Interview with Renault Robinson

Now when you went to see, tell me how, about that conversation you had with Ed Garner when you went to see him at Soft Sheen.


Well, I was in the midst of, ah, fund raising campaign for my organization, The Afro American Police League. We always needed money because we were rattling bones with the police department and people scared to identify with us. So, we had to get money from quote, "angels," people in the suburbs, ah, big business, people who didn't care, and so forth and so on. One day I was riding down the expressway trying to figure out how I was going to pay my rent that month and my help and I heard on one of the radio stations that some nice gentleman had contributed some money to what I considered a worthy cause but not a popular cause. I said, "Hm." So, I picked up my car phone and called information and got this gentleman's telephone number, had never heard of him before. Called him and he answered the phone which was unusual because you know, we are always so important, we never the answer the phone. Ah, I asked him if I could come by and talk to him. He said yes. And I turned around the on expressway and went to see him. Ah, talked to him about our organization, all the things we were trying to do. And he said, "Is it really going to make a difference?" I mean, are you, "Do you think you're going to make a difference? What really would make a difference?" I say, "Obviously politics would make a difference." I said "We could control our destiny if we had people in the right elected position who had the administrative authority to dictate change, instead of us standing on milk crates, picketing and screaming." He said, "What would it take to do that?" I said, "A voters registration campaign." He said, "But those things never work." I said, "True, but we could make it work." He said, "Well, how?" We got into a long conversation about methods and this and that and finally he said, "Well, let me call in my wife and my son." Who, at the time, I didn't know how integral they were to his company. But they're, it's a family run business. They all came in. They listened to my spiel and he wrote out a check for five thousand dollars. He said, "I want to help. I want to participate. And I'll offer my company, my staff, everything to back this effort." And I said, "Great, I'll take you up on it." And that was the beginning of the historic voters registration campaign. Gardner made his money off of hair products and the way he got people to buy them was through the media, through the media that Black people used, radio, not TV, not newspaper but radio. I picked up on that. Realizing that the only thing that was common to all of us, rich, poor, middle-class, was that radio. And consequently we de--decided to use that medium as a way of subliminally getting our message out to Blacks. "Register and vote." We used jingles, messages, disc jockeys, everything we could. In between records, we used record stars. We used popular people. We used talk show programs. Everything we could to reinforce the message. We even created a special jingle which matched the rhythm of the times that said, "You've got to register and vote." Ultimately it all worked.


Stop down. Great. You blew through several questions. I liked how you segued into the media business, because it came flowing and it saved me the, oh, thank you very much, thank you very, very much.


I think we have the voice we need for the plebiscite tale, and the Gardner tale, he does mention Gardner's name in the second part. You caught the CHA part at the begriming, when he was talking about the conversation with Byrne--