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Southern Labor Archives: Voices of Labor Oral History Project: O

Interviews with labor leaders from Georgia and across the South.

Orange, (Rev.) James

James Orange

Interviewed by: Robert Woodrum; July 15, 2003
Transcript inf 48 pages; tape and digital copy also available
Accession No: L2003-09

Biographical Information: The Reverend James Orange was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1942. As a young man, Orange was active in the civil rights movement, especially with the movement to integrate the schools and bus boycotts in Birmingham. Through his involvement in Birmingham, Selma and with the Poor People’s Campaign, he became closely associated with Martin Luther King; he was present at King’s assassination in Memphis in 1968. Orange became involved with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in the early 1960s, remaining active until 1977, when he began to work for the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union on the J. P. Stevens organizing campaign. Since that time, he has served numerous national and international labor and civil rights organizations, notably as state chair of the People’s Agenda for Voter Empowerment, working in voter education and registration drives throughout Georgia.    

Abstract: After briefly referring to his later labor work, Rev. Orange discusses his civil rights activities in Birmingham, particularly his work to integrate the Birmingham schools, and he discusses a trip to Texas with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to assist the migrant workers. Rev. Orange talks about his friendship with Martin Luther King, King’s final days, and his presence with King at King’s assassination in Memphis. The conversation turns to Orange’s participation in the Selma march, the march on Montgomery, and voter registration drives. Rev. Orange reflects on his spiritual side, speaking especially about the labor movement in the context of religion, and the dominant presence of African-Americans and other minorities in labor. After briefly mentioning Governor George Wallace, Orange talks about his work for the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers beginning in 1977, especially his involvement with the J. P. Stevens campaign. Orange also discusses his more recent activities as state chair of the Georgia People’s Agenda for Voter Empowerment, his anti-apartheid work, the International Olympic Committee, and the Ambassador program in Atlanta. At the conclusion of the interview Orange briefly reflects on the future of the coalition between labor and the civil rights movement.

Union Represented: Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (ACTWU)

Orrock, C.D. "Charlie"

C.D. "Charlie" Orrock

Interviewed by: Chris Lutz; July 24, 1995
Transcript inf 52 pages (2 tapes, 90 minutes each)
Accession No: L1995-12.16

Biographical Information:
Charlie Orrock was born in Virginia in 1943. He studied Engineering at Virginia Tech and went on to serve in the US Army, then did construction work in southeast Asia. After returning home he became an organizer for United Mine Workers and then United Steel Workers.

Orrock talks about his family background, his life on a dairy farm, and his schoolteacher mother, who also worked the farm.  He served in the Army for six months and then spent a year having ‘adventures’ in Asia.  He talks about working with Tibetan refugees, construction work in Vietnam and Southeast Asia, Chu Lai and the Viet Cong, and being a foreman blasting in rock quarry in Vietnam.  Prior to this, Orrock explains, he was on Army Special Forces A-teams in Europe.  He says his anti-war activism began while working as a civilian in Vietnam.  He decided that he “wasn’t contributing anything to anything that was important to me anymore, and [he would] go home.”  Orrock became active in the United Mine Workers, but he rejected their pro-war ideology, especially that of Tony Boyle. He says he approved of Arnold Miller becoming president of the United Mine Workers (UMW).  After seeing the corruption within Mine Workers, Orrock explains that he decided it was time to join the Steel Workers, but experienced corruption there too.  The biggest ideological and social problem he faced in the Steel Workers was racism and segregation.  He concedes, “There was basically no corruption at the top of the Steel Workers in any degree like there was, say, Teamsters or Mine Workers.”  Orrock also goes into detail about his views on national and Georgia politics as well as politicians Newt Gingrich, Lester Maddox, and George Busbee.  When discussing race relations with the union, Orrock says, “I’ve always felt that one of the real weaknesses of the labor movement was that they didn’t really appreciate that the struggle for basic African-American rights—like the civil rights movement, affirmative action, all that kind of stuff—was and could be the most important ally that the labor movement has.”  In terms of more contemporary union involvement, he explains his work in the Firestone organizing drive, picketing in Virginia and being hit by a car by an angry worker, picketing Georgia Power, treatment of women steelworkers, and the Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW).

Union Represented: United Steelworkers of America

Special Collections and Archives

Special Collections and Archives
Southern Labor Archives

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