Interviewer: Jackie Shearer
Production Team: D
Interview Date: February 23, 1989
Camera Rolls: 4086-4087
Sound Rolls: 436
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Interview with Dillard Munford, conducted by Blackside, Inc. on February 23, 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.
OK, Mr. Munford, when Maynard Jackson ran for Mayor in 1973, ah, did you support his campaign?
Ah, no. No, no.
Could you give me that in a sentence, "When Jackson ran for Mayor--"
When Maynard ran for Mayor, then, I knew practically nothing about him except that he was a bright young lawyer. I'd had no political contacts with him and he had not been a, political figure in Atlanta at all.I supported a White candidate, and ah, as most White people did; [and Maynard had the Black support, financial and otherwise. Yeah,] **
Was the White business community scared at the prospect of a Black mayor in Atlanta?
Oh, yes. Yeah, we were very frightened because, ah, we had nothing to go on, there had been no experience there. And we had no idea what was going to happen.** Ah, first we had no idea he was going to get elected, first. Because, the Blacks had never turned out in enough volume to swing an election. But, they did in this one. The churches put their buses to work. And, they moved a lot of people to the polls. And, ah, Maynard was elected.
Were you scared at the prospect of a Black mayor?
Well, scared is not necessarily the word. But, ah, ah, undecided as to what, what was going to happen because we knew of no department heads, because we'd heard that he was going to replace all the White ones with Black department heads. He had no experience in what they were doing. So, we expected chaos if he was elected, and we got it.
Now, Atlanta had just tipped from being White majority to being Black majority.
Could you speak to what the expectations were, or what the feelings were among the White business community, about what that would mean politically?
Well, we never knew that the change was going to come so fast. Ah, the Black population had been growing very fast. And, we were having an exit from the city of the White population. The White population was going down, the Black was coming up. But, we had no idea that they were going to be that politically attuned to the situation then. Ah, 1973 ah, they surprised the Black, the White community, I'll tell you that.
What was your, what was Maynard's agenda as mayor, in your opinion?
Well, he was charged, ah, as I understand, by the, the Black power structure to, to get elected and ah, to run as a young thirty-two year old. And, if he was defeated, he had his future ahead of him. He was a lawyer, and a good lawyer. And, if, if he won, he would ah, be a top man, and his charge was to convert the city from a White majority government to a Black majority government. And, he did that. He did. He brought in people who were absolutely inexperienced, and had no place they could get experience. This was, we ran a mass of on the job training for the public officials in 1974. And, Maynard was right in the middle, and he had no staff of experienced people. He told me later, when I was fussing at him about not returning my phone calls, he said at one time, he was 700 phone calls behind. So, he had no, he was not a business person, himself. And, he didn't know about delegating authority, or responsibility. So, he just had this turmoil around him of good folks, supporters, and, political hanger-oners. But, nobody knew how to run an organization, or how to run an office. Particularly office of mayor, which is the number one office in the city.
What was Jackson's relationship to the downtown White business community?
Zero. Zero. No contacts at all. Ah, the thing that--
I'm sorry. Could you give me a full sentence that says, with zero in it, that says--
Yea. There was little or no contact with the White business community and the mayor's office when Maynard was elected. Ah, he made no overtures to the White community. And they tried to make them to him, as they normally do when they change, change city government. But, he wouldn't return phone calls. But, he had ah, the bankers and top people just standing on their ear trying to get in touch with him. And, and, he didn't call. And, that was then, that was, you know, it was pretty bad at that time. Because a city government is the better part of the business community. And, you have to have some contacts with the city before you can do a lot of things. But, we had none.
Now, if you think about a transition from White control to Black control isn't a certain amount of conflict inevitable?
In the conflict?
Isn't conflict inevitable?
Oh, sure. Oh, sure. Ah, mainly because there is no way to get to the mayor, and when communications is, well just absolutely zero. No communication. So, it was a situation which I don't know how it could have been avoided, because it looked like Maynard was surprised to have gotten elected. And, he had no back-up team. He had no experienced people, because there was no place he could get them. They hadn't had experience in, in government--city government--any kind of government. So, he was there with 700 phone calls, and a lot of good people whirling and, whirling around him. But, nobody taking care of the day-to-day business.
If you had been mayor how would you have handled it?
I'd have done exactly the same thing. There was no way to change this city from White to Black with no help except do what he did. Ah, had a business background, I believe I could have delegated some responsibility and got some of the top business leaders, telephone at least, told them I was thinking about 'em. But, he ignored that. And, ah, but, I think he had a job to do. It was to change the business climate, the governmental climate from ah, White to Black. And, I don't know how else he could have done it. Ah, with no help. I think he meant well. And, ah, but, he, he just didn't get the job done as far as communications are concerned. And, left a lot of people unhappy. Because, you know, the business people are accustomed to when they make a phone call, they usually get a response--particularly if you're a bank president, or head of a utility, or something of that nature. But, they got no answer, no response. And, this left them, "Well, where do I go from here?" There are no places to go, because that was the top job in the city and they could not respond, so things were just at a standstill for a good while, and the longer they waited and didn't hear from Maynard, the madder they got. So, I have to answer your question: I don't know how he could have done it. There was no way to slip in the side door of the, of the mayor's office. He could have asked for some White help. He asked for no White help. He could have gotten some top White business people who would, didn't want a job--head of banks and utilities, something like that--ah, to come in and advise him. But, being young and brash, ah, he evidently wanted to do it all himself. And, he didn't get the job done. He made a lot of people unhappy. And, of course it affected his whole tenure as mayor, that, ah, the people were very unhappy, that he just ignored them, they're not accustomed to being ignored. I mean people would have thousand and thousands of stock-holders, and thousands and thousands employees, they're not accustomed to anybody, just ignoring them. And, this built up a resentment, which was very, very severe.
OK. Cut? Or, are we rolling?
Back then, Maynard Jackson was called by many a reverse racist. What was your position on that then?
I had no question but he was. That, ah--
I'm sorry, but, could you give me a full sentence?
There was no question but he was a full-fledged racist, ah, against White people. And, um, this was what his charge was, was to see that it was turned over to Blacks. And, you had to be a racist to do that. Colorblindness was not part of his repertoire.** So, no, he was a, he was a full-fledged racist as far as the White community was concerned.
Now, what about Jackson's affirmative action program. What was your assessment of it back then?
I didn't accept it at all, because, it was unfair to the White people, to White contractors. But, they ran this through the city counsel, and, ah, actually went beyond the government bounds and made a lot of, ah, unqualified Black contractors very wealthy. So, it was, it was not a fair program at all. And, ah, they didn't have time, they were unfamiliar with affirmative action. And, they saw it was a way to, somebody in his campaign did, or his office, to let a lot of their Black supporters in on a good thing, which they did. And, it was very abusive to White contractors who saw jobs going at higher prices than they were bidding because they were Black.
What about the joint-venture program? Do you remember the joint-venture and it came up with the airport?
Yeah, well, this was a pay-off to the Paschal brothers; they're the largest- Maynard didn't get any money from the White community. Everything he raised in his campaign came from the Black community. And, the Pascal brothers, who are wealthy people and run hotels and restaurants and stuff, they were the main contributor. So, it looked like the pay-off to the Paschals was the airport contract, which was very disadvantageous to the city, and very advantageous to the Paschals. But, this was, this and affirmative action, were the two things that, ah, I think abused the tax-payer more than anything else. I know of no, ah, side-deals or underhanded or crooked anything like that. And, these were all, all legitimate, all government sponsored programs; but, they went beyond that. And, ah, the Pascals came out very well. And, two or three contractors did, too. One of them particularly, ah, was a good contractor, anyhow. And, he became very wealthy; he had seven contracts at the airport, and, ah, he came up smelling like a rose.
Has the business community of Atlanta been integrated as a result of this program? Or, do you think that Black business people would have been let in anyway?
Well, there were Black contractors. As I said, there was one very successful Black contractor before all this came out. And, ah, but, there was, ah, there was some integration of the contractors, but, not very much. Mostly sub-contractors, smaller operators. And, that's the way this successful contractor came, he was a plastering contractor; and, he grew into a general contractor. But, that was the way that I had hoped to see the Blacks integrated into, into our society. But, that was too slow. They wanted to take a running jump. And that's what they did.
Can you remember any specific stories of discussions with other businessmen about the Maynard Jackson problem?
Well, every time you got at least two or three business people together, that was the subject. Because, ah, we were paying a lot of money in taxes and had no idea what was happening to the money or who was administering it, if they were competent people, if they were honest people. And it was just a big question of really, what's going on? There is no way to find out. When you can't, ah, talk to the mayor or to somebody in his office who speaks with his authority, you're at a loss. And, when you're putting million of dollars into taxes in a, in a, in a city, you have to wonder about it a bit. So, yes, we talked every time we got together about it. And, they weren't very pleasant things we said about Maynard Jackson.
I have a really funny image of these very powerful, strong, businessmen feeling like orphans with your noses pressed against the glass. I mean, how did you all feel. The White business community?
We felt that we were at bay. We were out there barking and nothing was happening. And, ah, that went on for a long time, couple three years. So, it was a very unpleasant and unhappy situation for the business people. And, I think a disastrous situation for the city; because, ah, we just marked ground for two or three years. Because, in the past we had had such a wonderful working relationship between the business community and the city: we built a stadium, we built the Cowboys' Club, we built a lot of things in joint venture with the city and the business people. When you lost one, you lost the, you lost the deal, the momentum. And, we lost the momentum, no question. **
OK, cut. OK, I think--