The Foundation for The Gator Nation An Equal Opportunity Institution Samuel Proctor Oral History Program College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Program Director : Dr. Paul Ortiz 241 Pugh Hall Technology Coordinator : Deborah Hendrix PO Box 115215 Gainesville, FL 32611 352 392 7168 352 846 1983 Fax The Samuel Proctor O ral History Program (SPOHP) was founded by Dr. Samuel Proctor at the University of Florida in 1967. Its original projects were collections centered around Florida history with the purpose of preserving eyewitness accounts of economic, social, political, re ligious and intellectual life in Florida and the South. In the 45 years since its inception, SPOHP has collected over 5,000 interviews in its archives. Transcribed interviews are available through SPOHP for use by research scholars, students, journalists and other interested groups. Material is frequently used for theses, dissertations, articles, books, documentaries, museum displays, and a variety of other public uses. As standard oral history practice dictates, SPOHP recommends that researchers refer t o both the transcript and audio of an interview when conducting their work. A selection of interviews are available online here through the UF Digital Collections and the UF Smathers Library system. Oral history interview t ranscripts available on the UF D igital Collections may be in draft or final format. SPOHP transcribers create interview transcripts by listen ing to the ori ginal oral history interview recording and typing a verbatim d ocument of it. The transcript is written with careful attention to refl ect original grammar and word choice of each interviewee; s ubjective or editorial changes are not made to their speech. The draft trans cript can also later undergo a later final edit to ensure accuracy in spelling and format I nterviewees can also provide their own spelli ng corrections SPOHP transcribers refer to the Merriam program specific transcribing style guide, accessible For more information about SPOHP, visit http://oral.histor y.ufl.edu or call the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program office at 352 392 7168. October 2013
MFP 050B Interviewee: Dorsey White Interviewers: Marna Weston Date: March 19, 2011 WE: Okay, this is Marna Weston with the Sam Proctor Oral History Program at the home of Mr. James Davis in Indianola, Mississippi on March 20, 2011. Our informant today is Mr. White. Thank you very much, Mr. White, for being here. WH: Yes, thank you for inviting me. WE: Would you please state your full name? WH: My name is Dorsey Mack Henry White. Originally, when I was born, I was named Mack Henry White, but I had a great admiration for my father, and his name was Dorsey White, and I wanted to be like him, I borrowed his first name which is Dorsey and I claimed to be Dorsey Mack Henry White. This is on my birth certificate now, that I'm Dorsey Mack Henry White, Junior. WE: Okay. So you actually had your name changed to fit your aspirations, how you felt in that regard? WH: Well, it was just automatically changed. I don't know how it got on the birth certificate. During the year when I was born, I guess the records weren't up to date like they are now. So, somehow, it got on there, but originally it was Mack Henry White, but I adopted my father's name first name so I'm Dorsey Mack Henry White, Junior now. WE: Okay. They took your word for it. WH: Yeah, they took my word for it. WE: What year and date were you born?
MFP 050B ; White ; Page 2 WH: Now, this is another myste ry. My mother said I was born February 9, 1935. Social Security say I was born February 10, 1935. I guess I'm like Nicodemus; I had a rebirth. [Laughter] WE: Now, this is kind of a side note, but do you think that is because the state of Mississippi was n ot really in the business of recording the births of black children? WH: Well, that's true. Then, too, my mother used a midwife when I was born, and many of those ladies weren't educated and they wasn't too good at keeping records and spelling and things like that, so a long of people's names was misspelled; the dates were unrecorded correctly because the midwives would meet once every week or so many weeks and turn all this stuff in to the State Department. So, a lot of it got kind of tunneled up, and a l ot of the dates and the names and things of that nature during those years were not accurate because of the education level of people that was handling it. WE: Was the record for your family put in a Bible? WH: Some of the, yeah, some of the Bibles had f amily history recorded, but the Bibles got destroyed from over the years. I don't have the original family Bibles, but they were recorded, some of the dates and events were recorded. WE: Okay. Do you know the name of the midwife who assisted your mother i n your birth? WH: My grandmother d elivered me and her name was Co ra White. That was my father's mother. She was a registered midwife.
MFP 050B ; White ; Page 3 WE: Okay. Since we're talking about parents and grandparents, who were your mother and father? WH: My mother was Addie Mae Hilson White, and my father was Dorsey White. WE: Where were they from? WH: My father, as far as I can . well, he was actually born in Glendora, Mississippi, same place I was born, on the same plantation. We go about five generations on that plan tation, and my mother was born, I believe, in Crenshaw, Mississippi, and they moved to Brook Haven. They stayed around several other places, but her and my father met at Glendora in Tallahatchie County. WE: What is your mother's full name? WH: Addie Mae White. WE: Okay. Do you recall your parents' dates of birth or approximately when they were born? WH: My father was born . February 28 in 1908. My mother was born May 16 in 09, I mean, yeah, 1909, yeah. WE: Okay. You mentioned the plantation tha t went back five generations of your family. What was that plantation? WH: They call it the Due West plantation, and the reason they called it Due West because it is located d ue w est of Glendora, Mississippi off of Highway 49, and it's three miles due wes t of Glendora, Mississippi. So, the name of the plantation was the Due West Plantation. WE: How large was that place? WH: It's something like . three thousand acre farm.
MFP 050B ; White ; Page 4 WE: Mm hm. What was the name of the family that was registered as the owners? W H: Sturdivant. Mike Sturdivant was the original owner well, the origina l owner was Ben, Ben Sturdivant. B ut it's the Sturdivant family. WE: S t e d m a n. WH: S t u r d i v a n t. WE: Okay. Do you know anything about their history, where they were fro m, how they came to Mississippi? WH: No. I don't know where they originally came from, but I know that, originally, the o wner was Captain Ben Sturdivant. H e was one of these seafaring captains and he hauled slaves out of the West Indies somewhere. WE: S o, like a pirate, a buccaneer W ere there letters of mark he could buy and sell people and go across the ocean? WH: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Right. WE: Okay. So the triangle trade from Florida to or, from Africa to the United States, up to the Northeast. WH: Yeah. WE: Wow. So, actually like a slave merchant. WH: Right, slave merchant. James Davis : Excuse me. Each one of y'all have a glass of water? WE: I would, please. That would be very nice, thank you. WH: Yeah. He was in the trading and transporting bus iness, excuse me. WE: So, how is that land used today? Has it been divided up or is agricultural or is that family still on it?
MFP 050B ; White ; Page 5 WH: Yeah, they're still on it. It's agricultural. Primarily it's cotton, soybeans, corn. WE: Okay. Okay, so, back to your fam ily. We've talked about your mother and your f ather. Let's go back to your mother; her mother and father, right. WH: They were from Brook Haven, Mississippi. Her mother was named Connie Stuart Hilson, and her father was named James Walter Hilson. I belie ve he was a . something like an Irishman. WE: Irish is like from Ireland, a white man? WH: Yeah, mm hm. WE: So this was an interracial couple at that time. WH: Right. WE: Okay. Does your family talk at all, the story about how they met or how they decided to be together? Because I mean, that would have been a difficult time, a difficult thing, for that time. WH: Yeah, it was. I don't know how they met, but WE: Especially in Mississippi. WH: Right. No, I'm not familiar about how they met, what happened during that period of time, but I know that he was a WE: Thank you, thank you very much. WH: different race. D : You're welcome. WE: Okay. Do you know anything of their mother and father? WH: No, no. WE: Okay. Now, how about on your dad' s side, who was his mom and dad?
MFP 050B ; White ; Page 6 WH: His mother was named Cora and his father was named Tommy White. I don't know whether my grandmother's maiden name was, but her first name was Cora. WE: Okay. Do you have any knowledge of either of their parents, the g eneration before? WH: No, no. WE: Okay, so that was all part of the five generation on the Glendora Due West P lantation for that family. WH: Right. That was the beginning of it, and then we had four other generations since then to live there. WE: Mm hm Do you have brothers and sisters? WH: No. I had three sisters and one brother. Three sisters died early and my brother was killed in an accident in 1996. WE: Oh, I'm very sorry for your loss. What were their names? WH: One of my sisters was named Conn ie. One was named Martha, and she was a twin to Mary. Mary lived until 1955, but Connie and Martha, they died at early ages, something like two years old. They was born before I was, so I never met . I only met Mary, that was the one that lived out of the twin set. WE: Okay. Do you know anything about the circumstances of how the other, how your sisters died? Was it like scarlet fever or flu or something? WH: Yeah, something like yellow. One died with yellow jaundice, I believe, some of that . but it was the kind of diseases that they was having and was incurable during that period of time. They died young.
MFP 050B ; White ; Page 7 WE: I'm sorry to ask a painful question, but I'm just curious, also, about your brother. You said there was an accident. WH: Yeah. He had a gu n in the trunk of his car he had been working that day. Late in the afternoon he was closing down and he was getting stuff out of the trunk of his car, changing it around, and they had some booster cables and a car pully and a pistol. When he was taking it out of the trunk of the car, the hammer on the pistol caught the back of the trunk and pulley of half fired it, hit him under the chin and killed him. WE: I'm so very sorry. Was he alone when it happened, or was there somebody that WH: Yeah, he was alon e. He was alone. WE: Okay. Do you any of your brothers and sisters have children? Do you have nieces and nephews from them around? WH: Oh, yeah. My brother, they had four children. They had a son and three daughters, and they the son is in California, w e have a daughter in Memphis, and one in Jackson and one in Arkansas, over in, I think Pine Bluff, Arkansas. WE: Okay, and what about Mary? WH: That was my sister, Mary. She died in 1955. She was in California S he was living in California. WE: Any nie ces or nephews from . ? WH: No. WE: Okay. Let's come back to your family. You have children. Could you talk about them?
MFP 050B ; White ; Page 8 WH: Right. I have two daughters and one son. My son, Melvin, is also in California, and I have two daughters, Stacy White and Mar sha White, which Marsha's married now, and she's a lawyer. But those are my children. WE: Do any of them have children? WH: No. WE: Okay, so no grands yet. WH: No grands, right. WE: Terrific. You've mentioned California a couple of times with your fa mily extended. Do you have a family connection in California, or is there just, has there been this great attraction for California for your family? WH: Well, I guess it was just my sister got married and her husband moved to California. So, she followed him out there. My son, when he got out of the military, he moved around a couple places but he end up in California. This is where he was living to make his mark; become gainful employment to the extent that he was satisfied with it. He made his own there for the last twenty years, at least. WE: What was it like growing up for you as a child? Did you have chores? What were your expectations? What kind of things did you do? WH: When I was born, I grew up on a plantation. D : I'm going to put your glass dow n. WH: We had to do chores. We had chickens and hogs and cows that we had to tend to. This was my first job, you know. You had to feed the chickens or got a larger, like added, taking care of the livestock and things of that nature. You began to go
MFP 050B ; White ; Page 9 to the field when you get probably six, seven years old. You pick a little cotton and you had a little wel l, what they call a brass sack or a crocus sack then, which was about three feet long, and you would have a string in it that you would put over your shoul der. You'd pick a few pounds of cotton as a child, teaching you how to do it. As you get older, then the sack get longer, and . WE: Yeah, I know about that part. [Laughter] WH: Oh, yeah. WE: First it was fun. WH: Absolutely, but it begins to get serious at a point as you progress in age, yeah. WE: Did you enjoy the chores and the family life, growing up in that way? Were you happy? WH: Well, sometimes. But, when it becomes to be real serious work, it wasn't a whole lot of fun, it was hard work. It was kind of, the sun was extremely hot and you didn't have all of the convenience that we needed, you know. So, it was kind of cruel. The life was kind of crude, but we learned to enjoy that, at a point. We learned to enjoy it and deal with it. WE: Wha t are your earliest memories of education? Where did you first learn about reading and writing? WH: I learned a little at home. My mother, she started teaching us, teaching the ABC's and how to count and things of that nature, but my formal education bega n in a church school operation, where we attend church and we had regular school in the church building itself. You know, this was more or less the center of our education, because there were no schools public schools in existence during
MFP 050B ; White ; Page 10 that period of t ime. So, I completed my early elementary education in a church, the church that we were members of. After graduating from this church school WE: Which was named . ? WH: Jerusalem Church, was where we attended school. WE: Who was the pastor and who was your teacher? WH: At that time, we had Reverend S.M. Harts. I believe he was from Clarksdale. He was the pastor. The teacher was Ms. Rosa Watkins. WE: Okay. Was it one through eight, or was it one through four? How far did the school go? WH: Well, when I was small going there, it only went to about sixth grade when I started, because most of the people didn't go to school much beyond the sixth grade; that was about the level of it. WE: Why was that? WH: Well, at that time, people just when they g et a certain age, they quit going to school and they work on a farm or do other things. But, as I grew older, as I progress, they had a degree to accommodate me and my classmates, because we were the ones that continued to go to school. We were the first g raduating class at that particular school, because everybody, all the other classes, they dropped out early. But we were the first ones to graduate from ninth grade on that plantation, on that farm. WE: Wow. WH: So, after completing my eighth grade educa tion, I had to go to Clarksdale, Mississippi, which was about twenty five miles north of Glendora
MFP 050B ; White ; Page 11 WE: How did you get there? WH: My father would take me there on the weekends and I would stay during the week and come home on weekends. [ Telephone rings ] WH: I would stay during the week. I had board, he had to pay room and board for me to go to school there until I D : Hello? WH: We moved over to Leflore County and then there was a school over there, not about four miles from where we lived. It was o ne of those Rosenwald schools, and I completed high school [ Telephone rings] D : Hello? WH: And I completed high school education right there. WE: Okay. What was the name of that Rosenwald school? WH: Brooks Line Community Center. WE: Okay. Before we finish with that, exactly how did your dad transport you to school? Did you go by car? Did you . WH: Yeah. He would carry me by car and come back and pick me up in the afternoon. It was a little too far to walk, but occasionally we did walk, but mos t of the time he would take us to school and come back and pick us up in the afternoon. Then he started letting me drive when he wouldn't need the truck H e would let me and my brother [Telephone rings]
MFP 050B ; White ; Page 12 WH: Well, I would drive the truck to school D : Hello? WH: And then I'd bring it back in the afternoon. WE: Mm hm. So, this Rosenwald school, who was the principal of the school and who were your teachers? WH: We had Mr. H.B. Moorman, he was the principal there. We had teachers like Mrs. [Noise in recording] WH: We had Mrs. Covington and . see . I don't know, I can't think of the other ones, but one of the ones that stood out in my mind was Mrs. Parker. And Mr. Williams, yeah. H.B. Moorman and his wife, yeah. WE: Why does she stick out? Di d she teach a subject that you liked? WH: Yeah, she was one of the most outstanding teachers that we had during that period of time and she stayed in the community longer than the rest of them. WE: What subjects did she teach? WH: She taught history. H istory teacher. WE: So, you liked history? This is rare. [Laughter] I don't talk to many people who like history. WH: Well, at that time, I did. WE: Okay. Was there a day, ever, in your history of education that you think of as an outstanding day as a s tudent, and what was that day? What happened? WH: Well, no. I can't think of just an outstanding day. They had highs and lows, some of that were, I guess, more productive than others. But, as a general rule, it was
MFP 050B ; White ; Page 13 kind of a balance. We had to work and at tend school when we could, and we enjoyed it. We had some events, but it wasn't anything that you would just stand up. WE: You mentioned room and board. Did your parents also so, it was a sacrifice to send you there and make sure that you got the educati on? WH: Oh, yeah, yeah. True. It was a great sacrifice on them. This is one of the reasons that I felt so dedicated to them, because they really put themselves through a lot to educate my brother and I. WE: You mean your parents. WH: Yeah, my parents. T hey really made it a concerted effort. They went far beyond what was the norm at that time to help us get an education. WE: Do you think that that was something that was instilled with you while you continued with your education so much, that sacrifice? W H: Sure, sure. It kind of stayed with it and kind of made me excel, because I wanted their effort not to be in vain, you know. I tried to make them proud of me and do the things that would be kind of pleasing to them. WE: Mm hm. So, when you graduated fr om that school, what did you do next? What happened? WH: I went to Mississippi Valley State University. WE: Okay. How did you end up going there? Did you just always knew you would graduate and go to Valley, or what happened? WH: Just wanted to because Valley was established, I think, about four years before I graduated from high school. So it was real convenient for me, more convenient
MFP 050B ; White ; Page 14 for me, to go there than it would have been anyplace else, because it was about thirty miles from where I was living. So, that made it more convenient. WE: Who was the president of the school at that time? WH: Dr. White, J.H. White. He was the first president of Valley and he was the president during my career there. WE: Did you have a close relationship with him, or w as he more just like a person you say, hey, President White, or how did that work? WH: We may have crossed paths. I made, you know, close contact from time to time. I had conversations with him and got to know him and he knew me, so we kind of had a speci al relationship because I was a White and he was a White, so we just kind of had that name tie, and we kind of developed a better relationship, I guess, due to the fact we shared the same last name. WE: Did you drive over to Itta Bena? Is that how you got there? WH: Many times. But I stayed in the city, mostly. I roomed with a lady across town. WE: What was her name? WH: Her name was Ms. Berry Gertrude, Berry. She was an educator. She taught school at Morgan City. She was the elementary teacher in Morga n City. She had a nice home and she would take people in to live with her during the year while they were attending school. WE: Why do you think she did that? Open her home up to students? WH: She was a Christian lady. She liked to help people and she wa s just willing to share and kind of be like a home away from home. Really, she was a nice lady.
MFP 050B ; White ; Page 15 WE: What was it like at Valley in those early years? Being a freshman, sophomore, what was the campus like? WH: Well, the campus wasn't as lavish as it is now It was smaller, much smaller. But it was exciting to us because most of us hadn't been in a setting like that, so it was real enjoyable. The instructors were nice and they showed concern towards the students because they know that we wasn't up to the lev el that a lot of people were coming from, other places. So, they kind of nurtured us along the way and helped us find our way. WE: Do you think that was something that was very important and has been lost, or do you think that Valley still does that, or w hat do you think about that concept of taking somebody and developing them? The goal is improving them instead of maybe just being, well, let's get the best research out of these students or get grants and stuff. What do you think about that? WH: I believ e this is kind of lost right now, maybe due to the attitude that the students have when they come there now. They've changed up from what we were. They've got different ideas and they're not as respectful towards teachers as we were, so maybe it's kind of a little distance between the relationship is probably strained from what it was when we were there, because we accepted, got us better, and we . [inaudible 26:18] as they are today. WE: Were you involved in any clubs or organizations on campus as a student? WH: No, I didn't participate in no kind of sports, no kind of extra activities. I more or less stayed with my courses that I majored in. WE: What did you study there?
MFP 050B ; White ; Page 16 WH: I was in industrial education, yeah. My interest was along automobile mec hanics. I wanted to be a mechanic and I wanted to be good at it, so most of my courses were centered around the things that I really needed to do in order to achieve that. I had regular academic courses that we had to take, but I more or less zeroed in on academics that I had to take, and the skill course that I had to take. WE: Mm hm. Now, your daughter ended up teaching at Valley. WH: Right, she's teaching there now, computer education. WE: How do you feel about that, that she teaches there? WH: Well, you know, I'm proud of the fact that she was able to become employed there and she likes it, and seems to be doing a good job. Her work and the students she works with, they respects her and appreciates what she done. She is a good teacher and kind of goe s beyond the duty, the normal realm of duty, you know, to make sure she's effective. WE: So you have a sense of pride, being an alum and having her there? WH: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I'm very proud of her and the work that she does for the school. WE: So, you g raduate from Valley in what year? WH: 19 58 WE: What do you do when you leave Valley? WH: Well, when I left Valley, I did like most people when they leave, when they complete school. They go north and try their wings out and see if they're going to fit in or hit that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. So, I went to Toledo, Ohio, after I got out of school. I stayed there six months and I didn't adapt to the weather and the lifestyle.
MFP 050B ; White ; Page 17 W E: It was cold. [Laughter] WH: Yeah. So, I came home . WE: You say, like most people, you looked north. So, you're saying, when you were going to school, people talked about going up north? Could you explain that a little bit? WH: Oh, yeah. That was the going thing then; you leave the South when you get the educa tion. You look at yourself and you go n orth and you get you a good job and do those kind of things. But I didn't like the weather, I didn't like the . WE: Atmosphere? WH: Yeah, the atmosphere, and the way people congested and all the . WE: Hus tle bustle. WH: Hustl e and bustle of life. So, I cam e back home and WE: You're a country boy. [Laughter] WH: Yeah. I got a job at Rose Te mple High School in Vicksburg, there was a high school there and I taught automobile mechanics and driver's educa tion. I was the first driver's education, one of the first, driver's education teachers in the state of Mississippi. Young guy from California, white guy, and me, in 1959 when we started the driver's ed program at the Vicksburg School System. So, I taught driver's ed four years and I also taught automobile mechanics along with it two years, because that's the second year. They wanted to make driver' s education a full time. They replaced me with another guy to teach automobile mechanics, and I went driver's ed full time, four years. But, during my tenure as a teacher, we won trade contests. We also won the district trade contest, first place, the second
MFP 050B ; White ; Page 18 year that I taught mechanics. So, I enjoyed it, and students were real proud of the success and achievement that we had during that period of time. WE: What was included, in terms of the skills to be recognized to get that trade award recognition? What were the students doing that brought those accolades? WH: Oh, well, when they'd have these trade contests, t hey'd have these vehicles that they had put problems into so that they wouldn't run or wouldn't run right, and they had to go in and troubleshoot and correct it. WE: Okay. So, they might pull the sparkplug out. They got to diagnose and see what was wrong there. WH: Yeah, they might take a sparkplug and bend the tip all the way down so it wouldn't fire. They would take ignition points and close them all the way up, or they'd take a gas line, plug it up, and take a battery cable and put oil or something aro und it so it wouldn't make contact, put it back on, and they would have to know how to test it to find out, diagnose the trouble. They also had to take a written test, they had a written question and answer that they had to supply. WE: Okay. Your job was to prepare them to be able to answer any type of question. WH: Oh, yeah. Yeah. They were quite fluent on the mechanical part of it, as far as the written, troubleshooting and things of that nature. WE: How did you accomplish that in the classroom to give your students that type of preparation? Did you have drills? How did they buy into that? WH: Well, I just really taught them the basic fundamentals in how to diagnose and gave them the material that they need to make decisions. Really, most of those
MFP 050B ; White ; Page 19 guys were able to do mechanical work in high school. They could do brake shoes and do engines and just . they really accused them of being mechanics. You know? They say I was, rather than teaching the class, I was training mechanics, because those guys rea lly could go out and work on cars. WE: When you say accused you mean you had some critics? WH: Oh, yeah, I had some critics. They didn't like my style of teaching, some of the administrators, because they wanted me to have a say in what a kid I just go t something, just sit down to a table and messing with stuff, but I WE: What, draw a car? [Laughter] WH: Yeah, draw a car, but I had them actually working on cars and doing the real work. When they get through the car, it runs just like they would if t hey go to a garage. I thought the idea was to teach them how to actually do it, rather than just pretending, mimicking you know. WE: Well, you gave them a real skill, an actual trade. WH: Oh, yeah, I did. I would teach them how to do it both ways. For e xample, I teach them how it would be done in a garage setting, and I'd also teach them how they could do it at home if they didn't have all the elaborate tools and equipment, you know. I'd teach them the crude way that you could do it at home if you didn 't have all these expensive gadgets. WE: What kind of vehicles did you teach them to work on? WH: Just regular Ford, Chevrolets, Dodge, whatever. It didn't matter, you know. I had replicas of all kinds, and we taught them whatever they needed to know in order to
MFP 050B ; White ; Page 20 WE: Diesel engine, too? WH: No, diesel wasn't out then. This was in the early 50s, I mean, the late 50s and early 60s. WE: What were the demographics of the school like? Was it mostly a black high school? WH: Oh, this was before the civil rights movement, so it was all black during that period of time, yeah. They integrated after, what? By 1970, they began integrating. WE: Do you feel that your students, from the work in your class, did they go out and have successful careers as mechanics? WH: Oh, yeah. Many of them carried the work on. They got jobs; some of them ran garages themselves, you know, they owned garages. WE: Did they hook you up later on, you know . ? [Laughter] WH: Oh, yeah, I run in them time to time. [Laught er] We would just have conversation about it, and they would always thank them for helping them out and getting them started and things of that nature. They appreciated the effort that I showed towards them. WE: Did you teach any subjects besides mechanic al engineering? WH: No, just mechanics and driver's education. WE: Okay. Are you a member of clubs and civic organizations now, professionally? You know, in your . ? WH: Retired Teachers Association and the Vocational Association. WE: Okay. Do you all have regular meetings now?
MFP 050B ; White ; Page 21 WH: Yeah, regular meetings. WE: Okay. Are you finding that, in your retirement, that the school systems Valley, for example are they coming back and asking you information about how you can remain in contact with the scho ol and still add something . ? WH: Just the Alumni Association, more or less. WE: Money. WH: Right. WE: [Laughter] WH: [Laughter] WE: But they're not asking you about your experience or how you could help out in that way. Would you welcome an opp ortunity to do something like that? WH: Oh, sure. Sure, sure. WE: How much time do you think you I mean, I know you're retired now, so you don't want to have a whole nother job but if you were just thinking about it and willing to donate some time, wh at would you consider something reasonable that you might do? I mean, a workshop once a year? Would you want to have consistent involvement, or would you rather just kind of piecemeal, come in for special events, something like that? WH : Yeah, special eve nts, yeah. Mm hm, that would be good. WE: Okay. Do you think that students could benefit from you sharing your experience?
MFP 050B ; White ; Page 22 WH: Oh, sure. They could benefit, you know, because we could kind of let them know some of the pitfalls of life that we get trapped into a lot of times, and a lot of turns we miss in life. WE: How about members of the faculty? How could they benefit from having retirees come back and enrich the program? WH: Well, we could probably motivate them to be more dedicated and have more pa tience and be aware of the things that they could do for class to motivate students. WE: Mm hm. I want to talk to you a little bit about your perceptions from back when you were first recruited to that job in the high school, and I'd like to know how you characterize your recruitment process and the retention process that encouraged you to stay at that job. I'd like to hear your thoughts on what implications there were for your academic, personal, and professional life, and I also want to talk to you about the personal and professional connections that you formed that helped your decision to decide to accept that job when it was offered to you, or maybe to reject it and go somewhere else. So, I'm looking for you to describe your communication, connections w ith others, and feel free, if you want to draw those out on a piece of paper or something later on, but if you could make those connections, who was it? Did you have mentors? Who inspired you? That kind of thing. So, my first question in that regard is, ho w did you select that job to work in mechanics at that school? How did you decide you were going to work there? WH: Well, I really didn't decide I was going to work there. When I got out of school, I wanted first of all, I wanted to work in a garage. I w anted to work with a
MFP 050B ; White ; Page 23 dealership. So, I went to Memphis, checked all the dealerships and wasn't able to land a job there because at that p articular time, they didn't hire black mechanics to work in dealerships. So, I went to Memphis, stayed there a week. I was going to the employment office and walking in dealerships, asking for, you know, employment. One white guy was fortunate enough . was, I guess, was willing to pull me aside and explain the facts of life. WE: Yeah. See, you had your degree and you knew how to do what you were doing, why wouldn't you want me? WH: Yeah, yeah. He pulled me to the side and he told me. He said, now, I'm going to tell you, and I hope you accept what I'm telling you. Said, these guys you see around here, these black guys you see around here in this dealership, said, they are driving, delivering cars, washing and greasing them. Said, they don't have black mechanics in Memphis, Tennessee. So, he told me, I'm going to tell you so you won't be wasting your time. They're not g oing to hire you because they don't hire black mechanics in these dealerships. WE: Do you remember the name of that dealership and that man's name? WH: It was a General Motors dealership. It was a Chevrolet dealership, but I can't recall the name. But, a nyway, when he told me, I thanked him and I left. I came back home and stayed a week or two, and I think I went to Toledo, Ohio. WE: Further north. WH: Further north, mm hm. I went there and I had the same exact experience. WE: North and South.
MFP 050B ; White ; Page 24 WH: Yes So, it was a black guy that had his own garage in Ohio, and I worked with him about five months. When I came home for Christmas holiday, the temperature there was ten degrees below zero, and when I got back here to my Daddy's house, it was thirty two deg rees. WE: But it wasn't ten below. WH: [Laughter] WE: That's forty two degrees difference. [Laughter] WH: Absolutely, absolutely. I figured that this is the best place for me. WE: Let me ask you, you said you worked with a black gentleman who had his o wn garage. What did you think about, prior to choosing that job? What was your thought process? WH: Well, it was just survival, then. It was just a matter of survival, there wasn't no thought process at all. It was just, he had a garage and I was able to work there and had some money. WE: So there were no specific colleagues or friends or mentors that informed your decision to take that particular job. You just needed a job. WH: I just needed a job. I took that one. I stayed there until I came home for t he holidays and the weather and all like that was the big reason to stay, stay South. WE: Mm hm. But, just to elaborate on what you've already told me, but I just want to encapsulate it how did racial situations affect you taking or not taking a job? It was because you're pulled aside and told that.
MFP 050B ; White ; Page 25 WH: Yeah. They really didn't hire black mechanics in the Northern areas, and this was the reason that I was defeated, more or less. I thought, when you go north, you know, those doors was open and you could d o those kind of things. WE: That was 1958? WH: That was 1958. So, I found well, I knew here, we had blacks working in dealerships in these small towns. Like here in Indianola, we had black guys, just dealership work. WE: Was that because they were part of the ownership, or was it because there were so many black people, you had to have some black people working there? WH: Yes, well, they just needed good mechanics and they had good mechanics here and they would hire them to get the work done, although they didn't make a whole lot of money dur ing that period time. But they would give them work and they worked with those dealers. So, when I came back, I got a job then teaching school. WE: Did you have a friend or a colleague help shape . the fact tha t you accepted that job? How did you find out about that job? WH: My instructor over at Valley, he more or less had a network of places that needed . WE: What was his name? WH: He was the fellow that helped me locate that particular job. WE: What was his name? WH: Edwards, D.E. Edwards.
MFP 050B ; White ; Page 26 WE: So, D.E. Edwards was your mentor and specific contact. He said, well, you can work over here. WH: Right. WE: Okay. When he was giving you that information, you had trust in him that he was directing you in t he right direction? WH: Oh, sure. Sure. WE: Did you seek him out, or did he see you around and say, hey, why you sitting around, you could get a job over here? WH: I came back to talk to him, yes. I visited him back over at Valley, and he told me places that he knew that they needed instructors. WE: Why did you go and seek him out? WH: Well, because I knew that he kind of had a network or contacts that I could get. WE: This is probably going to take you back a while and you may not remember, but if y ou can, it may be beneficial if you help me answer this question : why didn't you seek him out before you went to Memphis and to Toledo the first time? WH: That's a good question. I don't know why that wasn't a part of my thought process, but I realized he could help me when I came back, and I didn't. WE: So, first you were being like maybe your own man, but school of hard knocks said, well, let me reevaluate the tools I got, what are my resources. WH: Yeah, yeah. Mm hm. WE: Okay. I want to thank you so much for being so open and offering your very candid points on your life and your experiences. On behalf of the oral history program at the University of F lorida, we just want to thank you so much fo r taking
MFP 050B ; White ; Page 27 the time to come over on a weekend and speak wit h us. It's very much appreciated. I l ike to conclude my interviews by making that thanks and then open the floor to you to have any comment that you might have, something on the interviewer something you want to elaborate on a little bit more, what you tho ught, the process, anything you want to talk about, and whenever you finish those comments, however long it takes and what you want to talk about, that'll conclude t he interview. WH: Oh, I'd just like to thank you for inviting me, and it's been a pleasure to sit down and chat with you and kind of reveal some of the things that have gone on in my life. I hope you very successful in the future in your endeavors to achieve your goals. Thank you. [End of interview] Transcribed by: Diana Dombrowski, November 1 4, 2013 Audit e dited by: Sarah Blanc November 21, 2013 Final edited by: Diana Dombrowski, March 13, 2014