Interview with Charles Butts

Could you talk about Carl Stokes and how audiences on both the east and west side, Black and White, responded to him?


Carl Stokes had immense charisma. I guess that's a word that's used a lot with politicians, but ah, a story that I think reflects that it really was true of Carl Stokes was as a matter of fact, on the west side of Cleveland, when a group of liberal ah, White ah, protestant ministers had a meeting for him. It was summer. Ah, the meeting was in a church basement where it was quite warm, pre-air conditioning. Ah, ah, Carl was still serving in the Ohio legislature and as a matter of fact they were in session. An important, could get out of. We had a plane arranged to be able to spirit him back in time for the meeting. Nevertheless, he was late. Um, these liberal ah, folks from the west side really got very angry. How could we have this meeting, and then he wouldn't be here on time? And it was about as surly a crowd as I ever remember because ah, they felt as though they were being wronged and short-changed. Then he did arrive. He came in that back room and gave 'em a Carl Stokes smile. And they just melted and were in his hand. Um. Tremendous power of, of, of just the presence of his personality. But there was more. Ah, he, he did understand how to organize people. And ah, and this showed on both east and west side. And maybe most particularly in his base in the Black community. That so many ah, in the Black community, their experience was ah, as a ah, undertaker, as a, as a teacher, as a ward healer, ah, that they would have a very small organization under them. And so that people in the Black community weren't exposed to an organization that would be wider.