina was such a fine state and everything, but that's a lie. North Carolina--. And I said that during my campaign.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: That North Carolina isn't what it seems to be, because they're more sophisticated in North Carolina. More sophisticated in Charlotte. But when you can affect the economic forces in this community, then you see who they are. You see, they don't bother you. Sure it's good a relationship; they give you a few dollars and call me uncle and so forth. Take out, some—well I almost shouldn't call their names—some black barber some money and say you a black leader and so forth and so that's what they were doing. In politics they had ward healers who they would give money to and that was paid off to the black community. I stopped all that. I stopped all that. Charlotte tried to lie about how it desegregated. I had to bring Pat Waters in for the Southern Regional Council to tell the truth. That Douglas, Davidson Douglas, in his book, tell the truth because like you said everything was all good and I was a rabble-rouser [Laughter]. But everything that we did and made them do, they took credit for it. And Charlotte's still that way. I mean this arena thing is still--. Don't you believe that Charlotte's all that good, but I've got letters in my file from school teachers and blacks who said that I was destroying the good race relations in Charlotte.
MD: So there were some African Americans who weren't--.
RH: Oh sure,black principals. A lot of black principals who thought they were going to loose their schools on the integration, wrote me letters-- and teachers--
MD: Um-hum.
RH: and said that we were going to, we were destroying the good race--. Then they found that we were going to make them head of pencil-sharpening and all that, then they came to me and said, you know, everything's all right and all of that. Craig Phillips and all the superintendents on it who worked on the schoolteachers and black principals telling them they were going to loose their jobs.
MD: Um-hum,
RH: So it was real touch and go with the fact that by us fighting for integrated schools and all that the black teachers and principals were going to be replaced, which I knew was a lie. But you had to tell that. I had, I had to work day and night. I don't know how in the world that I did all that I did: practiced dentistry, preached, worked with the national church and did politics. I don't know how in the world I did it all, but yet I would travel. I took time out and everything, but it came from organization. That's what they give me credit for, being an organizer. And I did. I had everything organized.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: And that's how we were able to do it. Like the--. [Laughter] Some of my friends in the United Presbyterian Church said--. I took Wednesdays off, you know. Said, "Look out for Wednesday, because that when its gonna--when hell's going to break loose," you know.
MD: That's when you got--. When you were, you're getting ready [Laughter].
RH: That's right [Laughter].
MD: Well.
RH: Yeah.
MD: I have two more questions for you.
RH: Okay.
MD: Did women play a vital role in the civil rights movement here in Charlotte?
RH: Great a part. Great a part.
MD: How so?
RH: Could not have made it without the women.
MD: Tell me, tell me how.
RH: Because how? They were the greatest supporter. They were the ones who were more unafraid. MOPA couldn't have existed without black women. The student sit-ins would not have existed without black women.
MD: Why do you think they were/less afraid?
RH: They were supportive.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: That's true with the church. My work was church related and said you can't have a church today if you don't have strong women. Women were the backbone all over. It's like during slavery, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth and all of them. How many, how many black men other than Fred Douglass can you name? Booker T. Washington and all of them were accommodationists. It were black women who were out and had moved through the black community, and I knew that. And I mobilized the black women. Most of them are dead now, except Laura Malone. But all of them--. The black registrars would go to the churches, the housing projects on their free time at night and register the people. The Charlotte Observer got an editorial with us, with one of my registrars pulling somebody out from under the church by their feet to register. You know, you look for that. All of that's in there, with the black woman. Now we--. But they supported black men, strong black men now. They didn't support--. You had to be out there. You were tested. I was tested every day or so
MD: Um-hum.
RH: by the black community. You don't--. Like a lot of black ministers come in now they think because they're ministers that they should be leaders. I said leadership is gained; it's not given. And that's the kind of tests that we had to go through. I had to go through that when I was running for governor. A lot of people say, well you can't win, why would you run? I said I might not win but at least I tried. Daniel Boone never made through the good, through the Pacific coast, but he built a trail for others to follow. You see?
MD: And so you think these women were sort of the foot soldiers?
RH: They were. The foot soldiers, the feeders. I mean they cooked the meals for us.
MD: Were they leaders? Did they, I mean in terms of?
RH: They were leaders in their own right.
MD: But not necessarily in the, in the paper or?
RH: They were. Know good an well, the newspaper didn't print but one leader, you know. Ain't not but one of us.
MD: Um-hum. Um-hum.
RH: They not going to print but Jessie Jackson, and they're thousands of Jessie Jacksons as you know. That's the newspaper, the white folk ain't going never give blacks a collect--. That comes out of fear. Like I say, one black can take any ten white men. And they are afraid. They whole thing on this civil right across the world comes out of fear of the black male. In The Charlotte Observer, in the church, nowhere. They're never going to any credence to a collection of black leaders. They going to try to demonize the others. They might pick one. They'll give you one, but they're not going to give you ten, and that's part of the psyche. I don't want to get into the psychology of racism, you know. But it's a system evolving all over the world.
MD: Do you think that--. I know there were some NAACP presidents who were women.
RH: Oh!
MD: Do you think that the opportunities for women to be in those kind of leadership positions were there?
RH: Look, we never. Look, we could not have made it in the church or nowhere without women: black women, Indian women. We could not have made it. I would--. I told you Miss Mary Church Terrell taught me everything I knew about
RH: Um-hum.
RH: desegregation. Women! Women were not afraid, and that comes out of the slave system because of the exploitation by the white man. The black woman knew the white man. You understand? The reason [Laughter] my wife is as white as you are. I often tell her that. You talk about, you know, exploitation by the white man, and the black woman knew the white man. And the black woman knew that she had to support her black men. That comes out of, out of our historical African traits.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: You see, black women didn't want to be in the leadership, they wanted a man there. But they were supportive of their black men, and this is our heritage. My daughters were much smarter then my sons, you know. Because the fact there is ingrained--. Black woman has that internal strength. They're better educated than the black man, and they're not afraid. I wouldn't get a movement. I wouldn't do anything if it wasn't for--. If I didn't have ten black women to every black man. Black women played a major role. It comes right out of the church. It come right out of the freedom church in the streets.
MD: Well, I have one final question for you.
RH: Okay.
MD: I know that you've just been really in the center of the push for civil rights here in Charlotte, all your life here.
RH: Right.
MD: But if you had to name one event or one group that you were involved in—either, you know, an event that you can think of or a specific group that you thought had the greatest impact on Charlotte's history--
RH: MOPA.
MD: what would it be?
RH: MOPA.
MD: And tell me why you--.
RH: Because of the fact, out of the blue, Martin Luther King and all were not successful. They started issues, but they weren't successful. The Voting Rights Act, Martin--. They give Martin credit for it, but Martin didn't do the Voting Rights Act. The whole guts of that came out of the Charlotte case, which was MOPA's involvement in politics. How we were able to force Governor Hodges with his tourism here in Charlotte was because of MOPA. Me running for governor of North Carolina was because of MOPA. We had the entrée because of the fact we were politically had a, and protestation involved. You understand? Same thing today. If we're going to make it as blacks, we're going to make it through the political process. That's why they tried to kill us in Florida. They didn't want again the blacks, blacks getting credit for electing a president. That was planned, and I told Jesse and all of them the issue is not the count. The issue is disenfranchisement. They're just now coming around after they got that fool in there as president, who they going to eat up over in--. I guess you heard. That's what I was listening to. They going to eat up over in Europe. But MOPA. That came to me, came to me out of a ( ) . Well I say people don't realize how God speaks to me, and that's why they say I'm a prophet. But that came to me out of a discussion one night. Tom Wyche and all of us sat around and, what, you know. The courts are not going to grant us that much, you know. What in the world can we do to really involve itself in protestation? And I said politics. I did plebiscites in Washington before they had the vote. Miss Mary Church Terrell would have us around taking the names of people who wanted to vote and count them down through the city and to trying to get the right to vote for the District of Columbia. You know, when I was there the District people couldn't vote. So that came to me, and I talked to people in politics. I had contact with a lot of black leaders. Shag Stewart was one of my, my mentors there in Durham who was on the city council. He was probably the first black. John Wheeler who was founder and president of Mechanics and Farmers Bank. John Larkin who worked for the state of North Carolina, Clark Brown who was head of the Masons at that time. I was considered the young turk. All of them considered me, but I they wanted me around. I was there. So I talked with people like that to find out what we could do after discussions started here in Charlotte. What can we do to really do something. But we ain't getting anywhere in following them. And these people delaying us and the Governor and all of them, voluntary seg--, Pearsall Plan, all that. We're not getting anywhere; time's gonna run out on us. So I talked with them, and it came to me, out of the clear, you can do more in one day in the ballot box than you can do in 10 years otherwise. That was the origin of MOPA.
MD: And did you find that members of the African American community who supported you--. Was there a reluctance at first
RH: Sure. Sure.
MD: for them to be politically active?
RH: Because I had to fight the ward healers. Blacks couldn't understand why I said we can't take any money. You can't fight them and they pay you, too. See our thing was, and I so, we take no money. They couldn't buy us. I had volunteers, all women working. Women working at the polls for nothing.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: That was our success: they couldn't buy us. And we didn't let them know until the day before who we endorsed, and we endorsed based on issues, of what was going to be favorable to the welfare of the city and to blacks. So that's the way we did it. And blacks saw the results, because we didn't win, we'd take it to the streets. You understand?
MD: In protest?
RH: In protest and so forth. So they've been getting this sort of gains. With my success was gains. You got to show something. Blacks are not going to follow you just because you are out there hollering wolf, wolf, wolf. You got to show some success. Not only do they take me as a communicator, but they also saw success in me, plus dreams of ideas that they never thought about that could be done.
MD: And what were some of the successes that you were most proud of for MOPA, that MOPA was able to affect or change here in Charlotte?
RH: Election of city councilmen and school board members, and governors, the commissioners. All the way down. We made the difference. Nobody got elected unless they came by us. Nobody. They tried; the Chamber of Commerce did everything they could. We're the balance of power. I showed that. I ran as governor out of MOPA. We showed that. I forced them in a run-offs, twice. We are the balance of power, and that's what the success of MOPA. Nobody, nobody could get elected. Never before had white candidates come in the black community seeking help. Before all they do is send a few hundred dollars, and that was it. No longer. And that's why I'm one of--. The Black Caucus is a spin off from MOPA. Bob Davis and all of them were members of MOPA, and then when I ran in'72 that it took so much money and all, and age, and fighting the dental society and all of that. I said well you all take it. I've done all I can. I've showed you the way. And then the national Democratic party--. I became more national through the church and--. Look, you just can't do everything.
MD: Um-hum.
RH: So I just had to give up on Charlotte. And then when my divorce and everything came about, and I said well. And sickness. I've had five operations in that past four years, so I just prayed to God and the Lord told me to come ye down forth from amongst them. So I'm down here. I sold up at Lake Norman and everything to come down here so, peace and quiet. That was the best information the Lord ever gave me. Good wife. We're compatible and like the same things and enjoy what rest of the life. When they want to know something, like you, they come down. I'm the elder statesman. I'm not going to you, but I still have tentacles in Charlotte. Julius is working on me now: "Why don't you run for the mayor of Tega Cay?" Well I know what this city needs and what can make the city, but I'm not going to be working for dumb white folk anymore. I've done that.
MD: Well, we have just about three more minutes
RH: Yes.
MD: left so, are you hopeful about the future of civil rights in Charlotte?
RH: Oh, yes. Hope in progress. I've never lost hope. I'd be dead. If I gave--. If I did not have the ability to deal with adversity, which the Lord told me never let it get to me. The only one that can be adverse is you. You have to accept it. I never allowed adversity--. Even my daughter was shot, and my grandkids were killed, and so I thought that they going to be put to death. I was against capital punishment like I was against it for McVeigh. And the only people that, Hamas and all, would talk to were me, and I saved a lot of white people from being killed, because I don't believe in violence and didn't believe in violence. Never settled--. And McVeigh. Killing him ain't solving nothing, but if I--. Being able to deal with adversity and with hope and progress has been my salvation. I'm the candidate of hope. That's where Jessie got it from. "Keep Hope Alive;" it came from me. I still say, and I talk to young people, and they know me. My peoples tell me that there'd never been anywhere in the world where everybody know, and I know them. And that's true. That's my relationship. I know people all over the world, and people know me all over the world. That's an achievement. I don't want to sit down and die and say I've done it all. There are still things to be done, but what I have accomplished in these 77 years when I look back at it— I do a lot of reflecting and evaluating. I think it's been remarkable. I can't think of any others who have had a success in as many areas. No other black civil rights leaders in the world have had the successes. Even look at now the Democratic Party. I'm the one that bought about the equalization of representation for blacks and women in the Democratic Party. They thought I was crazy. Now how you going to challenge the Democratic Party, no money or anything, and we did all of this without any money. My campaign for governor, I'm running against multi-millionaires and we can challenge without any money, with organization. That was MOPA, organization.
MD: Thank you very much for your interview
RH: Okay.
MD: And for your insights.

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