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James M. Harkless

Labor lawyer James M. Harkless was born on April 19, 1931 in Detroit, Michigan. He attended Harvard University, where he received his A.B. degree in history in 1952. While there, he was the first African American to be elected president of the Harvard Glee Club. Harkless went on to attend Harvard Law School and earned his J.D. degree in 1955.

Upon graduation, Harkless clerked for a justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and was appointed chief clerk in 1956. From 1957 to 1960, he worked as an associate in a Boston area law firm, where he represented unions in labor relations. In 1961, Harkless served as general counsel for a sub-committee of the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee. Then, from 1962 to 1964, he became the first African American appellate court attorney in the Office of the National Labor Relations Board General Counsel. Harkless went on to work as confidential assistant to the Commissioner of Customs, as executive secretary of the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity, and as senior associate and vice president of a Washington, D.C. consulting firm. In 1970, Harkless was hired as an arbitrator and associate umpire for Bethlehem Steel Company and United Steelworkers of America. He then received arbitration cases through the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, the American Arbitration Association, and the National Mediation Board, as well as selections as permanent arbitrator for private companies, federal agencies, and their unions. Harkless has issued more than 3,000 decisions covering most labor-management issues.

Harkless has served in many other organizations, often as a board member. In 1972, the United States President appointed Harkless to serve on the Special Railroad Emergency Boards. He then worked as part-time chairman of the Washington, D.C. Board of Labor Relations from 1974 until 1978. Harkless also served as a member of the Prince George's County, Maryland Public Employee Relations Board from 1975 to 1978 and as a member of the Employee Relations Council of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority from 1993 to 1995. From 1985 to 2006, he was chairman of the IUE-GM (Delphi) Legal Services Plan. Harkless was appointed a member of the Foreign Service Grievance Board in 1990, served as a consultant on arbitration to a South African government commission in 1998, and was elected the first African American President of the National Academy of Arbitrators in 1998. In 2005, the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers made him an honorary fellow.

Harkless lives in Washington, D.C.

James M. Harkless was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on January 29, 2014 and January 30, 2017.

Accession Number

A2014.007

Sex

Male

Interview Date

1/29/2014 |and| 3/17/2014 |and| 01/30/2017

Last Name

Harkless

Maker Category
Marital Status

Divorced

Middle Name

McConnell

Occupation
Schools

Alger Elementary School

Harry B. Hutchins Intermediate School

Northern High School

Harvard University

Harvard Law School

First Name

James

Birth City, State, Country

Detroit

HM ID

HAR45

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

Capalua, Hawaii

Favorite Quote

Just do it.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

4/19/1931

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

All Foods

Short Description

Labor lawyer James M. Harkless (1931 - ) has been a labor lawyer and arbitrator for over fifty years. He was the first African American President of the National Academy of Arbitrators.

Employment

Delete

Bethlehem Steel & United Steel Workers

Leo Kramer, Inc.

Office of Economic Opportunity

Favorite Color

Red

Patricia Andrews-Keenan

Media and public relations executive Patricia Andrews-Keenan was born in 1954 to Pearline Henderson and James Andrews. She received her B.A. degree in journalism from Grambling State University in 1977, and went on to graduate from the Executive Leadership Development Program at UCLA’s Anderson School.

In 1990, Andrews-Keenan was hired as Director of Public Affairs at Jones Intercable; and, in 1996, she was appointed Vice President of Communications of AT&T Broadband in Deerfield, Illinois. A year later, Andrews-Keenan became Executive Director of Communications at Tele-Communications, Inc., where she served until 2002, when she was appointed as Comcast’s Vice President of Communications in Chicago, Illinois. Then, in 2007, she was hired as Vice President of Corporate Affairs at The Nielsen Company.

In 2008, Andrews-Keenan founded The Tallulah Group, a public relations, communications, media relations and community affairs firm, where she serves as President and Chief Strategist. Her clients have included Quarles & Brady, LLP, Merit Medical, Chicago State University, IlliniCare, LINK Unlimited, Columbia College Chicago, C. Cretors & Company, and the 100 Black Men of Chicago. Additionally, from 2008 until 2010, Andrews-Keenan was an adjunct professor at Columbia College Chicago, where she taught culture, race and media.

Andrews-Keenan has served on a number of organizational boards and committees. She has served on the board of directors of the Chicago Children's Choir, and was a past national president of the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC). She has also served on the boards of Volunteers of America, the Naperville Chamber of Commerce and the DuPage County Girl Scouts. Andrews-Keenan was a former board chair for the Quad County Urban League, and has been appointed to the YMCA’s Black and Latino Achievers Steering Committee. In addition, she holds memberships in the Executive’s Club of Chicago.

Andrews-Keenan has also received numerous awards for her community relations work, including both a Silver Anvil and Gold Anvil from the Public Relations Society of America, as well as several Beacon Awards from the Association of Cable Communicators (ACC).

Patricia Andrews-Kennan was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on January 23, 2014.

Accession Number

A2014.030

Sex

Female

Interview Date

1/24/2014

Last Name

Andrews-Keenan

Maker Category
Middle Name

Jean

Schools

Grambling State University

University of California, Los Angeles

Wright Elementary School

Tallulah High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Patricia

Birth City, State, Country

New Orleans

HM ID

KEE02

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

New York, Paris

Favorite Quote

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

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

7/19/1954

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Savory Food, Spicy Food

Short Description

Media executive and public relations executive Patricia Andrews-Keenan (1954 - ) was the founder and chief strategist of the Tallulah Group. She worked as an executive in the cable and telecommunications industry for over twenty years.

Employment

Jones Intercable

AT&T

Telecommunications, Inc.

Comcast

Nielsen Media Research

Tallulah Group

Columbia College

News-Press

Denver Weekly News

Mountain Bell

Internal Revenue Service

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Patricia Andrews-Keenan's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan describes her mother's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan describes the African American community in Tallulah, Louisiana

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan talks about her mother's education and aspirations

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan describes how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan lists her siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan remembers the desegregation of Tallulah, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan describes her experiences at Wright Elementary School in Tallulah, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan remembers her home life

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan recalls her early interest in reading

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan talks about her favorite books

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan remembers integrating Tallulah High School in Tallulah, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan remembers her teachers at Tallulah High School in Tallulah, Louisiana

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan describes her early aspirations

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan describes her family

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan describes her decision to attend Grambling State University in Grambling, Louisiana

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan describes her first impressions of Grambling State University in Grambling, Louisiana

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan recalls her extracurricular activities at Grambling State University

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan recalls her internship at The News-Press in Fort Myers, Florida

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan talks about her time at Grambling State University

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan describes her early career in Denver, Colorado

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan talks about her transition into the cable industry

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan talks about the acquisition of Syntel, Inc. by Jones Intercable

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan describes her position at Jones Intercable

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan talks about how she came to work for the Comcast Corporation

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan describes the changes in telecommunication laws

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan describes her position at the Comcast Corporation

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan talks about the Comcast Corporation's acquisition of AT&T Broadband LLC

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan talks about C. Michael Armstrong's role at AT&T Broadband LLC

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan talks about her involvement in the National Association for Minorities in Cable

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan describes her presidency of the National Association of Minorities in Cable

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan describes her role as vice president of communications at the Comcast Corporation

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan talks about her role at Nielsen Media Research

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan talks about the Tallulah Group

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan remembers teaching at Columbia College Chicago in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan reflects upon her career in the cable industry

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan talks about her civic involvement in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan talks about the future of the cable industry

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan reflects upon her life

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan describes her plans for the future

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan describes her experiences of workplace discrimination

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan talks about her family

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Patricia Andrews-Keenan describes how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$1

DAStory

6$5

DATitle
Patricia Andrews-Keenan talks about the Tallulah Group
Patricia Andrews-Keenan describes the African American community in Tallulah, Louisiana
Transcript
And then in 2008 I decided to kind of strike out on my own and see what we could do with media (laughter) and PR [public relations] with all the things that I'd learned over the years, so.$$So you established the Tallulah Group [Chicago, Illinois]?$$The Tallulah Group.$$Okay.$$Yeah.$$And named after your hometown?$$Named after my hometown. I'd always said if I decided to do something on my own, you know, I just wanted to pay homage to where I came from and have people remember Tallulah [Louisiana] for being something other than Tallulah Bankhead, but then by that time, I think Tallulah Willis, Bruce Willis had a daughter named Tallulah too, so I'm like, okay. And then there's a restaurant in Chicago [Illinois] named Tallulah, I found out about the same time, so (laughter).$$Now Tallulah Bankhead has a kind of a wild history--$$She did. She was kind of racy for her time, so. So I think that's kind of a nice thing to have all those, you know, those different thoughts about that name, so. And I don't know anybody--you know there aren't too many companies named that that I know of, so I thought it was a good one.$$Okay. It's a memorable name. So, your clients have included Quarles and Brady LLP, Merit Medical [Merit Medical Systems, Inc.], Chicago State University [Chicago, Illinois], AtlantiCare, LINK Unlimited [LINK Unlimited Scholars], Columbia College [Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, Illinois], 100 Black Men [100 Black Men of America, Inc.]?$$Yeah. The nice thing about it is doing the work that I did for Comcast [Comcast Corporation], specifically, I had a lot of relationships in the marketplace, 'cause that's part of your job is to cultivate relationships. And one thing that Comcast was, was a big supporter of education and that kind of fits with who I am. So, specifically, a lot of those education concerns were companies that I'd worked with while I was part of Comcast and some of the other cable companies, so it kind of fits, it really fits. We're really about helping people tell their story, you know, helping them communicate with the media, helping them, you know, developing relationships with the media and helping them, you know, do the things that they do better. So it's been--it's been interesting, especially considering, you know, the kind of downturn we've been in, so everything, you know, same skills, same things, so it works really well. And then the other thing that I've tried to do is maintain the work with the not for profits as well, 'cause during the Comcast years, I was just involved with a ton of not for profits. And some of them, you know, are doing amazing work and I've been fortunate to stay involved with those as well.$$Okay, okay. I read--now I read here that social media plays a prominent role in your firm's outreach tactic?$$Yes. It's--I love social media. I think it is just so amazing. The one thing I think you always have to be willing to learn something new. So in 2008 as I was making this transition, you know, I just kind of immersed myself to see what was going on and what people were doing in social media. So I don't think there's a social media that I haven't done, I mean, you know, from Facebook to Twitter to LinkedIn to Quora to, you know, it's just been really fun, because it's just--to me it's all tactical. It's just another way to share a message to communicate to connect with people. So I found it immensely fun to kind of look at this and say how is this--some things I think never change, I mean, you always gonna have to know how to write a press release. And if there's anything bad about these things is the fact that people don't write like they used to. Everything's an abbreviation, everything's you know a little bit different than it used to be, but--but taken correctly and used correctly, I think it adds to all these things that you're doing. Chicago State University, I'll use them as an example. Last year they--they decided to hold a gala concert with [HistoryMaker] Smokey Robinson, and we were able to use, you know, Facebook, specifically, and just really increase the visibility and really get people engaged. We were doing things like every day we were sending out old Smokey songs or putting out old pictures of Smokey, you know, with The Miracles, or telling his Motown [Motown Records] history. So it's just--I just think social media is a great way to kind of share with people and engage with people, so. It's been, it's been a lot of fun kind of learning those things, so.$Are there any family stories about what life was like in Madison Parish [Louisiana]?$$In Madison Parish?$$I mean in terms of the black community and (unclear)?$$Oh, yeah, yeah. Now we, you know, again, small southern town. And when I grew up, you know, still a lot of the vestiges of things, you know, from the, from, from the integration. I can--and I can barely remember them, but it seems to me that there was still a few signs I can remember, you know, kind of black and white things. Definitely, we lived on one side of the proverbial railroad track, which was actually, literally, a railroad track. So we lived on one side of town and, you know, the white population, for the most part, lived on the opposite side of town. Through the middle of Tallulah, Louisiana, there runs the brushy bayou. We're a river town so, you know, you can go maybe twenty miles and hit the Mississippi River on the one side and then in our town, there's brushy bayou, which kind of separated the town. So you know we lived on one side, the white community lived on the other side. I remember growing up and we would go to the little grocery store, you know, you'd have your neighborhood grocery store and we had a good--we had an interesting black community because one of the first black police chiefs in the country, Zelma Wyche, was from Tallulah, Louisiana, one of the early elected black officials.$$This is a man?$$Yeah, Zelma Wyche. I didn't even know I remembered that (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) W--W-Y-C-H?$$C-H, yeah.$$Okay. C-H-E, I guess?$$Yeah, I think so. I'm going to have to go back and look at that. But yeah, he was one of the first black elected police chiefs in Louisiana. And I want to say maybe, you know, pretty close to in the country, so I definitely remember that that was kind of--that was a really big deal for us, but you know, it's still cotton fields--still we're in--in our town. And when I was young, I used to go with my uncle [Andrews-Keenan's maternal great uncle, James Rucker]. In the summer when I got older (laughter), I made the mistake of saying, "Well, I want to make some money." He would take people to the field to chop cotton. And I remember I got to be a teenager. And it was like, "I want to make some money." He's like, "Well you can go with us." Oh, what a mistake. I'm like why did I choose to (laughter)--but yeah, still cotton field right across from my house. I could see it every day and people were still, you know, wasn't all mechanized then, it was still--there was still cotton being picked, people were going to manually chop cotton. When my c- my older cousin was coming along, and he was probably about ten or fifteen years older than I, there were still times when people, they let kids out of school to do that. Yeah, there was still that time when they might take a part time out of school when it was harvesting season. It didn't happen (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) It's a time sensitive crop.$$Right, right. It wasn't--when I came along we didn't do that; but I remember those kids, that were like ten years older than I was. Yeah, that was still that time when I was a little kid, so.

E. Lee Lassiter

Newspaper columnist and journalism professor E. Lee Lassiter was born on July 11, 1936, in Carpenter, North Carolina. His father, Narvie Lassiter, was a tenant farmer while his mother, Margie Upchurch Lassiter, was a housewife and sold cosmetics. Lassiter’s parents made a pact that all of their children would graduate from high school and, unlike most tenant farmers, insisted they attend school every day. Lassiter attended the segregated Apex Elementary School in Apex, North Carolina and Barry O’Kelly High School in Method, North Carolina, graduating in 1954. He worked his way through college at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in, receiving his B.A. degree in secondary education in 1959. He earned his M.A. degree in journalism from Boston University in 1963 and his Ed.D. degree from Morgan State University in 1993.

While a student at Tuskegee, Lassiter joined the Reserve Officers Training Corps. In 1961, he served in the Adjutant General’s Corps of the Army as a correspondence officer and technical writer and remained in the Army Reserves for another ten years. Near the close of 1961, he joined the editorial staff at the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper before moving, in 1965, to the Baltimore News-American, where he remained until the newspaper ceased operations in 1986. During his time at the Baltimore News-American, Lassiter wrote editorials and worked in various positions in the editing department. In 1974, he became a regular columnist at the newspaper, with syndicated columns in newspapers around the nation. After the paper closed, Lassiter accepted a position as an associate professor of English at Coppin State University. He retired from teaching in 1999, and began working as a public relations associate for the University. In 2003, he retired from that position, but accepted a contract to work in the same capacity online from his home.

Lassiter is an active member of numerous associations, including the NAACP, the Baltimore Tuskegee Alumni Association and the Black Writers’ Guild of Maryland. He has been a member of Mount Ararat Baptist Church in Baltimore for forty-four years. Active in community service for almost forty years, among his numerous awards are the Tuskegee University Presidential Associate Award, African Methodist Episcopal Church Christian Service Award and the Council for Cultural Progress Public Service Award. In 1981, he was honored with a Giant in Journalism trophy. Lassiter lives in Baltimore with his wife, Hannah Louise Lassiter.

E. Lee Lassiter was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 16, 2010.

Accession Number

A2010.070

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/16/2010

Last Name

Lassiter

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Lee

Schools

Apex Elementary School

Berry O'Kelly High School

Tuskegee University

Boston University

Morgan State University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

E.

Birth City, State, Country

Carpenter

HM ID

LAS03

Favorite Season

Fall

Sponsor

Herb and Sheran Wilkins Media Makers

State

North Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

North Carolina

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Maryland

Birth Date

7/11/1936

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Baltimore

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Hot Dogs, Beans

Short Description

Journalism professor and newspaper columnist E. Lee Lassiter (1936 - ) worked at the "Baltimore News-American" for twenty years, writing a nationally syndicated column for twelve of those years. He joined Coppin State University in 1986 as an associate professor of journalism and English before retiring in 2003.

Employment

Boston University

United States Army

Afro-American Newspapers

Baltimore News-American

Coppin State University

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Black, Yellow

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of E. Lee Lassiter's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - E. Lee Lassiter lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - E. Lee Lassiter describes his mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - E. Lee Lassiter describes his mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - E. Lee Lassiter talks about his maternal grandfather, Claude Upchurch

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - E. Lee Lassiter talks about her mother's lack of education, but her own emphasis on the importance of education

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - E. Lee Lassiter describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - E. Lee Lassiter talks about his paternal grandfather who was a farmer

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - E. Lee Lassiter talks about his father's growing up in Chatham County, North Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - E. Lee Lassiter describes how his parents met and married

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - E. Lee Lassiter talks about his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - E. Lee Lassiter describes his parents' personalities and his likeness to them

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - E. Lee Lassiter discusses his parents' emphasis on their children's education

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - E. Lee Lassiter describes her earliest childhood memories of Christmas with his family

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - E. Lee Lassiter describes the community where he grew up

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - E. Lee Lassiter describes his father's reputation as a farmer, and his efforts as a parent

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - E. Lee Lassiter recalls his favorite radio programs

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - E. Lee Lassiter talks about the show 'Amos 'n' Andy'

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - E. Lee Lassiter talks about his mother's entrepreneurship and his interest in magazines

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - E. Lee Lassiter talks about being bused to his elementary school in Apex, North Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - E. Lee Lassiter describes his experience in elementary school

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - E. Lee Lassiter talks about his elementary school

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - E. Lee Lassiter talks about his family's car

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - E. Lee Lassiter talks about his teachers in school and his extracurricular activities

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - E. Lee Lassiter talks about the importance and role of church in his upbringing

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - E. Lee Lassiter describes his experience in high school, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - E. Lee Lassiter describes his experience in highs school, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - E. Lee Lassiter talks about how he learned about black history and black literary giants while in high school

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - E. Lee Lassiter talks about his extracurricular involvement in school

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - E. Lee Lassiter talks about his father's taking he and his brother to the black museum in Raleigh, North Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - E. Lee Lassiter talks about being the editor of his high school newspaper

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - E. Lee Lassiter discusses his awareness of civil rights and the 'Brown vs. Board of Education' ruling

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - E. Lee Lassiter discusses his decision to attend Tuskegee University, and he and his brother's long trip to high school during their senior year

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - E. Lee Lassiter talks about graduating from high school and the teachers who influenced him

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - E. Lee Lassiter describes how his family raised the money for him to attend Tuskegee University in 1954

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - E. Lee Lassiter discusses his journey from North Carolina to Tuskegee University, and being away from home

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - E. Lee Lassiter describes his experience at Tuskegee University

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - E. Lee Lassiter talks about the five-year program at Tuskegee University, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - E. Lee Lassiter talks about his education at Tuskegee University

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - E. Lee Lassiter talks about the teachers who influenced him at Tuskegee University

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - E. Lee Lassiter talks about graduating from Tuskegee University and applying to Boston University for graduate school in journalism

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E. Lee Lassiter discusses his journey from North Carolina to Tuskegee University, and being away from home
E. Lee Lassiter describes his experience at Tuskegee University
Transcript
We got the train ticket, and I got on the train. I took it, 900 miles, almost a thousand miles to Tuskegee [Alabama] from Raleigh [North Carolina]. And one of the experiences that I remember--two. One, my family was there, and I'd never been on a train. And they said their good-byes. And I walked away to get on the train, and I never looked back because I had read that when you--one of these philosophical things that I took too far, when you change directions, and you set a new sight, don't look back. So I didn't look back. Years later, I found out it broke my mother's [Margie Ree Upchurch Lassiter] heart. She wanted me to look back and give me that last wave as I get on the--you know how mothers are, any parent. I never looked back, and she cried and cried and hurt for years. I didn't know. But that was the reason. I'd heard, when you change course, don't look back (laughter), so I didn't. So I got on the train, and after thirty miles on the train, we went through Sanford [North Carolina]. That's where my grandparents on my mother's side had grown up, and I mean where she had kind of grown up. The nearest town was Sanford. And I realized, going to visit my grandparents in Sanford was the furthest I'd ever been from home. That was the last sign I saw that I'd ever seen, recognized, knew anything about, thirty miles from home, going 900 miles. It was the end of the world for me. I had never--and it registered with me, what you're really doing, you know, and this kind of thing. So I took the train ride to Tuskegee, and that's how I got there. And no pocket change, arrived on Saturday, and school doesn't really crank up till Monday. You can't register, you can't anything. I had no way to eat for two days, no money, no anything. But my friend who had been there one year before me, broke the rule and let me eat one meal on his meal ticket. And that's how I--I wouldn't have starved, but I had, didn't have a dime. Interesting that my wife had come from another town, same lack of preparation for (laughter) those two days. So she starved for two days too. But we didn't know each other (laughter). But the 150 [dollars], on Monday, you gave--I gave it to the school and started the five-year plan. And it was a hard experience, so I didn't go home for four years. I never saw my family again for four years. And that, when I went home for four years, it was just for overnight. And I went back to Tuskegee [University] to finish that one year. Then I went. When I finished, I didn't have money to go home. I had to borrow fifteen dollars to have enough to catch a bus to go home with my diploma. So--$$So nobody from your family was able to come to see you graduate?$$No. Her family--we had kind of gotten engaged by then. Her mother was there. No one from my family.$In the whole time I was at Tuskegee [University, Tuskegee, Alabama], I got eleven dollars from home. The first Christmas, I wrote home, and everybody was writing home or going home. And I wrote home and said, it'd be nice if I had a few dollars for Christmas. And my father [Narvie Hester Lassiter] didn't have it, which I should have remembered. But I forgot, you know. So I wrote and asked, and he sent me ten dollars, and that was it. And then I had one aunt, one cousin, who sent me one dollar in a card in those five years. And I still have it. I have the card, and the dollar. She's passed, but that's what it meant to me. And she was a special cousin because in all of these thirteen children that my mother's [Margie Ree Upchurch Lassiter] mother had, they had children that I grew up with, cousins. She was in an awkward age, and there were no girls. So she played with the boys. So, she was a special cousin to me. I knew her, you know, I think she knew me. So when I went off to college, she sent me a dollar (laughter). And when I went home years and years later, looking forward to telling her how much it meant to me that she had done that, she had been in an automobile accident, and her mind was damaged. She hardly knew me. So I never got the chance to tell her like I'm telling you, but I still have it. I can put my hand on the card and the dollar. But in those five years, that's all I got from home. So I had to work it. At one point, I had five jobs, back-to-back. I would do my Tuskegee regular job. Then I had a job cleaning the faculty clubhouse, and drinking their sodas and playing their music. Nobody came, nobody--two faculty members came to the clubhouse, two younger ones. The older ones never came over, so I had the run of the place. I studied, and I drank their sodas. I watched Bill Russell play his first game on their television (laughter) and listened to Edward Griggs [ph.]. There was only one classic album in the building. So I listened to it all--Pierre Gent suite over and over and over. I love it. And every time it plays, I can't resist telling her, that's Edward Griggs. She says, you know so much about classic music. [Whispering]. That's the only one I know (laughter). But that was--and then I'd leave that job and I went to a shoe store and sold, supposedly sold shoes. And then I would leave there and go to the Dean of Men's Office and work during the night in the Dean of Men's office, one summer--not every, but--$$Okay, now--(unclear) (simultaneous)--$$--that's how I got through it. And the one student who went before me, from Apex [North Carolina], he was majoring in veterinary medicine, and he never finished. He was brilliant--we were talking about Dr. Dibble, earlier, you and--(simultaneous)--$$Right, Dr. Eugene Dibble, yeah.$$--who managed the hospital, one of his friends was a Dr. Ford who had a daughter. And my friend became the boyfriend of Dr. Dibble--Dr. Ford's daughter, living the life, and had access to their home, had access to their car. So he got off the five-year plan. Then Dr. Ford moved to California. And his last year there, he couldn't eat because you--once you get off the plan, you can't get back on it. And he was real good in school, and I used to watch him--and I got to repay that favor where he let me eat on his card. I let him eat on my card, which was illegal, but we did it. And I used to watch him dissect those animals, eat crackers, soda crackers, white crackers. That's all he had. And eventually he just--and he would go down to the edge of the campus. There were some plum bushes. This is a true story. He wasn't the only one eating those plums (laughter). You know, a lot of five-year plan, you had to make it the best way you could. And he would eat plums, eat those crackers, dissect those animals, and keep trying, but it was just too much. So he never finished.$$Did he just leave school?$$He left school. I think he was a junior.$$Did he go back home?$$Went back home, and then what exactly became of him, I don't know. One of the reasons that's so significant to me is because that was my motivation to stay on the plan, to maximize the plan, don't get carried away with whatever might happen to you in this process. This is your ticket out from the farm and poverty and all of this. Act like it.

Philip Simmons

Blacksmith Philip Simmons was born on June 9, 1912 to Rosa Simmons on Daniel Island, South Carolina. He was raised by his grandparents until he was eight years old. He then went to live with his mother in Charleston, South Carolina. He completed the sixth grade at Buist Elementary School in Charleston. When he was thirteen years old, Simmons became the apprentice of the local blacksmith, Peter Simmons (no relation). After which, he worked for almost eighty years as a blacksmith.

Simmons’ first duties were to clean floors, make and maintain the fire and hold the horses. He moved on to other work, much of which involved shoeing horses and repairing carriage wheels. Although cars replaced horses as modes of transportation, Simmons mastered other tools, allowing him to create trailers for cars. In addition, he learned how to repair ironwork for houses and he became skilled at ornamental ironwork. Sometimes, Simmons would be commissioned to do specific work, but most of the time, the image was his own design. He has fashioned over 500 decorative pieces of ornamental wrought iron throughout Charleston, South Carolina. Simmons fashioned a gate for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia.

In 1982, Simmons created his favorite work, "The Star and Fish Gate." It won the National Heritage Award and the National Endowment of the Arts Award, and it was purchased by the Smithsonian. Simmons has also received the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts.

The vestry and congregation of St. John’s Episcopal Church dedicated the grounds of the church to develop a commemorative landscaped garden as a tribute to his exceptional mastery of wrought iron. In 2006, South Carolina State University awarded him an honorary Ph.D. in F.A. degree.

Philip Simmons passed away on June 22, 2009.

Philip Simmons was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 1, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.040

Sex

Male

Interview Date

2/1/2007

Last Name

Simmons

Maker Category
Marital Status

Widower

Occupation
Schools

Buist Academy

Burke High School

South Carolina State University

St. Luke's Reformed Episcopal Church

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Philip

Birth City, State, Country

Daniel's Island

HM ID

SIM06

Favorite Season

Spring

State

South Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Georgia

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

South Carolina

Birth Date

6/9/1912

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Charleston

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Okra Soup, Turnips

Death Date

6/22/2009

Short Description

Blacksmith Philip Simmons (1912 - 2009 ) worked as a blacksmith for nearly 80 years, and during that time fashioned over 500 decorative pieces. Simmons fashioned a wrought iron gate for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia

Employment

Peter Simmons’ Blacksmith shop

Favorite Color

None

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Philip Simmons' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Philip Simmons lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Philip Simmons describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Philip Simmons describes his early education

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Philip Simmons describes his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Phil Simmons describes his mother's visits to Daniel Island, South Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Philip Simmons describes what he knows about his father

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Phil Simmons remembers the Buist School in Charleston, South Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Philip Simmons describes his grade school education

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Philip Simmons remembers his introduction to art

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Philip Simmons describes his blacksmith training

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Philip Simmons remembers his early work experiences

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Phil Simmons describes his duties at the blacksmith shop

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Philip Simmons describes his early artistic work as a blacksmith

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Philip Simmons describes his mentor, blacksmith Peter Simmons

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Philip Simmons remembers the impact of motorized transportation

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Philip Simmons remembers building automobile trailers

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Philip Simmons describes his blacksmithing tools

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Philip Simmons describes his transition to decorative wrought ironwork

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Philip Simmons describes his first client and his artistic process

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Philip Simmons describes his wife and family

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Philip Simmons describes the history of his blacksmith shop in Charleston, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Philip Simmons remembers the death of his wife

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Philip Simmons remembers his children's adoption by his family members

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Philip Simmons describes his ironwork for the City of Charleston, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Philip Simmons remembers his introduction to blacksmithing machinery

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Philip Simmons describes his neighborhoods in Charleston, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 15 - Philip Simmons describes how he began working on wrought iron gates

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Philip Simmons talks about repairing wrought irons gates in Charleston, South Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Philip Simmons talks about his artistic materials and process

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Philip Simmons describes his relationships with customers

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Philip Simmons describes the content of his lectures

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Philip Simmons describes his organizational involvement

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Philip Simmons talks about the Philip Simmons Garden in Charleston, South Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Philip Simmons describes his ironwork tours in Charleston, South Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Philip Simmons describes his artwork for the 1996 Summer Olympics

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Philip Simmons describes artwork for the Smithsonian Institution

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Philip Simmons talks about the changes he witnessed in Charleston, South Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Philip Simmons talks about segregation

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Philip Simmons talk about why he was not drafted to the U.S. military

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Philip Simmons remembers the March on Washington

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Philip Simmons talks about Marcus Garvey and the Black Star Line

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Philip Simmons reflects upon the March on Washington

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Philip Simmons describes his message to future generations, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Philip Simmons describes his message to future generations, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Philip Simmons describes how he would like to be remembered, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Philip Simmons describes how he would like to be remembered, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Philip Simmons narrates his photographs

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DATitle
Philip Simmons describes his ironwork for the City of Charleston, South Carolina
Philip Simmons describes his blacksmith training
Transcript
So now your work is in demand, you know, for the gates and fences and balconies. So now the city--the city asked you to do some things, right? What are some of the pieces that you designed for the City of Charleston [South Carolina]?$$I made a lot of pieces for the City of Charleston. I can name some of the thing now was given to me, job--different jobs were given to me by the city, and most of those jobs was given to me were for a purpose, they had a purpose to give it to me, like the gate, like the welcome gate to Charleston, the waterfront gate now in the waterfront, the gate--the egret on the, on the--in the statehouse and the gate--and the national museum, like the Smithsonian institute [Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.], all of those things were given to me for a purpose. One for the airport [Charleston International Airport, North Charleston, South Carolina] when people come in the airport and want to see what Charleston look like after not coming in Charleston and to tour Charleston, they would see something in the airport, Waterfront Park [Charleston, South Carolina], people coming by water, like to come here by water, and they will see the gate there. Welcome people by water, welcome people by land, welcome people by plane, and I like that. I got--I got what you call a good kick out of that, because all that time I was making these pieces for the city and private homes through business they had, I was learning. I didn't know everything when I start. Because I made that first gate for Krawcheck [Jack Krawcheck], a merchant here in Charleston, that was the first gate I made.$$You say it's Krawcheck?$$Um-hm.$$How--how do you spell that?$$Huh?$$Do--how do you spell Krawcheck?$$K-R-E-W-C-H-E-C-K [sic.]. K-R-E-W-C-H-E-C-K, that's a merchant here, clothing store. First gate I made for him. But, now, gates was here before now, because a lot of those gates and pieces--different pieces came from Europe, came here from elsewhere.$$Um-hm. But yours were very unique.$When you were in high school [Burke Industrial School; Burke High School, Charleston, South Carolina], what grade did you go to?$$I went to seventh grade. I quit in the seventh grade.$$Okay. And you--that's when you went to the local blacksmith, right? Tell me about that. You went to ask for a job?$$I went--after I got about eight years old, or when I came into Charleston [South Carolina], I was eight years old, I wanted to go in the blacksmith shop then. I was excited about the blacksmith shop, because the blacksmith shop, up until today I like excitement, I like sport and all that kind of stuff, and up until today I got--when I first came here to Charleston, I got excited about the blacksmith shop, 'cause what was going on in the blacksmith shop made me excited. The horses, you have to help shoe the horses, you have to make the fire up, like some of the pictures you will see I got around here, and I had to keep the fire burning, and I learned--first thing I learned how to make up the fire and how to keep it going, and from there on, I started taking up smaller thing in the blacksmith shop. And finally I'd go on to the bigger thing (simultaneous)-$$(Simultaneous) But before-$$--like building the wagons for the horse, shoeing--$$Build--you were building the wagons for the horse?$$Yeah, I was building the wagon for--or repair, and also building, too, 'cause I had to work with the old man [Peter Simmons] until I was able to do it on my own, 'til I learned to create things on my own, and that's the time I really went into the creative stuff.$$Okay. But tell me, before you got hired at the blacksmith shop, you didn't get hired the very first time you went there.$$No, I didn't.$$What happened? What did he tell you?$$He told me I was too young at eight years old (laughter).$$When did he tell you to come back?$$And I--and I was at this kind of shop, because I wanted to go in that blacksmith shop, because a lot of excitement, like I foresaid, a lot of excitement was going on in the blacksmith shop.$$(Laughter).$$But I was told the old man had to be safe, had to use safety precaution, so he wouldn't hire me at the age of eight. But I keep insist on I wanted to go in that shop. That shop was exciting, honey, at my first time in that blacksmith shop.