Interview with William Lucy
QUESTION 12
PAUL STECKLER:

Let's go back to the subcommittee meeting. What did you all do for it?

WILLIAM LUCY:

The, ah, the, we, we, we came to the conclusion that the subcommittee, the ah, committee on public works, ah, really could play a role in bringing this thing to a head. Ah, the committee was chaired by a council-member, Fred Davis, ah, and his committee granted us a meeting, ah, where we wanted to discuss their possibly passing a resolution which could be adopted by the full city council, ah, that would, would frame the issue and recommend a course of, of, of solution. I don't think the committee really realized how serious we were about finding a settlement. Ah, on the day that we met, ah, they were hesitant and weren't clear about their responsibility. Ah, they felt they might be, be intruding on the mayor's jurisdiction. Ah, we had brought that day about 1300 to 1500 people to the city council chambers and we were prepared to stay forever, until we got some action from them, and ah, ah, they, ah, sort of overreacted to a degree, and ordered us out of the place, and we refused to leave. As a matter of fact, we sent out and got, ah, bread, and bologna and cold cuts and, ah, we just really decided to camp in for, for a good while. Ah, the committee really under some real pressure, you know call the police who didn't quite know what to do at that point either. And finally somewhere near, you know, the 11th hour, they passed a resolution that could've been passed at the beginning of the meeting. And, ah, it provided a framework for the solution. And I guess the interesting thing is that the, this was a brand new city hall chambers. I mean, the, the city was so proud of it, it had, you know, bright red rugs, and drapes, you know, tables. The men, who also saw that as their city hall, I mean, completely cleaned the place up, you know, it was spotless when we left. And that led into the following day the full meeting of the, ah, of the, of the Memphis city council. Ah, where we had been promised, ah, a hearing on the committee's recommendation. Ah, and since they, the members of the committee were substantial leaders of the council, a pretty strong, ah, you know, indication that it would be adopted by the council as a whole. And that would be sort of a sense of the legislative body. And the mayor would buy this and we would move on forward and resolve this thing. Well, again, we came down both with the, we being the union, came down with the, the workers, ah, and across the city the word had went out that this strike was going to come to a head, so we had a number of community leaders, religious leaders who came also to the council that morning for the purpose of lending their support to this final solution. Well, when the council meeting opened, ah, it opened in the traditional, you know, formal way, ah, and at that point, ah, the, the chairperson of the council turned to, ah, some other member, I forget who, and they, they just made this silly statement, ah, and moved to adjourn. Ah, and we, we, I mean we were all caught in this strange situation, "Well, what happened to the recommendation that was going to come from the committee on public works?" And they simply adjourned and got up to leave. Well, I mean there was absolute, you know, chaos, ah, at that point because, the, ah, the men felt that they had been double-crossed, the union felt that they had been sort of been giving short-shrift. Ah, and we were quite concerned as to where the, the whole thing was going to go from there. When we came out of the city council chambers, ah, there was such confusion that we really thought that we had to provide some sort of a cooling off process, ah, to allow the frustrations of the men to sort of, you know, tone themselves down. When we came out, we confronted a substantial portion of the Memphis police force that had obviously been called, ah, to the spot after we went into the city council chambers. So we came out to meet this, this horde of police standing out front, and in effect, ah, lining the plaza, ah, in front of city hall. Ah, our president, President Wurf, ah, went to who appeared to be in charge of the police force, and while we were still frustrated about what had happened in the, ah, in the council chambers, we wanted at least the authority to march to some place where we could address the men. Ah, and this was, I guess the second major march of the, of the strike. Ah, we finally reached agreement that we could march down Main Street, using a portion of the street so that, ah, you know, we wouldn't interrupt and disrupt traffic. Ah, they agreed to this, ah, we began the march. Some of us who had some other responsibilities took off to a, to take care of those. But the police allowed the march to get, to get stretched out along the street for two, maybe two and a half blocks, and then began to, ah, to really crowd the march using police vehicles, over towards the curb. And in the course of doing this, obviously making it smaller and smaller in terms of the width. And it depends on who you talk to as to what actually happened at what point in time, but it, but at a point in time the police began to mace, began to you know, really beat, began to really brutalize the marchers. And everyone who was with them, ah, every- you know, people who were on the sidewalks not even involved in the march itself.