Page 9


e iemn!,000e Most editorials in most Texas newspapers aren’t worth reading most days. Some days, the editorials in the Tyler Courier-Times and the Tyler Morning Telegraph are worth reading. Something in the Texas Observer has been worth reading every issue for 20 years. Congratulations Ronnie Dugger and associates. the white man would call Uncle Mose in and tell him, “Mose, you know I love you. Now take this ham and feed your children.” “Then came this integration trouble, and the whites figures they ought to get some Negro on the radio to tell the Northerners how well they were being treated. So Senator Bilbo heard about what a ‘sweet nigger’ Uncle Mose was, and he called him in and coached him on what to say, and put him on the radio. Uncle Mose sat in front of the mike, saying nothing. Finally he turned to Bilbo and asked, ‘Who can hear me?’ `Everybody,’ said Bilbo. ‘Up North?’ Yep.”In the West?’ Yep.’ `Everywhere?’ That’s right, Mose,’ said Bilbo, ‘now just tell ’em the truth.’ Uncle Mose threw up his hands and leaned into the mike and yelled: ‘HELP! HELP!'” Do the Lufkin Negroes have a chapter of the NAACP? “We had a chapter from the early Forties to the early Fifties,” Tims said, “but we had trouble getting an outspoken leader. Khruschev sounds good to the whites around here compared to the NAACP.” He paused and then smiled as though imparting a secret. “But we still take up a collection for a ‘benevolent fund.’ We don’t have no trouble taking up that kind of collection.” Tims has worked in the foundry for 35 years. He started as a broom pusher. “And today,” said Tims, “today I am a broom pusher.” No advancement in 35 years? “No advancement.” Seniority means nothing to him; the union means little. When the machinists’ local of the AFL-CIO organized the plant, Tims, who was then painting, was told he would get painter’s pay. When he didn’t get it and asked for it, the local had him train two white men as painters and, when he was through, put him back on a broom. But he doesn’t push a broom all the time. Much of the time he runs a fork lift. Tims is rated a common laborer and earns $1.66 an hour. White men who operate fork lifts are called truck operators and are paid a minimum of $2.20 an hour. “Now the union officials are talking about pulling another strike. I asked one of them what I would get out of it and he said, “Why, Inez, you’re going to benefit just like I will.’ I told him, okay, he’s been with the company 15 years and I’ve been with it 35; if we benefit equally, let’s swap paychecks on payday. He didn’t like that idea. “They know how I feel. I went in to see the president, Mr. Walter Trout, he owns the company. I went in the other day and said to him, ‘I hope td see the day before I retire when a Negro has a job of importance in this company.’ He said, ‘Inez, why, your job is as important as any in this company.’ I told him the best way to measure importance was in the paycheck.” Tims said he feels the day is not far off when the Negroes of the community will politely demand that the whites sit down with them and talk integration. “When this problem first came up, the whites said ‘Let’s work this out over the conference table.’ All right. We went along. But where’s the conference table? One of these days we’re definitely going to get an understanding.” Until his death last year, Ernest Kirth was considered the 54 The Texas Observer most powerful man in Lufkin. It was commonly said that he ran the town. Tims described his power in this way: “If he said plant turnips here, okra wouldn’t grow.” Probably the most influential man now is Tims’ ultimate boss, Trout. “If we can get the leaders of this town to integrate anything, the job’s done,” said Tims. “If Kirth had said, let’s do it, and let’s do it without any trouble, it would have been done. You’ve got to sell these guys in the upper class or it’s not going to work. If Governor Faubus had been sold, there wouldn’t have been any trouble. In Louisiana, Jimmy Davis wasn’t sold, so there was trouble. In Georgia, the governor was ready. I could name you 20 people in Lufkin, if they could be sold, the job would be done.” He thought that over a minute and added, “All the colored man can do is pick out the right kids to start integrating. Get the prettiest ones. Girls are best.” He conceded, “We’ve got some pretty tough people backing segregation here, but they’d knuckle under pretty soon if the top 20 said so.” A grocery store owner talking with Tims the other day laid the blame on Northern troublemakers and asked Tims if he didn’t agree that there wouldn’t be any trouble if the Northerners kept out of it. “I told him, yessir, there wouldn’t be any trouble because you got the gun and I only got a stick,” Tims related. “He laughed at that. They always laugh; we get along all right.” But are there dim signs of improvement? It used to be that Negroes riding the train through Lufkin knew better than to open the windows if the train stopped in town. Tims could remember that. He himself had been stopped by a policeman and asked what he was doing, and when he said just looking around, the policeman said for him to get out of the downtown area. Another Negro, whistling on the sidewalk downtown, was told by a policeman to quit it because “We don’t allow niggers whistling downtown.” That attitude has vanished, although there still is no place in downtown Lufkin for a Negro to eat, except for those cafes that “have their backdoors open.” Asked if he would eat in the kitchen, Tims laughed like it was a most preposterous question. “No, no, no. Me? No, I’d rather do without.” There used to be towns near Lufkin where Negroes weren’t allowed at all, Tims recalled. Platt was one of them. But “all that’s over. You can go anywhere now. That’s all over.” And where will the final solution to the race problem be found? In the white race’s truly getting to know the colored, the colored knowing the white. “You hear a white man say, ‘If all Negroes were like Jack, they’d be all right.’ Quicker we associate, quicker we’ll learn we are all alike. Man I work with grew up in a community where they didn’t allow Negroes. If they saw a Negro around, they took it for granted he was stealing. Why? Because they didn’t know anything about Negroes. Now that man knows me. I could go to him anytime and borrow $100 from him; in the middle of the night, it wouldn’t matter. He’d fight for me. I know he would. He didn’t know Negroes before. But when you work side by side, you find out how much we’ve got in common.” Additional copies of this issue… … are available by mail at 50c each. Ten percent discount on orders for 10 to 49 copies. Twenty percent discount on orders for 50 or more copies. Send your order and remittance \(please add 50c for handling and Texas Observer Business Office, 600 West 7th, Austin, Texas 78701. All holiday season gift subscriptions will begin with this 20th anniversary celebration issue. See page 26 for 1-year subscription rates and other ordering information.