Archie Rison, Jr. graduated from E. J. Campbell High School in Nacogdoches in 1966 and graduated with a degree in sociology in 1971 from Stephen F. Austin State University. Rison then went to work at a school for the emotionally disturbed in Victoria for two and half years before taking a job at the chemical plant for DuPont for thirty one years. Rison has been married forty years, has kids, and grandchildren. He is currently working on research on genealogy for African American cemeteries in the Nacogdoches area.
The interview was conducted on July 7, 2010 by Matthew Tallant at the R. W. Steen Library on the Stephen F. Austin State University campus in Nacogdoches, Texas.
[Begin audio file 1]
TALLANT: This is Matt Tallant interviewing Archie Rison Jr. on July 7, 2010 at Steen library on the Stephen F. Austin State University Campus. Mr. Rison how are you doing today?
RISON: Doing fine.
TALLANT: The first thing I want to talk about is a quick bio, biography of, for yourself. When were you born?
RISON: On May 22, 1948.
TALLANT: And are you originally from Nacogdoches?
RISON: Yes I am.
TALLANT: And when did you graduate high school?
RISON: I graduated from high-school in 1966, May 1966.
TALLANT: And did you go to college after that?
RISON: Yes I did.
TALLANT: Where did you go?
RISON: I went here, to at SFA, and I graduate in 1971, in Sociology.
TALLANT: And what do you do now?
RISON: I am retired.
TALLANT: What did you do before you retired?
RISON: I worked at a chemical plant. I worked at a chemical plant. The company was DuPont, or is DuPont, and I worked for them for thirty one years. Before that, I worked at a school for the emotional disturbed, which is in Victoria. Tthat is where DuPont is. And I worked for them for about two and half years. And before that I was a student.
TALLANT: Alright, and then are you married?
RISON: Yes I am.
TALLANT: How many years?
RISON: Coming up on forty years, July 18. I got to remember that [laughing].
TALLANT: And then, since we're talking about integration in Nacogdoches, and you graduated before they integrated town. Am I correct?
TALLANT: What do you remember school was like before they integrated?
RISON: My high school, or let me put it like this, my community and high school was a very close knit, say, the community, sought after making sure that every child was [phone rings turns off phone] . . . I'll start over. The community was close knit, and there was a feeling of unity. One of the things I think that we noticed when integration set in was that this was loss. It was sort of a good and then a loss. We knew that integration was coming, but the unity of the community was lost to a certain extent. Now the good part of it was that we were able to go to better schools, what have you. But that feeling, we even talk about that today. Me and some friends who graduated from E. J. Campbell. This unity of family of community, was lost and this probable why we have, EJC alumni associations, we have the Juneteenth festivals, to bring back this unity. Or at least to show our kids what this was like because they know anything about it. They don't know what this was like or what it was about. And in the long run, in the overall scheme of things, I think things are better. But for me being 62, that loss I don't think we can ever regain it. But we don't want to forget it.
TALLANT: Right. Well, could you explain more about the loss? What do you feel that the community loss through integrating?
RISON: Yes. Having a place to go to or having people of you own, now, I'm not advocating segregation, but because we were put in this spot, since way back when, since America was discovered, or formed. We were in our own little cocoon so to speak. And when we went out of it we knew what our limitations were, how far we could go, the movies we could or couldn't go to. And this was probably just an accepted thing. We fought it, we fought against it. We knew it was an accepted thing. So, the unity the part, is the part that I really really want to harp on. That that's the part right there.
TALLANT: So do you feel that integration was good in the long run?
RISON: Oh, in the long run yes.
TALLANT: But, have when since you graduated before it, did you feel that you were missing out on such a momentous occasion or were you glad not to have been there when it happened?
RISON: It's sort of a catch 22 thing here. It had to happen so opportunities could come for our children, better opportunities. So that they could be put in better position to make more money, to do better things, it had to happen. But for us, my age, and older, this unity was there. And, for instance, every Friday night, in the fall of the year, we all looked forward to football games. It was just fantastic. We had rivalries with the all Black schools, Lufkin, Lufkin Lombard. We had rivalries with schools from Tyler, what have you. And we knew that the other side, meaning the White side, the White community, had their own thing. And of course the bitter part of it what was, that when we went out of this cocoon, our neighborhoods we ran across the prejudice. There were certain places you couldn't go, certain eateries, Dairy Queens, some of them you had to go to the back. This left a bad taste, this left a real bad taste. Then we went back into our cocoon. And so going back into your cocoon, you felt at peace, until you did want to go out and maybe have a good meal.
TALLANT: Now . . .
RISON: So . . .
TALLANT: Go ahead.
RISON: Go ahead.
TALLANT: Finish your thought.
RISON: Well until you wanted to go out and have a good meal with your family and then you were told this is not the place for you, you have to go over there. So, those bad tastes were in your mouth but yet that safe cocoon was what kept as at peace. And, let me tell ya, the parents did look out for other children in the neighborhood. If you did something wrong your parents found out about, it was trouble, it was a lot of trouble. But that's what we are lacking today as a matter of fact. But, it was good in one respect, but going outside that cocoon we knew that it was not so good.
TALLANT: Now, when you went outside the cocoon, would you consider it more of a character building, made you stronger as a person, or did it kind of, put you down a notch or two?
RISON: For me personally, it was a rude awakening. Because I was, I wanted to press the other side, but then I was nervous. I knew that my education was probably not up to par, but I was intent on making it now matter what. So yeah, it was a character builder. I wanted to show them that I could do just as good as they did, could, and I did my best. Didn't make the best grades, but I did my best.
TALLANT: That's all you can ask for, to do your best. What was the atmosphere like in your community and in the town in general when the integration came discussion came up. Was there resistance in your community and obviously there was resistance in the white community?
RISON: Yes. I have a very good, very good instance. There was a teacher, Black, African American teacher, who made the statement that I will never forget. She lived in my neighborhood, she said, "I don't think that we're ready to go to those schools." And I thought about that and I said, "What did she mean by that." I knew what she was saying, but I said, "Now why would she make that statement? Is there every going to be a time that we're ready?" And her answer would have been probably, "Well, it's not now." And my answer to that was, "It's never going to be the time for you. But we've got to make the move so that our children can have the same good opportunities, mainly good opportunities." So yes, there was some resentment. You would hear parents say that, "Well that we don't know if we know how to act. I don't know if we could make the grades. I don't know this, I don't know that." So and, and from a child's standpoint, if I was going to Nacogdoches High as a sophomore, I would have been very nervous. Because I would have been wondering what are they saying. Well I know what they are saying. And me being who I am, I wasn't a real active person. I played a lot of sports. But I wasn't aggressive. And I don't know if that I would now how to handle that. So, it was a lot of mixed emotions. I'm almost sure that my brothers, seventh and eighth grade at the time, they seemed to handle it pretty well.
TALLANT: Do you know, I mean, obviously you're in college when this happened
RISON: Right, right.
TALLANT: Did you get any impressions from them what they felt going from a predominantly Black school to integrated school? Did they feel that they were looked down upon, that they were inferior?
RISON: My dad, who really pushed us to go to integrated school. In fact he took my little sister she was in first grade when they first integrated they still had the Black schools, they were open. He made it a point to take her over there cause he wanted her elevated, at least in his eyes, going to that all White school, predominantly White school was that an elevation. It was a move in the right direction. He was big on education. He didn't go very far in school. In fact I could never get him to say how far he went. He was a very smart man, not having much education. He had good common sense, that he wanted us with the piece of paper. He wanted, in fact, I have, there is eight of us in the family. Five brothers, four brothers, excuse me, and three sisters. And I think four or five of us all have degrees. He was proud of that. But, answering your question, I didn't notice it in my younger brothers. I felt for 'em, but I didn't notice it in 'em. And then probably after the first year, I guess, they didn't go to any other integrated situations. But I guess it was smoother for them than it probably would have been for me. Just my personality.
RISON: Just my person. Just speaking for me I can't speak for them. But, I think it would have been a lot smoother. Other students you could tell the nervousness. I see them walking to school, you could tell the parent wanted them to dress their best. In other words, they wanted them to be probably more than they probably really were. It was a trying situation probably for everyone. Did they, did they get any feedback, any negative feedback from the students, the White students? I almost sure they did. But boys being boys, they probably handled it themselves. They never did bring it back to the house. Cause my brothers were all my size and bigger [laughing]. So, when it came time to take care of the situation, they would take care of the situation.
TALLANT: Yup, let's go back to education.
TALLANT: You said that you felt that you got an inferior education, not inferior, but not as good of an education as a predominantly White school.
TALLANT: Why do you feel that way? Cause you did obviously did go to college.
TALLANT: So was there a difference between the college rate in your school as in the White school?
RISON: You're speaking of high school?
TALLANT: Yes, sir.
RISON: The reason why I say that is, the preparation, in my school, for instance theme writing. I know you remember your first theme. I had no idea how to do that. I think, and I'm not sure I would have gotten this from NHS [Nacogdoches High School]. But the feelings were that you would get more this preparation from an integrated schools, school. But I just felt so unprepared. I was pretty good in math so I did good in math classes. But, the actual English theme writing is the one thing I really remember more than anything. And most E.J. Campbell people, most of us, didn't do well in theme writing. And I don't think we were prepared in that. The other classes were probably were okay. The math, we had pretty good math teachers. You either know math or you don't know math. There's very little in between math. And math is the same in Egypt as it is in Nacogdoches. Preparing a student on how to write, I actually taught myself. Because my first freshman English class was a disaster. But I made myself learn exactly to how to write well. I don't write that well now, but I write well enough. So, that part right there told me that I hey I was not prepared for that, for that part. All the other stuff, the math, the sciences, I would say English had more to do with me not being prepared, any other student not being prepared at EJC [E. J. Campbell High School] that may have been now, you've got to apply yourself no matter where. I don't think many students were prepared for that theme writing. I know they weren't. There were some who made it well. I have a good friend who made it very well because he was gifted. He was very gifted in high school. There was many who were very gifted. Now I'm talking about the midrange student, we needed, we needed a little more.
TALLANT: Now, did you feel you were prepared for college, when you were a freshman in college?
RISON: No, no. Not totally, oh no. Oh. absolutely not. No, no. I made myself do well later. My first few years were just tough. My first year was horrible. But I made myself do better. I was just destined to graduate. I was determined to graduate because I had the drive.
TALLANT: Was that determination prevalent in your classmates?
TALLANT: So most people would just go just to . . .
RISON: One year one semester. Now again, [Bangs hands together exhales] across the board from EJC versus NHS there is always a certain amount of students that are not going to make it out there. You know you're not college material.
RISON: But I think the majority of EJC students were not. Didn't feel like they were prepared.
TALLANT: Now wouldn't you consider that a product of the environment they grow up on where they didn't have the instilled. like your father obviously instilled education as a . . .
TALLANT: . . . value in you. In the community was that prevalent in the community or was it just out there.
RISON: I think it was mostly home. The community pushed education but the tools just weren't there. I'm not saying we had bad teachers. I don't know if they were prepared enough to prepare us. I never heard one say you were going have to write a theme in college. Never. In English. And I thought that was just not good. I'm not sure I would've gotten that at NHS. But I think I would've gotten a little more at NHS.
RISON: So, the integration part as far as education was necessary. Getting out of that cocoon, we still come back to our roots. I still go back to where I was brought up. I still go back on Shawnee St. I'm sure you have heard of Shawnee St. I'm working on a lot of projects in that area. Genealogy, that's what I was doing on over there. Actually I am working on lot of cemetery projects. Lot of African American cemeteries that are not cared for. And I just say this [bangs hand on table]. Those people that are laying there are the reason that I made it where I am. So we have to take care of them.
TALLANT: Of course we do.
RISON: And I don't see enough of us doing it. I'm not talking about African America. I'm just talking about people in general. So, that's my calling. And that's what I do, that's what I am doing now.
TALLANT: So let's get back to athletics?
TALLANT: Did you feel athletics prepared you for integration? Did you, did you play any White teams?
RISON: We played zero White teams. None in 1965. It was not until probably '68 in East Texas were teams played against each other. Because the separation was just still there. The powers to be wanted to keep it separated. There was a league in Texas [hands rubbing table] called Prairie View Interscholastic League. Have you heard of the college Prairie View? [Prairie View A&M University is a historically African American University.]
TALLANT: Yes sir I have.
RISON: They ran the athletics, basketball, football, baseball. They called all the shots. Were as in Texas, UIL, University Interscholastic League. So far all Black Schools, it was Prairieview Interscholastic League and we were ruled by that. So I played football, I played baseball, and football [rub hands together] in school. Thought I was a pretty good baseball player until I ran into the curveball pitchers [laughter]. Now I saw some hard throwing fastball pitchers and they moved and I thought a fastball was always straight, but anyway. I played football and did well in football. My senior year we one district in the all Black League. Went to the semifinals. They only had semifinals and finals. Well in the finals. But simultaneously Nacogdoches High School won district and they had they had to win three or four games we only had to win two games to win state. They, they won first round and lost in the second round. So there was two pretty good teams here at the time. So had the schools been combined we probably had a pretty good team. I probably would have played 'cause there was some good players on both sides. We had some really good players on our team. Nacogdoches High had some good players. But as far as your question was, did it prepare me . . .
TALLANT: For integration.
RISON: Okay . . . [claps and rubs hands together] from a team . . . effort I don't know that it prepared me for integration. It prepared me life and working as a unit. As far as integration, nah. Just from a team standpoint, this is how you do as a team.
TALLANT: And then, since we only touched on the White community and integration what kind of did they protest at all? What were they trying to do to inhibit the integration of the community?
RISON: I don't recall any thing personally or my family personally or the school personally. This is just what I think. I know that they didn't want it all across the South. But, court orders said yes we're going to do it. I didn't see any signs, I didn't see any protests. I think . . . I think the administration decided that their jobs were on the line, meaning the White administration, their jobs were on the line. You have to follow what the courts say. You can say whatever you want behind your closed doors. I didn't see any personally.
TALLANT: Were you involved, after listening to some of the other stuff. I know that the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] was active in this town around this time. And I know they did a lot of some protests, boycotts, and some sit-ins. Were you involved or were your family involved in any of those?
RISON: [Claps hands.] Now when I was in college, there was an incident were a student was allegedly caught stealing something downtown Nacogdoches, it may have or may not have happened. So . . . what sparked things, was it took four cops to come up to the campus to arrest her. Now, this is a female student, four cops arrested her, kind of man handled her. And There was a gentleman in town; I don't think I need to recall his name. He was here to protest having to go to the back of the bus, having to go upstairs at the main theater. I don't know if you're familiar with that situation, that's where we sat, Black folks sat in the main theater. And there were still a handful of restaurants the front door was open but they really wanted you to go to the back. So as a child when I was going up we weren't able to go to these fancy restaurants. We ate at home because my mother was the best cook in town [laughter]. So we didn't need to do that. But, as far as being involved in activities. Yes, I did march downtown . . . with the groups. And I might honestly tell you that I was very leery. I didn't know what was going to happen to me. A lot of adult males, encouraged, or discouraged their kids from doing this, because their bosses were White, of course, and they were afraid that they were going to lose their jobs. So they told them you marched yesterday but you won't march anymore. I know that happened for a couple of families who were working for the Joe Rights, excuse me at Lone Star, or the mills, the saw mills. And they would ask, "Why is that boy walking downtown causing problems." That's what they called it, causing problems. When all we were asking for was attention to something that humans should have a perfect right to. If you wanted to go and eat at a restaurant more they would say well, "Why would you want to go in a restaurant that didn't want you." It was more of the principle more than anything than that necessary restaurant because the food was better at home. So we had to explain that to our parents. Now [claps hands] my dad was definitely one who agreed to go ahead. He said I might just go down there and join them. He didn't do it, he didn't have to do it, because we were doing it. But yeah, I did participate.
TALLANT: Now did you feel that there was . . . on a precipice of violence at all? That somehow I know going back to my African American History class that I had to take now we watched a lot of the Selma riots. Did you feel that that could happen here?
RISON: I don't think it ever really got to that point. This is my own personal feeling. But I didn't know whether I was marching, because you would see Blacks and Whites standing and looking. And you would hear a couple of cat calls, I called them [claps hands]. Because they would be hollering at the other Whites that were marching. "Girl get out of there you ought to be hog tied and whipped."
TALLANT: Now where there a lot of Whites that walked too.
RISON: Oh yeah, oh yeah, from SFA [Stephen F. Austin State University].
TALLANT: So, was it mainly just from SFA that the Whites walked or was other part of the community with them.
RISON: I would say 95% were from SFA.
TALLANT: Now would you think that education had a part in that. That the more educated
RISON: Yeah, educated, yeah, yeah. And then what's basically right or wrong. Let's go back to Abraham Lincoln. The ten to twenty percent Whites who were abolitionists from the South knew that basically that's wrong. Of course, the other eighty ninety percent: "That that's my property that I'm losing." And here in this town . . . the educated Whites who wanted to see justice done said it's basically wrong. There were a bunch of scared Black folks. Let me tell you. We were very, very afraid. Very afraid. That's why my hats off to Martin Luther King, Andrew Young, all those guys. Nacogdoches was part of the Deep South. It was nothing like Jackson Mississippi; Atlanta, Georgia; Selma Alabama, were there was true innate hate.
TALLANT: Now why do you thing East Texas was so different?
RISON: I think we were just right on the edge. You know. We were just close to the edge were tolerance was. Now don't get me wrong. Bigotry is still is here. It was really here then. But for some reason there was not any violence. Like it was in the Deep Deep South. Were it was just entrenched. That this the way it is, this is the way we want it, they don't need to be a part of us, and that's it. Over here, I don't have an answer, I really don't really have an answer to why. But, it . . . It had some bigotry of course, but us being in our cocoon, you come out of it, you go to work for Mr. Mass.
[Archie Rison, Jr. asked for the original recording for 00:29:27-00:29:31 to be deleted. So it was. The result was to split the recording into two. Audio file 2 does not begin at 00:29:31, however, but as a separate audio file that begins at 00:00:00.]
[End audio file 1 at 00:29:27]
[Start audio file 2 at 00:00:00]
[Picking up from the end of audio file 1, absent four seconds of talk.]
RISON: Or the Wrights, they own the Lone Star, or there are several prominent people here that are still here that are entrenched. But they had to accept. You know they didn't want to, but they had to accept it.
TALLANT: Now, in the Black community around this time, did you feel that, because they wanted it so much, that there was a possibility of violence from the Black community, like the Black Panthers for instance?
RISON: I think that because we wanted to keep that away, because we wanted to be like Martin Luther King, peaceful, nonviolent. Of course we had some radical people. I know of some radical people that were here. Very radical. "So let's just go and fight and die." And I said, "I aint ready to die, not for this. I don't care what you say. The cause is worthy but I aint no, you can get shot." No I think for the most part most Blacks here wanted peaceful. In fact, I know for a fact.
TALLANT: This is just curios to me. Just moving down here again, was the Klan around here during that time? That they make their presence know, or what is more of a clandestine?
RISON: The Klan was here, not in this town, it was in a town called Crocket. It was very prevalent. My brother-in-law is from Crocket. It's funny how they would talk about it. I think they would talk about 'em that, the Klan was here, but kind of like, it's a second thought cause we knew where we were. We where over here [bangs hands on table], the Klan was marching downtown. Therefore, you didn't go downtown, we stayed away. But yeah, the Klan was near.
TALLANT: Now, did they come into town at all?
RISON: They did not come into this town that I know of. They may have, but I don't know of anything.
TALLANT: Alight. Were the Hispanics in town segregated like you were? Or were they more a part of the White community?
RISON: They were definitely part of the White Community. The Hispanics were the original. They were here. The actual founders. In fact that lady I was talking to Ariolla, her family was part of that original. The Y'barros, Cardovas, Ariollas, Tesherinos. See as a kid growing up I just couldn't never could connect with them [hand rub together]. Who are these people? Their Spanish? Well, what does that mean? And so as I grew old I kind of figured out what was going on. They were considered White.
TALLANT: Okay. And now I would like to talk about your dad.
TALLANT: Cause he, from what you have been telling me that he was a very influential person in your life.
TALLANT: Can you just tell me more about what you, stuff your dad instilled in you throughout your young life. And then why he felt so, that integration was so important for the Black community and the White community?
RISON: My dad was a very hard worker. He worked two jobs all the time with eight children and always asking for money to eat. But he taught me to work. He taught me how to work. He was a jack of all trades. He could do anything. I just wish he would have gotten that education. He could do anything. He could build. He created work. One thing he created was house washing. Simple. Washing. He made forty dollars of a house. He would give me five, my brother five. But nobody else in town did that. That was a creation. People thought the houses were painted. Did y'all paint that house? No, we just washed it. But he also learned how to paint with a paint brush, and I learned that from him. He was, he was a carpenter, he could do carpentry work. But he was one of those no nonsense guys. He didn't do the spanking at home. I shouldn't say spanking, I say whipping. He was a no nonsense guy. Whatever he said was listened to. Whatever he said was the rule. My mother did all the spanking. She took no prisoners when she did it [laughter]. But my dad all he had to do was say something. I got one whipping that I know of, maybe two. I don't think he really wanted to do it because he knew probably what he would do to us. He was one of these naturally well built men. He was 5'11" but he had muscles, awe. But when he said something, it was authoritative, it was to the point, no nonsense. And . . . [hands on table, gets emotional]. Excuse me.
TALLANT: Take your time.
RISON: This same thing happened over there [East Texas Research Center] with Ms. Irelle, and I showed her [takes out photo of father, included].
TALLANT: Is this your dad?
TALLANT: Do you mind if I take a picture of these.
RISON: You could do that. World War II veteran, you can scan it if you want, take it back there, scan it get your copy, Xerox it, what every you want to do.
TALLANT: Now are you going, you said you're going to be in town tomorrow?
RISON: I'll be in here till Sunday.
TALLANT: Ok, I'll take some pictures of these now. I should have brought my scanner.
TALLANT: My camera is good a taking pictures of pictures. [pictures taken: Rison002-004] So what did your grand or dad due during World War II.
RISON: He was a truck driver, this stuff [pictures] will pretty much explain. As you know, during World War II, before the Korean War, the armed forces were segregated. And I asked him, I said, "How did they keep up with ya. I mean how did they, what did they do?" He said, "Well that's pretty easy. Company A was all White, Company B was all White, Company C was all White, Company D was all Black. And that's the way it was." So it was pretty easy [laughter] to pick out who's . . .
TALLANT: So when did the schools integrate? Was it 1970 in town? Completely integration. Was 1970, yes. That was probably '71, '72. The last year at E.J. Campbell was 1970. They were integrated before then, you had a choice to going to E. J. Campbell stating in 1968. You could go to E. J. Campbell or NHS starting in 1968. But the complete integration was 1970.
TALLANT: And then, why do you think, this is just your impression, why did it take so long for this area to integrate?
RISON: That's a good question. Since 1955 was Brown v. Board of Education. Very good question. I think across the Deep South it was pretty much like that. If you did the history, it'll be something I will look into myself. They never wanted to do it for one, so until the court orders came through, it forced their hands. They held on as long as they could. I heard my dad say onetime coming back from work, that he was one of the first to integrate the cafeteria at Southland Paper Mill. I don't know if you heard. It was a paper mill that was south of here, it's shut down by now. And him and two or three other Black guys, maybe four or five. They decided that the cafeteria should be integrated. They had to take their lunch and eat somewhere else, like a lot of places in the South. They decided it was time [claps hands together] this was probably in the mi-sixties. I know it was before I graduated high school. Yeah, it was in the mid-sixties. Him and two or three other guys decided that they were going to integrate the cafeteria. They went in the front door. And I think before that they had to go in the back or whatever. So they walked in, they shut that cafeteria down [banging hands on table.]
TALLANT: Did they do a sit in?
TALLANT: When did they do a sit in?
RISON: When did they do it?
TALLANT: Did they do it?
RISON: Oh, they went it to order. They got their meal and shortly after that they shut the cafeteria down. They would not serve lunch any more. And they didn't. So word got out that Archie, that's what they called my dad, was causing trouble. My dad, like I told you [rubs hands together] . . . he was a no nonsense guy. Very proud of that. He had several rifles. He packed . . . he packed that thirty-thirty [Winchester rifle] for about three weeks and he didn't, [laughter] he didn't have any trouble. Because they knew he had it.
TALLANT: And did he take around with him everywhere?
RISON: Everyday to work. He'd come out of the house, he didn't have it out, he had it in a holster. [Laugh.] He had a friend named Jack Teal, his friend said Risom, that's what he would call him, R-I-S-O-M, Risom, "Who are you mad at?" [laugh]. My dad was just kind of [mumbles], "I was just making sure there no problems." He said, "Risom." He bought that thirty-thirty right after they shut down the cafeteria. "You bought that to kill a man." "No, no, no, no, no, no, no, just want to defend myself."
TALLANT: Now did he feel like that his life was in danger?
RISON: Oh yes.
TALLANT: Was that before he got the cafeteria shut down?
RISON: This was after.
TALLANT: And just mainly he felt . . .
RISON: Mainly because of that. He got a lot of respect for that, I felt like he was going to get fired. He got a lot of respect.
TALLANT: Did he get a lot of respect from this . . .
RISON: He was a good worker, he was an excellent worker, excellent, no problem, never late, he just felt it was time.
TALLANT: I want to go back to your childhood, going out of the cocoon as you like to say. What was like a typical Saturday for you? Did you go to the movies, did you go to the swimming pools, did you co-mingle a lot with the White community? [Fingers tapping table]
RISON: Absolutely not with the White community! Now I don't say that as a derogatory thing, they were just not in our neighborhood, Shawnee, Martin Luther King Drive. Which was Butt St., that's where I was actually born in that house. I go by there every time
TALLANT: Do you spell that B-U-T-T?
RISON: Yes. Born in that house and I go by there every time I come back. I have to see it. I wish that I had bought it, but that's neither here nor there. A normal Saturday morning, as a normal kid in a Black community. Well, we ate of course. But it was always time to play football, baseball, and basketball. I mean that was the staple for us, any able body child. And I played a lot of baseball, lot of baseball, lot of sandlot football, and basketball. But it was mostly baseball and football, because if you think about it back in the '50's, '40's and 50's, baseball was huge in the Black community, it is no longer that way now. Now it's basketball.
TALLANT: Was there a Negro League around?
RISON: Yes [claps hands together, sound of shuffling paper]. Yes it was. Glad you asked. This man [Archie Rison, Sr.; his father] was the manager of the Nacogdoches All Stars. Now I have a copy . . .
[Brings out computer.] My dad was the manager of a team called the Nacogdoches All Stars. He did that for three of four years. He played a lot of baseball, that's why I kind of played. Let me do this right quick [opens computer]. But, that's what we looked forward to doing. Most of the kids in the neighborhood. We had real good coaches.
TALLANT: So, sports was a really big . . .
RISON: Huge, it was our out. And we, we did real well. We never go up to the majors, but we had some that were really good athletes. Football, we had a head coach that's still here, still living, he's still here. Clarence "Bo" McMichael. McMichael Middle School is name after him. Have you heard that name?
TALLANT: No sir I haven't.
RISON: Oh yeah, his big, just throw it out there.
TALLANT: What was his name again?
RISON: His name is Clarence, C-L-A-R-E-N-C-E, nickname was Bo, B-O, [computer turns on] McMichael, M-C, capital-M-C, capital-M-I-C-H-A-E-L. So back to that typical Saturday. We were always looking for a game, a baseball game or a football game. My childhood was, my childhood was really good. [Computer noise.] I wish I could go back 'cause I don't have the worries that I have now. But my childhood was very good. It was protected. I'm going to get on a subject that is interesting. Because we were considered quite good kids, we never had problems with the police, or the teachers, or whatever. And in this cocoon, parents look out after other parents kids. Now it was pretty much a staple in that, in that cocoon in that, in that society. Yeah, my childhood was full of this, it felt just great to get out play baseball or play football. Basketball was not my game. But, basketball goals were up all everywhere. But we played a lot of baseball. And the Negro Leagues, the Semi-Pro teams, were all over the South [computer noise]. Of course Jackie Robinson came from there. Kansas City Monarchs came to play one team from Nacogdoches one year. I found this out two years ago. I didn't know they came. I know you know you've heard that name before, Kansas City Monarchs, that's were Jackie Robinson came from. They were very big. The league started in the twenties, started barn storming. They just kind have pass the hat, they go town to town. If they got five dollars they were happy, if they got five hundred dollars they were very lucky. They never got that much. But they loved the game, they loved the sport. It was a natural sport for a lot of us to play. We enjoyed it. That's why I kind of concerned that Black kids now do not often do that. So I got my grandson [noise], playing baseball, it's in your blood. You need to play. I'm going to call this up.
TALLANT: Alright. Did you have any White friends growing up?
TALLANT: No. Was that just, just part of everyday life? Was there a particular reason why you didn't have any?
RISON: There were none in the neighborhood.
TALLANT: So you just hung out with people from your neighborhood primarily?
RISON: We didn't go to school with any.
RISON: After I went to college I developed some, yeah. And now that's pretty much all I have as friends. After. I don't know if I want you, you can monitor all this. Because I get accused of being on the other side . . . [unintelligible].
TALLANT: Since you did graduate before integration fully happened, did you have any expectations of what it would bring to the community?
RISON: I'm not going to say that I had any expectations of what I would bring back to the community. No I don't think I had any. It was just more I knew that in order for me to advance and make more money that's what I need to do. But it was a proud thing when I came back. They said he's one of those Risons that did well. And oh did that make me feel good, my mother and father really really good. Because it was not up and down the street that that happened.
TALLANT: Did you notice any bad portrayals of integration in the media around that time? School newspapers, town newspapers?
RISON: I personally didn't notice and I don't think it actually happened out in the open.
RISON: I don't recall reading it at all. I think, and don't get me wrong, that the administration probably had their own prejudices, meaning their all White. They had to follow the guidelines. So they did the very best they could to try to make it work. So did the Black community.
TALLANT: How did integration affect you?
RISON: I would say I was uncomfortable to begin with. Because I wanted to do well, I wanted them to know that I could fit. But I also knew that I could go back into my society, my cocoon.
TALLANT: Now, did you feel uncomfortable because you're going outside the cocoon?
RISON: Yes, yes. I would say if that most African Americans were honest they would all say yes. They were very uncomfortable because we didn't really know what they were thinking we didn't really know sitting next to this White girl or White guy, just exactly what they were thinking. I didn't have an instance where they go up and sat somewhere else. But, I had friends tell me that this one White girl got up and sat somewhere else because she didn't want to sit beside this Black guy. I'm sure this happened all across the South at some point. But I don't recall some instance like that. But I was very uncomfortable because I wanted to fit. And when my comfort level came down, I just decided that I could do just as good, and I'm going make it, because I was determined. My dad instilled that in me.
TALLANT: Do you think that present day, comparing to when you grew up, has it successfully integrated here, or is there still pockets of community around here that really have that distance that was there back in the fifties and sixties?
RISON: Do you mean Black and White or just Black?
TALLANT: Black and White.
RISON: I think there has been an acceptance of the way it is. But people still like to go back to their cocoon. You know it's your comfort zone. You know that Juneteenth festival we have every year it's so comfortable that it's unbelievable. But I also can mix. I can also go over cause I have a lot of White friends. That I go with every year, we go camping, hiking, I love hiking, camping. I learned all this by going over to the other side. I said I really like this stuff cause you don't find hoodlums and you don't find thieves on the hiking trail.
TALLANT: I know I feel personally at peace when I'm up in the mountains.
RISON: Oh man, it's so, it's great.
TALLANT: And then, Is there anything else you want to add that we have not discussed? Personal feelings?
RISON: Yes I do.
TALLANT: Go for it.
RISON: The police in the forties and the fifties were terrible. There was a police chief here, named Roebuck.
TALLANT: How do you spell that please?
RISON: R-O-E-B-U-C-K, I forgot his first name. But he was a terrorizer. He terrorized the Black Community. In his mind he thought he was keeping us quote in our place and keeping the peace
TALLANT: And you said he was the sheriff.
RISON: The Chief of Police.
TALLANT: Chief of Police,
RISON: There was another police officer, Joe Owens, J-O-E O-W-E-N-S, and there was a third one called "School Boy." I don't know what his name was. Those three characters wreaked havoc in the Black Community. Now . . . if you're Black you had one strike. If you're Black and an alcoholic and caused trouble, that was too many strikes. You were beaten terrorized, chastised, and you didn't dare say anything. If you went out and had one drink too many. Now I'm not excusing people that drink. That's just too bad. Whereas, the other side, the White community, they say, "Boy you go on home and don't let this happen again." If you're Black that's too bad.
TALLANT: Arrest you on the spot.
RISON: Oh yeah. Tickets being written tickets for speeding. Now, again I like to put this in the context of being neutral. Nobody should be drunk, nobody should be speeding. But the inequality was I got a ticket, you didn't, a grater majority of the time. That's where I say give everybody a ticket or nobody a ticket. That were I had a problem. Of course, Roebuck's, Joe Owens, would come over to the neighborhood and just terrorize people. I saw it happen, I saw that happen. Yes, right in front of my house. Two friends were walking after dark. And he would use the n word, "Do you believe that I'll kick your rear end." "Yes sir." "The next time I come around through here" . . . now these guys hadn't done anything, now if they were doin something it would be different. They hadn't done anything, because I know they just left my house, but it was after dark. Back in the fifties you could go places after dark and nothing be said because you knew how to behave. "So I'll kick your rear end." "Yes sir." "You understand me." "Yes sir." That's just terrorizing. That was done on a constant basis. I do remember that. I do remember that. And then going to theaters, we were told you couldn't go down here because that section is for White only. Going from here to Houston, was a, it was an ordeal, it was a trip because if you needed to use the restrooms you couldn't use the White restrooms sometimes. So we'd stop and just go out in the woods. And then if you really were thirsty, I'll never forget my brother in Livingston Texas used the wrong water fountain. Now my dad being the man he is stopped to get gas. My brother couple years younger than me, drank water out of this water fountain that was right out front. And this guy came and hit him right on the behind, BOOW. That water fountain not for you, you go back and it's just a water hose he wanted him to use. Hot water hose. And my dad said, "Hey, what's your problem?" He said, "Well he can't use that water fountain there." He said, "Stop the gas right there, I don't want any more gas. Stop it and I'm leaving." He, he, I said, "Ah man we're going to jail [laughter]." I was one scared, I was scared. He just made it a point, state it, "Stop it don't want your gas if I can't drink your water." This was in the early sixties, late fifties. Anyway, there were several instances that I remember vividly that sticks out in my mind the bigotry. But the other integration when it was time, I think the administration, I don't know if they bent over backwards. But it was court ordered, so they did what they had to do. I imagine they were mumbling under their breathes quietly. I want to show you this photo of this ball team.
TALLANT: All right, I think that's good. I want to thank you again for doing this for us. And this was for the African American Heritage Project in Nacogdoches.
[End audio file 2]