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Interview with Homer Wilson, June 25, 2014

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:00 - Interview introduction

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Partial Transcript: Alright, it is June 25th, 2014. We are in the Special Collections Library at the University of Georgia in Athens.

Segment Synopsis: Stephens and Wilson introduce themselves.

00:00:31 - Early life and family

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Partial Transcript: So, to start with, I, I want to start from the beginning, I guess, uh, for you, which is--could you tell me when and where you were born?

Segment Synopsis: Wilson talks about growing up in a big family. He discusses learning to cut hair at an early age and his parents' work. He mentions his father's time singing in gospel groups, once singing with James Brown.

Keywords: 1940s; 1950s; Agriculture; Athens, Georgia; Augusta, Georgia; Colbert, Georgia; Dry cleaner; Gospel music; Madison County; Orangeburg, South Carolina; Parris Island, South Carolina; Radio; Railroad; Runways; Rural; Social Security

00:05:24 - Going into town, Hot Corner

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Partial Transcript: So, coming from Madison County, when y'all went into town--where did you go? Where was town for you?

Segment Synopsis: Wilson describes the experience of going into downtown Athens as a child. He talks about the vibrancy of Hot Corner in the 1940s and 1950s.

Keywords: 5 & 10 Cent Stores; African American; Athens, Georgia; E.D. Harris Drug Company; Funeral home; Hot Corner; Kurd market; McClellan's; Morton Theatre; Woolworth's

00:10:04 - Education and early work

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Partial Transcript: So, how about, uh, going back to Madison County, uh, where you were living--what schools did you attend while you were growing up there?

Segment Synopsis: Wilson talks about the schools he attended from elementary school to the forestry program at Fort Valley State College. He explains how he got started cutting hair at his father's barber shop on Hot Corner in Athens.

Keywords: 1960s; Barber shop; Colbert, Georgia; Forestry; Fort Valley State College; Madison County; Segregation; Snakes; Southside High School; Waggoners Grove Baptist Church

00:13:15 - Starting Wilson's Styling Shop and Wilson's Soul Food

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Partial Transcript: So, when did your father start working there at the barber shop?

Segment Synopsis: Wilson explains how his parents started their businesses and discusses the establishments that preceded them.

Keywords: 1950s; 1960s; 1963 Chevrolet; Cooking; Ed Gillam; Gillam's Barber Shop; Lizzie Wade; M.C. Wilson; Otis Haynes Sr.

00:17:14 - Civil rights movement in Athens

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Partial Transcript: Okay, well, going back to uh--going back to 1960 when you started working at the Shop, uh, still in high school--what was going on in Athens at that time?

Segment Synopsis: Wilson discusses the marches and sit-ins in downtown Athens. He explains why he did not participate directly in the protests and describes how he and his family supported the movement, including by feeding demonstrators.

Keywords: Athens, Georgia; Civil rights movement; Demonstrations; Freedom struggle; J.C. Penney; Kress's; M.C. Wilson; Non-violence; Otis Haynes; Segregation; Wilson's Soul Food; Woolworth's

00:20:50 - Surviving white supremacy

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Partial Transcript: Did y'all worry at all about any backlash from people who were in opposition to the movement?

Segment Synopsis: Wilson discusses how elders taught young people in black communities to survive the threats posed by violent white supremacists. He mentions a KKK demonstration near Monroe and recounts a painful encounter with a white store clerk.

Keywords: Civil rights movement; Clarke County; Highway 78; Ku Klux Klan; M.C. Wilson; Madison County; Monroe, Georgia; Oconee County; Police; Racism; Segregation; Terrorism; Wilson's Styling Shop

00:29:21 - 1960s Hot Corner and Wilson's

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Partial Transcript: There was a lot going on in Athens--uh, demonstrations, the university was being, uh, integrated. Hamilton Holmes and Charlayne Hunter were there. What did Hot Corner feel like--at that point? What was the vibe?

Segment Synopsis: Wilson describes the mood in Athens during the civil rights movement. He talks about Hot Corner as a "mecca" for black commerce and the significance of owning a business there. He discusses the evolution and growth of the family business.

Keywords: Apex Beauty College; Atlanta, Georgia; Bronner Brothers; Brown's Barber College; Civil rights movement; Cosmetology; Police; Supermarkets; Wilson's Styling Shop

00:36:06 - Neighboring Hot Corner businesses

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Partial Transcript: Was there any competition with any of the other barber shops in town?

Segment Synopsis: Wilson lists some of the businesses located at Hot Corner and talks about their relationship with other business owners.

Keywords: Brown's Barber Shop; E.D. Harris Drug Company; Ida Mae Hiram; Jack Lumpkin; Mack and Payne Funeral Home; Manhattan Cafe; Morton Theatre; Mrs. Wade; Otis Haynes Sr.; Pool room; Roebuck's Barber Shop

00:39:14 - Businesses leave Hot Corner

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Partial Transcript: So, you said that you--I think you said you wish some of those businesses would have hold--held on longer. Um, when did--when did things start to change?

Segment Synopsis: Wilson discusses the migration of businesses from downtown Athens to planned shopping centers. He explains why he shares his father's preference for staying downtown.

Keywords: M.C. Wilson; Malls; Migration; Wilson's Plaza

00:42:34 - Civic roles of church and barber shop

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Partial Transcript: Did--do, do you remember the urban renewal period in the '60s, '70s?

Segment Synopsis: Wilson discusses the importance of churches and barber shops in local politics and their roles as information centers.

Keywords: Athens Country Club; Politics; Urban renewal; Wilson's Styling Shop

00:45:18 - M.C. Wilson and Sen. Richard Russell

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Partial Transcript: Mr. Wilson, you mentioned that your father knew Senator Russell. Um, did he come to the shop? Or--how did your dad know Senator Russell?

Segment Synopsis: Wilson describes how his father met Senator Richard Russell.

Keywords: Barbeque; Fundraising; M.C. Wilson; Quartet; Richard B. Russell; Winder, Georgia

00:47:46 - Changes and constants on Hot Corner

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Partial Transcript: So--just to clarify, you moved in--your family moved from Colbert into Athens in the '60s?

Segment Synopsis: Wilson talks about changes in Athens since his family moved there. He describes the enduring spirit of Hot Corner. He discusses the decision to close the family restaurant and their relationships with new businesses.

Keywords: Athens, Georgia; Brooklyn neighborhood; Faith; Hawthorne Avenue; Hot Corner Festival; Hull Street; Joey Tatum; Little Kings Shuffle Club; Manhattan Cafe; Mrs. Wade; Renovation; The World Famous; Wilson's Soul Food

00:55:33 - Importance of service/Future of Hot Corner

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Partial Transcript: Um, you said that you would never sell the building. And I know, uh, the Wade family still owns the building that the Manhattan's in.

Segment Synopsis: Wilson talks about his relationship with his father and his interest in continuing to serve customers on Hot Corner. He discusses downtown Athens, the Hot Corner Association, and his goals to share their history and promote minority entrepreneurship.

Keywords: Athens, Georgia; Black-owned businesses; Classic Center; Hot Corner Association; M.C. Wilson; Washington Street

01:03:23 - Partnership with UGA

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Partial Transcript: Is there anything that I haven't asked you that I should have? Or anything that you particularly want to talk about that I haven't brought up?

Segment Synopsis: Wilson expresses his hope that the Hot Corner Association will be able to collaborate with the University of Georgia to work towards their goals. Interview concludes.

Keywords: Resources; Russell Library; UGA