Mr. John Thrower became a member of Charlotte’s City Council in 1961. He served in this capacity until 1967, at which time he took a ‘hiatus’ for two years. He decided to run for reelection in 1969, and upon reelection served for two more years. According to Mr. Thrower, he ran for reelection because he missed “all of the hubbub.” Mr. Thrower spoke of the city as a “cancer”: it deteriorated from the center and spread slowly outward. He favored Urban Renewal because it enabled Charlotte’s City Council to cure the ills of its downtown slums, and provided better housing for the inhabitants of the various slums. Mr. Thrower was born on June 23, 1928, off Plaza Road in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is the son of Herbert Thrower, and husband of the late Phyllis Isenhower, also of Charlotte, North Carolina. He attended Dilworth Elementary School, Alexander Graham Middle School, and Central High School. He was employed by McClellan’s Dime Store before serving with the United States Navy. He is the owner of Hertron International, LLC, a chemical company, located on Clanton Road in Charlotte.
Tape Log: Oral History Interview with John Thrower
Interviewed by Jason L. Harpe
|Time||Description of Interview Contents|
|0.0||Beginning of Interview.|
|5.0||Personal background, discussion of family and father’s run for set on Charlotte’s City Council, narrator’s education, and participation in the Jaycees. Work experience with McClellan’s Dime Store and involvement with the Navy during World War II. Description of experience running for Charlotte’s City Council (1961-66, 69-71). Discussion of Brooklyn neighborhood as seen during walk from Dilworth neighborhood to Central High School.|
|10.0||Discussion of housing conditions, outhouses, and black police in the Brooklyn Neighborhood. Builders of homes in Brooklyn. Behavior (cuttings and shootings) in Brooklyn and mention of Good Samaritan’s hospital. Surgical procedures used by black doctors at Good Samaritan’s Hospital.|
|15.0||Reasons why Charlotte’s white officers disliked going into the Brooklyn neighborhood. Further discussion of behavior in Brooklyn, opinion of behavior, and owners of Brooklyn property.|
|20.0||Mention of Cherry Neighborhood. Description of Urban Renewal process upon election of narrator to Charlotte’s City Council. Conditions in home of Bishop Dale while narrator campaigned in Brooklyn. Description of Reginald Hawkins and his participation in Charlotte’s labor unions.|
|25.0||Further discussion of Reginald Hawkins, Fred Alexander as the first black elected official in North Carolina, and urban renewal process as a tool utilized by Charlotte’s City Council to cure the city’s cancer. Placement of black families into white neighbors, and white families flight.|
|30.0||Poor conditions in Brooklyn as the major motivation behind Urban Renewal Movement. Mentions Vernon Sawyer as Chairman of Urban Renewal Planning Commission and his work finding new homes for Brooklyn families. Issue of condemning property and settling estates.|
|35.0||Further discussion of condemning property. Brooklyn residents inability to purchase property in neighborhood before demolition. Opinion of whether or not moving families from Brooklyn simply moved the problem of poverty to other areas. Urban Renewal as the best outcome for the time, cure for the cancer in downtown Charlotte, and help with integration in Charlotte.|
|40.0||Negative comments from community about Urban Renewal in Brooklyn Neighborhood. Discussion of public housing in Charlotte, Eminent Domain, housing codes, slum clearance, and Brooklyn as a “mess.”|
|45.0||Narrator’s consideration of Urban Renewal in Brooklyn as an “extreme success.” Bill Veeder, Charlotte City Manager, offering Urban Renewal to Charlotte’s City Council as a viable option for development, and Veeder’s importance to city council. Don Bryant as sole opponent to Urban Renewal.|
|50.0||Discussion of Mayor Stanford Brookshire, and city council’s vote on the blue law.|
|55.0||Further discussion of blue law, and bidding process on Brooklyn property.|
|60.0||Lack of negative sentiment from Brooklyn families on topic of Urban Renewal and movement to other neighborhoods. Opinion of opposition to Urban Renewal as coming from the younger generations of African-Americans.|
|65.4||End of Tape (Side One). Tape One, Side Two|
|65.5||Further discussion of importance of Eminent Domain. Neighborhoods in Charlotte where Brooklyn families moved, and white flight from these neighborhoods when black families moved in.|
|69.4||End of interview.|
April 9, 2004
JH – Jason Harpe (Interviewer)
JT – John Thrower (Interviewee)
Tape One, Side One
JH: This is Jason Harpe. Today is Friday, April 9, 2004. I am conducting a phone interview with former Charlotte City Council member John Thrower for Dr. Karen Flint’s Oral History and Memory Class.
JH: Where exactly were you born?
JH: Where did you go to school in Charlotte?
JT: The local public schools. I went to Dilworth, A.G. (Alexander Graham) and Central.
JH: Central High. What day and year were you born?
JT: I was born in ’29. I graduated in ’46.
JH: Now, was your family originally from Charlotte?
JH: Born and raised, huh?
JT: No, no. They weren’t born here, but they had been here for many years.
JH: Did anyone in your family ever run for political office other than yourself?
JT: Yeah, strangely enough, my daddy ran for city council many years ago. He somehow didn’t make it. And, when I ran he kind of looked at me funny like, you know, like “you’re not a member of one of the inside people.” And I said, “Well, yeah, it’s a long shot, but I’m just sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
JH: What did he mean by one of those inside people?
JT: That I didn’t…I joined the Jaycees for example, and the first thing they did was put me on a gambling wheel raising money for one of the guys in the Jaycees that was running for national office. And it was just a plain gambling, that’s all it was. And I resigned. I said, “this is not why I joined the Jaycees.” I wasn’t a member of a country club, I wasn’t a member of the city club, I wasn’t a member of the Chamber of Commerce, or any support group so to speak.
JH: So what would you say motivated you to run for city council?
JT: I was in the county, actually, when I built my office, and a year and a half later I was in the city – – they annexed me, and raised or doubled our taxes. I just wanted to see where my money was going, to be honest.
JH: Did you have any folks that were friends of your’s that encouraged you to run as well?
JT: Not really. No. I had just been, I had just been in the, I went to work in a dime store for McClellan’s, you’ve probably never heard of it. They had about 250 stores, and I was in their training program. I missed the second World War by about a year. I was seventeen when they stopped drafting. Then the Korean War came along and I was in my fourth year, and last year of training. And, bang! I get a draft notice. So I trained to join the Navy or Air Force, I didn’t want to be just a soldier. They said, “you can’t.” They mailed the draft notice and, technically, your drafted. One guy pulled me aside – – a chief petty officer pulled me aside – – and said, “Let me tell you something. If you go to your draft board and get a deferment for a week, for the purpose of joining the Navy, I’ll take you in.” So I did that. I was in Albemarle at the time, I registered with McClellan’s in Albemarle. It so happened, the mayor, who was a friend of mine there, was chairman of the draft board. So I called him and told him the situation. I was twenty-two at the time and he said, “Certainly, I’ll give you the extension.” And I went up there and got it and brought it back [cough] and took it back down there, to the Charlotte Post Office, and two and a half years later we came back home. We went to boot camp, and they didn’t give us leave and sent me to the Philippines and put me in charge of the Navy Exchange – – the ship store really, there. And I ran that for two years.
JT: You know, you’re right in your prime at twenty-two. When they put me in running the store I said, “Good gosh, I’m a…running the Navy Exchange,” and they said, “Well, we’ll pay you extra.” So they paid me the equivalent of a chief petty officer which was as high as they could. And, I stayed there for two years and then I was on a carrier after that running the Navy ship store.
JT: Got out in ’56. No, I’m sorry, got out in ’54. Went in ’50. Went to the little theatre and was acting in some plays. And, my wife, who I had been in Junior High and High with, was in one of the plays, and jilted me in the play, and I didn’t like it, so I married her. But that’s about it.
JH: Well, tell me about Brooklyn. I guess we should start back with, when did you become a council member?
JT: In 1961. I was in ’61 to ’71, and I took a two year hiatus…and I quit. I was trying to run a business, and it’s very hard to do, and I had just started the business in ’57. So, I stayed on until ’67 and then I got off, then ran again in ’69 – – I missed it.
JH: What did you miss?
JT: Just the hubbub. You know, you are somebody. And then all of the sudden when you get off your nobody. [laughter] Really, I mean literally.
JH: Well, what did you know of Brooklyn before you got on the city council?
JT: I passed it practically everyday going to Central High School. I grew up in Dilworth, and we had to go – – back then we didn’t have buses, you got to school during the war the best way you could. And that was going down McDowell and walking, you know – – if you got a ride then you were just that much better off, but it was the gas war.
JT: Ration, and so that was it.
JH: What did you see when you, McDowell, what was on that side of Brooklyn?
JT: Well, you didn’t, you didn’t see a lot actually on McDowell.
JT: Back then the black people were a lot more – – African-Americans or whatever you want to say – – were a lot more subdued when it came to white people. They wouldn’t walk in front of you and things like that, deliberately. So, you didn’t have much trouble.
JT: However, from Brooklyn – – that would be…east, from McDowell east – – was Blue Heaven.
JH: So, Blue Heaven was actually in Brooklyn?
JT: That’s what it was, yeah. And when you and I talked about the urban renewal and urban redevelopment some of the sections could be redone. For example, Third Ward and places like that, the houses were built by white people. And, in the Brooklyn section they were thrown up by money people. And it was nothing to have three and a half or four houses per acre with eighteen inches between them. No electricity, no plumbing.
JT: I’m going to say this and I hope you don’t use it, but, the point is that, black people smell differently because they simply didn’t have the facilities to remain clean. And, it was a problem. You know where Sugar Creek is?
JT: Well, the outhouses were built over Sugar Creek. From Central High, which is right by on the other side of Sugar Creek, we could just watch them going into the outhouses.
JH: So the outhouses actually sat in, they emptied into Sugar Creek?
JT: Yes sir.
JT: We realized we were having a lot of trouble down in the particular section and the white officers didn’t really like to go down there. They would go, you know, because it was their duty.
JH: Why didn’t they like to go?
JT: They were scared.
JH: Oh, really?
JT: Yeah. So, the chief of police went to the city council – – this was before my time – – and asked permission to hire some black – – we didn’t have any black officers – – and the, the restricted duty was that they could arrest black people but they couldn’t arrest white people.
JH: Oh, really?
JT: Yeah. Now that was not said, but they were told very clearly, “You don’t arrest white people.” But they had their hands full, you know, McDowell and Blue Heaven on Friday and Saturday night when people got paid. It was a mess. There were a lot of shootings; there were a lot of cuttings. We had a hospital, it was called Good Samaritan, that was dedicated just to the black people.
JT: I’m not going to say this as a matter of fact because I don’t know it as a matter of fact, but for some reason at that time there was an awful lot of cuttings. And, they would just take them over to the Good Samaritan and the duty surgeon would just ‘whip sew’ them. I mean just take one string of surgical cord and just keep going just like you were sewing up, you know. And, consequently, the scarring was in some cases just horrendous.
JT: As long as that was there and as long as they had a lock on the business they could do what they wanted to.
JH: As who had a lock on the business?
JT: The black doctors. Because white doctors didn’t go in there.
JT: There were again, like I say, a lot of shootings.
JH: Did the white officers go into Brooklyn after they hired the black police officers?
JT: They would go in but they didn’t choose to go in, they were sent in. And they would go in with black officers. They felt much more protected than they would have just by themselves. [cough] I can’t remember white officers being attacked or anything like that. It was just the environment, you know, they just didn’t want to be there.
JH: Do you remember any other comments from the white officers about what was going on?
JT: Oh yeah. I mean, you could read the paper and know what was going on. You knew very well, you know, that there were a lot of gambling. They played this “Tunk.” That’s the name of the game. They played numbers. And it was quite a bit of that.
JT: There were shootings over a quarter. I mean just you, you wouldn’t believe it. But it’s a fact. I
had a boy working for me that was an excellent tile setter. And, a guy beat him out of a quarter and he shot him five times.
JH: And what did he do for you again?
JT: Set tile. He was a tile setter. Making at the time four dollars an hour, which was…his helper made a dollar and a quarter. That was the difference in his position.
JH: What do think made them do that?
JT: If I say ignorance, it’s a matter of possession. When you grow up without anything, you guard every nickel you got. And, you never know if it’s going to be your last nickel. Nowadays they have all kind of laws to protect them: equal opportunity and things like this. And I strongly support that, you know, because a lot of the landlords that owned their property, they didn’t have to do anything.
JT: They would go down and collect the two dollars a week per house for rent. And there was no expense other than taxes and that was [laughter] maybe two dollars. And if you owned a hundred houses then you took in $200 a week. Hey man, that’s a good return.
JT: None of them were painted.
JH: Who were some of the owners?
JT: Well, that was hidden in estates.
JH: Well, I mean not so much by name, but by profession?
JT: The people in Myers Park.
JT: They, they built Cherryville. They call it Cherry. To accommodate themselves, having their maids, chauffeurs, living there they were a lot closer to them. But boy, when the sun went down they were home.
JH: So they built these neighborhoods for their maids and other folks who worked for them?
JT: Yes. Now the ones along Sugar Creek, they were just property owners there.
JH: Well, when you came on in ’61 where would you consider the Urban Renewal process by that time?
JT: Just getting started.
JH: Just getting started.
JT: Yeah. I told you that we went down and watched the bulldozers work, and somebody suggested they save a tree, and it was so infested with bugs that you would start an epidemic if you took it out of there. So, everything was burned in place. I mean it was knocked down and piled up.
JT: So, we cleared the property. We made absolutely sure that every household had an upgraded, better home to move to. That they could afford. Just did, went out of the way to do everything we possibly could to be fair and make it more than fair, you know, we took tax money and assisted most of these people. And to hear people say that we took their heritage and things like this when we destroyed that facility. I have gone to some homes during campaign and the termites flew when I was in the house. And, Bishop Dale was this particular person’s name, and he just went in the kitchen and got a broom and came in and, as he was talking to me, he started sweeping. And he swept up, I’m going to say five gallons, of these flying bugs.
JT: Yeah. And it was just as normal as anything could be. I didn’t say anything. But, that was the…every time you see Bishop he had on a crisp collar – – dressed immaculately.
JT: It was the same suit, but he didn’t go around like a bum. He, he, you know, was most presentable.
JH: So you went into Brooklyn during campaigning time?
JT: Oh yeah. Yeah. Yeah. We would hold meetings with the labor unions, Reginald Hawkins, people like him.
JH: What was he like?
JT: Oh, he was probably the worst one there. He was all mouth.
JH: What exactly did he do?
JT: He was a dentist.
JH: Okay. Where did he live?
JT: He lived over there, and if I tell you wrong don’t hold me to it. Off of Statesville Avenue, and when we met with him it was usually in, over on Commonwealth where there was a labor union hall. He was usually there with the labor representatives.
JH: And he worked with the labor union?
JT: I don’t know. I can’t tell you that. I just know that they were associated somehow. And the labor unions would support you, you know, or either they would put out a ticket that they approved this guy, this guy, this guy, and this guy. Well, I was in no position to support them, you know, to give them anything, but somehow or another I always made their ticket.
JH: So, what was Reginald Hawkins like again, I don’t know much about him?
JT: He, he was just a firecracker. He would be one of the ones that was standing there, all mouth. And he’s still that way today, if you listen to him, he’s 80 years old. He had a small following, so you put up with him.
JH: What did he complain about mainly?
JT: Equality. Jobs. Everything. Without hesitating, he was holy justified. But you don’t get things demanding them, you know. You just accomplish a lot more. When Fred Alexander, who was the first black elected official in North Carolina, came on the council he was most gracious. He realized, hey, “I’ve come along way. I’m here. I want to stay here.” And he later became a Senator. So, he was very intelligent, knew when to push and when not to push, as any politician learns quickly, you know.
JH: Well, what did Reginald Hawkins have to say about Brooklyn?
JH: Why do you think he didn’t say anything about Brooklyn?
JT: I don’t know that he was asked. He was more into the tickets approval category. Not very many people said anything but nice things about Brooklyn, meaning it’s good to get rid of it. Because they knew what it was. They knew the, the filth, the problems, the people living that close together…and, on a hot summer night, attitudes weren’t the best. And, there were a lot of problems down there.
JH: Do you think the main motivation for what happened in Brooklyn was because of the conditions or because of the Urban Renewal Planning Movement?
JT: Oh, conditions.
JT: Oh, absolutely. It was just wonderful that we had a tool to utilize to get out of there. You see, any, a city is like a cancer, it starts deteriorating in the center, and slowly spreads out. And if you look at the, you know, the way it was done back then, the whole perimeter of downtown was all black families. Nowadays it’s not quite as noticeable because they have intermingled in the residential, you know, part of the city. But for awhile it was just this ring right around downtown, and some of the houses were white inhabited, and the people had moved, and the black people came in there. Some were, as I told you, these shacks, and they were the ones that went first. It was a blessing for Urban Renewal. I don’t know what the city would have done, because we could have never done it without federal money.
JH: Did you get any negative sentiment from the community at all?
JT: None. “Hey man, I’m going to take you out of this dump and I’m going to put you in this house over here,” not me personally, I mean the system.
JH: How did the process work of relocating folks?
JT: People like Vernon Sawyer. They would hold these meetings for, block meetings, this one’s going to be destroyed, you know, we’re going to move you all out and place you. And he had a lot of help, lot of assistance. That’s what they would do until it was empty, and that’s when you turn the bulldozers loose.
JH: Did any folks from the Brooklyn Neighborhood own any property at all?
JT: No. No. As a matter of fact, we had to condemn quite a bit of it because it was so entangled in estates that we couldn’t rightfully find the owner. So we would deposit with the courts, you know, based on a negotiated value, and then let them straighten it out, and, and find the rightful owner and pay them. Because if we waited until we could clear all of the deeds we never would have gotten out of there. This is where the benefit of condemnation comes in.
JH: When exactly did that come about? I think I remember reading that it took certain steps to set it up so you could actually condemn property. Was that while you were on city council?
JT: Oh, long before I was there.
JH: Long before you were there.
JT: See, you have to condemn property for roads, for schools, for things like that. So they’ve had the right to condemn property for years and years. We just utilized it, you know, in this situation. That wasn’t a new or given right or whatever.
JH: Even though people didn’t own property, were they given any opportunity to buy it at all?
JT: No. How are you going to give them…because you are going to destroy the land, and the land lay vacate for several years because [laughter] of the bugs and stuff. No, they weren’t asked whether they wanted to buy it or not, and I do not remember one that said he wanted, or she said they wanted to buy it. For the reasons I just said.
JH: Do you think that moving the folks from that Brooklyn neighborhood to other areas just basically moved the problem of poverty from one place to another?
JT: To a certain extent you do. Some neighborhoods are not as well maintained. The majority of Afro-Americans took advantage of that to improve themselves, and have done that. The standard of life – – let’s get back to basic things like baths and things like that. If you can’t bath, you don’t have a lot of respect, respect. But when you moved into a house that has got a bath, hot and cold water, you can take a bath and be clean. Hey man, that goes a long way, that does a lot to the self-esteem. My self-esteem anyway.
JH: What would you consider the best outcome for Charlotte in terms of Urban Renewal? What do you think it did for Charlotte?
JT: We got rid of the cancer that was around the perimeter. We were able to take advantage of the situation, and it aided us, assisted us in integration.
JH: In what way?
JT: Well it was all going on at the same time. We had to move some of the families into mainly white or, you know, neighborhoods and things like that. As the neighborhoods got used to the fact, of course they objected, in the beginning, but after they got used to it and said, “Hey, these are people just like we are.”
JH: Did you hear a lot of negative comments from folks as a city council member about that?
JT: A little bit. Now I’m not going to say a lot because I just wouldn’t listen to it. The job had to be done. “Come let me take you by the hand and take you down there.” Then you tell me that they don’t have the right to be where they are.
JH: What about issues of public housing during that time?
JT: Well, I haven’t been [cough]…Piedmont Courts, Southside, I’m just not real strong in favor of those areas because I think you can do a lot better job by having anywhere from fifteen to twenty units scattered around. You just sour a neighborhood by putting them in there because they are going to attract not the best of society even in situations…I mean they tell stories, they say they’re not working, and they’ve got a job, you know, this kind of thing. And you’ve got that type of person. Well they’re not going to go out and clean their yard, sweep the porch, and that kind of thing. They’re just not going to do it. The net result is that you just see the degrading of the property.
JH: Do you think that using house codes to clean up those slums might have been an alternative to exercising Eminent Domain, or was it too far gone?
JT: Too far gone.
JH: Too far gone.
JT: There’s nothing you could do in Brooklyn proper. I mean, you could have torn down three out of every four houses, and then torn the fourth one down and then rebuilt on that property, and then you would have contaminated soil and everything else.
JH: How would you compare Brooklyn to the other parts of slum clearance during that time?
JT: Brooklyn was a mess.
JH: Was the worst?
JT: Was by far the worst. Let’s go back to outhouses and things like this. You, you house people this close together, eighteen inches apart, and don’t give them electricity or plumbing. What are you going to have?
JH: So would you consider the Urban Renewal Movement an extreme success?
JT: Extreme success. The reason I say that is like I said before, we couldn’t have done the job that we did with just ad valorem tax. We had to have that subsistence from Washington to be able to do it.
JH: Was there any city council member who, maybe it was their brainchild early on? Did you hear of whose brainchild it was before you came on the council?
JT: No. It was the city manager that was the driving force, I would say, in the beginning.
JH: Was that before Bill Veeder?
JT: No, Bill Veeder himself.
JH: Bill Veeder, himself?
JH: So he kind of pushed it?
JT: Well he just made it available to us.
JH: As an option?
JT: Yeah. He worked for the council.
JT: And he wasn’t going to push anything. He was just going to say, “this is available, and this is available, and we’ve got these problems, and I think this will help us out here, and go on from there.” He was a terrific city manager.
[discussion of Bill Veeder]
JT: I was called, I don’t know, after Bill had left his job as city manager. I was called by some political ‘big wigs,’ and they said, “who do you think we ought to run for the Senate,” and I said, “Bill Veeder.” I don’t think you could find a more qualified person. And nothing ever came of it.
JH: Is that maybe because he didn’t want to run?
JT: I really don’t know.
JH: What was it about him? Anything in particular?
JT: Well, he was low-key, didn’t talk a lot, and when he talked he knew what he was saying. Well-qualified.
JH: Did you have anybody on the council that was against the Urban Renewal Plan other than Don, Mr. Bryant?
JT: That’s all.
JH: What were some of the conversations at the time with Don about that?
JT: None. You don’t gain anything when you’re talking to yourself.
JH: I wondered about that.
JT: We knew what had to be done.
JH: Talk to me about Mayor Brookshire.
JT: I didn’t like him.
JH: Was there anything in particular?
JT: He was just a little guy. I gave the council members one time – – I’m in the chemical business – – I gave them bottles of shampoo. The stuff that we gave away, you know, is well Prell, the same formula as Prell. And they just loved it, you know. And I gave him a bottle, and he gave it back, he said, “I don’t do my own hair.” And I said, “Very Well,” and I turned around and Sandy Jordan said, “I’ll take it,” [laughter] I do mine.”
JH: He meant he didn’t wash his own hair?
JT: He doesn’t wash his own hair.
JH: Oh my goodness.
JT: You know, that kind of attitude. One time he prepared an ordinance, directed the city attorney who works for the city council, to prepare an ordinance to close the parks at 10:00. And when we got to the council meeting it was sitting at my desk on the chair, you know, all in ordinance form. And I asked the attorney, I said, “Who told you to do this?” He said, “the Mayor,” and I let it go, you know. I said, “You don’t work for the Mayor. The next time he tells you to do something you come and get permission to do it.” Because this way is the best way to lose power.
JH: Which way?
JT: Allow things like this to happen. And if you don’t protect your strengths, you’re just not going to have it. We had a situation where they wanted to pass a blue law.
JH: Mr. Bryant mentioned that.
JT: And I just fought it vehemently. If you would have read the law, you would have just seen how stupid it was.
JT: I mean, you could do this, but you couldn’t do this, you know. I said, “If you want to close everything down I’ll go along with it, but I’m not going to – – you can sell houses but you can’t sell fixtures.” It was the dumbest thing, and I told Jim Whittington and Don Bryant both, I said, “You people do business on Sunday, you’re not affected by this, but you’re closing up other companies.” So, they went ahead and passed the law. And there was a guy named Stanley, Stanley Drug Store, he got an injunction against it, and it wouldn’t get into effect, it wouldn’t go into effect. I finally called him up, and I said, “Please drop your injunction, let it go into effect and we’ll beat it.” He said, “Only you and Jim Whittington voted against it.” And I said, “Well you do what I said do.” So he did. People started to calling those council members. Women couldn’t buy Kotex. Now you’re talking about a bunch of bad people. Eckerd’s put out a list of the people and their telephone numbers at work and home that voted for it. They couldn’t sleep for a week. Honest to goodness they, they were just hounded, and the only way they could get an hour of sleep was to take the phone off of the hook. And just things like that. Just childish governing.
JH: Well tell me how the bidding process worked on Brooklyn property, with individual businessmen or businesses?
JT: It was divided into tracts, and as I said, it sat empty [laughter] for a long time. People just couldn’t foresee the development. We had to actually persuade some people, “Come on, help us out, we’ve cleared all this land down here, and take it over and develop some stuff.”
JH: So you actually had to encourage folks to do it?
JT: Yes, yes.
JH: How long did it take to get that up and rolling? Do you remember who were the first ones to do that?
JT: Have no idea. I’m going to say ten years before it was materialized to any degree, you know.
JH: Was that in Brooklyn or just overall?
JT: Overall area there, the Brooklyn area.
JH: You never got any…the folks in the Brooklyn community, I know you said that they were pleased to be moving, but nobody spoke up in favor at all of trying to keep the neighborhood, or another alternative or anything?
JT: Let me say this. If they did, I never heard them, and I was as close as anybody could be. I have heard in the last four or five years some people saying, “Yaw robbed us of our heritage, etc., etc.” These are young people who weren’t even going to school at that time.
JH: So these aren’t people who are older?
JT: No, no, no. These are the young people who look back, and are looking for, I guess, things to cry about. But I didn’t hear anybody at the time want to purchase, want to stay there, or anything else. They wanted to get out of there.
JH: Well, the issue of Eminent Domain, Mr. Short mentioned that. Would you consider Eminent Domain ethical?
JT: Oh yeah. You couldn’t have a city. If we were in the county, it wouldn’t be necessary to do all of this.
End of Tape
Tape One, Side Two
JT: Eminent Domain. You want to build a road, I don’t care where you build a road, people are going to object. Now, they’ll go buy two or three automobiles, but they’ll object. When we built 77 (Highway 77), people asked me, “Who’s going to ride on it?” So, there you get the idea.
JT: Eminent Domain is an absolute necessity. You’ve got to justify it in court if your challenged. So, from that standpoint I think it’s valid, I think it’s justifiable.
JH: Which neighborhoods held the folks who left the Brooklyn Community?
JT: I don’t understand the question.
JH: When folks moved out of the Brooklyn neighborhood which neighborhoods did they feed into?
JT: Oh, all of them.
JH: Oh, really.
JT: Yeah. All of them, except the ones that were so expensive that they, just as a practical matter, couldn’t go in. Clanton Park, for example, was totally white. Overnight, when the black people started moving in, then people just left.
JH: All of the white people left?
JT: Oh yeah. All of them. Just gave up their mortgage, just walked out. Then they realized, years later, “hey, this place still looks pretty good.” But that’s the way it worked. So now it’s all black, and it was black four days after the first black family moved in it. Black or empty.
JH: How do you think that affected Charlotte’s layout and neighborhoods now?
JT: It always will. Yeah.
JH: Well, is there anything that I failed to ask you that you’d like to add about anything? Was that your most memorable time on city council?
JT: It was one of them Jason. Yeah. I really wish everybody could have at least a week of the public exposure to see exactly how government runs. Charlotte has a wonderful, wonderful group of city employees, elected officials, and I just can’t say enough for them. You won’t find corruption. You can take all of the money you’ve got and try to buy a building permit and it won’t fly if it’s not going to pass. And things like that, and I don’t know how that police thing got started, or where the exam was, you know, somebody put it in the computer for three or four years. That’s just so unlike the police department. But I guess that after then they didn’t figure it was cheating. Of course it was.
End of Interview