Series R. Beyond Atlanta
This series of interviews was conducted by Stephen G. N. Tuck with various public figures that include civil rights activists, politicians, and businessmen in the 1990s and their roles and experiences during the civil rights movement in Georgia. The interviews focus on several geographic locations of the state.
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Interviewed by: Stephen Tuck
August 3, 1994
Tyrone Brooks (b. 1945) was a leader in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and has served in the Georgia House of Representatives since 1980.
Among topics discussed: Growing up in Warrenton, Georgia; NAACP at Warrenton; students at Warrenton organize SCLC student branch; inactivity of older African Americans in civil rights movement; desegregation of Warren County schools; inspiration of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ralph David Abernathy; race relations in Warrenton compared to other parts of Georgia; statistics of Warrenton; influence of national television networks and print media in Warrenton; W. W. Law; U. S. Supreme Court and Brown v. Board of Education; reasons for integration of school systems; student boycotts and protests in Warrenton in 1960; picketing the Warren County Board of Education; SCLC staffers come to Warrenton; Carl Farris; Willie Bolden; Dorothy Cotton; advice of Farris in nonviolent protest; students involved in protests: Johnny Williams, Walter Hill, Carolyn Collier; black citizens in Warrenton active in movement: Odessa Wilburn, Julia May Storey; creation of Warren County SCLC; Brooks’s involvement in national movement; effects of Brown v. Board of Education in Atlanta; reasons for targeting the Warren County school system; desegregating the theater in Warrenton; unwillingness of parents to allow children to participate in movement; attempts at peaceful integration in Warren County; effective role of Carl Sanders as governor in integration; ineffective role of Ernest Vandiver as governor during civil rights era; Warrenton whites not opposed to integrating theater and lunch counters; Sanders’s decision to uphold Federal law; Voting Rights Act of 1965; registration of African Americans in Warren County to vote in 1964 presidential election; first blacks elected to county offices in Warren County in 1960s and 1970s; apathy of African Americans in Warren County in voting and running for office; Brooks leaving Warrenton to attend Howard University in Washintgon, D.C.; Brooks works in SCLC in Washington; influence of Hosea Williams on Brooks; Brooks returns to Georgia in 1967; Brooks accepts fulltime position with SCLC; SCLC work in Crawfordsville, Georgia; civil rights movement in Crawfordsville; beating of NBC reporter Charles Quinn and camera crew by Klansmen; Calvin Turner reports mistreatment of blacks in Crawfordsville; strength of Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in rural parts of the states; KKK in Warrenton and militant African Americans; registration of blacks in Crawfordsville and Taliaferro County; desegregation of Taliaferro County; Lester Hankerson; Jimmy Wells; Willie Bolden in Crawfordsville; violence in Crawfordsville attracts attention of national media. Success of SCLC and movement in Crawfordsville; murder of African-American soldier in Social Circle, Georgia in early 1980s; involvement of FBI and Army intelligence; outrage of black community in Social Circle; Brooks and Abernathy lead march from Social Circle to Monroe; organization of African Americans in Walton County; murder of Willie Jean Carreker in Woodland, Georgia, in Talbot County by white policeman; Albert Turner; boycotts and night marches by blacks in Woodland; trial of Woodland police officers; Black Manifesto signed by Woodland city leaders; Will D. Campbell in Woodland; Johnnie Mae Owens; intentions of whites in Woodland; Brooks and training the local leadership; Herman Lodge; Macon movement leaders: Billy Young and William Randall; Brooks leaves SCLC in 1979, elected to public office in 1980.
Interviewed by: Stephen Tuck
December 10, 1993
Joseph M. Hendricks is Professor Emeritus of Christianity at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia.
Among topics discussed: Upbringing in Talbot County, Georgia; racial situation in Macon; Mercer University; involvement of theology professor McLeod Bryan in civil rights movement; Bryan and Committee of Southern Churchmen and Fellowship of Southern Churchmen in 1964; The Combustible; sociology professor Das Kelly Barnett and segregated Macon buses; English professor Welcome Talmadge Smalley; Macon Council on Human Relations (MCHR); Hendricks’s involvement with MCHR in 1959; Macon civil rights movement’s links to Atlanta civil rights movement; Frances Pauley; NAACP’s small role; MCHR members: Gus Kaufman, William Randall, Ruth Hartley Mosley, Fisher Mosley, William Hutchins; goals of MCHR; rise of Macon civil rights leaders out of MCHR; lack of race riots in Macon during 1960s; William Randall, black ministers, and Macon bus boycott in 1962; Donald Hollowell and Thomas Jackson; Hedricks and Randall activity toward desegregating Hospital Commission (Macon-Bibb County Hospital Authority) in 1965; desegregation of Mercer University in 1962; Sam Jerry Oni, Nigerian Baptist convert; Harris Mobley, student of McLeod Bryan turned missionary convinces Oni to apply to Mercer; African-Americans accepted into Mercer: Bennie Stephens and Cecil Dewberry; desegregation of Mercer in Ashes for Breakfast by Thomas J. Holmes and Gainer E. Bryan, Jr., in 1969; treatment of blacks on Mercer campus prior to desegregation; Rufus Harris as president of Mercer and desegregation; race relations in Macon compared with Columbus, Augusta, Albany, Savannah, and Southwest Georgia; role of colleges and universities in desegregation in Georgia cities; Paine College in Augusta; Atlanta’s influence on Macon; role of newspaper reporter George Doss and Macon integration; Doss and MCHR; city politicians’ and business leaders’ unwillingness to integrate Macon; Ed Wilson and desegregating golf course; desegregating public library; nonviolence in Macon bus boycott; arrest of Randall for traffic violation; integrating Macon schools; opposition to integration; Ku Klux Klan; “genteel” segregationists in Macon; Mayor “Machine Gun” Ronnie Thompson in late 1960s; Thompson drives tank through Macon; effects of black power, Vietnam, and national race riots on civil rights movement in Macon. Different atmosphere in Macon after Martin Luther King, Jr.’s assassination; Hendricks describes Macon on the brink of chaos in late 1960s; Poor People’s March; Ronnie Thompson and March; Randall’s opinions of Thompson; Mayor Edgar H. Wilson and Macon blacks; rural areas and cities around Macon; Warner Robins, Georgia; murder of Willie Jean Carreker in Talbot County in 1974; Will D. Campbell; civil rights and desegregation in Talbotton; reasons for slow integration in Talbot County; Christine Hardnett; Democratic Party and the white primary in the 1940s; Harry Strozier, Hoyt T. Davis, and Primus King case; Republican judges; much of civil rights struggle in the judicial realm prior to 1960s; Clarence Jordan and Koinonia Farm in Americus; Mike Bryan and Ray Brewster’s work with Koinonia; peril of those staying at Koinonia; Americus businessman Herbert Birdsey refuses to boycott Koinonia, business bombed; effect of civil rights movement on relationship between Mercer University and Macon.
Interviewed by Stephen Tuck
December 10, 1993
William P. Randall (1919-1995), a prominent black leader in Macon, Georgia, recounts the black struggle for equality there.
Among topics discussed: With a father who was executive secretary of the NAACP when it was an underground movement, Randall began his activism in protests against the board of education in the 1940s. He headed up the Crusaders, a protest organization comprised of prominent and financially independent black business leaders in Macon. He also helped to organize a Voters League in Macon, which called mass meetings in the churches. In addition, the Crusaders spearheaded the Citizens Registration Committee, and Randall was presented with an award from the NAACP for his efforts in Macon’s voter registration drives. With the Crusaders, and later as head of the NAACP and an officer of the SCLC, Randall was instrumental in organizing protest rallies and voter registration drives in the 1940s and 1950s. He mentions that the Council on Human Relations was the only interracial organization publicly in support of the black cause. By the 1960s he was involved in more direct protest action, such as sit-ins at lunch counters, and bus boycotts. At this time the NAACP and the SCLC were merged and the Macon-Bibb County Coordinating Committee was formed, under the chairmanship of Rev. Stevie Passel. Randall maintains that there were no rivalries between the three organizations because they were made up of the same people. But he mentions that the SCLC was formed by black ministers who petitioned white businesses for funds to build their churches, and therefore preached against the black movement from their pulpits. In addition, the NAACP, although conservative nationally, was radical in Macon, because its members recognized that this was the only way they could get things done. He recalls very little violence in the movement in Macon, and only a minor incident with Macon’s then mayor, Ronnie Thompson. After desegregation Randall focused on political action, especially the drive to get blacks and moderate whites elected to public office. Having broken up the Ku Klux Klan chapter in Macon, Randall recalls Klansmen from neighboring Jones County following his car at night, and shooting one hundred rounds of ammunition into his house. Randall maintains that being arrested for his protest activities demonstrated to blacks that they could survive arrest and being jailed, which further empowered the local black community to fight for the goals of the Civil Rights Movement.
Interviewed by: Stephen Tuck
Nelson Goolsby served as city clerk of Woodland and on the city council during the 1960s and 1970s.
Among topics discussed: Origins and early history of Talbot County and Woodland; John Woodall, Sr. and Georgia Cushion and Wrapper Company; Goolsby’s life and activity in Woodland; school children cheering at news of John F. Kennedy’s assassination; integration of schools in Woodland; results of Brown v. Board of Education; murder of Willie Jean Carreker by Woodland police officer; Goolsby on the African American community; Albert Turner; Tyrone Brooks in Woodland; Goolsby on demands of Woodland blacks; Goolsby acquiesces to demands; Goolsby discusses protests, demonstrations, and marches surrounding Brooks’s visit in Woodland; Will Campbell; Albert Turner; Goolsby’s role in the city council; Woodland City Council holds secret meeting in nearby Manchester; Tyrone Brooks; out-migration of young whites from Woodland; NAACP’s involvement in Woodland
Interviewed by Stephen Tuck
August 1, 1994
Herman Talmadge (1913-2002), son of Gov. Eugene Talmadge, was his campaign manager in 1940 and 1946. He served as governor of Georgia from 1949-55, and was U.S. senator from 1957-81. Talmadge died in 2002.
Among topics discussed: Herman Talmadge describes the Georgia of his youth and his father, Eugene Talmadge, who died before finishing his term as governor of Georgia. Talmadge recounts the circumstances under which he was elected by the General Assembly of Georgia to complete his father’s term. As governor (1947-1955), Talmadge maintains that his greatest achievements were the modernizing of the state government and its education system, and discusses the difference between being a governor and a U.S. Senator (1957-1981). During his tenure as governor, Talmadge claims that the attack on Jim Crow became the most serious issue in the South since the Civil War. A supporter of segregation, Talmadge wanted to maintain the county unit system, which caused racial tensions at elections in rural areas. Talmadge claims that he never heard of fights between blacks and whites at polling precincts, nor of a black man found dead after voting with a note “Don’t Vote” on his body. Talmadge then speaks of his political strength in the state for 27 years, and the 50-year domination of Georgia politics by the Talmadge father and son team, wherein he claims that the Ku Klux Klan had no power after the 1920s. In 1955 Talmadge wrote You and Segregation, which suggests that the NAACP was a threat to segregation. Talmadge admits that although he has changed his views on segregation, he nevertheless was sad when it ended, because it changed the traditions and mores of the South that had lasted over 200 years. Recounting his experience as the first white politician to speak at the Hungry Club, and the YMCA, Talmadge told his black audience that he would welcome black officials in the government. Blacks had been voting for about ten years at that time, and Talmadge attracted their votes due to his educational, and other, reforms. Talmadge discusses the difference in the political atmosphere between cosmopolitan Atlanta and rural Georgia. The dominant political factors in Atlanta were Bill Hartsfield, Ralph McGill, and the blacks, who were pushing for integration, and although there were demonstrations throughout the South about this issue, it never came to bloodshed in Georgia. Talmadge claims that he never heard of problems with blacks registering to vote, and points out that blacks voted heavily in the white primaries long before the passage of the Voting Rights Act. He maintains that the NAACP had great influence in the black community during the 1950s, working with the black churches to guide blacks to leadership in the community. Talmadge speaks of Johnny Cook, an anti-Communist, who began as an anti-Talmadge man, and who switched to being a Talmadge man, and surmises that the switch was made because Cook realized that Talmadge was good for the state. Talmadge claims that he was able to make friends of both his and his father’s enemies. Of changes in the South, Talmadge says that integration at the time the slaves were freed would have averted the tradition of opposition to the Constitution, and the breakdown of the customs and mores [of the South]. He admits that he would not have been elected to office if his views on race were different, and tells Dr. Tuck that while he once believed that the Bible laid down that there should be segregation, he had since changed his mind, by virtue of having grown older and wiser.