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Carolyn Whigham

Funeral director Carolyn Whigham was born on January 5, 1949 in Newark, New Jersey to Marie Foster Whigham and Charles Whigham. She attended St. Mary’s School, and was among the first African Americans to attend Vailsburg High School. Upon graduating in 1966, Whigham enrolled at Virginia State College in Petersburg, Virginia to study business administration, but left in order to pursue a career in mortuary science. Whigham earned her degree from the American Academy McAllister Institute of Funeral Service in New York City in 1986.

Whigham began working in her father’s funeral home, Whigham Funeral Home while still in high school. After leaving Virginia State College, Whigham married and lived in California for ten years. There, she and her then husband became successful real estate investors as the founders of Bennett and Bennett Associates, the largest black owned property management company in Los Angeles at the time. Upon her father’s retirement in 1986, Whigham became the director of Whigham Funeral Home. She oversaw the services for jazz singer Sarah Vaughn, as well as other celebrities from Newark, New Jersey. In 2003, she directed funeral services for John Russell Houston, Whitney Houston’s father. Whigham was called again by the Houston family to oversee funeral services for Whitney Houston in 2012, and her daughter Bobbi Christina Brown in 2015. She also oversaw the funeral of Congressman Donald M. Payne in 2012. She went on to host the “How to Conduct High Profile Funerals” seminars accredited by the New Jersey State Board of Mortuary Science. Whigham employed a predominately female staff, which included her wife, Terry Fields Whigham, and her daughter, Kara-Lynn Whigham. Over the course of her career as director, Whigham oversaw over 6,000 funerals at Whigham Funeral Home.

Whigham has been featured in The New York Times and the Star-Ledger. She was a member of the National Funeral Directors, Garden State Funeral Directors Association and Morticians Association, Inc, a professional organization for African American funeral directors. She also served on the New Jersey Board for the Statutes of Women. In addition, Whigham also worked with the Newark YMCA to establish housing for homeless people.

Whigham has six children: Stevland, Kara-Lynn, Aazim, Chastity, Chad and Nyle.

Carolyn Whigham was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 28, 2017.

Accession Number

A2017.076

Sex

Female

Interview Date

03/28/2017

Last Name

Whigham

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

St. Mary's School

Vailsburg Middle School

Virginia State University

American Academy McAllister Institute of Funeral Service

First Name

Carolyn

Birth City, State, Country

Newark

HM ID

WHI25

Favorite Season

Summer

State

New Jersey

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere other than work.

Favorite Quote

That every talent god gave me I hope I have none left because I used it all.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New Jersey

Birth Date

1/5/1949

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Newark

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Lobster

Short Description

Funeral director Carolyn Whigham (1949 - ) presided over the funeral services for celebrities like U.S. Congressman Donald Payne and Whitney Houston during her tenure as director of Whigham Funeral Home in Newark, New Jersey.

Employment

Whigham's Funeral Home

City National Bank

Favorite Color

Yellow

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Carolyn Whigham's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Carolyn Whigham lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Carolyn Whigham describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Carolyn Whigham talks about her parents' occupations

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Carolyn Whigham describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Carolyn Whigham talks about her parents' marriage

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Carolyn Whigham talks about her brother

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Carolyn Whigham describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Carolyn Whigham describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Carolyn Whigham recalls her neighborhood in Newark, New Jersey

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Carolyn Whigham recalls her enrollment at Vailsburg High School in Newark, New Jersey

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Carolyn Whigham talks about her father's prominence in Newark, New Jersey

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Carolyn Whigham remembers her family's vacation home in Hackettstown, New Jersey

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Carolyn Whigham recalls her education at Vailsburg High School in Newark, New Jersey

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Carolyn Whigham recalls her activities at Vailsburg High School in Newark, New Jersey

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Carolyn Whigham talks about the black Muslim community in Newark, New Jersey

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Carolyn Whigham describes the impetus for the riots of 1967 in Newark, New Jersey

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Carolyn Whigham recalls the economic struggle of African Americans in Newark, New Jersey

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Carolyn Whigham remembers the white flight from the Central Ward of Newark, New Jersey

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Carolyn Whigham talks about the assassination of Malcolm X

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Carolyn Whigham remembers her aspiration to become a funeral director

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Carolyn Whigham describes her role as a funeral director

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Carolyn Whigham recalls her time at Virginia State College in Petersburg, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Carolyn Whigham describes her early experiences of religion

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Carolyn Whigham talks about the riots of 1967 in Newark, New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Carolyn Whigham recalls her influences at Virginia State College in Petersburg, Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Carolyn Whigham describes her experiences of discrimination as a gay woman

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Carolyn Whigham talks about the tolerance of gay women in black cultures

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Carolyn Whigham remembers her family's acceptance of her sexual identity

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Carolyn Whigham describes her career at the Whigham Funeral Home in Newark, New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Carolyn Whigham recalls the allegations surrounding Whitney Houston's funeral

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Carolyn Whigham describes the different types of funeral services

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Carolyn Whigham describes the staff of the Whigham Funeral Home in Newark, New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Carolyn Whigham remembers a pro bono funeral for a U.S. military veteran

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Carolyn Whigpen reflects upon the changes in the funeral industry

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Carolyn Whigpen talks about the black funeral homes in Newark, New Jersey

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Carolyn Whigpen talks about the National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association, Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Carolyn Whigpen talks about conducting high profile funerals

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Carolyn Whigpen talks about the security measures at funerals homes and cemeteries

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Carolyn Whigpen talks about the racial segregation of the funeral industry

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Carolyn Whigpen describes her experiences with Chinese funeral customs

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Carolyn Whigpen talks about the contention among family members during funerals

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Carolyn Whigpen remembers the discrimination against people who died from AIDS

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Carolyn Whigpen talks about the deaths from gun violence in Newark, New Jersey

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Carolyn Whigham describes the services of the Whigham Funeral Home in Newark, New Jersey, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Carolyn Whigham describes the services of the Whigham Funeral Home in Newark, New Jersey, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Carolyn Whigham reflects upon her life

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Carolyn Whigham talks about the funerary customs of different cultures

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Carolyn Whigham talks about incidents of gang violence at funerals

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Carolyn Whigham talks about the City National Bank in Newark, New Jersey

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Carolyn Whigham reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Carolyn Whigham reflects upon her family

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Carolyn Whigham describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Carolyn Whigham describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Carolyn Whigham narrates her photographs

Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams

Reverend Dr. Ruth “Teena” Williams was born in New Orleans, Louisiana on October 4, 1927. Williams attended public schools in New Orleans, and after graduating from high school, she enrolled in Xavier University, earning her A.B. degree in 1947. She then attended St. Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri, earning her master’s of science in medical social work in 1950.

After earning her master’s degree, Williams moved to Chicago and was hired by Cook County Hospital as a social worker in 1950. In 1955, she was hired by the city of Chicago to work as a social worker with welfare recipients, and in 1957 she went to work for the Veterans Administration. In 1959, Williams joined in the family business, Unity Funeral Parlors, and went back to school to become a licensed funeral director and in 1964 she became an embalmer. Williams served as president and chairman of the board of Unity Funeral Parlors, as well as serving as president of Unity Limousine Services.

Wanting to help people, Williams enrolled in the Chicago Theological Seminary in 1977, and she earned her master’s of divinity and doctor of ministry degrees in 1980. Since then, she also earned a certificate in Anglican studies from Seabury-Western Theological Seminary and her Ph.D. from the Chicago Theological Seminary at the age of eighty. She served as a part-time priest at St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church in Chicago.

Williams was involved with numerous civic organizations, including The Links, Inc., the women’s board of the Field Museum and the Chicago Network. She had numerous awards bestowed upon her over the years, including the Spirit of Love award from the Little City Foundation and special recognition from the Links.

Williams was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 26, 2004.

Williams passed away on June 6, 2011.

Accession Number

A2004.147

Sex

Female

Interview Date

8/26/2004 |and| 9/15/2004

Last Name

Williams

Middle Name

Teena

Schools

Valena C. Jones Elementary School

McDonogh No. 35 Senior High School

Xavier University of Louisiana

Saint Louis University

Worsham College of Mortuary Science

Chicago Theological Seminary

Seabury-Western Theological Seminary

Institute for Spiritual Leadership

First Name

Ruth

Birth City, State, Country

New Orleans

HM ID

WIL17

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Thank You, God.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

10/4/1927

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Catfish (Fried), Beans (Red), Rice

Death Date

6/6/2011

Short Description

Funeral director and priest Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams (1927 - 2011 ) was president and chairman of the board of Unity Funeral Parlors and president of Unity Limousine Services. She also served as a priest at St. Edmund’s Episcopal Church in Chicago. Williams passed away on June 6, 2011.

Employment

Cook County Hospital

City of Chicago

United States Department of Veterans Affairs

Unity Funeral Parlors

Unity Limousine Services

St. Edmund's Episcopal Church

Unity Mutual Life Insurance

St. James Episcopal Cathedral

St. Margaret of Scotland

Favorite Color

Blue, White

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams describes her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams describes her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams remembers stories about her mother's childhood in Pass Christian, Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams talks about her father's family in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams explains how her parents' relationship began

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams lists her siblings, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams lists her siblings, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood in New Orleans, Louisiana, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood in New Orleans, Louisiana, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams remembers Creole culture in early twentieth- century New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams describes her family tomb in St. Louis Cemetery No. 2 in New Orleans, Lousiana

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams describes the economic situation of Creole families during her childhood in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams recalls Creole Mardi Gras traditions

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams talks about the evolution of Creole identity, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams talks about the evolution of Creole identity, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams explains how voodoo was incorporated into Creole Roman Catholic religious practice

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams remembers Catholic kindergarten at Corpus Christi Church in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams recalls Valena C. Jones Elementary School in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams describes her family and school life during childhood

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams remembers extracurricular activities at McDonogh No. 35 Senior High School in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams recalls her time at McDonogh No. 35 Senior High School in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams remembers graduating at age nineteen from Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams recalls experiencing class discrimination at Xavier University in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams remembers her ambivalence upon graduating from college in 1947

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams recalls initial challenges at St. Louis University School of Social Work in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams recalls her final year at St. Louis University School of Social Work in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams describes her social work career in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams describes her social work career in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams remembers her transition to a funerary service career

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams remembers her late husband's work with Constant C. Dejoie, Sr. at Unity Mutual Life Insurance Company

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams recalls convincing her husband that women can lead, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams recalls convincing her husband that women can lead, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams talks about experiencing gender discrimination when applying to Chicago Theological Seminary

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams recalls studying for master's and doctoral degrees at Chicago Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams remembers experiences at Chicago Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams talks about her conversion to the Episcopal Church

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams talks about founding a widows' support group, LARUTH

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams explains widows' experience of isolation

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams describes the necessity of ministers trained in funerary service

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams talks about her current doctoral studies at Chicago Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams remembers her call to ordination at her mothers' deathbed in 1987

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams recalls her husbands' death during her journey to ordination

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams remembers her ordination as an Episcopal priest in 1987

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams recalls experiencing gender, age, and racial discrimination early in her career as an Episcopal priest

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams reflects upon discrimination in the Episcopal Church

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams reflects upon her life

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams narrates her photographs, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams narrates her photographs, pt. 3

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

10$2

DATitle
Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams recalls Creole Mardi Gras traditions
Reverend Dr. Ruth Teena Williams describes her social work career in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2
Transcript
Now, do you remember Mardi Gras and that sort of thing when you were (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Oh, yes. Mardi Gras was the big thing (laughter). So important that when I first left home, and I only knew predominantly Roman Catholics, you know. When I first left home, I--it just never occurred to me that there were people who did not know about Mardi Gras. As far as I knew Mardi Gras was celebrated all over the world. Now, mind you, I'm an adult now. And I just never thought about it that way. And so I did not go to work for Mardi Gras, nor did I report in, 'cause I didn't think I had to. I thought everybody took off for Mardi Gras (laughter). And I had the rude awakening that everybody did not know about Mardi Gras, and so--but it was a big day for us, very big day because we had lived through Lent and--I mean we're about to go through Lent. So it starts really, you start celebrating at Christmastime. Everything is very holy, getting ready for the birth of Christ, and then for the New Year, and then right after that, you know Lent is going to come soon. And so you have dances and you have cotillions and you have--so when we would call ourselves poor, but that didn't stop you from being in the cotillion and having a beautiful evening gown and all of the trappings that go with it. So you, you participated in all of these things, and, and that was a big event. And the day of Mardi Gras, everybody got up early. My mother [Louise Cassimere Prudeaux] made a huge, huge, maybe two pots of red beans and rice, and potato salad. These are foods that you can put in the refrigerator and take out. And even before the refrigerator, I can remember the icebox, where you had things in the icebox. And then you can take 'em out and put 'em on the stove. But everything was freshly cooked, but to preserve it so you would not have any spoilage, and you'd have food all day long and not run out. Now, I can't imagine that today. But I can remember as late as my leaving, you know, to go away to graduate school [St. Louis University School of Social Work, St. Louis, Missouri], that my mother never ran out of food, and she would have food--and people could stop in all day long during Mardi Gras. And, but it was mostly like red beans and rice, and sturdy food. And people enjoyed that and looked forward to it, you know. And everybody had a costume of some form or fashion. We didn't buy costumes at the store. You made 'em at home. And you tried to be imaginative. Now, I don't remember us ever being Indians [Native Americans]. There was a group in other areas that were [Mardi Gras] Indians. That was in the area--not the Creole area. The Creoles, to my knowledge, were not Indians. Now, that's another story.$$The black folks would (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Right, they would dress like Indians.$$The Wild Tchoupitoulas and--$$Right, right.$$Okay.$$And then they had the [Krewe of] Zulu--I don't know when the Zulu parade started, but the Creoles never participated in that either until late years when they started participating.$I didn't know much about narcotic addiction during that period. Before I left there, I learned about it, and I learned about it more from the maternity section where the women, the--that was--and I didn't work on that ward, and I was glad that I didn't have that assignment, 'cause I was staunchly Roman Catholic still, and the discussions of abortion, which was illegal, but all of that was coming up, you know. So I was glad that I didn't have to have that, but as our coworkers, as we talked and shared stories, in the casework meetings, drug addiction came up. And so I learned more about drug addiction through that, not through users, but through babies who got it from their mothers, you know. So that was a very wonderful experience in both the inpatient--that was one of my first efforts, first time being recognized. A story was done in the [Chicago] Sun-Times, I believe it was. I believe that was the paper, and--showing me in one of the wards as--me and my supervisor talking with a patient at the bedside and showing medical workers not just in what people usually think of as a social worker, but in the professional part of social work. That was a nice story. And then another time, I was invited to participate in a radio panel discussing social work and what it meant and the involvement of it. And I was very proud of my, my field then. And I left Cook County Hospital [John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County, Chicago, Illinois] and went, I worked for one year as a consultant for the City [of Chicago, Illinois] during the time when they had the city welfare department separate from the state welfare [department]. Then they merged, and I left the system and went to the Veterans Administration. And I worked in the V.A. West Side [Medical Center; Jesse Brown Veterans Administration Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois] in the outpatient department. But my assignment was to work with the quadriplegics and paraplegics of World War II [WWII]. And I had inherited that caseload of about four hundred. And I had only two African Americans in that caseload. All the rest were Caucasians. Many of them incurred their injury not in battle, but rather in--it might have been swimming in London [England] or somewhere and injured their head or something that sort, accidents, but while in service. And they were given everything that they needed, special housing, special automobiles, special everything, you know. That was an interesting experience, but it never measured with County Hospital experience. That was the most wonderful experience in my professional life, most wonderful experience. I really had a sense of helping people, although sometimes it was discouraging 'cause you'd have repeat situations and you--because you were not ongoing. It was while you were in the hospital--while the person was in the hospital or being transferred. Your ongoing relationship was when it was in the clinic, where you had an ongoing relationship.

Marcella Boyd Cox

Funeral home director and community volunteer Marcella Boyd Cox was born in Cleveland, Ohio; she grew up in the city’s Glenville community, known both for its concentration of African American businesses, churches, and other institutions, and as the site of some of the nation’s worst racial unrest in the 1960s. Cox attended the Cleveland Public Schools and, as a student in a program for gifted and talented students, helped to integrate Collinwood Junior High School in the face of widespread and sometimes violent resistance by the majority white community. Cox later graduated from Cleveland’s Lutheran East High School.

Cox completed her undergraduate coursework at Baldwin-Wallace College and Cleveland State University before turning her attention to her family’s business, E.F. Boyd and Son, Inc. Funeral Homes, which served Greater Cleveland’s African American community for nearly a century. After becoming a licensed funeral director in 1988, Cox went on to serve as the vice president and manager for the family’s three funeral homes.

Cox became a well known figure in the community of funeral home directors and throughout the city of Cleveland. As a member of the Coalition of 100 Black Women Cox was actively involved in promoting activities that benefitted the African American community, such as educational programs on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Cox also belonged to the Cleveland Chapter of Girlfriends, Inc.; The National Council of Negro Women; Jack and Jill, Inc.; the National Funeral Directors Association; the National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association; and the Advisory Board of the Love Center Interdenominational Church.

Accession Number

A2004.077

Sex

Female

Interview Date

6/15/2004

Last Name

Cox

Maker Category
Middle Name

Boyd

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Lutheran East High School

Collinwood Junior High School

Miles Standish Elementary School

Emma Willard School

Baldwin Wallace University

Cleveland State University

Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Days, Evenings

First Name

Marcella

Birth City, State, Country

Cleveland

HM ID

COX01

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

No

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Ohio

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Ohio

Birth Date

4/24/1954

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Cleveland

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Lasagna

Short Description

Funeral director Marcella Boyd Cox (1954 - ) serves as the vice president and manager for one of her family's three funeral homes. As a member of the Coalition of 100 Black Women, she is actively involved in promoting activities and educational opportunities that benefit the African American community.

Employment

E.F. Boyd & Son, Inc.

Favorite Color

Orange

Timing Pairs
0,0:1938,21:7854,145:50044,784:68724,1024:76306,1104:84242,1266:87186,1329:128597,1862:134976,1905:137016,1981:139668,2111:140484,2170:141640,2342:166430,2772:181700,3157:232801,3767:240372,3846:247920,3972$0,0:6250,90:6802,98:7147,104:8251,153:9562,167:9976,177:10321,183:10873,193:11149,198:15358,257:15841,265:16393,274:16807,281:17083,290:25390,344:32561,540:47692,846:48027,855:66080,1114:84405,1379:85142,1392:85611,1401:100430,1604:110052,1743:111846,1772:124359,1966:134000,2138:134603,2150:135273,2161:143581,2325:151698,2423:159114,2550:159402,2555:160338,2569:170576,2671:171473,2692:171956,2702:179201,2858:182030,2916:182444,2923:186101,3077:196350,3199:209010,3412
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Marcella Boyd Cox's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Marcella Boyd Cox lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Marcella Boyd Cox talks about her family history

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Marcella Boyd Cox talks about her siblings and her childhood education

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Marcella Boyd Cox talks about the family business, E.F. Boyd and Son, Inc. Funeral Homes

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Marcella Boyd Cox describes her childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Marcella Boyd Cox describes her experience integrating Collinwood Junior High School

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Marcella Boyd Cox describes her memory of race relations in Cleveland, Ohio as a young girl

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Marcella Boyd Cox describes her experience with integration

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Marcella Boyd Cox talks about educational equality and diversity initiatives

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Marcella Boyd Cox talks about the relationship between segregation and educational quality

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Marcella Boyd Cox talks about her daughter's education at Laurel School in Shaker Heights, Ohio, pt.1

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Marcella Boyd Cox talks about her daughter's education at Laurel School in Shaker Heights, Ohio, pt.2

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Marcella Boyd Cox recalls the Glenville Riots in Cleveland, Ohio in 1968

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Marcella Boyd Cox talks about her participation in the black power movement during the 1960s

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Marcella Boyd Cox describes her involvement in the community including providing grief support

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Marcella Boyd Cox talks about the history of her family's funeral home, E.F. Boyd and Son, Inc., pt.1

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Marcella Boyd Cox talks about the history of her family's funeral home, E.F. Boyd and Son, Inc., pt.2

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Marcella Boyd Cox talks about funeral homes as a segregated business

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Marcella Boyd Cox talks about the importance of funerals as social rituals, pt.1

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Marcella Boyd Cox talks about the importance of funerals as social rituals, pt.2

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Marcella Boyd Cox talks about funeral home directors' associations and conventions

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Marcella Boyd Cox talks about health precautions taken by embalmers and the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Marcella Boyd Cox talks about women in the funeral home industry and renaming her funeral home

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Marcella Boyd Cox talks about her maternal family history

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Marcella Boyd Cox reflects upon her life and the future of E.F. Boyd and Son, Inc.

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Marcella Boyd Cox narrates her photographs, pt.1

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Marcella Boyd Cox narrates her photographs, pt.2

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$1

DAStory

5$7

DATitle
Marcella Boyd Cox talks about the family business, E.F. Boyd and Son, Inc. Funeral Homes
Marcella Boyd Cox describes her experience integrating Collinwood Junior High School
Transcript
Okay. Now while you were growing up in Cleveland [Ohio], and I know this because of some of our brief conversations before the actual interview started, you've already talked about growing up in the business, or with the business. It was such an important part of family life. Can you tell me what that was like, having the family and the work overlap that way. Was that difficult?$$Well, yeah, I mean, I guess to some extent, yeah, and to some extent, no. I mean, I accepted it as my dad's [William F. Boyd, Sr] vocation and, you know, I was around the funeral business a lot going down to 89th Street from our home. We were living in Glenville [Cleveland, Ohio] at the time. And I remember doing a lot of visiting to the funeral home and being in the morgue. I have a vivid remembrance of standing outside the door of the morgue and being real curious about what was going on inside, but my dad kinda discouraged me from going in and, you know, and the door was kinda shut in my face kind of thing, and I just, he never, I just was not like really encouraged to go into the business. It was a decision I made later, but I was around it. I mean there was no way, going to look for my dad, having to call the funeral home and knowing the exact path my dad took from the house to the funeral home at 89th Street, 'cause that was the location. Then we only had the one location. And, yeah, I can remember that quite vividly. I mean standing out that morgue, and I think today still, I hold a fear, because I'm not a licensed mortician, I'm a funeral director, but see in Ohio you don't have to have both. In some states you gotta have both to be licensed to do anything. And, but here in Ohio, you don't, and I just to this day, I'm still timid of the morgue. I can go in, I can witness, but when it comes to actually hands on preparing the bodies, that-- I can't handle it, I can't. That's just not my strength. Some people have strength in one area. My brother's licensed and my sister just kinda, she's in the finances. She's not licensed at all, but my brother [William F. Boyd, II] and my sister [Marina Elizabeth Boyd Grant]. And then I have two nieces in the business, his daughter and my sister's daughter, who are both licensed now and in the business.$$Okay. Now, the funeral home business itself, you said it was your choice to enter that field. So your father [William F. Boyd, Sr.] didn't push any of the children to (unclear)?$$No. He'll tell you to this day if you ask him, he never encouraged any of us to go in it. But, I mean, I'm sure you feel a certain kind of invisible pressure to go in because you know it's a family driven business. I mean, that's the way it is everywhere. So, you know, at some level, you probably wanna do that, and at least consider it pretty strongly before you just say no. But, yeah, I went into it and picked it up and I mean I really enjoy it. I think when I first started in the funeral business, I really, and it's funny I was talking to somebody on the phone about this the other day, but it's just a whole different side of life. You know, compared to somebody who's dealing in just with retail, you know. Something that's very upbeat and happy most of the time. People are coming because, you know, they're looking forward to the things they do in here, whereas the people at the funeral home, the families we serve are never particularly having a good day. You know, I mean, that's just, that's a fact. Nobody particularly happy to be there. Nobody's looking forward to coming there. They do it 'cause they have to. So you see a whole different side of people and you get a whole different appreciation for life. You really do, you don't take it so for granted 'cause you know, like my dad has always said, you know, "you can't take life for granted." You can't take it for granted. You don't know what could happen. You got to be thankful for the time you have while you're here.$Well, you were born in a very important year in African American History in 1954 with the Supreme Court ruling, Brown case [Brown v. Board of Education] coming just a couple of weeks after you were born actually May 17th, 1954, but it suggested to a lot of African American people that the society was opening up and I wonder as a young person coming of age in Glenville [Cleveland, Ohio], if you were aware of-- that you were in this new era, where there was supposed to be new opportunity?$$Well, my dad [William F. Boyd, Sr.] was on the school board and I can remember the boycotts and I can remember the sit-ins trying to get equal advantages, you know, as far as education in schools then. So, I can remember him being involved in that and I can remember the tension in the neighborhoods, and see then I was out in Collinwood [High School] when the race-- the riots were going on, the race riots were going on, and I can remember the strong polarization, and I can remember being very intimidated walking through the classrooms, the hallways, at Collinwood because we were some of the first blacks going out there. We were bused out there for an opportunity, an educational opportunity, and, I mean, I was traveling a distance from where I was at like maybe 93rd and St. Clair and going out to 152nd and St. Clair, and it, you know, we went out there and I can distinctly remember one morning, because the tension was so deep that we were crossing, leaving the bus station, crossing 152nd, going up the front steps there 'cause there were a bunch of steps going up to Collinwood's front door, and there was a circle of kids around the school, Italians, ethnics in the area who just stormed us. They stormed us going up the steps. And bats, chains, bricks, coming after us, and I'll never forget it. And a friend of mine tells me to this day, she took the hit for me 'cause she wound up pushing me out the way and getting hit, and we just went on up in the school. And scared to death, and scared to death.$$Now this is in 1960a, in Cleveland?$$Yep.$$So this was before a court-ordered busing for desegregation?$$Yeah.$$Now was this for an enrichment program at Collinwood, or, why--$$It was what they called a major word program,--$$Okay.$$And I was supposed to be one of these "gifted" kids and we go the chance, because, you know, I performed on, you know, exams or whatever and my grades and stuff, to get an opportunity for even more in depth study at Collinwood. So I know a lot of us, you know, who had left Miles Standish and left area schools, Doan Elementary [School], people were going leaving out there and we went out there and we were one of the first to get, be out there, to integrate it. And we were not well-received. To say it lightly. We just were not.$$How long did you stay at Collinwood?$$Until ninth grade. I was there seventh through ninth, seventh, eighth and ninth.$$So the middle school.$$Um hum.$$And then you went to Lutheran East? Oh, no, the boarding school [Emma Willard School in Troy, New York].$$Then I went away to boarding school for a year.$$Alright. And what was the name of the boarding school?$$It's called Emma Willard. It's in Troy, New York, outside of Albany.$$Alright.$$I went there for a year.$$Alright. And then you came back?$$I came back here and my eleventh and twelfth grade I was at Lutheran East [Lutheran High School East].$$Okay.$$Yeah.

Spencer Leak, Sr.

Spencer Leak, Sr. was born April 15, 1937, to pioneering Chicago mortician A.R. Leak, an insurance salesman from Arkansas who opened Unity Funeral Home in Chicago in 1933 and A.R. Leak Funeral Chapels in 1938. Leak and his three brothers grew up near 37th and State Streets. Attending Raymond Elementary School, he graduated from Hyde Park High School in 1956. Leak went on to Wilson Junior College, and graduated from Worsham College of Mortuary Science in 1959.

Serving in the United States Army in 1960, Leak was stationed in West Germany. He was married briefly to R&B singer Mavis Staples, and later became involved in the Civil Rights Movement. In 1964, Leak joined 10,000 activists led by his father and Reverend Clay Evans to protest the racially segregated Oak Woods Cemetery. That same year, A.R. Leak Funeral Home would open its doors to thousands who wanted to view the body of singing legend Sam Cooke. Leak became president and funeral director of Leak and Sons Funeral Chapel in 1970, assuming a major role in running the family business. He returned to school, earning his B.S. degree from Daniel Hale Williams College in 1979 and his M.S. degree in criminal justice from Chicago State University in 1981. Leak then held a series of positions in public service: Consumer Affairs Chief, Illinois Attorney General (1982-1985); Executive Director, Cook County Department of Corrections (1987-1991); Deputy Chief Inspector-General, Illinois Secretary of State (1991-1993); Manager, Illinois Vehicle Services (1993-1999); Deputy Director, District 1, Illinois Department of Corrections (1993-1999); and Commissioner, Illinois Human Rights Commission (1999-present). Since 1993, Leak has served as President and CEO of Leak and Sons Funeral Home. He also coordinates the radio program, It's Time Truth Speaks, on WGCI-FM.

Leak lives in Chicago with his wife, Henrietta Leak, to whom he has been married for several decades; they have three sons.

Accession Number

A2004.004

Sex

Male

Interview Date

1/21/2004

Last Name

Leak

Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Schools

Hyde Park Academy High School

Benjamin W. Raymond Elementary School

Chicago State University

Daniel Hale Williams College

Worsham College of Mortuary Science

Kennedy–King College

First Name

Spencer

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

LEA02

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Memphis, Tennessee

Favorite Quote

The Most Powerful Force in the Universe is an Idea Whose Time has Come.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

4/15/1937

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fish, Chips

Short Description

Funeral director and state government official Spencer Leak, Sr. (1937 - ) was president and CEO of Leak and Sons Funeral Home and has worked in a series of government public service positions.

Employment

Leak & Sons Funeral Home

Illinois Department of Consumer Affairs

State of Illinois

Cook County Department of Corrections

Illinois Secretary of State

Illinois Vehicle Services

Illinois Department of Corrections

Illinois Human Rights Commission

WGCI Radio

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Spencer Leak, Sr.'s interview, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Slating of Spencer Leak, Sr.'s interview, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Spencer Leak, Sr. lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Spencer Leak, Sr. describes his maternal family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Spencer Leak, Sr. describes his paternal family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Spencer Leak, Sr. describes his mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Spencer Leak, Sr. explains how his parents met and moved to Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Spencer Leak, Sr. talks about his father's first marriage

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Spencer Leak, Sr. talks about the origins of his father's interest in the funeral home business

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Spencer Leak, Sr. lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Spencer Leak, Sr. describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Spencer Leak, Sr. describes his childhood in Chicago, Illinois' Bronzeville neighborhood, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Spencer Leak, Sr. describes his childhood in Chicago, Illinois' Bronzeville neighborhood, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Spencer Leak, Sr. talks about his experience at Benjamin W. Raymond Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Spencer Leak, Sr. describes his teacher at Benjamin W. Raymond Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Spencer Leak, Sr. talks about growing up, his interest in sports, and working in the family funeral home business

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Spencer Leak, Sr. talks about Ida B. Wells Homes and other public housing projects

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Spencer Leak, Sr. talks about his family's move from the Bronzeville to Hyde Park in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Spencer Leak, Sr. talks about the difference between Englewood High School and Hyde Park High School in the 1950s

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Spencer Leak, Sr. talks about his classmates and teachers at Hyde Park High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Spencer Leak, Sr. describes in high school his interest in girls and working full time in the family funeral home business

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Spencer Leak, Sr. talks about his focus as a high school student of working in the family funeral home business

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Spencer Leak, Sr. talks about his experience at Worsham College of Mortuary Science in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Spencer Leak, Sr. explains the funeral home business and the importance of ministers

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Spencer Leak, Sr. recalls Emmett Till's public viewing at A.A. Rayner Funeral Home in Chicago, Illinois in 1955, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Spencer Leak, Sr. recalls Emmett Till's public viewing at A.A. Rayner Funeral Home in Chicago, Illinois in 1955, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Spencer Leak, Sr. describes use of the names of the deceased on voting lists in Cook County, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Spencer Leak, Sr. describes public inquests conducted at funeral homes by the Cook County, Illinois coroner's office

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Spencer Leak, Sr. describes his experience in the U.S. Army in West Germany during the early 1960s

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Spencer Leak, Sr. talks about his marriage to R&B legend Mavis Staples and his family's church affiliations

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Spencer Leak, Sr. talks about the role that funeral homes played in providing courtesy limousine service to African American celebrities and public figures

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Spencer Leak, Sr. explains the history of Oak Woods Cemetery in Chicago, Illinois and the 1964 protest against its discriminatory burial policies

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Spencer Leak, Sr. remembers chauffeuring Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on his trips to Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Spencer Leak, Sr. describes his interactions with Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. while chauffeuring him around Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Spencer Leak, Sr. recalls Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s trip to Chicago, Illinois in summer 1966

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Spencer Leak, Sr. describes the Nation of Islam's businesses in Chicago, Illinois' and the Chatham neighborhood during the 1960s and 1970s

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Spencer Leak, Sr. talks about his studies at Daniel Hale Williams University and Chicago State University in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Spencer Leak, Sr. talks about the government positions he held in the 1980s and 1990s

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Spencer Leak, Sr. lists shares his views on the prison industrial complex in Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Spencer Leak, Sr. talks about his relationship with inmates at the Cook County Department of Corrections in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Spencer Leak, Sr. recalls dealing with Jeff Fort, leader of the Blackstone Rangers, when he was an inmate at the Cook County Department of Corrections (CCDOC)

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Spencer Leak, Sr. talks about his attempts at controlling the use of profanity at the Cook County Department of Corrections (CCDOC)

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Spencer Leak, Sr. talks about the end of his tenure as director of the Cook County Department of Corrections (CCDOC)

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Spencer Leak, Sr. talks about the funeral of Sam Cooke at A.R. Leak Funeral Home in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Spencer Leak, Sr. talks about Willie "The Wimp" Stokes, Jr.'s funeral at A.R. Leak Funeral Home in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Spencer Leak, Sr. comments upon gun violence in Chicago, Illinois' African American youth population

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Spencer Leak, Sr. talks about his retirement plans

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Spencer Leak, Sr. lists his sons

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Spencer Leak, Sr. describes his concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Spencer Leak, Sr. describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Spencer Leak, Sr. comments upon A.A. "Sammy" Rayner's political party affiliation

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Spencer Leak, Sr. reflects upon his life

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Spencer Leak, Sr. reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Spencer Leak, Sr. narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

1$1

DATitle
Spencer Leak, Sr. describes his interactions with Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. while chauffeuring him around Chicago, Illinois
Spencer Leak, Sr. talks about his relationship with inmates at the Cook County Department of Corrections in Chicago, Illinois
Transcript
Now, what was [Reverend] Dr. [Martin Luther] King [Jr.] like, as from the point of view of the chauffeur and the assistant and the gopher and all of that?$$In that personal--you know, I watched him with the rallies and I watched him with the press conferences where he was the Dr. King that we all know you know, dynamic and very, you know, uniquely qualified to respond to any type of interrogation. But from a personal, he was very comical, he liked to joke a lot. And you know, we're talking about a guy who was--I guess I was nineteen; he had to be twenty-seven, twenty-eight years old. So we're talking about a young guy, you know, a young man, you know, with the weight of the world thrust upon him. But at the same time, he was just a guy who young. Of course, he had a family. But he was just a very personable person, the kind of guy you really could get to know, and you would enjoy being around. And he was a man's man, you know, he liked the things that all young men like. And you know, he was aware of the fact that women, you know, were, you know, swooned and were attracted to him because of his position. And so, he was a, you know, he was just a young guy mainly. We just thought of him really as one of the guys. But then you separate that instantly once he began to speak or involved in negotiations as far as the Civil Rights Movement was concerned. So, very mature beyond the years. But then when you get him with the cameras off, and then he was a very just warm individual, great human being, great person to know. I count it as really a high point in my life, being able to chauffeur him, and to really be a gopher for him, holding his coat and selling books and things like that. I just count it as really a pleasure, and I recall those days very fondly to my children and to others that I know.$$Is there any particular story that you can relate to us about Dr. King that you know, might add some color to that?$$Other than--I guess I can remember--I was his first trip to Chicago [Illinois], we were going to and fro throughout the city with the police escort and fifty, sixty, seventy miles an hour all throughout the city. And I recall looking at him through the rearview mirror as we were driving. And he was, he was holding on for dear life (laughter). And when he got to a destination, a particular destination, he would always, you know, I could see a sigh of relief on his face, as if he's, "Hey, I'm glad to," you know. But and he'd always in that big, great voice of his, he would say to me, "Boy, you sure can drive." (Laughter) And he would always say that. (Laughter) I think he was so glad to get to his destination. Because you know, we would drive--I considered myself at that age a professional driver because I'd driven ambulances and funeral cars. But it would, it got to be sort of hairy, you know, at moments, you know, going through the traffic. But we got him safe and sound to his destination without any incidents. And he was very--not only he was thankful for my father's [Andrew Leak, Sr.] friendship to him and allowing me to work, you know, for him as his chauffeur or whatever while he was in Chicago. And every time he came back, we were his, he just expected a car from [A.R.] Leak Funeral Home [later, Leak & Sons Funeral Homes, Chicago, Illinois] to be at his service.$I want to ask you about being director of the Cook County Jail [Cook County Department of Corrections]. Now, you did that for four years.$$Yes.$$That seems to be out of these political jobs, the biggest job.$$Yeah, I would say it was the most significant opportunity for me, working in the criminal justice system. And I was fortunate, in that Sheriff [Jim] O'Grady, who appointed me, allowed me to have full run of the jail. He never interfered with my running my jail. He just always wanted to be cognizant of the things that I was doing, to be kept informed, so that he would be able to respond when the press inquired of something that I was doing that was considered controversial in the administration of the jail. But it was a very rewarding experience for me, in that I had never run a penal institution. It was a--and so, they, the feedback when I was appointed was, hey, here's a funeral director becoming the director of one of the toughest jails in America. (Laughter) And they were wondering how, well, how would I be able to come by? And the sheriff, I remember when I first was appointed, and actually, he was a newly elected sheriff. So, we both went on a tour of the jail. And as you know, Superintendent O'Grady, he was the superintendent of Chicago Police Department prior to becoming the sheriff of Cook County [Illinois]. So therefore, he knew a lot of the officers at the jail. And they had relationships not only with them in particular, but their families, who were police officers under Sheriff O'Grady. So, as we went to the jail--we laughed about this afterwards. All of the officers were coming up to the sheriff wanting to talk to him and meet him. And then all of the inmates were coming up to me, because I had buried in their families, and they knew me from my, you know, from the funeral home [A.R. Leak Funeral Home, later, Leak & Sons Funeral Homes, Chicago, Illinois]. And so, he said, "Hey, I think I got the right guy for the job. You know all the inmates and I know all the officers." (Laughter) I had a relationship with those young people because of the funeral home because we had served their families. So therefore, my name was known to them, and therefore I had a relationship to them that a seasoned correctional administrator would not have had. And consequently, that helped me in running the jail because of the fact that I wanted to be a hands-on director, and I wanted to be inside those cell blocks on a day to day basis, engaging these young people as to why they were there and what caused them to be there and what they wanted to do with their lives. Did they want to be career criminals and things of that nature. And then we got into the whole drug culture. And so, consequently, I was able to work with these young people in a way that a seasoned warden or jail administrator would not have had the opportunity to do.