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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
Interviewee: Rev. T.B. McPherson
Interviewer: Joel Buchanan
J: Reverend McPherson has been a teacher, administrator, and head of the
athletic department in the Alachua County School system for more than
thirty-nine years and he is now currently a reverend. Good morning,
M: Good morning.
J: How are you this morning?
M: Fine, and you?
J: Fine, thank you. You do not mind me saying Mr. Mac, do you?
M: I do not mind. You are a gentleman, and the type of gentleman that I know
I appreciate the things that you have done. They make me feel so proud.
So, you call me what you want to call me. Call me T.B.
J: Thank you, sir. Mr. Mac, where were you born please?
M: Gainesville, Florida, on May 28, 1908.
J: Whereabout in Gainesville were you born?
M: On the corner of Court Street and what we then called, Ninth Street.
J: Will you tell me something about your family?
M: My mother was a maid. She worked for Senator Clark. And after Senator
Clark left this section she then worked for the president of the
University of Florida, Dr. Murphree [ Albert A. Murphree, President of the
University of Florida, 1909-1927], as the maid. She did a lot of work for
people along in that time. Education in that time, if you went to
sixth, seventh, or eighth or ninth grade, you were doing fine. She was a
pretty intelligent lady.
M: My father was a carpenter. He came from Charleston, South Carolina. But
the unusual thing, my daddy had been teaching carpentry long before he
came here as a carpenter. He taught a carpentry class for Claflin
University just as a trade. He did not have those degrees and things. It
was a trade. But I can point to right now in Gainesville at least thirty-
five homes that I know are still there that he built.
J: And your father's and mother's names were?
M: My father's name was T.B. McPherson, Sr. My mother's name was Ella W.
McPherson. The 'W' I have always liked to talk about because I have asked
about it and it was Ella Ward McPherson.
J: Were there any brothers and sisters?
M: Yes. I had a brother. His name was George McPherson.
J: Was he older or younger?
J: Where did T.B. McPherson go to school?
M: T.B. McPherson went to the local schools at first. Starting off, I can
tell you that the little school used to be called Jones Elementary School.
Then the next school that had the best training around here was the
Episcopal School taught by a reverend and about three others, at that
particular time. After leaving there, Lincoln High School came into
existence. After finishing Lincoln High School, I then finished Florida A
& M College with a bachelor's degree. I had some people that were
interested in me from both races and I then received a masters at
Columbia University. Then the church sent me again to school during the
summer. That really made me interested in the church. I then went to the
University of London. And after going to the University of London, just
for the summer, it really opened my eyes. The next summer, they told me,
"If you do as well as you have done this year, we will help you get
somewhere else." It was just for three weeks, but it was certainly an eye
opener. I had a chance to spend another three weeks that summer at the
University of Edinburgh [Scotland]. But I still had my eye on this
community and its growth.
J: Did you attend Union Academy?
M: Yes, I did.
J: What grades?
M: I was in the third, fourth, and fifth grades. Miss Eloise Perkins, of the
Union Academy, spent a lot of time working with young people she thought
J: Where was Union Academy located? What was it called when you were there?
M: It was called Union Academy. It's now where the Bethel A.M.E. Church is
J: Was that building a one-story, two-story, or three-story building?
M: It was a wooden, two-story building.
J: Did all the children go to that school?
M: That was the school, except for one or two private schools. Mrs. Mary
Jones taught another school for beginners. They had beginning schools
back in that time, and she taught those schools. It went from the
beginning to the third grades.
J: Can you recall where any of these private schools were located?
M: Yes. First of all, let me talk about the Space School, which was run by
the Episcopal Church. It was on the corner of Church and Fourth.
J: You mean the school that is there now?
M: Yes. That was there. I went to that school, too.
J: Now how did you all get a chance to go there? Who made the decision
whether you would go there or not?
M: Your parents. If they had that little thirty or that thirty-five cents,
they would pay for school. You took your lunch to school with you, and
when you got through with your lunch, your mom or dad came to get you.
Then after you got up in size, you could take care of yourself. The next
school that I went to was supposed to have been a little bit better. A
lady who had been a very outstanding teacher for that day was Mary Jones.
She taught people who were beginners and seemed to have promise, and
particularly, if those people could get that thirty-five cents to her. We
went to school there until we were ready for the public school.
J: Where was Mary Jones' school?
M: Mary Jones' school was on the corner of Fifth Street, and what we now
presently call Church Street.
J: Were the teachers black or white in the Episcopal school?
J: Was this owned by the Episcopal church?
M: Right. It is still there and it is a nursery now.
J: St. Augustus nursery?
M: St. Augustine.
J: You went to school there?
J: Can you recall anything that happened during your early childhood that
stands out in your mind? How about a day at school, or an activity, or
M: Well, so many of them. When I got my first test back, I was going to quit
school. My folks had no telephone then, but the news got home that I was
going to quit. When I got home, I got greeted with a good spanking, and I
walked back to school. My dad gave me just about thirty minutes. He
said, "I am going to give you thirty minutes and you better get back
there." They did not have any more trouble with me about wanting to go to
school. I knew my parents were not going to put up with the things that I
had in my mind. That was a fight back then. I thought I was supposed to
J: How long were you in school before you stopped. It is known that a lot of
people start teaching early. Did you start teaching early?
M: Yes. Well, believe it or not, I had a lot of backing. My mother was a
maid for Senator Clark, [Frank Clark, U.S. House of Representatives, (D.-
FL) 1905-1925]. We had all sorts of encouragement that we needed to keep
children going to school. As I grew up, my mother worked as a maid for
Senator Clark and President Murphree, and she helped at all their parties.
She was one of those ladies in that time fit to do things, and they called
on her. We got used to being around a lot of people who cared for
progress, and perhaps this was when I decided that I wanted to be
somebody. If somebody saw you on the street playing hooky from school,
and we did that, too, in that day, and that news got home to mama and
papa, that was an omen. I am kind of proud that somebody did know me.
These upright white people knew you were Ella's boy. I guess my mother
had an idea for progress, which is quite unusual because there were some
mothers who did not want to spend money for their children to go to school
and make progress.
J: Senator Clark, was he a U.S. Senator?
J: Where was his home? Can you recall where that home was?
J: In Gainesville. Do you remember where it was? Now?
M: Out on University Avenue, where the Primrose Grill is now. That was
Senator Clark's home. They had a daughter named Lillian and another
sister named Eulah Clark. We came up there a lot of times. They were
very nice to us. I do not have any reason not to be a progressive person.
I came up around those people who wanted Ella's children to get an
J: So, by your mother working for the senator, it had some influence on her
M: Right, right. And if I played hooky from school and summer time came and
we would play hooky from school and make that quarter or thirty-five
cents. Anybody see me they would say, "Aren't you Ella's boy? What are you
doing in the streets?" And boy, that meant I got a beating. I got a
beating when they got the news at home and when Daddy came home too. That
was another beating. But, right now I can appreciate it.
J: Very good. What was the first job that that T.B. had after finishing
school or going to school?
M: Believe it or not, coming back to Lincoln High School as a teacher that
taught the seventh and eighth grade. And, then later on teaching history,
then I got in charge of the history department. I really began to see
progress because I had a lot of ideas and things that I had picked up out
of college and out of visits sometimes to the larger cities. I was then
head of the history department.
J: Question now. You finished, you went to Union Academy and then you went
M: Went to Lincoln.
J: Did you graduate from Lincoln High?
M: Yes, I graduated from Lincoln High in 1928.
J: Do you recall any person that is living today that was a part of your
M: No, no. I am the only one living.
J: Only one.
M: As I think now. I am about the only one living now anyplace.
J: Who was the principal of Lincoln when you graduated?
M: A. Quinn Jones.
J: Was he?
J: And did you leave there and go to college or did you start teaching then?
M: No. When I left there I was heading to FAMU. (Florida Agricultural and
J: What did it cost to go to FAMU in 1928?
M: I was a fairly good football player.
J: Oh, were you?
M: And we did not pay money during the football season but the cost at that
time was about sixteen dollars a month. If you did not have anything else
besides a little job that they gave you, about sixteen dollars a month
would get you through. And luckily, this is where I got my start. I was
the outstanding football player. I did not realize what I was doing but I
was making my way to becoming an assistant coach of a high school team
that was in Tallahassee. And as you know, I went to Florida A & M. And
they had a high school, too, across town named Lincoln High School. And
the football players were fairly good football players and I was,
believe it or not, one of the fairly good football players.
J: What position did you play?
M: I was a guard and a tackle. And after finding out that I was that type of
fellow, the coach began to decide that he better keep me on over to FAMU
with the high school team and I coached the high school team. That is the
FAMU high school team now. I coached the high school team there for about
the first two years. When I did finish college believe it or not, I came
back to Lincoln as a coach. And I would teach them history too then.
That was my outstanding field.
M: Yes, but I came back to Lincoln.
J: Aren't you credited with being the person that started the first football
team at Lincoln High?
M: No. Charles Chesnut, Sr. was my coach. Charlie Chesnut. He is the one
that did more, really, when we start talking about any of the athletic
things. Charles Chesnut, Sr. was not only the coach of their team, he
was the leader of turning kids around. This was the truth. He spent his
money. He would take the promising kids and do the things that he thought
would help them if they were interested.
J: So you were on the football team at Lincoln when you were going there as a
M: Oh, yes, definitely. I was raised up at Lincoln. I started in Lincoln
and I finished in Lincoln. Came back, and taught at Lincoln for thirty-
J: Thirty-one years. What was the record of your team during some of the
periods of your administration as a coach of the football team?
M: Well, I have had periods as long as two years undefeated.
J: Did you produce any professionals or college players?
M: I really did a good job there, I think, in producing a lot of football
players. I would go to Bethune-Cookman and see Florida Normal and Bethune-
Cookman play. I was looking at my team and Florida Normal was looking at
my team and Bethune-Cookman, all except sometimes six or eight boys on
either of the other teams.
M: We were lucky too, because we had a close relationship that was unusual.
I had a close relationship with the coaches at the University of Florida
when I came to Lincoln as the coach. Because all this stuff that usually
anybody else used to get, I got all these second-handed goods sent to me
or either I went to the university. But Dr. Murphree being the president
of that school, my mother had worked for him and Senator Clark, why not?
J: So you were able to get some of the supplies from the university?
B: Plenty of them. Even though I do not care to brag about myself, but that
meant that anything they had to get over here, I had the first choice.
J: Well, very good. While at Lincoln High School as a teacher of history and
a coach, did you do anything else? Did you teach any other subjects?
M: Yes. You see, when you said you were teaching history in Lincoln, in
those days, you had a lot of other subjects you taught. They were getting
the persons who were best qualified to do those things. And at that time,
it was something now to be proud of, that we had the same A. Q. Jones here
living now that was the principal and he was a brilliant fellow. He was
given a lot of credit. He spent time trying to find material, time trying
to see that we were putting to practice the things that they were
teaching. And consequently, the University of Florida has been good to
M: Because when they had something to throw away, the University of Florida,
did not throw it away. I am talking about uniforms and things. We got a
call. Come pick up so and so and so and so. I hope I do not disturb
anybody but really I had the first choice of about all the things that I
wanted. I can naturally see it. My mother worked for the president of
the Unviersity of Florida and knew a lot of the things that went on in the
time. My daddy was a carpenter.
J: That had some influence.
M: Yes, they had some influence on it.
J: As a student that grew up in Gainesville, and being from the family and
then coming back as a teacher, were there problems with getting the black
children to go to school? Did you have the support of the family in your
J: Tell me something about what it was like being a teacher in the 1930s or
M: It was beautiful. If you lived and if you worked for Professor Jones,
you are going to do all right. He was not the type that would holler.
Sometimes he gently would take you in a room if you found out now you
gonna have to tighten up or do not and so you do these things. After a
while, he will have you under their control instead of them being under
your control. Now otherwise you had to get that way if you had dig to get
your work and get it prepared, because along in then, they wanted your
plans, too. You had to have a plan. I got a lot of respect for what
Professor Jones did for all of us who were in the profession anyway. We
had a lot of us who would go all over the country to teach after we had
finished Lincoln and gone to some colleges and prepared ourself. I say
M: You got fundamentals at Lincoln. We had plenty kids over the country.
But I have nothing to feel ashamed about out at Lincoln. Boy it was
fundamentals out there. There had some of the oldest teachers. Knew
those books and things. Fundamentals. So that you better do what was,
what was right. It was beautiful to have gone there.
J: What made T.B. McPherson come back to Gainesville to work at Lincoln?
M: What Lincoln did for me before I left Lincoln. A foundation.
Fundamentals. Wanting to be the tops. Not outstanding but wanting to be
in the top bracket that was making a contribution to the growth of its
citizens and students.
J: About how many years were you at the Lincoln that is now on Tenth Street?
M: From the building of it until I finished in 1928. And then I have to go
in about now and think after I left there is when I got out of the school.
Well, let's do not bother with me getting out of school. Until about
let's say thirty some odd years. I am just taking a rough guess.
J: All right. Okay. And then you left there and went to the new Lincoln
J: And you were there for about what? Twenty years also?
J: So your entire teaching was at just Lincoln?
M: Yes, the two Lincolns.
J: When Lincoln was closing, or when they made the decision to close Lincoln,
how did that happen?
M: Oh, nobody wanted to see it closed.
J: Did you think that was a good thing to do or a bad thing? What did it do
to the community?
M: Tore up the community. They were mad. They were disgusted. They was
crying. And brother, that was not just with students. That was with
teachers and people in the community. Somebody got a soft-heart and had
a lot of commonsense and got together. I am talking about from the
opposite from the race and saw that the school should be opened back up.
I happen to have had the privilege of talking with, I do not know, could
not call by name now but the persons who came and called a few of us
together. They came from the opposite race. And they felt that that
school ought to be opened back up.
J: And they did reopen it?
M: They did reopen it.
J: What made your teaching years successful?
M: I loved what I was doing. After I had gained a little intelligence and
progress, I wanted to see other people, children with the same thing that
I had or better.
J: Did you have support from the community?
M: Yes. And my support, I should acknowledge, did not only come from my race
of people but it came from both races of people. I do not mind telling
you this and I do not brag about it, but so many things that were taught
they did not want to know whether you were black or not. They just wanted
to know are you interested in so and so and so. If you interested in
seeing the community progress. I got a lot of respect for the work that
J: Very good. You know we read so much now about behavior in school and
athletes not having the ability to do well or they are just playing ball.
Was that true during the time?
M: I can tell you no. Not with Jones. You better believe this. You were
not gonna be on that ball team if you did not have this scholastic
ability. And passing in the grade, way back there. And out of that we
turned out some of the smartest kids in the country. Doctor Joe Dennis
who went to Clark University is one. I mean we turned out great people
but Jones did not have that kind of foolishness with him. You went to
your classes. You were a good student. And if you give him trouble, do
not tell he would not whip then. Long then, that was the key to it.
J: Was it?
M: That was the key to knowing that if you went wrong, do not feel like you
are gonna stay at Lincoln less you got straightened up. That was the key
to it. And if you did not get straightened out, you going home or you
gonna take that punishment that they had. And it was, I do not want to
brag about it being a psychologist, I do not know a whole lot about
psychology here but the psychology was that he got the job done. And a
lot of us still living around now. We got a lot of pride in what
Professor Jones did for us. Jones was not just interested in the dollar.
The buildings and all that thing. Professor Jones, he was a carpenter as
well as a teacher. He has done all these type of things that you wanted
to see done by a leader. Maybe an industrial school as well as in the
M: He was a brilliant fellow. And he cared. He would not beat you, nothing
like that. But he would say well, when you did wrong, your best hope was
go ahead on in there when he sent for you. And he did and he would say
come in and so come on, come here. I want to talk to you. He would get
that drum, boy and lock that door. Here you gonna do right when you come
out of there. But that was not his real goal. His real goal was to see
men and women turn out and you can believe this. I am gonna mention some
of them. They had a newspaper writer in Atlanta, Rick Roberts, who was
one of the most outstanding athletes that we turned out. We had all kind
of people going out from Lincoln going into big jobs. And the last, I do
not mind talking about it. I can talk about Lincoln and Professor Jones
the rest of the night.
J: He was definitely the inspiration for this community?
M: Oh, yes.
J: Let's talk about something about the community that Lincoln High School
was in. You know we hear now about that section being the very bad part
of town and nothing good's going on there. You were born here. You went
to school there, worked there. What was that community like twenty or
thirty years ago?
M: Well, it was a pretty quiet town. You did not have a whole lot. Think
about it, we did not have a whole lot of that foolishness and things that
some of the people saw a little later on. Because most of the people that
moved there were the settled people or the people who had come out of the
community. Not so much education but wanting to see progress in their
community. And the churches, I saw a whole lot of the buildings and
things that went up for an instance. I saw the other Mount Carmel Church,
get started and go up. I saw people who you would say something opposite
about do a great job and that was, Elder Williams. Yes. I saw in that
time, people tried to judge a whole lot of standards, but the people who
made their contribution were not judged. Now we had churches like Mount
Pleasant where intelligence in the background was financed and things came
from the opposite race. But in the day that we were living, people like
Elder Williams, who did not have all this training, but had all this love
for people, developed some of the best programs we had in the community.
J: Now what Elder Williams were you talking about now?
M: Henry Williams.
J: And his church was on Seventh Avenue.
M: Seventh Avenue.
J: And you spoke about Mount Pleasant.
M: Mount Pleasant at that time, because of the people who had jobs and the
university and places, had quite a few real trained people. But I saw a
lot more go on in a lot of churches after ministers who were dedicated
came in sure enough interested interested in progress.
J: What did you do besides go to school? What was the entertainment? Where
did you go for entertainment? What did you do for social life?
M: I was a part of that too. I used to like to sponsor the dances. But,
for your entertainment, which was very little, you would get to the
poolroom and you had groups. I want to take back that there was not much
because families, where their children were concerned, they had their
parties. They had their socials. You had the same type of group thing as
any other race of people. You just maybe did not have all that money but
you had those type of things. We went through the motions of having the
things that even the people who had money had. What I mean by that is
that people would be invited, you had the invitation, you had your
private affairs, you had you affairs set for a certain time of year,
certain clubs and organizations. Even trips. For a couple of days, they
would go from a class from the school going somewhere. They got their
money from some of their own. I do not know where they got it.
J: Do you feel that the church was more important at that time than it is
M: Definitely. Well, let me be sure that I re-examine myself on the answer
to this question. The church had a few dedicated leaders. And now I
believe that some of the people that they turn out of their churches have
gone into other churches and other divisions of leadership. Maybe you
will want to make a change in that statement because there has been a lot
of changes in things. You see, I started to go through some of the
fellows who had come out. These fellows who would go to college and come
back. They got a lot of respect for what people like Mary McLeod Bethune
[Mary McLeod Bethune, educator, founder of Bethune-Cookman College (1825-
1955)], did for us. Mary McLeod Bethune did not live in Gainesville. But
tell you what. On Saturday morning, she would invite the businessmen from
all over the state of Florida and somehow she had to list the promising
young men and women. On Saturday morning, we went down to Bethune-
Cookman. She invited us. She had breakfast prepared. We had dinner
prepared and we laid out on the floor in the auditorium and she starts to
talking about what communities ought to be. And you can do it.
M: She was something else. And some of the people along that time, I was one
of them who went with Charlie Chestnut. She would pick up any promising
person and invite them down on Saturday morning. Did not have nothing
fancy. We did not have not fancy place. We laid in the rooms that she
had set asisde on there and we would begin to discuss the pride that you
ought to have in your community. Mary McLeod Bethune was something,
brother let me tell you. And, if you invited her, she would be there to
talk with you.
J: Did she come to Lincoln?
M: Oh, yes. She would come to Lincoln. She encouraged one of our bishops to
come to Lincoln out of New York because I had been talking about when I
did get a chance to go to school at Columbia, I told them about the about
the bishop up there, Bishop King and she said, "Do you want him to your
school?" Said, "I do not got no money." She laughs, she said, "I asked
you do you want him to your school?" I said We would be glad to have
him to our school but I got to talk with Jones." And we brought Bishop
Lorenzo King down here and I remember his speech that night. He
was tremendous. I had been a little kid myself. Not a kid, a young man,
in New York at Columbia, working on my masters and I told Mrs. Bethune one
Saturday about him. And sure enough, she did bring him down here. I
never will forget his speech that Saturday that turned us around. We have
got to get, our people interested in staying in low places. And point
their goals. And reach for goals of high places. (laughter) That cat
was...he was so bad, boy. And it did not cost us nothing.
J: Did you?
M: Did not cost us nothing. You see, in that day, you had a lot of those
people who did, well, let's don't feel bad about some of our leaders. We
had some other leaders who cared. And they did what they thought was
gonna help bring us to the light. Now I could mention another fellow who
did that same thing right here but I imagine some people would feel I am
trying to pull punches because Charles' on the board but Charlie
M: Yes. He spent his money, his time, trying to develop leaders.
J: Did he?
M: He was something else. I got a lot of respect for him. And he was
respected by most of the leaders that they had in both races. And that
did not hurt us at all.
J: And Mr. Chestnut was a funeral director. Was he always a funeral
J: And you say he worked at Lincoln?
M: No. Well, yeah, he coached the Lincoln team free.
J: Oh, really.
M: Yes. But he was doing, he was one of my coaches in Lincoln. When I was a
little boy going to school. He was the leader. If you wanted something
long in that time, the people would tell you to see Charlie.
J: Really? And he was helpful?
M: Oh, he was helpful. And intelligent.
J: As a professional man and having a center named after you here in
Gainesville, the T.B. McPherson Recreation Center, and your mother being a
maid and your father being a carpenter, do you feel that helped you get
where you are today?
M: I tell you what I think helped me. I had a mother and a father who wanted
their child to succeed. And we wasn't up in these, where we could reach
all these classes of people. That wasn't our goal. They tried to see my
future. And a whole lot of times, my mother would say to me when I did
not have things and I could not go where the other children went, "You do
not have to stay down there if you just keep working and doing the things
that you ought to be doing. You will make Mother proud some day." When
my dad come up behind, did you hear what you mother say? I am back of her
one hundred percent. I know you do not get a chance to go to all the
parties and things. But a whole lot of times, it is better that you do
not go. I did not believe it then because I wanted to get out there with
the other cats who were doing things. But my mother was a type of person
who knew that she wanted her children to come up and she took them beside
her working for Senator Clark and President Murphree. She took in washing
and ironing to try to see that we got the training that we should. I got
a lot of respect for them. They did not have all that education and stuff.
J: But they had that courage and that self-confidence and that gave it to
J: Would you say that the community that Lincoln High School is in, the old
Lincoln, was a good community?
M: It was a good community. Definitely. I knew the background of what was
around there. Across the street, see, they had Scott's Industrial School,
which was before we got there. That was where Lincoln School is now was
the baseball park. And it was not fenced in but that is where they played
baseball. And then a little later on when they did start to building up
their community. But across the street from where Lincoln is now was the
little school, Celie Green ran, called the Scott's Industrial School.
That was for your teaching, before you started out in the community.
J: What side of the school was that on?
M: Right across the street.
J: On the east side?
M: Yes. On the east side of Lincoln High School. The little place right
across the street from there. And she ran the industrial school. Her
name was Celie Green but they called it Scott's Industrial School. You had
some people who wanted education here because you had another school, St.
Augustine Episcopal School. Because in it, usually the Episcopal Church
supported it. And a reverend and his daughter ran it. I got a chance to
go but you only went there as beginners. And you had a whole lot of people,
maybe we did not have the fast and the high powered teachers that we had
then. But you did have another little school with people who were
energetic. You had another school named Jones Elementary School. They go
no further than fifth grade, by the way. That's where you learned your
ABCs and a lot of other things.
J: Now where was that? Where was Jones Elementary School? Between third and
J: You mentioned earlier about a hospital.
M: Yes, it is still there. I raised some money. We had a lady named Mrs.
Jennie Rose, who lived next door to us, but she had the first Negro
hospital that we had in Gainesville. It was called the Rose Hospital, and
it was in the ten hundred block on what used to be called Coach Street. I
believe it is Fourth Street now.
J: And that was a hospital?
M: She established the first Negro hospital we had. Her name was Jennie Rose
and she was a nurse. Now where she got her training I do not know, but
she was very well respected. She was intelligent and did a pretty good
job. A little later on, we began to see hospitals and things for black
people in the neighborhood.
J: Did you ever think about why you couldn't do certain things as a black
M: No. It did not worry me too much but I have always had this from a little
kid up. If anybody else can do it, we can do it. This is my general
idea. And I did do a whole lot of talk. I got to acknowledge, being
exposed to seeing people that wanted to do things. My momma did not have
all this education. And a whole lot of people that she had did not have
all that education but had a desire to see improvement in their children
and their community. You go back now and knowing those people, I can
count out the ones who really wanted to see community improvement. You
would say, "Don't say those kind of words." Way back we learned how to
eliminate things that would bring us down from our own people. In some of
those neighborhoods they did a good job. Do not kid yourself about it. A
lot of times when people would say things or hurt you because of the color
of your skin or where you came from you had somebody say, "Baby, don't pay
no attention to them. A little later on, that'll be behind you."
J: Were there many behavior problems with black boys and girls living
M: No. You did not have a whole lot of that back then. As a matter of fact,
it was almost unheard of except in certain groups of people. And that
group of people were ones who had parents or somebody that lost control
long ahead of the ages. They did a lot of these things but generally
speaking, our people were a decent group of people to work and see around
Gainesville. Now yes, graft and ranking went on and I have to be careful
when I make that statement. A whole lot of the graft went on, because the
topside let graft go on. When they fought against these types of things,
they wanted to see progress. I am going to tell you this, when we played
football games, some of our football games were played at the University
of Florida on Fleming Field. Yes, sir. But before me was Charlie
Chestnut, Sr., who had made a reputation far greater than any of us will
ever reach. I am not saying that because Charles is on that board, but
those people had a lot of respect for Charlie. And I came up under
Charlie and then when I got here, I wanted to play some of my football
games and I played them on Fleming Field.
J: That is unheard of. And did you have any problems being out there?
N: No. They did not have as much interest because they had not come to the
point where we developed that type of thing. I had seen the other big
colleges do the thing and parades were one of the big things during the
year, when the homecoming parade came. It got so we would get a couple of
the school bands that we knew, and these were they type of things that
made me feel that we had a job to do with young people. You can't stop
the job with just getting that little money. All the money I ever made
went back into what I was trying, to do, and it finally paid off. But
what I'm saying is it was not as bad as you thought. It depended upon the
type of people. It depended on those few who had some training who wanted
to see progress. Then you had some of them who did not want to see
J: What do you feel caused it to have been that you did not have much of a
problem from the black children? Was it the family structure of the
church or community?
M: I would think the family structure. And I have got to put the community
in because there was some pride given when we used to play my football
game at the University of Florida.
J: That's completely unheard of.
M: I have got to acknowledge that some of the things that make you feel proud
of it. I guess I should not say this but when I look at the fellow, you
see, it may have hurt Charles, but Charlie Chestnut was the most
influential person and a whole lot of people did not like him. But he
knew how to get to people. And he would say things that would help us a
lot. Can you picture that? And I had a high school golf team. And we
played a couple of teams in here that had kids in school with me. We
played at the Gainesvile Golf and Country Club. This is really the truth.
J: And now, that is unheard of. Black children do not even know what playing
golf is all about. You mean you and a golf course and a golf team?
M: Yes. It came with some of the caddies and the kids on there. We had to
play it in the morning before the crowds started to come.
J: But you still played.
J: So things were not as bad as we pretended.
M: No. I do not care who hears me say this. I had the first choice of
things that they wanted to let go.
J: So you were very much well-equipped, well-respected and were able to do a
lot of things that were unheard of?
M: Right. And I do not mind telling these things because it made me feel
good. Nash Higgins would send for me to come get so and so and sometimes
a truck would come with things that you needed that they did not have use
for. All these things have come because of the way we have used what we
have now. You needed to be in drives. You needed to be in things that
were going to make you community good now and when I say good, I mean
sharing. They would start and they would have contests and things like
drives and things. We did not used to think anything about those things.
I do not want to take the credit for that and I am not saying it because
Charles is on the board. But Charlie Chestnut would come to some of his
friends he felt that were for promising, they were both white and black.
And he would say we got to do so and so.
J: And we must give credit to Charles Chestnut, Sr.
M: Yes, sir.
J: What was your football team called?
M: The Lincoln Terrors.
J: Do you think we will ever go back to having a black school again?
M: I just believe right now that we ourselves would be the greatest handicap.
So we still got people that object to the unity. Maybe, some of the pride
and stuff that we worried about may lead right into us digging to get the
things that we needed, which is unity. We have made progress now. Since
we started talking on this thing really. I may be wrong on that. I just
start thinking about the number of black kids and things that are getting
in the universities and on teams. I saw some of the street last night.
Made me feel pretty good to see some of the outstanding things kids are
doing now. Color does not enter in to it.
J: There is a T.B. McPherson Center here that was named after you. What year
did that happen?
M: I did not know it.
J: You did not?
M: No. Until that day somebody told me. Said they have a secret for me.
And one of my wife's friends and he said, I would like for you to come
go with me, son." He said, "This is gonna be named after you." Then they
dedicated it. They had me out there and I cried because this day turned
around. I did not know people paid attention to you that much. I might
as well tell you now. I always wanted to see my group of people come out
of the slums and be what they want to be. I taught it, I believed it, and
this was a turning point. When I saw that, I went back home. I cried.
My wife, she can tell you. She said, "What are you crying about?" I
said, "I cannot believe it." But somehow I got to acknowledge I give all
kinds of people credit for helping me do it. I am not going on talking
about every one of those names because you had some good white people
as well as you had some good black people who want progress. You had some
of our people who hated them as well as they hated us. So far as
depending upon God to solve problems, I do not know whether I did. A
whole lot of times I got a lot of respect from my mom. She was a good
church woman. And those people stayed on their knees and things, praying
for their children. That made a difference. I am not talking about just
my momma now. Because you had a lot of parents and things here that have
helped change this town. They did not have education. I hate say it
but...no, I do not hate to say it, but it is the truth, who wanted to see
progress. And maybe, maybe education was not all of it, maybe it was a
part of it. But you see, all those days when the people would take
advantage of you because of your color, those days left. Because people
who grew intelligent and did not want that type of stink on their name and
wanted to see progress in the community. And until we all get that way,
and I do not want to criticize the other race of people either because a
whole lot of times, we did not know any better when we started. But we
are seeing a lot of groups with intelligence and education. And when you
expose us to the type of education we get it down in here. Rather than
where everybody can see what little we do, we want them to see what we do.
I have seen a lot of progress.
J: Being T.B. McPherson that was born, raised, worked, and is still living in
Gainesville, how were you able to get about, I mean, do you feel that the
white community respected you for what you were doing? Or because of your
family? What made you successful?
M: I said some about my family and I might already have pointed out the
thing. I doubt whether anybody knew T.B.'s daddy. No more than that he
was a hell of a good carpenter and he was a builder for most of the
contractors. The other thing I think was some of the training that I got
at home. That long in then, my mom was something else. She worked with
Senator Clark and all those things. She saw a lot of the future in what
she could do with her own home and her children. A whole lot of times I
would hear my mom say, "Well, you will never have to go to bed hungry.
May not be able to give you the things that you want. But we do not want
to see you stealing and doing the other things." My mom was something
else. I got a lot of respect for my mom.
J: And so she encouraged you. That was what was encouraging, the home life?
M: Yes, sir.
J: Did you have problems as a young man growing up in Gainesville, shopping,
getting around downtown when it was segregated?
M: I did not.
J: You did not?
M: I guess I did not have a whole to buy! I did not have a whole lot to buy
and stuff. No use in putting on airs that we had a whole lot of stuff.
Parents have a lot of contributions they can make to children. And so
much pride in my dad. He always told us when I was a little boy, if I
ever catch you stealing, I am going to try to rip you loose.
J: Did he?
M: Yes. "Do not come here now. Do not come back home." (laughing) We never
got in those times. But then I had a brother. He got smart and he got in
trouble then. They did to mean that but I know what they were trying.
They were trying to turn him. He is a smart boy, George.
J: Reverend McPherson, as a young man that was born here, grew up here,
became educated, and who came back and taught in the system for thirty
years, what changes have you seen in the education system from the time
when you were in school to the time that you were teaching, and by the
time that you got out of the system?
M: A whole lot of change. Well, I wonder if we ever had these things and
maybe it was best that we did not. But I have seen so much progress. So
much concern about progress regardless of who you are. Now if we do not
advance and do the things that we ought to do a whole lot of the time, we
put it on the other person just as much as to us. As much in our family.
As much a job for our schools, our churches. To be concerned about the
growth of the total youth. And we are beginning to see it now. But a lot
of it has come from the other side of the fence where they did not want to
see us progress and in some of the cases, we did not have the proper
prospect about the future for our children and our groups of people have
handicapped us and we are beginning to see now to open our eyes. Now that
is the truth. That is the way I really feel about it. Because I have
seen things I did not care to see make progress. You have got to
acknowledge. You do not go around talking about that you had some of
these selfish ideas too. And then as you grew and saw people changing as
we changed, we saw progress. I used to think all of us were ignorant.
But you see, as we begin to display our attitudes and display the things
that we felt would improve our churches and our communities and things,
we have grown right along with it. And I got to tell the truth. I found
out the other thing that until we really begin to put some hope and some
trust in not only ourselves and God to solving our problems, we are in
M: We are not in so much trouble now. You look at this thing where we are
looked over now and seeing the different. Well, Let's say, not just
religion. We are beginning to see a lot of changes. You used to couldn't
walk in the street. You could not go on the streets and they did not want
you walking on them in their neighborhoods and things. And at dark, I
have seen in Gainesville, where you better get off the streets at night.
They had had a lot of stealing but we put down a whole lot of that. With
the law doing its job. You do not have breaking in.
J: That is right.
M: You do not have the breaking in. Somebody beats somebody on the corner.
All of these things have made a change. We got to give a lot of credit to
a few people who had a little hope. Oh, I have a good time. I preach in
white churches. Believe it or not, it makes me feel good that here you see
consistently a speaker or preacher in the churches in Hawthorne? A lot
of them are white churches.
M: Yes. So I say, "Well, do not let it swell your head."
J: But it is not that. It is just that you are doing something good and that
you are definitely a role model for black boys and girls coming to see
that you can do it. What has happened to the black child today? What has
caused that problem that is there?
M: Some of them older people were more interested than we are right now with
some of our education. Some time education makes a fool out of some of
us. I hate to say this. And sometimes, let's be fair with it. If we did
not have it, we would be in a sure enough bad, bad shape.
J: That is right.
M: Because it does open our eyes so that we can open the eyes of others who
do not see as we see. Let me point out the things that I saw and had my
own attitude about it and then a little later on, when you look about it
and think about it, would you do that? If you did that, you would be
going backwards. This is true with your church work and anything else.
But if you got that nasty attitude in keep it, I am going to mention
something that people do not believe. You have got to believe in God.
Sure enough believe in him and trust in him and a whole lot of these
things that you call problems do not become problems. You know that I am
a seventy-six years old in May. And I have been offered a job, even
though I am going to retire this year. I have been offered a job in my
church on board of race relations. At a decent salary.
J: How delightful.
M: When I retire, I do not know what I am going to do.
J: That is an honor.
M: Seventy-six years old, I am thinking about going on and accepting it. But
(what I am saying is that the world would get better if we look up. If I
am gonna do you dirty because you did me dirty and do not try to help
straighten me or do not help. I do not care how many degrees. Too many
/ of us who have got to the top and I am talking about white and black too.
(We got there, we forgot everybody else. Forgot anything else that is
coming on. And these people who are concerned now are people who maybe
have scuffled and do not get hardly anything out of the joy of seeing
things change and not going on and bragging about what I did and I did
that. Look in your communities and things where we want to clean up our
own streets and shrubs.
J: What was it like for you in attending Columbia University years ago?
J: No problems?
M: No problems. You see, I went to Columbia with a good record. (laughter)
You remember, I was one of the top football coaches in the country with
records and things.
J: Oh, were you?
J: You mean to tell me your team at Lincoln was that outstanding?
M: Yes. You see, that is how I got to Columbia when a couple of those white
fellows at the University of Florida, Nash Higgins and them saw a whole
lot of promise in me. And I began coaching school up there. And the
little help that I got for the coaching school came from Nash Higgins.
And that did not hurt me a bit. But I tell you what it did. It made me
want to spruce-up and be something more than what I was.
J: So when you were at Lincoln High School when it was an all-black school,
you are saying to me that you had a quality team?
M: Oh, yes. Definitely. It was quality anyway. I had as many white folks
to games usually as I had black people. Talk with anybody. This is the
truth. I guess this is putting the University of Florida on the spot.
And I do not talk about it much because some of the great friends I had at
the University of Florida, like Nash Higgins, when they had equipment to
give away, I got first choice.
J: So you were able to do some quality things?
M: But I was a shrewd little devil then. I would be glad to try to help get
their fields and things marked off. And then they would pay me then.
When we played, I am gonna tell you some things and this has been a long
time. We played golf, I had no place to play golf. We played our own
golf. But I had to play it in the morning on the Gainesville Golf and
Country Club. I had a golf club when I was in Lincoln.
J: Did you?
M: Yes, sir. And I can call some of the fellows' names here and they played on
the Gainesville Golf and Country Club. Now I had to play it in the
morning. I could not play it in the afternoon.
J: Of course, the point was that you still played.
M: I played in the afternoon. I picked up a whole lot of my ideas from
Charlie Chestnut. He was a diplomat in handling people too. He spent a
lot of time with me, doing certain things. I knew the people. I know I
learned how to talk to people and sell.
J: Did you just play within the local area or did you all play for outside
of the city or state?
M: Outside of the state. We played for the Negro national championship.
We went to New Orleans for the Negro national championships.
J: So, when they closed Lincoln, they closed a heritage. Is that it?
M: Yes. They knew it.
J: If we had a black team with the coaching staff that you had once, could we
produce a quality team from the students, the boys and girls running around
M: Yes, if we had that support.
M: Yes, I think we are making progress with it now. Have you ever paid
attention to Eastside High School? I do not know whether anybody paid
attention to Eastside. Eastside High School has come so fast, it is doing
everything so fast. And you know, something you need to think about. I
hope this does not get to anybody but this girl, the principal of
M: She had it. She had it when she was over there in them there black
schools. Somebody seen it. I do not know who saw it. I want you to tell
somebody, I guess this better not get over.
J: Go ahead and talk.
M: But now they put over there in that black school. Eastside. I do not
know what was happening to Eastside. But she must have done a hell of a
job. Did you know? I do not know whether you paid much attention to that.
She moved to the school where the richest, the people with the most power,
which is Buchholz. And she had moved it into the limelight and you do not
hear nothing but good things. And they do not know she has changed.
Nobody. This is a thing that we have got to keep our eyes on. The people
who can do things and get the spirit to go ahead on and do it. Do not be
bragging yourself. Let somebody else say something. You are going to
catch some hell in some of these things. Do not be a fool. So not go
around talking about how good you are. Because none of us are good. I
had my weaknesses and things. My wife caught hell because coaching and
stuff helped make me a very popular fellow. But one thing I loved about
her. She stuck with me. I can hear her now. "You dirty dog. You used
to be a darling but now you done got to be popular now." When I had a
heart attack. Best thing in the world ever happened to me.
M: Best thing in the world ever happened to me. After the heart attack, I
decided that I wanted to do what was right.
J: That is right.
M: Bill Ferguson come along and saw I had a little talent and picked me up
and sent me to the woods to preach one Sunday. And then he decided that
well, you are doing pretty good. He decided that now I am gonna do
something else, T.B. I could not believe it. Then I became assistant
pastor at Mt. Pleasant United Methodist. I became assistant pastor just
going to three months. And I shall ever forget it. He had paid
attention and he said to me one Sunday, said, "Now you are doing like I
want you to do and I want you to take a church and it is in the woods."
And I am so glad I went in there with the right idea. Workig in white
churches, black churches, trying to be the type of person you ought to be,
and stuff. Stop some of the foolishness that we do as ministers and try
to help some of the people. So I told him, "I will be seventy-six years
old May twenty-eight."
J: That is a blessing.
M: He said, "T.B., I do not believe it." That is what you say you want to
do. He said, "Why don't you disregard the idea of retiring and stay on
a little while longer. We got a position open for race-relationship."
But you do not want these things. In my heart now, I would rather see my
people make progress.
J: What is your wife's name?
J: What was her name before she was married?
M: She was an Irving.
J: Lottie Irving. And how many years have you all been married?
M: About thirty-nine years.
J: And what does she do?
M: She is a retired teacher too. But right now, she just works with civic
movements and things like this. And I've got five boys now. Number one,
Lorenzo got his masters and has a good job. And Walter, I got him through
school and these are adopted children. And there is my Virginia with her
J: You raised five?
J: And are you proud of all of them?
M: I am proud of every one of them. Some thorns must be there to give us the
taste of life. The oak in the forest is not half as strong as solitary
pine, beaten by every storm. That was my high school graduation. See, I
did not know what I was saying then.
J: It was your what?
M: My high school graduation speech.
J: Say it again for me.
M: There is not royal road to success. Some thorns must be there to give us
the taste of life. The oak in the forest is not half as strong as the
solitary pine, beaten by every storm and wind.
J: I am gonna leave because we have taked long enough. One point. You were
raised here, worked here, have a building named after you and you were an
inspiration for students and children. What would you say that has made
T.B. be the T.B. McPherson he is in Gainesville? What one thing?
M: One thing. I learned to love and respect that T.B. would not be anything
unless it was God. That is the truth. That is the reason I am preaching.
Sometimes, I find myself in these pulpits and wonder how I got into the
pulpit. But now the other thing I have learned from another principal in
there that is do unto those other people out there. I do not care what
class of people. Do unto them just like you would to the biggest big shot
that you got in the community. And I found out all this stuff. Got to
take care of it. I got a good wife but she is gonna catch hell on this
thing. She is catching hell because of me being popular as a coach and
all of these types of things were not all the best for her. But I can
hear her say, "That is all right, you dirty dog." Naturally sometime the
popular things that you do make you vulnerable. And let me tell you. I
do not mind telling you. When I had that heart attack, I knew what had
happened to me. That was God talking to me. And I had sense enough to
slow it down. I know God give me that heart attack cause you know why?
They wanted to send me to doctors and all these things and I decided when
I went into preaching side, I wanted to do right by people. I get along.
And consequently, I feel so good about this, why, a whole lot of time I
have five churches. Don't you go around talking about how intelligent you
are and what schools you went to and all that thing. You talk about how
God sees you up there. And if you got sense enough. Now I ain't all that
good. I still got a lot of wrongs with me. Sometimes the devil comes in
but when you cet a certain age, you are used to the devil and come to no
harm. But I am a blessed soul.
J: Would you say that a person can be successful right here in Galnesville?
M: Yes, sir. I believe this. With God, all things are possible. I am an
example of it. A whole lot of people saw my intelligence and then when I
got a chance to really start to working for God and his church and working
in these programs, a whole lot. My wife did not even know what I was
doing. I would hear her say, "You old, dirty dog." But you see, there, I do
not mind telling it. I do not care. We get along like two peas in a
shell. I am not bragging about it. And I do not go out talking about it.
J: You have been truthful. Reverend McPherson, I want to thank you for
allowing me to talk with you today.
M: Well, I enjoyed talking with you.
J: Thank you and have a good day.