Taylor Whitaker was born on November 4th, 1943. He graduated from the segregated E. J. Campbell High School in 1962. Following graduation Whitaker went to work as a barber in Nacogdoches. As of 2010, Whitaker owned Whit's Barbershop on Shawnee Street in Nacogdoches.
(Taylor Whitaker-right, Bernie Aikman Sr-left)
The interview, conducted June 29, 2010 by Stephen Delear, occurred at Whit's Barber Shop in Nacogdoches, Texas as some customers received haircuts from Whitaker. Several patrons and employees appear briefly, commenting on Whitaker's interview or offering additional information.
[Unless referenced by name some uncertainty exists as to which patron made the statement.]
DELEAR: This is Stephen Delear it is June 29th, 2010. This is an interview with Taylor Whitaker. I'm at Whit's Barbershop in Nacogdoches. This is for the African American Heritage Project.
DELEAR: Can I, I guess . . . I need to put this recorder somewhere.
WHITAKER: Just stick it over there.
DELEAR: Alright that will work.
DELEAR: So what year were you born in? Might as well start there.
WHITAKER: When was I born?
WHITAKER: I was born here, November the 4th 1943, I was born. On the Mill Pond, that's the west side of town.
DELEAR: Okay, and what did your parents do?
WHITAKER: Well my daddy worked at the sawmill for a long time, then he left the sawmill and he was a janitor at the school. My mother worked at the cafeteria at the school.
DELEAR: What school was that?
WHITAKER: He worked at Emeline Carpenter [Elementary School] and she worked at, what was the middle school name up there?
SHOP PATRON:: TJR. [Thomas J. Rusk, now an elementary school.]
WHITAKER: TJR, it was the high school then. Now it's TJR.
DELEAR: Okay. Now you went to high school at Campbell then?
WHITAKER: I went to school at E. J. Campbell right across the street there. [Points to building outside window.]
DELEAR: What year did you graduate?
DELEAR: Okay, and I saw in the Daily Sentinel have [sic] an article about you a little while back.
WHITAKER: There is it right there. [Points to framed copy of article mounted on shop wall.] That's one, they had one the other day [May 30, 2010].
DELEAR: Okay, you had some form of scholarship while you were at Campbell?
WHITAKER: That's the way I got into barber school, I got a scholarship to go to barber school in '62 when I finished.
DELEAR: And that, there was a Percell Warren?
WHITAKER: Percell Warren was the principal over there, assistant principal and he was the one who give the scholarship.
DELEAR: And after that you came back and started working with I think it was Earl Skillin.
WHITAKER: Earl Skillin, yeah. '63 when I came back, and started cutting hair full time.
DELEAR: What was Nacogdoches like in the '50s as you were growing up?
WHITAKER: [Nervous laughter]. Nacogdoches, just growing up there was, you know, there was certain things that you could do, that they still had the Black and White thing and the courthouse they still had Black and White water fountains. Only way you could be up at Stephen F. Austin [SFA] you was either working, they didn't have nobody going to school up there, they didn't have nobody playing football. My classmate, Charlie Resino, became the first African American that played football up there [played in 1964]. We finished and two years later, after we finished he went back. They come got him, he was the first guy who played football at him. That was in what '62, '63, '64 or '65. '65 he played football up there. We still didn't have nobody up there.
DELEAR: So it was . . .
SHOP PATRON:: '64.
WHITAKER: '64. When he was up there.
DELEAR: So did he graduate?
WHITAKER: No, no he didn't graduate. He didn't stay up there long enough to graduate. The first one to graduate form up there was Nate West he was the first Black to graduate from Stephen F. Austin. I don't know what year it was but he was the first Black man to graduate from Stephen F. Austin.
SHOP PATRON: It was '69, back then.
WHITAKER: Yeah something like that. What where you saying?
DELEAR: I was just gathering my thoughts. So, you graduated in '63, you would have been about eight or ten when Brown versus Board of education came down?
WHITAKER: When what?
DELEAR: Brown v. Board?
WHITAKER: I don't know.
DELEAR: I think it was in '54.
WHITAKER: Yeah, I had to be really young then.
DELEAR: So what was it . . . the high school here didn't desegregate, until, what was it, 1970?
WHITAKER: I think it was '70 when they . . .
SHOP PATRON: When they integrated.
WHITAKER: Yeah, it was '70. But they had a few Black folk going there but they hadn't forced all of them to go yet, because you had your choice, you could go to E. J. Campbell [historically Black school] or Nacogdoches High [historically White school].
DELEAR: Did many people choose to go to Nacogdoches High?
WHITAKER: There was a few that went. Daniel Ray Upshaw.
SHOP PATRON: About five.
WHITAKER: Five or six that went. Even wanted the rest of them that went up there, had a few.
SHOP PATRON: There wasn't no one on any team back then.
WHITAKER: It was a new thing, that you knows, everybody needed to get
together to come because it was, you know, I guess, people were raised that way and talked different. See me and Aikman [points to one of the patrons chiming in], never did go to school with no Whites. We always were in with all Blacks. We never did. We played football together. They'd get their new uniforms up there. They was always bringing their old uniforms over here. Shoes in helmet in a box. They'd just throw them out on the floor. We had to pick out our sizes. We might have a nine or a ten. So we got them all, when they got through with them they'd bring them over here and give them to us.
AIKMAN: You wouldn't start if you didn't have the right sized shoe . . . [laughter] or you had the right sized shoe.
WHITAKER: And we didn't think nothing about it. It was just one of them things you know.
DELEAR: So when did people start thinking something about it?
WHITAKER: What year did that . . . when Mickey McGuire come in, they had the big march around here.
SHOP PATRON: '65, '66.
WHITAKER: '65, '66, when they had a march, when they started marching. Because we didn't have no Blacks at banks, no Blacks working up town. You couldn't even go up there and sit down and get a sandwich. They had a sandwich shop and things but you couldn't go up there. So in '65 they start marching, doing all that. And we had a big uproar around here in Nacogdoches. That's when they started getting people to come, let them start working uptown.
DELEAR: So who was Mickey McGuire?
WHITAKER: He was a civil rights . . .
SHOP PATRON: He was something like a civil rights leader.
WHITAKER: He was a civil rights leader. I don't know who. Somebody sent him. I don't know what but he came in here and organized this march with some of the college students. Some of the White college students involved in the march back in the day.
DELEAR: What did the college think of that?
WHITAKER: Well [laughter] the college they didn't want it either but it was coming and coming fast. They didn't have nobody going up there. I don't know when the first teacher. I know Donna.
SHOP PATRON: Row wasn't it.
WHITAKER: See, her name was after, words, Roosevelt.
SHOP PATRON: Oh, okay.
WHITAKER: Didn't have no teacher up there until the last part of the '70s wasn't it?
SHOP PATRON: Yeah.
WHITAKER: So, they had to start adjusting with everything to. Roebucket [M. C. Roebuck, the term Roebucket is likely pejorative] went off the scene, after the march he retired. Before then, he ruled the town. Whatever he said went. He was the bad lawman around here. He whooped everybody, ruled the town.
DELEAR: Was he the Sheriff or . . .
WHITAKER: He was the Chief of Police. He come over here, this where we're working at now use to be the Dragon Inn. He'd come over here and make everyone go home and all that stuff. You know. You'd have to get up and run because he'd take you to jail.
DELEAR: How often did something like that happen? Weekly occurrence or . . .
WHITAKER: Every week he'd run you out and run you home [laughter]. Every week. Back in the day back in the sixties and on back in the '50s and back then. [Inaudible, talking to customer in shop.]
DELEAR: Would you say people were afraid of him.
WHITAKER: Yeah they were scared of him. When these people, whatever they did, he had all the power. There wasn't nobody that would go get you. Most of the Black people didn't have no money so somebody get in jail they had to either go up there or work it out or do something like that. Money was scare back then. When I first started cutting hair it wasn't nothing but a dollar a head. You know how long that's been, compared to haircuts now. How much did you make in a week Little Glenn, back in the 40s and '50s?
GLENN: A dollar an hour.
WHITAKER: They making a dollar and hour down there at Lone Star. Weren't getting but forty hours so the time they get through taking out everything they making.
GLENN: Thirty six dollars.
WHITAKER: Thirty six dollars. When they get home thirty-six dollars. So you know thirty-six dollars you could do lots because he had a brand new car. Everything with just thirty-six dollars. A lot of people just now make thirty six dollars an hour compared to where we were back then.
DELEAR: So this March in '64, '65 did Roebucket [Roebuck] try to do something to stop it?
WHITAKER: Yeah. He tried, but it was too powerful. See the college students, and all the Blacks on this end come together. Other people were coming in with the march and lots of people around here were scared, but he got most of them college students and people coming in doing this marching and Roebuck, during that time, he retired after that. After they had that big march, he went one and retired.
SHOP PATRON: Got up there in age.
WHITAKER: Yeah he got up there in age. He couldn't handle all that was going on. So he couldn't do people, hit them all upside the head like he used to because you know people then would get cameras and it would be all over TV and stuff, so, he went on and retired.
DELEAR: Did anything change after this march?
WHITAKER: Oh yeah, after this march they started letting Black people in the banks and uptown and all these different things. The march really helped. Two or three of them sandwich shops . . . was there Smith down there?
SHOP PATRON: Yeah.
WHITAKER: They closed their sandwich shop down. They quit selling it. Stricklands and all of them, you know. The only one we could go in, was it that Perry Brother's down there?
SHOP PATRON: Perry Brothers.
WHITAKER: Perry Brothers, we started going in. They kept their counter. We'd go in and could eat from their counter but all the ones they had at these drugstores, they closed them down to keep from being involved. The closed them sandwich shop down.
SHOP PATRON: To keep from serving Black folk.
WHITAKER: Yeah, to keep from service Black folk they closed all them down.
DELEAR: Do you think the owners were pressured by other people in the community?
WHITAKER: Well it was just one of them things you know. If everybody else is doing it you're going to have to do it to. That's just the way it was. They didn't want to be called that you know what, that lover something. So they just stayed out of it. Did what the rest of them did.
DELEAR: So, before this march people where afraid of the sheriff [chief of police]. Afterwards was there any attempt at retaliation by anybody in the community?
WHITAKER: Uh. . . [indicates that he did not hear the question.]
DELEAR: After the march or as thing started to go along into the late sixties and '70s. . .
WHITAKER: Well things started getting better. People started getting jobs and they start putting Blacks on at like the phone company, and they started getting those regular good jobs. It started opening up. Things started opening up after the march. You know, it got better than what it was but, you know, there was still a whole lot of things that they could have done better but it was still a whole lot better than what it was.
DELEAR: Where there any more marches after that one?
WHITAKER: No, that was the last march. That was the last march.
[Sounds of electric hair clippers, (loud crackling on recording)]
DELEAR: I was just going to give you a second . . .
WHITAKER: No I'm um . . .
DELEAR: So what would people talk about in the barbershop in the sixties and seventies?
WHITAKER: Well people would talk about, just regular things, you know. It was different. We lived different. We lived in our area and knew where to go, just like everything else. We had people that where going to go to work, church, and home. It wasn't a whole lot of things to do you know. When we go to the picture show we had to go downstairs, I'm sorry up stairs, and they where downstairs. They had a big roof for one night up there because somebody threw a brick down there and, you know, we couldn't go in the same side that the White went. They went down in the bottom part and we had to go around and go up the stairs. Everybody upstairs was Black and everybody downstairs was White. And that's what I'm talking about. We did our things and they would come to our football games and we'd go to their football games but we'd have to stand to one side. We couldn't be all over the place. You just couldn't be walking all up and down the thing, you'd get over there in the corner. We'd go to Stephen F. Austin games get over there in the corner. All the Black people piled up in one corner because they didn't want you mixing and mingling with them.
DELEAR: Were football games a big social event back then?
WHITAKER: When the Blacks had a good football team . . . everybody would go because that was the only place, the only social thing we could do. [Sounds of electric clippers.]
DELEAR: So, what was the schools like when you where growing up? I know you told me a little bit about football uniforms.
WHITAKER: The books were the same thing we'd get all the books from the White school. They'd bring them over here. Some half the pages was tore out. All the back where you write your name in the back, all them would already be done full of names because you could take your books home then. They'd give us all the old books. When they get new books we get the books they done used. And it was just so much you were going to learn.
DELEAR: Before [clippers unintelligible, probably the protests broke out] . . . where they worried about losing their job.
WHITAKER: If something was going on they'd tell you who to vote for. If they go against what they were telling you down there, Joe Right, then you wouldn't have no job. So you had . . . I remember when this man who worked for Timpson Ford, what was his name Little Daddy? Behind Center?
GLENN: Class Harris [phonetic].
WHITAKER: Yeah he worked for Timpson Ford and brought him a Chevrolet. A brand new Chevrolet and drove up there. And they fired him. He worked in them Ford place and liked them Chevrolet. When he got up there, they fired him because they thought he should have bought him a Ford. Remember that? He left that and worked in the light company. When they fired him at the Ford place. He come home and went to work with the light company because it's right there on North Street. That's where he retired, it's the light company. They didn't know they did him a favor [laughter].
There was a whole lot of things that we done come way done grew a whole lot of things from way back then. And then you got Black and White folk [unintelligible, electric clippers]. See how they done voted for president. We got some people who hate on him but he'd never had got in if the White folk hadn't voted for him. The racial thing is narrowing down. You always going to have racial people. But it's dying out. You got lots of mixed couples that's marrying and dating. Back in the sixties you didn't have all that. You get caught with a White girl back then you was going to get some time in the penitentiary. But now you've got a couple and everybody that's marrying and having kids.
GLENN: No whenever our homecoming back when Resino [phonetic], he dated a White and they put his ass in jail . . . [unintelligible]
WHITAKER: Yeah, yeah. There's a whole lot of things like that back then that would not dare happen now. They got [unintelligible]. That's how people knew and where growing up with but all this stuff done got better. It's getting better and better all the time. Cause, my kids . . . I never did go to school with just Blacks, we were mixed. But my kids, they, you know, they doing a whole lot, playing ball and doing all this stuff: baseball, football.
DELEAR: So did you have kids back in the late sixties, early seventies?
WHITAKER: My oldest kid is forty-five. That's him now. [Hands interview campaign brochure.] He's running for constable in Houston. He's got his Master's degree and is working on his Doctor's degree. He was in '65. He worked for the Harris County Sheriff department. He's still tell me about some of the racial things that they were doing in Harris County that you wouldn't have no idea, things be cut out. That's what I'm saying, you still have people that are going to live and die with it. They ain't going to come to reality that we done moved to a different era. We're in the twenty-first century now. But you got, people that still want to hate and it's all done. Might as well leave all that stuff alone, because that's back in the days. We ain't have no more of that.
DELEAR: So what was it like bringing up kids around here in the sixties and seventies?
WHITAKER: There was just so much we could give them. . . . My son went to school . . . he was integrated, he always have went to school with them. During that time we still watched out for them in Texas. Cause you know when you raised up that way and somebody done you that way, you still watch them tell them "be careful on this" and "be careful on that." We had one or two kid that they never did find out who killed them.
AIKMAN: The Polar [phonetic] boy.
WHITAKER: The Polar boy, he come up dead. He was a youngster. We don't know who killed him. That was way back in the sixties. He was going home one night and they found him in a ditch and somebody said the police killed him, somebody said somebody else killed him but they never did find out who killed him. And so when you're raising kids you don't want that to happen to your kids, so you tell them to be careful when they leave.
DELEAR: Well do you think the Polar boy was killed for a racial reason?
WHITAKER: I, I, I [stutters] can't say that cause they never did find out. It might have been some Black people that killed him. I don't know, we never did know who killed him. Never did find out what happened to him, up until today. Somebody said that it was this. You know there was talk, criticism. We never did find out really what happened to the boy.
DELEAR: Where there a lot of rumors going around about things like that?
[People come into the shop.]
WHITAKER: What where you saying?
DELEAR: Where there a lot of rumors going around about things like that?
WHITAKER: There always have been rumors and things, you know. But I don't know. There always have been you know.
DELEAR: When did you take over the barbershop?
WHITAKER: I've been cutting hair ever since '63. And I worked for Earl until we got over here and then when he quit I took, it over. When the old barbershop across the street burned down, I built this one here in '98. I've been the owner of this one since '98.
DELEAR: So what's it like running a business?
WHITAKER: Well it's good. We got lots of White customers that come. We cut their hair. They treat us nice we treat them nice. We done moved up to a different era from back then. We have quite a few customers that when they come we cut their hair all the time. Back in the days you never did have that. We had one in every nine then and he was considered Black like us.
DELEAR: That name you just said? I heard one in every nine and I don't think that's what you meant?
WHITAKER: I said we had White customers back then every nine day. And when come he was considered Black like we was, you know. He had some Black blood in him so had hair like you [interviewer has somewhat messy black brown hair] but was considered black so he couldn't go up there with White folk so he had to come down here to get it washed.
[People in shop talk about upcoming wedding, sound of electric clippers.]
DELEAR: Oh, I was just thinking for a second.
WHITAKER: Okay, take your time [laughter].
DELEAR: How has the neighborhood changed over the years?
WHITAKER: The neighborhood has changed, real good, real; good. We have White folk, Black folk, Mexicans. Everybody stays over here running around in our community. Back in the days you wouldn't have found nothing over here but Blacks. But now White folks and all of us are mixing together.
DELEAR: So, when the school fully integrated was there any resistance?
WHITAKER: Well [unintelligible] back then when it first started, they had a few resistors . . . but . . . the judge in Tyler, what was his name? He told them . . . there wasn't going to be none of that. That was the law and if you didn't do what the law said he was going to put you in jail. That's what the jury said, in Tyler. The federal jury. So people had to go with what the federal judge said. They didn't want to but they knew that they'd be locked up, so they didn't want to be locked up.
DELEAR: Well did you know anyone who went to White high school prior to 1970?
[Ambient barbershop sounds.]
WHITAKER: Sorry can you say again.
DELEAR: Did you know anyone that went to the White high school prior to 1970?
WHITAKER: Yeah, I told you Dan Lee Upshaw. He was one of the ones who went up there. . . . [Unintelligible] Seven or eight, I'm not recalling their names, but they were some few who went up there. Jesse Wells. They did a good job there with them. They didn't get into any trouble.
DELEAR: I know that during the sixties a number of Churches and barbershop where working on marches. Did anything like that happen around here?
WHITAKER: Didn't happen around here. Wasn't no Black Churches or nothing involved in it. Most people around here were scared to march. So they had a few that wasn't scared. They got with some of the White college students up there and they sent people in here with buses to help them do this march. But people around here where scared of their jobs and all that stuff. They wouldn't risk it to let nobody see them march. You know, there was a few people from out of town who came in there to help them do this march. Back them if they catch you marching and doing all this stuff you wouldn't have no job. People had to support their families so that they didn't get involved in it. Most people like me they put monies to support the ones that was marching. They put a few dollars in their pocket to help them.
DELEAR: Did you know any of the organizers when they came down?
WHITAKER: Well we got to know Mickey McGuire because he was always coming by the barbershop and try to recruit people to come go march with him. "Don't be scarred brother. Come on. These White folk been pushing us down too much. Come on help us, we're going to show them what we're going to do." He might get one out of that. The rest of them, scared to go, because they didn't want to lose their job.
WHITAKER: Is it raining?
DELEAR: It's not raining out but it looks like it's about to.
How did you feel about him coming around the barbershop? Mickey McGuire?
WHITAKER: Well, it was good, cause we wanted to hear what he had to say and during that time there wasn't no threat because up in the day like this, there wasn't no police and wasn't nobody around to tell us something. He tell us something because he had been to these other cities and things with these marches and things. And most of the people come down liked what he had to say. They wouldn't go marching with him but they wanted to listen to what he had to say.
DELEAR: So how were things like for you during this period.
WHITAKER: Well, it was good. It was good for me. Cause I never did march with them but I was always looking. Then I could march because I was self employed, I didn't have nobody that was going to fire me. I think I went with them a time or two. But I know whole lots of times.
DELEAR: So besides the marches and the court case. Did anything else happen around here during that period?
WHITAKER: Well, that was about all. There was whole lots happen that it would take the older people to tell you more about it than I could. Back in the days. What was going on. Lots more people know a whole lot more things that I don't know. We let old Glenn get away. He could have told us a whole lot more than what I could, because he was right in the center of things that was going on back then.
DELEAR: It would be great if you could get me his phone number. I think that there are a couple people on the oral history project that are still trying to line up interviews. If you want to, I'll see if somebody could interview him.
WHITAKER: Okay, let me see if I can find his number here.
EMPLOYEE: What are you interviewing for?
DELEAR: I'm a graduate student up at SFA. For the African American Heritage Project the history department is doing a bunch of interviews.
WHITAKER: What do you need?
DELEAR: I was just going to get a phone number but, you know, we can keep going on this.
WHITAKER: [Unintelligible] . . . is it raining yet?
AIKMAN: It's trying to. I hope it don't.
WHITAKER: Glenn's name is in the book, M. L. Glenn on First Street. He's in the book.
DELEAR: Okay, so, let me ask. Around here, what did most people do? Did they work? Did they farm?
WHITAKER: Way back when we come on people had just about quit farming. They farmed way back in the days. These wasn't a whole lot to farm. Everyone was working. They worked at the saw mills, hauled pulpwood, and all this stuff. Too many people come. Hauling things in the sixties was just about gone. There was one time lot of people were working hauling pulpwood, working for themselves. And then they worked at a bunch of poultry and they worked over there, they had a saw mill on the other side of town, a lot of people worked out there. Then they had a Frog Johnson that was over here, poultry over there. Then they had [unintelligible] products. There was a lot of places for people to work. Then they worked at the college, they worked at the refinery.
DELEAR: Well let me ask, the 4th of July is coming up. What would the 4th of July be like back then?
WHITAKER: We celebrate that too, but we celebrate the 19th of June [June 19th, 1865 is the day that slavery ended in Texas, also known as Juneteenth]. All the mills and everybody would close down to celebrate the 19th of June. Then we had the 4th when the White folks shut down, we'd celebrate the 4th to. So we really had two holidays. We'd celebrate the 19th of June then we'd come back and celebrate the, before.
DELEAR: What was the Juneteenth celebration like?
WHITAKER: Well it was a big big thing. We'd play ball and barbeque. We start the 17th, 18th and 19th playing ball and barbequing. Making ice cream and doing everything. The 19th of June was a big day back when we talked, big time. Everybody would celebrate the 19th of June. They're trying to get is started back. But it still isn't anything like it was back in the '50s and sixties because it was a big thing for Blacks back then.
AIKMAN: Still though . . . [laughs]
DELEAR: Did any of the White community join in the celebration?
WHITAKER: Yeah, they would always. Because we would play lots of ball so lots of White would always watching the ball. We had a big hardball game . . . they just came by and watch, you know. They never would eat barbeque, because there was plenty of barbeque and stuff like that then.
[Sounds of electric clippers, customers coming in and out of the shop.]
DELEAR: In the late sixties Vietnam was going on. How did people around here feel about the war?
WHITAKER: Well they was drafted . . . they were drafting them back in that day. Well when I went, I didn't pass, but my friends they was drafted and sent into the service then. That was a big thing. They didn't want to go, but if they draft you, you can't help but going. [A new patron arrives and various people in the barbershop spend the next several minutes discussing a recent celebration and disposition of the leftover food. Several conversations are heard on the recording.]
[End of audio one]
WHITAKER: I'm listening, I'm listening.
DELEAR: Okay. Can you tell me a little bit about the community then and now?
WHITAKER: It's beginning to rain.
UNKNOWN: Wow. [Whitaker opens back door of shop to reveal rain coming down heavily. Whitaker races outside to roll up windows on a late model truck.]
WHITAKER: We often stayed to ourselves. We didn't have no lots of mixing Black and White in the community. There wasn't no mixing. We was over here and the White folks was over there.
DELEAR: I saw you running out to your truck just now. Did Black folks have cars back in the fifties?
WHITAKER: Yeah, yeah they had cars. Black folks always have had cars. That's what I'm saying look, at that trait. Brand new car every two years. They bought the car making thirty-eight, thirty-six dollars a week. They had brand new Pontiacs. They cost seven hundred seventy seven dollars. Bunch of blacks had cars. Then old Trailways, you could go up there and rent one . . . them's eight, ten, twelve dollar cars. We'd rent them for the weekend. Old Trailways, we always had ways to get around.
DELEAR: When you'd rent a car for the weekend where would you go with it?
WHITAKER: We'd have plenty, you know what I'm saying. We'd go to the Black Cat we'd call it. We'd go to the liquor down there on [highway] ninety-four. Nacogdoches [County] wasn't wet so we'd go down there and get something to drink. On ninety-four down there. On the way back Mr. Roebuck was going to stop you and put you in jail [laughs]. They'd take you to jail for gone. Some of us slipped through and some of us couldn't. That's when we learned you get so far then cut, and cut through, Pineland. Cut and go out the other way. You know after, we know, where they were going to be we'd find another, some more routes another routes where he wouldn't put us in jail.
DELEAR: Do you think the police where doing that to harass you?
WHITAKER: Oh yeah, they had the high rights in the thing. I guess . . . they say that they were doing their job so. It was one of them things. You can call it this. You can call it that. Some of them were good. Most of them where bad.
DELEAR: Did you ever have any run-ins with the police?
WHITAKER: I haven't ever been in jail all the days of my life. I'm sixty seven and I ain't been in jail any of that time. Never did go to jail.
DELEAR: Did you ever know anybody who ran for office for anything?
WHITAKER: Run what?
DELEAR: Well I know your son's running for office now.
WHITAKER: I had a brother. My brother run for constable. Back eight or ten years ago he ran for constable. And Upshaw he was the constable, eight or ten years ago.
DELEAR: So what was that like?
WHITAKER: No. He never did win. It was a challenge because it was mostly in the Black community in Precinct 2 that was mostly considered Black. Then when they started to get black commissioners and all this stuff in there it would mostly be in Precinct 2, it was mostly Black folk that put them in.
DELEAR: And that was Upshaw County or was this in Nacogdoches?
WHITAKER: That's Nacogdoches. Precinct 2 is inside, that's on this side of town. This side of town on Bunkee Hill and the Mill Pond. Old Man Hillson was the first commissioner. Silent Whitaker was the next one. Then his son Honere got it. Then I think Cotton got it now.
DELEAR: Let me ask. Was there ever problems with Black folk in town going to the bank? Opening up a bank account or getting a loan?
WHITAKER: Certain people didn't give you a loan. Old Monk and them over at Stone Fort Bank during that time. They would help a whole lot people, trying to give them a loan. If you were working he would help you. Certain people just wouldn't give you no loan. Over at Commercial Bank it was hard to get a loan over there. John LeRoche [phonetic] and them, and everyone copied them. They just had certain people that they might let borrow money. Old Johnny LeRoche, Mr. Overton, I bought my first car from him it cost me one hundred dollars. He took, me over there and old Johnny LeRoche, he let me have a hundred dollars. Told me to pay ten dollars a month. I was staying with my mother so I started paying twenty. So I paid it off both time and I saved me five hundred dollars to buy me a better car. So I went in there he said, "what do you want boy." I said, "Well Mr. LeRoche I want to talk to you about buying another car." He went back there and pulled the file and he said: "hell no, hell no, I told you to you to pay ten. You ended up paying twenty. Hell no" [laughter]. So I had to leave that. So I went on to Stone Fort and that's where I stayed all my time. I didn't ever borrow no more money from Commercial Bank. You had to pick your places to get the money.
DELEAR: In the African American Community, did most people put their money in both banks or did they favor one?
WHITAKER: A few. The few who few who did fool with it, put their money in the Stone Fort Bank. A few like Chichi Garret he was over at Commercial Bank because he worked over there. He couldn't go nowhere else to put his money because they'd fire him. Most people got their start from Stone Fort Bank. . .
DELEAR: Was Stone Fort Bank.
WHITAKER: That's the original bank, now.
DELEAR: I think they merged a couple years ago. How did people feel about that?
WHITAKER: Well it's still doing good. You know, people who know you got to raise up and got to do. You know I still got my main accounts at Stone Fort Bank, but I got some in Commercial, and some all around now. I ain't just got them in one place no more. I'm not the . . . [unintelligible].
[Several seconds of patrons talking.]
DELEAR: Did most African Americans own or rent in town?
WHITAKER: Most of them rented. Lots of them had their own place. Lots of people had their own places. They bought and paid for their place. Rent wasn't, two dollars and fifty cents, [or] a dollar and a half way back then. Lots of people were renting, lots of people, you know, had their places. A lot of them had those houses up there. A lot of black people would rent from them at two dollars and fifty cents a week. There were lots of people who stayed up there. And there were lots of people, you know family people, had their own places.
DELEAR: Did anybody have some land that might have oil under it? And be involved with that?
WHITAKER: Yeah, yeah I imagine that they do. Some of them.
DELEAR: Did they ever have any issues relating to that and problems with the oil company?
WHITAKER: I don't really know about all of that. Cause they just started getting all this oil and stuff a little later on. Up here on up. Back then in the fifties and sixties didn't nobody have no oil. They weren't drilling no oil and stuff around here in the sixties and '70s.
DELEAR: So it was mainly timber and chickens and such.
WHITAKER: Chickens, yeah chickens, and timber, you know. People out in the country would farm bring in peas, corn and stuff like that. There wasn't lots of people doing that like there was in the forties and fifties. People were always had little truck patch and they came to town to sell things like that.
DELEAR: Well in the fifties when you where growing up did they have a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables from the farm? Were people doing that?
WHITAKER: Yeah. You could always get fresh, fresh fruit and vegetables because we had a little garden at the house. Wasn't a whole lots, just enough for us to eat in the community and things. When somebody get it you'd go get a mess of greens or peas or whatever they had. Had this little community thing where everybody eats from the garden.
DELEAR: Well I know things where pretty hard in Nacogdoches during the depression. Afterwards in the fifties was everybody okay? Or, did you still have people that didn't have enough to eat?
WHITAKER: Well in the fifties we always had plenty to eat, it might not always have been what we wanted but there was plenty to eat. Mama always had some milk and cornbread. You weren't going to starve. Rather you wanted it or not there was always going to be something to eat. There's going to be some potatoes and biscuits or something on the plate there. I don't know back in those days when you said they didn't get nothing, but we always had plenty to eat. Might not have been what you wanted but we was always going to have something to eat, beans, fresh peas. Might not be no lots of meat but you weren't going to starve.
DELEAR: What where the churches like back then?
WHITAKER: We always had good spiritual churches that taught right from wrong, you know. Blacks over here, Whites over there, always has been just like it is now. Now you got people who are mixing it up but there isn't a whole lot of them to be jumping up and shouting about it. They ain't got no integrated churches on Sunday. White folks over their Black folks over here. We maybe got some White folks who'd like to go their but it isn't whole lots like it ought to be.
DELEAR: When things started to change did it open up more opportunities for Black folk?
WHITAKER: Yeah, it opened up lots of good opportunities. That's what I'm saying. People got better jobs. They started living better, they started doing better, they started riding better, they started dressing better, because the jobs and things. They got better jobs and give them a chance to work some of these place. We had people who work on the lighting companies, the telephone companies. Always had worked at the city but you had to be throwing the garbage, now we have people who drive the city truck. They didn't get to drive the truck back then, all they was going to do is toss the garbage, wasn't going to be driving no garbage truck.
DELEAR: Were there any other notable things that happened in the sixties and seventies around here that might not be remembered today?
WHITAKER: Not whole lots, no. Most of the White and the Blacks you know are coming more together now. Helping with the 19th of June than anything White folks being involved in that more now than would back in the day when it was just mostly Black. We got lots of White folks that's involved in the 19th of June or helping marching. Done got better on that end.
DELEAR: How did people feel around here during the first moon landing? Did they watch it on TV?
WHITAKER: We still got some older Black people who don't believe that they did get to the moon. It be hard to convince them. That was a bit easier when they went to the moon. Everybody was talking about it. How wonderful it was, and all that.
DELEAR: So I know earlier you said you had a couple kids. What was your wife doing during this time?
WHITAKER: My wife was a teacher. She taught at Brooks-Quinn [elementary]. She was a teacher.
DELEAR: What was integration like for her?
WHITAKER: Well she taught in the integrated schools. About the same. Certain things that you were allowed to do and certain things you wasn't.
DELEAR: So what was [unintelligible, barbershop noise] . . .
WHITAKER: Well I wasn't going to lie to you. You couldn't be like I said going up there and sitting down at one of them their counters and order you a hamburger. You couldn't go up there and do that, the going to take you to jail. You go up there to one of them sandwich shops sit down and tell them you want a hamburger and see where you go.
DELEAR: Anybody ever try it?
WHITAKER: Yeah they tried it. That back when they first started integrating, they went in there and they called the law.
DELEAR: Did the Black community do anything like stop . . .
WHITAKER: Stop going in there?
WHITAKER: Well they stopped but they didn't do it like they did down there in Alabama. You know everybody quit riding the buses. People, you always have a few that are going to do their thing. After they put so much pressure on them folks they closed the shop down themselves. Strickland, they shut down, Smith Brothers, they shut down. Some of these cafes we would go in the back and eat, they shut down, and some of them started letting them come on in the front.
DELEAR: What one started letting people come sit on down and come on in?
WHITAKER: Sixty what? When they started letting them come inside. Probably about '65,'66, '70 they let them start coming in to eat.
DELEAR: Was that all the shops? What where the shops that didn't close down? Do you remember any of them? Any of the lunch counters that decided not close?
WHITAKER: I told you Strickland's, Smith, and they were drug stores you go and they had them counters where you sat down and got a sandwich. All of them did close down uptown.
AIKMAN: He asked you which ones didn't close down. He said which one's didn't close down.
WHITAKER: Perry's. Perry Brothers didn't. That's one of the ones where we sat down in there and eat. It was uptown. Perry's was uptown. We started sitting down and eating in there. That was about the only place that we went.
DELEAR: Well was there any Klan activity in Nacogdoches?
WHITAKER: Klan. No we didn't have a big Klan [laughter in shop]. Many of them are up there now. They don't put the hood on no more. Them Tea Party, what do you think them is. Yeah, you know [laughter in shop]. They got a different way of telling about the Klan now. They ain't got no more hoods. They'll drag you a different way now.
DELEAR: Did the Klan ever march in Nacogdoches.
WHITAKER: Yeah, yeah. They been up there. Still there. They've been downtown, Nacogdoches.
SHOP PATRON: Downtown, courthouse.
WHITAKER: Yeah the Klan.
DELEAR: When was that the Klan marched?
WHITAKER: I can't recall the date. When the Klan was uptown. They had a big day when they was up around the courthouse up there. I can't remember when it was. They done been up there a time or two.
DELEAR: Can you remember who was President when they were marching?
WHITAKER: They were marching . . . Johnson, Johnson was the President. They'd killed Kennedy. Johnson had to be the President during the era they were doing all that.
DELEAR: So how did people in the African American community react to the Klan marches?
WHITAKER: We just stayed away from them and they stayed away from us. They marched up there and we weren't around them because we knew what they was about. We couldn't tell them like they told us what we thought of them. What we thought about it. So we just stayed out distance from them. They taught us to stay away from that stuff.
DELEAR: Were there any problems with them doing anything besides marching? Burning crosses in somebody's yard or some such.
WHITAKER: No, I don't think they come over here and burn no things. I don't know. Did they burn one up in Waverly? No. They were. . .
DELEAR: So in the seventies and eighties where there any changes that struck you in how the community was changing?
WHITAKER: Yeah. From the sixties to the seventies you could see the changes all the time because people started doing better, started relating more. Start being involved in more activities because we got better jobs and better relationships with the Black and Whites. More Black people where going to school from the seventies on up. There wasn't not problem like there was back when me and Aikman went to school. They wasn't over here and we weren't no up there.
DELEAR: Well, I know that you told me earlier that there were a lot of African Americans working for SFA and people started going there in the mid sixties. I mean African Americans. Where they mainly from Nacogdoches?
WHITAKER: Yeah they from Nacogdoches. They were working there. You know go to work and come home. Go to work and get away from there. You didn't hang around up there doing nothing that you didn't have no business if you wanted to work up there.
DELEAR: And people had lost their jobs for doing things up there that wouldn't be considered a problem today?
WHITAKER: What I'm saying you know it was a job up there. You know how folks talk about what you were doing. So you go to work and get away from up there to keep from getting into any trouble. You know Black men leaves those White girls alone. So you'd go to work and get out from up there if you wanted to stay around here in Nacogdoches.
DELEAR: Well if a Black man had ended up with a White girl would he have lost his job or . . .
WHITAKER: No. He done get forty years in the penitentiary was what he was going to get [laughter in shop]. Forty years.
DELEAR: Did that happen to anybody?
WHITAKER: I knew a few of my friends that got forty years.
DELEAR: Did you think things changed once there started to be African American students at SFA?
WHITAKER: Up there?
WHITAKER: Well it started changing, but what I'm saying is that you still knew how far the line was drawn. Started mixing more, started coming in. You take now. Lots of guys that who are playing ball and stuff. They come to get their hair cut they bring their girls with them. Bring their White girls with them and all that they don't think nothing about it. It was just one of them things back then.
SHOP PATRON: Wasn't heard of.
WHITAKER: It wasn't allowed.
DELEAR: Was the impression in the community here that the only Black kids going to SFA were athletes or were people going there for academics?
WHITAKER: Well we had, most of the time mostly, when they came in they were playing basketball. That's what mostly brought them in cause football, it wasn't too many of them academic boys up there. They brought them in to play football and basketball.
DELEAR: How many of them graduated?
WHITAKER: There's been a few but it wasn't a whole lots of them that graduated. Wasn't a whole lots of them graduated after they get through. I think Joey Johnson he graduated because he tough school at Nacogdoches High. He was the head basketball coach up there. There was a few that graduated but it wasn't no back there during that early. More of them that's graduating now. You got lots them that are graduating. But back in the day wasn't a whole lots of them that where graduating.
DELEAR: Was that a source of tension between the community and the school?
WHITAKER: No. Because that was a good way for people to work. You'd go to work, do what you had to do, then come back home and people needed a job.
DELEAR: Just to get out from the sixties a little bit you mentioned Obama a little bit earlier. Was there a large Obama campaign in this area?
WHITAKER: Yeah, Yeah. There was lots of people pulling for Obama and everything. Lot of Blacks pulling for him.
DELEAR: Do you know anybody around here who went to a rally or helped out?
WHITAKER: What was that guy's name?
SHOP PATRON: Eric Jones
WHITAKER: Eric Jones, he was very, very involved in it. He went to Florida to help with the campaign down there. He stayed in Nacogdoches. I can give you his number. You can talk to him. Give him the number J. R.
DELEAR: How do you think Obama is doing, what do you think about Obama . . .
WHITAKER: I think he's doing a great job! I'll talk loud. He's doing a great job. People lay everything on him. He's doing a great job. Them diehards like, oh what's his name, he just died, Byrd [refers to Robert Byrd, Senator from West Virginia]. He's been a hater for years [Byrd was once a member of the KKK]. You got all them hater up there. They all be dead or gone in time, that's the problem. It's been thirty, forty fifty years and you can't get nothing done until they said. They are the folks running the country. See that' another of them Klan's and things. They all want to do what they want to do. We ought to turn them all out, running twelve years, and get some young folks out there and run it and we wouldn't have all this stuff. It wouldn't be going on.
DELEAR: Well, back in the fifties, sixties and seventies, I know there was a lot of political activism back then. Was there ever an attempt to turn somebody like that, somebody who was very prejudiced, out of office?
WHITAKER: Was the blacks trying to get somebody out of office who was prejudiced?
DELEAR: Or the community in general, either way?
WHITAKER: Well if you did that you'd have to get them all out. They all was prejudiced. You had a few that was for the right things but, but the majority of them, they make the law and set the law and break the law the way they want to back in the day. Now it's different. Now it's different.
DELEAR: Did anybody ever have any problems with Nacogdoches government? City Government? County?
WHITAKER: Well we did have a few people that started on the City Commission. The problems with that is that most Black's don't go to the City Commission meeting. They don't know what's really going on. That's in the city you know. We don't go hollering until it's too late. Just like when they tore the swimming pool down. We didn't know what was going on until they were hauling dirt into the swimming pool. Arthur Temple donated that to Nacogdoches. In the black community when we know them things that were going on they'd already voted for it in the City Commission to get rid of it. When we know what was going on they were covering it up. We can't lay it on nobody because it was our fault. We should have been to the commission and heard it and protested.
DELEAR: When was that?
WHITAKER: Oh it's been happening a little while ago, what four or five years.
SHOP PATRON: It was more than that.
SHOP PATRON 2: Eight, ten years.
WHITAKER: Eight, ten years that they covered the waters, the pool, up.
EMPLOYEE: Back in the nineties. Back in '95, '96.
[Hands interviewer card with phone number on it]
M. L. Glenn then. M. L. is an older man that you can kinda refer to who knows a little bit more about back in that era [1950s].
DELEAR: Thank you. Was that swimming pool that they covered up. You said that Temple had donated it. Had it been there for quite a while?
WHITAKER: Yeah, they donated it way back when we was in high school early sixties. I don't know, 1960 . . .
[Aikman is now sitting in barber chair receiving a haircut from Whitaker]
AIKMAN : No, no, no. We been down there swimming when they tore up the ground for it. You know Charles [inaudible] and them came out in '59. They where life guards.
WHITAKER: It was '58 when they started building it.
AIKMAN: It was '58, '59 because Charles and them where lifeguards there.
WHITAKER: So it stayed up there tell, I don't when they covered it, it had to be in the nineties.
UNKNOWN 1: Mid-nineties, '93, '94.
UNKNOWN 2: It was probably about '95. Sometime around there. I don't know I was out of school then.
UNKNOWN 1: We where both out.
WHITAKER: That was something to give the Black community somewhere to go. They covered it up and paid for it.
UNKNOWN 1: They almost paid for it.
WHITAKER: We sure hated that but we can't fault nobody but ourselves. We should have been to the meeting and protested that.
[Phone rings. Whitaker exits the room. Recorder is still on].
DELEAR: You know this things going?
[Interviewer moves recorder]
DELEAR: Do you remember anything about the pool?
AIKMAN: That's not where we learned to swim. Where we learned down in this creek. Arthur Temple built that pool for us. City and everything running through that creek, we was down there swimming. I was a lifeguard at that pool '63, '64.
DELEAR: So you learned to swim in the creek and then they built the pool.
AIKMAN: Yeah, Arthur Temple built that pool for us.
DELEAR: I take it you all enjoyed the pool then?
AIKMAN: They should have left it there because when they were running pool ideas, you ain't got no way to get way out there. Not that the kids have.
DELEAR: So the pool was what somewhere here in town in walking distance?
AIKMAN: What about two blocks from here you all? About two blocks from here. Moore Street . . . [unintelligible] Moore, yeah two, three blocks from here.
DELEAR: Well I think I have you enough on this little tape gizy that I probably need to get a release form from you. Yeah we're going to put this over, one copy of the transcript is going to the ETRC [East Texas Research Center, Ralph W. Steen Library, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas] the other to the African American Heritage Project and I'll be giving Taylor here a copy of the CD with everything on it.
AIKMAN: That's where everybody learned how to swim at that swimming pool.
EMPLOYEE: Yeah I'm sure. You taught me how to swim in that pool. Me my wife Michelle there.
AIKMAN: I think we got that at fifteen, because Charles Structum [phonetic] who came out of school in '59 was the first lifeguards. Charles, Freddie Turtham [phonetic]. All them boys back then. I wasn't no lifeguard there until the sixties.
DELEAR: So what was it like being a lifeguard at the pool in the sixties?
AIKMAN: Well you'd have to make them mind and that's all. All those little rug rats you'd have to keep an eye on them that's all.
EMPLOYEE: Lots of little babies.
AIKMAN: There you go.
EMPLOYEE: Was there any rise up there?
EMPLOYEE: Was there any rise up there when you was up there at first, like a confrontation with the Whites, anything?
UNKNOWN: There was one up there by the high school.
AIKMAN: What I said up there running, running.
AIKMAN: Right there by the football fields. You go up their now they can get out.
UNKNOWN: Oh yeah?
AIKMAN: Yeah [laughs].
UNKNOWN: I've been up there. We went up their when I was in school baiting race. We go up like White at that school.
DELEAR: There was a confrontation at the high school at some point?
AIKMAN: Well I couldn't say because we swim over here [tone of voice implies proceeding statement might be false]. Moronic pools out there now because everyone now goes to that Boys and Girls club.
EMPLOYEE: You say you haven't finished Stephen F. Austin?
DELEAR: Actually I'm a graduate student up there. I did my undergrad at Texas State and then when the economy went south I went into Oil and Gas for a bit and decided to come back and get a Master's and do some teaching. Figured it would be steadier work than anything that involved an Oil well.
EMPLOYEE: Is this your home?
DELEAR: Nah, actually I was up in Louisiana for a little bit. Then I was working out with an Oil Services Company out of Marshall doing landmaning stuff. Then the entire company got laid off one day. I just figured it was time to go back to school, so that's my story.
WHITAKER: That's our city commissioner right there.
WHITAKER: That's our city commissioner. He was interviewing on the heritage of Nacogdoches. I was telling him about you all. He might answer a question or two for you.
DELEAR: Let me go grab this real quick. Hi. Stephen Delear. I'm doing some interviews for the African American Heritage Project. I'm a student at Stephen F. Austin. And we were doing basically, the Heritage Project asked us to get some information about this area in the sixties.
COMMISSIONER: I know where you're going. I already talked to one guy.
DELEAR: Oh we already have you, then. Okay.
COMMISSIONER: Yeah I already talked to one guy, came to my house.
DELEAR: Oh, okay. Well in that case I think I'm pretty much . . . thank you for being interviewed by the way.
Well in that case, I think I'm pretty much, running out of ideas for question. Is there anything you'd like to add? I mean I've been asking questions here for an hour and a half.
WHITAKER: You just about wrapped up everything. I'd like you to give me your number and stuff like that in case I think of something else.
[End of audio two]