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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida.
Interviewee: Robert Cole
Interviewer: Alan Petigny
Date: June 13, 1993
P: It is June 13 at about 10:23 in the morning. I am at the home
of Robert Lee Cole Sr. He is the owner of a number of barber
shops here in the city of Tampa and a business man in other
respects. He is also an old warrior in the local civil rights
movement here in Tampa and once again a very successful
business man. I am going to begin first by going into some of
Robert Cole's personal history and then some of his
professional history and then some of his civil rights work
and then having him recall how conditions were during the
decade of the 1950s. Let me just begin by asking you your
C: Robert Lee Cole Sr.
P: What is your date and place of birth?
C: I was born in Tampa, Florida, September 15, 1923.
P: What did your parents do?
C: A number of things. Originally, my father was a teacher at
Lein College in Jackson, Tennessee, before he came to Tampa.
My mother came from Charleston, South Carolina. In fact,
Bainbridge, South Carolina. When she got to Tampa she was a
music teacher. They came to Tampa to become entrepreneurs. He
met her here. After he met her, he decided to become an
entrepreneur, and he went into the transfer business.
P: The transfer business?
C: Yes, the transfer of furniture, well, hauling. He hauled
furniture and [did other] heavy hauling. He had fourteen
trucks and he did work for Knight & Wall and the Atlantic
Coastline and these kinds of things like that. But he first
hauled furniture locally in surrounding areas around
P: What was the name of his company?
C: Cole Transfer Company.
P: Really, was it a pretty big company?
C: Oh yes.
P: Fourteen vehicles, you said.
C: Yes, he had fourteen trucks. He had three dump trucks, two
flat bedders, and two of what they call run-abouts, and the
others were regular trucks with covers on it that he had
hauling. The Atlantic Coastline Railroad did not go into St.
Petersburg, it stopped at Tampa, and when they brought the
freight in and the machinery and so forth, he would haul it
over to Pinellas County, over in St. Petersburg.
P: How many people worked for your father?
C: He had seventeen people that were regular, but he had twenty-
three with what they called strickers.
P: Where they all black men?
C: Yes, they were all black. Our present school board member
Doris Ross Redick's mother was his secretary at that time in
his office; she ran the office for him.
P: What became of that company?
C: The same thing that happened during that time with most big
companies, the Depression came. The contracts started running
out, and when it got bad in the entire country, it was during
the time of President Hoover, so his company went out of
business. It just kept diminishing. He came from fourteen
trucks down to two trucks, and then he started working with
just the two trucks.
P: Did they continue hauling during the Depression?
P: So in terms of the big company it went out of business but he
C: Yes. Let's say he did not go completely out of business, but
as that big company that he had with that many people. It is
amazing how company went down. I think it will be informative
to other entrepreneurs what happened with that company.
Nobody knew what was happening, things just started to slowing
down, like any business, it was ups-and-down. He realized
that he was spending more money because he had those fourteen
trucks, but only six of them were paid for. The others were
not paid for, he was making payments on them, financing them.
After it started going down, he started to go into his
reserves to make payments and waited for things to pick back
up and things continued coming down so he started to let his
equipment go. He kept his help as long as he could. He
started letting some of the equipment go, some of the trucks,
and letting the people double-up on the trucks they had. Then
he kept turning them back and turning them back. They still
did not realize that they were in a Depression. Then all of
a sudden the bottom just fell out and they realized what was
happening. Then he had to let all of his help go until it got
down to where he was operating out of his house. He had to
let his office and everything go.
P: Do you remember what year that was?
C: 1931 or 1932.
P: So you were just a young boy at the time.
C: Yes, you might be able to get some dates, you said that you
looked through the history at the library, those dates should
be in there.
P: What was your dad's name?
C: His name was Silvester Clarence Cole.
P: And your mother?
C: Gladys Adrianna Cole.
P: What did she do during this time?
C: She was teaching music.
P: So she taught music here in Tampa?
C: Yes. She had a private school of her own and people would
come in and she would teach them. She did not teach in the
public schools, she had a music school.
P: This was during the 1930s, too?
P: Did you have any brothers and sisters?
P: How many?
C: I have two brothers and three sisters.
P: Where are you in the totem pole?
C: I am right in the middle. I am the third child.
P: Could you quickly go over the names?
C: My oldest brother, Clarence Cole; my oldest sister, Jenevive
Hill Von; then I have myself, of course; the next is my older
brother, Willis James Cole; my other sister, Thelma Adrianna
Cole; and then Gladys Cole-Alaine.
P: Now your wife, I understand you have been married for how many
C: Fifty years.
P: Congratulations. What is her name?
C: Her name is Madeline Cooper Cole.
P: Cooper was her maiden name?
P: She is from Tampa like you?
P: How many kids do you have?
C: Madeline and I have two boys. I have a girl and a boy before
we got together.
P: What do they do?
C: The girl, she is a counselor with the recreation department.
[Her name] is Jacqueline, and Robert Jr. is a manager of a
plant at Teaco. He controls the power, I have forgotten the
technical name for it. James and Anthony are both barbers.
They both were injured in Vietnam and are both on disability.
P: Do they both work for you?
P: You were going to say something and I cut you off.
C: Yes, they were both in Nam at the same time. So we paid our
P: Are you a veteran as well?
C: No, during the war I worked with the CBs [Construction Bureau?
Explain]. I worked with the defense. I worked with the Navy
department and also I worked with Douglas Aircraft.
P: What does the CBs stand for?
C: That was a Construction Bureau. These fellas worked for the
government and they were sent over seas to all these places
like Japan and all to do the construction work. What happened
is they never were armed and they drove big machinery and
worked with shovels and so forth, and when these areas were
attacked they did not have any defense, and, of course, these
people were making hourly wages just like any other work. So
the government put them into a branch called the CBs. They
were on monthly pay and it was a part of the navy and I was
working with them prior to that time. I worked at the navy
yard first in Charleston, South Carolina, and left there and
went to the navy yard in Brooklyn, New York.
P: And what year was this?
C: That was in the early 1940s.
P: During World War II?
P: What year specifically?
C: 1943 or 1944.
P: From what you have told me, you worked in Brooklyn and
Charleston and so forth. When did you first leave Tampa?
When did you move away from Tampa? Was it during the war?
C: Yes, it must have been about 1944.
P: Let's go a little bit more into your business. When did you
move back to Tampa to stay?
P: 1946, you moved back to Tampa and you stayed here
C: No, I stayed in Tampa until 1953, then I went to Los Angeles.
P: How long were you in Los Angeles?
C: Until 1957.
P: Then you moved back here?
C: Yes I moved back to Tampa.
P: And you been here ever since?
P: What did you do in Los Angeles while you were there for that
C: I was a tooling dye fabricator and a sheet metal developer for
P: Finally, some questions about your education, where did you go
C: In Tampa, the local schools. Middleton High School and then
I got some schooling in L.A., I took some courses with Frank
Briggins Business School and also I had to take some courses
on aeronautical blueprint reading, that they had extended
courses from UCLA.
P: So you took some courses at UCLA?
C: Not at UCLA, they came into the plant and showed us. That was
for aeronautical blueprint reading and compiling papers they
had someone like you came in and did that for us.
P: When did you graduate from Middleton High School?
P: From there you went right into working for the CBs?
P: You got married fifty years ago, which would have been 1943,
so you got married right out of high school. Were you and
Madeline sweethearts in high school?
P: How did you get started in business when you came back to
C: From L.A.?
C: I came back in business with my father. My father, then, had
gone into the grocery business. He had built a building on
34th and Martin Luther King, now.
P: What was it called?
C: Cole Grocery Market.
P: Really, so you kind of competed against Hargrett?
C: Yes, Hargrett had a grocery store on Lake Avenue.
P: So your father and James T. Hargrett Sr. were kind of
C: Yes, but we are getting ahead of ourselves. You kind of
skipped a period there. Prior to that time, before I went to
L.A., I opened a barber shop in 1946. I opened a barber shop
there next to Hargrett Grocery Store. I said I did, but
Hargrett opened a barber shop for us. After I got my barber
license I wanted to go into barbering and so I talked to
Hargrett. I did not have any money so Hargrett provided a
place for me to have the barber shop, he provided the money
for me to get the equipment, and the money for me to renovate
the building and to go into business.
P: You are referring to James T. Hargrett, Sr. His son is
currently a state senator, the first black state senator from
the Tampa Bay area and he was a successful business man and
civic leader during the 1940s and 1950s and probably 1960s.
C: That is right.
P: So why did Hargrett do this for you?
C: I do not know because he did it for so many other people. He
was a man who wanted to make sure that he helped his people
and if he saw someone that really wanted to make it, he would
do everything he could to help them. I cannot think of any
special reason that he would want to do it other than he knew
me and we were very close and he knew what I was trying to do
and he said I will help you.
P: Calvin Bexley who used to be a principal of Blake told me that
Hargrett helped him go through college and would send him
money every month while he went through college. Do you know
other stories of Hargrett doing this for people?
C: Yes, I know of a family, when he was in the grocery business,
that had gone through a tragedy and Hargrett went and
refortified that family and kept them with food.
P: Did he help other business men like you?
C: Yes. Did you interview Hargrett?
P: Yes I have [interview with Hargrett, University of Florida
Oral History Program, HILLS 66].
C: Do you remember that tall man that they found over there
passed in that apartment? I cannot remember his name, anyway
Hargrett helped him get a job. He helped him a lot.
P: Did a lot of the black elite during the 1940s and 1950s, those
who were successful business men and were kind of the pillars
of the community, did they do those sorts of things a great
deal to help out? Was Hargrett an exception or were there a
lot of people like Hargrett doing the same thing.
C: (Cole's wife from background: Hargrett was an exception, he
Hargrett helped a lot of people. First he had a grocery
store, and he was a former school teacher so he knew a lot of
people. He was an elite at that time and people would
naturally go to people like that for favors and to help them.
He had a lot of contacts so he would help get people jobs, he
would do all kinds of things for people.
P: Were there other people like him in the community?
C: No, I do not know too many, not to the extent that he was.
We had a lot of successful people but he reached out and
helped other people and there has to be quite a few incidents
of that happening with Hargrett that I do not know about
because that is the kind of man he is.
P: Do you know of other people reaching out like that, perhaps
not to the same extent, but do you know examples of other
people reaching out and helping those left behind? Any first
C: I do not know but I heard that Lee Davis did quite a bit of
P: Lee Davis being one of the most successful black business men
in Tampa at the time.
P: Talk about your businesses. So he helped you open up your
first barber shop?
C: I then came and started working with my father in his store.
It was a small family store. We were doing [all right], but
the motivation we were looking for and the way things were
with my wife and I, at that time we had these little kids. So
we had to move on because we wanted bigger things and that is
when I left and went to California. Now we are at 1953.
P: So you left the barber shop and the grocery store?
P: Were you working at both at the same time?
C: We had a little barber shop on the side of the grocery store
but we were not not doing too much barbering business because
my wife and I were really running the store. I was running
the meat department and she was running the other part of the
P: Is this the barber shop where Hargrett had helped you?
C: No, this is another barber shop. I left that shop an L.A.ke
Avenue and I came over to my father's store on 34th and Martin
Luther King. He had built that store, and we worked in there
with my father as business partners. As I said it was a
family group that were working there, and there were just too
many of us at that one store for us to get financially
rewarded for what we were doing. So we decided to pull out
and we decided to go to Los Angeles. And we went to Los
P: And then you came back in 1957, right? Back to Tampa from Los
P: And what did you do then?
C: When we were in Los Angeles we were pretty fortunate and we
saved money and we built a building over there across the
street on Martin Luther King. Where you see that shop now.
P: So when you came back you built your first shop?
C: I built my first shop.
P: The one on Martin Luther King Boulevard?
C: The one on Martin Luther King Boulevard, that is right.
P: Now you own how many shops?
C: I own four barber shop and three beauty salons with a barber
P: One of the barber shops is at the airport?
P: You also own some rental property that you rent out, right?
P: Are you a slum lord?
C: Yes, they are low-rental. You can call it slum or whatever.
We live in a depressed area, which has been designated as a
slum area and so forth by the power structure and by neglect
of our tax dollars. [An area] where they did not do
improvements like paving the streets and giving us lights and
giving us what we should have, so that automatically makes us
that way, and we are in that area. And if you have rental
properties in that area, so you automatically become a slum
lord, regardless of what you do.
P: How many rental properties do you have? Are these duplexes or
C: I have both individual and duplexes. Do I give you that
impression [of being a slum lord]?
P: Well, I am trying to establish you as a successful
C: I have a few.
P: Do you have any other sorts of investments? Are you in any
other sorts of businesses besides real estate and your barber
shops and beauty salons?
C: Yes, thirteen rental units, commercial and residential
P: Do you manage all of this yourself? Do you have any
C: I have my son and my wife.
P: So it is still a family operation?
C: Yes it is still a family operation.
P: How do you explain, there are a lot of barber here in Tampa
but when it comes down to black barbers, Robert Cole is the
C: I knew you were going to ask me that. That me say this, if I
could bottle it I would be able to sell it, but to be
truthful, I really do not know. I do not have a formula of
how you do it. It is almost one of those things like you go
to sleep tonight and you wake up tomorrow and there it is. I
did not get a formal education and when we worked hard from
the 1940s. From I would say 1947 and I had the place with
Hargrett, and up to after when we came back from L.A., to
1959, educating my sisters.
P: So your sisters went to college?
C: Yes. Dr. Gladys Lang, the vice-president at Florida A&M
University, is my sister. That is my baby sister. Then I
have another sister, retired, after teaching school in the
Hillsborough County school system a couple of years ago.
P: How many sisters do you have again?
P: Any of them older?
C: Yes, one is older than I am.
P: Did they all go to college?
P: Bob Sanders told me.
C: That the girls went to college and the boys did not.
P: That is right. You read my mind.
C: They did not do that. I considered myself college material.
I considered myself as being an individual, which I have
proven over the years, [you will agree] when you finish this
interview, that I have been very successful. I could not have
been any more successful had I had a Ph.D. in any area I
P: But did you want to go to college?
C: Yes. The thing of it is that I did not have the resources.
P: Why is it that when families had limited resources that they
would tend to educate the daughters?
C: I have heard, I do not know bout my parents, but I have seen
other situations like this, and they say I do not want my
daughter have to be pionned under any many man. I want her to
be independent and she needs her education so she can do that.
P: You have heard people say that?
C: Yes. During the time that we went to school, it was very rare
to find a male teacher, most teachers were female. Especially
in the elementary schools. So you did not have any role
models or you could not get a mentor in education because they
were not there, only the principals. We saw the principal as
the big bad man with the big strap, and we were afraid of that
dude because they were whipping then. If you did bad they
would carry you up into the office and whip you.
P: Even in high school?
C: Even in high school, Mr. Blake over at Booker T. Washington
Junior High School. In junior high they did that. I am saying
that happened, and another thing that happened is most
African-American males having to really had to come in and
help support the family prior to graduating from school. So
you did not finish school, and the girls did. Then you
naturally would get more girls going to college than boys
because the boys never did complete high school.
P: Was it expected for young men still in high school to make
contributions toward the family income?
C: Yes, but most of the time they did not stay in school, they
were out of school.
P: Even when they were at school age?
C: Yes. They would go and work in the fields and work at the
farmer's market because there were some poor families. The
girls did not go out there, so naturally the girls stayed in
P: Why did the girls stay in school, is it because there were
less job opportunities for young girls to find work?
C: Yes. The only thing young girls could do at that time was
probably go out and do housework. The parents of those girls
knew what happened if you took their daughter and sent her to
a house where you had these white males that would come home
and molest these girls and nothing would be said about it. So
they kept these girls out of the environment as much as they
could because the mothers had to go through that. I can tell
you of an incident that I heard, years ago, where the house
maids of these people decided that they were not going to work
for a dollar and a half a day and they wanted an increase. So
all of these people would talk going back and forth on the
street cars and so on. Sometimes they would pick them up.
The maids had to ride in the back seat, they could not ride in
the front. These maids would get together and say hey we
need to get two dollars a day. They would go and tell the
women that they worked for that they [needed] to get two
dollars. They would say O.K. we are going to do that. But
the white women had found out that the maids had gotten
together so when they got to their tea party, social groups,
they discussed it. They decided that they were not going to
give them that money, and said that what we will do is fire
them first. So this lady who happened to be talking to this
other lady and she told the woman she worked for are you going
to give us the two dollars. And the woman said that the women
had met and that they decided that they could not do it, and
were not going to do it, and we would rather you all leave.
And she sid if you ask for it and you do not want to work for
that, you will have to go. So she told the woman to go back
back and tell your women in that club that as long as your
husband and their husbands have money we are going to have
money. She said now you go and tell them that. Because the
husbands were coming back, when the women would go to their
tea parties and such, and they knew what they were doing with
all of these maids that they had in the house. So that was a
long story to tell you about what happened. This maid having
a girl, and all parents said hey I do not want my child to
have to go through what I have had to go through. So if they
have girls and they said, I want to make sure that she gets an
education. Although boys were going through this but really
I think a lot of attention would have been given to the boys
had the boys been in school up to that time. I understand
that the first graduating class, over at Middleton had nine,
always had men, the graduating class of about thirty kids.
Out of that thirty, they would have about eight or nine boys.
You need to look that up too. You will find out why so many
of the boys without degrees and so many of the girls getting
degrees. You will find out today why the woman holds what she
holds today and the man does not.
P: Holds what?
C: Academic achievement.
P: Is part of the reason for this, in your view, because the kind
of jobs young men could get into while in high school were
preferable to the kind of jobs young women could do while in
C: That is right.
P: In other words a high school girl could only go out and work
as a maid. A high school boy could do a lot of other things.
What kind of things could he do?
C: The thing about it is that the jobs that he had to do, he did
things like shine shoes, clean yards, work at the farmer's
market, work at the banana docks. I do not want to get into
any skills here, because we did not possess any skills.
P: Yes, manual labor.
C: You have to understand that I am avoiding skills because we
did not possess skills of this kind. So let's stay away from
that because it was did not exist. And, of course, you had
only common labor jobs.
P: But these common labor jobs were preferable to being a maid
and working in a household?
C: That is right. What happened is this, the only ways that these
mothers were going to let their daughters at that time even
out of schools do they could do this, it had to be just a
matter of life and death. They were not going to let their
daughters go in and meet the same abusive molesting that they
had to do. This is common knowledge, and I am surprised, I
know you are a young man, but somewhere along the line, you
should have picked up on it. This is why this hidden history
of us coming along and about what we had to do years ago when
the slave masters had wenches, it did not disappear and it
even exists today. It exists today when you have African-
American females getting higher and higher positions, and the
African-America male disappears because then her associates
become white and for her to stay there a lot of them have to
accommodate them. That happens. I am sorry to get off on that.
P: This is an area that I have been exploring, and you really
said some informative material there.
C: I just want you to know and I would like to go on record as
saying that when we talk about role models it is just like
planting a tree. You have to cultivate it at the seed. We
want to have good, top role models for our people today, but
the damage was done way back there when they denied us due
process and when they did not give us education, they did not
give us good jobs, but our role models are supposed to be
principals or high school males, African-American, teachers,
top heads of their departments, then we would have had it.
Now they are willing to do this and it is too late. It needs
to be done and they have got you young fellas out here and all
doing this, and I could see back there at my time and for my
time this is when it was easy. And we are feeling the affects
of it now and they want us to wake up with a magic wand and
change things. Not have these guys on the corners doing dope
and not have these guys on the corner not going to school.
P: So you are saying that there was a shortage of male role
models even back then? It is not a new thing?
C: That is right. That is exactly what I am saying. Had it been
then, it would be different now. I find myself asking for
opportunities for African-Americans over this entire county in
Tampa. When I come home and talk to my wife, I say Lord, I
want to make sure that when we ask for something, we have
available people to take advantage of what we ask them for.
I think we are headed there.
P: Who are some of the black male role models that you looked up
to growing up in Tampa during the 1930s and 1940s?
C: Let me say this, first let's talk about my mentor, my dad. I
think he was a great man and he taught me just about
everything I know. He was involved in a lot of things, that
is what called me all the time to become an entrepreneur.
After I did not get a formal education. I got so much involved
that I did not see the necessity of it then. I feel like now
if I need a masters degree somewhere, I will hire it. I need
a Ph.D., I will hire them. I need people of that calibur, my
attorneys and all, my tax attorney, my CPA, and these guys
like that, but without me they cannot make it anyway. With
the exception of my dad, I would say Hargrett. That is it,
just my dad and Hargrett. From what I saw of Hargrett, that
was enough to inspire me for the rest of my life, because I
saw this man really walk out of the classroom and he made it
and he did a lot of things to make things work. He carried
people along with him while he was doing it and you cannot do
any better then that.
P: There are a lot of other prominent black people that I have
read about, Garland Stewart and Lee Davis and Ben Griffin...
C: Let me explain something to you, you want my views. I cannot
measure success by dollars and cents. I know a lot of people
in our community made a lot of money, but when you make money
and it provides nothing but something for you and you have not
spread it abroad and helped someone else, I do not think you
are so successful. I think you need to be successful in
helping your community grow.
P: Are you say that a lot of "successful" blacks did not help
C: No they did not. Our community would not be in the position
that it is.
P: I am talking about the 1950s.
C: I am talking about the 1950s too. I think there was more of
it then than you have now.
P: More what then?
C: Investing into your youth and the people behind you. And
doing some things.
P: So it was better then than now?
C: Yes, better then than now. I know some things that
Bexley did to help some people.
P: Which one?
C: Willie Bexley.
P: What are some things that he did?
C: He helped other people to get into business, he opened a place
over by Sulfer Springs not especially for himself because I
talked to him, but he had some people work for him like I had
people working for me. When you have got a person so great
working for you, you need to expand. You do not need three or
four good people or very successful people in one spot. It is
not healthy for business. You need to expand and you need to
move and find out where your business comes from to serve the
community. And after all you are giving more people jobs, you
are giving these people an opportunity and you are not
standing up and saying let me get everything I can for myself.
P: Have you helped any people set up barber shops?
C: Yes. Every barber shop that I have, I started for someone
else, helping them to do it. I have had them become business
partners, some of them just did not stay, they wanted to move
P: So each of your four branches of your barber shops, you had
someone as a partner in initially?
C: Yes, most of them. In fact, if you want to know the truth, I
personally own only one shop. Te others are owned by
different people I set up into it. You are trying to get too
deep in my business, I do not want all that on this.
[laughter] Before you were asking me about other people in the
area, I understand that Lee Davis did quite a bit of that. Set
up other businesses, because he had quite a few businesses
along the area of 22nd Street. Shelty in the pool room, that
was Shelty's business although it was tagged Lee Davis. He
had an eating place down from that. There was another
business that he set up for someone else.
P: Moving on, what church do you belong to now?
C: First Baptist Church of College Hill.
P: And what church did you belong to growing up in Tampa?
C: First Baptist Church of College Hill.
P: So you have kept your membership in that same church all those
P: It is quite a way from College Hill?
C: Eight minutes.
P: Just eight minutes? That is not too bad.
C: Even if you do not catch the traffic right, you can make it in
less than twelve minutes.
P: So you know Abe Brown then, of course?
C: (wife: We love him, that is a role model. He is a role
model.) He did not ask for that. Abe came along with me so
he could be my mentor. We came along together.
P: Abe Brown is a minister at First Baptist Church of College
Hill. He used to be an educator of the Hillsborough County
school system. He also runs Prison Crusades which is an
outreach Christian program to felons and people trying to make
C: That is right.
P: I understand that he used to have red hair growing up and they
used to call him "Little Black Sambo." Do you remember that?
P: Edward Stone of Stone's Funeral Home told me that. He was a
good football player, I understand.
C: Yes, He was a good football player, he was a good football
coach, he was a tremendous person, period. All the way
through school and everything.
P: Let's talk a little bit more about the black community and
about the black elite, the doctors, the lawyers, the
successful businessmen, those who were professionals and those
who were unusually successful in business, like Lee Davis.
C: Let's do that.
P: Did this black professional class associate a lot with people
of lesser status, or did they keep to themselves?
C: No, that is what I wanted to tell you. You had the
professional group that stuck together and they associated
only with that group. It was so noticeable that people
probably did not even want to speak to them when they saw them
on the street because they would fear that they would not
speak back to them, and they did not speak to common people.
P: They were that aloof?
C: Yes. I want to tell you a little story about the Greek house.
You help me [Madeline].
P: Joining us now is Mrs. Madeline Cole who may be jumping in.
The question I was asking you was dealing with the elite class
dealing with black professionals and you seem to believe that
they kind of roped themselves off from common black folks?
C: I was going to tell you about the Greek letter house. All of
the sororities and fraternities got together and they had an
organization and they bought a building for a club. They
opened this club for nothing but Greek letter people. That
was a mistake, I could see it at that time. The only way that
common people could get in there is they had to be invited by
the members of some fraternity or sorority. So immediately,
I do not think it had been opened a month, and my wife told me
that is going to be a failure, we do not have enough of those
people to support the place. We were invited once, and we
looked around and that was her observation.
P: Who invited you? Do you remember?
C: My cousin, a dentist, Dr. James Green. Also Dr. Jackson
invited us, so we were invited several times.
P: But it was very exclusive?
C: Yes very exclusive.
MC: Everybody wanted to know, how did you get here?
C: They would ask what is your fraternity or what is your
sorority? They knew better then that.
P: Are you saying that they were snobs?
C: Yes, they had to be if they would ask me that question. Being
a person of business and can see what can happen in an
atmosphere like that. There were these people treating local
people like that rather then have some kind of welcome and
some affairs could be special invitational, but not tell the
general public, we just do not want you in here. As a result,
P: How long after did they fold?
C: About a couple of years.
P: Why? Not enough money?
C: Not enough money. They could not pay the bills.
P: Where was this? Do you remember?
MC: It was in West Tampa, that Greek house.
C: On Howard Street.
P: Do you remember what year this was about?
C: During the 1950s.
P: Did a lot of people who did not belong to this little club
feel the way that you feel?
P: Tell me a conversation that you remember having with someone?
MC: Anytime they had affairs, only the invited persons would go.
Tthey would try to get successful business people, but just
the ordinary people, they would not let them in because they
did not want to mangle with them. I see no reason for this.
Do you see any reason? They were decent people, nobody there
mugging, or after anybody else so why shouldn't they allow
these people in.
P: Do you remember any conversation, though, that you and a
friend or you and one of your clients may have had over this
Greek house? Do you remember people referring to it in any
way or any particular conversation you had with anyone about
this Greek house?
MC: Yes. They were always saying these people think they are
better than we are. They do not want to associate with us.
So, they felt like they should not have been there. A lot of
those people who they were denying the privileges of being
there were people who would really spend money. They would
appreciate being there enough to support this, but they did
not want those people there and this is the trouble with most
P: When you say spend money, was there like a bar there or
MC: There was plenty of entertainment and everything there.
P: Like a restaurant too?
MC: No restaurant. I do not remember food being there.
P: But there were drinks? A bartender?
C: Yes. It was real nice. It was something that should have been
around right now, had it been managed right, and they had
opened those doors. You were asking about a specific incident
and I can remember now that I told a guy that we were invited
and we were going over to the Greek house, and this guy made
a statement like oh, you are going over with the big shots
tonight. That is bad.
P: How did he say that when he said big shots?
C: He said you are going over with the big shots tonigth. I was
cutting his hair, and I told him that we had been invited to
the Greek house and we were going over there. He said it like
it was a special priviledge to us.
P: Looking back, did you feel a little proviledged to go there?
C: Yes, it was like you singled me out over someone else, if that
is what you are talking about. I realized that my other
brother, and that is what bothered me, would not get that
MC: I never felt priviledged because I feel personally that I am
as good as anybody in the whole world and I am not better than
anybody in the world. We are all people. I went to the White
House when the Carters' were there and we took pictures and
when we got back from there everybody said oh, you were up
with the big people. I said I was the biggest person there.
I did not feel like anybody there was better then me. I do
not have that kind of complex.
P: When you went there though, the few times that you went there,
did they act as if you should be priviledged to be there among
MC: Yes. Some of them did. Some we knew very well, like Dr.
Jackson and quite a few others but there were some wanting to
know how did you get here. I am a human being so why
shouldn't I be here?
P: Was the same thing similar with fraternity and sorority
dances, I understand that there were these annual dances that
they would have. Was it a similar process?
MC: Yes, they have special people that they invited.
P: Not everyone got to go to these dances and so forth for the
P: So were these dances the elitist when they had the annuals
like the Kappas ball and the Delta sweethearts ball?
C: It sure was.
P: Just like the Greek house then?
C: That is right.
P: Did you go to any of these dances?
C: If a person got an invitation they would say ghee, I got an
invitation. Now let me tell you we had the most popular
organization in this town and no Greek letter organization
could touch it.
P: And what was that?
C: The Bellmen and Waiters Social Club and it was strictly a
social club made up of bellmen that worked in the hotels and
waiters that worked in the restaurants. They came together
and had an organization. We brought together hundreds of
people annually to the bellmen and waiters ball. Everybody was
P: Was everyone invited?
C: Yes. Everybody was invited.
P: So it was not exclusive?
C: No, it was not exclusive and all the elites would be there too
because this thing was popular. There would be about 600 to
700 people there, that was a large group of people at that
time. I am associating this with what could have happened had
they done that. I wanted to tell you this, in Tampa and in
the South anytime a person has any kind of formal training,
you always address them by their title before their name. It
could be a pharmacist and it was doctor, a nurse you said
nurse. That was always regardless of where you saw them, that
was the way it was. Now when we got to California, I met top
attorneys working for the state, I saw people in charge of big
departments, and all doctors and we were invited and they were
introduced as Fred Williams, not Dr. Fred Williams. Or this
is attorney so and so, they said this is Christopher Adams,
they did not say this is Attorney Christopher Adams. I had to
get used to that and when I came back here I found all these
people that were tagged with all these high professions, top
professional names, and you would never know it.
P: So someone like Fordham who was an attorney or Rodriguez,
would they be called Attorney Rodriguez?
C: Yes. You just did not say Francisco Rodriguez, you would say
Attorney Rodriguez, that was the way that they were known as.
Dr. Brown was a pharmacist at College Hill Pharmacy now. Dr.
Morrison, if you call him Robert Morrison, they do not know
what you are talking about. You have to say Dr. Morrison and
that came from the old days. But if you go to any other area,
you would never hear them referred to as doctor nothing. I am
not saying I am trying to take that from him, I am saying that
this is the way the people saw it at that time.
P: Teachers were not addressed that way though, were they?
P: You would just call them by their first name?
C: I would just call them Mrs. this or that, but usually by the
P: What if they were like a laundress or a maid, would you call
them Mrs. as well?
C: No, by their first name and that is it.
MC: Just Sara or Jane, that was it.
P: So just professional people?
C: All professional people, they were called by their title and
their last name. Non-professionals were called by their first
name, never their last names.
P: In the black community?
C: In the black community. Just Jimmy or Jack. Say for instance
his name was James Jones and he is just a common man, he would
be addressed to as James. Take the same man and go and get
him a degree, and say he became a doctor or a school teacher.
Then he became Professor Jones or Dr. Jones. They replace the
first name with his title.
P: Some sociologists and academics who studied class said that if
you look at the black elite class, they tried to imitate white
elites. Did you notice that?
C: Yes. That is right. I think that was the reason for the Greek
C: Because we had, the white power structure has always had these
top clubs like the Pommicia?, the Golf Club, Tampa Club, the
University Club, and certain white people could not go there.
There was no such thing as blacks going there, the black
people could work there and that would be it. White people
segregated against black people and they can say well I am
above you and I can do this, but when it gets to black people
they have nobody so they get their brother and say I have got
to be better then you. So if you do not have the academic
training that I have, then I am going to separate you from me
and I will always let you know that.
P: So you think they were imitating these white Pomicia? Club and
C: Yes, I believe that is what happened.
P: That is very interesting.
C: See, it was worth your waiting to see me. [laughter] You are
going to ask me about my businesses and how we grew, and we
never did leave from that. We need to make sure that you get
P: Are there any personal anecdotes, any personal memories that
you have that really kind of captures in your mind, the class
element that existed in Tampa, the elitism that existed? You
referred earlier, and I will probably use it in a paper that
I am working on, of when you went to the Greek house and the
[way they treated you.] Do you have any other examples like
that? You also referred to when someone was cutting your
hair, that was a good example as well. Do you have any
C: In Tampa, you had certain entertainment spots that you would
just say were off limits to top professionals, they just would
not go there. I mean like a club. Your regular people would
go to White Sanders' Blueroom??. They would go to The Cotton
P: What was Kid Mason's Place?
C: They would go to Kid Mason's Place. The black elites would
not go there. They had to have a form of entertainment, so
they would have house parties, periodically ever month or so.
They had this group, you would always see the same group. It
did not mean that you had to have a degree to be there, but
you had to be accepted by that group of people in order for
them to have you there. If not then they would feel
embarrassed if you just got anybody and brought them in there.
So you had to be kind of accepted by that group and I gather
that initially getting in there would have to be measured
somewhat by your monetary achievements and how you got in the
business because we were invited and we saw a few other people
invited. But there were a lot of other people, maybe your
next door neighbor, and the guy they did business with, you
never saw them there.
P: Were you invited when it was clear that you were becoming a
successful business man?
P: Did you notice your status increase as you became more
P: Can you give me an example of that?
C: More people started recognizing you, you open your mail and
you see an invitation saying we would like you to be at this
party or we would like for you to participate. The one thing
about it is, they need you because when they got ready to say
we need you to contribute or we have a souvenir program, then
they have to come to you for donations and we were putting in
a large spread, other people would put in an eighth of a page.
We would put in a half-page, while people were putting in an
eighth of a page. That made a difference.
P: So, often you would advertise not simply for the business, but
just to say I am going to buy half a page to show that I ca
afford to buy half a page.
C: Well we thought that we would get the coverage, but we did not
get the advantage of our money. Yes to your question.
P: Why did you put it in your words instead of my words?
C: I am saying that if I put in a half-page it would cost me
$150. I would put it in there because it was the Kappas, but
in my mind I was feeling like that half of a page was going to
give me the results of an eighth of a page. Really, I should
have put an eighth of a page in there and forgotten about it.
Had that been Reverend Jones Church down the street I would
have just given him an eighth of a page and said get out of my
way. But in my church, I would give them half a page, because
it is my church and the same principle with that.
P: I understand.
C: I am sure that it has happened with a lot of us so naturally
through means like that and then other associations and all.
This paragraph is in bold because the interviewee asked that
it not be used for research purposes: We were in the grocery
business and we did real well in that business and needless to
say that the everyday people, those women that were cleaning
people's houses and washing their clothes, that guy that was
in that ditch with that shovel, and that guy that was working
at the steel plant and those places kept our business, we
boomed on them. Had we waited for the professionals in our
area to come and patronize our business we would have been out
of business yesterday.
P: Are you saying the professionals did not patronize you?
C: No sir, they did not.
MC: And some of them would have to pass our store to go down to
the other stores.
P: They would go to the white stores? Why?
C: Yes, I do not know why. You go and search this thing and come
back and tell me about it. I will tell you one thing about
it, what I think sometimes that some people feel like I do not
mind you making it but I do not want you to get as big as I
am. That is the way white people, I think, see black people.
It is all right for you to live, but I do not want you to get
to the state that you have power. Money spells power because
when you get money, you can buy people and when you get
people, you have power.
P: And do you think other black elites did that because they
wanted to keep you down or to prevent you from achieving their
C: That is right.
MC: That is hard to believe, huh.
C: You are going to be sorry that you came here today. [laughter]
P: I spoke to Reverend Lowry and I asked him about these sorts of
things, some of these questions about class and so forth. He
was a little embarrassed about parts of it. He seems to
believe that their was a class structure here. He said that an
example of that is that certain girls from families of money
would have the coming-out into society party. What do you
call these things?
C: Debutante balls.
P: Yes, debutante balls and you kind of had this fraternity
structure applying even in high school.
C: Yes. That is right. He is right, that happened. See you had
other girls from other areas or other kids, that had academic
achievement as great as that and they were overlooked because
they were not coming from the right family.
P: Do you remember any specific case?
C: I cannot remember.
MC: We never had girls.
C: If you really want to get a Ph.D., they really need to have a
degree above a Ph.D., because that is what you get at a barber
shop because you talk with everybody. The one thing I cannot
remember are a lot of things that happened because people say
a lot of things that compares with your everyday life, and
things that you never thought of and their experiences and it
comes from everybody. It comes from judges to the dope
pushers. Those guys can come in and talk and say some things
and I just wish I could remember what they said in specifics
like that, but I cannot sit here and think of that. But I can
tell you that it has been a rewarding experience, and I know
that my wife here stands in that beauty shop listening to
people talk. That is what you need to do. You need to be
where guys have got a lot going on. You can see in what
depth what people go into, because people think it is a bunch
of foolishness. I realize, professional come to the barber
shop to get it off. You would not want to leave your job and
come to the barber shop to talk about your job. You want to
talk about what Jordan did and this is what you want to do.
They do come back everytime and get into depth in political
and world affairs and to find out how knowledgeable just the
common people are of what is going on, and you would never
know it. You have some people that right now they have not
done too much and have not seen too much. They just work on
the job, they have been around, they are a member of thier
church, they probably work with their union and they have done
some things, but they are so knowledgeable and nobody ever
recognizes them. Its like athletes that never get discovered
and some of the best in the world that never leave the
playground. The proof of that, we have is a man by the name
of Doc Goodman who comes from that playground and his nephew
Gary Sheffield. I am wondering what would have happened to
those guys had it not been for Bellman Heights Little League.
P: Something I wanted to go back to, we have not even touched the
civil rights movement yet, which we are going to get to
shortly. But before we spoke about how there were more black
female college graduates than their were black male college
graduates. I looked at some census data for 1950 and even
though there were more men working than women, about 14,000
black men were working in the Tampa-St.Petersburg area, only
about 9,500 women were working, there were 25 percent more
black women professionals than black male professionals.
C: That is right.
P: My question is did a lot of these black female professionals
marry men who were not professionals. Some school teachers
must have married janitors and common laborers. So when these
women would go to these sorority parties and these fraternity
dances and so forth, they were probably bringing their
husbands along with them, wouldn't they?
C: Yes. Most of them would. In socializing, I discovered that
when you get to socials like that you get the little groups
talking and then you have these other guys lost in the
shuffle. Because you had these non-professionals there, they
would just be listening, because they are not into this group
talking. They are either over here doing something different.
If you have a woman there that is involved in, like my wife in
beauty work and you have three other women over there and they
are talking about their alma maters then she is completely out
of the question because she has no input whatsoever and
really, she probably would not have any interest in what they
are talking about anyway. They are blowing off because they
want to do this not knowing that I do not care what you are
talking about. It is like, if you use a word in your
vocabulary that I have a problem with, then I have got to
understand that. If it does not mean anything to me, then you
could talk all day long. I do not care. But if it does mean
something to me I have got to stop you right there and say
wait a minute use another word or explain this to me. So it
is the same principal.
P: Let's move on to the civil rights movement. You were in Tampa
in 1957, you were back from the west coast. 1957, I believe,
was the year of Little Rock. Do you remember coming back to
Tampa. You had been on the west coast for some time, this is
after Brown v. Board. Do you remember the mood of the black
community here in Tampa being different than it was when you
left in terms of aggitated with civil rights?
P: In what way was it different?
C: First thing about it is that we had discovered one thing,
economically, Central Avenue that was originally controlled
and owned by predominantly African-Americans had been
reversed. It was owned mostly by Latinos more so and some
whites and that was just prior to the riots that we had.
P: The rights came in 1967.
C: The change was taking place at that time and you could tell
that this change was irritating and embarrassing to the
African-Americans in the community because they started losing
out. We started losing that cluster of business. I could
tell then, maybe around 1960 that the plan was to take over
Central Avenue and disperse all of these black businesses that
P: In terms of the civil rights movement, what did this mean?
Because the civil rights movement, despite the decline of
black ownership as you are describing it....
C: The thing of it is this, at that time that I am speaking
about, you did not have a per say integration movement. We
knew that these things were coming on. I cannot remember
exactly when we really started the change in ideas of people.
We really felt the unrest here in Tampa and in what was
happening in Tampa. I am trying to separate my mind of the
frustrations of what happened in other places that compared to
what was happening here in Tampa.
P: As you know, the sit-ins began in 1960 in Greensboro and in
1960 sit-ins came to Tampa as well. Was there a civil rights
movement or considerable civil rights activity in Tampa before
C: No, it was very minute.
P: So, is it fair to say that the sit-ins is what brought the
civil rights movement to Tampa?
C: Yes, because at that time is when we had the group headed by
Jim Hammond, it was the Young Adults For Progressive Action.
He was the founding president of that group.
P: Did you join that group?
P: Did your wife?
P: How was that group different from the NAACP and the Urban
C: It was a group that was designed mostly for the sit-ins and to
fight for civil rights, more so because the NAACP had been
fighting for the rights of black people but they did not do
these kinds of things.
P: How about the Youth Chapter, Reverend Lowry said that the
Youth Chapter was involved in that sort of thing?
C: Of the NAACP?
C: Yes, the Youth Chapter was involved becasue they brought in
everybody that they could find and they were involved during
the time of the sit-ins. But let me explain something to you.
During that time, you had to gather every force that you
could, whether it be NAACP, the Young Adults For Progressive
Action, or whatever. But naturally, we had the Young Adults
For Progressive Action because we did not get from the NAACP
what we though we were going to get because prior to that
time, I was chairman of the Youth Council of the NAACP.
P: I did not know that. Was this in 1959?
C: No, this was before that in the 1940s.
P: When was this organization by Jim Hammond started?
C: In the 1960s.
P: Was it before the sit-ins, during the sit-ins, or after the
C: No, before.
P: The sit-ins began in 1960.
C: It was about that time.
P: So this organization, this Progressive Adults, they helped
with the sit-ins?
C: Yes, they helped with the sit-ins, very much so.
P: According to the newspaper articles that I have, Reverend
Lowry was very much involved in the sit-ins as well.
C: He was. Let me expin something to you about the media, they
write what they want or they write what someone tells them.
Let me tell you something about that article you read, I am
not trying to take anything from anybody but to integrate the
Jackson House public playground. We did it, my wife and I, we
sent the children out there to play because they were going
twenty blocks away from where they lived to play. We sent
them out there and they told them that they could not play
because it was white and we told them to go back. So we went
out and watched them. They closed it down and we said when
are you going to open it up. They opened it up the next day
and we were back out there. They had to call in the
authorities. The authorities told us that they were going to
leave, that we were wrong. We had that particualr park being
integrated and had the city officials and all and eventually
when we got to the final stages of it we had talked to the
park director, we had talked to the chief of police, we had
talked to Chief Brown, we talked to Mayor Lane, we had talked
to everyone else about that but we finally got right down to
where we had to have negotiations downtown. Reverend Lowry
came in. But when you read it in the paper or when you read
that, you are not going to read what we did. I am surprised
I had forgotten about that article. So when you go to read
these articles its just like in the news media now they write
exactly what they want to and find certain people. See if
right now something happened with you and I and we are down
here and they say Robert Cole's there and Alan are there, they
do not want to come to you because they do not know you, so
they are going to come and get Robert Cole because it means
more to the people, once they read it, they know Robert Cole
but they do not know you, so then why should they build that
article around you. That is the same way it is and always has
been in journalism.
P: Incidentally, just for the purpose of information this is an
article from the Tampa Times dated July 11, 1960, which speaks
about race mixing at the playground that Robert Cole headed
up, out along with Bernard Lafayette and according to the
article, Reverend Lowry was named layer in this even though
you said that he was not.
C: No, he was not. Bernard Lafayette and I came out there on that
corner and we were the people.
P: Did Reverend Lowry help at all?
P: Only after the negotiations?
C: Only afterwards. That is right. My wife and I went down and
talked with the mayor, Julian Lane (mayor of Tampa, 1960). And
then when they came to the Federal Civil Rights Commission and
they took over about this happening and Francisco Rodriguez,
but we were the ones.
MC: I was subpoenaed to court, I had never seen anything about
that, no where.
P: The Civil Rights Commission came?
C: Yes, after we had done this, when they were getting the case
together, it was much after this had happened then they came
and brought us on this and my wife.
P: And they questioned you?
P: We all agree that Reverend Lowry was a great guy. But was the
NAACP behind the curve when it came down to civil rights in
the early 1960s?
C: Yes, I would say yes because that was the only vehicle we had
at the time, but there was no need for Young Adults For
Progressive Action had the NAACP really been as effective,
although we went along with the NAACP because I was a member
of the NAACP at that time and I worked diligently with them.
P: The CORE was not involved in Tampa, their was a CORE chapter
[Congress On Racial Equality] in St.Petersburg, but not in
Tampa. Even though you are a member of the NAACP, what
organization, in your view, was most responsible for the sit-
in movement here in Tampa? Was it the NAACP? Was it The
Progressive Adults or was it a combination?
C: It was a combination but it came through the NAACP. Because
the Young Adults For Progressive Action came only afterwards.
P: Is it fair to say that Reverend Lowry was the main leader for
P: Were most of the people sitting-in adults or were they
C: They had mixtures, but we were very young at the time, we were
not old folks. My wife and I were the first to sit-in.
P: Where did you sit-in?
C: At W.T.Grant Department store downtown. They had a lunch
P: You were at the very first sit-in or the first at W.T.Grant?
C: We were the first. They had us all to meet at St.Paul's
Church. We met at the church and the orientators told us what
P: Who was orientating you?
C: Reverend Lowry, Jim Hammond, and some others in the group with
the NAACP. They had us to go downtown. We went to two places,
we went to W.T.Grant, and we also went to Touchton Drugs on
Florida Avenue and Buffalo at that time. We went to both of
those and sat in. I do not know if Reverend Lowry told you
that at the time of these sit-ins we were doing negotiations
with the managers of these places about the sit-ins.
P: Was this shortly after the sit-ins began or was there a gap
between when the negotiations began?
C: There was a gap because I think some action had gone on some
place that was arranging it, but once these negotiations got
to be arranged, this is when the big movement came.
P: There was a bi-racial committee that was set up?
C: That is right. The bi-racial committee was set up, Fowler,
Robert Thomas, Jim Hammond, Mr. Louis Wolf. The bi-racial
committee was set up and that was arranged.
P: And then you began negotiating?
P: Did you take part in any of the negotiations yourself?
P: In 1960, you would have been thirty-seven, were there a lot of
thirty-seven year olds ?
C: Yes. Most of the thirty-seven year old people were working in
advisory capacities. There were even young children sitting-
in, everybody was sitting-in.
P: According to Lowry most of the people sitting-in tended to be
in their teens.
C: They did, most of them were teens.
P: So you were probably one of the older people sitting-in?
C: That is right.
P: Was this mainly a young movement or did the older people
support it as well?
C: The older people had to negotiate this thing. The young
people were doing and were inspired by the older people to go
and do it. The strategy was there were certain places you
could send a child in, if you send a man there he will get in
a fight or certain places where you could not send a male, you
had to send a female because the resistance really was great.
P: Give me an example of that?
C: Let's say for instance, if you wanted someone to go and drink
some water out of a fountain and there is an old guy there,
you know he is going to say something and it is in the public.
You send a girl there because they are just going to shoo her
off. You send this boy there and they get in a fight, because
he would hit that boy but he would just tell the girl you are
not supposed to drink there go away. But the boy they would
slap him. You have not experienced that certain things are
going to happen to you as a male today that would cause a
physical conflict, wherein if a woman was in the same position
it would not, in a lot of cases. You had to determine these
cases when you are doing something like that, so that is what
we talked about. That is why you had to send the children.
We had a lot of adults who wanted to do it, but sometimes we
did not have all the children we wanted, so my wife and I went
down to Grant. We were the first because you need leadership,
you need somebody who is going to go and carry your kids.
P: Were you heckled at all?
P: So it was very quiet and peaceful?
C: I will tell you what, we got a little grumbles, but where we
heard something it came from other African-Americans that were
there. [They would] say they know they do not have any
business over here causing trouble and sitting-in where white
folks have got their place, we have got places of our own.
P: Other blacks would patronize the business?
C: Yes, they were peeping around the corners. We were up on the
lunch counters and they were peeping around at us. And one
lady, I knew her, she looked up and her faced frowned up like
boy, you know you are wrong. And the people in the kitchen
that were cooking the food were peeping through at us. They
were letting us know that they agree and all but the older
African-American people were there. We had a neighbor, Miss
Johnson, who knew us and she really said that we were out of
our place to be there. But the whites looked and one couple
got up and we sat and they served us. First, they did not
know what we were going to do, then they served us. Then what
I saw was these kind of athletic-type, big guys coming around
and they decided to sit at the counter and they did not say
anything, they just sat there. Nobody told us this, but I am
sure that the bi-racial commission arranged this, we were not
in on it, so we were not alone. This guys were there to
protect us and make sure if any trouble started that
everything would be cool, so Grant probably had those people
P: These were white guys?
C: Yes, white guys.
P: They were just big white guys sitting there.
C: Just sitting there drinking coke and ordering. Two down on
the side of us and two up the other way and then they had a
couple of women there. When they brought our food and served
us, then this white woman and her daughter got up and said we
are not going to stay here and they left.
P: Did they stop serving you at a certain point or did they
always serve you?
C: When we ordered, they served us.
P: Not all stores were like that, some refused to serve.
C: Yes, some refused to serve, but when we got there we told them
what we wanted and we sat down.
P: This was at Grant's?
C: Yes, and they served us at Touchton Drugs too.
P: Where was that located?
C: At Martin Luther King and Florida Avenue.
P: So, not all of these things were downtown?
P: I thought they were all in the downtown business district.
C: No, this was somewhat away from downtown.
P: How were you motivated to do this? Were you just motivate by
seeing what they were doing in Greensboro and did this come
C: No, we just knew it had to be, it was done all over the
country. We knew what it was all about. In fact, we were
happy to do it.
P: You indicated that in the older generation, there seems to be
a generational conflict there, but the older generation of
African-Americans were critical of your sitting-in.
C: Yes. They thought we were going to cause trouble.
P: Did anyone speak to you and urge you not to do it?
C: They were not at the meetings to do that.
P: How about when they saw you walk down the street?
C: After it was all over, then that was it. But they did say at
that time, the ones that we saw.
P: They did say what?
C: This older lady said, you did not have any business down
P: Skipping past the sit-ins, there was also, as you indicated,
this attempt at race-mixing, as the article says, on
playgrounds? Were there any other activities like that?
C: Other places?
P: Other areas that you demonstrated besides the sit-ins?
C: No. We knew they were going on and we met, but I had to be in
my business and some people cared. And after that we met at
night and talked about them to be directly involved. You had
to get groups of kids and carry them, this is the way we did
P: So the sit-ins and then the playground integration, those were
basically the final major issues that you were an active
P: Do you remember the 1967 riots after Martin Chambers was shot
in the back?
P: Tell me about that. How did you find out about it? Where were
you when you first found out it was happening?
C: Chambers was shot in the back that night, and the next morning
they were in my barber shop talking about it. They were
P: When did the riots begin?
C: I am trying to remember when they started to riot, a day or
two. I think there was a delay. I cannot remember.
P: Do you remember when you first found out about the riots,
C: Yes, that day in my barber shop. I know that I found out
about it the next day because they were talking about it. But
when they met, when we found out that the guys were talking
about doing something about it, they were in my barber shop.
P: When you say the guys, which guy?
C: The young teenagers.
P: Were talking about doing what?
C: They were talking about doing something, they were talking
about tearing the town up.
MC: They were talking about retaliating.
P: So you remember them talking about that?
P: What were they saying, what kinds of things were they saying?
C: They were talking about man we ought to tear this town up,
look what they have done. That is the kind of talk that was
P: Did you try to talk them out of it?
C: Have you ever been around anything like that?
P: I am afraid not.
MC: Was that when you all organized the White Hats?
C: No, that this was after they started that we came back there.
I knew who the principals were.
P: There was no use trying to talk them out of it?
C: People say this should happen and we ought to do this and we
need to do this and this needs to happen and all that. We do
not get in and say wait a minute you guys are going to do this
or that. It is not in your mind, they are going to do it. I
hear that kind of talk all the time. What people should do
and what we are going to do and all that. The next thing I
know, that night they said the town was on fire. I said oh my
goodness, then I am thinking back and I could not say that
those guys I saw started it. But I believed it, because they
were very forceful in what they said but then it was on the
other side of town and I know that those few guys could not do
all that. But I figured they had gotten together and the word
had spread, and once the word spread, everybody had the same
idea. All they needed was one fire or one rock-throwing or
something like that and let the media get it and say it
happened then it is a "domino effect," a "chain reaction."
P: You had kids, of course, at this time. Did you keep them at
home and make sure they were not one the street?
C: Yes, my kids were not kids that would be out and in that at
that time. My kids were in bed, not down the street, my kids
were at home.
P: You made sure of that.
C: Yes. Because we never thought that this would happen. With
all the talk, but we did not think it would happen. We knew
then that we had to do something about it to quiet the
situation and try to get these people to do something. So
that is why the Young Adults For Progressive Action [stepped
in]. I said the guys who are doing this thing should be the
guys responsible for stopping it. We needed a vehicle or
something to stop it and then we talked about what it took to
get some guys to police that streets and all. Then we met
with Jim Hammond and the Young Adults For Progressive Action.
Jim carried it on down to the bi-racial committee, and they
said it was a good thing, and they got them their uniforms and
all of that.
P: We are talking about the White Hats now. Explain quickly what
the White Hats were.
C: The White Hats were a group of young men that the Young Adults
For Progressive Action and the bi-racial commission got
together and got the community guys to go out and get these
guys and called them in and convinced them that they need to
stop the riots. We got them white hats with khaki shirts and
pants, and they put them on and they walked the area and told
the guys to cut it out that we were not going to have it. And
they were uniformed and they looked real good.
P: Were they paid?
C: Yes, they rewarded them a little bit. I do not know when they
had that meeting, we talked about paying them and we said we
had to pay them. I did not make the meeting after that. But
I am pretty sure that they paid them.
P: Do you know how much they were paid?
P: But they were paid for this?
C: I think they were supposed to be volunteers, but I think
somebody paid them. They were supposed to volunteer to do
this and they were volunteers.
P: And the riots were put down by these White Hats?
P: Whose idea was this, for the White Hats?
C: We talked about it in my barber shop. We talked about some
guys being able to stop the riots. I was saying, if you want
to stop the riots, you have to go to the guys that started it
and convince them.
P: Who was in the barber shop for this conversation?
C: I was just talking and then we talked about it at the Young
Adults For Progressive Action meeting with Jim Hammond.
P: Was Jim Hammond the major force pushing this idea?
C: Yes, Jim Hammond was the main man here.
P: Not Lowry?
C: When he went to Lowry I do not know what happened.
P: But Hammond was the one who pushed the idea?
P: Did you mention that idea to Hammond yourself?
C: We talked about it, I was the one who was saying that it would
take the principals involved to do this. But about the part
with White Hats and the uniforms, I did not have anything to
do with that.
P: That was just part of psychological thing.
C: Yes, after you do that then you have to dress it up.
P: Moving on to the 1960s, do you remember the arrival of black
P: Do you remember like cornrows, like in the late 1960s?
C: Yes, the frizz, the cornrows, the afros and the big comb in
the back pocket.
P: How did that affect the barber shop business?
C: Whatever hairstyle you have, you are going to have to have it
groomed. All you had to do is fix up one good afro right, and
everybody was going to want theirs like that. I saw a whole
lot of wooly bad afros but they were trying to get the money
to fix them up. A normal haircut was $3, it would cost $5 or
maybe $6, or maybe $15, to really do up an afro. Because you
had to blow it out, you have to do all these other things to
it, you had to trim it and put them chemical in there to fluff
P: Really, I did not know they put a chemical in there to fluff
C: Yes. We used a liquid in a little bottle that you would put
in and it would give you resilience.
P: Some afro-sheen?
C: No, Vigaro treatment. That was real popular then because it
took some of the resilience out of the hair but it would not
straighten it. It would help it fluff out. So afros did not
harm the shop too bad, but it did not help the barber shop as
much as the fads are now.
P: The fades of today are very different.
C: They are a barber shop blessing in disguise, a dream. Because
those guys get it done every week. They do not want that hair
showing a little bit. You have quite a few once a weeks. I
think they are going to be around here to stay for a long
P: Towards the end of the 1960s, when black power was on the
scene, how did you see it?
C: I saw every move. Black power, black is beautiful, Rap Brown,
Carmichael, of course he kind of leaned to Martin Luther
King a little, Malcolm X. Everything that I saw was very
positive in my eye sight. I did not deny any groups because
this is what it took for us to be right now and for you to be
at the University of Florida now. The results of what we did
caused you to be there now and do not ever forget it, and do
not think they are going to ever forget it either.
P: Did the attitudes of young people change at this time? Did
you find that, for example, because you come into contact with
a lot of young people as a barber, did you find young people
more impatient, angrier, more determined, less idealistic then
those who had come in the early 1960s? In other words, those
kids with the afros and the black power, did you find them
different from the kids who were sitting-in at the
Woolworth's? If you did, in what ways were they different?
C: They were different.
P: How were they different?
C: I think the kids at the sit-ins during the 1960s were ready to
negotiate, because you have to think that during that time you
had integration of schools, integration of facilities that we
were fighting for and we thought that once that happened,
these people were going to be ready to negotiate. They are
going to give us greater economic opportunities, educational
opportunities. They are going to be doing all of these kinds
of things and it did not turn out to be true. The only thing
we got from the Dr. King movement was social integration.
Economically we were worse off in some instances than we were
before. When you came along with the black power they said
Hey, this is a different time, we are going to show them that
we do not have to take this, we are going to raise hell,
because they had told us a lie. They had told us that once
this happened everything was going to be all right and it was
not all right and that is the way I saw them reacting. I
think the whole country got on a time bomb.
P: A what?
C: A time bomb. That is when all the riots started. The rioting
started in California.
P: But for the youth of Tampa, how were they different towards
the close of the 1960s then they were at the beginning of the
1960s? You have told me why, I am trying to find out, from
your personal experience, what you observed, in what ways were
C: They were more militant. They were not as eager to come to
the negotiation table because they figured that they were
dealt out of the deck. You did not get young people. Most of
your negotiating was going on with the older people, like
myself and other people trying to do these things, you could
not get them to come to the negotiating table.
P: Did this cause a rift between the older generation of blacks
who have worked in the civil rights movement earlier on in the
decade, like yourself, and the young people who were
C: I do not think so. I think they had a lot of respect for us
and they respected what we did and they liked it. But the
only thing about it is that they said we have got to find a
different way because these people are not going to do
anything. They are dealing with you, and that is it. Let me
tell you something about the difference in the time. Prior to
that time, blacks got along good with whites because they had
that old buddy-buddy system. They would pat you on the back,
you are a good ole boy. When we did something specifically
for you and we do something specifically for that guy because
we are more vocal but the other guy was left alone. We
realize that. Most of the older people who were doing that
negotiation with the power structure realized that we got to
be good ole boys and they were patting us on the shoulder and
they got to be our friends. At the end of that time you got
to fight that same system. If I have accepted two or three
favors as a good ole boy for this guy, how can I come back and
fight him? Maybe he is a mayor, maybe he is on the
schoolboard, maybe he is county commissioner, so how can I
fight him? So, it took this young man, not because he
disrespected me, it is because my negotiations were too
compromised. I was in a compromising position now, to be
constructive. Everyone of us was, that dealt with those
people like that. So we had to. If a guy had come and done
two or three favors in the community and I was helping this
guy. Now it is time for me to come back and fight this guy.
The best thing for me to give you is the baton or give you the
hammer, and let you do the work. That is what needs to happen
now, today. This history is good and what you are getting is
very good for our kids to read and all. But it is not worth
a nickel if you do not get this and do something with it. If
you are going to sit back and wait for that man to come to
you, I am talking about the white power structure that has
kept us for over a decade suffering and it is still not ready
to relinquish that power, and if you take it and go along with
him and do the same thing, then you are a greater failure than
I am. This needs to be, for whatever it is worth, some of it
you can use, other you are going to have to put in the trash
can and throw it out the back door. But whatever out of this,
if you only have a couple of pages or a couple of lines that
you can use, use it. But use it wisely, make it effective. If
it is not going to help my brothers and sisters coming behind
me to live tomorrow and the day after and the day after then
you might as well burn these tapes up. They need to figure a
way to not deal with that man the same way we did, because
they are not going to give it to you. Nobody is going to come
up and give you liberty and justice. It supposed to be for
all, but you have to go out there and get that.
P: Remember when Reverend Lowry ran for the schoolboard, and when
Elton White ran for mayor. Was he Moses White's [a
successful white businessman and leader in Tampa in the 1950s
and 1960s] son?
P: Were you involved in any of those campaigns? Did you walk
doors or pass out literature, hang up stuff at your barber
P: What can you tell me about those races?
C: I think Elton was a good candidate and could have won but it
was just untimely. It was just the wrong time.
P: Were you all excited when Lowry won?
C: Yes, the reason that he ran and won was because the power
structure was ready, we needed a black elected official.
Tampa had never elected a black official and he was the first.
He was over here on the schoolboard where he could be
compromised to a greater extent. So they decided let this
good ole boy win, let's get Lowry. It was not a movement of
the black community. Do not misunderstand what is going on,
almost everything that has happened in the African-American
community, politically, with candidates running. Everything
is decided by the power structure because what they had done,
the areas and they said they want one, at-large means nothing
to us. You only have about twenty percent of African-
Americans in politics.
P: How about Hargrett, the state senator, and Les Miller, the
state representative and Perry Harvey, the black councilman.
I mean these are people who have been elected by largely black
C: Look at the district they are running in. They are elected
from their district. Tell one of them to win at-large. That
is the sam district that I told you that they had decided that
you can have a black mayor. We only have one county
commissioner, one out of seven, just one. In city council,
one. Schoolboard, one. And you mean to tell me that we could
pat ourselves on the back, talking about a black constituency.
P: We are almost finished. I just want to go back a little bit
to your business. That is, when was it clear that you were
successful? I mean when you first opened your own barber
shop, you were kind of struggling, were you not? When did it
start getting easy?
C: At the barber shop or with the prestige in the community?
P: With the barber shop.
C: It got easy when we came back from California and opened that
barber shop that I told you we built in 1959.
P: When did you spread out?
C: 1962. What happened is that I happen to have a very popular
barber shop. I had quite a few people working with me. The
workload got so heavy that I decided that there were two
things that I needed to do. I had some very good people
working with me and it would be a very short while before they
were ready to be on their own. They were very ambitious and
wanted to get their own business and do some things, but they
did not have the resources to do it, my son and another boy
working with me. I started asking my customers the area they
were coming from and where they lived. And the area where I
had opened the number two barber shop happened to be one that
they integrated. That was an area north of Osborn Avenue that
had been integrated. African-Americans started moving in and
the whites moved out. I see now that is where I am getting
quite a bit of my clientele, so we went up to find an area in
there. I found a woman going out of business because of that
reason, that African-Americans were moving in. She was a
white woman and she had a building. I bought that building
from her. I placed my son and another guy as business
partners in that place. We kept it there for a couple of
years or so and it had to be rezoned. We rezoned it, and that
is when we built Cole Plaza, the barber shop, and, of course,
we have other tenants there now.
P: Really, Cole Plaza, I am not familiar with that, where is it?
C: It is at the corner of 34th street and Shawalawn.
P: So you rented out other stores?
P: You did not mention that, you said that you were a renter but
I thought it was only home rentals.
C: No, I told you that we had approximately thirteen rentals
commercial and residential.
P: OK. I did not realize that you rented out to businesses as
well as homes.
P: What are some of the businesses that you rent out?
C: We have a B.P. Brown Enterprises, a printing shop, and then we
have a recording studio in one of the other stores. We have
the barber shop and the beauty salon. You did not realize the
places I went to when you were with me.
P: No. I did not realize that the whole thing was yours.
C: Oh, all right.
P: I knew you had a barber shop there, but I did not realize the
entire building was yours. I am sorry, so you were saying
about your spreading out.
C: I realized then that was the easiest way to do three things:
to increase my revenue, number one, you have got to look out
for yourself; number two, you create other entrepreneurs; and
number three, within your industry you know what you are doing
and you are serving the community in another area. So
immediately we started looking for another area.
P: By this time, was this the late 1960s?
C: Yes, this was the late 1960s. During this time with me being
politically involved and knowing what is going on, I found out
about the Tampa International Airport and they were building
the new airport and so we found out that this was going to
happen through the mayor and quite a few other people that
talked about it and we found it was going to be available and
naturally we had the best bid.
P: What do you mean by naturally, you had the best bid?
C: For the airport. Because we were in the position that we knew
how to bid better for the airport.
P: So you knew how much you needed to bid?
P: So you had someone giving you some information?
P: Was this from your old political contacts?
P: With the white power structure?
P: From the negotiations in the 1960s?
P: You are an astute businessman. Tell me, from your old
contacts, which mayors did you know personally?
C: I know Mayor Nucio [Nick Nucio, mayor of Tampa in the late
1940s], Mayor Hixson.
P: Did you know him personally?
C: I knew Hixson, yes. I knew Hixson, Nucio, Lane, and Dick
Greico. He is a very good friend. He is going to run again
and he is going to win because I am on his side.
MC: But he is a good man.
C: Yes, he is a very good man. I did not know Hole as well as
the others, but then naturally I know my lady, Sandra
P: You like Sandra Friedman a lot?
C: Yes, I like her a lot.
P: Has she ever been by your barber shop?
MC: When she was working with Sam Seiners when he was the state
attorney they came by.
P: She came with him to campaign?
MC: Yes, we had a little party in the back of the barber shop.
C: Where my shop is we have a big room back there.
P: How many other mayors have you done this for?
C: All of them.
P: You did this for Nucio too?
C: No, let me explain something about Nick Nucio. Roger's Park
happened to be hand-made by a man named Willie Black.
P: I do not know what Roger's Park is?
C: It is a golf course. Roger's Park Golf Course. They had just
a nine-hole golf course.
P: Here in Tampa?
C: Yes. When the sweepers had excess dirt, when they swept the
streets, they brought that dirt out and piled it out at
Roger's Park. He took a wheel barrel and built the greens and
the tees. He built that thing manually with other guys coming
in and helping him, and that created Roger's Park Golf Course.
P: When was this, do you know what year?
C: And Willie Black was a pro and that was back in the 1950s.
P: So what does this have to do with Nucio?
C: Willie Black got to be pro, and the course got popular.
Needless to say that when they integrated it...
P: Willie Black was a black man, but this was a white golf course
C: No, it was a black golf course. It'has always been a black
golf course. There was nothing out there but a dump and the
field and he made it into a golf course. The city had the
land and they gave us the land and he made a golf course out
of it. Anyway a group got together and wanted to take him
down as a golf pro. Do you know anything about golf?
P: Very little.
C: They wanted to take him down as a golf pro. I understand they
really were going to do it and I went down to Nick Nucio,
personally, and talked with him. He knew the story and he
said yes, I heard something like that. I told him, I will
tell you what, and as a young person you are always more
arrogant than you should be, I told him what was going to
happen with Willie Black and should this happen, I would have
500 people on the city hall steps the day after that happened.
And at that time he knew that there was a possibility that I
could not have over five, but he told my you know what Cole,
I admire your courage in what you are doing, I think you have
made a decision for me. He said I will tell you what, he will
still be pro and nobody but the two of us know. He went and
told Willie Black that and Willie Black today told me that
that was the reason that man made that decision to keep him
there. Now suppose I had to come up the next week and fight
Nick Nucio because he is not doing right and really African-
Americans were being taken advantage of all the time. They
monitor our money and spend it for a helicopter for the police
and they took all this money, when it should have been used
for the community and these things did not happen. So when it
is time to fight and you have got to go and fight somebody
like that, then I need to tell you hey this is where you have
to fit in.
P: Nick Nucio ran for mayor in the 1960s again sometime I
believe. In other words he was mayor in the late 1950s and
then I think he was out after Lane and then I think he was
mayor after Lane again.
C: That is right.
P: Did you work in his campaign at all?
C: Every time.
P: Did he come to your barber shop?
P: Did you have a party for him at your barber shop?
C: No. He was the one I did not have a party for because we
always had the parties at that same park.
P: How about Julian Lane, did you have a party for Lane?
C: No, what happened is, we met with Lane but we did not know
that Julian Lane was going to be as favorable and as sensitive
to black needs. To our needs. We did not realize that. He
said that he did not need our vote to win. He said I do not
need black folks voting to win.
P: So, in fact he indicated that he might be a little hostile at
C: Yes. That is what we thought, but then he called us in to the
office where we were at Jackson Heights playground and we were
trying to use the playground. When we were trying to mix the
playground for blacks and whites. So he called us into his
office, my wife and I, and he said I want to tell you
something, I admire what you are doing. He said, it has got
to come and people need to know that. Now you realize all the
achievements that were made in Tampa were made at the
administration. So this man was really a friend of ours but
he had to do those things to get in office. So he said, out
of all the places in Tampa, why would you all pick Jackson
Heights playground, the most prejudiced area in town.
P: And what did you say to that?
C: I said, well that is the closest to us, that is in our
backyard. He said, I want you to know that I admire what you
are doing and keep the good works up and he said that
confidentially to us, he said I am with you. That man showed
it, with everything that happened in Tampa. He had an open-
door policy. Julian Lane did come by our place, we did not
give a party for him, but he came by and talked to our
customers because we requested it. What happened was this, I
requested that he come because it was dangerous to let a
candidate get in and have no support whatsoever in that area.
P: He could just write-off the area.
C: Yes, he could just write you off. So, if he did not do it
then you ask him and he came by and spoke with us. I did not
know him prior to that, I had met him earlier though.
P: Of all the mayors, you were closest to Grieco, is that right?
C: Yes, that is right.
P: And how did you get to know him?
C: I used to work for his father. I used to work for Dick
P: And what did he do again?
C: He owned King Grieco's Hardware Store and that was my after-
school job to work in his hardware shop, and I went over and
worked with his dad.
P: So his dad hired blacks?
C: Yes. Let me tell you one thing, Dick Grieco is a wonderful
person and you can believe that if I tell you that, he is. He
still has a ways to go. His dad was such an easy-going, well
thought of man, and he did not have a prejudiced bone in his
body. Of course, naturally, being an Italian he is somewhat
of a minority too and he had bad problems during that time in
the city. Do not think all the problems were just African-
Americans, there were Spanish, Italian, Cubans, all of them
had problems when it came to basic Anglo-Saxon males and of
course the females, they normally pushed up everything and the
males acted out. That is a fact. All you have to do is move
all of the white women off the face of the earth and all your
troubles will leave. But you cannot do that. During that
time, we all had our problems, but they had done their
homework, they stuck together, they learned to registered to
vote, they had learned the system. Which we have not learned
because we think that everything lies in majorities and in
numbers, which is not true. You have got to learn to work the
system. Number one is if African-American people in this
country do not educate our boys and girls, we have lost
already. Education is the key thing over everything, because
if you give a fool a million dollars, its not going to last if
that guy that has sense gets to him. It will be gone again.
So you have got to educate, education is number one. That is
second only to God. I am a Christian, I believe in Jesus
Christ, I believe in the supreme master, but that is just true
with a small segment of people because when you come to the
world, a lot of people say we do not know anything about Jesus
Christ but anyway, that is number one. And number two is
having a very strong family ties, not money. Then when you
get strong family ties and you get a good education, then you
could use some money. Economics picks up, then you can
P: Just two or three more questions and I will wrap this up.
Going back, what sort of social organizations did you belong
to, you said you were a Lily White, which was a social
organization and also provided insurance for ones burial?
Where you a Lily White also, Mrs. Cole?
C: Yes, for a little while you were.
P: How about a Black Elk were you anything like that?
C: No, I used to be a Mason.
P: Used to be, you are always a Mason, right?
C: Well you are always a Mason, but what I meant is that I have
kind of rusted out from activation. But I plan to reactivate,
so I am still a Mason.
P: Here in the Tampa Bay Area?
C: Yes. 327 Hyde Park Lodge.
P: Who are some of the other black Masons?
C: I do not know. Most of the guys I have seen, Harvard.
P: Was Saunders?
C: I do not know whether Saunders was or not he lives on the
other side of town.
P: So you were a Mason, you were a Lily White, anything else?
C: Social groups you say. You mean in my lifetime, I have been
P: Yes. Have you help out with the Little League before?
C: Yes, I have helped with the Little League, but when I came
along you did not have any little leagues.
P: I believe Harper had to start that up.
C: Yes, Harper helped start it out and I was right in there with
it. So I help out the little league in that capacity. I
played there in Forest Green Park, in fact, we helped to build
that park and we played in that park. In the same way that I
told you about Rogers Park. In fact, I played on the team
called the Mohawk Giants, a baseball team, and we played
against the professional baseball player, Larry Dobey and we
had Goose Tatum that played on our team. Goose Tatum that
played basketball with the Indianapolis These are
guys that we played against at that same park.
P: I am just trying to get a quick list of clubs you belong to.
Social clubs and it could be professional clubs too, that you
had a membership in.
C: United Barbers Association, Bellman and Waiters, NAACP, the
Urban League, the Black Advisory Council, 34th Street Business
And Community Association.
P: Were you an officer in any of these organizations?
C: I was president of the 34th Street Business Association. I
was president for the sheriff, the Black Advisory Council.
P: When, for Heinrich, the past sheriff?
C: Yes for Heinrich. In fact, I was the president ever since
Sheriff Malcolm Beard. I was the first president of the
Sheriff's Black Advisory Council. It was organized and
founded under Malcolm Beard. I stayed president until about
five years ago and then I went back again for one year and now
we have got Sam Cooper. I am also president of THAP [Tampa-
Hillsborough Action Plan], we are doing affordable housing for
citizens of Tampa. We did 1.9 million dollars worth of
business last year. What we do is rehabs of houses that, what
happened is that DOT, Department of Transportation, has a road
coming through where they are building an interstate from
Eisenhower Boulevard over to Del Mabry. They have about
eighty-one houses through that area that they were moving out,
and the mayor decided to move those houses out and relocate
them rather then bulldoze them down and they put them in this
program and there is a non-profit organization, they sell them
to us and we renovate them and we sell them to low-income
P: Are you a deacon at all or have you been a deacon in the past?
P: Sunday school teacher?
C: I have been everything else but a deacon.
P: So you have been a trustee?
C: I am a trustee now. I am a trustee, I have been a royal
leader, I am on the archibald, on the building committee.
P: But you are missing church now?
C: Make sure to put this down that the only reason I did not go
to church today is because of Mr. Alan Petigny and this
P: My final question is how would you like to be remembered?
C: First, I would like to be remembered by one thing that
everything that we have talked about and everything that I
have done were not done by just me. If we measured it on a
scale from one to ten, of the contributions that I have made
and the part my wife played, I think it would go up to about
a six because she has made it more than I. So I could not be
anything in the world. I would like to go on knowing that
without my wife being at my side, most of what I have done
with my life would not have happened.
P: She kept you honest?
C: She kept me honest. She did everything that she could
possibly do to help me and to guide me and stood along with
me. Therefore I would want to make sure it be known that
whatever achievements I have made, or whatever award that I
might get, that she reaps the same benefits because without
her it could not have been done.
P: Let me ask you, Mrs. Cole, how would you like to be
remembered? Remember this is going to be in an archive and
100 years from now there is still going to be this tape and
your grandkids and your great-grandkids might want to hear
this, after the two of you are gone, so how would you like to
MC: I would like to be remembered as being a good wife and mother
and a helper to most people that I run across everyday in my
business, because I give as much advice that I think is right
as any other person in the whole world. I attribute that to
God because he has inspired me to do this and I do appreciate
it, and that is it. I do not know what else I could say.
C: I think I would like to be remembered as a person that has
done a lot to help my community, like my wife, I know that we
do that because it is a daily thing. I would like to be
remembered as a person who fought for opportunity for my
African-American brothers and sisters to really make it. I
want everyone to be able to achieve under their own
initiative, I do not believe in people being given anything
that they need to get for themselves, but I want them to have
the opportunity to excel and to get what they want.
P: Well, I want to thank the two of you very much for letting me
be here for about three hours. I truly appreciate this and I
know that during a regular business day, there is no way on
God's green earth that you could give me so much time. Mrs.
Cole wanted to quickly add an anecdote.
MC: One of our neighbors Mrs. Esther Jenkins who was a lady who
worked with the welfare department that help do many things in
the community and was well liked, told me that I should be
ashamed of myself for taking these kids back to this park
because this park was donated to the white people for a white
P: And this was a black lady?
MC: Yes. I told her that the sign reads public playground that is
supported by city funds and that we were taxpayers and I felt
that we should have access to that park. Now these kids, the
white and black kids in the neighborhood, had been playing for
months until somebody came by and said that we do not want
these black kids out here. When the cops came, he says you
cannot take these kids out here, this is a white playground.
I said, but it is a public playground supported by public
funds. He said, black people do not pay taxes. I said yes
they do because I am helping to pay your salary right now. He
said I do not think so. I said but it is true.
P: He did not arrest you or anything?
MC: No, but he talked like he would but I did not care because I
had not done anything wrong, these are my rights.
P: Did you leave the park?
MC: No, and every time we would go to the park, they would close
it down and I would ask when they were coming back. They
would say in the morning at 9 o'clock and I said we will be
here and I went with those kids everyday arguing with those
people about their park but I just want to tell you about how
some people feel.
P: Quick question, how did it finally end?
MC: The week later in the park, they integrated the parks and all
the white left. All of the whites left.
P: Was that at the end of the year because this happened in 1960?
Did it take a long time, was it months or years?
MC: Well, it took some time for it to be completely black.
P: Was it a court decision or was it just an administrative
decision by the city?
MC: I think it was a court decision because we went to court. A
lot of the trouble that is created in black communities or any
community is because of the public because in trying to get
our kids to play in the parks they said white people do not
have parks in their backyards all you have to do is go down to
22nd street and play. And we lived right in this area. As a
result, the white people lined down 34th Street with guns.
The black people lined down 33rd Street with guns and their
could have been a lot of battles there, but it was created by
them because they did not want us to play in the park. But we
are now playing in that park and every time I would take these
kids out to that park, they would send the city workers in
with shovels to shovel up and clean the park and they knew
this was a lie, but we still played. And some of those boys
would tell the city workers, if you hit me or touch my foot
with one of these shovels we are going to have a war right
here. So people need to think about the things that they
create themselves and that was when they almost created a big
problem out there.
P: It could have been violent?
MC: It could have been very violent.