Interview with Roger Wilkins

OK, Stop camera. Ah, now I'm looking for--


One of the main things that we wanted to do while we were in Detroit was to get to the establishment, the business establishment, and get them to agree to do major social reconstructive work. Everybody told us that the person, the key person was Walker Cisler who was the head of Con-Edison. And we tried every way we could to get in touch with him. But before we got in touch with him we did all kinds of other work in the city. Ah, but at night, and we'd work late into the night but we'd al--always pause for dinner. Um, there was not only a curfew in Detroit but there was also a liquor ban. But the mayor had provided, ah, Cy Vance with um, a lot of liquor. So what we'd do would be to, ah, break off at about six, go up to Vance's suite, Mrs. Vance was there, and we would all have cocktails and then we'd go into the hotel and have dinner. And then we'd go back to work. It was kind of our routine and that's what we did all the time. One day when John Doar and I had been out at the federal prison nearby interviewing people who had been arrested, we got back and I was in our headquarters at police headquarters, and all of a sudden I got a call from John. And he said, "Roger, I thought you ought to know that we're having dinner tonight with Walker Cisler, who we've been able to get in touch with, Walker Cisler, and the dinner is going to be at the Detroit Yacht Club. I thought that you would want to know that and we will see you later." That hit me like a thunderclap. First of all, it broke our normal thing of always having dinner together. But beyond that I knew, and John knew, and Cy Vance knew, and everybody knew that the Detroit Yacht Club did not serve Black people. So what Cy Vance and Warren Christopher had decided to do was to go see Walker Cisler at a place where the Black member of their group could not go. And we were not in Detroit because the sewers didn't work. We were in Detroit because Black people who felt oppressed were tearing the place up. And yet these guys decided: a) to go to a segregated place for dinner and b) to leave the Black member, everybody else went, but to leave the Black member of their club, of their group, sent by the President himself out of it. Vance never apologized to me for that. Nor did, nor did Warren Christopher. Um, they sent John Doar and later they sent another guy who was a law partner of Vance's, but neither of them ever had the character to do it.