Interviewer's Name: M. Scott Sosebee and Paul J. P. Sandul
Interview Date and Location: The interview was conducted on August 15, 2011 in the home of Sharon and Sam Allison in Waco, TX.
Context Notes: Interview and transcription completed in conjunction with the Charlie Wilson Oral History Project at Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas.
This is the second interview with Sharon Allison for the Charlie Wilson Oral History Project. In this interview, both Sam Allison, Sharon's husband, and Sam W. Allison, Sharon's son, are present and contribute.
Tapes and Interview Record: The original recordings of the interview and a full transcript are held by the East Texas Research Center, R. W. Steen Library, Stephen F. Austin State University, Nacogdoches, Texas
Transcription Notes: The policy of the Charlie Wilson Oral History Project has been to eliminate false starts and crutch words from transcriptions when determined not to affect the meaning and flow of the spoken word. Obviously, and admittedly, this is a subjective endeavor and all care was taken to maintain the integrity of the interview.
The interviewers M. Scott Sosebee and Paul J. P. Sandul are identified as SOSEBEE and SANDUL, respectively. Sharon Wilson Allison is identified as SHARON and her husband Sam Allison is identified as SAM (first names were chosen because Sharon and Sam share the same last name). Their son, Sam W. Allison, is identified as SAM W.
SOSEBEE: We're continuing on in Waco, which we started in Waco [with interviews with Sam Allison, Sharon's husband, and Sam W. Allison, their son]. Sharon has come home now. We've had the morning and we had a good lunch and she was out working and doing important things while we were doing this. She has now come home and so we're back with Charlie's sister, Sharon, continuing with her interview. And she was relaying, and she's telling us about, first, her mother and father. Where did they grow up? Where are they from? Their backgrounds?
SHARON: Daddy grew up in Texarkana, Arkansas. He was actually-or Texarkana, Texas-but he actually was born in Arkadelphia, Arkansas.
SHARON: In 1905. And Mother was born in 1907 in a very small East Texas community that's no longer there called Old Willard. And it was a sawmill town. Her father was with the sawmill. My father, at 17, came to Trinity with a man named Paul Sanderson whose family had bought Texas Long Leaf Lumber Company. And Daddy came as the controller. In fact, I have a picture of all those guys sittin' out front in 1929.
SANDUL: Oh, wow.
SHARON: And Charlie loved this picture.
SHARON: And I'll show it to you and you can scan it if you'd like.
SANDUL: Oh, definitely.
SHARON: But anyway, he was the controller of Texas Long Leaf Lumber Company and they got to Trinity. And Mother, at the time, had gone to Southwestern University in Georgetown, and went one year and was very, very homesick. And I don't know this for a fact, but I have a feeling that finances probably had something to do with her coming home, too. Her mother had been widowed when her mother was 6. Her father died of something that they called consumption in those days. I have a feeling it was lung cancer because everybody smoked, but I don't know. But anyway, could've been tuberculosis, too.
SANDUL: Tuberculosis. We have a medical person here, yeah [Sandul alludes to his wife, Natosha L. Sandul, a medical professional, who is in attendance as well].
SHARON: Well it could've been. But anyway, he died of that. And my grandmother was hilarious. And he couldn't, he wasn't supposed to eat, they were trying to keep him, I don't know. But she would cook something that smelled really good so he could smell it. To me that's about the cruelest thing I've ever heard.
SOSEBEE: That sounds cruel.
SHARON: Absolutely. There's so many stories about that, grandmother, but anyway, mother and daddy married in 1929. They met in Trinity and courted. By this time, mother was quite a musician, and played the piano very well.
SANDUL: Piano, okay.
SHARON: Either with music or by ear.
SOSEBEE: Did she teach you and Charlie to play the piano?
SHARON: She tried. She stood behind with a switch; it never worked [laughter], trying to get me to practice. Charlie was much more musical than I. But anyway . . .
SOSEBEE: So his love of music probably came from . . .
SHARON: Well we both love it, but that's where it started. And Charlie could sing and he played the trumpet in high school, in the band. But anyway, mother was helping to support her grandmother, my grandmother, and herself by playing music in the background of the silent movies. You know, the horses had come, "Dum dah dah dum. . ." And the romantic songs in the background. But anyway, they met and married. Lived through the Depression. Charlie was born in 1933 and I was a big surprise nine years later in 1942 [laughter]. And they always lived with my grandmother. And so when I was born into that house, and somewhere I have pictures of that, the house where Charlie and I were both born, but we lived there. And then my mother's brother Jack, who we all absolutely adored, played the boogie-woogie-type piano. And so there was always . . .
SAM: Played in New Orleans bars, didn't he?
SHARON: Well he had worked in New Orleans' bars. He had an alcohol problem. And so he had a marriage that didn't last; four children. But Charlie and I for years grew up in a house with our mother and dad, our Uncle Jack, and our grandmother, until both our grandmother died and then Uncle Jack died. And grandmother died in 1948 and Uncle Jack died in 1952.
SHARON: So, it wasn't just our nuclear family.
SHARON: And Trinity is a little town where everybody knew everybody and everybody, it was almost like an extended family. And you didn't talk about people because it would get back to them. And if you did, I mean if anything was said, you knew it wasn't to be repeated. But by and large people were very kind to each other and treated each other like an extended family. And seeing "The Help" night before last brought back lots of memories. We always had an African-American woman who cooked and cleaned and ironed and washed and all those things. And we were not a family with a lot of money, people just . . . it was part of the life in the South and East Texas in those days. And we, Charlie and I, always became very close with the people. Mother later had a flower shop, so they were also babysitters. But Charlie left home about the time I was 6, because he was in a group that when they put 12 grades in the high school, they graduated the 11th grade, and Charlie was one of those and so he was barely 16.
SANDUL: Oh, okay.
SHARON: He was 16 in, actually it was almost, he was barely 16; he was 16 that June that he graduated from high school. So mother and daddy knew that he wasn't mature enough. And he was, he really managed to get in trouble in high school. Not for doing anything horrible, never with the law, but just impudence and mischievous [laughter].
SANDUL: Yeah, yeah.
SHARON: And he, they sent him to Lon Morris College. We were Methodist and Lon Morris is in Jacksonville. And it, very small school, it was a good choice. And so that's where he went his first year. Then he went to Texas, and all in between we went to Sam Houston [University] in the summers and I remember his, by now mother and daddy had built their house. And Grandmother and Uncle Jack moved there with us, which was out on Highway 19, but out on the highway, and I remember vividly when Charlie would go to Sam Houston. I mean we had, we were a one family car.
SHARON: Charlie would go down and . . .
SOSEBEE: Hitch a ride?
SHARON: . . . hitch a ride and put his thumb out and go to school and it was no big deal. And then he knew what time to go down the street, he'd go to his classes and come back. And that was just an acceptable means of transportation. And he probably had enough hours to be a junior when he got his appointment to the naval academy. And he wasn't but 18 or 19 then. And he started the naval academy in 1952 and graduated in '56. It was just such a big deal to me because I idolized Charlie. And I, of course, never heard of the naval academy until then, or much else outside of Trinity, Sam Houston. And I just, Charlie wrote to me all the time and he bought my first brownie hawkeye camera for me for Christmas that first year that he was away and I thought that was the coolest thing I'd ever seen. And he bought me one of those big things that you look through and saw slides . . .
SHARON: U-Masters. U-Masters. But all those cool-Charlie's always been a cool gift-giver. And I would see pictures of the naval academy. I knew more about the naval academy than he did as a plebe [cadet] I do believe, because he sent me the little book plebes had to learn all the rules and all, I knew the words to every song, I knew every cheer for the football games.
SOSEBEE: So he sent you his book? Did he not have it?
SHARON: I'm sure it was a copy.
SOSEBEE: Is that why he had so many infractions, he didn't have the rule book?
SHARON: Oh, he just didn't read it. I'm sure he had one [laughter].But, anyway, it . . . we went up to June Week, drove a car with, you know, I told you dad had come in town to Trinity with Paul Sanderson to work at the . . . well, his widow, Mr. Sanderson's widow, was the wealthiest person in that part of East Texas, and she had a big long Cadillac limousine and a chauffer. And mother and daddy and I and the chauffer got in that car and drove up for June Week. And I remember vividly, it was so hard finding a place, the chauffer was African American, and finding a place that the chauffer could spend the night.
SOSEBEE: Is that right?
SHARON: And restaurants would bring food out to . . . I mean, and, you know, that was my first awareness probably of what a difference there was. And Charlie was mortified I'm sure with this Cadillac and chauffer . . . it was such a different impression of who we really were, you know. But anyway, it was a lot of fun. And we also went to the Army-Navy game in that car.
SOSEBEE: In that Cadillac.
SHARON: With that same thing. So that was my first trip to, out of Texas. You know, we went to Philadelphia, I guess that was that November and then we went back for June Week and then we went back for June Week his, when he graduated. And one thing that happened that you all may not know. Charlie was just devastated with, his senior year he had been accepted in flight school, and he really wanted to be a navy pilot. And they called daddy to come up there, but they, and apparently with kids it's a huge deal to be told that, no, kids actually can't do that, because they had discovered what bad hay fever Charlie had. And I guess Charlie hadn't been real open about that and he really hadn't suffered as much from it being out of East Texas, even though he had as bad a hay fever as anybody I've ever known, and he lived on pyribenzamine. But, I remember President Sukarno from Indonesia was there at the time at the, visiting the naval academy, and they had it all locked down for tight security but let my daddy in to go comfort Charlie, which is really strange when you think about the military and the navy. And I've thought about that. But anyway, he went on to, loved being a gunnery officer on the . . . which he was the first three years of his four-year commitment after Annapolis. And then the fourth year he was in intelligence at the Pentagon, go figure [laughter].
SOSEBEE: He learned how to keep a secret there . . .
SHARON: Yeah, and well he loved, he loved, he loved the military and he was a real patriot, he really was . . .
SOSEBEE: Is it kind of surprising that, I mean, that he didn't stay in to make it career? Was it the political calling that . . . ?
SHARON: I think it was. And the connection there and why that year at the Pentagon was so important is he volunteered in JFK's, that was 1959, I guess, he volunteered in JFK's campaign. And he just got bitten by the bug big time. And he came home on a 30-day leave, which was also illegal I think, to run for office while you were in the military.
SOSEBEE: Yeah it was illegal.
SHARON: And he came home and ran, was only home on a 30-day leave, and ran and knocked on every door in East Texas because he wasn't known outside of Trinity at all, and got elected. So that's what, I think he might've stayed . . .
SOSEBEE: What did your mom and dad think about that?
SHARON: Well they thought everything he did was pretty cool. They thought everything either one of us did was fine as long as we were on the right side of the law. But they got real interested in politics. Daddy had always claimed to be a Republican till that time. But he really wasn't . . .
SOSEBEE: Well he was telling us the story that, Sam was telling us earlier of, during the Stevenson and Eisenhower campaign where they wore dueling buttons.
SHARON: I mean it was like a tennis match at the dinner table.
SANDUL: Yeah, yeah. How funny.
SOSEBEE: So he actually wasn't one of the Texas Democrats, one of the Shiver-, he wasn't one of the Shiver-crats who said that they were voting for Eisenhower although they were mainly Democrat ["Shiver-cats" is a reference to the Democratic Governor of Texas Allan Shivers (1949-57)]. He really claimed to be a Republican.
SHARON: That I cannot tell you. I don't know. I just know he had an "I Like Ike" button and mother had [an Adlai Stevenson, Democratic opponent of Eisenhower in both 1952 and 1956] . . . button.
SOSEBEE: Because it would've been very rare to have, particularly in East Texas, someone actually say "I'm a Republican."
SHARON: It could've been.
SOSEBEE: There were a few of them around.
SHARON: But daddy was, daddy admired Eisenhower a lot and what he had done.
SOSEBEE: Well tell us about your father. I mean . . . his job and what he was like.
SHARON: Well daddy was just one of the kindest people in the world and I think these two will agree with you [Sam and Sam W. Allison]. And he was, as I said, they, my parents were both very hardworking. And daddy went out on his own and opened an accounting office. And he also was a county school tax assessor and collector and he had an independent pulpit business.
SOSEBEE: Did the lumber business, did it shut down . . . ?
SHARON: It sold, well, he had already left. After he left, it sold to Southland Paper Corporation, I believe. And then they closed that mill. But all of our forbearers in one way or the other back two generations ago were in the sawmill business one way or the other. And so daddy did all of those things and he was very supportive. Now Charlie and daddy did not have the same interests as far as-daddy was a outdoorsman, hunter, and fisherman. Charlie liked to be outdoors but he didn't give a hoot about hunting and fishing even though he loved guns which . . .
SOSEBEE: That's kind of strange [laughs].
SHARON: I don't understand. But he didn't want to kill anything. In fact he, Sam, and I loved to fish and Charlie always said . . .
SOSEBEE: Except Russian soldiers.
SHARON: Oh my goodness, you know, you're getting those fish in the mouth, think about that. And so, anyway, Charlie was not a hunter or a fisherman, but he did love to be outside. And our cousin Kirk, who was close to Charlie's age, were, they did, they were boy scouts and they had tents and they spent the night in the backyard in both houses, you know, in tents and thought they were outdoorsy then. But daddy used to pick me up, if it wasn't, well anytime around April 15th he was extraordinarily busy because of tax season. But after April 15th, everyday when I got out of school until I was in high school, daddy would pick me up in the spring from then till June. And we'd go fishing in one of the little tanks around . . .
SOSEBEE: So you were the fisher person.
SHARON: . . . around East Texas. So, we had that in common and it was so much fun. And daddy, I think I mentioned this before, daddy had a key ring with hundreds of keys on it. And it was this big around literally because everybody gave him their key to their place [motions the size of a grapefruit]. And so, wherever the fish were biting is where we'd go. But daddy was as sweet as anybody in the world and adored my mother and adored us. And, it was, I grew up in a . . . I can't say what a great time it was to grow up and grow up where I, in a very loving family.
SOSEBEE: And he was a, it sounds to me, he was fairly quiet. He said he never heard him, hardly heard him raise his voice. So not a lot of emotion coming out of that.
SHARON: Just sweet emotion. Daddy was sensitive and sweet.
SOSEBEE: He was obviously not the disciplinarian in the house.
SHARON: Well, you knew what he meant when he said, "No." But he did in a very nice way. And mother was . . . mother had a stronger personality, but daddy was really the stronger person. Mother was very charming and had a very strong personality and everybody knew her and she was very smart, and daddy was smart, too, but mother was really smart. She read a lot, knew what was going on in the world. And I have to give credit to Charlie, credit for opening up horizons for me. He had met, on leave in France, he had met these two French sisters. And I don't know how much romance was there, there was a little I think but not serious. But they had invited Charlie and his friend in the navy, a guy named Bob . . . to their home. And they had taken the two . . . sisters out. But how much of a roma--, well with . . . it was a big romance, they're still married.
SOSEBEE: Wow, I guess so.
SHARON: But with Charlie and . . . I'm not sure. But anyway, Charlie in talking to the . . . and became very friendly with them, mentioned that he had a little sister and that it'd be great for her to come to France to school. Well papa happened to be chairman of the board of the . . . which was taking international students in exchange, so not to necessarily to the school you were going to. But so I got to go to France . . .
SOSEBEE: Oh wow.
SHARON: . . . as a junior in high school and lived with that family, which was an extraordinary family.
SHARON: So I did that for a year, which opened my eyes to all kinds of things. I had people in my class who were, now this is during the Cold War, this is 1959, who would just openly say they were communists, you know [laughter]. I mean if anybody said the word in Trinity.
SOSEBEE: That's a little different than Trinity, Texas.
SHARON: So it opened my eyes to the whole world.
SANDUL: You still can't say that in East Texas [laughter].
SHARON: I know. I know. When I went, I thought you spelled oui, W-E-E. I didn't, you know, I didn't know French. I'd had a little bit of Spanish, no French. So I went over early before school started and went to . . . for three months. And I was just speechless. I was in a class with black people who were a lot smart than I. And Buddhist monks, I'd never heard of one, and the orange things, head shaved. I mean, people literally from all over the world. And there were no colored and white fountains. There were, you know, everybody drank water out of the same fountain, everybody used the same bathroom, everybody sat at the same table. And it was, oh, wow, this is amazing, you know. So, Charlie's responsible for that.
SANDUL: For a lot of that. Actually, you know . . .
SHARON: Well for all of it, really. I mean . . . it would never have occurred to me to have done that.
SHARON: And to miss your senior year, my goodness, and not be a cheerleader.
SANDUL: Yeah. Oh, my goodness.
SOSEBEE: In Texas . . .
SHARON: At Trinity High School.
SOSEBEE: In Texas, I don't know. You've got to kind of do that, don't you.
SANDUL: Well, that sounds like . . . you know, one of my favorite parts, I was listening to your oral history again the other day from when we came here, what two months ago. And you were talking about, as a little girl you said . . . "Oh, I drove my brother nuts."
SHARON: Oh, I did.
SANDUL: "I went into his room and I took his stuff."
SHARON: Oh, I looked at everything he had.
SANDUL: You said you had a little stool and that you'd peek out, in through his window.
SHARON: In the windows.
SANDUL: And so I was really thinking if you could recall some of your fond memories of you and Charlie during your younger and even teenager years.
SHARON: Well one thing, when he was coming home from the naval academy on leave, and Christmas, he came home twice a year, we had always, I said how music was a real part of our family, it would always happen, and it never was necessarily planned, but somebody, Charlie would say, "Oh let's have a sing-song tonight." And so start calling people and it would be a intergenerational thing, of people his age, not particularly people my age, I was younger, and then mother and daddy's age would come and mother would play the piano and people would sing till midnight. And Charlie knew all the Sinatra songs. He was a big fan of Sinatra.
SOSEBEE: Oh, really? Oh me too.
SHARON: Huge. And all the songs, the war songs, you know, "Over There" and all of those songs from World War II. Those were part of those things. And Charlie also, you're not going to believe this, but Charlie took, in the navy you'd go on cruises at the naval academy every summer. So he saw the world, he went to the Mediterranean and he went to South America and I can't remember where else. But he would bring these round things of slides and everybody would sit and watch the slides from Trinity. Well, I mean, nobody had been anywhere.
SOSEBEE: This is what I did on my summer vacation.
SANDUL: Yeah [laughs].
SHARON: I mean this was . . . and everybody was fascinated, or acted like they were. And, oh, "Is Charlie coming? Will he [be] bringing his slides." It was . . . Charlie was the one into the world.
SOSEBEE: Into the world for the whole town.
SHARON: Yeah. He really was.
SOSEBEE: So probably why he got so well known. Alright, we've heard this but we've got to hear about the 60th birthday.
SOSEBEE: because we've heard that it's legendary.
SHARON: Well Charlie always had legendary parties. And so for Charlie's 60th birthday party, I thought of this when we were talking about Joe Christie [former Texas State Senator and Charlie's close friend] because he was one of the, he can tell you more about it than I can, but he was one of the organizers of it. And it was, you know, the Kennedy Center in Washington. Of course Charlie loved the Kennedy Center because he was such a fan of JFK [President John F. Kennedy]. And the party was up on the terrace overlooking the Poto--, up on top of Kennedy Center overlooking the Potomac. And there's a big ballroom kind of thing right inside. And this is when Charlie was, this was, he was 60 so that was 29 years ago, that would've been . . .
SAM: It was 1992 or 3 . . .
SHARON: So it was, it was after, I mean it was still during the Afghan . . .
SHARON: Toward the end of the . . .
SHARON: . . . Afghan issues. So, and that, his role in that was beginning to be known. So, and Charlie's favorite movie ever was Casablanca, did y'all know that?
SHARON: Well it was his favorite movie ever. And you notice how many times you see Charlie in formal dress and a white . . .
SOSEBEE: And he wears the white tie and looks just like Humphrey Bogart.
SHARON: Well it was that, he had, he wore two of those white sport coats out, to my knowledge, and they both were made exact replicas of the one that . . .
SOSEBEE: Is that right?
SHARON: . . . Humphrey Bogart. And this party was up there. And do you remember the African-American piano player . . .
SHARON: . . . Sam? Well they, Sam in a tuxedo playing all the way through the party inside "As Time Goes By."
SHARON: The movie took up a whole wall, without the sound being played during the birthday party.
SOSEBEE: Oh, wow.
SANDUL: Oh, wow.
SHARON: They served Moroccan food, couscous. It was good. And then, this is when Charlie was single, and there were lots of beautiful women there, a lot of Charlie's Angels, former Charlie's Angels were there. And Charlie had a date with an Israeli woman who had on an amazing outfit [laughter]. And there, Joe may have, I'm trying to think, the guy [George Crile] was writing the book "Charlie Wilson's War" at the time, and he was there . . . at the whole party.
SANDUL: Oh wow.
SHARON: And, it was quite a deal. And there were a lot of congressmen and senators.
SHARON: So long we were there.
SHARON: It was really quite an event.
SANDUL: Yeah . . .
SHARON: Then when, and this is a party that Charlie planned totally, when our daughter was a sophomore at Texas, she was, of course, because Charlie had put her up - every state picks a cherry blossom princess, and it's a big deal during the cherry blossom festival in Washington - and so Elizabeth was the Texas cherry blossom princess that year. And it was a week of just nonstop party going. But Charlie had a party in her honor. And he had it at the national archives. And, he had violinists who were standing next to, the Constitution comes up out of the floor.
SANDUL: Oh, wow.
SHARON: And they were playing "The Impossible Dream." I mean, Charlie thinks of everything.
SOSEBEE: It's another one of those great gifts.
SHARON: And, the Apache Bells were all the . . . we'll have to find those pictures, the Apache Bells were all the way across the front of the national archives building doing their high kicks and their cowboy hats [laughter] and short skirts, when Charlie had a party . . .
SOSEBEE: These Californians [referring to Paul and Natosha Sandul] may not know about the Apache Bells.
SHARON: Well you will. They're from . . .
SHARON: Tyler Junior College.
SOSEBEE: They're from Tyler Junior College.
SHARON: They're the, they're . . .
SOSEBEE: You got the Kilgore Rangerettes and the Tyler Apache Bells.
SHARON: The Rangerettes and the Apache Bells. And they came to Washington to dance at that party.
SOSEBEE: That is wild.
SHARON: I mean, when Charlie had a party, he had a party.
SANDUL: He had a party!
SHARON: Of course the food was fabulous.
SAM (the elder): He started calling about six weeks in advance saying, "Well I did this and I did that. What else do I need to do?" Then he'd call back the next day, "Well I did this now."
SHARON: I was getting very embarrassed [laughs].
SOSEBEE: You know, this may be, and if it's a little . . . but you know, parties . . . and I guess it's part of his generosity, he was not a wealthy man.
SHARON: No. Absolutely not.
SOSEBEE: How did he finance all of these things? Did he call in favors, or I mean?
SHARON: I don't honestly know the answer to that, but it makes you wonder. I think the Apache Bells were going to come to Washington anyway for something and I think he got them.
SHARON: But I don't know all of the answers.
SAM (the younger): Well also . . .
SHARON: Now, and, Joe Christie may be able to enlighten you on that. And I didn't ask too many questions.
SAM (the younger): But that's also the time, though, when congressmen were still allowed to get . . .
SOSEBEE: Well sure . . . times have changed . . . they have really changed.
SHARON: Oh, absolutely. Oh my goodness.
SAM (the younger): He always made sure he hit the maximum . . .
SOSEBEE: Whatever it was.
SAM (the younger): . . . whatever the maximum was, he . . .
SOSEBEE: Well he might as well have, for sure. Let's go back to Trinity just a little bit, in that, you mentioned, you know, no colored fountains, France opened your eyes . . .
SHARON: Oh yeah.
SOSEBEE: . . . about this and things.
SHARON: This was 1959.
SOSEBEE: And we're talking about in the fifties growing up, he grew up, you know, mainly the forties and you in the fifties in Trinity. It's very Southern, very segregated. But you're, as we know, Charlie was a strong civil rights advocate.
SHARON: Oh yeah.
SOSEBEE: I mean, no doubt you grew up with the same sensibilities.
SHARON: Very proud of him for that. Well our mother, as I said, our mother was very smart.
SOSEBEE: . . . I was starting to say, did that come from your parents?
SHARON: Yes. They were very kind people. And mother was really more aware of the civil rights issue that was there than daddy. I mean, daddy just accepted things like they were to a degree. But when his eyes were opened he . . .
SOSEBEE: How did that play in Trinity? How did Wilmuth Wilson, I mean, obviously, I mean was there whisperings? I'm . . .
SHARON: Not to my knowledge. I mean not to me, of course.
SHARON: Probably not. I mean because she had help, too.
SHARON: I mean there were a lot of inconsistencies there.
SHARON: But I think . . . have y'all seen the movie "The Help"?
SOSEBEE: Not yet. No.
SHARON: You must see it. Did you read the book?
SANDUL: I think she's the only one in the room that's read it . . .
SHARON: The book is great. I had to talk Sam into reading it because he thought it was just a fluff.
SOSEBEE: My wife . . . downloaded it on her [Kindle] nook and so I will get it when she's done.
SHARON: You'll have to read it. It's a wonderful book and the movie is wonderful.
SOSEBEE: Well thinking . . . of that, and, you know, how the situation was. Not that, as you know, I'm sure, you know, the book and even the movie, it's a little superficially portrayed.
SHARON: Not too much.
SOSEBEE: In Trinity, then, tell us . . . how that worked. You know, we know it from books, but, I mean, actually [as] someone growing up living it. Talk about the segregation. Talk about how that worked, you know, in the lumber business; and your dad was an accountant.
SHARON: It was totally segregated. Our schools were totally segregated. Sports teams were totally segregated. And it's just the way it was.
SOSEBEE: And you didn't question it?
SHARON: No. I did not.
SOSEBEE: Charlie didn't question it. You didn't question it.
SHARON: I'm sorry to say, not to my knowledge.
SOSEBEE: But you still . . .
SHARON: Now Charlie knew; you know, how Charlie got Mr. [Charles Hazard voted out] . . .
SOSEBEE: Yes. Yes.
SHARON: . . . for city secretary. And people could vote if they could pay their poll tax.
SOSEBEE: But I mean . . . the sense of social justice was imbued in both of you some way.
SHARON: Yeah. It was.
SOSEBEE: So . . . I'm saying could you pinpoint? Did you parents say, "This is how it should be"?
SHARON: I can't. People have asked me that before, and I cannot tell you why. But I think my parents were kind people and they would talk about people who mistreated "Negroes," as they called them. And they didn't approve of that. But, as far as taking a big stand, they didn't. I didn't. And I, it just, I didn't take a stand until I was a freshman at the university [University of Texas], which was right after France, it was the next year. Did I tell you about our date, first date?
SOSEBEE: He told us about it, yes.
SANDUL: For him to look for the stork on skis.
SOSEBEE: The stork on skis.
SHARON: Oh no. That was when he first met Charlie.
SHARON: Our first date, Sam had asked me, we met working in the Capitol. We were both working for state senators. And our first date, Sam picked me up, we go to the drag, we start into the movie, and I said, "I'm sorry I can't go to that movie." And he said, "Why?" And I said, "See these people out here?" "Well who are they?" And I said, "They're demonstrating." He said, "About what?" And I said, "About integrating the movies on the drag." He said, "What are you talking about?" I mean at that time, colored or Negro people went upstairs to the balconies, and that's in "The Help," which is also in the Queen Theatre in Trinity. And I said, "It's ridiculous." And I said, "Particularly since the university has just become integrated this year and for people to go to school at the university and can't come over to the drag and get a cup of coffee in the restaurants or go to the movies." And so Sam said, "Let's go talk about it." So we went over, sat for four hours in a coffee shop, and the next night he was demonstrating with me [laughs]. But everybody, I mean . . .
SOSEBEE: Well that's a dedicated man right there.
SHARON: Well . . . people who are pretty smart, get it if you, somebody explains it to them. But if it's what they've seen all their life, they don't necessarily get it on their own.
SOSEBEE: That's right. That's exactly right.
SAM W: Well I'm not making this up, am I, but during the Depression y'all would, I mean, hobos at the time, y'all would have meals for the hobos or something?
SHARON: Oh my grandmother did. They'd come to the back door. That was after the Depression because I wasn't born till 1942. But they would occasionally, they called them tramps, too, but they were hobos basically, and they'd come to the back door and knock on the door and you'd give them a sandwich.
SANDUL: Now was it . . . ?
SHARON: I mean I think that was all over. And we had the WBTNS railroad ran behind our property.
SANDUL: Oh wow.
SHARON: And so they'd, people would get off the railroad cars and walk down.
SANDUL: What would you really attribute to it? . . . Your parents had two children who have gone on to-with Charlie championing the underdog, whether it's civil rights in East Texas, whether it's the Mujahideen-to you being a champion of human rights? How has, I mean is this something that your parents . . .
SHARON: I think so. I think they certainly planted the seeds.
SANDUL: Because it's two remarkable children.
SHARON: Just doing the right thing. And Mother always, I mean, they always . . . [were] for the underdog; be for the underdog. I mean, I remember that for when I was in first grade. And I thought you had, there was always somebody who didn't get chosen to play on your side for Red Rover or spelling bee or whatever you chose sides for. And Mother said, "That's always the person you want to choose first if you're choosing."
SAM W: Fran's from Trinity, too, isn't she?
SAM W: Fran.
SHARON: No she's from Saron, which is a suburb of Trinity, but it was another town.
SHARON: But her parents were all educators. And her uncle was a real good friend of mother's, they both went to Southwestern. He became superintendent of schools in Houston.
SAM W: Did y'all know each other growing up?
SHARON: No, because they had moved . . .
SOSEBEE: Now, you grew up; one house was in Trinity?
SHARON: Yeah, but it was in Trinity, too. But, I mean, it was just not downtown.
SOSEBEE: But, I mean, are both of those houses still there?
SOSEBEE: They still exist?
SHARON: Yes. One of them is across the street from the Methodist Church, the one we were both born in. And then the other, somebody bricked it, it was, they were both lumber houses, being in the lumber business, and wooden houses, and then our house was built in 1947, the beginning of the ranch style. But, I mean, it's not a real big sprawling ranch style, it's a modest ranch-style house.
SAM: Across the street from the hospital.
SOSEBEE: Okay. I know where that is.
SHARON: Back from the road pretty far. I mean, the lots were all an acre, not very wide but an acre deep.
SOSEBEE: And your parents lived in Trinity all the way up until their death?
SHARON: Mm-hmm. Well, mother came over here, daddy died in 1981, and we moved mother over here about 1983 or '84.
SHARON: She had gotten dementia after daddy died. People were taking advantage of her. I mean she bought the yard man a motorcycle.
SOSEBEE: Oh really.
SHARON: The man that did the pest control tore the end off the house because he said she had termites. I mean, it was, you know, people were taking advantage of her, so.
SOSEBEE: Yeah, that's just too bad.
SAM: They'd sell her something at the front door, she'd pay and they'd go around the back door and she'd pay them again.
SOSEBEE: Oh my gosh.
SHARON: So, anyway, she moved over here, but . . .
SOSEBEE: So, she moved here with y'all, she moved in with you?
SHARON: No. She lived in Stillwell, which is a retirement . . . mother had taught school believe it or not with one year of college, but you could . . .
SOSEBEE: That's right it was pretty easy to get a teaching certificate.
SHARON: And she had taught school, so there's a very nice home for retired teachers. It's not a nursing home.
SHARON: But that's where she lived.
SOSEBEE: Assisted living or something.
SHARON: Really, not really. It's independent living, but in the home. . . . Meals were provided, so you're not cooking. But it's like a big dormitory more than anything else.
SANDUL: Yeah, I was going to say, that community being all together. Well, you know, in listening to a lot of interviews now, I've listened to over twenty hours of these interviews, there's a real large gap in listening to some of Charlie's relationships with his first wife, with Jerri, and I was wondering if you could, if you felt comfortable in talking a little bit about . . .
SHARON: Well, I got them their first blind date. Jerri was a very good friend of mine.
SANDUL: If you, yeah, tell us a little bit about Jerri.
SHARON: And I met her. She's fabulous. I met Jerri because we were both volunteers in the Kennedy campaign.
SHARON: And Jerri is from Arlington. In fact her family's land was sold for DFW airport.
SOSEBEE: Is that right?
SHARON: I mean, it's not, that wasn't all her family's land, but her family's land is now a runway. But she was from Arlington. And Jerri is, she's just, she's an old, old friend of mine, and she's continued to be. And she and Charlie continued to be very friendly. . . . And there was no, that's the least acrimonious divorce I've ever seen. And it broke our hearts. Sam may have told you we double dated all the time when I was at [The University of] Texas and Charlie was a freshman in the legislature. But Jerri is very smart. She was an English major. And she writes well. And she is beautiful. And I just don't have anything bad to say about her and Charlie was crazy about her. And I'll never forget, they, we always spent Christmas together. Well, until about the last five or six years of his life. And, of course, Jerri, I mean Barbara was Jewish so Christmas was not a big deal to her. And, so, we didn't spend Christmas the last two or three years together. But up until then we did. And so Jerri and Charlie were here for Christmas one year. They had no children. And mother and daddy were here. And Charlie, Jerri . . . I mean they had planned all this and Charlie told us that they were separating and we are all just devastated, mother and daddy and I, too. I mean, I remember mother saying, "There's been a death in the family." And I remember daddy saying, "No, there has not been a death in the family." "Well, it's just like it." And so, I mean that was the reaction.
SANDUL: Now what was, I mean, I know, probably, no simple answer, but what led to their divorce?
SHARON: Well I had to ask Charlie that. And, I don't know how, you're not going to publish this are you [laughter]?
SANDUL: We can place a restriction on anything you want.
SHARON: I mean just the lack of passion anymore.
SANDUL: Mm-hmm. Okay.
SHARON: But he loved her, so he said. Of course, I said, "You're having a midlife crisis," which I think he was.
SOSEBEE: What year was this?
SHARON: They were married fifteen years and they got married in 19 . . .
SHARON: They married in '62, in the summer of '62.
SOSEBEE: So '77, '78.
SHARON: Yeah. And they had gone to Washington. And a lot of it, I mean, Charlie wasn't perfect. I thought he was pretty perfect but he wasn't perfect. And there's something, Charlie was good looking, you know 44, in Congress, people were falling all over themselves to come on to him. And I think it went to his head a little bit.
SOSEBEE: Did she like Washington?
SOSEBEE: Did she?
SHARON: She stayed.
SOSEBEE: She stayed in Washington?
SHARON: She stayed and she's married to a lovely man.
SOSEBEE: So she's still in Washington?
SHARON: She is. She lives in Potomac which is a suburb, I mean, it's in Maryland but it's a lovely, horsy area that she . . . they're on a big piece of property with horse barns and stuff.
SOSEBEE: Would she still talk, would she talk to us?
SHARON: Oh yeah, I bet she would. She might. It's very painful for Jerri, but she might. And she, as I said, she's both of our children's godmothers . . . And so Sam would go out to, they have . . . her husband was a . . . real-estate development, commercial real-estate, so he did a lot of these big malls all over the country. And he's . . .
SOSEBEE: In the northern Virginia area?
SHARON: All over the country.
SOSEBEE: That's a pretty good place to have real estate.
SHARON: Well, they have this . . .
SAM W: They have a very nice farm out in the . . .
SHARON: . . . they have a beautiful, beautiful farm out in Shenandoah Valley. Actually it's, it was, the first Supreme Court [Chief] Justice's place, [John] Marshall.* [*John Marshall was the fourth Supreme Court Chief Justice (1801-35), while John Jay was the first (1789-95). Of course, Marshall is long renowned as the most influential Supreme Court Chief Justice of the young Republic. Marshall's longtime house from the 1790s to his death in 1835 in Richmond, VA was actually turned into a museum in the early twentieth century. Marshall, however, lived in several homes throughout his life. Born in a log cabin in Germantown in 1755, his father moved the family to Leeds Manor in the 1760s where he built a simple wooden cabin there (called "the Hollow). In 1773, the Marshall family moved once again when Marshall's father purchased 1,700 acres adjacent to North Cobbler Mountain, about ten miles northwest of the Hollow. The farm was located adjacent to the main stage road (now U.S. 17) between Salem (the modern-day village of Marshall, Virginia) and Delaplane, Virginia. When John was seventeen his father built "Oak Hill" there (which still stands), a seven-room frame home with four rooms on the first floor and three above, and while Marshall would later move to his home in Richmond, he kept Oak Hill as well. With that said, Justice Jay's family home is near Katonah, New York.]
SOSEBEE: Oh John Marshall's place.
SHARON: They live in his house.
SOSEBEE: Is that right?
SHARON: I mean they've done some renovation.
SANDUL: Oh, wow, that's neat.
SHARON: But it's the most beautiful piece of property. And Jerri is kind of an earth mother type, too. She loves to garden.
SOSEBEE: Is that right?
SHARON: And she has a little vineyard out there and apple trees and a greenhouse. Jerri loves that. . . . But she and Charlie talked all the time on the phone.
SOSEBEE: Because we would not even dream of offending her . . .
SHARON: No please don't.
SOSEBEE: At all.
SHARON: Jerri has been a perfect lady through all of this. I mean, she has, I've never heard her say anything bad about Charlie. And he adored her, too. In fact, one of his Charlie's Angel's said that they had been separated for years but never divorced. And so Jerri had met this man through her work. She did real estate in Washington. And she had met Warren and they had a romance going and Warren wanted to marry her and so she asked Charlie for a divorce. By then, they had been probably separated seven or eight years.
SOSEBEE: Is that right?
SAM: At least.
SHARON: At least. Maybe longer. I'm not sure on the timing on that. And the woman who was working in Charlie's office said Charlie put his head down on his desk and said, "How could you do this to me?"
SOSEBEE: Oh, is that right? Isn't that something?
SOSEBEE: "How could she do this to me?"
SANDUL: Now, in contrast, though, you, can you tell us . . .
SHARON: But it was just one of those things, you know. Charlie never told me he regretted it, but I kind of think he did.
SOSEBEE: You think that he did.
SANDUL: Now in contrast, can you tell us a little bit about your relationship with Barbara [Wilson's second wife]?
SHARON: It was fine.
SANDUL: And about . . .
SHARON: It was fine.
SANDUL: And a little bit about Barbara.
SHARON: I never knew Barbara really well. The first time Charlie wanted us to meet-we went up on July the fourth with our kids a lot of times-and this particular year he wanted us to meet Barbara. And so we did go up. And he chartered-Charlie lived bigger than life-he chartered a yacht on the Chesapeake Bay and that's, we all spent some time with Barbara then. And then he brought Barbara to, by this time we were spending Christmas at our daughter's house, and so he brought her to Dallas and so we were with her Christmas. And then they married a year later in February. And I will say she took excellent care of Charlie while he was sick and, you know, the medicine and all that stuff. But, it was a different kind of relationship.
SOSEBEE: How did he ever convince her to move back to Lufkin?
SHARON: Who, Barbara?
SOSEBEE: Or move to Lufkin? She'd never been there, of course.
SHARON: Well Charlie, that's what Charlie wanted to do. And I asked Charlie, I said, "What about Barbara leaving her friends?" And he said, "Well, she's . . . " Barbara taught ballet up until he, well she moved in with Charlie before they married, actually, in Washington, and she taught ballet until then. And Charlie said, "She's never really had time to cultivate friends. Her friends in Washington are my friends' wives." And I don't know if that's true or not, but that's what he said. Now he, she had this one friend who was an attendant in their wedding who was her children's pediatrician.
SOSEBEE: Okay. She was from Connecticut, is that correct?
SHARON: No she's from Maryland.
SHARON: She grew up in Silver Spring.
SOSEBEE: Okay. Connecticut got in my mind for some reason.
SHARON: Jerri has a house in Maine, too.
SOSEBEE: Okay. Well, what about you . . . you didn't get it, is there something that we haven't asked you that you think we need to know . . .
SHARON: Probably a lot of things . . .
SOSEBEE: . . . that you want to share, or . . .
SANDUL: Yeah, let me review the list.
SHARON: Charlie was an important part of my life for sixty-seven years, so, there's, you know, I haven't told you sixty-seven years worth.
SOSEBEE: Sure, it was like we asked him [Sam] kind of the same question. Where do I start? I don't think there is one.
SHARON: Well, so I don't know. Charlie was a very complex person, which you all probably figured out.
SOSEBEE: Yes. Definitely so.
SHARON: But he, and those of us who knew him really, really well, knew how kind and sweet and big-hearted he was, which he had a bravado and that may not have shown to people who knew him superficially. He was very fun-loving, that's . . .
SOSEBEE: Well sure.
SHARON: . . . and everybody, I mean, the "Good Time Charlie" moniker he earned . . .
SOSEBEE: And earned it many times over.
SHARON: He did.
SOSEBEE: But he didn't run from that as we've talked about.
SHARON: But one thing that's so unusual about Charlie, he had many girlfriends in the fifteen years that he wasn't married, and I don't know of one that wouldn't say kind things about him.
SOSEBEE: Charlie Schnabel [Wilson's second Administrative Assistant] told me the same thing. He said it's amazing that . . .
SHARON: It is.
SOSEBEE: . . . he broke up with, he said he romanced and broke up with a succession of women, some of them at the same time almost, and he left every one of them happy.
SHARON: Do you know abut the time that Charlie was diagnosed with congenital heart failure? Well this is a really interesting story. He had been, Charlie loved airplanes, which I alluded to before, and I said he wanted to be a navy pilot, and he was on several committees in Congress . . . well you know what committee he was on, but he, that financed a lot of military stuff. And then he was on the secret committee, the, what is it?
SOSEBEE: The intelligence committee.
SHARON: Intelligence committee. And so he went, as part of his work, he went to the Paris air show every year. And this was during the Afghan war, and he had, this is when he was on the horses, you know, with the Afghans staying in a cave during the war and saw Buzkashi match out on the, in the valley where they played Buzkashi.* And he came back to the Paris air show, and there's a young man, well he's not young and he's dead now, but a man that was Charlie's military . . . [*Buzkashi is a traditional team sport played on horseback, primarily in Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China. The goal of a player is to grab the carcass of a headless goat or calf and then get it clear of the other players and pitch it across a goal line or into a target circle or tub.]
SOSEBEE: Attaché is what they?
SHARON: Maybe he was an attaché, I'm not sure what they called him.
SAM: Talking about Jimmy?
SHARON: Yeah. His name was . . .
SAM: He was a babysitter.
SHARON: Okay, babysitter. He traveled with Charlie all over the world. And when we went to Pakistan, to him, did Sam tell you that story during the war?
SOSEBEE: Uh-huh [no].
SHARON: Yeah. Well, anyway, Jimmy had been, was with Charlie, and they went to the Paris air show and they were eating dinner in a restaurant in Paris. And Charlie went to the bathroom, and he was downstairs and coming back up the stairs, he called Jimmy . . . he said "I can't get up the stairs." And so he, Jimmy said he looked horrible and couldn't catch his breath. And he immediately took him to the American hospital in Paris. And they stabilized him somewhat and sent him to Wiesbaden [Germany], which had a much more sophisticated cardiology department. And from there, there was some big vote that was coming down in Congress that Charlie was very concerned about, it was going to be very close, and I wish I could remember what it was. It's something y'all could find out if you want to know. . . . Well anyway, they took him in to vote on a gurney.
SANDUL: Oh wow.
SHARON: And then took him back to Bethesda. Well I didn't know anything about this. And out of the blue, I get a call one day and it's a doctor at Bethesda calling me saying, "Are you Charles Wilson's sister?" And I said, "Yes." And he said, "Well you're on all of his papers as the next of kin. And I called to inform that he is very, very ill and may not live."
SOSEBEE: And this was in '84?
SHARON: [To her son Sam W] You were 14.
SAM W: It was '83 or '84.
SHARON: And Elizabeth [Sharon's daughter] was at camp, Sam was out of town on business, and young Sam and I went and got on an airplane and went to Bethesda. Well I looked in his hospital room and there were three girlfriends [laughter] . . . all who had happened to come; heard about Charlie being in the hospital. And I mean you could've cut the . . . [laughter] and . . .
SAM W: I thought it was pretty cool.
SANDUL: Yeah, yeah [laughter].
SHARON: And, Charlie, I mean, Sam [her son] was with me.
SOSEBEE: You were like, "How does this happen to me?"
SHARON: So here's Charlie up in the hospital bed trying to be charming. And there were these three women looking daggers at each other. And who was the senator, oh, oh, the guy from, the Mormon, the big Mormon from Utah.
SAM W: Orrin Hatch [Republican Senator from Utah, 1977-Present].
SHARON: Orrin Hatch. And who was, you know . . . that's the way Congress used to be, they couldn't have been on more opposite sides on all important issues, but people liked each other. And Orrin Hatch had come out to visit Charlie in the hospital. And so here we all sit. So that gives you an idea about how Charlie could manage this.
SOSEBEE: A Mormon Republican Senator, three girlfriends.
SANDUL: Sister and a nephew [laughter].
SAM W: But that vote, Reagan had actually ordered Charlie back from Germany because he knew he'd be voting on it.
SOSEBEE: One of his votes, yeah.
SAM W: And that one actually almost got Charlie disowned by . . .
SHARON: Oh really.
SAM W: So Orin Hatch was probably there as a big "thank you" for the vote . . . .
SHARON: Could've been. See I didn't understand what the politics were of any of that. I just knew that I wanted to be was out of that room. However, I outstayed him.
SOSEBEE: . . . and then lived with that for how many . . . ?
SHARON: Well, I talked to the doctor, and he was just, what had happened, I don't know if y'all remember this, y'all were so young then, but there was this huge scandal at Bethesda because the open heart surgeon was blind, legally blind, and the cardiologists were covering for him. And that was brought out in the open. So they put all of those, they put all of those doctors in the cardiology department on leave and they brought over doctors from the NIH. Well they were all . . . doctors that had absolutely no . . .
SAM W: Bedside manner.
SHARON: Beside manner.
SHARON: And so . . . the guy called me and told me Charlie was probably not going to make it. And so I come up . . .
SAM: What did we call him? Dr. Doom?
SHARON: And we called him, Charlie and I named him Dr. Doom. His name was Goldstein or something, but we named [him] Dr. Doom. And he had told Charlie that, too. And I said, "Charlie, I'm calling . . . " We had this very close friend who was head of cardiology at Methodist hospital, that was, used to be mine and Sam's next door neighbor. And I said, "I'm calling Dick . . . and I want him to talk to Dr. Doom." Well I called Dick and he said, "It's really not appropriate that I talk to," he was by now calling him Dr. Doom, but he said, "Ask Dr. Doom these questions," and I wrote them all down and he said, "Call me back with the answers." So I guess Dr. Doom thought I had suddenly had a class in cardiology because I asked him verbatim and he answered them and I called Dick back and he said, "He cannot say what he's told you without having done these particular tests. And these," and he said, "these tests are very new and I'm surprised, I'm not surprised that they haven't' done them. But he cannot come to the conclusion he's come to." And so he said, "As soon as Charlie's stable bring him down here and we'll do the test." So we stayed. We, Charlie and I flew to Houston. By now Sam's home, Sam flew home. But, this was funny too, all the Houston girlfriends started coming to the Houston hospital. One of them was Joanne Herring. And she actually had gotten married to whoever that was in the movie. But she brought someone for Charlie to meet who he couldn't have been less interested in, for good reason. But anyway, that was all, I mean, it was . . . and I was so concerned, I mean, this was serious stuff. But you all will love this. Charlie was, had been examined by Dick. One of these tests that they were talking about was one where they go through your jugular vein, go down into your heart, snip off a piece of heart, and look at it under a microscope. And that's about, they used more medical terms, but it was very clear when they explained it to Charlie. And . . . Charlie was kind of somebody that they knew who was in the hospital and all the residents and interns kind of wanted to see him. And they heard about all the women that were coming through. Well, when Dick . . . the cardiologist, who was also a professor of cardiology at Baylor, there were all these students in there and they all had their, their clipboards. And he said, "And they'll just go down through your jugular vein and clip a piece of your heart off." And Charlie said, "No shit!" [Laughter.] The pencils were falling on the floor. I mean you never knew what was coming out of his mouth.
SANDUL: Out of his mouth, yeah.
SAM: And then he said, "Let me get this straight. You're going to cut my throat and then put a hose down in there and take a piece of my heart out." [Laughter.]
SOSEBEE: Oh man.
SHARON: But anyway, there was never a dull moment.
SOSEBEE: But I mean, and so . . .
SHARON: But they did that test. Then the next test they did was one that was brand new at the time. It's old hat now, but they had a way of measuring the amount of, not only the amount of heart, blood going through your heart, but the amount that was being pumped out. And with those two tests, they ascertained that Charlie could be stabilized. And they told him he had to stop drinking, which he did for a long time, then started again and stopped again. But that he had to stop drinking and not. Charlie was, and to calm down a little. He, you know, normally they tell you to exercise. Well it was the opposite with him.
SOSEBEE: Really? Don't be as active.
SHARON: Yeah. I mean, Charlie would dance all night. He was a great dancer. He taught me to dance, that was another big memory when he was coming home on those leaves.
SOSEBEE: Did he teach you . . . ? What was his best dance?
SHARON: And swing.
SHARON: Very cool.
SOSEBEE: When did he have the heart transplant?
SHARON: Two years before he died. He had it September . . . it had been . . .
SOSEBEE: Okay, I knew, because . . . quite a while, I mean, that he went a long time with the heart problems before they actually had a transplant. I couldn't remember whether it was two or four . . . .two years, so.
SAM W: It was '06.
SANDUL: Well, you know, as we have some of the tape winding down here, I was wondering, I know I'm asking an impossible question, but anything that comes to mind sort of as I asked your son, do you have sort of a favorite memory you'd like to share about Charlie, no matter how marginal, out from left field it may be. I know, again, it's a tough one.
SHARON: Oh. Well, I can't say that this is the favorite, but one of the really wonderful things, Charlie and I spent a lot of time when I was working with Planned Parenthood. And we would have at least one meeting a year [in] Washington where we would all go to the Hill and lobby for women's issues and reproductive rights. He would always see us all. And he would always make arrangements for us to see important committee chairmen. And I know he went out on a [limb], being from East Texas . . .
SHARON: . . . he went out on a limb to do that and I thought it was really wonderful. And he had, people, I was also an . . . Guttmacher [Institute] Board,* which is a research institute board where it's primarily . . . on it. But he would get us into the committee that would make bills come out of committee to get voted, one that usually wouldn't see the light of day, and I just really, really did appreciate that. And not only that, then he would let me have parties for all my colleagues at his apartment. [*The Guttmacher Institute was founded in 1968 as the Center for Family Planning Program Development under the auspices of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The Center was eventually renamed in memory of Alan Frank Guttmacher, an Ob/Gyn and former president of Planned Parenthood. The Institute became an independent non-profit in 1977.]
SOSEBEE: Which was a great apartment to have a party in.
SHARON: Oh it was. So, I mean, Charlie and I got closer. I mean we'd always been close but we had an adult closeness that it had usually been big brother, little sister, well at least until I was in college. When it was, we were . . . But I've got some pictures of some of those things. One of them was . . . Lynda [Bird] Johnson [Robb] [President Johnson's daughter], whose also a big reproductive rights person, who you might not know that she was married . . .
SOSEBEE: Do you know her? We've been trying to get her to come to SFA [Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas].
SHARON: To come what?
SOSEBEE: To SFA to speak.
SHARON: Oh really? Well I don't know her well but . . . I've got pictures of Charlie and Lynda.
SOSEBEE: Both of the Johnsons [Lynda and her sister Luci Baines Johnson Turpin]. We reached out to them about two years ago. I've tried to get them to come to our [East Texas Historical Association] Lale Lecture. I never heard back from them. I would love to have them both there. I wished we could've somehow sit down and talk to Lady Bird before she died.
SHARON: Oh she was great. She came to that, Charlie did one of his lectures at the Johnson School in Austin.
SOSEBEE: Oh is that right?
SHARON: And Lady Bird, that was one her last things to come to.
SOSEBEE: Oh so he came and gave . . . ? Oh. Well then they'll have a transcript of that . . .
SHARON: Mm-hmm. They will. And George Crile, who wrote the book [Charlie Wilson's War], both, and they both signed books afterwards. Lady Bird came and that was one of her last public appearances.
SOSEBEE: See I have, see . . .
SAM: Lady Bird and J. J. Pickle [James Jarrell "J. J. Jake" Pickle (1913-2005) served as United States Representative from Texas' 10th congressional district from 1963 to 1995].
SOSEBEE: Oh, is that right? Another open of the old lions that we lost, I'm telling you.
SAM: They were sitting right by each other right up at the front. And Crile got out there and he just went on and on and on and on.
SHARON: He had had a little too much to drink, I think. Crile had.
SAM: And in a very loud voice . . .
SOSEBEE: Like anybody cared what he had to say.
SAM: . . . J. J. Pickle said, "Get on with it!" [Laughter.]
SHARON: Do you know, you all might . . . you might want to ask George Crile's widow for some of the, I don't know what happened to all that stuff.
SOSEBEE: Is that right?
SHARON: I would love to get my things back. George had borrowed my diaries from that trip we took to . . .
SOSEBEE: Oh is that right? Well maybe we can work on that . . .
SHARON: But she may have all the material that he had collected writing the book. And he . . .
SANDUL: That's what I was wondering. When you were mentioning about, like, you know, Crile's taking these movies of people at the party my first thought was, "This guy must have an archive."
SHARON: Well he did. And he interviewed me four times. And I had, you know, no real role in that whole Afghan thing. But, except, he knew Charlie and I were extraordinarily close.
SANDUL: Yeah. And that comes through in the book, very much so.
SHARON: But he interviewed me and I went to his and Susan's apartment. And I don't know what she's doing now but she's had really big jobs. She was the vice president at Disney that put all those TV shows that were so popular together. And then she was the CEO of Martha Stewart Omnimedia when Martha Stewart went to jail.
SOSEBEE: Is that right?
SHARON: And now, Martha Stewart I think fired her. She's hard to work for, apparently.
SOSEBEE: Imagine that.
SANDUL: Imagine that, yeah.
SHARON: But I don't know . . .
SANDUL: Especially after she got prison time [laughter].
SHARON: I don't know what Susan's doing, but Susan is . . .
SOSEBEE: So does she live in New York or LA?
SHARON: She does live in New York. And . . . they had two lovely children. . . . But I went to their apartment, and she definitely a New Yorker. But I don't know what she's doing now.
SOSEBEE: Well we may have to try to get to New York when we go to Washington because, like I said . . . we need to talk to Ed Koch [Edward "Ed" Koch is a lawyer, politician, and political commentator that served in the House of Representatives (D-NY) from 1969 to 1977 and as Mayor of New York City from 1978 to 1989].
SOSEBEE: You know, they were very good friends.
SHARON: Very good friends. They were.
SANDUL: Here's some exciting news. It looks to the point where I can say we're definitely going to DC. We got some grants and awards, which I don't think is a small coup nowadays. [Sandul and Sosebee went to DC to conduct interviews from March 13-15, 2012].
SHARON: No it isn't. That's enormous.
SANDUL: We're very happy. And then, some others like L. G. Moore [Wilson's friend and supporter; Retired Regional Director, International Union of Operation Engineer, AFL-CIO] have taken it upon themselves to start raising money . . .
SOSEBEE: Yeah, a lot of his friends have sent us hundred, two-hundred dollars here and there to get in. We're like this is great for the project.
SANDUL: Yeah. So with that said, if you ever could think, or maybe help us, if I can ask this, to get in contact with anybody in DC, to help.
SHARON: Okay. Sure, sure.
SANDUL: So that we can try to do some interviews. I spoke with Charles Simpson [Wilson's first Administrative Assistant; who was later interviewed] on the phone.
SHARON: A lot of these people are dying unfortunately.
SAM: Well what about, Sharon, his angels, many of them came to the funeral.
SHARON: I'll tell you, the best, I was trying to find, think of the woman's name that I told you who was so, so eloquent at the reception that was held. And they have, that's on videotape.
SHARON: Her name, first name is Agnus.
SANDUL: Agnus. Okay.
SHARON: And she represented all the Angels and talking about what he was like to work for. She was really, really wonderful. She's a lawyer in Washington, African-American. And she talked about Charlie from the standpoint of being an African-American woman, eastern educated, who, and she said, "Why would I even want to go interview with him" when it came up? And she was talking about that he was the best boss she'd ever had and that he was so supportive and was trying to help every woman who worked there reach their potential and that he was so, you know, he had this bravado of, you know. But he said it was totally unnecessary to have anybody that wasn't beautiful because there were so many overqualified people in Washington.
SOSEBEE: Peggy Love [Wilson's former staffer, who also interviewed for the Project twice] is trying to round up quite a few of them. She still has contact with a lot of the ones . . .
SANDUL: She's one of the Angels there, yeah.
SOSEBEE: . . . that worked in his office. And so she's trying to, hopefully, she said she's going to try it, would be nice if somehow we could interview them, you know, in the office building.
SANDUL: Yeah, that, that'd be . . .
SOSEBEE: That would be neat to go and see that.
SANDUL: And, then, Senator [Kay Bailey] Hutchison [R-TX] agreed, so [the DC interviews were indeed held in Senator Hutchison's offices in the Russell Senate Building].
SHARON: Oh good.
SOSEBEE: That's right. She's going to, yeah, we're going to talk to her.
SANDUL: That'll be good. And, then, I was told to say hello to you from, and I know I'm going to butcher his name.
SHARON: You're . . .
SANDUL: But, I know I'm going to butcher his name. But I was told to say hello and he's going to hopefully join us: Zvi Rafiah [who interviewed by phone in March 2012].
SAM W: Yeah. Zvi.
SHARON: Zvi. Yeah.
SANDUL: Okay, he's definitely hoping to join us in Washington because, of course, he's in Tel Aviv, and, but . . .
SHARON: Yeah. Charlie always thought he was with the . . .
SAM W: Mossad [Israeli Secret Service; Zvi denies this openly in his interview].
SHARON: The Mossad . . .