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Charles Teamer, Sr.

Banker and civic leader Charles Teamer, Sr. was born on May 20, 1933 in Shelby, North Carolina to B.T. Teamer and Mary Teamer. He received his B.S. degree from Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia in 1954. He served in the U.S. Army from 1956 to 1958, and later received his M.A. degree from the University of Nebraska and his Ph.D. degree from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Teamer worked in the office of the business manager at South Carolina State University in 1954. He then became assistant business manager at Tennessee State University in 1958; and, in 1962, Teamer was hired as business manager at Wiley College. In 1965, Teamer became vice president of finance at Dillard University and was promoted to chief financial officer in 1968. In 1983, he was appointed by Louisiana Governor David Treen as the first African American on the Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans. From 1985 to 1988, Teamer served as the national president of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. In 1993, Teamer co-founded the Dryades Savings Bank and served as chairman. He later retired from Dillard University in 1997, and continued to work as a consultant to Clark Atlanta University. In 2001, Teamer led a partnership of investors in opening The Cotton Exchange and Holiday Inn Express Hotel in downtown New Orleans, and became president of the World Trade Center of New Orleans in 2003.

Former executive director of the Amistad Research Center and a consultant to the U.S. Department of Education, Teamer has held numerous board appointments on the Board of Education of the United Methodist Church, the Ford Foundation, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the Common Fund, the National Association of Colleges and University Business Officers, the Ochsner Medical Foundation and the Audubon Institute. Teamer also served as board chair for the Urban League of Greater New Orleans, the Metropolitan Area Committee, Harrah’s New Orleans Casino, the Greater New Orleans Foundation and the United Way. He was a member of the business and higher-education council for the University of New Orleans and served on the board of the Southern Education Foundation. Teamer was president of the Southern Association of College and University Business Officers and vice president of fiscal affairs at Dillard University and Clark Atlanta University. He was a member of the board of supervisors for the University of Louisiana System and was on the board of administrators of Tulane University. Teamer was also the director of Entergy New Orleans.

Teamer was married for forty-seven years to the late Mary Dixon Teamer. They have three children: Charles, Jr., Roderic, Sr. and Cheryl. Teamer has six grandchildren.

Charles Teamer, Sr. was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 28, 2008 and April 27, 2019.

Accession Number

A2008.061

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/28/2008

3/28/2008 |and| 4/27/2019

Last Name

Teamer

Maker Category
Marital Status

Widower

Schools

Clark Atlanta University

Cleveland School

Tulane University

J.C. Price High School

University of Nebraska-Omaha

First Name

Charles

Birth City, State, Country

Shelby

HM ID

TEA01

Favorite Season

Fall

Sponsor

Boule Foundation

State

North Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Any Golf Course

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Louisiana

Birth Date

5/20/1933

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New Orleans

Country

United States

Favorite Food

All Food

Short Description

Banker and civic leader Charles Teamer, Sr. (1933 - ) served as chief financial officer at Dillard University for over thirty years and co-founded Dryades Savings Bank and served as chairman.

Employment

Texas Southern University

Wiley College

Dillard University

Dryades Savings Bank, F.S.B.

Tennessee State University

South Carolina State College

Clark Atlanta University

World Trade Center

U.S. Army

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Black and Gold

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Charles Teamer, Sr.'s interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Charles Teamer, Sr. lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Charles Teamer, Sr. talks about his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Charles Teamer, Sr. describes his father's side of the family

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Charles Teamer, Sr. talks about his paternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Charles Teamer, Sr. describes his father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Charles Teamer, Sr. describes his parents

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Charles Teamer, Sr. recalls his induction into the Masonry

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Charles Teamer, Sr. remembers the Boy Scouts of America, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Charles Teamer, Sr. remembers the Boy Scouts of America, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Charles Teamer, Sr. describes Salisbury, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Charles Teamer, Sr. recalls the Cleveland County Training School in Shelby, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Charles Teamer, Sr. recalls his early interests

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Charles Teamer, Sr. remembers Joe Louis' boxing matches

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Charles Teamer, Sr. describes his early awareness of African American history

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Charles Teamer, Sr. remembers J.C. Price High School in Salisbury, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Charles Teamer, Sr. remembers his extracurricular activities

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Charles Teamer, Sr. remembers moving to Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Charles Teamer, Sr. recalls the faculty of Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Charles Teamer, Sr. remembers the influence of communism

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Charles Teamer, Sr. recalls his teachers at Clark College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Charles Teamer, Sr. recalls pledging Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Charles Teamer, Sr. remembers his U.S. Army service

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Charles Teamer, Sr. remembers the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Charles Teamer, Sr. describes interstate travel during the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Charles Teamer, Sr. recalls a sit-in at the Hotel Marshall in Marshall, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Charles Teamer, Sr. remembers Hobart S. Jarrett

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Charles Teamer, Sr. talks about the influence of African American leaders

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Charles Teamer, Sr. remembers moving to New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Charles Teamer, Sr. talks about the Mardi Gras krewe of Rex

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Charles Teamer, Sr. recalls his introduction to corporate board service

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Charles Teamer, Sr. recalls serving on the Boy Scouts of America council

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Charles Teamer, Sr. recalls Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Charles Teamer, Sr. recalls working at Dillard University in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Charles Teamer, Sr. recalls founding the Dryades Savings Bank, F.S.B. in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Charles Teamer, Sr. recalls his work for Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Charles Teamer, Sr. describes the impact of Hurricane Katrina

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Charles Teamer, Sr. describes his role as grand sire of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Charles Teamer, Sr. describes the role of Dryades Savings Bank, F.S.B. in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Charles Teamer, Sr. describes his hopes for New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Charles Teamer, Sr. recalls acquiring the Historic Cotton Exchange in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Charles Teamer, Sr. describes his work with the Amistad Research Center in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Charles Teamer, Sr. describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Charles Teamer, Sr. reflects upon his life

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Charles Teamer, Sr. reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Charles Teamer, Sr. describes his children

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Charles Teamer, Sr. describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Charles Teamer, Sr. narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$5

DAStory

3$5

DATitle
Charles Teamer, Sr. describes the role of Dryades Savings Bank, F.S.B. in New Orleans, Louisiana
Charles Teamer, Sr. recalls acquiring the Historic Cotton Exchange in New Orleans, Louisiana
Transcript
Fast forwarding back to New Orleans [Louisiana] as we talk about the bank [Dryades Savings Bank, F.S.B., New Orleans, Louisiana] and where we're going, a part of the role that I see is that the p- the percentage of people in the community who are underserved still remain. They're unbanked. And especially as we talk about rebuilding the community, you've been here for several days now and you've driven through the city and you recognize that you can be in a--what we would call a pretty good neighborhood, you're on one street, it seems to be growing and prospering, you go on the next street it's like, is this the same neighborhood? The patterns are so unpredictable. Let me give you an example. As I told you my wife [Mary Dixon Teamer] passed away in 2004. The storm [Hurricane Katrina] occurred in 2005. I had not completed the succession of the estate when, when the storm occurred. If something had happened to me, my children would've been in a terrible problem because the estate would still be open and the question would be who actually owns the property. If you transform that to people who are less informed you find incident after incident where the title to the property is unclear. New Orleans is a very old city. Its traditions are very old, so you might have generations of people living in the same house and they do not know where the title is. In the 9th Ward [New Orleans, Louisiana], for example, I'm told, that there's home after home in which the mortgages had been paid, the people have been there for years, there was no flood insurance. So flood insurance is mandatory when you have a mortgage, well if you don't have a mortgage you have no flood insurance and obviously then you're not gonna have any wind in- wind storm insurance. So consequently, the problems of redeveloping these properties becomes even more severe. What we are doing looking for innovative ways to serve the people in our community to, to, to, to come up with new products, but maybe more than new products just to be available to work and talk with the people in our community on a one-to-one basis. While everybody wants to use the Internet and the computer, the challenge is that the people who really need the services probably are not computer savvy. So that means that the cost of doing business is a little more expensive for hands on, but that's the only way we're gonna do it. And so what we're trying to do is create a way to do what needs to be done in our community while at the same time being a profitable and viable institution.$Tell me about the Cotton Exchange [Historic Cotton Exchange, New Orleans, Louisiana] and the Holiday Inn Express, now you were--$$Happy to.$$Okay.$$When we developed the franchise, the bank [Dryades Savings Bank, F.S.B., New Orleans, Louisiana], I learned from actually our congressman, [HistoryMaker] William Jefferson, that there were opportunities available for us in terms of purchase of buildings that had housed banks by the RTC [Resolution Trust Corporation]. And through my relationships with people in the real estate business, I identified two or three properties of which this was one, this--that we would be interested in. One day somebody came and said to me, Charlie Teamer [HistoryMaker Charles Teamer, Sr.] there's some--there's a white group interested in your building, so to speak. So I decided that I would make an inquiry. I went to my bank, the bank that I was doing business with and talked with the people there and said I'm interested in purchasing the Cotton Exchange. No, I said I need a half million dollars. They in turn said, "What are you gonna do?" I said, "I'm gonna put a bid on the Cotton Exchange building." Because of my experience with them and having been a customer for a long time, they realized that the Cotton Exchange building was worth more than I was gonna pay for it. So they said, "We'll cover you." So I led a group of investors. We bought the building that we're in for considerably less than $500,000, eight story building, it was empty at the time. We purchased the building, moved the bank into the building, leased the first two floors to the bank for ninety-nine years, and decided that we would do something else with floors three through eight. We tried a number of things. We wanted to, to develop something like the Equal Opportunity [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] building in New York [New York], you know, where the United--where the Negro College Fund [United Negro College Fund] and Urban League [National Urban League] and all--but we weren't able to do that. So the first couple of years, three or four years, the third through the eighth floor was vacant. And then one day one of my acquaintances came in and said, you know, we are in the process of developing empty buildings, boutique hotels, and therefore, we'd like to develop a hotel in this building, floors three through eight. We created a partnership with three groups, our Cotton Exchange partners, one, which own this building to create a hotel. We sold floors one through two to our partnership, invested three through eight into a new partnership, bought the building next door and created a hotel, which we call the Cotton Exchange Hotel, it's a Holiday Inn franchise. So we are one-third owners of the hotel property that is next door. So therefore, we own these two floors and we're one-third owners of the building next door.$$Okay, okay.$$So we are substantial hoteliers in downtown New Orleans [Louisiana].

Reverend Samuel Billy Kyles

The Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles was born in Shelby, Mississippi, on September 26, 1934. A longtime participant in the civil rights movement, Kyles was the founding pastor of the Monumental Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee in 1959.

After Memphis sanitation workers went on strike in February 1968 due to low pay and poor working conditions, Kyles led the effort to gain community support for the striking workers. He organized nightly rallies and raised money before scheduling a major rally for April 3, 1968. Kyles persuaded the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to come to Memphis and speak at the event. Kyles accompanied King and his entourage that day and was on hand when King was assassinated in the early evening. Kyles is widely believed to be the only living person to have been with King during his dying hour.

Kyles has maintained his involvement with civil rights work since the 1960s. He belonged to several civic and professional organizations. Kyles was a founding member of the National Board of People United to Save Humanity (PUSH), the executive director of Rainbow/PUSH-Memphis and the executive producer of Rainbow/PUSH WLOK Radio. Kyles also worked on Jesse Jackson's 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns and was a delegate to the First African National Congress. He was appointed by President Bill Clinton to serve on the Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad.

Kyles has appeared in several television documentaries about the life and assassination of King and has toured the country extensively, speaking on King and his message. Kyles received several honors and awards, including the Tennessee Living Legend Award in 1992.

Rev. Kyles passed away on April 26, 2016.

Accession Number

A2003.029

Sex

Male

Interview Date

2/13/2003

Last Name

Kyles

Maker Category
Middle Name

Billy

Organizations
Schools

Wendell Phillips Academy High School

First Name

Samuel

Birth City, State, Country

Shelby

HM ID

KYL01

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere Warm

Favorite Quote

Don't You Dare Give Up. No Matter What Has Dealt You, Hold On.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Tennessee

Birth Date

9/26/1934

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Memphis

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Grapes

Death Date

4/26/2016

Short Description

Civil rights activist and pastor Reverend Samuel Billy Kyles (1934 - 2016 ) was witness to the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Employment

Monumental Baptist Church

Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church

Favorite Color

Brown

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes his family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes his father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes his father's career as a reverend

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes his father

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes his early childhood in Shelby, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes growing up in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes growing up in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles talks about the Staples Singers

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles talks about Sam Cooke

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes the influence of gospel music on his young adult life

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes his experiences attending Douglas Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes serving as a patrol boy at Douglas Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles talks about being on the track team at Wendell Phillips Academy High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles remembers his father's death

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles talks about his family's move to the housing projects following his father's death

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes preaching his introductory sermon at Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes being elected as assistant pastor of Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles talks about Reverend H.R. Jelks

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes how he began preaching at Monumental Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes being nurtured as a young preacher at Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes being elected as pastor of Monumental Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles talks about receiving a loan to purchase a building for Monumental Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes his move to Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles talks about J.H. Jackson's failure to support the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles talks organizing the Progressive National Baptist Convention with other ministers, including Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement in Memphis, Tennessee, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement in Memphis, Tennessee, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles talks about his daughter's integrating an elementary school in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes his involvement with the Memphis Chapter of the NAACP

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes how integration affected his daughter's schooling experiences

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes how the Memphis Chapter of the NAACP provided a model for civil rights activism

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike of 1968

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles talks about Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s unsuccessful attempt to lead a march of Memphis sanitation workers strikers in 1968

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles comments on numerous threats made against Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes the violence that erupted during the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers march led by Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes why Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. returned to Memphis after the failed Memphis sanitation workers march

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles recalls Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s final speech, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles recalls Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s final speech, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes the final hours of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes the final hours of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes how witnessing Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination affected him

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles talks about Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Day

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles explains why he shares his memories of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s death

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles comments on Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s preparation for his death

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles reflects upon the unique collective power of the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles compares the ideologies of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcom X

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles calls for more frequent discussions about the impact of slavery, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles calls for more frequent discussions about the impact of slavery, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles comments on Jim Crow and the resilience of African Americans

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes the results of the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles talks about the failure of the Poor People's Campaign

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Samuel Kyles talks about the preparations for Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s funeral

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Samuel Kyles describes why he does not want to write a book about his experiences in the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles comments on Reverend Ralph Abernathy's autobiography, "And the Walls Came Tumbling Down," pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles comments on Reverend Ralph Abernathy's autobiography, "And the Walls Came Tumbling Down," pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s leadership of the SCLC and the effect of his death on the organization

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles talks about Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s children

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles comments on the present-day SCLC

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes his religious philosophy

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles comments on the burden of leadership

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles shares his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes what he would have done differently in his life

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles talks about vote fraud during the election of Harold Ford, Sr., Tennessee's first African American U.S. Congressman

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles talks about Harold Ford, Jr., who successfully ran for his father's U.S. Congress seat

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles reflects upon his Christian service and his legacy

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles talks about inspiring young people

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles talks about how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$3

DAStory

2$9

DATitle
Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles recalls Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s final speech, pt. 1
Reverend Samuel "Billy" Kyles describes his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement in Memphis, Tennessee, pt. 2
Transcript
And he [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] came back into Memphis [Tennessee]. They had a retreat that weekend in Atlanta [Georgia], and the staff came in earlier than he did. He came back into Memphis on April 3rd and--in preparation for the march. We were in court trying to get the injunction. They're had been an injunction after the riots. The injunction was--we were enjoined against march, and so we had the lawyers trying to get that opened. To get it lifted. That--he had some meetings that day, I think, the last meeting we had at a church was Jim Lawson's church. The mountain top speech occurred on April 3rd. That's the last speech of his life. But it almost didn't happen. There were tornado warnings that day. It was raining profusely, thunder, lighting, and he thought there wouldn't be many people at the church, Mason's Temple. It is the Headquarters of the Church of God in Christ. It's the biggest place we had to meet in. And when you have a speaker like Martin [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.], you would go there. And so he wanted to stay at the motel and work on the poor people's campaign--on the march, and he told several of us to go over and have the meeting at the church--at the Temple. They called it Mason's Temple, named after the organizer, Bishop Mason. When we got there, the place was nearly full, it was more than half full. Even in that weather, and when we walked in, people started clapping and [Ralph] Abernathy's preacher sent--said, to him, "These people are not clapping for us, they think Martin's coming in behind us," and they did. (Laughter) So he went to the phone out in the lobby. There were no cell phones then, if you can believe it. He went to the lobby and called Martin at this hotel and said, "Man, you better get over here. These people have come out in the weather to hear you. I ain't making no speech tonight." And would you believe, Martin came. While waiting to get to his speech, the shutters in the back of the building kept banging because the wind was so high. And if you turn the fan on, and they blow out, they won't bang, but the fan wasn't on and every time they would bang, he would jump and look around. They would bang, and he would jump and look around. And I noticed that, so I went to the--I got the custodian to turn the fans on and blow out so that it wouldn't bang 'cause it made him real nervous. That night Abernathy introduced him for twenty minutes, twenty minutes. He started when they first got together in, in, in Montgomery and went all the way up to Memphis with no expectation that that would be the last introduction he would make. As a matter of fact, the introduction was so long, when Martin finally got up, he said, "I thought Dr. Abernathy wasn't going to make a speech," twenty minutes. And nobody said a word. In our tradition, we know how to get the introducer out of the way; amen, brother, amen, amen, amen, amen. None of that. Ralph introduced him, he got up, he didn't take a topic. He just started talking. He talked about the plane being late from Atlanta because Dr. King was on it, that he came on the, on the loud speaker and said that, talked about the threats against his life when he got into Memphis, talked about death more than I had heard him talk about it. Talked about the time he was signing autographs in New York. Autographing the book, really. And a demented black woman came up to him and said, "Are you Martin Luther King, Jr.?" He said, "Yes." And she plunged a letter opener into his chest. And he's telling the audience this. And he said, when I was recovering, I got greetings from all over the world. But the most telling came from a young girl who said, Dear Dr. King, I read about your misfortune, and I'm so sorry. The "New York Times" said that the blade of the letter opener was so close to your aorta that if you had sneezed, you would have drowned in your own blood; and she put at the bottom, I'm glad you didn't sneeze. And he picked up on that, and did a whole litany, I'm glad I didn't sneeze. If I sneezed, I would have missed the Selma to Montgomery march; if I sneezed, I would have missed the voting rights act; if I sneezed, I would have missed the young people sitting in all over the south for their rights, and he went on and on about what he would have missed had he sneezed. By that time, we were on our feet, we were crying, we didn't know why we were crying. I mean, it was awesome. And the rain and the thunder added to it, you know.$So when I got on the front of the bus and sat down, the bus driver said, "Now, y'all don't want no trouble, you know what the Jim Crow laws are." I said, "Yeah, I know. But I'm sitting up front today." And so he called the police, and the bus didn't move. While waiting for the police to come, the black people on the bus said to me, "Why don't you come on back here where you belong so we can go to work." I did not bear them any ill will, these people just wanted to get by another day, another day, another day 'cause they had to live with all these couldn'ts and can'ts. You can't go to the library, you can't go to the school closest to you, you can't use the park across the street, you can't try on clothes, you can't go to the movies, you can't--I mean, all these can'ts you--you had to live with. And I knew it was about opening their minds. We didn't grow any new arms and new legs, we're just changing their minds. So I went to the back of the bus and had a civil rights meeting while waiting for the police to come. And I said, "Do you see a steering wheel back here?" They said, "No." I said, "Do you see clutch and brakes and all that?" They said, "No." I said, "If we can't sit up front, how can we ever drive this bus? How can we get jobs driving if we don't sit up front?" And they came on and arrested me and all that. But I should tell you now that the general manager of the bus company is the Chairman of my Trustees Board. He's the President and general manager. Not only did he--he went through the ranks of the driver, I've had men in my church who have retired after thirty years of bus driving in Memphis. The whole--the train station that I used to go in and was segregated, they just named that hall after him, the Hudson Hall, because he remodeled the whole thing. I mean, that's the kind of change. I was NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] Chairman of the Labor and Industry Committee. I got the first blacks hired at the banks. And we were--we're in a tristate area so it's more difficult for us. We had to contend with Mississippi, Arkansas and Tennessee. I actually had the--the--the bankers to tell me we can't integrate. How Mississippi customers will never let Negroes wait on them. I said, "Wait a minute, what happens if all the bank hire Negroes, where are they going to bank if they don't let Negroes wait on them?" And so we got all the banks to hire blacks, but we went--we never had had the violence in Memphis. We went just time and time again. We'd go to the--to the hilt and row by row almost and we integrated. My five year-old daughter was one of thirteen children integrated the schools at Memphis, five years old. We went to school with police protection, and when I tell young people that in my lectures. I said, "I went to school with police protection. Not in Zimbabwe, not in South America, not in Bosnia. In Memphis Tennessee, USA [United States of America], in my day and my daughter's day. And she's got a sixteen year-old child now. The day of integration, the police picked me up and my daughter and followed us to school. The police had surrounded the school to protect us from the howling mobs, but there were no howling mobs. I got out of the car and the policemen in charge was introduced to me by the policeman that escorted me.