Richard Arrington Jr. (2 of 2) Interviewed on July 24, 2001

BCRI Oral History Collection
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search this Index
00:00:00 - Annexation:Major Areas

Play segment

Partial Transcript: L: I believed we ended up yesterday with the early discussion of annexation, how that developed, what its importance was and I think you were at the first efforts that occurred under David Vann?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about annexations in the Birmingham area which began under David Vann as Mayor while Arrington was in the city council. The annexations begin with Booker Heights attempt and continued to communities such as Dolomite, Birmingport, 280 area, Oxmoor.

Keywords: Birmingport; Booker Heights; Dolomite; Hwy 280; Vann, David

Subjects: Annexation (Municipal government); Birmingham (Ala.)

00:25:45 - Annexation: Relationship with David Vann and Relationship with Community

Play segment

Partial Transcript: L: You described a relationship with the man you defeated in 1979, in really quite a remarkable way that apparently you and he were able to work very closely with one another on important city projects, after you took office and he brought an expertise to your administration that was probably unavailable anywhere else I would think that our keen topic of annexation, I would think that’s almost unique in governmental politics to have the winner and the loser function so closely as a team, did it strike you that way at the time and did you David ever reflect on the irony of your careers?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about working with David Vann on annexation, working with communities to annex, and working through the legal system to annex.

Keywords: Alabama. Supreme Court; Hoover (Ala.); Vann, David

Subjects: Annexation (Municipal government); Birmingham (Ala.)

00:31:54 - Annexation: Relationship with Business

Play segment

Partial Transcript: When David immediately became mayor, began to try to offer him incentives to stay in, applied pressure to these big businesses not to leave the city. If they left the city like Blue Cross, he immediately cancelled the insurance at Blue Cross; I mean did a number of things. In fact, David made that decision that we would do that, and then he lost and then it really fell on my shoulders (inaudible).

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about dealing with businesses while working on annexations.

Keywords: Blue Cross; Mountain Brook (Ala.); National Liberty Corporation; Vestavia Hills (Ala.)

Subjects: Annexation (Municipal government); Birmingham (Ala.)

00:40:19 - Mayor: Birmingham Schools

Play segment

Partial Transcript: L: You mentioned Birmingham schools in relation to the residential developments. What (inaudible) you look back over your tenure in public life, what comments would you make about education, the importance of education, what was done or might have been done, certainly any thoughts you have about education in the future in Birmingham?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about his lack of progress and missed opportunity with education while mayor. He also talks about what he sees as the future of Birmingham schools.

Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.); Birmingham Public Schools (Birmingham, Ala.)

00:49:50 - Mayor: MAPS (Metropolitan Area Projects Strategy)

Play segment

Partial Transcript: L: You put public education generally in a negative column, another area that I suspect you would put in the same category was the maps effort, and I wonder if you could talk about what the thinking was behind maps, the importance you attach to it and you reflections on that experience?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about MAPS: the Metropolitan Area Projects Strategy and its attempt to create a domed stadium facility in Downtown Birmingham. He discusses the plan's failure. He also talk about the attempt to create intergovernmental cooperation.

Keywords: HealthSouth (Firm); MAPS: Metropolitan Area Projects Strategy; McWane Center; Scrushy, Richard

Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.)

01:02:43 - Mayor: Suburbanization and City Fragmentation

Play segment

Partial Transcript: L: My recollection is you are one of the very few public officials who had said over the years that you would support a consolidation of local governments where some major restructuring of local government, there hasn’t appeared to be a base of support for that, what are your reflections in what have been your experiences with governing the central city of a rather fragmented metropolis in what do you see as the possibilities in the short-run for overcoming some of that fragmentation, if there are such possibilities?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about dealing with a fragmented metro area and issues with suburbanization. He talks about eh economic impact of suburbanization and the political factors involved. He also talk about his pessimistic view of dealing with this issue in the future.

Keywords: Charlotte (N.C.); Chattanooga (Tenn.); Homewood (Ala.); Jacksonville (Fla.); Mountain Brook (Ala.); Suburbanization

Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.)

01:18:49 - Politics: Jefferson County Citizens Coalition

Play segment

Partial Transcript: L: Your political career is often linked to the Jefferson County Citizens Coalition, could you talk about its history, how it was organized, what it did and your thoughts about the coalition as, at the time you left office in it’s continuing role in local government.

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about creating the Jefferson County Citizens Coalition as an umbrella group touring together black citizen's leagues and political organizations. He talks about starting the organization to help mobilize the black vote and black political power. He discusses membership and practices. He also mentions some of the challenges the group tried to address.

Keywords: Adams, Oscar; Bonds; Clemons, EW; Democratic Party (Ala.); Jackson, Walter; Jefferson County Citizens Coalition

Subjects: African American political activists; Birmingham (Ala.)

01:52:59 - Mayor: Birmingham City Districts

Play segment

Partial Transcript: L: You mentioned the coalition responding to the creation of districts, when you first ran for mayor, the council was elected at large and then the change of districts occurred, I guess in the early 90s perhaps—
A: 80s.
L: What difference did that make for you as mayor, particularly in terms of the city council and its relationship to you and how do assess overall the moved districts?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about the switch to city council districts and how that impacted city politics.

Keywords: City council districts; Jefferson County Citizens Coalition

Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.); City council members

02:01:10 - Mayor: Campaigns

Play segment

Partial Transcript: L: You ran for mayor five times, did the nature of your campaigns change over that period of time, or did you retain basically the same campaign style?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about campaigning through five mayoral elections. He also discusses what percentage of the white vote he was able to win and why.

Keywords: white vote

Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.). Mayor; Campaign organization and tactics

02:13:57 - Mayor: Relationship with Media

Play segment

Partial Transcript: L: The media topic seems to me an important one and I guess a complicated topic, radio, TV, press, historically white press, black press, but could you talk some about your relationships with media and the importance of media in shaping the political environment?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about how he was portrayed as Mayor in local media.

Keywords: Birmingham News; Townsend, Vincent; Vann, David

Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.). Mayor; News media coverage of . . .

02:23:12 - Mayor: FBI Investigation

Play segment

Partial Transcript: L: You mentioned briefly, the campaign that occurred during a year when you were under investigation by the FBI?
A: Yeah.
L: That’s a long and complicated and I’m sure unpleasant topic for you, but would you discuss that and what your view is to why it happened and what its impact was you as mayor and maybe as a person?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington tell the story of the FBI investigation into supposed political corruption and eventually an accusation of evasion. He was not found guilty of any crime.

Keywords: Bell, William; Corruption investigation; Davis, Willie; Dixon, Joe; Peters, Marjorie

Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.). Mayor

02:54:17 - Mayor: FBI Investigation--Impact

Play segment

Partial Transcript: L: Aside from the impact on you personally and family and friends, how did it influence your ability to function as mayor and to campaign as mayor?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about the impact of the FBI investigation on his career as mayor. He mentions feeling like there was a sense of suspicion toward him, especially from the white community and business community.

Keywords: Corruption investigation

Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.). Mayor

03:13:32 - Mayor: Birmingham Civil Rights Institute

Play segment

Partial Transcript: L: Let’s turn to the topic of the institute, this interview is part of its Oral History Program, but I think everyone connected with the institute would acknowledge that, without your commitment to it, this place would not exist. Could you talk about your involvement with the institute, what it has meant to you, what do you think it means to the community and I guess, along the way, perhaps address some of the controversies that surrounded the institute in opposition that it confronted?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington talks about the creation of the Civil Rights Institute including: the idea's origins with David Vann; how it relates to some of the corruption investigations and Majorie Peters, how the projects was funded, and controversy about the project.

Keywords: Civil rights movement; Peters, Marjorie; Vann, David

Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.). Mayor; Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (Birmingham, Ala.)

03:33:12 - Mayor: Reflection on Career

Play segment

Partial Transcript: L: As you look back over your entire lengthy career as an elected official and public servant, what do you rank as the really rewarding successes from your point of view and what have been the areas of greatest personal disappointment for you?

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Arrington reflects on his long career as mayor. He mentions accomplishments like economic development, and improved diversity in city government. He also mentions public education as a missed opportunity, and disappointments like MAPS and block 60. He discusses current challenges to the city like regionalism, housing, and maintaining economic development. He also reflects on the role of mayor as a leader.

Keywords: Blacks--Segregation; Diversity in the workplace

Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.). Mayor; Economic development