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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Mr. Howard Brooks
June 9, 1973
Interviewer: Mr. Dexter Brooks (I: interviewer)
Typist: JoAnn Suslowicz.
I: This is Dexter Brooks. I'm doing an interview of Mr. Howard Brooks. The
interview is taking place in Mr. Brooks' home on the ninth of June.
Mr. Brooks would you give us some personal data concerning yourself, uh,
B: My date of birth was July 23, 1941, Pembroke, North Carolina. Wife and
husband, Mr. Peter Brooks, had A family of eleven;
five girls, six boys. Father's vocation--part-time farmer, part-time
carpenter for approximately twenty years of his adult life. And the
remainder of his livelihood or, uh, his adult life was basically carpenter.
Um, my-father's education was, um, through grade seven. He is a self-
taught man, very and very optimistic about life, even though
he lived through part of
I: Uh, you give us some of the traits of your father, could you not give us
some of the traits of your mother as you remember them?
B: Well I There was eleven children in my family,::me being
the youngest. My mother died at approximately the age of 36 years, approxi-
mately two months after I was born. At that time, approximately three to
six months later, I was taken to my sister, Mimi Brooks Laury's (?) home,
and there she reared. .. she and her husband seed that I was educated.
I: Would you tell us, uh, anything about any of your grandparents? Who they
were and what kind of vocation--vocations they had?
B: Uh, yes. Um, my grandfather's name was Sandy Brooks Riley--Sandy Brooks.
Uh, his vocation was farmer. Uh, grandmother, my grandmother's name, the
LUM 83A 2
wife of Sandy Brooks, was Edwagene Hunt Brooks.
I: I see. Could you tell me something about your personal--your own family;
your wife, children, so forth?
B: Yes. Um, uh, my wife, Linda Brooks. My two children--our two children,
Lee and, uh, John.
I: You have two children. Uh, will this be the extent of your family or do
you plan on having more children?
B: We'ld like to have four or five more. At least two or three girls, and a
couple of boys.
I: I see. Then.you, uh, evidently believe in having large families. Could
you tell me why you think this way?
B: Being a minority, I feel, as far as regeneration and all, the carrying
out or the fulfillment of family and ideas. This is--which is contrary
to the modern thought. Because the Indian people, being in:such..a.iminority,
and those that can afford, or the possibility, could afford a larger family--
could mean a family of five to eight people. I think that they should
sacrifice this time of, uh, whereby in the, in the future in the,
in the next 20 to 50 years its still gonna take a lot of positive attitude
and positive sacrifice in order for the minority people, the Indian people,
to develop an equal, And:inymanyeaspects, and in order to
relationships with the white race.
I: I see it in you. You're saying that you understand the need, possibly, for
uh, the idea of zero population growth, but, yet, at the same time you feel
that three or four Indians to survive, and particularly you feel that, um,
perhaps they should ignore zero population growth for some time to come.
B: For the next 20 to 50 years, yes. Because we have to, through the family,
upgrade instill and guarantee a pride in our children. And the
LUM 83A 3
more children you have to foster this thought, the more that they, when they
become adults, will foster it- and carry through, or carry out, or develop
among the minority race, mainly in this area. Uh,
whereby they will foster and cherish to their children, which will be our
grandchildren, and hopefully, within this time period, 20 to 50 years, there
will be established a concrete pride in our identity whereby it can't be
engulfed by being or becoming a part of, uh, either the white or the negro
communittee. We have to in some way instill the identity of a, we, as a
people. And it can only be done through our children and grandchildren,
and through time.
I: How do you feel about the Robinson County Health Department disseminating
birth-control information among mostly Indian and Black people who make up
a large part of their clientele.
B: Well, you ask yourself, for what reason. Um, I think basically its not a
reason to really stem the population growth. I think, locally, the reason
would be more one to stem minority population from a political standpoint.
Whereby, um, if the minority people do not increase in population, there's
a possibility with the much greater development in educational status, the
white people are, the more, the greater the possibility of control will be
from the white race. So, if they can stem the population of minority people,
it gives them a much better chance of control of the local government in the
next 52 hundred years.
I: And, do you believe that the average white person feels himself threatened
by the Indian birth rate which we understand to be much higher than that
of whites, and even higher than that of the Negro?
B: Well, let's say I think this a basic concern of the white race of Robinson
County. I think if.we went and delved into medical records of the county
LUM 83A 4
you will find numbers ofd numbers of Indian mothers, or Indian females
that has had their female organs removed and they themselves didn't even
know it until later told by some other physician.
I: Mr. Brooks, could you, uh, move in on to something in another area? Could
you give me your educational background?
B: I attended elementary school at Pembroke Grade School, secondary school at
Pembroke Senior High. I graduated from Pembroke State University in 1961
approximately. In the meantime, I attended Mars Hill College. I also attended
the University of North Carolina. And, I'ld like to give you a basic history
*of what I feel is sort of a prototype of an Indian student in the years of the
1940's and 1960's. Because of--I feel the educational which was
controlled, and basically still is controlled, by the white race of Robinson
County, we had then, and somewhat still yet, a substandard educational
system. At the time I entered Pembroke State University--believe me, I
graduated Pembroke Senior High with better than average grades and going on
into higher learning institutions, I found that I, myself, was not prepared
to cope with the class studies that was needed in so many things that I
endeavored to try to perform. This, as you probably already noticed, by
going from'one-bch6ol to the other,was the only way that I could develop the
background in order to do some of the things that would, or become professional
in some of the problems that I would need in day to day -
Like, it took me approximately two years to develop a background whereby that
I could continue with my formal education. After graduating from Pembroke
State University, I attended College of Charleston, and obtained a
pharmacy degree in 1966.
I: Now your, uh, class, which graduated from Pembroke High School how many students,
or perhaps percentages would be better, went on to college?
LUM 83A 5
B: I think--as I remember, the enrollment, senior class enrollment at graduation,
ofsstudents that graduated, I think there was approximately 72. And, as I
remember, there was no more than 15 I would say somewhere between 12
and 15 that went on to college.
I: *Did any of these 12, 15 students, other than yourself leave the county to
seek their education?
B: One other that I can remember--no, three others that I can remember. Um,
I think all except myself and one other, came back to this area to, to
finish their education, their formal education.
I: Are you saying that these people had a similar experiences to yourself?
I: I see. Then you've painted a picture of, uh, at the time, uh, even seemingly
the best students at the local high school produced were unable to meet the
academic requirement of schools outside Robinson County.
B: This is the picture that I portray.
I: And since you went on to receive a degree in pharmacy we say that men--it was
not a lack of intellect, but a lack of -tough preparation, shouldn't you say,
and the, uh, poor quality of the schools--of the union schools existing at
that time. You know, um .
B: I would say basically that is true, but after I entered pharmacy school, I had
no problem at all with work-study. I first had to develop a background which,
it just took two or three years to develop a background after I finished
I: Mr. Brooks, when you went away to college, was this the first time ybu'ld ever
been out of the county for an extended period of time?
B: Yes. The first time. I'ld been out of the county in any length of period,
I would say, over any--no more than a week... at one time.
LUM 83A 6
I: Could you tell me, um, what sort of trips you had been on? In other words,
did your family take, for example, an annual vacation which would take you
from Robinson County?
B: No. I think the understanding that Robinson County is basically an agricultural
county and most of the people, including my parents, were farmers. And, during
the summer, the children of a family basically worked on the farm harvesting
the crops. And, I was no exception. And, uh, as far as, um, annual vacations;
I can remember, the only one I remember in a period of 15 to 20 years, we had
one. And I remember we went to see Niagra Falls and we went to see an old
of mine that lived in Michigan. That's the only annual--the
only vacation, extended vacation in that period. Five to seven days; our
family trip was in that period of time.
I: Do you think, perhaps, that this lack of exposure to, shall we say, outside
world existing outside the boundaries of Robinson County could have contri-
buted to your early academic problem?
B: Very much so. I think we would all agree that, uh, that you have no way of
relating to objects, ideas, and progressive thought. You allay incentive,
and by doing this it creates a vacuum, and delays progress among individuals
I: What about the, um, report you had with fellow students. By that I mean you
came from an all Indian school, and suddenly you were in, shall we say an
alien environment since you apparently were, if not-the only Indian, one of
a small handful..
B: Uh, as far as relations relating to other students, basically of the caucasian
race, I would think probably, as far as being a loner or being secluded, or not
being accepted was probably as much my fault as theirs, because, not being
able to identify with these people, these kind of people, would automatically
LUM 83A 7
give them the idea or feeling, well who is he. He won't talk, or we don't
know what kind of person he is. And, it doesn't matter if communication,
which was probably as much my fault as theirs, but as time grew, or as I
developed and become more aware of my surroundings, the people and what the
world was like, then I become more of an extrovert as far as talking and
conversing withppeople,-and that problemtwas finally allayed.
I: I see. Uh, could you tell me; you graduated, I understand, or so you said,
from a medical college in Charleston with a degree in pharmacy. Was this
your intention there? Was pharmacy your ultimate goal when you entered
B: No. It wasn't my ultimate goal, but I planned to go on to med school, but
after so many frustrations in school, and after I'ld finally received a
B.S. degree in science here at Pembroke State University, I did not want
to teach, so I just, out of, uh, this year trying and taking a chance for,
a, lack of other reasons, I decided well, I'll apply to Pharmacy school.
I applied and was accepted. And, I've been happy with it ever since.
I: Why were you interested in medicine?
B: I had, uh, I still have, brother who had a two years of M.D. degree at the
University of Michigan. And, I expect that's where my interest in medicine
I: Uh, you say your brother was a doctor and this somehow stimulated your interest
in medicine. What exactly was your brother's field itself
B: Uh, in the field of medicine, especially in--for our area, um, we always been
taught by our parents that, uh, from an economic standpoint, it's a good living.
And, I think, to be honest, from the beginning this may have had quite a
influence on what I decided to do. Uh, secondarily, and I think more important,
is the depravation of health and health attitudes of our people. It needed
LUM 83A 8
so much improvement that this was one of the basic reasons in which developed,
or oriented myself towards the, uh, medical profession.
I: Uh, Mr. Brooks, you seem to have a deep commitment as far as Indian people
are concerned. Could you give me some idea how you came to acquire this
commitment: That is how it developed, and who stimulated this?
B: Um, I _my commitment, as far as trying to help in whatever way that I
as an individual could help. Probably, it's something inate. Many of, I
think'rthe Brooks family and this may be somewhat boastful, but I don't--
I as an individual don't feel that that's where it develops. I think our
family as a whole has a feel for help in the helpfulness of other--of other
people. Now this, within itself, I don't think is a motivethat, uh, that's
strong enough to sacrifice...like I feel that I as an individual had. I think
immediately worrying about where my influentials were by my help for other
people or anything else, is the actual feel for people that I have communicated
with in the last 4 to 5 years; Indian people. When you meet approximately
30 to 60 people each day, seeing their depravation of health in their ills,
in their educational feel for their own ills, means basically the ignorance
that prevails in our area because of lack of education. And realizing the
importance of what our people will have to know in order to increase their
own longevity. It behoves any person in this kind of position to do whatever
She- can as an individual to promote and increase the educational level of
this kind of person.
I: Mr. Brooks you spent, from what you said, I gather at least four years in
school away from Robinson County. In this, shall we say outside world, you
must have came in contact with, uh, many things which cannot be found here
in Robinson. Were you ever tempted to forsake Robinson County and perhaps
avail yourself of some of the, some of these opportunities?
LUM 83A 9
B: Yes, uh, very much tempted. Uh, this is another phenomena that's sort of
hard to explain. I found, uh, and seen from experience--felt from exper-
ience tat, uh, an Indian in other areas of the country seems to be accepted
and may be appreciated as a person, or as an individual. Seemingly much more
so than he does even in his own home, uh, in--at his own home.
I: Uh, of course, here in Robinson, an Indian to a white person is a member of
another racial group. Now do you mean by you being accepted in other areas
are you accepted as an Indian or are you accepted, perhaps, as a person whom
they think of being as--being white?
B: No, they don't accept me as a person being white. Uh, I'ld like to give you
an example as I, uh, recall when I first attempted to obtain employment in a
drug store down in Charleston, South Carolina. I went to see this employer
and asked him about a job. And he said he would let me know. Oh, in about
a week later, I went back again to let me know, so I went back and asked him
what his decision was about my employment. And he right off and says well come,
come in about the first of the week. And, about six months later, after he
saw that, uh, I was gonna work out of him as he...as he stated,
uh, he says he didn't know, at that time, how his employees--how his customers
would be affected by my presence. Being, uh, a different color skin, and
maybe having different features from the whites, uh, caucasions. And, uh, but
he, himself admitted that, uh, uh, his own customers, for some reason or other,
taken, uh, feeling--part of a feeling of me as an individual. Uh, why this
is, uh, in other areas, I really can't explain, unless it--it's to the extent
that being in other areas I'm only one person, but when we get back home, and,
in a populace of forty thousand, then we can be felt more as a threat, in
group basis like this rather than just on an individual basis, and maybe this is
why we can be accepted in other areas where we can't be accepted at home.
LUM 83A 10
I: Uh, Mr. Brooks, you...you just said that you did your apprenticeship in a
drug store in Charleston. Was it not possible for you to do this in your
home area, that is in Robinson County?
B: No, it wasn't possible. Uh, but why, as I stated earlier, uh, if we didn't
talk about economics. But I think this is a basic problem. But, um, realizing
that the pharmacy or the druggist communittee in Robinson County was, uh,
99 percent white, they felt being infringed upon by one Indian, knowing that
the possibility might be that in a few years this one Indian would be competition
even tl e extent that, uh, they would not offer me internship in any of their
pharmacies in Robinson County with the exception of one, on a fee simple basis.
I even asked for free work, and I couldn't get it. Internship--I couldn't
get them to offer me internship. But, and when I even asked to work for
nothing, as far as, uh, compensation was concerned.
I: You said with the exception of one. Uh, why? Could you clarify that?
B: In a town approximately fifteen miles northwest of Pembroke, called, uh,
Legrum, North Carolina, a population of approximately five hundred, I got a
job with a pharmacist. I think, basically, the reason I got this job was that
in the area, there was a population of black and white, and very few Indians,
and the stigma of, uh, and repercussion in regard to economic, and even, uh, uh,
a political atmosphere later on would not affect their employment of me as an
I: You said earlier that the, uh, you mentioned 99 percent, I believe, meaning the--
when youere talking about the number of in Robinson County. Are you
saying that there was at least one Indian pharmacist at the time?
B: Yes, there was one.
I: Was this person operating his own drug store or not?
B: As far a I know, he was operating a drug store in partnership with a white
LUM 83A 11
I: Did you approach this Indian pharmacist for a internship?
B: Yes. L1s reasons was as the white; I couldn't--they would not give me employ-
ment, c is it, his partner would not agree to hire me as an intern.
I: After you, um, finished your education, then you...you set up your own drug
B: Yes, we--my wife and I came back from Charleston, South Carolina and late
1967, uh, I opened and incorporated a drug store on January 1, 1968 in
Pembroke, North Carolina.
I: You say ou incorporated a drug store?
I: You mean your drug store is owned by a corporation?
I: You, I assume, being the principle stock holder?
I: Could ou, uh, tell me something about your business since that time, uh ...
B: Yes. Uh, I'm gonna say we opened business in Pembroke, January 1 or the corpora-
tion in 1968. Uh, I'ld say this store -as the only pharmacist. Since then,
I've had sme part-time help through the years. Uh, we have been quite successful
for ahisiness operation. Uh, we have developed a clientele over the years of
approximately, uh, we cover the radius of approximately 5 to 7 miles from
Pembroke. Uh, we have, uh, approximately 60 to a hundred people that enter our
store, as far as perscription customers daily, with the actual, average flow of
people from two to three hundred a day.
I: Could you give me some idea of the, uh, perhaps the ratio breakdown of your
B: I have approximately three to four percent black, and approximately 96 to 97
I: Are you saying, uh, almost no whites, uh, avail themselves of your services?
LUM 83A 12
I: Do you have any idea of the effect you have on the, um, volume of the other
pharma--the other drug store in Pembroke?
B: I don't have any concrete, uh, idea as to what we did, but I would say, we,
as far as perscription filling, their probably daily perscription flow was
probably decreased and by--has been decreased by approximately a third.
I: Could we then, uh, Mr. Brooks you seemed from what you said to have been very
successful in your ... your drug operation which you have operated with your-
self being the only pharmacist. Do you have any explanation as to why the
first Indian pharmacist to, at least return to Robinson County, saw fit to go
into partnership with a white?
B: I think, basically, it was a feeling of insecurity. Uh, you might--we might
ask ourselves why. Uh, this is being taught from our cradle to our grave, as
far as Indian people--as far as superiority and inferiority of respectfully
White and Indian people. We've been taught, by even our parents, and we've
been taught by the White man's educational standards. We've been--we used the
White man's, uh, uh, text books, and we've been inately en--inately enstored in
almost any facet of education that, uh, the White man is our master. And, any
kind of forerunner, no matter what vocation they might be, I think, uh, there had--
there is developed, and had been developed over the years that, uh, I can't do
what this man does or what this white man does. If I get a chance to join him,
or develop under his tutelage I would be much better off. We, as a group of
Indian people, are in many respects are forced to--afraid to take risks, or
afraid to do what we really can do as people because of our educational up-
bringing and our tutelage by even our parents. And I feel this is basically
why the first Indian pharmacist who came back to Pembroke developed a partner-
ship with a white proprietor.
LUM 83A 13
I: This white proprietor, as you said earlier, felt threatened economically by
yourself in that he did not want to offer you an internship. You, since you've
obtained your success in pharmacy, have you been threatened economically by
other Indian pharmacists entering the business?
B: No. I feel that I'm a big believer in competition, and I think this is some-
thing that I've, sort of, taught myself. That from a business standpoint, no
matter who does what in the business world, there is always a place for
someone else that wants to develop. Now, I'm not saying we always are successful
but as far as the development of a competitive, uh, business, I do not feel
afraid of like either race as far as competition in the same, uh,
business. Uh, I might go on to add that I feel that competition by other
Indians would even help my business, because as we all know, that it has been
a part of business that, uh, we're all--make ourselves more efficient, knowing
that competition is around the corner. But what we achieve indirectly, is a
much stronger business of our own.
I: Entering into this, perhaps subconsciously, would it be that fact that you
explain your clientele being from a radius of five to seven miles from Pembroke.
As I understand it, the Indian population ranges far beyond those limits.
Would you say perhaps that there is a ready market here for other Indian
pharmacists who would, perhaps, administer to 96 percent Indian clientele?
B: Yes, there is a ready market. Uh, because I would think that if we had some
way of determining the business of, of even the other pharmacies in Pembroke,
we would find that approximately 75 percent of their business is Indian.
Thereby, another entering pharmacy compete--to compete with both of us would
draw of ur trade. Not only would they draw of our trade, they would, they would
pick up other fringe areas of the county which would develop their business.
By doing this, by them bringing in people, we would draw off his business. So
LUM 83A 14
it's a--a relating factor which in due time, it would increase everybodies
I: Have you encouraged other Indians to enter into pharmacy?
I: Have you had Indian interns in your pharmacy?
B: As far as encouragement of Indians in pharmacy, we would go back to the problem
I spoke of earlier, as far as risk, and, um, involvement into new ventures
that our people had never become involved in before. This is the basic problem
with young students, uh, who are graduated from our high schools today. Um,
in thepast, as I've said, if--from our white man's text books and our parents'
apathy or, or feeling that the white man is superior, then our lot's to steal
the $1.80 to $1.50 job or the farm laborer job, and this being a part of our
upbringing, even our intellectuals--our high I.Q. Indian students will not
venture out and try to obtain a formal education which would give them any
kind of professional job which they could excel in easily if they just tried.
This is a problem wel ve in, uh, and that I've, uh, against in trying to get
Indian students who aught to assure the development of not only in pharmacy
and become successful, but in other professional, um, areas--educational areas.
Uh, I do have...in fact we do have with us this summer, one pharmacy intern--
Indian pharmacy intern who is at Chapel Hill, and from what he tells me, when
he does gaduate, that he will come back to Pembroke and try to develop a
privately owned pharmacy.
I: Mr. Brooks your wife has just asked me to ask you what is your relationship with
B: I do not have a relationship with Robinson County druggists.
I: Uh, do you ask yourself why?
B: I think probably this, from a critical standpoint, I would have to criticize myself
LUM 83A 15
here, as much--as much or more so than the other pharmacy, uh, pharmacists in
Robinson County. Uh, I think two factors, uh, number one is communication.
Uh, whether I want to admit it or not, there's still this racial factor which,
uh, subconsciously always rises its head above the water thereby, uh, bringing
about--causing uh, or not causing communication, or continually developing a
communications barrier. Uh, number two, uh, which is not the most important,
would be a matter of time. We just don't have the time to get together and
talk, even if we didn't have the racial barrier.
I: The doctors have a professional association in the county. Is that also true
of the pharmacists?
I: Are you a member of this?
B: No. I might-add that I was asked to become a member of the Robinson County
Pharmaceutical Association, and this, again I would like to say it's not anybody
else's fault. I feel it's as much my fault from this standpoint, it would be
as would be the other pharmacists of the county, not saying it is the fault
of any and all. I think what I would have to sort of say the thought here is
just the racial value itself.
I: To your knowledge is the other Indian pharmacist in Pembroke a member of this
I: Side two. Dexter Brooks' interview with Howard Brooks continued. Would you
answer the last question for us?
B: I do not know if the other Indian pharmacist is a member of the Robinson County
Pharmaceutical Association. I would like to add, as far as a positive note, that
there is a developing report among the--between many of the Indian pharmacists
and other pharmacists in the area, as far as cooperation on, um, information, on
perscriptions, on, um, etc.
LUM 83A 16
I: Mr. Brooks, we've discussed in some detail the commitment you have to, um,
improve, in shall I say the lines of Indian people. You've talked about what
you've tried to do in your profession--in the medical profession. Could we
talk, perhaps, about the political...that is apparently, in Robinson County
the whites have excercised, not only economic, but political power over the
Indian population. Could you give us, uh, some of your involvement with
politics starting perhaps before your return to the area. Maybe you could
tell us when you first became interested in politics as a means of improving
the life--the lives of Indian people.
B: I think you first have to admit, or maybe, one of the things--basic things that
I as an individual has had--has had to expect that, uh, the economic status of
people is directly proportional to the political activity of the same group of
people over a period of time. One you can't even have without involvement of
the other. And, the sad fact is-that so many of our Indian people has yet come
to this belief, that rto, um, progress economically you have to develop an
organized--a very positive political structure.
I: You said that many of your fellow Indians have not come to this kind of realiza-
tion. Could you give us some idea when you, yourself came to this realization?
B: Yes. 1h the past, uh, it has been the object of many of the Indian people in the
area hat have tried to upgrade the, um, life style of Indian people, who worked
as individuals, and, as an individual, as anyone will find out if he doesn't
already know it, is that, um, he can't really achieve the--so much in the
political arena as an individual. You have to develop an organization. You
develop an organization to implement aims, and the aims that is implimated
generally hs very basic economic ratifications. Going back to your original
question, uh, when my concern or when my concern begin to develop, uh, in the
political arena, uh, I can go back and to the year 1962 to 64. I remember
LUM 83A 17
hearing my brother talk about, or make mention of a small grant, I think of
approximately 27--28 hundred dollars that they received from Southern Christian
Leadership-Council. That's our receipt. To do some, uh, registration in the
county of, uh, Indians. At that time, uh, I think there was approximately 30
to 35 hundred out of a populace of approximately 35 thousand Indians registered.
And, Ithink, for a period of two years, they registered about three thousand
people. Bringing the total up to approximately 7 thousand. I think this is my
first realization of, uh, any kind of political activity in regard to, uh,
organizing Indian people for, uh, purpose of developing, um, definite, liable,
Indian political organization.
I: You said, uh, in the period 62-63, uh, the Indian, uh, registered voter total
was approximately increased to approximately 7 thousand. Do you have any
information on the size of that time of the white voter population?
B: Um, no definite figure, but I would, uh, a good educational guess would be
approximately ]2-]4 thousand.
I: Mr. Brooks could you tell us which one of your brothers it was at this time
that was politically active and, also some of the people perhaps who helped
him secure this grant from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and
how exactly they were able to double the number of Indians registered to vote
in such a short period of time?
B: Um, the brother was, um, Dr. Martin Brooks, along with Mr. Curt Locklier,
Mr. Thadeus Upsidine, Mr. Carl Locklier, Mr. Hamendile, all of the Pembroke
area, who, at that time, had established a non-profit corporation called the
Lumbee Citizenship Council. This was the, uh, corporation under which they
obtained the funds from S..C. At this time, as'we, the Indian people, as far
as registration was concerned, had approximately 35 hundred people, as I said
earlier, uh, registered. They took the money-that they had, and, uh, achieved
quite a bit of success by, um, establishing report with their Board of Diretions
LUM 83A 18
of the county to the extent that, uh, they had approximately 15 to 20 roving
registrars, um, that they were certified by the Board of Elections. These
registrars, Ithink, were in effect, or had this privilege, for approximately
12 months. It was a temporary program that, um, they set up with the Board of
Elections after they obtained their money from S.R.C. During this time Mr.
Thadeus Upsidine was sort of the coordinator of the program. And, um, some and
the people--he knew people that were appointed the temporary roving registrars
or what you might call commissioned registrars, were quite active. Some of them
registered as many as a thousand people, as one individual, even though some of
the registration total did not increase till about 4 thousand, uh, you have to
realize the obstacles during this time, that these roving registrars had to
surmount. Because, number one, after being among the Indian people, uh, he'ld
go to her house and talk to her about registration. This is something completely
foreign to em; they didn't realize the importance of, um, what the registration
process meant to them, uh, much less their responsibility to representative-
process. They had, uh, as stated earlier, this long past history of depression
by means--subtle means, uh, instituted by the white man. Uh, but through all
this obstacle from the year, uh, years 64 through, um, 68, uh, they registered
approximately 4 to 5 thousand Indian people. After the temporary 12 month period
was over, then this commissioned status of these people was relieved. They then
could:no more register people as they did during the time that the Board of
Elections gave them.
I: Mr. Brooks, this 12 month period of time that you spoke of when these Indians
were given this authority to register people, was it understood at that time
that, uh, this power would be terminated at the end of 12 months?
I: During this period of time the Indians had dramatic advances in the number of
Indians registered to vote. Now, could you tell me what advances the Indians
LUM 83A 19
perhaps made in filling candidates for public office?
B: Uh, the advances, um, wasn't, um, very much improved. But, at least we had a
beginning. I think our first Indian County Commissioner was elected in the
I: Mr. Brooks yu say 68. Was that 1962?
B: Yes, uh, 1962 Mr. Tracey Sampson was the first Indian elected as a county
commissioner for the, uh, district. Uh, since then, uh, things
begin to pck up as far as Indian activity--Indian candidacy activity. Uh, I
think we would have to say we achieved some progress by just fielding Indian
candidates for, uh, um, county boards of education position, a senatorial
position, uh, house of representatives positions, uh, and, uh, other political
countywide positions and district positions. Even though our progress as far
as electing people to these positions is very limited up until 1972. This--this
period of--this decade of years brought about an incentive to, uh, to the extent
that quite a number of Indian people ran for different political offices even
though most of them wasn't successful in their elections.
I: The M district you just spoke of which elected the first Indian
County Commissioner; could you give us some idea of the ratio makeup of this
B: The M- district is made--the racial makeup is approximately 65--
correct me if I'm wrong--65 percent Indian and approximately 15--10 percent
black or maybe white. Uh, you ask yourself--we ask ourselves, you know, which
one is the most vulnerable as far as Indian, uh, candidacy potential. And, I
would think that this was the reason that at that time that, uh, we sort of
elected this--this district within the Robinson County to, uh, fill an Indian
candidate. Feeling that this would be the one that we could, uh, achieve success.
I: Mr. Brooks yu say that you returned to Robinson County to begin your practice
LUM 83A 20
in the latter part of 1967. Could you give me your initial political involve-
ment in the area?
B: Uh, yes. Innitial political involvement was more of a sidewalks interviewer.
I'ld alk with people who were then involved and were involved at that time in
the political arena of Robinson County. And, rationalizing what their, or their
mode of instrumentation, and I finally came to the conclusion that what was
needed was more of a--constructive--more of an organized political organization
than what the Indian people had done in the, in the recent past. The past that
we talked about as far as the decade from 1960 to 1970. And by doing, uh,
this kind of, uh, rationalization, um, I felt as an individual, oh, we had to
develop more within the system itself, and become more a part of the system.
Namely hat, uh, we had to realize what we have--what do we have to do, or what
did we have to do in order to become a part of the political arena of Robinson
County. Knowing that, or feeling that what had been done in the past was not,
or was not successful to the extent that we were getting a key to progress, like
I felt, as an individual that we should. So, um, during the years from 68 to
70, as I say were basically a time of rationalization. A time to decide what
routes to take to achieve, uh, some kind of success, and to expedite the success.
As we aLl know, and as we begin to work, we begin, as people, as Indian people,
to, ., become involved in local presinct elections. Uh, county conventions,
district conventions, and, finally, we've even had some activity on the state
level--state conventions. Uh, rolling back to local political organizations,
organizations we had to become involved in the precinct elections. And, in the
year 1970, um, there was, uh, a small nucleus of Indian people, mostly younger
people & that time, people my age, anywhere from 30, ah from 26 to 30, 32, 33,
35 year old people. Uh, who, after the organizational rules of democrat party
had been changed, or were in the process of being changed, um, began to
LUM 83A 21
solicit fr party organizational rules. And studying these, uh, booklets as
to reading what a precinct, uh, organization was. How the precinct committee
was dected; when it was elected; how the precinct meeting was carried off; and
what was done after the precinct meeting was, uh, convened, or what part the
precinct committee had to do with the county elections and county conventions;
what the relationship was--what the relationship was to the county conventions--
the district conventions; and so forth to the district of the state. It was
just ai educational process. So what we did, after sort of familiarizing ourself
with, uh, what in order to develop an organization, and how it was developed,
then we got in, and went from one Indian precinct to another educating our
people j small groups. In fact what we did, before the precinct elections in
1970, there--some of us would select--what we did we divided among groups, two
or three, one or two would go to one precinct, another one to two would go to
other recinct--we hurt the political organization. We would select ten people
in these meetings that would be actually who would be brought up on the slate,
the next day, or the next two or three days in the.precinct committee.We sort of
had our rganization--we tried to have it cut and dried so that when we had
our precinct organizational meeting we would not have any errors, and we would
sort of carry out what were our plans. And we were somewhat successful in the
year 1970. Out of, uh, 13--out of 39 precincts in Robinson County, we had 13
Indian--predominantly Indian precincts in which we had--which had never happened
before--predominantly Indian precincts, uh, uh, Indian officials. Uh, uh, this
is not including any township, uh, precincts whereby in these precincts that
black people would go in basically the same thing. So, overall the minority
control--the minority participation on the precinct level in 1970, um, was very
much increased as to what it had been in the past. We had, um, as I said,
approximately 13 Indian precincts that we took control of--that Indian people
took control of in 1970 and the townships of, uh, M Redgesprings,
LUM 83A 22
and Fermont had heavy, uh, black participation on the, on the precinct committee.
I: Mr. Brooks, could you, uh, give us, uh, give us, uh, more specifically an idea
how this--what exactly you mean when you say we took control--what I mean is
exactly how this was accomplished. Say dealing specifically with perhaps the
B: Well, in 1970, uh, and the years prior to 1970, uh, we had, uh, a political
organization in the Pembroke precinct which was composed of, uh, basically,
of Indian people. But Indian people of a kind that, uh, from whatever reason,
basically from an economic reason, was tied to what we--was tied to the so
called political structure of Robinson County. Whereby, uh, creating a vacuum,
uh, between grassroot Indian people and the actual Indian people that had
attained positions on these political organizations beginning with--locally
with the local precincts committee. So we can say, or we could say that in
Pembroke, especially, there was, uh, Indian participation and Indian represen-
tation as far as, uh, the precinct committee itself. But it was composed of
Indians that did not relate to grassroot Indians mainly because these people
that were holding these positions in these political organizations were tied
to the political structure in such a way that they could not relate to grass-
root bdian people, whereas if they did they were automatically relieved of
whatever political position they had, no matter how large or small it was. This
was the kind of situation that prevailed, uh, for example, in the Pembroke
precinct. Now let's take for instance, uh, a rural precinct which, uh, was
predominantly Indian. Uh, and a lot of these precincts did not even have, uh,
Indian, uh, representation on their precinct committee; even though the precincts
themselves were sometime as much as 90 percent Indian. Uh, we ask ourselves,
why was this? The answer being that, uh, even though you had a large, uh,
Indian population, the, uh, land ownership was basically, uh, uh, in some places
LUM 83A 23
as much as, uh, 78 percent white owned. So, from an economic standpoint these
white landlords would use pressure to the extent to get these people in the
local political organizations such as the precinct organization--the precinct
committee per se, and, uh, pressured these people into supporting them, or,
if they attended their organization, or, what was more effective, would just
keep them on the farm and keep them working and not educate the people to
really what the local political organizations were in their precinct. And
teaching them--or not teaching them the importance of their participation. So,
um, you had--you had two situations, uh, for example, Pembroke precinct you had
Indian activity or Indian participation on a local politic--local political
organization, but they could not help their Indian grassroots people because
of economic relationships with the political structures. Whereby if they did,
and they lost their political position; then the rural area, whereby you had,
uh, majority Indian people. You still had white controled local political
organization because of their, uh, uh, economic, uh, ties:to large landlords.
The large landlord either pressured them to support them in the local precinct
organization, or they just didn't let them know what was going on.
I: These precinct elections you spoke of, uh, are they democratic--that is, are the
offices decided by vote of the people present at the precinct meeting?
B: Yes. They, they are chosen the by, um, vote of the people at the, uh,
precinct meeting. Each person has, uh, one vote. Um, and there being ten,
uh, members on the committee itself, there was ten positions to be selected.
I: And you say that in 1970 Indian people, apparently through a, a move which
apparently was ignited in the Pembroke area were able to take control of most
of the Indian precincts in this particular year. Since that time, have we had
any more of these, uh, precinct meetings?
B: Yes, in, uh, in 1972. We have precinct elections every two years. In 1972 we
LUM 83A 24
had, uh, the same similar process developed. Uh, I don't think it was spear-
headed and it wasn't as successful as in 1970, but, um, I don't--I think we
lost one precinct that we had before. Uh, like I think we got 12 out of--
whereby--whereas in 1970 we did get 13. The one we lost was in, uh, Parkton
precinct and there wasn't really a whole lot we could do about that because, uh,
in 1970 we just sort of surprised the people over there. The white people in
the past just take it for granted that the minority people just didn't partici-
pate. So the white folks didn't show up and the Indians just took over. But,
uh, the whites were prepared in 1972, uh, because there were really more whites
in the Parkton precinct. So, um, they just went back out there and took their .
and there wasn't a whole lot we could do about it.
I: The '70precinct meetings apparently--the movement was instigated in Pembroke.
Was this, uh, same phenomena present in '72, that is, did the impetus come
from Pembroke, or did it perhaps come from these individual Indian--predominantly
B: Well, uh, the, uh, the interest came, I think more so from the, uh, precinct
itself i 1972. Um, because, uh, we had a period of two years there, of, of,
you might call a beginning awareness, uh, in the precinct itself, as to, uh,
really what the structure--or how the structure itself, uh, was implemented,
and what they themselves had to do in order to become a part of, uh, the local
government. And, uh, the precinct organization--the precinct election was a
part or beginning of developing, uh, uh, our participation within the structure
I: Then, would you say that the number of people becoming, shall we call it
politically astute, is increasing, and not only increasing, but it is becoming
more widespread over the, uh, county?
B: Very much so. Uh, uh, it's becoming, uh, we're becoming more politically
LUM 83A 25
aware. So much, uh, so much so, to the extent that, uh, it can be gaged in
numbers of ways, uh, uh...number one, uh, it's just a matter of mouth to mouth,
or, uh, uh, or, conversation, uh, about really what so and so is doing, or how
so and so can be accomplished. Uh, and we--our people begin to relate--well
we have to do, uh, uh, we have to vote, we have to, uh, get in there and organize.
Uh, you saw what we did two years ago, we just have to--we'll have to do it
again, and do more of these kind of things. Uh, the communication is, is better.
It's &veloping on a more positive scale. It's, it's more efficient. Uh, uh,
our people are beginning to question, uh, uh, different, uh, processes, uh,
so much so i the past, that, uh, uh, the rules or regulations wasn't followed.
Our people are studying the rules and regulations and they're making sure that
they're being adhered to, uh... These are the kind of progressions that we're
developing into now.
I: In the 1970 elections do you--could you tell me the Indian candidates who were
running, and what offices they were seeking?
B: You say the 1970 elections?
B: Um, I'll try. For the House of Representatives, uh, Mr. Willard Lowry. Um,
for the Snate, um, uh, Brooks; for the school board election ...
ran for the school board; and that's my total recall of
the candidates in 1970. I think, uh, what is more important, really, then
the candidates--the candidacies, is the development of, uh, a political awareness
of Indian people after the election of 1970. Uh, I think this, the 1970
election, was, uh, one of the most important as far as Indian people are concerned
because, uh, the level of awareness, uh, was very much increased, because, uh,
we had candidates that ran even though they lost. Um, were able to create
a political awareness among our people to the extent that they began to once and
LUM 83A 26
for all, uh, that, uh, they had to begin to participate in, uh, the electoral
process by going to vote, and by making sure, that, uh, so many of our people
that aren't--wasn't registered, that they could become registered. So that, uh,
when the time came again, that, uh, we would be in a better position to, uh,
field a successful candidate.
I: You mean you're telling me that no Indian candidate actually was successful in
obtaining,a;public office in 1970?
I: Were there any, uh, black candidates for office at this time?
B: Yes, there was one black candidate, uh, that was successful in 1970. Reverend
Joe J Johnson of, uh, Farmont, North Carolina. I think, uh, even though we
didn't have an Indian candidate that was successful, I feel as an individual that
we were successful because his election was the fruits of a, a developing
coalition between Indians and blacks. Which, uh, I think, showed its first
positive success in that year and elected one minority official, especially to
the state house.
I: Then dd Reverend Johnson receive, would you say, the bulk of, uh, the Indian
vote in '70?
B: Yes, uh, for example, um, for Reverent Johnson himself. In the primary of 1970,
Reverend Johnson was, uh, the second high man in the Pembroke precinct, and I
don't recall the, uh, the exact vote. But, uh, considering his opposition, I
feel that the white candidate was professional and had been known by Indians for
so long and had been brainwashed that, uh, to the extent that they felt they al-
most had to vote for him. I think that quite--he was quite successful, and he
had achieved much progress by his getting second high vote. Another important,
uh, uh, aspect of that, uh, uh, run-off because, uh, we had too many people
wanting--being fielded for the House of Representatives in 1970 that we did
LUM 83A 27
have to have a, uh, run-off. And in the run-off Reverend Johnson, the black,
uh, representative, uh, got the highest number of votes in the run-off in the
I: Do you have any idea of the standing of the Indian candidate, Mr. Wilden Lowry
in this particular case?
B: I, uh, cbn't know the exact number of votes, but, uh, one thing that can be said
for Indian, uh, people, that they will vote for, uh, for an Indian. It seems that,
uh, Mr. Lowry got approximately, uh, 900 out of 1200 votes in that, uh, that
primary. In the Pembroke precinct.
I: You mentioned earlier about white candidates that the Indian people had some
knowledge of. In the 1972 election for the state house we had a white from
Pembroke running for, uh, the same office--the state House of Representatives.
Do you feel that his familiarity or rather the Indian people's familiarity with
this particular person from Pembroke, have any bearing on his entering the
race at that time?
B: Very much so. This is a story or, an example of, uh, Indian attitude, and
developed attitude of the past--one that is portrayed quite vividly. Um,
this candidate, Mr. Frank S. White, who is now deceased,moved in this area
approximately 35 to 40 years ago. And he developed as a, um, a landowner,
as a, an auctioneer, both in uh, uh, sales in tobacco and livestock. Realizing
that, uh, the Indian-people were just--they were basically farmers, they, uh,
participated and related to this gentleman in many different ways. And, over
the years, he became sort of a, a byword for, uh, a hero in some respects to
the Indian people. Uh, I don't consider this to be something that we should
be proud of, but this is the way, uh, this kind of, uh, relationship developed.
Uh, and his is one, good, specific examplein relationship of Indian to one
white person, and how this relationship developed. Because of the relation be-
tween himself and the farmer, and their retail relationship to him as far as
LUM 83A 28
money or economic relationship. This gentleman sold cows, he sold meal, he
sold, a, wagons, he sold tractors, uh, he sold their tobacco for them, and, uh, he,
everytime these people asked him for any kind of favor, and they thought was
a favor, even though he was the one generally making more money out of the
situation or, or, than, than they were. Then, this positive attitude which I
would like to maybe call a pseudo-positive attitude developed between this one
white person and Indian people. Now the white people realizing this relation-
shipletween Mr. Frank White and the Indian people, and also realizing the, the
developing political awareness of the Indian people, they got to decide, then
how are they--who can they select to run in a position for the State House
position that can get Indian support so that he can win, but still
favor the whiteman once he attains political office, or public office. So,
because of this, of this man's relationship with Indians over the past years,
they select im to run for public office knowing that he will get the majority
of Indian votes. Also knowing that once he attains public office, that he will
not adhere or listen to or carry out any of the, um, attitudes or thoughts, or,
or, positive things the Indian people would want to see developed.
I: You then see this to be uh, a white strategy for the next few years at least?
B: Very much so. Um, I think that this will be a strategy of theirs the only
thing--the thing being, uh, which I feel is in our favor, they don't have too
many of these kind of people that they can have run for public office any more.
I: Uh, Mr. Brooks, you mentioned earlier that through the cooperation of the County
Board of Elections the Indians were able to get a number of, what you termed
commissioned registrars, for a limited period of time. After this initial
success, was the Board of Elections--did the Board of Elections continue to be
B: No. liey've become uncooperative to the extent that, uh, it was very hard to,
LUM 83A 29
uh, get one minority commissioned roving registrar for the county. Uh, what
they did in the beginning, approximately--this begun approximately four years
ago--they instituted a roving registrar, or a commissioned registrar to each
of the towns, uh, halls or municipalities of the county. I know there was
one in North Carolina. There was one in Pembroke, North
Carolina, and ... well those are the only two places that I know there was
a definite, uh, commissioned registrar. There reason being for placing
these commissioned registrars in these areas, was that, uh, there was a lot
of traffic in these areas. Uh, this theoretically is good rationalization,
but practically, uh, you don't get people registered in, in town halls or
municipalities. What the, uh, Indians tried to do--we, um, in the 1970
Board c Elections 1970 County Convention there was a resolution passed stating,
uh, that, uh, Boards of Elections should represent the ethnic background or
ethnic groups of Robinson County. And this resolution was, was seconded and
passed by the convention. But we never did get the, uh, ethnic ratio or
makeup of the County Board of Elections at that time. What we did get was
a meeting at Pembroke State University approximately six months after the 1970
convention. Uh, the meeting was held with the Board members--the Robinson
County Board members, and approximately four or five Indian, uh, leading
citizens. And at that time they agreed to, uh, put, uh, or make myself and
one other person out of the precinct
Being a pharmacist".and being I had no time, I asked my wife to take that position
which she did. In the precinct we never could out any
one person p there. It wasn't till approximately two years later--after two
years ater--and after the 1972 convention that we really got a roving registrar
in the precinct. The roving registrar now is Mr. Upsindine.
Um, my wife, Linda, registered approximately two thousand people-within the--
between the, uh, year '70 and '72--years '70 and '72.