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tv   Civil Rights Activism  CSPAN  July 11, 2021 10:00pm-11:01pm EDT

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readers learn discover explore on c-span 2. we want to make sure that you help us along keeping us busy with questions and thoughts. we will be using the youtube chat. put your hometown and city, state so i can give you a shout out later on in the program. and now, i am delighted to
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introduce our keynote speaker and conversation today. a civil rights attorney, fred greg. an activist who continues to practice law in alabama today. he litigated several civil rights cases in alabama including grauer versus gale that reached the supreme court. he represented rosa parks, martin luther king among many other civil rights movement luminaries. his success in the courtroom is what makes up much of today's textbooks for today's law students and i could go on let's hear from mr. gray. are you with us? >> thank you very much. >> terrific. we are happy to have you today. how are you doing? >> i am doing fine and i would like to thank the national archive foundation and those of you that are responsible for having this program.
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i sat and listened and saw some of the incidents from slavery forward and i am happy to be a part of your program here today and thanks for the imitation. >> absolutely. we are honored. i want to jump right in. we talked a few days ago. i was honored to read your biography and see some of your other interview so i have my own questions but we will get some audience questions along the way. i wanted to start with a quote that i pulled out of your biography that really struck me. you opened up one of your chapters with the words "segregation was the order of the day. when i was admitted to practice law in alabama in september, 1954, we were segregated from the clay -- grable -- cradle to the grave. that really struck me. as the first step in our conversation, can you take us
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back and help our audience understand a little about your background and what it was like to grow up in montgomery and your experiences that started it all off? >> well, you have to understand that i was born december 14, 1930. that is over 90 years ago. and montgomery, alabama, which was the cradle of the confederacy, the first president of the confederacy was inaugurated there. so, but as a youngster growing up -- my father died when i was two years old. i was the youngest of five children. and i had very little context -- contact with white people when i was growing up from the first
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through the eighth grade. we lived in a black community. we went to a black church. all of our neighbors were black. the only contact we usually had with white people was that our parents would work for them and that was the way it was. we had separate schools. we had separate everything. not only did we have those, and did we grow up under those conditions, but the streets were usually unpaved. there was little water, you would have to go to a central place where there might be a hydrant for you could get water. so, african-americans lived a very subservient life to that of white americans. that is the montgomery that i knew and i had very little
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contact with any white persons for many years. patrick: at what point in your life did -- we had a program about the tulsa race massacre, before that there was the red summer in our video before we showed some of the lynching maps. obviously there was race , violence in alabama. what was your personal experience that drew you into becoming a civil rights lawyer, as you beautifully say, your goal in life is and was to continue to destroy segregation? >> when i grew up, in my community, there was no discussion about lynching. there was no discussion about segregation, about white people. we knew that we were black and
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that we were working for white people and we went to black schools. my mother was very religious and my father was very religious. i had a religious background. and i guess my first experience really with white people, i met the lady who my mother worked for. a lady named betty aldrich, she did domestic work. to show you the relationship they had, when i was born, i was born as fred lee gray. but, my mother was working for miss betty and miss betty told her when she came back to work after i was born that she thought that my middle name should be david. you know what my mother did?
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my mother officially changed my name from lee to david. i grew up under an all black environment. and i was very religious. one of our preachers was from tennessee. they said when i was young -- i was baptized in montgomery when i was eight. our preacher said there are two things a black boy in alabama, professionally, could look forward to. that was being a preacher or a teacher. so, since i was religiously inclined, this preacher knew about a school for tennessee for black boys who wanted to be preachers. he told my mom that even though
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she didn't have money she ought to send me to that school so i could learn how to preach. while i grew up in the ghettos of montgomery until i was eight years old and attended a lovely school, when i was in the eighth grade, our preacher took me to the nashville christian institute, a church of christ there, to learn how to be a preacher. i still have come in contact with few white people, except at that school, while it was a black school with all black students, we had two teachers who were white. one named lambert campbell. she taught us public speaking because we had to learn how to be a preacher.
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and there was h w grant, who taught us the bible. that was my first real contact with them. when we got out, the preacher, who was the president of our school, decided it was his responsibility to go and recruit students and raise money. he went to black churches and decided he would take some of these little boy preachers, let them preach, they go to these black churches and he would tell them you send us your boy and we will send you a man back. i got to be apparently a good little preacher because he took me around and i went throughout the southeast. when i finished high school, i knew a little something about preaching. i came back home, lived on the west side of montgomery, and i was going to attend alabama
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state college for negroes. that was what it was then. it is now alabama state university. it is on the east side of town. i had to ride the public transportation system. the montgomery city line. i would have to walk three or four blocks to where the bus stop was. and then we would go on a bus from the west side of the town through downtown to the east side of town, to alabama state. i became in touch with riding the buses. i found that a lot of our people, while i did not having problems myself, there were many people who were mistreated on the buses. the first 10 seats were always reserved for white people. and if whites came on beyond enough for those first 10 seats,
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then they would have the rest of them and black people would be asked -- the bus driver would ask the ones in the first four seats to get up and they would have to get up. and sometimes, they would take your money and you would have to go back out and get in the back so you wouldn't have to walk through white people. i found out then that there were some real problems about how black people were being treated. i heard about a man who had an altercation on a bus. as a result, he was killed. i decided that, in addition to preaching, they told me that lawyers helped people to solve problems. i thought that black people in montgomery had problems at that time and i made a personal commitment, while i was a student at alabama state college, between december of
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1947 and may of 1951, that i was going to finish alabama state. and i was going to become a lawyer. because they told me lawyers helped to solve problems. i wasn't going to apply to the university of alabama because i knew everything was segregated and they would not accept me. but, i would finish, get enrolled in somebody's law school, take advantage of a program the southern states had, where they would pay a portion of the tuition, room and board, for blacks, if they wouldn't go to the university of alabama or auburn, those courses they could not get at the historically black schools, alabama state, alabama a&m and tuskegee. and then the other part of that was i was going to take
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advantage of some money they would give us in order to go out of state and take some courses to keep us from going to the white schools. but, i was going to become a lawyer. and this is the part i didn't tell anybody. i told them i wanted to be a lawyer but i did not tell them what kind. the secret was i was going to finish law school, take the alabama bar exam, pass the bar exam, become a lawyer and destroy everything segregated. that was my commitment as a youngster, an upper teenager in the cradle of the confederacy. that was my introduction to becoming a lawyer. and now i have been one for over , 65 years. >> that is an extraordinary story. obviously the beginning of some of the things we want to dig into today. you are in law school because i think some of your fellow alumni
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are on this, if you want to give a shout to your law school, where you attended. >> oh, yes. i attended what was then western reserve university in cleveland. it is now case western reserve university. it merged with the institute of technology. that is where i went to law school. that was my real first experience of living in an integrated society. i lived on campus, in one of the homes that they had. i had a house mother there. there were blacks and whites who lived there. however, it just so happened that the two black students who lived in the room were assigned in the same room.
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he was from monrovia, liberia. but, also at reserve i had a , very good experience and had no problems at all. but, i had to convince myself, because this was the first time i was in a white environment, that i would be able to really compete with white students. >> it worked out very well, for you and for all of us. let's fast-forward a little bit to -- you passed the bar exam, which i know from reading your biography, there were a few hurdles along the way -- to, you did not have a big law firm to walk into in alabama. you started out on your own,
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with the help of a few others. let's get up to the boycott and some of the real traction, which i think a lot of folks have tuned in to hear about. the montgomery bus boycott before that, nine months before that, claudette coleman did not give up her seat, i know there has been over the last five or 10 years, a little more more press about that but you were there on the ground. why didn't that start the boycott? >> a lot of things happened during my enrollment and my graduation and preparing myself, so that i could pass the alabama bar exam. i was able to get that done. after getting it done, i had met
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e.d. nixon, who was a friend of our family and who had been president of the naacp in montgomery. he had encouraged me to go to law school because he was always trying to help black people who had problems with whites and trying to improve conditions. so, when i got back, he helped me to get lawyers so i could be able to take the bar exam. of course, once i took the bar exam and i took the ohio bar exam first in june and the alabama bar exam in july, just in case. in august, i was told i had passed both. of course, i had no intention of practicing law in ohio. i am back in alabama. i passed the bar exam.
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lawyers could not advertise like they can now. so, when i got back, the people that i knew all worked with me. i had an open house so people would know i was there. and i had met misses -- mrs. rosa parks, who was a secretary to the montgomery branch of the naacp. she was a youth director. i had known her from the time i was at alabama state. so, with those persons, we ended up opening up the office. mrs. parks assisted in that. i found out she was working in a department store 1.5 blocks from where my office was located. so, we talked. she would bring her little lunch to my office during the middle of the day.
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i did not have any clients at that time. we talked about problems. talked about the buses. we talked about if a person had a problem and was asked to get up off the seat, what they should do if they didn't want to do it. and then, it was only about six months after i started practicing that claudette coleman, a 15-year-old girl who lived in the northeast section of montgomery, was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white person. because when she did that, her parents did not know anything about me, because i had only been back for six months. but their preacher about e.d. , nixon and had heard about him. mr. nixon recommended to claudette's parents that they
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get this young black lawyer to represent her, when she was arrested. and i did. at that time, i thought this was a good opportunity for me. this was my first civil rights case. but, i now have to raise all of these issues in this case before judge hill, who was the judge of the juvenile court of montgomery county. and i raised these issues. they had charged her with being a delinquent and assaulting an officer. because when she was arrested, she did not voluntarily just walk off. they almost had to drag her. she did not resist and she did not fight back. but the judge listened to me.
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,but in the final analysis, he found her to be guilty, found her to be a delinquent and placed her on supervised -- on unsupervised probation. i was ready then, because i knew alternately we were going to change the laws and were going to have to go to court. i was prepared to do that. i am not sure the black community was quite ready for it. there were some people who, as a result of that case, joann robinson, who taught at alabama state, i had known her since the time i was in college. she got an appointment with bus company officials and with city officials about the claudette coleman case and that while african americans were about 75% of the patrons who were being mistreated, she wanted to get better treatment.
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they received us well and said they were sorry about what happened and would see to it that did not happen again. that was the end of that. but i knew as a result of that that there were a number of people in montgomery, black people, joann robinson, e.d. nixon, ms. parks, and claudette coleman and her family, who wanted something done about the buses. miss robinson had a personal experience in 1948 on the buses. we were keeping record of it and i knew there were people who wanted it and there would be a later date and another opportunity. that later date and opportunity came with ms. parks, on december 1, 1955. >> that is a great segue. i know you said you were meeting
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with her, having lunch. one of the perceptions was she was this quiet, timid, seamstress who decided she did not want to get up but in fact you said she was involved with the naacp and you two were talking about what to do and what not to do. so that day when she sat down, , were you ready and waiting for the call? tell us about that. >> on december 1, it was a typical december day in alabama. i told miss parks, when we finished, i had to go out of town. i wanted her to know that i would not be there. while she never told me that if she received the opportunity that she was not going to get
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up, i believed all the time that if that opportunity presented itself to ms. parks, she wasn't going to push for it, but if it came, she would be an ideal person and she would do everything you would want a client to do and still not give up the seat until she is arrested. if arrested, go ahead. i wanted her to know that i would not be in town that evening. when i got back from my trip, it was after office hours, i had a call from my secretary, a lot of calls. first call, ms. parks called. i had heard she had been arrested. she told me that she had and asked if i would come to her house so she could tell me what had taken place. she wanted me to handle the
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case. that was set for the following monday. that is what i did. i went over, talked to ms. parks. ms. parks told me what had taken place and that her case was set to be tried on monday at 8:30 in the city of montgomery. this is now thursday evening. monday is not too far away. i told her don't worry about your case, ms. parks, i will take care of it. i will get in touch with you over the weekend and get you prepared for what you need to be prepared for on monday. however, there is another thing, i mentioned to ms. parks that there has been talked in the community for some time that this problem is so great that
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the community needs to get involved in it. and joann robinson, the professor at alabama state, has been a leading person and she is now chairman of the women's political council which was an , organization of black professional women to improve all conditions for african-americans. she had been talking about doing something. she had had a problem herself. i told her that i want to talk to ms. robinson and see whether she thinks -- because i think if we are going to do anything, we need to do it all now. but first, i want to talk to mr. nixon, because he got you out of jail. i wanted him to know that i will be representing you. i went from her house to mr. nixon's house. i told him about my conversation
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with ms. parks, told her that i was going to talk to joann to see if we, at this time, would try to get the community involved. the community is involved and i went to her house. it is getting late, on december 1. in early december 2. -- and early december 2. joann and i sat in her living room and made plans for a -- and made plans for what we called a protest and what other people called a bus boycott. what we concluded was the community needs to be involved in it. two, that we need to try to get the community to protest so that
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the montgomery community, lack and white, would know that we were serious about staying off of the buses, at least for a day. meet at a church and decide where we would go from there. that was the second thing. i said that's fine. if we are going to do that, if they stay off the buses like we want them to do, we will have to be prepared to help them get to work and do whatever they need to do in the interim. we will have to have a plan and have those plans altogether between now and monday morning. as a result of that, we concluded several things. one, if we are going to do that, we have got to have a leader. someone who serves as a spokesman. nominally e.d. nixon would have , been that person. there was also a man named rufus
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lewis, who was interested in voter registration and when people get elected into office, holding them to do something when they get there. and that those persons -- we need to get them. so, joann says i know who the spokesman ought to be. it ought to be my pastor. martin luther king, hasn't been in town long or involved in civil rights activities. but one thing he can do, he can move people with words. i said fine. i said let me suggest to these other two leaders, because we need them to be in key roles. e.d. nixon was a pullman. a porter. he knew a philip randolph, the black leader in new york, was president of his union.
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if we make him the treasurer, we will need money to try to do all the work that needs to be done. a. philip randolph would help him to do it. make him treasurer. and then rufus lewis, a former coach at alabama state, well respected, was the owner of a nightclub called the citizens club. in order to get in that club, you had to be a registered voter. his wife was the co-owner of the largest black funeral home in town. they have automobiles. they only use those automobiles when they had funeral services. if we make him chairman of the transportation committee, then his wife, along with these other black funeral homes in the state, will be able to help to get these people transported in their automobiles. the only other thing you need is you need a lawyer.
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here mi, -- here am i, send me. as a result of what we did there, that was the conclusion, martin luther king, we will have to sew the seeds around and get him to be the chair of the president. e.d. nixon was the treasurer. rufus lewis was chairman of the transportation committee. and a young lawyer just out of law school to serve as lawyer for them. we sowed those seeds and joann said let's get through with the meeting. we assigned responsibilities to each one of us. she said i will go. -- she said, i am going to go and get some leaflets out now. another black woman has been arrested on the buses. a trial this monday. as a protest, stay off the buses. there will be a meeting on monday evening. when the meetings were made, as a result of the seeds we sowed, neither one of us, it could not be known that we were doing this
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planning. because if she -- if it had been known what she was doing as a teacher of a state-supported school, she would have been fired. she was fired anyway, but it was much later. i would have been disbarred before i got barred. the seeds were sown, the information was given out. when the buses started on monday morning, very few blacks rode the buses. we had mrs. parks' trial. i knew that they were going to convict her. i raised constitutional issues and got the witnesses i needed -- and got the information i needed from the witnesses during the trial and i knew the jury was going to find her guilty of
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what she did and he fined her $10 and we arranged for the appeal and proceeded to make the plans for the mass meeting at hope street baptist church that night, which introduced dr. king to the nation and to the world, and all in the meantime, there had been meetings held. between it, where those persons we had recommended, each one of them were elected to a particular person. when dr. king spoke and announced what was going on, the rest of it was history. we knew that what we did was now something great. we didn't know s going. but we knew it was something that needed to be done and this was the first step. patrick: what incredible insight. thank you.
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i am realizing that i am in a trance, listening to you. many more questions that our audience has questions about, i will ask a couple more and encourage our audience to ask questions in the chat. just so you know, mr. gray, we have folks from new jersey, new york, washington, d.c., south bend, tuscaloosa, jackson, mississippi. florida, virginia beach, iowa, as i mentioned case western reserve is well represented. denver, colorado, wilmington, delaware, massachusetts, it is a national audience that is excited to hear you speak. changing gears, because we have a few questions about martin luther king, so i will save that. you have a great story about a boy from troy. could you talk about your introduction to him and your impression of him as a young man? >> john lewis was from troy, alabama and lived in a rural
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area south of montgomery. about 50 or 60 miles south of tuskegee. he had heard about dr. king and read about him in the bus boycott in 1958. he wanted to go to georgia -- he wanted to go to troy state which was a white college, in his home county. and they would not accept him. some of the kids down there tried to use the library and could not use the public library. so he sent a letter to dr. king and said he wanted to talk with him about going to troy state. dr. king sent him a bus ticket from troy, alabama, round trip to montgomery. he called me and told me when he would arrive at the bus station. and if i would go down and bring
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him to a meeting where he and reverend abernathy was, we would talk about the possibility of helping him get into troy state. we talked about it. he told us what the situation was. we knew he was a minor. they were willing to do what it took to file a lawsuit. it would have to be filed by his parents and he would have to go back and get his parents' consent. if i agreed that i would end up filing the suit if his parents wanted to do so. he went back to troy and, unfortunately, his parents felt that the pressure that would be brought upon them was too great and that they just would not permit him to file a lawsuit because they had to live there with those people.
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however, he went to nashville. he was going to the seminary up there and became involved in the civil rights movement and ended up being one of the greatest civil rights leaders in the country. it was unfortunate that we lost him, last year. >> i have a question that relates to one of the ones i have been thinking about. you have faced incredible odds with all of the segregation policies in place and violence surrounded you, going to martin luther king's house after it was bombed, the greyhound bus riot. you wrote in your book that you were at a meeting in a church and you poked your head out the window to see the crowds -- mob is probably a better word -- that had amassed and got a rock or a brick to the side of your head.
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you seem -- the question of the audience is that you have remained calm, cool and collected in the face of all of this. how do you persist in such a calm state? >> actually, dr. king had set the example to begin with. he said publicly and privately that our movement must be a nonviolent movement. we don't have as many guns and we can't win if we are going to get out. it is hard for a person to continue to beat on you if you stand there and let them do it. i recognized and those of us who had leadership roles then realized that nonviolence is what we have to teach our people and hope they will abide by it. and for the most part, during the early stages of the movement, the violence took
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place it was not on our part. it was on the other part. i did get a knot on my head but that was a small part of it. many people lost their lives because of it. but, it set a pattern, so that we could accomplish some of the things that we have accomplished since the time when everything was completely segregated when i started practicing law in 1954. >> you were obviously making a name for yourself. i would guess there were many white lawyers who did not care for that. there was, i know, and effort to disbar you, probably more than once. can you tell us a little bit
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about one of those experiences professionally? >> i missed that. >> the effort to disbar you, could you talk about that experience? >> the experience with john lewis? >> no, to disbar you as a lawyer because of your work? >> i mentioned to you about claudette, that was the first case that i handled. we know about rosa parks' case. but, because of the deep-seated segregation that we had, i was able to file lawsuits that ended up doing away with segregation in public transportation. improving the right to vote, public education, juries discrimination, farm subsidies,
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almost every law, we have now been able to get it declared unconstitutional in all of these aspects. and we have built this on a nonviolent basis, using the law in order to accomplish those things. those of us who were involved in it had some personal problems that we encountered, it did not stop us from doing it. the struggles for justice continue and we have to keep trying. >> for our audience who might not be familiar with your whole personal story, the irony here is that in 2002, you were elected as the first black president of the alabama state bar association. when you were approached for
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that, was that stunning to you? how did you feel? how did that unfold? >> i never thought about being president of the alabama state bar. all of the lawyers in the state have a vote on it. my civil rights record and knowing that lawyers in many instances, the state bar association had been instrumental in trying to keep and perpetuate segregation. i was not going to put myself out there. there was a white lawyer, a white female lawyer in birmingham who had gotten us to handle some cases for her in our part of the state. she thought our firm had done a good job and i had done a good job. she said fred, you need to be president of the state bar. i said carol, you are crazy.
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why should i put my head in a noose and volunteer to do that? she said well, we were having the bar association and the meeting in birmingham that year. she said when you come here, i will introduce you to some people. she introduced me to some people. they talked with me about the possibility of running. i told them that i wasn't going to just get out there. but i listened to what they said. the only way i will do it is i will have to run uncontested. if one of these white lawyers decides to run against me and talk about my civil rights background, they will win and i will lose and i don't need that. i did what they recommended, i was elected to be the first african-american president of the alabama state bar.
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when you get a letter from the alabama state bar association now, it will say lawyers rental service. that is the motto for it. that was the motto i used when i was president elect, in order to get lawyers to realize that we render service. the bar association ended up adopting it. we were able to get more diversity. we started the alabama lawyers hall of fame. those were three major things i was able to do as the president of the state bar association. next week, the president of the state bar will come here. i understand the alabama state bar will give me a resolution and an award and i will be the speaker for them at the annual convention on the 15th of july.
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it has been a good thing and i have enjoyed it and tried to be a good lawyer. >> quite an evolution from the beginning, when you were taking the bar exam to start off. we have a few more minutes. and i have a couple of questions from the audience. have you ever worked with reverend james lawson? >> who? >> reverend james lawson? >> james lawson? where is he from? >> they did not say. >> didn't say. the name sounds familiar. it is not one that i have had very much work with. but i may have. >> ok.
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what about reverend james hinton of south carolina. he built the case with thurgood marshall that went to the supreme court. did you ever work with reverend james hinton? >> i did not work with him. but, thurgood marshall i did work with. as a matter of fact, when i was retained to represent the montgomery improvement association, i talked to mr. marshall and asked him to let me come up there and talk with him and his staff and for them to help me with legal work. the first case that we filed was one of the cases that he and robert carter -- he went on to become a justice on the supreme court. >> we have a question. i know you were interested in
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talking about the tuskegee syphilis study and your work on that, which was groundbreaking. can you give us a summary of that? >> i have been filing a lot of suits against the state of alabama for discriminating against african-americans. in many instances, the judge that designated people, the justice department to be a party to it. i found out in 1972 that the government itself had been engaged in a deadly deception of over 623 african-americans in macon county, of which tuskegee is a county seat. in connection with a study of untreated syphilis of the negro male and did not tell them about it. i had to file a lawsuit against them. you can only file a lawsuit
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against the government the way they say you can do it and on their terms and conditions. we finally were able to get that settled as much as we could. later on, i found there were some people who thought an apology by the government to those people and to the community should take place. a group had tried to do it and they had not been successful. i thought of a way of getting those men and getting a press conference. as a result of that press conference on the eighth of april in 1997, president clinton ended up granting the apology to them on the 17th of may, in 1997. only a little while afterwards. they told me we want you to do one more thing. we want a permanent memorial in
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dusky gate so people will know -- tueskegee so people will know that we have made a contribution to this country. i told them if i lived, we would do that. 22 years ago, we started the tuskegee civil rights multicultural center. one of the purposes is to have a memorial for those men. if you come to that center, you see the building and we made it and it is really a memorial for those people, for those men. in addition to that, that center also makes it possible so that you can see contributions of native americans, european americans and african americans, and african-americans all under , one roof. and you will see the laws and regulations of the progress that african-americans have made from slavery to today. many of those cases were filed here. we invite you to come and see that museum here into tuskegee
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and support it. >> absolutely. i did not know about the museum before we started working on this program but it is on my bucket list now. i look forward to coming and visiting. we have a couple of minutes left. i have two last questions. one brings us to today. i know we talked about the bus boycott and we kicked it all off with that. you still practice law. six months ago, you were in the headlines again about a street sign in your hometown. can you tell us what is going on in your hometown? >> you're talking about the mayor wanting to name a street after me? >> yes. >> mayor reed, the first african-american to serve as the mayor of montgomery, i left montgomery and came to tuskegee because i could not get what he
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was able to do almost 60 years later. but he came up here after he was mayor and asked me what i thought the city of montgomery could do as a tribute to the work that i had done. i lived on a street. -- i lived on a street called west -- avenue. when i grew up and before i went to loss go, i did not know who jefferson davis was. all i knew was it was the street that i grew up on. i lived there from 1936 until 1956. i thought that street, if it was named after me, it might be an encouragement to some other boys and girls who lived in the ghetto in montgomery. he got to work on that.
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i never thought that the -- i never thought about the fact that the name of it was the president of the confederacy. it was just the street that i lived on. they are working on it. whatever they do, i certainly will appreciate it. >> that is a pretty incredible story, given your career and your commitment. one last question for you. we have seen incredible change, in your lifetime, you have influenced that change. in the last year, there has been quite a bit of social justice issues, violence. do you have some parting words and advice for young people today? >> i think young people need to realize, there were young people who were instrumental in the beginning of the bus boycott.
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claudette was 15. martin luther king was in his late 20's. abernathy was a couple years older. i was a few years younger. ms. parks was in her 30's. so, you had young people. there were young people at a&t, and north carolina who started this it in demonstrations for students. and it was also students who started the freedom rides, that resulted in the desegregation of transportation systems in the state also. so young people have played a , very important role. including john lewis in the selma to montgomery march. i filed the lawsuit, when they were beaten back on bloody sunday. i filed that before the close of the day on monday. these people did it in a
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nonviolent manner. there was not any looting. there were people who did violence but it was only against those persons. whatever they decide to do and as they look back and see the young people and the old people, the white people and the black people, everybody, those persons who were involved in the movement, they did it in a nonviolent manner. whatever we do, violence is not the answer. jesus taught us to love one another and if we do that, and continue to use the methods that they find that we use as good, whatever new methods and all of the technology that you have now, you can use that. but, do it and do it in a nonviolent manner. because we still have problems that need to be solved.
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>> very good. thank you so much. mr. gray, this has been an amazing conversation. i am honored to be able to have it. your first person account is incredible and your story is our collective story. you are part of our nation's history and i treasure the fact we had the chance to talk today. >> one final thing, if i may. >> please. >> i will do it quickly. the struggle for equal justice continues. two basic problems we are facing in this nation, racism and inequality. it did not just start, it started when we were brought here as slaves. i say to young people, to old people, to all those who are interested, and i say what john lewis said to me, if we are going to solve the problem, we will have to get rid of racism
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and inequality. how are we going to do it, i suggest four things. one, you have to have a plan. first, declare it is wrong. you need to say racism and inequality is wrong. start at the white house to the supreme court, to congress. once you declare it wrong, you have to come up with a plan to get rid of it. if joanne robinson and i had not made the plans in her living room that night, there would not have been a bus boycott in december of 1955. it might have been later but it would not have been then because nobody made the plans for it. after you make the plan, you have to implement the plan. once you implement it, you will have to get involved yourself. you can't expect somebody else to do it. what i want to tell you, as i
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close, and as i think about john lewis, he ended up talking with me a few days before his death. he knew that it was coming. i said to him, i said what is it that you would like for me to do and for others to do, to continue to do your work? and he told me, he said brother, keep pushing. keep going and set the record straight. so i say to those of you who own this program today, racism and inequality, those are our problems that we need to work on. keep pushing, keep going, set the record straight, do it in a nonviolent manner, and continue to do it until justice rolls down like water and
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righteousness like a mighty stream. thank you very much. and help see us and support the museum. >> thank you very much, mr. gray. you have been a real inspiration. we appreciate your time and your contribution to our story but also your time today. it has been really terrific. >> this week, we are looking back to this date in history. >> each year for the past 194 years, americans have celebrated each day for the past 194 years americans have celebrated their independence. this year's fourth of july celebrations were something special. the nationwide honor america day as it was called, was a nonpolitical observance with leaders from both political parties taking part. americans from all walks of life took this opportunity to find a common ground and affection for their country and to share that
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affection with others. the honor american day program was simply a celebration of the 194th anniversary of the day on which the colonies of north america declared that they were, from that time, an independent nation, and based this national independence on the concept of individual liberty. here in washington, the daylong program again at 10:30 in the morning. ♪ the morning activities focused primarily on religious observances, with protestants, roman catholics, and jewish clergy men taking part. it was here that american entertainer pat boone opened the proceedings by introducing the star-spangled banner, america's national anthem. ♪ >> friends, this song was
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written at a crossroads time, it time of crisis in our nations history. for over 150 years, it has helped unite americans. as we stand in a crisis time, let us all sing this song with love and conviction. ♪ >> ♪ jose can you see -- oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light, what so proudly we hailed as the twilight's last gleaming ♪ >> follow us on social media @c-spanhistory for more history clips". >> weekend on c-span two an intellectual feast. every sunday, american history america's


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