Interview with Leo Lillard
QUESTION 1
INTERVIEWER:

OK, SO TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF AND HOW YOU GOT TO GET INVOLVED IN THE MOVEMENT LIKE THAT.

Leo Lillard:

Ok, well, first of all I came from a family that was pretty militant. My dad uh, was the first black person to run for uh, mayor in the town. My dad was uh, the first person that basic, basically contended and fought against the urban renewal round the Capitol Hill area. He went, he went to a hearing one time uh, well Mayor Ben West, the good mayor, was telling everybody that uh, nobody's going to get hurt when this bulldozer comes through. And my daddy organized Jewish people who were [unintelligible] downtown, white Caucasians, and, of course, black folks. And he got them to testify during the trial, during the hearing. And they all said how much they were gonna lose, how much the city was taking their property and gave them nothing. Then there wasn't, my dad didn't get anybody black to talk, so he said he had to get up, and he, he made a mockery out of Ben West's sort-of uh, Ger- uh, accent. He said that uh, basically paraphrasing Ben West, is that nobody's gonna get hurt. And he says, "I can just imagine two hundred years ago when white folks came to Nashville, and that's what they told the Indians: ‘Indians, just move your teepee just a little bit back and nobody's gonna get hurt.'" And he said, "of course, we all know the story." At the end of his testimony, his statement he got a standing ovation from black folks and white folks. And, of course, the bankers and the leading black leaders told him his life wasn't worth a penny. He told them he didn't want to live if he couldn't live with pride. And I recall—I was young when that happened, but I recall that it did happen—and I recall that-that-that my whole upbringing was always to deal with evil, always never shirk back, never to compromise. Um, he told me a story about his grandfather who was buried alive as a slave on a plantation in Texas, and his grandmother told him this story …