Interviewer: Madison Davis Lacy, Jr.
Production Team: A
Interview Date: June 21, 1989
Camera Rolls: 1121-1123
Sound Rolls: 154-155
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Interview with Louis McDuffie, conducted by Blackside, Inc. on June 21, 1989, for Eyes on the Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads 1965 to 1985. Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
These transcripts contain material that did not appear in the final program. Only text appearing in bold italics was used in the final version of Eyes on the Prize.
Just talk to me a little bit. You were, you said about 9, 10 years-old when Arthur was born. Do you remember when he entered your household? You had a fairly large family too.
Ah, was 5 kids and, ah, I don't remember exactly, ah, what year exactly that was but, ah. I'm a little nervous here.
OK, just start over again, just take your time.
OK, ah, what you're asking me what year was he born in?
No, I want to know do you remember specifically since you were 9 or 10 years-old, when he actually entered the household, when he was a baby. Do you remember him when he was a baby?
Yeah, I can pretty much remember him when he was a baby, yes.
Tell me about it.
How did you and your other brothers and sisters react to this new, new person in the house?
Well, ah, I was, I was the only brother and, ah, of course I was the oldest and there was a sister older than me. And when he came along being the, the other boy or the second boy, everybody in the house just loved him to death, you know, and they was just crazy about him.
Southerners, you guys gave each other nicknames. Why did you call Arthur, "Bubba?"
Well, I, I guess it's just a southern tradition, whatever, that, ah--
Try and start by putting my question into your answer like, well, you know, "The southern tradition, you get a nickname, so we called him Bubba, you know just as a nickname."
Well, like I was. It's a, it's a southern tradition, you know, to, for everybody pretty much to have a nickname and, ah, we thought Bubba was a good one for him. And, ah, of course mine was Big Boy and, ah, the, I hope I'm doing OK. You just got me a little, I'm just a little nervous here.
Well, let's stop for a second.
Give me again that story about southern nicknames and Bubba. Why did you call him Bubba?
Well, it's, if I can remember, ah, almost all southern kids or whatever even their mothers and fathers whatever they had like nicknames and it was just a, pretty much a southern tradition. And, ah, we came up with the nickname Bubba for Arthur and, ah, it just seemed to fit him well, very good. And, ah, that's the one we gave him.
Was there- he was your younger brother. Did you look out for him when he was a kid? Do you remember any incident when you had to look out for him?
Yes, I, especially when we first moved from, ah, Georgia to Miami, ah, when he was attending school. You know, I had heard so many stories about the kids in Florida and whatever and I always had a, a, not a fear, but I always wanted to be protective for him or whatever. And, ah, like when he would get out of school or whatever I would kind of stand around on the corner and make sure he got home safely, nobody bothered him or anything like that and this kind of stuff, you know.
Did he ever say anything about his first crush on a girl? Do you remember anything like that?
Ah, yes I do. I remember, I think it was his first girlfriend, ah, a very pretty girl. Her names was Dolores Hayes and she was a majorette and, ah, of course, like I say, he was in the band. And, ah, I think he was a band leader and, ah, ah, I think that was, she was his first girlfriend. And, ah, he was, very, he had a big crush on her and, ah, he was supposed to marry her from what I understand. But, ah, something happened and they didn't get married. I think he went away in the Marines or whatever but, ah, they didn't get married.
You said he was a musician. He actually loved them horns, didn't he?
Yes he did.
Tell me about it.
Ah, I remember Arthur as, you know, really loving music. I mean all type, all, you know, phases or whatever. And, ah, he, even in school, he played about five different instruments. I can't name all the ones he played but I do know he played five instruments. And, ah, he, all types of records and albums and everything. I mean he was a collector on that type stuff and, ah, every time I went to his house I could hear either the horn blowing or a record playing, one or the other. And he was just really into his music.
Did you remember when he said he was going into the Marines?
No, I don't remember when he say he was going into the, when he said he was going into the Marines. Ah, all I knew, one day he popped up and he told me, he says, "Brother, I'm going in the Marines." I says, "Are you kidding?" you know, "Are you kidding me?" He says, "No, I'm going." And, ah, I didn't even know he had, you know, went down and enlisted or whatever, and, ah, until it was time for him to go. And he was for real. And I think that was one of my proudest moments with him when he, the first time he came home he was dressed in his marine uniform and, ah, he was, you know, he really looked swell in that and he, ah, he was very good at, ah, what he did in the Marines because he would always get, ah, like, you know, awards and, ah, this kind of stuff, you know, for doing good in the service and stuff. And I, I really admired him and I really felt good when I first saw him in his uniform the first time he came home, and.
Now when he, shortly after he came home, didn't you and he have an experience where you were working together for a while? Tell me about that.
Yes, this was long after he had gotten out of the Marines. When he first got out of the Marines, I think he married, ah, the, the lady that he, you know the mother of his kids and he, he was going to join the, by the way, when he was in the Marines he was a MP in the Marines and what they call a cross county chase or whatever when the guys go AWOL or whatever he'd go and get them and bring them back and whatever. And, he was kind of interested in police work or whatever because when he got out of the Marines he applied for Dade County to be a uniformed, you know, patrolman. And, ah, for some reason, ah, I don't think they, they called him fast enough or whatever but anyhow he took a job with UPS and he worked for UPS for a while and then the UPS company, they had a lay-off, which they had called him back to work. But, ah, at that point he had got, he had went to work for an insurance company. And he, he got interested in insurance and he would always stop by and, you know, he says, "Hey, man, come on over, and, you know, work with me." He says, "You make a lot of money selling insurance, you know." I says, "Forget it man." I says, you know, "That's not for me." So anyhow, ah, probably about a year or two later he really talked me into it and, ah, I took a leave of absence from the company that I worked for and, ah, I went over to work with him in the insurance. And, after I was there a short while, I knew right then it wasn't for me. I didn't like it because canvassing or going out, you know, cold turkey, or, you know, you got to go to somebody house at night after lunch or after their dinner, you know, you know, trying to sell a policy or whatever. And I was a little bit late on some of the appointments and stuff and I remember one morning I went in I was supposed to see a customer and, ah, I didn't go and he came out, I think he was watching me when I pulled in, when I drove up in the parking lot and as I entered the office he rushed out of his office and he says, "Mr. McDuffie, I want to see you in my office." So, I says, "OK, I'll be right there." He says, "Now." I says, "Well, I wonder what's happening?" You know. So, I went in and he says, ah, "Were you supposed to see Mrs. So-and-So?" I says, "Yeah." He says, "Why didn't you?" I says, "Well I forgot it." He says, "Well I'm going to tell you one thing. I'm going to look over it this time but, ah, don't let it happen again." I mean he was bound to the point and, ah, after that was all over I proceeded to do my work and he came out and he pat me on the shoulder. He says, "Now, you know, I have to do that." He says, "Because, you know, we can be brothers in the street but we got a job to do here." I mean he was just right to the point with it**. And, ah, shortly after that I, not that I had any bad feelings or anything toward him or, or working with him. I think from that experience it just, probably just made me a better person because later on I, you know, I got in management and, ah, if you have a job to do you got to do it, you know. It doesn't matter who, ah, feet you step on, you know.
Stop down. Rollout.
Mr. McDuffie, you told me once that you guys used to roughhouse and a lot. Tell me something about that.
Yeah, especially after he got out of the Marines, you know. We used to, ah, kid around a lot. He was, he had all kind of medals for, ah, firearms and stuff like that and I always thought I was a good shot, but, ah, he was even better, expert and whatever and, ah, it just went from one extreme to the other. We would kid around, start wrestling or whatever or boxing and stuff like that and he would always, you know, come out on the top, you know, and, I thought by me being the oldest and, and bigger than him, I could handle him, you know, but, ah, it was not true, man, that guy he was just like a, a slippery rag or something, you know, just couldn't hold him, you know. And, ah, but as far as, you know, getting upset or getting mad even if he, you know, threw me down or something like that and, you know, we never let it go beyond the point of just what it meant, you know, just a friendly kidding around or whatever, just, but, ah, those are some of the, ah, the good times that we had together and, ah, ah, I really, you know, enjoyed those times with him.
All right, now, tell me when and how as you were telling me on the porch, how you heard of the accident.
Well, as I, I was at work that morning and, ah, in fact he had been here that Saturday and he was riding his bike and, ah, I was outside washing my car and, ah, he was just kidding around. He kind of revved the bike up a little bit and he just kicked dirt all over my car. You know one of his little stunts, you know. And, ah, he went up the street and he came back and at that point I told him, I says, "You know, you better slow that bike down," just like that, you know. So, that was that Saturday evening and then that Sunday, or early that Monday morning, that's when I heard about the accident that he had had. And how I heard about it was somebody that worked at the hospital where he was, ah, they knew him and they knew that his wife worked there or she used to work at the hospital. But I don't, she wasn't working at the time. And, ah, some of the people at the hospital felt that somebody needed to know or they should get in touch with us because where they had him in Ward D down in the, ah, ah, jail part in the hospital. And somebody remembered that he had a brother worked for a paint company which is the company that I worked for is not far from the hospital. So they called and told me that he had been in a bad accident on his motorcycle and, ah, naturally I left work to go over to the hospital and, you know, see how bad he was hurt or whatever. And, ah, I could not get in to see him or couldn't get any information or anything and, ah, I was, you know, just really trying to get in there to see what's, what had happened. And, ah, I couldn't get anywhere. So finally they just kind of told me I had to leave, ah, in that section. So I went back to work and later on that day somebody called me from the, ah, I think it was the Sheriff's Department and told me the same thing that he had been in an accident. And I asked, "What kind of accident?" They said, "He got hurt real bad on his bike." And the person that I was talking to on the phone I was trying to get some information from them which they would not give me any, you know, they was just said that they called to let me know that he had been in an accident and where he was. And of course, all the time, they had him listed or labeled as a John Doe, you know, that he didn't, nobody, that he didn't have anybody or anything. So by that afternoon we went back to the hospital and I think they had realized that, ah, this man did have family and, ah, he wasn't the type of person that, ah, they had labeled at. And at that point he was transferred into the main part of the hospital where he was getting better treatments. And, ah, ah, but anyhow, he, ah, when they put him into the main part of the hospital he, he just, you know, I, when I really heard about the extent of his illness and every- I mean his injury, you know I just, I just couldn't bear to, to go in there to see him and, ah, some of the other family members they went into the room where he was and, ah, you know, they would come out sobbing or whatever and, ah, I knew it was pretty bad and, ah, I just couldn't bear to go in there, you know. But, eventually, ah, I just had to face it. But, ah, at that particular moment I just couldn't and, ah, a couple of days after that the hospital called and, ah, and told us to get the family together and to come out there and that was, that was the end of it. And it was just a real, you know, sad thing and, ah, I, you know, I just, just can't imagine anything happening like that to a, to a person, you know. But, ah, it really did.
Tell me, did you and your family follow the trial?
Well we, followed just about every, ah, inch of it because, ah, we found out that the trial was going to be moved to Tampa because they said that that type of trial, the, they didn't think that the people that were involved could get a fair trial here. So they moved it up to Tampa. And at that point I had my views about what probably would have happened, you know, what was going to happen since they moved the trial, you know. And, ah, when the trial started in Tampa, we, we were there, we were there every day of the trial. And, ah, I remember we were in trial, we were in the court that Friday and, ah, we, they finished real late and they came back that Saturday morning to continue and possibly come with the verdict or whatever. And, ah, that night we, we went back to the hotel rooms and, ah, I would say to my wife, I says, well, you know, after listening at the whole trial I was trying to see who was the real guilty ones or whatever because after listening at the trial I felt that maybe some had played more than others and this is what I was doing in my mind. I was just trying to, in fact I had it weeded out or I had it wind down to three. And, as we went back to the hotel room that night, that's what I, you know, went to bed with that night on my mind. I was telling my wife, I says, "Well, if they don't get all of them then three of those guys are going to get it," just like that. So, we went to court that morning. And, ah, which was a short session. They was almost through and then they, ah, yeah, it was a short session and then they went in to get the verdict and, ah, and they came out and I mean you're just sitting there, you know, you're tense, you're, you know, on edge, you know, you're saying to yourself, "Well, that guy, you know, well if they let him go, we know he's going to get it," and, ah, and then when they, I think it was five of them that, ah, were on trial, and ah, when they said, all five, they were not guilty and I mean that's really was a, a, a low blow is, is you know, is you could call it because I was just so sure that, ah, somebody was going to, you know, get, you know, get convicted for this, for this incident. But, ah, the emotions were flying real high in, ah, the courtroom there and, ah, everybody was just running to try to get to the cars and stuff because it was something had started up in Tampa there and of course was me and my wife and my sister-in-law and my mother and, ah, somebody else and we were just trying to get to our car and get out of there because just alone the attitude, ah, of the people in Tampa. Some of the restaurants that we would go in to eat even the hotel that we were staying in, when we'd walk in the lobby, I mean everybody, they knew us without even, you know, I mean, people in that town just, ah, they just knew us everywhere we went. We'd go to Burger King, they'd know us. We'd go to eat breakfast, they'd know us and I mean they would just and really I was afraid of the people in the town there because, ah, ah--
Who represented the interests of the family?
After the acquittal there was a spontaneous reaction to the decision of injustice. How did you feel about that?
Well, as we were coming back from Tampa that, ah, after the trial we, had my aunt with me, and we were taking her home and, ah, we didn't even realize what was happening. Didn't even know what was going on. And, ah, we got off 95 onto 62nd Street and, ah, saw these fires and people running with furniture and all that kind of stuff and, ah, didn't realize what was going on. And, ah, I had the radio on in the car and they were telling us all the troubled areas and everything and, ah, not, you know, not really paying any attention to the radio. I went and drove right down in there and got my car stoned and I looked at my wife I says, "What happening?" She says, "Get out of here, it's a riot!" So, we made a turn and we came back up, you know, out of that area. And I, I felt bad about all the burning and the fires and all that kind of stuff and all the looting and stuff but the, the, the way the trial came out or the outcome of the trial, ah, I, I'm still bitter about that. And, ah, course I guess that's the way the system works. I guess they saw that these, you know, people should be acquitted. But, ah, I, you know, I'm still bitter about it.
Moving ahead in time now, it's, ah, take me to your brother's funeral. I even haven't seen photographs or pictures of it. Paint me a picture here of your favorite brother, war hero, Marine, somebody you used to wrestle with, tell me how, how it, what was the funeral like and what were the feelings you had.
Well, at the funeral it was, ah, it was, first of all, it was a large funeral. He, ah, he knew a lot of people and it was a large funeral. We should have had it in the, ah, Dade County Auditorium other than the church that, ah, we had it at because most of the people couldn't get in. And, ah, he was, he was well liked by everybody, you know, the people that he worked with, the people that he worked for, the insurance company and just people in general. And, ah, the, the funeral was a military type funeral. You know the way they had the, ah, the, the, ah, Marines there, you know, as the pallbearers and stuff like that and, and, it was, ah, it was a sad moment. Ah, knowing, you know, that, ah, someone that you really cared for and been around, you know, for a long time, all his life and knowing that he was gone, you know, that, ah, not, ah, knowing so much that he was gone but the way it happened and the results and everything from it, really, even made it more, more, ah, made it harder really. And, ah, like I say he was very well liked by everybody.
Given that he was well liked by everybody, if you wanted to put an image or a picture in everyone's mind, of how you, who loved your brother, want him to be remembered. What would that image or picture, what would that incident, what would that idea be?
Ah, well, I would like to see him, you know, the image of him as the man really being successful in what he was doing and, ah, because he, when he got into the insurance business, he, he liked that very well and, ah, that was his goal was to reach the top or wherever, as far as he could go, in that. And that's what I would really liked to see him accomplish, you know, during his lifetime, whatever. And, ah, I think that would have really made him feel good and me too.
OK, we can cut here.
He says you talked to his children about their father. What did he say?
Well, especially the, the younger ones that, ah, was, you know, ah, real young when he was, you know, killed, that really didn't know him that well, you know, or didn't understand or didn't, didn't have the, the opportunity to be with their father. And, you know, I've told them the type of man he was and, ah, the type of father that, ah, he probably, you know, would have wanted to be for them. And, ah, some of his goals that, ah, you know, he wanted to achieve in his lifetime. And, ah, they, they sat and they listened very, ah, you know, ah, concerned, wanting to know, you know, these things about their father. And, ah.
You remember what you said?
Ah, well, I've told them about, you know, the times that he was in the, in the band, the instruments and stuff that he played and, ah, especially his son and when he was in the Marines and stuff like that and, ah, and just, you know, what a swell guy he was. And, ah, his, his son, he, you know, he really likes to, to hear that coming from me about his father, you know.
OK we can cut here.