The Houston Oral History Project is a repository for the stories, accounts, and memories of those who have chosen to share their experiences. The viewpoints expressed in the Houston Oral History Project do not necessarily represent the viewpoints of the City of Houston, the Houston Public Library or any of its officers, agents, employees, or volunteers. The City of Houston and the Houston Public Library make no warranty as to the accuracy or completeness of any information contained in the interviews and expressly disclaim any liability therefore.
The Houston Oral History Project provides unedited versions of all interviews. Some parents may find material objectionable for minors. Parents are encouraged to interact with their children as they use the Houston Oral History Project Web site to complete research and homework activities.
The Houston Public Library retains the literary and publishing rights of its oral histories. No part of the interviews or transcripts may be published without the written permission of the Houston Oral History Project.
Requests for permission to quote for publication should be addressed to:
The Houston Oral History Project.
Houston Public Library
Houston, Texas 77002
The Houston Oral History Project reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to decline to post any account received herein and specifically disclaims any liability for the failure to post an account or for errors or omissions that may occur in posting accounts to the Virtual Archive.
For more information email the Houston Oral History Project at email@example.com.
Interview with: Billie Carr
Interviewed by: Louis Marchiafava and Unidentified Interviewer.
Date: June 19, 1975
Archive Number: OH 020
LM: 00:06 I’d like to start by asking you how you first became involved in Texas State Democratic Party politics.
BC: Well, first of all I come from a family who were always interested—they were always interested in politics, and so I always had an interest in political activities. My husband was a president of the Steelworkers Union in the early ‘50s, and in—he and I did a lot of work on the Adlai Stevenson campaign, and that’s where we started—where we really got started. In ’48 I wasn’t old enough to vote, I was—but he was, and he did some work in the Truman campaign, which was kind of—there were very few in number in this state who did work—in this county—who’d work for Harry Truman. And then of course I could vote and was active in the Adlai Stevenson campaign. Ralph Yarborough was running for governor and we were interested in his campaign. We were just precinct workers out there in the precincts.
Then I think what really got me really started was that the Steelworkers had legislative workshops on Monday in Austin—I think Labor still does that now—and my husband went up there and did some work during that session in ’54. And I went up and was just appalled at what happened with state government. Governor Shivers—Allan Shivers was the governor, and I was very young—early 20s. And we visited—we took a bus ride out on his property, and we saw Chicanos living on that property being treated terribly—in little shacks, and had no toilet facilities—and he had green-carders or Mexican citizens coming over in trucks working on his property. We went to Rusk Hospital for the mentally disturbed and they were sleeping in shifts—they didn’t have enough beds for the mental patients. And I got to be friends with some of the people who were up there lobbying about that—who had parents or family members in the hospital, and they wanted beds because some of the people had to sleep during the day while others slept at night. It was a shift thing—when your 8 hours of lying in bed were up, you just got out of bed and somebody else was put in that bed. And I was just indignant and shocked as hell about what was going on.
At that time, it was right after the Joseph McCarthy era and they were trying to set up a little Joseph McCarthy committee in Texas, and it was go search out all the Communists in Texas. And the Labor and Liberals and the Counsel of Churches all joined together because it was also aimed at the church leadership. And that was probably fortunate for us because it helped us to have the church on our side. Even though we were all called Communists at the time, it did help to have church leaders on our side—that sort of diffused that a little. And there were about 6 of us standing in the governor’s office and we were talking about all the problems that we were concerned about—unemployment compensation in Texas, and all the Labor things, but also people-oriented things like the hospital—the mental hospitals, and these horrible laws they were trying to pass. And I said something like, “Governor Shivers I’m going to go home and tell people just how rotten you really are.” And he said to me, “Young lady, I hold Texas in the palm of my hand.” And he held his palm out and hit it like that. (claps hands together) He said, “I hold Texas in the palm of my hand.” Just made me madder than hell because I didn’t think any person ought to hold a state in the palm of their hand. And I guess he turned me on more than anyone else. And maybe we’re motivated out of hate more than we are out of love—maybe we’re motivated out of doing somebody in than we are doing good. I don’t know, but I came back really fired up. I was going to set the world on fire ,and found out that it wanted to be left alone—nobody was interested in being set on fire. It’s taken me—took almost 20 years to prove Allan Shivers didn’t control the state. I found out pretty quickly that he and his people did, and he was right. But he shouldn’t have been right, and that’s what really got me started.
04:56 I come back and I got—talked to the Harris County Democrats people who I had already worked some with, and they said, “Why don’t you run for precinct,” because we needed a new precinct for the Democratic Committee of Harris County. And I said, “Where do you sign.” Sounded good to me, and I ran. And the precinct voted 4 to 1 for Eisenhower, and everybody knew poor dear is going lose. In fact my opponent sent out a letter saying that if I won, Walter Reuther would take over the precinct. And Walter and I won, and I sent him a letter and asked him if he’d like to come down and take over the precinct, but he was busy with automobile workers at the time and never helped me at all. But when I came in and said to Mrs. Randolph—who by the way, you’ve got to know founded the Liberal movement in Texas and taught me everything good that I know. It was a lucky day I met Mrs. Randolph. She took all that energies and all that interest and channeled me in the right direction. Instead of going off half-cocked all the time, I just went off half-cocked part of the time. But, when I came in and told Mrs. Randolph I won, she said, “My God, you won? We were sure you were going to lose.” And I said, “I’m sure glad you never told me.”
And after that they asked me to do the next 2 years. They asked me if I’d find 10 people to run in the 10 precincts in my area—we had area clubs. And then from the area, I took on 3 or 4 areas. As my family got bigger I got more active and gave more hours and more time. And before you know it I was doing the county precinct organization work, and in 1964 was a member of the State Committee by fluke. Lyndon Johnson was going to run against Goldwater and he needed a Liberal on the committee who had an organization, and it just happened to be me. It’s interesting he turned Barbara Jordan down because they weren’t ready for a Black to be on the committee yet. I wish Barbara remembered that sometimes because Connally vetoed her and Johnson wouldn’t back it up. He agreed that they shouldn’t have a Black on the committee. See, if you were elected committeeperson from a Senatorial District onto the State Committee, the governor had veto power over you. If he didn’t like you then it didn’t matter if the people elected you, he could scratch it. It was just an ungentlemanly agreement that they always had in Texas. So they finally accepted me and put me on the Committee. And my first Committee meeting, I tried to get a second to a motion—died for lack of a second, and from then on I was sort of the enemy on the committee. And about half way through my term, I finally got a woman to second a motion. And I got her to join me in a suite, and we sued the state of Texas for the voter registration—the poll tax. And then the Federal Government intervened in our suite, and we dropped our suite and the Federal Government took it to battle and won the case. But I never saw that woman again. I don’t even remember her name. I think they probably did away with her and disposed of the body. I don’t know whatever happened to the poor dear. The day I went off the committee, I got 8 people to support a motion that I’d made and then I walked out of the convention, which we were famous for doing. We were either walked out, shut out, locked out, or kicked out of every convention until ’72. And all 8 of those people were vetoed by Connally and were not put back on the committee just because they supported the motion that I made. So that’s telling you more than you really wanted to know.
LM: No it’s not. No it’s not at all.
BC: 09:04 That’s how I got started, just Precinct Committee. I was representing my precinct for 18 years, and then when my precinct was over 50% Black, I stepped down so that a Black could take that precinct. And then I was on the State Committee at one time, and I’m now on the National Committee for one term. I’m going to run again though, but chances are Bentsen will see to it that I’m defeated. But they’re going to have to beat me and they’re going to know they were in a race because I’m not going to step down. I’m going to make them either—they’re either going to decide they need me or they’re going to try to beat me. And I’ll just let them worry about it because I don’t care.
LM: The session when Lyndon appointed you, I was curious that when you made your remark, you said, “You wish Barbara Jordan would remember that sometimes.”
LM: What did you mean by that?
BC: Oh well, when she went up and testified for John Connally the other day, I was thinking John Connally was the man who vetoed her in ’64 because he didn’t want a Black on the committee. Another thing is—I think Barbara is an excellent Congressperson, and I have no quarrel with her. She’s also good with her district and she’s a very—she’s going places. However, on the National Committee and as Vice-Chair of the State Party, she doesn’t give us a bit of help, and I am disappointed in her on the National Committee. And if it puts her in a bind not to be able to support the things that she should be supporting on the National Committee, I think she ought to resign and let somebody be on there who can represent their people. Once this year—she never comes to the meeting, she’s only attended 2 ever since she’s been on it. And if you don’t give your proxy to somebody Calvin Guest the state chairman gets to cast it automatically. And Calvin wasn’t there once and he gave the votes to Alton Maness (s/l ??) (11.12) who is the Wallace leader—we’ll say that for record. But I thought—I called up Barbara and said, “Isn’t it—it’s funny to me that Alton Maness (s/l ??) (11.23) is casting the vote of Barbara Jordan on the National Committee.” And she said, “I didn’t know that was a rule.” But she still has never given her proxy to ___ (11.31) or I because we’re just too radical for her when it comes to the National Party politic. And that disappoints me a little in Barbara, but I know she’s playing other games. And she’s kind of a female, Black Lyndon Johnson, but maybe that’s not all bad. Sometimes I get aggravated about it.
LM: 11:54 What particular policies does she consider you too radical in?
BC: I don’t know. I guess you’d have to ask her, but I think she doesn’t want to stand up and fight people like Strauss. She would rather get on his good side and I couldn’t care less whether I’m on anyone’s good side or not. But that’s the difference in being an alligator —a candidate, or an officeholder. That’s my definition of an alligator. And in not being a candidate or a—and never intend to be a candidate—I think about running for President of the state of Texas maybe this year just to oppose Bentsen, but that won’t—I’ll release all delegates on the first ballot. But I’m never going to run for public office. Everybody in the world has tried to run me for every office from tax assessor to God knows—any office that’s ever come available somebody thinks I ought to run for it. But I don’t ever want to run for office because I’d rather be an opinion maker than an opinion taker. I don’t know. Part of my freedom is the fact that I don’t have to do what Barbara Jordan has to do—is get on the good side of the powers that be. And somebody’s got to stay outside to gig ‘em. And that’s the role I enjoy best, and I think that’s where I can be most effective as an organizer.
LM: And there seems to be as much fighting between the factions—the Conservative and Liberal factions inside the Democratic Party as there is against the Republicans. Is this in fact true?
BC: 13:37 Yeah, well it’s true and it has been true in the state of Texas because we’re basically—and in the past more so—a one-party state. And that means that if I give you a list right now and told you to call 25 voters in any given precinct—maybe a Southwest box—they would—and you would say, “Are you a Democrat or a Republican?” They’d say, “Well, I’m a Democratic.” And then you’d say, “Well, tell me sir, who have you voted for in the past 20 years?” And they would name everybody from Hoover all the way down to Eisenhower and Nixon—Willkie if they go back that far, and yet they would say they were Democrats. So our problem is that—in fact, you’ll have some of the women that you get on the phone in those areas who will say, “Well, we vote Democrat in the spring, but Republican in the fall.” And even Nancy Palm in a book that they—Burger (s/l ??) (14.47) has written an article about both Nancy and I and a couple of other people—and in that article Nancy said, before she joined the Republican Party that what she always did. She voted for the weakest Democrat so that she could vote for the strongest Republican. So basically the reason you have the in-fighting is because we don’t have a two-party state. A two-party state would solve a lot of our problems. And that’s why we are all in one party—the Democratic Party—and most of those people are state Democrats and not National Democrats, and not people who philosophically support Liberal and Progressive positions. It’s that they support the local yokels, and there Conservative Democrats because it’s the only game in town. Any other state, they’d be Republicans—most of them. You just can’t afford to be that in the state of Texas yet—even yet, you still couldn’t do that. So that’s why we have the in-fighting. And plus it’s that the people that have power don’t want to give any of it up. And you have to fight for every little piece of the pie that you can get. Every little piece of influence we have, it’s a fight and a struggle to get it away from the people that have it. And that’s what the fights really all about.
I2: You mentioned about Barbara Jordan that it seemed to you she didn’t want to be identified with you because you’re too radical. Do you think that she really thinks that or it’s just that the image that you might project to other people—?
BC: Oh, I—yeah, I think it’s the image. I think Barbara and I are good friends and she knows where I’m at. And I think basically if you just got her pinned down, she’d be glad that I’m doing what I’m doing. And I think that she’s supportive of me, but I think she wouldn’t want to give me a proxy because of—Strauss or somebody would say, “Why in the hell did you give it to her?” She’d be questioned about it, and she doesn’t want to meet the kind of questioning. But no, I think basically she would be supportive. And we do a lot gigs together. We speak at meetings together, and we’re always complimentary to each other. And I don’t go out in her district and say bad things about her. I wouldn’t do that because she does a good job, and she does really work with the people in her district. And as long as she does that, I have no complaint about her. I just wish she’d get off the National Committee. That somebody else could be on there who wouldn’t have to play the game, who’d have a little more freedom than she does.
I2: You also mentioned about—I always have trouble with the word, I think Liberal in the United States is used to vaguely. Could you give me your own definition of what say you would consider a Liberal Democrat or—taking the state of Texas, a Conservative Democrat? What would be some of the basic differences?
BC: 17:59 Well, I think actually in the very beginning when we first started talking about the difference, we started talking about loyalists and people who were not loyal. And it seemed that you finally called yourself a Liberal if you simply supported the Democratic Party in November. And a lot of people who will stand up and say, “I’m a Liberal,” what they really mean is philosophically they’re not Liberal, but that they support the Democratic ticket. And so—but that interpretation changes as you go along. So we have members of this organization—which is the Liberal wing of the party—who are not in fact as Liberal as I might be on philosophical issues. But it’s just a matter of who is on—and then for a while we used the term National Democrats and State Democrats to sort of show the difference that we support not only the state Democratic Party, but the National Democratic Party. But it got—it really started as a loyalist movement. But we have since tired to move this whole organization especially—and the influence in the Democratic Party—of getting it to be a more Progressive and a more Liberal Party in every sense of the word of Liberalism. Meaning someone who is—will accept change, and who is willing to look at a new, better way of doing things much more quickly than a person who is Conservative. I always think of a Liberal and Conservative—in a lot of speeches and a little book that I had written—I see the Liberal as the horse out in the field running around and having a good time, and the Conservative is the plow that’s rusting in the ground and going nowhere, and when you hook them up together, well you’ve got something. The horse pulls the plow along and says, “Come on let’s move ahead,” and the plow says “Not too quick—not too quick,” and holds the horse back a little. And I think reasonable Liberals and Conservatives who are interested in a political system and making it work, can eventually get to the point where they can do that—they can work together. But you’ve got to get over a lot of fear of one another, and you’ve got to decide on things where you can agree to agree and agree to disagree and still be members of the Democratic Party. And I really don’t want to see the Conservatives all leave the Party mainly because I’d be scared to death if the Conservatives got elected and there wasn’t one Liberal in the whole Party anywhere. I think that we’d be in danger, and I don’t mind the checks and balance of Liberalism and Conservative. The only thing I’ve ever complained about is that there’s some sort of—you’re accepted if you’re a Conservative and frowned upon if you say you’re a Liberal. And I say the world needs both of us—Liberals and Conservatives. But I’m damn glad I’m a Liberal.
LM: 21:27 What real chance do you Liberal Democrats have in the state against the Conservative Democrats? It seems that they have a good supply of money to support them.
BC: Well, I think we’ve made some pretty great gains, and I think that we can serve as a conscience of the Democratic Party in Texas. And I think it would be sheer rape, robbery if we didn’t exist—of the people of this state, but they know that we’re going to be standing there and yelling, screaming, and hollering. And so if at least we make them do decent things once in a while, we’ve served a pretty good purpose. And I think we do that—I think we do that very effectively. I think we’ve elected some very good Liberal legislators because we’ve been organized. I think that—I think we’re better off in the heads of this state—as dismal as it looks—then we were when we started this organization. Even Briscoe is better than Allan Shivers to a certain point. That may not be a very good comparison, but you’ve got Hobby, and you’ve got John Heal, and you’ve got some pretty good people. If you just look back when we began and look at who was in power then, we have been able to put some better people in office simply because we existed then were there when we started. And so that’s okay—that’s okay.
LM: What happened with Ralph Yarborough’s election?
BC: Well, I think that Ralph was defeated for several reasons and one of them was that he was—did not spend enough time campaigning here in this state. He’d sort of lost touch with—the one beauty that Ralph always had going with him was that—his communications with the rural Texans, and he would go and visit all of the cities and little towns and little places along the way. And then when somebody would come along and say he’s some sort of a red devil going to take us all straight to Communism or worse, people would say, “That ain’t true. I met him—I’ve talked to him, he’s a good guy.” It’s was that personal identity. But the more he got involved in National politics, and the further away from the people of the state—and not able to campaign here while doing great work in Washington, it made him vulnerable. And everybody got into that running a campaign from out-of-state headquarters and forgetting that you’ve really got—the media, thank God I think, is beginning to not be the way to campaign. And I think we’re going to go back to—quit using the media effectively, but we’re going to have to get back to the face-to-face contact with the voters. And I think that was a problem with Ralph. And there are a lot of people who think that if Ralph hadn’t voted against both of Nixon’s appointments to the Supreme Court—that that might have been—if they didn’t need his vote, it might have been smart for him to have not voted that way, and then they couldn’t have used that against him. And that’s probably an interesting point. It’s—and of course, you know they spent lots of money to beat Ralph, and they spent—one of the dirtiest campaigns ever. And I have tapes of all of Bentsen’s speeches that he made. He doesn’t believe that I do, but I do. I rarely lie, and certainly not when I’m going to get caught because eventually I’m going to have to produce those tapes—and eventually I will. And that was a really smear campaign—it was really a bad campaign. People are going to be shocked when they see what Bentsen said and did during that campaign.
LM: 25:50 Are you planning to use these to derail his present political reference?
BC: Yeah, if need be I will—certainly will. I don’t know that it will be needed because I don’t see anybody who cares about him other than Texans. But outside the state of Texas, it seems to me, that—besides a couple of Southern states who think of him as an answer maybe to Wallace. I don’t know. But everywhere else they just consider him another one of those Texans. And I think maybe that the Democratic Party has had their fill of Texas leaders for a while. We’ll see, but I think he has a 25% chance of being on the ticket at all. If I can cut that down to 5 or zero, I certainly would like to do so.
LM: Is he taking some actions against you?
BC: Well, he—not much he can do against me other than just raise hell about me, and he does that. I saw him at a Washington party and he jumped all over me, but that was fine because of—the people around him thought it was kind of poor taste of him to do so. And I enjoyed thoroughly seeing him make an ass of himself because it didn’t bother me. But oh yeah, he’ll try to hurt me just—but I don’t think he can do it, and I don’t care. I’m not running for anything and I don’t have to worry about it. And it’s not a matter of—it’s not a popularity contest, it’s just a matter of carefully having some people who believe in you after years of knowing that your always going to be in there fighting the fight.
A lot of people are wondering how I get a base or why people work with me, but I’ve attended—just in this county—I’ve attended a thousand meetings at the precinct level between ’64 and ’66. And that meant sometimes 2 or 3 people, and sometimes 100 people. And I answer that phone, and get people out of jail, and get people married that want to get married, get divorced if they want get divorced, and get people abortions before they could legally get them, and help them get to California, and help—I’m involved in people’s politics, and people know they can call me and talk me. I even had a man call me once because his house was on fire. He was a Black in Acers Homes, and he said—well, they called me the Democrat Lady in the Black community in those years, and they’d say—he said, “Well, I knew that you’d know—” he said, “I want to talk to the Democrat Lady.” And when I got on the phone, he said, “My house is on fire.” And I said, “Have you called the fire department?” And he said, “No ma’am, but I figured you’d know what to do.” And I hung up immediately and called the fire department. He didn’t think they’d come for him. He was a Black with a little shack, but it was his home. And I’ve had some funny calls too and some crazy—I could almost write a book about my phone calls.
29: 08 But then when I go to a convention or I go to a meeting and people support me it’s because I’ve been in the neighborhood, I’ve been in their living rooms, I’ve been at the drug store in the neighborhood, and holding court on Saturdays. And then people know me, and they believe in me. And they know that I’m not going to lie to them about things, and that I don’t just come at election time asking for their votes. That I spend full time visiting hospital when people are sick, and—it’s people’s politics that I do. And then when I go to a meeting and people stand up and vote with me it’s because they know me. It’s no magic, it’s no superwoman—it’s just because I care and I’m there and people know me. One of the Labor leaders who doesn’t like me a bit—I don’t get along so well with Labor leaders sometimes—and he asked 2 members of the Union if they would—at a big meeting where we were making a decision, they walked over to me and they said, “We want to know what you think we should do.” And he said, “Wait, you’re with Organized Labor and I’m the Labor Leader, you should ask me.” And they said, “We don’t know you. You’re a name on a letterhead, but she’s been in my neighborhood, and in fact, she’s been in my home.” And that’s what it’s all about.
So there isn’t any way people can hurt you unless they’re willing to go out there and do the same thing. Which that’s available to people, but everybody wants to start at the top and nobody wants to do that nitty-gritty. I’ve called people and said, “Look, I got 3 meetings to go to tonight, how about you taking 1 of them?” And they want to know if anybody important is going to be there, if the press is going to be there, if I can guarantee them a crowd. And of course of I can’t. I’ve gone to a lot of meetings where the hostess and I are the only 2 people that showed up. But I’d say, “Have no fear. We’ll come back next week, and let’s get 2 other people.” We’ll have 4 and then we’ll have 8, and I only stayed with the precinct until they got up to 30. And sometimes I had to stay a long time to get a precinct up to 30 people, but that’s all right. Now I’m fixing to try and run the whole state and do the things statewide.
LM: 31:40 You mentioned just a moment ago that you a difficulty with some union leaders.
LM: Which leads me to the question, going back just a bit to Yarborough’s election, some people claim that there’s a breakdown in the Liberal Coalition of Labor, Chicano’s, Blacks.
BC: That’s true.
LM: Is that a valid—?
BC: Oh yeah, Labor and Liberal sort of had a parting of the ways somewhat over Lyndon Johnson. Although I cussed Lyndon all of his life, and supported him every time he run for something because we were always in that position of ending up supporting him. We had some problems over Lyndon Johnson with Labor, but the real split came over the war—when we were opposed to the war so early and Labor was so late. In fact some of them never came around—some of them would still fight the war. But that’s basically what the big split came over, it was—and you see, Labor has their own interests and their own program, and that’s fine. I understand that they have to make deals with the powers that be because they’ve got a membership to represent that’s important. And their wages, and their negotiating, and what happens to them is very important, and I understand that. What I don’t like is when Labor goes to the governor or to any other public official and says, “We’re representing us, the Blacks, the Chicanos, and the Liberals, and we can deliver them all.” And it got to the point where we just decided that Labor shouldn’t be able to deliver Independent Liberals, and shouldn’t speak for the Blacks—Blacks speak for Blacks—and shouldn’t speak for the Chicanos—Chicanos speak for Chicanos, and that they shouldn’t try to make us a part of their wheeling and dealing. And that’s what the break really came over—is that we said, “Look, we’ll agree to disagree with you and we might support McCarthy—Eugene McCarthy, or we might—but you do whatever you have to do.” When the person is—when Humphrey was nominated—“We can all work for his candidacy, but let’s remember who the real enemy is and it isn’t each other.” But that was hard for some Labor people to understand. And of course, Labor lost their own membership—they couldn’t deliver the votes anymore. So they tried to deliver our votes, which we could deliver without them. And they really had no power base, no constituency because the labor people were voting for Wallace. Labor leaders left—the Labor leaders could not send out a slate card, get their candidate—to get their union members to support the candidates that they were for, and that caused a lot of problems. And we could go into Labor boxes and get more votes than Labor could, and they don’t take too kindly to that. And they had their problems—they had their problems.
I think the economy and the fact that the Republicans are in power—and we’re beginning to see Labor and Liberals get back together. At the national level, there are about 8 Labor unions that are now broken from Meany and Barkin. Barkin is a really son of a bitch—you can erase that, but that’s what he is. But there are a lot of people—like Barkin said at a meeting in Kansas City, “Well, we won’t hold you to any Labor program then,” because they were having a big fight. “Everybody here is free, White, and 21,” and the room is full of Blacks. And Lucy who is Black got up and said—Bill Lucy Black Labor leader, young, very good, very Liberal—he got up and said, “That’s the problem Mr. Barkin, some of you are color blind because not everybody in this room is free, White, and 21,” and all the Blacks left and joined our caucus.
36:10 See, what’s happened is now that young people don’t have to go to Canada, to war, to jail, to school—which was their choices during the draft and during the Vietnam War—they went into every way to stay our of the Army or just go to the Army. But now people are getting back into crafts and trades, and now we’re beginning to see unions who had only hardhats with grey hair or hard-hatted middle-aged people—which I’m 47 years old, but I think young. You had all of those kinds of people, but now you’re beginning to see long hair, young faces. You’re beginning to see Blacks and Chicanos and even Anglo-whites who don’t want to wear white collars and say, “Find this,” and they don’t want to be professors, and they don’t want to be chemists, and they don’t want to be all of these other things that they thought they wanted to be while they were in college trying to stay out of the war mostly. And some of them are really finding that there’s something to being a bricklayer at $13 an hour. And those are the people that are threatening Labor, and the unions that have the most influx of the young are the ones that are working now with us.
And in the ’74 convention we got 72—we raised $72,000 from 7 or 8 National Labor organizations that gave the money to us rather than to Meany and Barkin to organize in the convention with. That’s pretty significant, so I think Labors face is changing. And I think Abel and the steelworkers—and that’s one of the largest—that is, I think, the largest union. They have a million and three-tenths members in this country. And Abel’s not going to run again, and Kent and his men isn’t going to win. I’d bet you money right now that the, kind of, Radical Libs are going to take over the steelworker movement. When they do, we will have a good coalition. So labor is changing and that’s good. And when you get to go through a period of working together then splitting, and now it seems that as those new faces come on the scene we’re getting back together with labor. And I think that’s all looking up—very positive reactions.
I2: 38:43 You mentioned Wallace. To what do you attribute Wallace’s popularity, the state of Texas among them? People seem to belong to Labor unions.
BC: People know that there’s something rotten in Denmark, something’s rotten in the United States, and something’s rotten in Texas, and they don’t know just who to blame or what. And it’s just too confusing to find out that all the leaders of our country are crooks, criminals. People are confused and they’re upset, and they know that as they obtain things, it’s not getting them happiness and they haven’t—they’re dissatisfied with their lifestyle or with what’s going on. And as we progress—some people, it’s very hard for them to understand it. Wallace is a Populist and he says the kinds of things that people like—that there’s hard times and bad times, and we the middle class are getting screwed right and left by everybody in the whole world. And everybody believes that about themselves, and he talks their kind of language. And there’s a lot to be said about what he says about what’s wrong with the country. In fact, we might agree that there is something rotten. Where we don’t agree is what are we going to do about it, and that’s where the man is dangerous. But people are looking for someone they can believe, and someone who is a strong leader who can make them feel comfortable again. And I think he has that kind of appeal, but I think it’s a false appeal. And I don’t think that he’s helped Alabama a hell of a lot, and I don’t think he—I don’t think his—what he’d do about things, of course, would be terrible. We would be better off—in fact perhaps worse off—I really worry about it. I couldn’t support him even if the Democratic Party nominated him. I’ll join a third party or something—I don’t know what I’ll do. But I can see how people could be taken in by the, kind of—and there’s a void, and there’s a vacuum right now of leadership. And people are looking for somebody who will lead, and people like strong leaders, unfortunately or fortunately. Sometimes I think unfortunately—they still got that idea that a man’s got to be tough and strong and make a quick decision. And people say they don’t like backroom deals, but they don’t like to be included in the decision making. The governor tried to do that—he tried to deliberate with the public, and the public wants you to decide and tell them what to do. They still don’t know how to have any say over their own destiny. They’d rather not have to make the decision, and if you’re going to make, they’re glad to let you. And Wallace is—has that kind of appeal.
I2: Do you see anybody—saying the left-of-center or liberal, whatever term you want use in the Democratic Party—that could possibly have that appeal? I know Kennedy’s been mentioned, but I don’t see his candidacy as a sure thing by any means.
I2: Is there anybody else you could think of that could have that appeal?
BC: No not really. I think Ted Kennedy is probably the only man who could give people that same feeling quickly. But that’s what’s kind of wrong with this—is that people who need heroes—there’s something kind of wrong with you if you have to have a hero. And I told a group in Chicago that we were meeting—a Liberal, Progressive, Radical, whatever we are Democrats, and I said, “We’re waiting for the Messiah to come. We want somebody to drop out of the sky who’s going to be a combination of Roosevelt, Truman, and Kennedy all rolled into 1 human being, and it’s just not there.” And I think that we’re going to have to find somebody who can—who is a sellable candidate, but who can really do something and get the country moving and not just be a demigod. But this country is ripe for a good demigod right now, but it’s also ripe for a good candidate, and I think we got to do it. I said something about we got to take one of these sow’s ears and make a silk purse out of them pretty quick, but we’ve got some good people.
43:49 Mark Udall is a good man. I’d like to see him get off the ground but I don’t know if the Blacks and Chicanos will support him, and that’s a worry. And Fred Harris is a good guy—he has no base. How can you run for president when you can’t even get reelected as senator—when you have to leave Oklahoma because you can’t stand it anymore, and they can’t stand you. I mean, I love Fred—we’re good friends, but I don’t see him getting it off the ground without a constituency of his own. I like Jimmy Carter, frankly. I think he says really radical things out of that Southern drawl of his, and it doesn’t sound radical when he says it. And I think he’s a viable vice presidential candidate I think. I wouldn’t mind seeing him on the ballot as the vice presidential candidate. Sanford’s a smart man but he’s a professor type. All you professor types will hate this, but he just puts people to sleep. But he’s saying good things and he’s a good man, and well see how he does. But maybe the candidate isn’t on the scene yet. But Frank Church may get a lot of publicity out of the CIA thing, and he may end up being a viable candidate. Frank Church has some possibilities, but I don’t know—I don’t know. Tell you right now, Ted Kennedy’s the only man I can think of who is that—who can turn people on without doing anything—well, much.
I2: 45:22 The reason I ask is because—I don’t know, I guess I’m afraid—I’ve been reading the stuff about some of the rules have been changed, so you no longer might have this backroom thing. Some people think, “Well, that’s a good thing, ” but then you have all these primaries—and supposedly Wallace has more money than anybody else—and you’re going to have all these Liberals splitting the vote among themselves. Then you might have Wallace coming in there with all these votes. And that’s—in a round about way—asking the question, is there a strategy that can be devised—to be blunt—to put somebody else that could counterbalance Wallace’s weight without winding up with somebody who’s not that much different? I just—
BC: Well, I think that both Sanford and Carter’s candidacy’s are people—I think Carter could cut into Wallace’s support if he can get the money and get exposure. And I think he might be an answer to—in some of those states where Wallace might be strong. But no, it’s a crucial problem, it really is. I just discount that as not being a real credible problem. I do think that the leaders of the Democratic Party, and all the elected officials in the Democratic Party, would do anything they could to stop Wallace. And I think if he really begins to be too serious of a candidate, I think people will start working together that hadn’t worked together before because I don’t think anybody really wants to see him have the nomination. And I think that he won’t be on the Democratic ticket, but—and I think the convention—the Democratic Party Convention is going to be a broker convention. And I think that if it looks like he’s got the nomination, you’ll see how fast everybody that’s been fighting each other will get together real quick to stop him. And I’m working, frankly, with—in helping all the candidates. And I tell each of them that, “I’m not for you yet because I’m not ready to commit. I want to wait and see, but that I’ll help anybody other than Jackson, Bentsen, and Wallace.” And so we had Fred Harris in here—we helped set up a meeting for him—we’re helping with Terry Sanford’s party Saturday night, and I’m talking to Udall on the phone and working with him. And one of my friends that was an organizer that worked with me since ’68 in the national scene, he’s helping Jimmy Carter a good bit, and we’re consulting with him. And we’re helping everybody because I think in the long run it will pay off when we all get together behind one person. And I think we’ll do that—I think we can pull that together.
LM: On the local level—
BC: Uh-hunh (affirmative).
LM: What are the prospects for Liberal Democrats in Harris County making a showing in state? I have in mind for example, Leonel Castillo. Is he a viable candidate for higher office?
BC: 48:39 Oh, I think Leonel has future in Party politics, as well as Public politics. I think that he’s young and he’s got a good following and he’s a smart man—he’s a good candidate. And yeah, I think he has some great potential.
LM: Is he getting your support?
BC: Well yeah, I’m all for him. But of course, now that would depend, I suppose, on who he’s running against and where he was running. But I don’t see him taking any position in which I couldn’t support him. I don’t think he would do that. I think I’ll always be able to support him. But I’m very high on him. I think he’s one of the most decent and honest politicians we have.
LM: Now he tried to be appointed to the state Democratic Chairmanship didn’t he?
BC: He tried to get elected—he ran against Calvin Guest. And that’s the first time anybody’s ever ran against the chause of the governor, and he came within 8% of winning.
LM: Did you support him in that effort?
BC: Oh, absolutely. In fact, he was sitting right there in that chair, and I asked him to run. When he decided to run, right here in this office where I asked him if he would run, and he said that he had been thinking if Bob Bullock—who we were all hoping would get to run—when Bob decided not to run, well Leonel said that he thought if Bob didn’t run and we didn’t have anyone else, he had thought that he might. So he was glad that I had asked him. But I asked him and we started his campaign sitting right here in this office.
LM: Was there a great deal of opposition to him? Was it well organized?
BC: 50:36 Very well organized in the fact that we only put it together in the last couple of weeks because weren’t sure what we were going to do. And then at the last few days—I don’t remember how many days we had, but we didn’t have much time to put that campaign together. Leonel tells me that when he got to the State Convention—that he hadn’t been called names in a very long time, and that there were lots of people from rural Texas and from other places that are still very racists. And he had not met racism before, and it was, sort of, a learning lesson for him that there’s still some racism that exists out there even if you’re a Leonel Castillo. People should see beyond that, and they do in the city. So I think he made a very good showing. We started from nowhere and come within 8% of winning. And if our friends, Labor, had of voted with us—if Harry Hubbard would have told his people to vote with us, we would have won it. And I reminded Harry of that when the governor didn’t pay back the favor the other day and I had a chance to do so. But we could look to other places too for that 8%. When you come that close you can sure count your friends who should have been with you and weren’t. But he made a good showing, and I think Leonel is a good man and has some strong possibilities being involved heavily in the state-run politics—both public and political office.
I2: Yeah, Mr. Castillo mentioned in one of the newspaper articles I read—I didn’t know if I—if he was quoted correctly—that it seems to me that it wasn’t only the rural areas where he mentioned these names he was called. But he mentioned something also about Houston—that there was a lot of racism, but it was more subtle—it wasn’t as obvious or overt as it could be in, let’s say, South Texas or something.
BC: Yeah, well he ran into some problems in his own district because there is a big Black delegation there, and there is some racism between Blacks and Chicanos still too, you see. And there was some problems within his own senate district, a little. And of course, there were some Conservative delegates because we had that proportional representation, and so there were Conservatives from this county. But he got good vote out of Harris County and all the districts. But there were some—in his district they did run some people against the people that are on the State Committee presently and that’s Anthony Hall. Craig ran against Anthony, and Leonel supported Craig, and I think some of that may have spilled off into his campaign. But that’s just—I’m not so sure that that’s racism, that’s just power, politics.
I2: But don’t you think there’s racism within the Anglo community that is a drawback to, say, having somebody like Castillo elected for a higher office?
BC: Yeah, I think that’s true, but I think as time goes on that that’s going to be changed. And of course in this city—he really would like to run for mayor in 2 years when Hofheinz doesn’t run again. He won’t run again with Hofheinz. He says every day, “I’m not running against Fred Hofheinz,” because some people mentioned that he should, but he always says no, and he won’t do that. But if and when he were to run for mayor—you have to know that in the city the registration of the Black and the Chicano communities are very high in city elections, and then we would have enough White Liberals that we could offset the racism in the White communities. But racism plays part in every election—every election, and it still exists in Houston and in the country period.
LM: 55:19 How important is the Houston Council of Organizations?
LM: To the Liberal cause?
BC: They’re endorsement is still important because—but they’re a paper organization, and let’s just tell the truth about that. I bet they don’t have more than 10 people in their ranks, and no more than 30 ever attend their meetings. You can’t take the organization over as some of the young Blacks have thought about doing because the way you get to be a member is you form some civic club or something and join. And nobody knows who the real members of—and most of it’s all on paper. But it’s—that’s the card that the Black community pays attention to just because of years and years of getting that push card that say’s the Council of Organizations recommends these candidates. And I think they have some good leadership right now over there, and I think that—but it’s not a really functioning organization. But their endorsement is important because they’re slate card means something to people.
LM: Who are some of the more important leaders in the Black community as far as politics and getting people out—
BC: Well of course—well yeah. Now that we have these legislative districts, the legislators all play an important role in that—Anthony Hall and Mickey Leland and Craig Washington and so forth and Thompson. But there are other people—the precinct committeeman still have a lot of stroke in their community, and people that actively work in their precincts are still very good. And there is no single Black leader anymore like there used to be in the days when we first began, but that’s good that there isn’t. And it’s actually—you just have to go into communities. And in fact, Acers Homes has 5, 6 precincts, and they got 10 leaders out there that you have to talk to because they’re broke up into, sort of, groups. And that’s about the way it is with most precincts, and most areas now. There is no one person in the Fifth Ward, there are 15 people that you’d have to talk to in the Fifth Ward now, but that’s okay—that’s good. The Black community has developed their own leadership and that’ what they ought to be doing. Sometimes it’s good and sometimes it’s bad, but that’s true of White, that’s true in the Anglo community and the Chicano community. They find out who their good people are and who are bad and it works out, and I’m glad that the Black community isn’t controlled by any one person.
I2: 58:28 How would you rate the efforts of organizations, let’s say, La Raza Unida in forming, I guess you’d call it a third party in Texas? What is your attitude towards that?
BC: Well, I think—I have 2 thoughts about that. Number one is when La Raza Unida first started off and everything, I thought that’s good because it’s a way for the Chicano community to bring attention to themselves and the fact that their vote is important. And that it’s by holding it out and by becoming a group and—that they have some—somebody’s going to listen to them—a politician is going to listen to them if they’re effective. What happened though, with La Raza Unida now, is that when we start checking where their money comes from and their sources, it all comes from the Republican Party, and the Republicans have helped finance a lot of La Raza Unida efforts. And when La Raza Unida gets out here and poses a Benny Reyes, for instance, instead of some skunk somewhere, it’s—of course that’s where I suppose it’s—that’s where the Chicano community is the heaviest, and I guess that why they concentrate there. But it just seems funny that everywhere in the state, the only place—the only people they took on were good Liberal, Progressive Chicanos. And they took them on in races, both in Austin and in Houston. And I don’t think that—I think they’ve done some good in the valley, but I don’t think—but some of that has even gone by the wayside now. I think that in theory it’s good, and if the organization has got leadership that really counts. But I had to laugh at the governor’s race because Ramsey Muniz is just as dumb as Briscoe, and both of them are—I don’t know, Granberry a Republican candidate—I mean, we have 3 dummies running for governor of the state. And I used to say, I’d like to put them all 3 up and ask somebody, hammer a nail in their head and see which one hollered at you first—you have no choices. A lot of the Liberals got all carried away that they were going to support Briscoe, and they were going to run down and vote for Ramsey Muniz. But if they’d ever had a conversation with him for a very long period they would know that he was just as dumb as Briscoe ever would hope to be. He wasn’t a good candidate. He was a not—he just simply wasn’t a good candidate. And some of our people will support the Black and the Brown just because of all the guilt we feel about the racism of the past and the present, and—but there are people who are good and smart and deserving in all races, and there are those who are not in all races. And thank God I don’t have that feeling of guilt anymore, and that I can analyze a person and fight with a person and it doesn’t matter about the race. That’s really when you’ve gotten over that, when you can have a cuss fight with a Black or a Chicano and not feel like you’re Simon McGurdy (s/l ??) (1:02:05) with the whip.
LM: 1:02:07 You mentioned that the La Raza Unida was getting money from the Republicans. Apparently they’re aware of where the money’s coming from?
BC: Oh yeah, sure. It’s public record, everybody knows it.
LM: Well, are they allowing—are they just thinking they’re using the Republicans or are the Republicans using them?
BC: I think the results show that the Republicans are using them, and if they don’t know that then they’re not very smart. And I suspect that some of them are smart enough to know that. But I think it’s probably a good idea for Black and Chicano occasionally to withhold their votes and to show their strength, and that will make them at least have a voice. But I don’t think—and I think La Raza Unida started off to do that, but somewhere they got sidetracked—maybe just simply by the offer of money when they needed it. But they ended up being used, whether they will admit that or know that I just don’t know. But that’s how I see it anyway, and the result is that they were used.
LM: Are they a serious drain on the Liberal Coalition?
BC: Not here—not in Houston because we have Leonel Castillo as a Democrat, we have Benny and Tommy Reyes—we have Frumencio Reyes. We have strong Chicano leaders now that are in the Democratic Party, and they go out and fight against La Raza Unida in the community. No Anglos can do that or should do that, but the Chicanos themselves have taken care of that problem in this county. Now in the valley it may be different. In fact, I might—in some places in the valley I might applaud that La Raza Unida should be there because they’re not having their voices heard in the local Democratic Party machinery. And it’s a good way to be heard—is to be on the outside if you’re not heard on the inside. And I’m not opposed to them doing that, but I don’t see them as a threat.
It was interesting the first time when Briscoe beat—Briscoe’s first election in ’72, everybody got excited because Ramsey Muniz got a lot of votes. But if you look at the votes carefully, he got them on mostly Anglo boxes, and most of them were just mad Liberals who didn’t want to vote for Briscoe because he beat Sissy or because of that dumb move that he made at the convention of voting for Wallace and switching to McGovern and all that nonsense. And people just got mad and went out and voted for Ramsey Muniz because it was a slap at Briscoe. But those votes didn’t come from Chicanos in this city—they came out of Black boxes. So you’ve got to look at where those votes come from and analyze it before you can made a decision as to whether the Chicanos supported that or whether it was just disenchanted with—a pox on everybody’s house from Anglos.
I2: 1:05.24 Now you mentioned Sissy Farenthold—in your mind, why does she think she lost to Briscoe the first time? What was—if you can pinpoint what were some of the main reasons why Briscoe was able to beat her out aside from minor things.
BC: Yeah, I was going to say the main reason was that he bought the election because he had all that money. Another reasons was, I think if Sissy had not been a woman, I think—if she would have been a man instead of a woman, I think she might have beat Briscoe. I think there were are still people in this state who would not vote for a woman for governor, and I think that’s unfortunate but true, and a fact of life. Sissy had some problems in the Black community turned on to her, and it came, kind of, late. Some Black women said to me finally when in—just in candor because that’s the group that was the least supportive of her in a poll that we took—were Black women and Chicano men. And I talked to a group of Black women finally, and they said that Sissy sort of reminded them of every woman that they had—White woman they had ever worked for. But when we got her out into the community and they met her and didn’t just read her material—and some of her literature in the beginning talked all about her—it was geared to the Southwest area of town, but it was also used in the Black area of town which gave all of her—the family background, and all of her finishing schools and degrees, and she come off looking like—maybe a little bit like what they thought. But when they met her face-to-face and shook hands with her, and talked to her, and found her to be a warm and receptive and a real person who was interested in their needs, then it began to change, but I think we had that problem. And she did a very good job of doing what we set out to do and that was to stop Ben Barnes who was the Establishments candidate, and they knocked off Smith of course who, kind of, knocked himself off. But Barnes was who Sissy really beat, and boy she deserves a big—because he’d right on his way to the White House if she hadn’t stopped him. And I think she did the greatest service to the American people ever done—is to run that race and cut Barnes out.
It would have been great if she could have been elected governor, but I think Houston was not ready for that. And by that time, of course, there was some pretty—she probably made 2 political mistakes as far vote getting, and 1 of them was to go out and say she’s gong to disband the Texas Rangers. And that got everybody upset, although she’s absolutely right, they should be disbanded. I’m glad she said it, but it probably cost her some votes. And then her position on abortion was greatly hurt—her being a Catholic and getting a lot of feedback from her church and letters from that bishop and some of the nuns. And that, kind of, hurt, and you just look at things that cost you some votes. And of course, that damn radio show that they had that came on in those little towns that had a heartbeat, and then the day of election it had the heart—a heartbeat, and then they’d come on and say that this is the heartbeat of a baby and Sissy Farenthold would abort this child and. Oh, it was a really dirty kind of tactic. But—and then I went one place and spoke for sissy, and the guy that spoke for Briscoe said that Sissy was going to have marijuana machines in there next to every coffee machine, and just dispense it to these children and everybody. And so she was right on the issues, however, and somebody had to say that. And it might have cost her the election, but I think she might have helped educate the elector, and that’s good if she did that.
LM: 1:09:40 If these type of tactics—which are very obvious—take in so many people, how do you retain your optimism in thinking that you can actually persuade the voters to elect Liberal candidates—if they’re this easily taken in?
BC: Well, you—I’m just not one to throw up my hands and quit. As I told you before, I want to set the world on fire and change everybody overnight. But we didn’t get in this trouble overnight, and I’m willing to now, to look at long-range plans. And in the 22 or whatever it is years that I’ve been involved now—since ’52, and you can just add that up—I have been able to see some real changes. I mean God, I’ve had bricks thrown through my windows, a hand grenade on the seat of my car, my kid used to pick the phone and be called Communist and nigger lovers, and we don’t get that kind of reaction anymore. And I haven’t changed, but people have begun to accept what we’re talking about. And whether or not we elect anyone to office—eventually, of course, we’ve got to elect our people to office to do some real good, but we have been able to change opinions. And there’s more to it than that—there’s some satisfaction in what I do. I can—the political spectrum in it—I can pick up the phone and call senators and congressmen and legislators and threaten them, and tell them, “You’d better not vote for the Bentsen bill or I’ll kill you.” And that works and that’s effective and that’s good, and it’s only because of political power and votes in their district that you can get away with that. And we have made changes, and I’m proud of the changes that have been made because of what we’ve done, but there’s something else in the personal level. I’ve had people come in here—just one example, one quick example—we had a woman come in here who was 32. She’d had 4 children, married very young, and had one child right after another. She hadn’t read a newspaper, hadn’t read a book since she was 18—didn’t know what was going on in the world. Her kids were up in school and getting to be older, and she came in here and did a little volunteer work. At first she said, “I don’t know how to do anything but raise kids.” And now she’s reading and now she’s thinking—her mind is working and she’s reading newspapers first and now books, and she’s talking about going back to school. And there’s somebody who was just sitting leading a very—a life that’s not much more than a vegetable—not much more than a child herself. And I’ve watched her change into being a person who’s contributing something to society and contributing something to her own personal growth. And that’s satisfying—that’s satisfying to me to see that happen to people.
1:12:55 It’s interesting to see somebody that says, “What can I do?” And it’s nice to be able to say, “You can give me 2 hours a month and it will get me 10 votes that I wouldn’t have gotten except for you.” And I can see people feel important and I see them get those 10 votes too. And when I look at a precinct—a politician wants to know, “Did I win it?” But I say, “Hey, we increased our vote there by 10%, and that’s a big increase.” And the reason we did is because Norma Wilder was working that precinct or because Joni Lejeune came in here and picked up a piece of literature, and I got her to go out and get her neighbors to go vote—and that’s why we increased in that precinct. And I can give you a name for almost every precinct in this county of the person that’s really responsible for turning the votes out there, and that’s satisfying. And to have somebody come in here and say, “Well, I know you all like niggers, but I don’t—” to have that same person correct someone for using the word nigger and say, “You should say Black instead.” I’ve turned that 1 person around, and maybe that’s how that starts anyway. There’s satisfaction in doing that—I love it, I thrive on it.
And I have an ego like everybody else, and I like the power that a losing Liberal has as well as anyone else. I like being in a position to be a nuisance value, and I like all of that. But I also like the good work that we all do in that we activate the inactive, and that’s important. And if people will think, I think they’ll be with us. And if they’re informed and organized, I think we will get those votes. I still don’t believe that Texas is Conservative—I think it’s uneducated, uninformed, and unorganized. And if we can ever get it informed, educated, and organized, I believe Liberal candidates will start winning. But we’ve never really effectively been able to do that. We gain more all the time, and this year I’m optimistic in spite of the horrible Bentsen deal.
The first day of September I’m leaving this office, and from September until November the 20th, I’m going to every senate district in the state of Texas, And I’m going to be meeting in drugstores and churches and union halls and everywhere I can go and talk to people about what we need to do in this upcoming election. And I intend to come out of it with and organization. And they’re just not—I’ve never been discouraged for very long because we win small battles—and we lose some, we win some, but the war isn’t over, and I hope it will never be over. I hope it will continue to fight, and I intend to continue to be there to push it and see that it happens. And I remain optimistic because I can see results even if other people can’t. I see results daily in this office, and especially traveling on the road, and especially out in precinct meetings.
LM: 1:16:37 Do you have any other questions for her?
I2: Yeah, I was going to mention about—you think that they can turn around Isn’t really the key thing about so many people who don’t vote—well, as you say, if they would be more informed and would vote, perhaps Liberal candidates would have a better chance—
BC: That’s right.
I2: —because we see that so many people don’t vote?
BC: That’s right. Yeah, it’s reaching those people who don’t vote and don’t care. And you have to show them that it’s in their self-interest to vote because everybody’s motivated by self interest, whether that’s fortunate or unfortunate—I ain’t even going to debate that—that’s just a fact of life. And when I go to a group and I say to them—I say, “You say you don’t want to have anything to do with politics. Well, politics has everything to do with you whether you like it or not.” And then I ask an audience to tell me the first thing they do when they get up in the morning. And I don’t care what you say, I can show you—if it’s putting on a coffee pot. How much did you pay for the coffee? Did you pay a sales tax? Did you cook it on gas, electricity? Who regulates gas and electricity? Anything that an audience tells me I can show them how that some politician is making that decision while you’re sleeping. When you put that coffee pot on, there are at least 5 or 6 political officeholders who made a decision that affects that coffee getting onto your table and getting up to your mouth. And when you tell people that, and you really make them see—and I take them through the whole day. From the time you get up in the morning what do you first? Do you go to school? Who teaches your kid or who teaches you or what are the standards, what are the curriculum? What do the teachers have to do? Do you have a dress code? Who’s fault is it if the school is bad—is it the teacher, is it the principal, or is the school board? Did you vote, didn’t you? Do you have a small business—still you’d vote if you do? Do you work for a company—an oil company—or do you—everything. Do you have a car? How much loan do you pay? Did you get it at a bank? Do you have a house? Is it HFA or GI or—there isn’t anything in your whole life that you touch that I can’t tie to politics. I mean, get people thinking about that they see pretty quick that if they don’t take an interest in it somebody else does, and it’s special interest groups who do. And now people buy that story a whole lot faster after Watergate. Watergate at least helps us helps us show that if you don’t take an interest—John Q. Public—that the guys who have ulterior motives are going to be interested, and they’re going to be taking care of your business for you. That plays—it plays well, and it turns people on in some cases. Some people may just say, “Well, that was a nice speech.” But I hear from some of them, and some of them start working. I get letters from people that says, “ I heard you speak 2 years ago, and I went home and thought about it. And I called up, and I got active in something.” Maybe they didn’t get active in exactly what I hoped they get active in, but at least they did get active in something. And eventually we’ll get those people.
1.19.53 Even these ERA people—little women running around in pink trying to do what the ERA. Some of our people got up all upset about them, and I said, “Wait a minute, those women will never go back to cooking cookies. And they’ve gotten a taste of power down here in Austin, and we may even end up with some of those little women before it’s over it.” We may end up getting some of those people to support our candidates in causes because they’re not going to be satisfied to go back home and push a broom. The very thing they were out there opposing, now that they’ve gotten a taste of what it’s like, they’re going to be—they’re not going to be satisfied not to continue to be active politically. That’s what the right-wing is depending on, but I can get some of those people to switch over here. Now they’ll never admit that they were wrong about ERA. It’s like—I shouldn’t say that on tape—it’s kind of like no woman’s ever going to admit that the guy she first went to bed with, she wasn’t in love with—you’re never going to get her to confess to that. But it doesn’t mean that they’re not going to do something good later—something even Liberal, something even Progressive, maybe even Radical because they’re going to start thinking. And all I want is for people to start thinking because I’ll get them eventually if they’re thinkers, and if they work a little bit in it and see some of the rotten—despondent Conservatives convert to us. They’re—we call the converts when they come over to us. When they go to the other side they’re sellouts.
LM: 1:21:31 I was just going to ask you one last one about the press. Are there any—do you have any supporters in the Liberal cause in the local press?
BC: Oh sure, a lot of the working press are Liberals, and a lot of reporters after they’ve interviewed or talked about an issue, will put down their pen and pencil and talk off the cuff about politics. Some of them make some contributions—small contributions to us. And the working press is like any other working people—they’re interested in our causes. I get a lot of—well, just reporters in general, “We’re raising this because good copy.” Sometimes that’s helpful and sometimes it isn’t, but sometimes just to send them up ain’t good copy. But at times when it’s good, it’s helpful, but I have—I feel good about reporters. I don’t feel very good about editors, and I feel even less good about publishers. And I think that one of the things wrong in Texas, and the reason we are uneducated and uninformed in this state is because we have a lousy press in this state. And it isn’t the reporters fault—it’s the people that edit what they write.
And we even have—in this city, we have political power brokers that are head of these newspapers. And Everett Collier is on this like an octopus, and they’re involved in every political thing that goes on. And he’s sitting up there lighting political fires by talking to politicians over the telephone, and then he fans those fires with his newspaper’s editorial policy, story policy, and everything else. It’s hard to combat that kind of thing. And part of our problem in Texas is be we don’t have good papers. But it’s interesting that television helps us, at least, because people that watch TV—and everybody watches TV—they do hear news for themselves, and they do—they can get a handle and can become a little more informed than what they get in Texas papers. I think that it sure would be helpful in this state if we had a few good papers that were really trying to tell people the facts—not slanted to our side, just tell people the facts, and really be a conscientious paper. But we don’t—fortunately or unfortunately Texas doesn’t have any very good papers. The fact is, I think Texas has one of the worst papers in the whole country, and that’s the Dallas Morning News. I don’t know if there’s a paper anywhere that could be as bad as that newspaper is. And the Chronicle isn’t really much better. The Post is okay, but it’s—again, it’s the people that are head of the Post also have political interests. One of them wants to be governor—Bill Hobby—next time around, and he’s not above using the power of the press—his mom and he owns to—for his benefit. But in Wisconsin there was a—Bend County—one of the people that works with us lived there. And there’s not Blacks and no Chicanos in that whole county, and it went for McGovern very heavily. And we wondered how—we went to investigate. And they have a great newspaper that informed people about what was happening in the world and in the country. And that’s why McGovern carried it because they had a good newspaper that gave them both sides of a question, instead of trying to program them to support the position of the publishers and the editors of the papers. And so we are really faced with that problem in the states of Texas, especially in the big cities.
LM: 1:26:06 Bill Hobby has a reputation—or at least an image of being Liberal.
LM: Does he fit the description of a Liberal?
BC: Well, if you stretched it some he might. My only problem with Bill Hobby is—he’s a decent sort of guy, but I suspect that he’s much more conservative than any of us like. I know how he felt about Ralph’s campaign—we had a long talk about it, and he was very much for Bentsen in the first Ralph Yarborough—he never supported Ralph ever.
LM: Why—what’s the reason behind that?
BC: Oh well, he gave me some story about Ralph wasn’t nice to journalists. And I said, “Yeah, well maybe because journalists weren’t very nice to Ralph.” But it’s just Conservative ties and backgrounds. Hobby is not—he’s just not a Liberal. His politics is halfway decent, and so therefore he looks like a Liberal to some people, but he’s a long way from being a Liberal. One problem with Hobby is he is not very smart. I think he’s just—he’s not very bright. If you talk to him very long you figure it out—he’s really not very bright, and tied pretty well to mother even at 40 whatever he is—damn near fifty and still his mothers boy. And that bothers me a little because mother is a big, strong holdover from Nixon’s administration and is very Conservative. But Hobby’s going to run for governor and may well make it, and I would not support him for governor, I don’t think. I think I’d support John Hill over—well, I know I’d support John Hill over Bill Hobby, but I’m not too happy with either one of them. But Hill is smarter and would do the, I think, more Liberal things than Bill Hobby would ever do. Bill Hobby would stick with the established way of doing things, and he would let, sort of, the same people gain control that are in control now—wouldn’t be that much of a change. And he’s a little bit smarter than Briscoe, but my God, I got a grandchild that qualifies for that, so that’s not saying too much about Bill. Diane Hobby is much smarter than Janey, maybe that will be helpful, but it’s mother I’m worried about.
LM: Well, I see we’ve taken up a great deal of your time. I suppose we should call it quits now.
BC: Okay. (laughs)
LM: 1:29:16 We do appreciate the time that you have given us for this interview—we appreciate it. We look forward to hearing more about you in the newspapers.
BC: Okay. Well, seeing as it’s election coming up, I suspect you’ll do that.
LM: Maybe after the ’76 election we’ll get in touch with you again for a follow up on what went wrong or what went right.
BC: (laughs) That maybe— (recording cuts out)