Interview with Erle Johnston


Erle Johnston:

Well, the commission, of course, after it became apparent that segregation per se was going out under the act of Congress plus all the court decisions, then we tried to be a troubleshooting communities where there were cases that could have caused problems had we not known about them in advance. And sometimes we were able to avoid that. You gotta remember that during those days there were several groups working in the name of Civil Rights, one was called SNCC, one was called SCEL, one was called well, one was called COFO, but COFO actually was an umbrella under which all of them worked together for that invasion of 1964. And when I mentioned that I had contacts with local groups, I'm talking about local responsible black people. At that time, the NAACP, although it was the oldest Civil Rights organization had really been keeping a low profile with the killing of Medgar Evers, as tragic as it was, did give the NAACP a little bit more of a boost because his brother Charles Evers came in and took his place and Charles Evers was a very aggressive person—very, very aggressive, more so than his brother. But, for instance if a, if a local black group made demands on the city council or demands on the school board, and if that board would call us to see if we could help them. We were trying to find out from the black groups through our contacts what would it take really to satisfy them and never, did it take everything you asked for. We would come back in and tell the white leadership, why don't you do so and so and so and so, and then you'll avert the problem, and then, if it works fine, if it doesn't if it doesn't you blame it on me because when you're sitting around with a, with a white structure like that, even though a lot of them knew what they had to do, nobody wanted to make the motion. So when I made the recommendations, they were acting on my recommendations and not making a motion do this or do this or do that.