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Interview with Raymond Worsley

Interviewee: 
Worsley, Raymond
Interviewer: 
Fraser, John
Date of Interview: 
2004-04-17
Identifier: 
OHWO0483
Subjects: 
World War II; Civil Rights Movement; March on Montgomery; March on Apartheid; Nation of Islam; Black Panther Party; segregation; Apartheid; Brown v. Board of Education; Swann v. Mecklenburg County, Billy Mays, Union Seminary, Johnson C. Smith University, Columbia University, Emory University, US Presbyterians, Rocky Mount, NC, Booker T. Washington High School, Benjamin Chavis, Dr. Reginald A. Hawkins
Abstract: 
In this interview, the Reverend Dr. Raymond Worsley, who grew up in Rocky Mount North Carolina, talks about his experiences during the era of segregation in the Jim Crow South. In particular Dr. Worsley describes his support of the Civil Rights Movement as a student and young adult in New York, Atlanta, and Charlotte. His recollections include historic civil rights marches with Dr. Martin Luther King and other leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, and sit in demonstrations at local lunch counters in Charlotte. Dr. Worsley also reflects on his time spent in the United States Marine Corps during World War II, and recounts his academic and theological accomplishments.
Coverage: 
North Carolina; Atlanta, Georgia; Harlem, New York; Guam; San Diego, California: 1925-2004
Interview Audio: 
Transcript:

JF: John Fraser
RW: Raymond Worsley
GD: Granddaughter of Mr. Worsley

Begin OH_WO0483

RW: He was from Texas. Really he was down from below down there some kind of--what is that thing called down there? Panhandle State I guess you call it.- -

JF: Ok.

RW: - - And, he was a, he, he was a character. Looked just like Andy Gump.

JF: Yeah.

RW: Yes indeed. Oh Texas,- -

JF: Alright.

RW: - - never will forget Texas, like that city.

JR: Okay.

RW: Would curse everyday, “How did I get in this dogone Marine Corps,” just like that. Yes Sir.

JR: Alright. Well, let’s a, let’s start with- -

RW: Ok.

JR: - - when and where were you born?

RW: I was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina in 1925, August 1925.

JR: Oh August. I’m in August too.

RW: August 11.

JR: Mine is 16th.

RW: Um-hum.

JR: Leo. Alright, Alright. Do you have, you know, were there any interesting stories when you were born? Like did, did, did anything celestial happen when you came into Earth [laughter]. Or anything like that?

RW: No, Nothing like that.

JR: There wasn’t a storm or anything? [laughing]

RW: No [laughter].

JR: Ok. Who, who were your parents?

RW: Raymond and Ulla Mae Worsley. My daddy called Billy Raymond and my mother was called Ulla Mae, Worsley.- -

JR: Ok.

RW: - - They called him Billy Raymond Worsley and Ulla Mae Worsley my parents in Rocky Mount, NC.

JR: Ok. And, do you know where they were born?

RW: They were born in a section of North Carolina.

JR: Ok.

RW: My mother was born in Johnson County which is Smithfield, it’s in Smithfield, North Carolina.

JR: Ok.

RW: My father was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

JR: Ok.

RW: My mother was a schoolteacher having graduated from Pritchard College. But, later when she was supposed to go back to school to get that two years, Pritchard College was a two year college.- -

JR: Um-hum.

RW: She wasn’t able to go back because she had three sons, Raymond, Randolph, and Rudolph, my brothers.

JR: Ok.

RW: Raymond--I’m Raymond,- -

JR: Ok.

RW: Randolph and Rudolph- -

JR: Ok.

RW: - -you see. Then she became a PLN, Practical Licensed Nurse.- -

JR: Ok.

RW: - - One of the first black practical licensed nurses in North Carolina.

JR: Really.

RW: She, yeah my mother. She was a schoolteacher before that but she finished Pritchard College. You could teach at that time with a two year, what I call a certificate.

JR: Ok.

RW: Pritchard College outside of Raleigh, North Carolina, a AME Church. Not AME Zion, she said no, no Zion, just AME just like I say.

JR: AME.

RW: Um-hum.

JR: Ok. When you were growing up what were some of your views--and I’m talking probably from the time like you know 9, 10, 11--what were some of you views about Jim Crow. Did he, did, did, did--?

RW: One of the most interesting things that happened to me when I was growing up is that I was on the bus,- -

JR: Um-hum.

RW: - - a little city bus just like that see, and they asked my mother to move. I’ve never forgotten that. Just like that see. That the blacks had to move back so that the whites could have a seat. I have never forgotten that. I was, I would say maybe 12 or 13, but I have never forgotten that, in Rock Mount, North Carolina. That stayed in my mind all of my life up until the present time .

JR: Yeah.

RW: Even when I was in the Civil Rights Movement.

JR: Ok.

RW: I marched with King in Atlanta, that’s where I got my doctorate at Emory, just like I say.

JR: Ok.

RW: See, I met Billy Mays, when I went back I had to do my field work in that area, just like I say. And, I’ve never forgotten the fact that, to discriminate against a person because of that person’s color, it’s a low down dirty shame.- -

JR: Yeah.

RW: - -And, I’ll never buy it as a minister just like I say.- -

JR: Yeah.

RW: - -Yet, on the other hand, I have met people of all races who are just, and part of what they have been taught in the Christian religion,- -

JR: Yeah.

RW: - - that God is the father of all people, the black, the white, the brown, the red, the green, the shade, and all the shades in between.- -

JR: That’s it.

RW: - - That is what I believe just like I say

JR: So, so that, that, vision of when they told your mother to move, did you say that was kind of a motivating force to lead to--?

RW: It was something I never forgot.- -

JR: Yeah.

RW: - -I couldn’t quite understand why my mother had to get up and move just because she was black. But, I realized that, that’s what was happening to other black people.- -

JR: Yeah.

RW: - -And, then I began to think about that, it was in the back of my mind even when I was in my late teens.

JR: Ok.

RW: And, so I decided to go to college, Johnson C. Smith University, I went to Johnson C. Smith University, I graduated the head of my class, just like I said, then I went and then I went into the seminary. And, I was determined that I was going to do good in academics. I wasn’t trying to outdo anybody,- -

JR: Yeah.

RW: - - I was going to learn all I could. And, from that point I went to the seminary, which was moved from Charlotte, North Carolina to Atlanta.

JR: Ok.

RW: You see. It’s the place called ITC- -

JR: Ok.

RW: --Interdenominational Theological Center. And from there, just like I say, I went to Union Seminary in New York and Columbia University. That’s where I earned my MA. And, from there I went back to Atlanta, at Emory University, and that’s where I earned my S.T.D, which is my Doctor of Sacred Theology.

JR: Ok.

RW: See.

JR: That’s Emory Right? Is that it?

RW: That’s it right there. S.T.D., Doctor of Sacred Theology,- -

JR: Wow, ok.

RW: - - I earned my MA, it’s from somewhere, I earned it at Union Seminary and Columbia, jointly between those schools just like I say.

JR: Growing up, was this is kind of off, not off topic,- -

RW: That’s alright.

JR: - -it’s not on the, on the sheet. But when you were growing up, was there anybody influential as far as any ministers? Like did you see--?

RW: The most influential teacher in my life was my history teacher,- -

JR: Ok.

RW: - - Anna Brown. She was from the state of New Jersey,- -

JR: Really.

RW: - - and she would not only talk about history, but she would add things about our race and that, in her conversations. And, every summer she would go back to New Jersey you see, but she lived in Rocky Mount,- -

JR: Right.

RW: - - history teacher. And, she also, she was my Latin teacher.- -

JR: Ok.

RW: - - And, I learned a lot from her about what I call human rights and things like that. She was, she was one of the best teachers I’ve ever.

JR: She, she was African American?

RW: Oh, yes. She’s an African American, you see Anna Brown my history teacher. And, she also was my Latin teacher.

JR: Ok. Alright, Alright.

RW: She also taught Latin. Latin and History.

JR: Ok. What were some of you thoughts and feelings about the Civil Rights Movement? When it started, you know when, when, when, when you heard, first heard you know ok, that the Civil Rights, you know that, that, we, we’re going try to make things better for the community- -

RW: I said “Thank God”.

JR: Ok.

RW: And, I joined the Civil Rights Movement. When I was in Atlanta, we marched on Montgomery with King, José Williams just like I say, Abernathy, and at that time Billy Mays was alive at Morehouse. But, I was at ITC, which was the Interdenominational Theological Center, and Morehouse College was part of, one of the six seminaries in the Interdenominational Theological Center. I was, I’m Presbyterian- -

JR: Ok.

RW: - - just like I say. And, I have just been overwhelmed in my thoughts, in my feelings, for what is just. And, I cannot accept the fact that there are people who believe that the color of your skin determines what you should do, what you should be, where you should sit, what you should say and all that. I will not buy that,- -

JR: Yeah.

RW: - - as a Christian minister. So, when we marched on Montgomery, just like I say, they told some of us just like that to get back. When I went to, by the way, to jail, by the way, when we marched on, I’m sorry, on Washington, when we marched on Apartheid in Washington.- -

JR: Ok.

RW: - - We marched with the US church you see there are two separate- -

JR: What year was that when you marched on Apartheid in Washington?

RW: In Washington? It was about 20 years ago,- -

JR: Ok.

RW: - - I’m not sure about the year, but about 20 years ago.- -

JR: Ok.

RW: - - And, the march was planned by the US Presbyterian Church.

JR: Ok.

RW: And there’s a US Presbyterian Church, there’s a US Church. Yes, the US Church was the southern branch of the Presbyterian.- -

JR: Um-hum.

RW: - - USA was the northern branch.- -

JR: Um-hum.

RW: - - We belonged to, the black belonged to the northern branch, most of them,- -

JR: Ok.

RW: - - even though we lived in the south. So when the US Church organized a march on Apartheid, I joined that movement and went to Washington, DC and along with a white couple and a black fellow, I was arrested, just like I said. And I had 20 Susan B. Anthony dollars in my pocket, that was my bail money.- -

JR: Wow.

RW: Yes. And from Washington, DC I had to drive back to Richmond because I didn’t have anything but a Gup Credit Card. And, I had gotten a room at the Holiday Inn on Parham Rd. on my way up there, you see. And then when I was released on bail, I didn’t want to bother any of my first cousins in Washington, or anybody else, so I drove back to Richmond and spent the night and got up, well got up before daybreak and come back for trial. They didn’t do anything but charge us what I call some kind of fee and they, the church had taken care of that, you see.- -

JR: Yeah.

RW: - - Maybe 25 dollars, some, I don’t know what it was, but they charged us fees, some, some fee. The lawyers, we had two lawyers there, and those two lawyers were black fellows from Harvard.

JR: Really?

RW: Yes. That’s what happened right there, just like I say. And, I remember, this like I say, that when they, when they arrested us just like I say, I said “Lord, Have Mercy,” just like I say, I was, I was both afraid and unafraid. I was unafraid and afraid, I had a mixture, a mixed feeling that allowed me to determine that like I said, I was going to stand for what is right just like (?). Now, it was predominantly a white march because most of the US Presbyterians in the south, you see, are white.- -

JR: Yeah.

RW: - - You see. And,--.

JR: Is that because they wouldn’t let blacks be in--?

RW: No, they wouldn’t let blacks, not in the Presbyterian Church. They wouldn’t let blacks in the south in any of these places. We had to picket Woolworth downtown. And, when I was a student in New York at Union Seminary we picketed at Woolworth up there, which was 125th street, right there. You ever been there?

JR: Um-hum.

RW: 125th street right there and Broadway. And then 125th street comes into Broadway right there and the Woolworth is right here. Not far from Columbia University. Yeah, I used to go down there, just like I say, and picket that place. Now we could sit, we could eat there,- -

JR: Yeah.

RW: - - but we picketed that place just to show our support for people in the south, you see. And, I will never, never give up on what is right. It is wrong, I mean wrong, to discriminate against people because of their color,- -

JR: Um-hum.

RW: - -you see, or their race, or their background. I will never buy onto that, just like I say.

JR: When, when you, when, after the Civil Rights Movement kicked off- -

RW: Um-hum.

JR: - - and you heard, when you first heard about the death of Civil Rights Activists, Medgar Evers, and even Martin Luther King Jr., what went through your mind? Did, did, I mean did, did. did any part of you say, well did you, did you really get scared at that point? Did you say ok you know they’re starting to--?

RW: Now, I, I marched with King.

JR: Yeah.

RW: I read about Medgar Evers in, down in, it was one of the Southern States. I don’t whether it was Mississippi or not, but it was a Southern State. I think it was Mississippi. I was more determined,- -

JR: Yeah.

RW: - - after that just like I say.

JR: Ok.

RW: In fact, I was afraid that my family would lose me, by death. But, that wasn’t, that wasn’t going to stop me. Magnolia, my wife- -her picture’s here somewhere. There she is up there.- -

JR: Ok.

RW: - - She said “Raymond be careful,” just like that see. But, I was determined that I was going to stand for what is right just like I say. And, sometimes I didn’t even know it, I’d be doing like that, just like I say.

JR: Yeah.

RW: That is, that is what happened to me. And, when I go by myself somewhere and meditate, I think about that. But, I don’t know whether this is being recorded or not, but I be damn if I’m going to be a Christian and then segregate people,- -

JR: Yeah.

RW: - - discriminate against people, then say Christ is Lord of all.

JR: Yes.

RW: I’m not going to do that. That is not right.- -

JR: It is hypocritical.

RW: I know that word. You can go on and print it.

JR: That’s alright. [laughing]

RW: I’ll put this in. I learned that in the Marine Corps. [laughing]

JR: Ok.

RW: But, because I learned that doesn’t mean that I’m just going to discriminate against people because of their color,- -

JR: That’s it.

RW: - -including white people. White people who are just, and white people who are Christian with Christianity in their hearts and minds with righteousness, like I say are my brothers and sisters in Christ just like everybody else, - -

JR: That’s it.

RW: - -not the racists.

JR: That’s it. Well, my, my, in growing up my mother told me in New York, she told me it was very, coming up in New York in the 60s was very divided and she would view people, she would say a lot of the blacks they supported King and what he was trying to do and so on and so forth. But, the views were a little, they were a little more scared of other people like Malcolm X and so on and so forth. What were some of your views on people like Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam and their approach that they were taking towards liberating black people into having better lives in this country?

RW: The only difference is that Malcolm X and them were driven by another religion.

JR: Yeah.

RW: My religion was driven by, the Christian religion,- -

JR: Yes.

RW: - - that’s the only view. But, so far as the cause is concerned, I was in agreement with the cause, you see.

JR: Ok, ok.

RW: I did not believe in trying to kill somebody,- -

JR: Yeah.

RW: - - but I do believe in self defense, - -

JR: Yeah.

RW: - - you see. And I don’t really know whether that was true about Malcolm X or not, but I do know that they had what they called the Black Panthers.

JR: Yeah.

RW: And I do know that I worked with the Black Panthers, but so, the Black Panthers that I worked with right here in this town, just like say, I’ve never known them to be violent towards anybody, but they did, they did stand their ground- -

JR: Yeah.

RW: - - with their rifles walking around saying what they would do and what they wouldn’t do but I have never seen them do anything against any other race of people. But they were very, very forceful in what they believed.

JR: Ok. Kind of taking it back now.

RW: Take it back. You take it any way- -

JR: Ok.

RW: - - you want to.

JR: Where did you go to, a, to middle school?

RW: Middle school?

JR: Yeah.

RW: Middle school I’m not familiar with that term. I finished high school in Rocky Mount.

JR: Yeah grades one through six, grades one through six.

RW: Grades one through six in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

JR: Ok.

RW: All of my, I went from my, my grammar school, my junior school, my high school, all of that was in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

JR: All in Rocky Mount. Ok.

RW: And, the schools at that time were segregated.

JR: Yeah.

RW: I went to a school called Booker T. Washington High School, after Booker T. Washington, the black educator,- -

JR: Yeah.

RW: - - in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. From there I went to Johnson C. Smith University and I was at Johnson C. Smith University almost a year before I was drafted. And, I went to Raleigh to be drafted into the services. They said they were going to stamp it and send me to Fort Bragg. I asked for the Marine Corps and they sent me to Camp Lejune, said “Welcome to hell”. That’s what they said, one of the, one of the recruiters said that.

JR: Wow.

RW: And, it was. See because at that time they had, I imagine, less than 1,000 black Marines at that time. I believe they had less than 1,000 black Marines. But, I wasn’t in that first bunch of Marines down there, you see. But, I was in the early 1,000 there. And, from Lejune we were shipped to San Diego- -

JR: Ok.

RW: - - for advanced training at Pendleton. And, from Pendleton- -

JR: And from Pendleton you would go out.

RW: In San Diego.

JR: Ok.

RW: Camp Pendleton.

JR: Ok.

RW: In San Diego and from San Diego we were shipped to Guarakanao, in the Pacific. And by the way, we were shelled. The ship was shelled on our way to Guarakanao. I volunteered, just like I said, a lot of people don’t know this story, but I volunteered to be, this is interesting but don’t talk about it much, I volunteered to be on the 20 millimeter guns. Let me tell you why. The two cells, they call them mess boys, that’s what they called them, LST-4701. They called them mess boys, just like say. And, every morning at day break we would have general quarters when they would go to the guns. And I say, so I’m just standing there watching that 20 millimeter gun. I had been reading about guns and ammunition all weeks you see, and they didn’t have anybody on the wheel. The one black seaman was the a, was the gunner.- -

JR: Um-hum.

RW: The other one on the other side of the 20 millimeter was the loader. They didn’t have a wheelman, so I became a wheelman on that 20 millimeter gun.- -

JR: Wow.

RW: - -Every time we had general quarters and every time we were alerted when somebody thought they saw a sub out there in the waters that would sink us or something like that. And, that was an experience that I have never forgotten, just like I say.

JR: You were, you were born, said in 1925.

RW: Born in August 11, 1925.

JR: You, when Brown vs. Board of Education came across, what, what, what were you, where were you, and what were you doing? And, when, when they desegregated the schools what is, and when- -

RW: I was in Charlotte when they did that. I was in Charlotte, North Carolina when they desegregated the schools. It was like they played with it for a while.

JR: Yeah.

RW: I can tell you what I think about it. What I thought about it was long overdue,- -

JR: Yeah.

RW: - - you see. And, it caused quite a stir among the races because it meant that the blacks and whites would be in the same schools. Like I say, well they should have been in the best schools all along ‘cause some of the black schools did not have some of the things that were in some of the white schools. They can say all they, can say all they want to about that, but they don’t know.

JR: Yeah, on paper they said they did- -
.
RW: They did not, they did not. Well for example, maps. For example, gymnasiums. For example business and corporate place, they did not have all that. They can say that all they want to. I’ve never forgotten that, just like I say now, and I never will. I never will. But so far as going out trying to shoot somebody or get somebody for that, no. What I do now is I concentrate on helping my people- -

JR: Um-hum.

RW: - - to see what has happened and that if you be cool and calm and collected about it you can whip them while they are stern in their, what I call consciousness.

JR: Yeah.

RW: But now, my philosophy was all, at the time, like I say, was what they used to say, we ain’t going to let nobody turn us around. That was the philosophy,- -

JR: Yeah.

RW: - - keep forward, don’t turn around. We look around to see if anybody throwing a brick, we marched on Montgomery, I never will forget, just like I said, that they were standing there taunting us, just taunting us, just taunting us like I said. But, we marched just the same. King led the march, by the way.- -

JR: Yeah, yeah.

RW: - - José Williams, at that time I was in the march, he was a Presbyterian elder. Abernathy made a Baptist preacher out of him later on in Atlanta, just like I say. But, he was a Presbyterian elder at the time. And, I worked with that group when I was doing my doctoral degree at Emory. When I say I worked with them, I attended meetings and I also learned to listen to how they would map out everything before they would take to the streets. A lot of people think they just jumped out there and started. They had meetings and stuff.

JR: It was planned.

RW: Yeah they had plans on that. Yes sir. And, I learned, I learned that that was the way to do it, just like I say. And, those who showed up that night for the meeting, about 85 to 90 percent would show up for the marches, you see.- -

JR: Wow.

RW: - - That was, that was, that took a little time for it to develop but it did. I never will forget that, just like I say. And, when I was a student at Union Seminary in New York, just like I say--I did my doctorate at Emory, but I did my MA at Union Seminary at Columbia University in New York. By the way, that’s as you know, near Harlem.

JR: Yeah, um-hum.

RW: I would work in the kitchen, washing the dishes and just as soon as I finished working in the kitchen washing dishes I would run, not run, well run sometime or walk down to 125th street and Broadway, right there where that Woolworth is, and I would sit- in at the Woolworth store. And, most of the students who took part in that were whites. Because most of the students at Union were whites, a good group of blacks, but most of them were whites. And we did that, oh at least five days a week, just like I say.

JR: Wow, five days.

RW: Yeah, yeah. I’d just run down there after I- - now, I didn’t stay down there but about 35, 40 minutes, but I did go down there almost every day. Woolworth,- -

JR: Yeah.

RW: - - you see. And, then here in Charlotte on Tryon Street, I think we had to close that Woolworth down. They had a Woolworth and a Kress’s. I sat in down, just like that. I noticed that people would watch me. Just like I see blacks and whites and I say well they never did try to make me get up- -

JR: Yeah.

RW: - - down there at this Woolworth here, and the one in New York, like I say. But, you did get some stares from whites and a few stares from blacks. But, most of the time, you watch them behind those stares, there was a smile when they think you see it, but like I say they were glad we were doing what we did. I felt that way,- -

JR: Yeah.

RW: - -you see. And it was right. Because like I say, because if you want to buy a cup of coffee what the devil, why can’t you just buy a cup of coffee, or a sandwich? Why do you have to stand up, and why do you have to, why can’t you sit down just like the other human, other human beings. And, I, I, I, I, I couldn’t see the logic in that segregation and I didn’t believe in and I fought it, just like I say. But I was never one, just like I said, to say let’s shoot our way through stuff.- -

JR: Yeah, yeah.

RW: - -Now, the Black Panthers and I got along fine just like I say. In fact they--what’s his name being shot, do you remember? If I could think of his name you would know it just like that see. He was well known in North Carolina in the Black Panthers just like that see. Sister taught at Johnson C. Smith, just like that see. It’ll come to me in a few minutes. Huh? Oh yeah he was a Blank Panther like I say. His name is right on the tip of my tongue, but it won’t come to me. But it’ll probably come to me before we finish. Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy.

JR: I’ve always been interested--.

RW: Ben Chavis.

JR: Benjamin Chavis.

GD: [laughter].

RW: Oh yeah. Don’t get me- - Oh no, oh no! Ben Chavis. His sister taught English at Smith.

JR: Ok.

RW: Yeah, Ben Chavis, he’s from Raleigh, North Carolina. Yeah, big old Chavis family, they were well known. Yes Sir, Ben Chavis. Yes indeed. Lord have mercy. Then we, I didn’t get him here, I think it was Hawkins that had something to do with Julius Chambers the lawyer.

JR: Ok.

RW: Coming here like I say, and boy that was something, when they had Chambers here and Chavis, just like I say, and Reginald Hawkins, just like I say. We had a meeting, oh every week, and sometimes during the week, just like I say. It was a campaign that I had never forgotten just like said, and it is one that should be going on now for certain causes.- -

JR: Yeah, yeah.

RW: Yes indeed. But, there was one thing that we had vowed not to do, that was real tough for the Panthers, except we said we will not start any battles you see, but we will defend ourselves, --

JR: Yeah.

RW: - - you see. We just not going to (inaudible) just go down and die. And that was, that was something just like I say. And people would ride by the square, they called it downtown, and see us marching down around Kress’s and all downtown, just like say. And the truth of the matter is, some of them who would look at us marching just like I say, of course some of them probably took part in the rights by making contributions, doing other things, but I could tell, just like I say, that they were, I think they were glad that we were doing what we were doing.

JR: Yeah.

RW: I think they were, just like I say. And, early and then, just like I say, some would wave, just like I say, and then after weeks and weeks and weeks passed by and months and months passed by they would throw up their peace sign,- -

JR: Yeah.

RW: - - blacks, just like I say. Some of them blacks that did it, they didn’t march with us now, (inaudible) but they were for what we were doing, just like I say.

JR: Yeah, yeah.

RW: Yes in deed, I could tell. And some whites!

JR: Would throw up the sign?

RW: Some whites, some whites were for what we were doing! Yes they were.- -

JR: Wow.

RW: - - Some whites were for what we were doing. All we wanted to do was enjoy the rights that all Americans enjoyed! That’s all we wanted to do.- -

JR: That’s it.

RW: You see. That’s all we wanted to do, just like I said. Wasn’t a thing about fooling around with somebody’s--what is it, a daughter or sister or wife or something like that and that kind of mess. (inaudible), they did what when slavery.- -

JR: Yeah.

RW: You see we had, let me tell you something. We had enough light people in our race to pass for white anytime they got ready, that’s why we got to find out what’s going on (inaudible). You see slavery did that.- -

GD: [laughter]

RW: - - My granddaughter laughing at me, I’m telling the truth. I know what I’m talking about.

JR: Yeah.

RW: And the reason I know what I’m talking about, just like I say, is because I had students at Union and students at Johnson C. Smith who were light enough to pass for white and they told me about their background.- -

JR: Wow.

RW: - -Especially some of those, I won’t say North Carolina, but I put it on South Carolina.

JR: [laughter]

RW: Yes indeed, like I say. But I never have believed in what I call promiscuity. Messing with somebody because of their race, or just messing with somebody because she’s a female or something like that. Black, white, brown or anything. I always thought that every human being should have dignity. And, as my professor Dr. Steele, who earned his PhD at the University of Chicago, I earned my doctorate at Emory, just like he said the black, the white, the brown, and all the shades in between are children of God. I’ve never forgotten that.

JR: Yeah.

RW: And I will live that until the day I die.

JR: Well, I always find it interesting, because you’re a veteran.

RW: I’m a veteran.

JR: You’re a veteran of World War II.

RW: I’m a veteran of World War II in the Marine Corps.

JR: You, you, you--.

RW: I’m a veteran.

JR: You were faced with such adversity here at home- -

RW: Um-hum.

JR: - - and yet you would still go out and defend the country.- -

RW: Um-hum, um-hum.

JR: - - I always found that the, the, the- -

RW: Um-hum.

JR: - - black, black soldiers of World War II especially and in - -

RW: Um-hum.

JR: - - Vietnam, but in World War II you guys had to find something deep down inside to want to go and fight.- -

RW: Well- -

JR: - - Somebody else to defend something that wasn’t supposedly, you know that wasn’t good here at home.

RW: Well, when the Japanese attacked at Pearl Harbor,- -

JR: Yeah.

RW: - - I thought that was wrong.

JR: Yeah.

RW: I thought it was wrong. I also thought, just like I say, that a part of this country--I didn’t go for the segregation, discrimination mess, just like I say, I didn’t like that at all, just like a say. But, I, I, I, I, and I didn’t know that the Marine Corps didn’t have any blacks in it, the Marine Corps. But, when I went to be inducted into the service in Raleigh, North Carolina, I was and Smith and then I was drafted and I went to Raleigh and the man said, like I said, I said I want to be a Marine, he said “What”? I said yes, he said “Well good luck in hell”. Stamp my papers [makes pounding noise] just like I say. And I became a Marine. And what a lot of people don’t know is that the highest decorated Marine in World War II was a good friend of mine, we were in the same squad just like I sai- -, which means we were in the same platoon, which means that I had Luther Woodard. Luther Woodard, on the island of Guam, Luther Woodard, I remember we went on bill black duty one day. When I say bill black, we were up above the city of Agama where all the Japanese and I guess Americans had ammunition up there too, like I say. So, they sent a squad up there, a squad of us up there--what was it about 9, 12 of us up there. And Luther Woodard, Luther Woodard, oh, I called him old country boy from down there in the lower part of, what is it Alabama, when Alabama and Mississippi and Louisiana, all them states merge down there,- -

JR: Yeah.

RW: - -I called, I used to tease Luther about that. He say “hm”. He was old, he looked like he was around about 34 and Luther was just in his late 20s.

JR: Yeah.

RW: He looked like, you ever see a guy that look like a old, old man.

JR: Yeah, yeah.

RW: And Luther was a dead shot. That man could shoot a rifle. He told me, he said “Worsley, what you doing, you’re jerking your trigger”. I knew I was doing something wrong. He said “you’re squeeze it”. And Luther, a lot of people never heard this story. Luther used to go out by himself, most of the time, like I say, and those stragglers, the Japanese- -

JR: Um-hum.

RW: - - they were stragglers,- -

JR: Um-hum.

RW: - -just like I say, the island was secured. It was secured, Germany was secured, but there were still a lot of Japanese that not, who had not been captured. Luther would go out, just like that, and hunt them down. So the first Marine division, evidently someone had heard about this. So, they sent a squad up there and Luther guided that squad, I guess maybe for about four or five hours, just like I say. And do you know that Luther was the highest decorated Marine in all of World War II?

JR: Wow.

RW: They gave him, the Bronze Star and the commander in general of the first Marine division said “hell no”, they gave him the Silver Star. That’s the second highest award that you can give in this country. The highest award is the Congressional Medal of Honor. That’s the highest award you can earn, and that’s my son.- -

JR: How do you do?

RW: The Congressional Medal of Honor. Luther was, Luther was given a Bronze Star, which is number three, and they dropped that and changed that and gave him, just like I say, the Silver Star. And that was a proud day for all of us ‘cause Luther, I don’t know whether Luther ever seen the inside of a college or not. I don’t know that. But Luth--that’s my son, but Luther if you ever go down to Louisiana or Texas down there, I’m going to look up Luther one of these days. You will meet a fellow who’s about your height, about my son’s height like I say, who would do a thing like that. You see him sitting down, he grunt. But he said he had been shooting rabbits for furs since he was seven or eight years old with his uncles and daddy. And I have never met a Marine, just like I say, who could shoot better than Luther, just like I say.

JR: Wow.

RW: And he won the Silver Star, just like I say. First, I told you it was a Bronze Star, just like I say, and that’s, that’s the kind of experience I’ve had in the, in, in, in the military. Oh yes, we were on Guam, just like I said, they had us up there where all this ammunition was to keep the enemy from getting to it, they talking about the island was secure. Secure nothing. They had stragglers. They had secured Germany but they had stragglers who were still there, just like I said, and some of them could be dangerous.

JR: Did they, did they, did they segregate within the Army--?

RW: In the Marine Corps, when I first went to the Marine Corps, I went to a place called Martha Point. Martha Point, oh you don’t know about that--.

JR: No, no, no.

RW: Eastern part of North Carolina, down near Jacksonville,- -

JR: You see.

RW: - - you see. And, Martha Point was a segregated compartment of the Marine Corps, you see. We had black sergeants, we had a few white sergeants, but, and all our officers were white, just like I say. But, when we received, when we were told that we were going to receive some advanced training that was in California, Camp Pendleton, up in San Diego- -

JR: Yeah.

RW: - - that was a more integrated place than Camp Lejeune. Camp Pendleton in San Diego, California, just like that. It was so integrated, just like I say, that I had sense enough to stay on the base and not go into to town to try to fool with those sailors’ girls. The biggest, sorry, the biggest doggone on fights you ever heard of was when- -

GD: [laughter]

RW: - - them sailors, it was a sailor’s town. San Diego, San Diego?- -

JR: Um-hum.

RW: - -on the coast. It was a sailor’s town, - -

JR: Um-hum.

RW: - - you see. And the Marines were going to take over like that. They said “uh-uh, not from no sailors”. (inaudible). They jumped on those fellows, all they could catch, just like I say, and it was just what I call rough housing with each other, just like I say.

JR: Ok.

RW: But, that Camp Pendleton is a fine base. I would say I got more training at Camp Pendleton than I got, I mean Camp Pendleton than I did at Lejeune, - -

JR: Ok.

RW: - - like I say. And, then they prepared us for overseas stuff. The shots and different things about the weather and telling us all of that, like I say. And then we were on the US Merrimac, I had all that, all that I had on a, on a, on a sheet here, right up on that, right up on that, on that, on that--.

GD: (inaudible)

RW: Yeah- - sheet, all of that is right up on the sheet right there. Yes sir, it’s here. Now, somebody moved it.

GD: [speaking too softly] (inaudible)

RW: Yeah it’s here. And, I tell you, just like I say, I’ve never forgotten my experiences in the Marine Corps. And I tell you something else just like I say, I would, I would, I would join the Marines again if I, if I were young enough and if I were called, if our country was called, was called to duty, just like I say. I don’t know why, but ever since I was a little boy, I played in the band in high school and I played football I used to hear that song, that Marine [hums tune].

JR: Yeah.

RW: I think that music got me. [laughs] Now, I can answer any more questions you got in mind.

JR: Oh yeah, yeah. Ok, member, were you ever a member of the NAACP?

RW: I’m a life member of the NAACP.

JR: Life memb- -ok, ok. Life member of the NAACP?

RW: Yes, I’m a life member of the NAACP.

JR: Ok.

RW: Wait a minute now, I don’t know if this being recorded or not but, I’m a life member of the NAACP. I’ve got a letter now saying, this is just a little fun, ok?

JR: Ok.

GD: [laughing]

RW: It said to be a silver life member, or gold life member, I said wait a minute I’m already a life member. [laughing]. Same thing with Kappa, I’m a member of Kappa fraternity.

JR: Yeah.

RW: I’m a life member of Kappa.- -

JR: Ok.

RW: - -Now, they’re talking about a gold member or silver member, gold life member, I thought I was a life member. When I joined NAACP for the life member it was 500 dollars.

JR: Uh-huh.

RW: Now, you can’t tell me that gold stuff is not going to be 600 or 700.

JR: Oh yeah.

RW: I understand what they’re doing. They’re trying to build up their treasury- -

JR: That’s it.

RW: - - so they can build up their output for work. I understand that.- -

JR: Yeah, yeah.

RW: - -I’m just teasing them.

JR: Yeah, yeah, I hear you. Ok. Well, what were some of your more memorable roles or experiences in the NAACP? You know, aside from marching with Dr. King?

RW: In the NAACP some of my most memorable experiences was when we marched on Apartheid in Washington, DC.

JR: Ok.

RW: And there were three white, three, three—I’m sorry. There were three people from Chapel Hill, and I, I’m from Charlotte, I joined them because it was hidden by what was called the Southern Presbyterian Church. I belonged to the Northern Presbyterian Church even though I lived in the south.

JR: Yeah.

RW: So, I was arrested along with them. All of this was voluntarily. We, we, we knew before we stood on Apartheid. It was South Africa,- -

JR: Um-hum.

RW: - - the South African Embassy.- -

JR: Um-hum.

RW: - -We knew that if you stood there they were going to ask you to move and if you didn’t move you were going to be arrested.

JR: Yeah.

RW: So, I was arrested along with those three people from Chapel Hill. A white couple and a black fellow, just like I said, and the bond was 20 dollars. I had 23, I call them sliver dollars, but they were Susan B. Anthony dollars, I don’t know if you remember the Susan B. Anthony dollars?

JR: No I don’t remember those.

RW: Well, you’ve seen the gold dollar?

JR: Yeah.

RW: Well, this was a silver dollar with Susan B. Anthony, one of the ladies who was in this, she’s in history as being, what I believe the first woman to do something. Susan B. Anthony.

GD: A women’s rights activist.

RW: A women’s rights activist, like I say you see. And, then from, from, we, we, we were arrested in Washington, DC, but I had first cousins in Washington, DC, and there were friends in Washington, DC from my home town, but I didn’t know anything about getting around in Washington or calling them. So I drove back to Richmond, Virginia where I had used my Gupp Card to get a room at the Holiday Inn, just like I say, on Parham Rd. P-A-R-H-A-M,- -

JR: Yeah.

RW: - - outside of Richmond, - -

JR: Um-hum.

RW: - - And I went back there and just, just, I thought I was going to just, just look at TV awhile, but I just fell asleep. But I had a caller call me, and they called me at four o’clock. I got up and drove back to Washington for the trial. When we got to Washington for the trial, just like I say, there were two black fellows who were our attorneys and they were from Harvard. And, I didn’t have to say a thing.

JR: Yeah.

RW: They threw it out, they said, it was thrown out of court.

JR: Exactly, yeah.

RW: But, I was so joyous. And I was glad to see those fellows, like I said, but there were two black fellows from Harvard, they were Harvard grads, just like I said.

JR: Ok.

RW: And then I went back to, drove back to Richmond, just like I said, and just chill out until my what, my credit card had expired for that day.- -

JR: Um-hum.

RW: - - Then I drove back to Charlotte, North Carolina, just as glad as I could be.

JR: Yeah, yeah.

RW: Tired, worn out, just like I say- -

JR: You just wanted to lay down.

RW: Yeah. I mean, I was yeah, I mean I was tired worn out, just like I said. And all doing this what I call movement I had some nervousness in me, like all of us had, but somehow it didn’t stop me. Somehow it was there but somehow it was motivating instead of de-motivating for some reason. But, it was there, just like I say. Some kind of tremors, I guess all human beings are like that, you see.

JR: Yeah.

RW: The unknown, just like I say.

JR: That’s what makes us human.

RW: Yes sir. And, then when I marched with King and Abernathy on Montgomery, just like I say, that was something. Hooting and ratting at us just like I say, Lord have mercy, just like say. But, I know Bayview 6 on television where those boys from Selma,- -

JR: Um-hum.

RW: - - marched on Selma to Montgomery, they were there to march.

JR: Yeah.

RW: You see, just like I say. And the rest of us was right behind them, King and the rest of them, just like I say. I never will forget that when we marched on Montgomery. King spoke- -

JR: Yeah.

RW: - - on the capital of Montgomery, just like I say. I have never forgotten that, just like I say, and I have never forgotten how they had to be both Christians and racists because some of them were cheering us on standing there, and a lot of them, just like I say, were booing at us, just like I say, because we marched on Montgomery. We marched, just like I say. By the way, Reverend Hood, who is a professor at Smith, along with me, he was the one who, Swann, Swann versus Mecklenburg,- -

JR: Ok.

RW: - - Mecklenburg.- -

JR: Yeah, yeah.

RW: - -Swann is in--.

JR: Yeah, I read about it.

RW: You read about Swann?

JR: Yeah.

RW: Swann is (inaudible).

JR: Oh really.

RW: He called me the other night.

JR: Ok.

RW: Yeah, yeah.

JR: Alright, alright.

RW: Swann was instrumental in getting the money for the buses, for the bus trip to Montgomery, just like I say. By the way he’s from, born in Virginia.- -

JR: Ok.

RW: - - That’s his home state, Virginia, like I say. He is, I told you in Cheraw, South Carolina he’s married, real poor, just like I say. I talked to Swann--when was it, not too long ago, by phone. He’s trying to come to Charlotte. We’re trying to go out to lunch and talk, like I say. He was, he, he is --by the way, I earned my doctorate at Emory. Swann earned his PhD at a University of Hawaii. He’s good in language you see.

GD: [says something softly in the background]

RW: Oh yes, Swann is a smart fellow. Swann versus Mecklenburg.

JR: Yeah, yeah.

RW: You heard about that?

JR: Yeah.

RW: That’s what Swann was in. Yeah, he’s coming to Charlotte in a couple of weeks and we’ll go out to lunch, just like I say.

JR: Wow.

RW: Yeah, you should meet him. Boy I tell you, you will never forget him.

JR: I bet.

RW: You will never forget him. Anymore questions on anything you have- -

JR: Yeah, I mean, just. North Carolina as a whole, as a state, ‘cause I know you’ve traveled all over the state. How, how, what, what, what have you seen as some of the most important changes? I mean as far as, as far as relations between black people and everybody else. I say everybody else because you know, I mean- -

RW: What I’ve seen- -

JR: Today.

RW: Today I’d say, one of the things I’ve seen is that places open to the white public are now open to all members of the public, black and white. Especially cafeterias and restaurants and things like that. Even these little by-way places on the highway.- -

JR: Um-hum.

RW: - -That’s, I’ve seen that. Number two, I’ve seen more, what I call it, what they say, blue collar and white collar jobs and, like I say, and dirty collar jobs for blacks. I’ve seen that change some in, in North Carolina. When blacks, or in, a lot of jobs, employment that I didn’t see when I was growing up.- -

JR: Yeah.

RW: - -For example, I’ve seen, I’ve seen principals of schools that are integrated now and some of them are black, you see. When I was a boy, just like I say, there was no such thing as that.

JR: Yeah.

RW: And see when I went to Smith, as a freshman, there was no such thing as that and so I didn’t never, I didn’t see that when I was a freshman at Smith. But now I see that in my hometown and in other towns in North Carolina, I say. And, that I can appreciate. I do not see as much political, what I call growth, as I would like to see.- -

JR: That was my next question.

RW: - -Now, you do have some in North Carolina, you have some council [tape ends].

END OF INTERVIEW
App. 44 min.

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