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Interview with: Hattie Mae White
Interviewed by: Louis Marchiafava*
Date: August 9, 1974
Archive Number: OH 192.1
M: Well, Mrs. White, suppose the best place to start our interview would be some background—before you went into the school board—were you involved in any civic activities or activities pertaining to the school board before you became a school board member?
HMW: Other than the election of other school board members at campaign time I could work for candidates. I belonged to what was then called Parent’s Council whose chief responsibility was to help select and to support candidates, whose philosophy I agreed with—plus I was on the board of the PCA—belonged to a number of community organizations.
M: Who did you support? Which campaigns did you participate in before you became—?
HMW: Those liberals—as labeled—not by themselves I (inaudible).
M: How did you happen to get into the school board race?
HMW: The so-called conservatives were in control and the White Citizen Council was active in Houston and requested of the school board an hour of televised time to say why they should not follow its (inaudible) decision and integrate the schools. This Parent Council Organization, that I mentioned I belonged to, also requested an hour’s time and the NAACP had suggested or requested an hour’s time. A Parent Council—it was an integrating body—had one Negro man, in particularly, who thought that this was not the responsibility of Parent Council or whites—that it was the responsibility of blacks to chiefly say why they should integrate the school system. And so I organized a small group in my home that requested and hour’s time and following that presentation—well, we decided we would present three issues, the legal aspect, the moral aspect, and the economics of an integrated system. And we chose Gloria Bradford, the first Negro law graduate from the University of Texas, to do the legal aspects and we chose Reverend M.L. Price, a minister, he had to do the moral aspects and we chose a doctor—whom I will not name—to do the economic aspects. The Medical Association was just beginning to admit blacks into its organization and he learned, after agreeing to do this for us, that they had a ruling that required all articles to be done on television or radio or published to be screened by them. Of course he recognized—we did too—that we could not afford to have this material looked at by anybody before it’s presentation and informing us of this on Saturday, before the Monday night school board meeting, it was almost impossible to get anyone else to do it. And so—as a person who had gotten the group together—more than—kind of—with their support to sponsor this—it fell in my lap to do it. With the assistance of a white friend—whom I will name Mrs. Charlotte Kraft—who assisted me. We had already, in our files or in our hands, some materials from the Houston administrative school district—various departments. But we solicited and got some others—which we spent the weekend analyzing and from their own records we were able to show in many respects how the school district was separate and very unequal. Many well meaning white people of goodwill—who really by passing buildings and seeing the looks physically thought that black schools were equal and we were just merely complaining. But when from math figures we can show that the libraries were very unequal, that there was no swimming pool in a black school except, that it had been a school inherited from black—from whites to blacks—given over to blacks where they had moved in and whites had moved out. Wherein for whites all high schools and most junior high schools would have swimming pools built in them when they were contracted for. The textbooks in many instances were old and dilapidated and they just— The various competitions like golf and tennis—archery—were in white schools but not in black schools and the teacher/student teacher ratios at black schools were much, much higher then was in white schools. People really—I assume they felt that I knew quite a bit about the district and my concern was not just for the black child; it was that he have equal opportunity. But it was also for the poor white children or Mexican American children—for all children—and they started to ask that I would run for the school board. This was in February that this presentation was made before the board and there was an election that year. Must have been in ’56, in February there was an election that year—which of course, I considered their request very quietly because I thought it was really a manner of saying you did a good job and maybe you should— but I didn’t put too much behind the request. And then, throughout the next two year period—well, I had decide before then. I think it must have been about the last of September or the first of October, before the real decision was really made to run in’58, but up until the time of the decision there was still this request—suggestion that you run. So—well, I guess in the early summer a delegation—an integrated delegation—Oh, I believe this was one was all black to start with, from a black organization, approached me seriously requesting that I run, and that they would—
M: What organization was that?
HMW: They would—well, it was really the Harris County Council Organization. I hesitated to say that because at that time there seemingly was great rivalry between that and the Ministerial Alliance, that was black—and I did later get repercussions because without having admitted that it was persons from this organizations who had pushed me, it was assumed that it was, and the Ministerial Alliance was rather upset—and I wasn’t sure if they would even give me their support, because as they said to me in a meeting when I approached them for help—they did not want other organizations suggesting or choosing delegates and then expecting that they pull me aside and do the support—that you prefer to get their own candidates—just (inaudible). But then there were other persons—Mrs. Adair, who was a club woman and worked very actively in some kind of organization—group organization—was a club. She visited with me and suggested that she put out feelers among club members to see if they really were willing to support a candidate with their votes and with the support of those campaign headquarters and finances—and I kind of got the feeling that blacks at that time were ready. And so I started to seriously consider it and there were whites who were astute and versed in politics who could help others who were offering help—
M: Do you remember any?
HMW: (09:43) I had at that time just been—Well, as I mentioned, Mrs. Charlotte Kraft and—(inaudible) had been with (inaudible) Sr. and his wife Mary—Mrs. Joy Shoal. Then there were other blacks like—(inaudible)—Mr. Olsten, he was black—George Nelson—Lonnie Smith—was very, very influential and helpful—the decision really to run was finalized in a backyard meeting at his residence.
M: Mr. Smith’s residence?
HMW: Uh Hunh—I mean that’s where we was—and then we kind of got into who would—others who would support—and the agency that would maybe do the campaign literature and what not—and came in contact with Joe and Hattie Marks and we had several meetings at their house—discussed (inaudible) small white advisory—Integrated Advisory Committee—that included Mr. Woodcliff the attorney who was my campaign manager—public campaigns. Dr. Barnes was a treasurer. Later Sir Davis (inaudible) council organization came in; he was a treasurer at one time. Dr. Willie was a treasurer. Mrs. Harper was a financial secretary and (inaudible) there really are so many and to just think back you almost hate to miss some names because you miss some who were very, very close too—Mrs. Albert Ball—Shirley Jay—but I was about to say this Parent Council had become HABS, Houston Association for Better Schools because they had agreed, after the ’56 defeat for liberals, that there should be an ongoing organization—an organization that didn’t just meet the campaign year or the election year; that they should be ongoing because if you look at the schools—and to work in the interest of appointing people for candidates beforehand and get the (inaudible). If necessary let them get used to the idea before—if they desire persons to run. And so they reorganized to an extent and called themselves the Houston Association for Better Schools or HABS and I was also a board member of HABS. And it was an integrated—as you see (laughs)—organization, but the president of that organization, who was a Mr. Smith, worked for an oil company—a white gentlemen—determined and it was so stated in a meeting as they discussed the possibility, that they were aware that Negros were interested in running a candidate. But I’m not sure that they knew who the candidate was at that particular time—expressed very forcibly that it was not time for blacks to run. And I really did not think it was for whites to determine whether or not it was time. Especially whites who were dependant on blacks to help them as we had done, I mean, because the campaigns we all worked in, all the support in the elections of white candidates, and I’m not—I’m not sorry for that—I’m just stating this as facts. We were happy to do this and we were satisfied with the persons whom we selected. I mean we thought they were good people and maybe they didn’t always move as hard or as fast in the directions that blacks might have hoped them to go. We still felt from them we got better support or that there was more interest and concern for our welfare than others were showing. But I didn’t even feel it was their prerogative to determine a when or if a black should run. And I think that—I’m sorry to say, that was maybe one of the motives, it certainly was not the only motive. It was my real concern—it was a concern of the black community. And they’re convincing me of their willingness to do whatever it would take to help, but I think that is more or less to help to cement in my mind that maybe this time—other blacks had run before—but I guess they had just run more or less on their own without the backing of— And this was only an expression as there probably was an attempt to get this organization to say they were—they would be behind a black candidate as they had already been before. I’m not sure it was just two years before—I think it was—that they supported Dr. Cameron and he had been successful. Mrs. Vander also had been supported by them but who did not choose at this time to run again. The head of the association was deciding this because as I said at the time, whether or not they would come out with full support of a black candidate—they went to Dr. Cameron whom they had supported and gotten elected and felt obligated to support again. (Inaudible) it was in ’54 he had run with (inaudible). A delegation had went to Dr. Cameron and he very honestly said to them that he was re-running to win and he too felt that a black candidate on a ticket like his— They had always run with the three of the four who were running on one ticket—this was done by conservatives and liberals (inaudible). He said that he was in it to win and he didn’t think he could win with a black and so he would decline to run on a ticket with a black. And I suppose their feeling that it isn’t time might have stemmed from their concern for the white candidate that they already had and obviously wanted to re-elect. However, I will say the body then agreed that it would support nobody—that it would not put out a ticket anybody—that they would not support anybody as an organization and that members of—would be given information about all the candidates. And they would choose from the candidates whom they wanted to support and contribute to. And I am certain that I got more than my fair-share of the members even though this—this was a hard decision in that they would not support any ticket or any one candidate. That they would just let each person determine— It kind of hurt, I have to admit, as a human-being and me having few (laughs)—what do you want to call it—false I guess, for the lack of a better term—it’s not exactly my fault, but just that being human it did hurt a little when I later learned they were trying to constrict another board member to run, who was a white female who was most capable and a very dear and close friend of mine.
M: (19:32) Who was that candidate?
HMW: Well, this was Charlotte Kraft who was with me all the way and was a very ideal candidate and a most knowledgeable—and I guess if I had to pick out one person now—and I know how this kind of sounds because we always say whites sometimes say well, my best friends are blacks [both laugh]. But really [both talking] because there had been some other problems involved—I think Charlotte Kraft is my very best friend. Unfortunately, she moved away because her husband was transferred with his job to New York and she now lives in New Jersey but we still are in contact. If only I can make up my mind to write, which isn’t often. But as long as Charlotte Kraft stayed here I never—I don’t think I read any school agendas, any reports, or anything that Charlotte Kraft did not also read. When I would get these things I would read them and then send them to her house and she would read them and she was my sounding board more or less. She was really my (inaudible)—she had been longer with the school district and knew more about its operations than did I. And I would make notes to myself on my reactions to certain things and then I would call her because she was the kind of friend—we didn’t always agree—but this was the kind of assistance I needed. I can’t—she helped me to finalize my decisions in a sense, my reactions to— If there were flaws with my reasoning that she could see as an individual she could tell me, it didn’t necessarily mean I would change because unfortunately I am a person who [laughs]—but then again, I guess I don’t really think it’s unfortunate—but there are—I am the kind of person who has to make up my own mind. I try awfully hard to keep an open mind where I can change and I can accept a point of view and the positions of other people, but it has to strike me that this is right. I mean, I don’t change what is my own feeling and my own reasoning because it’s not agreed with. I can listen to the opposition and try to weigh unbiasedly what the difference is. But I do get to be convinced within my own self that this is so—she helped I was going to say until the time she left. Joe Marks also helped me and my performance. Hugh and Mary Leach were throughout this time always available for help and consultation. James ___?? and Joe Teeter, who were attorneysand at one time law partners, were always available, as was Mr. Whitcliff free of any charge for any questions that I needed to—that I needed answers to legally. They were just open and wonderful. Dr. Lonnie Smith I could always go into his office and find someone trying to help. George Nelson you know his own interest in the school system because he was one—he’d take the black children for the Houston food and all of this— But just everybody and this total advisory committee were just always wonderful about coming to meetings. Whenever I thought it—it is a job that requires an awful lot of time even though there is no pay for it—they just owe me, which is a great reward—satisfaction that you are helping youth and children to have better lives. There is I guess no greater feeling or reward not even money could take the place of that. But it is a job and requires a lot of research and reading, a lot of big words, a lot of calling on, answering calls from community people for whatever they wanted, speaking, being able to raise money for this cause or to give advice. And the decisions that you have to make are so weighty that a body needs itself surrounded with good solid citizens. Who, as I say, do not need to always agree with you—or willing to share their points of view and give you the benefit of opposition and to let you penalize. And to help you in that fashion in making decisions and judgments that are really important when you are dealing with anything as important as is education and eventually the lives of individuals.
M: (24:58) How would you summarize your philosophy of education and your objectives that you had when you were (both talking)
HWM: Well, I use the slogan, “For every child, in every school,” and because I had been a teacher I think I was quite aware of the difference in the capabilities of children to a degree of their interests to the needs of motivations. And this was really my goal to see what I could do. To see that every child that was in every school—or HISD—had an equal opportunity to develop to his capacity and in a general sense to make available in each school—if they were going to keep them separated—which I didn’t agree with—that at least that child— You see we would have the problem maybe of having(inaudible), students who wanted to go into certain fields, but because there were not enough of them to supposedly pay for a teacher—this was the economics—then you would only have it in Bellaire maybe or Lamar. Well, there is no way the black child can get into that school in the first place because they were segregated. So, this just left him out. You had problems like—and I faced that with my own oldest daughter—where you could get only two years of a foreign language, like French, over here at this school because by the time they passed the second year there is nobody maybe interested in going on to major in French—or you know to have the four years—so they would satisfy either by not having the class or throwing the second year and third year students, fourth year students if they were just one or two, which was not a healthy kind of thing. There was no calculus in any of the black schools. There was no German or some of the other foreign languages, that were— There were difficulties really in getting textbooks. The same child went through a whole semester in elementary school in fourth grade without an arithmetic book, and I had called this—and just a private citizen no intention of (inaudible)—to the attention of the principal—who kept saying to me we requested them and they are not there, they haven’t given them to him. Whether they did or not— But I know finally one visit that I made to the Superintendant’s office and I was going in the interest of the child I had then in a junior high school—well a combination junior/high school—this one visit had the books all at the school before I really got back home—since I stopped on the way back to shop. And as I said to that superintendent, which was Mr. Mooreland, very honestly I don’t want just her to have a book it won’t make any difference, I want the whole class to have school books. But you find at that time—and this was a way again self preservation—unfortunately at that time we still had some black principal schools, who labeled under I assume the kind of attitude that the less I ask for the better off I am in my position. So you just don’t disturb maybe waters. You take what you have and do the best you can but it was unfortunate for the child. So PTAs did the little that they could and it was with the system at that time that PTAs bought many of the things that the school board should have been providing for the children. Which I didn’t agree with I thought you should pay taxes that would support the schools and all the children should have supplies. At that time it was knowledgeable that black teachers did not get the same supplies for their children that white children got. And it was not until the schools were totally integrated to the extent, that there were integrated teacher’s meetings that blacks really learned how much they could ask for and get. I always remember the story told to me by a black music teacher. That she had always asked for maybe $1.50 or $2.00 at the most for music supplies for her children in the system. And at one of the meetings she had attended that was integrated, she sat beside a friendly white whose list she saw—the lady shared it with her—which she copied that amounted to at least $7.50 or more for each student. And of course then she requested that and for the first time she got all the supplies that she had requested. And she requested so much more than she ever had before. I am sure nobody had told her that but just the way things were in the pattern under which we were living she probably just assumed that this was all she would get.
M: Was there any pressure anywhere brought to bear on all these principals to make them instruct the teachers to do the best you can with what you have, why would you then have this type of attitude?
HMW: I don’t know that there was any pressure and I guess this is just one of those things that still existed from the back days of slavery. In a way you were expected maybe to do with less or in some instances I’m sure they thought. I know one principal at least whose— There was another child in this junior high school whose mother was with me when we visited the superintendent’s office and her child had lost a book. And she had paid for the book and had requested for the child to have another book. The child had not been issued another book. So she reported this to the superintendent while we were there. And when she got back and stopped by the school, where her child was in the elementary school, why the principal just kind of jumped all over her about going to the superintendant to report things about her school. I mean this was just kind of the feeling that you didn’t bother. Now, I certainly don’t mean to make that all the principals were like this. I am saying even if there were only these two that was two too many. I am certain that there were some principals—in fact I did know of some—at least one that I was certain—I had a child at that time who asked for everything. In fact the junior high school that I had in mind was the—well, at that time it was a combination junior/senior high school. And I was part of the PTA there, but I do know of many instances where Mr. Harlan spoke out he would ask for whatever he needed. In fact, one thing I know he was responsible for at one time they were getting the little pocket book diplomas—the graduation diplomas the size for you pocket books—was being given by somebody to the white kids who finished high school. And Mr. Harlan quite openly said if they won’t give enough for all of them, then the board has no right to receive any for any of them. And so the Board of Education or whoever it was stopped giving them to anybody. But this was the kind of attitude and I feel that he did in this instance ask for and get as much as he could for his children. I’m certain there were many others, maybe the majority, but what I’m saying is there were some with this carry over that you don’t ask for too much and you don’t do too much. Because the other instances when I visited schools and knew—well, I don’t know that, that was a contradiction in my mind there where I thought maybe some had not requested certain repairs. Then when I got on the board and visited some schools. I actually saw in some principal’s files requests for repairs and things that they had made and still nothing had been done. And I always remember something that was a little funny was when I asked the superintendent, this was Dr. McFarland, to go with me to S/L Sweetley because that school was built with a roof that I don’t know ever stopped leaking—of course I was just being facetious I think saying, “Look at that curtain, it has 50 holes in it,” and he said, “48 Mrs. White,”[both laughing]. So maybe that was just his answer, but we did learn that there were those who were making requests. And it is a big system with a lot of schools and it takes a lot of money. But we had the feeling generally that the black schools—we know now that there is still the cry of—maybe not—but the Mexican schools are beginning to deteriorate a great deal (inaudible) deteriorating. And this is their cry right now—you neglected our schools for so long that they were crying—which was a fact that the black schools were on the interiors dilapidated and needed repairs.
M: What about the integration issue when you were in office, were you involved very much in the—?
HMW: Yes, to the extent that I think that largely maybe resulted in my failure the third time I tried for the integration issue. When I went on the board along with this kind of—Well, there were a couple of studies—there had been one before—we always referred to these studies as being put in drawer 13 because nothing was done. And blacks were a little disillusioned, many blacks were, that the majority liberal board—even though they were 4:3 in number—we tried to understand what the rationale was—that this is too big a decision to make with a 4:3 vote and yet if it were really the right decision. And noting too that conservative majorities, whether it was 4:3 or not, have always moved forward in the areas they supposedly believed in. I think we were not—we tried to understand the rationale but we were not happy that liberal school board meetings did not move forward. (Inaudible) with the opportunity to integrate the schools because even if it would have been less painful it would have started earlier it— I personally don’t believe that there would have been any more blood shed—that was the cry even when it did begin to integrate the schools—that streets were going to run with blood and what not. There was not a single incident. Of course, there was a minimum of integration; you can’t see [laughing] how they would have been to put 12 black elementary kids in three schools— first grade. So this is the way we started. But there had been two studies that had made some kind of suggestions more or less along the lines of integration that in their mind nothing had been done. The remark was made the night of my election—that Houston Administrative School District was starting to integrate from the top down rather than from the bottom up—it started with the board rather than with the children. And as I said, all the way I had comparable white support, perhaps, even more money because maybe there were those who had more money to come from them. And equal support and work and labor, time and effort in place and all that—it was an integrated process, my election was, from the word go. One could not have asked for better relationships and it was my thinking all along that there were points of goodwill and even more than those of goodwill and who did not object to the integration process. There were those who really felt that keep the schools separate, but do give them the same things, give them the opportunity and for the first time they were learning. Of course there were school board members, Miss Dyer being one, who constantly hollered that the report we gave was not true, but there was no evidence [laughs] they could present that really would prove it not true, because the information we had given had been taken from the files. This was even later curtailed. There was at one point during my participation as a school board member, where heads of departments where told not to give me any information on reports from their offices, except they were taken to the Superintendents office, this was Dr. McFarland, and I would go there and get them. Now, I never requested anything that really should not have been given to a private citizen, the taxpayer, and the person at fault was the school system. But this was the kind of restrictions and many times it passed on down to Mr. Fletcher. At one time I requested information which he refused to give saying he was not obligated to give information to one school board member only to the board at large. Well, this of course did not (inaudible). But we did go in with (inaudible) I don’t think it was ever felt that I did not want to see integration take place from the beginning.
This did not limit or do anything to my concern for all children having equal opportunities and my concern for all children whatever the color of their skin was. But perhaps there were more problems with the poor, the black, and the Mexicans. And so, perhaps more attention had to be given in that direction. So, we were constantly needleling them for integration and for integration quality. There was a day we spent touring the high schools to get the archery and the bowling into the black high schools where it was void. There was not as much stress on golf, and we did mention that too, because I was told by the superintendant Dr. McFarland at that time, that it would hamper the black children in their scientific and mathematical endeavors. So, I had to go with him and ask those questions point blank of white teachers, what was this doing to white students who were involved in this kind of thing as a regular part of their physical activities, physical education program. And also to ask in front of him the black teachers, were they qualified for teaching bowling and would they like to have bowling teams. And we found that there was one school where one of the P.E. teachers already had bowling that she was taking on her own to a bowling alley. So, this rather refuted and then we did get the archery voted what not in the schools. And the same thing with other—we weren’t always successful with the academic subjects, that I spoke about like calculus, and the other things because it seemed more logical that the—we can’t pay a full-time teacher for one student or two students, you get 19 students who were wanting it and then maybe we can add this to their curriculum or something like that. During the end—well, one other thing I would say that was of equal importance as you thought was getting Federal Aid too, because at that time the conservative group was very adamant about accepting federal aid and we were hearing from all the other systems, like the Superintendent in Galveston, in one of the meetings just said to me well we take all we can get, and we get it by the bucket full. And all Pasadena—not Pasadena—Spring Branch, that perhaps they had much more money than we did, a portion was accepting federal aid and this sort of thing and we couldn’t see that the restrictions or requirement did anything about local control. There were things that you took, the food program; they did want to know that the food stuff went into [laughs] the children. Lunches or breakfasts, whatever they were, they did want to know that you followed standards in health or sanitation in your kitchens. Well, these were what all people wanted any way for their children. And they did require reports, that you receive so much and that you use this. Which we didn’t think was ridiculous. And eventually, obviously we are still getting it now, so they didn’t find it hurt too bad. Anyway, because we are getting a good amount of it now, but this did let us at one time reduce milk prices for the children and to give other kind of educational opportunities that we could not afford, without this federal aid. So, this was interested not only blacks and Mexicans but whites too. But, until the end we were still trying to see why the schools could not be successfully integrated. During the time that I was on the Board there was not one time that the board itself called a meeting, where we sat down as a board and listened to the pros and cons as each Board member saw it, and tried to rationalize or to work out a method of how the schools could be integrated—not one time. The Reverend Lawson led—well, there was an organization, I guess at one time and he more or less, I guess was considered the medial or how he would refer to himself—the one day boycott of the schools. At that time, we did, we lost a lot of state aid as a team for those children, and it would have really brought chaos into our economics had they not been able to pledge, by the extent, that these would stop. But they did set up and we had two meetings with Reverend Lawson and others who were working with him. You know—as if we would get together. But it was almost obvious from the first meeting that it was simply too delay until school was out [laughing], you know, the boycott could stop. There was never any feeling that there was the intent to do anything about integration. I don’t know—they were just determined to delay and the decisions were voted formally in the board, but my impression and feeling, and I think records would substantiate, that the decisions really as to whether or not—we never got together—if the court ordered us to do something or if we were going to appeal a decision of the court, we never got together and discussed as a board with the attorney which route we should take. Now, I am sure some board members were in contact but what would happen would be on the agenda or in a personnel conference or something. The attorney would say to us, what should be done, or what we would do. And of course formally the board because it was (inaudible) but at that time it was just no real getting together and meeting of the minds or analyzing of why you are so opposed or why I am so for—to come out with any decision that would help us with the integration. And I think the hard pushing, my hard pushing, because it did, it took me once almost two years to get a report on the busing issue [laughing]—you know—just asking what buses picked up what children and how many where. And this had to be in the offices—I mean—you’ve got to know where your buses are going. You got to know how many you’ve got going or you’ve got to know the stops and this sort of thing. But, this information was denied and the records will show any number of these requests from me for these records. And I finally had those records from the administration building, for which I was criticized of course, until I got that information. And that basically I think is that more than anything else responsible for my defeat. The busing issue in general, and it really is ironic because I had had seven psychologists from three of the universities here, Texas Southern, the University of Houston, and Rice, who had analyzed for me the plan, when we had a $60 million dollar bond issue, for building of schools. And who stated that this kind of plan would keep the black kids segregated, and we had gone even into court, you remember, with this report and all, to delay and keep them from building these schools. So how else would you have had integration and how often (inaudible) if you had deliberately put schools in the ghettos or the pockets. How can you foster integrated schools with this kind of housing, had you deliberately placed the schools in this place? So there were statements from some people, who had been ardent supporters of mine, that they didn’t know that I would bus, but they didn’t know that I wouldn’t bus. And of course then there were all the lies that were told, that I was going to take the teachers sick-leave money, and I was going to bus the children from the other schools all the way to the bottom. I was trying to get rid of the schools at the bottom for anybody’s children [laughing] and the conditions they were in. That I was going to fire the Superintendant and bring in a black Superintendant from California. These sort of things—and you just become amazed sometimes—I mean and there is still a question of—I noted a lot of questions last night as to why a person maybe did this—you just wonder how people who knew I had one vote, who had seen me sit there and couldn’t even get a second to a motion so we could discuss it, could anticipate that I could transfer money around in the budget, that I could fire—you know me, one when I had voted against the superintendant all three times I had an opportunity, but I had been as open as I knew how. I always documented my votes with reasons. But how people could really believe this sort of thing, but obviously they did. As you probably know a whole little newspaper was put out about the things I would do and what I had not done—you know—nothing that I really had done of course that would have been contrary.
M: Did you lose black support on the busing issue?
HMW: I don’t think that I lost black support on the busing issue. I do feel that perhaps the blacks were in a position to have re-elected me by themselves if they had gone and voted, but I guess general apathy, as there always is to some extent. And I think there were some others; you see there was quite a discussion after the first election that people thought I was white, though media would refer to me as black. I know that this was one of those things that were not knowledgeable and hence I was elected. Well, then the second election, there was the same percentage of voters in all to prove that it wasn’t, that people certainly by then knew who I was and what I was. So, I think there were some who felt (inaudible) and quite frankly, I did lose some of my white support to Dr. Olsen. I mean there were some who had been very active in the other campaigns, who some used the excuse that perhaps I had enough (inaudible) and he had so few, when at the same time I had one campaign headquarters and he had two, I mean, but these kind of things. I was not really aware until after the election that there was another thing, because I think really I had accepted it only as service—with no—there was no ambition to rise particularly to anything, just to serve. Of course I was resentful when—and I don’t know that resentful is the word—but I had feelings when I was not permitted to serve even on committees and here I was a bona fide elected board member. When I could not go to certain meetings unless the board voted that I could go, and at least one meeting I had to go at my own expense when other board members were going and a number of administrators were going, which did not lend as much or any more to the meeting. So, naturally there were feelings in this regard, but I didn’t recognize how effective it was, at least in the mind of some whites, was that if again I had been elected and had become a part, or would have remained a part of the majority of the school board that I would have had to be considered as President of the Board. Which carried an awful lot of power, in other words, I would have been the only other person in line whose tenure on the board with the—and Mrs. Monstone had only been there for two years and her brother had been there for two years. We were the (inaudible) of the liberal and if I could be elected and Dr. Olsen could be elected than we would have a four- man majority, and as majority would rule the Board of Election. It would not seem reasonable that at least they would have to offer it to me or perhaps should out of ethics or something or other. And this I speak because I was approached by a person who was a very close friend of mine and who was white, who said to me, assuming that I would be re-elected, to let them suggest my name for president and me decline in favor of Dr. Olsen. So, my answer to them was well, that wouldn’t make too much sense would it, in that he would be coming on the board brand new. And I simply said it would make more sense maybe that I decline in favor of Mrs. Monstone, who had at least been there two years.
58:27 Well, I answered like this because I wanted to consider what she was saying in good faith, and yet I guess I was trying to dig out more what really is your feeling. And yet I had to be aware as a black that perhaps my being President of the Board at that time would not sit too well with the majority of whites in the city because, I would say, that position is a very influential, very powerful position. But the answer I got was, well, people seem to be impressed invariably with the title “doctor.” I would say, “Yeah, but that doctorate is in science or something, it’s not in [laughs] administration, particularly in school districts.” So, I would think he had maybe experience (inaudible). This, as I said, came to me before the election. So I’m certain, from the person who brought it to me, it is well meaning, and I do sincerely feel that she was a friend of mine, that obviously it had been discussed in white circles, that you know— And so I could admit it then, because I had learned—or I do have the feeling, not necessarily that all blacks are naïve or something, but not having—and certainly not that the capabilities and the other things are not there equal according to individuals. Everybody has a—I mean there is a difference in all of us because of different capacities, because of individualism, not because of races. So—but by the same token a white had been involved in these kinds of things in back (inaudible) you see. The person who is black—you have not been involved and there are many aspects, I’m sure, of things, and many plans that they are aware of and maybe you are not even thinking about. And perhaps [laughs] blacks generally had—because I never passed it down to anybody else—if blacks had been aware maybe they would have worked a little harder—a feeling that maybe this is progress that we haven’t even thought about. By the same token, whites—you might have feared this kind of reaction that would have come, might have worked a little less. I don’t know; as I said, I know blacks are told that they were chiefly responsible, and I never have openly got no other blacks who have told me this, but deep down I know that they by themselves were not responsible for being elected by themselves, even though I said they were responsible to the extent that if all of them had voted they could have elected me with the little help we did have, but there was also as much loss of white support. And in one instance there was a loss of a $2,000 contribution made to the campaign that went into Dr. Olsen’s campaign.
M: What do you think caused your loss of support in the white communities?
HMW: I’m saying the busing issue, one thing the expression, that we don’t know if she will but we don’t know that she won’t bus. As I said, I think maybe the realization of where I would have moved—maybe, that I don’t put as much too as I do the busing, but I do say it, perhaps in some minds, was a factor as to how much some would do or not do or their vote. And I think maybe there were some who thought on the end—and maybe I did that on the end—that I pushed too hard. One person who had interviewed me since that time, who was white, of course, but who had talked to a black person who had not been too involved with my campaign at all said that he thought I lost my charisma. So maybe that was it. I had the feeling that some maybe thought I became too argumentative, but I guess—and maybe it was so, but when you have labored with some people, [laughs] say, for up to a nine-year period, and you’re still seeing—you are seeing some progress, but it is so minimum—maybe you do lose some of the patience and some poise that you have had. I guess because you lose less hope in dealing with the same people, and you are more frustrated with the same kind of tactics that you have withstood for so many years. I guess the earlier years, maybe you do feel that with patience and with them getting to know you and when they can determine what your purpose really is, and when they will open their minds to maybe a change, that there is a chance, and then when it gets to a point where it is getting worse, with your manner of thinking, really, than better. When you seemingly have people—because after that we had people seemingly who were more hardcore segregationists, who—when you had people that even after this same—one person, I should say—after eight years on a board with you who still could not speak to you—
M: Who was this, if I may ask?
HMW: Well, this is Mrs. Collins. I have to say Mrs. Dyer especially, in a way, and outside the school board meetings Mrs. Finley—we could even talk (inaudible). This never happened with Mrs. Kosier unless she was in a group of people where they were speaking she could not even, not even change to speak but— You see, as I said I ran into it even when I was there after Dr. Cameron left. Because Dr. Cameron was there for about the first two years, he could second a motion and I could vote. I mean we could discuss and then we usually lost, but at least you got to air and the public got to know what was actually happening. Well, after Dr. Cameron left and we had other—his appointee— that’s when for two years I could not even get a second to a motion, so that there could be nothing discussed. But I have to give credit to Dr. Henry Peterson, who was a strong conservative and who did serve as President of the Board while I was there. Dr. Peterson permitted me, even coming on as a new to serve; it was my recommendation and suggestion about a warehouse. Well, I wasn’t going to be chairman of the warehouse committee, but at least I was permitted to serve on it. But during Mrs. Dyer’s reign at least, I couldn’t even serve on the committee, but there was no place for me to serve— So, I’m saying the thing really got progressively worse for a while, then it was (inaudible) and Mrs. Monstone. The last two years I served on the board, then there were the three of us. We were the minority, but at least we could have our voice, but as you know the problems that Mr. Butler had and then the problems Mrs. Monstone had after they learned that she was Jewish. I still hadn’t been there legally all along black; I guess we didn’t have too much choice. And maybe the way we looked at it, in the sense of a minority, did not help us to reach the public as we might have liked to. These are the only insights I have as to why maybe I didn’t—
M: Let me ask you, in 1966 you were critical to Mr. McFarland. What reasons were (inaudible)?
HMW: Because I felt Dr. McFarland really was not interested in creating an integrated school system. I knew there were pressures from the school board—well, I thought that there were—and I thought with them being in the majority really there was only so much that he could do. But I felt also that there were things he might have done as an administrator that he did not do. For instance, I would read the personnel agenda and would find that there weren’t Negroes being hired in proportion relative to what they should have been. And when I would see that the promotions and the strategic—the administrative positions that they might have been recommended for and was not. I also thought that when Mr. Holland was denied the opportunity to go on to Yates High School, this was a slap in the face wherein, and I know—I had mixed feelings about that, because I really thought that maybe he should have brought Mr. Holland’s name back. Now I know, though, when the board tells you no, you’re not going hire this one and bring us another name, I guess that’s what you’re supposed to do, but I just thought on the basis of being— Here again Charlotte Craft spoke in defense of Mr. Holland, she was always available even sometimes when I thought she shouldn’t, for instance, testifying before the judge in the interest of integration and this sort of thing. But there were those who did try to react in his defense. A man who had handled a school—I’m sure that school wasn’t built for more than 1600 at a time and it had like 2200 or more children, who had a combination junior/senior high school and who had held it together somehow with the children not suffering more than they seemingly had, and he would judge by those who went to college still maybe being able to some way, to go on and finish. Even when the school lost its rating because of lack of cafeteria, auditorium, library facilities, he lost his rating with the Southern Association of Secondary Schools. He had been permitted to hold this school together and then for you to know—even though this is not the reason given—that he is not permitted to go to the high school, for punishment for him not having supported conservative school board members, it was just against the grain. And to take a personal friend, [laughs] a competitor, I mean, because we had really been rivals. The Yates played the (inaudible). It was the biggest high school game in the nation that Thanksgiving and all the money that they had made—this was another issue that we constantly fought, that had really to do with integration or segregation as a—with the three high schools—blacks raising more than 50% of the money and yet they are the minority of numbers—I don’t know if they had six white students or something, eight something like that—but anyway, still the black football players had to take the weeknights, wherein, the whites were given the weekends to play football, when there is no school but you know the next day is Friday, they gave them Friday and Saturday nights, but the black boys got to play on Wednesdays or Thursday nights and they got to go back to school. These kinds of things, I guess, maybe and you would have to maybe be black to feel it. Somebody else may think this is nothing, but you know, these kind of things really could get under your skin. So, this and the one thing that I really just could not forgive because I don’t— and yet, I guess, I have forgiven, well, I have softened—but the one thing that I think hurt me the most was when Dr. McFarland, without coming to the board, took first-grade classrooms—and in regular schools that was one of the first three that they integrated—you had one child, one little girl, out of that 12 that went to regular schools when we integrated. They changed the kindergarten room—one of the kindergarten rooms—to a first-grade room because there was a toilet in this room, so that this little girl could go to the toilet by herself, and she was made to feel—which was then psychological—and someday if she ever grows up and knows the truth about it, that just she and the teacher could go in this—when there was an attempt to have, in all three of the schools, the black children to drink out of separate fountains and to eat at separate tables in the school. Now, this was not done by total board consent, in fact, we were not knowledgeable, I was not knowledgeable, that this was even happening but here again, a white teacher, concerned for the greater good, called and told me she needed her job, she needed to work, but she was ready if necessary to forgo that job to let me know what was going on in the school. And then when I talked to the principals, I found in other schools the same thing. One of the principals mentioned they just turned his head the other way. Well, these were the kind of things, as I said, it was with Dr. McFarland that I had to go to try— and these excuses he gave me, “Why should black children suffer in their science and math courses because they participate in sports, and white children have to suffer.”
There were these things, but again, I’ll have to say that Dr. McFarland (inaudible) the school system when we would go to the park in Texas City for members. I remember one occasion we went down to Texas City, a college down there, and somebody said, “Why didn’t you bring your board members,” and he said, “I got a board member.” I mean, here he owned them. Once we were at a National School Board meeting, I think in New York, or some kind of meeting, and he picked me up in my hotel and we had dinner with a couple who were from the University of Houston. I had known her and I had known the wife and they were friends of his, and we four went to another hotel and had dinner together, and he was very amicable. I found the same thing with Mr. Eckles, when we, too, were sent to St. Louis to look at that vocational school. Mr. Eckles and I were both interested in better vocational education. I couldn’t have asked for a more cooperative board member in going to the school and trying to see the thing. But at a board meeting, as I said, with Mrs. Dyer, when we went to Chicago and we rode on the same plane, got off in Lynn station, she offered to share a cab to the hotel, and she even tipped the cab because they were black, I didn’t think it was enough, but she still tipped him for my bag as well as hers.
So, [laughs] I don’t know, the attitudes, and I guess, perhaps, Dr. Peterson summed it kind of up with his own feeling, and he did—he offered to support me in my last campaign and offered me a hundred dollars, but I didn’t go and get it, which I should have and I regretted. I did intend when the campaign was over to just go and talk to him because I’ll never know now the things he perhaps could have told me that would have enlightened me and maybe helped me. (117:42) But when he retired he had an article in the paper, and we had a school board meeting that night, and he said to me after the meeting, “I bet you didn’t agree with my article,” and I said, “Oh, some parts of it I did, some parts I didn’t.” He said, “Well, what parts—is it that you didn’t like something?” and I said, “Well, I’ll talk about it some other time,” or something like that. But anyway, he says to me, “Did you know that I went to an integrated school?” and I said, “Well, no I didn’t.” I said, “Now why did you always make it appear then to be such a big boogey boo.” And he said, “Well, I thought that’s the way my supporters wanted me to do.” And so, I guess this maybe sums up some of the mannerisms of school board members on the board, with some of their actions. I think a kind of different relationship existed between me and Miss Martin, after her troubles, because she was rejected a little bit by her peers and we sat next together. So, I guess, we had a little more [laughs] kind of relationship that had not been before. But even that, I learned later, was a big deal—where I would sit on the Board because it had been more or less customary when you go on the Board replacing somebody you sit where they sat. But there was discussion that—which it never crossed my mind until I got to the school board meeting that night—that Dr. Cameron said, perhaps, you should sit here, which was next to him, rather than to sit where the pediatrician that I had preceded had sat, which sat me between Dr. Cameron on that side of the board. There are a number of things, some are abuses now that they are passed of things (inaudible). The whole nine years though were most challenging and rewarding. There were hurts, many hurts too, but I wouldn’t change that part of my life.
M: Do you think that the Board members should be elected by districts?
HMW: I do because school board elections and the fact that there is no pay, they cost so much, and it takes more votes to elect you to a school board position then it does to elect you to Congress, because Congress you do come out, and school board it’s all over. So, it seems that it is no longer—because we had reached, I guess, it was always thought—the Coalition makes it possible for you to be elected, now as we have seen, for blacks and now Mexican Americans to be elected. But it’s much more difficult, as we see the district is going for the State Department.
M: Who was John Door?
HMW: Who was John Door? He was the Attorney General in Washington.
M: How did he have this position, did he (inaudible)?
HMW: Well, he was to enforce the integration laws.
M: Did you know him personally?
HMW: Yes. I went to Washington and shed a few tears in his office, [laughs] because I just knew—it just seems to me—was the law and the hour in which we moved in. There was enough evidence that had been selected that I knew his office—I just thought that they could have moved ahead, that—and I would agree that it would appear better if integration had taken place because of awareness, this would have been the best thing to set an example—and want too. But then in the interest of the children, if you’re not going to do it willingly and on your own—and the law says so, well, then the law should be enforced.
I believed then and I still believed and the evidence showed, at least at that time, that the majority of Houston people were law-abiding, that if this was the law, and this is what they had to do, that they would do it regardless as to what their inner feelings were. And sometimes you have to have that contact. If you just read in the paper that all Mexicans were like you and all blacks will rape you or something, and you never had a chance to associate with them to see that this does not happen—I mean, this just is not as convincing as your real association. There are myths, I mean I heard more comments, attacks, and they were with real—from black teachers who would say, “There are some dumb white teachers too.” There really was the impression among some, not all [laughs]. There were many who knew that, that human beings, all of us have some failures, and we can’t all be the same. But, there were some who actually—until they had the actual opportunity to work with them, there were many who felt that the white teachers were better teachers. And there were some parents who felt that the white teacher for my child is the better teacher. And then it got to the point though where—at least if the child has the white teacher—maybe you don’t want them to discipline them; the whites maybe are a little afraid of what the black parents will do to them. And the blacks are afraid of what the white parents will do. So, for that reason, I think we had some difficult—maybe breakdown of—blacks would naturally feel that other blacks are more interested in where their children—or how they would grow up. So, there were problems but until you get to know, to associate with, and— so I have always been able to judge or feel that as a mother, whatever it was good that I felt and wanted for my child, that any other mother, whatever her color is, would want and feel for her child. And I think that’s ground which you can work, really, if you can keep in mind to treat others as you would want to be treated or to accept others as you would want—and if you value your own self and think, “If I can live in this society with these kind of feelings and moods, somebody else has to be able to do it too.” You don’t have that gift all by yourself.
M: What was your purpose in visiting Mr. Door in Washington?
HMW: To get him to try to move to do something, to find out why we weren’t doing something. I mean, I knew that there had been lots and lots of work done to get to his office, transcripts and actual facts, in relation to what was happening with the integration situation, and I just felt we needed his help to come down and move. And even sometimes we did get directives, which we delayed, about some reason for not following, and nothing was done. Get another directive maybe, sometimes, and I knew he was the person who could keep the—and I don’t know how much truth there was—I was in the White House several times by the invitation of President Lyndon B. Johnson, but I was at a meeting in Virginia once where—it was meeting called by an organization responsible to get more blacks involved in school, involvement as board members, elections, and this sort of thing. And I was invited and just as you get around at lunch time and talk, there was one black from Health, Education, and Welfare Department, who said to me that he felt (inaudible)— I don’t know, I don’t think it is completely without reason. I would feel that there would be a consciousness on any of their (inaudible) would come to Texas to be President—got a big thing going in his state that is not under control. But I don’t know that it was really spoken with any facts, it was just—
M: What does an elected member of the board have at his or her disposal to use as a means of communicating with the voters the upcoming issues, or past issues to try to get their reaction about the way in which they were voting?
HMW: The only way I thought I had was at the school board meetings, as I said, all of the actions that supposedly take place, even though there was a feeling that the conservatives met without us, and maybe we might talk over something among ourselves when folks were not— Most of the changes except, as I said, like an administrative change, the board member usually sets policy and, of course, the administrator is supposed to carry out the policy, and board members are not supposed to be involved—that’s why I was saying the thing that Dr. McFarland did about segregating the fourth resort as all Negro children, you see, and even the second year he was having the second-grade child come back into their room, still not wanted, and, of course, when I learned about it then I brought it up in a board meeting, there at that time at the end of the board meeting there was an allocation of time where board members brought up any issues that was bothering them, and at that time you can’t talk about school board meetings, so you had a good opportunity. And perhaps this is—this might be another contributing factor, as to why I was not re-elected, because I do think some of the articles, not all articles, but I think some articles were biased in their reporting of my contributions (inaudible). (1:30:10) The—in ’64 (inaudible) the Board voted to cease the televised meetings; well, you see, not only were the televised meetings—the public could see what your reactions are, what you are doing, but you also see what the reactions and what the others are doing. And I am certain that for this reason and that reason alone—because at the time they cut the school board meetings out, we were (inaudible) on us with the University of Houston with the franchise for the station. So, we paid for televised time, even though, (inaudible) sometimes the meetings cost as much as maybe $900 or so for a meeting, but to me this was a little amount in relation to the budget if it could keep your constituents knowledgeable about their school system and what you were doing. So, they could judge whether this is what they need, or should have brought it to mind, but cut it out, and I am certain it was because they did recognize televised school board meetings—the public was kept aware of the things they were doing. They could see it for themselves. They didn’t have to read it out of a paper. They didn’t have to get it from anybody else. They could know for themselves what was happening and what was not happening. Well, they cut that off, so then all you could do was make a report or answer the newspaper. I mean, if they were to appoint you on something then you had an opportunity to say. I never did investigate the possibility of whether or not a newsletter—that you might have gotten (inaudible) already you were given an awful lot of quality of time just trying to keep up with what was going on and to prepare yourself and get information that helped you to vote intelligently. So, I don’t know how much time you would have had for that anyway, but I never investigated to see if there was any money for putting out a newsletter. But the board meeting was just about the only opportunity you had for (inaudible) before the public.
M: Did you have any direct connection (inaudible)?
HMW: Yeah, I mean, I knew about it. It was in the (inaudible) came as a result of the information that had been gathered from the sociologist/psychologists at Rice University. A result of this information that had been presented to the School Board by me, that then there was a violence, I didn’t directly—I didn’t file it if that’s what you mean. I didn’t know it took place, but it was a result of the information that I did solicit and get and present to the school board and their ignoring this kind of information and preceding with their original plan.
M: Do you find that the use of T.V. coverage of the School Board was worthwhile?
HMW: Yes, very worthwhile. Like I said, I think it could get for you news for your support, and I feel relatively sure that is why conservatives moved to cut it out, because it did show them in a bad light.
M: Was Jim Kelly opposed to it?
HMW: Opposed to televised—yeah, he was opposed (inaudible) they were the majority at this time.
M: What was it about the oath-taking in order to use school facilities that you disagreed with?
HMW: Because I didn’t think it was necessary for them to have to take an oath to use the building. I could see if they had some information or something about somebody, and other people came in—just to take the oath really to me was not guaranteed.
M: What did you feel was the “behind the scenes” reason for it, the oath, why did they want people to have to take an oath in the first place?
HMW: Why or not, unless they thought it was another deterrent to many people. People do object to signing the oaths, and then you presented it, and really were hard fast against doing it— then you would not.
M: In the board bond election of 1959, the $32 million approved to construct (inaudible) to avoid desegregation—do you recall there was a great deal of (inaudible) activity at that time? Was this to build new schools in order to avoid desegregation?
HMW: Well, we had (inaudible) too, there was money needed to keep—to partly satisfy, I guess, the community. It was enough to have the schools segregated, but to have it dilapidated too? So, some I’m sure was for repair, and other was to buy land and build other schools, and these schools were to be built. I think that was a remark attributed to Dr. Cameron, even though he was elected as a liberal, that when the Supreme Court decision was passed and he said, “Let’s build the Negro schools, and build them fast,” which was a way—I think this is procedure that was kept. That you build schools, you build it in the ghetto and there’s no way to get out.
M: In December 1963 did you call the board anti-American?
HMW: I’m sure I did [both laughing].
M: Can you explain a little bit about [HMW laughing] that?
HMW: Because they were constantly—anything that you mentioned about the federal government—they would always have some negative remarks. They seem to—they acted like this was the entity and that they aren’t really interested in us, they want to tell us what to do— which is directly opposite—and whatever they are going to say is going to be wrong, and not in our best interest. And I just didn’t understand why or how anybody could be an American and just consistently be so negative about anything that you would want to ask or solicit from or have your government do, in anything they say to you. In anything—their attitude in relation, as I said, to the federal government, to the Supreme Court’s decision, to anything, was just always negative. So, I did refer to them as anti-American.
M: Did this have anything to do with JFK’s assassination? In the schools there were some—some schools, the teachers or the children shared—or the announcement that he had been assassinated, was this involved in your statement?
HMW: It might have been. I’m telling you it’s been so far back, I just can’t remember exactly what to tell—but I do, now that you bring it up, I do remember there was an incident where this did happen—and I think—and, too, at one time— I don’t know, it seems to me we wanted to name something in his honor or to do something out of respect for him, this President who had been assassinated, and they were not amicable, either delaying it or putting it off, or not going to do it, or something—but as I said the whole attitude—I’m sure at that point if there was any connection to—there was also in the back of my mind—everything that comes up that has the word federal or the government there is always a negative reaction.
M: During the time that you ran for office, did you find very much cooperation between the leadership of the black community to help push, to see to it that a black person or you in particular was representing a school board?
HMW: Well, I was the one who was approached. I think this was the first time that blacks had ever really come together and joined, I mean—always as individuals, maybe, you had gone and contributed to a campaign, or worked for specific candidates that you thought—as I said, because I got involved going to homes, filling out cards, getting addresses, and licking stamps at Democrat headquarters. But this was the first time that really was—and other blacks had run, as I said, and I’m sure they had had some kind of support. But to my knowledge there had never been a campaign headquarters where actually blacks were coming in and bringing money in soliciting money with credentials, to say that this is really just an organized, a real organized community effort that was entirely (inaudible). Everybody joined in, but Negroes were there with their fair share of work and money. This is what I had tried to ascertain before I consented, and is [laughs]. Many of them were doubtful, even the agency and they had been so helpful, and Jim Marks—and all the while with me, and— I didn’t learn until the day after the election that Miss Joan Moss had had a sketch of her remark in her pocketbook that night in case I lost [laughs] because they figured I would be so distraught, maybe, or, I guess, disappointed, maybe, (inaudible) to get something together (inaudible) and so I got back from her the next day that she had some kind of remark, and should I have lost it would— it would be something— I was confident, in that, I—there was just the feeling somehow—that all through—that blacks were ready, and that they had given what they could, all we had, and to be joined in it— in this, with the whites and the Mexicans—everybody to me was just an ideal kind of thing, and I just thought and—I don’t know it was a kind of a—something. I guess I believe in predestination or destiny or something to an extent because, well, in the first place—before that I was a housewife, and when I had gone on, I started at the YWCA—joined a class because the godmother of my son, who is my oldest child, had joined a knitting class up there, and she had invited me to go with her saying she’d make my son a sweater and I’m make him one. And so I did. And I think after two years up there, going—and the program director left and went to New York (inaudible). Then I taught this class free. I continued the knitting class after having learned, and the director of the Y—the branch up there—was impressed with my dedication and free service, and this is when they asked me to run for the Metropolitan Board. At that time a black could sit on the board of the Y as a representative. The Committee on Administration Chairman would usually sit in on the board, but she didn’t have any votes, and she could only relate what was happening over all Y’s. So, that was my first kind of experience; they asked me if I would consider going for the Y Board, and I said yes, and I was elected. And so, here I met people. One person who was very helpful and a good contributor and became a personal friend was Jane Raven. I met people like Ms. Raven and Mrs. Shoal all on this Y board, and then I worked with the Ministerial Alliance, integrated the whites. And I found myself—I think I was the first black that joined the League of Women Voters because I was not working at that time, and I had no babysitting problems because my mother lived here, and my husband’s mother was very (inaudible) residential. I joined a number of organizations and I wasn’t looking for anything, except to maybe better the plight of the Negro, to get involved, to know what was going on and help these organizations that were trying to help people in general. And I got to know people of worth and people with influence and people with money—and I think for the first time, maybe, here was a black that could—if somebody asked if I could support her, or how is she, they knew me from association and not from just words or from what they had read—even though I understand Joyce, who did ask one influential black leader whether or not they should support me and she told them no, because I lost my temper to easily. This is another thing that really, I think, helped me during those early years because I was determined to prove that this was not true. I mean, it made me conscious of it, if this were true. And I can vouch that I do have a temper and I could let it explode, but this was a good thing, really; it made me aware, and I was determined I would control my anger. And as my sister used to say when she saw me start rocking in those chairs, she knew why, [laughs] that I was struggling then to remain calm and poised.
But anyway, I guess, with these kind of things going for me, and since I had not ever dreamed—in fact, I had been a Home Economics teacher, and I taught in Liver Town, where I had a building, a budget, and all of this—the school board—I had to prepare dinner and invite the school board once a year to dinner, and I think I resented that because I never saw the school board members there at any other time. It was a small town—black principal had complete control, he hired, he fired—even though the superintendent signed it—he had complete control of this school. You did as he said do, and this was it—he was it. And the whites had nothing to do with the school to my knowledge, except as I said, (inaudible). But I resented this. I wouldn’t have minded if I had seen them there in some other interest, but here I had to keep the kids one evening after school, and they get there early the next morning and slave and have this big fine dinner once a year for them to come and see. And so, I guess, I would have been resentful more or less [laughs] with this kind of a background. So this was not in my mind. I really think that the trim that my life took, and becoming involved, getting to this spot, it was—and I guess at that time I, really, I felt confident that—
M: In your strive for integration if you received desegregation and (inaudible) desegregation would you be satisfied?
HMW: If I received desegregation and (inaudible) would I be satisfied? What are you interpreting desegregation as?
M: Is there some type of (inaudible) who had the bigger discussion in terms of integration and desegregation, as if, there were a distinct difference between the two. Or actually, what I wanted to know was in your mind or in your current way of thinking is there a difference between desegregation and integration?
HMW: Well, I am aware, too, that some people use them interchangeably. We just use them as a terminology, and then as we can make words imply many things and all—there might be some. I guess I’ve never spent too much time trying to decipher in my own mind if there is a difference or what that difference really is. My only thought is that until you have people actually sharing the same experiences, you’re not going to have—and when we say equal opportunity, I mean people—we are confused sometimes of what we really mean by that. It can’t be the same for everybody except, I guess, you put the opportunity on there and say, “Well, a chance” but it—I would want a wholesome attitude—a coming together of the races.