Interviewee: Jay Worrall
Interviewer: Brian Ward
Date: February 25, 2003
BW: This is Brian Ward for the University of Florida Oral History Program interview
with Jay Worrall in Charlottesville, Virginia, on February 25, 2003, for the
Southern Regional Council project. Jay, thanks so much for seeing me. I really
appreciate it. Basically, what I would like to do is to talk to you a little bit about
the Southern Regional Council, which is the focus of my work, but also about the
Virginia Council of Human Relations, which I guess you would have perhaps
more expertise on. But before we even get to that, can you just give me a little bit
of background on yourself prior to your involvement in what we might think of as
civil rights work?
W: Yes. I was an Army officer at the time of the civil rights movement, and I lived at
three different places in Virginia during that time, off and on. I was overseas
twice during the civil rights days. I lived in Fairfax, in Petersburg and in
Charlottesville during that time.
BW: Where were you actually born?
W: Born in Pennsylvania. Last summer, I spent several weeks in Cheshire checking
my family roots.
BW: Right. So, you have English roots.
W: English roots.
BW: As a "northerner," when did you have your first experience of the South?
W: I think it was in 1950, I came to Washington. I was a soldier at Arlington Hall
Station, which is in northern Virginia in Arlington, almost the northernmost part of
Virginia. [Tape break.]
BW: What was your response to being in the South and experiencing Jim Crow? How
much contact did you have with the system?
W: It wasn't too much different from the Pennsylvania scheme of things. I can't
believe that the country has changed so in my lifetime. It was absolutely a
prejudiced scheme of things, and the change has been remarkable and happy
from my point of view.
BW: When would you say you first became involved, or conscious, if you like, of what
we now think of as the civil rights movement emerging, that there were African-
Americans and a certain number of white moderates and liberals who were
interested in some way changing the system in the South?
W: I am not sure. I was in the Army in 1948 when President Truman announced that
the Army would be integrated. That certainly impressed me. But always I had a
feeling that what was happening to black people wasn't fair.
BW: Do you have any idea where that came from? Because there were many people
of your generation who didn't have that sense.
W: Yes. I remember being on a boat that took you from Baltimore to Philadelphia
with my parents and some relatives, and there were a group of African-American
people on the boat who were in a circle, and they were singing and dancing and
having a good time. I guess I was about eight years old, and I found myself at
the center of this group. I was dancing right along with them. Then somebody
snatched me right out of there and gave me to understand that that wasn't being
done. But I think that was my first impression that it wasn't a fair or level playing
BW: Was there anything in your family background that might have led you towards
this more liberal stance?
W: I don't think so. There was a great deal of discussion about this in my family, but
I came from a pretty prejudiced background.
BW: Okay. Did you actually serve with any black servicemen during your time in the
W: Oh, yes. I had several first sergeants who were black.
BW: Do you think the people who perhaps were even less liberal-minded than you,
the actual experience of contact in the military actually changed some attitudes,
once people were working together?
W: Yes, I think that did change attitudes. When the soldiers were supervised by a
black officer or non-com [non-commissioned officer], they must have gained
respect for the African-American race.
BW: When did you actually put down roots and leave the Army and settle?
W: In 1966, I came here, but I had been active before. I was elected president of the
Fairfax Council on Human Relations, but then the general for whom I was
working called me in and told me I couldn't do that, that I would lose my security
BW: Tell me about how you came about to be president of the Fairfax branch?
W: Well, I just attended the meetings and participated, and they elected me
BW: Where were you stationed at the time?
W: At that time, I was stationed at Fort Myer, which is way up north there.
BW: Was there anyone else of your cohort in the military who was involved in any
W: Not to my knowledge.
BW: Did you get any hassle?
W: Yes, I got some hassles. At Petersburg, I was at Fort Lee, which is a military post
nearby. I was then the president of something called the Friends of Petersburg,
which was a local branch of the Virginia Council [of Human Relations], and
Martin Luther King, Jr. came to town. [Neither] the mayor or none of the City
Council would present him the keys of the city, so as president of the Friends of
Petersburg, I was invited to give Martin Luther King the keys to the city. But
again, the General called me and told me that that wouldn't do.
BW: Sort of got this constant censure, almost, from higher-up.
W: Perhaps I was something of a marked man, but I am not sure about that.
BW: Interesting. Tell me a little bit about the Fairfax branch, how many members you
had, what sort of work you tried to do, what the goals were, and also what years
W: That must have been about 1959 in Fairfax, and nothing comes to my mind
about what was notable about what we did. I made a copy of this for you, which
is the meeting of the Virginia Human Relations Council. You see, it tells here
who the founding members and the first officers [were], and here is the program
of that day. It goes right on through to 1973, so I thought you would be interested
W: Then there is a page back in there about the notable accomplishments of the
BW: Tell me a bit more about the organization, then. You've got the Fairfax branch.
W: I think there were twenty-four branches here in Virginia, and I think the
membership never exceeded 1,200. The rival organization, the name of which I
can't quite remember, they were something like 3,000 members.
BW: When you say the rival, do you mean the segregationists?
W: The segregationist group, yes.
BW: Like the Defenders of State Sovereignty [and Individual Liberties]?
W: Yes, something like that. I wrote a history of the Quakers in Virginia, and the
Quakers were pretty well mixed-up with the Human [Relations Council], and I
wrote a few things in the book here that I copied for you that might be of interest
BW: Thank you. Now, were you, are you, a Quaker?
W: Yes, I am. My family, in [the] past, were Quakers.
BW: I don't want to get too far off-track, but how much were the American Friends
Service Committee instrumental? Certainly, they seem to have been in Prince
W: They were instrumental there. My daughter Emily was a teacher in the pre-
school there. She was only about seventeen or eighteen at the time. Yes, the
American Friends Service Committee was quite involved. If you are going to see
Ed Peeples, he knows all about that.
BW: I have seen Jean Fairfax as well, and obviously she looms large in that story.
W: Right. And do you know the name of Nancy Adams?
BW: Just the name.
W: Yes. She was in charge of the Service Committee's group there in Farmville.
BW: Right. That is where I would have seen her in the documents. How would you
characterize the role that the American Friends Service Committee played,
because we've got lots and lots of books on the civil rights movement now, and
they [have] a line here, a line there. You get an impression they had a finger in
every bit of the movement.
W: Historically, the Quakers were the first group in America to speak out publicly,
saying that slavery was an evil institution. The Quakers were very active in the
Underground Railroad, you know. During the civil rights days, the Service
Committee was quite active in integration activities.
BW: Any particular aspects of the movement that you were involved in where you saw
AFSC representatives actually taking a firm hand?
W: Only in Farmville.
BW: Down in Prince Edward County, okay. It strikes me that one of the things the
AFSC does for the movement is their pioneering an interest in the use of
BW: I was wondering, as you saw the movement gathering momentum in the late
1950s, with King and then the students in the early 1960s, how much the people
you were dealing with were interested in that sort of Ghandian nonviolence.
W: At the Virginia Council, the chairman of the board during the height of the
movement, was David Scull, who was a Quaker. Then Frank Adams, who
succeeded Hap E. Lee, was also a Quaker. That is what occurs to me in
response to what you have just asked me, that their interests overlapped or they
had dual interests with the same purpose.
BW: Right. It sounds like there was almost an informal network where these people
W: That's right.
BW: Good. I know you said you can't remember specifics about what was going on in
Fairfax. What sorts of people were you associating with then? I mean, were they
overwhelming white? Was it an integrated group?
W: It was pretty well integrated, and [these were] concerned people, intelligent
people. It was worthwhile going to the meetings. The discussions were to the
point and stimulating.
BW: I am trying to get a picture of what sort of constituency there was. Were they
educated people? It sounds like they might have been.
W: They were educated people. There were ministers and university people.
BW: How much effort, and if there were efforts, what form did they take? Were they to
convert the people who were not going to be so sympathetic to the movement?
In a way, you see this as a sort of a good place for people of like-mind to come
together, but how much effort was there to convince those people who were
edging towards massive resistance, who maybe haven't gone with the whole hog
W: I don't recall anything specific about that, but when we lived in Petersburg, my
daughter, the daughter who taught at the pre-school in Farmville, she took it
open herself to greet the first black students who entered the high school there.
She had a very rough time. I mean, she was mobbed, and she had to resign
from her sorority. We sent her to another high school in northern Virginia, and
she stayed with friends up there, because she was sort of blackballed there in
Petersburg. It was an unhappy experience, and I am awful sorry that it
happened, but it did.
BW: And this would have been in the early 1960s? Late 1950s, early 1960s?
W: That would have been about 1965.
BW: Okay. Tell me a little bit about your sense of the mood of the state of Virginia,
really from the second Brown decision of 1955 and then the upsurge of massive
resistance. How do you characterize the problems that people of good will
W: We were a besieged minority, I guess you would say. The administration, the
governors, were all pretty well segregationists.
BW: So, there was no leadership from the top?
W: Not from the government. There weren't any until Linwood Holton became the
governor. All the governors were segregationists, massive resistance. I saw
something of the editor of the Richmond News Leader, [James J.] Kilkpatrick. His
wife was teaching sculptors, and my wife was one of the students. He infuriated
me. His editorials were pretty rabid.
BW: But they seemed to capture the mood of the vast majority.
W: Indeed, they were right in line with that mood.
BW: Were there any efforts that came out of the Human Relations Councils that you
were involved with, to actually try to produce propaganda, if you want to call it
that, that counteracted the writings of people like Kilkpatrick and [Virginius]
Dabney [Virginia newspaper editor] and people like that. Was there a newspaper
that was friendly to movement aspirations?
W: Not to my knowledge. I do not know of any friendly newspaper in Virginia. The
Washington Post was friendly, but that was a little removed from Virginia.
BW: When you got to Petersburg, what was the role you played there? How did that
side of your movement go?
W: At first, when we moved there, there was only a joint local Human Relations
Council with Richmond and Petersburg. There wasn't any connection between
the races, except the maid in the kitchen and the mistress. So, my wife started
something called the Friends of Petersburg. There is the Virginia State College in
the Petersburg area for black students. Those members of the faculty there and
a few Petersburg people and a very few white people formed the Friends of
Petersburg. I called up every [white] minister in the community and talked to
them about coming to a meeting to meet some black fellow citizens. Several said
they would come, but only one minister showed up. He was a retired minister,
whose name I don't remember.
BW: This was a white minister?
W: A white minister, yes.
BW: Do you remember which denomination?
W: Yes, the Church of Christ. There was the Church of Christ, and then there was a
Christian Church, and I may have the two confused. It was good that he came.
BW: It seems as though your wife is very active in all of this.
W: She was very active. I told you she took sculpture classes, and she got seven
white artists and seven black and put on an art show, the first integrated art show
in Petersburg. We held it in an abandoned bank building. We swept out the bank
building and cleaned it up. Some undertaker gave us green mats to put on the
floor, and we fixed it up nicely and had this art exhibit. We were very happy
about that because black citizens and white citizens were actually talking with
one another as they looked at the pictures.
BW: When would this have been? Was this after the 1964 Civil Rights Act?
W: I think it was about 1964, 1965.
BW: So, it may well have been after the legislation.
BW: Were there any particular problems associated with Petersburg, or was there any
sense of the routine stuff of segregation, [such as] lack of voting rights? I mean,
were those the sorts of problems?
W: When Martin Luther King was assassinated, no church would hold a memorial
service for him. We got the Jewish chaplain to come out from Fort Lee, which is
close to Petersburg, and he held a service in the synagogue there in Petersburg.
BW: Wow. So, a long time after the legislation, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the
Voting Rights Act of 1965, there is still intense hostility.
W : Still, that's right.
BW: Any reason why, do you think, Petersburg had that sort of intensity of feeling?
W: Petersburg is the south side of Virginia, which is an area itself where
segregation, the custom, was well-rooted.
BW: So, it was not unlike Farmville or somewhere like that?
W: Exactly. Farmville is the south side.
BW: What sorts of efforts were you making in Petersburg, and what other allies did
you find, if you like?
W: Well, I told you about the art show.
BW: Did you have any dealings with the more established mostly black civil rights
organizations like the NAACP or the Student Nonviolent Coordinating
W: Yes. Wyatt "Tee" Walker. Do you know that name? He was a minister in
Petersburg, and he was a leader in the black community. Yes, and those black
leaders were quite influential in the movement. They were leaders.
BW: One of the things that comes out of some of the interviews with people like
Walker, who seems to be a sort of larger-than-life figure in many ways, is an
impatience with white liberals. Did you get any sense of that, and do you think it
W: Not at first. Late in the movement, the idea was, we don't need you anymore, we
can do this ourselves. Frank Adams I am not quite sure what year it was got
money from the Ford Foundation to start a program to teach young black people
to be journalists. So, he and his friend, who was the editor of the black
newspaper in Richmond and that little piece I gave you from the book I wrote,
deals with this they started this journalism class. Things went well for a few
months, and then the students began to sort of rebel against Frank and his white
leadership. That resulted in Frank's resigning, not only from the journalism
program but also as the director of the Human Relations Council. He did it very
gracefully. He said, well, they are doing what we want them to do now; they are
speaking up and taking charge.
BW: There was something sort of inevitable about that in a way. It was almost an
index of the success of the movement.
W: Indeed. In my mind, that was the beginning of the closing of the civil rights
movement. The black leadership took charge.
BW: Right. Let's go back, then, and dig around more in what, in your thinking, is the
movement proper. In your experiences, did the nature of what it meant to be a
white liberal change in Virginia from, say, 1955 to the middle-late 1960s?
W: No, I don't think. I count myself among the white liberals, and I don't think there
was any change in attitude. It just became apparent toward the end there that we
weren't needed anymore.
BW: During this period when there was obviously quite a lot of activity among the
Human Relations Councils, how close was the relationship to the Southern
Regional Council in Atlanta? When did you first become aware of the Southern
W: I knew it was there, and I knew that it was the sponsoring organization for the
Virginia chapter, but that is about the sum of it. My wife at one point was the vice
president of the board here, the Virginia board, and she went to Atlanta. She was
called down there, but she said nothing very important happened. She just sort
of had a good time.
BW: So, they didn't really loom large as either a controlling influence or somewhere
you went to for money?
W: Do you know the name of Paul Gaston?
BW: Very well.
W: Paul is a Charlottesville person. Have you seen him?
BW: I am seeing him in Florida. He has family down there. In fact, I am seeing him in
Charleston next week and Florida the week after.
W: Well, he was directly connected with the Southern Regional Council, but he is
the only person I knew who was, except maybe, do you know the name of Patty
BW: Sarah Patton Boyle. I know the name.
W: Yes. Well, she was really the person who started the Charlottesville chapter. She
was a writer, and she published a book called The Desegregated Heart. When I
was in Petersburg, the local library had The Desegregated Heart, but they kept it
in the back room. For months, they didn't bring it out in the library proper.
BW: Because it was considered too incendiary.
W: Yes. Sarah Patton lived on University Circle [here in Charlottesville]. She
published a [civil rights] article in the Saturday Evening Post, and after that article
was published, all night long, there were people circling University Circle and
trashing her lawn and blowing their horns and everything. I am sure Sarah Patton
Boyle had some connection with the Southern Regional Council, but I do not
know what it was.
BW: Talking about the harassment that she suffered for that book and the article and
thinking about what your daughter went through, were you yourself subject to
abuse of any kind for taking these positions on civil rights?
W: We got a lot of midnight phone-calls. The phone would ring, and nobody would
be on the other end. I had to go away. I was on duty somewhere out in Ohio for
most of one summer, and the Ku Klux Klan came and sat in front of our house.
BW: Where were you at the time that happened?
W: In Petersburg. Petersburg was the most rabid of the three places I have
mentioned to you. Segregation was rooted there.
BW: Because of the nature of the oppression and the dangers, how big a
constituency of white liberals were there in Petersburg?
W: It was a distinct minority. I am trying to think about the [constituency]. We had
meetings, and I would think there would be maybe thirty-five or forty people
there, and it was pretty nearly 50/50.
BW: Were these people of some stature in the community? Did they tend to be
W: Certainly the black part of the group were professionals. They were mostly
faculty from Virginia State College. But I don't think the white part was quite so
BW: But nonetheless with their hearts in the right place, by the sounds of it.
BW: My question about whether you thought the nature of white liberalism had
changed during your time, really from the mid-1950s onwards, was perhaps
disingenuous in that, what I was really thinking about was, in the late 1940s and
early 1950s, you could be a white liberal by wanting to see segregation adjusted,
if not necessarily abolished. But do you sense that by the mid-1950s, the people
you were associated with were adamant that segregation had to go, rather than
that the separate facilities could ever be made equal?
W: I am sure what you are saying is true, but I can't quite resonate. I can't quite
think of anything that would indicate that change.
BW: Right, which implies that, by the time the mid-1950s come around, the sort of
people who were involved in these organizations have accepted the end of
segregation. They are not trying to cling on to a more polite form of segregation
or a less vicious form of segregation. They have decided it must go.
W: Yes, I think that is true.
BW: Okay. When did you end up in Charlottesville?
W: In 1966.
BW: And what brought you here?
W: I got a job. President Kennedy was going to eliminate poverty in our time. Oh, in
Petersburg, I worked with the group of people it was sort of a human relations
thing working to get a group established, an anti-poverty program, group.
BW: Right. This would be under Lyndon Johnson.
W: In my mind, Kennedy originated the idea, and Lyndon Johnson picked it up and
ran with it. I was a member of the group that, we wrote the plan of what we
thought should be done to eliminate poverty in the Petersburg area, and I was
chosen to go before the City Council and present our plans. So, I did that with
my wife, and the mayor said, thank you very much, and you will hear from us
about this. The next morning, there was a headline in the newspaper that said,
City Manager Doubts Worrall's Figures. He said, there couldn't possibly be all
the poverty I said there was in Petersburg. Then a reporter called me up and
said, what do you have to say to this? Well, I said, all the city manager has to do
is go to the library and look in the census figures, because that is where the
figures come from. I hadn't realized I had gotten into so much trouble. Then my
boss, the General, called me in and said, what you are doing is all very well,
Worrall, but too much publicity. Cease-and-desist. He told me to cease-and-
desist about ten times. All right. I went back to my group and told them I had to
cease-and-desist. They sent a delegation up to Washington. Hubert Humphrey
was then in charge of the poverty program, and the [delegation] appealed to
Hubert Humphrey. [Mr. Humphrey took some action that caused the Pentagon to
send a team of inspectors to Fort Lee, to investigate the matter.] The General
said one thing and I said something else, and I thought my Army career was
gone. But what happened was, after the inspectors left, the General called me in
and said, you may resume your activities, Worrall. So, that was that. I had some
remote job down at the end of the post, and the next thing I knew I was the
headquarters commandant or something like that with an office close to the
General. My career took a sudden leap forward instead of being ruined.
BW: I think it is a remarkable story that you are doing all this while still serving. What
rank had you achieved by this time?
W: I was a lieutenant colonel.
BW: Were you not worried that your civil rights activism may jeopardize your career?
W: Yes, I worried a little, but not very much. The way I am telling you this story, it
seems that I was in continual trouble with the high command, but I wasn't really. I
was in charge of six different outfits, from twenty-five men to 2,500, and I was
pretty independent. I wasn't harassed very much. I got a little at Fort Lee in
BW: Over time, would you say that the military hierarchy was more sympathetic or
less sympathetic to what you did?
W: Well, you see, in 1948, President Truman made it clear that he was going to
integrate [the Army], and that took the wind pretty much out of the
BW: How, then, did you get to Charlottesville, and what were the circumstances there,
because, obviously, Charlottesville for a little while in the 1950s closed down its
school system. What was the situation...?
W: Charlottesville was a much more liberal place than elsewhere in Virginia. I
suppose the university does that. So, I had a great deal of support here.
BW: Did you instantly get involved in the Human Relations type work?
BW: What form did that take?
W: Here, my wife was the president [of the Human Relations Council] for a while.
We published a little (it wasn't exactly a) leaflet, pocket-sized, about fifty pages,
of employers, and we indicated which employers were hiring everybody and who
wasn't. That caused quite a little commotion. There were a lot of letters in the
paper [saying,] this is blackmail and so forth.
BW: This was in the later 1960s, so this was after the Equal Opportunities Act.
W: Yes. Then we went after the University of Virginia in the late 1960s. There were
fifteen things we went after the university about. One was that all the outside
employees, the grounds people, were all white and that the janitors, the people
inside, were all black. There were wage differentials. There was a cafeteria, I
think in the basement of the hospital, where there was one side for blacks and
one for whites. So, we presented the university administration with these things,
and they changed things. There were a lot of changes as a result of that.
BW: Did you feel there was a lot of support for these initiatives on campus, among the
W: Yes. That is where a lot of the support came from.
BW: Some of the things you have been describing, like doing research on which
employers are hiring and that sort of thing, that is very much in keeping with the
way the Southern Regional Council has always worked, a sort of research and
BW: Is that the way you liked to work? I mean, how did that help your cause?
W: I think that leaflet that I mentioned to you was effective, and I think it did a lot of
breaking down [race prejudice]. People who wouldn't hire black people began
BW: Right. Who was the leaflet really targeting, then? Were you trying to shame, in a
way, the businessmen themselves? Were you trying to get that into the papers
so that the Charlottesville press would highlight this injustice? I am trying to think
through the mechanics of how you alert people to an injustice.
W: Just publishing that little publication, it seems to me, was a major means of
alerting people to unfair hiring practices. There were, as I said, some letters to
the editor. I had quite a file, which I passed along to Ed Peeples.
BW: Who I will see later this week.
W: Yes. Did you see, I think Frank Adams told me that he was putting the Council
papers in the university...
BW: Here or in...?
BW: I have not seen those.
W: I am sure he told me there was a file. Would it be in the manuscripts division?
BW: In the basement.
W: In the basement there, next to the rare books.
BW: Yes, I am sure.
W: Then, Ed Peeples called me the other night, and he told me that he was putting
my papers and other papers, I think he said, in VCU, Virginia Commonwealth.
BW: I think that is right. I think your papers are in his house for the moment, from
what I can gather, but they are on their way across the street, so I will get to see
those later in the week. Just one thing. I keep forgetting to ask you just to say on
the tape. What is your wife's name?
W: Her name is Carolyn.
BW: Thank you, because she looms large in the story, and I want to make sure that
she is noted.
W: I wish she could be here this evening, but it didn't work out.
BW: Sure. As the 1960s wore on and perhaps the civil rights movement came to an
end and a new era, perhaps Black Power insurgency came, how did white
liberals like yourself respond to this sense of not feeling wanted or feeling that
your work perhaps was done?
W: I think, generally speaking, we just retired to the sidelines, and there was a little
disappointment. I remember feeling a little sadness that our role was winding
BW: But, in a way, that could be construed as a sign of the triumph of the movement.
W: Indeed, and I think we felt that, too. It certainly was a triumphant outcome. You
know, we have a way to go, but we have certainly come a long way.
BW: Did you notice black membership dropping off of the Councils for Human
Relations, either at the state level or the more local level?
W: I think there was a loss of interest. The NAACP continued, maybe stronger than
before, and I think that is as it should be. Do you know the name of Gene Foster
and Jane Foster? They were quite active here in Charlottesville. He is a
physician, and last year. Thomas Jefferson, it developed that he had some
mixed offspring. Sally Hemings [slave and mistress of Thomas Jefferson], you
know? Well, Gene Foster was the fellow who developed the DNA proof that that
happened. Anyway, he and his wife were quite active during the civil rights.
BW: I am guessing by the time you got to Charlottesville in 1966, the town, city, was
more or less desegregated?
W: Not very much. For a time, the public schools closed, and that was before we got
here, maybe in 1965. There was one of those academies [referring to private
schools that maintained segregation]. I think it started here in Charlottesville. So,
it didn't happen very long. Along about 1968, there was a rumor in town, "Rapp
Brown [incendiary leader of SNCC] has come to town." And you wouldn't believe
what happened. There were pick-up trucks riding around town with shotguns
behind the driver. All the sporting goods stores sold out of ammunition. It was
amazing. And it wasn't Rap Brown. It was a fellow by the name of Rat Brown,
who was a local boy who had come back home.
BW: So, people were just waiting for another riot, like in Cambridge, Maryland.
W: Yes, but there was a great deal of feeling in 1968.
BW: Do you remember the aftermath of King's assassination? I know you remember
the Petersburg incident. What about in Charlottesville?
W: Well, we weren't here yet, and I can't say. I don't know what happened here.
BW: We have sort of talked a bit about the Human Relations Councils in Virginia.
Was there any point in which the Southern Regional Council loomed large in this
story, or was it just a story of local activism?
W: I think local activism is what dominated my view of things. Beginning in 1969, I
started something called Offender Aid and Restoration here, and I spent a lot of
time in New York visiting foundations and raising money for that. There was a
fellow in the Field Foundation, George somebody.
BW: George Esser?
W: No. George Esser was a director in the Southern Regional Council, wasn't he?
That program I gave you, George Esser was here. He was a speaker. No, it was
some other George. Anyway, the Field Foundation provided financial help, and
he and I talked quite a bit about the Southern Regional Council and what it was
doing, but I can't remember the specifics.
BW: Right, because there were quite tight connections between Field and Ford
Foundation and the SRC at various times, and Leslie Dunbar ended up at the
BW: Those ties into philanthropic organizations were a constant theme.
W: That is right. Leslie Dunbar.
BW: Did you ever meet him?
W: I never met him. This other George was his right-hand man.
BW: One of the things we have not talked about, which is a big part of the civil rights
era, is the quest for black voting rights. Was that ever part of the agenda of your
W: Yes. I seem to recall that we sent people to the polls to make sure that the black
people got their rights. Yes, that was certainly part of it, but I am a little fuzzy
BW: Because somewhere like Petersburg and its environs, I would have thought it
was very difficult for blacks to register to vote in the early 1960s.
W: Yes, it was very difficult. They had to be familiar with the Constitution. Yes. I wish
I could remember more clearly. But I do remember we sent people to the polls to
try to make things fair.
BW: What about the era when busing was important, in the late 1960s and early
1970s. Again, was there much busing? I am thinking of Richmond and Norfolk
and other places, not necessarily Charlottesville, though I don't know about
[End of Side Al]
BW: ...segregation. Sometimes buses were needed to take African-American kids into
integrated schools and white kids into integrated schools that were perhaps in
black neighborhoods. I was thinking of that phase.
W: Yes, I know what you are talking about, but nothing comes to my mind.
BW: If you had to sort of characterize, for a CNN newscast or something like that, the
sort of work that these Councils for Human Relations did in Virginia, how would
you do that.
BW: I was just thinking of some concluding remarks, really, and generalizations about
the nature of the work that these Councils for Human Relations did.
W: They were certainly active in voting rights, active in integrating the university
here. I remember when a new Holiday Inn started in Petersburg, and a black
dentist and his wife went into the new Holiday Inn and asked for a room, and
they were told, sorry, everything is filled up. Then I went in and asked for a room,
and the desk clerk asked me if I preferred the second or third floor or something
like that. So, there was integrating of those public facilities.
BW: How much of that took you in the direction of, sort of, direct action, of actual
picketing, of marching? How much of that took place?
W: There was a lot of it taking place in Washington, but I can't remember any
marches or anything taking place in Fairfax or Petersburg or here in
BW: I am trying to think about the way that, as I am going to write this, I am going to
characterize the sort of work that was done. Obviously, direct action, the
students sitting in and taking Freedom Rides. That is one aspect of the
movement. This is a different aspect.
W: Let me see that program. Here, Roberta McCarty was a very nice secretary in
the Richmond office, and she wrote all this up, and those are outstanding
projects. I think that is pertinent to what you are thinking about now.
BW: So, fellowships in journalism and the sort of things that are designed to
encourage African-American economic advance in a way, professional advance.
Same as the paramedical training research. I guess that has that aspect there,
as well. Obviously, the free school programs in Prince Edward County, so this
sort of educational drive, as well.
BW: Okay. I can run through this at my leisure, but it seems as though it is very much
in keeping with the Southern Regional Council's approach, which is that you can
do a lot by research and publicizing the research.
W: Yes. The Southern Regional Council was sort of a revered name, looming in the
background in my experience.
BW: That is an interesting way of putting it. Now, what I usually do at the end of
interviews is ask the subject if there is anything that I have not prompted you to
think about that you would actually want to add, any particular programs, or any
individuals you would like to talk about or any themes you would like to talk
W: Let me see. In 1969, I left the poverty program and started something called
Offender Aid and Restoration, and I got money to start up in several cities. To
start up that program, I got three sponsors. The sponsors were the Virginia
Council of Churches, the Virginia Chaplain Service, and the Virginia Council on
Human Relations. Frank Adams went around with me, and he introduced me to
some key people and he helped me to get the sponsorship of the Council of
Churches. You will see on that list of accomplishments, starting the Offender Aid
and Restoration program. Offender Aid and Restoration was really just a group
of volunteers to go into the jail and help the offender to get straightened out so
they wouldn't go back again. We got programs started in New York City and
Philadelphia and Baltimore and major cities, and there still are OAR programs
here in Virginia. Programs outside of Virginia generally became independent
after a time and continued the idea of prison visiting.
BW: Your speaking has reminded me of two other things I was going to raise in
another context. What about the criminal justice system's injustices in the
courts? Was that a major concern of yours and these organizations?
W: A major concern, yes. The population here in Charlottesville was about 20
percent black. The population of the jail in Charlottesville was about 40 percent
black, and the population of the state penitentiary is about 60 black. That is a line
I used when I visited foundations to try to raise some money. There still is, I
think, an imbalance. Racial-profiling continues.
BW: The other thing I was going to ask you about was in relation to the poverty
initiatives in the mid-1960s, which perhaps were rooted in the Kennedy
administration and then Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty and the Great
Society. One of the figures who gets associated with that in the last years of his
life was Robert Kennedy, and I am wondering how someone like Robert
Kennedy loomed as a figure for folks like you working in the South?
W: Yes. A revered figure. He raised a million dollars to start the free schools in
Prince Edward County. Yes, he was well-known to be a friend of the civil rights
BW: I guess I am leading the witness a little bit here, but was he universally popular
among southern whites?
W: Oh, I don't think so. I was in the Brushy Mountain prison in Tennessee one time,
and I saw his assassin [Sirhan Sirhan]. No, I think he was revered by the
integrationists and opposed by the others.
BW: Okay. Anything else from your list that you would like to bring up while the tape is
W: In Petersburg, I was part of a theatrical group, three white actors and three black,
and we toured in a show called "In White America," which was written by a
Princeton history professor. We toured Virginia with great success.
BW: Was that Marchan Duberman?
W: Yes, I think he was the writer.
BW: How did that go?
W: It went well. I'll tell you, we had an ally here in Virginia named Henry Howell. He
became the lieutenant governor. When he ran for governor, the segregationist
movement turned out in force to squelch that. But I remember he was the
present one evening at the "In White America" performance, and he was
enthusiastic about it.
BW: Where did you take it to?
W: I remember we performed at the Union Theological Seminary in Richmond,
which is a branch of the University of Richmond, and in churches. I remember a
dance hall in Petersburg, we performed. That is where Henry Howell was that
BW: This would have been mid-1960s?
W: Yes, about 1964, 1965. It was a pretty classy performance. We had two people
who were in the drama programs, one at Virginia State College she recruited
the black actors and a woman who was the drama coach at St. Anne's School
in Richmond. There were six of us, and it was a lot of fun.
BW: Did you get any harassment on the road?
W: No harassment that I recall. Let me see if I have anything else. Paul Gaston,
when he was here, was leading [a picket]. Buddy's Restaurant, down there near
the university, near the tennis courts, was segregated, and Paul Gaston was
leading pickets around the restaurant, and Buddy came out and punched Paul
Gaston in the nose. That created quite a stir.
BW: Talk a little about Paul. Obviously, he moved elsewhere to work with the
Southern Regional Council proper and ended up.....
W: Yes. Did you say he is living in Florida now?
BW: No. He is still in Charlottesville. He is just visiting family in Florida the week after
next, and I am going to interview him there. But what sort of role did he play in
the Charlottesville movement or the Virginia Council for Human Relations?
W: That thing about Buddy's Restaurant happened before we got here. That would
have been in 1966. So, he must have playing pretty much of a leadership role at
that time. But after we got here, he was connected more with the Southern
Regional Council. I don't think he was active locally or in the state council.
Reverend Griffin, the Moses of Prince Edward County, do you know about him?
Carolyn and I went to Farmville one Sunday. We visited and knocked on doors,
and we said, if the public schools open up in the fall with a few black children in
them, would you send your children, too? A lot of people said, yes, they would,
but they didn't follow through when September came.
BW: Right. Was this right on the eve of the school closings, like 1959?
W: No. That would have been more like 1964 or 1965. Now, let's see if there is
anything else I can dig up for you. The Council did not have enough money to
pay its rent in the later years, so the Quaker meeting in Richmond invited them to
come and set up shop in their meeting-house, and they did. The last director of
the Virginia Council on Human Relations succeeding Frank Adams was a black
man. His name slips my mind now.
BW: Reverend Curtis Harris?
W: Yes, from Hopewell, Virginia.
BW: I am speaking to him on Friday.
W: He moved the offices to 4500 Kensington Avenue, which is the Quaker meeting-
house. Then there was a great hubbub. The neighbors said this violated the
zoning restrictions in Richmond. This was a residential area, and businesses
were forbidden. So, we appeared before the zoning commission in Richmond,
and I did the speaking on behalf of the Council. I was going on at great length
about the [fact that] Quaker meeting was the first religious organization of the
city, established in 1795 beside St. Johns Church, and it did so many great
things. The chairman of the zoning commission said, this is very interesting, but
do you have anything to say pertinent to the purpose of this meeting? So, then I
leaped forward a couple hundred years and said it [the Human Relations
Council] wasn't really a business concern; it was a human relations sort of
enterprise. But that didn't prevail. We presented a petition to let the Council stay
there in the meeting-house, and there were about 150 signatures, but the
opposition came up with about 1,500 signatures. I think that was just about the
demise of the Virginia Council.
BW: When it was in its pomp, its heyday, how often did the affiliates actually meet
together under the umbrella of the statewide organization?
W: I think there were twenty-four local councils. I think they got together annually.
BW: But they didn't really take direction from the statewide organization. It sounds like
the story you have been painting is very much one of local activism.
W: Yes. I don't know that many things happened in a coordinated, statewide, all-at-
once way. The local councils operated pretty much independently with the
support and backing of the state office. Frank Adams was the director I was in
closest touch with, and I think he literally worked himself to death. He had kidney
trouble or a collapsed lung or something. He worked nonstop. He was a
marvelous man. Then he retired, and he started a shoe-repair shop in his local
town, Gatesville, North Carolina, which he called the Awl Soles Shoe Repair.
BW: Very good. Did you know Hap E. Lee?
W: I was at some meetings where he was present.
BW: Do you have any recollections of him as a person or as an activist?
W: I can't say that I remember him too well. As I said, Frank Adams is the one who
sticks in my mind most clearly. Then there was a fellow, Bobby Lee Combs. I
think he came after Happy.
BW: Yes. There were a couple in-between. He was a couple before Adams, as well.
Who was the first African-American executive director?
W: Curtis Harris. Hopewell is close to Petersburg, so I knew him pretty well, even
before he became [the director]. He and I were on the board together.
BW: Right. Now, he had an SCLC Southern Christian Leadership Conference -
background, as well.
W: He did, indeed, and he referred to that. I remember him talking about that.
BW: Just looking down this list of folks who were involved, your wife looms large, and
then there is Sarah Patton Boyle as a founding member, and Ms. Suzie Peach
Foster is another founding member. I was wondering if you could sort of
generalize to say something about the role that southern white women played in
these initiatives, these Councils for Human Relations.
W: I think they predominated. I think they were the ones who became the most
keenly aware that it wasn't right what was going on.
BW: What about in terms of the leadership positions?
W: Well, I have a friend, Chic Moran, who just died a month ago, but he was the first
president of the Charlottesville Council on Human Relations. He said, I became
president because Patty Boyle called me and told me that I was to be president.
She said, you will be the first president, and that is how I came to have this job.
He talked about some harassment that happened. People came to the meetings
of the Charlottesville membership and [delivered] cat-calls and harassment like
BW: Do you think there is an explanation for someone like Patty Boyle would have
done things from behind-the-scenes, apart from harassment?
W: Apparently, she established Chic. She did not want to be the president herself,
so maybe she was a deus ex machine there.
BW: Maybe. I was just thinking that some of the stories we have of the African-
American civil rights movement, there is lots of evidence that women are the
backbone of the movement, but yet, with one or two exceptions, it is King,
[Ralph] Abernathy, [Fred] Shuttlesworth, these are the names. Andrew Young,
Julian Bond. These are the figures who loom large in the stories, yet we know
that the women were working behind the scenes. I am just wondering if [there is]
a parallel thing which has more to do with the times than anything else.
W: I think Sarah Patton Boyle bears that out. Then there was a woman here in town,
[Frances Brand] who was not only very active in the Human Relations Council
[but] she was also for years and years a white woman [and] the recording
secretary of the NAACP here in town. She was known locally as the purple lady.
She always wore purple. She was a lovely woman. She had been one of the first
women army officers. But I think your idea about women playing an important
part behind the scenes must be correct. I think we have about done what I can
BW: Thank you so much, Jay. I really appreciate it.
W: A great pleasure.
BW: Jay, could you tell us a little bit about your involvement in the Southern
W: Yes. In 1970, I got a fellowship in the Southern Leadership Program, which took
place on St. Helena Island, just off Beaufort, South Carolina. We looked into all
kinds of efforts going on in the South to relieve poverty, fishermen's co-ops and
lots of different kinds of co-ops. The last few weeks of the program, we left the
island and went to Atlanta, and we stayed in a motel that Martin Luther King
used to frequent for breakfast and so forth. We visited the church where his
father was the pastor, and we examined a lot of things going on in Atlanta,
having to do mostly with the efforts to bring the black people of the South out of
poverty. I thought that was a great program, and I was honored to be part of it.
BW: Presumably, part of that program was to encourage African-American
leadership, as well.
W: Right, but I can't seem to recall if many of the fellows in the program were black.
There were some. Penn Center is where we were on St. Helena Island, and that
was something that was started by Quakers during the Civil War in the 1860s to
sort of protect the free black people down there.
BW: Yes. I have a colleague who works on the Penn School in Florida. Okay, thank
[End of Interview.]
SRC 19 Summary- Jay Worrall
February 25, 2003
Jay Worrall starts out by giving his personal background (page 1). He tells of his first awareness
of unfair treatment towards blacks, and the integration of the Army (pages 1-2). He talks about
being elected president of the Fairfield Council on Human Relations (pages 2-4). He talks a little
about the involvement of the American Friends Service Committee during the civil rights
movement, specifically in Prince Edward County (pages 4-5). He talks about people he
associated with and the efforts they made to convince people opposed to desegregation (pages 5-
6). He tells how his daughter was blackballed from the high school in Petersburg  (page 6).
Mr. Worrall talks about attitudes in Virginia after the 1955 Brown decision and the upsurge of
massive resistance, along with the problems liberals faced (page 6). Next he talks about his role
in Petersburg and the activities of his wife, Carolyn, including the start of the Friends of
Petersburg group (pages 6-8). He talks about collaborating with black civil rights organizations
and how black leaders felt about white liberals (pages 8-9). He then talks about the relationship
between the Southern Regional Council (SRC) and the Human Relations Councils, mentioning a
few people involved with the two organizations (pages 9-10). Mr. Worrall talks about harassment
he experienced during the civil rights movement, and identifies the constituency of liberals in
Petersburg (page 10).
Mr. Worrall discusses his move to Charlottesville in 1966, but goes back to clarify that he
worked on an anti-poverty program while in Petersburg (page 11). He tells how his involvement
with the council propelled him forward in his career with the army (pages 11-12). Next he talks
about the situation in Charlottesville, and what form of activity he and his wife were involved in
(pages 13-14). He discusses the emergence of the Black Power era, the response of white liberals,
and the decline of black membership in the Councils for Human Relations (page 14).
He talks about Charlottesville when he arrived in 1966 (page 15). He talks about starting the
Offender Aid and Restoration program (pages 15-16). Mr. Worrall states that black voting rights
were a priority of his organizations and mentions steps they took to make it easier for black
voters (page 16).
Mr. Worrall attempts to characterize the work of the Councils of Human Relations in Virginia
(pages 16-17). He further describes his Offender Aid and Restoration program (pages 17-18). He
talks about the criminal justice system's injustices in courts, and describes Robert Kennedy as a
friend of the civil rights movement (page 18). He also mentions traveling with a theatrical group
called "In White America" while in Petersburg in the mid 1960s (pages 18-19). He talks about
Paul Gaston and his involvement in Charlottesville and on the Virginia Council for Human
Relations (pages 19-20). He mentions the final director, Reverend Curtis Harris, and the demise
of the Virginia Council (page 20). He begins to talk about the different directors of the council,
and mentions the role of southern white women on the councils (pages 21-22).
Mr. Worrall concludes the interview by talking about his involvement in the Southern Leadership
Program through a fellowship in 1970 (pages 22-23).