Interview with William Rutherford

Can you sum up by talking about the 300 people that went out and other people that you sent to New York City, the whole thing and how this was to organize America?


Yes, well we had, as I said, fewer than 300 persons, hands I'd say, to organize America. We were asking 300 persons to organize 200 million people. And of course, to a large degree, they did. We had a movement that began in the northeastern United States that I think brought a caravan of some 100 and some buses of people from the northeastern United States across the northeast into Washington. We had support from artists, I mean the Pete Seegers, the Marlon Brandos, ah, many, many people in many areas in many walks of life, ah, from the trade unions to prominent Hollywood figures. I mean the Burt Lancasters and so on that participated and would donate say, a bus, no great, you know, ah, shakes for them, but tremendous, ah, for us. Ah, and these 300 people did go out to organize America. And I will never forget going out to, ah, Albuquerque. We were having difficulty with, ah, the organization, logistics of the local group that were going to come from the south, ah, west to participate in the Poor People's Campaign. And I met, ah, Brando in Albuquerque. He came down because he was going to buy ten buses. He was going to donate ten buses, say. And to be sure that these buses were going to leave, as he said on the, he said to me on the telephone, "Well, listen man, no fooling around." He said, "If these are going, if this money is going to go for buses. I'm going to be sure that it goes for buses and that the buses leave." I said, "Easy." I said, "We're going to have a rally there and your the perfect person to participate. I'll see you in Albuquerque." And sure enough he came to Albuquerque, blue jeans, whole thing, ah, and we went to, ah, a local stadium, held a rally, ah, 90 percent Chicano, ah, but with Anglos and Blacks that were there in the audience as well and he spoke and he was, he speaks very briefly, very much to the point. It was a very staccato kind of presentation that he makes. And as we left, people were coming back and there were ladies who were dropping their wedding bands into the kitty and he was so embarrassed, he stormed out of that, ah, stadium. I was right behind him saying, "Hang on Marlon. Hang on. We'll give the rings back. We'll give the rings back." And so on, but, ah, that was the kind of enthusiasm of course that Dr. King and the movement and all of its participants were able to generate throughout the country.