Interview with Ed Gardner

Coming now to around I think it's 1982. You're sitting in your office and you're called upon by Renault Robinson. What, what happened? What did you guys talk about?


Me and ah, Renault Robinson called me he was, as far as I was concerned, a very active person in politics and social movement, former policeman, ah, been an officer of the city of Chicago but somehow survived and was still a major political leader in the city of Chicago. And Renault called me, he says, "Ed, we, we need help ah, with the political campaign." So I said, "Well, come on by." And I thought it was a donation which we were probably going to do. And he came by and explained very clearly to us that our problem was voter registration. Blacks are not registered. And ah, so my son Gary and my daughter, they were here. And they said, "Well, Dad, why don't we devote ah, our last quarter of advertisement--instead of using s--to advertise Soft Sheen, use it to ah, get Blacks to register to vote." And that was a lot of money. That was about a quarter of a million dollars we allocated for advertising that period of time. So we just decided that let's go with it. And what we did was to um, dedicate not only the dollars, but the time and the creativity of our marketing department , advertisement department to really get involved behind voter registration. And Renault was surprised that we wanted to do this. But we knew things were not going to change in Chicago unless we got Blacks registered. If you're not registered you cannot vote, so don't tell me about how you don't like Jane Byrne or Mayor Daley unless you are registered to vote. So we felt that we could do the creative job in, in alerting and alarming the Black community as to their responsibility to become registered voters. And we had the equipment to do it plus we had the dollar. At that time we had been in business since 1964 to the present time, we were probably a successful Black business built on dollars from the Black community. We felt here's our chance to return those dollars and do enormous thing as far as making life better for, ah, Black Chicagoans but Blacks all around the nation to take this as impetus in a, and a movement in the right direction for the future.