Interview With Bill Taylor
BT: And are there any particular ground rules that I ...
AB: So just introduce yourself just so that we can get a little [unintelligible].
BT: Hi. I'm Bill Taylor and I'm happy to welcome all three of you to my home today.
AB: And the date?
BT: Today is — oh gosh — today is March 18th, 19 … 2 … 2001.
AJ: Where ... where did your parents come from and ... and how did they wind up in Brooklyn?
BT: Well, both of my parents were born in ... in Lithuania and did not know each other in Lithuania. But the ... the families came to the United States … well, I guess in my father's case it was the turn of the twentieth century. And in my mother's case they came in several stages, and she came I think around 1910 or so. And one family, my mother's family, settled in Washington Heights in Manhattan and my father's family settled in East New York in ... in Brooklyn.
AJ: And how did they meet each other?
BT: Well, that's a good question. I'm not exactly sure how they ... how they met. My mother was a Young Socialist, although neither of them were great political activists. But — but I think maybe it's possible they met at some event that — it was called YPSL — were ... were sponsoring in those days.
AB: How old were they when they came over — when they emigrated?
BT: My father was only two. As a matter of fact, he always said he was born in the United States and it was only later that I found out he'd been born in Lithuania. I ... maybe he was afraid of losing his citizenship. And my mother traveled with one of her sisters around Europe for a while. I think she was ten or eleven at … at the time, and wound up ... so she was, you know, I guess eleven or twelve when she got to the United States.
AB: And what did they do for a living?
BT: Right. Well, they were both the youngest or next — my father was the next youngest, my mother was the youngest — of very large families, eight or nine children. My father went to Brooklyn Polytechnic ... went to Stuyvesant High School and Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, and virtually his whole career he worked for the Department of Water Supply, Gas, and Electricity as an engineer in New York. He ... he ... once he ... he discovered, after a while, that he ... in order to advance beyond a certain level he needed to be politically connected so he joined the ... the club house when we moved to Crown Heights. The captain of ... of the area was a guy by the name of Abe Beame, who later became mayor. Anyway, my father then began to advance and eventually he became the Commissioner of Brooklyn — of Water Supply for Brooklyn. My mother was a bookkeeper and had various jobs, before I was born, as a ... as a bookkeeper, but was a … worked in the home from there on until ... until she went back to work, I guess, in her fifties or so, as ... as a bookkeeper.
AB: So that means she had a high school education and ...
BT: Yeah. Yeah. And she may have had a year of college, I think at City College.
AB: What ... what were their names?
BT: Her maiden name was Sarah Levine and he was Harry Taylor.
AB: How did he get a name like Taylor?
BT: Well, I am told that the name was Hyatt, and that it was changed at Ellis Island. And I was always of the impression that Hyatt meant tailor in Russian. Then in '85 I went to Russia to visit the refuseniks on a mission , and it was a very interesting trip, but I thought I would check this out and I ... so I asked and they laughed merrily and said no, no, no, the Russian for tailor was portnoy. So — like Portnoy's Complaint — so that was ... that didn't solve them. And neither was it the Lithuanian. But a couple of years later I discovered that Hyatt is the Hebrew for tailor. And if you go to Israel, you can see these signs: Hyatt. It's a tailor's shop.
AB: Uh huh.
BT: so that's what I'm told. And now I'm discovering that I probably have some relatives around, or ... I mean, distant relatives, 'cause there's a very wealthy guy by the name of Hyatt. And the self-made man, Hyatt, came from Lithuania. and one of his sons is Arnold Hyatt who's the ... this guy made a lot of money. Armond [sp?] Hyatt is the President of Stride Rite shoes and ... and apparently a very philanthropic and sort of liberal-minded guy. I've never met him. Then there's a John Hyatt who's the son of Arnold, who is the General Council of the AFL-CIO. So It may be I've got this extended family I've never ...
AB: Uh huh.
BT: John Hyatt and I have talked about it a little bit but ...
AB: So, when were you born and where were you born?
BT: I was born in 1931 in a hospital in Brooklyn on October 4th, '31.
AJ: and how many kids in ... in ... in your family?
BT: How many do I have or did ...
AJ: No, how many siblings do you have?
BT: Oh, I have one brother who, Vurton [sp?], who is seven-and-a-half years younger than I am and who has lived in Washington for a good long time and has worked for the Federal government — doing work in civil rights, as a matter of fact.
AB: so you were born in a Brooklyn hospital in what ... in what ... what neighborhood?
BT: What neighborhood was the hospital in or ...
AB: No, what neighborhood were you born in?
BT: I was born in ... I was born in the Sheepshead Bay area of Brooklyn, Ocean Avenue over near Avenue Y, right by the bay.
AB: And then you were describing [unintelligible] area.
BT: Hah. Well, we moved … moved around in Brooklyn, yeah — lived in I guess we'd call it south Flatbush. Right? It was ... it was East 4th Street and ... between avenue S and Avenue T where we … I lived through ... up until from about age four through ... almost through high school. Now, you lived on east 7th Street. Right? Now, you know there was a book by a ... by an Italian … an Italian-American author named Maria Tagovnik, you know about this? — called Crossing Ocean Parkway. You were on the other … you were on the wealthy side of Ocean Parkway. I was on the poor side of Ocean Parkway. But her view was that when you crossed Ocean Parkway you made it. And ... and she ... so I was basically on the Italian side of Ocean Parkway. She grew up and then crossed Ocean Parkway, married a Jewish guy and went up in the world, she said. And then I moved later on, to Crown Heights, which, you know, all the places I lived as a young person. Then I lived in various places in New York and in Brooklyn after I got married.
AB: So where did you go to elementary school and junior high school? [three question marks — missing phrase?]
BT: I went to an elementary school called P.S. 215 which was on Avenue S and East 3rd Street. I went to a junior high school called David A Booty [sp?] Junior High School which was in Bensonhurst. And then I went to Abraham Lincoln High School and then on to Brooklyn College.
AB: So describe your ... your family upbringing, the milieu, whether it was defined by cultural activity or political activity or religious activity?
BT: Well, my parents were both Jewish but non- … mostly non-observant Jews. However, they did want me to be ... receive a bar mitzvah and so I was bar mitzvahed. By the way, I'll ... I'll divert. I was ... I was at a conference a couple of weeks ago at Harvard on ... on language issues, which I deal with in my ... in my work. and ... and at the end of the conference, one of my ... one of the sponsors of the conference who is a friend of mine was chatting with myself and Catherine Snow, who is a ... a scholar at Harvard and involved in these issues, and he said, “you know,” — this guy's name is Chris Edley — he said, "You know, I was … when I grew up in New Rochelle," he said, "I was always jealous of all the Jewish kids because they went off to Hebrew school and they learned another language," he said. And Catherine Snow said, without missing a beat ... a beat, she said, "Chris, it sounds like you were suffering from a serious case of pais envy."
BT: So ... but no. I really was not — apart from being bar mitzvahed — I was not ... did not come from a religious family. It was a family that was very interested in contemporary and public affairs and ... and ... though they really weren't terribly — I mean, they weren't affiliated with a lot of organizations, you know, I grew up being aware of what was ... reading the newspapers all the time as my father did, and ... and listening to the radio and ... and… you know? And it was the Depression and then the beginning of World War II so there was a lot happening during that era. My father was also a big — as was true of a lot of immigrant families — my father became a big baseball fan and so I grew up on ... on going to Emmett's Field to watch the Dodgers, I think beginning at age six in 1937. My mother was certainly interested in my cultural welfare and well-being so we made frequent trips to Manhattan. We went to the Brooklyn Academy Of Music In Brooklyn. There were young peoples' concerts — in those days, before Leonard Bernstein, it was Walter Damrosh that ran the young peoples' concerts. So I went to those and had piano lessons for eight years as did many kids during ... during my generation. But I also was interested in sports activities. I quit ... I had a kind of a Prussian piano teacher who was on Eastern Parkway and he was literally ... he was German and he had, you know, sort of Prussian attitudes. And I used to have to take two trolley cars to get there and then I would be berated. So one Sunday morning I decided — when I was supposed to have a lesson — I took my baseball glove and went out to Marine Park and I never went back to the ... to the piano lessons after that. I don't know. Does that give you a little flavor of my childhood?
AB: What was it that made your mother so interested in ... in sort of high culture. You know? Was that the new immigrants' thing?
BT: I think she ... you know, I think so many families were upwardly striving, and I'm not sure what thought it was. But it was interesting. As I said, these were the youngest ... she was the youngest of nine, I think, and he was the second youngest of eight. They were practically the only people who spoke without an accent even though they, you know, she was ... grew up overseas for her childhood and I think, you know, I think they were unconsciously assimilationist and wanted to be part ... and had a great attachment to education. I'm told her father died in his forties so I never knew him. I knew my grandmother. But I'm told he was thought of in ... in Lithuania as something of a ... of a — not a formal scholar but somebody who was well educated and who was looked to for his wisdom, so that may have had something to do with it too. I don't know. It just was there.
AJ: So was it assumed that you would go to college, then?
BT: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I think so. I think so, though my father was ... I shouldn't ... Well. My father was a tightwad [not sure — phonetic (tyquad) in original] and always, I guess, always had a sense of insincerity. So I wanted to go to Cornell — was where I wanted to go — and I was admitted to Cornell. But we ... he said he never wanted to send me to Cornell, so that's how I wound up at Brooklyn College.
AJ: What did you want to be when you grew up? Did you have a ... a sense of what you wanted to study, what you wanted to do?
BT: Well, there are various stories. As I said, I ... I was a sports fan. I was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan and I grew up listening to the Brooklyn Dodgers games being broadcast in about '38 or '39 by a guy by the name of Red Barber.
AB: Uh huh.
BT: And he had a wonderful way with the language. And I thought I wanted to be a sportswriter or a sports broadcaster. And I was the high school editor — I was my — I was the Sports Editor of my high school newspaper and ... and then was the Sports Editor of the Brooklyn College Vanguard before I ... events thrust me into the position of being the Editor in Chief. So that was one set of ambitions. On the other hand, I am told that when I was about three or four years old I was acting up in a restaurant one day with my parents and my father said, Bill, be a gentleman." and I said, "I don't want to be a gentleman. I want to be a lawyer." So maybe that was inbred as well. And I did find out … this was to me a very interesting revelation, when my father was dying — and he never said anything before — he told me that he had always wanted to be a lawyer. So I ... I may have been ... I may have been programmed in some way that I ... that I wasn't terribly conscious of. But unlike a lot of my colleagues on the Vanguard, I didn't ... when I was on the paper I didn't have the feeling at that point that I was necessarily going to be a journalist. And I was already thinking about law school.
AB: Uh huh. I was going to ask, to kind of follow [unintelligible] question, what ... what in fact your parents wanted of you.
BT: Yeah. Yeah, well, that's the best I can tell you. I think they wanted, you know, they wanted me to be educated and to be successful, I think.
AB: Uh huh. How about if we just go back a little 'cause we're about to, I can tell, move into the Brooklyn College life and that's certainly where we want to go. But I was just curious how [about?] your description of the family as you were very involved in contemporary issues and the issues of the day.
AB: And ... and I sort of wanted to probe a little bit further. Like, okay. So…
BT: Well, I mean ...
AB: Where did these conversations happen?
BT: Yeah. Well, I, you know, I don't remember them with a large degree of clarity. The ... I mean, the situation of the Jews was certainly one of the — and I don't remember when, you know, people … when we became aware of it, due to my ... that my father wrote a letter to Einstein about some of his charitable work and got a response which my brother has a copy of … of the letter. Certainly, you know, the outbreak of World War II, and this was something to be followed very closely. Anti-Semitism was an issue in those days even in our neighborhood. I mean, I was ... when we moved into the area around ... on East 4th Street it was about a half Jewish and half Italian. I remember getting pushed around on my very first day of school and called a Christ killer, so, you know, there were, you know, there were those kinds of ... of issues around, which I'm sure had some influence on me over a period of time.
AB: And what was it like in school for you and that ... I mean, how did you feel treated by teachers or by peers or ...
BT: Well, I really had a great school experience, by and large. I was ... In those days they gave you I.Q. tests in the early grades and I was pushed ahead — in my first two and a half years of school I was pushed ahead a year, in other words twice promoted, and so I was always younger — from that point on I was younger than all my contemporaries and I had a social adjustment problem — a socialization problem. But, you know, eventually I surmounted it and ... though I, you know, I always thought I was awkward with girls and so on 'cause I was ... they were always much older than ... and more mature, anyway. But we really had great teachers, though. The Abraham Lincoln had all these teachers, most of them Jewish, not all of them. But, you know, the opportunities for ... for Jews were still limited in those days so you got some tremendously talented people in the teaching profession, which is part of our problem today is that women, who were the captive teachers because they didn't have any opportunities, and ... and ... and people of color, you know, now have other opportunities so it's hard to get ... to find good teachers for the public schools.
AB: Uh huh.
BT: Anyhow, I, you know, I loved it. I mean, I ... I grew up ... I guess I didn't say this, I mean, I grew up reading a great deal and ... and I love to read. And my parents provided, you know, books and so on. So I, you know, had a good time … by and large had a good time growing up.
AJ: So ... so what year did you arrive at Brooklyn college?
BT: I arrived at Brooklyn College in ... in January of 1948. I was ... I ... I arrived in midyear so I was … Since I was born in '31 I'd just turned seventeen — no, sixteen in '47, yeah, in September of '47, so I was sixteen when I entered Brooklyn College.
AB: And why did you start midyear?
BT: I don't even remember. But you ... you could do that sort of thing and we had midyear graduating classes in Lincoln, and so on. Did I send you this piece that was ... that was done about me in the Bar Report called "Legends In The Law?"
A. No, you didn't. We talked about it but you didn't ...
BT: Well, I ... I'm sure I can find it. But, I mean, one of the stories I tell in that was that ... was that when I was a high school sports editor it was … 1947 was the year that Jackie Robinson broke in with the Dodgers. And ... and I wrote him a letter asking for an interview. Did I tell you this story?
BT: And much to my surprise, he wrote back to me and said, “come to the Brooklyn College — Brooklyn College — Come to the Brooklyn Dodger clubhouse after a game and I'll give you an interview. So I went and I took my co-sports editor with me, and we showed the letter and they threw us the hell out. [laughter] So I waited out on Bedford Avenue, and ... and Robinson came out and I said ... Now, I was fifteen at the time — it was, yeah, '47, right? — the spring of '47. And I said, "Mr. Robinson," I said, "they didn't," you know, "they wouldn't let me in." And he said, "don't worry about it, kid. I'll fix it. You come back next week." And then he jumped into a cab. And, you know, the sad ending of the story is I never did get to see him. And I thought to myself, if you were really a, you know, journalist, a reporter, you would have gotten in that cab with him and gotten your interview right then. But ... but then I, you know, of course I … being a big sports fan, I followed his career and I think, I'm sure, I know that had ... I mean, we didn't have a lot of black people in Brooklyn at the time and I ... just reading bout how he was treated by ... by fans on the road, by opposing teams, even by his own teammates, just made me more conscious, I think, of race … I mean, gave me a consciousness of race discrimination that I had not previously had.
AB: Uh huh. So tell us about Brooklyn College. You enter in ... in the ... in January of 1948.
AB: And what ... what ... what were your goals when you started ...
BT: What were my goals?
AB: when you started ... what did you think you would be doing at Brooklyn College?
BT: Well, I thought I ... I mean, I was a political science major. I was ... You know, I think I was interested from the beginning in ... in moving toward policy and toward ... I mean, I was a child of the New Deal in a sense. And, you know, you said what did we talk about? Well, you know, my ... my family were ... were ... my mother and my father were great supporters of Franklin Roosevelt.
AB: Uh huh.
BT: And it was my belief that government could do good things for people. And I think I was oriented toward developing my ability to ... to do public service in one way or another. But also, you know, this wasn't ... I wasn't away from home. Brooklyn College was a commuter college. But this was more of a, you know, experience that — God bless you — that opened me up to, you know, new experiences. And so I, you know, I don't know that I had any carefully formulated goals. I have never been a careful planner. My ... at least one of my children — more than one of my children says that the only thing they learned from me was to keep ... the motto to keep your options open.
BT: But ... but that's in general what I was ... where I ... where I thought I was going. And I still loved sports and I wanted to get on the newspaper and so I, you know, I did that. I don't remember when I got on the newspaper but ...
AB: Were you involved in other activities, other [unintelligible]?
BT: I ... I was involved in a house plan because Brooklyn college didn't have fraternities. They had house plans in those days. I don't know if they still have that. But that was a sort of a social organization. I got involved at some point — I don't remember exactly when — with student government so I was on the ... the student government as well.
AB: What ... what role or what title in student government? Do you remember? Was it ...
BT: A delegate or a representative or something like that, yeah. I don't remember. I don't think I was ... no, I wasn't President or any ... any kind of an officer in student government.
AB: What was student government doing when you were on the student government? What were the ... the students like?
BT: Oh Lord. You're asking me to remember a lot. Who remembers? I don't remember any big issues. Except, of course, when The Vanguard was ... was knocked out, it was a ... it was the ten President of the student government who sided with the faculty to ... to help remove the newspaper from ... from campus. So ... so they did ... , you know, the students did perversely prevail ... play some kind of role if they were on the right side of things.
AB: What ... So what kind of classes or courses did you take and who were ... do you remember any of your teachers?
[most of the names in the next few paragraphs are phonetically spelled]
BT: Oh sure. I took Political Science — the basic Political Science course — with a woman named Elza Dehas, who looked strikingly like Mrs. Roosevelt except she was older and ... and was a very good teacher. And there were other good people in the Political Science department, a guy by the name of Organ … Organsky. And Rivlyn. I don't think I had courses with Belle Zeller but she was a considerable presence on ... on the campus at the time and she was in Political Science. I ... there was a good course which was either Rivlyn or Organsky in New York City government which I remember taking. I took ... there was a great History department and I took a course in Asian Studies with a guy by the name of Hi Cublyn. And there were other wonderful professors like Clarkson and Robinson and ... and Arthur Kohl who became, later on, down the road ... I took the ... the sort of the cult hero of the college was Harry Schlockhower. Do you know the name Harry Schlockhower? He taught a course in German literature and we ... we read the magic Mountain by Thomas Mann. And he became a famous court case because he refused to answer questions and ... and the Supreme Court, by a five-four vote, upheld ... upheld his ... his suit against the college firing him. But by that time he had such a good lay practice in psychology that he decided not to go back to the college. But he was an interesting fellow. And Catherine — what was her last name? — had a wonderful course in English and American Literature that I ... that I took. There was another woman, Margaret Gustifaro, who taught political science in those days so ... And then, eventually, I took ... I took Harry Gideonse’s course in Economics. and have you heard about Harry Gideonse’s course in economics? It was called Economics 45. And that introduced me to ... to Fredrick Von Hayek who I hadn't heard of at the time, but in ... in current ... in more contemporary, conservative times he has become something of a ... of a cult hero among conservative economists. And Gideonse was featuring him way back in the ... in the … in the beginning of the '50s. So those were, you know, some of the courses I took.
AB: And what was it like to study with ... with Harry Gideonse?
BT: Well, I ... I found it a somewhat interesting course, but he was as authoritarian in the classroom as he was elsewhere so it wasn't a very participatory course. But, you know, we learned something, which was good.
AB: Did you take it more for the subject matter or more to [unintelligible]?
BT: I think I took it to have a course with Gideonse. Oh, I should also mention one other professor who I'm still in touch with today, I mean, not ... I mean, it's somewhat accidental, a guy by the name of [unintelligible] Miller — Mike Miller — who taught in the ... I'm not ... it was in the Sociology Department, I believe, but he ... it was both economics and sociology. And he ... he taught basically labor economics. and what I remembered about him is he actually got us out of the classroom, took us places like to the ... to a Ford assembly line in Mahwah, New Jersey, where we saw how … in fact how workers worked. And I thought, “what a nice idea.” You know, to get out and actually see how things are done. And Mike Miller is now ... still is a social activist — has a group up in Boston, and we serve on the Board together of a group called the Poverty And Race Research Action Council. and it was nice to be kind of reunited with him after ... after all these years.
AB: Well, it's interesting to hear you describe the different professors 'cause it gives you a sense of …
AB: … kind of the political range.
AB: I'm curious whether, as a student, you had a sense of the ... the ... the political spectrum on campus of the students and faculty?
BT: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I should mention also Tess Wolfson who was … taught in the Economics department and was a wonderful person. She was married to somebody else on the faculty named Austin Wood who was ... taught in the Psychology department. And they became friends of Harriet's and mine after we graduated. And when I came down to Washington she gave me a lot of names of ... a number of names of people she knew down here. One of ... one of them was a labor organizer by the name of Hi Bookbinder who worked for the AFL-CIO and I just went to his eighty-fifth birthday party last weekend. So there was a great range. I took a Classic Civilization course with a fellow by the name of Paul Gitfel, and that was another course I loved 'cause we, you know, we read everything. Gitfel was pretty left. And there was a guy by the name of Bernhardt Gribanya — you smile — who was in the English Department. And Gribanya was one of these guys who wound up testifying before committees and giving the names of people that he thought were Communists. And so you grew aware of some of the stuff going on. I remember Gribanya said that Gipfel was spreading the rumor that ... that his ... his real name was Rheinerberg, not Gribanye, which was Gribenier spelled backwards. and he said, "well, you know what Gipfeld is backwards? It's left pig." So ...
BT: So, you know, yes, there were ... obviously there were currents on campus. And most of the faculty was ... was liberal, progressive I would say. There may have been a few Communists on the faculty. I don't know.
AB: And what about the students? Where ... where were they on the ... the political spectrum?
BT: Well, I ... it didn't strike me at the time that it was a campus seething with political awareness, not in the same sense that the campuses became politicized during the '60s. As I've mentioned, there were a lot of … there were a fair number of students who had been back, you know, who had served in World War II. And I thought the place was a more interesting place because, you know, here I was a sixteen year old and there were people who were twenty-three, twenty-four and twenty-five and you had this sort of nice age mixture, including some who were on ... on Vanguard. There were, you know, there were ... was a socialist group on campus. There was the Labor Youth League, which was the group we were ... we on Vanguard principally defended in our editorials after they were banned from campus, saying that hey had a ... a right to speak on campus. There were ... there were some conservative groups on campus. I remember there was a group called Common Cause, which I thought about in later years when Common Cause came to mean, you know, mean something else. So there was a range of ... of ... of political opinion. And then in the wake of Vanguard, I discovered all these groups I didn't even know about. I mean, there were Trotskyites and Shactmanites. They were all very small groups, but I ... I was sort of invited every place after that so I began to know more about what was happening than I knew before.
AB: Uh huh. Uh huh. So you entered the Vanguard through sports?
BT: That's right.
AJ: [unintelligible] What … what was that like? What were your initial experiences with Vanguard?
BT: Oh, I ... I had a lot of fun. I mean, I think I learned some things. I mean, to ... to this day I love to edit and people tell me I'm a pretty good editor. And Brooklyn College was not necessarily known for its sports teams but it had a ... it had a very good college basketball team in ... in those days, and it had soccer, which was early on for colleges to have soccer. But Brooklyn College had a number of foreign students in those days so they had a pretty good soccer team. And we would travel and go places and follow the teams — write. And I became a stringer for the New York Times and for the Associated Press. I mean, that was something that came with being either the sports correspondent or the ... or the, you know, or on the news side if you were the news editor you ... and that gave me, you know, some nice experience and I enjoyed doing that. So it was, you know, it was a good experience, and ...
AJ: What about the social life at The Vanguard? Other people have talked about it as being kind of an all-enveloping world. was that your experience, or no?
BT: Oh yeah. I mean, it was sort of ... I don't know. We were ... we were maybe the ... I don't think we consciously ... we were sort of the junior Front Page people. I mean, everybody was ... first of all, there was ... people played bridge all the time. I'm sure you heard that. I didn't play bridge. My father was an excellent bridge player which was probably why I ... I resisted learning bridge until my ... But there was ... there was, you know, there were people playing bridge. There were people ... and it was, you know, there was a constant stream of smart-ass repartee going on. I mean ... and, you know, people were excited by ... I mean, there were people who were doing theater at that time and other things, and so on, so it was ... I ... I think there was a very good spirit and very good camaraderie. And I assume you're hearing the same things from other ... Memory — you know, age may improve one's memory somewhat, but that was the general ... the general ambiance there. And, I mean, I remember some of the ... my senior people who I really thought, you know, first of all, they were great writers, and secondly, they were interesting people to be around — Norma Lieberman, who was an editor, Irv Goodman, who was an editor when I first … I got on the newspaper, so, you know, you had the feeling you were ... you were with really interesting, good people, fun people to be around. And it was generally ... it was generally a good experience.
AB: And did you always stay with sports, or did you end up reporting on other ...
BT: As far as I can remember, I never did … I never did anything other than sports, although I was always interested in other areas, until the hammer fell on Vanguard in early 1950 when ... when the newspaper printed the story about Arthur Kohl ... about Gideonse vetoing Jesse Clarkson to ... who had been chosen by the History Department to be its chairman. and ... and I think Gideonse wanted somebody else entirely, but the Department then chose Arthur Kohl. the newspaper was told it couldn't print that story, although it got hold of it, and went ahead and printed it anyway and was suspended from campus, and published something called Draugnav — Vanguard spelled backwards. And anyway, it was readmitted in the fall on the condition that the whole ... none of the then Board of Editors could be ...serve as Editor-in-Chief or Managing Editor. So it was Arthur Lack and Norman Geld and Herb Dorfman and, gosh, I don't remember who ... who else, were ... were there. Lack had been the Editor-in-Chief. And so they had to pick a new Editor-in-Chief and so I … I was elected by the staff to be Editor-in-Chief. As far as I can … I hadn't written anything on the news side of things up ‘til then, but I guess they thought I was a good person for the job.
AB: So you were at can helm.
BT: I was at the helm. Right.
AB: And how.
AJ: Let's go back to a little bit before can hammer fell, just a little bit.
BT: Right, right.
AJ: What ... what's your feel for what the politics of ... of the Vanguard were ... were, like, as distinct from the politics on the larger campus?
BT: Well, I ... I can generally ... I guess I was broadly politically aware but not specifically [unintelligible] aware. I ... I thought ... I mean, I thought it was ... generally the people were progressives, were — I mean, looking back — civil libertarians in the ACLU sense of the word of supporting everybody's right to speak and to associate. And we, you know, we had something called an indicted speaker ruling that you couldn't — you know, people were getting indicted under the Smith Act — so people were defenders of ... of that. And that was the general take I had. I mean, some people were not political at all. Some people were political. I don't remember any huge political discussions at the newspaper. I mean, people were not doctrinaire or indoctrinated or anything like that. Is that what you're asking?
AJ: Yeah. Yeah. And ... and ... and then Gideonse — how does ... because he seems to have had a ... a much ... Do you think that it was anti-Communism or just ... or just his wanting to maintain control of the university, or ... or some of both, or ...
BT: I think he had an authoritarian personality. Now, what you could tell me, if you're really delving into this, what ... what I had heard at the time, or somewhat around that time, was that Gideonse had been brought to Brooklyn College by ... actually, by the Mayor, Fiorello LaGuardia, having served with Robert Hutchins, the boy wonder out at the University Of Chicago, with something of a mission to clean up the reputation of Brooklyn College as the little red schoolhouse, and, you know, he proceeded to do that by labeling, you know, a lot of people as Communists or Communist sympathizers or [unintelligible]. I mean, they said things in those days, “where there's smoke, there's fire.” He called us, at one point, midget Malachs, I think. Do you know who Malach was? Malach was the Soviet Ambassador to the United Nations.
AB: You mean the Vanguard people?
BT: Yeah, yeah. “Midget Malachs.” So he was ... that was his orientation. And I don't think he really served the ... that ... you know, he didn't help to serve the mission very well because he was sort of promoting the idea there were a lot of Communists at the College, and ... and I think that simply wasn't true. Now, I don't know whether it's true that he came with that mission, or that LaGuardia ... and I've never really investigated. Do you have any ...
AB: You know, it's funny because I haven't seen any written record of this, and it does make me think that maybe we need to go to the Municipal Archives at some point and look at LaGuardia's papers.
AB: The only ... the only sort of intriguing piece of the Gideonse history that I've read that, you know, sort of occurs in all of this is that apparently when he was at Chicago …
AB: … as a junior faculty, he himself was a victim of an investigation — one of the ... one of the [unintelligible] Committees.
BT: Oh really! In the mid-30s. In the middle ... Yeah.
AB: Yes, exactly, in the mid-30s. So ... so if, you know, he ... he experienced on the other side. And yet it's clear when he came to Brooklyn that …
AB: You know, fairly early on, especially in relation to faculty …
AB: … he [unintelligible] had the kind of fervor around, you know, labeling so-called Communists or reds.
BT: Well, you know, the last time I ... there was a ... the time before this one when we ... I think it was the time before this one when we had a Vanguard reunion, I ... I had some time on my hands — I can't believe I had time on my hands 'cause I can't remember when I had time [laughter] — and I went to the Library of Congress and ... and took out stuff on Gideonse. And there was a book which I know ... I may have notes from it some place 'cause I did ... and this was a guy who wrote a book ..It's not really a book. It is sort of a compilation. it's a bibliography of Harry Gideonse. Have you seen this in ...
AB: It's in ... It's in the archives. I've never looked at it. But I know it's [unintelligible], yeah.
BT: It's all the newspaper stories that Harry Gideonse ever was in. And if you start reading these things you find that the pattern repeats itself time after time. I mean, it happened before The Vanguard, an incident that he was critical of students and critical of faculty, and so on. It happened at Vanguard. And then a few years later, I was aware that it happened again. They actually disciplined and, you know, I don't know if they threw out the newspaper, but they ... and it was just fascinating to me. I mean, he was against unions. He was ... he was fighting union organizing on the campus. He made a speech — which was the same year as the Vanguard, I think — to some academic administrators’ group in New York. And this one I remember. He ... he made a pitch that all of the teachers who were being suspended and dismissed, and so on, all managed to hire the best lawyers. And he said, “we ought to have a fund so that the colleges could hire the best lawyers to oppose their lawyers.” So, I mean, this was a stream that really, one way or another, ran throughout his ... his career.
AB: Well, is it your sense that ... that anti-Semitism was part of it for him at all?
BT: I didn't have that feeling then. I have no reason to think that that was the case. I don't know what ... I mean, I really don't know what motivated the man. If I can jump ahead, if you want, if we're talking about Gideonse — and I may have told you this too, Adina — in 1984 I was handling this case ... I was called into a school desegregation case — which [unintelligible] I worked on, in Cincinnati — by the General Counsel of the NAACP who said, “we're getting this case ready for trial but we think maybe it can be settled. And too, while we're preparing it, we'd like you to try to settle the case.” So I then got thrown in fourteen, fifteen hour a day settlement negotiations, not having much time to bone up on anything. And I said to one of the young lawyers, I said, "see if you can't find me somebody in Cincinnati who's a real expert in education and ... 'cause I need somebody to give me kind of an intensive briefing about the school situation here." The guy comes back, he says, "I think I've got just the guy for you. He's the dean of the Education school here at the University of Cincinnati. His name is Hendrick Gideonse." So I said, "oh. Well, that's interesting." And the next morning we had breakfast and this ... [end of tape] …and these bushy black eyebrows. And so, you know, I didn't ... By that point I didn't have any question. And he probably was about the same age in '84 as Gideonse when I knew him thirty some-odd years earlier. And anyway, I ... So we had a good breakfast and he gave me a lot of information. He [unintelligible] a smart guy, a little arrogant like his old man. And at the end of the breakfast I said ... I said, "I've got to ask you a question that has nothing to do with what we've been talking about." I said, "I'm a graduate of Brooklyn College." He said, "Oh my gosh!" he said, "I get this all the time." And I said, "It's worse than that." I said, "I was the last editor of The Vanguard. Do you know about the ... " He said, "I know all about The Vanguard." He was about the same age that I am. [Material to redact: He said, "One thing you need to understand is that my brother Martin and I were ... did not get along with my father; were alienated from him for many years because he was such a difficult person. And we've only recently become reconciled when ..." and this was eighty-something that they ... they dedicated the library in the name of Harry Gideonse. So that's ... I mean, that's another piece of Harry Gideonse's life that I found out about quite by accident. I don't know that Hendrick would want that story published but he didn't tell me not to repeat it. So anyway, for ... at least for the Archives it's okay.]
AB: And you have an — if you don't mind repeating another story you told me in the past and I'm not going to remember it very well — but where you were at a funeral, and I don't remember whose funeral, but somebody very prominent, and ... and it was ... Did you bump into Pete Seeger there, or ...
BT: Oh yeah. Well, no. That's right ... Well, yes, yes. I was not ... I was not at a funeral. I was ... I was very good.
AB: [unintelligible] stuff that I have.
BT: I was ... worked very closely with a Congressman name of Hamilton Fish. Hamilton Fish is an interesting story in itself because there have been Hamilton Fishes in Congress from the memory of man — you know? And his ... Hamilton Fish's father was a ... a famous red-baiting, right-wing congressman who … Roosevelt … Roosevelt had a way with ... with words. He talked about his enemies — his political enemies — and he summarized them by talking about Martin, Barton and Fish. Those were the three people, seemed to go well together. Anyway, Hamilton Fish the younger, who I worked with, was a wonderful conservative guy but who worked on civil rights, and we worked on civil rights legislation together successfully, principally during the '80s. And he died, oh — I don't know — '90s. And I was ... I guess he died in '94 or so. Anyway, his ... his son, Hamilton Fish IV, who is ... falls very far from the tree because he was a progressive guy — he was the publisher of The Nation for a number of years and is still a very progressive guy — he calls me up and says, “we're having a memorial service” ... or "we're having a memorial. It's part of the ... of a dinner we have every year at the Fish/Donaldson Library in Garrison, New York. And we'd like you to come and make a speech about ... about my father." And he said, "you know, most people up here, 'cause of the district it was, don't know about his civil rights record because he didn't say too much about his civil rights record up there." I said, you know, I'd be honored to do that. And I was … even though I was on the West Coast at the time, I was coming into New York for other reasons I had. I was glad to do that. And I got up there and they were also — he had told me this — they were also honoring Pete Seeger and his wife, Yoshi. And I was talking to a group of people, and there was a big group of people around Pete Seeger and so I managed to go over. And he was telling, you know, war stories about his experiences. And when he was all through I introduced myself and I said, "You know, Mr. Seeger, I've had some similar experience because I was editor of a newspaper at Brooklyn College in 1950." And he said, "Oh, Harry Gideonse," he said. And I said ... I said, "that's very good." He said, "Well, it's not so good." he said, "the reason why I remember," he said, "I was banned from performing with the Weavers on the Brooklyn College campus until Gideonse left, I think in nineteen hundred and sixty-two." So, you know, he was pretty [chuckles] pretty thorough, Gideonse was.
AJ: I've ... I've found in the American Student Union Archives …
AJ: … a 1930s song in their song book about Harry Gideonse and ... and what a horror he was, and then resolutions from the National Student Association from the late 1950s objecting to civil liberties violations that he did up until the late '50s.
BT: Right. Yeah.
AJ: So the man has a tremendous rep.
BT: The man had a record. Right.
AJ: So. So let's ... let's build up to ... to the ... the ...
AJ: Yeah, the removal of Vanguard. Was your sense, during that year on the Vanguard, that you were waiting for the shoe to drop? That he was ... that things were approaching a crisis? Or was it just sort of continuing the ... the tension but that had been in place before?
BT: Well, the tension had been there, but I don't know. My recollection is that most of my colleagues — and again, I was sort of junior at the time — were not expecting that the ... that the hammer would fall, and ... and that the suspension of the newspaper at the time of the Clarkson affair came as a big shock. I mean, they came and they locked the odors. They locked us all out and so on. And I think ... Now, when the newspaper was reinstated and we were told we had to have this double editorial policy, I mean, we knew we were living under a closely watched regime and that we were, you know, [unintelligible] that might not be the end of the story. So I think we, you know, we were all aware of that from that time on.
AB: But were there events that had led up to his reaction to the Clarkson piece?
BT: Oh, I think so. I mean, he had made clear — and you'd have to ... I'd have to go back or you'd have to go back and, I mean, you could talk to people like Norma Lieverman and others — he had made known his ... his unhappiness with the editorial policy of the newspaper, going back to, you know, '49 or '48, and so on. But you know that current regime of Vanguard, so it was not a … you know, it was not a secret that ... that he was ... he didn't like their … the newspaper's editorializing. But I don't think that the newspaper had ever reported a single story that had the impact of the — and I recall it, it was a pretty thorough report — that had the impact of ... of the Clarkson business, and where the ... where the faculty advisor, Mr. Portinoy, as it were, specifically told the newspaper editors not to print the story and then they went ahead and printed the story.
AB: and why was it that ... that Gideonse opposed Clarkson's nomination?
BT: Well, you know, I don't even know that. I mean, Clarkson ... Certainly Clarkson's ideology was not Communist. I think it was just that he was an independent-minded person who, himself, I think in the Faculty Senate or whatever body it was called, didn't mind criticizing Gideonse when he thought Gideonse was wrong. That's ... that's my recollection of it.
AJ: And was it — or do you know — was there dissent … conflict over the decision to run the article after ... after they had been warned not to?
BT: Was there dissent on the newspaper?
AJ: Yes. Was ... was there ... was it an easy call? Was it ...
BT: Well, I was … again, I wasn't on the editorial board, but I think ... my recollection is that the editors unanimously decided to print the story and that we on the staff thought they were absolutely right to do it. Yeah. And, you know, I ... you know, I ... I don't know whether people were worried. I know when this whole thing occurred, you know, when ... after I'd become the editor, my parents were worried about my future [chuckles] and what was going to happen — whether I was going to get tossed out of college. And I know from talking, for example, recently with Larry Friedman that he was ... his parents were very nervous and that he didn't tell them a lot of things because he thought they were ... would be nervous. But I don't know, I don't remember us ever, you know, we ... we were ... we were ... we were young and ... and, you know, I said some ... said some of that in the piece that I ... that I sent you.
AB: Uh huh. Uh huh.
BT: I mean, we had a little bit of confidence, and so we did what we thought was the right thing to do. And it was … as I said also, it was a lower stakes game in some ways than the protests of the ... the civil rights protests of the '60s and the anti-war protests of the '60s. But ... but I thought we, you know … retrospectively, I think we ... we were ... we stood up for what we believed in, even knowing there might be consequences.
AJ: Were you worried about the consequences?
BT: You know, I moved through all of this, as I recall it, in ... with not a huge amount of time to reflect about ... about what the consequences would be. I mean, I did ... maybe I'm moving ahead of the game, but when the newspaper's charter was revoked and we were ... I mean, I was outraged as everybody else was. I told a New York times reporter that, you know, that the revocation of the charter was an … was evidence, or whatever I said, that the administration wanted to squelch the expression of any view other than its own. I got called into the President's office the next day and he said … [chuckles] he said ... he generally, you know, hated to ruin anybody's career, but in my case he would make an exception. And I'm sure that had an impact on me but I didn't ... You know, I was then caught up in the events and I wasn't about to, you know, issue an apology or stop talking or do anything else because he was threatening me. So ...
AB: Were you frightened or you just had experience of being called into his office?
BT: I'm sure I was apprehensive, but I don't have a, you know, I don't have a strong … I mean, Larry Friedman, who did this piece that's going to appear, asked me the same thing. And I'm sure I was apprehensive, but I don't know — I mean, I didn't ... I didn't have time [chuckles] to ... to really think, well, you know, this is the end of law school. This is the end of my whole career. somehow I had a ... a modest degree of confidence that I could recover from whatever, you know, would happen then. And maybe I didn't think he would go the whole way. I mean, he didn't have a big history of kicking people out of school, although he, you know, he was a pretty tyrannical guy.
AJ: What can you say about the Draugnav? Were you involved in producing Draugnav?
BT: Yeah, Yeah. I mean, what ... I don't ... I mean, it was one issue and we ... I'd have to go back and look at it. But I ... it was ...
AJ: What were the circumstances of putting it together? Did you ... You did it off campus, right?
BT: We did it off campus and we wanted to say what had happened to the Vanguard, and we wanted to say, you know, “we are the ... we are the legitimate student newspaper,” and ... and here's what happened, and so on. And that landed — as I recall, that landed the editors a couple of ... a couple of days’ suspension and the rest of us put on probation. And ... and when I was ... when I graduated law school in '54 and went up to the Character and Fitness Committee I had to reveal on the forms that you ... that I'd been on probation and also that I had been dubbed the first bad campus citizen. That was something else that happened after ... after Vanguard. I was stripped of my ability to be in Who's Who In American Colleges and Universities, and I can't remember what else. Anyway, I did reveal all that on the Character and Fitness form. But they told me, when I went for my interview, that whatever had been on my college record must have been expunged 'cause there was nothing there at the time. So maybe Gideonse thought better of making ... continuing to make an issue of this. And we had never ... Somebody said to me recently, well, you know, you could have gone, you know, gone to the ACLU and asked them to sue. But this was in an era before anybody thought that you had ... that students had any legal recourse against ...
AB: What did it mean to be put on probation?
BT: I don't know what it meant. I mean, it was, you know, “if this happens again you're in real trouble.”
AB: Uh huh. And then — I know this is jumping a little ahead of the story a while, but ... but did you go back and ... and call up your ... your FBI files?
BT: Oh yeah.
AB: and was this incident recorded?
BT: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah. And you have, I think, in that ... in that Vanguard remembrance book you have my … some of the excerpts from my FBI files. I have the files up in the attic. But this ... this was all in connection with my ... with Lyndon Johnson being about to name me as staff director of the Civil Rights Commission in 1965, or the end of '64 and '65, and he ... So there had to be an investigation 'cause this was a nomination that had to be approved by the Senate. And indeed I got ... after a couple of months — and I was wondering what was holding things up — I got ... I got called by the head of the Civil Service Commission, John Macey. He said, "can you come down?" The next day was a Saturday morning and I came down. And he said, "Well, what was this business you were involved in at Brooklyn College?" and I said, "Oh my goodness." And ... and I told him a little bit. He said, "Well, people are talking about it, you know, and being interviewed by federal investigators so I wish you'd clear it up for me." And at that point I didn't have the files. But I, you know, I gave him an account of the story and I gave him the names of some of the people like Kandel and Lasher and others, and said, you know, they seem to have turned out okay and a lot of them are businesspeople and so on. And that passed over. But that gave me a real curiosity about what my files would look like, so in '84 I ... I requested them and had to go through a lot of stuff, as most people do, to get them. But, yeah, they had ... they did have a lot of interesting stuff in them. Some people are named by name. I mean, some people have allowed themselves to be identified. And Gideonse, I think, is identified as saying some negative things at ... at one point. And then the one I love, though, which I'm sure I've talked to you ... told you about, is the person ... I mean, the FBI agent says at the end, you know, "Can we use your name?" And the guy says, "I don't think so because that might prejudice my ability to do this kind of thing again." [chuckles]
AB: So ... so where do you think the FBI agents were, I mean, while this is ... You know, if you think back on the scene, 1950 ...
BT: Well, no. This is not people operating in the '50s. These are people operating in '64, going out to see whether I am a fit candidate, whether ... whether President Johnson is going to find himself embarrassed if he names me. So these are investigators going back to the campus. Now, I mean, that's what makes it interesting. They're going back to the campus fifteen years later and there are still people who say, well, I don't know whether he was a dupe, and, I thought he was young and sullen and I didn't think he had so much stubbornness in him, and so on, and … you know? So it was ... here was the administration, fifteen years, fourteen years later, I'm sure Portinoy ... I think Portinoy ... My guess is he was the guy who didn't want to be named, 'cause he isn't otherwise named in the ... in the story. So it was ... I mean, apparently, it was a ... it was ... was an event that branded itself into the consciousness of people on the campus that had been already ... I mean, that there was no, “yeah, I dimly recall this guy, and, you know, there was some dust up.” No. They, you know, they had specific views that they were all too ready to share in 1965.
AB: Uh huh.
AJ: So how do you get ... why do you feel you were chosen to be the editor?
BT: You know, I don't know. You should probably ask somebody else that ... that question. I think ... I don't know. I mean, I ...
AJ: Was it something you sought?
BT: I don't recall having actively sought it. I think people came to me and encouraged me to do it and ... I don't know. I mean, I have, one way or another, maybe 'cause I have a big mouth, found myself in leadership positions in one way or ... throughout my life, you know? Going back to grade school, running for public office then and so on. So it's … whatever it is. [laughs]
AB: Well, you didn't shy away from it.
BT: I didn't shy away from it, no. No. No. I ... You know? And ... and I do think of ... I don't want to get ahead of the game either but I ... I do think that it was a ... it was a character forming, character molding experience, just as I think, you know, even though I wanted to go to Cornell and my father didn't have the money to ... I thought I got a great education at Brooklyn College and this was, you know, sort of an unanticipated life experience part of my education. So I think it all worked out pretty well, as far as I'm concerned. Plus, I met my wife. You know about that or not?
AB: Oh, we'll ask you about that. But before you ... we ask you about that … so talk about what it was like to be the Editor-in-Chief?
BT: Well, I had a very brief run. You know? We only put out two issues. We put out an issue at the end of September and one at the beginning of October. And I just sent those issues, by the way, to the alumnae magazine 'cause they wanted ... they apparently don't have them. Have you searched them out or not?
AJ: I haven't seen them.
AB: We have them.
BT: And have you ... how about the issue that got us in all the trouble in the spring and the…
AJ: That's ... that's there. Yes. Yeah.
BT: You want to take a break, I'll bring some of the stuff down so you can look at ...
AB: So ... so talk about your ... We were talking about you being Editor-in-chief.
AB: And that, in fact, it lasted for all of two issues.
AB: So what ... what transpired?
BT: Well, in the ... we ... we had been reinstated under the so-called double editorial policy where everywhere, whenever we wrote on an issue that was thought to be controversial, we had to publish an editorial on the other side of the issue. And we wound up, in the second issue, publishing editorials that were not ... that were in opposition to the newspaper's views that were not quite the same length ... that were shorter by a small amount than the ... than the editorials in favor. And that became the basis of the ... of the administration acting to revoke our charter. And let me see — what were the editorials about? One ... one was about the ... the ... well, that was ... that was the issue before because we ... we had editorialized …
AB: Which ... which one?
BT: On ... on the suspension of the Labor Youth League and saying that they had a right to exist on campus. and then we ... we editorialized again on the Labor Youth league and ran a shorter editorial in ... in ... by the president of the student council, saying that he was in favor of revoking ... revoking the charter of the Labor Youth League. And then we editorialized on this double editorial policy, saying it was unfair, and printed an editorial on the other side which was not the same length. So that was the basis on which the ... the administration terminated our charter.
AB: so what actually happened? Give us a sort of blow-by-blow. I mean, you put out the newspaper ...
BT: We put out the newspaper and, oh God, I don't really remember what happened. I ... I do remember that they ... that ... that the newspaper doors were locked and that, I think, some of our possessions were locked inside. But we were not ... I mean, the locks were changed so that we could not gain access to it. And … and from ... you know, we were then notified that we had nothing to do with the newspaper. I think at some point we were given some opportunity to remove our belongings. And ... and a new newspaper was formed and called the Kingsman and ... and was, you know, given access to whatever we had access to in order to publish a newspaper. And we then, as I may have mentioned, I mean, we ... we protested. We took an appeal to the Faculty-Student committee. There was one student, who was the president of the student council, who was supporting the administration and ... and gave some horrible evidence to the notion that this wasn't totally an administration thing. But it … I mean, it was. We ... we, as I said, appealed. We ultimately wound up in the student council, which I was a member of, impeaching the ... the president, but I think he was acquitted in the end and I don't remember exactly how that happened. But it became a cause celebre on other campuses. And as I mentioned the New York Times and New York Post printed stories about it and that led to my being rebuked by the president for having said that they had squelched student opinion, and ... and his statement that he hated to ruin anybody's career but in my case he would make an exception. And we then, as a group, went on the publish our newspaper off-campus, something called the Campus News, and I think we published six issues into December of 1950. And as I recall — and, you know, memory falters a little bit — two things happened. One is that the ... we didn't use any names in the newspaper because we knew there would be consequences if we did, but we were told by people in the administration that they ... of course, they knew who was publishing this newspaper and they ... and they made unpleasant noises about the newspaper continuing to be published. But more important, from our standpoint, we were doing it all on student contributions — voluntary student contributions — and we began ... we ran out of money and so we ... we terminated publication in December. As I recall, we did have a bunch of student groups that were supporting our ... the publication of the ... of the ... of the Campus News, and when I was designate a bad campus citizen, the ... the guy by the name of Sy Landy who was head of the campus chapter of Students for Democratic Action I think also managed to win himself that accolade at the ... at the same time.
AJ: this may be more of a detail than ... than you remember, but one of the things they said in the Campus News is that it started out sort of being a broad coalition and then everybody but the Students for Democratic Action dropped out.
AJ: Do you have any memory of what that was about?
BT: I can't remember. It seems to me that ... that ... that all these groups were told that they had no authority to do this, and we found something in the charter of the SDA that wasn't in everybody else's charter that — that's my recollection — that enabled them to do it. So we went with them because we had an argument that they had the authority to be, in effect, publishers or ... or supporters of the paper. And that's what landed Sy Landy in trouble.
AJ: This is just mostly to ... just to remind me, but it's really interesting that it wound up being the SDA that was supportive of it because the SDA was anti-Communist.
BT: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Oh yeah, absolutely.
AJ: [unintelligible] the leading liberal, anti-Communist group.
BT: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, I worked for the ADA and ... for a year, a year-and-a-half here in Washington and it ... when I came down after having worked for Thurgood Marshall as a lobbyist for a year and a half. And oh, there was no question that it was ... it was a strong anti-communist organization.
AJ: And exclusionist [unintelligible] on the national level. They ... they refused to allow Communists to be delegates [unintelligible].
BT: Oh yeah. Oh yeah, because the ... I mean, the view was that people like Joe Rauh and Arthur Schlessinger and ... and Bob Nathan and others, that the Communists did not ... that they had tried to infiltrate unions, that they were not sympathetic with the aims of progressives and liberals, and that ... and that you were ill advised to have them in your midst because they didn't subscribe to your objectives. And I ... I have to say — I cannot give you details, but I came to much the same conclusion out of this little experience I had at ... at Brooklyn College because, as I said, I got wooed by a lot of groups and ... including Communist — avowedly Communist — groups: Shackmanites, Trotskyites, and so on. I got the feeling, which was later reinforced, though I think later — not before then, reinforced by readings that I did, that, you know, that they ... they weren't terribly interested in my plight. They were interested in what they could do to exploit it. So I got sort of an early taste of ... of all of that. And then a few, you know, begin to do some readings about the history of the times, you know, the Scottsboro boys and so on, you see how they really operated. And when I worked for Thurgood Marshall, he would never have anything to do with ... with [unintelligible] you know, the support of the Communist groups for civil rights causes because he thought they were using it to their own purposes too. Yes. I mean ... I mean, that's a good point and, I mean, it helps further identify who we were. I mean, we were ... we were civil libertarians. We were progressives, but there was no ... no real sympathy for Communists in the ... in the whole group.
AB: and where did you actually put out this paper, the Campus News? Do you remember?
BT: There's a good question. Somebody may remember that. I think we used the same printer. We had ... we had a printer down on ... on the Lower East Side, Avenue B, right near Katz's delicatessen where we would sometimes go to eat. And I think we used the same printer, but I don't remember what offices we used to, you know, to dummy up the newspaper and so on. It was not on campus. It was off campus some place. Somebody may remember that.
AB: Or somebody's home?
BT: Maybe somebody's home as well. I just don't ... that's funny.
AB: Well, I have to say, this is really the first we've even ever heard of Campus News. Everybody talks about Draugnav. Nobody has talked about Campus News.
BT: Well ...
AB: You're the first. So ...
BT: All right. Well, I'm sure other people will, if you ask them, will ... will talk about Campus News. Absolutely.
[unidentified speaker]: And so what was the response of the Brooklyn College students when Vanguard was shut down a second time?
BT: Right. Well, I mean, there were ... there wasn't ... there weren't mass protests, but there were, you know, there were … Groups that were politically aware, and so on, were ... were certainly very supportive of our views. And ... and I think there were some ... some protests. And all that sort of fades into ... fades in memory. I mean, the one thing that actually stays … stands out in memory, which I may have told you, was there was this ... there were these conservative groups, and I think there was a fellow by the name of Harvey Schwartz with Common Cause, and they were all in favor of what the administration did and they demonstrated in favor of it. But the ... and ... and I recall — and I don't ... I swear this is not a apocryphal but it ... although maybe it's not all right, but ... but they ... they demonstrated in front of the president's office in favor of what he ... what he had done. And the maintenance crew came around and said they, you know, they were going to disperse this group, and the head guy of security or maintenance just told them they had to leave. And the ... and the leader of the protest said, "but you don't understand. We're the anti-Communists." And this guy said, "I don't care what kind of a Communist you are." [laughter] I ... I told that story to Al Lowenstein when I met him at Yale Law School the following year, and he went all around the country telling that story to all ... all his speeches.
AJ: I was going to say I'd heard that story before, so ... so that may have been where. I think ... I think ... I think Lowenstein may have told it in future of ... about having had happened to him. [laughter]
BT: I ... I would be very sorry to learn that was true but it's not impossible.
AJ: I'm going to have to go back and check that.
AB: Well, then maybe the response is, just 'cause you pulled out something in the newspapers — talk about then the responses of other student ... student newspapers around the country.
BT: Yeah. Well, we got ... we got a lot of response and somehow I seem to have saved some of it. We got a response from — all supportive — from City College, from the Yale Daily News, from Queens College, from NYU. And I probably don't have all of the newspapers but those were ... those were some of them. And ... and you wanted me to mention the NYU ...
AB: Right. You started to read that editorial, and I think, if you don't mind reading it on tape ...
BT: Okay. Yeah. I mean, here's the story. They have a story which records the fact that Gideonse threatened me with suspension if I continued to talk to the press. And anyway, the ... the NYU Square Bulletin — Washington Square Bulletin — ran an editorial called "Harry's Just Wild," referring to Harry Gideonse, which started out, "Every once in a while events take place outside the walls of this University which are of such importance to all college students that we cannot ignore them. The banning of the Brooklyn College undergraduate newspaper, Vanguard, is a case in point. President Harry Gideonse, through his administrative agents, has performed a series of ‘disciplinary actions’ on the Flatbush campus. Those actions brand him as a liberal in name only, a man who has supported and initiated completely illiberal, quasi-authoritarian moves. We consider this series of events a serious threat to student rights not only in Brooklyn College but in schools of the entire city."
AB: And the date of that?
BT: And the date on that is October 17th, 1950. And it ends: "Harry Gideonse ought to remember that Communism or any other form of totalitarianism thrives on abuse of power by either public or college authorities. His anti-Communism is nothing more than talk so long as he remains a perfect example of what a liberal should not be." Actually, I haven't looked back on the Vanguards or other newspapers. I kind of ... you'll tell me. I think ... I kind of think they stand up as ... as pretty good student writing.
AB: I think the same as you do 'cause I ... you've looked a lot at student newspapers. I've looked a lot at union newspapers …
AB: … and they definitely ... you wouldn't read these and think these are sophomoric …
AB: … compared to the union newspapers. Maybe that's just the ... the union papers. [laughs]
AB: But they read well. I mean, they're on a high level.
[AJ?]: And … and you were saying, I've [unintelligible] read a lot of different campus newspapers from a lot of different campuses, and these are among the ... the best written.
BT: Yeah. Well, that's good ... that's good to hear. There was a lot of interest. I remember I went to ... I went to see Jimmy Weschler, who was then the editor of the New York Post, and he took an interest in this and I think the Post ran — I don't have them, but I think the Post ran ... Certainly they ran news coverage. I think they ran an editorial on this.
AJ: We ... we should definitely find that as well.
BT: Right. I ...
AJ: [unintelligible] Weschler came out of the ASU and so he was very conscious of Communist involvement in the student movement.
BT: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. right, absolutely. Absolutely. And ... and I remember, I mean, we talked with the ACLU at the time. As I said, we never thought anything about a lawsuit. I remember talking with a ... a young woman then who was an organizer, an official of the ILGWU, her name — International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union. her name was Evie Dubrow and she had a … she was an organizer in New York. She then came down here to be a lobbyist and just retired in her early eighties, a couple of years ago, where she was well known all over Capitol Hill as a ... as a, you know, major lobbyist for the ILG, one with seniority. So, you know, it was in the currency of the ... of the time.
AB: Uh huh. Uh huh.
AJ: Getting back to ... to the specifics, did ... did anybody from the staff of The Vanguard, do you remember, go to work for The Kingsman?
BT: Not to my knowledge, not to my recollection, which is interesting 'cause you would have thought somebody ... certainly nobody who had achieved any seniority on the newspaper. And I don't recall anybody, frankly.
AB: and did he establish the Kingsman right away?
BT: I believe so. I believe so. Well, you know, I've got the ... I've got The Kingsman in here too. Well, let me see if I can find any ... sense of that in the first of ...
AB: Of the Campus News?
BT: The Campus News. Yeah. Yeah. I think that's probably right.
AB: And what was he ... what did he do? What [unintelligible] he control that The Kingsman would follow his ... I mean, that ... what kind of ... of regulations did he establish?
BT: Well, I ...
AB: to make sure that hey would end up doing what ... what he considered ...
BT: I am not too sure of ... I mean, that's a good question. I'm not too sure of what he did do. October 20th was the ... an issue of the Kingsman so it wasn't very long. And I'm trying to see whether the first issue talks about its ... Well, the headline here: Seven student organizations protest death of Vanguard." I think it was just well understood that this was going to be a newspaper that would be ... operate with the cooperation of the administration.
AB: Uh huh. Uh huh.
BT: And all the people ... I mean, all the people who were on it were the ... not all of the people, but the people in charge of it were the people who were in sympathy with the … known to be in sympathy with the administration. What have you got there?
AJ: It just says, “we feel that " — this is from the first editorial in the Campus News — "we feel that The Kingsman, the faculty chartered newspaper, is … is frightened by a single power, the Brooklyn College administration, which it will not and cannot question. Written by students, read by students, paid for by students, the Kingsman was founded by an illegitimate faculty committee and blessed by a counterfeit liberal."
[AB?]: Well, that is true [unintelligible]
AB: "We, on Campus News hope to publish a newspaper which will be restricted only by incorruptible facts and not by [unintelligible] duplication of weakly worded bylaws."
AB: So then you ended up having a personal association ...
BT: We were full of piss and vinegar.
AB: You ended up having a personal association with the Kingsman fairly quickly on?
BT: Are you ... you're ... that's a delicate way of ... Well, Harriet Rosen, who was a freshman at Brooklyn College and came knowing nothing about this background, but having been editor of her high school — managing editor of her high school newspaper at ... at Midwood High School, joined the newspaper. And because she was one of the few people who knew anything about putting out a newspaper, she rapidly rose to become managing editor of the newspaper. By then she began to be aware of what was [chuckles] what the background was. Anyway, she came to interview me after … ‘cause I ran a story about how I had been labeled a bad campus citizen and stripped of my ability to participate in certain student honors, and she wanted to know how did it feel to be so ostracized. And that's how we met. And we rapidly became friends. And she quit the Kingsman and ... and we got married, not ... we got married a few years later after I finished law school and when she was in her last year at Columbia Law School. And we were married for forty-three years. She died in 1997. So, yes, that was my ... that was my friend. That's known as meeting politically cute [?], I think. I mean ...
AB: But she didn't stay at The Kingsman for long?
BT: No. After that she ... she left. Right.
AB: Now, what does it mean ... You keep referring to being labeled a bad campus citizen. Who ... who did that labeling and ...
BT: Well, I think ... I mean, I remember it as Gideonse but he probably did it though some committee with, you know, Maroni or Stupe or one of his henchmen, if I can say that. And ... and it was just a category that ... that they invented that they said, you know, you couldn't be on ... you know, receive student honors if you were not a ... a good campus citizen. And I wasn't a good campus citizen and Sy Landy wasn't a good campus citizen.
AB: And do you think they had invented it just for this occasion?
BT: Oh yeah. Oh, it never existed before then, and I'm ... as far as I know, it hasn't, you know, extended over the years.
AJ: So how long were you at Brooklyn College ...
BT: After that?
BT: Well, this was October 1950. Well, I ... I was a junior. I didn't graduate until December, 1952.
AJ: so what was the rest of your campus career like?
BT: what was the rest of my campus career like? Oh gosh. I can't [laughter] I can't remember.
AJ: It was all anti-climax after that?
BT: I played out the string, I guess. No. Well, you know, I still had interesting courses and so on. But, you know, this ... some of this extended, you know, into the following year. I don't remember how long it extended into the following year, but we were probably dealing ... I mean, we published Campus News up until December, and there were other things happening, and so on. So I don't ... I don't have a clear memory of ... of ... of the year ... of most of the year '51, before I graduated.
AB: And after you graduated you went right to law school?
BT: I did. I had thought of taking time off, but then I decided that I didn’t want to be drafted right then so I entered NYU Law School, which had a January entering class. You could enter, go two summers, and then graduate in June. And at the end of my first summer I transferred up to Yale Law School, got credit as a second year student, graduated in '54 and went into the Army in '56.
AB: And did ... and do you have a sense that the ... your experience with Vanguard had any impact on your going to law school — being accepted to law school — being accepted first by NYU and then Yale? I'm not quite sure what the ... why the trajectory you took. But ...
BT: Well, I mean, I wanted to go to Yale Law School from the beginning because it had the reputation of being the public policy school which, as I said, was what I was interested in. And I mean, William O. Douglas taught at the law school and ... and Thurman Arnold, and others. And it actually, I think, by the time I got there had sort of no longer quite lived up to its reputation. But most of the students who were there were ... not most, but a good number of the students who were there — like Al Lowenstein, like others — were there for that reason, so it ... that's ... I mean, that's why I wound up ... and I can't say that Brooklyn … I mean, Brooklyn College didn't put any obstacles in my way and didn't ... I don't think really had any impact one way or another, on my choice of law schools or anything else. But as I say, I think the experience was ... was something that was character-molding, that sort of encouraged me to do whatever I thought was right from then on out and to maybe help pursue the independent course that I have done over the years.
AB: So were you at Yale when Rhoda Karpatkin was there?
BT: Yes. She was a year ... She graduated before me. She was a year ahead of me. And her husband, Marvin, who was on the newspaper as well, he ... he was a lawyer and a very good guy, he died young, and I think there's an ACLU fellowship named after him. Yeah. I ... I don't join ... Rhoda and I are not close friends but I do see her from time to time ... have seen her from time to time …
[end of tape]
… I think in my class at Yale Law School there were mine or ten Brooklyn College graduates, if I ... which was a pretty high number of ... of people, and I think it was some testimony to the caliber of the ... of the graduates. My roommate was a guy by the name of Al Gladstone who was a Brooklyn College graduate and who went on to have a long career with the International Labor Organization, the ILO. So, you know, Brooklyn was fairly well represented on the ranks of Yale Law School in those days. You're running out of questions?
AB: No, no, no. We running out ... we're not running out, but ... but will ultimately let you go. Well, I'm ... I'm actually curious to pursue your … your going in to the Army then in '56. Did you, were you drafted or were you ...
BT: I got drafted, yeah. Right.
AJ: And what did you do between law school and the Army?
BT: I got a job. I worked very briefly for ... well, everything turns out to be a complicated story. I ... I graduated Yale Law School — you'll notice I transferred from NYU. And I thought I was going in to the Army immediately, but it turned out that I hadn't actually spent three years in law school 'cause I had spent a year and a … and a summer session at NYU and then two years at ... at Yale. And the New York Bar examiners, in their wisdom, said that even though I had all my credits I didn't have enough actual physical time in law school to take the bar. So I had to get another student deferment, reenroll in NYU for my Master's degree and spend eight weeks there. That was all I needed, which I did. And I got a job. I ... I never looked for a job 'cause I didn't think I was going to need one at the time. I got a job briefly with the Corporation Counsel of the City of New York and worked there for a few months, mostly on a case that involved the sinking of a number of large buildings that had printing presses into the ground when they were building the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel and pumping water out of the excavation. but then, toward the end of that year, Harriet who — we ... we got married in June of '54 — was in her last year at Columbia … and Jack Greenberg from the Legal Defense Fund came up to talk about the Brown decision. At the end of the ... the speech she ... she went up to him, said, you know, "do you have any jobs over there?" and he said, "well, we might have a sort of intern position." So I went tearing up there the next day and I got ... got the job and ... and went to work for Thurgood Marshall and Robert Carter. And it was supposed to be a one year intern job funded by the Prince Hall Masons of Atlanta, a guy by the name of Charles Wesley Dobbs who was a significant person in Atlanta of business and other things, was the father of Mad Awilda Dobbs who was the opera singer. Anyway, so I had a big sign over my door that said Prince Hall Masons. And ... and I worked there for a year and they liked me, and ... and I loved working there so I continued to work there. Then I got drafted into the Army in '56, while I was working there, and stationed on Governor's Island eventually after taking my basic training in Fort Hood, Texas. But once I got stationed on Governor's Island I was able to continue working for the Legal Defense Fund. I would go back — every evening after I finished my stint at Governor's Island I'd go to work for the Legal Defense Fund. So I continued working for ... for them until 1958, after I got out of the Army. And the last case I worked on was the Little Rock school case in the Supreme Court. Then I ... Harriet and I decided to come to Washington. I took this job with the ADA for ... anyway, that's what happened during that period.
AJ: What ... what did you do with the ADA?
BT: I was a lobbyist. I didn't know much about lobbying but ... but I learned a lot. And so I worked on civil liberties issues, civil rights issues, everything that they worked on in those ... in those days. And ... and it was an interesting period in ... in Washington 'cause the ADA was … it was ... it was still an anti-civil liberties period and Linus Pauling was being denied a passport, and ... and there were other civil liberties issues going on. And the Civil Rights Act of 1957 had been passed but the efforts were being made to get more civil rights acts. So that's ... that's ... that's where I worked. And then I got involved in the Kennedy campaign in 1960 with the notion — that I pursued with a few people, including a law school classmate of mine named Harris Wofford — that the President could do a lot of ... bring about a lot of civil rights progress through executive action. And ... and we talked about a White House office in civil rights. Well, Kennedy got elected by, as you know, a narrow margin. There were real concerns about his working with the ... the southern mandarins who headed the Committees and so he never did establish a White House office. But he named Wofford and somebody else as his civil rights advisors on staff. And I was asked to go to the Civil Rights Commission and put together a little executive ... I had to be sort of the secretariat for executive action. And so we did a lot of that for a couple of years. And then I got more ensconced at the Civil Rights Commission, eventually became Staff Director, as we've talked about, despite some people at Brooklyn College who probably didn't want to see me in that job. So ...
AB: I actually just want to go back just a little bit to your, you know, description of the time of the absence of civil liberties, you know, which certainly, you know …
AB: … speaks to your own experience. How much ... how … how much were you aware as students of the whole culture of the Cold War that was kind of [unintelligible]. You know? How much conversation was there about the Korean War and about the McCarthy hearings? And what ...
BT: Well, the McCarthy hearings came later but ... McCarthy was just entering onto the scene. I think ... I mean, the Korean War was the precipitating event for a lot of these actions by Gideonse to suppress speech and association on campus. So, yeah, that was a big subject of discussion. And there was discussion even of ... of having a mandatory ROTC on campus that everybody would have to ... I don't remember if women would have had to go. I guess not because women were not considered military material. But all the ... all the male students would have been required, I guess, unless they were veterans. So, yes, there was a lot of ... of talk about ... about that and there were, you know, there were — while McCarthy wasn't big on the scene yet, the House Un-American Activities Committee was there, and New York State had its own version, which you may have delved into, of ... of ... of Un-American Activities. So, yeah, those were ... those were certainly big issues. And the Cold War was beginning. And as I said in that little piece, you know, here was, you know, George Orwell and ... Arthur Koestler had written Darkness At Noon, so there was a lot of discussion and ferment, and so on. And those were two books that had a big impression ... made a big impression on me at the time.
AB: Say more, 'cause, in fact, that's exactly where I wanted you go to. I'm remembering what you're writing in that piece …
AB: … when you're talking about the whole culture of the period and you talk about it very beautifully. And if you, you know, focus on some of those key moments or key people whom you ...
BT: Yeah. Well, I, you know, again, I think back ... We didn't know then that hey were special times but they really were very special times because there was all of this ferment. And I think Koestler’s book, I remember, made a big impression on me because it, you know, it wrote so vividly about what happened to ... to people who — in the Soviet Union — who fell out of favor. And Orwell's ... Orwell's book was just such a [chuckles] masterpiece, I think, that that, you know, that certainly helped mold my thinking. And I just think culturally it was an extraordinary time. I, you know, I ... I remember going to see "Death Of A Salesman," and Tennessee Williams' was, I guess, "Streetcar." And, I mean, the Broadway stage was incredible in those days. Forget about the musicals which were, you know, coming along in that period. And I wasn't very into jazz at the time, but I ... I was a little bit, and I've since become very much into ... into it. And, you know, here were Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Max Roach playing at the Metropole, right above Times Square. And, you know, what can I say? It was just ... it was just an incredible period of creativity and ferment, I think, in ... in history. And that's not the way people generally think about the ... about the '50s. I mean, that's, you know ... but if you ... I mean, I've gone ... I've started ... After a long period I've started going back to the theater and there's lots of interesting stuff being done. but I'm not sure there'll ever be a period like there was at that time in the theater.
AB: and what did you all think about the Korean War when you were in your mid-twenties?
BT: I think we ... we were puzzled by it. I mean, there was not a clear ... I mean, here was a war — or a police action, as it was called — coming after World War II where the issues were so crystal clear. And the issues did not seem clear at all here. I mean, and then, I suppose, at the point where the Chinese came over the border it became a little bit clearer. But I think most people did not ... didn't feel a call to arms. I mean, I like to think that if I were, you know, of age during World War II that I might have volunteered and not waited to be drafted. But for the Korean War I didn't feel I wanted to ... I didn't ... I didn't feel it was a cause that I ... even though I, you know, I recognized the Soviet Union as a threat, I didn't think this was ... I didn't perceive our interests as being at stake. And I think many people felt the same way. So I that's why I continued to get student deferments during that period.
AB: And did you worry when you were finally drafted and had to serve in '56 that you ... you might get sent overseas?
BT: Well, the war was essentially over by that time and ... no, I didn't ... I didn't particularly worry about that. In fact, to make a confession, I mean, there was ... there was ... there was a sort of a ... a newspaper [unintelligible] on Governor's Island that had been handed down from one person to another. I think Max Frankel had it, though I'm not positive, at one point. And then a guy by the name of Carl Spielvogel who eventually became a very big advertising [unintelligible] in New York. And this was sort of handed down to me when I ... I mean, people tried to … they tried to recruit me once I was in, since I was a lawyer for Army Intelligence and so on. But I ... I knew I wanted to be on Governor's Island [chuckles] you know, on these issues, which would have permitted me to go to, you know, continue working with the Legal Defense Fund.
AJ: Just out of my own curiosity, how did you swing that? The Army was comfortable with you moonlighting?
BT: They didn't care. I mean, I don't ... I don't ... I don't even know if I even told them. But I was of, you know, at work at a reasonable hour every day. I just got on the ferry and went up to the office and went to work.
AB: And ... and what was it that ... that made you interested in ... in being involved in this work — in civil rights work?
BT: Yeah. Well, I think, you know, who knows? I consider myself incredibly lucky to have been, you know, in a place where ... the right place at the right time. I, you know, I mentioned things in my childhood that ... that gave me a sense of being opposed to discrimination and injustice, and once I went to work there I just thought this was great work. I didn't have a clear idea at the time of how intransigent and difficult the race problem was in this country. And I actually think that I was working with Marshall and Carter and others at a period when they were very optimistic, even though they knew a lot more than I did about how difficult race problems ... I thought that the Supreme Court decision was really going to help in a much more major way. The Supreme Court decision was transforming, but after a lot of pain and struggle and ... and I got ... I mean, it was a job and work that ... I mean, first of all, it taught me about law in a way that law school never did. It taught me about legal strategy and, you know, what ... and it taught me about life in America. and I've never — I mean — I've never run out of work doing it or run out of challenges. And it's, you know ... you continue to learn more about the country and about its institutions as you get into these ... these issues and problems. Although the last good many years I've been really focusing on education issues and education issues effecting poor children, which include children of color and children with disabilities and ... and immigrant children and the like. so I don't know ... I mean, I just think I've had a ... I've had terrific luck in my career.
AB: so when you were in law school and thinking about your future and, you know, people asking where ... where you ... you wanted to practice …
AB: … and what you wanted to practice, what ... what did you think you would ... you would do?
BT: I ... I thought briefly that I might want to be an international ... I mean, the United Nations had recently been established. But I have to say that I… I found it not as stimulating as I thought I might. The courses I took in .nternational law ... And I may, I can't tell you for sure, but it was the beginning of the period when ... when people who worked on these issues were ... were being questioned and interrogated and victims of McCarthy, and so on, and it didn't seem like a good time to go into the foreign service and ... and pursue a career there. And I did, once I was with the Civil Rights Commission, get a mission to go out to the United Nations and work on ... on the draft convention against all forms of discrimination. This was in 1962 when I was an advisor to the — I think it was '62 or '63 — I was an advisor to the UN delegation up there. And I just say it was like living in the Tower of Babel. And this past December … the UN is planning a conference on racism — race, racism, xenophobia and other forms of intolerance, which will take place in Durban, South Africa, next summer. And they had a pre-conference at the ... in Santiago, Chile, which I went to in December as part of an NGO group. that was quite interesting, I mean, 'cause, you know, I learned more about problems, particularly of indigenous people in South America, than I ever knew before. But I have ... have to [chuckles] I'm so glad I didn't get involved in the UN work which is, you know, it's so ... I mean, it's … the work I do may be frustrating, but we sometimes come to a result and we sometimes see tangible progress being made. And we've actually, I think, seen the life of the country transformed over the period of time I've been involved in this ... in this work. So that ... But anyway, I was thinking it when I was in law school. So ...
AB: Well, is there anything else that you would like to add about any of the topics we've covered?
BT: Oh, I don't know. It seemed to me we've covered a lot. But last week I got a call from the president's office at Brooklyn College — you know about this?
AB: I know only little bits and pieces of different ...
BT: Well, they ... they've told me they want me ... they want to give me a honorary degree at the graduation ceremonies in June. so I said, "Yes. I would be most glad to accept." My daughter said, "You already have a degree." I said, "Well, I assume they're going to give me a degree in something that I don't have …
AB: Oh, excellent.
BT: … have a degree in.” So I ... I ... I really got a big kick out of that, I must say. I have ... So I don't know what's responsible for [chuckles] for my ... my ... I have a good friend, Bob Carter, who I … who was really my first boss, and he and Thurgood Marshall had a split and then the NAACP split off from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and it was sort of acrimonious for a number of years. And then finally one of Thurgood's successors, Julius Chambers, decided it would be a good thing to try to heal all these old rounds and he had a reception in honor of Carter and Bob, who was a somewhat acerbic, delightful fellow got up and said, when it was his turn to speak, said, "Now I know what it feels like to be rehabilitated." [laughter] So I could use that line. [laughter] So I'm sure there's, you know, a lot of other … I hope you're get ... I'm sure you're getting a lot of other stuff and perspectives. Yeah. And this is great, and I think we ... we may want to come back 'cause there's research that I want to do and sort of check up and ... and share.
AJ: And ask more questions. I think we ...
BT: If you find my memory is faulty on any of this is not ... I'd like to know.
AB: does that mean that ...
BT: I ... I may not revise a good story if it's a minor slip. but ...
[AB?]: Well ...