Partial Transcript: Dr. Arrington, let’s begin at the beginning, would you talk about you early childhood, family experiences, and your growing up years?
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about moving from Livingston to Fairfield, his family history and life as a child in Birmingham. He discusses early role models, and seeing electric lights for the first time.
Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.); Blacks--Segregation; Fairfield (Ala.)
Partial Transcript: When I finished Industrial High School, where I had studied dry-cleaning, because it was an industrial school and it offered us, what had called the straight academic program for those students who intended to go on the college. But most of the students of course were studying some trade, tailoring, upholstery, shoe repair, auto mechanics and things of that sort.
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about studying dry-cleaning in high school, his high school experience and his parents.
Keywords: Industrial High School
Subjects: Arrington family
Partial Transcript: You mentioned your mother’s concern in particular about police encounters or other incidents. Were there any terrible incidents in your childhood or times when living in a segregated society was very punishing and you knew at the time?
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about his experience and knowledge of segregation as a child.
Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.); Blacks--Segregation
Partial Transcript: You’ve talked about the importance of family, of high school and of the community that you grew up in that produced role models. Were there other
institutions or organizations that were important in your early years, church, and civic groups, anything along those lines?
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington mentions the importance of church in his life.
Keywords: Church; Conley Bethel Primitive Baptist Church
Partial Transcript: I ended up going to college right here and actually two blocks from where I grew up at Miles College. And I go to college, I start as a freshman, I have no idea what I’m going to study, but as I said I knew I was going
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about the path that led him to study Biology at Miles.
Subjects: Biology; Miles College
Partial Transcript: And that I said, “I’m 20 years old and I just graduated from college.” And I leave Alabama for the first time in my life, I take the greyhound bus and off I go to Detroit and I married by that time too at 20 years. So off we go on the bus to Detroit, I’ll never forget it was a tearful moment, I cried, didn’t want to leave home.
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about being one of only a few black student at the University of Detroit and not having to deal with segregation or the first time. He also talks about teaching at Miles after receiving his Master's, receiving a National Science Foundation Fellowship, and applying to Ph.D programs.
Keywords: Biology--Study and teaching (Higher); Education
Subjects: Miles College; University of Detroit; University of Oklahoma
Partial Transcript: Were there any thoughts at all at this point in your career about public service, politics, anything other than higher education?
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about registering to vote and voter tests.
Keywords: Jefferson County (Ala.); Pitts, Luscious
Subjects: Voter registration
Partial Transcript: During the time you were in college, the Brown vs. Board of Education decision was handed down by the supreme court and then I guess during your graduate school years, the Civil Rights Movement, perhaps peeked and had its greatest impact. How did those developments in the civil rights arena either affect your life or shaped your thinking during that period of time?
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about his awareness and involvement in the Civil Rights Movement and in desegregation, including his children attending desegregated schools.
Keywords: Civic League; Fairfield (Ala.)
Subjects: Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka; Civil rights movement
Partial Transcript: 1961, I was at Washington University when he was chosen president. In fact, I first met him when I was a graduate student at Washington University and he came to St. Louis to speak to a group of Mileans, I attended that sessions and that was when I first met Luscious Pitts.
L: So you taught at Miles and then went off and earned your PhD ultimately--?
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about his doctoral program.
Keywords: Pitts, Luscious
Subjects: Miles College
Partial Transcript: So you left beginning your doctoral work in ’63, were you here during the summer of ’63 when the demonstrations were occurring?
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about working with Civil Rights Leaders. He also mentions George Wallace and the assignation of John F. Kennedy.
Keywords: 1963; Gaston, A. G. (Arthur George), 1892-; Halls, Peter; Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963; Montgomery, James; Wallace, George; Woods, Abraham; Woods, Calvin
Subjects: Civil rights movement
Partial Transcript: But those were things that sort of stick with you, but I was Oklahoma in ’63 for three years and enjoyed it. Took 2 1⁄2 years, taught there the last semester I was there, the whole three-year period and it was basically a good experience. Socially it was, somewhat different. Oklahoma turned out to be not that different from Alabama, they had gone through a lot of litigation already about desegregation and I wasn’t aware of that, as I should have been.
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about discrimination in off-campus housing and the University of Oklahoma, discrimination at restaurants, and the history of segregation on campus. He also talks about his friendship with Professor Harley Brown.
Keywords: Norman, Oklahoma; Oklahoma City (Okla.); University of Oklahoma
Subjects: Blacks--Segregation; Discrimination in housing; Discrimination in restaurants
Partial Transcript: But was there ever any thought of going some place other than Birmingham, or did you assume and understand on completion of your doctorate that you would return to Miles College and resume your career there?
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington summarizes his career as academic dean at Miles, director of the Alabama Center for Higher Education, and work with the Carnegie Foundation.
Keywords: Alabama Center for Higher Education; Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching; Ford Foundation; Pitts, Luscious
Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.); Miles College
Partial Transcript: L: So you were there from ’70 until you were elected mayor in ’79, and there was a moment of political initiation at some point during that stage, when did you first have the thought descended to you of becoming involving in politics and public life?
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about getting involved in politics for the first time, running for city council and his first council term. He mentions speaking out against the police and working with the white community.
Keywords: City council members; Connor, Eugene, 1897-1973; Shores, Arthur D. (Arthur Davis), 1904-1996; Vann, David
Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.); City council members
Partial Transcript: Was there any thought on your part of perhaps running for mayor in 1975 at the end of your first term?
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington say that the Benita Carter incident was his motivation for running for mayor.
Keywords: Carter, Benita; Vann, David
Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.). Mayor
Partial Transcript: (inaudible) but you raised a question my leaving Miles College, what happened at Miles College was there was a search for a new president and John Monroe, who had come to Miles from Harvard some years earlier, led an effort to get me back as president and apparently had spoken with the bishop, who was the chairman of the board.
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about leaving Miles and how Dr. Clyde Williams became its president.
Keywords: Monroe, John; Williams, Clyde
Subjects: Miles College
Partial Transcript: Could we talk a little about the second term, your second term as a council member was 1975 to 1979, David Vann was mayor during that period of time, you mentioned that your first meeting with David had occurred during the 1971 campaign when he had forwarded some campaign funds to you, you had not met him during the period in ’63 when he was very much involved with the negotiations between black and white leaders?
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about his second term on the city council focusing especially on David Vann as mayor. He mentions some about his run for mayor against Vann's reelection campaign.
Keywords: Boutwell, Albert Burton, 1904-1978; Connor, Eugene, 1897-1973; United States. Voting Rights Act of 1965
Subjects: Vann, David
Partial Transcript: L: Two questions before we move into your campaign and first term, prior then to the Benita Carter tragedy in the summer of ’79, your plan was to finish your second term as council member, leave politics, return to I assume a full-time career somewhere in higher education?
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about running for Mayor in 1979 and winning. He mentions financing his campaign and working with businesses in Birmingham. He also mentions some of his campaign platform.
Keywords: 1979; Bradford, Tom; Campaign funds; Carter, Benita; Farley, Joe; Gaston, A. G. (Arthur George), 1892-; Harbert, Raymond; Thompson, Hall; Vann, David; Woods, John
Subjects: Campaign promises; Political campaigns
Partial Transcript: L: (inaudible) difficult to in a reasonable period of time covered 20 years as mayor, but I think there are some areas that we could group questions and thoughts on your part and I guess one of them would be to return the topic of police and you’ve talked about the professionalization of the police department a long-term process that began during your first term as council. I recall that the issue of the shooting policy was one of the kinds of important police issues that came up early in your tenure as mayor, I wonder if you could speak to that and other things related to policing that reflected your commitment to the professionalization of the department.
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about reforming the Birmingham police department.
Keywords: Deustch, Arthur; Fraternal order of police; Myers, Bill; Police Reform
Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.). Police Department
Partial Transcript: Related to the police department and all other department but certainly more extensively were very basically was the question of affirmative action in the consent decree. At the time you entered office the question of discriminatory hiring practices was before the courts?
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about affirmative action, accusations of reverse discrimination, and his progress in diversifying the Birmingham workforce.
Keywords: Reverse discrimination; United States. Supreme Court
Subjects: Affirmative action programs; Affirmative action programs--United States
Partial Transcript: I don’t know how successful it has been, but we reached a point where they started working with us rather than against us. We got the Birmingham plan put in place and the Birmingham plan, in my opinion; it’s a significant accomplishment. I don’t think it was a productive as it could have been, because quite frankly I don’t think we ever got really the mentality among a (inaudible) minority contractors, they were going to get a set aside, but with all those rough balance, one very pleasing moment for me was one day when six young black contractors came in my office.
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talk about implementing the Birmingham plan and attempting to help minority contractors, and small businesses.
Keywords: The Birmingham Plan
Subjects: African American business enterprises; Economic development
Partial Transcript: One of the projects that David Vann had begun was the commitment to downtown Birmingham the revitalization of downtown, would you comment on your views of downtown and what your administrations did over the years on behalf of downtown Birmingham and your assessment of success or failure?
Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about attempting to revitalize downtown Birmingham. He mentions projects like the McWane Center, dealings with Sloss, plans for improvements that did not happen, plans for parks and issues with recruiting business. He also talks about improvements to the 280 area including the Summit. His discussion on annexations includes David Vann's time as mayor.
Keywords: Annexation (Municipal government); McWane Center; Pizitz; Sloss Furnace Company; United States Highway 280 (Ala. and Ga.); downtown revitalization
Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.)
LEMONTE: This interview with Dr. Richard Arrington, Jr; it is conducted onJuly 23-24, 2001. I am Edward S. LeMonte, currently Vice President for Administration and Howell Heflin Professor of American Government at Birmingham-Southern College.
I would say at the outset of the interview it was my personal and professionalprivilege to serve as a staff member during the first two of Dr. Arrington's five terms as mayor from 1979 to 1987. And during much of that time, served as his senior staff person or executive secretary.
The purpose of the interview is to provide a comprehensive introduction to thelife of Richard Arrington, to his public service career and also to his 00:01:00reflections on the Civil Rights experience, particularly at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. The interview is part of the Oral History program of the institute. Dr. Arrington, let's begin at the beginning, would you talk about you early childhood, family experiences, and your growing up years?
ARRINGTON: Of course, yes. Life leads on some interesting journeys and that'swhat life has led me. I was born in what is called the Black Belt area of Alabama, a place called Livingston, Alabama, which is located in Sumter County and my father and mother were sharecropping farmers down in Livingston, Alabama.
My first four years were spent there in Livingston, Alabama on the farm with myparents. My dad eventually decided to join the great movement to Birmingham to 00:02:00work in the steel mills. That of course, was what many of the people who were on the farms were doing at that time. They were leaving the farms because of economic conditions changing and new opportunities opening up in places like Birmingham with its vast steel mills.
And so when I was four or five years old, my dad moved us to Birmingham; and hewent to work in the steel mill, so I grew up in Birmingham, out in the suburb called Fairfield. I was taught in the Fairfield Public Schools System and even did my first four years in college in Fairfield and I earned my Bachelors Degree at Miles College, which of course is in the Fairfield area.
I never left Birmingham in fact until after I had finished college. It was an00:03:00interesting experience growing up in that time. Race was of course a dominant
factor in daily lives and shaped everything from social activities to education,and schools were all of course, segregated.
There were black schools, I attended Robinson Elementary School and then fromthere to Fairfield Industrial High School. These were the schools for black students in the city of Fairfield. The time during that particular period, again, there was a straight emphasis on separation of the races, so I grew up not knowing very much.
I had very few contacts with whites; the law of the land in the south at thatparticular time was of course, racial segregation. Parks were segregated, there 00:04:00were very few facilities, in fact, and quite frankly the system at that time treated blacks really as second-class citizens.
We lived in separate neighborhoods but there were usually the neighborhoodswhere there were few of public services where the streets were usually unpaved and what have you. But that was an interesting thing about it and because of the segregation laws, it kept all blacks, corralled all blacks, few which were professionals or they were teachers, doctors and lawyers. They lived in the same neighborhoods with those like my father, like where we lived, people were blue-collar workers.
And so in one regard I see a positive in that; we were sort of united frankly by00:05:00race and by racial laws and so I knew everyone in the community, I knew the teachers who lived in the community, those who had the opportunities to get education. I knew at least one or two physicians who lived in the community, I knew the professionals. And so one result of segregation of blacks in the community was the fact that they had to all live in the same community and that provided some opportunity for some degree of interaction.
LEMONTE: Were there any particular individuals who you would call as role modelsduring your youth in that segregated community that you grew up in?
ARRINGTON: Yes, I recall quite well. In my early days, I thought I wanted to bea physician because of Dr. W.L. Drake was 'The Black Physician' in the city of Fairfield. He handled most of the clients there in the city, and I remember 00:06:00Grover P. Parham, who was also a black businessman who was actually a pharmacist, but highly respected and ran several businesses here in Birmingham.
There were a few others, really this was in Fairfield mainly. There were a fewother blacks; there were some teachers that I got to know fairly well who lived in the community. They were all in one sense or another sort of role models that I think inspired a lot of us. And when I think about them in conjunction with the constant counseling of my parents about what I should do in life, which was go to college.
See my parents had never gone to college, my dad had only gone to the thirdgrade in a one-room country school and all the grades were in the same room. My 00:07:00mom had come from a family down in Sumter County where there was some degree of education among most of the members of the family; for example, her uncle Dr. Jones, was sort of the first presidents of Selma University. And then in her family, most of her uncles attended school or went to Tuskegee. They didn't graduate, but they went there for a while. And then they came back and they taught there.
And my maternal great-grandmother was also a teacher. So on the Bell side of thefamily, which was my mother's maiden name was a, Bell. On the Bell side of the family, we had a great emphasis placed on education and also it's interesting that many people. Particularly blacks coming out of Sumter County, who knew the 00:08:00Bells, always thought we were really well to do. I think it was a combination of the fact that most of the Bells were into education. They were teaching in some of the schools there and then gone to college.
Of course that's a privilege viewed by blacks whom were rural people workingmainly on the farms. My great-great granddad lived on a huge plantation and they called it 'The Bell Place'. I cannot remember how many acres there were, but even to this day I meet people of my generation here in Birmingham, who are from that area and had grown up there, maybe a little bit older, but they still think that my family owned this so-called Bell Place.
The truth is that my great-great granddad was three years old when slavery was00:09:00abolished and continued to live there on that plantation which was owned by Ms. Lula Degraffenreid. When Mrs. Degraffenreid moved out, she let my great- great grandfather continue to live there. So he married and all of his children were born there. Each one built a house somewhere on that huge plantation.
So the Bells lived there and people always thought we all did well, we owned nota square inch out there. Of course today, American Can Company owns all of that land, but it's timberland but that was where I got my start. I got to Birmingham, there were things, I told people many times I have never seen, because I had never left Livingston and I'm only four or five years old.
I had gone to the train depot a couple of times to see some relatives off. Icome to Birmingham and get there at night and one of my first experiences is hearing a streetcar and not being able to see and my mom (inaudible) thought it 00:10:00was a train and having her tell me it's a streetcar.
And I could hardly wait to get up the next morning to get out on the porch tosee where the streetcar was. And because we lived there in an area in Fairfield called Vinesville, right where the city of Birmingham boundaries meet the city of Fairfield. And from my home, I could see what was called a #7 streetcar that came down and turned around and went back to Birmingham and I could the #14 street
car that came through there and went on down to Bessemer and that was very interesting.
It was interesting for me moving to Birmingham as a young man to see electriclights up. I can't recall having ever sen them anywhere in Livingston. But I knew we lived in a home on the farm where there were no electric lights. Everything, all the lights at night came from kerosene lamps.
And so I got to see electric lights for the first time and each one of our00:11:00three-room house my dad leased. Then we got the single electric light bulb on a cord and we kept on by hand, this is a new experience. I'm seeing this new technology, new forms of energy, all very exciting.
But my playmates, my friends all were of course people in the neighborhood, andthey were black. Even then our newspaper carrying days, I was a paper carrier early; I was ten years old, and I got me a paper route. I had a few contacts with young whites that were also paper carriers, but we had some interesting experiences, for example, my cousin and I would like to stop in the park down in the city of Fairfield and watch the baseball games. Well it was a park for whites, but we would stop on the (inaudible) put our papers down and watch the game. 00:12:00
Occasionally there in the park, along with some of the white paper carriers,down in the field by the station where we picked up our newspapers, we would engage one another in football games, the black playing the whites and we had great fun, but the police would come along and they would really scold us. And they really scold the blacks and that was all out of place, the blacks and whites would play together and that's race-conscious people were and that was the kind of situation I grew up in.
The whites I got to know, well those I worked for, once I got to be a senior andstarted working at a drycleaners, called Howard's drycleaners, which incidentally still here in Birmingham down on 3rd ave and ninth street. And I worked there in my starting the end of my senior year in high school and I 00:13:00worked there for four years, almost until I graduated from college.
When I finished Industrial High School, where I had studied dry-cleaning,because it was an industrial school and it offered us, what had called the straight academic program for those students who intended to go on the college. But most of the students of course were studying some trade, tailoring, upholstery, shoe repair, auto mechanics and things of that sort.
And so a friend of mine influenced me, a good buddy in high school named ThomasHardin. At the end of the 10th grade you had to make a choice of which program you wanted to study, whether you wanted to take a trade and which trade you 00:14:00would study. Or you were going to go to college. Now I knew all the time that
I was going to college. I knew it because my parents had always said we'd haveto go to college.
And it was interesting that they would say that because we had no means, nomoney or anything to send people to school. My dad just worked in the steel mills and when he was not working at the plant, he was a brick mason and carpenter and he built homes. Many of them still stand out in Fairfield today. But we didn't have an abundance of money; we lived from paycheck to paycheck.
I knew I was going to college, yet this friend influenced me. When this electiontime came up and having no counselors at the high school that I was attending, although we had an outstanding educator, this principal named EJ Oliver. I ended up studying dry cleaning, which was not my first choice. What happened is Dr. 00:15:00Oliver would call all the students into the auditorium and we would tell him what areas we wanted to study and we would get assigned to those particular areas.
Many of us wanted to study some trades and more than a trade could accommodatethe teacher. There was a single teacher in each trade, so I wanted to study tailoring. Thomas and I chose tailoring and there were so many people wanted to study tailoring. What Dr. Oliver did was that he had all of us to put our names on a piece of paper and fold it up and drop it in a hat.
And so 15 people who were going to be able to study tailoring were the namesdrawn out. I was unlucky, I didn't get tailoring and that's whet Thomas and I had to choose another trade. And so he said, "Let's go into dry cleaning." So I 00:16:00studied dry-cleaning my junior and senior years in high school. I studied dry- cleaning and basically cleaned clothes for friends of others and ours.
I had only two people, although I had done fairly well academically in school, Iwas an honor student and obviously should have gone in the straight academic program. That would have meant more algebra and trigonometry and would have meant more than chemistry and things of that sort. But only two, maybe three people out of a class of hundred and something students who graduated went into straight academic programs of study.
But anyway, from there, my friend and I graduated and we ended up to MilesCollege the next year as freshmen. And as I said I worked at Howard Cleaners after having done one summer of just making brick mortar for brick mason at 00:17:00$0.50 an hour, which was my first job. So that sort of a sketch of how I grew up--.
LEMONTE: You make it clear that your parents expected you to go to college; Itake it that your family was a close-knit family. Your parents had great influence over you and what you did. Could you say a little more about your family, your siblings and what have become family members?
ARRINGTON: Absolutely, one of my blessings was that we had a close-knit family.My dad married my mom when she was just 18 years old and he was in his early 20s. He was dating my mom and they were talking about marriage, my mother was 17 00:18:00when her mother died of a heart attack. And of course she and her siblings--she had a brother who was the youngest of the three, her sister in between, and my mother was the oldest of the three children.
So her father had brought them up and then he was killed in an accident. He wasworking cutting timber and somehow was killed when a large log falling on him and killed him. So shortly thereafter, my father married my mother and moved into her home and in essence raised three kids, his wife, his sister-in-law and 00:19:00his young brother-in-law. So he actually kept all three of them and they lived with us, or up until I left home that they continued to live with us (inaudible).
But it was a close-knit family and even when we moved into the city out inFairfield, my aunt and my uncle still lived with us, although we had just a three- room house, a living room, a bedroom, a kitchen, and a toilet eventually on the back porch, initially dry toilets out in the backyard.
My uncle Bill eventually moved next door, but the family remained a close- knitfamily. My dad was sort of the patriarch and oversaw the entire family. And when my mom did a lot of the work of seeing my brother--I have a brother who is two 00:20:00and half years younger than I am. He is in high education and lives in South Carolina. But my mother had the responsibilities of seeing that we did our schoolwork or getting us enrolled in school, all those kinds of things.
I can recall coming home almost daily during the week sitting on the front porchin what we call a glider. My mom taking me over the lessons, with a switch in there by her side. And with my reading or my doing the spelling and sometimes I see the kids out there running and playing, I wanted to go. Occasionally my mom is picking up the switch-hitting me because folks playing distracted me.
I almost remember some of the visits made by teachers. I had a--I got up toeight or ninth grade, I had this pretty teacher, named Angelina Raye. She had a 00:21:00sister who taught there in the system named Mattie Raye and they were both very attractive ladies, even to the kids whose in the eight grade. But I came under Angelina Raye, who was from an area called Hooper City.
I came under Angelina Raye, in her English class and I tell people to this daythat every bit of the grammar I know, I learned that under her. I had never heard about conjugating a verb until I got into her class. She was an outstanding teacher and I paid strict attention to her; she was pretty to watch but I was anxious to learn. I wanted to know and then I wanted her approval, but she would come over, she and her sister, they would do home visits quite often; they would sit on
the front porch and talk with my parents about my brother and me and about wellwe were doing in school. 00:22:00
The interesting part of that story, the reason I mentioned it, is that AngelinaRaye later married my brother, who played basketball in high school. My brother's basketball coach, a man whose name was Rice, his last name was Rice; and of course today his daughter is the security advisor to the president of the United States, George W. Bush. But I told Condoleeza Rice on a number of occasions (inaudible), her mother, of course she remembers that her mother knew me and had talked about me and all of that.
So that was interesting, I came under the influence of some good teachers likeMrs. Raye, Mrs. Cook and I got into doing things I really didn't do well, debate team and it was really a good academic experience at Fairfield Industrial High School because EJ Oliver, who some would call a tyrant, but he ran his school 00:23:00and he demanded that there would be emphasis on academic achievement. We completed statewide academic meets every year.
In fact the greatest disappointment I had in my entire high school career wasthat I had never won what's called a ribbon. We would go off to Alabama State University in Montgomery every year, where black high school students from across the state who were considered to be the top students in their classes and during the junior and senior years would compete in certain areas like Government, History, and English, or Literature and Writing.
And of course the great honor, the thing that made everybody feel good atFairfield is that you got a lot of recognition for your academic achievement. There was a large glass showcase and if you won a ribbon, you brought it back, kept your name on it, it was in the showcase. And all the kids who over years and years at the school had won ribbons, they were all there. So it was a great 00:24:00honor and of course I went off and competed in that twice and didn't win a ribbon either, you win first, second, third place ribbon. And that was my great appointment and I never won a ribbon in that.
LEMONTE: Was that due in part to your being in the dry cleaning tract--?
ARRINGTON: It may have been, I don't know the answer, but it may have been.Another way that Oliver really inspired us is that he had built on the wall, a large bulletin board with a glass door that covered it and he called it the "The Fairfield Industrial High School Hall of Fame." And the first graduate that achieved some distinction in the field would go into the hall of fame; for example, the first Fairfield Industrial High School graduate who became a lawyer.
And the first one who became a pharmacist and the first one who became a doctorand so forth and so on. And it's amazing how that inspired people become 00:25:00everybody wanted to be in the Fairfield Industrial Hall of Fame and I left Fairfield,
hoping one day get into Industrial Hall of Fame. And of course I was able to getin there, I was the first Fairfield Industrial High graduate to get a PhD degree in Zoology and so I was brought back some years later got inducted into the hall of fame.
And here I am now of course and adult now, gone all the way through school andI'm about 30 or 31 years old, Doctorate Degree, but I was just as proud going back the Fairfield Industrial High and be inducted to that hall of fame. It made me prouder and that time when I walked across that stage to get my Doctoral degree.
LEMONTE: Did Dr. Oliver sort of push you personally toward academics?
ARRINGTON: No he didn't push me--
ARRINGTON: He did do a lot of recognition to honor students. If you make thehonor roll every semester, you were brought--he called names, in the assembly you came up. So he put a lot emphasis on that, he loved sports, but he put a lot of emphasis on academic achievement. While he gave a lot of attention to people like Willie Mayes, who was a couple of years ahead of me in school and was our hero and other athletic standouts;He also did great emphasis to people who achieved academically and I sort of ranked always in like the top 10 of the class, I was probably number 3 or 4 in my graduating class. So I got recognition that way and then I was a thespian, I didn't have any acting abilities, but I was a thespian working on properties and I said I was in the debate club and did have to debate and compete with our school against other schools in debating. 00:27:00
And all of these things believe it not turned out to be very, very constructiveactivities and good activities for my development. But I still grew up in essentially a black culture and a segregated culture, didn't think a lot about it at the time, quite frankly, just accepted it as a way of life.
My mother worried especially about what would happen to us in relationship withpolice because the police were the people who kept everybody in line, in particularly the black community and the children being (inaudible) she was always worried about what kind of encounter we might have one day with the police. Although my brother and I were well behaved because my mother was a strict disciplinarian and we dared not get in any kind of trouble because we'd 00:28:00be in serious, serious trouble at home.
My mom would not hesitate to give us whippings for anything we did. It was thesame way about school I mean, we had to perform well in school and it
was expected of us and we knew we had to do it. And so we learned that at anearly age, what the expectations were, and we labored to (inaudible). It wasn't that I was in any way extraordinary in terms of intellectual abilities, it was just hard work.
It was that ethic that my family had and you got to get in there and do it. Andit carried my right on through college, as I said, I went to college and I paid my tuition, there were no student loans or anything like that at that time. So I paid my tuition by working year round at Howard Cleaners. Worked there every 00:29:00afternoon at 4:00, I droved the delivery truck to about 10 or 12 branches to take the dry-cleaning out to the different branches.
I was at the cleaners' (inaudible), I worked there on Saturdays and sometimesSundays and then all summer long. I worked every job, I learned every job at the cleaners from firing the boiler so when the boiler man was on vacation during the summer, I relieved him and I did that and I ran the huge laundry and the man in charge of the laundry was off work and began in charge of the dry cleaning--I learned every job there, even down to the dressing machine, the area that many machines that were there.
So that too was a learning experience, I became almost like a plumber, I knewhow to do everything, but that's how I worked my way through college.
LEMONTE: You mentioned your mother's concern in particular about police00:30:00encounters or other incidents. Were there any terrible incidents in your childhood or times when living in a segregated society was very punishing and you knew at the time?
ARRINGTON: It very punishing in a sense of that and fearful, there was greatfear about what happened to blacks who according to whites or in the view of whites, stepped out of line or stepped across the line. We were fortunate that we've never had any bitter experience in our family, but we knew of people all around us who were beaten by police officers.
Some were killed, whenever there was a rape of a white female somewhere in theBirmingham area, there was always some black guilty party and may not have been, 00:31:00I don't know, but some black would pay the price and that was always a front page story, if a black was accused of having raped a white female, it was always front page but it always sent some fear throughout the black community until somebody had been apprehended and charged with that.
I grew up at a time, still in the rural areas, a person or so charged, probablynever got, many times never got to trial. A mob would come they would be lynched and taken that person out of jail and it's still happening, even when I was in college it's still happening and not that much in Alabama then as it was still happening in Mississippi and I still recall some of the victims, Parker and people like that.
And because my mother taught me to love reading and so forth and I read00:32:00everything, including the newspaper. But the people across the street did and I borrowed that newspaper everyday, just to read. And my dad loved to read, he didn't read well, but he read the paper everyday, got the paper and he would read it and (inaudible) his words and stuff.
So I grew up reading the paper daily and I was also aware of what went on andwhat I seen from reading the newspapers. So there was a kind of fear, but luckily we never had a direct bitter experience. I had officers stop me and say negative things, but never got to any physical encounter thank God.
LEMONTE: You've talked about the importance of family, of high school and of the00:33:00community that you grew up in that produced role models. Were there other institutions or organizations that were important in your early years, church, and civic groups, anything along those lines?
ARRINGTON: Well the church certainly was a major institution. I remember joiningthe church that I'm now a member of, when I was six years old, being baptized a few years later and it's a church I grew up in and attended regularly, worked in the Sunday school, was in the vacation Bible school. My parents were very much involved especially my mother and working in auxiliaries in the church. My mom sang in the choir and worked with the vacation bible school.
And of course we were always in attendance, so the church had a significantinfluence in shaping our lives and helping us to shape the values so forth that 00:34:00we had. It was a major institution and of course I feel the black church has been one of the major institutions for blacks in this country. Much of the black leadership has come out of the black churches, colleges; black churches started many of the black colleges.
And so, yes, a lot of my values were shaped by church.
LEMONTE: And you are a member of the church that you joined when you were six?
ARRINGTON: It's the only church I've ever--
LEMONTE: And what church is that?
ARRINGTON: Conley Bethel Primitive Baptist Church in Fairfield. I'm what youcall a foot washing primitive Baptist. We wash feet on communion Sundays and so 00:35:00it' an important institution. I ended up going to college right here and actually two blocks from where I grew up at Miles College. And I go to college, I start as a freshman, I have no idea what I'm going to study, but as I said I knew I was going.
So I enrolled, I take the admission they had, what they call placement tests atthat time in math and English and really think I did well and all her students from
my high school all did well on those. They were not standardized test; they weretest put together by the faculties there, the college at that particular time. But if you didn't pass the test in math, for example, you ended being placed in remedial math class, which you would spend a year but get no college credit.
If you didn't pass the English test, you couldn't write the composition to the00:36:00satisfaction of the teachers, you would end what they called sub-bang, which is remedial English. And so many of the students, in fact there were more students taking remedial math or remedial English in the freshman year and they would take the regular.
But I did notice that the students who came out of Fairfield Industrial HighSchool was me and attended Miles College just about everyone of them passed the placement exams did well, which again spoke well of what people were doing. But at Miles college I didn't' know what I was going to, but fortunately some good teachers and some who took a special interest in us.
And I remember a young teacher named Verdell Martin who taught Psychology and Iremember her calling, I had taken a course with her in Psychology and I remember her calling me one day, I just happened to be passing by her office and calling 00:37:00me in and asking me, "What have you decided to study, you're starting you sophomore year?"
And I was very honest with her and said I just didn't know, she says, "I thinkyou got a good aptitude for science and I'd like for you to go and talk to Mr. Jones." That was the Biology teacher, a man named (inaudible) Jones. And so I did and I went over and talked to him and he suggested that I study biology or chemistry and that's why I became biology major.
And that was fortunate because he took an interest in his students; he got anumber of us to go into graduate school. I had no idea of what graduate school was. When he first mentioned it to me, have you thought about going to graduate school. I didn't know what graduate school was and he explained and he thought he could help me get into graduate school up at the university of Detroit where he had gotten his masters degree and so he wrote the professor there and I 00:38:00applied there and I was admitted and I was given a teaching fellowship, teaching freshman laboratory classes at the University of Detroit.
And that I said, "I'm 20 years old and I just graduated from college." And Ileave Alabama for the first time in my life, I take the greyhound bus and off I go to Detroit and I married by that time too at 20 years. So off we go on the bus to Detroit, I'll never forget it was a tearful moment, I cried, didn't want to leave home. But it was also a traumatic experience for me at the university. People were wonderful there, at the university where there was maybe a dozen of blacks in the entire university, it was 12,000 students over in the biology department where I was, I was, at the time, the only black student enrolled in that graduate school. 00:39:00
And while nobody else seemed to have thought anything about that, it stayed onmy mind because I had come out of Alabama, out of a rigidly segregated society. Whereas I said, I had no social interaction with whites excepts occasion football game or baseball thing, might have happened on the streets or in the park, we'd sneak and did a lot, the police didn't come along.
So I really had no real contacts and now here I am in a setting where everybodyin there in the graduate school where I am is white and no blacks. And the faculty and the students were wonderful, but even the horse played with the guys, but to me it felt strange, on weekends, hanging around as a graduated student, labs and so forth and guys get the wrestling and so forth and some white guy comes over and grabs me and started wrestling.
You know, you didn't do that in Alabama and it was a strange feeling. And00:40:00sitting in the class rooms and the professor was lecturing decided to question people as he talked and I didn't care how many times he called on my, every time he called on me, I just had to know the answer and when I didn't I felt so bad, I thought I had let the whole black down, just shows you what racial segregation had done.
But I think it was at the University of Detroit that I began to get some senseof self and identity and it turned out to be a very good experience. My second year there, my last year in which I received my degree, I did have another black student, a young woman named Sue Chatman came in as a graduate student and she eventually went on the dental school, in fact she practices today.
She's a dentist in Atlanta, so it was a good experience and of course from00:41:00having gone to, I got a masters degree and came back to teach, but my professors had also recommended that I go on to work for a doctorate and so forth. All of this turned out to be good experiences.
LEMONTE: You received your master's degree in what year?
ARRINGTON: '57 and I graduated from Miles in 1955 and then in '57 I received mymaster degree. I returned to Miles College and began teaching some biology at Miles College and studied--I would go off to graduate school during the summer for long time and then around 1960 or '61 I left as national science foundation fellow and went to Washington University for a year to do studying and research and 00:42:00then to the medical at the state university of Iowa to do research in radiation biology.
Came back to the college and taught for a year after that and then was acceptedat two or three schools for a doctoral program and chose to go out to the University of Oklahoma. I really wanted to go, ever since I had gotten my master's, I had wanted to go to the university of Illinois to study zoology under a professor named Kudo, Dr. Kudo was one of the top people in his field.
In fact, I had done my master's (inaudible) a small problem dealing with smallproject that was related to the work that he was doing. But I was never accepted, I applied and they never accepted me. I was accepted to the University of Connecticut and I was accepted at the University of Southern Illinois and I was accepted at the University of Oklahoma. Out of the four schools, there was one other school that I applied to. 00:43:00
So three of those schools accepted me and I chose to go to Oklahoma to work witha professor there in invertebrate zoology and we took off and went to Oklahoma.
LEMONTE: So your career then prior to going to Oklahoma really was focusing youon academics, on being a researcher and more particularly I guess a teacher at Miles?
ARRINGTON: My interest was teaching, I love teaching, I was secondly doing someresearch, but teaching at a school like Miles undergraduate institution, there was no real emphasis for me to do real research. You taught three classes a term and I enjoyed and that's what I did. But of course whenever I went to graduate school, whether it was summer or what have you, I'd have to do research and if I hoped to achieved, ever get a doctorate degree of course I had to show that I 00:44:00had some ability to do a research, do some research which at least had to be at a level (inaudible) contributed something to the field.
And so I kept my fingers in research areas by going to school every summer, Iwas very fortunate also that during that time, the federal government began to pump a lot of money into sciences. For example, when sputnik, when the Russians put the first space object into space called sputnik, out government responded by pumping a lot of money especially into the sciences to begin training people. To upgrade teachers who were teaching science.
That, I was very fortunate, so I applied every summer and went away in some sort00:45:00of program where we were getting graduate training. So again it was just luck as things came along. Things that I would have been able to, I was making
$390 per month at Miles College teaching, had a family and there wasn't much Icould save. You couldn't save any money, but I was able to go to graduate school every summer, because there were plenty of opportunities available through the national science foundation, but the science and math teachers and the timing was just right.
LEMONTE: Were there any thoughts at all at this point in your career aboutpublic service, politics, anything other than higher education?
ARRINGTON: No, I had thought of nothing except being a college teacher. Therewere no role models at that time in politics for me or for blacks because blacks 00:46:00did not have the vote except for a very small number. Blacks were essentially prohibited from
voting in Alabama or they limited the number, even people who held a vastprofessional degrees, doctors, other doctorate degree, often times were not permitted to vote in Alabama. You went down to the board of registrars; there were three people on the board of registrars in this county in Alabama.
And you had to pass a test, an examination, whatever decided, usually in somecounties it was written, but usually just answer the questions from the board of registrars. And that registrar was so determined whether or not you were qualified to vote. And the questions asked, often times were not very relevant to voting, but they would ask you things about the constitution, ask you a lot 00:47:00of things about Alabama, sometimes they would ask you things were actually just silly questions, telling you that you weren't gonna be allowed to register to vote.
And I assumed that they had a quota that they worked by for the number of blacksthey would put on the voting roll. I've told the story many a times that I graduate from Miles, I'm 20 years, you can't vote until you're 21. I go off to Detroit and because in the black community there was always a push through a (inaudible). Every black community had civic leagues at that time. Today you would talk about neighborhood association, but then we talk about civic leagues.
And every black community that I knew of had civic leagues working. And one oftheir major responsibilities and challenges was to get blacks registered to 00:48:00vote. And so what they would do and act, I remember this clearly, is that they circulate it throughout the black community a legal size sheet of paper with typed questions on it, both sides, that we studied when we're old enough to register to vote, you studied those questions. And people in the black community studied those questions.
But (inaudible) the questions and the answer to the question, we would studythose in preparation for going down to the board of registrars. And of course, as I said, "You'd go down and you really had the (inaudible) of the registrar." I still remember some of those questions, like you know, which county in Alabama has two courthouses, so things of that sort. But people worked awfully hard I mean because the people in the civic league sort of went to house to house trying to encourage blacks to register to vote. 00:49:00
And all during my growing up there at Fairfield, I saw this. So I grew up in afamily and my dad was never registered to vote until I was in adulthood. But I grew up in a family where there was cautiousness about it. And so I wanted to register to vote, I've always wanted to, turned 21, my first semester in graduate school. Came home for Christmas, the first thing I wanted to do was go down the Jefferson County Courthouse in Birmingham and register to vote.
So I went down to register to vote and this dear lady who was a registrar,sitting, it was white lady, she began talking with me, asking me about my background, in fact I was school. All of these things and of course trying to be as
polite as I can be. But feeling great anxiety, waiting for her to start asking00:50:00me all these questions, which I have been studying and I assumed I know the answer. I got me a bachelor's degree and I know the answer to all these questions. And she surprises me, she's asking me how are you doing in school and then she says, "Raise your right hand." She never asked me a single question. And there I was just a nervous wreck, wondering if I passed (laughs).
But it was interesting, that's the way things were at that particular time andit's just interesting how things happened in your life, how people come into your life, how you happen to some places sometimes. My coming back to Miles College after I had become a (inaudible). My work as a research fellow, brought 00:51:00in contact with Luscious Pitts. Luscious Pitts became president while I was away and contacted me about coming back to teach at Miles College.
And of course I fell under the influence of Luscious Pitts and even after I gotmy doctorate, he talked me into coming back to Miles College. I think I came back to Miles, I believe Luscious paid me $10,000 or $12,000 per year (inaudible). When I came back and began working there. But Luscious was very much involved in the community as a whole and encourage the students to get involved in the community.
And so here I am, I had not thought about politics, or public service because Istarted to say earlier, there were no role models, there were no black elected 00:52:00officials. The only one I could think of back during that time was Adam Clayton Powell, who was a congressman from Harlem. But other than that, there were none that I knew of. And so having no role models, most of us, there may have been some extraordinary black young men and women who were thinking about a career in public service of some sort.
Running for office, but most of us, I don't think ever even thought about that.In fact, I couldn't imagine that in Alabama there would be black elected officials period. And I really thought about that even after I became mayor.
Somebody had told me that was going to happen back a few years ago, I would havesaid, you don't know what you're talking about, it's not gonna happen.
LEMONTE: During the time you were in college, the Brown vs. Board of Education00:53:00decision was handed down by the supreme court and then I guess during your graduate school years, the Civil Rights Movement, perhaps peeked and had its greatest impact. How did those developments in the civil rights arena either affect your life or shaped your thinking during that period of time?
ARRINGTON: Well, I was always very much aware of what was going on in the wholestruggle for human rights, us being raised in Birmingham. I think it was in part because of family in part because I was (inaudible) and I knew that I always had an interest in civic affairs and because of the work of the civic league and early on I had joined the Fairfield civic league and attended meetings of the 00:54:00Civic league.
So I had that awareness about what was happening. When the school desegregationof '54 decision came down, I was just watching what had happened seeing a couple of years after that, the efforts to desegregation schools here in Birmingham and the problems that were created and seeing city government fight against all forms of integration, parks closed eventually and things of that sort to try to avoid desegregation.
And I think that lifted the awareness of the black communities. I think that theblack communities as a whole were sort of caught up in a struggle. Now for achieving some equal treatment under the constitution, especially the night of 00:55:00the US supreme court in '54 and had gotten rid of separate but equal and that was longer the law of the land.
I'm not sure we thought about it that way, but the push was on throughout theblack community and eventually through civic leagues and through the black church. We were being encouraged. Encouraged to integrating, desegregate the schools, do this. So that push was a constant push, I remember I had to make a decision when I came back in '57 about my kids going to schools. Whether or not to take them to the predominately white school in Fairfield, I remember after some of the--taking them there.
So that was interesting, but Luscious Pitts, when I came back and I was working00:56:00at Miles, Luscious Pitts was very much involved and a lot of students were involved in movements for equal treatment of blacks here in Birmingham.
LEMONTE: Let me just go back, you mentioned your kids taking--did I understandthat they did go to--?
ARRINGTON: We took them to predominately white schools--.
LEMONTE: And they were accepted?
ARRINGTON: Yes, yes they accepted them--.
LEMONTE: And that was in what year?
ARRINGTON: That was in '57.
LEMONTE: So the Fairfield Public Schools desegregated six years beforeBirmingham did?
ARRINGTON: Probably so, I came back in '57, '57 I returned to Miles College toteach and enrolled my son in the--what had been a predominately white school there in Fairfield.
LEMONTE: With no incidents or particular problem--?
ARRINGTON: No problem, maybe a dozen blacks in the school.00:57:00
LEMONTE: Do you have the sense that Fairfield municipal government was in a waymore progressive than the Birmingham city--?
ARRINGTON: Well, no, let me get my time frame right. Your question brings thatback to mind, I have to go back and think about my son and the age. You're right because my kid was born in '56 or '57 and so that would not have been school age, four or five years later. So it was at that time when he turned 6 years old at that time. So it was probably in '60.
LEMONTE: And do you recall what year Dr. Pitts became the president at Miles?00:58:00
ARRINGTON: 1961, I was at Washington University when he was chosen president. Infact, I first met him when I was a graduate student at Washington University and he came to St. Louis to speak to a group of Mileans, I attended that sessions and that was when I first met Luscious Pitts.
LEMONTE: So you taught at Miles and then went off and earned your PhD ultimately--?
LEMONTE: And that was in what year?
ARRINGTON: '66. After going back and forth to graduate school and Miles toteach, in '63 I loaded up my--I applied to each school, was accepted at the University of Oklahoma. Was given a teaching fellowship there, which covered 00:59:00tuition there, small staffing and I was also--because even when I working on my masters, the state of Alabama was providing some money because the state had a program where blacks who went out of state to graduate school, the state would pay their difference between the cost you had to pay at the school what you would pay to Alabama, and that was their way of keeping the schools segregated.
So if you wanted to pursue graduate study in a field that was not offered, sayat Tuskegee Institute, then you applied to the department of education and you got admitted at some other school. You applied to the department of education and we got a check each quarter. You just simply had the business officer at the school you attend to verify what your tuition was and you sent it to the state department of education and they would calculate what the differences was and 01:00:00the expense and send you a check for the difference.
So all while I was in school, I already took my doctorate program, which I got adoctorate in '66. I was getting that stipend from the state. And that plus my teaching fellowship stipend and they would support my family and attend school.
LEMONTE: So you left beginning your doctoral work in '63, were you here duringthe summer of '63 when the demonstrations were occurring?
ARRINGTON: Yes, I left in August of '63, I had been accepted; I had taughtsummer school at Miles College. I had been involved and sort of indirectly in some of what was going on because Luscious Pitts had had me doing things like attending meetings with him, taking notes and minutes, writing up some statements that Dr. James Montgomery who was (inaudible) during the news 01:01:00conference or Abraham Woods or Calvin Woods and I often times wrote those up, but Luscious assigned me that responsibility.
I often times wrote those up but Luscious assigned me that responsibility. Iattended the meetings of some of the black leaders in the black community, like AG Gaston and the Peter Halls and the people who were considered to be spokespersons for the black community. I kept all the minutes, I was in the meetings when--I wrote up document listing the grievances of the black community which went down to the city fathers at some time. I think we're now in the 60s probably and that document eventually led to decision by the white leadership to form a biracial committee.
I was at the meetings when the black leaders at AG Gaston's office dealt with01:02:00the issue of who would sit on the committee to represent the black community. It was a big decision, it was a important time, but they did--I really think the initiative was taken by white leaders who suggested to the black group because we had submitted this list of grievances and all. And eventually they suggested that there be a biracial committee.
And they named the members of the committee, both black and white. And I toldthe story many times that how black leaders resented that. And said Jim Montgomery who was physician and Calvin Woods was a preacher to meet with some of the white leaders to tell them that. The time had passed for whites telling 01:03:00blacks who the leaders were, they were going to chose their own leaders. And the white group was very apologetic about that and of course--
LEMONTE: LeMonte is speaking (in regards to pausing for a moment)
ARRINGTON: Well I was telling a story that I'd like to tell about thatparticular meeting where at AG Gaston's office. The (inaudible) Calvin Woods and Jim Montgomery had come back from meeting with some of the leaders of the white group and had informed them that we were going to chose our own leaders. And the white group was very apologetic, so now it's left up to us because they apologized and they asked us to please inform them of the names of our 01:04:00representatives on that committee, there were the be 10 people named.
And it was really sort of humorous to me because we got into the discussionabout who the leaders would be or who the representatives would be and just to make this story short, the group ended up naming the same people. Out of the ten people, nine of them were the same people that whites had named. And the only reason the 10th person wasn't named, the whites had included the name of a black female who nobody knew. Nobody knew who she was and of course she wasn't in the meeting, but all the other nine that had been named were in the meeting that we were in.
And everybody was lobbying of course to get on them; nobody wanted to offendanybody by leaving them out. So they put the same nine on there--nine of the ten 01:05:00that the whites had named, that left really only the 10th open. And Peter Hall, who was an attorney at the time, later was to become the first black municipal judge in the city of Birmingham, but who had refused to sign that grievance petition that we sent down, of course I remembered in the meeting when I had presented it for that review.
He said that he couldn't sign it because I had written something in there aboutthe injustices that we suffered in the courts and he said that he was an attorney and an officer of the court, so he couldn't sign the petition. But when we were ready to get the committee, he was there lobbying for that 10th spot, he thought he should be in there and he got it. And so I always tell that story because to me even that morning I found it very humorous, I can hardly keep from laughing out when they named all the members of the committee because it was exactly the committee except for one person that the white members had named in 01:06:00the first place.
LEMONTE: And Dr. Pitts was one of the ten--?
ARRINGTON: Yeah. So it was an interesting experience for me, I'm just(inaudible). In '63 I am ready to go out and work full-time on that doctorate rather than trying to work during the summer and I taught through summer school and packed my family in my old white ford, had a new baby at that time, and we headed off to the University of Oklahoma.
When I left Birmingham, it was right at the height of a lot of the unrest,George Wallace had become the governor, he was stumping the state giving fiery segregationist speeches, he had earlier made his inaugural address where he had 01:07:00declared segregation now and forever and what have you and challenged the federal government by saying he had tossed the gauntlet in the dust and so forth.
And then he was also moving around places like Tuskegee where ever there wereefforts being made to desegregate schools, especially now in rural areas where there were black majority, Macon county for example and so he stood in the
schoolhouse door things, in high school he had done the Autherine Lucy thing.And he came to Birmingham, he made very fiery speeches.
George Wallace just stirred the part of--he was a demagogue and he did a lot ofdemagogue. And I think helped set the stage for some of the violent activities 01:08:00that took place in Birmingham and had been ongoing, but stepped up some of the bombings of churches and homes of blacks that occurred.
So I left Birmingham in August and went to Oklahoma in late August and of courseI had only been there a short while and the tragedy of the bombing of Sixteenth Street Baptist Church occurring. I remember hearing about that on the news first and then reading about it and calling home and talking about it. But I was in Oklahoma in '63 and some eventful times.
I'll never forget the day that JFK was assassinated, I was attending a seminarwhere graduate students from several universities and colleges there in Oklahoma 01:09:00came to the science association to present papers and I was at the meeting. And we had a break just about lunch and walked out in the hall and somebody had a television on and of course they were talking about the president had been assassinated in Dallas.
But those were things that sort of stick with you, but I was Oklahoma in '63 forthree years and enjoyed it. Took 2 years, taught there the last semester I was there, the whole three-year period and it was basically a good experience. Socially it was, somewhat different. Oklahoma turned out to be not that different from Alabama, they had gone through a lot of litigation already about desegregation and I wasn't aware of that, as I should have been. 01:10:00
Before going there, I had been informed by the school that all married housingwas full and they had no married housing, but the (inaudible) letter they sent out said that I was University-approved housing in the community and the University of Oklahoma is in a small college town, Norman, which is not very far from Oklahoma City, the largest city and Norman is a very special little college town, it's a fishbowl kind of town.
And so I wasn't very aware, for someone who had grown up in Alabama and who hadbeen following the struggle for human rights in the country, my mind was just on school. So I arrived there that day and I go to the dean of students office and I asked a young lady there--I get there late afternoon with my family and we don't have any place to stay so I go there and I asked her if I may have the 01:11:00list of approved housing, because I'm going out in the community to find some housing.
And she looks at me so funny and she says, "Excuse me a minute." And she goesback in the back and she comes back out and says, "Dean-somebody"--it was a lady that talked with me and so she took me back and asked me some questions
about the family and but they never would give me list. Instead they put me insome housing, again that was fortunate in a sense, they put me in what was called the old navy base they had on the campus and they converted that to married student housing.
And so my family and I ended up living there and I was very pleased. It was onlyjust several weeks later in talking with a black graduate student there in the 01:12:00department of biology, who was from Georgia. He explained to me why I had been given the housing, while whites who had put their names on the list to provide housing, sometimes in their own homes for graduate students and it was on the approved list. While they would rent to black from foreign countries, they would not rent to American blacks.
And there were a lot of African, not a lot of them, but enough, be very visible.African students, Nigerian and others living out in approved housing that the white residents of Norman, all-white city, I was told that there had been one black family that lived in Norman and I think that they, aside on the university, it's probably still the same, I was back there recently.
Did not accept American blacks, although I went to church at the largest white01:13:00Baptist there and they welcomed us and all of that. But on housing--in fact you got three or four blocks away from the campus and it was sort of like Alabama again. The racial segregation was there. I had to experience one night, while there, I'm going out with three of my fellow graduate students and (inaudible) department to a very popular beer tavern that students frequented, just always there.
And of course we always worked late because we taught grads and we took classesand at night, you were there doing your work or you were doing your research or setting up your lab work for the next day, classes and things of that sort. So as a graduate student in science, you know they all will tell, you stayed at the 01:14:00school all the time.
I'd get up early in the morning, jump on bicycle, peddle from my housing abouttwo miles from my department building and I'd stay there all day, by 5:00, I'd go home, eat dinner, say hi to the family and about an hour, get back on my bicycle, back over to the university, out there until maybe 10, 11:00, I'd come home, that was just the life of a graduate student in science.
One night we had finished our work and two or three other guys says, "Come onlet's go have a beer, Dick, why don't you join us?" I said, "Oka." So we go to this popular place on the (inaudible) of the campus and we walk in and of course it's just crowded with university students (inaudible) all around, standing and all of the tables--and we finally find a table in the corner and we all each ordered a pitcher of beer because this place is famous for serving beer by the pitcher. 01:15:00
And we said bring us a pitcher of beer, well the waiter comes back and he bringseverybody a pitcher of beer except me at the table. And so one of the guys said you know where is his beer, so the guy says, "We can't serve you here." Well we were caught totally unaware, we had forgotten, they have too, they were more embarrassed than I and of course they had some unkind things to say to the guy and say come on let's go and we got up and went outside and the guys were so embarrassed.
And they said come let's go, I said well I need to go home and they werepleading with me, I said, "No, you guys go on." And I went home. But the next day I went to one of the professors in the department named Carl Riggs because he was serving on the Norman's city council. And I told him what had happened 01:16:00and I said to him, I'm going to file a complaint with Oklahoma City NAACP.
He called me back the next day and said, "Dick, I've looked into that matter andhere's what I want you to do. I want you get back with your friends and go back over there." I never did but obviously what he had done was somebody had called, I guess the owner of the place and had said, "Well if he comes back in here, we'll serve him." But I had forgotten that and it was such a fishbowl, I hadn't had experience like that, I went into the little Dixie, which is the southeast of Oklahoma on a field trip with all graduate students, about a dozen of us and I was of course the only black in the group, there were only three blacks students at graduate that studied Zoology at the University of Oklahoma. 01:17:00
We get down one day after working in the field all day, we're all tired and wedecided as students with a little money, we'd splurge some. And there's this popular steak place and so one of the young ladies says, "Let's all have a steak." And so sure enough we walk in the restaurant and everybody's very joyful and we're having a good time, we had a good day in the field.
And we all sat down and the lady comes over and I noticed that she whispers toone of the young ladies in the crowd and the young lady gets up from the table, walks over and then the young lady comes back and say to the rest of us, hey we gotta go back--here again I was in what was called the most conservative parts of Oklahoma, but I didn't know it, as I said, it was called little Dixie and they rigidly segregated by race in the area and they would not even, the fact 01:18:00was that they didn't even serve blacks in that restaurant period.
But here I am and so this dear lady who owns the place, she doesn't know what todo, she decide she'd put us in a small meeting room. And or course we all recognize what this is all about and so I said you all go on and of course they plead, aw Dick please and so we all went back and sat in there and ate. But that was again just how sometimes you let your guard even when you know (inaudible) you grown up in a place.
So I learned a lot of things even there in Oklahoma, I think they all made mestronger quite frankly--.
LEMONTE: Children in school in Oklahoma?
ARRINGTON: Didn't have any problems, I was so pleased about it, got to Oklahoma,my kids participated in everything, placed them in the school right there on the campus. All of the activities, my kids were very active and that was, you get (inaudible) to sleep because--you're not as quite as conscious about racial restrictions once--. We were at a university setting, I've forgotten about the 01:19:00history of Oklahoma, even though they still have their--the professor shows me in one of the lecture rooms the area where they had roped off where the black students would have to sit.
After first having to sit outside and then the students protested there aboutthem having to sit outside the classroom. They then block the student who had been ordered to be admitted by the federal courts to the University of Oklahoma, they built an area, it's a little. (Inaudible) in every building he had a class and that's where he had to sit and they still had that, they longer had to sit there but they were still there in that lecture room, in the library he was given a special place in the cafeteria. And that may not--many years before I came to Oklahoma, but I had forgotten about that you know.
And people were friendly and all and I had one faculty member (inaudible) I'll01:20:00never forget who told me my first day there and he asked serious questions about whether or not I was going to succeed, not only because I was black but because I was from the south. And he said that southerners just didn't do well in graduate school and all that stuff and you know--very uplifting talk (both laugh).
But I did well at Oklahoma and became the personality, a popular student at ablack school. (Inaudible) what they called a (inaudible) top students, I was the first to join the biological society, I was tapped for that (inaudible). I got to be a very popular person and I was fortunate that I chose a professor named Harley P. Brown, whom I did not know at the time, he was from Mobile, Alabama 01:21:00and of course he still comes up, well his family is in Mobile.
And he and his wife just took my family and me in, had us in their homeregularly for dinner, liked to go out on weekends on field trips to collect bills and other things and they'd come back and take my wife and the kids and I were--and we just became apart of that family. And it meant a great deal, I mean more than I even knew at that time, but it just made me feel a part of something. While things were still sort (inaudible) in the country in particularly back in Birmingham. So well, I've been fortunate in a lot of ways over those years. And came back to Birmingham in '66.
LEMONTE: But was there ever any thought of going some place other thanBirmingham, or did you assume and understand on completion of your doctorate 01:22:00that you would return to Miles College and resume your career there?
ARRINGTON: I had no commitment to that except my own personal desire. I hadnever thought of living any place except Alabama. Whenever I left Alabama, I always knew I was coming back to Alabama, I don't know why. I had a good offer down in Florida at Tilwater at the junior college when the junior college expansion was really under way in Florida, if I had a former teacher coworker of mine at Miles College who had gone there and encouraged me to apply and I accepted to faculty there of course the pay was compared to what Miles College was paying, was just great.
But I made the decision not to go there, for some reason I always came back. Mybrother was always anxious to get out of Alabama and not come back. The graduate 01:23:00school he went to, Georgia and that's where he stayed, in Georgia and from there to South Carolina. Came back here and taught one year here and left, he just never liked staying in Alabama.
Me, I've always wanted to stay in Alabama. I still just don't see myself everliving anywhere except Alabama. I don't know what it is about, but anyway, that sort of takes us up to--we have the '66--?
LEMONTE: '66, you come back to Miles College to teach fall of '66, I assume,full-time teaching--?
ARRINGTON: Yeah, I came back that summer; I had little (inaudible). But I had menever flown, never been on the airplane, I really finished all my work and defended my dissertation at the end of the fall semester. So the fall practical 01:24:00purpose, I was finished. But the university offered me a teaching position for a semester (inaudible), a special professor teaching, so I taught for one semester.
Luscious Pitts, of course offered contacted me and Miles College sent me ticketto fly me back for an interview and so I got on the (inaudible) airline in Oklahoma City for the first time, I flew. (Inaudible) education (inaudible) year. And there was a gentleman, as acting dean then, I think Randolph (inaudible) was his name. (Inaudible) gentleman who had retired and then had come to Miles teaching and I had met with him and Luscious Pitts and they asked me to come back and wanted me to direct the summer school that summer.
In fact, that week that I was there for the interview, I wrote up the schedulefor the summer classes (both laugh). And went back and packed my family up and 01:25:00came back and directed the summer school. But I had signed a contract for about
$10-$12k to come back as chairman of the science department. So I came back aschairman of the science department, but I directed summer school and when
summer school over, Luscious then asked me while I'm serving as chairman of thescience department to act as Academic Dean.
So for three years, I was academic dean at Miles College until I leave in 1970to direct the consortium of black senior colleges in the state of Alabama, there was a consortium that had been formed a couple of years earlier through the initiatives of the Ford Foundation. And I took on that job and from May of 1970 01:26:00until '79 when I elected mayor, I was director or what was incorporated as the Alabama Center for Higher Education, a consortium of initially eight historically black senior colleges in Alabama.
And that was another good experience, additional administrative experience abouta fundraising responsibilities dealing with foundations and the opportunity to interact with the faculties at eight campuses and get to know administrators in eight black campuses here in Alabama. So it was again a good experience.
LEMONTE: But you loved teaching so much and had left, it was--?
ARRINGTON: Yeah, I loved teaching, but I left it, I only taught one class at the01:27:00university somewhere in that period, that university, I think was trying to get black faculty on or something and so they gave me a special thing, still in the catalog, I forget what they call it, but I taught on class at the university and that was it. I didn't know other teaching, but I was busy during that time, it was such a good time for black colleges and it was a time, shortly after so-called title 3 programs that had been put in place for purpose of strengthening black colleges by giving grants to black colleges.
Eventually it became a program for developing colleges' period and many todayblack and white schools are in there, but initially it was lenient to black colleges and provided us a source for funding for black higher education that 01:28:00was badly needed. And we had an opportunity to be somewhat creative.
I had a certain niche I had to fill working for eight colleges, but I was ableleverage that title 3 support, to get a lot of foundation support, so we had sizable grants, multi-year grants from Carnegie, Ford, (inaudible) and my responsibility, I was writing all of those grants and I was negotiating and I was traveling, especially New York, because I thought all of the foundation in the world were in New York.
I was going to New York and meeting people and eventually came sort of a fieldworker, even though I served as director for a couple other foundations. I did field work, I visited colleges, I became a field officer and evaluator for (inaudible) education for all of the black colleges in South Carolina, and did the evaluations.
So these were all very rich experiences, I guess that's why I didn't missteaching. I was getting into areas and getting to interact with people all over 01:29:00the country, as well as the staff of the ES department of education and I was privileged
enough to become one of their field workers and one of their evaluators. Andthat was good, one thing it meant that, you know, I could look out for certain schools and it was good for the center, I got to read, I saw what a lot of developing were doing, programs they were trying to initiate.
And that certainly prompted my thinking about programs and how we are to shapethem and when the Carnegie Foundation asked me to work for them and then the (inaudible) foundation asked me to do some work. Always it's something that's continued to expand my opportunities for learning and meeting people. 01:30:00
LEMONTE: So you were there from '70 until you were elected mayor in '79, andthere was a moment of political initiation at some point during that stage, when did you first have the thought descended to you of becoming involving in politics and public life?
ARRINGTON: I had never, even in, as late as 1970, I had never thought aboutentering politics. In Birmingham, of course, things had obviously changed politically, the former government had been changed before I left, didn't take effect after I left because they were still in litigation up until October I believe of that year. We had gotten a new form of government, mayor council form of government, eventually somewhere like '68 or '69, when one of the council 01:31:00members passed, the eight white council members who were left, filled the vacancy with Arthur Shores, the first black to serve on the council and some short time after, I cannot remember whether it was a year later or months later, he ran for reelection and was elected to a term.
So Arthur was serving on the city council and had serving I think like '69 or'70 something like that. I hadn't thought about politics because I had worked in my office downtown Birmingham, late that night I was still there, I had worked 'til 7,8,9 o'clock, someone then came in one evening and they were out looking 01:32:00for some candidates to run for mayor, to run for council from the black community. I was impressed because these were young black guys, a guy named Jesse Stewart and I forget the other two names, escape me right now.
But just the fact that they were concerned enough about the community, they wereout trying to find what they called some good candidates to run and they came and asked me and initially me to run for mayor and I said no. And then they wanted to know if I'd consider running for the council and I had talked with them and said, "Yeah, well, why don't you come back tomorrow and we'll talk about it." Thinking they wouldn't come back, they came back and made a lot of commitments and I ended up running, I guess that was 1972--I'd have to count back--.
LEMONTE: '71 actually--.
ARRINGTON: '71 yeah, yeah, that was 1971. And I ran, made the run-off and was01:33:00elected in the run-off at another time of transition in Birmingham, I was elected at the time that David Vann, who (inaudible) to becoming mayor, Angie Procter, and I, we were considered the new moderates because the Birmingham city council, with the exception of many (inaudible) conceived to be a very conservative council and if you can understand that fight to get bull Connor out of office and then the issues of race that still raise. I can even understand that the council, why trying to move the city forward, had to be very considerate to him, people who were elected were of course, conservative.
But in '71, when the three that I've mentioned, three of us were elected, it wasconceived to be a time of transition, moderates were coming on and replacing 01:34:00some of the conservatives on the city council and of course Arthur had been elected so my being elected was important, but not a great big issue, I wasn't breaking any new grounds. I guess the greatest surprise, over David Vann was elected because David Vann had been working in the community a long time and after he had come back here and started practicing law, having went for congress and all of that.
But was considered liberal and I read some of the news clippings when David ranfor congress and I guess he was forced to try to defend segregation and some of things he said in his--, but he was viewed as being liberal and folks said David Vann could never be elected dogcatcher in Birmingham and he was elected to the city council with me, that's how I got know David, had met his wife a little bit 01:35:00earlier who was a reporter for the Birmingham Post because she had done an interview with me and (inaudible) a future article on me while I was Miles College.
She did what she called trailblazer interview, I was one of the persons shechose to interview so I had met (inaudible), but had not met David, had heard about him and so met him during the campaign quite frankly because he began raising money for the blacks who were running and he had his own campaign done, but one night he met me and called me aside and he called Jesse aside and the three of us and he pulls out of his wallet and gives maybe $500 to each of us or something like that. He told us the money had come from the owner of Parisian, who of course didn't want anybody to know it (inaudible).
(inaudible) had sent the money and (inaudible) was helping me fund the campaign01:36:00of the blacks. And so I got to know David from helping him campaigning and he was elected and I was on the council because he was very bright guy and always trying to do everything, just loved taking politics and he wanted to type (inaudible) you know. And I found him fascinating quite frankly because he was very knowledgeable and we got to be very good friends. And so he became sort of mentor for me, I don't think he knew he was a mentor, but I began following him and trying to learn my government and my politics from David Vann.
And David was an unusual you know we got together and he'd come over to thehouse and sit down and (inaudible) pot of greens and (inaudible) green and he'd sit there for hours and we'd talk and he'd tell you about all of the things he thought he ought to do so forth and so on. When I was chairman of the committee 01:37:00on transportation communication, I was given a job of writing all of the work and doing the negotiations for the cable television franchise.
Did most of it right away in my office for the Alabama Center for HigherEducation 2121 building. And David would come over there; I don't know how he practiced law, because we'd come over there for four and five days a week. We'd sit there and we'd write stuff, what ought to be in the cable franchise and we'd read, bring stuff in. But he just loved the business and of course I was following him and I sort of learned from David. So that was another fortunate, great for me to get to know David Vann.
LEMONTE: Can you talk more about your first campaign; the council members were,at that time elected at large?
LEMONTE: And in a nonpartisan election, so people were really also independent01:38:00campaigns based upon their name, their community contacts?
LEMONTE: How did you go about that first campaign, who supported you, what werethey pleasures and disappointments that you encountered and I guess particularly thinking ahead to your several campaigns as mayor, what your experience of campaigning in the white community and gaining support within the white community?
ARRINGTON: The strength of my campaign, I think was the fact that I had workedfor Luscious Pitts and LP knew a lot of people and even though he had left a year earlier to become president of Payne College in Augusta, the people who knew me for example in the business community, knew me as a (inaudible) at Miles College and especially the fact the I accompanied LP from time to time and 01:39:00earlier days and some of these sessions, that's how they knew me.
And so many of LP's friends, like (inaudible) Jemison and people like thatrallied to my campaign and they were glad to see me run. (Inaudible) times who was a power broker of a sort at the Birmingham News at the time, even suggested to me that I let LP send the letter and endorse my candidacy and he would arrange and make sure that it was running the letters to the editor in the Birmingham News, which he did, LP wrote a very fine letter.
And it was important at that time because I guess I was being seen as somebodywho might win, and the FOP and few of those groups for some reason, they really 01:40:00didn't know me at that time, I hadn't gotten into my battles about police conduct and policies but they began circulating stories like, I had been fired at Miles College because I had stolen money from Miles College and it was just floating around it's been some times when he would talk with me about it and suggested that I get LP to write a letter that you would run. Probably a letter to the editors and that was helpful because he wrote a letter speaking about me and saying I had fine character and all of that and how Birmingham would do well you know.
And that was a big boost, plus I think we were at a time, Arthur Shores had beenon the council and Arthur had not made any enemies of such, he while he was an 01:41:00outstanding and courage attorney and civil rights attorney and had had some terrible experiences, having his home bombed on several occasions, he was a lawyer who took Autherine Lucy to Alabama. He was still a very quiet man, he said very little and even in council meetings, he was never controversial.
And I think that helped, because there were people in Birmingham, that may nothave been residents of the city per se in all instances, but people who were very interesting in seeing the city continue to bring blacks into the arena of leadership. And so my ties to LP and thing so of that sort helped me to get support. And some regards while, I'm sure people talked about race and stuff of 01:42:00that sort, they didn't--weren't widely (inaudible) I ran a campaign, I got some support, mainly from the south side in the white community and very little support from the eastern area, which was very conservative and largely white and that was to be for quite some time.
And of course I was elected, and I think people were generally, those whoconsidered progressive about wanting the city to change (inaudible). I think the black community was pleased that another black, although some of them had some doubts about me because I was not militant, I had not been marching and this had been a city been rocked by marches and demonstrations and so forth and that question was asked, where was I and had I done. 01:43:00
And that was basically true, I only had worked behind the scenes, I sat with LPand many of them didn't even know about that. So they had mixed emotions, they were pleased that another black was on, as they felt that Arthur was militant and neither was I, and therefore that caused cause of the black community, they were not going to get a great boost because neither of us would be very outspoken.
LEMONTE: Did you have a specific platform that you ran on that had major itemsof interest?
ARRINGTON: I ran on, looking back at some of the early materials of recently asI've been trying to do some writing of my own, I ran number one promoting Birmingham and what it's image and my commitment to that and had one or two 01:44:00other items in that
area, I didn't deal a whole lot with opening with anything about race relationsquite frankly. There was a very general kind of platform that I had four or five points.
LEMONTE: No mention of police?
ARRINGTON: No mention of police, no mention of anything controversial, that Iwas running but there were several blacks running then, like seven blacks might have been running that time. So people were getting at least accustomed to the idea and thought that I was educated, highly educated obviously. But after I was elected and I began to raise issues, a number of things, but especially issues police policies, and the way the police department dealt with the black community.
That was a very sensitive cord within the black community, and I was their first01:45:00elected official to begin to speak out about that and to focus attention on it and many ways and with help of come other council members to put in place policies that began changing police conduct and it made me a strong political of the FOP, that's where they saw me and but it may be the darling of the black community because police abused black citizens in Birmingham including shootings, were so rampant that every black understood that.
And nobody had been given a platform such as I as a member of city government;nobody had ever used that platform to really crusade against. Emory O Jackson 01:46:00had done it with his Birmingham World paper and a few other blacks, a few ministers, but nobody who had that stamp of being elected official had done it. And so I began keeping before the people and that's quite frankly how I became to be a very popular elected official in Birmingham's black community.
When I first got on the council, I remember some fraternity brothers of mine, wehad an annual dance and these were all men who were educated, some were physicians and doctors of other sorts and all of these things and teachers and I remember Clarence Mitchell, the president of the chapter coming to see me and asking me if I'd go see the police chief, this is when I first got on, because 01:47:00we were having our Christmas, annual dance during the Christmas break.
And the dance was always like a 10-2 or 9-1. And it was common driving at night,the police would stop and harass you, (inaudible) coming to see me and asked me if I'd go talk with the police chief and explain what our organization was about and asked him to ask his police officers not to stop, I mean that's how things were back during that time, and of course we started a long battle of that, other than that I became very controversial in the eyes of many people. People who were fearful about whether or not my campaign to get rid of police abuse was undermining law and order and I was antipolice.
I never got rid of it frankly in the eyes of many people, but it's one of thereal contributions I feel I made to the city of Birmingham, was that we changed 01:48:00policies, we took over the years, started when I was a council member, and went on
during my years as mayor, but we changed the policies totally. Weprofessionlalized the police department that wasn't very professional and I think we got rid of rampant police abuse in the city.
It was a much better city for it, that was really one of the things I did when Ifirst got on the council, and of course the news papers you know, they like to write stories. So I was a new story for them and not only the fact that I was a black councilman, but here was somebody talking about the police, so I'm in constant conflict with FOP about police actions and sometimes Mayor Joel sibyls and I'm keeping records and files and pictures on people who had been arrested 01:49:00and beating by police officers and of course that was juicy stuff for the newspapers.
And so I got a lot of play there in the newspaper, and those were all goodstories. I went and found out if it all worked out well, I just think that some people in this town of my (inaudible) so forth, whose still around, I never forgotten and can never quite see as anything except somewhat controversial because I fought for--I started (inaudible) police and then about time I was mayor, I got a bigger responsibility and I'm working for (inaudible) in government and trying to open doors for blacks, given promotions and all those things I got underway. And then in and out of court in those battles and so it helped shaped the perception that people had of who Richard Arrington was and 01:50:00what he was like.
LEMONTE: The first time as council member would really redefine, it seems to meyour working relationships with broader community including white, white business community and others, because I assume even at the Alabama Center for higher education, you were still functioning primarily within the black community and people out of town who were concerned about educational issues, did your network of contacts with the white community expand significantly during that first term as council member?
ARRINGTON: Yes it did; first of all, the campaign began to open up access to thewhite community. Around 1970, about time that white group started inviting some 01:51:00black candidates in, it had not had a lot of black candidates running for offices. It may have been a few people, Chris McNair had run for legislature unsuccessfully, Jim Montgomery had run the legislature unsuccessfully and LP had run, but they had very few but you know--in the early 70s by '71 more blacks get in.
And when they held neighborhood forums, some of us were invited and the firstcampaign, a lot of places we were not invited, particularly a lot of places in the white community were not invited, but by the second time I ran because we had then gotten neighborhood associations and all of that, it was really invited to every place, but my first term, I (inaudible) I got to know people, I got to 01:52:00understand some issues, the zoning issues and their important, and that was a hot issue.
That time I had got to know people like (inaudible) who was working to reach outthe black communities to build some bridges and was using things like
zoning issues, a common interest that single family areas whether they are blackor white had in protecting single family housing, she was smart enough to use to bring people together and I got to know people like (inaudible) and folks like that.
It opened up opportunities for me to know all the people I never would have knowand so at the end of my four years, while some people were predicting there was no way for me to be reelected and columnist in two of the local papers-- because I had too controversial particularly on the police issue and of course when I 01:53:00was reelected with somewhat with ease, I think, even I was surprised and running city wide and got a good vote and most easily reelected to the council, which was again an indication, if you look at it, gauging how things are changing, how people are changing.
Here I was a young, that time, a young council member who had been somewhatcontroversial, but you know I had worked on transportation and given the responsibility of committee chairman and getting the transit authority and the government making the transition from privately owned to publicly owned was working with Tom (inaudible) who was in the legislature, helping to get the (inaudible) transit authority and as I said I was working on a cable television. 01:54:00
I worked in a lot of things, but the thing that got really attention was ofcourse those things that tend to be somewhat controversial and that was the police issue and in a town where police were very, very powerful, you got to remember this is coming off of the Connor era where Connor is police commissioner was the most powerful politician and as a result it had spawned the FOP, that was a very, very, very in the city and here I come and probably didn't fully understand and would not have analyzed it, even to the extend I analyze it now, at that time, but here I come and I take on what is essentially one of the strongest political groups in this town and that's the police department which have in fact, the spokesman and the group that speaks for it is really FOP. 01:55:00
We worked through all of that. So by the second term I wasn't really and Iwasn't seen as anymore controversial as the early days of the police thing, I had continued that. But I had decided that that was enough of that, I had enjoyed it, it was part-time my work. I had learned, I thought quite a bit about government and how it works, but I going to leave and Rachel and I had talked about and I was not going to run for reelection.
LEMONTE: Was there any thought on your part of perhaps running for mayor in 1975at the end of your first term?
ARRINGTON: None at all, none at all, ever thought about it. And we made thedecision that I would not run again, I would have had eight years I've done. 01:56:00I've never thought about running for mayor, in fact, we took off on a vacation somewhere, Rachel and I did and that's when the Benita Carter thing flared up and that's the story about how I ended up running for mayor.
But no, prior to that, I had never thought about it. Had been mentioned to meonce and that was when the guys had come to see me the first time in '71, say they were looking for somebody, would I run for mayor, I almost laughed in their faces and then they say, what about running for council and that's why ended up running for council, but no, I had not. I was sort thrust up on me quite frankly, I had not thought about until this incident came up again, police, black community tension.
The death Benita Carter, David Vann trying to walk the tight rope between the01:57:00black community and the white community and supporting the police and the resulting fed up in the black community over David's failure the fire the police officer rather than fine, he disciplined him by giving him desk duty and what have you which led black leadership, largely black preachers, but a few others to become very disenchanted with David.
But I also think at announcing that David handled poorly, when he-- everythingsort of worked against at that time, I will tell. This is a hot issue caused some small rioting out there in Kingston and all of that and David just trying 01:58:00to run through this thick of problems and how best to handle it. So we appoints this committee which is the first we ever had that. And he appoints this special citizens committee and I don't know what David had in mind, I assumed he hoped that the committee would be helpful, but the committee comes back not, unanimously, one person abstaining and says the police officers were wrong, he had acted improperly.
He (inaudible) in corner and with the committee's report out there now, theleadership of the black community becomes more militant about it, we got to fire this guy and of course is knowing, I can't fire the guy, I don't have the grounds the fire the guy. And so he's maneuvering and so, when he finally decides what to do with and that was to give desk duty and he comes up with his 01:59:00(inaudible) and after that and David apparently had thought it through and planned it out so he drew up his public statement and he invited members of the black leadership committee to his office, that morning that he was going to make the announcement and like they came in like 8 or 9:00, something somewhere around that time.
And of course they engaged David in a heated discussion in the office.
They disagreed with his decision not to fire the officer and it reached uponwhere it was just totally unproductive and David said well I got a news conference; he had already set his news conference to make the public announcement about what he planned to do in the case. And so they began pleading with him not go out-- 02:00:00
ARRINGTON: (inaudible) but you raised a question my leaving Miles College, whathappened at Miles College was there was a search for a new president and John Monroe, who
had come to Miles from Harvard some years earlier, led an effort to get me backas president and apparently had spoken with the bishop, who was the chairman of the board.
LEMONTE: Had you left at this time?
ARRINGTON: Yeah, I had left--.
LEMONTE: So that you left prior to the search?
ARRINGTON: Right, I had left in May of '70 and I think Luscious left shortlyafter that, so when they began to search, I was--John Monroe and some other 02:01:00members formed the faculty committee and they talked with me about my willingness to accept the presidency and I said yes, but I didn't the college would want to elect someone who was not a CME, not a member of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, of course, I'm primitive Baptist.
They went to the bishop and the bishop, I'm told, (inaudible) that they wouldconsider somebody outside of that denomination. And so the faculty was strongly behind me as the presidential candidate and I submitted my name for the candidate for president. In the final analysis, I don't know what happened behind the scenes, but having seen the church politics and seeing board meetings 02:02:00and knowing that the board is dominated by the CME ministers and so forth and that the bishop, being a very strong individual as yet, still politically has to be sensitive to what his ministers and members want. I just kind of felt that they really ready to make a break with having a non-CME as president. And so they ended selecting Dr. Clyde Williams as president and that was fine.
I don't know what I said about it, but my recollection is that when thathappened, I had not, you know I was still at--probably still at the college, I can't remember--and I know I was still at the college when Clyde was elected. 02:03:00Because I met Clyde on his first visit after he had been appointed, but he hadn't yet come to the college, and he had talked with he and me had expressed some concern about my loyalty to--.
LEMONTE: You were dean at the college at this time?
ARRINGTON: About my loyalty to his administration and I assured him that I was,but I think he was concerned, since I had been in a competition to be president, that I--I was so disappointed that I probably created a problems for him, maybe with the faculty and he probably (inaudible) the faculty had been lobbying on my behalf. But I sure did work well with him. I even wrote him a letter to that effect after he left.
But he never seemed really assured; I don't remember whether it was in letter or02:04:00phone that the same issue was raised. And I just thought that it was better for me to leave the college at the time because I didn't really want him thinking it,
if I'd ever differ with him it was because of what had happened in the selectionof presidents. And also the center was looking for somebody at that time, executive director, so that's why I decided to leave.
LEMONTE: But in retrospect, had you been offered the presidency, you wereprepared to accept it?
LEMONTE: Along about 1970?
LEMONTE: And had that happened, I would assume that it had a group of young mecome calling on your to run for city council, you might not have able to agree to their request?
ARRINGTON: I would not have been as president of the college; I certainly would02:05:00have been able to do it. But that's what happened their and that's how I ended up in politics and I was telling the story about David and his experiences that morning. I'm in the office with him, he walks out of the office with these ministers walking behind him pleading for not to go out, let's talk about it some more and of course, he walks out and goes out and gives a statement.
Well of course, they were very angry and that leads them eventually to callingme to a meeting and talking to me about running and so forth, and that's how I ended up--sort of semi-draft you call it, running for mayor.
LEMONTE: Could we talk a little about the second term, your second term as acouncil member was 1975 to 1979, David Vann was mayor during that period of 02:06:00time, you mentioned that your first meeting with David had occurred during the 1971 campaign when he had forwarded some campaign funds to you, you had not met him during the period in '63 when he was very much involved with the negotiations between black and white leaders?
ARRINGTON: No, I knew he was involved, I heard his name, but I was never in anyof those meetings. At those high level meetings when they were having meetings like with the (inaudible) even King, I wasn't even here, no I left here in August of '63, so I was never in a meeting with David at that time.
LEMONTE: Could you reflect on your service with him as a council member, did the02:07:00two of you emerge as political allies in some of the important issues that the city confront between in '75 and '79?
ARRINGTON: Yes, I think very much so, I think David had a strong falling withfive or six council members who supported his program and so things much as he did in a political sense, I was one of those, eventually David Herring was to come as a one
of them. And Amina was still on the council, Arthur was on the council, so Davidhad, during his time council member, anyway, had carved out the niches of sort of political leader of the group.
He spent much of his time at city hall, even when he was city council member. We02:08:00worked most of George Siebels' budgets and restructured departments, which the council has the authority to do. Got rid of arrangement where Cletus Boyles was the director of public work for a number of departments and council had budget time reorganized the department and David was a leader in this. And these and many efforts, and looking back, it was remarkable that George Sibyls saw that David had those votes and he really didn't--I mean he fought for it, but once he lost, he didn't try to fight.
We had to override on one or two things. David redefined what for example, thefinance chairman was, in the minds of many people fault city government, they got to be the strongest committee chairman shift there was. But before David was 02:09:00chairman of the finance committee, it wasn't that strong of a position quite frankly, but David made it that kind of position, because David was so involved and because he loved it so much and the city stuff, he (inaudible) he really worked it, and he had a following there, so he was able to get things done.
Even down to the neighborhood associations that we have today, the so- calledparticipation program. I think a lot of the people have forgotten that Siebels opposed a proposed the first time around. In fact, I don't know if he vetoed it or whether (inaudible) or if you had enough votes, anyway to turn it down. I think we lost it, Vann had proposed a structure such as we have now.
Sibyls wanted something much more conservative, didn't want to do as much powersharing with the people, that concept of the people very much involved in the 02:10:00government through citizen participation. Siebels wanted less of that, he understood the citizen participation but wanted less of it and initially fought off the effort. It was a second time the matter came before the--council came back (inaudible) for a vote that we mustered enough votes to pass that program.
But Vann was clearly if perhaps the leader, the most effective elected officialthere in city hall during that time and of course ended up running against George Sibyls at the end of Vann's first term. And Sibyls' first term as mayor, he ends up running against Sibyls. And Vann beats Sibyls by less than 2,000 votes, I don't remember the 1100 or 1200--I think I still have a copy of Sibyls' 02:11:00letter that he wrote somebody after that.
He lost, he was just crushed, but he always blamed me for his loss to DavidVann, because Tony Harrison and I--Tony is a young black legislature here in Birmingham. Tony Harrison and I worked the black community through neighborhood meetings on talk shows and radio and all for David Vann. And we
succeeded and pulling away from Sibyls' sizable black vote. By this time blackshave really become a major political factor in Birmingham.
Many more blacks now and--Voting Rights Act has passed and many voters are onthe role now, by that time 40% are slightly more than people on the voting rolls 02:12:00in city of Birmingham were black. And they loved George Sibyls, Sibyls was the first mayor who had really gone out into the black community and started attending functions in the black communities, he would go to black churches and all and blacks had never seen that, after all you know--you just--one or two people (inaudible) from bull Connor.
You know get Connor, and then you move around and you get Albert Boutwell andthey get the new government. And Boutwell of course was very conservative and then comes Sibyls after that. And Sibyls was astute enough to see the going political empowerment of blacks and maybe for his other interest to involve people, but he didn't mind going out to black functions.
Now a few years before that you couldn't have done that. In fact, that was one02:13:00of the issues that they would use against a candidate who got into a runoff, because we got the black vote, if you got the black vote, you were defeated in the runoff, they called it putting the black hand on a candidate. But now the Voting Rights Act has changed that because now blacks can freely register to vote and they have a large part of the population and an expanding number of them are on the voters' roll.
So if Sibyls obviously knew this, he goes out and blacks of course are thrill,that the mayor of the city comes to black functions, he comes to black churches.
And so they vote for Sibyls and the second he runs (inaudible). He had a strongblack vote and he had a real hold on the black vote and we knew that the only way that David Vann could defeated Sibyls was that we had to get the black vote 02:14:00away from Sibyls and delivered it somehow to David Vann and that was not an easy job. I mean Tony and I really worked hard, we went to see civic association neighborhood leaders and we talked with those people and those were very, very sincere about it.
I can remember some of them just asking me, they wanted to support me, because Iwas asking them and I was sort of popular then as a council member. And many had started viewing me as their voice down at city hall by that time. I had been doing things like, not only the police thing, but also reporting to the black community on the radio thing every week about city hall and this kind of thing.
Now that perception of me is that I'm there a council member so to speak, eventhough I run at (inaudible) but I'm their councilman, I'm their voice. And I did some bonds with them, and so now I go to them and ask them to support Vann and some of them I remember, was very troubled by it and they say, I want to do what 02:15:00you want me to do, but are sure (inaudible).
But we succeeded, we pulled about 80 something percent of the black vote forDavid Vann and I don't think that George Sibyls ever thought that would happen and that's how David won office as mayor and as I said, George Siebels never forgot that, I think he went to his grave still smarting over that. But I worked for David, that time he was mayor, I think I supported their initiative, David pushed this--my relationship with him was really a very close one.
And we really never had a real disagreement, I mean we disagreed on some things,I was still pushing affirmative action kinds of things, this is before 02:16:00affirmative action was a big deal, policy wise, and I was pushing policies. David always got in there, he was smart enough not to (inaudible) he would sort of co-op you by giving in there and working with you and shaping it the way he thought it would work.
He thought it was too radical over there and the mere fact that he kept thedialogue (inaudible) all the time, even on issues like--you know I stayed on the police, I stayed initially on parts when Sibyls was there. I got a (inaudible) Bill Meyers comes in and you know (inaudible). But even with the disagreements about police policies sometimes, Vann was a politically astute enough; he also really had a genuine sense of fairness; he wanted to include folks. 02:17:00
He was always aware that we can go too fast and some people wouldn't accept it,but David was always most the white standards anyway, going too fast. So I found him easy to work with and if I was trying to put some ordinance on or develop some new policy, or even having a little complaint about system who said that he and someone in the family or someone who had been abused by the police.
Vann never positions himself as an opponent; he always got in and sort of workedhim, that way, he sort of kept control. So I worked closely with David and I was really sort of troubled when I decided to run against David, I like him a lot, 02:18:00and I was being pushed by him and then--what a lot of people don't know is (inaudible) Roseman was also a major factor and when she learned I was going to learn, she was pushing me. She had supported David, but she had become disenchanted with David because she said he didn't communicate well with the people and didn't have the access she suggested to me when I got into the campaign that I make a part of my platform--the matter of sensibility to the mayor, because people were complaining that David was not very accessible.
Particularly some of the most liberal white voters who had supported him andthat are what they were saying about him. What I think was happening quite 02:19:00frankly is that David was so busy working the nuts and bolts and everything, he just loved, I remember Larry (inaudible) saying to me once, you I don't care how well you put something together for mayor Vann, he's going to do something, if he doesn't do anything but cross another t or dot another I--.
LEMONTE: (inaudible) was then David's executive secretary?
ARRINGTON: Yeah, yeah, I mean, I remember when he was telling me that, but Davidloved to do. I don't care, you could get all of the wise men in the world to work something, you give it to David, he's going to sit there and he's going to go through it and say it's good, but he's going to change something. And I think he got so involved in that, that he didn't have a lot of time.
Mayor's office is really demanding anyway, I mean never get a man who peoplethink, you ought to get one after the Joe Rileys and a few others that people love and say always accessible and always out with the people, but you want to 02:20:00get a man who, after the first term, people think he or she's a very accessible person, you can see the mayor. They start complaining after a while, how can you get in to see the mayor.
So David is very busy working is what I'm thinking, he wants to work oneverything and he's putting a lot of things in place, but he's not implementing a lot. He's stacking up money for example, which was a real advantage to me. He comes up with all of these great ideas and he puts the money in place, but he never gets around to getting the program going. And so when I come in as mayor of course, David has gotten a lot of things in place, which you know is like for me--push the button and let it go, that he had put in place.
A lot of money stacked up there to spend, projects. And I just think it'sbecause he's always creative and he was always trying to put something together and it was good to this point, but maybe he ought to rework it and do. I think I 02:21:00had David's former law partner--
LEMONTE: John Carlton.
ARRINGTON: No, not join, that's the other guy.
ARRINGTON: Whoever first started practicing law with David, but he said David'sa wonderful guy, he say--I will tell you David, he seeks to be a perfectionist. David will get an important lawsuit for you and he will in, have it won for millions of dollars and he'll come back and decide (inaudible) other things and he'll lose (inaudible) several times.
And that's just the way David was, the longer you let him work on something, themore he's going to fix it. He's going to fine-tune it, fine-tune it, and fine-tune it. And while that's good in a way, I think he got so involved that he lost some of his strong liberal white support. So when I ran against him and he had-- the white vote was frightening because John Katapotis is in there and 02:22:00Frank Parsons is in there, so you got three or four strong whites running.
And while we got maybe it was three and we got four blacks running, but LarryLangford was expected to be a strong, but he wasn't, he didn't poll well at all in the black community. So the black vote gets so fragmented and David ended up with 16% or something like that. And he gets (inaudible) even out of the runoff.
I've always wondered what would have happened in the runoff if David had endedup in the runoff.
Here I am polling for the big black voted, polling 40 something percent of thevote, that gets me in to the runoff and Parsons is 16 point something, like 17 percent, David is 16, and John is right below David. I think John came in right 02:23:00behind David. But I was wondering what would have happened if David had gotten into a runoff with me. But he was out of course he ends up shortly thereafter a week later, he decides to endorse me. He comes out publicly to endorse me.
LEMONTE: Two questions before we move into your campaign and first term, priorthen to the Benita Carter tragedy in the summer of '79, your plan was to finish your second term as council member, leave politics, return to I assume a full-time career somewhere in higher education?
LEMONTE: David's assumption, I would imagine was that he would seek a secondterm and that you would support him which I--?
ARRINGTON: I assume that was his assumption, he certainly would have had no02:24:00reason to assume otherwise.
LEMONTE: But there was never any thought that when his tenure as mayor concludedyou would be his logical successor, that was not something that had occurred or had occurred to him?
ARRINGTON: Certainly it never occurred to me and it was never discussed with me.I don't know if David ever thought how long he would even serve as mayor, but because I didn't have any real interest in being mayor and I enjoyed it and think I had said to some people I've enjoyed my time on the council, had a great learning experience for me in many ways. But I never wanted to do it full-time politically. It's fun being part-time politician, coming over for committee meetings and attending city council meetings and then going on doing other things you wanted to do.
But I never wanted to do it full-time and that was the way I truly felt about02:25:00it. I did not really want to do it. And so I don't really think up until maybe a week before I formally announced, because the rumor was out there then. I remember Scottie Green coming down to the church where I announced because he said he had to come down.
He said he had to see this himself, he said he couldn't believe I was going torun against David, I remember he said that to me that day, he was there in the crowd. But up until about a week before that I don't think that David had an idea that I was going to run. He was caught up in (inaudible) and all of this debate that were still going on and the preachers marching and they do this march downtown and saying David Vann's gotta go and I'm standing there on the city hall 19th street portico with David Vann where they had set up the microphone for the ministers to speak and when they turned the corner there onto 02:26:0019th street off of 6th ave it was, David walks off and goes and meets them.
And of course they're shouting, the Vann's must go and he meets them about ahalfway the block before the city hall there on 19th street, shakes their hands and join them and marches with them. And they get up and of course they talk about him and make all the speeches and so forth. And even at that time, I had, at that point had crossed my mind that I was going to be running at all. So it happened sort of sudden--.
LEMONTE: Did you tell David prior to the time you made your announcement thatyou were going to run against him?
ARRINGTON: I really don't believe I did, but I don't know. It was like being02:27:00swept along and something that--at the time, I sort of preferred would not have happened quite frankly. But what they were saying to me was it was time for me to run and the thing the ministers were saying we've been standing with you in all the (inaudible). Because they were talking about all the fights, the police thing and all of that and we'll back you this, that and the other.
And you're the person and so forth and so on. I can't say they did a lot ofarm-twisting; they went really, really fast in a short period of time. In fact, I agreed I'll run and then I called my wife and then I to write up something for a news conference, they had call out there for later that day. So it went fast, but even in the campaign, David and I--got along well, I took a few pot shots at 02:28:00David by saying that I was going to be a very accessible mayor.
I had two or three pointers and (inaudible) given them to me and asked me topush those points. And she was my single largest contributor in that campaign the first time. Because when I ran for the mayor, I didn't raise any money, I raised 19k in that campaign the first time. And much of it was taken up from black churches quite frankly. And (inaudible) gave me $500. And she allowed her name to put out there. And that was my largest contribution by far.
Now when I got to the runoff, after I got 40 something percent of the votes, thehandwriting was on the walls, Goodrich and some of the corporate community came in and gave me some money, so in the runoff, I was able to raise about $30k, 02:29:00whereas I had raised on 19 the first time. But what I had going for me been a solidified and mobilized black vote, opposed to David having his lost his black
base and really got a fragment and (inaudible) about it. It split and goes inthree different directions.
And as time passed, the black community developed a sort of fervent of beliefthat he could win, when they first started off, I think it was a lot of doubt.
I'll never forget that Dr. AG Gaston and Vincent Townsend, summoned me to ameeting in Dr. Gaston's office one morning, shortly after I had formally announced that I was running and Dr. Gaston lectured me there with Townsend and 02:30:00said blacks couldn't win and I had made a big mistake and so forth and he ended--and Townsend said to me, "Look one day you know, there is going to be a time for black." "Blacks' time will come or something to that substance."
We will support you at that time, but you know, now is not the time and so forthand that conversation ended with Gaston asking, almost instructing me and he said, "Richard, what I want you to do, I want you to go out of here now and tell people you've changed your mind and that you're gonna support David Vann." That's what he said when I was leaving and I said, "Dr. I'll have to think about it."
I know I wasn't gonna change and I left, I did talk with some of the ministersJared, Woods and a bunch of them about the meeting and they said, "Well, we're 02:31:00gonna go on anyway, we can win without Dr. Gaston." You know they were fired up and they kept folding my arms and pushing me along. So I ended up with this mobilized vote, because as I said as time went on, blacks started thinking we knew we were gonna win.
And they come in and they start volunteering and I got to find something forthem to do. They're all fired up and they turned out to sixty something percent vote of blacks, so that what was the first time (inaudible) people would say the primary and whites were not that fired up, they were divided. And though there was a slight white majority on the voting roll, I don't know where in (inaudible) there was, but on the voting rolls, 55% of the people on the voting rolls are still white and about 45% black.
Whites were not really as fired up as the blacks were. So now when it hits and I02:32:00got 40 something percent of the vote and I go into a runoff with Frank Parsons, who is a political (inaudible) I think, I don't know all Frank had been doing, say he'd been running some other campaigns, but he had never run as far as I know. I think it shook things up, but it reverberated in the black community.
It really fired the black community, gosh here is this candidate 40 somethingpercent of the vote, this boy here, and oh we can win. Now the black community is truly fired up. The white community I think it sends trembles of fear through the corporate community also. And some of the people in the corporate began an effort to organize to get a strong white turn out and they did. 02:33:00
The white vote shot up to about 60 something percent, which is a strong turnout, the black vote the first time was 60 something percent, but in the runoff, I mean, blacks were so fired up in the runoff, I get 73% of black turn out, which I think is probably still a record of a turn out in the city of black voters percentage- wise.
I'm able to get some racial crossover from some white votes and Frank gets onlyless then 1% of the black vote. So I ended up winning by 2,000 or so votes over there and it was still somewhat different. The night we were waiting for the results to come in at the old parliament house, which was the headquarters for 02:34:00the victory (inaudible) that night, David came earlier, about time my family arrived there, my dad, mom and David and he was in there with us.
And it was still sort of a choking experience. David, my friend, and I haddefeated him and I remember Richard Friedman was there interviewing us and of course he writes and he wrote in his article sort of like choking up when he was interviewing him because I felt that way. I was pleased I had won, but I was sad seeing that David has lost, I really was.
But yet, there was a guy who was supporting me and was there and doing thingsthat David has always done and he was always (inaudible) to say the first (inaudible). So it was something to remember. That was an interesting night when 02:35:00I elected; my supporters tore the Parliament House down (both laugh). They built my camp there, they had to stop people, they eventually closed it down, the fire inspectors came and wouldn't let anybody else come into the hotel.
It was interesting, I mean it was an exciting night, I came down there and theplace was just jammed, I came down from the top floor suite and we had to work our way through the crowd to get up to the stage. Folks were shouting, car horns honking all over the place. The president Carter called, just when I was about to go down and greet the folks, the phone rings and it's president Carter and you know he said something. And so it was a very historic time and I still 02:36:00remember and looking back at news clippings and stories that just bring me back those memories of that particular evening.
LEMONTE: You mentioned that your total campaign cost in 1979 were between thetwo races, right around $50,000?
LEMONTE: Earlier, you had said that (inaudible) has conveyed some campaign moneyto you in a council race. Was there any business support financially in your first election for mayor?
ARRINGTON: In the run-off. And (inaudible) gave me some money, but HenryGoodrich sort of put--the corporate community sort of channeled money through Henry Goodrich who brought it to me. And or either sent people and that's how I 02:37:00got the 30-something thousand dollars--.
LEMONTE: Did any members of the corporate community sit down and talk to youabout their hopes and expectations for the city and attempt to gauge you as a candidate?
ARRINGTON: Not at that time, the only exposure I got has been through news mediainterviews and forums and at the time it was sort of limited of what candidates could say. And even through the run-off, it went the same. But once I was elected, interestingly, the person to invite me to come to a meeting with the business community for dinner, in which he was host, was Tom Bradford of people, I will never forget that.
I had a short-lived experience with Tom, he was, at the time on the park board02:38:00and considered to be one of the most ultra-conservative businessman quite frankly. But I don't know if he called me or I called him, but I ended up going to his office over there on first ave and sitting and talking with him. And he called me at some point and offered to host a dinner and invite the corporate community in and that was my first meeting and that was a very interesting meeting.
Some rather frank talk went on that night about race and all of that. I rememberhe used to explain to me why downtown was going to be such a challenge and the fact about white behavior, once the downtown area go to be a certain percentage black. It was a good meeting. But some of those--Joe Farley was around that 02:39:00time, shortly thereafter, he stepped down and (inaudible) came in, but Joe Farley was around.
Joe wasn't very active, but he was sort of liberal among the corporate people,and had a run-off, spoken to me a couple times, but nothing of any great detail. So we eventually, (inaudible) the support in the corporate community built up, but some people obviously in 20 years, they haven't came around, I mean, I had talks with people like Hall Thompson, but obviously never got any kind of support from Hall, but got support from Judy and the (inaudible) time, I got support from his son, who now runs their business.
And I never got any support from Harbert, although, the next time I ran, Raymond02:40:00Harbert, who was then the CEO, had succeeded his death, did a fundraiser for me up at the Summit Club. So there were interesting things like that. (Inaudible) B. Stevens, I never got him to anything--get him to come to a meeting, he just totally refused. He tried to talk to me once about some things he thought ought to be done and I asked him if he'd lead the effort to do it and of course he would not.
So I never (inaudible) B. Stevens or that family at all in anyway, but over theyears we got a good (inaudible) of corporate folks and they began helping and (inaudible) Harris came along and he was more active in reaching out. And of 02:41:00course eventually Leo King and he started using his influence pulls them around. But the interesting thing Barney was, he proceeded Henry as head--(inaudible) was a Vulcan Material, but he was very--
ARRINGTON: Monahan. By the end of my third year, the time when people talkingabout election again, he calls me and he says that some of us want to meet with you. And I said, "Fine." And he wanted to know if I wanted to come over to what is the Amsouth Bank tower. I walk over there that day; they really had the 02:42:00meeting in the southern natural gas office complex. And I walked up there and (inaudible) was just about (inaudible) in the corporate community there.
Few exceptions, but who's who in Birmingham and they came Barney spoke and theiroffer was to support me, they wanted me to run again for mayor, I don't know what had gone into their discussions, but I assumed that they had concluded that the next mayor was going to be black, things have changed. And we've had almost four years with this guy and some folks (inaudible). Let's strengthen him and 02:43:00make sure we keep him in office rather having some other black, which we don't know as well.
And so it made a great (inaudible) worry about money and if I would run again,they (inaudible) get out and pass leaflets and all of this kind of stuff. And they did, they raised the money for all and me. Some of them John Woods, some of these got to be people I could go to. Here and there, I had a falling out with most of them, at one point or another at one time or another, but I thought overall, my relationship with the corporate community was good. I think once the corporate community saw that it was going to be a black mayor here, because it's a black majority now, here in this city. 02:44:00
Most of them decided said, "We're going to support Arrington." Most of them did,even when they were still running white (inaudible) for mayor, but they knew he wasn't going to win, mostly corporate folks were still giving me support.
LEMONTE: Aside from the issue of Benita Carter and police, what were the topicsor issues in your 1979 campaign for mayor that represented your platform and the points that distinguished you from Frank Parsons or the other candidates?
ARRINGTON: Well, in the run-off, of course, I tried to (inaudible) experiencethat Frank had, none of that kind of experience and tried to speak of that as (inaudible). But I also set other goals; city image was one of the things I had talked about in the campaign. Management was another thing, because of 02:45:00encouragement from folks like
(inaudible), I talked about management style a lot and what my management stylewas going to be and issues (inaudible).
I did have to address of course you know, the whole matter of how I was going to(inaudible) the police department, because that was still really a concern of people. And initially, I don't think that anybody thought that I was going to win.
Anyway, I mean until the primary and then I think that it really dawned onpeople and some people I think felt that if there was going to be--the most disastrous area would probably be that this guy is not going to get along, the police don't like him and that's going to be bad for us.
I think that was--but I had not really dealt that much with the issue. But I hadto answer questions about it because they had asked--no questions were asked 02:46:00about it. And then the FOP also had a sense in that campaign, that maybe more than other folks did--that a black might be elected and that's why they got Larry and Larry was in it and they threw their support for Larry Langford for whatever reason, I don't know what their political strategy was. But there was to fragment to vote or whatever, but they did. It just didn't work. But we just--I talked to some about economic development, but I talked particularly about changing the city image, the management styles and things of that sort, so I talked about that.
Time went by and subsequent elections, we learned a little bit more; we puttogether a better platform, a more inclusive platform. 02:47:00
LEMONTE: So you walk in as mayor in the fall of '79, you knew city hall, youknew people, but here you are as mayor, what was your sense in feeling an issue begin that experience and what kind of reception did you get from people, already in city government?
ARRINGTON: Well, my feeling was one, a lot of uncertainty to tell you the truth.In fact I had thought about it sense and I wonder, for somebody who hadn't city hall at all, as elected mayor, a transitition (inaudible).
Secondly, but I still had that--still uncertainty but once I won I was swept up02:48:00really in this whole media thing because worldwide media--I spent all my time interviewing, doing TV things, because Birmingham's got a black mayor, that was big, big stuff. So much so that even I didn't--it was--I started writing my inaugural address the night before the inauguration at home late that night when I finally got home, I think I had done an interview, a guy--a photographer--a reporter from People magazine had gone and they gone home with me and done some shots of the family.
A lot of that stuff was what I had, I didn't really have a transition team andall, I was just doing all of this media stuff. And I didn't even finish my speech until I had gotten to the office that morning that I was to speak at the 02:49:00ceremony had set I don't remember the time, maybe 10:00 or something. And I still had two or
three (inaudible) I finished writing and then give it to the girl to type up.That's how busy it was, but I turned the people who had been my friends first of all, particularly Nina and David who were on the council.
And I began talking with them about trying to put together a staff and it wasNina who had suggested to me that'--take Willie Davis because he had been over in the council (inaudible) and he had some experience. And then when we decided (inaudible) decided to come--I think Tom was coming too, David was opposed to that say I was taking all the experienced staff over to that side, but Nina 02:50:00spoke up and of course she thought I needed her and you know--and she just let t
Tom go on and so.
That helped some, we came in--I didn't have a whole lot of experience on puttingtogether that staff in city government and then I was trying to--had decided that--listening to folks I had to sort of balance the staff and I tried to get (inaudible) in and I tried to get blacks on the staff as well as whites and all of that. And then I was able to get you to come (inaudible) and that's what we worked on. We put together a pretty balanced staff and we got going. I mean we staggered out of the open gate and somehow we regained our balance and we kept 02:51:00going and it continued to be a learning experience all the way for 20 years it was a learning experience I will tell you.
We learned how to do some things, we got some breaks. We sometimes havepriorities (inaudible) just to get the priorities in order, but I thought we got some things done and unfortunately we couldn't get some of them done without some debate, some conflict, after all it was--we came in '79 with an economy in shambles and we were concerned about that, we didn't have a strong economy. But again, we were fortunate and that certain things were happening I mean the University was there and it was sort of an anchor and the economy began slowly 02:52:00changing and the transition into a service-type economy was beginning to pick up.
Some--that helped us a whole lot and here and there we started having somesuccess and I do think we started to administer, I do think we put in place a pretty good administration, I think we did some good things administrative wise, I think we did some good planning. I think the thing was when we started out and decided we had to start surveying and putting emphasis on retention existing businesses as well as looking new ones.
I think some of those were little things, but they turned out to be importantkinds of things for us. And we began to have some breaks with the economy during 02:53:00that latter part of that term. We still had some issues of conflict of course, the affirmative action thing was on its way and then somewhere at the end--early in the second term, I'm dealing with the consent decree and all of that and of those things were controversial, fight over minority participation in programs and having a fight with the associated general contractors.
So it was challenging in that, because when I think going into government anywayas a chief executive is just challenging (inaudible). But we just had issues, we had things changing and we were trying to make some social changes, we were 02:54:00trying to build a city government that was more inclusive in trying to bring people in. We're out trying to push at the same time to put in a minority participation programs.
There were a whole lot of issues that made it very challenging time for us andwe get into a fight right away about the police chief, so that for many people was a carry over, a bitter taste that they already had because the doubts they had about my becoming a mayor because of what posture they had seen me take as a council member and now the first thing I do is get into a fight over the selection of the police chief. So that's what I mean when I'm talking about rocky start coming out of the gates, but some of it was a bit controversial. 02:55:00
LEMONTE: When you took office, all of the department heads were protected undercivil service. You did not have the opportunity to bring in a team of department heads of your own selection. And so you became head of the bureaucracy that was not necessarily obligated to be very responsive to you, how did that transition early in the first term go with your becoming the chief administrating officer of a very large and complicated bureaucracy?
ARRINGTON: I think it went fairly well; we had decent cooperation from some ofthe department heads. I think we (inaudible) the police chief, basically worked with us, but he was just caught in the middle between a man who was trying to make changes and who was not popular with his (inaudible)--.
LEMONTE: This was chief Myers, Bill Myers.02:56:00
ARRINGTON: And Bill was just torn, I mean--and I have to say Bill as far as Iknow was loyal to me as mayor, I mean he really was, but you know, I was pulling on one side and he was trying to be a professional and be loyal to the mayor, as he promised me he would (inaudible) and of course he's got his men who feel betrayed and so but I think Bill did right he stood there and when he--just so he could make it and he resigned.
Because he just thought my policies, my style, my goals were things that hecouldn't continue to support, particularly at the place I was trying to go. There was some (inaudible) we got (inaudible) didn't really give me any problem, but he wasn't very, very active in his support. But the truth is that I met with 02:57:00a few of them and then I brought in you know the staff, administrative assistant, executive administration and that dealt with the other department heads and then they met.
I think things that we were able to do like meet with them, begin talking aboutgoals, knowing what's going on, that constant hands-on kind of thing is what kept things moving. I think if we had left it sort of loose so to speak and had not
been close and hands on where they had to talk with somebody, what was happeninghere today and you know we (inaudible) different story, but I think that was part of the strength of our administration was that we're coming in and we get 02:58:00(inaudible) and one or two other people who--I think our department heads respected. And they had to deal with them everyday. And I think quite frankly some of them probably find that something that they preferred to having to deal with me on a regular basis to be very frank.
But it worked out well for us, it created a kind of comfort zone for them in adifferent transition period and we had some early problems you know we had Willie Davis questions and I had some corporate folks would talk to me about that. But quite frankly you know after you became the chief executive some of the corporate folks worried about you, they thought we were corrupt you down there.
But things went fairly well and one thing that was important in addition to whatWillie brought to the job and (inaudible) to own style and ability, was also-- 02:59:00nobody questioned your ability and nobody questioned your integrity and they felt that they could talk with you, I mean and that--I think that's important to have somebody there particularly at a time of transition where a new mayor and especially in this case, in a town where race has been a great preoccupation and everybody, you're making a change, it's very important that the white community, and especially the corporate community has somebody in that office that they have some confidence in.
And somebody that they can come and complain to if they want to and feel thatthey're getting a message to city hall because somebody who has some influence there. I think that was a part of why we were able to get over those humps and 03:00:00move things along. After a while I don't think that some corporate people who never thought, who were suspicious or was always going on but, I don't thing we had a lot of questions about whether you know this was an administration that was incompetent, I mean I really don't and the real secret to that was that we--you and then we sort of put other people around.
And you brought around--we got Virginia on and (inaudible) and you know if whenyou look back at it, we put some good people around there who could do their work and I think that helped us a lot and people start having confidence, especially the business community, started having some confidence in these folks around me. And that helped our administration there. One day I'd like to hear what you have to say, to say about all of that. I've been thinking about it and 03:01:00I sort of outlined some things and the manuscript that I'm working on, and I talk about that, I tried to get in and sort of analyze and pick a part you know, what would have think that made a difference and then you know I feel quite frankly that I was just fortunate and lucky in many ways.
Started about talking about my life, things just happen because I planned--(inaudible) because I didn't know you were--I had no idea that you would ever
come work in government, I mean I would have thought that you were right off.And I was talking with you about somebody and I find out that you were willing to consider it because--but I mean that was, for me it was just a lucky thing and it happened.
And so I just sometimes when I think about some of the tough times and I think03:02:00about all the breaks I got along the way, they just sort of fell in place somehow and it worked out well so that's good, and having you there for what eight years?
LEMONTE: Eight years, eight fascinating wonderful years.
ARRINGTON: It was good, I thought I was going to get you back (inaudible) likethat, I never told you about that conversation.
LEMONTE: (inaudible) difficult to in a reasonable period of time covered 20years as mayor, but I think there are some areas that we could group questions and thoughts on your part and I guess one of them would be to return the topic of police and you've talked about the professionalization of the police department a long-term process that began during your first term as council. I 03:03:00recall that the issue of the shooting policy was one of the kinds of important police issues that came up early in your tenure as mayor, I wonder if you could speak to that and other things related to policing that reflected your commitment to the professionalization of the department.
ARRINGTON: And here again I have to give credit to Bill Myers, who was policechief when I became mayor. Because even on issues, really hot issues and shooting policies were about as hard as issues you could get, because Alabama at that time are still under the state of (inaudible) felon, where if a felony had been committed (inaudible) suspected that you might have committed it, under the law that officer can use deadly force against you. 03:04:00
And that was a serious and very much flawed law, of course thank goodness, someyears after we stepped out and changed the policy, the other case got to the supreme court, where you just couldn't shoot folks, except under some dire circumstances, life-threatening circumstances, but you got to the situation somebody could grab your television out of your house and go running and the officer would shoot him if he couldn't catch him.
It changed a lot, it had a real impact on society as a whole, but I took onshooting policy early on because I thought we had to change the policy. That may have been the most divisive issue, the police things in this community and if you ever wondered to come back together or get (inaudible) have some cooperation. 03:05:00
We really had to get the police issue under some control where it just alwaysstays out there. It was a major issue that divided this community.
And I think honestly some people (inaudible) but I honestly think weaccomplished that. Even today I see people saying things (inaudible) about the police here and there on an abuse case, but I know from experience that it's nothing like it used to be. We took on that shooting policy and my police chief at the time, Bill Myers, didn't fight me on it. He worked with me on it, when I asked him to do the work, the surveys; he put his folks to work on it.
Now that was a very unpopular thing for him to do, especially with the FOP, buthe did it and then I called together the corporate leaders at some point I don't think they were at all happy about it, but some of them cooperated, we put 03:06:00together a committee, we looked at it and we came up with a new policy, the police union, the FOP were never satisfied with it, but just by putting in our own policy, we changed, I think the behavior really endangering lives of police officers.
Handful of police officer who had been so trigger-happy and the (inaudible). Wechanged that; I think also the fact that we were going to stand firm on that policy and others, I mean we implemented policies along the way that we were responsible, some before I became mayor. The simple one like, if any force has to be used to apprehend an individual, you must take that individual to the 03:07:00hospital (inaudible) sounds like it's a little troublesome thing, but I mean it had a great impact on the behavior of the police department after a while because you got a medical trained individual.
He looks at somebody and says, what has happened to him or her or what kind ofinjuries do they have, which is much different than somebody being thrown in jail without getting any medical attention. You also build a (inaudible) so if internal affairs (inaudible) what operators (inaudible). And the composite impact of all of those things, I think brought about some very positive changes, even with the shooting policies. Now I will tell, if the chief had not stood with us, (inaudible) if he just gotten out there and said this is not going to work and that's why I still give Bill Myers his due because he remained 03:08:00professional and stood with me on those things. We changed the shooting policy (inaudible) that wasn't good--
LEMONTE: And I think for those who want to know that story, Jimmy Franklin hasdone a good job of documenting it back to Birmingham book. So I think it exists as a carefully recorded story that--
ARRINGTON: I think he has done a good job of what happened then. But we've beenthrough that and we've come in with the new chief, who ends up being a very controversial chief from the outside, but there was a product of a process and (inaudible). And the difference in viewpoints about how it ought to be done and 03:09:00the filling on the parts of some influential people in this community, that we were moving too fast and so forth.
And I think people did the best thing they knew how to do. I think those whothought, no you know we at least got to get a police chief in here that the police officers respect and don't trample their morale, eventually I've gotten to understand all of that, but again, you know we came through it, we came in with Arthur Deustch, there was always controversy, but we got some things accomplished.
We became one of the few cities a few years ago that got accreditation I meanthe number has increased, but there is still not a lot of accredited police departments in this country that on the accrediting association. And we have been accredited and had two or three reaccreditations visits since. I think our 03:10:00officers have been trained much better and I think it's because we were forced--that issue was always front burner and (inaudible) we were looking for ways to do what we thought was right, but at the same time they give the people the training.
So I really do think that the police reform was major accomplishment of ouradministration, the police reform, not without pain and problems, but it happened in a city where that was really known a terrible police commissioner, powerful politician bull Connor. And so we moved the police reform away from the common thing to--what I think is a professional department that had some problems down there, but never really serious problems relatively speaking. So I 03:11:00chalk that up as one of the things that we accomplished.
LEMONTE: Related to the police department and all other department but certainlymore extensively were very basically was the question of affirmative action in the consent decree. At the time you entered office the question of discriminatory hiring practices was before the courts?
ARRINGTON: Yes, that had been a hearing or two particularly I think on police infact, not on other departments. The NAACP in one case I believe there was some employee that might have been in parks and rec somewhere had brought that case to court.
But anyway, we moved (inaudible) with the encouragement of president Reagan's03:12:00justice department to settle the case with (inaudible) consent decree, which was really fashioned, by the justice department. And it created more problems for us, all the issues that eventually came up about affirmative action and them somewhere around about that time, shortly or before or after the news media really made reverse discrimination a household word, I remember reading one national magazine, first big story I read about reverse discrimination and after a while I got to be a house hold word, discrimination. 03:13:00
And so anytime they talked about affirmative action, you had that other side ofthe issue. I was helped with that--I kept the same law firm that David had hired to deal with that and that was Bradley Arab and we had an attorney who was pretty good working with us and guiding us on that. I was fortunate and David this too,
David was able to influence the personnel board to let us have a director ofpersonnel. It was Gordon Graham.
And Gordon was very helpful and all of that because he had a background in itand he knew his way around and I think many times you know they had Gordon up there handling these issues and helping us shape the policy, somebody like who had had that same situation where we could not have had a personnel director, we still just had to deal directly with the board over there. We would have had a 03:14:00lot of havoc in what we were trying to do.
LEMONTE: But it required the consent of the personnel board to have him--
LEMONTE: You did not have the independent authority as mayor--?
ARRINGTON: That's correct, but just to have somebody there who knew personneland knew how to shape policies and how the personnel management was a plus and I was pleased. And we did good I thought, we lost a reverse discrimination case and I had never gotten over that, frankly even today, I think one of the little quirks that have in the judicial system is that kind of (inaudible) of that nature. The irony of the fact that in Birmingham in Jefferson county, where blacks were truly excluded, it was really the policy they excluded all the way 03:15:00through the personnel board on down, in a city renowned for its race problem, that Birmingham would end up being a city guilty of reverse discrimination.
And the way that went down is something that I never been able to sort ofdigest, but we got caught in a time when the pendulum was swinging the other way, Reagan days, new court members, the court becoming more conservative, in fact the guy who had been the attorney general's office as an assistant attorney general down in Alabama had gotten on the (inaudible) court and was one of the key-- (inaudible) wrote that opinion which I had read 50 times and still doesn't make any sense in which he concluded that we were guilty of reverse discrimination. 03:16:00
I (inaudible) people that make sense, he said we were right to try to do thisand right to try to do that, but in doing that we, or course violated the rights of other people. I was also disturbed about it because, everything we had done, Sam Pointer had been the judge in the district court who had looked at it. And even in the firefighters' case, he had reviewed every promotion, and of course he was just overruled in the final analysis on the (inaudible) and so that was a little disappointing, because we had a district judge who has said, okay, they had not promoted a single firefighter and he had looked at their records and said that was the right thing to do.
By anyway, it still had a tremendous impact, I mean, it changed labor force,made it much more inclusive, we went from a labor force of 12 to 15 % black, we
came in and when we left, you know about half of the labor force was black. We03:17:00went from a labor force that had one black department head and I guess during our time in office, we must have hired about 14 and we ended up with about 12 when we left.
We didn't open up as fast, but we made a difference there. For example in thepolice department, I think they might have had one, may have been two women sergeants when I became mayor and when we left, women were moving all the way up to serving deputy chief, we didn't but one chief yet, but we gotten a few women in the fire department, still that's been a tough nut to crack.
But women were largely in clerical positions back in 1979 and 1980 inBirmingham. And we promoted--we changed a lot of that, a lot of women were promoted in all departments. We didn't do as well as we might have done about 03:18:00when the department heads, but we did get two or three women in department head positions.
I'm pleased about that, I think--out of that affirmative action, the programunder that consent decree, we were able to create the most (inaudible) wise and racial-wise the most diverse (inaudible) force in the state of Alabama, any government in the state of Alabama, I think including the state itself. That's an accomplishment I'm very proud of. I've always wondered though, I will tell you, even while we were carrying out the affirmative action promotions under that consent decree, the one thing I always wondered about was at what point do you stop affirmative action?
It always stays in the back of my mind, when I would talk with Alexander who wasa lawyer over there at Bradley and (inaudible) I would raise that question. How 03:19:00long do we do this? Because I thought there was going to be a breaking point, at some point, I'm not a lawyer obviously, so I don't know the legal argument. But if you say you're going to correct something in affirmative action is the remedy, and I speak solely just within a city, within any organization.
I guess to be a question--if you accomplish and we were accomplishing all of ourgoals, then when do you stop it. And of course we never--I don't think we've answered the question yet, I mean reverse discrimination created some problems for us and I think they may now have paid off the last employee reverse discrimination. I know when mayor Kincaid came in, they still had several, that's because we couldn't negotiable settlements.
Some of them wanted more, but we tried to settle with as many as we could, but03:20:00the question still is, how long do you stay--does the court keep you in the consent decree and so forth. In fact I think that the Achilles Hill in the affirmative action program and that's it. But that's why I think America finally--society as a whole finally, we being handled with reverse discrimination and that--where I think a lot
of the attitudes finally changed and opinions of some (inaudible) I may betotally wrong but even when I was mayor I was thinking about that.
I even said it to Gordon a few times, you know, okay we're achieving these goalsnow how long are going to continue to do this. And I have to admit, I was speaking then from the perspective of an administrator, he knew that there was still resentment about it because we felt we had accomplished a lot of it and we thought that if we could say, we achieved our goals, the affirmative action program just go on hiring, it would have some impact on morale and get some of the bitter disputes that were ongoing about promotions and all of that. 03:21:00
So it's just amazing that once you're in a position, how it makes you-- you'reforce to think about some things. I many times rethought the whole minority business loan program you know, you begin to sort of understand arguments whether you agree totally or not with some of the people who (inaudible) very simple question, why do you take some guy that has terrible credit and couldn't do this, that other and can't get a loan from the bank and then you take him and give him taxpayers' money and you look around you got a 60% rate of (inaudible). And yet, I mean it takes you to that point.
And you had answers that were really not that simple, but I tell you, it reallymakes--you think about it. And now affirmative action program, many times I sat and I thought questions like that. 03:22:00
LEMONTE: When you left office, were there still affirmative action requirementsin place in city employment?
ARRINGTON: Yeah, promotion goals are still in place.
LEMONTE: As a matter of--?
ARRINGTON: Even after the reverse discrimination thing, it's still there. And Irather no--it has (inaudible) formally ended you know, there have been few cases, I mean like school cases, where the courts have finally said that schools were integrated, I mean essentially not been the most segregated (inaudible), but they ended the program. I don't think they done that at city yet. I know they hadn't done that before I left.
Now that, you know, I think a natural question might be, you were chiefexecutive you thought that was time you know, why didn't you move to do it. I don't know, I thought about it and but we got caught up in the reverse 03:23:00discrimination thing just wouldn't go away. I would go up and went all the way to Supreme Court. I went up there, sat in and listened to the argument at the Supreme Court. The only time I've been in there. And then of course, the Supreme Court rules against us in terms of the right of these people to pursue the reverse discrimination and then we worked through that two or three years and we
eventually lose and of course that was the end of it. But anyway, it just raisesa lot of questions of how you deal with past injustices and how do, in some way make the solutions somewhat more acceptable to other people who were in there.
And I think one way is that if you limit the times much more things can be done,I don't know. Anyway, it was an interesting thing, but I think we accomplished something despite difficulties and that always happens despite problems. And I 03:24:00also felt that the next mayor coming in would probably be able to build a better, a stronger relationship with employees and employee rep groups, because that mayor would not have to go through some of those vice that we had to go through.
I'm not sure that has happened at city hall, but at least that next mayor camein with a cleaner slate, didn't have to fight the minority business thing, all of that (inaudible) affirmative action kind of things that ended up with people at opposite ends of the spectrum and people fighting and people feeling that they've been mistreated one way or another, passed over and all of that.
So I thought, as I was getting ready to leave office, well the next mayorwouldn't have to deal with a lot of that. He'd already be viewed and sort of 03:25:00pigeonholed as a person whose this way or the other. I don't know how it's worked out, but for Birmingham, that's my question in my mind, affirmative action was the right thing to do. And I think that its overall results have been positive for us. And I believe anybody doing that analysis would probably reach the same conclusion today.
And I believe Birmingham is one of the better examples, really what has happenedin affirmative action, what has happened about inclusiveness of people and the labor force. And keep in mind that we didn't stop just with our labor force, we reached out and well we had some debates with associated general contractors and some fights. We eventually ended up with some agreements with them. 03:26:00
I don't know how successful it has been, but we reached a point where theystarted working with us rather than against us. We got the Birmingham plan put in place and the Birmingham plan, in my opinion; it's a significant accomplishment. I don't think it was a productive as it could have been, because quite frankly I don't think we ever got really the mentality among a (inaudible) minority contractors, they were going to get a set aside, but with all those rough balance, one very pleasing moment for me was one day when six young black contractors came in my office.
And they came not to complain about what was going on, but they thanked and to03:27:00tell me what had happened to their businesses and these weren't guys just only--one guy was a (inaudible) man, they were all in different construction trades. But they were all successful and they were thanking me, not only for what I had
done, but because Auburn University was offering courses and they were takingthose courses.
And they were telling me how some of those courses, management courses and soforth had enabled them to improve their own skills and run their businesses and how pleased they were, plus they were asking, also part of the reason they came, for us to sponsor some other courses that Auburn had down there that they wanted. And that was a rare thing because most of the times when minority contractors came to see me, they came to complain about something that wasn't going on. (Inaudible) were very good, there were six young black guys and they were really good--.
LEMONTE: These were courses offered under the Birmingham Plan?
ARRINGTON: Under the Birmingham plan, DCIA having arrangements with Auburn03:28:00University and they sent someone in and they offered the courses. And they may still do that. But the difference was here were six young guys, number one they were young and apparently fairly well-educated I don't really know what their backgrounds were, but fairly well-educated, well-spoken, who took advantage of this and there are some guys who don't have that background and don't have the determination and don't do the work and you know they really don't benefit that much from it, they don't see much coming from it.
But you have to keep in mind, that things like minority contracts for the first100 years that this, the city of Birmingham, there was nothing, no business going to blacks of any degree. David started trying a program, he tried to put 03:29:00about a million dollars in contracts for blacks. But we really got caught up on front; there were a lot of fronts. I'm not sure if we ever got rid of all of them, but we got rid of a lot of those fronts and so when we started talking about, (inaudible) talking about, well we've done 70m dollars worth of business with black firms.
I would guarantee that most of that was done with those firms and very fewfronts. So their accomplishments in that area--.
LEMONTE: What was the origin of the Birmingham plan, and are you able to thinkof a moment when that came clearly forward as a (inaudible) policy possibility or did it evolve over a long period of time?
ARRINGTON: (inaudible) it evolved, but it's like something that hit you, I hadbeen in and out of court with the associated general contractors, it was a losing battle every time because the state law was--without changing state law, it's hard to do what we were trying to do. Even with the best lawyers trying to 03:30:00rewrite the city code on some things, the state law says you got to take the best bid, the lowest bid and so (inaudible) caught well, small businesses can't bid, very few of them can bid.
We tried everything we knew, trying to break the packages down, smaller, butthat really didn't work. The only thing that was going to work, the strong general contractors were going to somehow have to associate some minority contractors with them. We eventually got two or three of them that were willing to do it, but a lot of them didn't, some of them just did it, just as nuisance, they did it and the people working with them didn't benefit, they got that money, but they didn't learn a lot of things. 03:31:00
And then we tried the--was that the university program we tried over there, itwas a (inaudible) project. I think we tried to do this sort of a case study to see what was going on, but what happened with the Birmingham plan, following the court thing, I just started thinking about it, the fact that we weren't getting much visible support from the corporate community and I really sat home one night and sort of wrote up a thing about the Birmingham plan, a statement I wanted to make.
I must have spoken with (inaudible) or somebody to invite the people in overthere at Birmingham-Southern and said basically what I had written down and asked them to get off the sideline and get (inaudible). Surprisingly their response was positive; there was a positive response. I don't know how much they 03:32:00knew about what I was going to say, I don't know if I would go into any details with Neal about it, except that's what I wanted to talk about.
But I look back up on it and say you know, they put two or three people in placeand say alright, let's start working it. So that was a good faith effort on the part of the business community and it allowed us to put in place the Birmingham plan. But not only, just really--out of frustration, but it came in on those fights and I thought we (inaudible) the corporate community and so that's how we came out with the Birmingham plan.
LEMONTE: You mentioned earlier that minority business program which really getsit at the time, two questions I'd like to ask to respond to, one is sort of your 03:33:00notion of what the world of city government properly ought to be in the economic development area, because I meet many people would say this just isn't a function of city government to be worrying about business success or failure. And then the question of the evolution of the city's program away from the simple loan to more complicated things, it seems to me the city learned a lot by its trial and sometimes that failure in those areas?
ARRINGTON: Yeah, I think we did learn, we certainly during the loan area, we gotinto an area first of all we wouldn't have ever been able to get into the state constitution, but with the help of the federal government and the federal funds and the attorney general's opinion that said we could use federal funds for 03:34:00loans, but we couldn't use city funds for loans. But you know we got off into that area.
When the funds sort of dried up, we were fortunate because we had some goodtimes with (inaudible) things and so we had (inaudible) repayments coming in
and every year they bring back almost a half million dollars that we put into aloan pool to keep it going. We then eventually were able to become a bit more selective in how we make loans and who we made them to and we make better loans to people who in most instances ended up succeeding whereas earlier a large number of our people were failing, I mean they got money, small loans and it lasted a little while.
I think they just failed, so we learned as time went along, I think that there03:35:00is a role for government to play because there's a broader issue of justice and there's the issue of what history has been. And so I think there is a role to play and if it is a government that represents a population that has been significantly impacted by the past practices, I think the responsibility of that government is even greater to try to find out what is our proper role. I just feel today that the loan program per se which most small business including minority businesses would say is the biggest problem access to capital. I still today question the loan thing is really the role for us. I do think that stuff 03:36:00we do through (inaudible) to help people and to offer them training and to make sure people know how the system works.
People who really want to put together a package and want to be competitive andso forth. I think all of those are very legitimate kinds of things and the better we can do them, the more effective we will be--.
LEMONTE: BCIA is Birmingham Construction Industry Authority--?
ARRINGTON: And I think the more effective those people are in doing that, themore successful we will be. I think you have to understand when you're doing it though that, your success rate is not going to be real high, when you're dealing things like contractors, particularly when there has been a history of most of 03:37:00the minority contractors really not being formally trained and a lot of them, it's a trade they picked up.
But even there were those who were except help, I mean we have to (inaudible)from how to handle books to how to do payroll, how to stay out of trouble with the IRS, but some of them were too strapped to do it and some of them just sort of threw their hands up, but there are legitimate roles to play. If I were starting over and had my choice I, wouldn't totally cut out the loan program, though it troubles me some, but I would make the requirements a little bit more stringent and there ought to be some reasonable expectations at folk and succeed. 03:38:00
If you're going to put a small amount of money in something--we eventually putin place some good support mechanisms--I mean Susan's program, what is that called. It's an incubator type thing, I think it's been one of the better ones that you would find any place and it really evolved from what we tried to do in the city and what the business community did in partnership with us. That's how we got a successful incubator program for startup businesses for small businesses.
So those were some successes, we tried to do things like even help minoritycontractors, number one to organize as a unit and number two, to understand even the political system but in one area we failed and I think even today, the city 03:39:00probably still funds the minority contractors and gives them a staff and three or four people.
But I tried, I went to meeting myself and I tried to get them to do things like,I even once had the city put up the money for them to hire attorneys and I tried to get them to do simple things like lobbying, the associated general contractors and the other (inaudible) contracting group was making a move to change the law, about how you get your license to stiffen the exam. And I tried awfully hard to get them to--number one lobby--just bring in the black legislatures and number two to send somebody to Montgomery and they acted never get them to do it.
And somebody might say that isn't important, but when you look at the system asa whole and you know how it works, and you know where the laws are made and the 03:40:00laws tell you everything--and the government really tells you everything in this country when you get through examining it, how it's doing and who is going to be certified and all. And they could never see that as a part or root of their problem and we just could do it better.
But dealing with building contractors in particular is a very difficult areawhen dealing with minority builder contractor. I think you get a few, when we started out, we probably had one or two general contractors and when I left, who were minorities, when I left office we might have had about six of them that were doing fairly well, still operating.
We never wavered a bill, you know a hugely successful minority contractor firm,say a Russell company or something, and we were never able to do that. But we 03:41:00had a lot of experience that I can talk to some people about what she shouldn't do (inaudible) work in some instances.
LEMONTE: One of the projects that David Vann had begun was the commitment todowntown Birmingham the revitalization of downtown, would you comment on your views of downtown and what your administrations did over the years on behalf of downtown Birmingham and your assessment of success or failure?
ARRINGTON: I really think we overall got off to a great start in downtown. Youcan't fully appreciate if you can't recall what downtown was like in '79. Even today we didn't see the long term affect of some of the things, but I look back 03:42:00at records and see the number of buildings that were renovated for example downtown and I look at it today, some of the renovations didn't keep businesses there.
Of course, they are going to lofts and things of that sort. But we did a largenumber of building renovation downtown addition to new construction. I think our
downtown effort though was pretty good. We're a long way from getting the kindof mix that gives downtown the character; it has to have a new character.
Making the transition from a downtown where retail dominated retail market, hugedepartment stores to one that's got a totally different character, especially in a town where folk had lived downtown, we had to try to go through that change. 03:43:00But we did a lot of things that were positive to downtown, however people measure it, I mean you look at office. How many new office buildings came downtown.
We had a fair labor (inaudible) we got downtown and we negotiated and it's agreat leap from where we started, block 60 and the failure of block 60, we learned some things from that and we were able to negotiate and use our incentives a little bit better and to get some buildings downtown. We haven't been able to change from being a workday place, but or course we got a lot of jobs into downtown and what we called the central business district. 03:44:00
The role of Michael (inaudible) and operation new Birmingham, that road was veryimportant in what we've been able to do downtown. I think we're sort of halfway there. We started things like the McWane center; we have not seen the full impact of that yet. One day, I'm still hopeful that we'll complete that and that it's going to anchor changes around there, hopeful (inaudible) talking with Jeffrey (inaudible) two nights ago and I'm hopeful that he's going to succeed with his plan for the Pizitz thing.
But we put in place a sort of nucleus for some good things to happen but whenyou think about, we did things like parking decks downtown, during the time we 03:45:00were in office that 20 years, it was done four or five parking decks, started down there--the last one, the bank of Birmingham, you think about the one across from the federal courthouse, we did the one behind the finance center, we did the Birmingham news parking deck, we did the second ave parking deck.
That was all a part of course trying to reinforce the survival of downtown andprovide the parking. But even when you look at the buildings, we fought some battles, we got the new federal courthouse, it was going to be downtown, but we got it where it is, over the oppositions of the federal judges who didn't want it down there, because it backed right up to the black business district. I now see that at least there's an office building going up diagonally across the street from the federal courthouse down on 4th ave. 03:46:00
And then I forget her name, Sloss people building behind the federal reserve,that's a battle we sort of lost, I mean we didn't lose federal reserve, we kept them in the city but we lost them downtown, after we gave them all the help in the world to get the (inaudible) finance. But now I see Cathy and her associates, the Sloss group coming to the office complex there. I had a conversation; just yesterday I had lunch with Elias Hendrix, talking with him about his business.
And here's a young black couple (inaudible) business and they were totallyexcited and working with people like Sloss, expanding their businesses, taking in additional kids, he was just (inaudible) we don't get the--a lot of the kids 03:47:00can't afford to go to (inaudible) learning center or to the church, (inaudible) operated by the church because it cost a lot. But there are a lot of secretaries who have kids and you know people making less money, they can get business from black and white.
And now they're getting involved in the actual plan (inaudible) they'renegotiating with them right now about the number of places they're going to provide for folks in the office, I mean that's a (inaudible) listening to him talk about that, I mean I really felt good about it, because people are dealing with their children and they're willing to get their children and these people have done well enough that the folks who were making a big investment, developing the thing is talking with them about how we're going to meet the needs of some the tenants who are going to fill these buildings and you know--can we contract (inaudible) for so many spaces. 03:48:00
That, to me, I didn't tell in all of this but to me that's a message on about alot of change in Birmingham, I mean the kids are the one of the most important things we got, you know and when you can get folks to the point where they're taking them, they think they feel safe enough to put their kids in-that you got a quality enough thing.
That (inaudible) who operates it in (inaudible) but they run a good one, but forBirmingham, that's a message up. So I think that's happening, I see an office building going up on Concord, I worry a little now about two that ought to be going up and I don't know where the new administration is, where they mayor is, unfortunately we had no communication at all. No transition, you know, I was there for 20 years and then the new mayor comes in and he decides that he and his people don't want to have any communication with this administration.
But you know I worry about some federal things, some social security03:49:00payments--(talking already in progress).
ARRINGTON: Tom Williams saying that we put in place, but (inaudible) stillcoming together, the university's impact is still felt there and when I read that the parliament house, that it's going to finally be revitalized and redone. I think downtown is--they have reasons to be optimistic, though there's much to be done and I think that our work over 20 years, contributed some towards that.
I also think that we bought time, our work in things like annexation that weprobably talked some about, and what we did to provided a source of revenue for this city and for the neighborhoods to do a lot of things, not only looking at 03:50:00
incentives downtown and we could afford to do that because had we been sostrapped for money we would have just pushing every cent there and no matter where it came from.
But it gave us a little breathing room to look elsewhere; it enabled us tomaintain some services through our neighborhoods, even the older neighborhoods, the lower income neighborhoods, our people don't think about that. But much of that revenue that (inaudible) services coming in from what we did out on 280 and places like that, it's coming in from the Summit and HEALTHSOUTH, and Grandview and Perimeter Square, Brookhighland and those are all parts of our economic packages and we tried, mentioned though at this point, (inaudible) with downtown is that a lot of those places we tried to get--I should have tried to get Richard Scrushy downtown.
But that failing and with us making our case, I think they felt, at least some03:51:00obligation to try to stay within the city and they did and I think we had some successes in many cases. We didn't get them downtown, I believe downtown will make a comeback, but we still got a little way to go. I think the image of downtown is still a negative one and we still got to find some ways to get people down there after five o'clock. And I don't know what's going to happen with the convention center.
I think we built in for ourselves a problem and a challenge, a long time agowhen we decided to put the convention center there, or when we ran the interstate right through the middle of it and while only people who were planners and other people considered themselves to be urban know ledges were 03:52:00quick to see what that disadvantage is, it's still a disadvantage.
Is there going to be dome downtown, what impact is that going to be, I don'tknow quite frankly do not know. I think this would a positive for downtown and when I studied what had happened with domes and saw what cities had used domed stadiums to do to revitalize their downtown or some old area (inaudible) I thought it would be ideal to get one here, it would do the same, but I don't think we would be able to sell people on that.
The recent legislation provides some money, sort of puts it on life support fora while to see what else is going to happen with it. But our downtown is still in a position where we can achieve goals and making a model downtown, we may be 03:53:00decade away from doing all of that, but things are still happening downtown.
LEMONTE: That was a initiative that was begun under David Vann, was it one thatyou and he worked on together or was one that you inherited as a mayoral initiative from him?
ARRINGTON: Well I don't, virtually downtown thing was a--something that--wedidn't work much on that together.
LEMONTE: The Costa head or the Pedro Costa appointment was one that he made asmayor without a great deal of discussion with council?
ARRINGTON: I'm not sure David made the Pedro Costa appointment. My mind may beplaying tricks on me. I know when we did the 19th street project, which we hoped 03:54:00would sort of duplicate the Birmingham (inaudible) thing and it just never happened and the 7million dollars that we put into the project, that just went no where.
I think I had come into office and I remember talking with Nina about that and Idon't know if David--I had talked with David at all, but I do remember him having an extended conversation with Nina about when we try to select somebody, whether we should use Costa or not and you know--her feeling at the time I remember, I say well these are people who have some faith in downtown, but at that time he had brought up all these properties downtown and she thought (inaudible) I think you're, that's where we ought to take the risk with people who believe there's a future downtown.
And I think that might have been right after David, I won't say it didn't comefrom some momentum.
LEMONTE: Now I thought he had made the initial appointment, Pedro Costa and03:55:00demerit that had--
ARRINGTON: You may be right.
LEMONTE: And that the early report came out some time shortly after you enteredoffice, but--
ARRINGTON: You may be right, I just don't remember, but I do remember--when didwe do the block 60?
LEMONTE: It was early, '80, '81 I think.
ARRINGTON: I thought about that many times and I just wish I had known a littlebit more and I felt that maybe we could salvaged that, but we didn't lose it completely, we got the bank building, I think we could have gotten more but you know we just--it was a learning experience, we paid some prices.
LEMONTE: You mentioned annexation that core commitment to downtown have beenbalanced by the concern for the outer area, how does that annexation strategy 03:56:00develop and what was the rationale behind it as you undertook it?
ARRINGTON: I really didn't know much about that from David, or course even afterI became mayor, David still spearheaded annexation plans. The first time we really gotten in
a real conversation with David about annexation and began to appreciate what thepolicy ought to be. Of course when David was mayor and Blue Cross went to Riverchase and David cut off the city business with Blue Cross and I gotten into some conversations with him then and it got to be far arranging as things often times get to be with David talking about things like that. 03:57:00
And he started talking about annexation and then, (inaudible) it was veryinteresting and he called me one Saturday and came over to the house and wanted to talk about annexing, that we ought to do this annexation, that's when we were going to go out to Birmingport, with that annexation. And I was valuable to David at that point because I was at the particular time, a very visible and popular black political official there, influential.
And David had come up with this scheme and he was explaining it to me about this(inaudible) and how to annex these tax-exempt the annexation had to do them. And explain to me how we could get--in most cases there were black community groups that didn't have services and couldn't get them from the areas. 03:58:00
And so first when we took office it was Booker Heights to bring in all of thatarea, because what David's plan was is that we were going to take Birmingport and make it a major industrial park and in order to do (inaudible) he always had the idea that we're going to do a canal all the way downtown, we talked about all of that, but (inaudible) was the idea that he had that I thought was workable.
LEMONTE: And this is was when he was in office?
ARRINGTON: Yeah, it started when he was in office. And that was set if we couldwork successfully annex this are, he drew this thing all the way out, past Maytown and we would have all of the Birmingport, it would be in Birmingham. And while there are few warehouses and things out there now and a fair amount of stuff is shipped out on barges and so forth. It goes entirely into the Tombigbee 03:59:00waterway and all of the Birmingport. We could more than quadruple what was going on if we were really set a major industrial park right there on that riverfront right on the port there.
And David convinced me that was what to do and so our first joint effort was toBooker Heights annexation which we lost by one vote because there were only about 50 folks to vote and they needed the services, they were in unincorporated area and they wanted some services from Birmingham and there was an all-black community and David wanted to know if felt I could convince them to come in, which I thought I could.
And we hooked with a minister out there in the area and we thought we were going04:00:00to--surely carry it--David said Tom (inaudible) got to the minister and lo and behold we did find out before election minister had changed sides instead of
encouraging folks out there to annex, he was--Tom had gotten to him, Tom was nowon the county commission and he was getting them to work against it.
And they beat us, they came out like 26-25 I mean lost by one, but that's whereI got my initiation into with him, and then we just started talking, even when David was mayor, about other annexations, we might do. I don't think we got around to another major annexation while he was still in office, but I in effect 04:01:00carried out some of the David plans when he came back to work--
LEMONTE: Let's stop.