You have found an item located in the Kentuckiana Digital Library.
2004-03-25 Interview with Aubrey Williams, March 25, 2004 Leg001:2004OH076 Leg 078 2:01:16 Kentucky Legislature Oral History Project Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries Legislators -- Kentucky -- Interviews. African American legislators -- Kentucky -- Interviews. Coal mines and mining -- Kentucky -- Harlan. Detroit (Mich.) -- Racism. Detroit (Mich.) -- Race relations. Louisville (Ky.) -- Politics and government. Kentucky. Governor (1974-1979 : Carroll) Kentucky. Governor (2003-2007 : Fletcher) Carroll, Julian M. (Julian Morton), 1931- Coal mines and mining Practice of law Louisville (Ky.) Harlan County (Ky.) Detroit (Mich.) Fletcher, Ernie, 1952- United Mine Workers of America Kentucky Commission on Human Rights National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Ku Klux Klan (1915- ) Race discrimination Religion Labor unions Basketball People with disabilities -- Legal status, laws, etc. Barrier-free design -- Law and legislation Gun control Kennedy, Jim Kentucky Dam Village State Park Judicial Criminal Committee voter fraud campaigning affirmative action handicap accessibility affirmative action legislation "lemon law" Term/District: House (1977-1985), 42nd district Counties in District: Jefferson County (Ky.) Aubrey Williams; interviewee Eric Moyen; interviewer 2004OH076_LEG078_Williams 1:|36(5)|53(13)|75(4)|99(7)|122(2)|136(4)|163(10)|184(7)|207(9)|241(6)|259(9)|273(9)|287(12)|298(4)|311(8)|322(4)|343(10)|355(6)|374(10)|391(11)|417(12)|439(7)|457(6)|467(1)|484(12)|498(7)|523(15)|546(9)|566(13)|587(8)|602(5)|614(6)|626(6)|639(10)|654(9)|681(2)|694(11)|705(14)|732(2)|740(2)|762(3)|786(7)|802(4)|824(8)|846(1)|874(2)|889(13)|906(1)|926(1)|935(9)|949(3)|974(3)|994(7)|1014(7)|1028(14)|1051(4)|1069(12)|1086(15)|1104(2)|1123(8)|1134(4)|1154(6)|1170(4)|1194(4)|1221(3)|1258(6)|1281(1)|1300(9)|1336(9)|1358(7)|1381(1)|1408(11)|1436(3)|1468(3)|1508(10)|1523(3)|1547(5)|1559(12)|1586(7)|1631(9)|1660(3)|1679(8)|1697(4)|1721(12)|1759(4)|1777(5)|1797(5)|1807(10)|1845(4)|1869(4)|1884(6)|1918(5)|1961(2)|1983(1)|2013(5)|2040(13)|2060(4)|2082(11)|2096(13)|2114(1)|2134(3)|2147(2)|2168(9)|2180(6)|2194(3)|2220(3)|2248(3)|2267(11)|2284(8)|2301(8)|2326(9)|2345(3)|2358(2)|2378(8)|2395(1)|2418(11)|2446(5)|2473(1)|2494(12)|2509(9)|2528(12) audiotrans Legit interview MOYEN: All right, I'm here today with Dr. Aubrey Williams who served in the Kentucky House of Representatives from 1977 and 1985, I believe, and that was House District forty-two? WILLIAMS: Um-hm. Yes. MOYEN: Okay. Why don't we start, can you tell me a little bit about your family history, genealogy even, just do you know- WILLIAMS: Sure. MOYEN: how far back you can trace your family roots or- WILLIAMS: Not very far, but- MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: I was born and raised in Harlan County. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: My father was a coal miner. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: And as a matter of fact he was a union organizer- MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: and he came from Alabama, Montgomery, he and my mother, was back in the thirties, I guess. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: And I remember him being very active in the union in helping the coal miners get benefits, filling out papers. There was a steady constant stream of coal miners coming into our house on Saturdays, beginning on Saturday mornings. And I also remember him and my uncle and those other coal miners on Saturday mornings when they were going to union meetings strapping on their guns. It was (laughs)- as a matter of fact, Harlan used to be known as "Bloody Harlan"- MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: because of the coal-mining wars. And my father was the first and only, probably, black who was the, who represented his district at the United Mine Workers Convention, annual conventions. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: And we remember fondly his best buddy, you know, my father could always take someone of his choice along with him to the convention and he wouldn't take my uncle, he wouldn't take any of his black friends there in the coal mining camp. Took this white fellow named Joe who was his best buddy, and so we have fond memories of that and of course, [inaudible] of course, spoke highly that he, as a black man, was able to get elected and represent his district and sit in the, you know, at that high level- MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: in the United Mine Workers and, you know so. MOYEN: Now, what were your parents' names? WILLIAMS: Alanzo and Essie Williams. MOYEN: Okay. All right. WILLIAMS: And they came from- my mother was born around Montgomery, the country of Montgomery, Alabama. And my daddy was also born somewhere near Montgomery, I just don't know exactly where. And they left there and then moved to Birmingham, stayed for a while, worked in the coal mines, and then they came on to Harlan. As I gather it, they probably were part of that whole effort to, well, no they heard there was work in the coal fields and so, you know, they had that migration- MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: from Alabama towards the Eastern Kentucky coal pits. Some probably came because of the company would break strikes perhaps, but that's where they ended up, in Harlan County. MOYEN: Do you all return to Alabama at all? WILLIAMS: Oh, no. Of course they had relatives there. My father had aunts there. All lived a to a very old age in fact, in their nineties, and a couple of them lived to be a hundred. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: My mother had a sister who remained there and a brother, but except for funerals we never went back and the kids didn't go back down there. MOYEN: You mentioned that you moved to Harlan County. Was this- did you live in Harlan proper or [inaudible]- WILLIAMS: There was a coal mining camp, called Alberta, that was about nine miles from Harlan, and back in those days nine miles was a long distance. (Laughs) MOYEN: Still can be in Harlan County. WILLIAMS: Right. And we lived in that coal mine camp until I was about six years old, I believe, six or seven, then we moved to Harlan proper. MOYEN: Okay. Okay. WILLIAMS: And we with the huge metropolitan area and boosted a population of a little over five thousand with the movie theaters and restaurants, which we couldn't go to of course. Yeah. MOYEN: Uh-huh. Can you tell me when you were born? WILLIAMS: Oh, yes. February 27 1945. MOYEN: Okay. And could you tell me a little bit about your schooling experience in Harlan? WILLIAMS: I went to the black school, Harlan Rosenwald, and as a matter of fact, my class, my senior class was the last class before the schools were integrated. I graduated in 1963. And it was a just a wonderful, just a wonderful experience. We didn't have much. As a matter of fact, I tell my kids and they're amazed that through out high school I only had one textbook. That was math book because we had to buy our own books. We couldn't afford it. And a good friend of mine named, a classmate named Leslie Philips, he was the a genius, a mathematic genius, and he would help me with math and I would help him with English because that was my favorite subject. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: And I was the editor-in-chief of the school newspaper as a freshman, the student body voted me president and editor. I played basketball, took home ec (laughs), and you know, just loved studying and it was just a wonderful experience. We didn't have much, didn't have very much at all. I never had a steak until I went to college, never had a steak until I went to college. MOYEN: Huh. WILLIAMS: Learned table manners at when I was in college too. Junior college, it was a junior college, Sue Bennett Junior College, the most wonderful institution I went to. I went to several schools but Sue Bennett Junior College in London, Kentucky. MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: It's closed now. MOYEN: Um-hm. WILLIAMS: And I was there on a basketball scholarship, me and two, there were about four blacks then. Three of us played ball and one was a cheerleader but just wonderful human beings, wonderful experience. Growing up in Harlan we didn't have much but it was a very, very- they were the happiest days of my life. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: Yeah, we had fun and we stayed and played in the mountains and on the riverbank and the kids in those days, believe it or not, we would go, we would leave early in the morning, kids six, seven, eight, nine years old and go out up into the mountains, miles away form home picking fruit and pears, apples, blackberries, cherries, things, you name it, then go fishing and you're bringing this stuff home and eat. The parents would can that stuff and put, preserve, make preserves of it. And yeah, I think back it just seems just incredible that we were able to, that we would do that, you know, kids. MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: You know, I mean, and it was just awesome when you think about those days. That was a wonderful, it was just absolutely a wonderful experience. So I guess like the Huckleberry Finn and [inaudible]- MOYEN: Yeah. WILLIAMS: and, you know, that whole experience, you know it really was. And we had rafts that we would build and ride on down the river, the Cumberland River and what have you, be skinny-dipping down in the river and so forth. So I tell you those were the good old days. They really were. We had what we called naked refrigerators, alright? A naked refrigerator was something that you didn't have any food in it. (laughs) You had surplus cheese in the fridge and you had powdered milk, believe it or not powdered milk. It was powdered and you put water in it and then you'd make your milk. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: And you had this surplus flour and we made homemade pancakes. Homemade pancakes- MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: you know- but just a wonderful time, just a wonderful time. MOYEN: So when you were growing up in Harlan a lot of people were starting to leave, did you have a desire to leave Harlan County- WILLIAMS: Uh- MOYEN: to get out of there, or did you- WILLIAMS: Oh, you pretty much had to you know, there just wasn't anything there, nothing to do. And what you aspired to become when I was coming up was really to go north and get a job or going to the military. MOYEN: Um-hm. WILLIAMS: A lot of guys went to the military and others simply migrated north. MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: My uncles, I remember very vividly the morning they left, I was about five years old, I guess. And they left the coal mine camp real early in the morning, left. They were going to Cleveland, Ohio. And so yeah, and our father didn't want any of his sons going to the coal mines, you know, it's dangerous work. MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: Of course, you know. MOYEN: Yeah. WILLIAMS: So yes, you know, you just, you know, graduate and then get out of there, you know. MOYEN: You mentioned that you were playing high school basketball at the time, were you all playing integrated basketball games when you were in high school? WILLIAMS: Yes, we did. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: Now, of course, as I said my school was all black but we played, as a matter of fact, most of the teams were white that we played. There were only- Lynch was the archrival, Benham and there was Middlesboro and another team I can't remember, McRobertson somewhere in that area but, yes, all the other teams were white and we beat their pants off and their socks off, we tied them up. But as a matter of fact the first year we were allowed to play in the district tournament which was 1958, I wasn't playing then I was too young, but we won the district tournament and the district tournament back in those days was like winning the state championship. MOYEN: Uh-huh. Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: And then we came along and in my junior year in 1962 we won the district tournament again. Now, we would always get cheated in the regional. I mean they'd literally take the game okay (laughs). MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: I mean just blatant. I'm telling you blatant. I mean it was incredible (laughs) So we never could get out of the region, they just, they weren't gonna get a black team get out of the region, you know, so. MOYEN: Can you tell me, I mean that in and of itself is pretty insightful but some of the other issues or instances that stuck out in your mind about living in Jim Crow South, Jim Crow Appalachia? WILLIAMS: Sure. Oh, I left out aspects too, there were nine of us that survived. My parents probably had a total of seventeen children, couple of them I guess were stillborn but they had a total of seventeen children but as I was coming up there were nine of us and then my older brother left that left eight of us. And we lived in a four-room house. And I remember putting the- it was cold, icicles would grow on the inside of the window and I remember at during the day we would put bricks in the fireplace and they'd get hot and we'd wrap them in rags and put them in bed at night. They'd keep us warm. Three or four of us slept in one bed and, you know, and my mama used to say (laughs), she said, "We're gonna have a country dinner today." Now, as you can imagine dinner, you know, dinners were not, you know, the kind you see in the movies about the country. MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: We were just barely eating, barely getting by but a country dinner meant that the only thing we was going to have that day was crackling bread, I mean cornbread with some fat from a hog cooked in it and some sorghum syrup and powdered milk, that was a country dinner. But anyway, I recall as far as the issues are concerned, we were not aware or really conscious of the separation of the races while we lived in this coal mining camp. We just weren't that conscious of it. You know, the whites didn't live too far from the blacks; they all went in the coal mine together and worked together. As I said, my daddy's best friend was white and my second oldest brother's best friend was white. As a matter of fact, his name was Whitey Fox (laughs). I don't know whether it was Running Fox or just Whitey Fox (laughs) and so we just weren't aware of it. But when we moved to Harlan, when we realized that we couldn't go into, you know, drugstores and sit at the counter and what have you and I remember there was some, a couple of run-ins with the- there was a gang called the Green Mercury Gang, bunch of white fellows and they harassed or actually chased black kids and trying to beat them up and that, incidents such as that and then we began to be aware of- you go to the movies you had to sit up in the loft, you couldn't sit downstairs with the white patrons. And I recall writing an editorial as a freshman saying that black folk were like the stirrups on a saddle that the white man rode on. I actually I did an editorial as a freshman. And so I, you know, I delivered newspapers. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: I started out delivering the Grit newspaper out of somewhere and then the Knoxville News Sentinel, my sister and I did. And so apparently I was doing some reading and didn't have television of course. As a matter of fact, in our neighborhood in Harlan only one or two families had televisions. You didn't have those kinds of luxuries. Yeah, so evidently I was doing a lot of reading and then listening to the radio. But there was not any real intense racism. Obviously as I look back I don't recall seeing, you know- blacks didn't work in the stores, blacks didn't work in any of the offices, didn't have any of the government jobs, you know. Of course, we were, you sort of expected stuff like that, I guess, you know, you hadn't been having a, didn't have anything that position, I guess it was the way things were so to speak and those were white folks jobs, white folks were supposed to have those jobs and the only thing black folks would do was working in coal mines, do day work. My mother did day work in fact so. But those, yes, those things stuck out, stood out. But it wasn't any- you didn't have that virulent racism, if you will, do you follow what I'm saying? MOYEN: Yeah. Yeah. WILLIAMS: We didn't have, you didn't have that fear factor or you weren't afraid of, they didn't have any Klan, the Ku Klux Klan down there, didn't have any racist organizations as such, we didn't have that fear you're gonna get off the sidewalk when a white woman is coming, that sort of stuff, that "yes sir" and "no sir" kind of attitude, just didn't have that, you know, so- MOYEN: What about religious life growing up, what- WILLIAMS: Oh wonderful! Wonderful! MOYEN: what type of a church did you attend? WILLIAMS: A Baptist. My daddy was superintendent of Sunday school. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: And my mama- we had to go to church, we had to go to church. My mother said that you do all you can not- as a matter of fact, the whole community whether it was in the coal mining camp, there in Harlan proper, religion was deeply instilled in the kids. And as a matter of fact, we, first I, you know, as far as back that I can remember we were in church. At the earliest stage, as early as gosh, three or four or five years old, you know, I just remember being in church. In the coal mining camp we had a little church (laughs), a white church, a little white church and we went there religiously (laughs)- MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: [inaudible] and moved to Harlan, the same, we had [inaudible] Baptist church. As a matter of fact I made the fire in the church and rang the church bell. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: And we were, on Wednesday, not Wednesday but on Thursday I think, Tuesday or Thursday, there was Aunt Nancy, she was the missionary and we would, she would gather us together in the evening or early part of the night in a little building down off the railroad tracks and studied the Bible, tell Bibles stories. And we had Kool Aid and cookies and the place was packed with kids. And then well, she would come to the school and teach us Bible verses. As a matter of fact, there was a place called Camp Nathaniel and if you said two hundred verses during the school year then you'd go to Camp Nathaniel, if you were sent there three years in a row then you became a free camper and so I looked forward to that. I would commit two hundred Bible verses to memory- MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: and go to Camp Nathaniel and that was a vacation. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: Not a whole lot of kids were able to do it so (laughs) but yes, very, very, very, very religious. So on in many ways black folk are more conservative than whites, really if it comes to religion. And so it was fun then, we spent a great deal of time especially in the summertime around the church. There was a Methodist Church and a Baptist Church and it was all- they had ping-pong tables and you look- going to church was a fun experience. It really was a fun experience. It was a major, I mean, yeah, it just was not casual. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: It was not casual at all. As a matter of fact, I was somewhat of a- because I remember I would go to Sunday school, get up early in the morning and make the fire at the church, so forth, then dash back home and change your clothes, you know, and then there would be the regular morning service, then Aunt Nancy would take MariettaYoung, and Nathaniel Benson, and me with her to this white church we visited up in the hollers, you called them- MOYEN: Um-hm. WILLIAMS: in the early afternoon, mid-afternoon services, then back home and then that evening I'm back at church- MOYEN: Um-hm. WILLIAMS: for what they called BTU or BYPU back in those days, Baptist Training Union. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: So I was in church throughout the whole day on Sunday. I loved it. As a matter of fact I was somewhat of a born preacher they say. Yeah so, religion was deeply instilled, you know, in us and there was very little, kids very seldom got in trouble. There were only two or three kids I recall who would get in trouble like with the law, you know, you have juvenile court- MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: and that kind of, there were no such a thing as juvenile court back in those days. So yeah, yeah, yeah, anyway. MOYEN: Okay, so we talked some about the mines and about your education and religious background, what else would have influenced your political philosophy during your formative years, during your childhood [inaudible]- WILLIAMS: Just my father. My father, a coal mine union man. When I was in the legislature, for instance, I mean I voted. I can't imagine having voted against the Union on any issue (laughs). MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: We, my father read a lot, you know, he always talked about oh, we were coming up always heard about Hoover time. Now, Hoover was just so bad for people and so that's why we were Democrats. They'd tell me Hoover time and FDR, you see. FDR saved, rescued the people, you see. MOYEN: So, in talking with your father did you ever catch, had they been Republicans until Hoover and- WILLIAMS: I don't know. MOYEN: or until Hoover and FDR- WILLIAMS: I do not know. I would imagine that they probably were because of Lincoln. MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: You know, and that was the critical event or era that, where Blacks switched their party allegiances because Hoover was, I mean Hoover was looked on with great distaste (laughs). Sort of like Ronald Reagan was viewed in the black community. He might've been adored, at first Ronald Reagan was adored in the white community by and large [inaudible] but just basically despised in the black community. And sort of like George Bush is regarded today in the black community but that's- and we didn't really talk, you know, back in those days the older folks would, you know, they'd sit down, they'd be talking and the kids sort of listen, you know, just curl up, lie down on the floor there and, you know, listen to them talk and I was always listening to them, you know. And so my dad was very strong, he was a very strong man, my mother also, very strong character. As a matter of fact someone said I think, yeah, my grandson here plays for Etown, got an offer from UK by the way. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: He's a junior- MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: and they've already offered him a scholarship (laughs) as a wide receiver, not a wide receiver but a linebacker. But anyway, he interviewed me a couple or three weeks ago for a school project and he asked me who had, who are my greatest admirers, who did I admire the most in my life, who had the greatest influence on me? And I quite honestly even from an objective standpoint it was my parents, my mother and my father, worked real hard, very conscientious through it and just, yeah. So, but they influenced me more than anything and anybody else. MOYEN: Were there, you mentioned the unions and then some about FDR and the New Deal, around the dinner table did politics come up often? Was that something that was regularly talked about? WILLIAMS: Not really. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: No, not really. I can't even remember any specific discussions about any particular, other than FDR and Hoover and any other president of that as far as politics are concerned. You know, I think to, we probably talked more about the racial things, where we stood as a people. And I remember vividly the Emmett Till story, you know, the young black kid from Chicago who went down to Mississippi and was accused of whistling at a white woman- MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: and then they killed him, threw in the Mississippi, in the whatever river that was. That was very widespread, ever somehow that, you know, that filtered down there. But you just try to make ends meet (laughs) and, you know, you didn't get, you know, really caught up in the politics. Of course, one thing that did happen as far as politics was concerned the kids would look forward to turning eighteen so they could get that five dollars that they paid them (laughs) to vote. MOYEN: Uh-huh. (laughs) WILLIAMS: You know, they had the vote holiday and stuff down in Eastern Kentucky- MOYEN: Yeah. WILLIAMS: well heck, that's been going on forever (laughs) you know. MOYEN: Yeah. WILLIAMS: And then my, I did come to realize as we, as I reflect on it that my daddy was a [inaudible] I imagine he had to be involved in politics because of his role as a union official so, you know, [inaudible] among local gangsters and he, and he'd dole out that money to get them drivers and then they'd may have that money and get the kids from, you know, schools, those you had turned eighteen to give them cards and go to the polls (laughs) but him giving the five dollars. And of course, then if those who vote got five dollars, got a half pint. MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: You talk about vote buying, my gosh, you know, I imagine a whole lot of good candidates did not get elected to something because they didn't have the money, you know, to buy the votes. MOYEN: But let me ask you this, that wasn't hidden, was it? WILLIAMS: No. MOYEN: People just knew. WILLIAMS: That was the way, hey see, politics is dirty, politics is a dirty game. You know, either buying them that way or you buy them like today with these mega bucks that the candidates have especially the Republicans and then, well, you might be Republican and your family may be in Central Kentucky, right around Monroe County, Liberty, just around Liberty. MOYEN: Just friends, not my family. WILLIAMS: Oh, okay, okay, okay. MOYEN: Yeah, alright. WILLIAMS: But back there were I was, right there in Harlan County it was Democrat, yet, but all around, the surrounding area was Republican, you know, but they, that was part of it, that was part of the game. Like down here when I was involved in politics, hey, it's part of the game. They did a number on me in my last election. There was one precinct I didn't get a single vote, I was one of the best known individuals in the community, how can that be, you know? Another precinct just after they redistricted I got two or three votes, you know, that couldn't be but, you know, it happened. You know, my people down, you know, where of course, they've taken fifty percent of my district away but in the areas that I had remaining I would think that they probably were, you know, trying to do a little something to help. MOYEN: Right. Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: (laughs) You know? MOYEN: Yeah. WILLIAMS: So, you know, politics is nasty, it really is. It's nasty but a necessary evil I guess. MOYEN: When you got an opportunity to go to Sue Bennett, was that, were you intending to go to college? WILLIAMS: Yeah. Yeah. I wanted to go to college but I got married when I was still in high school and I had a baby, got married, well, had a baby and when I was a junior and so, you know, naturally there were some complications. Boy, you're gonna go to college (laughs) alright and so my, right out of college [high school] I went on to Detroit because my wife had gotten pregnant again. Somehow or other I can't imagine (laughs) but, you know, things just kept happening to me (laughs) and so I said we can't go yet and so went to Detroit to work, had a good job in a factory and- MOYEN: Now, was this after your time at Sue Bennett? WILLIAMS: No, this was before, right after high school and so I went to Detroit and worked for a couple of years, a year and a half, two years, and then I returned to go to Sue Bennett because they offered me a scholarship when I finished high school. You know, back then you didn't get a whole lot of attention especially from a black school you didn't get a lot of publicity and so I didn't have any offers, not that I could have taken them anyhow, but Sue Bennett had offered me a scholarship and so I contacted them after two years in Detroit and then I returned. I was just over 19, just before I turned 20 when I went to college, you know, on a basketball scholarship. MOYEN: What did you think of Detroit? WILLIAMS: Now, that was the first intense, even though of course I was aware of racism before leaving Harlan but I never experienced that virulent, intense racism, the direct impact of racism until Detroit. I had a job I applied for. I heard about a job at the Chrysler Corporation in their, an office job, typing. And a guy named Dan Ross told me about it, he was from my hometown. At the time my wife was in upstate New York living with relatives and incubating, while the baby was incubating and I was looking for a job in Detroit. And it was just before the Christmas holidays and I went out and applied for that job, took a test and I can type about 70 words a minute and I was very confident I had the job. And so the Christmas holidays I went down to Twelfth Street in Detroit, went to the pool hall there and hustled a guy named [inaudible] Barnes, made enough money to get a ticket to Albany, New York and walked downtown, got downtown Detroit and then I went to the bus station. I saw this little red fire truck and a pocketbook. I bought the red fire truck for my little son who was with my wife- who is, he's getting his Ph.D. in fact out in California, L. A. this spring - and I bought this little leather or what I thought was a leather pocketbook but obviously it was plastic (laughs). Took those two gifts with me to New York. Her cousins tried to get me to stay there and they were going to get me a job and I said, "No I have a job waiting for me back in Detroit". I went back to Detroit and two things happened. Number One - and I was staying with high school friends - when I got back Arthur Lyett was his name, he said, "Well, my family is coming up," said, "maybe you got to go, you can't stay here anymore." So here I was in Detroit, didn't have any place to stay and I, as a matter of fact I stayed in, I would get on the bus and ride the bus through the night I'd go to the Grey Hound Bus Station and pretend to be catching the, you know, going somewhere, read the newspaper and that's where I would sleep until I'd find some place to live. And then, and second, that was the first thing. The second thing was they gave that job to a white kid who couldn't type but 40 words a minute. That's right. I hated Chrysler Corporation for many, many years and I hated folks for many, many years. I had and as a result of that experience I started going to the Malcolm X mosque and right on Lynwood and Grand Boulevard, not Grand Boulevard, Chicago Boulevard in Detroit because way I seen it all white folks became evil to me. And so I went through that period there but then- MOYEN: Now, was that in 1963-'64? WILLIAMS: That was 1963-'64. MOYEN: Okay. Right. WILLIAMS: 1963-'64, it was happening in 1963 in fact. And but the beauty of that experience was this, when I left there, because Detroit was tough, I went to Sue Bennett, I had a chip on my shoulder, alright, and there are all these white folks, right? And it was a second most wonderful experience in my entire life, some of the, I mean just wonderful and then the chip feel off my shoulder, okay? And so, you know, but anyway, that's what happened, you know- MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: there but that was the first time I really experienced that racism. Yeah. Yeah. MOYEN: So when you decided to come back was your wife- WILLIAMS: Yeah. MOYEN: was she from Harlan County? WILLIAMS: Yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah. Yes, she's a childhood sweetheart, yeah. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: [inaudible]. As a matter of fact she was going with my best friend, she was his girlfriend and he would go to Chicago in the summertime. This one particular summer he's now, [inaudible] "You got to watch Belle for me." And I'd said, "Okay, I'll take care of her." (both laugh) He came back! (laughs) MOYEN: You all still friends? Was she excited about the opportunity to come back? WILLIAMS: Uh-uh. She didn't want to come back. As a matter of fact, I thought well, as there are some experiences in Detroit. Detroit is a dangerous place especially living where we had to live and I quite frankly left Detroit to save my life. I felt if I stayed in Detroit I'd die, end up in the penitentiary, that's why I left. And I told her, I said, "Well, we're going back, the kids and I," - those two that were, by that time, heck, I think I may have had, yeah, we got to Detroit and, of course, she'd been, she had swallowed a seed again (laughs), here we have three, you know, and our firstborn stayed in Harlan with her parents but I thought I said, well, "I'm leaving, they're going with me." And I said, "You can stay if you want to, I've got, I'm getting out of here." And we loaded up, we had a little black-and-white TV and put in rags in the trunk of that 1962 Bonneville I think I had, 1962 Bonneville and we got out of Detroit. We got out of Detroit because it was tough, tough living in Detroit because, you know, it's hard to get a good job other then the factory. It took long time to get the job in the factory but you, in fact, the factory didn't pay a whole lot in the end. My first check was a lot then, it wasn't a lot of money, was 99 dollars net, 99 dollars net but I knew I had to get out of there. And I never lost that hunger to go back to go to school, you know, never lost that hunger. MOYEN: Could you tell me a little bit about Sue Bennett, what type of institution was that? WILLIAMS: It was a Methodist school, church related school. MOYEN: Um-hm. WILLIAMS: And I would have to go back to Detroit every ninety days to keep my job and they gave me a leave of absence, so to speak. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: But I have to go back every ninety days to work one day or signed up. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: And I would hitchhike back and forth but the kids in the dorm would take up a collection for me and so I'd have money, you know, to go there and back. And the, people just so wonderful, I mean just absolutely, just wonderful. They loved me, I loved, I mean I experienced a love that it's, it was just genuine authentic love. The teachers, I remember Ms. Peacock my English teacher was the sweetest human being as you ever see. These are all white, the professors were, the teachers were and Ms. Brown who taught religion. There was Ms. Rose, the librarian, and I worked in the library, I didn't get a whole lot of work done because I was reading. Ms. Bell who taught us table manners, she was like a drill sergeant and would march in and sit down, [inaudible] she told you how to pace, oh, it was just- the dean, the president, you know, I needed extra help they were, I mean just wonderful, just absolutely wonderful human beings and that's what I needed, see, that was, that's what I needed. And see now the Lord works with you, he knows what, you know, the hand of the Lord in your is in your life and he has his hand on you, he steers you and guides you and I'm convinced that that's why and how I ended up there at Sue Bennett to get that chip off my shoulder. That wasn't me, that wasn't my family, that wasn't my father, and that despite racism, you know, that, you know, that just wasn't me so that was one, just a delightful experience. MOYEN: Now, Sue Bennett was that- WILLIAMS: And they cared about you, it was a junior college, you see junior college. MOYEN: So just two years? WILLIAMS: Yes, uh-huh. MOYEN: And what did you decide to study? WILLIAMS: Oh, now, I majored in history, minored in political science and I probably had a minor in English and a minor in psychology. I took a whole lot, when I graduated from college I had about thirty hours more than I needed- MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: because I went to Case Western Reserve just to prove that I could that work at that high level and, you know, but anyway, I had this- MOYEN: So you went to Case Western? WILLIAMS: In Cleveland. I went two summer quarters in 1968. MOYEN: Okay. Okay. WILLIAMS: And that was sort of like, that's where my mother's brother had moved with his family so I had a family there and I had a brother who moved there. But anyway I had decided I wanted to be a lawyer in the seventh grade for some reason and, you know, I loved history. I just loved history and then political science as a minor and that's, you know, kind of social conscience, you know, so. MOYEN: A good background for law. WILLIAMS: Um-hm. Yeah, and I loved English. As a matter of fact, English was my favorite course but I saw history and political science as being a good background. Of course, English was as well but yeah, and I was on the Dean's List, I graduated from there with honors, I graduated from college with honors. I loved, you know, I loved school. MOYEN: So I can see up here you ended up graduating from Pikeville? WILLIAMS: Yes, ended up at Pikeville. MOYEN: How, can you tell me that story? WILLIAMS: Okay, after junior college, I had scholarship offers to play basketball, the most firm offer was East Carolina in the Southern Conference and then there was a very strong possibility I could've gone to U of L if I played against, played with the boy who was on Butch Beard's team, in that state championship team of Breckenridge County. But Wes Unsell was there, Butch Beard was there and I didn't want to have to go there and compete against them to get playing time. MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: Then my, the guy that I played with in at Sue Bennett was from East Carolina, I mean from Greenville, North Carolina. And he talked me in to go down there, he said, "We go down there we can put East Carolina on the map and then get drafted by the ABA." Then they had an ABA team, okay? MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: And so that's why we went to East Carolina. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: And, but the coach promised me that he would get me a, get my wife a job and he would get us a house and a place to stay. And when I went down there on my visit and he would reneged on the promise after I got there and so we didn't get along real well. And I ended up leaving the team and rather, but I couldn't go in NCAA, major NCAA without sitting out a year you know, I'm getting a little old now, okay? I'm twenty-two, twenty-one or twenty- two, you see, and I didn't want to have to sit out another year and so Pikeville College had offered me a scholarship and wanted and tried get me to come there when I finished junior college and I wasn't interested at all. So I went over there, he gave me, they gave me a (laughs) as a matter of fact a three or four-bedroom apartment, so all the basketball players [inaudible]- MOYEN: Uh-huh. Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: You know, you talk about the things they do now- MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: oh man, shoot, you know. So anyway, that's why I ended up going to Pikeville but it was a step down from what I had aspired to be- MOYEN: In terms of athletics? WILLIAMS: Right. And I just couldn't get into it emotionally and in fact, I think I may have played one or two games that season and I quit, just concentrated on getting out of there and getting on to Law School because then I saw my pro career was shot, it had taken wings, (laughs) going in another direction, you see. (laughs) MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: So, that's how I ended up at Pikeville in my senior year. I left East Carolina, went to Pikeville, then I went to Case Western Reserve, returned to Pikeville and then I did my student teaching in my last semester over in Harlan because I didn't need any course work so I actually was at Pikeville, like in residence physically one year, one semester and I spent the final- [Tape 1, side 1 ends; side 2 begins] MOYEN: independence study? WILLIAMS: Yeah, by the time I got to, you know, my final semester, see, I had more than enough, I had all I needed to graduate. MOYEN: Um-hm. CALLAHAN: Okay, but I had this one required course in math which is my weakest subject, well I just put it off until the very last, okay. (laughs) And the Lord put an angel in my life in my last math teacher (laughs) and he let me do an independent study, you know, and so while I was over in Harlan doing my student teaching, you know, he'd send me assignments and I'd, you know, work on my assignments getting a little help occasionally, (laughs) sent it back to him and so that's how I ended my last semester, there. MOYEN: So do you recall what year did you actually graduate? WILLIAMS: Yeah, I graduated in '60, not '60 that'd been '70. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: And enrolled at U of L law school that fall and see, I had hoped to go to NYU or Columbia, you know, I'd always thought, but how in the world was I gonna come up with that kind of money, you know, to go to those kind of schools, you know, and so I ended up going to U of L. Two former, two of my teachers at Pikeville had graduated from the law school, Judge Frazier up in Jackson County now and Pat Abell who was the governor's general counsel for a number of years and they became, they were good friends but as a matter of fact I would substitute teach for them when they had to leave when I was at Pikeville. MOYEN: Okay. (laughs) WILLIAMS: Okay, I'd substitute teach their class. And they were very dear friends and they talked me in to going there. As a matter of fact, I didn't realize how hard it would be to get into law school because I didn't score well on the LSAT, you see. I graduated with honors and I excelled in the classroom but those, you know, standardized tests, I didn't do very well, you know. As a matter of fact I probably had the lowest score. I think Dean Merritt told me that, he said, "You won't make it, you just won't make it." But I said, "I guarantee I will," I said, "I'll be on the Dean's List the first semester." I didn't make it the first semester but I made it in the next three or the next four after that, you know so. MOYEN: Now, my history might be off here was Louisville just joining the state system or do you even recall or maybe [inaudible]- WILLIAMS: They- MOYEN: rather than being a municipal- WILLIAMS: Oh yeah, it was part of the state system when I was there. It had become if I remember correct part of the state system, yeah. MOYEN: And did you have any interest or know exactly what type of law you wanted to focus on? WILLIAMS: Oh, I, my motivation for the law was, and this might sound trite and it might sound superficial but it's true, it was to bring about change for justice. And I became even more determined after, you know, experiencing some injustices and witnessing injustices, and I just, but I was naive, I really was naive. I thought that the law, if you're on the right side of the law that justice would prevail and, you know, discovered otherwise when I got into the practice (laughs). Rude awakening. The same kind of experience I had when I went into the legislature. I decided to go into politics simply because I thought I could get something done, make some, bring about some chance. Again, that might sound, well, maybe self serving but that's why I got involved in politics because I thought that I could make a difference and get some things done, some right things done. But I was an idealist. I wrote poetry, wrote a lot of poetry and so, yeah. MOYEN: Did you manage to graduate in law school in three years? Were you there for three years? WILLIAMS: Yes, yeah, and yeah, and I was, of course, I had those kids and so I had to work. I worked and I went to school the same time, worked full time. And I would go to law school and you were not supposed to, I worked for the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights and they had a policy, you can't go to law school if you do any outside activities your first year on the job. And of course, coming from Harlan County we had, you know, sort of a total different kind of way, you know, you looked at things, okay. (laughs) MOYEN: Uh-huh. (laughs) WILLIAMS: If something didn't make any sense you just do what you want to do, right? (laughs) And so I would go to, I had a class that would meet early in the morning like about 7:45, alright, so I would dash to that class and then dash to work and then another class be around at lunchtime and I'd dash up there, go to that class and then- MOYEN: Did you have to get to Frankfort or was it- WILLIAMS: No, it was here yeah, the office was here. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: And (laughs) then I went to evening class. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: And I was getting along, doing pretty good. I was an investigator and I drove around the state and around the county investigating complaints and so, and it, and much of it was an honor system, you know. And when you travel for instance, I go out of state, you build up comp time and so, and I had a good supervisor and the director there was a good person and as long as they felt you were doing your work, you know, they weren't real sticklers, you know, about punching the clock time in attitude. But anyway, one day Tom, Tom Evandor was - he was my supervisor - was looking for a file on one of my cases, and I would, see in the evening I would go back to the office and study- MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: and I wouldn't go home, I'd go to the office and study and so he was looking for one of my files and he looked in my desk and he found some law books. MOYEN: Right. (laughs) WILLIAMS: And he called me and, "What are you doing?" "Well, well, what does it look like?" (laughs) Okay and he said, "Well," he just said, "Okay." He, you know, but he was, you know, we sort of laughed about it then and so we laugh about it now. But yeah, that's how I did it. I went, I worked full time and I went to law school full time but I missed a lot of classes because I couldn't compromise my job because I had to go out of town had to investigate, you know. As a matter of fact I probably attended class about sixty percent of the time, I just couldn't. It was unavoidable. As a matter of fact, some time after that when I was still in law school they changed the policy and rules at U of L that you have to attend. Well, you can't even work and go to school your first semester and then you had to attend class a certain, there was a minimum that you had to attend otherwise, you know, or you could get booted out. MOYEN: Did you just catch up by reading or did you have some friends that you were able to get notes from? WILLIAMS: I didn't have no friends, nothing, just reading. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: And I, for instance, in law school they talk about after the first semester you'd book brief, okay, you just write in the margins, you know, you got the experience, you don't have to spend that time plotting up the fact patterns and issues, alright. MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: But I didn't do that. I hand briefed every course throughout my entire career, excuse me, for those three years I briefed every bar course anyhow, okay. I write the facts out and read them, you know, here I got my textbook, study the fact pattern, write the synopsis of the facts, put the issue down in writing, then I reason, then the holding, alright. And I did that for every course (slaps on table), alright? And the, and I had no leisure. On weekends I was at the office studying, okay, so that's how I compensated for that. And then when I graduated, I didn't take a bar review course. Everybody took a bar review course I believe except me. And I just moved out of the house, found a room and I went through each of those courses, I condensed every class down until I had about thirteen pages when it came time to take the bar. I didn't spend the money, didn't have the money to spend for a bar review course, you know, I just did it on my own. See, you know, I was just very intense and, you know, very determined, you know, that's the way I did it. So and no, and there were no such things as taking notes, I mean getting someone else's notes and I didn't have time see, I'm always rushing, you know, dash there and dash, dash, dash, dash and I was always dashing. MOYEN: And you had a family, too. WILLIAMS: Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. (laughs) MOYEN: Busy. WILLIAMS: Yeah. MOYEN: So when you graduated did you decide right then and there that you wanted to stay in Louisville? WILLIAMS: Well, I was going to go on to graduate school. Again, I was gonna try to go on to Columbia but after that junior year in law school it was just so demanding I was burned out. I was tired of pushing to make the grades, okay, and I decided to coast my senior year as I know I'm not going any further and I'm not going to be killing myself the way I have these past two years and so I probably had, because as I made the Dean's List except that first semester, I made the Dean's List every other semester. Oh, and I also went, the reason I was able to finish I went some to summer school. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: Okay? So, and I think we had two summer sessions back then, okay, so I went to everyone of those things, okay? MOYEN: Um-hm. WILLIAMS: And of course, you go every day and that's why I was burned out, boy, after about two I was burned out, man. And so I but I was going to go back to Detroit to practice or to Cleveland or to New York, one of those three places but then I decided to stay here because I just felt that, you know, it'd be less competition (laughs), you know, so that's why I stayed there, yeah, decided that probably in my senior year. MOYEN: And in what year did you graduate from law school? WILLIAMS: '73. MOYEN: Okay. So, did you open up your own practice or? WILLIAMS: I stayed with the Commission, tried to stay with the Commission. I immediately opened up an office, a little one-roomer, actually it had a little outer office and a little inner office, about the size of this room divided in half in the Finkhouser Building, okay, and I was sort of doing little part-time stuff and trying to hold my job and then my supervisor asked me if with all, but you can't do both, you will have to do one or the other, alright? You have to do one or the other, this job or practice law, which is it gonna to be? You all have been very good to me, very kind, thank you, bye. And, man, I mean I just hung my shingle, I just hung my shingle. Well, that's not, I just hung my shingle up. The first fee I made was ten dollars, a ten dollar fee. I gave it to my wife - that was my first wife I married again - and to keep it because I was going to have it encased. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: She spent it. (laughs) I could've wrung her neck. So that's the first fee I made, it sure was, the first fee I made was ten dollars, a whole police court, night police court. Yeah. MOYEN: And did things get busy pretty quickly or did it take a while? WILLIAMS: Well, I, they say, you know, it's gonna take seven, eight, nine years before you start making money as a lawyer, you know. I said, no, not me; I got to start making some money before then. So obviously I did. I mean, you know, my wife had a little job, wasn't making a whole lot of money so I had to make some money so, you know, now that I look back, you know, I was just out, hey, you know, I started making money, not, I don't guess major or big money but certainly enough to make ends meet and, but I was rather aggressive. I was, you know, active, I moved a lot around a lot in the community, I got my cards out and course, I was used to working. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: I worked long late hours. MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: You know (laughs) so, you know things just went, you know. MOYEN: Okay, you mentioned being active in the community, when, first of all, let me try this because I don't understand this at all and maybe you do, can you tell me a little bit about Louisville politics just in general or your take on municipal politics here, particularly I guess you could talk about now or back then? WILLIAMS: Um-hm. Back then when I got involved in politics you had this structure, hierarchy, you know, you had your precinct and you had a strong precinct captain or boss, political boss kind of thing, okay? Yeah, for instance, I was, there was a vacancy for a judgeship and you had two sides, two factions wanting their respective persons to get appointed. Okay, and the governor, Julian Carroll then, said you know, he didn't want to alienate either side so he said, "Well, what about this person here?" because he had adopted me, embraced me and he appointed me and then I was acceptable to everybody, okay? But the thing, yeah, the precinct captains, the party would decide who was going to get appointments or what have you and if you were going to run for office you go to the captains and try and convince them to support you. MOYEN: Give them your, their blessing? WILLIAMS: Exactly, okay. And, you know, that was very important. That is not so, not as important now as it was back then although, you know, you don't discount it. MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: Okay? You had a West End politics. MOYEN: Um-hm. WILLIAMS: You know, West End power structure if you will, okay, you know, the West End being the black community primarily although blacks live in other places but the West End was where the power was as far as black politics are concerned. Yeah, I look up there and they had that pyramid of black political power in Louisville back whenever that was. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: But there was Joe Hammond up there at the top and he had his nightclub, a very popular and famous nightspot. Well, you go you get his blessing, okay, and I mean other, and then you work, you know, you work and I took my seat, the one that I won had been in Charlotte McGill's family where her husband had held it before her for a number of terms, then she held it, then I came along and knocked her off. But I didn't knocked her off just because I had the best of some of the political leaders although I did have but she had the majority of them but I got some key ones to support me and then I worked hard, see. I mean I walked every day, I never forget someone saying, I mean on Derby Day I was out walking canvassing with a white suit on. (both laugh) I sure was. Yeah. Yeah, I sure did, sure did. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: Would you care for some coffee? I can make some new. MOYEN: So, when did you start thinking that you might want to run for this seat in the forty-second district? WILLIAMS: Uh, when did I take that seat? When was that? Uh, seven- MOYEN: You were elected in '77. WILLIAMS: Okay. Okay. Okay, I probably started thinking about it- oh, I know yeah, see before I ran for that seat I ran for county commissioner. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: Yeah, former, the late Judge Bob Delahante who belonged to the Democratic Club. Somehow I got involved, you know, started to going to, you know, club meetings, Democratic Club meetings and somebody said, Why don't you run for county commissioner? And I think he's crazy, you know, for county commissioner. First of all, the district was about 30 percent, maybe 20 percent, 25 percent black and the rest, you know, so am I gonna get elected county commissioner? MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: But nonetheless, you know, being the idealist that I am and being naive as I am, I ran. And by george, we led (laughs) for one but had people really concerned because Earl Harles and his power- he was, you know, a powerful figure out in Shively, was running and, you know, some other, a couple of other fellows running, so I gave him a run for the money. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: And my campaign literature consisted of a Xerox copy of a paper with a letter and my picture plastered to it. That was my campaign literature (laughs). MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: And my kids and I just canvassed (laughs), you know, the West End. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: And I had a little name recognition even by then because I was president of the, I had been president of the National Bar Association which is a black organization and then I'd become president of the NAACP I believe by that time as a matter of fact, no, yeah, yeah, I think I'd become president of the NAACP and I was, you know, quite in the news quite a bit- MOYEN: Sure. WILLIAMS: attacking racism, okay. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: And so, but anyway he is the one that got me involved in politics. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: Bob Delahante he said, "Why don't you get involved in politics?" He sure did. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: Yeah. And his sons were both, they were judges, two of them were judges there and his wife was at the county commission. As a matter of fact, I saw one of his sons the other day and I hadn't seen Tim in years, he sold, he had a campaign shop, I mean a sign shop, sold a lot of campaign paraphernalia and he said, "Oh, this just brings back memories," you know. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: Yeah. So that's how I got involved in politics. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: Yeah. Yeah. MOYEN: So when you ran against Charlotte McGill, you mentioned that she had some support of community leaders but not all, you had some, who, what individuals were key in your mind helping you pull that off? WILLIAMS: Well see, one was Jessie Irvine and because I was the son that Jessie didn't have, she has sons but I was their son that she didn't have, okay. MOYEN: Uh-huh. Right. WILLIAMS: That was her and then there was, Ms., gosh, what's her and I just did a power-of-attorney for her mother uh, gosh, oh my lord, anyway her, another one, you know, I was the son that she never had. Then there was Bessie Williams and every time I see her she hugs me and says, "Let me hug you up." MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: And I was just, so it was mainly those women, okay. MOYEN: Um-hm. WILLIAMS: I was just, you know, this bright guy and, you know, that I was their son that they wished they had, okay, and really that was the main reason. Those were the main ones. That, because I cannot think of, yeah, I cannot think of any yeah, there was Ralph Garr - and I had a dream about him (laughs) the other night too - was Ralph Garr and he just, he liked me, he was impressed with me and there were about twenty some captains and so there were key ones. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: Okay, enough to get me over the hump. And imagine they had been friends. Charlotte had been friends of theirs too so they, it was, you know, so it was mainly that kind of dynamic and then with my getting people involved in politics who had been involved before and just working hard, you know, so. MOYEN: Okay. Now, what issues did you campaign on? Were there things that she had done that you said I can do better? WILLIAMS: No, I didn't deal with the issues, didn't deal with the issues at all, I just said, "We can do better." MOYEN: Um-hm. WILLIAMS: That was basically it. We can do better. We need voice. We need someone there who can make things better for us and I can do that. MOYEN: Um-hm. WILLIAMS: Now, at the time, and was kind of I'm somewhat ashamed to confess, I ran somewhat of a chauvinist campaign because all the Senator and the Representatives they were all women. MOYEN: Um-hm. WILLIAMS: Okay, and I would tell quite frankly, tell someone, "We need a black man up there. We need somebody who-", you know, and so that was, you had that dynamic at work as well, you see, but, you know, not really, you know, out there- MOYEN: Right. Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: but sort of subtly, you know, I said, you know, you- MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: there was in every campaign there is a whisper campaign. MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: You follow what I am saying? MOYEN: Yeah. WILLIAMS: There is a whisper campaign in every campaign, you know- MOYEN: Uh-huh. There was never enough to get I guess Mae Street Kidd or Georgia Powers upset with you or did they ever- WILLIAMS: Oh, they didn't, weren't probably even aware of it. Now, Georgia didn't like me and she didn't like me probably I'm sure because she probably felt my next step would've been to come after her, I'm sure. But no, as I said it wasn't a major thing, just sort of convinced a person here and there, you know, in position or what have you, you know, so and she was Ms. McGill something. See, she had her own negatives too, you know, she was not doing much. She was seen as just a go-along person, she wasn't, she didn't push anything, not push for any change or what have you, a nice lady but passive, you know, just didn't get anything done, you know. MOYEN: Did you feel like all your door-to-door work that that really helps? WILLIAMS: Absolutely. MOYEN: Pounding? WILLIAMS: Absolutely, I never forget this one though, this lady, they were having a barbecue in the backyard and I'm walking up in my white suit and her guest from out of town there and they, it just blew them away, blew a lot people away, here is a guy on Derby Day. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: Picture this, this on Derby Day, alright. I was out canvassing. I was knocking on doors. And as I said I had a white suit on, it was on Derby Day and had a white suit on, well like, you know, [inaudible]- MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: you know, I mean it just freaked people out. And there were people who came to the polls, they vote because, you know, I came by on Derby, you see. But, you know, the canvassing absolutely, definitely. That probably did help more than anything else. Yeah. MOYEN: In the end would you say and this is a comment from a lot of other Representatives or Senators that in the end really a lot of times it comes down to just popularity, who's, that there aren't amongst all the constituents that go out and vote it may not all be issues and what they wanted philosophically but just kind of- Oh I like him, he stopped by? WILLIAMS: I had, I have every, you know, back in those day they didn't have this thing about electioneering not 500 feet in front of the polls and all of- and one of the most fun part about campaigning was on election day when you, people come to the polls you're handing out, you got your people out there handing out literature, "Vote for Aubrey, Vote for", you know. Excuse me, and I was saying to someone the other day when there was a recent article on it and see now what in the world is wrong with that, you know? There's nothing wrong. There's a lot of fun to that, okay. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: And then I had see, then I had a lot of pretty girls, pretty women (laughs) working my polls, you know. I emphasized having the women, right. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: And then that got me votes. And you got a pretty woman out there, you know, handing out your literature, "Vote for Aubrey", do you understand what I am saying, you know? MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: And, of course, maybe flirt, I'm sure they flirt with them what have you and so on (laughs) and so you its popularity, people like you, you know, you have charisma and there are a lot of successful politicians who have charisma- MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: you know, so, and not, you know, issues and people don't really get, you know, they care less about issues than they do about, by and large, you know- MOYEN: Um-hm, sure. WILLIAMS: and sure there are some that sat me down, you know, the issues is what matter, you know, to them. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: As a matter of fact, the thing that would bother me more than anything else I'd be canvassing, you know, someone wanted to stop and carry a long conversation about issues (laughs), you know, I want to say, now, here vote for me [inaudible] and move on, you know, and here they want, they get in a longest, long conversation. (both laugh) MOYEN: You can't really say forget it because- WILLIAMS: That's right. I'll never forget this one guy down on Cecil Avenue. This guy, I, and I see him every now and then, he want to engage me in a conversation and I'm convinced that he voted for my opponent. (both laugh) MOYEN: So did you win that primary by a sizable amount or was it close, do you recall? WILLIAMS: I can't recall but I don't think it was real close, you know- MOYEN: Um-hm. WILLIAMS: but yeah, I don't think it was real close. MOYEN: I guess you had run in one other race so you did know what that felt like but could you describe the feeling waiting as those reports came in from different precincts? I mean- WILLIAMS: Well- MOYEN: was that like? WILLIAMS: No, the best race that described my feelings was when my legislative district chairman, Leonard Gray ran against me, okay. See, in my second term, see, he had always wanted to become the state rep for the forty-second. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: Then here I come along, okay. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: And now a legislative district chairman is the, you have the legislative district chairman and you have all the precinct captains, okay, who support, so, you know, here then are the chairman and you are the one to select these people, you got twenty-five, thirty people who are your captains- MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: alright, and so here the boss is running against me. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: Oh man, well, it looks like this is it, okay? MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: And- MOYEN: Was this? WILLIAMS: That's my second term. MOYEN: So this would've been in '79? WILLIAMS: That would've been '79, yeah. MOYEN: Okay. Right. WILLIAMS: Yeah. Yeah. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: So and anyway, well, you're talking about, you talk about something and we were out at the headquarters and, but I knew I had done a good job but, you know, in this business it doesn't matter what kind of job you do. MOYEN: Right. Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: It really, it does and to digress real quickly for a moment, you take Carl Hines, alright. You take Carl Hines- thanks cupcake. Thank you Miss. T [spoken to someone else in the room]. This, I usually, I don't have her to do it, she doesn't mind, you know, I make my own coffee but it just saves me a little time, you know. Uh, and I said to digress a moment, you take Carl Hines who represented the forty-third , okay, did an excellent job, former school board member, I mean intelligent, did just a wonderful job and then there comes along Porter Hatcher who belonged to my church and Porter Hatcher was not Carl Hines' intellectual equal, and Porter Hatcher's primary interest was in the insurance because he was in insurance, okay (laughs) but because he was the George Bush of the race and they voted Carl Hines out. There is absolutely no way, George Bush as opposed to an Al Gore or what have you. MOYEN: Um-hm. WILLIAMS: There was just no comparison to their abilities, their intellect, their commitment, just not, okay? But they liked him better, you know. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: He rode [inaudible] and he ride his horse in the park and, you know, and act all silly, you know, jeez, look and so, but anyway, when Leonard Gray ran against me I said well, I just don't see how I'm going to win on this thing. Then we came down it was nip and tuck. MOYEN: Um-hm. WILLIAMS: Returns were coming in. Then every precinct was in except one and this lady who lived down at Algonquin Parkway, Rose, what was her name? Gosh, I can't quite remember her name now. But we were nip and tuck and I needed to get, I had to have another precinct to win. MOYEN: Um-hm. WILLIAMS: And when my people say, well, this is the only one that hasn't come in I knew-because she was one of Leonard's strongest captains- MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: and closest friend, alright, I said this is it, it's all over. And she reported her numbers and she carried it for me. And I asked her, I said, "Rose, why? Explain it to me if you would, just explain it. I mean I'm not complaining, you know, but explain that to me." And she said of course, I was the lawyer for Park DuValle Neighborhood Health Center, she worked for Park DuValle Neighborhood Health Center, been there for years, alright? I had been instrumental in getting some assistance and some help for Park DuValle in that area, alright. And she said, "Hey man, I like Leonard. He is my legislative district chairman." And, of course, then he could fire you from your position, you know, if you're disloyal to him, okay? And she said, "That's what's important to me, what you do for the people and you have shown what you, what the people mean to you, you are not just there just to hold a position and see that's why I supported you." And I mean it really was a minor miracle that I survived that race because of the way politics are done, you know- MOYEN: Sure. Right. Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: you see, because the captain is for you. And, you know, a lot of people go to the polls and all, you know, and the captains have been there for years. Who should I vote for? Here, vote for so-You know, and, of course, you know, they're going in to the polling booth with them, voting for little old ladies, and what have you, you know- MOYEN: Um-hm. WILLIAMS: see, and so that's that. And the tension of waiting, see, for those results to come in- MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: okay, oh man, is awesome. And then, but the euphoria that you feel, see, when you win alright and, of course, when you lose is the exact of the extreme. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: When being handed [inaudible] just, you know, the- he had absolutely no business, you know, beating me, alright? MOYEN: Um-hm. WILLIAMS: But he won. But that was a very depressing experience, it was very- it's tough losing a political race. MOYEN: Um-hm. WILLIAMS: I don't care what anyone says. MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: I do not care what anyone says, when you lose a political race it's like losing your woman, okay? (laughs) It's like someone taking your woman from you. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: You know, and that's not a good feeling, you know. (laughs) Yeah. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: Yeah. MOYEN: So, let me get back to your first race. When you win the [noise from Williams stirring coffee] the Democratic primary did you face any Republican opposition or was the primary was that- WILLIAMS: Oh, oh, I, it was you know, I'm sure Marvin Durian he used to run against me all the time but a Republican wasn't, there was no way a Republican was gonna win that. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: Jesus could've come down and run on the Republican ticket and wouldn't have gotten ten votes (laughs)- MOYEN: Right. (laughs) WILLIAMS: you know, even in passion season, you know. (laughs) MOYEN: Right. (laughs) WILLIAMS: It just wasn't going to happen, you know. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: So, the primary that was the race. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: Yeah. MOYEN: Alright. When you found out that you had won the race did Julian Carroll gave you a call? WILLIAMS: Um-hm. Called me up he sure did, called me at Mill's Lounge there congratulating me and, of course, I was his boy too. That's another thing that helped me with them captains, I had forgotten that. He had let them know, couple of them captains who his choice was. And Charlotte- this [inaudible] is bringing up memories- Charlotte McGill had voted against that bonding measure, as you know Julian caused the bonding business to be outlawed, Charlotte McGill had voted against that measure. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: Okay? See, and so she was at odds with him, okay, and- MOYEN: From what I understand it wasn't a good place to be. WILLIAMS: That's right, not with Julian Carroll. That's right. You're absolutely right. And so yes, he called and congratulated me. Of course, I was his boy anyhow because, you know, he had after all he had appointed me to the judgeship third mag., see I was a compromise, you know. A candidate compromise person when they had two fractions that couldn't agree on who should get that position. And so I was- and I liked Julian, I really did. I liked, I think Julian Carroll is one of the, excuse me, I think he's one of the best man, a politician and getting things done-MOYEN: Um-hm. WILLIAMS: But I just don't anybody that was better than him. I mean he was a master, he was a master. He was a master, he really was a master, he sure was. And- MOYEN: So you talked to Julian Carroll on the phone and then you've got like you said you got some time because you know you're really not gonna have that much of a challenge in the general election? WILLIAMS: Um-hm. MOYEN: Were you able to start working on any bills that you were interested in, anything you wanted to look at or did you just say- WILLIAMS: I told you I was an idealist, I was naive, I was stupid, you name it, whatever alright. I was gonna go in there and I was gonna be the first thing I was going to do was get a, we wanted to improve this employment situation for black folks so I was, my first item on my agenda was an affirmative action bill, okay. MOYEN: Um-hm. WILLIAMS: And Kentucky became the second state in the Union to have an affirmative action law, Kentucky. The bill failed first, alright, and I could not understand it. As a matter of fact I cried, I literally cried because it was the right thing to do and I'll never forget, a fellow who became a dear friend of mine, Clay Crupper, came over to me, he could not believe I was crying, was actually crying. And he had voted against the measure. He voted to reconsider the vote by which, you know, the measure had lost, that parliamentary maneuver okay? Called the bill back, got a read and it passed. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: Okay? Now, it was not a very strong piece of law but nonetheless I mean just the from just a symbolic standpoint, you know, to pass an affirmative action law into law. Minnesota was the only other place. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: You know in Minnesota they're nuts up there. MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: You know, they're nutty liberals, you know (both laugh). They're the country of Hubert Humphrey, you know. And here Kentucky enjoyed that, I mean very wonderful position of having authored that kind of legislation. So that was on my agenda. The other thing-MOYEN: And you sponsored that legislation? WILLIAMS: Oh absolutely, yeah, I authored that legislation. Then another piece of legislation, the other thing I, that had irked me was the people buying these cars, drive them off the lot and they breaking down on them and then these cars, used-car dealerships coming into court suing them. MOYEN: Um-hm. WILLIAMS: And, you know, so the Lemon Law, I introduced the Lemon Law. Didn't pass the first time but eventually that passed. Another thing that bothered me was the handicap buildings, okay? MOYEN: Um-hm. WILLIAMS: And so I introduced that legislation. Now, I don't think it passed the first time but the second time around it passed, you know, I authored that legislation that required all new buildings to be handicap accessible, the politically correct term was, what they had to use was well, anyway, what is physically disadvantaged or whatever, something like that. MOYEN: Disabled- WILLIAMS: Yeah. Right. Right. Right. And, but those things were on my agenda. MOYEN: Um-hm. WILLIAMS: Okay, and that's the kind of legislation that I pushed. MOYEN: So is this all the first session? WILLIAMS: Oh absolutely, yeah, I would imag- MOYEN: That's pretty impressive. WILLIAMS: Oh, I now only one of them passed that first session. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: Okay? But they yeah, went back the second session, it might've been maybe the Lemon Law might not have passed until the third session, I really cannot remember. But I had a full plate and I, you know, you get something good and the right thing to do and you sell it [inaudible]. It worked alright. But- MOYEN: I'm just thinking out loud, I don't know if this is right or not but was Freed Curd, was he involved- WILLIAMS: Um-hm. MOYEN: somehow in the used-car, the lemon bill? WILLIAMS: Freed Curd came now? Freed Curd? Freed Curd somehow or other because he no, that's another thing. There was some piece legislation that I had, I can't remember which one it was but he came just because it was me, okay. He came, I can't remember the particulars on it, you see, but yeah he came over because of me. What happened to Freed? What happened to Freed? I've forgotten it may, but now we got, I got some alliances and some people come on and joined me and this is liberal stuff- MOYEN: Um-hm. WILLIAMS: you know, I mean this is liberal stuff for Kentucky. MOYEN: When you were elected did you go down to Kentucky Dam Village? WILLIAMS: Yes, um-hm. MOYEN: Can you explain what goes on there? WILLIAMS: Okay. Kentucky Dam Village is sort of like a getaway. It's a getaway to make decisions and get it all set up who's gonna lead the party, that's what it is all about. As a matter of fact, my second year I was gonna run for majority floor leader, alright? Now, a black fellow to become majority floor leader in the Kentucky House of Representatives I don't think so, alright? But I was going to do it. And I started soliciting support and I began to get a few votes, people who were going to support me. Now, Bobby was majority floor leader, he was going to move up to speaker [someone knocks on door]-Yes? Yes? You go down there and to do the, you know, the caucusing, you know, who is going to run and who is going become what and you cut deals. And so I said I'm going to run for, I was gonna run for the majority floor leader. As a matter of fact, Joe Clarke out of Danville I went to ask him if he'd, you know, support me and then Joe said, "Well, you know, I'm thinking about running myself." Excuse me. And so they had several persons who were interested in the position, alright? And now, and then Bobby's choice was, gosh, what was his name? Played basketball at UK? MOYEN: LeMaster? WILLIAMS: LeMaster. Now, if, you know, I had a few votes and so and then Joe Clarke is running, alright, then LeMaster could get knocked off, okay, you see? MOYEN: Right. Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: (laughs) And so, right, and I said, "Well, well, if I bow out and I give you my support then what's in it for me, alright? MOYEN: What committee- WILLIAMS: Then I became the first black chairman of a standing committee in the Kentucky House of Representatives. There had never been one before me. MOYEN: Judicial Criminal- WILLIAMS: Judiciary Criminal Committee. MOYEN: Alright. Okay. WILLIAMS: You see, and before then it had just been a Judiciary Committee but then they split it in Judiciary Criminal and Judiciary Civil. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: You see. And so that's how I became a chairman. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: (laughs) Let me speak to my daughter here a few minutes. [Recorder turned off] MOYEN: Okay, so you were sharing with me the story about how you were able to get your committee chairmanship. WILLIAMS: Um-hm. Yeah. MOYEN: When you started out you wanted the majority floor leader position- WILLIAMS: Um-hm. MOYEN: when in that development did you start to say, hey, I can use this to get this chairmanship position or did you think in the back of your mind that that was always a possibility if you could say, I'm going to encourage the people who had said they'll vote for me- WILLIAMS: Um-hm. MOYEN: to vote for you but I, you know, does that make sense? WILLIAMS: For example, when did I come to the realization that I would, that I could become or could not become a majority floor leader but that actually my eyes were on the chairmanship? MOYEN: Yeah, when did you start to say that your campaign for majority floor leader actually was going to help you get a chairmanship even though you didn't become majority floor leader? WILLIAMS: Oh, oh yeah. Well, first of all, when I got there and as I served in the House I didn't appreciate the fact that blacks were not in leadership, okay. That was an insult to me as it has been an insult to me throughout my life for someone to think that they are better than me or more intelligent than me or have more rights than me because of their race vis-a-vis my race, okay? And so that same kind of thinking which has sort of guided me and influenced me my entire life was present when I went to the House when I looked around and I saw how things were set up, how things were done I said, This isn't right. Alright? And I said, I'm qualified to be in leadership (laughs) so I'm going to go for it, okay. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: I may not get it but I felt too that if I did not get it then it could lead to the chairmanship, okay, so it's part of strategy. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: Yeah, but in the beginning I was naive enough to think that I could possibly become the majority floor leader. You know, I mean I am a dreamer. MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: You know, I mean really I'm a dreamer. If I were not a dreamer I would not be a lawyer, I would not have done many other things that I did, you know, because some of the things that I did and there are other stories like this in history that, you know- people say, You can't do that. You know, I mean, you know, I was the only boy out of my graduating class in high school that went to a professional school and there were only two of us that graduated from college. You didn't think like that. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: You follow? MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: And so that was, that's what was in moving- [Tape 1 ends; tape 2 begins] WILLIAMS: Yeah, we then in Bobby's room and there was LeMaster there and probably some of the other folk whose faces I can't see right now and who was asking me to forgo the race and to give my support to LeMaster and to that team- MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: and then I would get a chairmanship. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: Like I say, that sounds good to me. MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: And then so I walked out of the room, I said, hey, you know, smiling to myself, hey it worked (laughs) you know. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: And it did, you know. MOYEN: Politics is a game and you had played it well. WILLIAMS: That's right. MOYEN: Uh-huh. Okay. WILLIAMS: So- MOYEN: Let me step back just a minute, you had mentioned in passing about the contact you had with Julian Carroll I believe when he supported you for- WILLIAMS: Magistrate. MOYEN: magistrate? WILLIAMS: Yes, um-hm. MOYEN: Can you tell me about that development, that was the third district? WILLIAMS: The third see, there were, it was pre-district court judicial reformation days, okay? MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: The way the court system was set up back then you had, instead of district court judges, you had magistrates that handled civil matters, okay? You had police court judges to handle criminal matters, alright. And so Charlie Anderson had gotten elected to the circuit court bench and that left a vacancy in third mag., okay? MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: You had Jefferson County was divided in three magisterial districts. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: Alright? And so that left that vacant and it covered West End and the South End. And so one faction, Democratic faction wanted a guy names John Longmeyer whose son Tim is the Democratic chairman of Jefferson County now in fact. And then there was someone else, his name is escaping me right now, that another faction wanted and so they couldn't come to an agreement and, of course, the governor had to make the appointment and he did not want to alienate either faction and so he said to them, his people said then, Well, what about Aubrey? Okay? And then he'd appoint me. I've been some kind of hearing officer, Julian appointed me to on a Governor's Task Force or some, this and that or another. And so as a matter of fact, I took that as a favor to him, I didn't really want him, I didn't really want it okay, because that meant I couldn't have, I had to give up my practice. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: And I was a criminal trial lawyer. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: Okay? But because he had, you know, been good to me, alright, then this gets him out of a bind. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: You know, I mean how often do you get a chance to do a favor for the governor, right? MOYEN: Right. Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: So that's why I became a judge. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: Okay? And so, and then John Martin, Judge Martin Stone, Johnston rather, (laughs) Martin Johnston ran for the seat and won it and, of course, and he became district judge and then a circuit court judge and now he's on the Supreme Court (laughs), okay? MOYEN: Okay. Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: So maybe I should've stayed where I was. (laughs) So that's how that developed, came about. MOYEN: Okay. Alright. And so that helped you politically I think and there's something else that you mentioned that would help you politically was being president of the NAACP, what were you president of? Was it Jefferson County? Or was it? WILLIAMS: Yes. Yeah. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: The Louisville, they called it the Louisville branch of the NAACP. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: And, of course, you know, it was a prestigious position, they said they drafted me in fact. They came to me, the members of the NAACP and asked me if I would assume that post and at first I said no, I didn't really want it. And then I discovered- I said, okay, well I'll do it but then when I decided I would take it then I discovered that there was another faction, okay, who was opposed to me because I was not in church, I was not a preacher, and there was Rev. W. J. Hodge who was the first black president of the Board of Aldermen who owed that thing, that position to me, okay. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: So anyway, so I got there and discovered at the election that I was gonna have opposition. It was anemic at best but nonetheless I did have opposition but then once I became the president and I was gonna to be serious about it and I was dealt with a lot of high profile issues and so became, of course, you know, quite well known as a result of that. And then I went to the legislature as president and I made many honorary negroes, I've had many cards printed up for those happy to join the NAACP (laughs)- MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: my colleagues from around the state, I mean I had typed on them Honorary Negro (laughs) so we had a lot of fun. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: Yeah, about I, so I was always, you know, championing in those civil rights issues, okay? But no one ever accused me or felt that I was a black racist, okay. As a matter of fact, one of my greatest admirers, believe it or not and hold your hat, is the president or the longtime head of the Ku Klux Klan here in Jefferson County, Jim Kennedy. (laughs) I talked to him a lot actually, I just talked to him the other day, you know. MOYEN: And still? WILLIAMS: Yeah, still, yeah. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: I've got his number right here. And he, we were talking the other day about this brouhaha out at U of L now, but he says, he's just laughing and cackling about it and I said [inaudible] got them all up in arms. And he said, "My whole contingency is me and my one lone bodyguard and he's my bodyguard because I can't see at all anymore." Just like that, is was fun laughing about it [inaudible] looking at it. And he came to me, explained the whole history of the Klan to me, would come to my law office and visit me. I'd given him legal advice over the years and he called that day, the other day, to offer his help for me in this case that I have involving this police officer shooting this man in the back who was handcuffed. Where is Jim's number? I got his number here someplace. I can't forget where his number is. But anyway, I had, you know, diverse, you know, friendships, relationships, still do. And so I don't know how we got off on that tangent there, Eric. MOYEN: I think we're talking about NAACP and different honorary members. WILLIAMS: Yeah, I have a lot of the guys, you know, Joe [inaudible], members of the NAACP, a lot of the guys in the General Assembly. MOYEN: Now, in Louisville as president of the Louisville branch of the NAACP what would you do? What was your- WILLIAMS: Focus on issues. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: Just focus on civil right issues, trying, for instance, I, you would, let me see, some act of discrimination occur you would just- Well, we were set up as committees. We have scholars, education committee that gave out scholarships. You had a prison committee that dealt with rights well, the justice committee that monitored the treatment of blacks in the court system. You had a labor and industry committee, someone was discriminated on the job they would call us and so we would funnel those people to the right agency or we would write letters and trying to mediate and conciliate ourselves. There were, I remember we had a protest, joined a protest against the LG&E for its high utility bills and cutting people's utilities off, anything that had a disparate impact on black folk in particular but poor folk in general. And so obviously in the LG&E issue. MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: The utility issue that's something that impacts all poor folk. And see, in the fact of the matter is that when you had, when you dealt with issues that were discriminatory you were also helping poor whites. MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: Okay? Because, you know, if you deal with justly then you have to deal with other folk who don't have power justly. MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: You see, an advocacy organization is an organization that's the voice of folk who don't have someone who they can call a Senator or a Representative or they don't have the access to a governor or a judge or what had you, do you follow what I'm saying? MOYEN: Sure. WILLIAMS: As I was explaining to my daughter in there, okay, and that's what basically philosophically and historically characterizes Democrats from Republicans yeah, sure. Now see, the Republican party is viewed as the party of the rich. But, of course, down in Eastern Kentucky (laughs), alright, you have much of Eastern Kentucky is Republican, okay, and which is, you know, kind of strangely is enigmatic. But the Democratic party, you know, is for the labor issues generally, okay, is more tolerant, okay, of than Republicans are on issues such as homosexuality or, you know, maybe you know, the kinds of cultural issues that we deal with. MOYEN: Right. Right. Um-hm. WILLIAMS: Now, in Kentucky is not so much the case (laughs) as it is in many other parts of the country- MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: but philosophically, generally speaking that's what distinguishes us. MOYEN: Did you sense that, and we talked some about this just historically early, did you sense that people in the NAACP that you worked with understood that by helping poor black folks in a sense you were helping? WILLIAMS: Excuse me, yeah, there are see, and the NAACP would for the most part the NAACP is a, we were just being a bourgeois organization but you had by and large successful blacks, educated blacks, people who had credentials okay? And it was a mixture; I had a mixed board, an interracial board. As a matter of fact, the founders of the NAACP was a mixed group, okay. And so yeah, so they recognized that by championing these causes here you're helping others. This is why as I have explained to my daughter in there and as I has said to a former president of the NAACP whom I saw at the protesting against the Fairness Ordinance a few years ago, I said, "How can you protest against the Fairness Ordinance." Okay? And they resent homosexuals using blacks and the Civil Rights Movement as an example which that doesn't offend me, okay. They see that in a very negative sense, I said, "But, you know, you're wrong because if you allow a law, if a law can be used to discriminate against a person to deprive a person of that person's human rights that's discriminatory," and so that goes against the grain, that's inconsistent with our philosophy, our legacy, our heritage, and what we stand for, okay? And so yeah, there was a deep sense, a real sense in the NAACP that the whole community benefited from fighting racism. That's what Dr. King, you know, said, alright, that you lift the whole community up when you lift us up. And so you'll find down through history that the individuals who least need the help are the ones who are leading the charge for the cause. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: See, I could very easily have said I don't want to be involved, alright, because here I am a lawyer and I could just be focused on making money? MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: You're following what I'm saying? MOYEN: Right. Um-hm. WILLIAMS: See and I didn't have to go to the NAACP to run for politics, you know. Well, you know, just looking just down through history the ones, black or white, whatever the case may be, whether it's civil rights, some social issues, some political issue, the ones who least need the help are the ones who're leading the cause, you see. Jesus, okay, (laughs) the prophets, okay. You know, and that's just one of the beauties of being a, you know, an authentic or true leader, you know, someone who I know when I was in the legislature, well, you have some wonderful individuals there who would take stands on things that were unpopular but because they were the just thing to do. But those individuals don't last long. MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: They really don't, you know. Honorable men- MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: you know, honorable people, you know, you're serving out of a sense of real honor and duty, you know people who go to war. MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: You follow what I'm saying? And not what I can get for myself, you know, like President Kennedy said, ask not what the country can do for you but what you can do for your country, see, and then it's unfortunate too that the tragic aspect of that, those individuals end up being killed or being discredited, being, I mean you make enemies. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: You know, i.e. Dr. Martin Luther King, you know, the prophets (both laugh), you know. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: You know, you look at the Bible, you know, prophets got killed. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: You know, and so you know, and I'm a pastor also, you know, so. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: And my daughter by the way she's a minister, you know. And so those there is just a reality to this thing that doesn't you know, really and I can see people, you know, in the legislature, you know, that they do things. I mean it's this belief in those things, there are things of what they believe because they believe in it and there are those who, you know, they do the safe thing, they do the things that get them- MOYEN: Reelected. WILLIAMS: reelected, you know, so. MOYEN: Would you tell me about your first day in Frankfort? Now, you're a new representative you go over there to the Capitol. I mean is there a welcoming committee? Is there, how do you, could you describe that? Tell me what was as you thought it would be and what was completely different than what you thought? WILLIAMS: Excuse me. Well, I was struck, what struck me when- and here again, and I hate it sounds like self-patronizing that can land you in the second, seventh tier of Dante's hell of false patronization and I can imagine self-patronization can land you even deeper in it, the ninth level - I wanted to, I really, I was going there to pass some laws to make things better for my people, for black folk in particular. And so it was a job, okay, but, you know, an exciting job, right? Now, what struck me when I got there was the way people treated you. I mean I tell you would think you was some kind of prince or so that blew me away, it really did. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: That freaked me out. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: Because I had never visited Frankfort before, okay. And my, I was an idealist and I was there it was a job to get something done, okay? And the people to bow down to you, to cater to you, especially the staff, I mean and it's kind of, it kind of make you, you know, uncomfortable and I, it could be easily abused, you know. But that's the thing that just struck me, okay? Now, you know, sure I was excited, I wasn't awed by any of it, I really wasn't, see. By the time I went too, I had been the lawyer for Jimmy. See, I was involved in Jimmy Carter's campaign, I was his lawyer for the campaign for the state of Kentucky, you know, and that was you know, when I was young. And so, you know, I really wasn't awed by it but I was excited to be there so- MOYEN: That must've been Jimmy Carter's first? WILLIAMS: First term, yes. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: Right. Um-hm. Yeah. Um-hm. But, you know, that's what I remember the most. And then the second thing that you, we didn't do a whole lot, things were just sort of drag along and then all of a sudden (laughs), you know, things began to happen. MOYEN: Right about this time, eh? WILLIAMS: Yeah, right (laughs) and- MOYEN: In March. WILLIAMS: Yeah, and then I think I mentioned much early on in our conversation that I was disappointed in how something that could be so right could be rejected in terms, you know, right legislation, you know, to try and rectify wrongs and justices and what have you but, you know, it's just the reality of the thing. It was hard to get legislation passed. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: It was hard. I mean that was, you know, rather kind of mystifying in a way. MOYEN: Right. Um-hm. When you were at Kentucky Dam Village then obviously right before the session do you recall what committees you were put on? WILLIAMS: I don't, let's see, what, I was on B.O.P: Business, Organizations and Professions. Then we had three committees, didn't we have three? I was chairman. As chairman I may not have had three. Was in Business, Organizations, and Professions. I think I just had two committees, my own committee and B.O.P. MOYEN: Okay. WILLIAMS: Um-hm. MOYEN: Did you recall were you able to talk to the governor because as best I understand it although this would change with your next session and John Y. Brown at the time it was pretty much the governor who said who get- WILLIAMS: I met yeah, yeah, I ended up getting a meeting with the governor and the governor saying to me, he said- and keep in mind I liked Julian Carroll, okay? I liked Julian Carroll, I really did. I just thought the world of Julian Carroll, okay? And he'd been good to me and, you know, he was gonna help me, I mean and so when I [inaudible] having a conference with him he said, you know, "Oh, if you're ever in doubt about how to go on a piece of legislation or indifferent about it-", because you have a lot of legislation, you know, you are just indifferent, it doesn't make any difference how it goes. He said, "Just watch Bobby." You know, Bobby Richardson. "Just do what Bobby says." And that was good enough for me, (laughs) you know, and then they could, and I knew, and I've, it was clear to him that I would not vote or support any legislation that was antagonistic to the causes that I championed especially and particularly of the black community, okay? And so, and he understood that but something that had to do with banking or had to do with insurance or whatever, you know, the stuff that makes, it didn't make to me any difference unless it, of course, it was something that was not good for the community I'm not gonna doing things just to favor, you know, favor someone if that's not in the best interest of the community. When I say the community I mean the Kentucky community- MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: you know. But I never, he never asked me and nor did Bobby to do anything that was, that I felt uncomfortable with or that was, I mean I just never had to make that kind of decision, you know. There was a lot of, back in those days really there was a lot of respect, you had some hard ball politics and you had some stuff that you needed to get done and people got it done, you know, Julian Carroll pushed things because that was the right thing to do at least as he saw it. And so you did what, you twisted arms, you threatened or whatever you had to do to get it done, you know, you had a strong- see I like strong leadership. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: Okay? You know, I see, I'm disappointed in our, even though he is a Republican. I'm disappointed to see that our present governor, okay, is not as strong as I thought he was going to be, you know, and I sense it's because he is really not, he doesn't sense that he is there of his own doing but he's, you know, probably listening to and sort of sees himself as being somebody else's boy who has been placed there. I don't mean that in a pejorative sense, you follow what I'm saying? MOYEN: Right. Yeah. WILLIAMS: But he is not giving us the leadership that this state needs. This state is in bad shape, you know, it is in bad. Patton and you can say what you will about him but Patton, things we were talking about the economy and the budget and the things we had to do or he kept warning, warning, warning trying to get those, you know, those Republicans, you know. I'm a yellow dog Democrat as you gathered, okay? (both laugh) Okay. But all of my personal friends are Republicans. It makes not sense. It's all screwed up. Yeah, I belong to this club we call it the Wyntham Night Club, okay, four lawyers and three of them are Republicans and one Democrat, okay? (laughs) I spend all my social time with these Republicans, I mean it just don't make sense. Tom Jensen floor, minority floor leader, alright, he's one of the best friends that I have. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: We went to college together by the way, played basketball together. But yeah, most of my friends are Republican. Judge Frazier up in Jessamine County, you know, he's a Republican, you know. The first time I voted, in fact, the first campaign I got involved in was Tom Emmerton's for governor because of Nick Frazier. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: He, you know, he was my buddy, he and I were good friends, you know. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: But now, you know, when I look at Governor Fletcher, you know, even though I'm a Democrat I'm disappointed in his lack of strength, he's too cautious and he was, and he's a preacher see, if you're a preacher what in world are you afraid of? MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: Or who your boss is, who your real boss is? Do you follow what I'm saying? MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: See, I mean that's the, you know, go and figure, you know, I don't know. (laughs) MOYEN: Um-hm. Let me ask you this, what you've been able to communicate some politicians seem to have this and others don't, that someone who may vote differently than they do on issues is the enemy as opposed to you have a friend or we're good people, we see, maybe we don't see eye to eye on the issue but we can get along. WILLIAMS: Right. MOYEN: Did that make sense what I'm kind of describing? WILLIAMS: Oh gee. MOYEN: Was there that tension in Frankfort between parties? I guess I sense now as you're talking about Fletcher, so many politicians talk about the tone, the tone in Frankfort has changed- WILLIAMS: Um-hm. MOYEN: more nasty and mean to each other- WILLIAMS: Um-hm. Um-hm. MOYEN: [inaudible] did you see some of that back then? Or? WILLIAMS: It was very little. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: It really, and there were some guys just because I was black whatever it was that I voted, whatever legislation that I introduced they were gonna be against it, okay, but that's one or two guys, okay. But then too I was very liberal, I was probably the most liberal guy in the legislature. I was, I cast the only dissenting vote against House Bill 44, you know, the property tax bill, okay? When the governor was gone and Martha- MOYEN: Thelma Stovall. WILLIAMS: Thelma Stovall, okay? Now, and I had legislation that I that I introduced it was hard to support in Kentucky, okay? (laughs) and see, and so I would get battered a lot, okay, but I didn't take it personal. Many people, you know, they come with legislation that we vote against it, you know, people didn't take it personal, you understand that you were there to represent your people. MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: That's a phrase that you heard a lot, you know, my people. And I mean, you know, your constituents, okay, that's your first loyalty okay, and we understood that. There were some things that you could not support because of who your constituents were but you didn't take it personal. MOYEN: Right. WILLIAMS: You just didn't, it didn't happen. And then I hear, you know, this stuff that's there now, you know, people who just don't, I mean they don't like each other, meanspirited. I had a lot of fun with the Republican Caucus. I was, I would sometimes they would act like sort like joking, you know. I'd go in and they said there's a meeting of the minority caucus, okay, and they'd be meeting and I'd go knock on the door, come in and say, "As you said the minority caucus." (laughs) You know. So you had a lot of levity there, you know, and Bill Donnermeyer never- this is a good story here. Bill Donnermeyer, they had a problem up in Northern Kentucky about fireworks, okay? And so he introduced this legislation to outlaw certain fireworks and I was a gun control advocate in the legislature, alright? Every, I was always gonna bring my special gun control bill up, alright? MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: And of course, I always got one vote (laughs), you know. But anyway, he introduced this fireworks bill and I attached an amendment to it and abolishing tele missiles, okay. And then Bill Donnermeyer, whenever someone introduced an amendment, "What is this about? Explain it to me, can I be for it?" I said, "Oh yeah, Bill. It's a very dangerous firework and I guarantee it causes great damage and it is something that can not harm your bill at all." And he said, "Well, that sounds real good," he said, "okay, so I'll okay, I won't object to it." And so the bill was called. Okay, then the amendment was called and then he got up and he said, "Well, now this is the gentleman from the forty-second explained this amendment to me and I have no objection to it." Okay? Now, before they got to where they voted on it, okay (laughs) I'd told someone what it was you know. I told several people what it was, I wasn't going to sand bag him but a tele missile is a bullet, okay. MOYEN: Uh-huh. WILLIAMS: So if you outlaw bullets then you outlaw guns (both laugh), okay. And so, you and in the House, you know, when they, and when you're challenged or something you would say, Will the gentleman from Jefferson yield to a question? And I said, "Yes, I would yield." And of course, I yielded to the question and someone asked, "Gentlemen, this amendment here it says tele missiles, now can you be a little more descriptive about what a tele missile is?" Okay, and then someone else got up and said, "Isn't that a bullet?" You know, and so you have, you know, you have things like that that we do. You wouldn't hurt anybody. That's one thing you wouldn't do, you would not hurt anybody, not intentionally, you know. So as I understand now it's just not like that, you know. MOYEN: Alright. WILLIAMS: Yeah. Williams (House 1977-1985, 42nd district; Democrat) recalls his experiences as an African-American growing up in a coal camp, and in the town of Harlan when Jim Crow laws were in effect, playing basketball, experiencing racism in Detroit, college education, law school, the hierarchy present in Louisville’s municipal government, civic involvement, his chairmanship of the Louisville NAACP, support for his campaign, key legislation in affirmative action, handicap accessibility of buildings, and his impressions of Governors Carroll and Fletcher. Part 1 of 2. Kentucky Legislature