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Richard G. Womack

Richard Gilbert Womack, assistant to American Federation of Labor - Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) President John Sweeney, was born on November 18, 1939, in Danville, Virginia. Soon after his birth, Womack moved with his parents, Louise Patrick and Gilbert Womack, to Darby Township outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he attended public school, graduating from Darby High School in 1957. After graduation, Womack served in the United States Army in Fort Lee, Virginia, and in 1962, took a job with Reynolds Aluminum that ultimately launched his career with the AFL-CIO.

Womack performed various functions within the AFL-CIO, including holding a position as assistant director of the Human Resources Development Institute in 1971, and serving as director of the Department of Civil Rights in 1986. In 2003, Womack became the assistant to the AFL-CIO president John Sweeney, advising him on civil, human, and women's rights, immigration issues, and overseeing outreach to community and religious organizations.

While serving the AFL-CIO, Womack also served as a member of the NAACP's Board of Directors, chairing the National Board of Director's Labor Committee; Chairman of the Board of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation; and as the acting executive director of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights. Womack received a presidential appointment in January of 1996 to the board of the Federal Prison Industries.

Accession Number

A2005.155

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/29/2005

Last Name

Womack

Maker Category
Middle Name

G.

Schools

Darby Township School

Darby Township High School

First Name

Richard

Birth City, State, Country

Danville

HM ID

WOM01

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

Virginia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Nature

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

11/18/1939

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Salmon

Short Description

Executive assistant Richard G. Womack (1939 - ) served as assistant to AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, as well as a member of the NAACP's Board of Directors.

Employment

Reynolds Metals Company

AFL-CIO Civil Rights Department

AFL-CIO

AFL-CIO Appalachian Council

AFL-CIO Human Resources Development Institute

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Richard G. Womack's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Richard G. Womack lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Richard G. Womack describes his mother's side of the family

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Richard G. Womack describes his father's side of the family and Rifeville, Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Richard G. Womack remembers instances of segregation

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Richard G. Womack describes his father's experiences in the South

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Richard G. Womack describes his father, his aunt and his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Richard G. Womack describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Richard G. Womack describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Richard G. Womack describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Richard G. Womack describes Darby Township High School, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Richard G. Womack describes Darby Township High School, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Richard G. Womack remembers Darby Township School

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Richard G. Womack describes his extracurricular activities

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Richard G. Womack recalls playing sports at Darby Township High School

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Richard G. Womack recalls his courses at Darby Township High School

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Richard G. Womack remembers graduating from Darby Township High School

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Richard G. Womack recalls playing sports during his U.S. Army service at Fort Lee, Virginia

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Richard G. Womack remembers being AWOL from the U.S. Army

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Richard G. Womack recalls racial discrimination in the U.S. Army

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Richard G. Womack remembers delisting from the U.S. Army

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Richard G. Womack remembers being hired by Reynolds Metals Company

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Richard G. Womack recalls becoming involved in the Reynolds Metals Company union

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Richard G. Womack recalls running for president of the Delaware County AFL-CIO

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Richard G. Womack talks about attendance at local AFL-CIO meetings

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Richard G. Womack talks about political participation, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Richard G. Womack talks about political participation, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Richard G. Womack talks about African Americans' exclusion from unions

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Richard G. Womack describes the importance of African Americans' union involvement

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Richard G. Womack describes his Reynolds Metals Company union work, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Richard G. Womack describes his Reynolds Metals Company union work, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Richard G. Womack describes his mid-1960s career trajectory, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Richard G. Womack describes his mid-1960s career trajectory, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Richard G. Womack remembers meeting Frederick O'Neal and C. L. Dellums

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Richard G. Womack describes AFL-CIO's involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Richard G. Womack recalls the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization's 1981 strike

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Richard G. Womack describes the history of the labor movement, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Richard G. Womack describes the history of the labor movement, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Richard G. Womack describes the labor movement's role in South Africa

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Richard G. Womack recalls representing the AFL-CIO in South Africa

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Richard G. Womack describes his AFL-CIO work with the Cleveland firefighters

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Richard G. Womack recalls mediating for the international firefighters' unions, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Richard G. Womack recalls mediating for the international firefighters' unions, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Richard G. Womack recalls mediating for the international firefighters' unions, pt. 3

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Richard G. Womack describes AFL-CIO's involvement in the Civil Rights Movement, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Richard G. Womack describes his role as assistant to the president of AFL-CIO

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Richard G. Womack talks about the current labor movement and its future

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Richard G. Womack describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Richard G. Womack reflects upon his life

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Richard G. Womack reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Richard G. Womack describes his family

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Richard G. Womack describes the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Richard G. Womack describes the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Richard G. Womack describes his NAACP board service

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Richard G. Womack describes his Federal Bureau of Prisons board service

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Richard G. Womack describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

4$8

DATitle
Richard G. Womack describes the importance of African Americans' union involvement
Richard G. Womack recalls mediating for the international firefighters' unions, pt. 1
Transcript
The labor movement, I think, has been probably the most democratic institution in America, even in terms of the church, because I think a lot of our churches still have these bastions of discrimination, and that's not to say there's not pockets of discrimination within the labor movement, you know, there are these pockets; I think we're working to get rid of those pockets as well. I mean I see the leadership today as a lot more aggressive, a lot more democratic, and they're trying to make sure that they're doing the right thing. The question becomes is how do you get more people in leadership or decision-making capacities; this is what we've been working--trying to make sure we can enhance those positions. Because it's like in football: we know there are certain positions in football that commands more respect and more money. If you're a quarterback, if you're a wide receiver, even a, a guard's position; and then there are certain positions that leads to coaching positions. So what we're saying, in the labor movement, there are still these positions that will lead to other high-up positions. If you become administrative assistant to the president, which gives you a leg up on becoming elected officer or something like this here. So, our thing is there are key positions that we need to get into--slots we need to get into so that we can have the opportunity to get the experience others get because what they always--the underlying thing is: do you have the experience and the know-how? And how do you get that experience? You got to get in certain jobs, certain position to get that experience. So that's one of the things we're pushing, saying, you know--having a mentor and all this is great, but you've got to be able, be able to push your way into that arena where you can get into those positions where it commands the fact that you can move up to, up to different positions; and we've been able to do that in some instances.$$Okay.$$That's just not enough.$$Now, what you were saying earlier before I think we changed tape, was that only seventeen, eighteen white people actually show up for certain meetings, and if the black folks (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Right.$$--showed up, they would actually run the (simultaneous)--$$Run, the--yeah.$$--but it does--it says something about the white participation, too, though (unclear) their members--yeah.$$Oh, no, oh--totally. One of the things about union meetings, if it ain't contract negotiation time, you don't get no large turnout. Now, when the--when it's time for your contract to be up and you're trying to negotiate a contract and you got ratification? Oh, they will come out then. But regular meetings? There's no hot item on the agenda? They will not come out. And this is what I try to tell our folks: look, we can run this local; all we got to do is get our act together and we come out in these meetings, we got the votes--we do what we wanna do. But it's--they don't see it, they--couldn't get 'em to see it that way, you know, hard as we tried. But no, in any union meeting, if you got thirty-five, forty people, that's considered a large gathering.$The firefighters [International Association of Fire Fighters] have been my biggest challenge; I'll be honest with you, they been my biggest challenge in terms of trying to deal with discrimination within the labor movement and trying to get them to understand--for instance, they have, or had, an all-white executive board. Now, I'm trying to figure out how do you have, I think it was twenty-three people on the executive board, and no person of color, no women either. And I'm trying to get them to, to see they need to change this whole thing. The--they, they had a convention down in Florida, in Miami [Florida], in which the black firefighters had decided that they were gonna boycott, or to picket the convention, and so I get this call to say, "Can you help us out here?" And I said, "Okay. Why don't we get the two of y'all together, black firefighters--the head of the black firefighters union [International Association of Black Professional Firefighters] and the head of the white--well, the head of the international?" And I called the head of the black firefighters and asked him would he meet. Well, he said to me, "Richard [HistoryMaker Richard G. Womack], I will be glad to meet but I can't meet on this day; I can't do this, but I'll be glad to meet any other day." I tell this to the president of the international that--okay. Excuse me. He says, "Okay, well, this is the day I wanna meet." "Well, he can't meet that day." So, what does he do? He has a press conference and announced the fact that this guy has been invited but he chose not to show up. I say, "I don't believe you did this." I don't believe you did it; but anyway, to make a long story short, put me in a hell of a situation. I said, "Okay, we still need to find a way to work this out." So I sat down; he was gonna--but I tell you, the black firefighter, he was incensed because this is--"Was not what I said, or I did not want to be--I wanted to be--I just couldn't do it that day." So, anyway, I explained it, I said, "You know, I think he did an injustice here, so we need to find a way to amend this whole thing." So, I think it was the next day, we agreed we would meet, but the black fighter said, "Y'all come"--they was at one hotel downtown; the fire--white fighters was in a hotel on the beach--and said, "No, y'all come to us." So, we're gonna take the white firefighters over to meet with the black firefighters, and so I'm arranging, setting all this up. So I had one of my, one of my people--one of my staff people with me, right? And I asked her, "I'm gone--I'm going over here, I'm gonna be over here with the black firefighters; y'all bring the white firefighters on over." Well, one of the guys decided to go out on the golf course, and naturally, in Florida, you know how these rains come up all of a sudden, and he got drenched, so he had to go change his clothes. So he called--Stepperd [ph.] calls me and says, you know, "We're gonna be a little late." I say, "No, we can't be late, you gotta get over here, 'cause they already got--we already got a bad tension going anyway so can't be, be late." He say, "Well, they wanna go--they gotta get--they had to get this guy off the golf course, and now he gotta go change his clothes." I say, "He don't have time to go change no clothes, tell him that he can come later; the rest of 'em need to come." "No, they not gonna come without him, so he gotta change his clothes." I said, "Oh my gosh, here we go again." So, anyway, they go, he changed his clothes, and here they come, and then time they come--and I'm sitting there trying to keep these black firefighters calm and whatever. They said, "Richard, we ain't waiting no more. This is disrespectful; I mean how many times we gotta get kicked in the teeth before we realize, you know, they playing a game with us?" I said, "No, I think the guys"--and when I--and I thought he was sincere, and I, and I had to agree with him. I said, "Okay, I'm not gonna ask you to stay." I mean they'd already waited a half-hour, you know. And so I said, "Okay." So as they are leaving out, the white firefighters are coming in.