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Interview with Harry L. Sims, November 13, 2019

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:23 - Background and Education

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Partial Transcript: So, I wanna start off by just asking you to please say your name...

Segment Synopsis: Harry Lenir Sims introduces himself by stating his ethnic background, religion, and occupation. He received a bachelor's of education from the University of Georgia and taught at David C. Barrow Elementary for 29 years. He has been married to Evelyn Taylor Sims for 45 years and has two sons with her.

Keywords: Athens, Ga; Baptist; Methodist; UGA

00:03:16 - Childhood Family Life

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Partial Transcript: So, I'm gonna go a little bit into your, um, you know, background...

Segment Synopsis: Sims discusses being born to a single mother and living with his grandparents and two aunts until his mother married. His grandfather worked as a custodian at UGA to support the family while his grandmother stayed home to help raise eight grandchildren. Sims also mentions some events he remembers from East Athens Elementary. He explains how his family's holiday traditions have changed over the years with the passing of his grandparents.

Keywords: Athens, GA; East Friendship Baptist Church; Miriam Moore Community Center; University of Georgia

00:07:02 - Track and Field

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Partial Transcript: Well, did you play any sports, um, outside of school or during school?

Segment Synopsis: Although Sims never participated in any high school sports, he was the first African American on a UGA varsity sports team. He explains how he ended up on the track and field team as long jumper his freshman year even though black students were not technically supposed to be recruited. He also mentions the accomplishments of his coach Forrest Towns.

Keywords: 1936 Summer Olympics (Games of the XI Olympiad); Forrest Grady "Spec" Towns; James Cleveland "Jesse" Owens; University of Georgia

00:11:16 - Effects of Segregation on Athletics

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Partial Transcript: Well, it was interesting times, too, because it was a time...

Segment Synopsis: Sims recalls his coach having to call ahead when the track team traveled for dual competitions to ascertain the hotels and restaurants would accommodate people of color. He was able to go to all competitions except for the one at Auburn University. Sims recalls that he was only three points short of being a Letterman, so the team provided him with a sweater.

Keywords: Auburn University; Forrest Grady "Spec" Towns; Nashville, Tennessee; Vanderbilt University

00:15:15 - Differences in Education

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Partial Transcript: Outside of those experiences, you know, through elementary...

Segment Synopsis: Sims discusses the differences in education from his own experience and today's system, such as religion and discipline. He mentions the total respect for teachers and the love teachers had for their students in return, which he feels continued to affect him throughout his career.

Keywords: David C. Barrow Elementary; East Athens Elementary; corporal punishment

00:19:22 - Segregation in School

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Partial Transcript: So, when you went to elementary, um, it was still segregated.

Segment Synopsis: Sims experienced segregation in schools up until his senior year in 1967. Although no white students transferred, the two high schools exchanged two teachers each and a few African American students transferred to Athens High School. Sims discusses the segregated areas around Athens, such as the movie theaters and water fountains.

Keywords: Athens High and Industrial School; Athens, Ga; Beechwood Cinema; Burney-Harris High School; Harlem Theater; Kenneth Dious; Solomon (Sol) Zolman Abrams; integration

00:26:08 - Black Life in Athens Community

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Partial Transcript: How did you, um, get back and forth to school back in those days...?

Segment Synopsis: Sims explains how he got around Athens by walking most places, except taking the school bus to school or when offered a ride. He feels there was more community than there is today, as people were more neighborly. He also continues to list the places black people were allowed to shop, such as stores on Hot Corner, as well as places they could not.

Keywords: Athens, Ga; Methodist; Segregation

00:30:26 - Segregation in School pt. 2

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Partial Transcript: During school, did you stay in one place the whole time and where did you...?

Segment Synopsis: Sims lived his entire life in Athens, spending the first seven years in his grandparents house, then living with his mom and stepdad until he graduated from UGA and married. He recalls the black community inheriting Lyons Elementary School because the nearby airport and rock debris hitting the ceiling could often be heard. He states that he attended Athens High and Industrial, the first accredited black school in the state of Georgia.

Keywords: Athens High School; Athens, GA; Atlanta, GA; Burney-Harris High School.; Integration; Miriam Moore Community Center; Morehouse College; University of Georgia

00:35:19 - Marriage

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Partial Transcript: That's where I want to pick up from now, going into, like...

Segment Synopsis: Sims remembers going to church with his wife since they were children. They didn't date until he was in college, and married months before Sims' graduation in 1974. He worked a part time job and has a small private business painting houses which allowed him to purchase a house from a friend.

Keywords: Athens, GA; East Friendship Baptist Church; University of Georgia (UGA)

00:40:11 - Children's Accomplishments

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Partial Transcript: And then you guys had kids...

Segment Synopsis: Sims shares about his sons, Terrence and Travis, and their accomplishments in education, sports, and their careers.

Keywords: Cedar Shoals High School; Columbia County; Orlando, FL; UGA Summer Camp; Valdosta State University

00:44:45 - Deciding to Teach

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Partial Transcript: So, I would assume, um, graduated '74...

Segment Synopsis: Sims feels teaching was his calling, as he's always been a teacher in some form, particularly in his church. He explains that he's taught Sunday school since he was 15 and was ordained as a deacon at 17. He discusses knowing how to deal with children, so the change from going to segregated schools to teaching a mixed classroom was not difficult, although some parents had issues with it.

Keywords: Athens, GA; David C. Barrow Elementary; East Friendship Baptist Church; Integration; Segregation

00:50:14 - Political Career

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Partial Transcript: What made you go into politics?

Segment Synopsis: Sims elaborates how he got involved in running for city councilman after Matthew Ware resigned. It was after he was reelected for a second term that the unification of the government took place. He ran for super district but lost to Tom Chasteen. He didn't run again until Miriam Moore's health began to decline and she needed to be relieved of her District 2 commission seat. He continued with the position for 27 years and ran for mayor.

Keywords: Athens, Ga; Athens-Clarke County Unified Government; Ed Turner

00:55:16 - Career Values

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Partial Transcript: Like, what did you value the most about what you did for a living?

Segment Synopsis: From his teaching career, Sims says he enjoyed seeing youth doing well and succeeding, becoming productive citizens. In politics, he shares that he valued empowering citizens and discusses some instances in which difference in opinion got in his way.

Keywords: Athens, GA; Athens-Clarke County Unified Government; David C. Barrow Elementary

01:00:56 - Unification of the Governement

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Partial Transcript: So, um, when you think about your working adult life....

Segment Synopsis: Sims opines the importance of the Human Economic Development Department among the local black community for the unification of the governments. He explains how the department was replaced by new city managers with a Housing and Community Department, as well as a separate Economic Development Department. Sims also elaborates shifts in government officials after Mayor Gwen O'Looney took office.

Keywords: Al Crace; Alan Reddish; Athens, GA; Athens-Clarke County Police Department; Athens-Clarke County Unified Government; Chief Jack Lumpkin; Edward Wright

01:08:29 - Proud Accomplishments

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Partial Transcript: Okay, I got two more questions for you.

Segment Synopsis: Sims discusses his most proud moments as seeing his community doing well and progressing. He mentions the project he oversaw for waste treatment plants as well as successfully encouraging government employees to have a savings program.

Keywords: Athens, GA; Athens-Clarke County Unified Givernement; Social Security; retirement

01:11:51 - Advice for Youth/ Role Model

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Partial Transcript: And the last question would be what advice would you give...

Segment Synopsis: In his advice for youth, Sims stresses that he feels it is important to understand the history about your people and where you come from, as well as remembering that your path is paved by so many others. He discusses why his grandfather is his role model and recalls some childhood memories with him.

Keywords: Athens, GA; Ebenezer Baptist Church West; Soule Hall; University of Georgia (UGA)