Civil Rights Greensboro

UNCG Home > The University Libraries > Civil Rights Greensboro Home > Oral history interview with Jack Moebes by Jim Schlosser

Oral history interview with Jack Moebes by Jim Schlosser


Date: December 17, 1997

Interviewee: John G. Moebes

Biographical abstract: John G. "Jack" Moebes (1911-2002) was a photographer for the Greensboro Record and the Greensboro Daily News newspapers from 1946 to 1976. His most famous photo is the only one taken of all four of students who began the February 1, 1960 sit-in at Woolworth’s.

Interviewer: Jim Schlosser

Description:

In this transcript of a December 17, 1997, oral history interview conducted by Jim Schlosser with Jack Moebes, Moebes primarily recounts his experiences as a photographer of civil rights activities in Greensboro, including the February 1, 1960, sit-in, subsequent demonstrations, and the desegregation of Gillespie and Sumner schools. He also describes a run-in with a Klansman, details of the history of the Greensboro newspapers, and particulars of cameras.

Subjects:

Format of original: Oral History

Collection: GreensboroVOICES Collection

Repository: The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Item#: 1.10.599

Rights: It is responsibility of the user to follow the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Materials are not to be reproduced in published works without written consent, and any use should credit Civil Rights Greensboro and the appropriate repository.



Oral history interview with Jack Moebes by Jim Schlosser

[Begin Tape 1, Side A]

Jim Schlosser:

I'm interviewing Jack Moebes and it's about December seventeenth—sixteenth or seventeenth, anyway—1997, and we're in Jack's house. How long you lived here, Jack?

Jack Moebes:

Huh?

JS:

How long have you lived in this house?

JM:

Let's see, I believe it was '59, I believe.

JS:

Fifty-nine? Did you buy—was it built that year?

JM:

No, no, no. It was built in '25, I think.

JS:

Built in '25. We're in the historic College Park neighborhood. One of the—

JM:

Well, they're trying to make this historic, but—

JS:

Yeah, yeah not district, but it's still historic in the sense that it's one of our early subdivisions.

JM:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

JS:

Right. And Jack was a photographer for, on the newspaper, for what years Jack?

JM:

Fif[ty]—'46 to '76.

JS:

Seventy-six. Were you a photographer somewhere else before that? At another paper?

JM:

Carroll[?] Martin was the first full-time photographer.

JS:

Right.

JM:

He worked seven years, and I took his place.

JS:

Right. But before that were you a photographer somewhere else?

JM:

Well, I was about six months down in Wilmington [North Carolina], then I came up here.

JS:

Right. Now you also have a law degree, don't you?

JM:

Oh, yeah, yeah.

JS:

From Cumberland [University], is that right?

JM:

Yeah, 1935.

JS:

Why didn't you practice law?

JM:

Well, I got out in the middle of the depression, and there just wasn't any openings.

JS:

So you—

JM:

And, and I—what—I was an athlete. I went, I, I went through school on scholarships—athlete.

JS:

What type of sports?

JM:

Football.

JS:

Football. You weren't on that team that lost to Georgia Tech [Georgia Technical Institute] by that big score, were you?

JM:

No. That [laughs], no, that was, that ten years—no, that was right after World War I [sic, 1916]. And what's that guy, that award? Hyson?

JS:

Heisman Trophy, yeah.

JM:

[John] Heisman.

JS:

Yeah.

JM:

He was [coaching] at Georgia Tech. Baseball was a pretty good thing about that time, and Cumberland had beat Georgia Tech pretty, pretty much in baseball. And they had a lot of people there in the war. It may have been in the war year, I'm not sure. Kind of like Duke [University], a lot of athletes come in there so they have a real good team. And I guess Cumberland's a pretty small college and they wanted to get the money, so they went down to Savan[nah]—to Atlanta—

JS:

And they got beat two-hundred and something to nothing—football.

JM:

Every once in a while somebody'll bring that up to me, and I try to tell them that, you know, that was a long time before I went there.

JS:

Right. And that Cumberland was where? What town?

JM:

Lebanon, Tennessee.

JS:

Right. And now it's down in Alabama, isn't it?

JM:

No. It's the, the arts and sciences that is still in Lebanon but the law school is in Birmingham.

JS:

Birmingham. Samford.

JM:

Samford University.

JS:

Yeah, Samford University.

JM:

I think, I think what happens, they just sold the law school, I think. They had a whole lot of people like [Tennessee politician] Cordell Hull are you familiar with him?

JS:

Sure, sure.

JM:

And all that, had pictures of him, and they sold all that stuff and the library and all. I don't think they got much for it.

JS:

Right. And before you became a photographer, what kind of work did you do between law school and becoming a photographer?

JM:

Worked in a steel mill.

JS:

Worked in Birmingham somewhere?

JM:

Yes.

JS:

Wow. Okay. And what got you interested in photography?

JM:

Well, I got—I went up—I knew I couldn't stand that steel work. It played, it paid a very good salary. But it was automated and you worked on a five-man team, and if one man made a mistake it hurt everybody. It worked on a bonus system. Sometimes a bonus system amounted to about the same as, as your salary, basically. So it's a vicious system. It—and I wasn't too good at it, so the guys were always thinking I was taking money out of their pocket.

And I, I didn't like it. So I went up to the World's Fair in New York in 1940, and I went over to Stephen's Institute in Hoboken [New Jersey]. They were giving tests out there. I was—got a man named Johnson O'Connor [pioneer in the study of aptitude testing], and they'd indicated I'd be good in journalism. So I guess he was one of the forerunners in testing. And so when I got in the army, I made it a point to get in the photographic outfit.

JS:

I see. So you were in the army during World War II.

JM:

Yeah.

JS:

Right.

JM:

Three years overseas, one year States.

JS:

Okay. And before you went to—where were you, where were you born?

JM:

Decatur, Alabama.

JS:

Decatur, Alabama. Did you—and where'd you go to undergraduate college?

JM:

Well, I went to both to Cumberland and to Loyola [University] in New Orleans.

JS:

Oh, okay. All right. And so you were working for the Record in 1960. You were the afternoon, assigned to the afternoon paper. Or were you working for both [Greensboro Record and Greensboro Daily News]?

JM:

Well, when I, when they hired me, I was hired for both. But it wasn't long, too long after that that they put Floyd Henley on the Record and they put Miles Wolff [author of Lunch at the 5&10]—hired him from Baltimore and put him on the News. And since I had an upcoming family, I chose to be on the day side.

JS:

Right, yeah. And when I came to the paper in '67, I think you were on the day side. You, you shot mostly for us, the Record.

JM:

Yeah, yeah, yeah, that's right.

JS:

Although occasionally, in the afternoon you might have shot something for the Daily News. Is that right?

JM:

No, I think—oh yeah, yeah, that's right. When I first, when I first started I was supposed to, I worked for both papers.

JS:

Right.

JM:

But Floyd Henley hired me, so—I'm trying to think, if you'd be patient with me.

JS:

Sure, sure.

JM:

Floyd Henley hired me and I, when—eventually we split staff. I can't remember how long it was before we split staff, but maybe about five years or something. And that's when they brought, I guess that's when they brought Miles Wolff down from Baltimore. And he was on the News, so I wanted to be on the Record so I could work daytime. So I did.

JS:

And what—and by that—

JM:

And what did you ask me? I lost track.

JS:

Oh, that's all right. Well, by that time, I know when I came, the Record and the Daily News were clearly defined newspapers. The only overlap was really the photographers sometimes would shoot for both papers. But, but even then, even that, you and John Page often did a lot of the shooting for the, for the afternoon paper.

JM:

No, John Page worked for the News.

JS:

Oh, did he? Or was it one—it was you and, was it Dave Nicholson?

JM:

Dave Nicholson and Jimmy—

JS:

Jimmy Jeffries, yeah.

JM:

Dave Nicholson and—wait a minute. Dave Nicholson worked for the News, Jimmy worked with the Record, and for a while, Lefty worked for the Record.

JS:

Yeah, Lefty Maddoway[?], who was a real character.

JM:

Yeah.

JS:

Okay. And tell me about the equipment. I know you were one of the last, you continued to use those big Speed Graphics [press cameras] for a while there didn't you?

JM:

Yeah.

JS:

What, what type of cameras, what, on, in, in 1960, what were you shooting?

JM:

Well, in 1960, we used the Graphic and a Graflex. Now, Graflex was, it was a 4x5, but it had a real long lens on it. And we used it for football, mostly.

JS:

But they were big cameras you had to hold with both hands, right?

JM:

Yeah—no, you, you, you could hold it with your left hand, but it was, it was pretty heavy. Sometimes you'd rest a little of it on your shoulder. It's pretty heavy. I've got one in there if you'd like to see it.

JS:

Yeah, we'll have to take a look at it in a little bit. What was the lens length? I'm just curious.

JM:

Well, I think the lens length was 147 millimeters on a, on the, on the Graphic.

JS:

Right.

JM:

Now those, those Graflex were probably about 200, about 200 millimeters.

JS:

Right.

JM:

I've got a picture of—what was his name, from Notre Dame? He's right famous.

JS:

The coach?

JM:

Yeah.

JS:

Oh—

JM:

After [Knute] Rockne.

JS:

Yeah, oh—

JM:

Leahy?

JS:

Frank Leahy.

JM:

What?

JS:

Frank Leahy.

JM:

I don't know whether it was Leahy or Layden, but I've got a bunch of pictures that I shot across the field and got him head on, and used that big, that big long lens.

JS:

Where'd you shoot those, in New York when they—

JM:

No, I shot them here, at Chapel Hill.

JS:

Oh, where they played, they played down there?

JM:

Yeah, they played one game down here that I know of.

JS:

Right. And why did you want to switch to those 35mm cameras?

JM:

I didn't want to.

JS:

Why, why not?

JM:

Well, see when—we split staff for a number of years, and then when we came back to combined staff a guy named Hauser was there.

JS:

Right, Charles Hauser, Chuck Hauser.

JM:

Yeah, which, which I didn't know. I may have spoken to him in the elevator or something. But Jim worked—Womack worked under him. So when they combined the staff, they put Jim Womack in charge and gave, made him chief photographer. So—let's see, what did you ask me?

JS:

Well, about the 35mm cameras.

JM:

Oh, yeah. So they wanted me to use a 35, but they let me use a two and a quarter some. And—but eventually, I think I used a 35 most all of the time.

JS:

Yeah, right, yeah. I remember a couple of assignments I went out with you, you still used that old Speed Graphic once or twice, but most of the time you were shooting a Nikon 35mm.

JM:

Yeah, yeah.

JS:

Okay. Well, let's go up to, to February 1, 1960. Tell me what happened that day. How did you get the assignment and what happened?

JM:

Well, [Record reporter] Jo Spivey was pretty close to the dentist fellow—what's his name?

JS:

The dentist, Dr. George Simkins [president of the local National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) chapter].

JM:

Simskin [sic].

JS:

Simkins, yeah.

JM:

Yeah. So, so Simkins put Jo onto it. And—you see, these kids went in there after, after classes. So she got in touch with Floyd. I think that's the way it was.

JS:

She had, she had gone home maybe.

JM:

Yeah. She got in touch with Floyd, and Floyd got me on the beeper and told me to get down there. I was on another assignment.

JS: You carried a beeper in those days—I didn't remember those, yeah.

JM:

Yeah, I had a beeper. So I went on down there, and the, the doors were closed and the kids were in there. The four of them were in there. So I didn't know which door they were going to come out of, so I stood on the corner of Sycamore and Elm [Streets], you know, where I could watch both doors. So it so happened they came out on the Sycamore side. Well, the only thing—I figured I had to get something, so I got the four of them walking down the sidewalk.

JS:

That, that's been a classic photograph. They've been using that for the, for the statue that's—or the bus that's there or—

JM:

But it was ten years before that picture was ever used, and the reason why is they sent me down there the next morning, and then those pictures took—that was at the counters. So that's what they wanted to use, the pictures at the counters. So they didn't use that picture at all.

JS:

And even though the second day shot was not of the original four. I think there were two of the original—

JM:

Two of the original four and—

JS:

Yeah, and then two new people.

JM:

Two new people, yeah. So you can see why they wouldn't want to use that.

JS:

Yeah, they want something fresh from that day, yeah.

JM:

So the tenth, tenth anniversary, then it took on significance, the fact that they were the, the originators.

JS:

Right.

JM:

So that's when that—started using that picture.

JS:

Right. I want to go back to that. But at the time you shot that picture and you were outside Woolworth's, were you excited? Did you know that something special was happening, or—

JM:

Yeah, I knew something was, special was happening. In fact, I was a little bit relieved that I couldn't get in the door, because I didn't know what Curly's reaction was going to be.

JS:

Curly Harris, the manager, yeah.

JM:

Yeah. In fact, the next morning Floyd told me to go back there. And I said, “Well, you know I'm going to be trespassing, and I don't know what Curly's going to do. And actually I could be arrested, so you get over there and get me out of that jail.” And so he said he would. [laughing]

So I went on down there, and Curly said, “You can't take any pictures in here.”

And I said, “Well, Curly, they sent me down here to take pictures, it's my job.” And I said, “You do what you have to do, and I'll do what have, what I have to do.”

So he put his hands up in front of the camera and I'd move over a little bit—and I was shooting cramped[?] counters—I'd move over a little bit and he'd put his hands back up in front of the camera. So finally, I took my camera and held it up over both of our heads and started clicking. And I don't know whether I got anything or not, because I couldn't see through the viewfinder, but evidently he thought I was. So he went on back to the back of the store and I just went ahead and took my pictures. Of course, I don't know whether there was any Ku Klux [Klan] there that first day or not, because the thing went on and a lot of those pictures I got successive days.

JS:

Right. Did you know Curly Harris before this?

JM:

Oh, yeah, yeah.

JS:

How did you know him?

JM:

I just don't know how I knew him. I had shot some commercial work for him and—off moonlighting. And also I'd shot pictures for him after that. He didn't hold it against me. I guess he—

JS:

Right. I talked to him yesterday.

JM:

You did?

JS:

Yeah. He was a very, he was very pleasant. You know, he's still got some, probably outdated views on things. But he's a nice man, and, you know, he says he really didn't—doesn't blame the black people for doing what they did. So, you know, but he, he felt like he had a job to do and so forth.

JM:

Did he, did he say anything about me?

JS:

No, he didn't say anything. I wish I'd had asked him about that incident. Maybe I'll get back to him on that and ask about it.

But did you get a chance—let's go back to the first day again. You knew something special—you'd been in Greensboro a while. This was just sort of unheard of, right?

JM:

Well, I came in '46, this was '60.

JS:

Yeah, yeah, and this type of behavior, or black people going into a white place was unheard of, as far as you—

JM:

Yeah, but of course I didn't realize the significance of it. I don't think any of us did.

JS:

Right, but you knew something special, because somebody was challenging the system.

JM:

Yeah, yeah.

JS:

And this was the first time you'd been involved in something like that had—or, or were you involved with Simkins when he got arrested?

JM:

Who?

JS:

George Simkins. You know, he got arrested out at Gillespie Park Golf Course.

JM:

Yeah, I've got that picture.

JS:

Did you take that picture?

JM:

Yeah.

JS:

So you had taken some pictures of black-white confrontations before.

JM:

Well, I took a picture of Simkins in the, when they arraigned for a trial. Let's see, I don't believe counsel was in that picture with them, but there's about five of them. I can show it to you if you'd like to see it. But Simkins was in that picture. And what happened, the way I understand it—and it may be I have it a little bit wrong—but they were indicted, and they were tried, and they were convicted of trespass, I guess it was trespass. And it simmered along a good while. And I think they paid a fine, and [Governor] Luther Hodges did away with the sentence, sentence that he—I don't know what he did. I forgot the legal term right now.

JS:

I'm not sure. I think the fourth circuit court stepped in, too, and might have vacated the sen[tence]—refused to hear. They won on appeal somewhere, and it was upheld. And then I think Hodges might have—

JM:

He might have propelled it along someway or another.

JS:

Right, right.

JM:

Of course, he, he wasn't, he wasn't in the judiciary.

JS:

Right, right. Yeah, we're talking about Luther Hodges, the governor at the time. Did you cover Gov. Hodges when he came to A&T [North Carolina A&T State University] one time and made that speech where people booed him and hissed him?

JM:

No, no.

JS:

Because he was using the word, instead of saying “negro” he was saying “nigra,” and that got some of the students mad.

JM:

Well, I remember that, he called it “nigra”. I couldn't see why they would make such an exception about that.

JS:

Yeah.

JM:

Whether it was negro or nigra, what—what—

JS:

Yeah.

JM:

But they did.

JS:

Yeah.

JM:

Of course, if I'd have been in their place and had been treated as they were, I might have taken any little exception and might've [been] sensitive to any exception.

JS:

Right. Now you were from Alabama and a Southerner at that time. What were—what was your feeling about race relations at the time?

JM:

Well, I was sympathetic I think. Yeah. I'd see them standing up in most places and I'd just, I'd just felt—well, I'll tell you what hit me when I came back from the war was they had the segregated seats. Of course, I—

JS:

You're talking about on bus, on trains, on busses?

JM:

Yeah. Busses, yeah, excuse me. I don't think to clarify things like I should. Anyway, I came back from war and I'd, I would see blacks crowded up back there in the back. And Japanese people or Orientals, it could have just as well been Chinese, but I'd see them seated with the whites. And there I'd spent over three years over in that Pacific, that stinking damn Pacific, and here were the—you know how I felt about the Japanese—and consequently, I guess I transferred it to all Orientals. But, I, I felt, here they are seated with the white people, and the blacks are having to crowd back over there.

JS:

Right. Some of those black people had fought, fought in the war.

JM:

Right, yeah, yeah. And I had thought about that. Some of the black people had fought, fought in different, they fought a good many, but they fought in different, they were, they weren't in our outfit.

JS:

Right. But you grew up in a very segregated atmosphere.

JM:

Yes, I did. Yeah, yeah.

JS:

And I guess, if you're sort of like me, it just became part of the landscape and you really didn't question it too much.

JM:

You went along with the, with—got along, get along, you know.

JS:

Yeah, yeah. But you did feel some sym[pathy]—did you get a chance to talk to the four as they came towards you as you were shooting your pictures?

JM:

I did not at that time, no.

JS:

Did you know any of them personal[ly]?

JM:

No. But they were cordial. They were nice to me. Did what I asked them to.

JS:

Right. So you would ask them to stop and—

JM:

Yeah, in fact I had them, had them walk down twice. And I've got, I had two pictures, and one of them has a woman walking on the sidewalk, a black woman, and she's trying to get around. She's in one of those pictures. So this black newspaper, [Carolina] Peacemaker, I gave them one, and it so happened that I gave them one with the, with the—she was in it. So they take pride in saying they have one different from all the others. Later on, I lost that negative, but I did resurrect a print and made a copy of it.

JS:

Right. But that, you, you gave it to them not that day, but late, much—years later.

JM:

Well, whenever they asked for it. I don't know when they asked for it.

JS:

It was years later. I don't think the Peacemaker came into existence probably until the late sixties.

JM:

Well, they had a fellow named—

JS:

John Marshall Stevenson.

JM:

No. I can't think of his name, but he ran it all by himself. And it, I think it's been here from I don't know what—

JS:

May, maybe there was. I know I've always associated it with John Marshall Kilimanjaro. You know, he, he had, he's been the publisher for years and years.

JM:

Well, I think he may have come even later.

JS:

Right.

JM:

Because that paper was in existence for a long time. Now they may have changed names.

JS:

Right. But they didn't use that picture right away, they waited, too.

JM:

I don't know, I don't know.

JS:

Yeah, right. And what made you decide to keep that negative, that first negative, when they said, “Oh, we're not going to use that. We're going to use a more up-to-date picture of the next day.” What, did you file it away?

JM:

I felt there was some significance to it.

JS:

Did y'all file all your neg[atives]—all your unused negatives back then?

JM:

No. At—just every once in a while they would ask us for a print or ask us for the negative and they would file it.

JS:

Right.

JM:

And my understanding is that they threw everything, most everything out after every year, until about three or four years ago. You might confirm that.

JS:

I don't know. I'm not sure about that. I hope not, because, you know, there's some very valuable pictures. Now we've got some good pictures of Jesse Jackson, you know, back in '63 and those pictures that you made in '57 over at Gillespie [Park School]. I forgot about that, that you were involved in that. So you had become sort of a veteran of this civil rights [unclear—both talking].

JM:

Yeah, well, you saw that spread, didn't you?

JS:

Yeah, yeah.

JM:

Of course, they didn't use all of my civil rights pictures.

JS:

Right. Did, did anybody call you the next day saying, “Can we get a print of that picture you made of the four coming out of the Woolworth's?” That original picture?

JM:

No, no, they said nobody was interested in it.

JS:

Right. How did you know where to go look for that negative ten years later when somebody said, “Hey, we need that”? And how did the situation arise?

JM:

Well, I'll show you.

JS:

Okay.

JM:

What we do is—[long pause, footsteps in background]. The first five years I was there, we just threw away, I threw away all my negatives. Then a guy named Peacock came in there for a while, and he said, “You guys are crazy to throw away those negatives.” So I started putting them in a box and it took me about, I guess about three or four months to fill up a box. And then I date the time I filled it up, and you can see—

JS:

Yeah, you've got it—this is an old, yellow Kodak box, and you've got “Ending July 14, 1961” and—yeah.

JM:

I just, I would just fill them up, then I guess if anybody wanted anything I'd just go back and get it.

JS:

And so—but how did anybody remember that you had been there that day taking the picture? Did somebody come to you, or did you just say “I—,” speak up and say—

JM:

Well, Jo Spivey was still there, and of course Floyd was still there, and they, they all knew about it.

JS:

Well, Floyd—see, this was ten years later. Floyd was gone. Because I came in '67 and Floyd had just retired.

JM:

[unclear]

JS:

Yeah, he had just reti[red]—Porter Crisp was then the boss, the managing editor, when I came. And Chuck Hauser was the executive editor, and so—

JM:

That's the reason he picked—Hauser picked Jim when we consolidated the staff, so then I—it was a pretty bitter pill.

JS:

Yeah, I know.

[Conversation on “office politics” at the News and Record redacted per interviewee's stated preference. To listen to unedited interview, please contact University Archives. Interview continues:]

JS:

How was—was Womack sympathetic to what, you know, when you were taking civil rights pictures? Was there any problem—

JM:

Well, no, he wasn't over me at that time.

JS:

Right. That's right. But later was there any problem when you covered the riots and some other—you know, those, these things went on for year after year. Always something was happening.

JM:

But a whole lot of that stuff happened at night in which I didn't work. Those marches happened at night.

JS:

Right. And tell me, that picture—because of the pictures you took, you've been honored, and tell me about some of that. What's happened in the years since then, as far as the civil rights movement? They've—you've got, you were honored by what, Project Homestead, I think?

JM:

Yeah, that's the—no, that's the Unsung Hero award up, see it up there on the—

JS:

Oh, yeah, yeah.

JM:

The reason it's not on the wall back there with my other awards is because I can't put it, hang it on the wall. You can look at it as you go out.

JS:

Right. And you've been, you've been honored at the, some of the commemorations, twenty-fifth?

JM:

Well, just one.

JS:

What was that? The twenty-fifth or thirtieth, maybe?

JM:

Let's see, see what this thing says. It was about—it was last year John—Jim. It says February 15, 1997.

JS:

Yeah, that would have—oh, that was last year—this year. Yeah, that's right, because the story about you appeared this year. Yeah, yeah. Unsung Hero, yeah, that's great. We're looking at a trophy award that's diamond-shaped glass and it says, “Unsung Hero award, presented to Jack Moebes in recognition of your supported services to the sit-in demonstrations which started on February 1, 1960.” And it was presented February 15, 1997. That's a nice thing.

JM:

I've got a—do you know that paper where they did that spread?

JS:

Yeah.

JM:

I have it here if you want to look at it.

JS:

Oh, I saw, I looked at that.

JM:

Okay.

JS:

Did you and Curly ever talk about any of this later?

JM:

No, I don't think I've ever talked to Curly about it.

JS:

Yeah. And did you ever get to know Dave Richmond afterwards?

JM:

No, but I have kept, I'm keeping, kind of keeping up with Joe Neil—McNeil—was it Neil?

JS:

McNeil, yeah.

JM:

In fact, I sent him a Christmas card this year.

JS:

I think it's McNeil, yeah. I saw him the other night.

JM:

You did? Where was he?

JS:

Yeah, he was in Greensboro with Franklin McCain.

JM:

He was?

JS:

They came up, they drove up—he flew into Charlotte to McCain, where McCain lives, and they drove to Greensboro and both—McCain made a speech to a group of youngsters and Neil, I mean, McNeil was honored—is it Neil, I think—gosh, I don't know why the name—

JM:

I don't know, but I sent him a Christmas card this year.

JS:

Did you?

JM:

Yeah.

JS:

Is this the—you always do that?

JM:

I don't know whether I've done that before or not. I just decided to do it. I saw his address in there. I sent him—well, I had a real good talk with him out there that night. And then I sent him some pictures, and he, he sent me a very cordial letter back, and so—

JS:

Great. Well, he's a nice guy. All of them. I got to know Dave Richmond towards the last ten years of his life, interviewed him a couple of times at Woolworth. We'd go over there and sit, and just a wonderful guy. Just had a lot of tragedy in his life and he, and he had a drinking problem.

JM:

Had a what?

JS:

A drinking problem he had developed, and there was just, and it just ate him up and it killed him early. He had some other problems too.

JM:

But he worked out of it, huh?

JS:

Well, no, I don't think he did. He might have finally licked the drinking problem, but by then he had some other health problems and he, and he died.

JM:

Richmond died?

JS:

Yeah, he's the only one that's dead. The other three are still alive.

JM:

What—oh.

JS:

Richmond died, I think, in '91, '92, that area.

JM:

Well, the one that took another name—

JS:

Now, he's still alive. That's Jibreel Khazan, used to be Ezell Blair, Jr. He's still alive. He lives up in Massachusetts somewhere.

JM:

You know, I think he was in the, I think he was in the, in the Gillespie thing.

JS:

He might have been, I'm not sure. Now when I looked at those seven names—no, he wasn't in there. It was, there were two, there was two brothers, a sister and a brother, and three other people, but there wasn't Ezell Blair, Jr., because I would have recognized that name. I just interviewed Brenda Florence.

JM:

You did?

JS:

Yeah, who was one of the “Gillespie Seven.”

JM:

Yeah, well, let me show you this right here.

JS:

[pause—shuffling of papers]—make sure this is running. Okay, Jack's bringing in some pictures here. [shuffling of papers] These are of the students, pictures of the students at Gillespie School, five of them, who integrated Gillespie School in 1957. And those, those, that day was the first time that black children in Greensboro had ever gone to school with white children. Another woman, high school student, Josephine Boyd, entered what's now Grimsley High School the next day.

JM:

That's all I have of it.

JS:

And he's brought in another picture showing a police officer escorting the Gillespie students across the school lawn. Lots of people milling on the lawn and one man taking photos. These were, those were tense times. Did you, other than, you know, your relationship with Womack, did you enjoy your years as a photographer?

JM:

Oh, yeah, man, I loved my work. Oh yeah, I just loved—matter of fact, when I first got in there, I said, you know, they give me all the film I want—of course, it was a little bit tight on account of the war. It was—they hadn't recovered from the war yet. And I thought, you give me all the, all the film and paper I want and time to do it and pay me too. And get paid for it too.

JS:

Yeah, and they—your equipment, your cameras, too, right?

JM:

Yeah, everything. And a place to work.

JS:

Yeah, and meet interesting people occasionally.

JM:

Oh, yeah, yeah. But I was pretty, I had an inferiority complex, a pretty bad one. And I don't know, I—getting into crowds and new people and all that, I didn't go—I finally worked out of it, but—

JS:

What, you just feel like you were, weren't good enough as a photographer or something at that time?

JM:

I always kind of felt that, yeah.

JS:

Well, I think everybody—well, not everybody. I know some young people that think they're real good. But, but I think all of us, you know, suffer from a little of that and you just have to overcome it. I mean, 'cause there's no—you got to go back to the office with something either written down or in that camera. And—but, how long did you cover the sit-ins after those first couple of days? Did you continue to go over there a lot? To Woolworth's and to Kress'?

JM:

I just don't remember, Jim, but I know it went on.

JS:

Yeah, it went on about five or six months, off and on.

JM:

In fact, I have a picture that nobody's ever used of the skinheads that were occupying those seats. And nobody's ever seen them.

JS:

Right. Yeah, some days some of these white troublemakers would come down there and you'd—take, take the seats.

JM:

And occupy the seats.

JS:

Yeah, so the black kids could not have a seat, place to sit when they came in. Did you ever see any trouble take place down there?

JM:

No, never did.

JS:

Curly told me that he ran off some troublemakers. I—you know, Curly, even though, all, for his faults, he ran a pretty good store, didn't he? Pretty good manager as far as I could—

JM:

Oh, yeah, yeah. He was, belonged to the business association and maybe the chamber of commerce, I don't know.

JS:

Right.

JM:

But he, he was well thought of.

JS:

Right, and the funny—and, and the police officers of that time—Paul Calhoun and [Captain William] Jackson and Major Wynn—did you, did you know some of those people?

JM:

Yeah.

JS:

And they, they didn't respond like officers down in Alabama, did they?

JM:

No, no, no. They were milder, yeah.

JS:

Yeah. And what, what do you think the reason for that was?

JM:

We might be a little closer to the, to the eastern markets than—at that time, Alabama was largely agricultural, I guess, except for around Birmingham where the steel business was. If you're closer to the markets, you're going to be more like the thinking—of course, the thinking up in New York is spattered. I mean, all over the North. When they come down to Florida, they're as bad, or worse, than the Southerners.

JS:

And Greensboro was concerned, too, has always been very image-conscious, too. And they didn't want any black eyes, you know. They didn't want to be like Birmingham where you had dogs attacking people and so forth. And I wonder, also, the influence—I know, Spencer Love was, you know, had a lot of influence in Greensboro, and he was sort of liberal in his thinking in some ways.

JM:

Who is that?

JS:

Spencer Love [founder of Burlington Industries].

JM:

Oh yeah, I guess he was, yeah.

JS:

Yeah. And you know he sent Ed Zane [also of Burlington Industries] down there to be the mediator of this, and Ed Zane, you know, did a lot of good, I understand. I got to know him later, but—

JM:

I think this thing had a whole lot to do with the superintendent, what was his name?

JS:

Ben Smith? Ben L. Smith?

JM:

Yeah, Ben Smith's death. And it had a lot to do with the mayor's death.

JS:

Schenk?

JM:

Schenk.

JS:

David Schenk.

JM:

And it had a lot to do with the principal of Gillespie Park. And he told me that—

JS:

That was Mike [Banks?] Richard?

JM:

Richard. He told me that he had terrible arthritis. He told me that had a lot to do with it, and that they gave him two new teachers that same year that he had that to confront with, he had two brand new teachers, was what he told me. I don't know how that came about but that's what he—incidentally, those pictures at Lindley [sic], they had a white photographer there and he was going on to Charlotte. And I sent my pictures in to Life. I thought, well, they must want them or they wouldn't send a man down here. But I took them, I sent them in, and then they used mine, they didn't use his. They used three of them.

JS:

This was at Gillespie.

JM:

Gillespie. And I think the reason is because I know how those, how the make up man, he wants to get that stuff made up as soon as he can. And he got mine first, and they were good enough to use and he figured, well, I've got my layout all done.

JS:

How much did they pay you?

JM:

Not too much. I think they paid me a hundred dollars for the three pictures, maybe a hundred [and] twenty-five for the three pictures. And then when they used one again, they would pay me another ten dollars, I think. It went into Boy's Life in Spanish, and I didn't see it in there. One of them, one of the pictures is Webster hollering at the little boy.

JS:

Yeah, that's a great picture. Clyde Webster was a Klansman and you could just about read his lips.

JM:

Yeah, he was one of those.

JS:

Yeah, awful.

JM:

And I think both of us [?] know what he was saying, son-of-a-bitch or something like that. So anyway, they used them, and I think that's the reason why. I think, I don't think they were really exceptional, it was just an exceptional event.

JS:

Did you ever hear from Clyde Webster?

JM:

No, but I had a Ku Klux put his knife, knife to my throat.

JS:

Tell me about that. When?

JM:

That was happening down in Sumner.

JS:

Sumner [Elementary] School?

JM:

Yeah.

JS:

What happened, and what were you doing down there? What was happening down there?

JM:

Well, they were integrating, and I think Pierce was actually—

JS:

E.L. Pierce, the superintendent?

JM:

Yeah. I think he was actually, probably might have called the paper, I don't know whether he did or not. But after the incident he called me up and apologized or offered his sympathy or something.

JS:

Yeah. Who was the klansman, do you know?

JM:

No, I don't know his name.

JS:

Did he—

JM:

If I knew it, I would hesitate to tell you, because those people are sort of, they're nuts and he might—

JS:

Come after you.

JM:

He might come after me.

JS:

And what, what, what were the circ[umstances]—I mean, they were integrating and you were on the lawn or something taking pictures?

JM:

No, what happened, there was three kids there waiting to go in. There was three or—I believe it was two. They were waiting to go in, and I was getting ready to take their picture. And he was over there across a small street or alley, and he called me over and I came over. And I, like a stupid jackass, I came over. I wasn't suspecting anything.

And he told me that he didn't want me taking any pictures of them, and he didn't want me to take any pictures of him, especially him. And then he pulled that knife and put it up against my throat. And I was surrounded by, I assumed they were Ku Klux, too. And he cursed me and I just had to take it.

So I went ahead and got—I went, after he left, the kids were inside and I went ahead and got a picture inside. So I'll tell you this, but this is strictly off the record.

[this conversation redacted due to statement above. Interview continues:]

JS:

Right. Were there any police officers out there or sheriff's deputies?

JM:

Not a damn soul. Not a soul.

JS:

That's crazy.

JM:

Just me. I didn't even have my woman photographer with me, which—[laughs] the reason I said that, a certain incident that happened up in Virginia, and I did have a woman photographer with me or a reporter, somebody to vouch for what happened.

JS:

But you didn't have a photo[grapher]—I mean a reporter with you that day?

JM:

No, did not.

JS:

I guess by that time, integrating of the schools had become, you know, sort of routine. I mean, there was—

JM:

Well, I don't think they were quite routine, but I think there was some federal money in there to promote segregation—integration.

JS:

Right. Was this, was this—what year are we talking about?

JM:

Oh, I don't know. I don't know what year—

JS:

Probably late, late fifties maybe, early—

JM:

I know that this, this man that pulled the knife against me, he, he said that I got a whole lot of money out of Life magazine and they didn't get anything. And he was upset about that, too.

JS:

Right. So it was after Gillespie. It must have been a couple of years—the county schools were later to integrate than the city. But anyway, it sounds like you've had a pretty exciting career. You had an exciting career.

JM:

Yeah, I went up—when I think about that woman photographer, I went up to—they had some trouble with black—Indian kids going to school in a place up there in Virginia. And I went up there and had a, did have a girl reporter with me. And this—I didn't know if they had a sheriff out there or anything. And this really big Indian, he said, “You're not going to take any pictures up here.” And I squeezed off one or two unbeknownst to him—and he had another fellow with him. But I didn't have, but I did have her for a witness, you know, for what he'd done. I don't remember—I'd have to think about that [unclear—both talking at once].

JS:

Who was the, who was the reporter with you? Do you remember her name?

JM:

Martha Varner, I believe, or Garner—Varner, I believe. Martha Varner.

JS:

Yeah, she was before my time. I've seen the byline.

JM:

She had come from High Point. That was, that was before the black integration. But they'd had some trouble up there about Indians going to school. I don't know what it was.

JS:

Right. Okay, well, I think, I think this ought to do it. I guess you're just as surprised as everybody that the sit-ins have become what they've become.

JM:

Yeah, over time, yeah.

JS:

Yeah. Has that picture been produced in many, many, many publications? The one you—the ten-year picture?

JM:

Well, Simkins said they've gone all over the world. I don't know.

JS:

Right. Do you get paid for each time they used it or is it—

JM:

No, they quit paying me. One thing is A&T—AP [Associated Press], they—you could get revenue, but if it wasn't for AP—well, I'll give you an instance. We had a guy that worked part-time. He was a reporter but he did some photography at night when I wasn't there. I was there by myself for a while. And the man that went overseas to visit his child. He married a British girl and she wouldn't come to the United States, so he had to leave without his child. He came back.

And he went back over there to visit, and he said he wanted to take the child for a walk around the block. So he went, he caught an airport—caught an airplane out of England and came to the United States. Well, they were on to it, but somehow or another they didn't get a picture in LaGuardia [Airport] and they missed him again in Washington. He took a train in Washington. He might have came—took a train from New York to Washington, I don't know—but he did take the train in Washington. He probably took an airplane to Washington, but they missed him at the train station.

And I got the first picture of him getting off of the train, and the British people were anxious for pictures. And Johnny got into the act and thought he could take a series of pictures—which he did—and he hired a nurse to stay with the child, and he had a lot of pictures.

And we were going to, thought we could sell them exclusive and we had some pretty good offers, I think, from different people. Maybe the British were—wanted, would pay more—but Carl Jeffries told us, “Look, you're going to have to turn those pictures loose, because AP is screaming for them and you'll have to turn them loose.”

Well, soon as they used one damn picture, they weren't worth anything. Well, it weren't much, maybe, I think they probably sent me twenty-five dollars. I got about twenty-five dollars out of it after everything was said and done. But the point is that when AP gets these pictures, which they're entitled to, then your market's shot.

JS:

Right. Do you still take any pictures?

JM:

No.

JS:

When was the last time you did a, did any photography?

JM:

I don't know if I—I just got a thousand negatives needs to be printed. Now I signed this contract with, with Bettman [Archive] about—took a long time to get it all done. They wouldn't, they wouldn't do business with me unless I got a release from the newspaper. And the newspaper actually wanted me to turn loose negatives, just the negatives I'd accumulated, which could have been just thrown away.

It started out wanting me to just turn the negatives over to them, that they had a right to them. Well, of course, my daughter's a lawyer, and she didn't look at it that way. So we negotiated a while with them and finally got it down to I could use my pictures any way I wanted to, but they had a right to call on me for any pictures they wanted. So that's the way the contract is.

JS:

Well, that's good. That worked out for both sides.

JM:

Yeah. So, well, but they wanted it and that held up the negotiations a good bit. But they came down here in October. My daughter was here. She wanted to be with them when they came down.

They spent two years going through them and I guess they had probably twenty thousand. They culled them down, pretty close to finished, when—the two of them were together, Anne and the Bettman man—but still lacked a few and she selected some after that. And I think I—they got about four hundred and they'll probably cull it down to maybe one hundred and fifty or something that they'll put on the, on the network. And I, I'll get 50 percent.

JS:

Well, that's good.

JM:

So, I think it's a pretty good deal.

JS:

Right, and after you retired you basically hung up those cameras, right?

JM:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, I—yeah, I don't take any pictures.

JS:

Still have your cameras and everything?

JM:

Yeah, I'll show them to you if you want to.

JS:

Alright. Well, I think, well, I think this will do it, Jack. I think we got most of the—is there anything I didn't ask about that you, that's—

JM:

No, I think I've told you. Well, there's—there would be things, if I had time, if I thought about it.

JS:

Well, I hope I—

JM:

This is a story, not just on me is it?

JS:

No, well, we're interviewing a lot of people, anybody that had a role in the sit-ins.

JM:

I see.

JS:

And of course we've covered other bases, too. We're talking about Gillespie and the other things to sort of set the context for these things.

JM:

I see. Well, when we're off the record—

JS:

Okay, well let me just go ahead and cut this off and I appreciate this.

JM:

Yeah, well, I—

[End of Interview]