Gus Taylor

Duration: 1hr 32mins
Please read and accept the disclaimer below to continue.

DISCLAIMER

I have read and accept the terms of the disclaimer.

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
500 McKinney
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 information@houstonoralhistory.org.

I have read and accept the terms of the disclaimer.




Interview with: Gus Taylor
Interviewed by:
Date: April 30, 1975
Archive Number: OH 178

Interviewer
0:00:03.2 Testing, 1, 2, 3. April 30th, 1975 interview with Mr. Gus Taylor. Mr. Taylor, I wonder if we could begin by getting some background information on you. Are you a native Houstonian?

Gus Taylor
No, I’m originally from New Orleans. I was reared in New Orleans. I was educated there, but I was really born in Alabama, Mobile, Alabama. I like to present myself as a product Southerner.

Interviewer
What were your job experiences and your community activities before you became involved with your present position?

Gus Taylor
Well, I’ve run the full gamut. When I graduated from Dillard University in New Orleans in 1959 I went to work for the New Orleans Juvenile Court and stayed there about a year and a half because I wasn’t interested necessarily in delinquent youth. I was interested in the field of employment, so I ended up being a probation officer who was getting jobs for delinquent youth because I felt that delinquent kids, just like delinquent adults, adults who are judged as criminals, have one problem. They are on a treadmill. They can’t work because nobody will hire them, and yet one of the conditions on their probation and/or parole is that they must work. Through no fault of their own they find themselves in constant violation of the law, so I sort of backed into the field I wanted to go into, personnel. I left New Orleans in 1960 and went to work for the Chicago Housing Authority because in 1960 Chicago was having problems with juvenile gangs. The supposedly notorious Vice Lords and Egyptian Cobras were rampant on the west side of Chicago, so I was hired to work with these kids and help them find jobs and get training. I stayed there for 4 years, and that’s why I say I’m a proud Southerner because one of the things I found in the Midwest and Chicago and Detroit, Milwaukee, was that I used to wonder why blacks would leave some comforts of the South to go to the slums of the Midwest and North where segregation was much more rampant and a much more injurious thing than it ever was in the South. In 1964 I came to Houston on vacation and decided to stay here since my wife was a Houstonian. We took a job here, and I was hired by Vocational Guidance Service, a United Fund agency, as a placement counselor. A year and a half later I was a supervisor, and I quit and became the director of personnel for the war on poverty. Then I got involved in the Manpower Program and became the director of the first Manpower Program in Houston, and I left there and went with the state while I was waiting for my appointment with the Justice Department as director of the community relations division which handles civil disturbances. I stayed there for 4 1/2 years, and then I joined the county as personnel director. That about covers 15 years.

Interviewer
0:03:47.0 What were your duties with the government?

Gus Taylor
With the Justice Department, a community relations unit is a very quiet unit. It was all—we had all kinds of nicknames. One of the nicknames we had was we were sort of a domestic Mission Impossible team, and our job was to see if we could mediate the resolution of racial disturbances. We didn’t get involved in the civil disturbance unless it had racial overtones, and this might be anything from the garbage strike that Dr. King was involved in to the TSU shootout we had to Watts, Bedford (?), Detroit, Wounded Knee, all of these incidents, and what we usually did was went in and tried to get both sides talking because one of the things the general public never realized was that usually both sides wanted the same thing. They just had different ways of getting it. I’ve seen very few community groups that really wanted to completely destroy a community. They just wanted a piece of the action of that community. I think there was a gentleman in Chicago who put it the right way. He said, “We have been negotiating for years, but until we took to the streets, nobody listened.” Sometimes a protest did serve as a good vehicle to get people to finally sit down and start talking. It certainly did that in Houston after the TSU shootout or police riot or whatever it’s been called. I was involved in the Houston community quite heavily. I still am, but we weren’t able to find jobs in Houston for young people, and 3 days after the TSU riot we had close to 1200 jobs committed, which means that somebody was lying earlier that Houston did have the jobs. Nobody was addressing themselves to the tremendous problems we had because there was no pressure. I guess it goes back to the old law of physics. Nothing moves without a prevailing force, and communities are objects just like a piece of metal. I think one of the mistakes we make is that we assume that the law of physics only applies to objects and not people, but people have to have prevailing forces, and sometimes civil disturbances are prevailing forces.

Interviewer
0:06:39.8 Let me backtrack just for a moment and move back to the TSU riot. Were you with the investigating team, or was it simply to bring the students and the community together?

Gus Taylor
How I got involved in the TSU riot was I was director of personnel for the war on poverty in those days and I felt that as a citizen in this community—and I still feel this way—that I had to play a role in that. Houston is my community just as much as it is anybody else’s, and if we could avoid a civil disturbance in this community, then it was incumbent upon all of us to do it, and we couldn’t do it by sitting back saying, “Well, that’s going on over on the campus.” People don’t realize sometimes that a civil disturbance, whether it’s a crime disturbance or whether it’s just the encephalitis mosquito that caused trouble here a few years ago is that it’s not going to remain isolated in one section. Once it occurs, it has a very good way of becoming contagious and spreading all over the place. I got a few friends of mine together, and we went out to TSU and asked if we could get involved and seeing if we could mediate it.

Interviewer
Excuse me. Before or after the actual conflict?

Gus Taylor
This was before the actual shootout when the students had walked out of class and were demonstrating on the campus, and we found ourselves in an interesting sort of a position. A young man by the name of Arthur Gray, (?) who is now a county treasurer, and Mr. Sid Hill, a black leader in this community, Don Horn (?) with the local unions and myself, we found ourselves in a rather interesting position. We walked on the campus and went to see the president, who was Dr. Pierce at that time, and told him our concerns, and next thing we knew, Dr. Pierce had vacated the campus, and we were running the whole show, and that wasn’t what we had intended. We just wanted to give some help. We didn’t want to run the university. We got some of the students in and started talking to them about their concerns, and we communicated with the mayor’s office and now-lieutenant governor Bill Hobby. We communicated with him because at least he was a leader, and he had some influence. A few days later, however, the thing blew out of proportion, and we had one hell of a situation on our hands. I think the TSU thing—I rarely tell people I was involved in the TSU thing because I haven’t seen any 2 stories on it that I regard as the truth. I think that the whole TSU thing was one big lie. I think the police lied. I think the students lied. I think the administration lied. I think everybody told a story to make themselves come out looking good. I think the police overreacted. I think the university didn’t do anything to avoid that situation, and I think the students were so bitter after it that they couldn’t even look at it objectively.

Interviewer
0:10:18.3 What was the truth as you saw it at that time?

Gus Taylor
The truth as I saw it was that we had a university sitting in the middle of a metropolitan area that was for all practical purposes not being run by anybody. It was just an open university in all true senses of the word, and nobody really gave a damn about it. The faculty for the most part took the impression—or those we talked to—well, that’s the students, and that’s the tone that’s going around the country right now of tearing up everything, and they’ll get out of it, and they’ll vent their hostilities, and then it will all be over, and we’ll return to normal. We’ll cry about it tomorrow because it should be gone by tomorrow. I think the police took the impression, on the other hand, that this may be Houston’s first confrontation, so we’re going to have to show those niggers and any other niggers in this town that we’re not going to tolerate it, and I think it was Herman Short’s chance to show the power of the Houston Police Department and their ability to repress any type of civil disturbance. I think the community, on the other hand, took the view of that’s college students. The usual view communities take is, well, that’s going on on the campus. That really isn’t a community problem. It did become a community problem when most of that community was cordoned off one night by armed policemen with BAR rifles, and I think then they began to realize that it was a community problem. As I saw it, when you mix those 3 ingredients together, you couldn’t have anything but a bad scene. I was there the night the police were on the campus and all the shooting was going on, and it was an unorganized, damn near Holocaust, and I think we can only thank God for the fact that we only had 1 death. To me that was a miracle. I don’t think that could happen again because certainly the Houston Police Department was not trying not to kill anybody. I think they were trying their best to let the blood flow on Wheeler Street. It’s anybody’s guess. Arthur Gray, (?) who was there with me, we’ve come to the conclusion that we don’t comment about it too much because I’ve heard more people give answers for it, and I don’t agree with any of them because I was there. I don’t think your government agencies themselves, whether it’s city, state, county, or the federal government, did anything that could have avoided that situation. Certainly you’ve got a state university where you could have resolved some of these problems. You could have worked with them. We ended up with what we had, and it wasn’t a very nice scene. The real tragedy I saw over there was that there were so many uninvolved students who found themselves involved. Certainly all of the students on the campus weren’t shooting at the police. But yet when the police finally made their offensive on the campus, and that’s all you could call it was an offensive, and moved in and destroyed everything, when they started taking the students out they took every student that moved even though they were laying down. They took them out. The students weren’t allowed to put on clothes. A lot of the students literally had gone to bed. It wasn’t their fight. Many of them regarded it as the fight of those 4 kids on the roof, those 4 kids, but when the police came in, they took everybody and beat the hell out of everybody which left the impression—many of the students and a lot of people in the community we talked to after, well, now we know that if there’s any type of disturbance in our community we damn well better participate because when the police come in we’re all black, and they’re going to get everybody. They’re not going to be discriminating and say, “Well, this guy wasn’t shooting at us,” or “Obviously, he was locked in this room, in his home.” When they come in they’re going to destroy the community or any place that the disturbance was at. The only way we can make sure that we protect ourselves is to get involved in it. It sounds like sort of an asinine philosophy, provided you weren’t one of the persons who were hit in the head and you hadn’t done anything. Obviously 500 students weren’t shooting at the police department, but when they started arresting we were watching. They didn’t give a damn.

Interviewer
0:15:58.3 You saw them beating the students?

Gus Taylor
Yeah. I saw them knocking the hell out of some of them. If you moved, if you were on that campus and you weren’t a policeman, you were in trouble. It was just that simple. Now, I must say, however, that I came down to the county jail and watched them put the kids in the county jail, and I was very impressed with how well the county was trying to treat those youngsters. I think it was Gus George (?) who was over at the jail at that time, and Gus was doing his best to try to make the students as comfortable as possible and as comfortable as you can make somebody in jail. But at least to my knowledge there was no brutality that went on in the county jail, and hell, I wasn’t even employed by the county. I was with the Harris County Community Action Association, so it was just a bad scene that occurred. I don’t know if Houston learned anything from it but I think that the thing that we need to realize—and I said this in a speech that the business and professional men published a few months ago—I heard that one of the reasons Houston didn’t have a civil disturbance was because the police department was so repressive and because this was done and because federal money—the federal government put a lot of money in Houston. But one of the things that many people forgot to realize and still won’t admit is that there were a hell of a lot of people in this community who didn’t want a civil disturbance, and they work like hell around the clock to avoid it.

Interviewer
0:17:48.9 Who were some of these people?

Gus Taylor
Well, for one thing, damn near the whole side from the war on poverty would work around the clock working with community groups at night trying to avoid disturbances, and these were blacks and whites and Mexican-Americans. If I would start naming I’d have to name 400 or 500 people because I knew them. Brad Justice (?), who is now with the UT School of Public Health, who was with the mayor’s office at that time, helped organize a program called Night Watches, and what these people did was they would drive around the community at night and expressly during what we would call hot seasons like the day after Dr. King was killed, and they would ride around the community, and when they saw groups getting together and congregating they would call it in and walk over and see what the group was talking about, which put them in some danger themselves. And it wasn’t because of the repressive police department necessarily, but it was just John Q. Citizen in his community was a little concerned, was a hell of a lot concerned and he didn’t want to see this town blow up because—as I told many friends of mine, I didn’t want to see it blow up. I have a wife and 5 children. What the hell do I want to see a community left in scars? Because I’ve often contended that even after the riot is over, there are certain psychological scars that must linger if you live in a community that goes up in flames. I didn’t want that for my children, and I think a lot of other people didn’t want that for their children, transcending racial lines, and they worked like hell. Some of us would stay up until 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning just riding around the city at night making sure everything was calm.

Interviewer
They were in real danger of the explosion.


Gus Taylor
0:19:55.2 Oh, hell yes. I think the danger is still present. I don’t think Houston has reached a point where I can say it’s out of danger because Houston is just now approaching some of the problems some of the other major areas have. We keep talking about ourselves as a mecca, a mecca of employment. Come to heavenly Houston. We have everything. Well, that’s a lie. Houston doesn’t have jobs for the unskilled, so we’re constantly stacking people in here, and I would imagine right here in the personnel department I think 3 out of every 10 people we see could we offer a job to. They hear Harris County and Houston has jobs, and hell, I talk to some of my friends in personnel departments in other companies, and they have the same feeling, that we keep talking about this mecca foolishness and how many jobs Houston has and we’re the center of this, and all of the home offices of all of these companies are moving here. But hell, all they want is skilled people. They don’t want the unskilled people, so we’re being deluded, and I think what’s going to happen is we’re going to find ourselves with a portion of our populace very frustrated because they are going to be living in a community that’s affluent, but they’re not going to be a part of it. They’re not going to take it. Unless we figure out some way to resolve our present and impending social problems, I don’t think Houston is going to be out of danger. One thing we did know about Houston—I think all of us agreed on—is that if we would have had a civil disturbance here it would have been hell because unlike many major cities of this size, if you go to Chicago or Detroit, even Los Angeles, you can just about pick your black areas, and they’re usually in one quadrant of the city. But when you look at Houston, you have blacks in every quadrant of the city, which is an almost impossibility to contain if you really ran into serious problems. Houston’s poverty guidelines even refuse to follow the same patterns that other cities follow. You could be driving through a community in Houston, and you’re driving in the few blocks of some of the best affluence you want to see, and then cross the street, and you’re in a poverty area, and this is all over Houston. The end result is you have everything dispersed in Houston, and one of the things I guess we can never hope is that there’s never a hell of a lot of communications between all of these what I call de-franchised people of all races because I don’t think Houston is over the hump by a long shot. The only thing that disturbs me is I don’t see any new guys coming on the scene who want to address themselves to the problem, and some of us who used to do it, we’re getting middle class. We live in the suburbs now. We always did live in the suburbs, to tell the truth, but I keep saying that if Houston ever runs into problems again I don’t want to be involved. I doubt very seriously I would get involved because I still have the same concern for Houston now that I had 10 years ago, but we’re not out of danger.


Interviewer
0:24:17.1 Is it mainly the unskilled blacks and Chicanos that are having problems, or is it also the better educated people who are having trouble finding jobs here?

Gus Taylor
The better educated people—and you have to qualify that term—in Houston we really have enough social workers for the moment. We really need more. We’re going to need a hell of a lot more to address ourselves to increasing social problems, but if you’re looking at right now today, the person who is skilled in some technical field is marketable in Houston. If you’re not, then your chances of being marketable go down because Houston, let’s face it, is a petrochemical complex, and this is what makes me so damn angry with our educational institutions. They keep turning out sociology majors, and we need glass men, we need engineers, we need machine operators. I have 4700 applications on file in there, and 3300 of them are people who have degrees in a behavioral science. Now, somehow or another, our educational institutions are going to have to catch up with the community, and my feeling is they’ll change in the next 10 years, and they’ll start turning out technicians. But 10 years from now we’re going to need social workers. Then they’re going to be screwed up again.

Interviewer
Kind of a gloomy picture you’re painting.

Gus Taylor
But you see, that’s it. I am not gloomy about it. I feel that sooner or later we’re going to marry off some of these things because, again, necessity creates a lot of situations, even marriages sometimes. We’re going to—one of these days our educational community will realize that they need to talk to the world of work and find out what the hell is going on and then gear it. I often say that maybe we need to take a look at our educational institutions and straighten out a philosophy. As a personnel man who’s been involved all these years, I say that one of the roles of an educational institution in this present day society is to provide a society with the skills it needs. Now, some of my friends in education tell me that that’s not necessarily true. Obviously there’s a difference in philosophy there. I’m not saying my philosophy is right, but I’m saying that it’s what’s needed, and if necessity is going to dictate, then this is what we’re going to have to do. I’m not gloomy because one of the things I’ve said all the time is I really believe in America. I believe in this country, and I believe we have the ability to overcome any problems, that we sometimes need to be forced to do it, and people have asked me how. I received an award from Rotary because I gave a speech on I believe in America, and the guy said, “Do you really believe in America?” I said, “Of course I do. I think we can overcome our problems.” I said, “Every problem we’ve had in this country we created ourselves, damn near, but at least we have the ability to resolve it.” I said, “From Watergate to slavery, we were able to go back and resolve them.” I believe even with Houston’s problems I see coming we’ll be able to resolve them. I just wish we wouldn’t be so crisis oriented about it, but we are crisis oriented. It’s a part of our very philosophy. The faucet at your house breaks. It stops working. You don’t fix it when it drips, but when the damn thing starts running water all over the place, then you fix it. You really could have fixed it when it was dripping, but it wasn’t a crisis. You could always put it off tomorrow. I’m working at home now on something I put off for a couple of days, so I think that we’ll resolve those problems. But it’s not gloomy. It’s candid, and I think unless we’re willing to be candid about it, it’s like when we like candor, that’s when we look up and find out that we can’t solve it because we can’t even admit it. But as long as we’re willing to admit that we do have a problem, then we are willing to try to find a solution to it, and so as I tell friends of mine, it’s sometimes good to be very candid.

Interviewer
0:29:41.1 I agree with that. What effect has the Equal Employment Law, federal employment law, had on the community here?

Gus Taylor
Now you really want me to get gloomy. (laughs)

Interviewer
Candid.

Gus Taylor
I feel that it has had some impact, obviously, I think. But Houston is in a unique situation. One of the uniquenesses about Houston is that Houston needs qualified people, so Houston finds itself in many employment situations in the position of not being able to afford bigotry. They can’t afford it because there’s a thing called profit motive, and if you can’t do the job, then people can always get somebody else to do it. If the reason you aren’t able to do the job is because your payroll is 100 percent white and you didn’t want to hire any blacks, that means your workforce is down and you can’t produce. For you to have to be able to produce, you’ve got to hire anybody who is qualified to do the job because your company is in business to make a profit, and so you do it. Those companies that didn’t do it found themselves not being able to keep up with the pace. Government, on the other hand, doesn’t give a damn because it’s not in the profit-making business. They spend too much money and always raise taxes. They’re in the business of giving a service, and most people don’t know what services they’re supposed to get anyway, so any services the government gives them comes out fine. Government gives the most obvious services and forgets about a hell of a lot of the rest of them. But I think that it has had—the Equal Opportunity Law at least has called attention to the fact that something has to be done, that we have to move.

I think many companies in Houston play with it. They want to do something about it, but as I have told a friend of mine who used to be with Humble Oil Company, he told me that top management at Humble Oil Company was committed to equal opportunity employment, and we were very good friends, and I said, “That’s good, but are the receptionists committed to it?” And he said, “Well, why is that important?” I said, “Has it ever donned on you that I have to see her before I see you?” I said, “I have a secretary, and I have a receptionist, and they can systematically stop me from seeing anybody they want to because half the time I’m in my office, and people see them.” They can say, “Mr. Taylor is tied up.” They can say he’s busy. They can say any one of a number of things, so I know it. I’ve fired a couple because of that. Until you commit the secretary, the receptionist, the janitor, the line supervisor, everybody down the line to the concept, you haven’t done anything.

0:33:40.0 One of the—so many of your companies in Houston give it a lot of service, but I don’t think any company in Houston could say their hands are clean in the area of equal opportunity employment as far as ethnic groups and females are concerned. I think they have a long way to go yet. Some of them are trying very hard to make progress, and some of them aren’t doing a damn thing and really don’t intend to. But I think that the sophistication of the minority communities is of such now that many of them are being forced to do things that they never thought they would do because we have gotten beyond reading the sports page. We read the new stuff coming out of Congress, and we keep up with what’s going on, and people make others react. I keep going back to the old law of physics. We make them react, but I think the only thing that disturbs me sometimes is I think as blacks we have come very close to damn near giving up our birthright for a home in the suburbs and television. Some of us have made it. Let’s admit it. I’m making more money than my mother and father ever made together. I live in a nice, comfortable home, and I drive 2 automobiles, and my kids are fairly comfortable, and we can eat out when we want to. You have a tendency to stop looking at the problem because the problem doesn’t affect you anymore, and I notice this even with some of my very close friends that we don’t discuss what’s going on in Third Ward anymore or Fifth Ward because we don’t live there. We don’t talk about “police brutality” or the rot-infested Fifth Ward or these people who are on welfare. We don’t talk about helping them anymore because we are not there anymore and maybe for several reasons. One, to talk about it can be a little painful because some of us aren’t that far removed from there and the other reason is I say sometimes that there is the emergence of a third group within—well, a second group now within the black community. It used to be black and white. Now it’s blacks, whites, and them, and them are the blacks that haven’t made it. We don’t even look at them anymore.

In the civic club out in my neighborhood one night they called me and asked me if I could be sure and come, and I said yes. I drove over there, but I walked out of the meeting rather early after I said what I had to say. They were getting ready to build some new houses in the community and the civic club got invited to build over—it was a very reputable building, one of the largest in the country, but their only concern was were these houses going to be for poor people? When I heard that I said, “Look, repeat that. I didn’t hear what you said.” And my neighbor said, “Gus, what we want to do is make sure that these houses aren’t for poor people because we don’t that trash out here.” And I said, “Well, are you so far removed from those poor people? Just because they may not have a lot of money, does that necessarily mean they don’t have value? I’m appalled at this, and I refuse to be a part of it, so I’m not going to stay for the meeting because I don’t regard any of you as being rich.” I said, “I damn sure have problems with some of your values.” I think that is one reason why we sometimes get the impression that everything is fine because it’s not being vocalized as much anymore, but I think this year there was so much discussion about Dr. King and the compliments of Jesse Jackson and a few people and many members of the white community and the women’s movement.

0:39:01.8 They’re beginning to resurrect a civil rights thing. I think Watergate helped because we looked up one morning, all of us, blacks, whites, Mexican-Americans, everybody in this country, and saw that we damn near had a democracy taken from us by being very complacent with our house and our mortgage, and because of the whole rising tide of consumerism we’re beginning to find out that, look, civil rights is not necessarily a black/white thing. Civil rights is a people thing, and Dr. King used to try to tell people. He wasn’t necessarily talking about blacks and whites. He was talking about the treatment of one person to another and that it really transcended racial lines in many instances, that we have to treat each other fairly, and I think because of this tone that’s rising in the country now we’re beginning to resurrect all of these things, and in the black community we are beginning to see that we have sort of forgotten from whence we came. We’ve got to remember because if you—I read a statement a few weeks ago from—I can’t think of the guy’s name, but he’s one of the guys with the Jewish group that tracks down the Nazi criminals, and they asked him why were they still in this quest for tracking down the criminals after all of these years. And he said they have to because we must serve notice to the world that you cannot do this and get away with it, and he said, “For the second reason, it can happen again because a precedent was established when it happened. We must ensure that it never happens again.” This is why I feel that we must ensure that we keep civil rights going because it could go backwards. There’s a few things going on now in Congress that makes it look like it’s going backwards, so we have to keep it in the forefront. 199 years after we wrote the Declaration of Independence we’re still arguing about equality. Let’s either get the show on the road or junk the Declaration of Independence and say we were wrong, that this isn’t what we meant. But you saw it there. When you are de-franchised, you can talk about equality, but when you have a franchise, as many in the black community now have, then you forget about equality. I live 25 minutes from Third Ward, and my daughter goes to the University of Houston, and on this basis, so why should I worry about what goes on at Texas Southern? I am removed from that and not realizing that if it wouldn’t have been for Texas Southern providing you with an education you wouldn’t be where you are, and your daughter may not be going to Rice.

Interviewer
0:42:40.1 Your daughter is a Rice student?

Gus Taylor
No, she wants to go to Rice. I don’t know why she wants to go there. She wants to be in pre med, so somebody told her to go to Rice.

Interviewer
Let me ask you about your present position. How did you happen to be appointed?

Gus Taylor
I wake up with nightmares trying to figure that one out. (laughs) What happened was I was being promoted in the Justice Department. I was over the Houston area all the way to Beaumont, and they were going to make me Deputy Regional Director, which meant I was going to have to be over 11 states, and I didn’t want that, and I heard the county was getting rid of the higher personnel director, so I came over and saw a few of the commissioners and told them I was going to submit an application to the county judge, and I was driving down the street in my automobile about a week later. I had on jeans and was unshaven. I heard on the radio that I had been appointed Harris County Personnel Director. It was not only infamous that this was the first time in the history of Harris County they had ever had a personnel director, and it was one of the few counties in the whole state that had a personnel director, but that the personnel director was black. I ran home and shaved and put on a suit and came to work. I came down here to meet my new bosses. That’s how I ended up with the job, and I viewed it as a challenge because never in my life have I seen such a hodge-podge as I found when I got here. There literally was no system to how they hired here.

Interviewer
0:44:44.6 Who did the hiring before?

Gus Taylor
Supposedly every department head did his own hiring, but even within the department the department heads subordinated it to somebody else. To say who did the hiring was anybody’s guess. The department head signed the thing that went to payroll authorizing it, but there were no job descriptions for 97 percent of the jobs in Harris County. There was no such thing—or still is for that matter because we’ve submitted the recommendation to the court, but they haven’t acted on it. There is no such thing as standardized pay scales in the county. In one department you might find a secretary making $500, and in another department you might find a clerk typist making $700. Departments pay what they think the traffic will bear. If they’ve got the money, they pay it. To me it keeps the county on a constant collision course with some kind of litigation because somebody is going to hang them out to dry one day if we don’t hurry up and do something about it. But the court is still divided on the need of a personnel department. The personnel department is not solid in Harris County. We still don’t have the support of the full commissioner’s court. They don’t feel as if it’s a function that we should have and with a payroll as large as this, and how men who consider themselves capable of running a county could conceivably think that is beyond me. But to my knowledge, in about 15 months I’ve only had about 2 unanimous votes.

Interviewer
Is that at the heart of the problem is the commissioner’s court?


Gus Taylor
They just don’t see a need for a personnel department. They think that this is a function we don’t need.

Interviewer
What was your relationship with Judge Lindsay? Was he in agreement that this position was required?

Gus Taylor
0:47:28.7 He hadn’t voted against it. My opinion is Judge Lindsay thinks that we should have a personnel department. I think Squatty Lyons has said he believes we should have a personnel department, so he believes in it. Tom Bass believes we should have centralized personnel. Commissioner Eckels says definitely no. He doesn’t think the county should have a personnel department. He was quoted in the newspapers—and I say quoted because he hasn’t told me that—but he was quoted in a newspaper because the reporter called me saying that the personnel department since we have hired so many minorities—and hell, I don’t know where the hell they are. The EEO report doesn’t show that we have hired a hell of a lot of minorities. We’ve interviewed a lot. You know, we’re nothing but a black hiring hole, and my answer to that was that it’s kind of asinine. The county jail is 60 percent black. Does that mean that the sheriff’s department is nothing but a black unit that goes out and arrests all blacks? My feeling with that is that—when I hear statements like that the only thing I say is that it’s good when I hear statements like that because then it constantly explodes the myth that stupidity is not an exclusive priority of the black community, that stupidity transcends into the white community too. I live with that, but I have 15 years, so that really doesn’t bother me. Commissioner Fonteno, he’s never said one way or the other, but usually we have a 3 to 2 vote, and it’s Commissioner Bass, Commissioner Lyons, and Judge Lindsay.

Interviewer
Do you think the opposition is directed toward you personally?

Gus Taylor
Some of it yes because I’m not the—a couple of people have said you’re smart and they mean it in a sort of—I don’t know how they mean it, and I really don’t give a damn. But obviously nobody—a couple of them didn’t like it that I pointed out that the county was in non-compliance. My feeling is that if I was your auditor and you were overdrafted on your bank account and I didn’t tell you, then I wouldn’t be fulfilling my responsibility. As your personnel director, when you’re not in compliance, then you’re going to hear from me and next year when we do the EEO report June—or not this year. Rather this year June 30th, ’75 when we do the EEO report if the county is still in non-compliance, I will tell the county they were in non-compliance. If they want to fire me, then have at it. You’re still going to get in compliance. Getting rid of Gus Taylor is not going to get rid of your need to get in compliance. If that’s what you want to do—because whether I’m here or not, you’re going to get in compliance. Some of it is directed at me personally, but I’ve often said in the field of personnel any personnel man who has management happy and employees happy and all of the applicants happy is lying. I mean, it’s impossible to have all 3 groups happy because management and employees don’t get along all the time, and when you have 6 applicants come in and only 1 of them is going to get the job and if all 6 of them are happy, then you did something wrong somewhere. You promised somebody something. My feeling is that that’s the way the cookie crumbles.

Interviewer
0:51:56.8 Is political favoritism a lot of the criticism, fear of losing patronage?

Gus Taylor
I don’t know. I would imagine that’s a part of it, I would think, because the county has operated on a patronage system for years and I think still does. We don’t hire anybody for any elected officials. They handle their own, and I think that’s a part of it. I think another part of it is this is—county government wasn’t very visible up until a couple of years ago, and people really didn’t know what was going on. Let’s face it. Minorities and females didn’t know they weren’t getting jobs until we published that report. Now, we didn’t publish it. We gave it to the court, and the newspapers got a hold of it, and the court was mad. Well, how in the hell did the newspapers get a hold of it? Well, I’m not a reporter, so I don’t know how they got a hold of it. If they had asked me for it, I most likely would have given it to them, but neither newspaper came over and asked me for it. We sent 5 copies of it to the commissioner’s court, and the newspapers got it. But they get their agenda. They have everything that goes to the commissioner’s court. Anything that’s not in executive session, the newspapers have it, so that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. Some of it personal, I imagine directed at me. I’ve heard everything from the fact that the judge wants to appoint his own man, personnel director, from the fact that you’re sort of independent. You’re arrogant. I feel okay. I’ve worked hard, and nobody gave me anything. I worked to get it, so if I’m arrogant, then damn it, I’ve earned that arrogance. I tell my kids, “You want to be arrogant? You make straight As, and hell, be arrogant. When you start making Cs, then I want to see some humility. But as long as you’re hanging in there, I guess you afford a degree of arrogance.” I don’t know what the hang up is other than the fact that the idea of centralized personnel has taken a while to seep in. But again, they’re going to have it whether I’m here or not.

Interviewer
0:54:59.9 What was a charge made or something that cost the county money in federal funds that they would have gotten if you had met some requirements or something to that effect, that money was lost because of some action you took? Is this charge—

Gus Taylor
I hadn’t heard that. I told the county they could lose funds, and they can. If the federal government wanted to the county could lose the—and I gave them a report telling them what they could lose. They could lose—

Interviewer
The figure they gave me was $800,000.

Gus Taylor
Oh, that’s another problem there, but I told them they could lose the Manpower Program. We could lose revenue sharing funds. We could lose all of these things if we constantly stayed out of compliance with the EEO regulations because it specifically says that if you are not in compliance, the federal government doesn’t have to give you the money. Now, what they seem to say is, well, the money has to come into Houston. It does, but it doesn’t have to come to the county. The federal government is not obligated to give Manpower money for these job training programs to a unit of government. They could set up their own machinery. They could give it to the Texas Employment Commission. They could give it to the Houston Independent School District. They could do a half a dozen things with it. They don’t necessarily have to give it to the city and the county. They do, but there’s nothing in the legislation that says it has to go to these 2 bodies. There have been precedents. At the first Manpower Program in Houston I was the director of it. It was not under the city or the county. It was an independent agency funded by the Labor Department, and they had the latitude to do that, and they could do it again if they wanted to. Now, that first accusation about we cost the county $800,000 it’s a matter of—we have this thing that’s called the Emergency Employment Act Grant, and one newspaper said Gus Taylor survived that one because the government said that the Emergency Employment Act Grant doesn’t mean you have to hire people who lived within the city of Houston, and we shouldn’t have because we were only supposed to hire people who lived outside of the city of Houston. They said this has been occurring since 1971, and I said, “Look, it’s a hell of a time to tell me. I took over the program in 1974. But secondly, you’re wrong as hell.” They said, “What do you mean we’re wrong?” I said, “According to the contract that Harris County has with the United States Department of Labor,” and I pulled the contract, “it says that the area to be served shall be Harris County. You did not say Harris County exclusive of the city of Houston.” And they said, “That’s what the contract said, but we sent the letter to Judge Elliot saying something else.” I said, “Look, Judge Elliot or any of the commissioners cannot act independently on this. This contract was approved by the full commissioner’s court in 1971. If this contract was to be changed, it would have had to be changed by the whole court, so you take that and get the hell out of my office. You go talk to the county judge, county attorney, anybody you want to.”

They worked it out. They said they were going to take the money from Harris County. They didn’t. They decided that what Harris County agreed to was okay. We have 90-some people on this grant, and 55 of them live in the city of Houston. What we’ll do is we’ll drop these 55 people, put them on a regular county payroll, and hire 55 more who live outside the city of Houston, and since you’re introducing this they said, “Okay, we’ll work that way.” But I told the Labor Department I’m not going to buy that, so the newspapers said, “Gus Taylor maneuvered again. He survived that.” The truth of the matter is, it never dawned on me that I was surviving anything until the newspapers carried the story that this would have been the thing that would have gotten him fired. It never dawned on me. Hell, I called the Labor Department. I called one of my buddies who is a legal counselor and said, “Now, you really don’t think we’re going to take this foolishness, do you?” And he said, “Gus, we have known you long enough, and you’ve been in enough fights that when we saw this we said, ‘Well, they’ve got a good fight going.’” Because I’ve had Labor Department money before, but we survived that.

1:00:25.0 I think we wouldn’t have survived it if the county—now, that was the first unanimous vote I ever got out of the court when I went to the court and said, “I think you would be fools to accept this from the Labor Department.” I said, “Now, here’s the contract,” and I gave all of them a copy of the contract. I said, “If you notice what it reads, it says Harris County. It doesn’t say Harris County exclusive of the city of Houston.” I showed them the contract for the newest program we had, which is the Seal Program. I said, “Now, in this contract, it specifically says Harris County exclusive of the city of Houston.” I said, “The project we started in ’71 that I run, it doesn’t say that.” I think we ought to fight the Labor Department and threaten to go to court if they threaten to take our funds because—

Interviewer
And that was the $800,000.

Gus Taylor
1:01:22.5 Yeah, and for the first time, because I damn near fell off the chair, I had a unanimous vote of support from the commissioner’s court, and I said, “Well, at least I owe the Labor Department something. They got me a unanimous vote out of the court.” They went up to Dallas. I was told that Judge Lindsay decided he didn’t need me up there. A few people from the Labor Department decided they didn’t want me up there either because they knew I was going to come up there and—as one of my friends said—just raise hell until I get what I want, so they agreed that’s the arrangement they would work out, and Harris County wouldn’t have to pay a lot of other stuff, that they would continue our funds because I recommended to the court that we fight them and that if we lose the funds we go to court and demand the funds. I told the Labor Department what I was recommending to the court, so I think both sides backed down a little bit. I think they took the impression—and maybe they were right—that I wasn’t even willing to drop the 55 people off the payroll. I said, “There will be no concessions from this office. The court can make any concession it wants to make, but I’m not going to make any concession. We’re going to keep the 55 people, and from this day forward we will amend the contract to say we will only hire outside the city of Houston, but we’re not going to drop anybody.” Being at the Justice Department, I knew what kind of chance the Labor Department stood. I’d seen them getting the hell beaten out of them like that before, and all the guys up there knew that I knew that. Judge Lindsay went up there, and he agreed, and I said, “Fine, hell, I’m not the county judge. I’ll agree to any damn thing you want to agree.” We didn’t lose $800,000, and as Joe S. Webber (?) says, the county attorney, he says, “The only way we’ll ever pay that $800,000 is if the Supreme Court says pay it.” He says, “Other than that, they can go to hell.” He says, “I’m looking at the contract.” And we found all the letters they sent Judge Elliot, but the contract had never been amended, and he couldn’t do anything other than operate under the contract. I view that as just another thing that happened through day to day.

Interviewer
Nothing extraordinary. Approximately what percentage or what number of people that you employ are from the minority groups?

Gus Taylor
Oh, I would say less than 16 percent. No, I don’t think the department heads are going to move on it unless they get some leadership from the court. They haven’t got any leadership from the commissioner’s court. We are drafting right now an Affirmative Action program I’m presenting to the court. We have public hearings on it. That was the first in the state of Texas. I don’t think any county has ever held public hearings on Affirmative Action, but we are going to get them back the document on the 15th where it spells out plain and clear that it shall be the policy of Harris County to be an equal opportunity employer. I even list quotas in there. I most likely will read in the paper again that I’m being fired, but we are going to do it because until these department heads get some direction from the court, they’re not going to do a damn thing. Many of them we have no problems with. Anybody we send them who is qualified they’ll hire. Some of the others they’re not going to move until—last year a lot of them moved because Judge Elliot called a meeting of all department heads and told them that equal opportunity employment was the name of the game, and any department head that didn’t follow the name of the game should look for another job.

Interviewer
1:06:21.8 Are some departments more prone to discriminate than others?

Gus Taylor
Uh-hunh (affirmative).

Interviewer
Can you name which departments?

Gus Taylor
Like our building engineer. He discriminates against everybody, black, white. If you don’t have a crew-cut haircut and no moustache you’re either a hippy and you’re a dope fiend. If you’re black, then it’s pretty obvious to him that you’re a criminal. If you’re a Mexican, you steal. He just has problems, and so when I say he discriminates against everybody, he really does, and if you don’t fit the mold of the crew cut, then you’re just a bad guy. You could be a black with a bald head, anything. If you’re a minority, any damn thing you got going for you is wrong. Now, he’ll hire them because he knows that I’ll get him if he refuses to hire them. His pattern is quite different. After he hires you, he can run you off, change a guy’s shift 3 times in 1 week, all of these little subtle things to run him off. He told one guy that I was looking at the television last night, and I saw them arrest 5 coloreds for robbery, and I swear you look like one of them. But you see, the county has no personnel policies. We have sent the personnel policies to the court, and we’re waiting for them to act on them, but the county doesn’t have a grievance mechanism. A supervisor could just fire a guy. He has no rights, and this is why our EEO complaints at EEOC are just mounting. One of these days they’re going to launch an offensive on us, and it’s going to take us 6 months just to clear it up because they must have about 50 complaints against us over there in the last 10 months, and I think what they’re doing is they’re waiting until they get enough, and they’re going to send a whole task force in here one day and just wipe us out.

Interviewer
1:09:09.7 Not a very happy prospect.

Gus Taylor
Well, now, that’s gloomy, and you see, then I get caught in it again because they come here. But until we get a set of personnel policies, at least until the court acts on the ones they have before them, we can’t stop this thing. We finished the personnel policies in December and submitted them to Commissioner Cortland (?).

Interviewer
Precisely what is the procedure? A person comes here to apply for a job, and then what happens? How does it follow through?

Gus Taylor
It operates the same as any other personnel department up to a point, but they come here to apply for a job. We take their application, and we do the initial screening. We check their references, and when a department has an opening, we send 3 applicants to give them a choice. They hire the person because like in any other instance the director has the final say so on whether he wants this person, so he hires the person, and we’re notified. We put the file in our active employee file and everything else. Where it ceases to operate like a normal employment function is we cannot—because the county has no personnel policies as such they have some regulations. They’re the most repressive things I’ve ever seen, but we can’t get involved in employee grievances because there is no mechanism in Harris County for employment grievances. The existing rules they have on employment have nothing in them about grievances, so an employee is just stuck there. If he gets fired by a supervisor, hell, his best bet is to get him a lawyer. The truth of the matter is, if 90 percent of the people who got fired got a lawyer, they would get reinstated. They could take it to the court and get reinstated.

Interviewer
The department heads really have a great deal of discretion then.

Gus Taylor
1:11:37.9 See, and I recognize the rights of supervisors to be able to terminate people. I don’t ever want to see a situation where a director doesn’t have that right because then he can’t really function. But I think that that right should be reviewed every time a person is terminated. We should look at it and determine if anything went afoul there, and we don’t. The court has never put that in. It turns out a hodge-podge at that point. Up until that point, it works really good, but we’re going to need to do something about that.

Interviewer
On the whole, since you’ve held this position, what do you feel are the most significant accomplishments that you’ve been able to honor?

Gus Taylor
I survived. (laughs) On a more serious note, it’s the fact that we were able to set up the department and that we have gained, I feel, the recognition of the department heads. I would say 95 percent of the department heads find themselves in positions—and they rely on our judgment. Many others, even in this whole matter of employee problems, will call us and ask us will we make the final determining factor for them? They’ll say, “Here’s an employee I’m having problems with.” They’ll send the problem and the employee and say, “Give us a recommendation on this.” I think we’ve accomplished that. Even with all of the trouble we’ve had, I’m very optimistic about a personnel department in Harris County because I think we’ve set the precedent. I really don’t think it will ever go backwards again. I think Harris County will always have a personnel department. I feel that we’ve accomplished the goal of putting the department in. We’ve brought before the court the things that need to be done, and I think they’re going to eventually do them. Now, I may not even be here when they do them, but I think they will do them because they can’t escape doing them among other things. The role I’ve had to take was a necessary role being the first personnel director, not necessarily being the first black personnel director, but just being the first one. It’s a difficult task because people are having to give up things that they’ve had for 20 years, and I’ve had to point out the things they’ve had to give up. For the first time they have had somebody who says, “No, you don’t do that.” It’s been a difficult task, but I think we’ve accomplished it. They now know that they have to come in compliance, and every time one of them doesn’t come in compliance, he knows I’m going to find out because I have my own ways of finding out if anybody has been hired that didn’t come from here because any personnel department has its own clandestine methods of getting information on what goes on in departments. Gradually most of them come in compliance, and so I think those have been the compliments, the fact that we have brought before the commissioner’s court and the whole damn public the fact that you’ve got to come into compliance with the law, that you can’t avoid it. I was amazed that even Channel 13 editorialized it, that Taylor is right. You’ve got to come into compliance.

I think all of these have been accomplishments. I don’t view the problems that we’ve had as being anything dismal. I think some of them would have happened regardless of who the first personnel director was. He was coming in like an auditor saying, “Your books are wrong, and you’ve got to straighten them out. Your procedures are wrong. You’ve got to straighten them out.” The fact that our employment application no longer says race is an accomplishment. When I came here in October of ’73 the employment application, among other things on it, asked about 25 questions wanting to know your race, your religion, who you were married to, when you got married and where. It asked some of them—we had at least 10 different applications in Harris County because some departments had their own application. One department’s application wanted to know from single females if you lived alone, but they didn’t ask the question of males because they made a judgmental factor that if a young lady lived alone that she was whorish. You shouldn’t move until you’re married. But now we have 1 application. It’s been a constant fight to get these things going, but hell, fight is sometimes healthy. You know, you really got hurt in the fight. I think it’s been an interesting accomplishment. I feel that it will level off.

Interviewer
1:17:41.0 Are there any areas that we haven’t talked about during the interview that you’d like to mention now?

Gus Taylor
No, not necessarily. I just think that Houston is a growing area, and this series of auditors that are running on the county government really points out some of the problems that we even have here in personnel with the exception of one factor. It’s that when I came to Houston 10 years ago, your county population was usually an older population, a rural population, because everybody who lived outside of the city of Houston and really outside of some incorporated area—if they didn’t live in some city, they lived in an unincorporated area—basically for the most part were old and uneducated and everything else, so the county government could do any damn thing it felt like doing. But now with all of these suburbs springing up around here we’re getting a very sophisticated county populace, so county government has to become visible if it’s going to survive, and it must meet the needs of the people, and it just helps everybody because now you can’t hire just because I like you. When I’m grading those streets out there and we’re putting in pipelines out there, we’re putting in pipelines around the homes of professional people now, and some of them are engineers and a whole lot of things, and they know when it’s being done right or wrong. You can’t run out there like they did when I first came to Houston 10 years ago.

I lived in the county. You called and told them the damn street was flooding, they sent out a truck 2 days later, and a guy spent half a day looking like he was drudging a ditch out. He really wasn’t doing a damn thing, but everybody was satisfied. It was visible. You saw the truck with Harris County on it, but now people bitch about flood plain controls. They want their streets repaired because they’re paying taxes. They want all of these things. They want the government to be more responsive to their needs, and I go back to Watergate. Watergate did a lot of good. It started people to looking at government again, even local government. We had almost reached the point where that was them in government, so we can’t do anything about it, but now we know there’s a few things that can be done, and I think this is the direction county government is going to go into, or it’s going to be abolished. It’s either going to have to become responsive or die because the populace in our counties is going to demand it. They’re going to demand that no longer can you just send somebody out here to talk to me once every 4 years.

1:20:46.6 You’ve got to have somebody out here grading streets and all of these other things all during those 4 years, and I think we’re going to see more and more centralization of county functions because for one thing, we can’t afford all of these little separate entities like we used to. It’s beginning to be costly and people are going to have to—elected officials are finding—and those who don’t realize it won’t survive, that they’re going to have to be responsive. That’s it. But in 10 years, I’ve seen a lot of changes in Houston. The first day I got here I got a call from the Dow Chemical Company, and I had actually been here a couple of weeks. They asked me if I was interested in a job. I’d really written them a letter from Chicago, and they called, and I gave them my mother-in-law’s phone number here and told them I’d be here June 1st. I didn’t tell them I was going to work on June 1st, but I told them I’d be here June 1st, and they called me and asked me if I’d be interested in coming to work in their personnel department, et cetera, et cetera. They’d like to interview me, and I drove all the way down to Shreveport, a long ways in those days, 10 years ago. I walked in the office and told the lady I had a 10 o’clock appointment, and a gentleman came out, and he found out that the guy he had sent the letter to was black, and I never got past the waiting room. He actually asked one question. He said, “Are you a chemistry major?” He knew damn well I wasn’t a chemistry major because I sent him a copy of my transcript with the letter. He had it all in his hand. I said, “No,” and he said, “Well, we only hire people in personnel who have chemistry backgrounds.”

1:23:08.1 Now, they wouldn’t dare do that now. No way in hell they would pull a stunt like that now. There is progress. He would have to use a much more sophisticated method now. He certainly wouldn’t be very crude with it. Houston, there’s a lot of things on the horizon that can happen. There are a hell of a lot of things that are happening, and I think through all of the problems I see I think that we’ll resolve them eventually, but we’re going to have to be a little more willing to come out of our own suburbs and look at them and realize that what goes on across town could very well happen on your side of town if you’re not careful and that Houston isn’t an island just because I live in Almeda Pines or Westbury. That doesn’t completely isolate me from Third Ward, Fifth Ward and the ship channel area. That pollution can blow, and the wind has a bad habit of changing every now and then.

I see a lot of good on the horizon, but I think we have to be candid about it and just say this is the situation, and let’s roll up our sleeves. I don’t spend too much time talking about racism or anything else because my feeling is that why talk about it? Let’s just do something about it. If we assume that it’s a racist situation—I’ve often had problems with what I call the coffee room civil rights movement. I don’t care to discuss it over the dinner table. I prefer to roll up my sleeves and do something about it, and let’s get out there and resolve it, because after we finish drinking coffee and philosophizing, it’s still there. Let’s get out there, hang in there and do something about it because we’re all tied up in it. That’s my feeling, and hopefully we think we’ve raised our kids where they view it the same way. When we first moved to the neighborhood where we live in 10 years ago, my daughter came inside one day, and she said the little white kid down the block told her to get her fat black ass off the sidewalk, and she said, “Daddy, I’m not fat, am I?” We felt that maybe we were on the right track because it didn’t faze her that he called her black, but she was a little disturbed because he called her fat, and I made the joke about it that since she was fat, I wish she would have asked me about black because I could have answered that one easier. I told her, “Why don’t you discuss your figure with your mother. She can help you there.” My feeling is that we are a healthy society, contrary to what I hear, because only a healthy society could go through what we constantly go through and survive. If we were sick, we would have rolled over and died a long time ago.

Interviewer
1:27:21.8 A series of shocks would have killed us.

Gus Taylor
I plan to be in Houston for a while. I make the joke about it that if I ever leave Houston, I’ll go to Mississippi because the South is the last mecca of the United States as I see it, and Mississippi is the mecca of the South.

Interviewer
In what way?

Gus Taylor
It has a river, and it has room. It has room to grow, and with all of our concerns of pollution, of automobiles and everything, a natural waterway makes a state an interesting place to be, a hilly state and everything else. When I decided to come back home in ’64 I came home with the philosophy that the South was on the move, and I’d be a damn fool to stay in the Midwest. But if you’re ambitious, then why stay someplace where they already have 37 floors in? Go someplace where they’re on the first floor, and you can help build it. I came here. My wife wanted to come here anyway. This is her home. As I say, I contend that the segregation in the North and Midwest is a much more vicious thing than it is in the South. At least you knew to expect it here, and you knew how to fight it, but when you were told you were equal and you were treated to the contrary, you had to be very intelligent to recognize it, and many blacks never recognized it. I met a few guys here from Chicago and other places, and they were damn surprised. The mobility they had here as compared to Chicago was phenomenal, but all of their lives they’d been taught that the South was just horrible. Maybe the South was horrible, but I lived in the South for 21 years before I ever went to the North or the Midwest, and hell, my wife and I spotted it within a month after we were in Chicago. That was one of the most segregated places we had ever lived in. It was a very subtle discrimination, but it was there. They weren’t going to do anything about it because the laws on the books said it was an open society, and I think for the black community the South is the only place to be right now. I think blacks who go to the Midwest right now, they’re crazy. I tell my friends why go to California? They took the gold out of the hills 90 years ago. What the hell are you going up there for, and what gold is left there is owned by somebody, so stay in the South where the gold hasn’t even been discovered and help find it and own it. Why go up there? You never stand a chance. Up there you’re also going to run into the problem of a very sophisticated black middle class that doesn’t even know they’re white. At least we still have enough here that they know they’re black. That’s my thing in a nutshell. It’s 37 years of living.

Interviewer
On behalf of the Houston Metropolitan Archives and Research Center, I want to thank you for a very interesting interview. I enjoyed it, and I think it will be useful research.

Gus Taylor
Anytime. I like to talk. I’m a philosopher.

Interviewer
Thank you.

1:32:30.0 (audio ends)