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Interview with Tom Houck, September 28, 2009

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:49 - Introduction into civil rights / Meeting Martin Luther King

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Partial Transcript: From Boston to Jacksonville to Atlanta. Tell us about your early life and why you came here.

Segment Synopsis: Houck discusses how his interest in the civil rights movement began, citing television coverage of the civil rights movement and Brown v. Board of Education as his biggest influences. He also notes the importance of his African-American teacher, Ms. Thompson, in spurring his interest in civil rights. Houck then reminisces about his first time meeting Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Selma to Montgomery march.

Keywords: Boston, Massachusetts; Greensboro, North Carolina; Hosea Williams; Jacksonville, Florida; John Lewis; Somerville, Massachusetts; Woolworth's

00:05:43 - Beginning of the SLCL / Chauffeuring for Dr. King

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Partial Transcript: Tell us a little bit about SCLC.

Segment Synopsis: Houck describes the origins of the SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference), with particular emphasis on Martin Luther King's role. Houck also tells how he came to be Dr. King's chauffeur, starting with Houck helping King answer mail.

Keywords: Atlanta, Georgia; Auburn Avenue; Collier Heights, Georgia; Coretta King; Ebenezer Baptist Church; Joseph Lowery; Montgomery Bus Boycott; Ralph David Abernathy; SNCC; Vine City, Georgia; high yellow church

00:15:45 - Thoughts on Hosea Williams / Conversations when driving Dr. King

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Partial Transcript: Before we get too far along, let me ask you about and let's talk about Hosea Williams.

Segment Synopsis: Houck briefly gives his opinion on Hosea Williams as a field director and leader for SLCL. Houck then remembers the various topics that he and King discussed while Houck was driving King, from music to hobbies to political opinions.

Keywords: Andrew Young; Charles Cato; Charles Morgan, Jr.; Charles Weltner; Civil Rights Act; Ivan Allen; lottery; reading; softball; swimming

00:23:24 - The King family / Gandhi and nonviolence

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Partial Transcript: Well, you drove the King children to school.

Segment Synopsis: Houck remembers his times driving Dr. King's children to their schools, as well as the family's involvement in the civil rights movement. Houck then explains Gandhi's influence on Dr. King's life, including how central nonviolence was to King's movement.

Keywords: Chicago, Illinois; Eric Roberts; Grady High School; Malcolm X; Maria Saporta; Memphis, Tennessee; Richard J. Daley; Spring Street Elementary School; Stokely Carmichael; Yolanda King; black power; freedom concert

00:30:33 - Participation in marches / King's opinions on government involvement

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Partial Transcript: You were on the March to Washington, weren't you?

Segment Synopsis: Houck recalls how he began participating in marches by meeting with Hosea Williams in St. Augustine. He then tells about the government efforts to stop Dr. King, such as interference from Georgia governors and FBI investigations.

Keywords: 1960 presidential election; Albany, Georgia; Democratic Party; Dorothy Cotton; J.T. Johnson; John Kennedy; Lester Maddox; Martin Luther King, Sr.; Republican Party; Richard Nixon; William Holmes Borders

00:36:19 - Houck and Williams v. Birmingham, Jefferson County and Charles Morgan, Jr.

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Partial Transcript: Let's talk a little bit more about your role with the SCLC.

Segment Synopsis: Houck recounts his involvement with the SLCL, particularly one time he was arrested during a protest, which turned into the Supreme Court case Houck and Williams v. Birmingham, Jefferson County. He then details his relationship with Charles "Charlie" Morgan, who was his attorney in that case.

Keywords: ACLU; Howard Moore; Parker High School; Stoney Cooks; Voting Rights Act; Zell Miller; desegregation of jail; voting registration

00:44:00 - Importance of King and Atlanta in the civil rights movement / Atlanta's mayors

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Partial Transcript: Well, my question was if Dr. King had not become the voice of the civil rights movement...

Segment Synopsis: Houck explain's King's importance as the central figure in the civil rights movement, particularly how he brought numerous key figures in the movement to Atlanta. He then gives his opinions about each of Atlanta's mayors from Maynard Jackson to the then-current mayor, Shirley Franklin.

Keywords: Alderman; Andrew Young; Atlanta city council; Hosea Williams; Ivan Allen; James George Bond; John Lewis; Joseph Lowry; Julian Bond; Renee Glover; SNCC; Sam Massell; William Craig Campbells

00:54:05 - Thoughts on Manuel Maloof, John Lewis, and Julian Bond / Miller-Young gubernatorial race

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Partial Transcript: You've got to mention one more time that you're in the historic Manuel's Tavern.

Segment Synopsis: Houck explains the importance of Manuel's Tavern as a hub for Georgia and Atlanta politics, and mentions its owner, Manuel Maloof. He then gives his thoughts on the 1990 race for Georgia governor between Houck's friends, Andrew Young and Zell Miller, while noting that election's role in Bill Clinton's presidential campaign. Houck then explains his relationships with John Lewis and Julian Bond.

Keywords: Bill Clinton; Carl Sanders; Frank Greer; George Stephanopoulos; James Carville; Jimmy Carter; Mandy Grunwald; Manuel's Tavern; NAACP; Paul Begally; Paul Hemphill; Rahm Emanuel

01:04:04 - Continuation of the civil rights movement / Death of Dr. King

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Partial Transcript: Let's get back for just a moment to the civil rights movement.

Segment Synopsis: Houck discusses the continuation of the civil rights movement after King's death. He also ponders whether the civil rights movement could be revived in the modern day, emphasizing Barack Obama's role as a source of inspiration. Houck then talks about his reaction to King's assassination.

Keywords: 2008 presidential election; Ernie Austin; Herman Talmadge; Johnny Isakson; Knoxville, Tennessee; Poor People's Campaign; Saxby Chambliss; marches; nonviolence

01:13:08 - Radio and television career

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Partial Transcript: Well, after your civil rights days, you became a talking head on the radio.

Segment Synopsis: Houck tells of how he came to host his own radio show, starting with his news column, The Tattler. He then describes how his radio show came to be on television. Houck then briefly talks about writing his memoir.

Keywords: Andy Fisher; Atlanta Gazette; Atlanta Magazine; Bill Nigut; Bill Ship; Dick Williams; Doug Blackmon; Mike Wheeler; Neil Boortz; Rick Allen; Ron Sailor; Sunday News Conference; WSB TV; Wayne Williams

01:18:05 - Fate of the Democratic Party in Georgia

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Partial Transcript: You've always been a loyal Democrat.

Segment Synopsis: Houck gives his opinions on how the Democratic Party lost power in Georgia, citing Bobby Kahn's leadership as a key factor. He also gives his suggestions as to how the Democratic Party may regain control from the Republican Party.

Keywords: Georgia General Assembly; Hispanic vote; Jane Kidd; Kasim Reed; Lisa Borders; Ralph Reed; Roy Barnes; Sonny Purdue; Thomas Murphy; Zell Miller