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Michael Roberts, Sr.

Entrepreneur Michael Victor Roberts, Sr. was born on October 24, 1948, in St. Louis, Missouri to Delores Talley Roberts and Victor Roberts. He grew up the first of four siblings. The Roberts family was educated in the St. Louis Public School System, and Roberts began working as a youth, earning money doing chores around the neighborhood and delivering newspapers. Roberts heard St. Louis’ Dick Gregory talk about the Civil Rights Movement and was inspired. Graduating from Northwest High School in 1967, where he played the trombone and tennis, Roberts attended Central Missouri State University and Forest Park Community College. He met Jack Danforth at Camp Minnewanka and finished Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri as a Danforth Fellow. He began his first business selling dashikis and other African merchandise to area bookstores. Roberts studied law at St. Louis University School of Law, and in 1974, earned his J.D. degree and began Roberts-Roberts and Associates, a business and construction management firm headquartered in St. Louis.

In 1976, Roberts worked as St. Louis campaign manager for Jimmy Carter, and after Carter’s election as U.S. President, he was a regular guest at the White House. One year later, Roberts was elected the youngest alderman in St. Louis. His brother, Steven C. Roberts, would claim this title two years later, serving along with Mike Jones, Virvus Jones and Wayman Smith. Roberts was the chief sponsor of the St. Louis Center and Union Station developments, and he was involved in major redevelopment efforts for the City of St. Louis.

In 1981, Roberts and his brother began Roberts Broadcasting. After establishing WRBU-TV in St. Louis, the Roberts Brothers would build eleven more television stations across the country, from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Mobile, Alabama. While building these stations, the Roberts Brothers founded Roberts Construction Company in 1989. This additional business enterprise supplemented the commercial and residential developments the brothers had established in 1982 known as Roberts Brothers Properties.

In 1999, the Roberts Brothers opened the first Sprint PCS-affiliated wireless store in Jefferson City, Missouri. It was the only PCS-affiliated company owned by African Americans. The Roberts Companies include a $460 million thirty-four-company organization, with an aviation division, a gated Bahamas community and other real estate developments. Roberts serves as chairman of the board, while his brother Steven serves as president.

Accession Number

A2007.295

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/18/2007 |and| 12/6/2007

Last Name

Roberts

Middle Name

V.

Schools

Northwest High School

Scullin Elementary School

Cupples Elementary School

Saint Louis University School of Law

Lindenwood University

University of Central Missouri

First Name

Michael

Birth City, State, Country

St. Louis

HM ID

ROB20

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Missouri

Favorite Vacation Destination

Bahamas

Favorite Quote

Fake It Until You Make It.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Missouri

Birth Date

10/24/1948

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

St. Louis

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Fried Chicken

Short Description

City alderman Michael Roberts, Sr. (1948 - ) was a former alderman of St. Louis, Missouri; and former campaign manager for Jimmy Carter. He and his brother Steven Roberts, Sr. co-founded the Roberts Companies, which included an aviation division, a gated Bahamas community and real estate development. He served as the company's board chairman.

Employment

St. Louis Board of Aldermen

The Roberts Companies

Favorite Color

Earth Tones

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Michael Roberts, Sr.'s interview, session 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Michael Roberts, Sr. lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes the black neighborhoods of St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Michael Roberts, Sr. talks about his mother's education

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Steven Roberts, Sr. remembers meeting his paternal cousin

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes his paternal family's move to St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Michael Roberts, Sr. recalls his father's service in the U.S. military

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes his father's career

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes his likeness to his parents

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Michael Roberts, Sr. remembers moving to San Francisco Court in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Michael Roberts, Sr. talks about his light complexion, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Michael Roberts, Sr. talks about his light complexion, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes his schooling in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes his early activities

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Michael Roberts, Sr. narrates a photograph of Dick Gregory and Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Michael Roberts, Sr. remembers Jack and Jill of America, Inc.

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes his early work experiences

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Michael Roberts, Sr. recalls his early cultural experiences

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes his experiences in college

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Michael Roberts, Sr. remembers Lindenwood College for Men in St. Charles, Missouri

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Michael Roberts, Sr. talks about his interest in existentialism

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Michael Roberts, Sr. remembers lessons from Sam Lapp

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Michael Roberts, Sr. remembers his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Michael Roberts, Sr. recalls the development of his interest in law

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Michael Roberts, Sr. recalls working at Camp Miniwanca in Stony Lake, Michigan

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Slating of Michael Roberts, Sr.'s interview, session 2

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Michael Roberts, Sr. recalls buying a home in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Michael Roberts, Sr. recalls integrating the New York Athletic Club

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Michael Roberts, Sr. remembers integrating the Missouri Athletic Club

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Michael Roberts, Sr. remembers The Hague Academy in the Netherlands

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes his meeting with F.W. de Klerk

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Michael Roberts, Sr. recalls working as a campaign manager for President Jimmy Carter

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes his work with the St. Louis Board of Aldermen

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Michael Roberts, Sr. reflects upon his role at the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Michael Roberts, Sr. reflects upon his role at the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Michael Roberts, Sr. recalls serving as a diplomatic delegate to Brazil

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Michael Roberts, Sr. talks about his research on his paternal family, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Michael Roberts, Sr. talks about his research on his paternal family, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Michael Roberts, Sr. remembers registering voters in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes the voting rights case of Roberts v. Wamser

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Michael Roberts, Sr. talks about the case of Bush v. Gore

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes his criticism of President James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr.

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes his relationships with black elected officials

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Michael Roberts, Sr. recalls acquiring of the Sears, Roebuck and Co. building in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Michael Roberts, Sr. recalls his first television station acquisition

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes the importance of business relationships

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Michael Roberts, Sr. recalls his partnership with the Home Shopping Network

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes the Roberts Broadcasting Company's workforce

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Michael Roberts, Sr. recalls the development of Roberts Wireless Communications

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Michael Roberts, Sr. remembers partnering with Lucent Technologies, Inc.

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Michael Roberts, Sr. remembers WorldCom's acquisition of the Sprint PCS Group

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes the success of The Shops at Roberts Village in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Michael Roberts, Sr. talks about inner city revitalization

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes The Roberts Companies' real estate in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Michael Roberts, Sr. reflects upon The Roberts Companies' business philosophy

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes the Roberts Hotels Group, LLC, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes the Roberts Hotels Group, LLC, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes plans for the A.G. Gaston Motel in Birmingham, Alabama

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes the Roberts Mayfair Hotel in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes the Roberts Hotels Group, LLC's success

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes Ernst and Young's Entrepreneur of the Year Award

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes the opportunities for African Americans in business

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Michael Roberts, Sr. talks about the success of The Roberts Companies

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes his advice for young people

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Michael Roberts, Sr. talks about the challenges he faced in business

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Michael Roberts, Sr. reflects upon his life

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Michael Roberts, Sr. remembers his mother's college graduation

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes his children

Tape: 8 Story: 10 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes his neighborhood in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Michael Roberts, Sr. talks about his wife, Jeanne Gore Roberts

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes his book, 'Action Has No Season'

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Michael Roberts, Sr. describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Michael Roberts, Sr. narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Michael Roberts, Sr. narrates his photographs, pt. 2

DASession

2$2

DATape

4$6

DAStory

3$5

DATitle
Michael Roberts, Sr. recalls integrating the New York Athletic Club
Michael Roberts, Sr. recalls the development of Roberts Wireless Communications
Transcript
After I did a little work there, I was getting more involved in local politics in St. Louis [Missouri]. As I said I was just out of law school [Saint Louis University School of Law, St. Louis, Missouri], so I was earning about twenty-six [$26,000], and I, I got active in the 19th Ward [Ward 19, St. Louis, Missouri], and I moved in the 19th Ward. So when many of my friends were heading off and, and to live in the suburbs after law school I moved two blocks from the projects. Within a couple of years in 1977, I was elected to the Board of Aldermen. But, prior to that, I became active with the Jimmy Carter [James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr.] campaign. Now when I met him in early '75 [1975], it was still Jimmy Who to everyone. I remember Jimmy saying to some friends at one of our first events that "Michael [HistoryMaker Michael Roberts, Sr.] was my first friend in Missouri," (laughter) but he said it with a lot of more southern accent than I could develop just now. But, it was a great experience for me, because indeed I was able to surface nationally with a man who ultimately became president. I remember going to the Democratic Convention [1976 Democratic National Convention] for the first time in New York [New York]. In 1975, I was the first African American with his own private business to be accepted into the Missouri Athletic Club [St. Louis, Missouri], and this was a club that was a network of old boys, very successful whites, no men--I mean no women, only men. And as the first member, I had reciprocal memberships in clubs all over the country. And this is just a side story, I remember taking my brother, Steve [HistoryMaker Steven Roberts, Sr.], with me. We went to, we went to New York. I think he was still in law--he was still in law school [Washington University School of Law, St. Louis, Missouri] at the time, but in order f- we didn't have a place to stay, so we stayed at the New York Athletic Club [New York, New York] and at the time the New York Athletic Club had not admitted any African Americans, but they--$$This is in nineteen seventy--?$$Yes, this is 1976.$$Six [1976].$$And so it was quite interesting because they had to accept our reciprocal membership. And we ended up going there, and I remember two great stories. I had one of my cousins, who was at Princeton [Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey], undergraduate. I said, "You gotta come on up here and, and see this and be a part of this." His name was Les Bon, Jr. [ph.]. Steve and I were in a room, and three things of interest happened. The first one was when we were getting our shirts laundered and, and they, we were running out of time and so I asked Steve would he pop down to pick up our, our laundry for us, and he did. But, he told me a story while he was down there someone said to him, "Oh, when did you start working here?" Steve said, "I'm a member here, I'm not working." You know, he's a guest. The second one was when we were on the elevator and this very prominent New York lawyer looked at us and found it extraordinary, we struck a conversation, and by the time we got off the elevator he was handing us his card saying that if there's any trouble or any problems with you guys while you're in New York, here's my card, you know, you can call upon us. It's like, you know, we're, we're here as professionals why would we need your card? You see, but it's like his mentality was, he thought he could be helpful to us by, by providing us with legal protection in the event that (laughter)--. And the third one was when my, my young cousin who, who was at Princeton mind you, now here I am, I've finished law school, my brother is in law school, and my cousin is in Princeton. We're at the New York Athletic Club and, and they tell him as he comes in the front, "Applications are in the rear, you must go around to the back." And he said, "I'm actually here as a guest," and he made his way from there up. But this was a very interesting club. They, they, you could not walk through the lobby unless you had a tie on and full mask. I mean it's very high end, and yeah we were there and we were just running around doing our thing. We went on to the convention, we were in the front row nationally televised a few times 'cause my wife Jeanne [Jeanne Gore Roberts] as a matter of fact said some--she was in California at the time and some--she was at her aunt's house and said, "Aren't those the Roberts brothers from St. Louis?" And they had actually saw--it's just a small world, and we didn't even really, we knew each other by family members, but we didn't know each other within you know a year or so later. We actually re-met and dated, and she told, shared that story with me.$How important has the, has Roberts Broadcasting [Roberts Broadcasting Company] been in developing what now I guess anybody would consider to be a fortune? Was that the mainstay business that, that created the fortune?$$No, it was not the mainstay of business that created the fortune. It was a contributory, contributing factor. It, it was certainly nice strong assets that we continue to grow. We sold several of the stations. That's why we're at four now versus eleven because we needed that to fund the wireless phone company [Roberts Wireless Communications] that we wanted to get into. So in the middle '90s [1990s], when the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] was beginning to tell us you're gonna have to go digital from an analog signal we reali- we realized that ultimately the phones are going to have to go there. So, Kay Gavrett [ph.] and myself, someone here in my office, we, we started looking into it. We'd already been involved in the FCC on some other matters, and we realized that maybe we should get after these auctions, or this thing called the PCS phone company. Nobody understand what PCS [personal communications service] was. Back then the coolest person in the theater was the, was the guy who had the big suitcase and a phone inside of it, answering the phone in his shoulder or something.$$The one they call the brick now.$$Yeah.$$Yeah.$$But, as a futurist we saw the future. Steve [HistoryMaker Steven Roberts, Sr.] and I decided we were gonna after licenses, and we went into, we sold off some stations, got into the mix of doing that. We'd already taken another company public with our TV stations, Acme Communications that, where we dumped our, our Salt Lake City [Utah] and our Albuquerque [New Mexico] stations into that deal. That went public, and one of the things that we learned was when, when selling a station or merging it that you want to make sure that you only sell what they want, they the buyer want. And in the case of the TV stations really all they want is the, is the frequency, the rights to broadcast, because that's the core of it and they're accustomed to leasing tower space or studio space. So, we would keep the studios and towers and then lease back to our, to our sellers, our buyers and, and so, which became another structure later when he built our wireless phone company, our PCS company. I knew we needed a brand like Home Shopping [Home Shopping Network], well then we also needed a brand in, in wireless. We had licenses as a result of the auctions for, to build a phone company, a digital phone company, PCS, in, in all of, in half of Missouri except for St. Louis [Missouri], the, the eastern half of Missouri. We sa- we, well who are we gonna work with? We went to Sprint [Sprint PCS Group]. Sprint said, "Well, you're not our model for world development." See Sprint was building at this time, and this is the late '90s [1990s], they were beginning to build all over the United States, but the big cities. They had spent over $10 billion, but they knew that to build, to be ubiquitous they had to be all over the country. So all of their rural areas they were beginning to connect with, with wire line rural phone companies and giving them a wireless overlay. And, and when we came in and we should them that we, we were ready to go, we had our engineers, we had our experience, not in building phone companies, but building TV stations, a tower, an antenna, and a, and a big transmitter. Well, to build a wireless phone company it's a tower and antenna, and a little base station that goes back to a switch, I mean so theoretically it's, it's very similar. And I knew that digital was gonna be the future, so I figured if we can get into a phone company, being the only African American in history probably to own a phone company and build it, that would be pretty interesting; I don't know what color you are really. And so we cut a deal with Sprint, and Sprint said, "Well--." We tried to cut a deal with Sprint, and Sprint said, "You know you don't hit our motto. You're entrepreneurs, you're not these wire line rural phone companies." I said, "Yes, but I already own half the state and you see we have the capability to do it, now what you need to do with us is make a decision, either be prepared to compete with me or bring, bring me into the fold." Within two or three months later, we got a call, "Can we have dinner?" At that point, they said, "We want you." We were the first entrepreneurial group to, to, to do it.$$Now what year is this?$$This would have been in, in roughly the year 2000 more or less.$$Okay.$$Two thousand [2000], 2001, we're rolling into that period of time.

Steven Roberts, Sr.

Entrepreneur Steven Craig Roberts was born on April 11, 1952, in St. Louis, Missouri, to Delores Talley Roberts and Victor Roberts. Roberts grew up the second of four siblings, and was particularly close to his brother, Michael V. Roberts. The family was educated in the St. Louis Public School System, and Roberts began working early on, earning money working around the neighborhood and delivering newspapers.

Roberts attended Clark University in Massachusetts as a Danforth Fellow, and initially considered a career either in the ministry or in medicine. Roberts instead began studying at Washington University in St. Louis to get his law degree. In 1974, while he was attending law school, his brother Michael began Roberts-Roberts and Associates, which became a business and construction management firm in St. Louis.

Roberts graduated with dual J.D. and M.A. degrees in 1978, and the following year, ran to become an alderman in St. Louis, joining his brother Michael who had been elected two years previously. Roberts was the youngest person to become an alderman in St. Louis, where he served along with his brother, Michael, and longtime friends Mike Jones, Virvus Jones and Wayman Smith; he held this position until 1993. During his terms as alderman, Roberts was the chief sponsor of the St. Louis Center and Union Station developments in St. Louis, and was particularly involved with major redevelopment projects for the city.

In 1981, Roberts and his brother began Roberts Broadcasting, a new branch of the duo’s business empire. After establishing WRBU-TV in St. Louis, the Roberts brothers would go on to build eleven more successful television stations across the country, from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to Mobile, Alabama. During the building of these stations, the Roberts became more familiar with the business behind construction, inspiring the founding of Roberts Construction Company in 1989. This additional holding supplemented a growing commercial and residential development company the brothers established in 1982 known as Roberts Brothers Properties, an organization that has processed more than $25 million in redevelopment.

In 1999, the first Sprint PCS-affiliated Roberts Wireless store opened in Jefferson City, Missouri, the only PCS company that is entirely African American-owned in the country. Today, the Roberts Companies are a $460 million, thirty-four-company organization; these companies include an aviation division, a gated Bahamas community and real estate development. Roberts serves as president of the company, while his brother Mike serves as chairman of the board. Roberts has also served on the board of directors of Pulaski Financial Corporation, an independent, community-based bank based in St. Louis, since 2006.

Roberts is married to Eva Frazer, M.D.; the couple has three children.

Accession Number

A2007.294

Sex

Male

Interview Date

10/18/2007 |and| 12/7/2007

Last Name

Roberts

Middle Name

C.

Schools

Scullin Elementary School

Northwest High School

Clark University

Washington University School of Law

First Name

Steven

Birth City, State, Country

St. Louis

HM ID

ROB19

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Missouri

Favorite Vacation Destination

San Diego, California; Nassau, Bahamas

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Missouri

Birth Date

4/11/1952

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

St. Louis

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Entrepreneur and city alderman Steven Roberts, Sr. (1952 - ) was a St. Louis alderman who, along with his brother, Michael Roberts, Sr., founded The Roberts Companies. Roberts served as the company's president, as well as a board member for the Pulaski Financial Corporation of St. Louis.

Employment

St. Louis Board of Aldermen

The Roberts Companies

Favorite Color

Maroon, White

Timing Pairs
0,0:8064,211:10152,324:12744,387:13032,392:16272,440:16848,449:18072,494:25626,578:26194,587:32868,746:33152,751:33862,763:35424,826:58232,1193:62201,1274:62606,1280:66008,1335:71432,1361:77831,1491:79613,1534:98434,1825:99910,1856:109340,2035:110898,2064:111718,2075:114506,2134:132866,2397:133310,2404:146172,2550:151860,2737:152148,2742:152796,2796:155820,2878:156108,2883:159420,2947:173838,3184:175944,3233:192154,3468:193450,3495:197986,3605:199426,3636:211420,3759$0,0:1664,32:5888,187:6464,197:10048,257:10432,264:15168,370:15424,375:16768,398:17024,403:24500,453:27930,542:28630,553:31080,598:31850,612:52503,996:52779,1001:123538,2108:127534,2197:128422,2212:131604,2258:138368,2307:139204,2324:139964,2337:143004,2394:143308,2399:147868,2465:151440,2514:155544,2570:156988,2592:167884,2695:168152,2700:170095,2736:178220,2863
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Steven Roberts, Sr.'s interview, session 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Steven Roberts, Sr. lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes his maternal grandfather's ancestry

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes his maternal grandmother's ancestry

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Steven Roberts, Sr. remembers his maternal great-grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Steven Roberts, Sr. talks about the history of St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes his mother's community in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Steven Roberts, Sr. talks about his mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes the early years of his parents' marriage

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Steven Roberts, Sr. remembers his parents' catering business

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Steven Roberts, Sr. reflects upon his upbringing

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Steven Roberts, Sr. recalls auditioning at the Orpheum Theatre in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes his mother's teaching career

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes his paternal grandmother's ancestry, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes his paternal grandmother's ancestry, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes his father's maternal relatives

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes his paternal grandfather's ancestry

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes how his paternal grandparents met

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes his paternal family's move to St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes his father's upbringing

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes his father's service in the U.S. military

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes his father's contribution to The Roberts Companies

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes his likeness to his parents

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Steven Roberts, Sr. recalls moving to San Francisco Court in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes the tourism industry in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Steven Roberts, Sr. recalls his early childhood in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes the San Francisco Court community in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Steven Roberts, Sr. remembers Scullin Elementary School in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Steven Roberts, Sr. recalls his early experiences of racial discrimination

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes his classmates at Scullin Elementary School

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Steven Roberts, Sr. recalls his teachers at Scullin Elementary School

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes Northwest High School in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Steven Roberts, Sr. recalls his activities at Northwest High School

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Steven Roberts, Sr. recalls the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes his early civil rights activities

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Steven Roberts, Sr. talks about the St. Louis Public Schools

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Steven Roberts, Sr. remembers the civil rights groups in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes the Veiled Prophet Organization, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Steven Roberts, Sr. remembers the Veiled Prophet Fair

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes the Veiled Prophet Organization, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes the American Youth Foundation camps, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes the American Youth Foundation camps, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Steven Roberts, Sr. reflects upon his experiences at Camp Miniwanca in Shelby, Michigan

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Steven Roberts, Sr. recalls his interest in universities on the East Coast

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Steven Roberts, Sr. talks about D'Army Bailey

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Steven Roberts, Sr. recalls matriculating at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Steven Roberts, Sr. remembers studying abroad in Ghana

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Steven Roberts, Sr. remembers his studies at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Steven Roberts, Sr. recalls his brother's interest in seminary school

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes his religious background

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes his relationship with his brother

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Steven Roberts, Sr. reflects upon his time at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes his decision to attend law school

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Steven Roberts, Sr. recalls his admission to the Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Steven Roberts, Sr. remembers the Washington University School of Law, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Steven Roberts, Sr. remembers the Washington University School of Law, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes his connection to Clarence Thomas

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Steven Roberts, Sr. talks about Clarence Thomas and Alan Keyes

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Steven Roberts, Sr. reflects upon his networking opportunities

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes his early work for the St. Louis Board of Aldermen

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes the structure of the St. Louis City Council

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes his experiences as an alderman in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Steven Roberts, Sr. reflects upon his service on the St. Louis Board of Aldermen

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Steven Roberts, Sr. talks about the mayors of St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Steven Roberts, Sr. describes the founding of Roberts-Roberts and Associates

Tape: 8 Story: 10 - Steven Roberts, Sr. recalls applying for a license from the Federal Communications Commission

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Steven Roberts, Sr. narrates his photographs

DASession

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DATape

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DAStory

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DATitle
Steven Roberts, Sr. reflects upon his experiences at Camp Miniwanca in Shelby, Michigan
Steven Roberts, Sr. describes his experiences as an alderman in St. Louis, Missouri
Transcript
And for us, you know, we had always heard of the Danforth family because they were prominent, Danforth Foundation [St. Louis, Missouri], and Bill Danforth [William H. Danforth] was about to become chancellor of Washington University [Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri], he was there for twenty years. Jack Danforth [John Danforth] became a U.S. senator, you know, vice presidential candidate. He at the time was the attorney general [of Missouri], so, I mean, you know, these are names that you, you, we'd hear about all of the time, but now we're there speaking with them because they were obviously very interested in their grandfather's camp. They would just be walking around the grounds. So for us it kind of broke down barriers in terms of our ability to be approachable to whomever, I mean if it's a president or a king or a queen or a state senator.$$Now, were there many other black kids there?$$Not many. And, and part of Mike's [HistoryMaker Michael Roberts, Sr.] challenge and I picked it up after he finished his four years were to and, and, and the foundation understood the need to have more people of color there because they knew that the world was changing and they had to have a more diverse campground for their kids to have a truly unique experience. So Mike would go out, in fact, the reason why I was there is because he recruited me and he found a few other kids in St. Louis [Missouri] that I knew to come. And remember, you know, for a black parent to send their kid off for two weeks to this camp [Camp Miniwanca] in Michigan [Shelby, Michigan] was difficult for a couple of reasons, one is it was something outside of their sphere, sphere of understanding. But two, a lot of kids worked during the summer so how you gonna send, you know, how, how you gone go and not work during the summer for two weeks. So it was, it was kind of a challenge for us to encourage parents to allow their kids to go up there. But every child that I know went up there, and there're maybe a few exceptions, particularly the leadership program, absolutely love it. And, in fact, I have sent my children there. In fact, Mike and I have sponsored scholarships to send other African American kids there just like we were on scholarship. And so my older son [Steven Roberts, Jr.] who's in college, my high school son [Christian Roberts] now, he'll finish his fourth year, and, you know, my hope is that my daughter [Darci Roberts] will go up there too. I've got two nephews who's been there, all of Mike's kids have been there because it, it just gives you a different set of leadership skills that other, you don't get any other places, in a beautiful setting.$$Okay.$$Yeah.$$So you were there in high school [Northwest High School, St. Louis, Missouri]?$$High school, yeah, yeah, and then--$$Did you go for four years?$$Yeah, I went for four years. And, in fact, I even went back one summer when I was in college [Clark University, Worcester, Massachusetts] to be a counselor in the, what they call the younger boys program that's the typical fourth through eighth grades so I spent about six weeks up there, you know, being a camp counselor which was, you know, kind of hard but it was fun because of the, you know, I was getting paid and getting fed and it was a beautiful atmosphere. And then I went back and, and, I took my boys when they were very little to a family, they have family camp too where you can take young, young kids up and then you just kind of do fun things. And then I became on the board of the American Youth Foundation.$$Okay.$$So, you know, we're, we're keeping the legacy in terms of encouraging, you know, a diversity of the camp experience for, because of having diversity there.$$Okay.$So my job that last year of law school [Washington University School of Law, St. Louis, Missouri] and then the year after that was I was, what they call the fiscal, well, first I was the assistant clerk, which basically I helped prepare legislation for our weekly meetings and committee meetings. So for me still being in school, I could do what I needed to do and not miss classes. And then the next year I was asked to serve as the executive to the president of the board, so I basically ran his office for the most part because he was a practicing attorney and it wasn't a full-time job. And also the, the fiscal analyst, so I was the one who would help prepare the budgets for the Board of Aldermen, but, but I would also review the board, the budgets of all the other city departments because remember, you had the mayor, the comptroller and the president of the board would all sit on a weekly basis determining which contracts to sign and they ultimately was the body that approved the city budget. So for me, now remember I am one year out of law school, I'm sitting there with the mayor, the comptroller, and the president of the Board of Aldermen, you know. I'm, I'm holding hearings on, for my boss, for the, the director of streets, community development, parks, so I got to know all these people, you know, for those two years. So by the time I ran for the Board of Aldermen in 1979, two years later, I then knew everybody. So, so when I'd come in and, you know, Mrs. Smith in the 4900 block of Wabada [Avenue] is complaining because her tree limbs were falling out on the street and they couldn't get out, or, or, or there are potholes in their alley or whatever, I just would pick up the phone--. Now, of course, I'm an aldermen now so they're gonna respond anyway but I'd call directly to the director of streets and say, you know, this guy is named Jim Shay at the time, I'd say, "Jim, I've got a problem here and such and such--." He said, "Okay," you know, "alderman, I'll take care of that tomorrow," 'cause I knew him and, you know, it wasn't like having to submit a request in writing to them and hopefully they put it on a list and got it done. So I will tell you that those two years of experience were probably as valu- in city government were as valuable as certainly my three and a half years of law school because with the master's degree it usually takes four years, I did it in three and a half years, was more valuable than anything I've done in, in, in all of my multiple careers here because it taught me, one, how bureaucracy worked basically. It also taught me how important it is to have interpersonal relationships with folks. I mean, you can go tell people what to do all the time, the question is will they do it. When you're in city government it's gotta be a cooperative effort or you never get anything done.

The Honorable Wayman Smith

City councilman, judge and Anheuser Busch executive Wayman Flynn Smith, III, was born June 18, 1940, in St. Louis, Missouri; his father, Wayman, II, and his mother, Edith Maux Smith were college educated. Wayman Smith, II, was the first black certified public accountant in Missouri and later served as a city councilman. Growing up in the area where Dick Gregory and Grace Bumbry were raised, Smith attended Washington Elementary School, Sumner High School, and graduated from Soldan International Studies High School in 1957. Smith began his collegiate career at Washington University but graduated from Monmouth College in New Jersey in 1962. Smith went on to graduate from Howard University Law School in 1965.

Mentored by St. Louis attorneys Margaret Bush Wilson and Frankie Freeman, Smith worked on housing legislation for the Missouri Commission on Human Rights in 1966; this legislation designated the real estate office as a place of public accommodation. Smith entered into private practice in 1968; in 1970, he was appointed a City Court Judge, serving until 1975. Smith then served on the St. Louis City Council from 1975 to 1987 and was once president of the council’s Black Caucus. Pressure on Anheuser-Busch by Rev. Jesse Louis Jackson, Sr.’s Operation PUSH, resulted in Anheuser-Busch’s hiring of Smith in 1980 as the first African American member of the Corporate Affairs Department. Working with Augie Busch, Smith created a $200 million minority business development program. Smith eventually became vice president of corporate affairs for Anheuser-Busch Companies, and a member of the board of directors of Anheuser Busch, Inc.

Smith served as a member of the board of directors of Howard University from 1989 to the time of his HistoryMakers interview, and chairman from 1991 to 1995. Smith was senior partner at The Smith Partnership, P.C., St. Louis, Missouri, and a partner in the law firm of Wilson, Smith & McCullin. Smith’s numerous civic board memberships include: the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation; National Urban League; National Association of Sickle Cell Disease, Inc.; St. Louis Symphony; and St. Louis Metropolitan YMCA. Chairman of the Board of Regents of Harris Stowe State College, Smith was also listed in Who’s Who in America and Who’s Who in Black America. Smith held memberships in the American Bar Association, Missouri, Mound City, and National Bar Association, Missouri Chapter.

Accession Number

A2006.180

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/18/2006

Last Name

Smith

Schools

Soldan International Studies High School

Washington Elementary School

Howard University School of Law

Monmouth University

First Name

Wayman

Birth City, State, Country

St. Louis

HM ID

SMI16

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Missouri

Favorite Vacation Destination

Florida

Favorite Quote

Get It Done.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Missouri

Birth Date

6/18/1940

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

St. Louis

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Barbecue (Ribs)

Short Description

Corporate executive, municipal court judge, and city alderman The Honorable Wayman Smith (1940 - ) was the first African American to work in the Corporate Affairs Department of Anheuser-Busch, where he served as vice president of corporate affairs. He was also senior partner of The Smith Partnership, P.C. and chairman of Howard University's Board of Directors.

Employment

Anheuser-Busch Companies

St. Louis City Council

Peat, Marwick, and Mitchell

Missouri Commission on Human Rights

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable Wayman Smith's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - The Honorable Wayman Smith lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - The Honorable Wayman Smith describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable Wayman Smith talks about his maternal family's move from Kentucky to Missouri

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable Wayman Smith describes his parents' early education

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable Wayman Smith describes his mother and siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable Wayman Smith describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable Wayman Smith talks about researching his family history

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - The Honorable Wayman Smith describes his family's reluctance to share stories

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - The Honorable Wayman Smith talks about the importance of family values

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable Wayman Smith remembers his grandparents' professions

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable Wayman Smith describes his neighborhood in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable Wayman Smith recalls the educational opportunities for St. Louis' African American community

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable Wayman Smith describes his father's college experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable Wayman Smith talks about the impact of segregation

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable Wayman Smith describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable Wayman Smith recalls the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - The Honorable Wayman Smith reflects upon his childhood in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - The Honorable Wayman Smith recalls his introduction to television

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - The Honorable Wayman Smith recalls his activities in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - The Honorable Wayman Smith recalls graduating from Soldan High School in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - The Honorable Wayman Smith recalls transferring to Monmouth College in West Long Branch, New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - The Honorable Wayman Smith describes his father's campaign for the Board of Aldermen in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - The Honorable Wayman Smith recalls working as an elevator operator at the U.S. Capitol, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - The Honorable Wayman Smith recalls working as an elevator operator at the U.S. Capitol

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - The Honorable Wayman Smith remembers Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - The Honorable Wayman Smith recalls his civil rights activities at Howard University School of Law

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - The Honorable Wayman Smith remembers when Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. fled the country

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - The Honorable Wayman Smith remembers the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - The Honorable Wayman Smith recalls his transition to Wall Street

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - The Honorable Wayman Smith recalls joining St. Louis' Board of Aldermen

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - The Honorable Wayman Smith remembers the Missouri Commission on Human Rights

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - The Honorable Wayman Smith describes his law practice in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - The Honorable Wayman Smith recalls serving on St. Louis' Board of Aldermen

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - The Honorable Wayman Smith talks about William Clay, Sr.

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - The Honorable Wayman Smith recalls the civil rights issues of the late 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - The Honorable Wayman Smith describes his work for Anheuser-Busch Companies

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - The Honorable Wayman Smith recalls the Great Kings and Queens of Africa program

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - The Honorable Wyman Smith describes Anheuser-Busch Companies' support for African American organizations

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - The Honorable Wayman Smith talks about Anheuser-Busch Companies distributorships

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - The Honorable Wayman Smith recalls Anheuser-Busch Companies' donations to the United Negro College Fund

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - The Honorable Wayman Smith talks about Anheuser-Busch Companies' operations

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - The Honorable Wayman Smith talks about East St. Louis, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - The Honorable Wayman Smith talks about development in East St. Louis, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - The Honorable Wayman Smith remmebers Barry Rand

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - The Honorable Wayman Smith recalls Executive Leadership Council's founding

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - The Honorable Wayman Smith describes his friendship with Earl G. Graves, Sr.

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - The Honorable Wayman Smith describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - The Honorable Wayman Smith reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - The Honorable Wayman Smith describes his commitment to education

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - The Honorable Wayman Smith reflects upon his life

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - The Honorable Wayman Smith talks about his family members

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - The Honorable Wayman Smith reflects upon his law career

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - The Honorable Wayman Smith describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

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DATape

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DAStory

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DATitle
The Honorable Wayman Smith recalls working as an elevator operator at the U.S. Capitol
The Honorable Wayman Smith describes his law practice in St. Louis, Missouri
Transcript
What about those Mississippi guys, Eastland [James Eastland] and Stennis [John C. Stennis], and--they were--$$I didn't meet them but it was interesting when I, the ones I met 'cause you know it was just a matter of luck and I worked at night so I missed a lot of action. And in the daytimes, the elevators were so busy that you never really--one of your jobs was to know when a senator got on your elevator. So you had to know 'em all if you didn't and one got on the elevator--when he got on the elevator your job was to go directly to the floor he wanted to go to. I mean the clerks and the employees and other people who were on the elevator really didn't matter. When a senator got on your elevator you went right to that floor and you're going to be in big trouble if you didn't know who the senator was and you didn't go to that floor. So I found you know you got to know who the heavy hitters were. But it was interesting, the southern senators, the ones who you would believe were most prejudice, most hostile to civil rights people like Strom Thurmond and others. Of course Strom turned out to have had so- had some relationships with the African American community that wasn't well known in those days. There was an old saying that in the South, white people didn't care how close black people got as long as they didn't get too big. In the North, (unclear) white people didn't care how big black people got as long as they didn't get too close. So what happened was that there was, there was a more positive relationship black to white in the South that I observed, even though it was a patronizing relationship and therefore unhealthy. But it was interesting, in the North, white people were not very friendly, but you could get jobs in their countries--in their companies and they viewed you as a peer and they would fight for your right to be a professional and whatever. So s- and the southern white people were very close even to their maids and butlers, but it was in a patronizing relationship and if you translate that to the experience in the [U.S.] Senate the guys like Jacob Javits [Jacob K. Javits] from New York couldn't have been colder, I mean (unclear). The guys who were from the states that I considered bigoted states couldn't have been friendlier. So there was just a different relationship kind of.$$Okay. So how long did you work with them throughout law school [Howard University School of Law, Washington, D.C.], or did--?$$A couple of years, yeah.$$Okay.$$Oh I was at law school three years so I probably worked for at least two years.$$So you were there (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) They made me quit--I know they made me quit it the last year--law school did. The law school had a lot of money and a lot of scholarships and they said well how much money do you need not to have to go to work? Well I told them and they said fine you got it; you don't have to go to work anymore. So I didn't but, but I mean the fact was that my grades were every bit as good when I was working 'cause, 'cause work was study time for me. As a matter fact work was probably better study time once I didn't have to--once I was able to be completely free. I could be a little frivolous but, but when I was at work and couldn't do much, I mean I had to, had to read something might as well read the law book.$Where did you go after the Missouri Commission on Human Rights?$$I came out and started practicing law, started this practice (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Okay, private practice.$$And I, and I--that was around '68 [1968] or '69 [1969] and I stayed in the private practice and my brother [Christopher Smith, Sr.] came out and joined me after that and some other young lawyers were in this community also joined me, Michael Roberts [HistoryMaker Michael Roberts, Sr.] and Steve Roberts [HistoryMaker Steven Roberts, Sr.] and Georgia Gosling [ph.] and some others who worked for me, Linwood Evans [ph.] and others, and [HistoryMaker] Anne-Marie Clarke. And we all became--came through my office and worked for me and I was working with another lawyer by the name of [HistoryMaker] Margaret Bush Wilson. And Margaret and I had a partnership and all these other young people came through us, Donald McCullin, who is now a circuit judge. So that practice continued. I picked up Anheuser-Busch [Anheuser-Busch Companies] as a client and ultimately represented them in their employment discrimination, which again gets back into that civil rights thing and, and, and once I got involved with that Anheuser-Busch ultimately hired me as a vice president in 1980. I represented them from about 1968 to 1980 and after about twelve years they said you just probably need to come on in here and be one of our vice presidents and I said okay.

The Honorable Eugene Sawyer

Civil servant and former Chicago Mayor Eugene Sawyer was born in Greensboro, Alabama, on September 3, 1934, to Bernice and Eugene Sawyer, Sr. The oldest of six children, Sawyer graduated from Alabama State University in Montgomery in 1956 with his B.S. degree in secondary education. While still in school, Sawyer traveled to Chicago every summer to live with his aunt on the South Side and work odd jobs.

After graduating from college, Sawyer taught high school math and chemistry for one year in Prentiss, Mississippi; in 1957, he moved to Chicago permanently to pursue a career in laboratory science. Sawyer spent two years working for Rockford Sprinklers before he was hired at a South Side water filtration plant in 1959 to work as a lab technician. At the same time, Sawyer joined the Democratic Ward Organization of the 6th Ward, where he worked his way up through both the organization and the city water department. Over time, Sawyer served as president of the 6th Ward Young Democrats; financial secretary for the entire ward organization; and president.

Sawyer served as alderman of the 6th Ward from 1971 until 1988; in 1987, following the unexpected death of Chicago Mayor Harold Washington, he was elected by the City Council to serve as acting mayor of the City of Chicago. Sawyer was sworn in at 4:01 a.m. on December 2, 1987, after a contentious fight that divided Chicago’s African American community. During his tenure as mayor, Sawyer expanded Chicago’s governmental outreach to develop cooperative partnerships with business and industry.

Following his term as mayor, Sawyer and his friend, businessman Charles Harrison, III, partnered to form CEI International, a reseller of natural gas and other fuels; he served as vice president of the company until 1997.

Sawyer was an active member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity since 1953 and a trustee at Vernon Park Church and vice chairman of the board of the Wyatt Center.

Sawyer married his wife, Veronica, on September 7, 1996.

Eugene Sawyer passed away on January 19, 2008, at the age of seventy-three.

Accession Number

A2003.024

Sex

Male

Interview Date

1/29/2003

Last Name

Sawyer

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Schools

Stephen Memorial Grammar School

Hale County Training High School

Alabama State University

First Name

Eugene

Birth City, State, Country

Greensboro

HM ID

SAW01

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

Mexico

Favorite Quote

Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

9/3/1934

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Macaroni, Cheese

Death Date

1/19/2008

Short Description

City alderman and mayor The Honorable Eugene Sawyer (1934 - 2008 ) was the mayor of Chicago in addition to being a successful entrepreneur.

Employment

Prentiss Institute

Rockwood Sprinkler Corporation (Chicago)

City of Chicago

CEI International

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Eugene Sawyer interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Eugene Sawyer's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Eugene Sawyer describes his family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Eugene Sawyer discusses his father's occupation

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Eugene Sawyer remembers his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Eugene Sawyer evaluates the role of children

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Eugene Sawyer recounts his childhood in Greensboro, Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Eugene Sawyer recalls his father's business

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Eugene Sawyer reflects on race relations in the Greensboro, Alabama of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Eugene Sawyer recounts his school years

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Eugene Sawyer remembers influential figures from his high school years

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Eugene Sawyer recounts his experience on the high school football team

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Eugene Sawyer recalls his college prospects

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Eugene Sawyer recounts his civil rights participation while in college

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Eugene Sawyer describes his first job, post-college

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Eugene Sawyer describes his initial employment in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Eugene Sawyer details his beginnings in Chicago politics

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Eugene Sawyer discusses his campaign for alderman of Chicago's 6th ward

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Eugene Sawyer describes Chicago's 6th ward

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Eugene Sawyer reviews changes in Chicago politics during the late 1970s

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Eugene Sawyer reflects on Mayor Richard J. Daley's interactions with Chicago's black community

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Eugene Sawyer remembers Chicago politics after the death of Mayor Richard J. Daley

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Eugene Sawyer recalls Jane Byrne's mayoral tenure

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Eugene Sawyer remembers Harold Washington's mayoral tenure

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Eugene Sawyer describes his role in the Harold Washington administration

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Eugene Sawyer recalls federal investigations of Chicago aldermen, 1980s

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Eugene Sawyer recalls dissent in the Harold Washington administration

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Eugene Sawyer recalls Harold Washington's second term in office

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Eugene Sawyer remembers the death of Mayor Harold Washington

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Eugene Sawyer discusses political activity following the death of Mayor Harold Washington

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Eugene Sawyer recalls his election as acting mayor of Chicago

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Eugene Sawyer recalls reactions to his election as acting mayor of Chicago

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Eugene Sawyer recalls his tenure as acting mayor of Chicago

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Eugene Sawyer recounts the Steve Cokely conspiracy theory incident

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Eugene Sawyer discusses opponents to his 1989 mayoral campaign

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Eugene Sawyer evaluates his personality

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Eugene Sawyer recounts Chicago's 1989 mayoral election

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Eugene Sawyer describes improvements made during his mayoral tenure

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Eugene Sawyer responds to criticisms of his leadership persona

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Eugene Sawyer describes the closure of his energy endeavor

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Eugene Sawyer calls for unity in the black community

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Eugene Sawyer reflects on his mayoral tenure

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Eugene Sawyer details hometown responses to his success

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Eugene Sawyer discusses his children and his nephew

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Eugene Sawyer considers his legacy

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

3$1

DATitle
Eugene Sawyer recounts his civil rights participation while in college
Eugene Sawyer remembers the death of Mayor Harold Washington
Transcript
That was the beginning of the, in my second, third year in college, when we really got involved in the Civil Rights Movement. We really had to, the capital [Montgomery, Alabama] being right down the street, we had Dr. [Martin Luther] King's house being right down the street from the capital, so we had to do our best to try to protect his house.$$Now, I heard or read that the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church was right--$$Right down the street from the capital, right. And right up the, up the hill is the capital. Right down at the bottom of the hill is the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church.$$All right, and that's the scene for the organizing of the Montgomery Bus Boycott?$$Right. That church and Reverend [Ralph] Abernathy's church.$$Yeah, so tell us about that. I mean how did--when did you find out or get, become aware that all that was going on in Montgomery?$$I think that a radio station is what I'm told, you know, and I was there, but I wasn't listening to the radio. But they said that they decided to boycott the buses. And they wanted really to try to figure how to get the word out. And they had no way of getting the word out. They couldn't pass out any leaflets like that. But I think some maid heard the, heard, heard about the boycott. And she told her boss that the black folks were gonna boycott the buses the next day. And, of course, the lady called the radio station right away, and that's how we got the word out that the boycott was gonna happen the next day. And, you know, it was really amazing to see people walking. I mean I could--I got up the next morning. I saw people walking, tradesmen carrying their tools on the side and people walking with him, and people really committed. They really were committed to doing whatever their leaders told them they wanted done. That was one time that black folks really stuck together. And they were--and people walking everywhere.$$Now, what were you students talking about when this was going on, and what was the word on campus?$$Well, during the time on campus, we had a boycott going on, on the dining hall, the dining hall and the, you know, toilets in the washrooms and paper towels and things. All those kinds of things were happening. And we didn't really get the amount of attention that we would have gotten because the boycott was going on. So we were able to actively do our boycotting at, and at a certain point in time we were able to successfully achieve what we set out to do.$$Okay, so the students got better food and toilet paper and all the things that--$$(Nodding yes) Got all the things they wanted.$$Okay, and that was occurring just as the Montgomery bus boycott--$$Right, was going on, right.$$Okay, now, did the school administration give you all advice about the boycott? Did they try to keep you from participating or--$$Un-un.$$--did they encourage you to participate or--$$Un-un.$$What happened?$$We had the good sense that it was best that we stay away from the boycott. And we didn't want to get kicked out of school. That was the thing because this was a state-supported school. So we didn't involve too much in it, but quietly--$$Yeah, but did the school tell you that?$$No.$$Did the school administrators say you will be kicked out of school if you participate?$$No, no, they didn't tell us that.$$Okay, but you figured it might--$$Figured it.$$Just kind of figured that might be the case?$$Figured it might be the case, right.$$Okay, well, so what happened next? I mean did you all get involved in it at all?$$Quietly, yes.$$And what happened? What was that involvement about?$$Well, there were some friends of mine who were students and ministers, T. Y. Rogers and Harold Carter, they were ministers. And they were ministers and they got involved with the, Dr. King. In fact, T. Y. Rogers was killed in Atlanta [Georgia] driving to work. He worked with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference [SCLC]. But that was after we graduated from college. But during the time we went to college, we were all members of the same fraternity, and we all stuck together. And they say, you hang, hang together or hang separately, whatever you choose. And we figured it's best to hang together. So we worked with T. Y. and Harold Carter. And we were sort of acted, somewhat as a--taking Dr. King to the post office and places like that, but not the sit-ins. But we didn't, well, unfortunately, we were not with him when they blew up his house.$$Okay, well, now, describe what happened when his house was bombed?$$Well, we were in our rooms in the dormitory, and we heard the--the news travels very quickly there, you know. And, of course, he didn't want anybody to act or do anything silly. He just said to the people, just go home. Things will be okay. And we followed his advice.$$So you all went over to his house after you heard it had been bombed?$$Um-hum.$$And he talked to you all directly?$$He talked to a crowd of people.$$Now, did anybody just leave? Did anybody like try to protect him or protect his house? Were there people with--armed people around trying to protect or, you know,--$$I'm not aware of any, but we followed his advice.$$Okay, so students went back--$$Went home.$$Okay, is that the, is that the most dangerous part of the experience in Montgomery, do you think?$$I think so. I do remember students turning over a car, coming through the campus.$$Now, what students, you mean the students at Alabama State [University, Montgomery, Alabama]--$$Um-hum.$$--turned over a car? Whose car was it, and why--$$I, I don't know, very frankly. I really don't know. But I remember seeing the car turned over.$$Okay, and you don't know who it was?$$I really don't know who it was.$$Did students do anything else to help with the boycott, the bus boycott, besides serving as bodyguards? I mean did students do other things?$$There were fundraising campaigns going on and (unclear) on the streets. We worked stopping cars, getting contributions. We did that.$$Did any of you all have cars that you used to help?$$No, we didn't have any cars?$$The days--before black students had cars on campus (laughter).$$(Laughter). No, we weren't that lucky.$$Now, they all have cars.$$Now, they all have cars, right.$$So, did you attend Dexter Avenue Baptist Church or did you ever go over there for a meeting?$$Yes, um-hum, used to love to hear Dr. King speak. He was such a, just an orator, I mean he was good.$$Now, Abernathy's church was First Baptist [Church], is that what it was?$$I think it was First Baptist.$$And I think when Dexter came out of that church in the old days, and that's how they got two Baptist churches.$$Right.$$Did you ever go to his church?$$Yes.$$Well, in 1956, now, you graduated in '56, right?$$Um-hum.$$Now, that was a, one exciting year, I guess.$$Right, it was.$$You graduated from college and--how did that make you feel, you know, all of that activity?$$Well, you know, I was particularly happy one year when Dr. King first came to the campus, you know, we used to have to go to vespers, that is evening service that the student usually prepare to go to sleep in the afternoon because you can't spend the time with your girlfriend on the campus sitting on the lawn. So we had to go to vespers that day. And they said, Dr. Martin Luther King was gonna be a speaker. And we all got together and our, with our friends. And Dr. King came up to the rostrum, and he looked down at the crowd, you know, and he stood and paused for a few minutes. And he said, when Jesus was on the mountain and tempted by the devil, he said, cast yourself down and, and I know you can do it because you're of the Lord. And he turned these stones to bread. It was a moment of difficult decision. And he started to expound from there on. He spoke elo--very eloquently. And it's interesting, he was fine orator. He kept our attention. We couldn't hardly--we were on the end of our seats at the end of his speech.$$So he transformed a sleepy experience into a--$$A wide awake experience, wide awake.$$Now, did you run for any offices in college? Were you the head of anything in college?$$No, I really wasn't.$$But you're a member of the Alphas and--$$Member of the Alpha Phi [Alpha] fraternity.$$Alpha Phi, okay. Now, can you remember what stage the boycott was in when you graduated? Had they finished their negotiations yet or where was it?$$Let's see, I came out in the summer of '56. I'm not sure if they were--they were practically, almost through with the boycott by then I think.$$Now, did you--how did you feel about all the media attention Montgomery was getting on T.V. cause I know when you weren't--I mean not being in Montgomery as a kid, I saw it on T.V. all the time, you know.$$Well, that's, that's the whole, you know, if it didn't get the attention, we wouldn't have been able to achieve what we achieved in Montgomery.$$Were there a lot of reporters in town at that time? Did you see a lot of T.V.--$$Not around the campus, but they were, I'm sure in town. And we didn't get down, down to the courthouse to the hearings, you know. But I'm sure they were there.$$Okay, is there anything else you want to tell us about that time?$$No, it was just an exciting time.$$Did you have a sense that things were changes in the country then, that--$$Hopefully, they were. But I found out later, they weren't. And it still haven't changed that much.$I was asking you about '87 [1987], you know, what you, how you felt in '87, going into the new year--that, after the election of Harold [Washington] with the majority and what you thought the prospects were for the city [Chicago, Illinois], I think, at that point, and the black community?$$Well, the, the prospects or the opportunity for the black community was very, very, very positive, I think. We could all move ahead. And there were a lot of things that Harold wanted to do in the community that meant some, some positive activities for the black community. And--$$I know, we were talking about the day that Harold died. That's what it was, and your personal reflections of that day? What happened?$$That was a very emotional time when they called me up and told me to get over to the Civic Center, over to the Daley Plaza. And I asked them, why? They said the mayor just died. And, of course, I just put up--it was a tough time for me because I was very tied to Harold. He was a very, very close friend of mine. And I went over to the Daley Center, and I think I was there, [Timothy C.] Tim Evans and Larry Bloom--let's see, who else was there? There were 4 or 5--Tim Wright was there. There were 4 or 5 people in there, you know. And we, we were trying to make contact with the hospital. And the information we had gotten was that they wanted--there wasn't anything definite yet. So I got a call from Ed Burke. And he told me the mayor had died. I said, well, how do you know? He said, well, the fireman told me. I said, well, that's not what I'm getting. He said, well, that's what I got. And we went on, went back in the room. And finally we got the call that he really had passed. It was a very emotional thing. So we all just got together and said a prayer and left, went back to the offices. And there was a lot of activities happening and the guys in the city hall was suggesting that we do this and that. I said, look, man, we ain't gonna do nothing. Well, we're just gonna go back down to the council floor and say a prayer for the mayor's family and for the mayor, and that's it. And that was my suggestion that we do that. And, of course, we did that. And there--not to my knowledge, some of the other members were calling for a special meeting, which I didn't really want. But they called it anyway. And then we went into a meeting, and we went to that, beginning of that long night. And it wasn't a pleasant time at all.$$Now, just to put it in perspective, time wise, the death of Mayor Washington occurred on, it was a weekday, right?$$Um-hum.$$Was it on a Tuesday or--cause it was just before Thanksgiving, right?$$Right.$$It was a--was it the Wednesday before Thanksgiving?$$I don't--$$Thanksgiving is always on a Thursday so I'm trying to remember.$$It must have been a Tuesday, I think.$$And, cause his body laid in state for all of Thanksgiving, I think.$$Um-hm.

The Honorable Anna Langford

Chicago alderman and lawyer Anna Langford was born on October 27, 1917 in Springfield, Ohio. Her father, Arthur J. Riggs, died when she was only nine months old and her mother, Alice, died when Langford was eight years old. She lived with her grandmother until 1933, when she moved to Chicago to live with her aunt and uncle. There, she graduated from Hyde Park High School in 1935. Langford attended a trade school to learn office skills and from 1938 to 1956 worked as a typist in the Social Security office, the Election Commissioners Office and in the Office of the Secretary of State.

In February of 1956, after studying for eleven years, she received her J.D. degree from John Marshall Law School at Roosevelt University in Chicago and began an extensive career as a civil rights and criminal lawyer. Langford practiced law throughout the State of Illinois, defended civil rights workers in the 1960s and joined Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Chicago civil rights marches. In 1963 and 1964, she provided free legal services in many areas, including the State of Mississippi.

In 1971, Langford became the first woman elected to the Chicago City Council. Although she was defeated for reelection in 1975, she returned later to serve two additional terms from 1983, the year she retired from practicing law, until 1991, when she retired from the City Council. She has received numerous humanitarian and civic awards and honors, including being inducted into the Book of Legends by the Black Women Lawyers Association for her immeasurable contributions to the City of Chicago as a lawyer and a public servant.

Anna Langford passed away on September 17, 2008 at the age of 90.

Anna Langford was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 4, 2002.

Accession Number

A2002.190

Sex

Female

Interview Date

11/4/2002

Last Name

Langford

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Organizations
Schools

Hyde Park Academy High School

Roosevelt University

John Marshall Law School

First Name

Anna

Birth City, State, Country

Springfield

HM ID

LAN02

Favorite Season

None

State

Ohio

Favorite Vacation Destination

Las Vegas, Nevada, Tunica, Mississippi

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

10/27/1917

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Soul Food

Death Date

9/17/2008

Short Description

Civil rights lawyer and city alderman The Honorable Anna Langford (1917 - 2008 ) was the first woman elected to Chicago City Council.

Employment

Social Security Administration

Board of Election Commissioners

Secretary of State Office

Chicago City Council

Favorite Color

Earth Tones

Timing Pairs
0,0:11700,179:22898,282:23162,287:46702,630:63605,774:67355,819:67850,825:68840,850:74565,929:74992,937:83480,1096:83855,1102:87680,1167:89630,1207:99069,1360:100744,1391:127320,1750$0,0:530,15:16996,220:25928,366:32155,414:34255,451:34630,457:52772,698:57377,739:65230,845:83075,1052:115586,1537:123446,1690:124256,1727:132680,1868:159393,2191:164900,2308:190620,2740:190940,2745:191580,2754:196470,2799:197775,2818:205320,2868:209174,2973:222563,3191:223130,3241:246175,3640:250255,3725:262895,3836:265475,3847:278504,4040:279458,4065:279882,4070:293850,4215
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Anna Langford narrates her photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Anna Langford narrates her photographs, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Slating of Anna Langford's interview

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Anna Langford lists her favorites

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Anna Langford talks about her parents

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Anna Langford describes her mother's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Anna Langford talks about her mother, Alice Riggs

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Anna Langford talks about her grandmother

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Anna Langford describes her father's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Anna Langford talks about meeting her younger brother for the first time

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Anna Langford describes her childhood experiences in Springfield, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Anna Langford talks about getting caught cheating in elementary school

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Anna Langford describes her experience at Hyde Park High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Anna Langford talks about her son

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Anna Langford describes her early government jobs

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Anna Langford talks about her first marriage

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Anna Langford describes starting her own law practice in Chicago, Illinois in 1956

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Anna Langford describes one of her memorable court cases

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Anna Langford talks about her son's education

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Anna Langford talks about her experience as a trial lawyer

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Anna Langford describes her experience providing legal services in Mississippi in 1963 and 1964, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Anna Langford describes her experience providing legal services in Mississippi in 1963 and 1964, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Anna Langford describes her Civil Rights involvement in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Anna Langford describes attending the funeral of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Anna Langford describes her campaigns for Chicago City Council in 1967, 1971, and 1983

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Anna Langford talks about the Council Wars in the Chicago, Illinois City Council

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Anna Langford talks about the Chicago City Council after the death of Mayor Harold Washington in 1987

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Anna Langford talks about the reaction to Chicago's 1987 mayoral election

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Anna Langford talks about her political involvement in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Anna Langford reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Anna Langford talks about The HistoryMakers

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$3

DAStory

2$7

DATitle
Anna Langford describes starting her own law practice in Chicago, Illinois in 1956
Anna Langford describes her experience providing legal services in Mississippi in 1963 and 1964, pt. 2
Transcript
So you worked as a clerk typist [for social security]. What made you decide to go to law school?$$I always wanted to be a lawyer, even when I was in Springfield, Ohio. Whenever there was a court scene, I was that lawyer pacing up and down in front of that jury. When we finished high school [1930], the year that I graduated, we had to write our autobiography. And at the end we were to tell what our ambitions consisted of, what they were. And I said "My ambition is to be the world's greatest criminal lawyer." Why, I always just wanted to be a lawyer, that's all. And at the time I started practicing law, there were no women in the criminal field at all. The criminal courts building, what women were over there were either probation officers or working in some other field, but they were not lawyers. The first woman that I saw working over there was Willie Whiting, who was Assistant State's Attorney, and she and another person, well, that's [Judge Odas] Nicholson who used to be the Supreme Court--we were all honored the other night by the black women lawyers. But she was the first woman to be over there in a legal capacity, was Willie Whiting.$$What year did you start your practice?$$Nineteen fifty-six (1956) I practiced out of my home. At that time they would not rent to lawyers in the Loop [Chicago, Illinois]. There were only two offices in the Loop that had a black law firm in it, and that was on Randolph Street. But they--I couldn't--I could not rent downtown, so I got an office at 71st and South Park [now King Drive] at the time, up over a Chinese restaurant. I was with a blind lawyer too at the time. I did all my own secretarial work and everything. I didn't have any help at all, no secretary, no anybody.$At one time we went all the way down to the southern-most spot in Mississippi, and there was a little town that had, I think it had about one school house and everything. And we had been--before that we didn't have any problems because we were, you know, taking depositions from the blacks. This time we were deposing the whites who had refused to allow people to vote. And I was with a lawyer from California, black lawyer, and he had a--we had a black secretary who had come from California with him, and she was a pretty little brown-skinned girl, pretty hair. And when he was--when he started--when I started questioning him, he said "I never-negress" and all that kind of stuff, just real typical. And I said--he said, "niggers" first, he said. I said, "Wait a minute, I said, Sir, we are here under congressional challenge, you will respect people and not use derogatory terms," I said, "or else you will have to be cited for it," you know. And when I--this woman said--there was one white woman, she said "Oh," as if to say "how dare you talk in that tone," it was really very interesting. And I think the word must have got out that there was whatever they want to call us who were doing this, all of this, impudent stuff in there and making all these questions and challenges and so forth. When we came out, there was a sea of white people. Apparently it was time--it was in a little factory area or something, and it was during their lunch hour and they had all--it was just a sea of white people. And at all of our hearings up north, it was a white guy that was there all the time and you just see the hatred in him, you know of what was going on. So when I came out first, because I wanted to take of a picture of this other lawyer and Deena Rae(ph), I think her name was, she said afterwards, she said, she'd never go back to Mississippi, she said her wig had turned grey. So, anyhow, when I got all the way out and when I got there, I was getting ready to get my camera up and here was, look like about six-foot five trooper coming up to me, and this white guy was with him. So when he--I took the camera down, I said, "Hi," and he said, "What you put the camera down for?" just getting ready to go in them (unclear). I said, "Well I can put it back up." So then I said, oh, "I remember you," I said, "you were our biggest fan, weren't you, from the very beginning," and he said, "sho was." And then I said, "Oh, shoot," I said--I looked out and by that time, I said, "I have to go, I have to catch you later," and because the other lawyer is waiting for me. That guy said, "Get out of here as fast as you can before we get lynched" and he took off doing about 80 headed for the airport. That was one of the most exciting things that happened in--$$What prompted you personally to make that choice to go to Mississippi?$$--When I heard that the boys [Michael Schwerner, James Cheney and Andrew Goodman] were missing, and all these different stories were coming out. "Oh, they're just hiding someplace trying to get publicity" and so forth and so on. And I remember I got up one morning, I said, "They're dead. I know they're dead," and the tears were just rolling down my cheeks. I said, "I'm going to go down there and work, you know, for a week." And the morning that I left, I had booked into the Sun-n-Sand Motel in Jackson, and Larry [Lawrence Langford] was a little kid then, he said, "Mama," he said, "they just burned a cross in front of your hotel where you're gonna to stay." I said, "Oh, fine, I'll stop and pick up some marshmallows." He said, "Oh, mama." And that's the way I left. But that was because me too--and sure enough, they were dead, they were, but I knew they were.$$So that--$$Just felt it, I just felt they had killed them.$$--That experience changed you tremendously, that trip, that participation? What did it change about you when you got back to Chicago?$$Nothing. It's just that I felt good about myself having participated in it.$$Was it the first time you had had that kind of experience, that level of prejudice and discrimination?$$I had had that all my life.$$Okay. So being used to the KKK, riding--$$Yeah, riding.$$--Roughshod, okay.

The Honorable Dorothy Tillman

Civil rights activist and former city alderman Dorothy Wright Tillman was born on May 12, 1947 in Montgomery, Alabama, and joined the Civil Rights Movement at the age of sixteen.

As a trainee and a field staff organizer with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) she fought for equality and political consciousness. She helped Dr. King organize in Chicago, where she met her future husband and father of her children, Jimmy Lee Tillman. She also participated in the march on the Edmund-Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. This march, later known as Bloody Sunday, was a turning point in the battle to insure the right to vote for African American citizens.

Tillman and her husband Jimmy moved to San Francisco soon after they were married, where she successfully mobilized residents in her public housing community in a battle for local public transportation. After the family moved back to Chicago, Tillman organized a group of concerned parents and fought for quality education in their community. She founded the Parent Equalizers of Chicago, with over 300 schools participating. This set the groundwork for school reform in Chicago.

In 1985, Tillman became the first woman to serve as alderman of Chicago's Third Ward. As a major political figure in Chicago, she has been highly involved in numerous community-building activities, including projects related to issues of inner-city education, housing and homelessness. Tillman has also been an influential player in the movement for slave reparations. She has received numerous awards and recognition for her local, national and global activism and has been featured in various books and television features.

Dorothy Tillman was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 5, 2002.

Accession Number

A2002.178

Sex

Female

Interview Date

9/5/2002

Last Name

Tillman

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Schools

Daisy Lawrence

Booker T. Washington Magnet High School

First Name

Dorothy

Birth City, State, Country

Montgomery

HM ID

TIL01

Favorite Season

None

Sponsor

Miles and Stockbridge LLP

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

5/12/1947

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Seafood

Short Description

Civil rights activist and city alderman The Honorable Dorothy Tillman (1947 - ) started her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement at the age of sixteen as a trainee and a field staff organizer for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Tillman is a reparations activist and former Chicago alderman.

Employment

City of Chicago

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Dorothy Tillman's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Dorothy Tillman lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Dorothy Tillman describes her grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Dorothy Tillman remembers the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Dorothy Tillman recalls growing up in the Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Dorothy Tillman describes her family

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Dorothy Tillman describes her personality as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Dorothy Tillman describes her experiences at school

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Dorothy Tillman talks about her teachers

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Dorothy Tillman remembers clashing with the principal

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Dorothy Tillman talks about youth activism yesterday and today

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Dorothy Tillman describes the sights, sounds, and smells of growing up in Montgomery, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Dorothy Tillman describes her involvement with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Dorothy Tillman talks about the art of being a nonviolent scientist

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Dorothy Tillman recalls Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Dorothy Tillman describes the aftermath of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Dorothy Tillman talks about moving to Chicago, Illinois in 1965

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Dorothy Tillman talks about Dr. King's discomfort in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Dorothy Tillman shares her impressions of Chicago, Illinois in 1965

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Dorothy Tillman describes the different approaches within the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Dorothy Tillman talks about the Civil Rights backlash

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Dorothy Tillman talks about her family

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Dorothy Tillman describes her decision to run for alderman in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Dorothy Tillman talks about how her hats became her trademark

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Dorothy Tillman describes Mayor Harold Washington

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Dorothy Tillman describes how she weathered certain political challenges

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Dorothy Tillman talks about African American economic inequality

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Dorothy Tillman describes her work on behalf of the reparations movement

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Dorothy Tillman talks about her political actions in favor of reparations

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Dorothy Tillman shares her views on the future of the reparations movement

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Dorothy Tillman describes her definition of reparations

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Dorothy Tillman reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Dorothy Tillman narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

8$5

DATitle
Dorothy Tillman talks about Dr. King's discomfort in Chicago, Illinois
Dorothy Tillman describes her decision to run for alderman in Chicago, Illinois
Transcript
(Unclear)--what did--what was it about Chicago [Illinois] that made Dr. King uncomfortable?$$When we first came here?$$Mm-hm.$$I guess in the end you can really see. I didn't know then he just wanted his staff back. He was uncomfortable when we first got here. This is before we were assigned. This is when we was touring. But I know when we came here to stay here, after we was assigned, we had never gone to a city where ministers and politician, black folks, told us to leave. That was a first. Even when we went to other cities and black folks was frightened, or they didn't want us around, they kept their mouth shut. They went out of the way. But these people had a press conference, some of your major politicians. And a lot of 'em are still in office and still around now. Some of your politicians and all of your ministers, the majority of the black ministers, they held a press conference. And they said for Martin [Luther King, Jr.], they wanted us to go back, that they didn't need us here, and we wasn't nothing but some troublemakers. That was really troublesome. And I remember telling Dr. [Marting Luther] King--and I told him I wanted to leave. I didn't like this place. I, I tried everything I could to leave. Send me to Cleveland [Ohio], do anything, send me home; I don't wanna be here. I want to go back to Alabama, anywhere. I'd never seen people like this before, never. And they were all stuck in a ghetto. They couldn't move. They, they couldn't--evidently, they wasn't that happy 'cause soon as we got open housing, they all scattered. So if they was so happy where they was, why did they scatter? But Dr. King was, was--I said though, you know, I don't wanna stay here; and I said that. I--you know, they, they called me the movement baby, and it was very--I must say that I was raised by men, and that's probably why I've all men friends not men friends now, but I was--that's why I probably respect black men, and I knew that black men can make a difference. Some people don't understand or have an experience, but in the movement it was a lot of black men, our leaders. So I know that black men can fight. And you know, so when I said, you know, what--why are we here, I wanna go--and they were very protective of me. I must say they really protected me. And you know, so a lot of say they have not been protected, well, I, I was protected by the black men in the movement. And they always listened when I would speak, and I always got answers. I mean we would never just, no, you don't know what you're talking about. And I said to Dr. King, I don't wanna stay here, 'cause see, he wanted me here. I was trying to really get reassigned. I said they don't want us here. Why do we need to stay here? They don't want us. What are we gonna do? And he said we have to stay here. I said oh, and he said these some strange kind of Negroes in Chicago, he said. The Negroes here are very strange. You think about the plantation in Alabama, but Daley's plantation wipe out Alabama plantation any day.$How did you decide--what made you decide to run for alderman in the Third Ward?$$I didn't decide it; it decided for me. We were very involved in the school struggle, did a lot of things. I really was happy being a mother, for the first time out of the limelight, not struggling, loving my babies, baking bread, make sure their diet is healthy, going to the schools, doing everything. And the school was failing, and I got involved in the school struggle. And then we organized all of these schools all over the city, and. And the demand got pretty high, and we couldn't get the, the elected officials to deal with the educational question. And we decided we had to run, run some people. And I couldn't get anybody to run against Kinnard. Everybody was scared, and I was like forced into it. That's how I did it. I lost by a hundred and something votes. Fine, but the I was--then turned around and appointed by Harold Washington after he went to jail. So I really didn't want to. I did it reluctantly. I just couldn't find anybody else to do it.$$And, and I remember those hectic school years that you were on TV all the time. That, that was your old self coming out.$$Yeah. It was interesting because Jane Byrne said to the press, she said I've done research on this on this woman. She's not just a parent, she's a professional organizer. It frightened her. I worked with--I worked to--in area B to get Jane Byrne elected 'cause I thought we needed a change, and she got in and she turned on us. And I worked just as hard to get her out of there because she, she lied. And--but I was very involved in the school struggle, worked very close with Mayor Washington, even to get him his Congress, as a congressperson and then as mayor. So, I kind of got thrust into it. In fact, I didn't even call for the boycott. It was another parent saying let's boycott. I said do you know what you're talking about? "Yeah," but she really didn't. She didn't know the extent. So then I began to put all my organizing skills into play for the parents, to make sure that the boycott worked, and that's how they elected me to head it up because I knew it was gonna work. We need to take--(unclear)--freedom school because parents needed to have some place to send their children, knew you was gonna get the boycott broken, and you had to call it at a certain time. And we called it during the, during the Christmas break. It was easier to keep the kids out than to pull 'em out. So the parents had to send 'em back.

The Honorable Todd Stroger

Todd Herman Stroger was born on January 14, 1963, in Chicago, Illinois. The son of the late Cook County Board President John Stroger, Todd was introduced to politics at an early age. He attended St. Felicitous Elementary School and St. Ignatius College Preparatory. After graduating from St. Ignatius in 1981, Stroger spent a year at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and a semester at the Illinois Institute of Technology before transferring to his father’s alma mater, Xavier University, in New Orleans. At Xavier, Stroger majored in history. It was here that he also met his future wife, the former Jeanine Baddoo. They have one son, Hans Eric, named after Stroger’s late brother.

Upon graduation, Stroger returned to Chicago, working at the Water Reclamation District and the Circuit Court of Cook County before pursuing a career in investment banking. He was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives in 1992. As a member of the Illinois General Assembly, Stroger served as Chairperson of the Labor & Commerce Committee. He also served on committees dealing with computer technology, insurance and the environment. Among the bills he sponsored was one that would allow college teaching assistants and graduate assistants to form unions.

In 2006 Stroger's father, John Stroger resigned from his post as Cook County Board president due to health reasons. The Cook County Democratic Central Committee chose Stroger to replace his father and run for board president. Stroger won the election against Tony Peraica on November 7, 2006.

Accession Number

A2000.061

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/19/2000

Last Name

Stroger

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Schools

St. Felicitas Elementary School

St. Ignatius College Prep

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Illinois Institute of Technology

Xavier University of Louisiana

DePaul University

First Name

Todd

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

PITS022

Favorite Season

June

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

New Orleans, Louisiana

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

1/14/1963

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Lasagna

Short Description

City alderman and state representative The Honorable Todd Stroger (1963 - ) was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives in 1992, and served as Chairperson of the Labor & Commerce Committee. In 2006, Stroger replaced his father, John Stroger, as Cook County Board president.

Employment

Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago

Circuit Court of Cook County

Illinois General Assembly

City of Chicago

Cook County Board of Commissioners

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Todd Stroger's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Todd Stroger lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Todd Stroger spells his wife's and sibling's names

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Todd Stroger recalls growing up as a son of a politician

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Todd Stroger describes his mother's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Todd Stroger reminisces about going to the drive-in movie with his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Todd Stroger remembers going to cocktail parties with his father as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Todd Stroger shares a story of his father's political resilience

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Todd Stroger describes his paternal and maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Todd Stroger describes his elementary school education in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Todd Stroger describes his early interest in reading

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Todd Stroger discusses the benefits of being the youngest child

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Todd Stroger talks about St. Ignatius College Prep High School

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Todd Stroger recalls his friendships and favorite teachers at St. Ignatius high school

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Todd Stroger describes attending the University of Wisconsin at Madison and transferring to Xavier University in New Orleans, Louisiana

Tape: 1 Story: 16 - Todd Stroger explains his decision to major in history

Tape: 1 Story: 17 - Todd Stroger describes his early career on the Domestic Relations Circuit Court of Cook County and the Jury Commission

Tape: 1 Story: 18 - Todd Stroger recounts his work in Domestic Relations Circuit Court and how children suffer in divorce cases

Tape: 1 Story: 19 - Todd Stroger recounts how Domestic Relations Circuit Court shaped his views on fathers' rights

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Todd Stroger describes how his brother's death from an asthma attack affected him

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Todd Stroger talks about the grief process after his brother died

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Todd Stroger describes his service in the Illinois State Legislature

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Todd Stroger describes the political advantage his father gave him

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Todd Stroger reflects upon how his low-key personality helped his political career

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Todd Stroger talks about his interest in education and in preventing illegal dumping

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Todd Stroger describes his father's political influence and style and his own style

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Todd Stroger describes the difference in political positions

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Todd Stroger reflects on balancing his career and family life

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Todd Stroger describes how a bill goes through the Illinois General Assembly

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Todd Stroger describes the youth's lack of knowledge of the role of state legislators

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Todd Stroger explains how his politically active family raised his political awareness

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Todd Stroger explains why he does not intend to be a career politician

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Todd Stroger reflects on how he wishes to be remembered

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Todd Stroger discusses the difference between white and black political families

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Todd Stroger discusses his perspective on political careers

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Todd Stroger talks about the history of African Americans in the Illinois State Legislature

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Todd Stroger describes the current minority composition of the Illinois State Legislature

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Todd Stroger talks about growing racial inequality in the United States

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Todd Stroger talks about his marriage and his wife

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Todd Stroger talks about naming his baby Hans Eric after his deceased brother

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$2

DAStory

3$7

DATitle
Todd Stroger describes his service in the Illinois State Legislature
Todd Stroger describes his father's political influence and style and his own style
Transcript
How would you characterize your own service in the Illinois State Legislature?$$I think I had a pretty good run. Probably not extraordinary, but not bad either. I enjoy carrying bills that help people across the state - little bills, like I had a bill for the city of Freeport and they needed to do something so they could build some streets and do some things and it's the kind of thing people don't jump up and say yeah, I want to do that. But I think it makes you feel good to be able to help a group do something. And the legislature is very top heavy. The Speaker of the House has a tremendous amount of power, a lot of resources, money and people and in that sense the people who are elected generally will follow him. I would say probably 97, 98 percent of the time if he suggests something, he's going to get enough votes to do whatever he wants. And with that power, he generally will take heavy issues and the leaders get together, the Speaker, the Senate President, the Governor and the Minority Leaders, and they make pretty much all of the big decisions and the rest of us wait and say, okay that's what you think. Maybe we'll tweak it here and there, but we don't have the same opportunity to really dive in. And generally the people who do are just a select few, because the Speaker can't be everywhere. And he may have a couple of favorite people who will handle negotiations and things of that nature. So, I'm happy with being able to pass some legislation and do things in our district, like have job fairs and minority business development, pass money out to organizations that you know are really working hard and trying to do things. You don't have the big fist of the Speaker, but you have some impact, and I think I've had some impact on our district.$Can you tell me - have you sought - well, you must have sought to some degree, your father's advice generally, not about specific dealings or policies, but have you sought your father's advice as to how to handle your political life?$$Well, you know, he's the political leader of our area, right? He is the Committeeman which means that, he's the Democratic Committeeman, which means that his job is to promote the democrat and so in essence he promotes me, and I look at him as the leader and yeah, I call him on a lot of issues, since he's been involved, elected, for 30 years now and working with the County and being the President. There's a lot of issues that he has to deal with that affect the county, the state, and the city. So, I talk to him frequently. I find it - it's also a good way to get the lobbyists off my back for a while. I'll say, "Oh, let me ask my dad what he thinks." How would you compare your styles?$$He's [John Stroger] very aggressive. He's a very - and politics is his life. I mean if - he's a lawyer too. But I think if he didn't have to feed the kids and pay the house note and the car note, he wouldn't have been a lawyer. Politics is breakfast, lunch and dinner. Well, for me it's breakfast and lunch. I want to have dinner somewhere else. I don't really want to spend my whole life, you know, being involved in politics and not being able to spend a lot of time at home with my wife and child.