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The Honorable James R. Spencer

Judge James R. Spencer was born on March 25, 1949 in Florence, South Carolina. He was among the first in his family to attend college, enrolling at Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia in 1967. He graduated magna cum laude in 1971, and went on to study at Harvard Law School, where he obtained his J.D. degree in 1974. The following year, Spencer graduated in the top five percent of his class at the Judge Advocate General’s School at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia. Spencer later studied at the Howard University School of Divinity, graduating in 1985.

Spencer’s interest in law began in 1967, while working under civil rights activist Marian Wright Edelman at her public interest law firm, the Washington Research Project. Upon graduating from Harvard Law School, he worked as a staff attorney with the Atlanta Legal Aid Society. He went on to serve as a prosecutor, and then as chief of justice, with the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps from 1975 to 1978. From there, Spencer became an assistant attorney general, serving the U.S. Attorney’s Office of District of Columbia. He was the first African American attorney assigned to the office’s Major Crimes Division. In 1983, he moved to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Virginia, where he remained until 1986 when he was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as the first African American district court judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. From 1987 to 1996, Spencer also served as an adjunct professor of law at the University of Virginia. In 2004, Spencer was appointed as chief justice of the district, serving until 2011. In 2014, Spencer assumed the rank of senior judge. He presided over a number of high-profile cases over the course of his career, including the 2006 patent infringement suit between Research In Motion, the maker of BlackBerry devices, and the patent holding company NTP, Inc.; and the 2014 corruption trial of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.

Spencer was a member of numerous professional, civic and fraternal organizations, including the State Bar of Georgia, the District of Columbia Bar, the Virginia State Bar, the National Bar Association, the Old Dominion Bar Association, and the Federal Bar Association, Big Brothers of America, the NAACP, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Alpha Kappa Mu, Sigma Pi Phi, and Phi Beta Kappa. Spencer also earned a black belt and was a member of the U.S. Karate Association. He served as associate pastor of the 3rd Union Baptist Church in King William, Virginia.

Judge James R. Spencer was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 8, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.132

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/8/2016

Last Name

Spencer

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

R.

Schools

Clark Atlanta University

Harvard Law School

Howard University School of Divinity

Carver Elementary Magnet School

Wilson High School

Wilson Junior High School

First Name

James

Birth City, State, Country

Florence

HM ID

SPE64

Favorite Season

Fall

State

South Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Nassau

Favorite Quote

I Was Young But Now I'm Old But I Have Never Seen The Righteous Forsaken.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Virginia

Birth Date

3/25/1949

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Richmond

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Rib Eye With Grits

Short Description

Judge James R. Spencer (1949 - ) worked for civil rights activist Marian Wright Edelman at the Washington Research Project, and was the first African American federal district court judge in the Eastern District of Virginia.

Employment

Washington Research Project

Atlanta Legal Aid Society

U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps

District of Columbia

Eastern District of Virginia

University of Virginia

Favorite Color

Blue

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable James R. Spencer's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - The Honorable James R. Spencer lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - The Honorable James R. Spencer describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable James R. Spencer describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable James R. Spencer talks about his father's military service

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable James R. Spencer describes how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable James R. Spencer lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable James R. Spencer describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers his early neighborhood in Florence, South Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - The Honorable James R. Spencer describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers segregation in Florence, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers an early case in his judicial career

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable James R. Spencer recalls working as a caddy at Florence Country Club in Florence, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers a racist encounter at a movie theater

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable James R. Spencer talks about his education at Carver Elementary School in Florence, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers a discouraging teacher

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable James R. Spencer recalls reading Jet Magazine as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers an early glimpse into the legal profession

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - The Honorable James R. Spencer talks about the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers attending Center Baptist Church in Florence, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - The Honorable James R. Spencer recalls the school system in Florence, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - The Honorable James R. Spencer talks about his activities at Wilson High School in Florence, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers playing music with his brother and cousin

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers the social gatherings of his youth

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - The Honorable James R. Spencer recalls his decision to attend Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - The Honorable James R. Spencer talks about classism in the South

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - The Honorable James R. Spencer recalls the congregation's support of his educational endeavors

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers his father's death

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - The Honorable James R. Spencer recalls his summer jobs

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers his early influences at Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - The Honorable James R. Spencer recalls learning about African American history at Wilson High School

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers meeting Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - The Honorable James R. Spencer talks about his summer internship with the Washington Research Project in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers his professors at Clark College

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers his mentors at Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - The Honorable James R. Spencer recalls his decision to attend Harvard Law School

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - The Honorable James R. Spencer describes his first year at Harvard Law School

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers his classmates and professors at Harvard Law School

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - The Honorable James R. Spencer recalls his work experiences at Harvard Law School

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - The Honorable James R. Spencer talks about passing the bar exam

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - The Honorable James R. Spencer describes his experiences in Judge Advocate General's Corps

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - The Honorable James R. Spencer talks about his family

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - The Honorable James R. Spencer recalls being hired as an assistant United States attorney

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - The Honorable James R. Spencer describes his experiences as assistant district attorney

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - The Honorable James R. Spencer recalls attending Howard University School of Divinity

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers his appointment as a federal judge

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - The Honorable James R. Spencer describes the work of a federal judge

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - The Honorable James R. Spencer recalls meeting Oliver W. Hill

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - The Honorable James R. Spencer reflects upon his role as a federal judge

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers the patent case, NTP, Inc. v. Research in Motion, Ltd., pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers the patent case, NTP, Inc. v. Research in Motion, Ltd., pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - The Honorable James R. Spencer recalls his efforts to improve diversity in government positions in Richmond, Virginia

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - The Honorable James R. Spencer recalls becoming chief judge

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - The Honorable James R. Spencer remembers the Kemba Smith case

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - The Honorable James R. Spencer talks about discriminatory drug laws

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - The Honorable James R. Spencer talks about his involvement with police brutality cases

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - The Honorable James R. Spencer describes his role as senior judge

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - The Honorable James R. Spencer shares his judicial philosophy

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - The Honorable James R. Spencer reflects upon his life

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - The Honorable James R. Spencer talks about his children's accomplishments

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - The Honorable James R. Spencer describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - The Honorable James R. Spencer describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - The Honorable James R. Spencer narrates his photographs

Harry Carson

Football player Harry Carson was born on November 26, 1953 in Florence, South Carolina to Gladys Carson and Edgar Carson, Sr. He began playing football as a defensive end during his sophomore year at Wilson High School in Florence, where he also joined the Air Force Junior ROTC. In 1969, Carson transferred to the integrated McClenaghan High School, where he became a starting defensive end. Carson attended South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, South Carolina, where he was a four-year starter as a defensive lineman under Coach Willie Jeffries. Carson played a role in setting a college football record for the fewest points allowed in 1974. He graduated with his B.S. degree in education in 1976.

Carson was drafted by the New York Giants in the fourth round of the 1976 NFL draft. Under the tutelage of defensive coordinator Marty Schottenheimer, Carson was trained to play middle linebacker. He was named to the NFL’s All-Rookie Team in 1976, and selected to play in the Pro Bowl in 1978, the first of nine in his career. Under Bill Parcells, who became head coach in 1983, the Giants improved, making the playoffs in 1984 and 1985. During the 1986 season, the Giants led the league with a 14-2 record, and Carson served as team captain for the team during the Super Bowl XXI victory in 1987 against the Denver Broncos. Carson led the team in tackles for five years, and served as captain for ten years. He retired from professional football in 1988.

Carson was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome in 1990, due to the head trauma sustained during his NFL career. He became a leading voice in speaking out for the rights and proper care of retired NFL players who suffer from diseases such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). He released his autobiography, Captain for Life in 2011, and appeared in the documentary League of Denial: The NFL's Concussion Crisis in 2013. He was also active in healthcare organizations like Meridian Neuroscience Health System Inc., the Congress of Neurological Surgeons, and the Aplastic Anemia Foundation. Carson was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.

Harry Carson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 1, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.015

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/1/2016

Last Name

Carson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Schools

Holmes Elementary School

Wilson High School

McClenaghan High School

South Carolina State University

First Name

Harry

Birth City, State, Country

Florence

HM ID

CAR33

Favorite Season

Spring

State

South Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hawaii, Antigua

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

11/26/1953

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken, Potato Salad

Short Description

Football player Harry Carson (1953 - ) played for the New York Giants for thirteen years. A nine time Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion, he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006.

Employment

New York Giants

CNN

MSG

ABC

Fritz-Pollard Alliance

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Harry Carson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Harry Carson lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Harry Carson describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Harry Carson describes his mother's career

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Harry Carson lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Harry Carson describes his relationship with his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Harry Carson describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Harry Carson recalls the impact of his mother's move to Newark, New Jersey

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Harry Carson remembers the lack of opportunity for African Americans in South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Harry Carson remembers his parents' marriage

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Harry Carson describes his relationship with his father

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Harry Carson describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Harry Carson remembers Holmes Elementary School in Florence, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Harry Carson describes Wilson Junior High School in Florence, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Harry Carson describes his activities at Wilson High School in Florence, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Harry Carson recalls playing football at the Florence Boys Club of America

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Harry Carson recalls joining the football team at Wilson High School

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Harry Carson recalls his admiration of professional football players

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Harry Carson remembers playing football at Wilson High School

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Harry Carson recalls transferring to McClenaghan High School in Florence, South Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Harry Carson remembers racial discrimination in Florence, South Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Harry Carson describes his experiences at McClenaghan High School

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Harry Carson recalls the integrated football team at McClenaghan High School

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Harry Carson recalls leading a boycott of football practice at McClenaghan High School

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Harry Carson remembers his high school girlfriend

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Harry Carson recalls quitting the football team at McClenaghan High School

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Harry Carson recalls his decision to attend South Carolina State College in Orangeburg, South Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Harry Carson recalls playing for Coach Willie Jeffries

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Harry Carson recalls his football teammates at South Carolina State College

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Harry Carson describes the defensive prowess of his college team

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Harry Carson describes his academic accomplishments at South Carolina State College

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Harry Carson recalls being scouted by the National Football League

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Harry Carson recalls being drafted by the New York Giants

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Harry Carson describes his transition to middle linebacker

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Harry Carson recalls his first National Football League training camp

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Harry Carson recalls his rookie season with the New York Giants

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Harry Carson describes the traits of a successful football player

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Harry Carson talks about his rookie contract with the New York Giants

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Harry Carson describes the birth of his daughter, Aja Carson-Gurley

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Harry Carson remembers becoming a Pro Bowl linebacker

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Harry Carson remembers his influences as a middle linebacker

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Harry Carson recalls playing against the Pittsburgh Steelers

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Harry Carson talks about amphetamine use in the National Football League

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Harry Carson remembers middle linebacker Willie Lanier

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Harry Carson recalls his knee injury

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Harry Carson recalls his clinical depression

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Harry Carson remembers his New York Giants teammate Lawrence Taylor

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Harry Carson remembers the 1982 National Football League season

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Harry Carson remembers John Riggins of the Washington Redskins

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Harry Carson recalls the death of his former teammate, Doug Kotar

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Harry Carson describes the severe injuries in the National Football League

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Harry Carson recalls playing for Coach Bill Parcells on the New York Giants

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Harry Carson remembers suffering from post-concussion syndrome

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Harry Carson describes his offseason job at Grumman Aerospace Corporation

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Harry Carson recalls a play against the San Francisco 49ers

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Harry Carson remembers creating the Gatorade shower tradition

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Harry Carson recalls the New York Giants' dinners at Beefsteak Charlie's

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Harry Carson remembers qualifying for Super Bowl XXI

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Harry Carson recalls winning Super Bowl XXI with the New York Giants

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Harry Carson remembers the season after his Super Bowl championship

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Harry Carson remembers being involved in a drug testing controversy

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Harry Carson reflects upon his relationship with Coach Bill Parcells

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Harry Carson recalls becoming a football commentator

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Harry Carson reflects upon his relationship with the New York Giants

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Harry Carson remembers his rejection from the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Harry Carson recalls learning about chronic traumatic encephalopathy

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Harry Carson talks about former football players with brain trauma

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Harry Carson describes the National Football League's response to traumatic brain injuries

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Harry Carson talks about raising awareness of traumatic brain injuries in football

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Harry Carson reflects upon the future of the National Football League

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Harry Carson reflects upon his election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Harry Carson describes his hopes for the African American community

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Harry Carson talks about his family

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Harry Carson describes his work with the Fritz Pollard Alliance

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Harry Carson reflects upon his legacy and how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Harry Carson narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Harry Carson narrates his photographs, pt. 2

DASession

1$1

DATape

7$8

DAStory

9$2

DATitle
Harry Carson remembers creating the Gatorade shower tradition
Harry Carson remembers qualifying for Super Bowl XXI
Transcript
Eighty-five [1985], the Giants [New York Giants] are, under Bill Parcells, are getting better. They're winning games and one of your teammates, Jim Burt, the nose tackle, invents a new way to celebrate.$$I don't know if he invented it. We've gotten some pushback from the Chicago Bears, and they said that they invented it. But, I think it was a Monday when Parcells--we had just won a game and Parcells went to Jim Burt and he said, "You know, that Jeff Bostic, you better watch him, Jim. You know, he's going to have you for lunch." And Parcells is the master manipulator and he just kept riding Jim Burt all during the course of the week. And, you know, Jim is getting himself ready to play, we go into the game, and he keeps asking me, "Is everything okay?" 'Cause he's my protector, you know, with the center. Is, you know, "Is the guy getting off on you?" I said, "No, everything is good, Jim." So, he's playing his rear end off, and so as the game is winding down, Jim comes to me and he says, "You know, that Parcells is such a prick." And he said, "Oh, he makes me mad. We should get him with something." I said, "What do you mean, we should get him?" He said, "You know, you're Parcells' boy. You know, he loves you. I'm just the guy who if I do something to him, you know, he's gonna have my ass." I said, "Well, Jim, what do you think you want to do?" He said, "Let's get him with the Gatorade." And I said, "The Gatorade?" He said, "Yeah, let's douse him with the Gatorade." And so he said, you know, "I just want to get him." I said, "Jim, I'll do it with you." He said, you know, "He won't bother you but, you know, he might say something to me." And so as time was winding down, I said, "Don't do anything until he takes his headset off because I don't want him to be electrocuted just in case." And so as time was winding down, you know, we're behind him and he takes his headset off, and then we get him with the Gatorade. And so when we got him, nobody really saw it because, you know, it was a one-time thing, it was in the '85 [1985] season and, you know, that was it. And so we sort of moved on. But that was the one time that it happened during the eighty--'85 [1985] season for us. Now, if you ask the Bears, they would say that they did it maybe a year or two prior to that on Ditka [Mike Ditka] (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) I don't remember. You know, I--$$Yeah.$$I was in Chicago [Illinois] then. I watched the Bears on Sunday.$$Yeah.$$I don't remember--I think Parcells was the first coach I saw doused.$$Yeah.$$Now, they may--maybe they're right.$$Yeah.$$But, I remember Parcells--$$Yeah.$$--you know.$$Well, I'm not gonna argue with them--$$Yeah.$$--because, you know, it doesn't make any difference between who did it. But the point that you're getting to is, we did it all through the '86 [1986] season, and it really started because we--obviously, we lost to the Bears in the playoffs, and it was a painful experience and everybody thought--you know, we all thought that we were better than the Bears, but we just didn't bring it and we didn't show it on the field. And so, we came back to training camp and we were all committed. We were all in, you know, in terms of getting to the Super Bowl the next year. And so, we had some issues with different players, contract situations and so forth. And so, starting the season off, we go to Dallas [Texas] and we lose to Dallas [Dallas Cowboys] in Dallas. And then we started getting hate mail from some fans who said that we'll never amount to anything because we got too many niggers on the team and the white guys are no different, they're a bunch of jerkoffs and blah, blah. So, it was somebody who was--hated the team and then hated everybody on the team.$$But they sent the mail to you, right?$$Yeah, they sent the mail to me. And so the next game, we played the San Diego Chargers, and San Diego the previous week had just beaten the Miami Dolphins, like fifty-five to ten, something like that. And so we go into the game and we're playing and we wound up beating the Chargers at home. And so we were so overjoyed that we wanted to celebrate. And so I thought, get him with the Gatorade. We did it last year, let's get him with the Gatorade. And once I got him, and he was totally surprised 'cause he didn't think it was coming again, but once I got him, it became a routine because I had to keep--as long as we won, you had to keep doing it. And he's a (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Yeah, there's a superstition--$$He's a creature of habit--yeah.$$Yeah.$$I mean, if you do something one week and if it works, you have to keep doing it. And so it wasn't so much that I wanted to do it, I had to keep doing it because of the whole superstition thing with him.$You mentioned before, the Bears [Chicago Bears] won in '85 [1985], and you all were--you all had a great season in '86 [1986], and this is--so, you had been playing eleven years by this time? Is that--$$Yeah.$$Eleven years, right. And--well, tell us about the Super Bowl and--Super Bowl XXI, yeah.$$Well, you know, to--yeah, I can tell you about the Super Bowl but, you know, all of that season, we sort of knew that we were gonna go to the Super Bowl 'cause we knew what we had to do. We had that much confidence. And so we went through the whole football season. We lost the first game and then another game in Seattle [Seattle Seahawks] during the course of the year, and it was good for us to lose that game in Seattle 'cause it kept us on track and kept us focused. The remainder of the year, we beat people into submission, and we knew that in order for us to achieve our goal, we had to really play our best. And so I felt really bad for some of the teams that we played because we were really physical and we just beat the crap out of them physically. And then we made the playoffs, played San Francisco [San Francisco 49ers]. They had been our nemesis for a number of years. And then we played the Washington Redskins. Obviously, we had a relationship with Washington; that was the third game that we were playing them. But those games were at our place, and it was so important to have home field advantage. And then we won, became NFC [National Football Conference] champs, and then had to go to California to play in Super Bowl XXI. And that really was the fulfillment of a dream for all of us as players because we'd worked so hard to get to that point. And, you know, it was about making the most of that opportunity.$$This is at the Rose Bowl at Pasadena [California], right?$$Yeah, um-hm, at the Rose Bowl and, you know, you run into the stadium, you're being introduced, and for me, you know, there are a lot of things that are going through my mind, especially those early teams when the team wasn't very good and I'm thinking that I wish some of those players who were a part of those teams could be there. And in a way, I felt like we were representing all of those guys who had played over the years and never made it to the Super Bowl like Brad Van Pelt and Brian Kelley. So, it was exciting to run into the Rose Bowl and see a sea of blue and orange, and to see the blimps and the planes flying overhead with the banners and, you know, it's the biggest game that you could ever play in. And, I'm thinking that first day stepping on the football field and quitting, and I'm thinking about quitting in high school [McClenaghan High School, Florence, South Carolina], and I'm thinking about South Carolina State [South Carolina State College; South Carolina State University, Orangeburg, South Carolina], and here I am; I'm playing in the Super Bowl. So, you know, there are a multitude of things that are going through my mind as we take the field and it's--you know, people ask, "What does it feel like playing in the Super Bowl?" And I say, "It's like walking on the moon." You have to experience it to truly understand what it's all about. You can't, can't really describe it.$$There's so much enthusiasm. There's millions of television viewers. Everything that you do in the game is gonna be scrutinized. And you're playing the Denver Broncos, who were led by young John Elway, who had just defeated the Cleveland Browns again with a miracle play at the end of--'cause I'm a Browns fan. I know about it. The fumble this time instead of the drive.$$Yeah.$$But, here the Denver Broncos are in the Super Bowl.$$Well, you know, we knew Denver and we knew that they were a threat any time they stepped on the field. Elway had a strong arm and they had a really good running attack, they had a very good defense, and we had to rise to the occasion. Defensively, I felt like we could hang with them. Offensively, I wasn't quite sure. I didn't expect Phil Simms to have the game that he had (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) And he had one of his best games.$$Yeah, yeah.

Hannah H. Thomas

Civic activist and elementary school teacher Hannah H. Thomas was born in Florence, Alabama on December 25, 1916. The eighth of ten children, she is the daughter of Evernee Hubbard and Everett N. Hawkins. Thomas graduated from Burrell High School in Florence, Alabama in 1939 and earned her B.S. degree in education from Alabama A & M University in 1951. She later earned her M.S. degree in education from the University of Cincinnati in 1964.

Thomas taught school for more than ten years in Alabama, and was given a Teacher of the Year award in 1956 before she moved to Cincinnati in 1958. She taught in the public schools in Cincinnati for twenty-two years. Although officially retired from teaching, she continues working as an educator. She also founded Cincinnati’s African American Heritage Day and the Sojourner Truth Drama Group.

Thomas has received many awards and honors, including her selection as one of 200 Greater Cincinnatians during the bicentennial in 1988, a Cincinnati Enquirer Woman of the Year Award in 1992, and the Zeta Phi Beta, the Beta Zeta Zeta Chapter, Woman of the Year Award in 1998. Thomas is also listed in America’s Registry of Outstanding Professionals and Who’s Who in the World. She passed away on January 22, 2014.

Hannah H. Thomas was interviewed by The HistoryMakers March 15, 2005.

Accession Number

A2005.065

Sex

Female

Interview Date

3/15/2005

Last Name

Thomas

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

H.

Schools

Burrell-Slater High School

Alabama A&M University

University of Cincinnati

John F. Slater Elementary School

First Name

Hannah

Birth City, State, Country

Florence

HM ID

THO08

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

You Can Be Anything You Want To Be.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Ohio

Birth Date

12/25/1916

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Cincinnati

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken

Death Date

1/22/2014

Short Description

Civic activist and elementary school teacher Hannah H. Thomas (1916 - 2014 ) taught school in Cincinnati for twenty-two years and established the African American Heritage Day and the Sojourner Truth Drama group.

Employment

Laurderdale County Board of Education

Lincoln Heights Board of Education

Cincinnati Board of Education

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Hannah H. Thomas' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Hannah H. Thomas lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Hannah H. Thomas describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Hannah H. Thomas describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Hannah H. Thomas recalls her family's sharecropping

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Hannah H. Thomas lists her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Hannah H. Thomas describes her schools around Florence, Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Hannah H. Thomas describes the sights, sounds, and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Hannah H. Thomas remembers Florence, Alabama during the Great Depression

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Hannah H. Thomas describes political shifts in rural Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Hannah H. Thomas remembers attending Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College when her marriage ended

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Hannah H. Thomas describes Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College in Huntsville, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Hannah H. Thomas describes teaching and attending the University of Cincinnati in Cincinnati, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Hannah H. Thomas remembers teaching public school in Cincinnati, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Hannah H. Thomas describes her family

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Hannah H. Thomas describes creating the Harriet Beecher Stowe Historical Cultural Association

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Hannah H. Thomas describes the Soujourner Truth Troupe and African American Heritage Day

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Hannah H. Thomas describes history in Cincinnati, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Hannah H. Thomas describes relations between police and civilians in Cincinnati, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Hannah H. Thomas describes her goals for the future

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Hannah H. Thomas talks about her influence in Cincinnati, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Hannah H. Thomas talks about the NAACP

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Hannah H. Thomas talks about the legacy of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 1954

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Hannah H. Thomas describes continuing school segregation in Cincinnati, Ohio

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Hannah H. Thomas describes problems with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Hannah H. Thomas comments on proficiency tests for students and teachers

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Hannah H. Thomas reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Hannah H. Thomas describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Hannah H. Thomas narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

3$2

DATitle
Hannah H. Thomas talks about her influence in Cincinnati, Ohio
Hannah H. Thomas reflects upon her legacy
Transcript
Well, Mrs. Thomas [HistoryMaker Hannah H. Thomas], when you, you look back over your, your life, especially here in Cincinnati [Ohio], what are some of the things that you're most proud of? The accomplishments that you're most proud of?$$There are so many things, I'm just trying to think of which might be the most important one. Well one, I, when I was teaching at Lincoln Heights [Ohio], as I said that was a very poor, you know, area, and I always told the, the children that the world is bigger than Lincoln Heights. So I was teaching just fifth grade then we had, I was teaching a division and I was teaching language arts for fifth graders, and I decide now we need to take these kids, you know, out of Lincoln Heights, take them somewhere. So I arranged a trip to take them to Columbus, Ohio, and we went to the governor's and they, each child they let through the line, I think we took about a 105, we had a 125 but all didn't go, and each child had a chance to go through and sit in, they let them sit in the governor's seat so they were governor, they were governor of Ohio for one second (laughter). And then we toured the city and we had made arrangements to have lunch at The Ohio State [University, Columbus, Ohio] and that's where we went. Little country kids from Lincoln Heights and I don't guess they'd ever been to a university, we took. And that was one of the things that I was very proud of because I at least exposed those children to more than just the little part that they had there in Lincoln Heights. But it, it's been a lot of good memories that I have here in Lincoln Heights. And I think the Day on the Square [African American Heritage Day] would come in too as one of the important days that I, I feel like it was really an accomplishment and some of the others were just things I felt like I was doing but I feel like those was two pretty, pretty major things.$$'Cause when I look over some of the articles based on your record of service, you were named Woman of the Year for more than one year. Now, now what led to, to those honors and, and who's bestowing the honor on you?$$Well it's the Cincinnati Enquirer Women of the Year, the Enquirer Women of the Year is done by the Cincinnati Enquirer. And, of course, they have a staff and names are submitted and the write-up of their bios, what they have done et cetera, et cetera. At the year when I was nominated there I think they said there was eighty-four names that was submitted and they reduced them down to thirty and then out of the thirty they pulled out ten. And I didn't have any idea that I would be that, I was hoping I would, but I was one of the ten. And after that year they were, I guess, they were impressed with me or whatever they said about me, so the next year when they was ready to advertise so to speak for the next Women of the Year, the next ten, they asked me if they could use my, my name and they said we are looking for more Hannah Thomas and that's what they trailblazer, you know, and they said that I was trailblazer, you know, that kind of stuff. And I figured that that was more important than being woman of the year that they felt that they wanted other women, you know, like me, it was, it was really, it was really, touching (laughter).$$And what year was that, please?$$Well I was a Woman of the Year in 1992 and it was in 1993 that they wanted to use my picture to advertise for the next ten women of the year.$I'm wondering as we come to the end of this formal part of our discussion, and your, the story of your history, if there's anything else that you'd like to add about your life and your work and your, your legacy, especially here in Ohio?$$Well I don't consider that I have so much of a legacy (laughter) I just feel like that I'm doing good work. So many people say when I get a, you know, an honor, well you deserve it because, and I say well don't everybody else observe it, you know, don't other people deserve what they get. But everybody wants to say well you deserve it, I say well what am I doing differently from other people. So I don't, I don't look at myself as any different from any, anybody else, you know, that's, that's doing good work, it's just that I'm hardworking and I've been hardworking, you know, all my life. My mother [Evernee Hubbard Hawkins] was one that were, were very, you know, I mean she was very efficient in whatever she did and you had to toe the mark she didn't have you just, just doing anything, even if you were sweeping the floor, she made sure that you did it right. And she instilled in us to do your best. And I have brought that, you know, through life. And perhaps a lot of people in Cincinnati [Ohio] have not had that and when they see, you know, what I'm doing they think I'm doing something extraordinary. And I tell 'em that, you know, I didn't just start working when I came to Cincinnati, I was doing some of this same work, you know, all my life that was part of our growing up in, in our school and in, in our churches and everything. So I don't see anything that I have done so outstanding (laughter) really, really. And as far as a legacy, the only thing I'd like to leave as a legacy, even to my family, and I leave this to my family, support each other, support each other. You might have a little difference of opinion, you might have different little arguments and little spats at time, I know we had growing up as a big family but my mother always taught us that you overcome that because you're a family. And that's what I teach to us as a race that I don't think that we are together enough to support, you know, each other. And if I could, get leave that as a legacy of my work is, all my work has been for somebody else, even raising my family. And I tell 'em, I say I'm not my age, I say I'm at forty that's when I started, you know, you know, taking on the responsibility, the family responsibility. And I tell people that if you want, they say well how you live long and how you be so happy, forget about yourself and concentrate on how you could help other people. And when you do that you, you, you magnify your, your problems because you're so busy trying to help other people with theirs. So if I could leave a legacy, mine would be a legacy of helping, supporting, togetherness. And in all our little group we talk about unity. All the editorials I write, the main thing is unity, putting all the puzzle pieces together. We got to come together as a race of people, work together, supporting, my legacy is together.

Miriam DeCosta-Willis

University professor and author Laurie DeCosta-Willis was born November 1, 1934 in Florence, Alabama to educators Beautine and Frank DeCosta. She grew up in the South but graduated from Westover School in Connecticut and received a B.A. degree, Phi Beta Kappa, from Wellesley College, as well as M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the Johns Hopkins University.

In her forty-year career in education, she has taught at LeMoyne and Owen Colleges (later, at the merged institution for a decade), became the first Black faculty member at Memphis State University in 1966, chaired the Department of Romance Languages at Howard University, was named Commonwealth Professor of Spanish at George Mason University in 1989, and was Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of African American Studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, from which she retired in 1999.

An activist throughout her life, she organized a student protest at Wilkinson High School, joined her mother in the Montgomery Bus Boycott, was jailed in Memphis for participating in civil rights demonstrations, campaigned for Black political candidates, led a boycott of Memphis public schools, and joined protest marches in Washington when she lived there in the 1990s.

Co-founder of the Memphis Black Writers' Workshop, DeCosta-Willis has published eight books, including Blacks in Hispanic Literature, Erotique Noire, The Memphis Diary of Ida B. Wells, Daughters of the Diaspora and, recently, Notable Black Memphians. A columnist, lecturer, consultant, and visiting scholar, she was chair of the Tennessee Humanities Council, associate editor of Sage: A Scholarly Journal of Black Women, and editorial board member of the Afro-Hispanic Review.

In 1955, she married Russell Sugarmon, Jr., a civil rights attorney, and they had four children. Later, she married A. W. Willis, Jr., an attorney, businessman, and first Black elected to the Tennessee Legislature since Reconstruction.

Miriam DeCosta-Willis was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 31, 2003.

Accession Number

A2003.173

Sex

Female

Interview Date

7/31/2003

Last Name

DeCosta-Willis

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Westover School

Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School

Felton Laboratory Charter School

Thaddeus Stevens Observatory School

Alabama State Laboratory High School

Wellesley College

Johns Hopkins University

Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Days, weekends

First Name

Miriam

Birth City, State, Country

Florence

HM ID

DEC01

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

No

Favorite Season

Winter

Speaker Bureau Notes

Audience: Any

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

Mayan Riviera, Mexico

Favorite Quote

What Goes Around, Comes Around.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Tennessee

Birth Date

11/1/1934

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Memphis

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Paella

Short Description

Civil rights activist and foreign languages professor Miriam DeCosta-Willis (1934 - ) is the first African American faculty member at Memphis State University. Later, she was named professor of Spanish and chair of the Department of Romance Languages at Howard University. She is also the cofounder of the Memphis Black Writers' Workshop, and has published eight books and numerous articles.

Employment

Memphis State University

Howard University

LeMoyne-Owen College

George Mason University

University of Maryland, College Park

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Miriam DeCosta-Willis' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis describes her mother's personality and recalls a story from her mother's childhood in Hancock County, Georgia

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis describes how her maternal great-grandfather acquired land in Hancock County, Georgia

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis talks about her paternal family history

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis talks about moving around frequently during her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis describes her curiosity about sexuality and religion as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis talks about attending the Thaddeus Stevens Observatory School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis talks about attending laboratory schools affiliated with Alabama State College and South Carolina State University

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis talks about her experience at Wilkinson High School in Orangeburg, South Carolina and the beginning of her language study

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis lists the schools she attended

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis explains how she was able to attend The Westover School in Middlebury, Connecticut

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis talks about her experience at the Westover School in Middlebury, Connecticut

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis describes the sight, sounds, and smells of her formative years in Orangeburg, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis describes her experience at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts from 1952 to 1956

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis recalls her mother's courage after the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s house was bombed in Montgomery, Alabama in 1956

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis gives an example of how race was addressed in her classes at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis describes her experience studying Spanish at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and recalls influential teachers there

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis describes her struggle to find a teaching job in Memphis, Tennessee with only a bachelor's degree

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis describes civil rights activists in Memphis, Tennessee from 1956 to 1959

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis explains the reason she earned her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis describes her experience completing her M.A. degree at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis talks about completing her Ph.D. degree at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis talks about integrating the faculty of the University of Memphis in 1966 and her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis talks about her campus activism while a professor at the University of Memphis in Memphis, Tennessee from 1966 to 1970, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis talks about her campus activism while a professor at the University of Memphis in Memphis, Tennessee from 1966 to 1970, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis talks about Memphis, Tennessee's black power group, the Invaders

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis describes joining the faculty at Howard University and discovering Afro-Hispanic literature

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis talks about the development of the study of Afro-Hispanic literature since the 1970s

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis describes her tenure as director of the graduate program in Afro-American studies at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis describes her return to Memphis, Tennessee in 1976 and her tenure at LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis from 1979 to 1989

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis explains how she came up with the idea to edit 'Erotique Noire/Black Erotica'

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis talks about the process of publishing 'Erotique Noire/Black Erotica'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis talks about her published works

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis talks about the books she plans to write

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis reflects upon the current state of the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis reflects upon her life

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Miriam DeCosta-Willis narrates her photographs, pt.2

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

2$4

DATitle
Miriam DeCosta-Willis explains how she was able to attend The Westover School in Middlebury, Connecticut
Miriam DeCosta-Willis describes joining the faculty at Howard University and discovering Afro-Hispanic literature
Transcript
And I had to repeat the eleventh grade [at The Westover School, Middlebury, Connecticut] because I would not have enough credits in foreign languages to meet their requirements, so I did the eleventh grade twice. But, still finished at age seventeen and I actually finished Westover School [Middlebury, Connecticut]. Now, it was kind of interesting how I got to Westover, this was 1949 [1949] and we're, the Second World War [World War II, WWII] is over and to my way of thinking the Civil Rights Movement really started right after the Second World War because you had all these veterans coming back and really pushing for their rights and things began to open up, so I was kind of on the cusp of that movement. And my parents [Frank DeCosta and Beautine Hubert DeCosta] were very friendly with a woman in Charleston, South Carolina named Ruby Cornwell, very dynamic civil rights pusher, and one of her best friends were Elizabeth Waring, a white woman who was from New England, but who was married to a judge, Judge [Julius] Waties [Waring], J. Waites Waring, who was very important in the Civil Rights Movement in South Carolina. Thanks to Elizabeth's influence, her husband became a very outspoken proponent of civil rights, and did, made a lot of legal decisions that enraged people in South Carolina, so, they were a very progressive couple. And Elizabeth graduated from the Westover School, which had never had Negro students and she was very anxious to have someone, and she was looking for the right, she said, young woman. And so, she, she and Ruby [Cornwell] invited my mother and me to come and have lunch with the Warings. And so we, I didn't know what was going on, I just knew we were going to these people's houses. (Laughter) And what surprised me was they had finger bowls and I didn't know what the heck to do with finger bowls. So, anyway it was a very elegant lunch and she was a very gracious lady, et cetera. Next thing I knew, she had decided that I should be the one to go to Westover School. So, the following year, which would have been in 1950, in September of 1950, I went to Westover and by that time she and her husband had left New York, I mean had left Charleston [South Carolina], 'cause basically they had been ostracized by the powers that be there, and so, they were living in New York, and I stopped, she picked me up at the, at the station, train station there, and I stayed with them and then she put me on the train the next day to Westover. And so I kept in touch with them, found out many years later, maybe fifteen or twenty years later, that she had actually paid the scholarship that enabled me to go there, because my parents were teachers not making a whole lot of money and they could not afford to send me to a private school like that, a very exclusive school. When I got there, I found that there was another student from Haiti, who was the daughter of a Russian woman, white; and a black Haitian, and so she was the other girl of color, but she did not really consider herself one of us; and so I virtually was the only black student and it was an interesting experience. It changed my life in a lot of ways, because when I had lived in South Carolina, my ambition was to go to North Carolina State [University, Raleigh, North Carolina] and I'd been very active in basketball and sports, tennis and what not and I wanted to major in physical education, but after going to Westover and being exposed to a much more intensive academic experience, I decided that I wanted to go, I really wanted to go Radcliffe [College, later Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Cambridge, Massachusetts] and so I made a trip visiting colleges in the area and I got a larger scholarship to Wellesley [College, Wellesley, Massachusetts], so knowing that my parents could not, you know, they needed all the help they could get, I decided that I would go to Wellesley.$Now, let's talk your evolution into an Afro-Hispanic scholar.$$Um, mm.$$Introduction into that type of literature--$$Okay. I left Memphis [Tennessee] in 1970 [1970] and came to Howard [University, Washington, D.C.], and Howard was a watershed experience to me. When I walked on campus, I just fell in love with the place. Here, you had all these scholars from Africa, the Caribbean, South America, all over, John Henry Killens [sic, John Oliver Killens] was there, [HM Haki Madhubuti] was there, Andrew Billingsley was there, I mean, it was just heaven on--. Dorothy Porter was there in the library. Chancellor [James] Williams was right off campus, you know. All these people you'd heard about, it was just fantastic. What, I had been burned out in Memphis, I'd had like fifteen years of, of trying to juggle a husband, a family with four children, my life in, in politics and civil rights, plus my career, et cetera. When I got to Howard I found out that everything could be balled up into one, you know. I could still, you know, maintain my activist principles, but in a scholarly way, (laughter) that was a revelation. So, when I came to Howard, there was a friend, Martha Cobb, who was beginning to do research on the literature of Spanish speaking blacks and there had been a person there, Valaurez Spratlin in Spanish, he was a Puerto Rican, he'd introduce the first course in the Negro and Spanish Literature. Mercer Cook had been chair of my, our department and he was, not only an ambassador, he had written books on Francophone literature and the writers, and what not; and so I began to become very interested. It was the first time I realized that there were Spanish speaking black writers in the Caribbean, Central South America, I mean it was, it just opened up a whole new thing to me. I realized that I had not only been uneducated, but miseducated, because in college and graduate school I had no notion of people like Nicolas Guillen and Nancy Morejon et cetera, so I immediately became interested and started doing research and it was a matter of self-education cause there were no books out there. You, and it was hard to get those books by the writers, you had to either know them or know someone who know them, et cetera because those books were not being published here; so, I became very interested. Martha Cobb and I, and then eventually, Stanley Cyrus and Ian Smart, and others came who had similar interests. And we began developing courses, we began talking terms of publishing, we talked in terms of creating a journal. The Afro-Hispanic Review, which was maybe published ten years later, we began having conferences, we began writing grants to bring these writers like Manuel Zapata Olivella from Columbia and Aldeberto Ortiz from Ecuador, et cetera to bring them to Howard, to give lectures to give readings and things like that. And then we, we tried to work, work cross culturally with Francophone faculty members, writers, critics, et cetera and there were people who were in the English side, so it was, it was just a wonderful time to be alive. And Andrew Billingsley, who was the vice president, at that time, was very supportive of those efforts and would give faculty grants. For example, I got one, I think in 1972 to go to Spain to study to the African presence in, in Spanish culture, and that was funded by this fund that he had, so that it was, and it was a time that when Black studies were developing nationwide. And, of course, Howard had had for many years, courses in Black studies. They had an Afro American Studies Department, they had an African Studies Department, and it was just, it was just a fertile time. There was the Moreland Spingarn Research Center there and there was Dorothy Porter there, who was interested in black writers from Latin America and had acquired books and we would laugh because Dorothy would hide all the good books. You know she'd keep them down under her desk and you'd have to go and say, "Oh, where is the book by Nicolas Guillen?" "Oh, just happen to have it right here," you know. But it was, it was just a wonderful time to be alive and to experience that cross fertilization.

Albert Stiles

Al Stiles was born on August 13, 1922, and raised in Tampa, Florida. He began performing at an early age with a five-member jug band. At approximately age twelve, he took a bus to New York City with a nine-year old jug band partner, Nathaniel Reese. Without their parents' knowledge, they auditioned and played on CBS Radio's Major Bowes Amateur Hour. They won the show's contest and Stiles became a professional entertainer.

Stiles performed with a vaudeville novelty and comedy act before touring with a song and dance team. In 1939, he and Reese played New York's Apollo Theater. The same year, Stiles performed at the New York World's Fair. He also performed with such stars as Josephine Baker, Duke Ellington, Charlie Parker, Ella Fitzgerald and Sammy Davis, Jr. and in such venues as the Cotton Club and the Blue Note. Stiles served in the U.S. Army and was stationed outside Ft. Wayne, Indiana..

Stiles moved to Fort Wayne and in 1971 opened Al Stiles World's Best Shoe Shine which is still the "in" place to have your shoes shined. In the 1980s, he started a program called the Talent Factory, teaching inner city youth the theater arts. Although the non-profit organization went on hiatus in the late 1990s, Stiles was planning its revival. In 2002, he released the compact disc We Can Fly, which he produced with his jazz drummer son, Ronald Stiles. The nine track compact disc features blues, jazz and 1950s-era rock sung by Al Stiles, Ronald Stiles and Herb Banks. Two songs are Stiles' original compositions. The Apollo Theater honored the contributions of Stiles by declaring him a living legend. Stiles passed away on January 2, 2014 in Carmel, Indiana

Accession Number

A2002.126

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

7/31/2002

Last Name

Stiles

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Dobyville Elementary School

Archival Photo 2
First Name

Albert

Birth City, State, Country

Florence

HM ID

STI02

Favorite Season

Fall

Sponsor

Knight Foundation

State

South Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Las Vegas, Nevada

Favorite Quote

Live according to your means.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Indiana

Birth Date

8/13/1922

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Fort Wayne

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Beans (Red), Rice

Death Date

1/2/2014

Short Description

Entertainer Albert Stiles (1922 - 2014 ) started a program called the Talent Factory, teaching inner city youth the theater arts. In 2002 he released the compact disc, "We Can Fly," which he produced with his son, jazz drummer Ronald Stiles. He has also performed with such stars as Josephine Baker, Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker.

Employment

World's Best Shoe Shine

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Al Stiles interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Al Stiles's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Al Stiles talks about his parents' backgrounds

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Al Stiles describes his childhood personality

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Al Stiles remembers his father's influence

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Al Stiles describes his business endeavors

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Al Stiles details his family's economic hardships

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Al Stiles discusses his parents' avocations

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Al Stiles describes his childhood avocations

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Al Stiles continues to describe his childhood avocations

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Al Stiles discusses his early successes as an entertainer

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Al Stiles names his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Al Stiles discusses his childhood reputation

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Al Stiles remembers influential schoolteachers

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Al Stiles discusses his childhood hobby, baseball

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Al Stiles wants to be on 'Major Bowes' Amateur Hour'

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Al Stiles describes his childhood journey to New York, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Al Stiles describes his arrival to New York, New York as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Al Stiles remembers his travels to New York and Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Al Stiles recalls his experiences at the Apollo Theater, New York, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Al Stiles details his musical act at the Apollo Theatre

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Al Stiles details his childhood travels through the South

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Al Stiles remembers the famous performers he worked with in his career

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Al Stiles details how he parted ways with his music partner

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Al Stiles recalls the death of his music partner, Nathaniel Reese

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Al Stiles recalls being drafted into the Army

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Al Stiles describes his experiences in the military and how he met his wife

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Al Stiles details a chronic foot ailment and its effect on his life

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Al Stiles starts a business after leaving the Army

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Al Stiles details financial struggles after his business failed

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Al Stiles reconnects with Lionel Hampton and returns to show business

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Al Stiles recalls an accusation of theft while performing in Canada

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Al Stiles discusses his inspiration for the Talent Factory

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Al Stiles shares tales of the early origins of the Talent Factory

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Al Stiles talks about the performers that appeared at the Talent Factory early in their careers

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Al Stiles recalls more performers that appeared at the Talent Factory

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Al Stiles details a racist interaction at work

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Al Stiles details his role as vice president of the International Printing Pressmen Union's Local 19

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Al Stiles talks about his leadership in the International Printing Pressmen Union

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Al Stiles details how Flashfold Box Corporation retaliated against his participation in the International Printing and Pressmen Union

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Al Stiles recalls the events leading up to his lawsuit against Flashfold Carton, Inc.

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Al Stiles discusses his future plans for the Talent Factory

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Al Stiles considers his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Al Stiles considers how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Photo - Al Stiles's act, 'Note and Toe', performing with Josephine Baker at the Rancho Don Carlos, Winnipeg, Canada, 1963

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Photo - Newspaper clipping showing Richard Hale and Al Stiles performing as 'Note and Toe' at the Rainbow Theater in Winnipeg, Canada, ca. early 1960s

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Photo - Al Stiles with Nat Reese performing at the Apollo Theater, New York, New York, 1939

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Photo - Al Stiles's act, 'Note and Toe', performing with Lionel Hampton and his band at the Blue Note nightclub, Chicago, Illinois, ca. late 1950s

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Photo - Newspaper clipping about Al Stiles at his CD release party for 'We Can Fly', Fort Wayne, Indiana, July 28, 2002

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Photo - Al Stiles is presented a lawsuit settlement check by representatives of the International Printing Pressmen Union, Fort Wayne, Indiana, 1971

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Photo - Former employee from Al Stiles's record shop, jazz pianist Jack Wilson

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Photo - Publicity photo of Al Stiles's son, Ronald B. Stiles, leader of the E-Waw Blue Band, Fort Wayne, Indiana

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Photos - A montage of photos from Al Stile's Talent Factory, Fort Wayne, Indiana, ca. 1980s

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Photo - Publicity photo of Al Stiles's friend, Clayton 'Peg-Leg' Bates, a dancer at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York, ca. 1960s

Tape: 7 Story: 11 - Photo - Al Stiles with dancer, 'Little Perry' at the Talent Factory, Fort Wayne, Indiana, 1990

Tape: 7 Story: 12 - Photo - Al Stiles with Fort Wayne, Indiana Mayor Winfield Moses, Indianapolis, Indiana, ca. 1979-1987

Tape: 7 Story: 13 - Photo - Publicity photo of the musical group, 'The Checkmates'

Tape: 7 Story: 14 - Photo - Al Stiles with tap dancer Gregory Hines at the Embassy Theatre, Fort Wayne, Indiana, ca. 1990s

Tape: 7 Story: 15 - Photo - Al Stiles in a newspaper article about the reopening of the Talent Factory in Fort Wayne, Indiana, ca. 1999

Tape: 7 Story: 16 - Photo - Publicity photo of Al Stiles, August 10, 1949

Tape: 7 Story: 17 - Photo - Newspaper article on Al Stiles's son and granddaughter, Dr. Reginald B. Stiles and Dr. Sherri A. Stiles-Walker, Fort Wayne, Indiana, ca. 2000

Tape: 7 Story: 18 - Photo - Additional copy of Al Stiles's act, 'Note and Toe', performing with Lionel Hampton and his band at the Blue Note nightclub, Chicago, Illinois, ca. late 1950s

Tape: 7 Story: 19 - Photo - Al Stiles's act, 'Note and Toe', performing with Josephine Baker and Vern and Verdie at the Rancho Don Carlos, Winnipeg, Canada, mid-1960s

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$3

DAStory

11$2

DATitle
Al Stiles discusses his early successes as an entertainer
Al Stiles details his musical act at the Apollo Theatre
Transcript
All of these things, man, is part of what made me have this desire to do things and to get things done, you know, because I was a leader, you know. I could--I could do things, and, and, and get peoples to follow me and lead so that's what made me--I was excited about my accomplishments, see. And we [with childhood friend, Nathaniel Reese] used to go--then we started going over to St. Petersburg [Florida] and playing, and we'd go out on the beach, and we had a board we'd put down, and my partner would dance and I'd play the music and we'd pass our hat around. Sometime we'd come home with two and three hundred dollars over the weekend, man. That was a lot of money back then. 'Cause see, people didn't realize how that was going to accumulate because if you gave a quarter or fifty cents, you didn't have no idea how many other peoples was going to do that, you just gave it. But when we counted all that stuff up, man, we'd come home, we'd have two or three hundred dollars. And I remember one time we was playing out in West Palm Beach [Florida] and this guy hired us to do a party he was having. He was a--he had a, a--a, an estate. It took you five minutes to get up to the house so he hired us to entertain. Man, they started drinking--and I could tell they was getting drunk because the guys started pulling the women's dresses up and all, doing all kind of rowdy things, you know. And I got a little scared. I told my partner, I said, "Man, let's go out here on the porch and get some air." We went out there and after we got out on the porch, we realized that they weren't even missing us because they was--all of them was getting high, you know, so I told him I said, man, "Let's go on and get out of here." And so we walked all the way out to the--it took us five minutes to get out to the highway, man. That's how far--what kind a estate he had. And we got out there and flagged a cab down and went back cross the lake 'cause we was over in Palm Beach. We went back over into West Palm Beach and at twelve o'clock then when the new year came in, we was sitting on the steps of this church counting our money, man. We counted out $365. And we'd only been out there about a hour, you know. That was a lot of money, man (laughs). And you know how they gave us the money? Everybody--every time somebody would give us a ten, they'd tear half in two and give me five and my partner. If they'd give us a twenty, they'd just--and we had all this tore up money but we sit down there and counted it, and on the first of that, the week when we could go to the bank, we took all that money to the bank and cashed it in.$$Now, now, did you, did, did, did you ever give some of it to you family when you got back home?$$Oh, yeah. We, we, we did--that was part of it. You know, we helped to support our families like that, you know, 'cause my daddy [Daniel Stiles] was--sometime he'd get laid off from work, and we, we--you know, we had--it was up and down, you know, like that. But, now, my partner, his mother had eleven children. And lot of them was like a stair, you know. Some of them was real small and young. But, he, they--well, when he'd come home with that kind of money, they'd just take it and use it for the family, you know.$Sir, what, what did you call yourselves [he and childhood friend/entertainment partner, Nathaniel Reese]?$$Well, it was a funny thing, man. We call ourselves 'Nat and Albert,' but you know what, the public named us 'The Tampa Boys'. Everywhere we go to do a show the people say, "Well, what's y'all name?" We say, 'Nat and Al.' They say, "We gonna call you 'The Tampa Boys'." And that's what they'd call us. So we just accept that. We said, "Well, we gonna be 'The Tampa Boys', if this is what they want." And that's what we was, 'The Tampa Boys'. So anyway, Nat Nazarro [manager], he started buying costumes, you know, wardrobe for us and everything. So we, we just go down there and we write a check, you know, whatever we want. So, it started getting up in the money. It got up to around twenty thousand dollars, you know. And so, I didn't know what he had in mind but a lot of people had told me, "You better watch him," said, "'cause he'll get you." And so because I was listening to what these people was saying, I started watching him. And so one day we went up there and we was just about ready. He had our--we had our act down, had music and pictures and all this stuff. And I knew we was ready for something, but I didn't know when. We went down there that day and Miss Quentin handed me this I.O.U. And it didn't have no, no amount of money or nothing on it. And I say, "Miss Quentin," I said, "what is this for say?" "Mr. Nazarro wants you to sign." And I say, "Oh no. I ain't signing nothin'." I said, "We, we don't owe no money." And so she said," Well, you better talk to him." I say, "Where is he?" "He's in his office." I said, "Well, I want to see him." So she, she said, "The Tampa Boys want to see you." "Send them in!" So when we went in I said, "Mr. Nazarro, what the hell you mean by asking us to," I was mad, man. "What the hell you mean by asking us to sign an I.O.U.? We don't owe you nothin'. " And boy, he started talking about how he'd been like a father to us, you know this shit, you know. "I did this for you, and I did that for you." I said, "Wait a minute now." I said, I said, "Remember", I said, "we didn't ask you to do none of this. You never talked to us about you wanted to manage us or nothin'. You never made no agreement with us on nothin'. You just started doing stuff." I said, "As far as we concerned you just another good guy that came along." Boy, when I said that he start pulling his suspenders and carrying on, you know. And I said, "Wait a minute now, Mr. Nazarro." I said, "You better be careful now," I said, "because, you wouldn't want to lose that twenty thousand dollar bond you got down at the courthouse." He didn't know I heard him say that. And when I said that, I say, "''Cause you know we are minors." And, man, when I said that everything changed. He just changed, just like that, man. Like--and I didn't realize that I had done hit upon something right away. I say, "But I tell you what we'll do now." Now, man, just think of me being that smart at eleven years old. And I said, "I'll tell you what we'll do," I said, "since you did all these things for us, and we appreciate them," I said that, "we'll work out a deal with you." I said that, "If you'll promise that you'll book us and push us behind some of your top-notch acts, and get us some good bookin', every time we get a good booking, we'll give you some of the money that you say we owe you." And he fell for that, man. And from then on, shit, we was his top-notch act, man. I don't care who came in that office, if 'The Tampa Boys' came in, he saw us. That's what that money he had done spent a lot of money on us, man. And he, he knew with me thinking the way I was thinking, that he didn't have a chance of recovering it unless he did what we wanted him to do. And that, that's the way it worked out.$$That's something at the age of eleven!$$Yeah, eleven, man. I was thinking that way at the age eleven.