Jerome "Buddy" Cooper

BCRI Oral History Collection
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00:00:28 - Introduction to Interview

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Partial Transcript: This is an interview with Attorney Jerome "Buddy" Cooper for the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute's Oral History Project.

Segment Synopsis: Jerome "Buddy" Cooper is introduced.

Keywords: Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (Birmingham, Ala.)

GPS: Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
Map Coordinates: 33.516200, -86.813870
Hyperlink: BCRI Homepage
00:01:00 - Family & Educational Background

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Partial Transcript: I want to start with just a few sort of general kinds of questions about background.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper begins by describing his family's immigrant Eastern European background, and how during the Great Depression, his father opened his own department store and his mother worked in the home.

Keywords: Brookwood (Ala.); Cooper Brothers; Harvard College (1780- ). Class of 1933; Harvard Law School; Lithuania; Phillips High School (Birmingham, Ala.); Poland; South Highland School (Birmingham, Ala.)

Subjects: Education, Higher; Immigrant families; Jewish families--United States

00:15:18 - The Role of Race

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Partial Transcript: What role did race play in your life up to that point?

Segment Synopsis: Cooper describes his first awareness of race in his life was the African American nurse that raised him and how she rode at the front of the bus because of his family. He continues by stating in his run for secretary in his high school's student body, that there was a distinction that other students made because Cooper was Jewish.

Keywords: Epithets; Phillips High School (Birmingham, Ala.); Racism in language; Student government--Elections

Subjects: Discrimination in transportation; Phillips High School (Birmingham, Ala.)

00:21:33 - Military Experience

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Partial Transcript: You went into the military, was that during WWII?

Segment Synopsis: Cooper details that he served in the U.S. Army for 44 months, starting two days after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Keywords: Army Physical Fitness Test; Army private

Subjects: Military service, Voluntary--United States; Pearl Harbor (Hawaii), Attack on, 1941

00:23:08 - Working for Justice Hugo Black

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Partial Transcript: See, I had had a short period of employment. From law school I worked with Judge Davis, and then, I went to Washington with Justice Black.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper describes the two and a half years that he worked as a law clerk for Justice Hugo Black in Washington.

Keywords: Ku Klux Klan (1915- ); Law clerk; United States. Supreme Court

Subjects: Black, Hugo LaFayette, 1886-1971

00:29:36 - The Secret Meetings of the Birmingham Unions

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Partial Transcript: I came back to Birmingham as an acting regional attorney for the Wage Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper recalls how he and white labor representatives secretly met as a religious and labor fellowship, despite it being illegal for both interracial groups to meet together at the time. He states that they dealt with complaints in the mills and the mines, and worked to desegregate these unions.

Keywords: Marmion, William H. (William Henry), 1907-; Murray, Phillip; Redmont Hotel (Birmingham, Ala.); Saint Mary's-on-the-Highlands Episcopal Church; Ware, James L.

Subjects: Congress of Industrial Organizations (U.S.); Labor union meetings; Ramsey, John Fraser, 1907-; United Mine Workers of America; Ware, James L.

00:38:16 - Influential Labor Leaders

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Partial Transcript: Before we get there, Buddy, I would like for you to just talk briefly about a couple of people.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper describes the labor leaders at the time, his relationships with them, and how several of the leaders endured threats and beatings.

Keywords: Howard, Asbury; Lewis, John L.; Mitch, William E.; Streeville, Howard; Travis, Maurice

Subjects: Iron and steel workers--Labor unions; Labor leaders

00:45:14 - Paying Bail for Incarcerated Children in the Movement

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Partial Transcript: Now, in 1965 the State of Alabama outlawed the operation of NAACP here in Alabama and as a result of that the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights was organized.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper describes how he and other members of the steel union, at the request of President John F. Kennedy, paid the bond of the children that were incarcerated at Fair Park.

Keywords: Children's Crusade; Steel unions; Streeville, Howard

Subjects: Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights; Bail--United States; Incarceration issues; Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963; NAACP

00:55:29 - George Wallace & Bull Connor

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Partial Transcript: There was another situation also, when Wallace stood in the door with the steel workers being involved in one way or another.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper discusses when Governor George Wallace blocked Vivian Malone and James Hood from enrolling at the University of Alabama, and how several steel and rubber union workers stood in the crowd to prevent any Klan members or otherwise dissenters quiet.

Keywords: AFL-CIO; Graham, Henry V. (1917-1999); Malone, Vivian; Stand in the Schoolhouse Door; Trammell, Asa G., 1925-2008

Subjects: Connor, Eugene, 1897-1973; Malone, Vivian; Wallace, George C. (George Corley), 1919-1998

01:03:52 - Supreme Court Union Rulings

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Partial Transcript: You know early Supreme Court held that a labor union that had collective bargaining rights had to represent all the members of the union fairly, without regard to race.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper recounts several cases that went to the Alabama Supreme court where he won job rights for Black union workers.

Keywords: Jones v. Central of Georgia; Mitchell v. GM&O; Steele v. L.N.R. Co.

Subjects: African American labor union members; Alabama. Supreme Court

01:06:28 - Operation New Birmingham & the Community Affairs Committee

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Partial Transcript: I'm not physically able to keep up the pace I did, but I have resented the fact that they had nowhere the fact that these three labor unions got these kids and enabled the negotiations to go on and gave Martin Luther King an honorable basis for talking further and I think, in a real sense, contributed to saving Birmingham.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper talks about how the two local organizations was able to continue the negotiations for union rights and their involvement in the Movement.

Keywords: Townsend, Vincent

Subjects: Community Affairs Committee; Operation New Birmingham

01:09:25 - Conclusion of the Interview

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Partial Transcript: Buddy, you've obviously have played a tremendous role, and again, I appreciate the role that you have played and I appreciate you spending the time.

Segment Synopsis: Conclusion of Interview

Keywords: Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (Birmingham, Ala.)