Partial Transcript: Pastor Phillips, thank you very much for coming today to talk to us...
Segment Synopsis: Pastor Phillips discusses his early childhood and talks about his parents, recalling that his mother worked at the hospital and his father worked at the textile mill.
Keywords: Annie Shockley Grade School; Beatrice Phillips; Dundee Mills Inc.; Leroy Phillips; Spalding County Hospital
Partial Transcript: Well tell us a little bit about your early education.
Segment Synopsis: Pastor Phillips talks about attending Annie Shockley Elementary School and Fairmont High School. He recalls being a member of the basketball team and the marching band in high school.
Keywords: PTA; band director; basketball; majorettes; segregation
Partial Transcript: How conscious were you when you were coming through ...
Segment Synopsis: Pastor Phillips reflects on his awareness of the effects of segregation during high school. He recalls his disappointment in the subpar education materials, but emphasizes the flexibility and adaptability of his teachers growing up.
Keywords: C.W. Daniels; Dr. Horace Tate; Segregated School; Segregation
Partial Transcript: Tell us a little bit about the economy of Griffin...
Segment Synopsis: In this segment, Pastor Phillips elaborates on the economic conditions faced by African-Americans in segregated Griffin, GA. He also touches on the role played by the Griffin office of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company and several prominent professionals in the community.
Keywords: A.C. Touchstone; Alonzo Herndon; Atlanta Life Financial Group; Atlanta Life Insucrance Company; Clean Well Pressing Club; Pomona Products Company; Slaton Avenue; Snow’s Barbecue
Partial Transcript: All right, let's take a look at the civil rights era...
Segment Synopsis: Pastor Phillips discusses his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. He talks about participating in sit-ins at lunch counters along with his protesting and picketing experience.
Keywords: AC Touchstone; Citizen Improvement League; F.W. Woolworth Company; Glen Reid; NAACP; Phillip Head; Rev. James Shropshire; Rev. O.H. Stenson; The City Commission; Woolworth's
Partial Transcript: Since you were at the forefront of the civil rights movement...
Segment Synopsis: Pastor Phillips talks about his parents' concern about his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. He also discusses picketing in front of the Food Depot grocery store because of the owner's refuser to serve African American customers.
Keywords: Bi-Racial Committee; Chamber of Commerce; Dundee Mills; Farimont High School; Raymond Head; newspaper coverage
Partial Transcript: I’m also curious, because you all were out protesting and trying...
Segment Synopsis: Pastor Phillips describes the fears of those who participated in the Civil Rights Movement. He also talks about the antics of the Ku Klux Klan during this time and recalls cross burning incidents. Pastor Phillips recounts an interaction he had with a past Ku Klux Klan member.
Keywords: Bethel Baptist Church; Bi-Racial Committee; Clean Well Pressing Club; J.B Stoner; Raymond Head; Sacred Heart Catholic Church; Thomas Packing Company
Partial Transcript: And that makes me also think about also ...
Segment Synopsis: Pastor Phillps discusses the voting rights of African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement and talks about the difficulties he faced in running for office in a majority white district. Phillips recalls the reputation of Judge Whalen Jr..
Keywords: NAACP; Ray. L Robinson; Ricky Sutton; Single Member Districts; literacy test
Partial Transcript: If you had to pinpoint one or two reasons why...
Segment Synopsis: In this segment, Pastor Phillips talks about what makes Griffin a special place and why many successful people from Griffin were able to overcome a system in which the odds were stacked against them.
Keywords: BUG; Dr. Horace Tate; Fairmont High School; NAACP; SCLC; Samuel Dubois Cook; gender roles; non-violent activism; voter registration
JOHN CRUICKSHANK:I'm John Cruickshank, it's Wednesday January the 25th, 2017.Today we are interviewing the Reverend Freddie Phillips, and I have with me three other interviewers they are --
ART CAIN:Art Cain, I'm with the University of Georgia.
BE-ATRICE CUNNINGHAM:Be-Atrice Cunningham, University of Georgia.
JEWEL WALKER-HARPS:Jewel Walker-Harps, Griffin Branch NAACP.
CRUIKSHANK:And we are interviewing.
FREDDIE PHILLIPS:Pastor Phillips.
CRUIKSHANK:Pastor Phillips thank you very much for coming today to talk to us. Iwonder if to get started if you could tell us a little bit about your background, where you were born, and what year you were born?
PHILLIPS:I was born in Spalding County in the year of 1938, my parents are Leroyand Beatrice Phillips. I [raised on?] the southwest side of town, 00:01:00which is a place called, we call it Boyd Road. I grew up on that area, I went to church in that area, there was a church just below my parents house, I mean it's about three or four houses down, born and raised in the Baptist church. Ordained in his office and his church where the Deacon taught Sunday School as well as BTU at that time, Baptist Training Unit, and later we'd be taught bible class. I went to school at Annie Shockley, it was my elementary. I was transferred later over to Fairmont High where I completed my education and I did get a diploma there. That was right around the year of 1957.
CUNNINGHAM:Could you give us your full name and birth year?
PHILLIPS:Yeah my full name is Freddie L. Phillips. Born in February the second, 1938.
CAIN:Pastor Phillips do you have brothers and sisters, and could you tell us --you mentioned your mother and father. Do you have brothers and sisters that grew up with you in your house?
PHILLIPS:My mother had nine children, well the last one that she had she lostit, and the baby was born with some birth defect. She had eight living four boys and four girls, we all living I'm the oldest. We all grew up in the same house, my parents were very strict on us, they'd tell us what we needed to know, and they'd make sure we followed the golden rule. My father was very strict about church because he didn't send us to church, he would carry us to church himself. He wouldn't say let's you all go to Sunday School. He would carry us to Sunday School and church. I had a very loving mother and a very strong father, and all of my sisters and brothers are still living.
CAIN:Fantastic, what was it like being the oldest in your household?00:03:00
PHILLIPS:Well, everybody sort of look up to the oldest person and I guess I washanded most of the responsibility of walking or watching out for the younger children up under me. And basically I had to do more than they did because to that respect because me being the only one it was handed down to the other children.
CAIN:Did that shape your life a lot?
PHILLIPS:It did, I think for my brain because of my mother and my -- my mothershowed a lot of love and she always taught us it makes no difference what side of the track you come on you know better than anyone else. They are the same you are to treat everybody with respect, everyone to be treated. Our father was a little stricter because he was raised in that Baptist church and he just basically taught us, he always taught us to work with our hands. And he only taught us, he gave us two rules and I remember he said well whatever you do you earn it, you don't take nothing for granted. And I remember one time he took all four of us behind the house and he said, "I'm going to tell you one 00:04:00thing, I'll get you out of jail except for one thing." We said, "What's that father?" He said, "For stealing, I won't spend one time, one hour of time getting you out. You all will work for what you want, if it don't belong to you don't take it." That stuck with me.
CAIN:That's some great leadership. What did you father do, what did your parents do?
PHILLIPS:My father worked at the textile mill here in Spalding, in Griffin,Spalding County at Dundee Mill at the time. He spent about 37 years there before when he retired.
CAIN:That's quite an accomplishment, quite a contribution to Dundee. Iunderstand your mother is still living?
PHILLIPS:Yes, my mother worked at the old Spalding County hospital at the time,where she worked in the, what's it called, the central service. Well she her main job was to supply all the instruments for the doctors needing to operate. She had to send them up, and she stayed there until she retired. 00:05:00
CAIN:Is your family, is your mother and father's family are they originally fromGriffin too?
PHILLIPS:No, my mother's father was from Atlanta, Georgia. My father's peoplewas from I think I had to get this back since I was small. I think my daddy told me my grandfather was originally from Pike County, but they moved to Griffin, Georgia. My father's father died when he was 13-years-old.
CAIN:Tell us a little bit, you mentioned earlier about your early education andgoing to where you went to elementary school. Could you tell us a little bit about that, you know, when you started elementary school and what that experience was like, and teachers that made a difference in your life?
PHILLIPS:Over at Annie Shockley where I went to elementary school we00:06:00had some very fine teachers there. They made sure you learned and that you were polite. You came in their classroom you weren't going to disrupt the classroom, if you did disrupt the classroom they're going to write a note to send home to your parent and you'd better carry it home to your parent, that was just that. We had some fine teachers, I can remember Mrs. Blossom Gain I can remember Mrs., at the time Mrs. Buckner I can remember a time with Mrs. Falk we called her, we were a force most of the time over there, and that was one of the oldest teachers in that school name Ms. Patrick, and I think she was the oldest teacher over there. But I learned a lot, because those teachers really cared about you and they made sure that you got your lesson. And we had to do what they told us to do, you couldn't come in there and play in the classroom, you had to be respectful. And I enjoyed those teachers, because they had some concern for you.
WALKER-HARPS:Did you have a choice as to where you want to school, was AnnieShockley the only school?
PHILLIPS:Well I wouldn't say we had a choice, but it was closer to my00:07:00home, because I would live on Boyd Road and Annie Shockley was across the track over there, we called it Springhill we walked to school.
WALKER-HARPS:Springhill and Boyd Road were two of the most prominent areas inGriffin would you say?
PHILLIPS:I would say on the south side it was.
CAIN:Were there friends, buddies who you interacted with who you think, whoyou've had maybe a long term relationship with who you have any stories that you can tell about some of the young people that you grew up with at the time?
PHILLIPS:Well most of the young people I grew up with at that time after theelementary went over to the high school. I had learned a lot from other kids coming from a different section of town because you had kids coming 00:08:00from the east side of town, which was Solomon Street, we had them coming from the south side which were 9th street, so we all integrated with them. They all had different personalities I was learning with them interacting around with football and basketball, and I did play on basketball briefly, but I didn't play football. I did get a chance to play on the team that won the championship. And also I interacted with other young ladies and I loved it. I mean we had a teacher there by the name of Ms. Roundtree, she taught us, she was an English teacher as well as a language teacher, and I learned a lot from her because she used to teach us in play, we had plays and she had a -- she was a beautiful person so learned a lot from different students, how they interacted, what they wanted to do, some were sports, into sports. Some was into other things some was into science. So I was into biology and so I was different, I guess I had different variety what I wanted. I interacted a lot because I met 00:09:00with a lot of kids there.
WALKER-HARPS:Were you a member of the Borazon's?
PHILLIPS:No I was not a member of the Bobazons at that time, the Bobazons camearound a lot later. That came under Mr. Phillip Hood.
WALKER-HARPS:Okay, oh yes I believe you are right.
PHILLIPS:That came under Philip Hood.
WALKER-HARPS:Borazon's Philip Hood, Borazon's and was it Jewel Motley withthe Bobasettes? But there were some social groups at Fairmont, or maybe not social groups but there were some service groups or are social groups at Fairmont. Or other extracurricular activities other than football?
PHILLIPS:Yes, Ms. Roundtree had a group called, I wonder how this started, I try get inperspective what the play, just not then we had a lot of plays and she had us, I can't think of the activity be called -- we had a lot of peoples interested in that, in the plays. She was very dedicated, we had a lot of dedicated 00:10:00students participate in that program that she had and a lot of -- I remember the time we had a play be called the Seed of Suspicion and we were presenting in the state, and they came from Fort Vada and we came and suck them out of those plays and that was a very highlight in my life. That's a lot of activity that I can remember just me being sport minded football, I tried out for football, but I didn't play, I played for basketball and baseball, and then nature like that.
CAIN:What was the basketball team like at that time?
PHILLIPS:The basketball team was excellent. I only think about what we had, wehad -- I look back on my life when we played basketball with Harlan Whittaker, he was the only coach there. Mr. Whittaker coached baseball, he coached football, he coached basketball, and he coached tracks. He didn't have what you call associate coach like you got in the high school now. He practically did it all on his own and with what we had to work with I 00:11:00think we come out on top, because whatever thing he presented well we took that and used it, and we came -- we won a lot of championships with Mr. Whittaker, and basketball and football. And I think later on of course Johnny Goodman came along and started assisting him in some of the activities with the school, but Mr. Whittaker did it all. One man coach.
WALKER-HARPS:You were outstanding, you were well known of our Fairmont was fortwo factors really, the Bears, Fairmont Bears and Mr. Tucker's marching band.
PHILLIPS:That's true, absolutely, Mr. Tucker was very high standard and he hadan outstanding band.
CAIN:So that band, the activity surrounding things like homecoming and eventswhere the band would parade from the high school to the football field. Can you kind of describe the spirit and how it made you feel during 00:12:00that time?
PHILLIPS:Well I believe when Fairmont band hit the field, that was it, thespirit just rose, everybody just applauded, everybody was ecstatic when that band came on the field. And he had a thing with those kids who could perform, they were very good performing in that band, he had some good majorettes, and they was off the top. They was good.
CAIN:Did they practice a lot?
PHILLIPS:Oh yes, he put them through a lot, and he'd drill them, don't think hedidn't drill them, but he did. And they respected Mr. Tucker, one thing about Mr. Tucker I stood from my perspective watching him he was a man that dressed well, he wore his clothes and he was very neat. And I don't care where you saw him at he was just like that, he was a neat man and he was always well dressed.
CAIN:You know I always wonder; you know I hear about the band and somehowsomebody had to go out on a limb and get instruments for the kids to 00:13:00have, and then to give them instruction on how to practice with those instruments and so on. Do you have any story about that, do you know anything about that?
PHILLIPS:They had one thing and they called it the PTA. And I think PhillipHood's mother was the president at the time, Ms. Jessley They met with those parents and those parents were very dedicated to that PTA and that's how they raised money for those uniforms through the PTA and the instruments as well.
WALKER-HARPS:There were some strong, unlike now, there were some very, verystrong PTA parents.
WALKER-HARPS:I can remember Dorothy McLennan and a few others who werestalwart you might say in terms of participation in schools. And you met would you say that that fact attributed to the fact that the school, 00:14:00particularly Fairmont, was able to compete even in a segregated society?
PHILLIPS:That's right. They was outstanding -- the parents made sure that thosechildren were well equipped, they had the best uniform because as you said the parents worked hard for the PTA, they were very dedicated. So they were prepared to go out and perform because they was well equipped.
CAIN:How conscious were you when you were coming through high school that therewere really a dual society you were living in, that there were two, you know, there was Fairmont and then there was --
WALKER-HARPS:Spalding and Griffin High.
CAIN:Spalding and Griffin High.
PHILLIPS:The Griffin High thing, they had a Spalding and a Griffin, now Spaldingwas junior high, and Griffin High was the senior high school. I can remember one experience I've talked to Dr. Tate which was the principal at the time, I was reading some books and I brought it to his attention that I asked a question. I said Dr. Tate I said these books we have they're not new. He said, 00:15:00"What do you mean?" I said I looked in the back of the book and I turned the book over I said, it got Mary Jane, Billy Bob in here, but I said these are hand down books. He said, "You're very perceptive." I said, "Yes, sir because the other high are getting the new books and we're getting the handed down books from them." I said, "I think we compete." He said, "What do you mean?" I said, "When we finish high school we're not going to be on the same credit that they is. How can I go into a college when our books are two years behind what they've got over at the other school." I ripped my brain into two then, he laughed, and he said, "Well very perceptive." He said, "I have to give what they give me." So the other high school got all the new books, the new equipment, when they got through with it they handed down to us the used books. But that didn't stop us from getting our education because we had some dedicated teachers there. They made sure you learned what you had, whatever books we were given us we took advantage of, but they was not the same books they had over at Griffin High. 00:16:00
CAIN:How did that make you feel when you had that interaction with your principal?
PHILLIPS:Well I thought about it, it made me feel that something was missing,because I couldn't compete if I wanted to go to the University of Georgia, if I wanted to go to Georgia Tech anyway I'm not going to pass no high -- I mean college entrance exam with the books that we had. Because we was two years behind, we would have 10th grade math books when we was in the 12th grade. So when they teach me different algebra and geometry for what a 10th grade level and I'm in the 12th grade.
WALKER-HARPS:As I remember or I read some place where Dr. Tate and C.W. Daniels,I don't remember the others who may have all been principals at Fairmont, but were quite aware what you were talking about and did a lot behind the scenes. You as students may not have known the battles which they fought in 00:17:00order for you to have some improvements, or to even get some of the things that you actually needed, particularly Dr. Tate was a very strong willed man, very very strong willed, and equality was almost his middle name. So as I understand it he came a little bit after, well he was here perhaps a year before I came to Griffin, but I did know that about him, not only did he do that in Griffin, but he continued in Atlanta when he went to Atlanta and became president of the State Teachers Association, and that was another strong factor in the black schools. Teachers went to their association meetings, not only did we go we went dressed up. It was a gala affair for us and there was nobody wore blue jeans, and nobody wore casual outfits, everybody wore their Sunday or their 00:18:00really really dress clothes and we participated. Tell us a little bit about the economy in Griffin during your early life, what did people do to earn a living, particularly black people, or African Americans?
PHILLIPS:Most, just basically when I was young like I said my father worked atDundee Mill which was a cotton mill. This was a job most of what all black people probably get a job. At first black was not even allowed to work on the machines it just they did the janitorial work, you know, and my father drove the truck. But finally down through the years they changed it over and they started allowing black women to work on the looms, you know where they weave stuff, that's how they got the job. Other economical means for blacks in the country was what was called Pomona Product Company. That was a seasonal thing 00:19:00and a lot of females got a chance to work in the we called in the pepper plant at that time, and also the older females worked as maids in the houses of the white peoples. So that was a means of trying to do what they do to you know basically get an income to support their family. Those three main was the mill, the pepper plant, and the older generation worked in houses just as maids.
WALKER-HARPS:Who worked the pepper plant?
PHILLIPS:Most of the pepper plant they even hired young kids out of high schoolin the afternoon. And they had to have a social security card at the time, but a lot of those students went to high school who worked in the afternoon as a part time job in the Pomona Product Company.
WALKER-HARPS:Blacks and whites or just --?
PHILLIPS:Most of them was black, you may have one or two whites in there, butmost of those people was black. That was over there on Pimento Avenue which we called Springhill. Some of that building still remains down there. 00:20:00
WALKER-HARPS:Were there any black owned businesses?
PHILLIPS:Well yeah there was some black owned businesses in that area. You hadCleanwood Pressing Club, you had another man by the name of Mr. Ector he had Pressing Club, he didn't have Preston Club, but he did a lot of seamstress down on Westleigh Meadow. That was like you know blacks had a lot of restaurants that was Triple H, there was another restaurant up the street that I can't think of that lady name she had a restaurant there. We had some black business such as in the restaurants we had Cleanwood Preston Club, we had a lot of black men had their own cab stand that was another popular thing, they owned their own cabs. That was one means of surviving, there was some black businesses in Griffin at that time.
WALKER-HARPS:We had some real good eating places am I right?00:21:00
PHILLIPS:Yeah, that was --
PHILLIPS:Yes, it's true, barbecue places we had some very good barbecue places.
WALKER-HARPS:I can remember Snow's Barbecue.
PHILLIPS:Yeah Snow's, I forgot about Snow I'm sorry you brought it to myattention. Snow had a real shack diner, then Ms. Banks had a place down there in Slaton Alley too she had a we'd call it a soul food restaurant, Ms. Banks had a restaurant there too.
WALKER-HARPS:So would you say, would it be correct to say that Slaton Alley wasa mecca for black business?
PHILLIPS:Primarily because that's where all the barber shops ran in Slaton andthe pool hall was there in Slaton Alley. Even they had a theater in that alley too that's why it was predominant for blacks, blacks went to that theater down there. Right there, I think now it's a barbershop there, Mrs. Stinson at one time had a beauty parlor and it was a theater.
WALKER-HARPS:Now Mrs. Stinson and her business go way back right?00:22:00
PHILLIPS:Yeah, I forgot about Mrs. Stinson she go way back, her and Mary BobShelley go way back.
WALKER-HARPS:And it's still -- the building and the name well they still exist today.
PHILLIPS:Still exist today. We had another black business Mr. Ralph Grey, himand his folks had a photographer's business. Ralph did a lot of photography; well he's deceased now Ralph Grey.
WALKER-HARPS:Not only did he do a lot of public photography, but he was veryactive in the schools.
PHILLIPS:Yes very active and he was a good artist too, he could draw. He was agood artist.
WALKER-HARPS:What was the relationship between Atlanta Life and Griffin?
PHILLIPS:Well Atlanta Life was the only insurance, well not the only insurancecompany, but when I came, I worked for Atlanta Life about ten years under Mr. A.C. Touchstone which was the manager at the time. Atlanta Life did a 00:23:00lot of good things in their community because they sprung out not only from Atlanta because when I, not only from Griffin when I was there we had business in Coweta County, we had business in Lamar County, we even had some business in Jackson, I mean Butts County. So we covered a lot of districts from out of that office in Atlanta, but the main office was in Atlanta. There was another insurance company by the name of Puritan Health and Life, that was there on Broad Street and I think that building is still there. That used to belong to Dr. B.H. Atkins, because that's where he practiced his dentist at so when he died his wife just turned it into a business and she allowed the Puritan to put their business in that building and it's still standing down there.
WALKER-HARPS:Atlanta Life Insurance Company, who was the head in Griffin of theAtlanta Life Insurance Company?
PHILLIPS:A.C. Touchstone at the time was the manager.
WALKER-HARPS:A.C. Touchstone, and Puritan Life?
PHILLIPS:At that time Mr. Johnson, he's deceased, his wife was a schoolteacherover there at Annie Shockley. 00:24:00
WALKER-HARPS:Was that Josephine Johnson?
PHILLIPS:That's right, mm-hmm. He was the manager of the Puritan Health and Lifeat the time, her husband.
WALKER-HARPS:How important were what you call the insurance companies andfuneral home directors, but mainly insurance companies during the civil rights era? Their livelihood and the success of those businesses were determined basically by black folk, did they play a prominent role?
PHILLIPS:Well the insurance company played a prominent role because Mr.Touchstone, if my mind serves me right, Mr. Touchstone belongs to what -- they organized something called the Citizen Improvement League. At that time they was doing things in the community to bring about a change, he had a few men in that wedding, and they worked very hard and did it, but at that time it was sort of hard for them to bring about a change in that area but they 00:25:00did have what they called the Citizen Improvement League. And Mr. Touchstone at the time was the president, he was all for equality and justice, I used to talk to him a lot, he wanted the whole thing, but somehow he was -- they couldn't get it together like they wanted to at that time. But he tried, they tried, they done a lot of good.
CAIN:What about health care during that time?
PHILLIPS:Well with the insurance policy they did have three main policies, theyhad whole life, sick and accident, and hospitalization. Those were the three main basic policies that Atlanta Life were putting out at that time. They had some good policies, they had some policies that could compete with the white insurance companies, wasn't too much different in the policies, they had some good policies. So a lot of people had with those, when they got sick we had what you called sick claims, they got paid, the sick claim helped people with their medicine and also they helped pay the doctor bills. So they had some very good policies. 00:26:00
CAIN:And who provided treatment when folks got sick?
PHILLIPS:The treatment was the local doctor, or usually if you go to a doctorand you fill out, you got a claim from Atlanta Life that I've been sick and you fill out that claim, the doctor signs that you were sick, whatever your illness was he put it on there and we'd bring it back to the office. And they would file it to the home office, it wasn't very much money, but they paid the claim. It was enough at that time to provide money for you to buy your medicine. Hospitalization was very -- it covered basically the same thing as the white policy did for so many days that you were confined in the hospital, it was very, very good. Atlanta Life has some good products, Pilgrim had some products as well because I also worked for the The Pilgrim, maybe about two years.
WALKER-HARPS:Who were the doctors, African American doctors, did they00:27:00come before or after integration, did we have any African American doctors?
PHILLIPS:They had some doctors that came before the integration of the highschools and the other facilities was Dr. Blanton and Dr. -- the tooth dentist was Dr. Atkinson, and there was another doctor I can't recall his name, I think he came before Dr. Blanton, but we did have some African American doctors in the town before integration.
WALKER-HARPS:Are you familiar with the Confederation of Women or Women'sConfederation they're founded the Bowden Nursery, the group that established the Bowden Nursery?
PHILLIPS:No. I heard of it, I don't have all the details about it, but they dida lot of work too, they done some wonderful work.
WALKER-HARPS:That facility still stands today, and one or two perhaps00:28:00of the original women who helped to found it. Right, let's take a look at the civil rights era. You were very active during that period, what did you do? Tell us a little about it from your perspective, what was it like in Griffin? Who were the movers and the shakers?
PHILLIPS:The beginning early part of, latter part of the '60s and early part ofthe '70s that's when this era right here started. It were founded in mostly in churches, churches played a very instrumental role in the civil rights era because we had no other meeting place to go to. And the first church on my list was Hicks Chapel Methodist Church with the Reverend James 00:29:00Shapshaw was the president of the NAACP at the time. He also was the principal at a high school, and I admired that man for taking the stand he did because at any time he could have lost his job but that was a bold man to take a stand like that. That's how I got involved through him and we worked closely and so we started doing little things, he would come and set up meetings and try to bring about a change. And later on if I'm not mistaken after that Reverend Shapshaw got out of the NAACP whatever happened to him, Glen Reid became the president of the NAACP. I worked along with Glen, Glen was the president of the local chapter of the NAACP in Griffin, I was the president of the student council of the NAACP. We used Hicks Chapel Church as a place to train and set up workshops, the workshop we set up working non-violent movement and we had all the training in the bases that we need. We trained in how to protect yourself, what to do in a situation that would get out of hand, also the next 00:30:00church I'm going to put on the list was Hicks Chapel, or not Hicks Chapel, Achaia. Achaia was one of the churches that provided us with workshops and when we was going to picket lines anything we were going to do, marches, whatever, they had a kitchen down there at Achaia, the ladies did and we called her Ms. Neta, she was all about sandwiches and drink for us. We were prepared for sit ins, marches, mass meeting, picketing, and protesting. So the children were trained very, very, thoroughly at Hicks Chapel down in that basement of that church down there. We had a lot of mass meetings at Hicks Chapel, we had a lot of mass meeting at Achaia. Those are the only two black churches that would allow us to come and meet and have that type of meeting. The rest of them at that time was a little afraid.
WALKER-HARPS:Who was the pastor at Achaia?
PHILLIPS:Reverend Hatchet, Reverend Hatchet was the pastor I can't think ofhis first name but he was the pastor. Reverend Shapshaw at that time 00:31:00was the pastor of Hicks Chapel.
CAIN:So what restrictions do you recall prior to pressing for civil rights thatexisted in Griffin?
PHILLIPS:Well some of the restrictions in Griffin there was a certain area thatyou was allowed in, a certain area what you could do and what you couldn't do. When we got involved then with the young people because you could go into any restaurant on Hill Street, which at that time was McLendon, Roses and Woolworth, they had what we called five and dime, they called them five or ten cents you could buy anything for that. They had a lunch counter in each one of those five and dime, you could buy in there, but you could not sit down at the lunch counter, if you did they were going to refuse to serve you. Every last one of them like that so we just made up our minds that if they were going to take our money we have to do something about this. So we started picketing those stores, we started picketing, we started having sit ins and it worked to put 00:32:00a -- it took us a long time to crack that barrier because every time you go in they continued to refuse you, so we continued to go back. And we did a lot of picketing in front of those stores with signs and also we had a lot of master meetings concerning, everybody who'd come in we'd inform them what we was going to do, wasn't nobody left out coming through the church, that's where you got your information. The pastor would relate to his congregation and the congregation would relate to their neighbor, get on the phone and tell them what's going to happen. If there's going to be a mass meeting, if the cherry going to be picking they was well advised, we were real informed about what was going to happen. So those are the things that we did at the church not just set up workshops.
CAIN:Was there any communication between say leadership, local black leadership,and local white leadership as you started to go through protesting and picketing?
PHILLIPS:Well it's a lot to state before I get to that area. But all00:33:00the leaders such as at the time were Mr. Touchstone, Mr. Head, Reverend O.H. Denson which was a pastor of Mount Zion, and I believe there was another I believe Frank Junior might have been involved with them. But anyhow those young men, those men had did a lot, like I said they had their own organization which was called the Citizen Improvement League, and they had done a lot to bring about a change. But when we came along on the scene they thought sometimes we was moving too fast and I can remember Mr. Touchstone telling me, "Y'all need to slow down, you're going --" I said, "No, we can't slow down." I said, "We're doing everything by the book, we're doing it non-violent, we're not violent, we're not -- you know, we're just, we're not militant, we're doing it non-violent." So we had to take a lot of talking and a lot of changing and those men mind finally came around to the point that they wasn't going to fight us, they were going to join us and it worked out to our advantage because once we got those involved -- because let me say what the city structure was. Before we even got involved in this here everything went out had to come to Mr. 00:34:00Touchstone or Mr. Head. If you had a city commission which was all white just about except for when Raymond came, they would only come down and talk to Mr. Touchstone or Mr. Head and later on to Solomon Street by the name of Ms. Conley, those were the people they would relate to. And I often wondered what were they getting out of those meetings because I didn't see anything that would benefit enough because that's where they would go to. We wouldn't get no representation in our district, our streets weren't being paved, we weren't getting lights, but all the time every time they were on they would go to them. So I questioned Mr. Touchstone, I said we've got to make a change of some sort because I don't see any of the benefit we're getting out of it. I don't have anything against you personally but it's time for a change. We argued a little bit then he finally agreed to it, because that's who they all would run to. We had to really tell them, I remember we went to the city commission meeting; they had all the city commissioners sitting up there and I remember every one of them by name, they were sitting there. They would ask when we go to those 00:35:00meeting what do you want, why are you here, I said because there needs to be some change, we're not being treated fairly, we're not getting the same thing in our community. I said I want to put you on notice today those men you've been going to do not call the shots in Griffin anymore, they don't represent the black community and what I would have said it for, everything went haywire. But it was the truth, they only catered to Mr. Touchstone and Ms. Gerald Conley and a few more, but those people didn't call all the shots for the black people. So the young people made up their minds this is not going to work, we're not going to get anywhere letting them dictate to them that they call the shots. So finally found out that they didn't call the shots, things began to change a little bit. But we were able to struggle between our own leaders and the struggle between the white establishment, because they weren't going to give in regardless, it was a tough battle. But by and by it gradually became in common and everybody began to fall in place, and everything began, you know, 00:36:00to come together. It was hard, we had some hard times, we had some disappointment, I seen some people's feelings were hurt. We marched in the sun, we marched in the rain, in front of them stores, we marched in front of the Klu Klux Klan, I was on one side of the street and they were on the same street with me, we just didn't bump heads, we just all rubbed elbows together. Right in front of Woolworth, McLennan, and Rose those were the main stores we picketed at that time, they had on their hoods, but that didn't make us stop, we was determined, it was rough. And I think the older generation was afraid because they had never had anything of that magnitude, they had never had the Klan really come out in the open, because most of the time the Klan did their stuff at night. But when we started marching they started getting out in public and riding with their hoods on and guns in the car, that sort of set a different tone, and the older generation was trying to quiet things down, we don't want this town to get in an unrest. So those were some of the hard things 00:37:00that we faced. Like I said it was hard, but finally it came together.
CAIN:What do you remember about, say the numbers on eastside, just an estimateof how many people you had picketing, how many people were a part of the Klan that you could see across the street?
PHILLIPS:Well the Klansmen mostly had about anywhere from 4-6 people on thestreet, we normally had about 6 people on the street picketing. But when we had the sit-in we had to do something -- we did a little strategy. We would train those in the church down there, we would always send them in a different group, we would never send the same group to the lunch counter. So finally they got tired because the city orders were we would have to be asked three times, if we would refuse to move in three times they could lock us up. So when we went in we was already prepared for this, we would go in and ask to be served, they'd refuse the service, we would sit down there, the cops would come in 00:38:00and say, "Look you've got to go." He would ask us three times; we'd get up and walk out. So one group walk out another one walk in, so that was some of the way we worked the strategy on breaking down the barriers of the lunch counter. We'd never send the same group at the same time, and those children were very dedicated, some of the parents was afraid for them, some of the parents didn't want them in the movement, but those kids was determined, and they did a beautiful job. We never got anything that any of the children got hurt, but it was a lot of tension in the air at that time.
CUNNINGHAM:Since you were at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement, wereyour parents supportive of you being in the movement?
PHILLIPS:Well, my parents was -- my father worked at Dundee Mill and he workedfor the Cheetams on that mill, the Cheetams was on the Chamber of Commerce, they controlled everything in the city of Griffin. I was afraid my father was going to probably lose his job, but you know it never happened, my mother always come and tell me, she come in one day she said son don't you think 00:39:00you'd better slow down, they might hurt you. But these are my very words I told my mother, I said, "Mom, I don't know why I'm going to die, I could walk out on the street in the path of a car, I could fall down and break my neck, I could lay down and not wake up. I was but whatever God got for me to do I'm going to do it." And that's what she says, she looked at me and smiled. But it was tension and my uncle was really concerned about it because he was always seeing me out there and in march he'd often tell my daddy, "You need to pull him out." But there were some threats, sometimes out there by the meeting at the mass meeting those church guys I know I was in my organization; they were afraid to go home because they was shot at. None of them was hit, but they were shot out the window with a man with a gun. Especially at night, because sometimes people ask them to work from 10 to 11 o'clock at night, we would have to leave and they was always looking under their car, they would all be looking around the corner of their house looking for somebody who going to take them out. But then Reverend William Stinson made one of the finest moves made, he came 00:40:00to us he said, "Now I'm going to tell you something young man." He said, "I was against this." He said, "But I'm not going to stand in y'all way." He said, "This have to be done." He told all, he said, "We might as well hit them and I mean wherever that lead that's our job to give it to them." Mr. Touchstone vowed if anybody got locked up he was going to be the one to get us out of jail. We had something to go to jail, he'd still buy the crime, he would get a job, but that's how things fell in place because it took a lot of work, a lot of coming together on both sides. And you talk to me about crowds I don't know how many, like I said the Klansmen had only about four or five, we had about six on the streets, but for the crowd when we have a mass march we had a mass march from old Fairmont school all the way down to the courthouse, we had about three thousand.
PHILLIPS:We took a bull horn and went through the community and we marched onthe city on the courthouse steps with three thousand. Every mass meeting we had the church be packed and running over, but that's what we had to go 00:41:00through with it. I don't talk about it much; I give all the regard over to the [lord?] because I don't know what was my life. When I was younger I always told my mother I want to help people, but I didn't what capacity I was going to help them in. I didn't know what road I was going to meet. Unless it was something I did decide to do, but I wound up getting involved in it. But give you an answer to that I seriously stayed in God. One of the hardest stones in Griffin to crack was called Food Depot, not the one we got now [Food Town?]. We had done our homework on that, we done asked the man about hiring black cashiers, we was picketing his store. He told up front I'm not going to hire any black cashiers, I don't care what you do the store owns it. I said, "Sir we took a survey do you know 75 percent of your customers are African American?" He said, "What?" I said, "That's right and you going to deny us to have one black cashier." "I'm not hiring more." It was on a Sunday morning we picketed that man's 00:42:00store it was George Ray, William Dukes, Joe Goodman, Jada McCray and myself. We put those signs on, it was hot, I mean it was hot and then someone came out it was 95 degrees, we was marching. So while we was marching from the store one of the guys ran out the store, I don't know whether he had a toy gun or not, but he pointed that gun right pointed to my face, "I'll blow your brains out." It could have been a toy gun, well I don't know. I hesitated and then the guy looked at me and he froze, so I just stood there, I always keep my new testament bible in my pocket. And when he left I told the guy stand around me, and I took my new testament, I had a favorite Psalm I read, the 91st Psalm. And I said God is our shield. We went right on back to marching, and this is the God know truth, I'd never seen anything happen like it before. While we was marching out in that sun sweating a cloud came up in the back of that store from the west side , it got pitch black dark, you couldn't see 00:43:00nothing. It started raining so hard we couldn't see who was still marching in that rain. And I can verify from the guy that was in there, there are witnesses, lightning struck the back of that store that we was picketing in front, a ball of fire came out so big the peoples in there ran out. And after a while it sort of got calm and the cloud went away. When we got through marching all of our clothes on us was dry. Now that is the facts, that is the God truth, don't tell me there ain't no God and I witnessed that and they witnessed that, that ball of lightning at the back of that store that man he blazed up he ran out of that store. But the guy he come out with a gun. I had faced that, I don't talk about a lot of thing, I don't gloat, I don't go around like I said dressed as a peacock, parading in the center down this side, I just remain silent. But those are the things that we had to endure during the civil right thing, and I don't take credit for all that because those guys with me were hard working, those children did their job, their parents that allowed them to get 00:44:00in that picket, those old people that came again to support us, we all came together. But it was not easy in Griffin, Griffin had not always been that easy I'm going to tell you it was rough. And I'll give you another incident. We had another mass meeting and in that mass meeting it was packed, and not a lot of chairs. And the chief of police was Chief Leo Blackwell he came down and he said, "Is Phillips in that church?" So the man said, "Yes." He said, "Have him come out." And I went out and said, "What can I do for you chief?" He said, "You got all these children out here on the street, if you can't get them into church you need to send them home." I said, "Okay." He gave me his bullhorn I called the children to the side, "Look call your parents, you go home, there's no more room in this church and I don't want anything to happen to you. I don't know what lurks in them dark corners right now." So they went home. And sure enough while I was standing there the streetlamp across the mill over 00:45:00there called, oh what's that mill's name, American Mill. And I was standing, and I had to look up, there was a man on that building with a rifle in his hand and I told the guy, "There's a man on that building with a gun." He knocked me to the ground, and he covered me. The chief said, "Well I don't see anybody here, I don't see anybody." He went on let me check and he ran over he come back, he called the man's name he said, "I don't see Mr. Shepherd." With all of the men, Mr. Shepherd had on a green shirt, the man I saw on that building had a white shirt. Now I'm verified to tell you without me telling you a lie but that my uncle overheard a conversation two days before that happened, he went to the service station to get some air in his tires. He heard these white people, he was talking to them, "The only way to stop this movement is we have to take a gun and blow my brains out." He told my dad about it, that's when they're really, you talk about when he got upset, they really were worried about me by then. That passed over too, but praise be to God I never got a scratch on me, I never got a shot close to me. God just showed me that man on 00:46:00that building, my uncle said with my dad, he said, "They planned to shoot him now, I overheard them plotting." That is actually the truth. So I don't talk about things like that, I take things in stride and I just move right along, but like I said I don't take after it because all those peoples' lives were in danger, all those people had to endure a lot of hardship because I said some of the guys they'd be shot at. It wasn't easy some of them we got confronted with the, Joanne Gibb at the time was the Sheriff, he had billy clubs, and tear gas, the whole nine yards, we're going to march downtown, we had to call that march or he said he was going to crack heads. So we had it. We also learned of a plot one night we was at the church and somebody came warned us don't march tomorrow. They had called those storm troopers in from Alabama over here, a busload of them. We had have marched it might have been like Bloody 00:47:00Sunday, that happened in Griffin. So God have always had our back, but we prevailed, we made some changes, we got the lunch counter integrated. Some other things changed and to bring it home there was another organization, the last organization I went was called BUGG which was Black United Group of Griffin. Now they said we was militant, but through BUGG after the era of the SCLC and the NAACP we start staying on top of things. Because you see when you're in a movement you can't stop, see the struggle's, the struggle is not over with, we had to continue to make sure what we asked for we were going to get it. So by us coming out we would go to different places and we'd inquire about how many numbers you've got in your store, how many black cashiers. We would confront the chief of police have you hired any blacks, we'd go to the sheriff's department have you hired any deputies, we would go to the courthouse, anybody in the court system, have you hired any black clerks. All that, we applied 00:48:00pressure on those people that's why they said we was militant. We wasn't militant but we got things done, we got black policemen hired, we got new deputies in the sheriff department, we got them on the fire department, but it all works together through all three of them organizations NAACP, SCLC and Black Unity Group, it all knitted together, it all played. So that's how some of these things we got to change. The first black cashier in a store here was Sherry Barrett, that was over at Big Apple. We picketed that store a long time, that was a hard store to crack, but once that store broke in she was the first black cashier to work in that store.
CAIN:Let me ask you about that, okay, you know, I was listening to you tell andwhat you've been saying is amazing. But I was listening to you talk about the store where you had, that had 75 percent or 70 percent black patronage. When you all decided to picket was there a serious drop off from --? 00:49:00
CAIN:Okay, what was the sense of that kind of drop off having an effect ongetting what you wanted, what you were striving to get?
PHILLIPS:Well another strange way of youth, we went on, we picketed them oncertain days. If you -- I can give you another example because Clark's brother was down on Broad Street, they were the same way, her dad was on the east side, such as Tender Street, Chappell Street, all that were down the block. He had a grocery store right in the corner of that and we asked him about hiring black cashiers he said, "No, we're not going to have no black cashiers in here." So we just had to picket him, so we started picketing, but what we did we waited around Thanksgiving, we got all them turkeys and hams up in there we hit the streets. And didn't nobody go in the store, I mean didn't no one, 00:50:00a car and came saw us picketing they'd turn around and left. And it held such an effect on him he called Mr. Head and Mr. Head called him and told him he said, "Y'all can put off that picket." I said, "Why?" He said, "The Clark Bros is finding him a cashier, he'll hire tomorrow." That's the type of effect you had on them, because you know we used to constantly stay at them, we did the same thing with Food Time, we picked them right at Christmas time when he had all them Christmas goodies in there. And now he has a lot of white clients, but them white clients come in his store, they saw us picket they wouldn't even cross the picket line, they'd go a different direction. Not only black wouldn't go, whites wouldn't go in the store either. They didn't want any confrontation with that type, you know, they just didn't want to be bothered with that, they'd go a different direction. But it had a good effect on them, you have to have a plan, and the plan was when he had all them groceries, bought all them turkeys and hams up in there.
CAIN:Was any of this covered in the newspapers?
PHILLIPS:Some of it, you know, sir we went to the courthouse looking forrecords. I went down to the library, we can't find a paper, I found 00:51:00some yesterday, but you know we can't find even paper on that stuff. And I'm surprised, and I had a girl who tried to do some background, but she said she came here trying look at some of this stuff, she's not in town. I go, we want to do some research on it. You might find a few clips, the only clipping I got from Mr. Head, Cheryl, Ms. Cheryl Head, Mr. Head's daughter gave me some stuff that the grandmamma had with some newspaper clipping, but it's hard, it's hard. I have a lot of records that we kept, but when we started dissolving them organizations, when they started splitting them a lot of material got lost. But we kept a record of just about everything we did, what time the marches were, who was going, who was involved, what we accomplished. I don't know who's got those records, but they've got gone, but they make the things smoother later on and that's the error of one of the towns in unrest and it was full of tension. They formed the committee we called the Biracial Committee and that Biracial Committee consisted of four whites and two blacks. And the four 00:52:00whites on that committee was Mrs. Seton Bailey, Mr. Bob Crossfield, and Mrs. Mary Fitzhugh, and the two black ones were Raymond and myself was on this committee. We did a lot to ease the tension in our residency because of biracial men that got in there. That committee went out and made a lot of difference in the courthouse. You had white on it and color along the water fountain, when we went out at it they raised a lot of signs, but those signs were removed by that biracial committee. And it did ease some of the tension in the city.
WALKER-HARPS:Was that not Bob, was that his wife?
PHILLIPS:That was his wife, I can't think of Mrs. Craw-- I just said BobCrossfield's wife, it was his wife, Mary Fitzhugh, and Mrs. Bailey. And I forgot the other man was Dr. Grover Saw he worked up here in the expirement station at that time.
CAIN:Do you remember sort of the time period, I know you said '60s, '70s, do youremember more specifically what years we're talking about? 00:53:00
PHILLIPS:Well like I said, it's sort of hard for me to keep all that stuff in mymemory, but like I said we had accurate records on that. The early '60s and the '70s but I do know what phase we started off with the end of NAACP, NCS, and then worked it on down to the Black Unity Group, then it came on down to that Biracial Committee. I know they played a very important role in it, but it did ease the tension in this city.
WALKER-HARPS:Which group was
a member, was the the Black Unity Group?
PHILLIPS:Shep was not a -- just Shep by himself. Shep was a Muslim, but he wasalways there for us, he always had our back. He really wouldn't get involved with our organization, but he was on the sideline. He was more of our informant, if he saw something that didn't look right he would always tell us, he was very encouraging.
CAIN:I'm also curious because you all were out protesting and trying to makechange, and that had to create, as you say, unrest and tension in the community. And you did have older folks who had jobs -- 00:54:00
CAIN:-- and they depended on --
PHILLIPS:For their livelihood?
CAIN:Yes, so how were they impacted?
PHILLIPS:Well you know, I don't ever remember recording that anybody was in thatmovement or that some children were marching that parents lost their job. Because like I said, a lot of those children's parents worked in white people's homes as maids. It is just remarkable God had his hand in it. My father never threatened about losing his job, like I said was involved because he owned the mill, and he was on the Chamber of Commerce, and I know he knew I walked. And I can't ever remember calling anybody who said oh yeah mamma lost her job because of the movement. But it could have been, and I don't remember. But it was wonderful, it was, even with the Biracial Committee we had a meeting at the Sacred Heart Church, but with the, you know the Catholic had one, 00:55:00down here off of the old Atlanta highway that building's still over there now. You know where the Catholic place is? We were sitting there having a meeting, this is the truth, and while we were having a meeting a man walked right in sat right just like you right in front of me, had on his Confederate bowtie. And he asked me a question, he looked right at me he said, "Do you know who I am?" I said, "No, I have no knowledge who you are." He said, "My name --" he was the Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan in Alabama, J.B. Stone, and that's when there's -- he was here in proper response to those kids getting bombed in Alabama. But I sat down, and he come in to interrupt the program and they told, no you can't come and interrupt the program. And we was going to have a march, we had to cancel it, we had a permit that had to be cancelled because he wanted to bring his Klan members to march through the city, they said we're not going either one of y'all a permit, we don't want a disturbance in here. You know he came all the way from Alabama over here, I never forget that.
CAIN:Do you think there was communication between local folks here00:56:00with say Klan leadership in Alabama? Is there a way to make that connection?
PHILLIPS:The Klan's going to have that connection like in other organizations.If they need help they're going to make a phone call, because I never knew, I wouldn't believe that J.B. Stone went all the out of Alabama, he actually came to that meeting on a Sunday in that Catholic church. And he wanted to get a permit and they wouldn't give him a permit, because they said, "We don't want no more disturbing in this town, it's too much on the residents in here now." But I do remember seeing him and looking at him face to face when he came to that meeting. In fact they got an injunction against my organization and Stone, you know what an injunction is don't you? They actually did that at the city hall, we couldn't move but they got an injunction, that's down there in the courthouse records. It's a lot you just don't understand or know that we had to go through it, the city got an injunction where we couldn't march. And I could understand some of the reason because they didn't want them Klan to come in 00:57:00here, and it going to be all, you know, all hell's going to break lose again because we had began to reach to the point that we had made so much progress we didn't need that kind of stuff back again.
WALKER-HARPS:Well, did the Klan burn crosses and --
WALKER-HARPS:-- shoot, what --
PHILLIPS:They burned one in front of Cleanwood Preston Club and one in front ofMr. Raymond Head's house on Fourth Street, the same Klan that we were marching against and the same who burned crosses. Oh yes, they did. That actually happened, people don't believe that actually happened. Even when I was a little boy on Boyd Road I remember my father and uncle and them going in the house, closing the door and I said, "What did you close the door for father?" And they would close the blinds, the Klan would march down that street usually about two or three carloads and I know he knows who they were after they passed by, but my dad and them would sit in the house, close the door, and cut the lights out and get their guns. And them Klan would march up and down the street, somebody down there they had they was going to take care of, that's what he used to say. I don't know later on down the street or further on round the corner that's somebody, but they did march at night. I got a chance to see that, I 00:58:00witnessed a lot of things that every person hadn't witnessed with them Klan like that. And the last time I had a confrontation with a Klansman I was offered a job at Thomas Packing Company through Doug Taylor; Doug Taylor was running for the city commissioner. And at that time I ran against Doug Taylor for the city commissioner it was in my district over here on the third district that's over there on Hillandale area. He won and he came, and he said, "Phillips I've got a job over there as a supervisor at the Thomas Packing, do you want that job?" He said, "Because I'm going to give it up." I went ahead and applied for Thomas Packing Company, I went over there and applied for the job, I'd been on it two days and this guy came up to me and started talking he said, "I know you." I said, "You do?" He said, "Yeah." He said, "You know me?" I said, "No, I have no idea sir who you are." He told me his name I can't think of it now, he said, "You remember me now?" I said, "No." He said, "I was the wizard of the Klu Klux Klan." I said, "What?" He come on and sit down to me he said, "Let me explain something to you, I'm no longer active in the Klan." I said, "Why not?" He said, "For the things I've done I'm sorry." He said, "I should 00:59:00have never did the things, I'm sad at some things." He actually told me that he was a Klansmen, I knew it when he called his name, I know he wasn't lying. But I learned later on that the man, he had an illness and he asked me for his forgiveness, and I told him I said, "I don't hate you." But that actually happened, that's the last time I ever confronted a Klan before, that man came and told me he had got out of the Klansmen, that was on my job. So I have a lot to talk about, I have a lot of experience, like I said I don't talk about it, I just you know take it one day at a time. But those are the things that actually happened, they burned crosses, if I remember, I think they burned a cross in somebody's yard beside Raymond, but they burned crosses at night. Mr. Head must have been under a lot of pressure, a lot of pressure, because they were putting Mr. Head to the test, "Why can't you control the young people?" And 01:00:00he had to tell them, "I don't have no control of those people." And they were constantly, the city commission would constantly come, like Raymond had business with a lot of white, he had a lot of white business coming in that place. And I could understand what he was going through too at the time, because they would come and were getting on him about real protests and he had a big confrontation down there. They were constantly calling, they were constantly coming at him and said, "You going to have to stop this." And one or two of the commissioners got bold and told him, "You're going to stop the damn thing today." And that's bad to tell a man that he didn't have no control of that situation. But I know what he went through with it, Raymond was a good man, and one thing I said about Mr. Head when he was on that city commissioner's meeting he stayed on a long time, but he would always ask the question, "How many blacks are you hiring, how many blacks do you have in this department, when are you going to hire them?" That was one of his basic things and he told us these words, he said, "By you all coming to these city commission meetings and coming and disrupting these meetings you made my job much easier. Because they were always on my 01:01:00back, but when you came and told it was a different day, it was a different ballgame." He said, "The weight was lifted off for me." Which was true, because he was the only black on that board at that time.
CAIN:Yes and that brings -- that makes me also think about just voting inGriffin and how that changed. Because I would guess there was disenfranchisement for a long period of time where you had black voters who may have been eligible to vote but did not have a vote which would affect who would be on the various commissions. How did all that work itself out?
PHILLIPS:I don't think they had so much voter suppression in Griffin at thattime. You know people could vote, but sometimes when it came down to electing an official the way they had the district divided off it was hard for a black man to get elected to something on the district, because Raymond -- only 01:02:00he got there because he was in a predominant black district. But if you started, when the court ran I think went through the NAACP they had to come in and challenge those lines, those districts.
WALKER-HARPS:We challenged, but the court threw out all our segmented districtseats. That's how it happened, and we were going to bring somebody in who was going to delve into that. But that was the whole, you're right, that brought about the change politically, they allowed African Americans to take seats that they otherwise would not have gotten because of as long as they were voting at large we couldn't just as now, you don't have an African American who has won in a large city a countywide position. Because the balance, the number 01:03:00of the politic area would have a large number of people who do not, who would not be voting, who were in economically advanced areas would not have. So, the vote is always swayed to that side of town. All you need to do is look at Keyes and Darryl Dicks and that's still the case, that is currently the case. There ought to have been enough and there ought to be enough now to carry an at large city vote. But I think because of the economic levels it does not happen, so somebody from Third Ward will always win against somebody from the inner city. The opportunity is there, but in reality it doesn't happen so we've got a lot of work to do. 01:04:00
PHILLIPS:We've got a lot to do still.
WALKER-HARPS:There is that whole period economically and politically that we'regoing to have to bring in somebody, and I've got somebody in mind that we will bring in, to discuss the court case that led to the change. And you have commissioners, county commissioners and city commissioners and I'm not sure that they understand real life either, how and why they're there but we want to cover that period to fill in the gaps. There are -- are there any people do you know Reverend Phillips who are still alive who were on the front lines? A lot of them have gone.
PHILLIPS:Some of the kids that started out in the movement such as the picketmovement and the marching I know some of the girls and boys are deceased, but my organization with the Black Unity Group there's about two -- I don't know whether they're still living, that's William Dukes and George 01:05:00Reed. B.J. Jackson was on that, but he deceased, and Marvin Goodman's in it, I don't think Marvin would have marched with the young people and I think Jimmy Prader but he's in Detroit, those are the only ones I know that are still living.
WALKER-HARPS:And I believe that most of the antiracial committee I know Ms.Fitzhugh and Ms. Crossfield are gone, I don't know the others if you still have --
WALKER-HARPS:Ms. Bailey, yes.
PHILLIPS:I don't know where she's living, but those are very dedicated ladies, Itake my hat off, two or three ladies because, they went up against the arc on Washington Carver, they called them names you'd never want to hear, and those people was prominent people. See Ms. Fitzhugh her mother was a doctor and her daddy was a judge. Ms. Crossfield didn't have a lot of money, them Bailey's wasn't nothing but money in that family, those people fell to rich. So when you got those people of that caliber moving with you, you know, you feel comfortable. They called them all kind of names when we came to that courthouse because I can remember some of the names they called, and I won't 01:06:00repeat what they called those people. But when you have people like that coming from a different race sit down with you and try to bring calmness in a city when there's a lot of unrest and, you know, and tension, they played a role, they didn't care I guess because that's what they called. Dr. Bruno Messiah was a good man, he worked up in Georgia for years, I don't know whether he 01:07:00living now or not.
WALKER-HARPS:Much credit has to be given to that committee.
PHILLIPS:That's right because they gave a lot.
WALKER-HARPS:Much, much credit had to be given and there were others who werenot out front but who were a tremendous asset to the NAACP, they were not up front but without them being behind the scenes and feeding us what we needed to have it couldn't have happened.
PHILLIPS:Couldn't have happened.
CAIN:So how did that dynamic work, you had whites locally who had sympathy forthe movement who wanted to see -- who understand and wanted to see change, and they had to figure out how they were going to support that movement, some behind the scenes, some out front. How did that dynamic happen, what was the communication like that made that happen?
PHILLIPS:Well it's sort of hard to describe it because at that area of time,like, I said there was a lot of tension from the whites, they just didn't feel like that we were was troublemakers, that's what the mood elicited when we first started, troublemakers and we was causing a problem. And on the other side of the corner, which is from the black community most of the old black leaders we don't need that at this time, you going to cause a whole lot of headaches in this town, we don't want not disturbance in that. So it plays both ways. But I've met a lot of white people who had sympathy for our place and support, but they couldn't come out and say it openly. Just like we had support from the black we had support from the whites, but they weren't going to come out in the open and tell you that. It's a funny thing even when I was running 01:08:00for office and down in Hillandale that's a very exclusive area in Griffin and I ran against Doug Tell and I walked that whole district, and I knocked on some doors and gave them my pamphlet, what my platform for running for the city commission. Some of them looked at me and slammed the door, some of them opened the door and asked me to come in to have a cup of co-- gave me a coke and a cookie. And they said, "I understand what you're doing." And then some would tell you, "I don't know if I could support you at this time." That's the way it was because they wasn't really ready because that district was about 75-80 percent white and 20 percent black that I were running against. But it was an experience for me, I learned it, they said you going, I said I'm going to walk it I walked to a lot of people. Like I said I got a lot of doors slammed in my face, I got a lot of people asking me in to sit down and asked me what I was doing and what my platform was. And some of them would tell you up front, "I like what you're doing but I can't support you at this time." So you've got to understand at that time they probably weren't ready for a lot of that 01:09:00things, so you know it's an experience for me because I said well but that's what it was.
WALKER-HARPS:Ms. Fitzhugh called, gave me a phone call of encouragement at thetime that President Obama was running. And then it brought back to my memory the fact that she was one of those persons who fought and who had a tremendous role, and they ensured that the calmness that occurred in Griffin through the turmoil remained, so it was what it was.
PHILLIPS:Right, like I said time has changed a lot and I can go into theseestablishments now, even a business establishment, they'd treat me real nice, respect, they call me Mr. Phillips, they call me Reverend Phillips. I know they know my past, but times has changed and it's not like it was. 01:10:00
WALKER-HARPS:Do you remember who the judges were, because they would have playeda tremendous role also.
PHILLIPS:Judge Welham was the judge at the time we was doing a lot of civilrights movement. Later come George -- I can't think of the judge right now.
PHILLIPS:Not Thomas, there was another one because he took his life, what thatman name, he was a judge, it will come to mind but anyway Welham was the main man though.
WALKER-HARPS:Do you remember the incident involving Judge Welham with the childand county I believe it was who was charged and was treated very, very harshly because of having stolen, was it a bar of candy, or an ice cream or whatever. I vaguely remember but I do know that that precipitated a march and the activities of I believe it was Tyrone Brooks and others from the Pike County 01:11:00and the Griffin area I don't remember. But John you and I have a lot of work to do, because some of this we can research if you -- and I know you're interested in doing it, I'll help you.
PHILLIPS:I can remember, I think, one of the most tense times in this city waswhen they hit the football game and this boy named Rick Sutton came walking through following the football game at night and this white man was sitting on his porch. And then as those kids got around in his area, he walked out and shot him point blank range and killed him. That was a time of unrest because those kids were really going street, we had to do a whole lot of time and calming down. The man that shot him made no time, they put him on something like house arrest. He had a restaurant right over there by the school over there Griffin High school now. The man shot the boy he said that he made some 01:12:00derogatory towards his wife and his family, but his family and his wife at the time they did research was in Atlanta. That was cold killing, when he shot that boy after the football game they were on their way home and he came off his porch and shot him right there in the street. So you know those things that really got this town -- this town they had a whole lot of stuff going on that day. And we had to do a whole lot of calming down and talking to people going through the churches. But the man never made a day for killing that boy and I can remember that because the kid was coming home from the football game, and that's what you call so much hatred, that was just hatred there. And they put him on house arrest and they even raised a fund for the man for his defense, can you imagine raising funds for the defense for taking a young man's life, and the man had no weapon, he was no threat to him. You shoot him down on the street and you raise a defense for him, and it's just sad. And I said well that 01:13:00really would have turned off the roof and going to blow the top off.
CAIN:Do you remember what year that was?
PHILLIPS:No, I can get the information on it later on, I can find if some of myfriends they can tell me. I've got some people can tell me.
WALKER-HARPS:I don't remember that either.
PHILLIPS:You don't, but honey that happened in Griffin, coming from the footballthat actually happened, guy named Rick Sutton that was the young man's name. But it all remind me what you call stand your ground, because wasn't no stand your ground there when you have no weapon and you minding your own business coming from a football game, you come off your porch and shoot a man out there in the street, on the sidewalk, that's pretty rough.
WALKER-HARPS:In spite of all of that we have people who achieved and during thatperiod who came through here, who were born and raised in Griffin and attained much much success, who would have been part of an era. Sam Cooke who was born down there on 8th Street. 01:14:00
WALKER-HARPS:Sam Cooke, Samuel DuBois Cooke.
PHILLIPS:Oh Samuel DuBois yes.
WALKER-HARPS:Yes, he would be one. Dr. Rutherford, Dr. C.C. Rutherford whobecame an outstanding doctor here. There are others whose names I can't recall, even (Haskell? who -- and not to mention the sports, you know, not to mention all those prison sports who were victims. But in spite of everything else they attained much success.
PHILLIPS:A lot of success came out of Griffin, doctors, Dr. Hood, Gerald. Dr.Wade Stilson had a son that was a doctor, and I thought an athlete Mrs. Harps you've got, I think Spalding County for the size and for the equipment that Mr. Whittaker had to teach those boys, they produce more athletes and professional football I don't believe like any other place. Cowboys, 01:15:00Kansas City Chiefs, and I can name going ahead, you had about five or six came out Willie Gault, Jessie Tuttle, they all part of Wetumpka, Wetumpka Rayfield right now, he played for the Dallas Cowboys, Morris Schreib played for the Kansas Chiefs that was one of Mr. Whittaker's students. So Griffin has produced a lot of athletes out here, and Wyoming Tyus and you just think about a town this small produce those type of athletes. We've got plenty of athletes come out of here.
CAIN:If you had to pinpoint one or two reasons why across the spectrum whetherit's athletics or academic achievement, what would be the reasons why you got great accomplishments that came -- and accomplished people coming out of Griffin, under circumstances in many cases where you would think 01:16:00there were so many barriers that would impede achievement?
PHILLIPS:I think some of them is the person's parents and the mainstream withtheir teachers, because the teachers like I said we had encouragement. And what they taught those kids in school and what encouragement they gave played a whole big role in their life and their parents some of the parents was determined so they had good parents. And the parents stood behind them and so that's why they achieved, so I guess that's why they strive so hard because they didn't want to look back at what they came from, they want to move forward and some of them did. Some of them did achieve their goals, you know some of them probably had goals when they was in school. So it all plays both ways with the training they had in school from the teachers and from their parents.
PHILLIPS:So a lot of these kids didn't have parents, sometimes the grandmotherraised them and pushed them through, and when you've got a good 01:17:00grandmother behind you boy she's going to make you or break you; she push you. I see some athletes down perfecting football talking about how do you come from a broken family, that grandparent, somebody, put them through school and made them grow up to be and they're playing professional school.
WALKER-HARPS:Let me ask you this as a minister or pastor we mentioned the roleof the church into particularly two churches, Hicks Chapel and Acaia and I remember those and their role. But what else was different about the impact of the faith community then compared to what it is now?
PHILLIPS:That's a pretty tough question is all. I don't know, I can't pinpointthat, but I know those two paths were delicate. I'm not saying the other preachers didn't or pastors didn't you know want to get involved --
WALKER-HARPS:No, no, not pastors as such --
PHILLIPS:What do you mean now?
WALKER-HARPS:Yes, but not personalities impact of the faith community.01:18:00
PHILLIPS:Oh you mean taking a role?
PHILLIPS:Oh, okay, it's a little different, when the preachers, when the pastorsat that time found out what role they needed to play, they played that role. It was hard to get them involved, but you've got pastors now it was hard to get them even to come to a meeting. I know she can testify to that, she can put on a program and invite them, but they won't show. They don't want to get involved. Sometimes I think they should come out from behind that pulpit and get into the streets or they need to get more involved in it. And that's the only way you're going to relate to the community through the pastor of the church. The pastor has a big role in the church, if he relates to his congregation what's going to happen, what we need to do it has an impact which we're talking about. But if you sit up there and don't say nothing from Sunday to Sunday I'm not getting involved, it's not my problem, it's going to be no effect. And I know she's had several meeting, maybe one or two come and that's about it.
WALKER-HARPS:You're right and I asked that question because my husband and Iwere having a conversation just this week and he was talking about 01:19:00his life up here what they call experiment line. And his friends and how they survived and prospered. And in the midst of all that was going on around them, and then we were wondering why was it so then and it's just the opposite today. And we concluded that perhaps the most fundamental reason was the Christianity within the family, the spiritual support of the family the parents were not able to read or write or as well or some could not at all. But they had a strong faith and they were committed, but most importantly they believed they were what they called born again Christians and the believed, they didn't just speak it. But it was their way of life and those Christian values gave them the 01:20:00strength to rear their children believing in God and religion.
CAIN:One last question from me. You mentioned something earlier about householdsand I'm just curious, without having any statistics or numbers, what's your sense about two parent homes years ago versus two parent homes today. Do you see a difference?
PHILLIPS:Yes, a lot of difference. Back in the day the father was thebreadwinner and the mom took care of the household, she would make sure those children got the necessities of things they need in life such as getting ready for school, preparing a meal for the husband. And probably later on the wife probably got a job, they were working but they still had that connection. Here you have mostly single parents and back when I was coming up you 01:21:00didn't have a lot of single parents, when you've got single parents it takes two to raise a child in a family now, not only economical but like you said, spiritual wise, give him that character that he needs and give him that strong feeling to direct him in the right direction he need to go. So you've got a lot of single parents, and they don't have that male role in there, that's why I figured, man a lot of the human beings are on drugs. Because there's no male model in the home to say hey, don't do drugs, that's not good. It's hard for single, I applaud the single parent who's got two or three children, raised those children, and put them through school. And they've got all this other, how do I put it, just attraction out there in their life, there's more peer pressure on these younger generation. You know I can do this; my mother don't tell me to do that, it's hard on them young people they got to go home and face that. And as a mother trying to raise two or three children she's trying to work and buy for them, there is no male in that household it's going to be hard. And -- and before you even get into the church it's going to be hard 01:22:00because, you know, she's trying to work, she's trying to hold that family together and some of them ain't going to do it right, they're going to get in the streets, they're going to get with the wrong crowd. So it makes a lot of difference. But when we was coming up with our parents we had some -- even in the community if I went across the street and I got in something the lady going to come on the door and say, "What you doing over here, do you mom and daddy know what you at. Go on back home." You had to go, and you did not talk back to them, you did not say anything, you got yourself up and you went across the street. My father if it don't belong to you we would not pick up anything in anybody's yard because it wasn't ours. But them old folk would chastise you and your parents said, "You'd better not talk back to no people." We respected our elders and we did not sass them out nor the schoolteacher, that was a no-no. Now it's a different ballgame, there's half of them parents raised with a single parent because nobody in there ready to tell them, they have the young children when they're young. They didn't have no structure, how do you expect 01:23:00for them to have babies now there is no structure, you see the young kids running the streets all the time. And if you try to call them, "I don't have to go in the house." "Your momma tell you not?" "I do what I please." And it's odd, but when you get into the spiritual side of the church I think it's a lot, when she's talking about your faith I think the faith and the belief is sort of is not there when we was coming along like it is today, there's just something missing there. Oh sure the church is high now, you've got the choir, you've got all the spirit inspiration and choirs and dancing in the church and all, hey there's more than that.
CAIN:I guess I have one more question. (laughter)
WALKER-HARPS:I have one too, I have more.
PHILLIPS:There's more than that now.
CAIN:You know that whole saying about it takes a village to raise a child, andyou know since we've been talking about sort of the Fairmont community and if you had to identify I guess one of the single most important 01:24:00institutions in that community as you were coming up was it the high school, was it -- can you identify what people really rallied around as that important institution for that community?
PHILLIPS:The school played a very, very important role in the child's life. Thechurch in the community that played a high role in them because they was strict, and the parents in the community were strict like I said you done anything out of order in that community they're going to call your parents and you going to get a whupping when you got home. That was it you going to go out the way to do nothing wrong, if you did they going to call you into question about it. But the school played -- I'm going to tell you this Fairmont was put on the map by Dr. Tate. Now everybody respected Horace Tate as the principal of that school everybody who applied to go to Fairmont. Fairmont was the school because we had a winning team on basketball and football everybody respect Fairmont. And I can remember when they started having tournaments. Fairmont is the only 01:25:00time I believe in that era that only had a closed in gym, everybody played basketball on the outside and when they had the district tournaments they had the A, B, and C district tournaments those kids would come to Fairmont and play, all the way from Thomaston, LaGrange, Newnan, wherever you name it they would come, they'd even come farther. What the little town out Waycross they would come to Fairmont, some of the kids would stay overnight, even the parents would ask the community can you take these kids in they had to drive a long way, a lot of kids stayed overnight to play in them tournament for three days. Fairmont was really known because that's why I said it played a high role in them kids' life over there. That's what happened though a lot of people don't remember that, but all the tournaments were played in that gym, A, B, and C districts. They came Butler, Georgia Realm, Hogansville, Caperton, they played there, Douglasville, all those kids came and played at that school, they 01:26:00played the district tournaments there, Mr. Tate put the school on the map, and it played a high role in the community, very high role, because they respected the school.
CAIN:I would bet that would be the case in a huge way.
PHILLIPS:And we had a lot of teachers there that was very qualified and veryconcerned and I'm going to give you a list. Ms. Mays was our math teacher, in the neighborhood it was two words she would come in we was all in the 10th and 11th grade she'd come in and the class would open the book, the first thing she'd say turn to chapter such and page this, I want you to illustrate and elucidate that was her two words. That means she wants you to give a meaning and work out the problem. And she'd walk right back out the door, she would not go to that board and work out and give you an example you had to butt your head and get it. So all the kids were saying she said, "That Mays just too hard, how we are going to learn all that algebra and trigonometry and that." Maybe we had one or two that had to get by with it, you know, we had to go then and 01:27:00take it with them. But you know what happened, and I often say the same thing I was I agree Mays needs to be in the university, when she left there she went to teach at Wayne University, Detroit. She was just that way, she was a good teacher now, but she'd come in like you was going to college, walk in that door and get that one book and walk out. But she was good, she knows the math, but everybody was fearing Ms. Mays coming, Ms. Roundtree was a sweet little person, she taught us language and literary too she was good. Ms. Mollett did play, she taught social service, you wasn't going to play in that lady's classroom she'd take you up to Mr. Tate's office in a heartbeat. We had some good history teachers; we had some good typing teachers.
WALKER-HARPS:If you remember Mrs. Mollett's -- you remember Mollett's gym, doyou remember Mollett's Gym?
PHILLIPS:I think the gym, they built the new Fairmont gym, I think I remember alittle bit about it.
WALKER-HARPS:You weren't one of those who had to visit behind Mollett's Gym.
PHILLIPS:Yes, that's right, that's been a long time ago.01:28:00
WALKER-HARPS:Well you were lucky if you don't know it it means that you neverhad to visit it, because I understand they had a special place behind it. (laughter) You have one question left?
CAIN:No I'm done.
WALKER-HARPS:We answered yours, okay, I'd like to know, now I know we still haveSCLC and I also know that you continue to be active with the SCLC and NAACP is still here. Now tell me about the demise of BUGG was that in local, was that as NAACP and then SCLC from a national --
PHILLIPS:We had what you call the associate with SCL, so we didn't have --
WALKER-HARPS:Oh BUGG was associated with this, oh okay.
PHILLIPS:It was not a chapter at that time, we was an associate of SCLC but theNAACP we did have a local chapter.
WALKER-HARPS:Oh I know the history of NAACP.
PHILLIPS:This came in off their system because when we started having01:29:00voter registration drives and started having mass marches and things they came in and put the energy and time in and chose the dos and don'ts when your picketing and when you're doing a certain thing.
WALKER-HARPS:And you named it BUGG?
PHILLIPS:Yeah, BUGG. I got the chance to, that came down through Jose Williams,I got a chance to talk to Jose Williams. Jose talked to me like I'm talking to my dad, he always said he's a friend if you need something, but I'll send him down to help you out with the voter registration and the marches, and how I do know to keep people in line and the nonviolence. They were taught nonviolence too, but we just was associated with SCLC at that time.
CRUICKSHANK:Well I guess it's time to wrap up so thank you again ReverendPhillips for coming by.
PHILLIPS:I hope I answered you questions to the best of my ability man.
WALKER-HARPS:A fascinating discussion.
PHILLIPS:I hope I gave you the accurate thing.
WALKER-HARPS:You gave us some -- you opened the door for additional01:30:00research right John. So we get to work on that.
CAIN:Yes and I'll say I enjoyed your presentation, learned a lot, and appreciateyou coming in.
PHILLIPS:I gave you the best of my abilities, when I talk about this God knowsit's true just the way it happened, I don't want to exaggerate and like I said I don't boast I just tell you it just like it is.
CUNNINGHAM:Thank you so much for your time. Is there anything else you want toshare with us before you go?
PHILLIPS:No, first I would like to say thank you all for inviting me, especiallyMs. Harps for inviting me to your program here and for your to review me or interview me if I give you some facts the same to helping Griffin, Georgia. And like I said this is my home, I'm born and raised in it and I've always loved Griffin, and I've always loved helping peoples if I could, you know, in a way some people you can help some you can't. But I've loved helping peoples all my life and my momma always told me never put anyone down or think I was better than anybody else, always treat people as I want to be treated and that stuck still in me, because she had a whole lot of love, she was just that 01:31:00way. And I hope I've been on some help to you today and I look forward to working with you all in the future.
WALKER-HARPS:You have and thank you for taking the time out to come because youcould have said no but you didn't, and so we do appreciate that, because if this is going to be substantial support or help to others then we need to fill in gaps and as many people as we possibly can. And as I said to you those who actually lead the life are not here so we don't have primary sources so we're going to have to use as many secondary sources as we possibly can. So and as we put this together we will identify gaps and go back and try to fill in with either research or searching individuals. And we're not just local, we're going to speak to some of those persons who lived here and who are still active but no longer live here. So we do thank you, thank you, thank you.
PHILLIPS:You're quite welcome thank you again.01:32:00
CAIN:What should also excite you is just think a hundred years from now, ahundred-fifty years from now somebody's going to be listening to you and listening to this interview.
PHILLIPS:Yeah it's a strange thing, like I said I know we're closing up, butsomebody, how did you really get important, I don't really know myself, but it had to be the work of God. You know me, I mean you just, you know your life -- I'm going to say your life is already predestinated from the time your born from the time you leave it you don't never know what God; God has a plan for all of our lives. We just don't know what role you're going to play in it.
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