Intervi ew with John White 8 August 2002 By Kieran Taylor The

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Intervi ew with John White 8 August 2002 By Kieran Taylor The
Intervi ew
with
John White
8 August 2002
By Kieran Taylor
The Southern Oral History Program
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Transcript on deposit at
The Southern Historical Collection
Louis Round Wilson Library
Citation of this interview
should be as follows:
"The Southern Oral History Program, in the
Southern Historical Collection Manuscripts
Department, Wilson Library,
The University of
North Carolina at Chapel Hill"
[email protected] The University of North
Carolina
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
John White
JOHN WHITE: (
) West boundary, and they were trying to keep the students out of
certain areas. Which, I'm not from the historic Savannah area.
KIERAN TAYLOR: Where's your unit?
JW: It's up on Huntington Street, Huntington and East Broad. Now getting back to this man here,
William, he did forty-seven and a half years of service. This is two years ago. Three years ago we were
over at Parris Island, and he got out of the Army, Navy and Army and Marine Corps because he had to go
tend to his mother. She was sick. He wanted to do fifty years. This is at Parris Island. There he is
standing there. There he is a young Marine.
KT: Where was that?
JW: That's in Elise Island, girls in Elise Island. This is parade ground. I was in the first black
combat outfit. There's General (
) there.
KT: So when did the Marines, when were the first black officers in the Marines?
JW: We went into the MarinesKT: I mean, you must've been among the first.
JW: Yeah, uh huh. This was the first group here, our battalion here. (
) Chapter. We
went, I went into the Marines in 1943. Well, it opened up April 9th, 1943, but no wait a minute, 10th is
when they opened it up to blacks. Hall is not here, right here, he was at this thing here, one of the first
blacks who went in there. Also we were the first black police officers here.
KT: Right. Well, let me just to backtrack, would, for the sake of the tape, could you just tell me
your name.
JW: John A. White retired lieutenant Savannah Police Department.
KT: Tell me when and where you were born.
JW: Went on Savannah Police Department, May the 1st, 1947. We were secretly trained not
without the city or anyone in the city knowing for approximately three months at the Masonic Temple,
which was just west of West Broad where Connor Temple Church is now located. We were trained
secretly for three months, and then on May the 1st, 1947 at a public forum at Thirty-seventh and OOgeechee
Road at Four Ss we were shown to the public.
TK: Who trained you?
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
JW: Police officers, FBI agents and local police officers, FBI agents, Truman Ward who was
considered a traitor to the white race.
KT: For what he did.
JW: But the city had no knowledge of it.
KT: WhoJW: Well, the city had knowledge because of the fact you will see it in this what W.W. Law
stated there. As far as getting the number of votes and with Reverend Gilberts along with the other civic
organizations promised the city they could garner over 20,000 votes. Mark Gilbert produced the 22,000
votes and because of that had the political option of putting blacks on as police officers and various
departments in the city. We were, as you will note, In Walk With Me, W.W. was telling the reason for that.
All of us were in the NAACP as youth. Nine of us went on and then in 1949, February 7th, 1949 they put
an additional three more men on. Later on they started adding two or three gradually, but then up until
1956 when Sidney Barnes became chief of police, he stopped putting blacks on when it got up to thirty-six
blacks, the city ordered a moratorium said we were making a black police department.
KT: At thirty-six.
JW: Had over a hundred and some whites. When we got up to thirty-six blacks, they said we
were making a black police department and stopped him from adding blacks. His reason said we were
more effective then the rest of the men. He wanted someone who was able to produce, and later he gave us
a patrol car in '56.
KT: That was the first patrol car.
JW: Yeah. You see it down in front of headquarters, a'53 Chevy.
KT: That's the one, huh.
JW: It's parked on Abercorn I mean on (
) Avenue. I saw it yesterday. That was
Marlow's car that we had that was issued to us.
KT: But you didn't have, you couldn't arrest white, or when could you arrest white suspects, I
should ask?
JW: Actually let's say we could not arrest whites period. But that was to keep down racial
animosity but two weeks after I got on, I did arrest a white. I got a record right here.
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
2
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
KT: How did that happen?
JW: White fellow, it could have been a political thing. I was standing on the corner of Henry and
East Broad, and this white man came up and was going west on Henry, ran the stop sign and hit a black
male driving north on East Broad. Well, I called like I was supposed to do, called Sidney Barnes and
Albert Bragg. Albert Bragg later became our lieutenant. Sidney Barnes later became chief of police.
While standing there, the man stated that Sidney came up and Albert Bragg came up and said look you
have to write this report. He said because you saw it. So Sidney Barnes or Albert Bragg, one of them, all
of us were young, said you're free, black and twenty-one, you write the report. I said one of them. So
anyway that was on a Sunday. That Monday the word got out that I had given a white man a ticket, and all
the policemen were in the coatroom wanting to know what was at hand that gave a white man a ticket.
Emmanuel Lewis was the presiding judge, and when I got up and Sidney Barnes and Albert Bragg and
myself, we stood on the right side of the individual, and they said, "You go ahead and explain to the
judge." Incidentally the man stated this. He said now suppose I had robbed or shot and killed someone and
he's going to stand up there and get killed himself in uniform. Suppose I had robbed a bank or something
or words to that effect. He couldn't do his job, couldn't stop me or anything. A hush just fell over the
courtroom. So I went on and explained the procedures, and the judge fined the man X number of dollars
and probated the sentence, but it could have been a ploy.
KT: You think so?
JW: Uhhuh.
KT: How so?
JW: Because it was right during political upheaval see. That was just two weeks after we got on.
Milton Hall and Leroy Wilson arrested a white and threw him in a cruiser the second day at Gaston and
West Broad, which was a predominantly black area at that time. You call the cruiser, threw the man and
his disorderly conduct and drunk. But he didn't have to go to court. That was two days after, second day
after we got on. So we violated the policy originally. But I understood the reason because of racial
tension. Then later on we became so effective that Sidney Barnes started sending us all in the white areas,
and our participants said they would rather would have us because we knew how to treat the individual as
human beings especially on domestic problems. Instead of walking into the house and calling the man a
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Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
boy like the other, my partners used to do, a man fifty years old, and he twenty-one calling him a boy,
belittling him, that just makes a person angry in front of his family. We walked in and treat the person as
though we wished to be treated ourselves. So that changed the attitude a lot.
KT: Now where were you additionally, where would your beat have been?
JW: Well, I walked East Broad Street.
KT: So you were on East Broad.
JW: I walked East Broad for about three years, singly, and then we also walked from 1-16, which
was Robert Street to Anderson on West Broad at five minutes to the block. Now we have a tape, oh I don't
have that, I have a tape that a fellow made showing Neely, myself, Malone, Wallace, various of us had
made a tape walking the beat with different shifts because we walked. Those of us who worked the
mornings did seven and a half-hours. Those who worked afternoons worked seven and a half hours. Then
those who worked at night did eleven and a half hours then had to go to court.
KT: That's a long shift.
JW: So up until 1956 when Sidney Barnes changed that from '47 to '56 or '55, changed the
working schedule, it was harsh. Mind boggling. Just like we would have to come home and be hungry,
catch the bus and come home then go back over to the little precinct and change clothes and then call for a
patrol car to take us down to the court. And approximately four hours would expire on our time. Half of
the police officers, there was so much hatred. Some of them wouldn't even ride in the car with us. They'd
get out and let one go, and then when we'd get back, they would take the car down and wash it out, have
the prisoners would wash the car out. Ignorance. And a lot of them didn't like us but said we were making
the same money that the white man was making.
KT: Is that right? So there was no pay differential.
JW: Uh uh because we were making $190 a month at the time and that was a big sum.
KT: Were you, where were you living at the time?
JW: Next door.
KT: Okay. So you were always living on this side of town.
JW: Um hmm, right here. And incidentally, five of us out of the original nine, all of us hung out
together. We were students at Savannah State right at the Waters and Gwinnett. We hung out there right at
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Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
an empty lot there called Sam's Corner, and the police would never heckle us, but the fellows across the
street, they would heckle them. We stayed out until five o'clock in the morning on Sam's corner, but he
was a politician and World War Two veteran, and nobody messed with his boys. He told the police officers
and all of them respect Sam, (
) Sam. Five of us out of the original nine came up to his corner.
KT: So are you from Savannah? Were you born in Savannah?
JW: Umhmm.
KT: What year were you born?
JW: 1924, oh boy, show you a picture of my grandmother and grandfather. This is my
grandmother and grandfather andKT: Oh my gosh.
JW: That was taken around 1910.
KT: I'm assuming they were born into slavery.
JW: My grandmother was a slave and my grandfather, but my mother wasn't. She was bom
around 1910. My grandmother was brought in from Africa and sold at Charleston, Henrietta, [papers
rustling] I had a, this is some of the police officers back in '56 here. Willie Williams on one end and W.E.
Wallace on the other. Both of them are retired. Willie what you call it just died.
KT: That's Wallace right there.
JW: Um hmm. He just died earlier this year.
KT: So your grandmother and grandfather, were they, did they live in Savannah?
JW: No, in Alabama. Tuskegee, Alabama.
KT: In Tuskegee. How did your family get to Savannah?
JW: Well, my father, my mother, my father came to Savannah, and he married my mother in
Philadelphia. He was from Ridgeland, South Carolina. His grandfather was named Dikey, and he was shot
in the right shoulder by Dutch slave traders up the Gambia River. I'm four generations and (
)
thirteen moons and brought over to Charleston, sold over in Charleston. We have a family reunion over in
Rigdeland. Well the White family as a whole is scattered from here to Mississippi because most of them
were Irishman, and the White family took the names after them.
KT: Now who is this Boney White?
5
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
JW: That's my father.
KT: And Boney worked on the river.
JW: Yeah, riverfront. He's working on the river front.
KT: Was he a longshoreman?
JW: A longshoreman. Ironically look on the back, that's the nationality.
KT: Isthat-JW: American. Not black, not white, American. That was in 1918. Now he was one, in the
group that formed that union, which I worked down there every Wednesday payroll
KT: He was one of the original in the ILA.
JW: Umhmm.
KT: One of the founders of the ILA.
JW: Yeah.
KT: Wow. Now you worked down there on Wednesdays.
JW: Yeah, at payroll.
KT: What would you do with payroll?
JW: Well, I used to wear a uniform when I was a police officer because they used to raise so
much Cain, one jumped the line and jumped first, and I started working in 1972 andKT: So you were just keeping order basically.
JW: Keeping order.
KT: But you never worked down on the river.
JW: Oh yes. I workedKT: I mean, as a, before being a police officer.
JW: Well, as a police officer I did, I went down there and they stopped me. The city stopped me.
They said I couldn't have the extra job.
KT: Oh I see. You were doing extra work for the company.
JW: This is an original nine a fellow named Bob Dennison wrote that song.
KT: How was your uniform different?
6
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
JW: Well, it was almost the same. This is the original. This is the original. Just the same as that
up there. But that's what he was just writing.
KT: But they gave you different uniforms to distinguish--.
JW: No, no. The same uniforms. See right see, this is 1960 here. That's the shift in 1960. I'm
right over in that corner. Gosh, that's forty-two years ago.
KT: Does it seem that long?
JW: Um hmm. Yeah, this is my group there. This is Albert Bragg here. John Tanner, this is all
of them. Now all these fellows here were nice. They were really nice. We had our except one or two. You
always had in a group, but we got along fine except with this man right here.
KT: Who was that?
JW: Bill Locke. Bill Locke. He was a nasty son of a so and so and so. He left to get, to go to
Statesboro to become chief of police there, and they ran him off and left riding on a bicycle.
KT: He got his. I know that a lot of white police officers in the Deep South had Klan affiliations.
JW: He had it. He had it.
KT: He did.
JW: He had it.
KT: How about just the in general the Savannah police?
JW: Well, a lot of them had it.
KT: A lot of them were tied up i n JW: Tied up in it. Now since you're talking about it, J.D. Tanner right here. That's after we
integrated just before that picture was taken. There was a woman named Alma Goddard who was standing
in line, and he was reading off about this nigger. Everybody was thinking it was black. Come to find out
when, after he turned and said this nigger just committed a dastardly deed. He bit a man's ears off and nose
off and blinded a man in one eye down in Florida. He was talking about this nigger this and nigger that.
But Tanner was a liberal so we knew. He's back in there. We knew where he was coming from because
we had already discussed it earlier. Then he went out to say white female aged thirty-six years old. He said
there's three, seven different words for the word nigger. One is Niger, which is the black word for the river
in Africa. One is an Australian word and seven different origins for the word nigger. Then one called a
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
7
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
black man. But this person who committed a dastardly deed is the worst nigger of all. We just fell out
laughing. Those who didn't know because some of them could hardly read and write, and they were the Ku
Klux Klanners. So it was a lesson in tolerance.
KT: Well, for you you must've constantly had to hold your tongue.
JW: I did at times. Then at times I'd open up. It's just like I'm telling you what I was trying to
tell that girl the other day as a detective when every time they'd ruin W.W. Law swearing a warrant out
against him for something he supposedly did down in Atlanta. Like I told them in front of all the FBI
agents that here it's just three weeks before, three or four weeks before Martin Luther King was killed. I
said, "Now y'all can't do it." "Oh we can do it." I said, "Now if you do, I'm going to kill you." "What
you say?" "I'm going to kill you, you and you." I picked out three. "Then I'm committing suicide. Then
I'm going to Jamie Shoemaker, the woman who was going to swear out the warrant." I went, she went and
said, "They told me I could sell liquor for the rest of my days if I sign this warrant against W. W. Law." I
went and told her she's ruining that man's life. If she do it, I was going to kill her and I meant it. So the
other day when John Baker was interviewing me at King-Tisdale cottage last Thursday to be exact because
it was a eulogy for W.W. Law. I was telling him about it, and I broke down and started crying. That was
one of the most hurtful times in my life.
KT: For them to be going after him.
JW: Well, it was going after him. That's why he never rode a car, never owned a car, never got
married. Every time he walked, like we came up, I say walking you, they can't pinpoint you like they used
to do Hosea Williams because he drove a car. Any time he drove a car especially when he went to Atlanta,
he went to jail between here and Swainsboro. He went to jail hundreds of times because driving a car.
Well, the Ku Klux Klan even rode up and down the street here. I sat out on the front porch with my
shotgun.
KT: What were they riding up and down here for?
JW: Just to intimidate me.
KT: To intimidate you. Why did they single you out?
JW: Well, because we were the first black police officers.
KT: I see so this was in the '40s that they were doing, they were riding.
8
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
JW: Well, not only that. Later than that because right there on Wheaton Street they got radiators
shop. Ossie, they had the junk yard there. He was running a radio shop, and that's where they used to hang
out at along with the one who just retired Johnson Taylor. They used to sweep up and down the street and
my little boy, no, that one right there, the one the sailor, the sailor. He and my neighbor used to be across
the street there, and I told them they couldn't be speeding up. Don't tell me that, and I got out there with
my shotgun and my pistol. We can do what we want to do. Said, "You won't do it in my neighborhood
and run over one of my children." I walked up there and emptied the garage.
KT: You walked up there andJW: With the shotgun. Yeah. Never any report ever made of it because they knew I was crazy.
KT: Did that put an end to it?
JW: That put an end to it. I just like had them used to live on the OOgeechee Road around
Thirty-eighth and Thirty-ninth street originally. I was doing traffic at the Cuyler School. Beach-Cuyler
School Henry and Anderson. The wives used to come by running forty and fifty miles an hour and
wouldn't stop, and I pulled my pistol out. "I'm going to tell my husband." I said you're going to run over
my cousins too. You go tell your husband and tell him I'll kill him too. They came up and asked me why.
I told him. I said, "Now just because she's your wife, she can run over little black children. I'm doing
traffic." I said, "I'll blow her head off." You, you. I said, "Your wife, your mama and everybody else."
Now I meant it. I didn't give a damn. So that, ease off. They quit coming up the street. Incidentally I
started the school patrol like Captain Funk. Have you heard of Funk and the school patrol? Well, I started
the women to help me take care of the children because at that time all that there were Seventeen South and
North and traffic was going Henry Street and turning the OOgeechee Road and coming up Anderson to
West Broad. Just all the big trucks, and the truck drivers were intimidating the children. So I got the
mothers, went to PTA and got the mothers to stand out on the corner and what have you, and then in '53
when Funk came on, he took it over the program and started soliciting funds from various groups in order
to payKT: For the patrol.
JW: For the patrol. But that stopped them. A lot of people were afraid of that said they wasn't
going to do it. I said even well, if it's going to create a riot for somebody to run over one of these women
9
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
because her husband got riled up and create a riot. Nobody wants to have a woman. Now if a man, they'll
run over a man. I mean, it's just small things like that.
KT: Did you ever hear back though from your superiors at the police department saying, "Hey
you need to—
JW: Well, I've gotten some feedback and for example, I can show you. Like this woman with the
hairdoo the other day. This same mustache, I was in the detective office for five years under a certain
captain and a Puerto Rican was coming on had a big handle bar mustache, and one of his friends say look at
that Puerto Rican coming on there with that mustache. He said, "Look I want that mustache off of you." I
said, "Look I've had it for five years. I'm not going to let my manhood go." He said, "If you don't take it
off," well I was working that afternoon, came back to work at eleven o'clock that night. I got off at four
and came back. "I'm going to fire you." So I came back waiting in the hallway and everybody waiting
around and oh (
) all these fellows waiting around. "Oh he's going to fire you. He's going to
fire you." I said, "No he's not. He's not going to say nothing to me," and I stood right there, had a
mustache like this. Now someone had already called him and let him know that I had something on him.
His girlfriend, she was sitting, his girlfriend had called. She was sitting in the little anteroom. This woman
right here was his girlfriend.
KT: Okay. Was he also married?
JW: Yeah, he was married. He was married. I say now if he can recall that Sunday morning, a
couple of Sunday mornings ago of standing in front of the bus station, and I saluted him, and he went
across the bridge to Ticonderago. There was a night club in the motel called the Ticonderago, and he went
over to cabin number seven in a city vehicle, and I had already mentioned in the hallway. She apparently
called him and told him. I said now the two white fellows, the city aldermen that I had with me, white
alderman, that I saluted him as he went over the bridge in the city vehicle. He walked in, turned his head
when he walked in. Wouldn't say nothing. This fellow right here, where's Crouse at? Susan Grouse the
other day, where is Crouse on this picture. There he is right here. His niece was the one who said this
woman's hairdo was bad, the flap about the hairdo.
KT: It was his niece.
JW: Susan Grouse's niece. I mean Hal Grouse's niece Susan Crouse.
10
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
KT: It's all in the family. Is that about crazy.
JW: She reconsidered when h e KT: They didn't learn anything from forty years ago.
JW: Some people don't ever learn. Maybe she had words with the woman see. Well, she had
words.
KT: I'm sure she did. There's more to that story.
JW: S o RT: She was wearing the same haircut for years. Nobody ever said anything.
JW: No one ever said. Just like Weber jumped on me about my, I had been having the same little
thin mustache for the last, ever since I was a man. Never any heavier.
KT: About the old West BroadJW: Well, West Broad street between Gwinnett and the railroad station there were between eleven
and fourteen bars in that four block area. So consequently at three o'clock in the morning, you had more
people on West Broad Street at three o'clock in the morning than you had at Bull and Broughton, which is
the metropolis at that time. Sometimes there was one police officer. Sometimes two patrolling that area.
KT: That's not much police support.
JW: Well, no. I know I've patrolled it by myself. I've had five shootings almost at
simultaneously and being shot at at the same time by one of the individuals who later was arrested and shot
three other people and shot at me. I asked him what was wrong, and he just turned the gun right at the
fireplug right at Gaston and West Broad, I mean, Martin Luther King and West Broad. Yellow fireplug
right there I had my foot up on and he turned around and fired this way. Had he and turned and fired
backwards, he would've turned and hit me in the stomach. He shot, and he ran behind the house, that
empty lot right there, and somebody called with a unit and all the units we had, eight units at that time in
the city, and all of them converged on the spot. He threw down his gun, and he had shot his cousin and he
got sixteen hundred dollars or eighteen hundred dollars from the union camp for broken arm. He was rich
because he had bought all of us drinks when I got off of work the day before, that morning. When I got off
at seven o'clock, he had bought all of us, we used to go in the Silver Moon and get a drink and get a cab
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Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
and come home. He had bought me a drink and everything else, but he stayed there all that day and had
bought different guns for thirty-five dollars at B and B shop, pawn shop.
KT: So he knew you when he shot you.
JW: Uh huh, but he was so drunk. He claimed that he was shooting at the person he was angry
with. I've been shot at about twenty-eight times, and each one of the individuals said that they were
shooting at the person that they were angry with. Only one standing right there on the corner Big Mama,
Fat Mama killed two other women right at Minas and West Broad, Minas and Gaston. There's an empty
lot there, and she had just passed me because I was a member of the Marine Corps league, and we were
selling chances on a radio like that in the hallway. Well, I wasn't selling it on duty, but we had people
selling, and she talked to me, and she would have her husband to bring me some squirrels and rabbits
because he went hunting that day, and she had crossed these two women. Instead of coming back to me,
she went around and came up behind the old Star Theatre and went home and got her gun and came back to
that same area and just as (
), this man right here. We heard the shots. Powpowpow. Powpow
pow. We ran down to the place, and she put the gun right on her forehead right here and said, "(
)
them M.F. won't bother nobody else." The mother fell over in my arms dead, and the daughter was already
dead. I said, "(
), take this gun from Mama." While the woman fell on my arm dead, Big Mama
said she'd never bother anybody else. Fat Mama Gertrude Williams was her name. Incidentally two weeks
earlier I had arrested the son and brother. He had escaped from the Chatham County work detail, and he
had twenty years for raping a nurse over at county hospital. I arrested him right there on a bench in front of
that same place. The family is real rough.
KT: Sounds like it.
JW: There's a fellow, if you walk around here you see him walking up and down the street looks
like a gorilla, cigar hanging out his mouth, we call him Frog. He was laying down passed out at the corn
joint, and he was laying down in the floor, and I thought he was dead too. When we woke him up after we
called the detective, woke him up, and he woke up and saw all that blood. I was teasing him last week.
KT: He had slept through it?
JW: Slept through all of it. Didn't know anything until we woke him up, and he saw the dead
bodies and that blood.
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
12
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
KT: Oh my God.
JW: I was teasing him last Saturday about it. Right where Burger King is one of the most
humiliating things that ever happened to me. A woman was killing another woman had two knives, was
raping, and right at the back door which was Burger King on West Broad right now was just a little corn
joint. This was back in 1953 or '54. I grabbed her by one arm. The other officer grabbed her by the other
arm, and the victim fell dead. The sergeant and the lieutenant came up and told us to get the hell off the
street. We were twenty feet off our beat. Ronnie said get the hell off of our beat and Lieutenant Davis.
Here's about three hundred some people standing up there looking at it. Here we're crying like a baby,
embarrassed. They were protecting this com joint. A year later Earl Kimball killed the same woman in the
same spot, the operator of the com joint. Humiliating, degrading. We were walking down the street crying
because we were twenty feet off of our beat.
KT: Trying to save somebody's life.
JW: Uh huh and the victim fell dead. (
) and I, and the victim fell dead, and both of
us crying now in front of all the people, and they couldn't say too much. Those things happen.
KT: They were making some kind of payoffs.
JW: Um hmm. Yeah. They were getting the pay off from Earl Kimball. Right now, Earl
Kimball if you call on TV, he's listening at the police and he'd blind now. All calls, but he was effective as
far as we were concerned. But armed robbery, rape, wherever it happened, people used to come to him,
and he would say get him. Get him. Regardless of where it happened at, in Chatham County all of them
come here. So that's why they let him operate the liquor store, com joint because he was giving us up the
people who were making for armed robberies, rapes. He said you get him. You get that person. One hand
has to wash the other. But they were getting the money, the payoff from him because he had helped us
with a lot of murders, a lot of robberies.
KT: He would get the word. I mean, he would hear what the word is~
JW: People talking in his presence. Well, I did thus and so. I did thus and so. He would get the
word out. Say get that nigger around the comer. Say pick him up. You can find guns or whatever you
have at such a place they'd be telling him. So you have to have several places like that to operate and all
like that in order to make an effective arrest because he was not violating. Didn't make you buy liquor like
13
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
with this marijuana and cocaine today. So then too you could tell where a person was selling liquor
because whenever a person went in and bought some com whiskey, he came out he had to spit. That
whisky would be burning.
KT: You could tell, huh.
JW: Any house that he walked out of, you know that there was liquor being sold or something in
that particular house. Com whiskey.
KT: So now this was, why would com whiskey continue to be sold. I mean, certainly there were
liquor stores. Did some people just prefer that?
JW: Well, all your politicians had liquor stills. All your politicians. All your rich people had
liquor stills. Like Judge Alexander who was over the municipal court. He said, "I can tell wherever the
liquor come from South Carolina, Georgia, Skidaway Island, OOOgeechee River" what have you. The
water is different and—
KT: He was that good.
JW: He was that good. Dr. Harris, the pediatrician, he wrote a book, and everybody got scared
about all these outlying island even out at Tybee Island all those islands, liquor stills. There was a liquor
still, black policeman knocked it down. I hate to say it but right there on McDonald Street, three thousand
gallon liquor still between the two county jails. They operated there for five years. B.P. Arnold operating
it, and this black policeman went and broke it down. He went to jail.
KT: The policeman went to jail.
JW: Uh huh. Said they were investigating a liquor still and operated there nearly five years.
Even Federal agents knew all about it.
KT: It was all, the money was going around.
JW: Money was going around. Baker black, William Baker broke the still up, three thousand
gallon still. He went to jail.
KT: What did they get him on? Some trumped u p JW: Trumped up, they were investigating it and jumping the gun. For two years, they were
investigating it for two years. I mean, just a little, (
) that happen in life.
14
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
KT: How did, how was, I'm interested in how the vice industry was organized on West Broad.
Who ultimately was controlling it?
JW: Well, it was controlled by various individuals.
KT: White or black.
JW: Black and white. Right there on Oglethorpe Avenue when you first went on, the white
prostitute was living right there on Oglethorpe right there at that empty lot there and a black was in the
lane. We couldn't use the facilities at the barracks. I have to go to the toilet, I have to go down to the black
that was selling com whiskey to the prisoners to use their toilet until we had desegregated down there, and
then they put us in the basement. So this street was named after the biggest politician. J. J. Bouhan who
was the county attorney, and right across the street over there where that parking lot behind that tree over
there was the house where Lillian Clark, the biggest prostitute, in this area, operated when I was a little
child, six or seven years old, and we used to peep, the children used to peep at his entertainment seeing
everything what they were doing, just watch right open, and she used to catch us and bring us over here and
Mama would have to tell, nasty little thing. Yeah.
KT: But she was working for Bouhan.
JW: Yeah. The street was named after Johnnie Bouhan.
KT: They should've named it after her as well.
JW: Well, she, they had, she and her brother, they had Indian Street, Miss Lil as they called her
had Indian Street (
) with all the seamen would come in had the prostitution, and it was
controlled by the police and various individuals. Now every police officer back then had a house either for
whiskey, prostitution or gambling until we gotKT: Had his own house that he controlled because the salary wasn'tJW: Wasn't sufficient.
KT: Sufficient. So were you in terms of West Broad then, were you instructed then to keep your
hands off or~
JW: It was not instructed.
KT: You were not instructed.
JW: It was not instructed, but you know how the water runs.
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Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
KT: You knew who was who and who and who not to arrest.
JW: For example, Gus Hayes and them were who was selling numbers, and they post the numbers
out on the street at Gaston and West Broad every afternoon at five o'clock.
KT: Right out on the street.
JW: The numbers, had the number of votes just like they post in the paper. Certain young officer
came up and wanted to get me and Malone to help go in there and raid the place. We said hell no. We got
down to-he had political faction. He went in and raided it. He ended up in jail about seven o'clock that
night. Whereas we were down, didn't know anything. But we knew it. He ended up in jail for jumping the
gun and it was just hands off. Just like Sloppy Bellinger who was the kingpin. He died in 1959. They used
to assign every Friday night to be in his house, a certain judge daddy and others would come in, and we
smell a policeman. He would have washtubs full of money, thousands of dollars.
END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A
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Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B
JW: I'm telling you-.
KT: That was Sloppy Bellinger.
JW: BellingerKT: In his, what was his rap. Was it just numbers?
JW: Numbers, whiskey.
KT: Whiskey.
JW: We, right there on Maple Street, we poured out nine hundred gallons of liquor one time. ( )
came up, a young fellow who went over (
) he got went in there and poured out nine hundred
gallons of liquor. Whiskey was running down the street like water. Sloppy in 1958 was put in jail up in, he
went up to jail up in Dublin. Sheriff wanted to know who was the so and so corrupting his white boys.
Sloppy had seven thousand dollars when he went up to jail in Dublin. When he came back, he only had
two hundred dollars. The sheriff said this is my friend. This is my buddy here.
KT: He just bought his way out.
JW: Hollis Gay was the sheriff. He'd say this is my friend here. This is my buddy. He'd visit
Sloppy all the time. Sloppy had intrigued him and had gotten him in a hole. Sloppy was called Slim, but he
gained so much weight working for down at the Brass Rail at Tybee and for Jimmy Hall brothers. Ever
heard of the Hall brothers? They were attorneys that ran Brass Rail and started off even with my brother
who was working with them down at the General Oglethorpe and the Brass Rail with him. I didn't know it,
but they were stocking the DAV Island. They had a liquor store on DAV Island.
KT: Now the Brass Rail, that was a bar on Tybee?
JW: Umhmm.
KT: Was that up by the pavilion?
JW: Um hmm. Yeah, where the pavilion is now, and Sloppy was there working with Ernest Hall.
They were making. Then when Ernest Hall really got out and (
) and Sloppy was making liquor,
then they went out in big business, not only that but every politician had a liquor still. Skidaway Island,
Warsaw, all those islands out there.
KT: They'd bring it in to town-
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Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
JW: Bring it in and distribute it. It had the various political factions fighting each other, and I
stood on the side and just looked. Those of us who didn't want the money and didn't want to get into it.
Let them fight it out.
KT: But you would go over to Sloppy's on Friday night just to basically to protect the money to
make sure nobody--.
JW: I was ordered to go there, be there every Friday night.
KT: So that nobody wouldJW: Rob them.
KT: Try to rob them.
JW: Go in and rob them. You'd have (
) tubs full of money. One time he got sick, he
fell out and the second lieutenant, same lieutenant ordered me to take him to the hospital. I was supposed
to get off and eleven o'clock. He ordered me to take him to the hospital, Georgia Infirmary. He had
eighteen thousand dollars on him. That stayed in the hospital all night long with him. He gave me two
dollars to catch a cab the next morning to get home.
Twice. I was ordered, and just before he died the wife went to New York, and she took, told me to
look out for him. I wasn't taking any money. We were friends. He said, "(
) Bitter Creek and
his auditor Alan Rivers said I can't trust y'all. Said y'all are too crooked. I mean y'all are too straight
because y'all won't steal nothing from me." Well, he was operating a service station that was at Oak and
West Broad at the time, and she left him with thirty or forty thousand dollars, living out there at 616 West
Thirty-seventh. Now Sloppy's bed was a double the length of bed. He weighed nearly six hundred pounds.
For breakfast he would have a dozen eggs, three steaks, a dozen biscuits, quart of milk, quart of coffee. He
just and people just bringing him food. He was a Jesus. I remember one woman had a fire on Robert
Street, and the woman was worrying about twenty dollars she left in the house. But she had five thousand
dollars belonged to Sloppy. She wasn't worried about that. She was worrying about her twenty dollars.
Right now he was farming his money out to various individuals, elderly people to keep it for him. He was
what you call, everybody politicians from all over went to him.
KT: King maker kind of.
JW: Connection.
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Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
KT: Now who was protecting him? Who were his allies in the white community?
JW: Well, Ernest Hall, everybody.
KT: Oh okay.
JW: Everyone.
KT: Did he have any rivals?
JW: Yeah, Willie Joe, I mean, Bubba Delaguard, Joe Delaguard who was just got a house right on
the comer of Burns and Thirty-fifth Street now. He was the bootlegger. Now Joe Delaguard killed his
number one man in 1951. He pulled me off of West Broad Street. He shot him about seven o'clock in the
morning, didn't put him in jail until about one o'clock that day, and he got rid of over fifteen thousand
dollars. Every politician in town came over and lawyer.
KT: Before his arrest.
JW: Before his arrest. Now I could call him right now. He called me 501. He said I'm too
honest. But called me my friend. We were friends. But I'm too honest because I didn't want his money.
Right now I'd go by him and he'd holler at me right now, call me 501. That was my call number as a
lieutenant. He said, "You're too honest." I got myself in trouble in '56 with him '5-yeah, '58 along with
another black officer who was getting some money from him and came out was getting it. He, one day we
went to raid the place, and he wanted his little money box. He had a money box with change on the floor
about as high as this table, mechanic tool box. He had about maybe fifty thousand dollars in it. Because I
wouldn't break the chain on it, he got mad with me and went and lied to Sidney Barnes on me, and I told
him and Sidney Barnes and I quote, "I would kick the chief at Bull and Broughton. I know the law he
didn't. I would have to have a court order to get that, it's just like a safe, to confiscate it." Now secondly I
said now, the way you're talking, his wife's picture right here, and a photo right here now, I would kick
your ass at Bull and Broughton, Chief. I know the rules, and I'm not going to violate the rules and take
advantage of nobody. I said, "Now you little son of a bitch. Three women were stopped this morning
because you were bothering their little teenager daughters. Keep them from coming down here and talking
to the chief." Just at the time someone called, a woman called about him messing with teenager daughter.
In less than week he was gone because I went back and got all the women that I could stop. They went to
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
19
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
Sidney Barnes, got rid of him. But he was bothering the teenage daughters. He ended up doing, caught
him in New York doing, got twenty years in Sing Sing. Oh, that's in Atlanta. I'm sorry. That'sKT: Thatcher.
JW: Surgeon, ex surgeon general.
KT: Sure, yeah.
JW: Family. It's my son in law's funeral back in June. I've got, these are the first black fire
women in Atlanta, twenty-five years ago.
KT: Wow.
JW: Here they are again.
KT: Why was it that you went up to this event?
JW: Well, they were honoring me.
KT: I see, this was all kind of pioneers from Georgia.
JW: Umhmm. This man here is the head of NAACP. He'll be here in October, Butler. He'll be
here in October. That's Thatcher and my son who just got out of the Navy, twenty years on a submarine.
KT: Who is this?
JW: Gerald Butler. He's the head of the NAACP in the state of Georgia. He just got out, my son
had just gotten out of the Navy, twenty years in a submarine, the one next to me and next to Thatcher. This
is Billy Wallace here, the West Broad Street Y. He was taking, he died early in January.
KT: So you must've, I mean, it sounds like you met some characters there on West Broad.
JW: Oh yeah. Yeah, I met some characters and arrested people. One of my greatest compliments
was arresting a fellow who said I was putting him in jail and made him felt good. He was going back to do
ten years in North Carolina. It was a disk jockey.
KT: You made him feel good.
JW: Uh huh in arresting him because I wasn't taking advantage of him. I'll have to run back to
the bathroom. I want you to read that. That's from the first black fellow (
) my friend. Just read it.
Which is a good percentage.
KT: Only three lived to retire.
20
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
JW: Yeah, just three lived to retire after doing twenty-five years of service. That's a good
percentage.
KT: The others.
JW: Fall by the wayside because of political things. But three of us lived to retire. That's a
percentage wise, that's a hundred percent.
KT: You think that's pretty good.
JW: Um hmm. Because the rigors of police work.
KT: Well, this is a really beautiful telegram. He wrote this for your retirement banquet.
JW: Yeah, he died about five years ago from cancer. He's a first black GBI agent in Georgia.
KT: He mentions reading in the Pittsburgh Courier or he saw your picture and that you, and he
makes the connection between Atlanta then integrated the next year and that you were not just pioneers for
Savannah, but the whole state.
JW: Herbert Jenkins, Herbert Jenkins, W.W. Law and I were about ten years ago or twelve years
ago. We were in Atlanta, and I asked him along with the Jim [William Holmes Borders?] Bowlin who
pastored Wheats Street Baptist Church in Atlanta, big civil rights church in Atlanta.
KT: Reverend Borders?
JW: Um hmm. I asked him, W.W. Law and I, we were sitting at the same table. So I asked him,
Chief Jenkins, I said, "Look here, when you came to Savannah, I was walking East Broad Street and you
kept," he had bib overalls. Little skinny white man. Everywhere I walked he'd walk behind me. He kept
his hand like this in his overalls. He had two forty-fives. So I asked him, I said, "Chief, why did you keep
your hand in your pocket like that." He said, "Hell man." He said, "Excuse me Reverend Borders." He
said, "You were walking down the street pushing the people aside and I saw so many guns. Hell, all those
mother fuckers had guns, I kept my-and you were walking pushing them aside." Said, "Now y'all stay,
open the sidewalk up and let the ladies and children pass." Said, "I was just as scared as they were. But I
kept my hand in there." He fell out laughing.
KT: So you remember when Jenkins visited Savannah, and he shadowed you.
JW: Um hmm on East Broad Street, and when I brought that up to him, we just fell out laughing.
One wants to reach out and touch each person like W.W. say. You don't hold animosity. You take it as a
21
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
living experience. Now you're going to dislike certain individuals. That's human. You like steak. I like
hamburger. Because you like steak, why should I get angry with you because I like hamburger. So that's
life. So you hold these things. You try to remember it and try to make a person laugh at least once a day
because life is not worth living if you can't make a person laugh, regardless of who it is. Even a man going
to his death, you try to make him happy. Make him feel good and that way, you'll not have any problem.
KT: Growing up over on this side of town as a teenager would you still go over to West Broad?
JW: Well, we had to go. I'd leave from here at seven o'clock in the morning and seven-thirty and
be to Beach-Cuyler at Anderson and West Broad at eight-thirty. That's the high school we went to. Back
then people, children from Tybee, Pooler, Bloomingdale all went there. So we had knew everybody from
all sections of the city.
KT: Through the high school.
JW: Through the high school. Our worst time was going through Forsyth Park, which was white.
Now you had the group, we walked Gwinnett and then catty-cornered over to Park Avenue and the doors
on this side, the whites on this side would chase us to the whites on the other side of Broad. Then we'd get
over to Park Avenue and another group of whites, and we were their meat. Now if another group jumped
on us and wanted to beat us, they'd join in and fight the other group because we were their meat. So it was
not any, it was just the hood gang. Like the stranger, somebody they didn't know wanted to jump on
anyone of us, they had a hell of a fight because we were their meat, and when they were called off that
meat they were our meat. We knew each other by name and everything else.
KT: You knew who they were.
JW: Knew who they were. We walked all the way over every day from, I had to walk because I
didn't have money to ride the bus, rain or shine going over to Beach-Cuyler.
KT: How long would it take you to walk to the other side of town?
JW: Thirty-five minutes because we'd leave from here. Had to be to school by eight-twenty,
leave from here maybe about seven-forty-five.
KT: Which street would you walk down?
JW: Gwinnett.
KT: Mostly Gwinnett.
22
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
JW: Mostly Gwinnett unless we had some problems at Forsyth Park, and then we'd veto it and go
around and go over to Beach-Cuyler and came back the same way. Well, we knew the whites and the gang.
Each street had its problematic gang, and when all of us were out of the territory, we were together. Well, I
was working out at Daffin Park at the time. So I knew all of them, swimming pool and skating rink, '38
and '39 I was out at Daffin Park. So I knew every white in the city. That was the area until the World War
Two came about where all the whites gathered.
KT: Out at Daffin Park.
JW: Daffin Park. It was a three-story building at that time because I fell off the building back in
1940 after Hurricane, August 8th, 1940, August the 10th, 19401 fell off that building but I landed on empty
crates, candy crates, (
) land on it repairing the roof. Incidentally, December 7th, 1941, there was a
marine from Parris Island came over, called him Whitey out of Minnesota. His hair was strictly white,
blond. I called him Whitey, and when he came in about five o'clock that evening, I told him he had to get
back to Parris Island. He said, "Why?" I said, "Pearl Harbor was just bombed." They didn't know. Word
hadn't gotten over to Parris Island. So I had saved his life out at Daffin Park. A guy tried to hit him with a
pair of skates, and I snatched him and threw him to the floor and possibly would've fractured his skull. He
never forgot me. That was in '41, December 7th, '41. In 1944, we landed on Eniwetoc, and I was relieving
his outfit. He was, he was doing KP, and I was assigned to KP, and I walked up and he looked at me, and
he called me Whitey. I called him Whitey, and we started hugging and crying like I don't know what, and
two hundred men wanted to know where we met. Now he'd been overseas almost two years. They wanted
to know where Whitey met Whitey. Even his lieutenant and captain wanted to know that. He left they left
to go up to either Saipan or Tinian, and I don't know if he's alive today or dead.
KT: Is that how you-was that your introduction to the Marines? Why did you join the Marines?
JW: Because of W.W. Law and Mark Gilbert.
KT: What did they do?
JW: Because they were advocating us getting into the Marines when the Marines opened up to
blacks, and W.W. went into the Army after me, but I was in the Marine Corps and Mark Gilbert.
KT: So they encouraged you.
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
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The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
JW: Encouraged us to get into the branch of service because it had just opened up. Because of
Mary Bethune Cookman and Eleanor Roosevelt along with the Tuskegee Airmen because of them which in
1941 those pictures of just now of Tuskegee Airmen started they said in 1941 in a cafe in New York where
they wanted to. Here was one of the original Tuskegee Airmen, started in '41 with Ms. Bethune Cookman
and Eleanor Roosevelt.
KT: Who is this right here? Do you know his name?
JW: His name is Robinson. I didn't put it down on there. Just like all my other photos here, I
don't put names down until it's too late. How it started in a cafe in New York where a group of boys
started talking about wanting thus and so. Then they went on to Tuskegee and became fighters. Like you
said they lost sixty-two were killed and captured, but during the raid in Italy not a bomber was lost. Even
some of the pilots when they found out who they were reconsidered the ideas of other people.
KT: They requested them right--.
JW: Yeah, someone requested afterwards.
KT: They were known as, what were the black angels. Yeah.
JW: Um hmm. Because it had the red tail of 369th and what have you. I met B O . Davis too.
KT: Did you really?
JW: Um hmm. Incidentally, see that book right over there? This is the encyclopedia, that big one
right on the bottom to your rightKT: Right there.
JW: That went out of existence in 1875, that encyclopedia.
KT: What was that?
JW: It went out of existence in, last print was 1875.
KT: 1875. Now were these your father's and grandfather's books?
JW: Umhmm. That they acquired.
KT: Wow.
JW: Acquired from people that gave it to them.
KT: So your father, he remained in the union for how long?
JW: Well-
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Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
KT: Did he remain a longshoreman forJW: Well, he got hurt before, in '35 right after. He got hit in the head with a cotton hook, and then
he started working fishing. Then when World War Two came along, started helping build the ships. But
he never did go back down, they were making thirty-five cents an hour. I mean he got hit, and it just to
take four men to build a cotton, to roll it up on a ship. On a hedgehog one of those big barrels with rosin
was six hundred some pounds, no two men on a bale and four men to hedgehog to roll it up on a ship to
send the rosin. But he started crabbing and fishing, getting twenty-five cents a dozen for crabs.
KT: Where would he crab?
JW: Wilmington River.
KT: In the Wilmington.
JW: Catch the bus, catch the last street car and go down to Thunderbolt, had a bateau down there.
KT: He had a bateau.
JW: And had his crab traps out, come back and catch it or come back on the last train at night so
that with the crabs so they won'tKT: A bushel.
JW: A bushel or twoKT: They'd let him take it right on the trolley.
JW: Well, the house wasn't but eleven dollars a month.
KT: Hard to believe, huh.
JW: Um hmm. But it was survival, and if it wasn't for good people, well, we had cows, cows and
all this here was a cow pasture at one time.
KT: Oh this was.
JW: Had potatoes, sugar cane over there across the street where the school is we had, that was our
com and sugar cane and what have you and down there below that magnolia tree was our cow pasture. (
) we had all the way back to (
) Canal. Well, in '54 or '55 I sold twenty-five head of cows I had
because they were going to build a school.
KT: But you had them until the mid-fifties?
JW: Umhmm.
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
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The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
KT: A cow pasture.
JW: I've had everything a child could want in animal life, hogs, goats, horses, mules, had
everything or had right now I had that forty head of cows I could go to my girlfriend were raised together,
classmate and what have you, and I'm part of the family. I've got forty-head of cows, twenty-head of goats
right now, less than twenty miles from here. She's got one other-she owns a hundred acres of land here in
Chatham County, one of the second or third largest black land owners in Chatham County. Very few
people have got over ten acres in Chatham county.
KT: Anymore.
JW: She's got over a hundred.
KT: Going out toward like Dorchester.
JW: Ogeechee Road, right at Salt Pond, Salt Creek, all that used to be her land, Salt Creek there
where the recreation parlor and what have you, right across from the (
) truck stop and just two
sisters, three sisters and me and her first cousin Mack Brown the pastor of Saint John church the old folk's
on (
) Street. He's the last male in the family other than me. Well, I'm just a friend, but I'm more
or less like you said a member of the family than he because all the decisions are made by me and not by
him.
KT: You must've seen some, quite some changes then on Broad Street.
JW: Oh yeah, all the way around, lot of changes.
KT: When did you first notice that something was happening?
JW: Oh with urban renewal, urban renewal, when urban renewal came through, and they were
buying out people's property, those who owned some property like Savannah Pharmacy for example. They
bought Savannah Pharmacy out for fifteen or twenty thousand dollars, and she tried to get a loan to build at
the present location over on 916 West Broad, Martin Luther King. They wouldn't even loan her the money
to build it. She had to borrow money out of North Carolina to build the building. They gave her fifteen
thousand dollars and sold her property, wanted to sell her property for $200,000 that they condemned for
fifteen thousand. Just like Bynes Royal which is at Gaston and West Broad. What's that eating place
there?
KT: Wendy's is right there.
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program 26
Collection (#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
JW: Wendy's paid $200,000 for that property. They got only about $30,000. So Rousakas made
a killing. Urban renewal.
KT: Was Rousakis behind it or who wasJW: He was part of theKT: Part of it yeah.
JW: Part of the clique. It's just like right here. Gosh, man's name. He was the head of the
housing, and he was telling we were having a meeting down at Wheaton Street, and I'm going to tear down
your house and build a whore house in church. Discussing things. I'm going to tear down your house,
Donald Naismith was his name. McDonald's was there. I happened to stop by the meeting in uniform, and
he mentioned it four times to me in the presence of other people. I'm going to tear down your house and
build a whore house. Then it hit me. I said, "You're going to tear down my house and build a whore house
as hard as I've scuffled for my house for my family." I said, "If you do, I'm going to kill you." I stood up
and told the whole group. I said, "Now y'all heard this man Donald Naismith saying Mr. McDonald's,
that's your right hand man that he's going to tear down my house and build a whore house. I worked hard
to build my house for my family." I said, "The same gun y'all got here, I'll use to kill y'all." I said,
"Secondly, y'all put Rick's Glass Company over there who's not in this neighborhood. He's got two
hundred some thousand dollars and built that building over there out of the money that was allocated to the
five million dollars that was allocated for us to repair our homes. Now where in the hell had that money
gone to. There's something in the milk and it isn't clean." I said, "God dammit if you take my house,
you're going to have to kill me." I broke down and started crying, my wife said "He put his pants on just
like me and can die just like me. Now any of you all don't think I'm ready to die tell them they're going to
take my house, let him open his mouth." I think that's why I never made lieutenant. I was acting
lieutenant at the time. But I was ready to retire. It's just heartrending.
A fellow just died a week ago last, he lived at the comer house down there on the comer the post
man, he left with his house so raggedy. It's been there, his family has had it ever since 1875, and he just
moved over to South Carolina, postman and he's just, I'm not going to fight him. I'm going to take that
money and bought some land about fifteen or twenty acres over at Blufton, and I'll just move out of town.
But it just, that's the way they did. When I said that something in the milk wasn't clean and then
27
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
McDonald's looked at me. I said now this man doesn't even live in the area and that five million dollars the
federal government allocated HUD allocates for the repairing our house and y'all brought him in—
KT: Stolen basically.
JW: I said now something in the milk, woman who was down here trying to solicit people to vote
to move out of the area, "Well, I didn't know." I said, "No you didn't know a God damned thing." I'm in
the church now, (
) little church, I said, "You don't know a god damned thing as long as you
somebody give you twenty dollars to get out and talk about what you want to do. Pay attention to what's
going on." McDonald's looked at me and a hush came over the church. I turned around and walked out of
the church and left my wife and next door neighbor and all of them. They said I was crazy. From then on,
McDonald's see me, he stayed away form me.
KT: How long ago was this?
JW: Oh, let's see. It had to be in the early'80s.
KT: Oh so you were still on the force.
JW: I was still on the force. I was acting lieutenant at the time, shift commander.
KT: So HUD had allocated money for housing repairs.
JW: Of this area here.
KT: Probably some sidewalks and infrastructure.
JW: Sidewalks and repairing the house, individual houses and~
KT: And they used it to relocate a business.
JW: Then Donna told Philip Moore who had just come over working who was just fired last year
by the mayor told Philip Moore to look here you'd better do something to that man there. He'd better make
sure he gets a loan. Next morning he was over here talking to me. I got $17,000 to repair that house next
door. It's rotting down now, but they tore down everybody else's house, and they were going to tear down
this street too. But they stopped.
KT: Well, that's what I noticed coming in is that everything has been torn down.
JW: But all these other houses were tenement houses see. It had one or two individual houses if
you go to the comer that were owned by various people but still standing. But that stopped because they
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
28
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
were going to tear down all their houses in the whole area, and I said, "If you do it, I'm going to kill you."
I said, "All of you people here should feel the same way." McDonald's knew I meant it.
KT: That's almost the only thing they understand.
JW: Oh yeah. You had to sometimes, you had to get nasty sometimes to let them know how you
feel because see, politically they take advantage of you, and from then on I was catching little things here
and there. Just like Philip Moore, this house I bought the other day I got from the church. Since March the
17th, 1995, I've been trying to get a loan through HUD and the city. Philip Moore would not help me get,
loan me the money. So three years ago, I showed the mayor where on March the 17th, the city engineer had
okayed plans for me to get some money to repair this house and that no application that the blacks was
getting, Philip Moore was letting millionaires come in and buy the property, letting them have the money.
Had over forty applications on his desk that he had just completely ignored. So that Floyd Adam fired him
outright.
KT: That's what got him fired.
JW: Um hmm. Well, now he's a consultant making his money, but he's a consultant. But he got
fired right then and there. Floyd Adams said now here's thirty applications by blacks and not one got a
loan but nothing but whites were getting it. Big people out of the north, Floyd said he's got to go. When I
showed Floyd that where it was approved on March 17th, 1995 and Floyd said, "Y'all worked too hard and
people are overlooking the little people," political and fired Philip Moore. I don't know if he's still in
Savannah now or not.
KT: So you must've known the mayor's family going back.
JW: Oh yeah, yeah yeah. I've known, well his mother is my classmate. She suffered from
Alzheimer's disease and sick right now, but she, Wilhelmina is my classmate. His daddy was a big
bootlegger seller for Kelly and oh gosh what's the man's name who back in the '40s loaned the city
$200,000 had a house on the comer of Fortieth and Jefferson. But he ran the number operation—
KT: Floyd, Sr.
JW: No, I mean, I'm trying to think of his name.
KT: The man who Floyd Sr.
29
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
JW: He was an Irishman. He ran the number operation, and he loaned the city during the war
$200,000 out of his pocket to pay the city employees. Well, anyway Floyd's daddy and Kelly they built
Pope High School off of boleto money. But his daddy sold money, sold he, Press Boy was his nickname.
He started the Herald newspaper. He wasn't going to sit down and follow the general theme by playing
cards and running behind women. He was doing something for his community, took him money and
bought a few pieces of property. But Press Boy loved, I don't know where he learned the newspaper
ability, but that's his nickname.
KT: Press Boy.
JW: He started the Herald and has been successful. Now Floyd's brothers, one of Floyd's
brothers went in the Marine Corps because of me and died in Vietnam, the Vietnam era. So it's still a small
world. It's just like talking about I'm not really, I'm known, but this man came in from England because of
me. The Morning News didn't even know that W.W. Law was dead until he called from England because
his friendship with W.W. Law. He flew in here.
KT: Came in.
JW: Did you see him on TV last night?
KT: No, I didn't.
JW: It was on channel ten last night. They were talking to him about it and was asking him how
he and W.W. and all of us were friends and children coming up, and yet he was a Rhodes scholar. His
niece also went over last Tuesday (
) father and mother called (
) here went over with the
Renaissance. You know that's the intellectuals.
KT: Over in Hilton Head.
JW: Uh huh. They're having it in England, having an England last Tuesday. So I ought to call her
right now to see if her brother-she talked (
).
Man's voice: You on the phone?
JW: Yeah, [making phone call] [door slam] [phone conversation] I had Coming Up From Slavery,
I had the first book of written by O.C. Flipper published the first black who graduated from West Point in
1875.
KT: You had a copy of that book?
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
30
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
JW: Uhhuh. I had it, loaned it out.
KT: Don't loan any books. You know where it is still or is it gone?
JW: I know the guy who has it, but he is retired from Armstrong College, but claims he doesn't
have it. But I didn't write it down.
KT: Hold on.
JW: Coming Up From Slavery--! also had one of the original books by Robinson Crusoe and
other Olde English writing and let somebody have it when I was in school.
KT: I'll bet that encyclopedia is worth some money though.
JW: Yeah. It's Zell's Encyclopedia. It went out of existence in 1875. [phone
ringing/conversation]
KT: I was wondering, so you really think that it was, I mean, it was the urban renewal that really
gutted the street.
JW: Well, that's what tore up West Broad and ninety some buildings were lost, and I had names
of all the buildings. I've got it somewhere. I've got it somewhere. All the owners, operators of all the
buildings. I got it in one of these boxes.
KT: People were just pretty much put in a situation where they could either take a payment or
take nothing.
JW: Take nothing, uh huh.
KT: Forced out.
J
JW: Forced out. Ninety-some businesses.
KT: Now do you think that this was, how conscious was the city of this? Do you think they sat
down and they said this is what we're going to do? Did they target the neighborhood?
JW: Well, yes, they targeted the neighborhood. Claimed that it was a blight area and knowing (
). For example, you know who started River Street?
KT: Well, they credit Mayor Rousakis.
JW: Sam Stevenson started repairing river Street.
KT: Who was that?
JW: Had the riverboats on River Street. Was given what you call it.
31
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
KT: Tours.
JW: Tours, I mean rides over to Dafauskie. He recalled a junior Seller, Mills B. Lane and telling
about how you can develop River Street because we went to New Orleans and to Baltimore and took
pictures of it, he and I. But Sam Stevenson, also, we had a place over on Hilton Head and the Dafauskie
was given the boat rides and every time there were boat rides. He would give four boat rides a day. There
when the Marriott hotel, the Marriott hotel down in creating such a problem when they got out at night
breaking into stores and what have you, they started emptying down in a field down there. But actually he
was the father of River Street, but his name is nowhere on it. He also had a contract on the river and any
cmise ship or something came in, he had it. But he got caught in sting. His name is nowhere to be seen on
River Street today, Captain Sam Stevens.
KT: Is he still living?
JW: No, he's dead.
KT: He's dead.
JW: He went to jail in his eighties claiming he was getting oil from Hunter Field being stolen
from Hunter Field, and he went to jail and that wiped him completely out. Now Colonial Oil went up to try
to save him, (
) and the mayor tried to save him, claimed he owed him $200,000 getting gas and oil
from him because he'd had selling oil too and oil for the four boats. Two paddlewheelers. He bought his
first boat the Fairmont in 1964 for $80,000, and it was used in a New York world fairs. It cost $200,000,
and he got it for $84,000 and started plying up and down the river getting cruises. He was actually the
father of River Street. It was Rousakis because being the mayor and got seven million dollar loan, it went
on to him. Then they had to get rid of Sam they had to break his lease and everything elseEND OF TAPE 1,SIDEB
32
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A
JW: And Sam back in the '60s, early '60s, got me to contact some of the people I knew on Hilton
Head and I was getting fifty dollars to contact the people to get the option to sell, the land over on Hilton
Head. All like now where Sea Pine is, Charlie Simmons had owned all of that, nearly five hundred acres
down there, and Charlie Simmons let most of that go for little or nothing. Singleton, Collier Beach and
even the property we had at Bradley Beach, and I didn't know it went for a million dollars for three years.
I was a part of the group that owned it, Hilton Realty Company and it had gone for three years, it sold for a
million dollars, three years before I retired, sold in 1981. Because of South Carolina law at the time,
corporation laws or what have you, my time had expired where I couldn't-. We got the property for little
or nothing called Bradley Beach and had Collier Beach, Singleton Beach and right there behind my
neighbor, the first house up there, right there where the Shell station when you go in on 270 on Hilton
Head, we built a couple of cottages up from the lumber I got from this house here. We built this for his
relatives, tore down this house, tore down a couple of houses when they were destroying that area west of
West Broad and build this house here and all the subflooring, joists and everything came out of the house.
I bought the house for a hundred dollars and tore it down. All these bricks, all these bricks that were
around this house didn't cost me but three hundred dollars. The cornices, they didn't cost me but eight
hundred dollars.
KT: Where did you get the bricks?
JW: Old warehouse down there down on River Street. Bought the bricks for three hundred
dollars, all these bricks on this house, three hundred dollars. Now it would be a thousand, two thousand
dollars, but I helped clean them though.
KT: Now I'd imagine as things, as a police officer that you saw that drugs must have had a huge,
caused changes.
JW: Originally we only had two hundred drug dealers, black and white in town that I knew of.
KT: In the'40s.
JW: In the '40s, certain doctors and certain individuals. They kept the drugs to themselves.
KT: You say there were about two hundred at that time.
JW: About two hundred drug-
33
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
KT: And you knew who they were.
JW: Knew who they were, and it kept it away from the youth. It kept it to themselves. I can say
for instance like Dr. Collier, his brother John Collier, he was a chemist for the dmg dealer. He would cut
all the drugs going from here to Florida. They were sent through here, and it was certain with that group
well, he would distribute it among his friends.
KT: And what kind of things was he selling? Speed?
JW: Well, when he was building this house here as a carpenter, helped work on this house in '59,
he had $175 a day dmg habit when he was working as a carpenter on this house here. That was in 1959.
Sitting right out there, and he was telling me about what's what and how they had drugs and how he was
cutting it as a chemist and they were shipping it down to Florida or Atlanta or what have you only about
two hundred individuals were dmg dealers in Chatham County that he knew of. It was not bothering with
the youth. But after Vietnam, that's when it became big and others got in it. Just like an individual, I can't
call his name, I can't prove it, but I know some fellows that used to work for him, say they were going to
Florida and bring cars back from Florida, [break]
KT: Yeah. Did you see the change as a police officer when the drugs started coming through?
JW: Yeah, yeah, yeah. The attitudes of individuals and what have you.
KT: Things must've become much more violent and dangerous.
JW: Became more violent, and then too we couldn't as police officers really arrest the dmg
dealers, have to turn it over to the dmg squad, the vice squad. Every police officer that wanted to know the
name on a certain chief of police name of any individual who was violating the law. So they wanted to
know what your knowledge was of the individuals. But I knew nothing. So I didn't turn nothing over
because that was, I could see through what Chief Ryan wanted to see how much knowledge that that
individual knew of what was happening in the community.
KT: So he wasn't really necessarily interested in~
JW: Law enforcementKT: Law enforcementJW: But contact.
KT: He wanted the contact. He wanted the power of the knowledge.
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program 34
Collection (#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
JW: And he died not knowing anybody. Stayed out there in a nursing home out there on
Skidaway Road and Vamer Villa, didn't even know his secretary. Oh boy he was rough. Incidentally, he
got mad with me when I built this house because I drew the plans for this house, and he said if I could build
a house like that, he built his home out there in Vamer Villa similar and the way I did mine.
KT: What was he mad at you for though?
JW: Getting too smart, building a house.
KT: I see. You were getting above yourself.
JW: See I drew the plans for this house myself and had a neighbor of mine, a friend of mine to put
it down to scale because at least I had it for eighty feet, but he dropped it down to sixty feet andKT: What were his years as chief?
JW: Who?
KT: Ryan?
JW: He took over right after Sidney Barnes left until (
) came in. Well, he cut Sidney
Barnes' throat and became chief of police. He was sergeant under detectives then went up to captain.
Sidney Barnes made him a captain and detective, and he was rough and nasty as he could be.
KT: He was? Do you think he was the roughest you worked for?
JW: Well, let's see what the word, wolf in sheep's clothing.
KT: I see.
JW: A lot of people that knew him openly, but underneath in his heart he didn't care about
nobody but himself and would harm you in a minute if by you not knowing, even his best friends. You stay
away from this type of people.
KT: So in terms of your law enforcement though, there was very little you could do as far as drug
busts.
JW: Very little I could do. I could have the knowledge of it, but I'm here walking this beat here,
and this happened out at Vamer Villa. I don't have any (
) out at Vamer Villa. Happened here,
they're selling drugs out there at Armstrong College. I'm not out there. Individually and then if I go out
there and overstep the line I could be killed.
KT: So even what about something like that, if you witnessed a street deal-
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program 35
Collection (#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
JW: Oh if I witnessed a street deal, I put them in jail.
KT: But as far as going after the sourceJW: The source no, because the big man always had it. It's just like when Bill Harris wrote his
book about the liquor stills here. I was talking with him not too long ago. He lost a leg, Dr. Bill Harris,
pediatrician, got one leg. He was answering a call over at Wilmington Island and stepped on a liquor line
and burned his leg off, and his daddy was the sheriff here, Sheriff Harris back when I first went on, and he
was a part of the group and just like his daddy had liquor stills and what have you. Bill wrote this book
about liquor stills. Everybody got jumpy because he started call names. So all the politicians here—
KT: They were tied in somehow.
JW: Tied into something.
KT: Now I'm assuming it must be cleaner today, right?
JW: To a certain extent.
KT: How do you mean?
JW: Because it's not open. You see things are happening under closed doors. You take for
example, now I'm going to call names. Our illustrious mayor, I've seen him pulling deals off. He didn't
pull it off in Savannah. He would get his boat and go over onto Daufauskie Island or see him on their
yachts wheeling and dealings. On several occasions I ran up on him over on the Dafauskie Island, and he
and this certain individuals together, and he'd recall this particular individual over to Dafauskie for crab,
deviled crabs for him and he and this party would go over thereKT: For real estate deals.
JW: Real estate or whatever as a politician.
KT: Political.
JW: They'd get in a boat and go, maybe three or four boats. Or they'd meet out there on the
yachts just like General Oglethorpe Hotel. They're the base for the mob. General Oglethorpe Hotel. For
years, Anita Bryant with the orange, sing for the orange, well she was going with Rosen, what's his name
Rosen? Gosh he's the one that killed Martin. Used to be with Sammy Davis Jr. now.
KT: Not Sinatra-
36
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
JW: Well, Martin-the guy, well they had a big falling out, and I've seen big deals, guys come in
seaplanes fly down there go up to what is General Oglethorpe Hotel be fishing out there, get off with
suitcases. One of the biggest dmg busts they made, girl was working out there called me and had me to call
the federal agents. They made a seven million dollars drag bust. That's when they were building the Hyatt
Regency. Well, she knew about this drag bust going on and-that's that girl calling about-[phone] I'm not
going to answer it. She wants some money, niece of mine. Yeah, that's her. Anyway, they had said she
saw a woman, a man got killed in a hotel. Now during Nixon was it Nixon or Reagan, a man from Bay
Biscayne, Florida who was a financier, big time banker. I was working out there one time, a fellow had me
to work as an orderly. I was just investigating, was talking about a big showdown, these mobsters. Well,
he was a cook. This mobster out of Chicago snatched a steak out of the tray and this (
) not Rossinow
the guy was NixonKT: Nofsinger, Lynn Nofsinger.
JW: Well, h e KT: Bebe RabozoJW: Yeah, Rabozo. He was there. This guy snatched this steak. They grabbed him. I was down
there in the lower level, and they grabbed that guy and beat the devil out of him. I don't know if it killed
him or not. Bebe Rabozo and he didn't give a damn about nobody. Rabozo got nothing but hundred dollar
bills, two suitcases. I've seen that personally with my own eyes. They almost beat this mobster to death.
KT: Should I cut it off?
JW: I could lose my life, [break]
KT: So you worked during the demonstrations.
JW: I was the arresting officer of all the demonstrators.
KT: They had you make the arrests.
JW: Arrests. In the beginning everyone was (
(
) them W.W. Law because of the brutality
) to the arrestees and made me as, I was the ranking black officer, sergeant, corporal and
sergeant later, the arresting officer of the eight hundred demonstrators that were arrested. So for two years
I couldn't even take a vacation or anything trying them in court and what have you.
KT: So this was starting in what 1959, 1960,1 guess.
37
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
JW: '62 and'63.
KT: And these were the Broughton Street sit-in-.
JW: Broughton StreetKT: Protesters. Do you remember your first civil rights arrest?
JW: Well, not, yeah, I remember some of them. Just like Sage Brown who's an attorney now and
Robbie Robertson, I arrested them six times in one day, Shinhoster, Earl Shinhoster who is head of the
NAACP, he and his brother, John and Earl arrested them and their sisters. All eight hundred, everybody
who participated. Now we had a fellow named Big Lester Hankinson, John Saxon Piccolo, little dark
skinned fellow you see sitting in the front of the courthouse all the time. But big bust, I haven't seen him
lately. Well, he was beaten along with Martin Luther King in Selma, down in Mississippi and everything
else with (
) chains. He left from here and went with, he and Ben Clark before they got a park
named after him. But Ben when he was a little boy of eleven, nine, ten years old he was a bom leader.
Well, he got a park over here on Park Avenue and Collins named after him. They were, jumped in with the
Hosea Williams and went all over Martin Luther King and Piccolo, John Saxon Pierce, I didn't see him
here lately. He must be sick. He was beat with (
) chains in Selma, Alabama, down in Mississippi
and uneducated, but he's got working knowledge. You always would see him at city council meetings. I
haven't seen him on TV at city council meetings or the county commissioners meetings because he's
always there.
Anyway, they made me the arresting officer of nearly 800-some demonstrators. Wherever you
stopped them, I would have to go and give them the oath and place them under arrest even though you had
arrested them originally. So it made me nerve-wracking. The kids would ask me look you're putting us in
jail and we're working for you, and that's heartrending. But I was steel hearted enough to joke along with
them and go along with them, never mistreated them because I knew they were working for me. I had one
fellow named Lester Hankinson, Big Lester was nothing but a thug. Sheriff Jamieson had released him out
of Sylvania jail. He came up when we were at Bull and Broughton, and he came up and asked what was
going on because he'd just got off the bus and saw a commotion. I said this is a demonstration for civil
rights. He said, "Can I get into it?" I said, "Yeah. You got your knife on you?" He's got a switchblade
knife. He said, "Yeah." I said, "Give me the knife." I said, "Now go and talk to Hosea Williams," and
38
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
because of his thugness he jumped in it. Ryan and Murphy and all the original policemen saw him. Well,
he started searching the demonstrators taking their knives and guns and everything from them. They saw
him, and they were going to beat Lester up. Lester said, "Go ahead and beat me. Anything you do, y'all
beat me in jail before. Y'all can beat me out of the street now." Lester stood up and let them hit him. He
didn't fight back. And that really took their nerve. Lester left from here and went to Atlanta with Hosea
and Martin Luther King and went all over the country with them. They changed his idea altogether. He
was nothing but a, Big Lester Hankinson.
KT: Where is he now, do you know?
JW: He's dead now.
KT: He's passed away too.
JW: Passed away, he died about eight years ago.
KT: But he worked in the movement, huh?
JW: Worked in the movement.
KT: Went fulltime with Hosea.
JW: Big Lester Hankinson, and I think he got into drags too because he was a city slicker too. In
Atlanta anything, no holds barred.
KT: But that must've been difficult to be arresting your community basically.
JW: Oh yeah, cousins and what have you, anyone who was demonstrator, wherever they went.
Now they've got a skit, tape showing going to Morrison's Cafeteria, Levi's, have you ever been to the civil
rights museum?
KT: Oh yeah.
JW: Well, part of the uniform is mine.
KT: Oh is that right?
JW: Levi and Morisson and all those places. I never will forget Gregory, Dick Gregory was here,
comedian. He was out on Fifty-second and a little restaurant on Montgomery. Ku Klux Klanner came to
me, called me and all the policemen waited for somebody to see me and I would see him and disappear. He
had names of Ku Klux Klanners who were going to blacken their face and create a problem and claim they
were black. He was turning the names over to me saying that I'm the only honest person that he knows on
39
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
the department. Later on he had a place of business. He came after integrating the schools, he brought his
children here and became the president of the PTA over Nixon said his children would gain more education
on the administration over here. Used to come here and sit on the post and talk with me all the time. His
name was Williams. He ran the Shell Station right there on the comer of Pennsylvania Avenue. Indians
have it now. Just north, south of Gwinnett. He ran the service station. I think he's dead now. He was said
I was the most honest policeman that he knew of, and he gave me a list. Bryan had me to, when I told him
about it he told me to go slip the note under his door and don't let anybody see me of the dishonest
policemen who was going to blacken their faces and say there blacks and create a problem. He respected
me for it. He said, "Now I see why what happened." He said, "I was raised in this manner and being raised
in this manner, you don't know on the other side until you actually see what's happening." We became real
close friends. I think he's dead now. He used to call me all the time. But I had quite a few to call me even
when Jay Lingle used to run the shoe shop up on the comer. He's the father of the National Quail Farm out
on west Savannah owned by the Ku Klux Klan, National Quail Farm. Got branches all over America. He
started raising quail right up here on Wheaton Street. Jay Lingle, and he taught me some of the
nomenclatures. KIA, AYK, all your klansmen, KIA, Klan I am. When I told this guard down there, we
were working out at Strong Chicken Company about ten or twelve years ago, and I mentioned his name and
was talking about the Ku Klux Klan and what have you, and I mentioned that. Those are nomenclatures a
black man is not supposed to know. I was telling him about Mr. Lingle, he said, "That's my godfather."
We got in a good conversation.
Now Mr. Lingle and my father were sitting arguing hours at night because my father was a mason.
The Ku Klux Klan ritual is similar to the Masons. They were arguing for hours. Now everybody on this
street was Mr. and Mrs. The people up there on Wheaton Street in timber houses were gals and boys as far
as Mr. Lingle was concerned. Said because we want something out of life. They want nothing out of life,
and this is something he told me, and I never will forget it as long as I live. Seventy-five percent of the
world population is of the dark race. I didn't know that back in the '40s. He said that in the coming future,
there will be politically people of the dark race running this world. He was highly intelligent, and I don't
like me going with your girl or you going with my girl, but like he said, we need black police officers
because they're in the black community. They know what's going on. But the man, the white man will
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
40
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
normally know what I tell him, but I'm there, I can assimilate and know what's going on. We've sat down
and talked, and he will tell me certain things, and I even helped put the robe on, going to work at night, stop
up there, going to work and stop up there and help put his robe on, his high cloth and-yeah. I respect him
because he respected me. His name was Jay Lingle, and he's the father of the National Quail Farm. You
didn't know that did you?
KT: I had no idea. Wow.
JW: It's all, his godson is still working in the maintenance department at the Chandler Hospital,
he and his wife Cheryl, and we see each other and talk occasionally and~
KT: Did they maintain their strongly racist views throughout theJW: No, no, no, no.
KT: At some point they dropped it.
JW: Well, he doesn't have the strong racial views, but he says was raised that way, but now, since
he's' got the job and working out of the hospital and what have you and meeting people from all walks of
life has changed but still have certain ideas. We're raised this way, but I'm intelligent enough to see the
difference. He's just like (
) and all of them and got the (
) keep the radio set, have the
radiator shack up there. They changed. He used to have a garage there. They change later on, but certain
individuals they'll like and dislike. But mainly say the whole, just like the race? No, just individually.
KT: So were you ever singled out by people in the black community? Like were you ever
criticized for making the arrests.
JW: There was a song written, used to sing. They'll be nine more graves in Laurel Grove
cemetery (
) first went on. It did for a couple of years. There'll be nine more graves in Laurel
Grove Cemetery, but we got to the individuals. They were a low class of individual. We would walk down
the street giving children candy and embracing the children, and the father's seen that and quit there. One
of the main person's name I talked to his son the other day not too long ago, James Parker was his name.
He killed about eight or nine people and very seldom was arrested because he was working for bootleggers
and what have you, Robby Reynolds to be exact. Robby Reynolds had been arrested twenty-eight times
and two times for murder, and his whole life, his whole life he never did two years. Robby Reynolds really
hated police officers, but he would talk to me and Malone. Well, anyway James Parker was killed by a
41
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
policeman back in the '60s who at the time when he came on the police department was working for
National Linen Company. He worked in that area, and he knew of his reputation. So he went in Wallburg
Lane or Vamer and on this call and James Parker walked up to him and reached his hand in his pocket. He
pulled his gun and shot and killed him. But James went up to tell him about some other individual but he
did have a twenty-five automatic in his pocket. That really killed that policeman. I mean, had a heart
attack and everything else. He just disintegrated after he found out that James' pocket, change. But he
knew him as a youth coming up working for National Linen Company around that area, and I'll never trust
him, but after he changed and became an informant. They always carried a gun and like Robby Reynolds
in 1956 well, he talked to me and Malone. He had cancer of the groin, and Benjamin, a policeman, had lost
his job and got his job back. This is July of '56 or '58. Anyway, he told me right in the comer of West
Broad and Hall that he would get going back to work that night, and he went out to his girlfriend's house.
Well, he was a right-handed, but he was shot back here, and his woman was killed, and he was killed,
Robby Reynolds' wife. But Robby Reynolds had told me and Malone on a number of occasions that he
would've killed him out right, but when he walked by him and walked down the scene and said, "Hey, Mr.
Reynolds." When he gets down the street crying like a baby, just (
(
) he had remorse in his heart.
) not because I had being married, and my wife and I have been married for years and discovered
I had cancer and I could not, but I'm glad that she had met him because she doesn't have to have a man.
When he see me, he'd speak to me, just break down and cry walking his the beat. I would've killed him.
Normally, he would've been a dead man. But someone else had killed him, and he was shot in the right
side. (
) Benjamin was his name, and that was in 1956 or '58. Anyway, the same day he was
coming back to work.
Now we has quite a few other characters that were real dangerous, men and women. Fat mama,
Big Mama, Lucille McKinney. In 1949,1 had the flu. There's a picture right here with, I couldn't go to
work, and they had, that's a boys club, Frank Allen Boys Club. We had a dance and sold about fifty tickets
for me. She came knocking on the door, next door. Where is that little so and so and so and so. My
mother said, "Who was that?" You said that little black policeman. My mama had the broom and said girl
give me that broom. What are you doing cleaning. So we called her Big Mama. She whipped, I mean,
could whip a hundred men. Anyway, my mother asked me if I was going with her. I said, "No, mama.
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Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
She's the biggest prostitute on West Broad." So she sat down and was telling my mama how she had
started prostituting. She said a preacher raped her at thirteen in Jacksonville and gave her fifteen cents and
said from then on she could make a quarter. She started selling pussy. Just bland just like that. Years later
Billy, Chief Epstein came in and had me to take a Catholic nun around, and I carried her to Saint John's
Street to a white prostitute house. She talked with her, and I carried her over to Bubba Dellagdo and I
carried her to Lucille and carried her to several other notorious individuals. So this sister said, she was
taping her like you're taping, talking about her exploits. Oh getting back in 1949, a man started to stab me
in the back. Big mama saw him walking up to me, and she cold-cocked him and knocked him the length of
a '49 Nash right on the comer of Gaston and West Broad. The very next week Carter was killed in the
same spot, a man killed in the same spot.
KT: But he got you. He did stab you.
JW: No, he didn't. She ran up and hit him and knocked him unconscious. The very next week I
put him in jail. See they only charged him forty dollars or four months, and he was released from jail and
jumped at a man, and he was killed in the same spot the very next week, fell over in the same spot dead.
Well, anyway Lucille, Big Mama, she was a character. She was known from coast to coast. One time,
Joe's Blue Room, Eighty-second Airborne came to Savannah, soldiers just talking about Big Mama. She
had her big wide hat on, Blue Bar room's open twenty-four hours a day almost. The Sunday afternoon she
had gotten off from work and went back over to the bar, and she's sitting in there just talking. This
soldier's just talking about how he'd beat her up and did all of this to her. Everybody in the bar knew who
she was, and he was like that and she was here. Somebody walked in, and she said, "My name is Lucille
McKinney." Somebody walked in and hit her on the back, "Hey Big Mama." Soldier ah yee. The whole
bar, he jumped up and offered to buy everybody—
KT: I'll bet.
JW: Oh, she was a character.
KT: Did he get out?
JW: He threw money on the floor and ran out. He was in the Eighty-second Airborne. He'd
heard so much about her and (
) talking people knew about Big Mama and Big Mama, Fat Mama,
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program 43
Collection (#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
Little Mama, those names characters. But she would walk up to a policeman. He's having trouble. She'd (
) grab the fellow, pick him up and throw him in the cruiser. Everybody respected her.
KT: Should've given her a badge.
JW: Yeah. Yeah, we're having trouble with an individual She'd walk up and say, "He said
you're under arrest. You're going to jail M.F." Say, "What did you say?" Cold-cock him. Whack. She
was respected. She wasn't afraid of nobody. But those are the characters that we loved.
KT: Yeah, did you work, I assume you worked the night that Martin Luther King was
assassinated.
JW: Umhmm.
KT: Do you remember that night? Do you remember working?
JW: Well, I was working here in Savannah, but he was supposed to have been assassinated here
in Savannah, and three weeks later he was assassinated in Memphis because that's why he said he had
reached the mountaintop. What had happened was when he got word there was supposed to be some team,
it was not publicized. They had agents all in trees over there at Grayson Stadium, but a torrential rain came
up and left and went to Saint Paul Church at Thirty-second and Barnard.
KT: So he spoke indoors.
JW: Old Calvary Baptist Church and had the program there, and that's why he said he'd reached
the mountaintop. I had four guns on me that night because I was shadowing, watching everybody.
KT: The word was out that--. You knew thatJW: Um hmm. Yeah. Like I told Coretta and his father, daughters and what have you, certain
things like I told about the father, Papa King, certain things he told me in secrecy. When I told them about
it in '72, they said you have to be around Papa King because you're using the exact words he's always used
and quote "they can beat my son, but any son of a bitch that hit me this thirty-eight" [smacking sound].
When I told them that, they said you'd have to be around Papa King because he never discussed that with
anybody. I said, "Well I only mention it to y'all because he told me not to mention it to anybody." They
said well Coretta, YolandaKT: BemieceJW: Bemiece-
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program 44
Collection (#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
KT: Dexter.
JW: All of them, they were here to Ms. Darby's funeral whose daughter was Coretta ghostwriter.
She lived in that yellow house right there on the comer of Gwinnett and Waters, empty house right now.
KT: Oh is that right. What was the daughter's name?
JW: Bemita Darby.
KT: Oh okay.
JW: Well, she was on the first plane hijacked to Cuba under Castro. That was before the very
next week Ray's father used to run (
) when he hijacked the plane, the plane he hijacked and
carried to Cuba used to run Savannah Planing Mill. What Ray's last name? Father owned Savannah
Planing Mill over on Wheaton Street. And he hijacked that plane and carried and what you call it was a
passenger on the plane and went to Cuba at that time in 1960. Anyway, both, what you call it raised
together, she was a ghostwriter for Coretta, and she died and the funeral was the day Sheriff Griffin, Carl
Griffin's funeral. And Claude Griffin hated the ground that Martin Luther King walked on. His funeral
procession had to wait at Henry and Abercom for Ms. Darby's funeral. That was in '72. That's the day it
snowed so bad here in 1972.
KT: So you had a chance to talk to Mrs. King then.
JW: Yeah, I talked to her on several occasions. Just like I talked to her at the dedication of the
Gilbert museum. (
) Hannah who lives out in Thunderbolt, played W.W. Law back in the '30s,
played Passion and Triumph. Reverend Gilbert was Jesus Christ. (
) Hannah was Barabas the thief,
and I was thinking that W.W. was or the other man on the cross, was the third person at Jesus. But W.W., (
) said Sonny wasn't W.W., but someone the same size of W.W. who was on the cross. When I told Mrs.
Gilbert about (
) Hanner and the cross in Passion and Triumph in 1937, '38 as one of the three
plays that had which was one of the best. I wish we could've photographed it and catalogued it.
KT: You were teenagers.
JW: Um hmm, and I would have to walk the donkeys from the auditorium to the farm out there in
the comer of Eisenhower and Waters. That's where we got them from, the donkeys, two horses, two
donkeys and would have to walk it. W.W., well, all of us would have to walk it, but since I knew the
people, I carried. Incidentally before they developed where the Food Lion and everything is on Eisenhower
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program 45
Collection (#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
and Waters, I picked up the grandson one night, and he was drunk. He didn't have any money and I picked
him up down on Bay Street, and he got to talking to me. He showed me to, he wanted to go home. He said
his grandfather (
) I told him about what I used to do. He said, "You met him?" I said, "I did." I
said, "Well, you get you a good lawyer and break up that property in lots, not acreage." Said, "They're
after me about developing." I haven't seen or heard from that young man since. But he said, "Mister,
nobody ever told me that." I said, "No. Break it up in lots." I said, "(
) over here where my
relatives used to live, you sold it by the acreage, and then it came up, one acre can be four lots or six lots.
Was getting where they bought it for three hundred dollars and sold it each lot for five hundred dollars. So
I said, "Do it that way and that way you can make some money." I said, "Now get you a competent
lawyer." He said, "Thank you." He said, "I'll contact you one of these days," but he was drinking, you
know a young boy drinking. Says, "My grandfather worked so hard to develop this farm," and what have
you. I said, "That's the way it happens and I hope you don't get drunk and throw your money away." I
never did get his name. I violated the department rales, but he was down on River Street and that was too
far for him to walk and broke. He stopped me, and he was a citizen of this community. So I'm glad I did
that and talked to him. I never will forget it because he got the riches though. I helped others in the same
state. It's just like W.W. said, "You've got to help somebody and each of us regardless of who you are
have to come in contact with somebody of another race. We coexisted together, and we've got to get to
coexist together or we will not have life if we don't work together." So that's the way I feel. I'm poor, but
I'm rich. I've got knowledge, but I don't have any money, but I'm happy. I don't have to look over my
shoulder. Many a man I know, police officers, have to look over their shoulders after they retire. I don't
because you do unto others as you wish them to do unto you. You place yourself in the same shoe of that
individual that you are accosting. Yeah, you're going to have enemies. People are going to dislike you.
But they're also going to respect you. Do unto others as you would wish them to do unto you, and you can
get along in life and go through it and be successful.
KT: Well, that sounds like a good place to close things up. I know you've got your ribs waiting.
Let me shut this.
JW: That~[break] Spoke six or seven languages fluently. Let's see Spanish, German, Italian,
Greek, she spoke six languages fluently. We learned it right in this area here. But now I've been away
46
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
from this, for example in the house right next door here the house right there, Captain Bill Gund was a
Swedish immigrant, and he carried blacks back in the 1870s to colonize Liberia. He served under thirtynine different flags. Third, fourth house up the street, a Buffalo soldier lived there who went to Japan, let's
see, in 1879 because it took him eighteen months to go from right here around to San Francisco and come
back, around the Cape of Good Hope. After he got out of the Navy, he joined the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry
and helped conquer the Indians. Then he went to the Roughriders in Cuba, and then in 1916 was the Ninth
and Tenth Cavalry that captured Pancho Villa in Vero Cruz, Mexico. Then had another neighbor Captain
Jackson, not Jackson, oh gosh. Anyway, he probably worked on that same plantation because he said he
was the dog boy when the Civil War ended, where the masters would shoot the rabbits, and he would ran
the rabbits up for the master to shoot them.
END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program 47
Collection (#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B
JW: Well, to start back. (
) know where you come from. What for do knock on my door.
You a buckra?
KT: You know I'm buckra?
JW: When a woman for come, you don't know what the hell I'm going to do. (
) wash
some clothes. Yeah mon. Okay. Going back to Captain Jack Tatnall. My next door neighbor he was
Captain Bill Gund, he was a Swedish immigrant as a young kid came to America, and he carried blacks
back to colonize Liberia. He left from Oglethorpe, Abercom Street dark, eight and nine hundred people on
the boat, maybe a hundred died on the voyage back to Africa. They tossed the bodies overboard. Most of
them out of Augusta. He and Captain Jack Tatnall and Old Man Billy Jackson, but Captain Jack, we called
him Captain Jack. He used to walk down at Thunderbolt barefeet in the dead of winter. He never worked
for any man up until 1937 when he went to Meridian, Georgia to his daughter from the time he was
released as a slave. But every island all the housing in Vernon Field, Moon River he'd deliver a little fish.
The only time he'd been to Charleston and Jacksonville, but had never been fifteen miles inland until he
went to Meridian, Georgia in 1937. If Old Man Jackson, he was a young boy was on a sailing vessel and
went to Japan, and I think he said first Japan opened its door to western civilization in 1849, and I think it
was 1879 or something like that. He was a young boy when he went to Japan. Came back and joined the
Army, the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry one of the Buffalo soldiers, and he captured, he was always proud, he
used to sit on the comers of Waters and Wheaton and have his big hat Spanish American War.
KT: PonchoJW: Hat that he wore, was a heavy-set fellow. He was proud of being a buffalo solider and how
they rode horses and captured Pancho Villa. They also talked about how the Indians hated some hated and
some disliked the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry because they were the ones who conquered the west in 1875
and '80s, and even up to the '90s. It's just like my father was talking about how he swam Savannah River
right after the storm of '92, 1892 coming to Savannah.
KT: He swam it.
JW: Uh huh. He must've swam it up there by (
)burg because that's the shallow part.
South Carolina because the water's not as swift. He swam the Savannah River after the storm of '92 when
48
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
it killed so many people in that area, and also in 1992 had the storm too. When he referred to the storm of
'92KT: He was talking aboutJW: 1892. He met my mother in Philadelphia. That's where they were married in Philadelphia.
KT: But I guess because of the river you just had all these international connections, AfricaJW: Everywhere.
KT: Latin America.
JW: Yeah, everywhere just like I told policemen, I said, "Savannah's an international port and
you never know what's going on." I'll show you for example, I'm going back to twenty-two years ago or a
little longer. I'm riding River Street. A German seaman came up to me and wanted to sell me eighty cases
of Heineken beer at eight dollars a case. It was selling for eighty cents a bottle here. I said, "What?"
Show you how smuggling was rampant. The only thing go over to slip in Hudson Island where the hotel is
now where the ship was docked. I told the other fellows about it because I didn't want to become involved
with it. Had eighty cases. He came in at five o'clock that afternoon. Customs wasn't going on board until
the next day. So I mean smuggling was going on big fashion. Well, I knew some of it was going on
because you could buy all the whiskey from the longshoremen. A fifth of Johnny Walker Red all the
liquors from the longshoremen. They were selling it rampantly.
KT: Would you buy it at the hall or~
JW: No.
KT: They wouldn't do it out of their hall.
JW: Out on the street. Out on the sfreet. They were getting it from the seamen on the boat. So I
know smuggling was going on openly. Prior to the '80s because prior to that, back in the '60s I know you
could buy all the scotch you want for little or nothing being brought in on the boat. So I know drags were
being brought in too at the same time. Well, this same port, the Kennedy's fellow used to work on West
Broad. He smuggling knew every canal in Florida up where they smuggle in Cutty Sarks. The Kennedy's
would get ten cents on every bottle of Cutty Sark. He carried me down to Harris Neck looking for a boat
that they scuttled back in the '20s. We found one bottle of liquor. The mud had covered the area where
they had scuttled revenues getting behind them. I was just, he was on West Broad Street talking. So I
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
49
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
know smuggling is a big business. Even right here at the Thunderbolt at Tybee policemen right here back
before I retired were getting five thousand dollars a night guarding shrimp boats down there at Lazaretto
Creek.
KT: Just guarding it.
JW: Just guarding it. I'm not calling no names. I know that because they asked me why I didn't
get into it. I told them no, I don't like it, and I'm not going to poison my children like he's done. That's
my son on that crack. They've got to him in order to get to me. But I know it and they also fried to stab
that boy there before he went into the Navy on a submarine tried to stab him in the back with heroin. He
came home and got my pistol and shot and killed him. I told went and told, got the jump on the fellows,
and I was told by another student and he's fifty years old now. Another students, how they tried to stab
him in the back in order to get him under the control of drags on a school bus. But he circumvented, did
twenty years on a submarine. On September 11th, he was at Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. So I know
he was one of the first units over there. September 11th he had called and said he was at Diego Garcia on
the 9th and the 11th everything happened then the Navy called the next week and said not to give the name
of his ship and knowledge because what he was on the submarine with all the missiles. So I wasn't going
to let my son get killed. For him to stay twenty years in the Navy on sub duty the whole time, strong
constitution.
KT: It's got to be. That's got to be.
JW: Like father like son.
KT: Yep.
JW: I'm proud of him.
KT: Now who was, it would've been your, so grandfather was Gullah.
JW: Hmm.
KT: Your grandfather was Gullah or you-the Gullah connection. That would've beenJW: My grandfather and great grandfather. See all of them, my great grandfather was Dutch
slave traders, at Thirteen Moons up the Gambia river in Africa, and then my father, his name was Dikey.
My grandfather's name was Allister and my name is Alliston. My father named. Then my father and
50
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
myself, two hundred years. I don't know what year my grandfather, my great grandfather was brought
over. But I know, it had to be either in late 1770s or early 1800s.
KT: Did you know your grandfather? Did he liveJW: No. No.
KT: He had passed.
JW: See my father was bom in 1877, and he died in 1964. When he died, that boy there was just
crawling and walking, just crawling on him, and my father paralyzed on this arm here, reach this arm up
and this leg up so this baby knows what's happening. He was walking and talking, for six months he didn't
walk and talk after my father died. He was crawling on my father. For six months he never talked and
walked.
KT: He stopped.
JW: Something will have to happen to him to traumatically to happen to him. He doesn't
remember it, doesn't know anything about it. I do. That's what caused him to be on crack today, drags
today. I've had problems with him, but he tried to do good and then all of a sudden slips. That's my wife
there. That's after thirty-five years of marriage. She died in '95.
KT: These are her pictures.
JW: Uh huh, and this is my oldest daughter. Her husband died on June the 2nd. That's my
daughter that she teaches out at Grove. Her son, he turned sour, and he's doing ten years in the federal pen,
Robbed Welsh Pawnshop fellow gave him some ecstasy came by and looked at me, "Hey Granddaddy."
And went around the comer and got that ecstasy and walked, nearly three hundred pounds walked into
Welsh Pawn Shop and easily to be identified and now he don't remember—
KT: How was he going to get away with that?
JW: I don't know. I've often told him you always missed the water when the well ran dry. He
often said ever since I became (
) in 1979 when I had to go down and take water and ice down
to my daughter down in Miami hurricane in '79. He was down there at the time, and I said, "You never
miss the water until the well runs dry." He always had. I don't know why he went around there and started
smoking that ecstasy. That's what he say the fellow put something in the cigarette, said let's go for a ride.
KT: That's it.
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program 51
Collection (#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.
JOHN WHITE
AUGUST 8, 2002
JW: Now he's riding for ten years.
KT: Well, your daughter is very beautiful and the kids too.
JW: That one there, he's a student at Morris Brown. She's a deputy sheriff in Miami, the light
skinned one. Her brother was a deputy sheriff also. She's got sixteen years. I don't know, I'll have to call
her because he died in June, jogging, and she's on two months leave right now. I don't know if she's going
to continue or what, but she's selling stocks and bonds.
KT: The little guy is at Morris Brown though.
JW: Umhmm.
KT: What's he studying?
JW: He's an orthopedic nurse. But he's twenty-two years old, twenty-three years old now. Last
year at Morehouse College.
KT: Okay. How many kids did you have then?
JW: Five.
KT: Five children. Let me let you go. I've taken up so much of your time, but this has been
wonderful.
JW: Well, you're enjoying it, and I enjoy talking.
KT: Good.
JW: I should be putting that down for my own benefit.
KT: Well, you'll have a copy of it all too so you can use it.
END OF TAPE 2, SIDE B
Transcribed by L. Altizer, October 18, 2002
Interview number R-0176 in the Southern Oral History Program Collection
(#4007) at The Southern Historical Collection,
52
The Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library, UNC-Chapel Hill.