Title: Reverend William Barnes [ SRC 25 ]
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00093189/00001
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Title: Reverend William Barnes SRC 25
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Language: English
Creator: Interviewer: Ben Houston
Publication Date: June 26, 2003
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Volume ID: VID00001
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Full Text

SRC 25
Interviewee: Reverend William Barnes
Interviewer: Ben Houston
Date: June 26, 2003; July 1, 2003

H: It is June 26, 2003, and I am here with Reverend William Barnes. Thanks very
much for meeting with me, Reverend Barnes. Can we start with simply saying
when and where you were born, please?

B: I was born July 17, 1931, in Nashville. I have spent most of my seventy-one
years now in the same part of the same city. I have been here pretty much all my
life, except for some years in the Army and a couple of other trips.

H: And you specifically desired to come back to Nashville to do your work?

B: Yes. I kind of became a Johnny-one-note as an adolescent. I got very interested
in the Jesus story when I was fourteen or fifteen. The way it fell out for me was
that the story was an account of how God addresses the healing of a broken
creation, and what seemed to me true, and still does, is that in Jesus, God was
strengthening the weak links of the chain for the sake of the strength of the whole
chain. I believe that and believed it then, so it kind of pushed me on to a Johnny-
one-note life. [I went to] Vanderbilt as an undergrad and [spent my] summers as
a student at Vandy [and] in Chicago [with] Students in Industry, a Christian
approach to labor-management issues, working in factories. [We lived as] a
group at George Williams College in south Chicago. The next summer, [I
participated in the] New England student Christian movement at Martha's
Vineyard, where we had jobs in hotels pot-washing, bell-hopping, waiting tables
and so forth but meeting at night for seminars to discuss, oh, the economics of
hotel life and work and a certain amount of dehumanizing, that you evaluate
people by their tip and not their knowledge and whatever. So, those things. Then
after my junior year at Vandy, I was so broke that I joined the Army in 1953, just
after the conflict in Korea was over. I stayed two years. I was a cryptographer,
[putting] messages into code and then breaking them out of code. I worked at the
Pentagon for a while and then for the second year at SHAPE [Supreme
Headquarters of Allied Powers in Europe] headquarters in Paris, France. I was
kind of a jock at the time. I was assigned to Special Services and played
[battalion] basketball and [post] baseball. The only reason I mention that is it
really let me travel all over Europe fairly [extensively]. I got out of the service in
the fall of 1955 and finished then my senior year at Vanderbilt, 1955 and 1956,
and then went to Yale Divinity School from 1956 to 1959.

I took a year on a motor- scooter in Europe, looking at urban and industrial
problems in the life of the church. It was still close enough to the end of World
War II that there was a huge amount of experimentation going on in the life of the
church. Industrial missions, [worker priest movement], things like that. I then

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came back in the spring of 1960. I came back because I really thought that since
my focus for so long had been the poor of the city, having worked for a time in
east Harlem when I was a student at Yale at the East Harlem Protestant Parish,
[with] people like Bill Webber and Bill Stringfellow and some of those names,
[and I] really saw what the city could become when people had to live close to
factories [where they worked]. That is what the tenements in east Harlem were
really all about, their proximity to work. My feeling in the South was that we still
had the option of the "ounce of prevention" instead of the "pound of cure".
Southern cities developed mostly post-automobile and didn't have to pursue that
same concentration of labor, tenements and slums in quite the same way. I came
back in 1960 and told the superintendent that all I had done was inner-city stuff,
and so I was assigned to five country churches between Winchester and
Fayetteville for two years in Huntland, Tennessee. That is another whole story.
Talk about a bull in a china shop, I had never been in a rural area and I had
never been to a revival and that sort of thing. There are some interesting stories
about that.

H: A little bit of a culture shock.

B: Oh! Well, for them, too. So, I had a friend in Chicago and I wrote to him, and it
looked like I had an opportunity for a church in Chicago. When I announced that,
[the Nashville District Superintendent] found me a place here in 1962, a parish
called Carroll Street, three sides surrounded by a [public] housing project. I
stayed at Carroll Street four years. I had the opportunity to start the first really
significantly integrated congregation in Nashville in 1966 at the beginning of the
Edgehill Church, where I stayed for thirty years through lots of ups and downs,
urban renewal, War on Poverty, civil rights movement and all those things that
were hitting so hard in the mid- and late 1960s, as well as the early 1970s. After
that, still Johnny-one-note, I took a job as an organizer for the Industrial Areas
Foundation [IAF-The Purpose of IAF, which is organized in dozens of cities, is to
unite congregations into "number power" to push for identified social and political
change. Saul Alinksky was the unforgettable founder and he recruited and
trained organizers at his center in Chicago ] here. The local affiliate was Tying
Nashville Together, TNT which I did for four years and got very interested in
writing a book about [my] experiences. So, I left TNT, and that brings me kind of
up to date. I had a couple of other little part-time stuff. It has been a Johnny-one-
note life and one I am really grateful for.

H: Why don't you spend some time describing Nashville of the 1960s in terms of
climate and culture and politics and society.

B: I guess my first thought about that is, it was a city in transition. Having grown up
here and having lived in a totally segregated society, [with] childhood memories
of the main street downtown where the theaters were segregated, a black person

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had to go in a different entrance down the alley and up to the second balcony.
Segregation in public transportation. I remember even some scenes of violence
as a child over that issue, over whether black folks would move back to where
they belonged when the trolley or the bus was crowded. It was a totally
segregated society. There were never any black kids who were in school with me
at the time, from grammar school all the way through high school. So, I grew with
up that, [but] even as a child, [I was] never comfortable with that. It was such a
contradiction of what a human being is versus how certain human beings are
treated. When I came back here in 1962 to be the pastor at Carroll Street
Methodist Church, again, as I said, surrounded on three sides by public housing,
there were a number of transitional things were going on. The civil rights
movement was certainly one of them. I missed most of the Vanderbilt stuff. I had
[left] in [1956], and I got back here in 1962 and got very involved in the
movement. Certainly, Baxton Bryant and the Tennessee Council on Human
Relations was a big part of that, taking me not only to marches and
demonstrations in Nashville, but in other places as well like Memphis and
Somerville and so forth.

The War on Poverty was a heavy thing at that time. It began in 1964. Just a huge
amount of controversy locally around the issue of "maximum feasible
participation" of poor people, who makes decisions, are there going to be
resources to make any serious changes, tension between federal programs,
Kennedy's Sargent Shriver [Kennedy in-law and administration official] versus
people like Beverly Briley, who was the local mayor and who told me and two
other visitors in his office when we were complaining about the War on Poverty's
supplies here, he said, there will never be a federal dollar [spent in] Nashville that
I don't have to control [over]. It was really a nationwide phenomenon of the
idealism from Washington of a War on Poverty. I remember hearing Shriver
saying in 1964 that, by the end of the decade, there would be no more poverty in
America. He was that [confident]. But when you began to apply that locally and
where structures began to be extremely critical of local government, local police,
local mayors and so forth, you get a really difficult situation and ultimately, I think
the localese won. Left a legacy of some interesting decision-making groups and
so forth, that basically the War on Poverty was the war on the poor finally. So,
the civil rights movement was going on. The War on Poverty was going on. [A]
very important [development] was the federal urban renewal program. Very
significant issue, since when we began Edgehill in 1966 starting this new church,
that community was right on the threshold of the execution phase of urban
renewal, which dislocated 2,300 families with huge implications for race relations,
as well as relationships with low-income folks. Those were some of the things
that were going on at that time that really had an unusual focusing, actually,
partly because of [Reverend James] Lawson's work and Vanderbilt's role in that

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But Nashville was really quite an important place for the movements. It was just a
great time for being the pastor of the first really significantly integrated
congregation in Nashville, as far as I know. There were all kinds of dynamics
associated with that, as well, and being a congregation, that was from the
beginning when it was fifteen people for the following thirty years when it was
something just over 300, always between 35 and 40 percent black membership,
always with black leadership as well as my own. That certainly was a part of the
movement of my life, as well, plus just being an inner-city pastor in a low-income
area where crime and drugs and housing issues [were intense and

H: We will have to spend some time on each of those in turn. Before we get into the
TCHR, I am interested in hearing about some of those dynamics of the first
integrated church. How did that play out?

B: I don't know if you want to repeat this or not, but it reminded me a little bit of
people enjoying making love but ashamed of the baby when it comes, [such was
our denominational leadership]. Another thing was going on in the United States
in the 1960s. There were a huge number of urban riots and demonstrations that
resulted in some violence and some riots. Churches began to experiment with
urban projects. In some ways, that is part of the context of Edgehill and the
beginning of my work in that congregation. Grants, resources, generosity for
urban projects probably reached an all-time high. Denominations were willing to
invest in urban projects. It was partly the invitation to me to try to begin a new
congregation [near] a really intersectional area between black and white
communities, but about a block and a half into an all-black community. We had
meetings while I was still the pastor at Carroll Street, meetings through the
following spring of 1965 and 1966. People, black pastors as well as white
pastors, encouraging this beginning of this institution. It didn't always have the
support of the Methodist hierarchy, especially on a local level. It got started, and
it wasn't very long after we began [that the milk began to sour]. For instance, we
started a draft-counseling center there. That was another big thing, big piece of
what was going on, Vietnam and taking sides and demonstrating and so forth.
We were the only draft-counseling center in the state at that time. It was mostly
run by Nelson Fuson, who was a [local] Quaker. That was in some ways sort of
the beginning of the disenchantment of the denomination. When a member of the
church and I did a speech in Pulaski to the annual women's meeting and I
mentioned the fact that we had a draft-counseling center, which was there to
make people aware of what their legal options were, it was almost no time before
I was getting calls from the district superintendent and a number of others, why
are you doing this, and this is a terrible thing to be doing and so forth.

H: And their issues centered on the fact that it was not the church's place to be
intervening in political [matters]?

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B: Yes. Well, those kinds of efforts, as you know, Ben, were associated with the
anti-war stance in Vietnam. It wasn't what we were doing, but that's the way
those things get looked at. Like today, it doesn't take much to look anti-patriotic
[during a war]. So, that was sort of the assumption, and conflict began, conflict
over the church's strong entrenched stand against some of the injustices of
urban renewal. Plus, we were deeply involved in the civil rights stuff. On
Saturday, we would take carloads down to Somerville, where one of the last big
civil rights efforts [in Tennessee] happened. So, bit by bit, there was a good bit of
souring of the milk of this congregation and what it was doing, and I think
probably the coup de grace came about 1971 or 1972, when a group of gay folks
began to use the church building on Sunday afternoon for their worship services,
and the beginning of the MCC, Metro Community Church, targeted
predominantly gay people. So that race and taking some contrary stands about
the War on Poverty and urban renewal and some of those things, it was not hard
to become persona non grata in that kind of setting. For example, twice in our
annual conference, strong efforts were made to disconnect Edgehill from the
Methodist Church, to a large extent over the gay issue. That was the focus of one
of those [conferences], and then another was more general after the war, after
the draft-counseling center and joined races and some other things. There was
an accumulation of issues that kept us rather unpopular with the denomination
and some other local church leadership here, as you can imagine. But that was
okay because we believed in what we were doing. It was always an interesting
dynamic, the relationship between being in a black community and having
children's programs and so forth, and at the same time getting more publicity
than we [needed] about the gay issue. To keep those two in tandem, [in balance,]
it is a miracle we survived at all. But we did.

H: How do you look back at the sort of interpersonal dynamics of those first steps of
bringing, you know, Martin Luther King said that Sunday at 11:00 was the most
segregated hour, and yet, this is an example of whites and blacks coming
together to worship. How did that play out on a personal level?

B: This is an opinion, and it may be paradoxical, too. I think in the 1960s, it was
probably easier. Martin Luther King, the emphasis on integrated society
preceding the black separatist movement. It probably was easier for people to
see the need for something like that. I don't know if we could start an Edgehill in
quite the same way today. I mean, we could, but it would not be easier. It would
probably be a bit more difficult, things being what they are and the housing
patterns being so segregated, as they are still, as well. You know, to be in a
predominantly black community, black folks didn't have to go three miles to get
across white neighborhoods. It was also close to Vanderbilt and Peabody and
Scarritt. I read a book about that time. It said, most integrated churches are
interim between all-white and all-black. The exception were churches near
university complexes.

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H: Really?

B: Because you had a stable white island. It didn't change in the transition from
white to black. We were close to a very large university complex in a
predominantly black neighborhood in the throes of urban renewal. A lot of
housing projects. It just worked, plus it was very important always to have other
black pastors. We tried to make that, in the beginning a co-pastor, a black and
white, before the Methodist church in [1970] merged its black and white
jurisdictions. We did not get cooperation from the white bishop at that time to
make that happen, and it really hurt us in the beginning. Some of the black folks
who were coming were counting on that. Plus, we were cut fifty percent by each
of the three judicatory funders [District, Conference, National]. I went to work at
Scarritt teaching. They paid the church for my services. We got two black field
work students, Jim Maye and Quincy Scott, who transferred to Vanderbilt Divinity
School when Oberlin Seminary merged with the VU Divinity School. What I am
saying is, we were really careful to have strong black leadership. The music was
definitely diverse. We sang freedom songs and spirituals. The chief musician for
decades was Marjorie Campbelle, a black woman who taught music in public
schools. Plus, we really worked hard to welcome and love people who came from
the neighborhood. Those were just some of the dynamics that, I think, in spite of
what at that time was the bishop's inconsistency about certain types of support
there, made it work. We really came to love each other. As I said, the worship
was kind of a hodgepodge. Nobody got everything they wanted, but nobody left
with nothing. There was a lot of feedback, a lot of inclusion of neighborhood
issues in the worship service. Some things were put together to make it work at a
time [when], you know, five years after that, ten years after that, many of these
experimental congregations were dying.

H: Certainly, I want to ask you later about the rise of black separatism and the
vestiges of white racial attitudes Nashville-wide, but did you see that within your
congregation? Could you see the rise of black separatism and perhaps leftovers
of white paternalism within your congregation?

B: The issue of white paternalism is always, you know, whether it is there or
whether you perceive it as being there, that is always the case. But a lot of that
was happening in the [civil rights] movement. Stokely [Carmichael] and all that
was going on in the second half of the 1960s, but it didn't really seem to
penetrate too much. I mean, somebody would come up to me [like] the barber in
the neighborhood and would say, what's a white man doing here in this
neighborhood? And I said, well, I was born here in 1931; when did you start? And
it was good to have been able to say that truth, that I wasn't just an interloper.
But when Stokely came to town, he spoke at this War on Poverty project we had
called The Block, where we converted an old grocery into this pretty sleazy-
looking little night spot, where a group called The Princely Players, a drama and

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music group, did stuff in black history that almost could not go on anywhere else
in town. Truth about some parts of black history in this country and their music.
This group is still together to this day, [still performing]. So that the manifestations
of black pride were incorporated into the life of, not only the congregation, but the
neighborhood as well. The Block did extremely well. The fellow who coached the
drama, a fellow named German Wilson, was fired from his job at Cameron
[School], and he went to Philadelphia. This pastor of St. Anselm's in north
Nashville, we were sharing The Princely Players with him on a grant from the
OEO War on Poverty, and he was accused of running a "hate whitey" school. A
couple of local policemen went to Washington and told the McClellan Committee
that terrible things were going on. Jim Woodruff was his name. He, too, with
German, they both went to Philadelphia. There was a lot of white fear and
hackles about black separatism. But most of the stuff that went on at The Block
focused on black history and black pride and music and so forth, which is why
white folks were there, too, came to the performances. So, even as the black
separatism grew stronger, somehow this island stayed inclusive. I am sure there
were black folks who saw that as a pernicious anomaly and so on. You know, I
had to learn myself that there is a racism with condescension, that just because
of the awful history we have had, it still doesn't make black folks always right. As
a white liberal, I guess, at the time, that was my inclination, and I had to soon
learn that the only authentic thing was to give an authentic response and to say,
you are not telling the truth, whether you are black or white or you are shucking
and jiving or whatever else. So, there is a racism of condescension that you have
to overcome as well as a racism of exclusion.

H: Why don't we back up a little bit and talk about how specifically you became to
be involved with the TCHR upon your arrival in Nashville.

B: I came back to Nashville in 1962 to be the pastor of Carroll Street and just felt
that I just had to be involved in the Movement and the demonstrations and so
forth. There weren't very many white pastors doing that then, and I am sure that
it was through one of these demonstrations that I probably met Baxton, and he
came to me with his concerns about the War on Poverty and how that was being
handled here locally. So, in both those areas, here came Baxton. In spite of [my]
being a Nashvillian, still somewhat of a newcomer in 1962, back to the city after
the Army and the Divinity School and so forth, and here was a guy who was
really on the cutting edge of things and could challenge me to make stands. I
soon became a member of the board of the War on Poverty here and had an
opportunity to participate in a lot of tension in that between the goals of the
program versus the local appropriation. In those two areas, both in the area of
demonstrations as well as the area of OEO and the War on Poverty, I was very
taken to Baxton, and we became good friends, and I was very supportive of what
he was doing.

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H: Talk about some of the specific projects that through the TCHR you involved
yourself with then.

B: I think of things like who makes decisions about the War on Poverty. Baxton was
a strong exponent of the Washington ideology that there should be maximum
feasible participation and on boards and projects, the three-legged stool, the
private, the public and the low-income people who are affected. It was quite a
revolution at that time in decision-making. Baxton believed it, and I believed it. In
a number of ways and places, controversies developed. Rallies were held.
Speeches were made. Places like, I remember, First Baptist Capitol Hill, where
Kelly Smith was pastor. So, that was one of the things. Another issue was the
role of the Tennessee Council in organizing demonstrations, not only in Nashville
but in other places as well. Baxton had a really significant role in organizing the
demonstrations in Somerville. I remember participating in that and taking a walk
from McFerren's Store down to the square and standing on the steps of the
courthouse one Saturday while the 18-wheelers were in first gear circling around
the square trying to block the sound, speaking into a bullhorn. [It] was picked up
by the Sunday morning Tennessean. One couple saw that and joined the church
at Edgehill as a result of it. Most didn't, but... But Baxton and I were not only
good friends, but I became the vice president in middle Tennessee. Jim Lawson
was the vice president in west Tennessee, and a guy named Bill Power was the
east Tennessee person, who, I think, served time as chairman of the overall
board. So, it was getting into that stuff and walking and hearing, you know,
picking up the opposition and the comments and so forth. The more opposition
there was, the more determined you became, that this had to be done, that it was
right. You know, there were huge issues at the church at Carroll Street before
Edgehill. Abel Muzorewa, who was the bishop from then Rhodesia, [now]
Zimbabwe, later became, for a time, prime minister. His children were refused
entrance into a confirmation class in a Methodist church near the Scarritt campus
where he was studying. A terrible shame and embarrassment. The pastor felt, we
are not ready for this yet. So, I invited [the bishop] to come and preach for me at
Carroll Street. He preached in the fellowship hall, which was on the ground floor.
Remember, this was surrounded on three sides by public housing. At that time,
public housing was segregated.

The [public housing] around Carroll Street was all white. Right across the street
to the east from Wharf Avenue, [was Napier Homes,] which was 450 units of all
black. It wasn't until Kennedy issued an injunction that no federally subsidized
housing should be segregated that it began to desegregate. Bishop Muzorewa
preached in the fellowship hall, and folks started looking in the window and a
crowd gathered, a mob really, screaming, yelling, cursing. Then the door flew
open, and eggs were thrown in the building. So, I locked the door and pulled the
shades down and let the folks out the east entrance of the building. He and I sat
in my office until the crowd quieted and dispersed. I still remember walking out of

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the church building. 1-40 [highway] was being built across there. We went across
1-40 to the parsonage, which was on the other side, and I still remember so
vividly the sound of eggs cracking under our feet as we walked out, [I and] this
wonderful distinguished African church leader. I mean, there were feelings as
well as experiences. There were situations like that. Notes on windshields,
cursing out by members and policemen and stuff like that. Those were the kinds
of things that I could always talk with Baxton about. We really were friends as
well as co-workers and all that. We did a number, a variety, of things together.
Testifying in a federal court case about a fellow who was accused of draft-
dodging. Holding a demonstration in a local restaurant because they wouldn't let
long-haired people in. There was a whole bunch of human relations issues that
we got involved in.

H: It sounds like a lot of the activities were sort of ad hoc and for specific causes.
Were there any sort of sustained programs that the TCHR was involved with? I
have the North Nashville Project and the South Nashville Project, things such as
that, Voter Education Project perhaps later.

B: Although it was somewhat ad hoc, I think a sustained effort to be on the front
lines and to participate in the demonstrations certainly was a consistent
addressing of the whole freedom issue and the desegregation of public facilities.
That all seemed like one thing to me, even though it had different locations and
different circumstances.

H: How would you characterize the effectiveness of the TCHR in doing this work?

B: I think that sort of thing, as connected with other parts of the Movement,
hastened at least, and most really, involved a change in the access to public
facilities. I mean, without sit-ins and demonstrations and confrontations, would it
have happened? I don't know if it would have happened solely by court cases. It
is hard to point to any one turn of history, changes as a result of the Tennessee
Council, but in Nashville, you needed an organization that had white folks in it
with black folks who paid whatever costs needed to be paid to do that sort of
thing, and I have no doubt that that confrontation pretty much hastened the
access to public facilities. The Movement is still going on. Access to affordable
housing and health care and some of those things are still very much with us.
The access to facilities, C. Vann Woodward, the Yale historian, wrote an article.
It was in Atlantic or Harper's. He said that the civil rights movement was a
baker's dozen years, that it was 1954 to 1966. The Civil Rights Act came in 1964,
[the Voting Rights Act in] 1965. But the baker's dozen years ended the public
accommodations phase. If you went on from there, then you really got into
systemic stuff. It didn't hurt white folks to sell more hamburgers, but if you moved
on into education and into health care and housing, some of those systemic
issues, it was going to cost them money. His notion was that [of the locked] white

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wallets and Vietnam upstaging most everything else for resources and so on,
that that was the end of the civil rights movement that focused on public
accommodations, and [that part] was basically won. Methods were related to
goals. Demonstrations and such, he said they worked to desegregate public
facilities. I remember there was a skating rink in Nashville that had white folks in
the early part of the evening and then took the bus to projects to pick up black
folks from 9:00 on. Well, the congregation I was a part of, we filled the church
bus up with [neighborhood] black kids, mostly from Edgehill, and went out and
got in line in the early part. He closed the place. We did the same thing the next
night, and he closed the place. The next night, he closed the place. The next
night, he opened it. He couldn't keep closing. There wasn't any question about
the power and presence of pressure of that kind of action at a time when the
Supreme Court had spoken. It did definitely hasten the access.

H: So, would you agree with Woodward's assessment, based on your perspective
from the local level?

D: Yes, I do think so.

H: The white wallets zipping up?

D: Yes. If you took the civil rights movement beyond public accommodations, it
really would have cost money, and it should have, but that is where it stopped.
Now, was Vietnam a handy out? Could we have done both? There are a lot of
questions about that. I think things definitely tightened up. To have shifted into
another key, into these systemic issues, where are you going to take a
demonstration to protest housing segregation or educational segregation? It is
not like taking it to a restaurant. King did some stuff in Chicago in housing and so
forth and did the Poor People's March, but it never gelled. [End of Side 1, Tape

H: Talk a little bit about the fact that Baxton Bryant was so controversial among the
TCHR membership.

D: I hesitate, because there were some really fine people who objected to Baxton's
leadership. You know, he was an Arkansas Razorback. He was just sort of the
Falstaff, threw his head back and laughed, and it was wonderful to be on his side
in some of those encounters. I just think that his decision-making in the light of
rapidly changing circumstances, his lack of more orderly democratic decision-
making process, plus I think the whole conflict pattern set poorly with the folks
who had any significant piece of the Nashville establishment. There were liberals
in that establishment, but they had a hard time with these confrontations, and he
just seemed to relish that. At the restaurant Pancake Pantry down in Hillsboro
Village where this long-haired friend of ours was turned away, it was December,

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and when Sam got turned away, Baxton said, hey, here is a good opportunity to
put a little picket-line outside this restaurant. A couple of us went inside to plead
with the manager, but he thought we were communists. So, Baxton put his Santa
Claus suit on and stood at the door of the restaurant and discouraged children
[entering]. As the evening wore on, we were out there, and folks [inside] started
making faces at Santa Claus. Some were obscene or whatever, and Santa Claus
put up with that for a while. Then Santa Claus sees them eating their blueberry
pancakes, and he starts picking his nose and [feigning] eating it. I don't know
whether you have eaten blueberry pancakes watching Santa Claus eat his
boogers or not...[Laughs]. That is when the manager called the paddy wagon.
You say, what did people object to? That wasn't a daily thing, but Baxton was not
averse to confronting people, verbally or otherwise. Nashville has a gentle
intelligentsia in all of its universities and colleges. It set all right with some folks
and didn't with others. Plus, he could have certainly been more democratic in
deciding on where to demonstrate or what to do. His feeling was, his rationale
was, things are changing rapidly and they are here this moment and they are
gone a half hour from now. We have got to get with it and identify with the
oppressed. For people who do business in a slow-calculating, orderly way, that is
hard to stomach. I don't know if I'm oversimplifying that issue. I am sure that
when you talk with [attorney] George Barrett, he may have some other ways of
looking at that, but that is the way I saw it.

H: So, people like George Barrett and Martha Ragland, who were more accustomed
to moving within different circles....

B: Well, it was either the sort of crudeness of Baxton's ways or his at times
undemocratic decision-making. He tended to decide on the spur of the moment
and in some ways to commit the organization without people really having a
chance to slowly calculate.

H: As I understand, there was some sort of debate or disagreement over the
employment of Moran and Associates. Can you bring that down a little more to

B: I remember what you said, but there is a lot of rust on those wheels, and I can't

H: It had something to do with fund-raising, contracting out for independent fund-
raising or something to that effect?

B: You will have to get the details of that from George. I don't remember the details
of that.

H: Okay. What sort of relationship did you feel that the Council had with the wider

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Nashville community? Was it amenable? Were they sort of laughed at?

B: I think on a zero to ten, it probably would have been a three or two. I think the
protests within the board, I don't mean that it was reactionary, but I think it was a
little chagrined at what was happening and how it was done, these confrontations
and demonstrations. It wasn't just what was being done on the streets. Baxton
had some juicy comments about public officials and so forth picked up by the
papers, and that just added to the astonishment that somebody would use his life
that way to speak to public officials and so forth. I think that while the [critics]
including George [Barrett] and Adele [Schweid], [long time] good friends of mine,
while they were basically supportive of desegregation and the civil rights
movement, it was personal and idiosyncratic with Baxton, that he was going too
far or too crude or whatever else. But if that was a six, the Nashville public was
probably a three concerning the Tennessee Council. I am sure it would have
been deemed by the average Nashvillian as being too radical.

H: I know you only have a few minutes left before your next engagement. Why don't
I just sort of touch on a few quick things. As I understand it, there was some sort
of a boycott of the Methodist Publishing House at some point in the 1960s. Does
that ring any bells?

B: Yes. I remember I participated in that demonstration. It was over hiring practices.
It was over racial representation in various categories of labor at the publishing
house where everybody who was minority who worked had a low-paying job.

H: Okay. What about the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen? Can you talk a little
bit about your involvement with that group?

B: Yes, a little. Of course, that was Will's thing [Will D. Campbell; Nashville activist
and preacher, formerly of the National Council of Churches]. He headed it up. I
don't know what all to say about it. It was the camp in North Carolina, probably
the first place where blacks and whites could be together, near Asheville. Will just
always took this extreme in a good sense identification with excluded and
marginalized people and individuals. It was shocking to some, even some black
friends, that Will would be a chaplain to the Klan. Will, you know, [had a theology
that said] "we're all bastards, but God loves us anyway." Will was different from
Baxton, much more gentle, diplomatic, and still quite outspoken. When Baxton
left the Tennessee Council in 1971 or 1972, somewhere in there, Will got a grant
I think it was Will for the Southern Churchmen to make Baxton's work in
Canada [working with Vietnam draft-dodgers] possible, Luke 4:16 or whatever it
was called. I was on Baxton's board. Baxton's thing was that he was the bridge
of reconciliation between young fellows who fled to Canada [during] Vietnam and
their parents who were still in this country. So, that is what he did. He and Will
were in the same office. It was always comedy in the presence of the two of them

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together. They were so different and loved each other and played off each other.
I don't know too much more about that.

H: Okay. Well, why don't we call it quits, then, since you are a busy man.

B: Yes. Let me do that.

[Beginning of second interview.]

H: It is July 1, 2003, and this is part two with Reverend Barnes. Reverend Barnes, I
indicated that this was an issue of key concern with me, and I would like your
thoughts. The fact that Nashville prided itself on its moderation as a southern
city. Could you explain what that word means to you and what you think of it

B: I think, in the final analysis, when you pull extremes on both sides toward each
other on a spectrum, I think that Nashville, certainly initially in the Movement, was
very intent on keeping its historic segregation stance. On the other hand,
Nashville has another side, its churches, its universities, a number of strains in
the body that say compassion and concern and suffering with the other person. I
think that, in a city of moderation, that that second strand moves a bit further to
the center of the spectrum and becomes more powerful. The more obscene and
radical and violent the response to the Movement was, the more it surfaced, that
side of Nashville, too. It is like when Sheriff [Jim] Clark [sheriff who assaulted civil
rights marchers in Alabama, in 1965] and the dogs and the hoses, the bombing
in Birmingham and King's imprisonment and so forth, those things call forth not
only a response from the northern part of the United States, but there is
something in the southern culture as well [which] that sort of radical response
draws forth and moves more towards center stage and, I think, exercises some

H: Some people have observed that Nashville was very modern in its political
sense, but perhaps more conservative in a social and cultural sense. Would you
agree with that?

B: I don't know that I would agree with that. I think the political was very, very much
melded into the cultural. I don't think there was any one segment of life in
Nashville which stood up and said, hooray for the Movement and the other part
said no. I think it was an amalgam. I think the culture provided some compassion
and thoughtfulness and civility as well as political. I have a hard time really
separating those areas of life.

H: Talk a little bit about the segregationist mind-set in some Nashvillians like Donald
Davidson and others of his ilk. How do you explain that mentality to someone like

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me who is of a different generation? Is there such a thing as a thinking

B: I think certain things happen historically that create a culture and a mind-set. An
example would be, I remember reading [Arnold] Rose's condensation of Gunnar
Myrdal's book, The American Dilemma, where Rose was saying that the
prohibitionists, the anti-segregationists, the prohibition of slavery was as strong in
the South as it was in the North. It was a time when slavery was ceasing to be
profitable. Then in 1832, the cotton gin was invented, and so the issue became
an economic issue and not simply a religious or ethical issue or whatever. In the
absence of economic swelling, slavery may well have disappeared in the South
at the same time it did in the rest of the country, but I think that suddenly it
became profitable to have slaves. The cotton industry was on the way. I think
that when you sift a practice into the beneficiaries of the economy order, it gets a
little diffuse after a while, in the sense that you can say slavery had an economic
turn. What happened to the churches and the ethical people? Well, I think the
economic issue had a lot to do with swaying that. You know, the denomination of
the Methodist church split, a northern part and a southern part. Presbyterians
and others did as well.

H: So, how would you connect that to Jim Crow, considering that segregation was
often economically inefficient?

B: What I see is that Jim Crow, in my understanding, was a kind of attempt to nullify
any economic liberation. You didn't give the acres and a mule. Jim Crow, really, I
think, was a reversion back to that protection of economic superiority. You know,
poll-taxes, you don't vote, and all that kind. It was a kind of a defensive
movement to reverse that flow of history that came after 1865.

H: So, it might have been inefficient for, say, governments to maintain separate
schools, but for individual businesses and white owners, it was profitable in that
sense, because it was less competitive.

B: Sure, and I [am] glad you point that out, because I think when you talk about a
double system of schools, nobody can say that is very economically efficient, but
where the prerogatives of the, maybe aristocracy is too strong a word, but where
the prerogatives of the southern elite were threatened, it wasn't a nightmare
economically. It was inefficient and wasteful, but a segregated system protected
the prerogatives of the halves and the more fortunate, so that there wasn't any
real contradiction between a dual school system and economic well-being. I think
folks saw that. You and I see that, but I think white folks then would have seen
that, a segregated school system, as a way of not threatening, but protecting, the
prerogatives of segregationist whites.

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H: Talk a little bit about how Nashville reacted to the Black Power movement.

B: Initially, it certainly was extremely defensive. Let me give you an example. I am
trying to think, it would have been the year of 1967 or 1968. The War on Poverty
started in 1964 and was a very contentious thing here locally. Maximum feasible
participation, the threat to the prerogatives of southern local politicians and so
forth. What I am getting at is that there was an Episcopal African-American priest
names Jim Woodruff who was a priest at St. Anselm's, the Episcopal chapel for
Meharry and Fisk. At that time, at Edgehill Church where I was pastor, we went
into an abandoned grocery store in the process of urban renewal and with a lot of
good help from an African-American drama teacher at nearby Cameron High
School went in a fixed that place up, and it was kind of a nice sleazy nightclub
atmosphere, and it was called The Block. We are going to hang around The
Block. We had also helped to develop a black singing drama group called the
Princely Players. The Princely Players really were the best, if not the only, show
in town in presenting black history, which was a concomitant of the whole black
separatist movement. Jim Woodruff was going to have the Princely Players a
certain number of nights a week and we at The Block were going to have them a
certain [number of nights], pretty much of a split, I think. He also had as a part of
the funding grant a school that he conducted during the day, again primarily
focusing on black history and black music and so forth. At that time, there was a
phenomenon called the McClellan Committee in Washington. Senator McClellan
was conducting from a very conservative, reactionary stance hearings in
Washington on the War on Poverty as being a misuse of funds. The accusation
was made here that St. Anselm's was using federal money to conduct a "hate
whitey" school. Two local police officers, Bobby Joe Hill and John Sarachi, went
to Washington and testified to the McClellan Committee that that in fact was
happening here. The program at St. Anselm's was cut loose. It was nullified, no
more money for that. The interesting part is that the Princely Players then were
able to be every night [available] at The Block. They were a wonderfully talented
group, still existing and still working. One of the leaders was Robert Smith, a
local African-American attorney here now. So, they performed at The Block, and
The Block was packed full every night. William Kunstler once spoke there.
Stokely came through town. But at the same time, the city was extremely uptight
about these black history recitals, even the emphasis on black music. The black
spiritual, "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around," songs that were translated
into current liberation thought.

There was a white attorney here, Charles Galbraith, whose son was involved in
the drama efforts that were being made toward black liberation. He was a
character in some dramas. That just hit the papers and spread like fire. So, what
I am describing is a lot of negative local reactions to the whole notion of black
history and black pride. I still think of that time with gratitude toward people like
the Princely Players. I do know that at that time, the mayor of Nashville called the

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Episcopal bishop and, I believe, Lane Denson, who at the time was a clergyman
at Christ Church Episcopal, in his office and asked if there was a way to dispense
with or get rid of or transfer Jim Woodruff. I guess the end of this chapter of what
I am saying would be that I think they told him that they wouldn't go along with
that. Then not too long after, Woodruff moved to Philadelphia and, along with
him, an African-American drama teacher at Cameron, German Wilson, who had
helped with the rehabilitation of the old grocery store and in the training of the
Princely Players. He, too, lost his spot with the education system here, and he,
too, moved to Philadelphia. I think since then, Jim Woodruff has died. I think
German is still very much active.

H: Was that Mayor Briley who tried to do that?

B: Yes. That was my understanding of things.

H: How do you feel that informal race relations have changed in Nashville as
opposed to institutional segregation? How has day-to-day interaction between
the races changed through the 1960s and 1970s?

B: There are lots of ways to talk about that. I think it was James Baldwin who,
somewhat way back in the Movement, said that comparing the North and the
South, that in the South, it doesn't matter how close a black person gets as long
as they don't get too high, and in the North, it doesn't matter how high a black
person gets as long as they don't get too close. That probably had a great deal of
accuracy, at least some years ago. I am willing to debate the accuracy now, but I
think it has changed in the South. It is okay not only to be close, but to be high. I
think one qualifies a statement like that by pointing to the continuing segregation
of housing patterns. Nashville comparatively does well with other cities. In the
number of integrated blocks, I think we are third or fourth or something like that in
the nation, cities our size. I have heard Mayor [Bill] Purcell recite those figures as
well. There is a great deal of appreciation for people like Sam Howard and
Howard Gentry and African-American persons, [State Senator Thelma] Harper
and others who have reached points of power and influence in the city [and
state]. We still have not had here, as in Memphis, a black mayor, but as a person
who grew up and lived here, I have certainly seen changes that would have been
beyond imagination thirty-five years ago in Nashville. I think we are definitely
making good headway.

Last week, when [Rosalind] Carpenter was announced as the director of the
Urban League and had a reception honoring her over at the Adventure Museum,
a good cross-section of the city's establishment, black and white, was present to
cheer her on. So, things have changed in that respect. On the other hand, you
get reports, especially from a big HUD [federal Department of Housing and
Urban Development] study, showing that in terms of housing segregation, there

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still is an amount of steering. [Two or] there is not as much discrimination in
housing when it points to home ownership. Banks and mortgage companies have
figured out ways to make money and get people qualified. But there is still a
significant issue in renting, where people do testing. A black person goes in,
there's no apartment. Three days later, a white person, oh, yes, sure, we've got
it. That still goes on. I don't think there is any question about that. The testing
process pretty much reinforces that. There is still a great reluctance to live on the
same block next door to black folks on the part of white Nashvillians, though,
again, that is changing some. It is certainly changing. I have never as an adult
lived in a segregated neighborhood or city street and wouldn't. But, at the same
time, there is a huge issue within our schools that, the more we lean toward
leveling the playing field for lower-income and African-American minority
students, the greater the tendency of white folks to move out or to move to more
private schools. Now, does that have to do with race or just the educational
quality for your children? Does it have to do with the housing prejudice, that you
move out and get a better deal? I don't think there is much question, but that
stew has got a big piece of racism stirring around in it.

H: Any thoughts about this question of informal race relations drawn from your
experience of having the first integrated church in Nashville?

B: I still suspect that, when you compare education and the daily workplace, I
suspect that churches are still among the most segregated. That Sunday
morning hour is very segregated. Again, there are lots of reasons for that. The
power of the development of a religious culture. The power of the church being
the only institution where you [historically], as a black person, really exercise
power. There are just a number of aspects of that that make the issue of black
and white churches cultural issues as well as racial issues. Last Sunday, a
Buddhist temple opened in Bellevue. There are Hispanic [churches]. There are
different cultures as well as different races involved. In the 1960s when Edgehill
took shape, there were a number of factors that pushed that. Integration was
really center stage a lot. Martin [Luther] King and the whole judicial and
legislative structure. We knew the terrible results of racism. Segregation is
inherently discriminatory, as said by the Supreme Court in Brown [v. Board of
Education] in 1954. There were a number of pressures that made integration,
and especially the desegregation of public facilities, which on the face of it was
so terrible.... When that was solved, the public facilities issue, and we talked a
little bit last time of this analysis of the "baker's dozen years," there is no question
that, in the 1960s, there were some pressures that aren't quite the same as they
are today for integration. Even though it was one of Martin King's primary goals
for American society. There still is the desire on the part I think of organizations
like the NAACP and others to see that segregation is very counter to the self-
interests of minority people. There are others who feel the opposite. There are
black parents in Nashville who are much more interested in being close to their

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local schools than they are having their kids bused in order to be diverse. There
is a tough tension going on between diversity and proximity, even now. You can't
draw the lines of demarcation simply by skin color. It was easier in some ways
then to marshal the forces for an integrated church. Edgehill is certainly not the
only one now. I go to another congregation for worship, and it is almost 50/50,
Hobson United Methodist in east Nashville. It is more of a trickle than a flood,
and where it happens, it is oftentimes because of desegregated housing
patterns, such as they are. But it is still a very segregated hour for the most part.
It is still the dynamics of white flight. You know, we have got a long, long way to
go. I think the efforts being made in housing and urban development towards
smart growth and diversified housing, especially income diversity and so on, is
going to move us more toward a society where housing represents choice
instead of necessity.

H: Since you are so passionate about housing, why don't you talk a little more about
that in Nashville in the 1960s and 1970s. What were some of the obstacles to
bringing about that phase of the civil rights movement?

B: Housing in the 1960s and 1970s, really all the way back to the 1950s, to
understand the increase and the solidification of housing segregation, one really
has to understand federal policies. One has to understand urban renewal, the
development of [large] tracts of land in the city, eminent domain, the taking of
properties for the sake of widespread development. Bottom-line was that many
minority houses were demolished for the sake of that kind of development. Poor
people's houses were demolished. The answer for rehousing persons then was
public housing. Public housing was the least expensive. I was told by a former
director of the Nashville Housing Authority when I was asking, why are you
putting all these public housing projects, why are you packing them all together,
here in the Edgehill community at this rate? His answer was that the feds give us
so many dollars per square foot, and besides, if we have a certain density, we
get wholesale utility rates and so forth. So, it was a kind of economic answer that
he gave. That was true, but not totally true. We launched an effort and got some
changes made in Edgehill, from more public housing to more diversified types of
235s and Turnkey 3s instead of more public housing. There was some leeway.
Now, was that a race and class issue? Solely an economic issue? It was
probably all those things wrapped up together. But in the 1960s and 1970s,
federal policies, you know, I may have mentioned this when we talked before, but
after World War II, the main generators of new housing and with all of those
hundreds of thousands of service personnel returning to civilian life, some tools
had to be in place to help them with housing. The main tools were FHA and VA,
the Federal Housing Administration and Veterans Affairs. They gave assistance.
FHA insured loans that maybe traditional mortgage companies would not have
insured. So, they had protection. They had coverage. At that time, there was just
a flood of suburban expansion. With FHA and VA doing much of the financing or

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insuring, in the years following World War II, this flood of suburban expansion,
only 2 percent of the FHA loans were to non-whites. 2 percent. In the FHA
guidelines, there was a phrase warning against extending mortgage to
"inharmonious groups." Now, there was a lot one could say about that, what that
meant in terms of exclusion, but it was happening on a quite large scale. Until
1948, even restrictive covenants were legal. Then the Supreme Court in 1948
said, no more restrictive covenants; they are unconstitutional. Incidentally, it was
several years after 1948 before that took shape in FHA rule books.

Still, after World War II and this flood of people home, this flood of new housing,
the GI Bill, FHA, VA loans, we are building a segregated society in terms of
housing patterns. When you build a big public housing project in the middle of the
city, that isn't going away in a generation, especially with so few other options.
Even programs like Section Eight, where at least one aspect of that is, you get a
voucher and you go look for a house that rent-wise and so forth is appropriate.
One of the criticisms that HUD made of Nashville some years ago was that our
Section Eight housing choices were not very diversified. They were much too
inner-city. I think that happened probably in a lot of places. But talking about
housing in the 1960s and 1970s and talking about federal policies, there is no
question that the way race and class prejudice shaped policies during those
critical expansion years, we will be living with that for yet another generation or
two, at least. It is just very sad to think of what we have done with low-income

H: You said, in terms of the War on Poverty, that there was some tension between
the Nashville leadership and wanting these federal dollars, but also resisting the
government. Could you amplify that, please?

B: Yes. Well, the way that came up, three of us went to see Mayor Briley, wanting
more competent leadership in the War on Poverty programs here. In the process,
we got to discussing the principles of that program, the representation of the
"client" population in the boards and agencies that were making decisions to the
people that he served who were less a part of the decision-making. It was really
incompetent leadership, we thought. In the discussion of maximum feasible
participation and some of the policies that were coming from Washington
regarding this program, that is when the mayor said, there would never be a
federal dollar to come into this city without his permission or the permission of the
local government. We would not be bullied by these liberal expectations of
Washington and Sargent Shrivers and John Kennedys and those people. That
was sort of the mentality.

H: The other side of that, presumably, is federal dollars will be allowed that I
[meaning Briley] am able to control and steer.

SRC 25
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B: Oh, sure. Nashville, Ben, did extremely well in pulling down urban renewal
dollars. We did very well. Bob Horton, rest his soul Bob was a good friend of
mine Bob did a very good job with Mayor Briley in writing proposals and getting
urban renewal dollars funneled through the National Housing Authority. We had
one of the first urban renewal projects in the United States with Capitol Hill.

[End of Interview.]

SRC 25 Summary
Reverend William Barnes
June 26, 2003

Reverend William Barnes begins by giving some personal information, and talks about his
travels and returning to Nashville (pages 1-2). He talks about the climate, culture, politics, and
society of Nashville in the 1960s (pages 2-4). He talks about the dynamics of the first integrated
church in Nashville that he pastored (pages 4-6). He talks about the issue of white paternalism
and The Block, a downtown nightclub that did black history stuff (pages 6-7).

Next Reverend Barnes talks about his involvement with Tennessee Council on Human Relations
(TCHR) and the effectiveness of the TCHR's work (pages 7-10). He talks about the leadership of
Baxton Bryant in the Nashville TCHR (pages 10-11). He also discusses the relationship of the
Council with the wider Nashville community (pages 11-12). He briefly mentions the boycott of
the Methodist Publishing House in the 1960s, and his involvement with the Fellowship of
Southern Churchmen (page 12).

Reverend Barnes talks about Nashville as a moderate Southern city and the segregationist mind
set of Nashvillians (pages 12-14). He talks about the reaction of the city to the Black Power
movement (pages 14-15). He describes the race relations between blacks and whites in Nashville
(pages 15-17). He talks about the difficulties of bringing diversified housing to Nashville in the
1960s and 1970s (pages 17-19).

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