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Willie L. Wilson

Philanthropist, entrepreneur, and recording artist Willie Lee Wilson, grew up in impoverished conditions and rose to found multiple successful enterprises including Singsation!, the first nationally syndicated African-American owned and produced Gospel program on commercial television that broadcasts internationally on WGN-TV. Wilson is also one of the first black owners of a McDonald’s restaurant.

Wilson was born on June 16, 1948 in Gilbert, Louisiana. In 1970, Wilson began his career with McDonald’s doing custodial duties and mopping floors for $2 an hour. He got the opportunity to run the establishment when disgruntled employees walked out and was asked to stay on when the former managers returned. After working with McDonald’s for five years, he decided he wanted to open a McDonald’s himself and resolved to meet with McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc about the issue. Kroc agreed to give Wilson a McDonald’s restaurant after a discussion at an annual shareholders’ meeting in 1979, and with capital provided by South Shore Bank, Wilson took a suffering Chicago franchise and turned it around within a year. Wilson, while working at McDonald’s, earned honors attaining the Outstanding Store Award and Top Sales Performer Award.

In 1987, Wilson decided to start a television production company, Willie Wilson Productions, and in 1988, he was moved to pursue his faith after hearing the song, “What Shall I Render Unto the Lord?” at his church. He sold his McDonald’s restaurants to dedicate his life to Gospel music and started doing church solos and singing with the Norfleet Brothers. Ultimately, creating four albums: I'm So Grateful, Lord Don't Let Me Fail, Just A Closer Walk With Thee, Through It All and I'll Fly Away. The most recent album, I'll Fly Away is distributed by Universal and is available in stores throughout the United States. In 1989, Wilson’s Singsation! premiered, a half-hour weekly program of Gospel music. The shows’ history, artists, producers and writers are produced by his television production corporation. Singstation! is regularly hosted by Wilson and is available in over sixty million households every Sunday.

Still holding entrepreneurial ambitions, in 1997, Wilson founded Omar Medical Supplies, one of America’s fastest growing international medical supply companies and Gemini Electronics, a telecommunications company that provides competitive pricing to assist churches and non-profit community organizations in economic development and outreach.

Wilson is the recipient of a Doctor of Divinity degree from Mt. Carmel Theological Seminary, a Doctor of Humane Letters from Chicago Baptist Institute, Honorary Doctorate in Humanitarianism from Swisher Bible College and a Doctorate in Humanitarianism from Denver Institute of Urban Studies and Adult College. In November 2003, the Illinois State House of Representatives adopted resolution HR0491 in the 93rd General Assembly to honor Wilson’s successes as a member of the National Black McDonald's Owner Operator Association and his contributions to his community.

Wilson resides in Chicago, with his wife of twelve years. He is the father of four grown children.

Wilson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 16, 2008.

Accession Number

A2008.089

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/16/2008

Last Name

Wilson

Maker Category
Middle Name

L.

Schools

Gilbert Elementary School

Oakley School

First Name

Willie

Birth City, State, Country

Gilbert

HM ID

WIL48

Favorite Season

July, August

Sponsor

Aetna

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

Cairo, Egypt

Favorite Quote

Amen.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

6/16/1948

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

University Park

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Breakfast Foods

Short Description

Entrepreneur and gospel singer Willie L. Wilson (1948 - ) was among the first African Americans to own a McDonald's franchise, and was the creator and producer of the first nationally syndicated, black-owned gospel music television show, Singsation.

Employment

McDonald's

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company

Omar, Inc

Wilson Productions

Main Sponsor
Main Sponsor URL
Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Willie L. Wilson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Willie L. Wilson lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Willie L. Wilson describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Willie L. Wilson recalls the codes of conduct in the segregated South

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Willie L. Wilson remembers the killing of Jimmy Guice

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Willie L. Wilson describes his mothers' personality

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Willie L. Wilson talks about his mother's education

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Willie L. Wilson describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Willie L. Wilson recalls the restrictions on sharecroppers in Louisiana

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Willie L. Wilson remembers his paternal grandfather's ghost stories

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Willie L. Wilson talks about his father's education

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Willie L. Wilson recalls his encounters with ghosts

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Willie L. Wilson describes his relationship with his father

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Willie L. Wilson recalls his father's opinion of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Willie L. Wilson talks about how his parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Willie L. Wilson describes the influence of his mother

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Willie L. Wilson describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Willie L. Wilson talks about his experiences as a sharecropper

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Willie L. Wilson remembers the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Wisner, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Willie L. Wilson remembers celebrating Easter

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Willie L. Wilson describes his early education

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Willie L. Wilson remembers his childhood teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Willie L. Wilson talks about his siblings

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Willie L. Wilson talks about his schooling in Louisiana

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Willie L. Wilson describes the traumatic impact of his early experiences of racial discrimination

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Willie L. Wilson describes his experiences as a migrant farmworker

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Willie L. Wilson remembers moving to Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Willie L. Wilson recalls working at the piano factory in Melrose Park, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Willie L. Wilson recalls the riots of 1968 in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Willie L. Wilson talks about his reluctance to return to school

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Willie L. Wilson talks about his awareness of the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Willie L. Wilson talks about working for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Willie L. Wilson describes his experiences during the riots of 1968

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Willie L. Wilson remembers visiting his family in Louisiana

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Willie L. Wilson recalls his start at the McDonald's Corporation

Tape: 3 Story: 13 - Willie L. Wilson talks about his work ethic

Tape: 3 Story: 14 - Willie L. Wilson recalls his start as a manager

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Willie L. Wilson remembers meeting with Ray Kroc, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Willie L. Wilson recalls an altercation with his first wife

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Willie L. Wilson remembers meeting with Ray Kroc, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Willie L. Wilson recalls the challenges of staffing a McDonald's franchise

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Willie L. Wilson talks about the role of McDonald's restaurants in African American communities

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Willie L. Wilson recalls his challenges as a McDonald's franchise owner

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Willie L. Wilson talks about the National Black McDonald's Operators Association

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Willie L. Wilson describes his career as a McDonald's franchisee

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Willie L. Wilson recalls his decision to sell his McDonald's franchises

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Willie L. Wilson remembers his return to the church

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Willie L. Wilson remembers singing with the Norfleet Brothers

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Willie L. Wilson recalls the creation of 'Singsation'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Willie L. Wilson describes the talent on 'Singsation'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Willie L. Wilson remembers the popularity of 'Singsation'

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Willie L. Wilson describes the production of 'Singsation'

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Willie L. Wilson describes his plans for the future of 'Singsation'

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Willie L. Wilson remembers the death of his son

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Willie L. Wilson talks about his relationship with Louis Farrakhan

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Willie L. Wilson describes the operations of Omar Medical Supplies, Inc.

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Willie L. Wilson reflects upon his life

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Willie L. Wilson reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Willie L. Wilson talks about his second marriage

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

4$2

DATitle
Willie L. Wilson recalls the challenges of staffing a McDonald's franchise
Willie L. Wilson recalls the creation of 'Singsation'
Transcript
Was it hard to get five of 'em [McDonald's] going?$$Not really 'cause I'm used to hard work, so hard to work to me is like no work because of my background.$$Okay, now let me guess that I--let me guess that finding the right people to work for you was probably the biggest challenge, is that true?$$Well, no, no, no not really because in the inner city you, you had, had your people could work, it, it was a find that--finding good people.$$That's what I mean finding the--$$Oh, yeah I'm sorry, I'm sorry, right, right find.$$Finding the right people.$$The right people, yeah, yeah to work.$$That are gonna work hard.$$Oh, yeah, yeah, you--that's the biggest challenge and it still is the biggest challenge today.$$There's a lot of people that need jobs but not a lot of people are gonna--$$Right and it doesn't matter what you pay 'em. I can tell you that, you only got a few. I guess you get one out of 10 million was a good worker you, you good. If you put all the people in the United States out of two hundred fifty something million people, you know you get one out of 10 million that's good. You know 'cause people have a tendency these days that they work, they got personal problems they wanna take off. I said, "Hey so we all got personal problems, but in a global economy you have to give up something you know and try to catch it on the other end you know," and so you know I got, I got personal problems like anybody else, but I know one thing, if I ain't got no money coming in and pay the bills I'm gone have more problems and personal problems than that you know. So I can't go home in eight hours, I gotta work hard you know. I have a kid, my four kids I had to sacrifice. I had to miss something, if I hadn't sacrificed to get where I am today, my kid and the people I help now wouldn't, wouldn't exist. We make the decision.$$So, so how would you do it? Did you have a way of interviewing people or a way of reading people or, or did you just have to try 'em out and see how they worked out?$$Well, well you got--you're in a pool of people that, that in a depressed area where are you gone draw from, you know? So wasn't no use in interviewing a lot, (laughter) you look at 'em and talk to 'em and then you know you gotta train 'em like your own kid. That was the mindset, and you have to train 'em about the hygiene, comb hair, show up at work, how to fill out the application, the whole nine yards. How to say, "Yes, ma'am," and "No, sir" to the customer. You know the customer get mad with you, you want--you can't just jump all over 'em you know. So your--the same customer comes in that store is of the neighborhood, so you hire people of the neighborhood. You hire people outside it ain't gone go right 'cause they wouldn't know how to intermingle and talk with the people that's in the neigh- neighborhood.$$Okay (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) That's all.$(Simultaneous) Now where did you get the idea for 'Singsation'? Now did you do that while you were still at Mc- with McDonald's [McDonald's Corporation]?$$Yep, yep, yep Mc- 'Singsation' was 19 and '89 [1989].$$Okay, so you're still with McDonald's and, and now what was--what was it your interaction with the Norfleet Brothers that gave you the idea to do 'Singsation'?$$Well, they mentioned they'd like to have a TV show but they didn't have any money to do anything with. I, I just said that if nobody would let me sing in, in the group because what happened was that, that we, we wa- go out to Chicago Gospel Fest [Chicago Gospel Music Festival] and I got to show 'Singsation' trying to put it on. I hired the first producer and then the producer who got, I had $650,000. I lost it all and the producer spent it, got me in all these union situations and then the night of the first show we're trying to tape, she said that, "Well I got--I want these choir to go on." I said well, "No, I want these quartets, the Norfleet Brothers and some other people going on too," and she said, "If you don't, if I don't put my choir on I'm gone quit and walk out." I said, "Then you know what, you need to leave, go ahead," you know. So she left and I left to produce the whole show myself and I got done trying to wrap it up, I find myself I had to borrow $250,000. 'Cause I lost all of the $650,000. Whatever I had for (unclear), I lost it all you know.$$That's a lot of money to lose.$$Yeah, I lost everything I saved and, and so I had my McDonald's and I went to Jim Fletcher [James Fletcher] at South Shore Bank [ShoreBank, Chicago, Illinois], he's, he's dead and gone now but I said I need $200,000, and he said, "Wilson [HistoryMaker Willie L. Wilson], what do you know about TV?" I said, "I don't know a thing Jim about TV but I need $200,000." I said, "I'll pay it back." I said, you know, "Take it out my McDonald's." Jim said, "I must be crazy but that's okay, you go on just, just write a check," and I wrote a check and like I got out there in less than two years I got that money back, paid it off and everything else, but the thing that got me with, with 'Singsation' was that I had felt that I was wandering around in my life then 'cause I wasn't--I was committed in a way to, to church, Christ and other ways I was not committed, so my mind was saying that Lord have blessed me with all these things today. Okay, I said, "I'm gone give enough back," so one day I went to church and I was going down to church to donate some money, and as I went into church and I sat down at Lucy Hall's church [Friendship Baptist Church] on the South Side of Chicago [Illinois] and the choir said, "What shall I render," and sang the song, "What shall I render unto the Lord for all His benefit towards me" [Psalm 116:12] and like it hit me like that and I said, "I got to get busy," and that 'Singsation' became born then but now more than that but, but I said that since people don't want to let me really sing out here I'm gone buy me, get me a TV show and I'm gone sing all I want, right. That's how 'Singsation' became alive.$$Now who came up with the name 'Singsation'?$$There was a guy--first there was a 'Singsation,' it was called 'Celebrate' and the lady, and the lady tried to trick me into that. I got out of that because she wanted me to pay for the name 'Celebrate' and I didn't know nothing about TV so people putting all kind of stuff on me and then finally with another guy that I knew said well let's just call it 'Singsation' and I said you know what, I said okay get rid of that name over there and let's just call--we'll call this 'Singsation.'$$Well who's the guy that you got with that you came up with that name?$$The guy's name Potter [James Potter], oh, what's his name, oh, last name Potter, P-O-T-T-E-R. I can't think of his first name now, but he came up with the name and, and so but he had, he was supposed to have been a sales person and he was supposed to have been selling the show and turned around he couldn't sell it and he only had twelve spots and my--the show was costing me twenty-five, thirty thousand dollars a week and I only, I, I only was bringing in then like a thousand dollars, $1,200 a week.$$Now that's, you started out with WBBM, Channel 2 [WBBM-TV, Chicago, Illinois]?$$Um-hm.$$Now that's prime TV time, right?$$Yeah, um-hm, yeah, yeah.$$So you were on--what time a day were you on?$$It was seven a.m. in the morning.$$On Sunday mornings?$$On Sunday morning right, and [HistoryMaker] Johnathan Rodgers, an African American guy helped me got there and got started with it and.$$Yeah that's when Johnathan Rodgers was there, right.$$Right.$$Okay.$$So we got started and Vickie Winans was my first host and after a while later on [HistoryMaker] Merri Dee told me, said, "Wilson [HistoryMaker Willie L. Wilson], why don't you host your own show?" You know I said, "Well I guess I should because you know sometimes these peoples sometimes they busy and they can't get over here and I should be doing my own thing," and then when I had started hosting myself you know and doing it so and now 'Singsation' is twenty, twenty year going there. We just got done taping last weekend matter of fact, you know.

Joseph Dyer

The first African American to work as a television reporter and executive in the Los Angeles community, Joseph Dyer was born in Gilbert, Louisiana, on September 24, 1934. The son of sharecroppers, Dyer’s father passed away while he was still a child, and by the age of ten, Dyer was picking cotton in the fields with his deaf mother. After graduating from high school in 1953, he attended Xavier University for one year on a football scholarship before transferring to Grambling State University, where he earned his B.A. degree in speech and drama in 1957.

Upon graduating, Dyer moved to Los Angeles, but was called into military service within a month. While in the Air Force, he was stationed at Grand Forks Air Force Base in North Dakota, where he became the editor of the base paper and later the host of the base television program. After being honorably discharged in 1961, Dyer returned to Los Angeles, while his wife and daughter remained in Mississippi. He was hired as a technical writer at Pasadena’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory shortly after his return to Southern California. While working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Dyer joined Studio West, an artist’s enclave where he met individuals such as Greg Morris of Mission: Impossible, jazz singer Rita Morris and Cassius Weathersby, who at the time was serving as head of the Labor and Industry Committee for the Beverly Hills NAACP. It was Weathersby who convinced Dyer to apply for a position with CBS-2, Los Angeles’ largest television news station at the time. In April of 1965, Dyer was hired on a probationary contract as a writer and news producer.

In August of 1965, riots broke out in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, and Dyer was able to play a critical role. He would call in live phone reports during “The Big News,” and he landed interviews with a number of key community leaders at the time, including Maulana Karenga. His career as a reporter featured a number of other interview highlights, including an exclusive interview with Muhammad Ali following the boxer being stripped of his title for refusing to fight in Vietnam.

In 1968, Dyer became the first African American executive in network news when he was named director of community affairs for CBS-2. In this role, he helped to promote diversity within the station and promote the station in the community. This position was not without stress, however, and Dyer became a long-distance runner. He would eventually compete in the Los Angeles Marathon. At the time of his retirement, Dyer had spent more than thirty years with CBS-2.

Dyer has been recognized numerous times for his contributions to the community, and he has also successfully battled prostate cancer. He and his wife, high-school sweetheart Doris Dillon, have four children.

Joseph Dyer was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 23, 2004.

Dyer passed away on 02/24/2011.

Accession Number

A2004.047

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/23/2004

Last Name

Dyer

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Schools

Central Memorial High School

Grambling State University

Xavier University of Louisiana

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Joseph

Birth City, State, Country

Gilbert

HM ID

DYE01

Favorite Season

Christmas

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

Success Is Nothing More Than A Rendezvous Between Preparation And Opportunity.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Interview Description
Birth Date

9/24/1934

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Soul Food

Death Date

2/24/2011

Short Description

Broadcast executive and television reporter Joseph Dyer (1934 - 2011 ) was the first African American to work as a television reporter and executive in the Los Angeles community. He played a critical role in covering the 1965 riots, interviewing key community leaders. At the time of his retirement, Dyer had spent more than thirty years with CBS-2.

Employment

United States Air Force

Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Studio West

KCBS TV

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Joseph Dyer's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Joseph Dyer lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Joseph Dyer describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Joseph Dyer describes the efforts of his mother, Barbara Parker Brooks, to overcome her hearing impediment

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Joseph Dyer describes growing up in Bogalusa, Louisiana

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Joseph Dyer talks about his memories of his father

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Joseph Dyer briefly lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Joseph Dyer describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Joseph Dyer describes his experiences at Central Memorial High School in Bogalusa, Louisiana

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Joseph Dyer talks about how his southern roots fostered his future ambitions

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Joseph Dyer describes the town of Bogalusa, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Joseph Dyer describes the sights, sounds and smells of Bogalusa, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Joseph Dyer talks about picking cotton as a child in Bogalusa, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Joseph Dyer describes his childhood personality in Bogalusa, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Joseph Dyer describes the famous African American figures who were his childhood role models

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Joseph Dyer describes how members of the community in Bogalusa, Louisiana supported his education

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Joseph Dyer talks about his mother's hopes for his career

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Joseph Dyer describes his experiences at Xavier University of Louisiana in New Orleans

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Joseph Dyer describes his experiences at Grambling College in Grambling, Louisiana, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Joseph Dyer describes his experiences at Grambling College in Grambling, Louisiana, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Joseph Dyer describes his experiences in the theatre department at Grambling College

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Joseph Dyer shares a memory of dancing to the music of HistoryMaker B.B. King

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Joseph Dyer talks about the libraries at Xavier University of Louisiana and Grambling College

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Joseph Dyer reflects upon the experience of attending a historically black college

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Joseph Dyer talks about his service in the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Joseph Dyer describes the beginning of his broadcasting career in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Joseph Dyer describes the events leading up to the Watts riots of Los Angeles in 1965

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Joseph Dyer describes his personal experience reporting on the Watts riots in Los Angeles in 1965

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Joseph Dyer talks about the response of police and fire departments to the Watts riots of 1965

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Joseph Dyer describes working on the senior management team at KCBS-TV in Los Angeles

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Joseph Dyer talks about controversies over Hispanic representation at KCBS-TV in Los Angeles

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Joseph Dyer describes his relationship with HistoryMaker Maulana Karenga

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Joseph Dyer describes his surprise encounter with his former Xavier University classmate, HistoryMaker Warner Saunders

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Joseph Dyer talks about interviewing Muhammad Ali for KCBS-TV in Los Angeles

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Joseph Dyer talks about interviewing Governor George Wallace, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Joseph Dyer talks about interviewing Governor George Wallace, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Joseph Dyer talks about the assassinations of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Joseph Dyer describes controversies during his time as a reporter at KCBS-TV in Los Angeles

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Joseph Dyer reflects on the lessons of his tenure as a reporter for KCBS-TV in Los Angeles

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Joseph Dyer talks about HistoryMaker Johnathan Rodgers and speculates about the success of TV One

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Joseph Dyer talks about the career of Los Angeles, California Mayor Tom Bradley

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Joseph Dyer considers the legacy of Mayor Tom Bradley of Los Angeles, California

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Joseph Dyer talks about the Rodney King riots in Los Angeles, California in 1992

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Joseph Dyer talks about the trial of O.J. Simpson

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Joseph Dyer describes his activities with the National Association of Black Journalists

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Joseph Dyer reflects on changes to the journalism industry in recent decades

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Joseph Dyer talks about the opportunities for African American news anchors

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Joseph Dyer talks about writing his memoir

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Joseph Dyer describes his concerns for the African American community, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Joseph Dyer describes his concerns for the African American community, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Joseph Dyer reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Joseph Dyer narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

1$5

DATitle
Joseph Dyer describes the events leading up to the Watts riots of Los Angeles in 1965
Joseph Dyer talks about the assassinations of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy
Transcript
He wanted to bring me along slowly, he said, introduce me to the market very carefully, and I understand that, but they weren't waiting downstairs, down in Watts [Los Angeles, California]. Hell, they were kicking tail and I wanted to get in with the act because I said, that's it. I said, well look, I didn't know when they were going to riot again and I wanted to get in when it's already in progress, you know what I'm talking about.$$Well let's talk--that's what I was thinking, can we talk about Watts in the historical context, okay?$$I sure will be glad to. Keep in mind, before the Watts riots erupted, they had a delightful man by the name of John Buggs, who was head of the human relations bureau [County of Los Angeles Commission on Human Relations, Los Angeles, California] at the time and he kept telling the city fathers that there were seething difficulties in the Watts area that we better look at as a city. The seething difficulties were things like a lack of adequate transportation in and out of Watts, in terms of buses, there was not one movie theatre in Watts at the time, unemployment was off the Richter scale, there was a severe and catastrophic problem of police-community relations. A lot of cops, I was told, were going out to use it as a training ground. You know, of course, under William [H.] Parker, who was a no holds barred, no-nonsense cop, the idea's go down there and kick tail. I mean, they could do that in those old days. So keep in mind you have a frustrated people. You have living conditions very bad. You have bad police-community relations going in there. You didn't have a whole lot of black officers at the time because I have a friend of mine, Joe Rice [ph.], he was a police, he was a motorcycle cop, he said, at roll call, and usually you have a team to go out, you know, duo, a partner. Nobody wanted to volunteer to go out with him, so he went by himself. And that was pretty much how it was back there before the Watts riot broke out. But no one listened to what John Buggs--he was an alarmist obviously. Then in August, August 13th [sic. August 11th, 1965], a lady that they thought, the community thought was pregnant, was pushed in an altercation down in the Watts. It's hot that night, and that pushing resulted in some stone throwing from the sideline and when it started, it kept going, and from throwing at the officers, they started throwing at buildings, especially buildings owned by Jewish merchants that a lot of people figured they had been gouging the community. And then it was on, to make a long story short, and L.A. [Los Angeles, California] got caught unexpectedly and I wasn't there the first night. We had a camera crew, Paul Udell, went down there the first night. You know, you heard on the radio, on the little squawk box, disturbance underway in Watts area, and go to Code Two, or something like that. And they thought it was just a little skirmish between the police and the local citizens but it wasn't a little skirmish because when Paul Udell's crew got down there, they were stoned too and they had to get out there in a hurry because they realized when they came back to the station, hey, we've got a major problem down there. And the next day, the city started exploding all over the place. I mean, the buildings started burning, the shooting started and what happened, the more the media coverage, the more the media put flames on the fire, we found out later, because of the current commissioner's and, the current commissioner's reports, that we were part of the problem in our coverage, 'cause we would, drew things like they're pillaging a building over at 103rd [Street] and Central [Avenue], when we said, and they're taking out some television sets and some furniture and blah, blah, well what happens, a guy's living in Leimert Park [Los Angeles, California], watching his news broadcast, he said, my God, they're taking out furniture and television sets out at 103rd Street and Watts. So what do you do? You jump in your car and go down to 103rd Street and Watts and get a piece of the action. Well the police, it got to the point where they were so tremendously outgunned, quite frankly, they just sort of sat back and then all hell broke loose for three days and they destroyed a lot of property but that was anger.$Do you remember when you, where you were when [Reverend Dr.] Martin Luther King [Jr.] was killed? And, you know, and your, okay.$$Yeah, I was in the office [KCBS-TV, Los Angeles, California] at the time he was killed because everything just got a--it was surreal, it was surreal. It's amazing that the--when he was killed, well the first thing that comes to mind as a journalist you wonder what kind of a reaction there's going to be in the community, number one, that was the first thing from a journalist's point, is my God, here we go again, some stuff gonna go down and did, not to a great extent, but it did go down. It went down greater in other parts of the country, down in the, I think it was in Detroit [Michigan] they had a big uprising, as a result, they had such a big one out. We had our shot, I guess, back in '65 [1965] [Watts riots, Los Angeles, California] when they had pretty much anticipated there would be some problems, again, so they had brought in a lot of heavy equipment, militarily speaking. But we didn't have such a big riot. I think in, the community of people were more or less in a state of shock, quite frankly, you know, so there was not a big reaction but I was in the news at the time. But the next day, they wanted me to do what amounted to a reflective piece down at the old historic Second Baptist Church [Los Angeles, California]. They wanted me to stand in front of the church and reflect on my last remembrance of Dr. King, 'cause the Second Baptist Church was one of the last churches at which he spoke in Los Angeles [California]. And I gave a respected piece about my reflections of him and what I remember as a reporter. And then driving back to the station, and they were playing some of his speeches, you know, the mountain top speech [I've Been to the Mountaintop] and obviously, I Have A Dream, and all of a sudden, I just started crying and it's the most amazing thing and I just told my wife [Doris Dillon Dyer] I said, you know, I just couldn't just stop crying 'cause it dawned on me then, what it really meant to me as a journalist and as an African American, that I just got floored 'cause his speeches have a way of, you know, really getting to you. I heard him speak before and, before I got to CBS, my wife and I used to go to a lot of the meetings here in Los Angeles, especially in Wrigley Field [Los Angeles, California] and some of the churches that he spoke at, and he was very gifted as an orator, obviously. But just, just couldn't stop crying, quite frankly, and that was, it was quite an unreal period. And then a month later, I was covering Senator [Robert Francis] Kennedy's speech, down at the Ambassador [Hotel, Los Angeles, California], and as I said in the book, the thought occurred to me that how exposed he was, standing there at the podium with Rosey Grier and Ethel [Kennedy] and, et cetera, and if somebody wanted to pop him, they could probably do it. And just, you know it was just a thought, you know, you're sitting there looking at it and fantasizing, my God, what a--how unprotected he is, and when he went back in that kitchen area and then people started screaming and shouting and running about and you realized, my God, it has happened again and it was another night that I shall never forget and I think the heading of that chapter was "A Night That I Shall Never Forget" because I will never forget it. They locked us in the hotel. They didn't let us out till they figured out what was going to happen.