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Oral History Interview with David Morehead by William Chafe


Date: December 19, 1974

Interviewee: David W. Morehead

Biographical abstract: David W. Morehead (1918-2003) served as director of the Hayes-Taylor YMCA in Greensboro, N.C., from 1949 to 1971.

Interviewer: William Henry Chafe

Description:

This transcript of a December 19, 1975, interview conducted by William Chafe with David Morehead primarily documents Morehead’s role at the Hayes-Taylor YMCA in Greensboro, North Carolina, and his involvement in the civil rights movement. Topics include selling memberships for the YMCA; becoming executive director; the separation between the Hayes-Taylor YMCA and the all-white Central YMCA; integration of the Hayes-Taylor YMCA; the YMCA’s interaction with the Susie B. Dudley YWCA, and Caesar Cone's effort to combine the two organizations. He also shares his opinion of Caesar Cone and his role in Greensboro and the city’s race relations.

Morehead also recalls his involvement in school desegregation efforts, including offering the YMCA as a meeting place; providing a safe haven for the sit-in participants; the roles of Jesse Jackson, William Thomas, and Edward Zane; the formation of the Human Relations Commission; being forced by A&T president Ferdinand Bluford to move an event at which blacks and whites would have eaten together in the dining hall; the closing of community pools because of desegregation; Spencer Love purchasing the Windsor pool and his family’s involvement in Greensboro race relations; the generation gap in the black community; the role of churches in the desegregation movement; integration of the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce; Hal Sieber and Mike Fleming; and the Greensboro Citizens Association.

Other topics include integrated neighborhoods in Greensboro in the 1940s; an incident in which white teenagers bullied Morehead and his mother’s confrontation of an adult bystander; his desire to be a part of racial change in Greensboro; segregated businesses in Greensboro; his brother’s career at Burlington Industries and Morehead's attempt to gain employment there; his reasons for not running for office; and hosting evangelist Tom Skinner in Greensboro.

Subjects:

Format of original: Oral History

Collection: William Henry Chafe Oral History Collection

Repository: Duke University

Item#: 4.23.666

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 David Morehead by William Chafe

Note: This transcript is an edited version of an original transcript for which no audio recording was available. Therefore, CRG cannot guarantee that this transcript is an exact representation of the interview.

William Chafe:

—talking with Mr. David Morehead, who has been for many years director of the Hayes-Taylor YMCA [Young Men's Christian Association]. Executive director, is that?

David Morehead:

Yes.

WC:

Did you grow up in Greensboro?

DM:

Yes, I did, and all my life I've been here in Greensboro.

WC:

And you went to school—?

DM:

Yes, I attended J. C. Price [School] over on Cedar Street. I was born out on Oakland Avenue out there behind George C. Brown [cedar company] and [unclear]. I left one school, which is Lindley [Elementary School] up on Spring Garden Street, to go to Price. And I passed the [unclear] school to get to Price, so we used to walk the two miles to J. C. Price on Cedar Street. And then finally we got one of these little buses to haul us in. It would hold about twenty students, a little Ford bus, and this was how we used to get to school. Then [I went] from Price on over to Dudley [High School]. And Dudley was much farther, and we had to get a bus then to get to Dudley, which was a school bus. And so from Dudley I came to [North Carolina] A&T [State University]. A&T at that time was seven dollars a month. And talking inflation and recession, seven dollars a month then was as hard to get as seventy dollars is now.

You know it was during 1936-37 years, Franklin D. Roosevelt was president. I can remember very well my father was making ten dollars a week as a janitor with the public schools, forty dollars a month. My mother was making $3.50, but we made it. We were buying a home; we almost lost it. But there again is where homeowners insurance and was formed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, and that was a lifesaver. Those were the first of the alphabet programs started by the government; social service programs really saved a lot of person's homes.

WC:

What was it like growing up in Greensboro?

DM:

Well, Greensboro [unclear]. Greensboro has always had some integrated communities. The people didn't really look at them as integrated communities, they were pocket areas. Pocket areas were developed for the convenience of the minority man being able to go to work for that particular session, you know, so integrated neighborhoods are nothing new. And I grew up in one of those pocket areas. There were about ten black families on Oakland Avenue where I lived, in the section I lived in, but they were there for the convenience of work for white families. Like down on McGee Street right near UNCG [The University of North Carolina at Greensboro], there are about twenty-five black families there, and they were there for the convenience to go to the Woman's College [now UNCG] [unclear]. That's why they were there, so they could get to work on time, you know, at six o'clock, and get the food ready in the dining hall, or get the building cleaned up. So an integrated neighborhood was nothing new, as far as they were concentrated in that area for convenience. Like in many cases, some of the best homes in the city had small houses in the back of the large houses for the cook and the butler so they would be there to go to work at five o'clock the next morning.

Greensboro, I consider, has been a good place to live. We haven't had—as a minority, we haven't had—there were many things we were denied naturally. And of course, having lived in the South all my life, it has been my lot to continue to live in the South, because I have felt for a long, long time [this] would be one of the better places to live, once the South begins to move. And I've had—since I've been with the Y, I've had many job opportunities from California to Ohio to Washington to New York and what have you, but I chose to stay here because I wanted to help make the South, to make Greensboro, the kind of place that I would think that some of these other places presented, and so I'm here.

But the dismal part about it [unclear] that I made a contribution in helping make it the kind of place to live, and I didn't leave for somebody else to do it. You see, in Chicago, New York, Washington, Cleveland, or what have you, or California, somebody else did that, and you don't really know what you can do. You think you can. You think you can. Like in Boston, you know, we thought you could go to school until you started, and then suddenly you find out you can't do it. But here in Greensboro, here in parts of the South, we knew we couldn't do and so we knew there were some things that we had to try to work on. It has been—when you stop to really think about it, with all of the hardships and all of the difficult tasks that we face—it really helped to make a man out many of our [unclear]. I wouldn't be here at this desk today had things been so easy, that things had come easy. I can't say with reference to the discrimination part of it; this was the hard thing that we had to [unclear].

I have kids. All of my kids now are grown, a boy and two girls. So very often I would carry them to town and we would go in Woolworth's and they would want a hotdog, and they would ask me, “Daddy, let's get one.”

And I would say “No, we won't get one,” you know.

And they would ask me why, and I would just say, “Well, we just won't get one.”

What with people there at the seats, why can't we? This was before the counters opened. They didn't really get to sit at a counter until we carried them to New York one year for a vacation. And I thought well, we left six hundred and some miles to get a hotdog at a Woolworth's there, but this happened.

But then on the other hand, you know, to have seen this change—

WC:

Yeah, and having a part of it.

DM:

Having been a part of it is a beautiful kind of thing, the input that we have helped to do it and make it possible.

WC:

What did your parents teach you? How did they prepare you for this world?

DM:

Well, my background has been one of Christianity. We grew up—I'm a member of the Methodist Church, the United Methodist Church. My dad was Sunday school superintendent for thirty-five years, I guess, and he was—it was a small church and he served in three or four different positions there, a fifty-member church. My father, we were poor, but respected. It seems to me that now I go into places and I still get the respect of some people from my dad, who was a humble man, but yet deserved—he demanded respect and he got it, not because he was black or vice versa. He was just an ordinary man, a janitor, in many cases a fine one, but he got respect. And so my mother, she trained us to respect other people, and consequently they would respect us. So we came up in a Christian home of such, and this I think was the foundation of my brother and I, who is now personnel director at Burlington Industries. This is—and former principal at one of the junior high schools—this is the background that we got to make it possible for us to have succeeded in [unclear], if we have succeeded.

WC:

Did your parents—for example, would you have been urged to fight back if white children picked on you?

DM:

Well, we always had the premise that you treat other people as you would like to be treated, and that's what we did. As I think back, I can't remember. I never did do much fighting anyway. But I can't remember any fight that I had with a white kid or even black kids too much, because I always respected the other person, and consequently I got back. Except one time I was coming up Lee Street one day over near the old Arnold Stone Company [that] used to be on Lee Street. And there was a store there on the corner—this I can never forget—there were about ten white boys there and the manager of the store. I was about eleven years old, and I had this old book sack on my back, this canvas book sack, looked like an army bag. And they started. Something hit me beside the head, and it was a rotten egg. And they threw—I guess, they showered me with about three dozen eggs all over my head, all over by back. And the manager was feeding it to the kids and they were laughing.

And I crossed, I went through George C. Brown's crying, I crossed the railroad track crying, an eleven-year-old boy. And when I got home, my mother was alarmed and she asked me what had happened. And I told her, and she said, “We are going back. Today we are going back.” And I said, “I don't want to go back.” How could I? I couldn't stand up against those eleven or twelve people, and they were jumping up and down laughing. Naturally, you know the kinds of names they were using. So we did go back. She cleaned me up and we went back over there and she questioned the manager, and wanted to know who had done this, and she said, “You seen it.”

And he told her he didn't know.

And she said, “Well, somebody did. And he's coming back by here tomorrow and nobody is going to throw any eggs on him. He's coming back by here tomorrow.”

And she told me to be sure and come back. And I was afraid to, but I did go by and I didn't have any more trouble. This is about the only incident that I can remember that really happened to me that I didn't fight back.

WC:

That's pretty dramatic.

DM:

But I'll always remember it. However, it did not cause me to hate white people. I figured it was a bunch of—an unfortunate incident, a bunch of people who wanted a prank and have some fun, and I was the victim.

WC:

Did your folks vote? Were they able to vote?

DM:

Oh, yes.

WC:

There was no problem about their registering?

DM:

Not to my knowledge. My folks have always voted, as long as I can remember.

WC:

Were there particular people who you remember as being very—

[pages 4 and 5 of original transcript are missing]

WC:

That was his mother?

DM:

Yes.

WC:

I see.

DM:

She taught me in the seventh grade, a fine, warm, kind-hearted person. He took time. I feel very keenly that greatness does not come from degrees, how much money you have, how many houses you own, how big a car you drive. That greatness comes from being able to walk with kings and yet have the common touch. And to me that's greatness, having the common touch to deal with the lowly and recognize them and not bypass them. People know when you are bypassing them and when you are giving them the runaround, but you give them—some people wouldn't give you the time of day. And this to me, you know, I just don't have any patience or [unclear].

WC:

How do you think Mr. [unclear]—

DM:

David Jones was another of my admirers.

WC:

David Jones?

DM:

[He was president] over at Bennett College. And, of course, my mother and father, my brother, and my wife.

WC:

Is your brother older or younger?

DM:

He's younger, two years. There were just two of us.

WC:

Did you introduce him to Mr. [Spencer] Love or—?

DM:

Never did. He—it's amazing how he got into Burlington Industries. We decided about six years ago one Christmas that we would have Christmas dinner at my house. And we were at a crossroads, and we were tired of doing what we were doing and we wanted to look at something else. And we said whoever would find the first thing, we would tell the other one about it. I went into Vanstory's; [they] were doing a sale in January and I went to look for a suit, and I ran into one of the Burlington officers who I knew very well. I forgot his name. And we started talking and I began to ask him how things were going, and he said, “Fine.” And I asked him if he needed anybody to work, he said, “Yes, we got an opening in [unclear].”

And I said, “Doing what?” and he told me.

And I said, “I got a man for you.”

And he said, “Who is he?”

And I said, “My brother.”

He said, “Well, here's my card and have him call me.”

This was in January and my brother called him. The first of February they started negotiating, and in March he resigned from the school system before school was out and went with Burlington. They were having something that was a trainee program; you go to school four hours and work four hours. So that was his beginning at Burlington.

I tried to get at Burlington. I believe if Mr. Love had been living I would have, but I could always get to community relations for a large company like Burlington. I felt that with my background and experience I could, and they would always give me the spiel that—good references and good resume, but they had people doing—two or three people doing what I wanted to do, the one individual. My contention was that—which was said to the company—that to do some things for the company, that I felt like some of the other officers could not do. [unclear] really gave me the spiel. They gave me the spiel of taking an examination, a psychological test, you know. I came through all right. Then I didn't hear from [unclear] for six weeks, so finally I got back to the chairman of the board and he wanted to know why I hadn't heard from them, and I told him I didn't know. And consequently I got a conference that afternoon after talking to him that morning. And then they went that thing that [unclear] with reference to—had all the credentials, they liked me and I was the kind of man they would like to have. What did I think that I could do for them? This to me looked like we were playing games. I felt like a [unclear], and I told him. I felt it was my [unclear]. I thought that my qualifications were fairly well presentable. I had wide range of experience, at that time about twenty-three years in YMCA work, and I had dealt with all kinds of people, black and white, and had been a very instrumental factor in Greensboro, a local boy. And to me and this was a time that I felt like this would have said a whole lot for both companies in the [power?] structure, not down the traditional level, but—or even to the point of [unclear], to get into the power structure. But I didn't get to first base except to say, “We are going to do something.” This was Burlington. Burlington said, “We are going to do something in a year from now,” you know, and I kept waiting and nothing happened.

WC:

What happened to your brother? Did he stay with them?

DM:

Yes, he's in personnel. He's in a position—he's in the plant in High Point. He's not in the [carpeted?] structure, but he's down in the personnel, and he's doing well. He likes it. I'm sure he would be happy to get a promotion into the [unclear].

WC:

Sure.

DM:

He has his master's and twenty-two years as principal of the junior high school.

WC:

Which junior high school?

DM:

Griffin. He has his master's degree and has worked as personnel manager for the past three years. [unclear]. He likes Burlington, but I'm sure he would like to move up.

WC:

Do you still have contact with the Love family?

DM:

Not directly. Mr. Love had a daughter named Spencie. Spencie found out that I was a very good friend of her father's just by accident. She was working for the YMCA downtown in the summer camp and I met her one day and [unclear]. And I told who I was and he began to [unclear] some of his papers and letters.

[Recording interrupted]

Spencie was a very unusual person. She has searching about for comments on her father, and she was glad to discover that I had been one of his close friends, and she found notes or something that [unclear], that he and I had been close. She is a nice person. I met the [unclear] had her brothers and sisters and I met them also. I have lost touch with them.

WC:

She was in Chapel Hill last year. I never met her.

DM:

Yeah.

WC:

My wife met her once.

DM:

I think I did see her in—she was working with some Head Start program. She wants to work with children. She has no hang-ups on what color they are. She likes to work with people, and I think this is what he liked, too. He had built such a gigantic operation that carried him so fast, at such a fast pace that unless he had friends to key him in on certain, he was [torched?]. So he used a good cross-section of friends to keep informed on how things were going. [unclear]

WC:

Hayes-Taylor, when did you first go to work, go there as the director of Hayes-Taylor? Or did you start as director or—?

DM:

I went in—it was an odd thing, I backed into—I came into the back door, so to speak. I sold membership at that time. The Y was dedicated in 1939, and I sold YMCA memberships. I headed up a team of men, some four men. I began to set a pace that none of them had set before, and I raised more money than any of them, and I found money where they couldn't find any. So people began to look at me and say, “If he can sell these memberships—” you know. I was working at [Vick?] Chemical then, over on [unclear] Avenue. The best job I could get there was mopping floors. By the way, it is my 31st [wedding] anniversary. And I married December 19, thirty-one years ago. And I was working at [Vick?] Chemical then, the day I married I was making nineteen dollars a week and I couldn't get any higher. The job of inspecting the cough drops [as they] went into the machine, I could get that kind because of my [unclear] education I had.

So after I sold membership for a couple of years, working with youth, I was working on the board of directors. I went on the board of directors at twenty-three. I was the youngest man to ever serve on the board. I was elected by the membership because of my outstanding contribution as a membership seller. So I resigned from the board in order to apply for the job, and I got the job as youth secretary with the fabulous salary of $1,500 a year.

WC:

And that was around 1940-'41?

DM:

Yes. I stayed in that position for about three years. The executive spot became vacant, I applied for it, and in the meantime, High Point was trying to secure me over there. Amazingly, I found that there were some people on the board that didn't want to give me the position at Hayes-Taylor because I was a local boy and they wanted somebody from Chicago. They wanted somebody who served on boards and committees and who could make speeches. They felt like I couldn't do this because I was local. And then I didn't have my degree at that time. So High Point offered me a position. And I had began to get raises during those three years, and they offered me a position at $2,800, and I decided to accept it. I resigned.

One night the other executive had gone, I was acting executive. They didn't have an executive and I was getting ready to leave, and we had a board meeting that night and passed in my resignation and they accepted it. And then suddenly during the course of that meeting, they found out they didn't have anybody. And they reasserted the motion that same night because they felt like I could raise the membership money that they needed which was coming off in a couple of months from that date. They reasserted the motion in order to keep me as acting and asked me if I would go back to school.

This was the beginning of my era at Hayes-Taylor. I accepted it and they gave me $2,900 dollars as acting. This was in 1944. So I stayed with the Y twenty-six years and saw it grow. I saw it grow. To see it grow—I saw it grow from four or five hundred membership to twenty-three hundred when I left. [unclear] When I went in the budget was twelve thousand. When I left it was a hundred and thirty thousand.

WC:

What were the relations like with the Y downtown? I mean it has always struck me as—the YM seems to have a fairly separate structure.

DM:

Well, the one downtown seemed to have hands-off. The only thing they seemed to care about was as long as we kept the money straight and [unclear], they didn't bother us too much. Really they didn't realize we were a branch, because, I'll be frank, I was with the Y for at least fifteen years before—I was at the Y twenty years before I went out to the Y camp, [unclear] at Central Y. We would go downtown to carry reports and leave them. We weren't invited to any meetings or of anything of that kind.

WC:

So it was a totally distant?

DM:

Yeah.

WC:

Did you talk with your counterparts downtown on the telephone about common problems or—?

DM:

Well, we would call and get advice by telephone. We would call if some suggestions didn't come down to our meetings, our board meetings sometimes, if we would invite them as membership. We never received an invitation down there of such.

WC:

Was your board all black?

DM:

Yeah, they were all black until 1968, I believe. I forget the first white person that was on the board—John Blackwell[?] of Cone Mills. He was labor relations director. I got him on the board. But then back in 1969, I think [we hired] the first white person on our staff at Hayes-Taylor, so there was a beginning there of integrating. [unclear] I built up this central club membership, and which was one of the reasons of increasing the revenue. We built from twelve people to 155. Over half of them were white [unclear]. So these are the kinds of things we began to do. We began to invite whites to our meetings and they would come. They used to wouldn't come, but they would come. The luncheons and what have you, this was the beginning.

WC:

When would that first have happened?

DM:

I would say after the civil rights stuff.

WC:

Yeah, in the sixties. Did you—was there a lot of resentment on your staff toward the downtown Y?

DM:

Yeah, to some extent they often wondered why. Like young people on the staff who could not understand why the board people, who were well to do people, had never received an invitation. So I guess you don't want this kind of thing—like a caste system, is that okay? You keep your marbles and I keep mine, and we just won't bother you. We just won't bother period. We used to even go to the United Fund—they called it the Community Chest then—to present our budget. The Central Y didn't know what our budget was until we got [unclear] and we would [unclear] present it ourselves. We really didn't have a beginning of a coordinated—coordination until we started out after the civil rights movement. Nationally, the YMCA has always been behind the YW[CA—Young Women's Christian Association] as far as racial [unclear].

WC:

I was going to ask you about that. How did you see the YWCA in Greensboro? Was it very different then the YM?

DM:

No.

WC:

Was there meaningful interaction there?

DM:

I think so. I guess I can remember so very well. The first interracial luncheon we had was at the YW, this was the old Council of Social Agencies[?]. Jim F[unclear] was the director. I don't know where he is now, but he was the director. And this was the beginning of whites and blacks eating together. And the city of Greensboro played it up big, you know, white and blacks eating together at the YW, and of course naturally, because this was a beginning.

WC:

When was that?

DM:

I would say back in 1965, maybe '64, maybe '60. Well what am I saying—in the fifties. Jim F[unclear] started this.

WC:

There was a branch YWCA also. Did that function—did you have a sense that that functioned on a different basis than—?

DM:

Yes, I know that it did. The Susie B. Dudley branch, it functioned on a different basis because they started off with blacks serving on their board downtown, because we didn't have any blacks on the Central Y board until the latter part of the sixties, after the civil rights thing, after the national YMCA began to look at themselves.

WC:

How did you get along? How did you at Hayes-Taylor get along with your YWCA colleagues?

DM:

Okay until you tried to combine the two together, and this is when they began to ruffle our feathers at one time. Suggestions were made on the fundraising that the two ought to be together. Hayes-Taylor was founded on the premise of serving a man and a woman. Hayes was a woman and Taylor was a man, and it was founded on that premise, and this was really what was so designed. It was designed to serve families, but it never—the ladies didn't want—they felt like they were being merged and swallowed up and [would] lose their identity, and they wanted to be separate.

And at one time they were offered some money [by] the Cone family, Ceasar Cone, and they turned it down. Fifty thousand dollars to come with Hayes-Taylor and become a unity service for men and women. Put another unit there, right there where the parking lot is, and they voted to turn it down. The two boards met [unclear]. It was Mr. Cone's feeling that this would certainly make things cheaper, to create one unit. They live together, they sleep together, they go to school together, so why not play together, you know. And so from an economic point of view, he was right, because it's almost like discrimination. You build a white apartment over here and a black apartment over there, you know. You build a white pool over here and a black pool over there, so you build a YMCA pool over here and you build a YWCA pool over there. They want to be together in most cases anyway, so why not build a large unit to serve the people? And now this concept has really become the reality, because you get a small unit and they are family YMCAs. The entire family goes there.

WC:

Right.

DM:

And you get away from this antiquated idea of years ago. You know the YMCA used to have a men's side and a boy's side. The boys were segregated from the men.

WC:

I didn't know that.

DM:

Boys' side and the men's side. Down at the old YMCA on West Market Street where the [unclear] is, they got two doors there, and the door on the side next to [unclear] St. was the boys' door, and the door next to the power house was the men's door.

WC:

Ceasar Cone, I got the impression that he was a little [unclear] figure, cantankerous. Is that true?

DM:

Well, he was. There were two different people, Mr. Love and Mr. Cone, two different persons. Both of them were outstanding men, both of them were smart men. They wouldn't have been where they were—

WC:

Sure.

DM:

—had they not been. They wouldn't have been where they were. You respect a man always. Before I prejudge a person, I always—I respect him for what he is. And none of us think alike. What makes me tick or what makes you tick, you know, we are different people. We think different. We might come up with some similarities and thoughts agreeing and what have you, but I like to go to the movies, you might not like to. I don't know. I like to play cards, you might not like to. I like to travel sometimes, and of course I think these are the things that cause marriages to dissolve. Husband wants to do a thing and the wife doesn't want to do it, or the wife wants to do a thing, so there isn't a common ground of understanding. [I] said all of this to say that I think Mr. Cone had his viewpoint. There may have been early conditions to—for this kind of thing to crystallize, you know. He felt very keenly about certain things and didn't keep them a secret. If he felt real keenly and strongly about it, he would let you know it. It wasn't a matter of whether it hurt or not, but he just felt—and yet on the other hand, he had humility too. And everybody didn't realize it, but he did.

WC:

What were some of the things he felt keenly about?

DM:

Well, certain things. For instance the airport, he had felt very keenly that certain things about the airport should be done. And he was chairman of the authority [unclear], felt keenly about this matter of [unclear], especially when it came to the land and YW. [He thought] that they ought to combine together, both white and black, and this matter of building four buildings and all of them suffering trying to keep up, whereas there could have been two buildings, it was his contention. I think he has proven to be right.

He also had vision enough to see way down the road, ten, fifteen years ahead of time, that what might happen—and I believe today that Greensboro has taken a second look at building new buildings that might be able to look at what he was talking about fifteen years ago—that the YM and the YW ought to be together staff-wise, personal-wise. This was done in Wilmington, Delaware, but it didn't work. They went under the same roof, but they had separate doors; in one side women and the other side men. [unclear], you feature going to church and you get to church and you and your wife, you go in one side and your wife go on the other side.

Some of the other things, I guess, that had this thing of undressing and dressing purposes, recreational purposes and what have you, this could have been controlled once you got inside and had separate dressing rooms instead when you come out you would all be out there in the gym or pool. I think when it came to the matter of contribution and the giving dollars, this is when Mr. Cone would let it be known how he felt about it. However, after he had had his say, he would always come through if he felt it, but he if he didn't, he wouldn't. So I [unclear]. You want to do something, you do it because you want to do it.

WC:

During the fifties, were you involved at all in the whole process of school desegregation question? This is when Ben Smith was superintendent of the schools. Were you active in any way during that period?

DM:

I served on some committees. I met with some of the persons in town. I didn't march. I didn't have time to do that, but I did serve on some planning committees and other committees to meet with people. Of course, I was able to keep the doors of the Y open for committee meetings to make it possible that they would have a place to meet.

WC:

That seems to be fairly important. Can you recall some of the meetings that took place there?

DM:

At the Y?

WC:

Yeah.

DM:

Well, [Floyd] McKissick met there, who is head of Soul City [North Carolina], many times. The NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] met there many times. [There were] many YMCAs where the NAACP could not meet in other cities, like Winston and some other places, they wouldn't let them meet there. McKissick, then there was James Farmer, who was head of CORE [Congress Of Racial Equality] who met there. Lee [Street?] demonstrations, the students used to gather in the Y gym and have their rallies and march out of the Y on uptown. They used the Y as their meeting spot. They would march to town and then they came back so that they could critique and appraise, and some of them would meet and give them places to meet to make assessments to get ready for the next march.

WC:

You must have gotten to know most of the people who were—most of the student leaders pretty well.

DM:

Yes, I did. I got to meet quite a few of them.

WC:

Do you have—well, when the sit-ins started, when the four young men from A&T went down to Woolworth's, did they use your facility at that point?

DM:

Yes, they used them. They didn't use them as a jumping off point. They jumped off from the campus. But as time moved on they found a need. As this thing began to grow larger and larger, they found a need to have some quarters, because they not only began to get criticized over on campus, there were many people who were saying, older blacks who were saying, “They are crazy. Why don't they stop this thing?”—and many young people.

WC:

How did you feel about that?

DM:

My feelings?

WC:

Yeah.

DM:

Then again, it's very—you know, it didn't bother me. I've always respected the individual's rights, and this was what they wanted to do. It was one thing that I thought that if they were able to accomplish this, if the students were able to accomplish it, then they were able to do some things that we were not able to because of job security or what have you, that it would be a better place for all of us if they were able to do it.

One day I had the Y director of the other Y ask me if I was a member of the NAACP. We were talking one day and he said—this was quite a while ago—and he said, “Are you are a member of the NAACP?”

And I said, “If you were my color, would you be?”

So he looked a minute and I said, “I guess I would be.”

So that was my answer that I gave him. Then there were teachers in schools that were being fired because they were members of the NAACP, you know, being dismissed, being scrutinized, and not even given a job at one time. This was being asked on applications, “Are you a member of the NAACP?”

But after all of the other organizations were started, the NAACP was a minor organization. Malcolm X is a parallel. Malcolm is—a biographical manual says that he had to be the way he was in order to drive people to Martin Luther King. In many respects people would not have gone to King. They would have considered King a militant, but he was a mild person considered to Malcolm X, and so a parallel act with the other. The NAACP was a mild organization.

WC:

Did you work with William Thomas and Jesse Jackson?

DM:

Yes. I always give them accommodations and I talk with them from time to time. They met—they had groups at the Y.

WC:

What were they like, as you remember them?

DM:

Well, in Bill Thomas I felt he was kind of quiet. He really didn't know that he was involved until he got started, and once he got started, you know, he would talk. Jesse has always been flamboyant, always talked loud and known he was there. You didn't know Bill was there. He was kind of a quiet type that—he would lay strategy like a quiet general of the army. Both of them were effective in their methods, but they were different. I would parallel Floyd McKissick and Jesse Jackson in a similar position. I would parallel Bill Thomas and Martin Luther King as being quiet. Really you wouldn't look at Martin Luther King until he would start talking. [He] looked like somebody almost pushed them out there and he started talking, but yet effective, which says that all of us have a contribution to make in one way or the other, given the opportunity.

WC:

Did you have any contact during those first sit-ins 1960—were you involved at all in the effort that Ed Zane was a part of, finding a solution to those?

DM:

Yes, I was in fact. I guess maybe—I want to be right on this. I think I'm right. I know I was. Yes, maybe I played a very important part in getting him involved.

WC:

Can you tell me about that?

DM:

Well, we had a first meeting. I think at the Episcopal Church [of the Redeemer?] on Market St. I remember one Sunday when things were really at their height, the height of everything. Ed Zane served on the council, [Greensboro] City Council, at that time, and he and I talked quite a bit due to the fact of his relationship with Burlington Industries. He was tax counselor at the Burlington Industries Corporation. Mr. Love had introduced me to him one day, and Mr. Love was in the process of considering the purchasing the old Burr Mill Club, which is now Forest Lake. He was considering purchasing that for the black kids of Greensboro and making it a joint camp, YWCA, YMCA, Boy Scout, Girl Scout, just a big camp for all of us; we didn't have one. I never will forget, one day he asked me if I had met Ed Zane, and I said, “No.”

And he said, “Well, I am going to call him. I want you to meet him.”

And I told him everything [unclear]. This was my first beginning of meeting Ed Zane. And he called him and introduced me to him, and told him that he wanted him to receive my calls, and that I would be talking to him from time to time because he would be traveling between New York and Miami.

But anyway, as Ed Zane and I began to get closer and closer friends in many ways, he always gave me respect and I respected him, naturally. And I think when things got to the great height of the marches and they [were] locking up thousands of kids—one time they locked up about fifteen hundred kids they put down at the county home and locked them up, padlocked it—he was so concerned that he called me. And I think he called and he said, “What can we do Dave? We've got to do something.” And as we talked, I said maybe to sit down and talk about it. [off-the-record comment redacted] He was big enough to really get some other whites involved, and that was the beginning. And consequently he was able to get us back to the mayor—I forget who the mayor was then—to appoint a committee, and Ed Zane was appointed chairman. And that meeting that Sunday night at the Episcopal church—

WC:

Did he come meet with the people at the Episcopal church, or did he call you after that?

DM:

Yes, he came.

WC:

He came?

DM:

Because this is where so many who had not met him before got a chance to meet him.

WC:

Now who was it that he was meeting with? The student demonstrators or—?

DM:

There were leaders in the community, a cross-section of persons.

WC:

Who had put that meeting together? Had you put that meeting together, or had it been called already for—?

DM:

I guess I did it. I guess really the time had passed. I guess maybe the Greensboro Human Relations Commission came from this. This is how the Human Relations Commission really got going. I kept suggesting—we would talk and I would suggest—how did I pick this up? I picked this up from some town, some city. They had a Human Relations Commission. And he picked it up and started carrying the ball and this is how we got [unclear]. He and I talked and I told him. I had my input to him about it; we were conversing and talking, and he would come through by the Y. And I told him about the Human Relations Commission, and he carried the ball from then on. Because naturally, I wasn't there in certain places to get it hot enough to be heard. He could do it.

But by our relations, the two of us, we had close relations. I guess if you really want to go back, I hope that you understand [unclear]. But I guess the two of us, he and I, did more to get this thing started behind the scenes than a lot of people really know. Because I was feeding him things that I felt like there ought to be [unclear].

WC:

Do you remember working at all with—did you work closely with the people like Reverend [Edwin] Edmonds and—?

DM:

He used to meet at the Y.

WC:

He used to meet at the Y, yeah. Did he leave Greensboro because he was too far ahead of his times?

DM:

Yeah, if I remember correctly. Edmonds was at Bennett [College]. Bennett has always been a little conservative to some extent, due to the fact of contributions funds coming from people who liked Bennett; they were white benefactors who contributed to Bennett. A&T, with being a state school—of course A&T had problems, too. Let me tell you a story. I had a father and son banquet scheduled at A&T, and Ezra Charles, who was at that time was a heavyweight champ, I brought him into Greensboro. And I had a most difficult time getting Ezra Charles scheduled, lined up, as being the heavyweight champ of the world to come here. I had another friend, Greenlee, Mr. Greenlee[?] who was working with me because he was a friend of Ezra Charles, and we finally got Ezra Charles to accept this by telephone and by letter. We didn't have a gym at the Y, and I had secured A&T's dining hall. And it came out in the paper the next morning that Ezra Charles was coming, and that whites and blacks could attend together. It wasn't just for the Negroes, it was for whites, too, and they would be served in the dining hall. You will never guess what happened. This was around seven o'clock I got a call; the banquet was scheduled that night at six. The president of A&T—who is not the present president—President [Ferdinand] Bluford called me and he said, “Mr. Morehead, you have messed up.”

And I said, “What do you mean?”

He said, “We can't have the banquet tonight at A&T.”

And I said, “Why? It's scheduled tonight. The man's coming here today.”

And he said, “I don't care. We've got—our legislatures down at Raleigh, if they see this in the paper, they will cut the funds out from A&T.”

And I had to move that banquet from A&T, because it came out in the paper, to the Windsor Community Center. And consequently I lost my people, and Ezra Charles came on. I had to rent [unclear]. I had to get tables, I had to get chairs, I had to go down and set the place up. So that Ezra Charles said [unclear]. And instead of having three or four hundred people, we had a hundred and fifty [unclear].

Like when the city got out of the swimming pool business, closed up all the swimming pools, there were no swimming pools open. Kids were standing there looking at the empty pools on a hot July, and the only pool we had open were the two YMCA pools, downtown and Hayes-Taylor, so the only place Negroes could swim was Hayes-Taylor. And they were standing out in lines just to come in and get a dip. And Mr. Love and Mrs. Love told me, he said, “I am going to do one or two things, Dave. I am going to purchase the old Burr Mill Club for the Negro kids. I'm going to buy that swimming pool down there and build a bath house so that they will have somewhere to swim. Do one or the other.”

So I called him one day and said we were having difficulties. I carried some minorities out from my board to look at the Burr Mill Club, and I didn't think that they were going to turn around and try to buy it for personal gain, and they did. They in turn notified Mr. Love's agent that they wanted to buy it. There were six people who wanted to buy it, so consequently it was my fight in to use this as a community facility against some of my board people who wanted it for personal gain. So I called him and told him I would like to give up on it and I'd rather not continue to fight this battle, because it was raising my blood pressure. I was between two walls. And this is when he said, “Dave, I'm going to do something else for you.” And then he bought from the city the old [unclear] swimming pool that's at Windsor Center now, and he and his wife built a thirty thousand dollar bathhouse.

So we had swimming down there when the other part of the section didn't have swimming. They had private pools. They began to buy all these private pools. So I ran two pools. I denied my family. I did that for three years, and every year I would go in the hole because we would start without a nickel, and the only operating funds we had was what we accumulated from swimming fees. And at the end of the year, Mr. Love would bail us out of the deficit. We did this for three years.

What had happened also, the water was leaking. It was an old pool built by [unclear], and the water was leaking at the bottom, leaking out, so we were having an excessive bill. The water bill would run sometimes three thousand dollars. And the city wouldn't reduce the payments. Somebody thought they would give us water. They wouldn't reduce anything. So I denied myself a vacation for three straight summers in order to operate two swimming pools and to give Negro kids a place to swim. So I was between two places. I guess I was reminiscing back.

WC:

That was a good story. Did you have much to do with Hal Sieber when he came here to the [Greensboro] Chamber of Commerce?

DM:

No, I met Hal after. Hal and I became friends through some connection. I met Hal after he came here. Hal was another great guy who did a whole lot for Greensboro. I don't think Hal was really appreciated by a lot of people as he should have been. But he had a middle-of-the-road role, and he played a very important part [in] the chamber being recognized as the chamber for people, and not just selected as a private club. Hal Sieber and Mike Fleming—Mike Fleming who was with Fleming and Shaw [Transfer and Storage] trucking company. Mike Fleming played a very important part. Mike Fleming was the first white to dare come into the black community to sell memberships to the chamber. He sold more that year than anybody.

WC:

Didn't he have something to do with the development of Woodmere into an integrated housing area?

DM:

Mike Fleming? Yes, he may have. Mike is a retired army man who lived in Washington, formally from this area. But he was the first white to come into the black community to sell chamber of commerce. I heard at one time there were two hundred and forty blacks on the membership roles of the chamber. I don't know how many there are now. But he and Hal Sieber lined up together and really began to make blacks feel that they were a part of [unclear]. But you know as well as I know that the churches—in all of this the churches were silent. They were the most silent group and at one time.

WC:

Black and white churches?

DM:

White churches, not black churches. The black churches are where they had the organization meetings, mass meetings and this kind of thing. White churches were silent and did not really begin to take hold or move out and be heard. And I think basically this is where the youth now today are saying that this thing was hypocritical. “You are not really coming through with what ought to be,” and this is why they are looking for something else new and different. And I think it is the [unclear].

WC:

I guess I have heard that there are some black churches which weren't really up front.

DM:

Well, let's say it this way; they would get up front if they were forced to.

WC:

How about the politics of the city? Is it—is there an effective organization in the black community for political—?

DM:

Is there an effective [unclear]?

WC:

Yeah, is there an effective organization of the black community, politically?

DM:

Well, at one time we had the Greensboro Citizens Association, and that was an effective group because they were able to get Dr. [William] Hampton elected. He was the first black councilman. This organization has been—it was effective to get him elected twice, I think, and then it began to get cold. It began to go downhill, which said to some people that the organization was there merely to support certain people. If it was a candidate that some of the officers liked, they supported [them], and if they didn't, they backed out. Then [unclear] came and [Waldo] Falkener came. I at one time was asked to run by a group of citizens, white citizens, and I think I would have had good support [unclear], but I didn't run because I knew that if I had—they were some of the larger men in this town.

WC:

Who were some of these?

DM:

I'd rather not, you know.

WC:

Okay.

DM:

But they were some outstanding men, they were all good men. They came to me, they came to my office. I didn't call them but they came. They called and set the appointment at eight o'clock one morning. We met and we talked for an hour. And I just finally discussed it with my family, and we decided that I would have had some—there would have been some jealousies, that my being [in] a branch at the Y, there would have been some criticism. However in some cities, YMCA directors have ran for councilman and they made. I know in Columbus, Georgia, the YMCA director there is mayor pro tem[pore]. In [unclear] New Jersey, there was a YMCA director, Ramey[?], that was named mayor of the city. But I think it all depends on who leads, executive director and central. And the understanding and the feeling of [unclear] people who want to support the Y man is in a good position to do it, but there are so many jealousies that creep in from your own board people. You know, that he is somebody who was aspiring to do something, and so what does he think? What is his claim to fame, you know. And I have been asked by many, many people, why don't I run, why didn't I run? It would be blacks. But I decided to [unclear] it out, because my position now would not let me do it.

WC:

[laughs]

DM:

I guess I will one day if I retire. I might do it then. I serve on quite a few boards and committees now. I'm chairman of the Conference of Christians and Jews board, and I'm on the board of trustees at A&T State, and I'm on the Coliseum Commission. I'm on the board at my church, board of administration at my church, chairman of [unclear]. So these kinds of things that keep me—keeps me touching bases, and I haven't completely lost touch with people.

WC:

I wonder if you would comment just a little bit on the generation gap. Is there one within the black community? Do you feel that there is any breakdown in communication or lack of understanding between the older and younger blacks?

DM:

[unclear]

WC:

I was just asking about the generation gap.

DM:

Do I think there is one?

WC:

Yeah. How does that strike you?

DM:

Well, young people are looking. They have looked real hard at the older adults, black, and they have wondered why they go on and accept the given issues and kinds of things that are forced on, and they don't really, really see this until they get out in the world. And then they get out in the world and graduate from school, and in many cases they began to look at things different. [tape interrupted] [unclear]

I got three kids. I got a son who is twenty-nine, a daughter twenty-seven, and another one twenty five. I know how they think. They don't harass me or persecute me, because they would always see me in a different light at the Y. But I'm thinking of some of the other parents. Kids are rebelling, young people are, but some catch up once they get out and start working. I guess they get their backs against the wall, they begin to meet expenses and they can't do it, and they finally come back home and say look. They don't admit it, but you can tell the way they talk that there is a change. But I think where you really have this is when kids are in college, and then when they get out in two or three years they began to catch up and they began to get on out and decide, you know.

Now there again, this is where young people have done this far by older blacks. Young people have been able to do a lot of things that they were not able to do to make them, now that they—they have made the older blacks turn around now and do some things that they thought they wouldn't do. Like for instance, my mother is seventy-five and she will ride up to a service station to buy gas, and she calls the attendant, Mr. whatever his name is, and he calls her Lizzie, you know. And my brother and I said, “Look, Momma, you are paying him. If there's anybody calling anybody mister, he calls you Mrs. Morehead and you call him John. He's working for you, you know what I mean.” If she called him mister, he ought to call her Mrs. Morehead. So it used to be the kind of thing that you felt was a homage, that you called the white person “mister” and he called you by your first name. And [unclear]. Ao now you are on a first name basis [unclear].

However, there are some little cues that you can pick up from people [that] tells you about them, you know. You test them, psychologically, you do. If a person really feels the way that he says that he do, then they will tell you right off, “Don't call me mister, you call me [unclear],” you know. And this is how I felt. And if he has his wife with him, he introduced his wife and he wouldn't try to high-hat you just because he had his wife with him or vice versa. We were on first name basis. If we are that way then, “This is my wife Minnie,” or I would say, “This is my wife [unclear]. This is my daughter, Mary,” and vice versa. “This is Mr. Morehead.” If she's a young person I wouldn't expect a twelve-year-old kid to walk up and say, “Hello, Dave.” [laughter] So again these are little clues that told you whether a person was really sincere, a person that really means what they say.

We had just a beautiful thing just the other day. Have you ever heard of Tom Skinner?

WC:

I don't think so.

DM:

Tom Skinner was an evangelist out of New York. And I had a white person to call me one night out of the clear blue. I didn't know who it was, and he said, “I've heard about you and I want to know if you would be interested in bringing Tom Skinner to Greensboro?”

And I said, “Who is Tom Skinner?”

And he told me he was a black guy who is chaplain of the Washington Redskins. “I don't know whether you seen him or not.”

I said, “I don't know.”

And he said, “Well, let's meet and let's talk about it.”

We started talking about six months ago about Tom Skinner. And I had never met this fellow before, his name is Jim Petty[?]. And from that beginning, he and I decided—I decided to work with him in this thing, in bringing Tom Skinner to Greensboro. We started out doing this thing together and we increased our committee to about thirty people, black and white. And last Saturday two weeks ago, we had Tom Skinner at the Hilton [Hotel] with a day of dialogue to determine whether he was the man we wanted to bring to Greensboro [unclear]. You've never seen anything so beautiful, that black and white laymen working together to do this. I served as chairman of that. There were people there.

What is your first name?

WC:

Bill.

DM:

I'm Dave. There were people who sat there for two hours to listen at him speak and didn't move—professional people, cross-section of people, the superintendent of schools was there, principals, retired teachers, laborers. We sat there at the Hilton all day from 9:30 that day until 5:00 that evening, the greatest thing we ever heard. So we were contemplating on bringing him for a campus ministry or something big for the city of Greensboro.

[We] had him interviewed by Sandra Hughes on Sandra and Friends on Friday at one o'clock. I had to go to Soul City and speak, so I wasn't here. I had Reverend Earl Wilson over there, who is head of the Wesleyan Foundation, to do it for me. And then afterwards they carried him by a student audience of about a hundred, and the students held him there for two hours on the campus talking and he answered every question. The campus ministry tells me he is the best thing they've ever had on the campus to relate to. So we were contemplating on bringing him back to Greensboro for campus ministry and for an evangelistic crusade. He does not believe—they paralleled him with Oral Roberts and Billy Graham, but he does not believe in going into speaking every night and leave. His ministry is one that is a street ministry. He was a drug addict. He led the Harlem Lords in New York at one time, and he was converted by radio one night. So I want you to meet him if you have never met him. He has several books, [Black and Free?], and one or two other books he has put out.

WC:

Sounds like an interesting guy.

DM:

This is my latest as far as the—as far as working in that area [unclear], bringing the youth and the older people together. There are the gaps, white and black.

WC:

This has been extraordinarily helpful to me, and I really appreciate your taking the time to see me this long.

DM:

I just hope that I have given you something that you can use.

[End of Interview]