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Winston Pittman

Automobile sales entrepreneur Winston Pittman was born on August 31, 1950 in Grenada, Mississippi to Mary Purnell Pittman and W.C. Pittman. Pittman attended Montgomery County Vocational High School in Kilmichael, Mississippi and Mary Holmes Junior College in West Point, Mississippi before he transferred to Jackson State College. He left Jackson State College during his senior year to accept a position with the United Parcel Service.

From 1972 until 1975, Pittman worked as a hub manager for the United Parcel Service in Jackson, Mississippi. He then sought a career in the automotive industry and became a car salesman at Capital Dodge in 1975. Pittman quickly rose through the ranks of the company and worked as a used car manager, a new car manager, and, in 1981, a finance and insurance manager. In 1983, he was promoted to the position of general manager of Capital Dodge. Then, after completing the Chrysler’s dealer development program, Pittman purchased his first dealership in 1988. He purchased Cardinal Dodge, Inc. in Louisville, Kentucky and founded Pittman Enterprises, where he served as president and chief executive officer. Pittman Enterprises grew to include dealerships in Kentucky, Ohio, Georgia, and South Carolina.

Pittman was named Black Enterprise’s Dealer of the Year in 2002 and, from 1994, was consistently listed on the magazine’s “Auto Dealer 100” list. Pittman also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Association of Minority Automobile Dealers in 2006, was named a legendary and exemplary leader by the African Methodist Episcopal Church in 2010, and was the recipient of the Isaac Murphy Businessman of the Year Award in 2013.

Pittman served as president of the Toyota/Lexus Minority Dealers Association and as chairman for the National Association of Minority Automotive Dealers. He was also a member of the Dodge National Dealer Council, the Lexus National Dealer Council, and the DaimlerChrysler Minority Dealers Association. Pittman volunteered his time as a board member of Fifth Third Bank, the University of Louisville’s Board of Overseers, the Lake Forest Country Club, Duquesne University Boy Scouts of America, and Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Church.

Pittman and his wife, Alma Dent Pittman, have three children: Winston, Misty, and Jabari.

Winston Pittman was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 14, 2017.

Accession Number

A2017.128

Sex

Male

Interview Date

08/14/2017

Last Name

Pittman

Maker Category
Middle Name

R.

Organizations
Schools

Jackson State University

First Name

Winston

Birth City, State, Country

Grenada

HM ID

PIT35

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

Maui

Favorite Quote

If you ever see a turtle on a stump, they didn't get there by themself.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Kentucky

Birth Date

8/31/1950

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Louisville

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fried corn

Short Description

Automobile sales entrepreneur Winston Pittman (1950- ) was the founder, president and CEO of the automotive group, Pittman Enterprises.

Employment

Pittman Enterprise

Favorite Color

Blue

Robert T. Starks

Educator, political consultant and activist professor, Robert Terry Starks was born on January 24, 1944 in Grenada, Mississippi. He earned his B.S. degree from Chicago’s Loyola University in 1968. He earned his M.A. degree in political science also from Loyola in 1971. In 1968, Starks served as a management consultant for Booze Allen Hamilton and a research specialist for the Chicago Urban League. From 1970 to 1972, Starks served as Director of Black Studies at Northern Illinois University and associate professor of political science. He joined the faculty of Northeastern Illinois University’s Center for Inner City Studies (NEIU CICS) in 1976 where he is associate professor of political science.

Starks served as an issues advisor to Reverend Jesse L. Jackson and political advisor to the late Chicago mayor, Harold Washington. He was the founding chair of the Task Force for Black Political Empowerment and has been the local chair of the Free South Africa Movement. In 2001, Starks founded the Harold Washington Institute for Research and Policy Studies at NEIU CICS. Since 1991, Starks has contributed a weekly column to N’Digo news magazine and hosted a show on WVON Radio in the early 1990s. He also was a contributing editor to Urban Affairs Quarterly.

Starks has appeared on WVON Radio’s On Target and on ABC-TV’s Nightline, the Today Show, C-SPAN, CNN News and CNN’s Crossfire television programs. His article “Harold Washington and the Politics of Reform” appeared in Racial Politics in American Cities by Rufus Browning. Starks is chairperson of the board of the Illinois Black United Fund and a member of innumerable civic committees. The recipient of a treasure of community award, he lives in the Woodlawn community with his wife, Judith and his children, Kenya and Robert. Starks has also authored a book on the political life of Harold Washington.

Starks was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 15, 2009.

Accession Number

A2009.147

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/15/2009

Last Name

Starks

Maker Category
Schools

Academy Of St Benedict The African-Stewart Campus

Carey Dodson High School

Loyola University Chicago

University of Chicago

First Name

Robert

Birth City, State, Country

Grenada

HM ID

STA05

Favorite Season

Summer

Sponsor

Herb and Sheran Wilkins Media Makers

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

Jamaica

Favorite Quote

You May Not Get Everything That You Pay For In This World, But You Most Certainly Will Pay For Everything That You Get.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

1/24/1944

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Broccoli

Short Description

Social activist and professor Robert T. Starks (1944 - ) served as an associate professor of political science at Northeastern Illinois University’s Center for Inner City Studies, as an issues advisor to Rev. Jesse L. Jackson and political advisor to the late Chicago mayor Harold Washington. He was the founder and chair of the Task Force for Black Political Empowerment, and has been the local chair of the Free South Africa Movement.

Employment

Urban Education Center

Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc

Northern Illinois University

Northeastern Illinois University

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Black

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Robert T. Starks' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Robert T. Starks lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Robert T. Starks describes his mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Robert T. Starks describes his mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Robert T. Starks talks about the South and West Sides of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Robert T. Starks describes his father's family background in Grenada County, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Robert T. Starks recalls visiting his extended family in Mississippi and working on the farm

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Robert T. Starks explains how his parents met at Camp McCain in Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Robert T. Starks describes his brothers, his parents, and who he takes after

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Robert T. Starks recalls his favorite childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Robert T. Starks describes the sights, sounds, and smells of growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Robert T. Starks remembers the 1955 murder of Emmett Till

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Robert T. Starks describes growing up in Mississippi and in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Robert T. Starks talks about the schools he attended in Mississippi, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and the Hungarian Uprising

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Robert T. Starks recalls the African American community's reception of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and learning about communism

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Robert T. Starks describes his interests while at Carey Dodson High School in Grenada County, Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Robert T. Starks describes growing up on the West Side of Chicago, Illinois during the 1950s and 1960s

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Robert T. Starks recounts his decision to attend Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois and how he avoided the Vietnam War draft

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Robert T. Starks recalls his teachers at Carey Dodson High School in Grenada County, Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Robert T. Starks describes the academic environment at Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Robert T. Starks talks about athletics at Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois and about college sports teams during the 1960s

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Robert T. Starks talks about his civil right activism while at Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Robert T. Starks recounts his student activism in Chicago, Illinois with HistoryMakers Fannie Rushing, Timuel Black, Kwame John R. Porter and others

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Robert T. Starks describes planning a 1967 conference at HistoryMaker Kwame John R. Porter's Christ United Methodist Church in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Robert T. Starks talks about fellow activists in 1960s Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Robert T. Starks talks about meeting SNCC leaders and Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s influence in the South

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Robert T. Starks talks about pursuing a graduate degree in urban studies at Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Robert T. Starks talks about working at Booz Allen Hamilton consulting and the Urban Education Center in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Robert T. Starks interprets public-choice economist Anthony Downs' explanation for urban decay

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Robert T. Starks recounts working in East St. Louis, Illinois for Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting firm

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Robert T. Starks describes cultural programs he created as director of the Black Studies Program at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Robert T. Starks recounts how he got his teaching job at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Robert T. Starks talks about the faculty at the Center for Inner City Studies at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Robert T. Starks recalls the aftermath of Black Panther Fred Hampton's killing by police

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Robert T. Starks lists people he worked with at the National Urban League and the Black Strategy Center in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Robert T. Starks lists prominent black nationalists affiliated with the African American Studies Program at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Robert T. Starks lists prominent Chicago, Illinois black cultural figures like HistoryMakers Maulana Karenga, Phil Cohran, and Abena Joan P. Brown

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Robert T. Starks recalls African Liberation Day in 1972 and boycotting the South African Springboks rugby team in 1981

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Robert T. Starks recalls artists and activists in Chicago, Illinois like Anas Lukeman and Sister Christine Johnson

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Robert T. Starks talks about Communist activist Ishmael Flory, HistoryMaker Margaret Burroughs, and scholar F.H. Hammurabi

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Robert T. Starks recalls the 1972 National Black Political Assembly in Gary, Indiana

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Robert T. Starks talks about poet Amiri Baraka and HistoryMaker Jorja Palmer

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Robert T. Starks describes the relationship between Chicago mayor Harold Washington and HistoryMaker Gus Savage

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Robert T. Starks recounts the decision to have HistoryMaker Jesse L. Jackson run for President of the United States

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Robert T. Starks describes working on Harold Washington's campaign for Mayor of Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Robert T. Starks describes working on Harold Washington's campaign for Mayor of Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Robert T. Starks describes working for Chicago mayor Harold Washington

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Robert T. Starks recalls the 1984 Democratic National Convention where HistoryMaker Jesse L. Jackson conceded to Walter Mondale

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Robert T. Starks describes the mayoral tenure of Harold Washington in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Robert T. Starks talks about conflicts after Chicago mayor Harold Washington's death, and about his successor, HistoryMaker Eugene Sawyer

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Robert T. Starks talks about HistoryMaker Eugene Sawyer's election as mayor by the Chicago City Council

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Robert T. Starks reflects upon the Harold Washington administration and the Free South Africa movement

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Robert T. Starks names world leaders he met as a local leader of the Free South Africa movement in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Robert T. Starks talks about the Million Man March in 1995

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Robert T. Starks reflects upon working with HistoryMakers Louis Farrakhan, James Bevel, Maulana Karenga and others on the 1995 Million Man March

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Robert T. Starks recounts how he first met HistoryMaker Barack Obama

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Robert T. Starks recalls HistoryMaker Barack Obama's senatorial and presidential campaigns

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Robert T. Starks analyzes HistoryMaker Barack Obama's past successes and continuing political prospects

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Robert T. Starks reflects upon the lessons from Harold Washington's administration

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Robert T. Starks analyzes HistoryMaker Barack Obama's political prospects at the time of the interview

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Robert T. Starks describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Robert T. Starks reflects upon his life

Tape: 9 Story: 9 - Robert T. Starks reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 9 Story: 10 - Robert T. Starks talks about his family

Tape: 9 Story: 11 - Robert T. Starks describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$8

DAStory

7$6

DATitle
Robert T. Starks talks about his civil right activism while at Loyola University in Chicago, Illinois
Robert T. Starks reflects upon the Harold Washington administration and the Free South Africa movement
Transcript
Now, okay so were, were you involved in any political activities at Loyola [University, Chicago, Illinois]?$$Yeah, that's interesting, very interesting. I was one of the founders of the Loyola Friends of SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee], and also LAASA, which is Loyola Afro-American Students Association. And I never will forget this was when we had the Selma [Alabama], the march in Selma. Some friends of mine and I were going around--cause I was down on, on the downtown campus, 800 North Wabash [Avenue, Chicago, Illinois] in the lounge, student lounge. And we were running around collecting money to help send money to the, to SNCC and to the, the marches in Selma. So I went up to this one white kid at this table, a white kid and said give some money to help Selma. So this one little smart-ass white kid said I didn't know she was sick, ha, ha, ha. And what did he say that for? We had a fight in the cafeteria. We swung at, we beat--but anyway, the--you know the dean called us in and you know, what are you doing? We explained the situation. He said you know, we're going to forget about this. But it was--I mean they, they were smart alecks at that time. Later of course, well yeah it was later, the--we had [Reverend] Dr. [Martin Luther] King [Jr.] came to Chicago. And of course--$$This was '64 [1964]?$$No, no, '66 [1966].$$Sixty-six [1966], yeah when he came to stay.$$And his buddy on the--one of his lead people was of course Jim Bevel [HM James Bevel]. And we loved Bevel. Bevel was one of the most--I can't tell you how--I mean Bevel was one of the smartest guys you ever want to meet. He was in fact, he was Dr. King, one of Dr. King's best strategists. And Bevel was like the guy who took the SNCC kids and CORE [Congress of Racial Equality] kids and college kids and he would give us workshops on how to be nonviolent and all this. And so we had this--our little SNCC group. We would go out on protests with them. We would march against the Board of Education because they were, you know we had to fight over integration of Chicago public schools. We did all kinds of little, little demonstrations and stuff. And it was integrated of course. This was before the black power move. And we hosted over at the Packing House, Stokley Carmichael when he came to Chicago. And this time, this is when I met Fannie Rushing and of course--now let's go back to '63 [1963]. The March on Washington [D.C.]. And of course the, the March on Washington headquarters in Chicago was at the Packing House and that's where I met Lawrence Landry. And Lawrence would--you came in and Lawrence would give you an assignment. My assignment was to go around and collect money to help send people to the March on Washington. So we went door-to-door. And then secondly, to set, to set up support and set up the Freedom Schools because we took kids out of schools cause we had the, the so-called Freedom Schools. And we were in contact at that time with students up at Northwestern [University, Evanston, Illinois], DePaul [University, Chicago, Illinois] and the city colleges. So at that time that's when we met people like Stan Willis, Earl Jones who was Amiri Baraka's cousin. Cause he was at Loyola. He had come in--he was from the East Coast and he was Baraka's cousin. And we--he was a part of our little group. We, we had--I mean just, just a bunch of really enthusiastic young people who thought everything was you know, gung-ho.$(Laughter)$$Now what, what's your assessment of Harold Washington years and what do you make of his--did we make any gains?$$We had made tremendous gains. But the problem was we were unable to sustain the gains because I think we spent too much time investing too much energy into one person rather than sustaining the organizational, institutional support that we had built up. Because as soon as he came into office, many of the organizations and the institutions that we had built up to that point to bring him to, into office, started retracting. 'Cause I remember clearly the, the number of organizations that we had on the list that supported Harold exceeded fifty organizations in the city. West Side, South Side, North Side, southeast side, these were black organizations. But as soon as Harold came into office, many of those organizations began to diminish in their influence because you know the idea was why should we have all these organizations, we got a black mayor, right? And that was the, the key fault. Now in the meantime in '84 [1984], we--[HM] Buzz Palmer, [HM] Alice Palmer, myself, Mark Durham sit down and then later we bring in [HM] Conrad [Walter Worrill]. And we formed the Free South Africa Movement. We got arrested in the consulate office in--and this was around the same time that they began the Free South African arrest and, and movement in Washington [D.C.], right. When Transafrica with Randall Robinson had begun the whole thing, right. So we formed--I became the, the Chairman of that group and we used to meet right up in the, in, on--in Room 408 in this building. I think it was every Thursday night we met. And we, we had every Thursday without a, a--without a doubt, we marched in front of the consulate on North Michigan Avenue. And I--believe it or not, some of the same people who were jumping up and down once [Nelson] Mandela was released, used to walk past us when we were demonstrating, and we would ask them to join the demonstration. They'd look at us like we were crazy, right. And some of those same people once Mandela was elected President, were the first to get on the plane and go to South Africa and, and you know. Interesting, very interesting dynamic. So in '91 [1991], it was '93 [1993] when Mandela came to Chicago [Illinois], well we held, held rallies, Free South Africa Movement had rallies in downtown Chicago, the whole bit. So when he was preparing to come to Chicago, [HM] Jesse [L. Jackson, Sr.] asked me to head up the committee to, to, to plan for the, the, the--his introduction in Chicago. So we put that together. And of course it was held--the main thing was at, at PUSH and that's when all these people who had, who had not participated in the marches all show up, want to have a picture with Mandela. And I just, I was just--I just shook my head; I was just absolutely--but that's, that's, that's the nature of the game. You know you have to get over it. But these were the same people, we begged them to join the line and help us march on those cold, cold days when we were being arrested, when we were being--we were sitting in, we were marching, wouldn't have anything to do with us.

Lucky Cordell

Disc jockey Moses “Lucky” Cordell, affectionately known as “The Baron of Bounce,” was born in Grenada, Mississippi, on July 28, 1928, to Grace and Moses Cordell. At age three, his mother died unexpectedly and his family moved to Chicago. Cordell attended Chicago Public Schools and graduated from Dunbar Technical High School in 1946. Shortly after graduation, Cordell joined the U.S. Army, serving in the Special Services Branch. While in the military, Cordell developed his theatrical ability. He received an honorable discharge in 1948. He was hired at WGES as a disk jockey in 1952 to work under Al Benson.

While working at WGRY in Gary, Indiana, Cordell hosted the popular show House of Hits. The show was well known for its audience participation and became a community favorite among African Americans in Gary. In 1956, local newspapers held an election for the “Honorary Mayor of the Negro Community” and Cordell won unanimously (beating four other radio personalities, religious leaders and political leaders). He held this honor for four years, until he decided not to run in 1960.

Cordell worked at several other radio stations in the Chicago area before taking a position as a disc jockey at WVON in Chicago. WVON, owned and operated by Chess Records, would become one of the most influential radio stations in United States history. Cordell became WVON’s program and music director in 1965, and in 1968 he was promoted to assistant general manager. After a change in station ownership in late 1970, Cordell became general manager. Under his leadership, the station increased its ratings and almost doubled the income received from advertising.

In the late 1960s, Cordell joined the Chicago Urban League. After retiring from the radio business, Cordell remained an active member of Chicago’s African American community.

Cordell passed away on September 6, 2015.

Accession Number

A2001.017

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

1/16/2002

Last Name

Cordell

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

James R. Doolittle, Jr. Elementary School

Dunbar Vocational Career Academy High School

Radio Institute of Chicago

Search Occupation Category
Archival Photo 2
First Name

Lucky

Birth City, State, Country

Grenada

HM ID

COR01

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

Las Vegas, Nevada

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

7/28/1928

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chili, Chicken

Death Date

7/7/2015

Short Description

Radio personality Lucky Cordell (1928 - 2015 ) , affectionately known as “The Baron of Bounce,” Cordell was a disc jockey at WVON in Chicago becoming the program and music director in 1965 and the general manager in the late 1970s. Under his leadership, the station increased its ratings and almost doubled the income received from advertising.

Employment

United States Army

WGES Radio

WGRY radio station

WVON Radio

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Lucky Cordell interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Lucky Cordell's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Lucky Cordell remembers his father

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Lucky Cordell discusses his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Lucky Cordell recounts an accident in his family

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Lucky Cordell discusses his upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Lucky Cordell remembers his childhood friends

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Lucky Cordell shares memories from his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Lucky Cordell recalls a dangerous encounter from his youth

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Lucky Cordell explains his nickname

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Lucky Cordell remembers inspirational figures from his youth

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Lucky Cordell explains choosing a vocational education

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Lucky Cordell details his service in the U.S. military

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Lucky Cordell describes his pursuit of a career in radio broadcasting

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Lucky Cordell details his business relationship with radio personality Al Benson

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Lucky Cordell explains his interest in radio broadcasting

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Lucky Cordell remembers radio personality Al Benson

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Lucky Cordell discusses radio personality Al Benson's career ascent

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Lucky Cordell describes the radio industry in the 1950s

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Lucky Cordell details the end of radio personality Al Benson's career

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Lucky Cordell discusses his radio career at WGRY in Gary, Indiana

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Lucky Cordell recalls his participation in the Skyloft Players theater troupe during the 1950s

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Lucky Cordell describes his popularity in Gary, Indiana in the 1950s

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Lucky Cordell talks about establishing his reputation as the 'Baron of Bounce' at WGRY in Gary, Indiana

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Lucky Cordell explains his transition from WGRY in Gary, Indiana to WGES in Chicago, Illinois in 1961

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Lucky Cordell talks about the music and the disc jockeys on WGES in Chicago circa 1961

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Lucky Cordell discusses leaving Chicago's WGES for Chicago's WVON in 1964

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Lucky Cordell dicusses his relationship with Leonard Chess, owner of WVON and Chess Records

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Lucky Cordell addresses the subject of working for a radio station owned by a record company

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Lucky Cordell shares an anecdote about a disc jockey named The Magnificent Montague

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Lucky Cordell discusses his alliance with the disc jockeys during changes in WVON's ownership

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Lucky Cordell talks about running afoul of advertisers at WVON

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Lucky Cordell describes the office environment during his stint as general manager at WVON

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Lucky Cordell explains why he was chosen to be general manager of WVON

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Lucky Cordell dicusses the Black History Week programming that he produced at WVON

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Lucky Cordell describes WVON station politics surrounding the management shift and disc jockey Joe Cobb

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Lucky Cordell talks about WVON disc jockey Herb Kent's personality

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Lucky Cordell relates an anecdote about WVON disc jockeys Herb Kent and E. Rodney Jones

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Lucky Cordell talks about some of the WVON disc jockeys during the 1960s

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Lucky Cordell talks about the nicknames used by the disc jockeys at WVON

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Lucky Cordell discusses 'The Black History Series' he produced

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Lucky Cordell discusses a CHA radio project he worked on with Chicago Mayor Harold Washington after leaving WVON

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Lucky Cordell talks about his affiliation with Reverend Jesse Jackson and Operation PUSH

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Lucky Cordell discusses changes in black radio from his career through the present

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

3$3

DATitle
Lucky Cordell details his business relationship with radio personality Al Benson
Lucky Cordell relates an anecdote about WVON disc jockeys Herb Kent and E. Rodney Jones
Transcript
I went to Al Benson who gave me a job. It was an Al Benson production and Lucky Cordell show. And I started with I think it was fifteen minutes, or half-hour or something. It was a short amount of time. And he put Tom Duncan--Tom Duncan and I like at each other. It was like these two young men wanna be disk jockeys on the Al Benson program. Now you send in, I don't know, bottle caps or something. I think it was Budweiser beer or something. But he had the audience voting for us by sending in these labels. And so now the thing is the label of the beer, whatever it was wasn't selling good. So he was very smart. He was smart enough to say, how can I jack up the sales? So he didn't care if I had my family and friends go out and buy tons of the stuff. You know, he didn't care. All he wanted was the response. So I won that. I became the disk jockey. Then I got a half-hour with him. Finally got an hour with him. And I'd say to him, "Mr. Benson I'd really like to get some sponsors." So he says, "You're not ready yet." So I was asking, "Can I go out and sell." You know. 'Cause I knew that's where the money was. Every time I'd ask him, he'd say, "You're not ready." I saying to myself, how do I get ready? So he had a newspaper. And he said to me, "Well you know, I'm not gonna pay you this money for you to do an hour at night." I said, "Well what--" He said, "I want you to work at the newspaper office during the day." Okay so there I was working in the newspaper office during the day and working the radio at night, which meant I had no time to go and get any sponsors. Benson was not selling at the time. And he used me and the other young fellow to say to ownership, look, I got these two hotshots in here. They're not selling anything. Better than me not selling, you know. So the break came when I--one day I went to work and on my lunch period, I went to a cleaners and sold them an account. Came back to the newspaper. And this was when I began to realize what was happening. I said, "Mr. Benson, good news. I just sold my first account." And he went off. "You did what? I didn't tell you were ready! You're not--" He says, "You know, you can't sign any contracts because I work for the radio station. You work for me." I said, "Yeah I know that. I didn't sign it." Then the--you see the light go on over his head. He said, "Oh maybe you are ready." He put his signature on it. Which means he sold it. Okay? Then he gave me free reign. You know, like, you're ready now. You can go out and sell whatever you want to." And I must have sold six accounts. And an account called in. 'Cause one of the accounts that I sold said, "I'll buy this time. But you must do my commercial. I don't want Benson doing my commercial." There were some who, because he talked, you know, very--and they wanted somebody that spoke better. He came in one night feeling good. He had some guests with him. He said, "Lucky," he says, "Listen I've got some friends here and you take the night off. I'm gonna do the show." So he's gonna do my show. "Okay Mr. Benson." He did the show and he did the commercial. The people called up the next day infuriated. "I'm not paying for that commercial. I told Lucky when he sold me that I was only gonna do--" Dr. Dyer. The light went on in his head. He called me upstairs. Now this was--he said--sent me a message. Lucky, Dr. Dyer wants to see you." Benson had threatened me within an inch by saying, "Don't you ever go upstairs. You have no business up there. Because you work for me." 'Cause he didn't want a closeness between the owners and me. So here I am. What do I do now? He said don't go up there and the man who owns the station says he wants to see me. So I took the shot and went on up to see him. And it went something like, "Lucky you're doing good and I just want to congratulate you. And listen you've sold several accounts haven't you?" I said, "Yes sir." He said, "About how many?" "Well I don't know five or six." He said, "Listen I'm looking for my list around here. Can you remember who they were?" I'm innocent. I started naming the accounts. 'Cause I didn't know Benson was taking credit and not telling the man that I was involved. So after that meeting, when I came in that night--I still got the letter. There was a letter. Dear Lucky: As of tonight I will no longer need your services. I will be doing the show myself. Maybe we can work together in the future. Signed Al Benson. 'Cause I'd gone upstairs. So the next day, I went up to see Dr. Dyer. And I said, "Dr. Dyer." I said, "Is there any time that is available that I can get my own time? Because Mr. Benson just fired me." He said, "He did what?" I said, "He said he no longer need my services." He said, "Well I--you come in tonight to work. I'll speak with Mr. Benson." They tell me he cursed him up one wall and down the other. "You're trying to get rid of this kid whose selling and you're not selling." And blah blah blah. So then I came in the next night as if I came in to pick up my things. There was another letter. Dear Lucky: I have reconsidered your position as disc jockey and you will continue in your present position for the time being or something. So I stayed there with him like I say for at least a couple of years. Finally realizing I can't progress under this man. Everything I do he's gonna take credit for. So I put the word out that I was looking. And it was Leonard Chess who said to me one day when I visited him in his office--Because who would hear about jobs. Record people. Music people would hear about jobs available. I was about ready to go out of town. He said, "Lucky there's a position open in Gary, Indiana. A little station called WGRY." Well Gary at that time sounded to me like going to the moon. I didn't realize it was a stone's throw. So I thanked him and I did go out there. I took the audition. The man liked me. And I stayed out there for eight years. And finally I said, I wanna go back to Chicago radio. That's when I went to Dr. Dyer and he gave me my own show.$[E.] Rodney [Jones] and Herb [Kent] were in a contest together. Now this was a station [WVON radio station, Chicago, Illinois] promotion. It was the same kind of thing that had been done many stations--many times. Send in a label and vote for your favorite DJ [disc jockey]. Now this was all the disc jockeys. And that gave them the opportunity of hyping saying, "Vote for me." You know. "Hey, you know, I'm in this contest. Vote for me." So Herb and Rodney were the closest. They were the leaders. Everybody else had fallen behind. And there was a guy who was a sponsor of Herb Kent's who pulled a truck. He owned a grocery store. He pulled a truck up in the lot and had two people in there ripping off labels, gonna vote for Herb Kent. Well Herb Kent won it thumbs down. I mean the man unloaded half a truck of labels. To show you how people get involved. Here he is a sponsor. He wanted the one that he was pulling for to win. 'Cause Herb did his commercials. The story goes that he was like a lightweight gangster. And one day Rodney was called into the office. And this guy had--he was a little guy. But he had two big guys with him. Oh--the reason he wanted to see Rodney was Rodney jokingly made fun of the fact that Herb Kent had stolen the, you know. "He didn't really beat me. But he stole the election. " You know. And that was like calling this guy's representatives a thief. He came out there. He said, "And don't you ever call me--say I'm crooked!" Pow! Fired on him. And Leonard was there. And it was hushed up. It never was, you know, never known. I'll tell you who the guy was. He was the guy that later was busted for--he had a plant. And they were wrapping--they were putting butter wrappers on margarine. It was really margarine. And they had a plant doing it. So naturally, he could undersell any store in town. Butter, you know, so much a pound. They caught up with him in his operation. They busted that. So there were a couple of things that, you know, were a little shady about the boy. And nobody ever knew that. That's really--because, you know, that's the kind of story--who's gonna tell it? Have him coming after you, you know.