Interview with William Lucy

What was it like when you first, when you were there when he first met with the workers?


I was there when he, when we first came to, ah, to just take a look at what the problem was, uh. We had met with him prior to his meeting with the men, ah, to try and, and point out the safety concerns that the men had, ah, the problems of discrimination with regards to the assignment of work on the critical day that it rained and they were sent home. Ah, and his reaction was, as far as he was concerned, the union really didn't represent anybody, at least in his estimation. Ah, so we decided that we would go back and inform the men of his position, ah, and ask them, you know, what we should do. And we went back to the Rubber Workers hall, where there was a meeting in progress. A, an instant decision was made to bring the men downtown to see the mayor. Ah, and so we marched from the union hall, ah, across the city of Memphis to city hall. Ah, and we were intent on taking everybody into the mayor's office, this would've been about 12, 1300 people. Ah, the decision was made to meet in the auditorium, which was just adjacent to city hall. Ah, the mayor, ah, still thinking that this was a situation pretty traditional in the South, where he would go in, express his views to the men, and the issue would be resolved right away. I can, I can re- recall him saying, at the outset of his presentation, that, ah, "You men have known me for a long time, and, ah, my door has always been open to you, and you, you know I would always give you the shirt off my back," and this, this, this kind of traditional paternalism that exists in the South. And, I think somebody from the back of the room sort of raised up and said, "We really don't want the shirt off your back. What we'd like to have is a decent wage and we'll buy our own shirt." Ah, I mean, the discussion was, was at least framed at that point.