Lloyd Gossett

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LLOYD GOSSETT: I got more appointments than I have time. (laughs)

GEORGE STONEY: OK, could you tell us about uh, Gorman?

GOSSETT: Well, first time I met Gorman was at one of the meetings.

STONEY: Now, sorry. In the camera all the time. OK?

GOSSETT: Want me to start over?


GOSSETT: Well, the first I met, met Gorman, was one of the meetings of the union. Uh, you might call it, uh, upper grade. Not the regular scab mill worker, but the ones that was going to be the leaders, like committee men and stewards. Uh, so forth, for the union. The president on the committee. He came down and had a meeting with him and the -- Joe Jacobs, and different ones. And, and uh, he made a speech. And I shook hands with him. I only met him twice. I was only at two of these meetings.

STONEY: Could you tell us what kind of person he was?


GOSSETT: Well, he was just a normal person, to me. He wasnt like Roosevelt.

STONEY: Well, you were, uh -- looking back on it, youve been a union leader. Uh, would you comment on him as a union leader?

GOSSETT: Well, as a union leader and uneducated man -- to me, he was uneducated. I had more education than he did!

STONEY: OK. Uh, could you talk about, uh, when you -- when the strike was over, you went and you worked in the shoe factory and so forth. But after a while, you became a union organizer. Could you tell us about that?

GOSSETT: Well, uh, after the strike, I went back to work and, and we had a -- I went back. The mill needed help. And, and so, my brothers and went back, and they called me and I went back and quit the shoe place, because wed got a raise out there and it wasI just lived about a mile from the mill. And [a 00:02:00water?] mill just about a mile from my home here! And uh, downtown, I had to pay transportation to get to Five Points, where the 5th Avenue shoe shop was, in the old Peachtree Arcade, right across from the Kimball House.

STONEY: Now, could you talk to us, then, about um, looking back on it, as an organizer, do you think that the flying squadron was a good technique.

GOSSETT: Well, it was the only technique!

STONEY: Just, sorry, the flying squad was the only --

GOSSETT: The flying squadron was the only technique because we didnt have telephones, we didnt have radios. We didnt have television, and then no communication. And so it was (inaudible) word, it was pass the word of mouth.

STONEY: I understand that Gorman used the radio.

GOSSETT: There was no radio that I know of. That uh, at that time -- now, Im talking about in 33 and 34. Later on, 35 and 36, I think they did 00:03:00use the radio. But I dont think we used the radio in 33 and 34.

STONEY: When did you become a, a full-time organizer?

GOSSETT: In uh -- I became a full-time organizer in 50, 1950. But I was a volunteer organizer before the CIO was formed. I helped form the CIO. Under Phil Murray. As a volunteer organizer. And John L. Lewis gave us $50,000, and Cindy Hillman gave us $50,000 to help pay expenses. No salaries. But to eat, and transportation for the volunteer organizers. We gave our time free.

STONEY: And talking about, uh, contributions like that. In the 34 strike, did you get, uh, contributions and support from the AF of L unions in, in Atlanta?


STONEY: Talk about that.

GOSSETT: Well, we got some from Mr. King.


STONEY: Just start again, and --

GOSSETT: We got -- in the, in the 34 strike, we got some support from the AFL, which the UTW is AFL. Which was in charge of the strike. And the international was AFL. But I belonged to the UTW, United Textile Workers, AFL. And uh, we got some support but very little, because they werent making very much and working very much at that time. And we just went through a depression and nobody had anything to give to anybody, hardly.

STONEY: Ive heard some very sharp criticism of George Gouge, saying he didnt give you enough support. Could you talk about that? Did you know George?

GOSSETT: Yes, I knew George Gouge very well. And I thought as much of him as I did of Gorman. And uh, uh, we didnt get no support from Gorman or Gouge. Or the AFL, on the whole.


STONEY: OK. Um, now, people whove been in the textile business, uh, theyre workers, keep talking about the difference between the way the big bosses would come down and pat them on the shoulder and call them by name, and so forth, but the straw bosses, the shift foreman and so forth, were the nasty ones. Could you talk about that whole game they were playing?

GOSSETT: Well, Mr. uh, Ronald Nixon, who owned the Atlanta Woolen Mill, he had a son. Bill Nixon, who was a vice president. And sometimes he was good and jolly and other times he was a horses rear end. And uh, hed threaten you if you didnt do what he wanted to. And uh, Mr. Nixon -- old man Nixon -- everybody seemed to like him, because he had a nice personality, like Roosevelt, and he tried to help the old hand, had been with him from the time he started in 1898, until then. He was still with him. And uh, but the son was a college man, and, 00:06:00and hed threaten some of us. Well, I -- I, uh, um, was told -- called down to his office. My brother had borrowed some money from the mill, and this -- he called me down and says that I should pay his brothers debt. My brothers debt. I said, I didnt borrow it. Hes free, white, and 21. I got my own family to look after! Well, we think you should help pay his debt. Hes your brother. I said, You got more money than I got. Why dont you pay it? And I didnt get very much work after that. And, and the second hand, Gene [Sherdick?], was a slavedriver. And Marcus Emerson, whose mother was a [smash hand?], was a pretty good second hand because his mother was mistreated. But Gene Sherdick was made a second hand and he tried to treat everybody like hes a damn dog.


STONEY: Do you think that was a game, that the boss knew he could be nice so the -- because he had the foremans being rough on people?

GOSSETT: Well, it wasnt always the foreman. It was the damn second hands, stool pigeons.

STONEY: Could you talk about stool pigeons in the mil?

GOSSETT: Well, every time you did something that wasnt good for the mill, the damn stool pigeond go tell on you. Because you was trying to help your fellow worker do something, and, and saying things against the company, the stool pigeons run and tell his boss, and hed run down, and then the first thing you know, it got to the big boss, and theyd call you in for an interview. They want to know why you said so-and-so.

STONEY: Uh, now you didnt live in a mill village, here, now?


STONEY: But could you talk about the attitude of people towards the cotton mill people? And use the word lint-head.

GOSSETT: Well, uh, all the people -- I, I think high school. My dad went Georgia Tech. I went Georgia Tech, at night school. And did textile 00:08:00engineering. And the company bought my books, and paid my tuition. For me to go to school out there and I finally became a yarn superintendent at the Atlanta Woolen Mill, by going to Georgia Tech, and the company paying my way. That was after we got a union in there, and second, had an election, and we got a union in there.

STONEY: Could you talk about the, uh --

GOSSETT: Well, Ill tell you something else. They, they look down on the textile mill as the lowest craft people in America. Like you look down today, well, like they did in the 20s and 30s, um, the niggers. They call them nigger. They didnt call them colored people or Negro. They call them niggers. And they call the textile people lint head. And the textile, yous a lint head, a cotton head. And uh, I didnt think it had no sense. (inaudible) We had some smart people in the textile industry. And working in the mill as well as supervisor.


STONEY: Where do you think that name came from?

GOSSETT: Well, everybody that worked in there had lint -- had lint in their head, and so it became, when you come out of there, Where you been? A fellow didnt know Id been at work. Said, Well, your heads full of lint. And so I magine it came from lint head, from your head being full of lint, and before you left, you took the hose -- air hose -- and blowed you lint off of you. Covered in long lint from the cotton.

STONEY: Now, could you talk about brucellosis, black -- uh, brown lung. Did you ever have any trouble with it, all of that.

GOSSETT: I didnt have any trouble with that. But I had friends -- one of the organizers that I worked with, from Rome, Georgia, Frank Barker, died -- well, he, he had TB of the lung. And he collapsed one lung, and he was in that sanitarium that they built up at Rome, Georgia, and then he was an international -- he was a representative, like me. And he was the same age as I was, and he wasnt as heavy as I was, and hes about an inch taller than me. He weighed 00:10:00about 130, and I weighed 160. But he died from TB of the lungs, from lint. Good friend of mine. George [Guess?] died of a heart attack in Richard, and he was just in his 40s. Overworked and underfed, undernourished.

STONEY: Now, do you know uh, [Annie?], uh, [Minnie?] Lee Washburn?


STONEY: Nanny Lee Washburn.



HELFLAND: Excuse me, George.


HELFLAND: But the cushion is up now --


HELFLAND: And before it was down.

STONEY: No, it -- I think we have to stick with that, just now.


STONEY: Um, could you talk about the --

JAMIE: (inaudible)

STONEY: -- talk about the, uh, churches, and uh, the union?

GOSSETT: Well, I had three strikes on me, because I was a damn Yankee. I came from Escanaba and Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. My mother was born in Escanaba, 00:11:00and my older and Is born in Sault Ste. Marie. My third brother worked in the mill as a Georgia cracker. But they call me a damn Yankee because I came down in the states, and because my mother was Catholic, and before her mother let her marry my father, my fathers born down in Griffin, Georgia, and he was a Baptist. But now he was 26 years old. My mother was only 18, and you had to be 21 without your parents -- and he gave my mother a big diamond ring and uh, my daddy agreed to be married by the priest and let all the children be catholic. So, being a Catholic, there wasnt 100 Catholics in Atlanta, when I moved there in 1920. We only had two churches in Atlanta. A catholic, St. Anthony, and one downtown. And uh, the other thing, me being for the union, my daddy being a military man and a railroad man, he was for the union. I was for the union, so I had three strikes. I was a union man, a damn Yankee, and a Catholic.


STONEY: (laughs) Uh, now some people say that the mill owners paid the preachers -- paid for the churches to preach against the union. Did you ever have that?

GOSSETT: Yes. Up at Hartwell, Georgia.

STONEY: Start off --

GOSSETT: I was up working in Hartwell, Georgia, and uh, Greenville, South Carolina. Trying to organize as a volunteer, when this preacher uh, thats out west, that said he talked to Jesus Christ and he was nine foot tall, and asked everybody to give him $248. Uh, whats his name? His son. His daughter and his son got killed. His son was taking his place.

CREW: Oral Roberts?

GOSSETT: Oral Roberts! I went to see Oral Roberts right after he was married up in Hartwell, Georgia, and Greenville, South Carolina. The textile mills had him hired, and paid his salary and furnished him a car and gas, and a house, and he preached against the union and I said, You are supposed to be dressed in the 00:13:00Lords clothes. And he was preaching, and youre not supposed to preach against your congregation. And most of your congregation has joined the union, signed union cards. He said, Well, I have do to what the company says to. They pay my way (inaudible). Thats Oral Robert. Thats before he, he had any children. He had three children. Two boys and a girl.

STONEY: Now, after the strike, it was after the 34 strike, it got rougher for union organizers, in some places. Uh, could you describe, uh, what you told me a little while ago about getting run out of town, and when that was?

GOSSETT: Well, I got run out of Hartwell, Georgia. I got run out of Greenville, South Carolina, back in the 30s. But the latest one was in [Dargan?], South Carolina in 54 and 55, and in Sylacauga, Alabama in the 50s. I got run out. I went out to see a second hand in Dargan, South Carolina. His wife was, 00:14:00was... Oh, she was -- spinning! She was a spinner. His wife was a spinner.

STONEY: Lets start all over again. Getting that again.

GOSSETT: I was organizing, international [represent?] organize Darlington Cotton Mill, which belongs to R.J. -- uh, Roger. Roger Milligan. And uh, I fixed a petition for an election. Ad this lady worked in the spinning room, and her husband was a second hand. And she asked me if Id go visit him. They worked different shifts. That I make him (inaudible), could I swing the ladies on the first shift over? I go out to his house and see him. I park the car out on the street and have to walk a block up to his house, because he didnt have a driveway. Couldnt get up -- I had to walk. And I got up to the front door. A very big dog there. Had to weigh at least 90 pounds. What they call a bluetick. And its at least 10 years old, and it growl at me. And I raised 00:15:00dogs all my life, so I just opened a screen door to the porch. And it growled. I said, Shut up! And, and, and walked on up to knock on the house screen door, and it growled and howled. Shut up, again. Finally, he came to the door and he had that second screen door locked to the house, like my double screen door. And he said, Youre the union organizer. And I said, Yeah. He said, Wait just a minute. He went back and got a double barrel shotgun and I was leaning against the screen, and he stuck it right at my navel. I could see both barrels through the screen door, at my navel. He says, You SB, only he used the words, Get off my property. Ill blow your guts off. Sweat popped out of me, and I said, Yes, sir. I turned around quick. The further I got away, the better I was. Because that son of a gun couldve shot me and said I came at him and tried to call a fight, and hed have got by with it, because everybodys anti-union! And in Dar-- and 00:16:00in the Sylacauga, Alabama, there was four of us. At the motel. And we was organizing two Sylacauga mills. And I was in charge. Uh, Bob Peyton and uh, the other two men. I cant think of the name now. It was about 128 second hand bosses and company pimps, came to my -- our hotel. Well, it was a motel. At about one oclock in the morning and woke us up. And they only had eight police in the city. Small town. Just had eight police. They call out the police, they uh, (inaudible) around the motel. Hes the only one thatd let us stay! The other motel, hotel, wouldnt even let us stay! He call out the police, call the police, and they call the state trooper, and they call in the deputy sheriff, and the sheriff out. And they told us that we can leave, and well escort you back to the Georgia line. This is Alabama! Because, We dont have enough help here to protect you. And uh, we advise you to 00:17:00leave. And so we four packed up our suitcases and got it all full in the car and followed the police escort to the Georgia line. I went on home and I got my double barrel shotgun -- my automatic Browning shotgun -- and my sons .22 rifle, and my fathers ex-automatic .45 rifle that hed give me at his death, and got it and put it in the car, and I sneaked in the house, and the door squeaked as I was coming out. And she says, That you, Lloyd? My wife did. And I said, Yes. And she said, What you doing? She got up and she saw me with a rifle and a shotgun and a pistol. She knew I was having trouble, and she asked me not to go back. But I went back. And when I got to the Alabama line, I called the county and the state patrol and told them that I had the shotgun, had the rifle, and the pistol, and I had plenty of ammunition. Had it all in the front seat with me, and the first SBthat tried 00:18:00to stop me, run off road, I was going to kill him. And then when I got to the city limits I called the city police and told them. And I went back and spent the night there. I got back here about six oclock in the morning. And I just stayed there, and when I went to breakfast, I carried my sons .22 automatic rifle with me, under my arm, and went to the dining room and ate breakfast with my sons .22 rifle, and they didnt bother me. And I then told the county police and the sheriff and the state police and the city police. And I asked any of the other three boys. No, were not going back. I was the only one went back.

STONEY: And that was when?

GOSSETT: In about the time that old Bob Conners was squirting the fire hose and sicing the police dogs on, uh, the, uh, Martin Luther King. Right around the same time.


STONEY: OK. Uh, lets hold it just a moment. [break in video] Lets try it again. Uh, you ready to roll?

CREW: Rolling.

STONEY: OK, sir.

GOSSETT: I was sent down to Sylacauga, Alabama, to organize -- or try to organize -- two Sylacauga cotton mills. There was about 2,200 employees and I had three men -- representatives -- and we was assigned -- I was in charge, and we had the three men assigned different departments that they was familiar with. And uh, one night they woke us up about one oclock in the morning and had about 138 company bosses, second hands, and company scabs out there, threatening our lives. And they -- the motel manager -- was the only place that we could stay -- he was friendly to the union. The other motel, hotel wouldnt even let us stay there. And he called the city police and the city police called in the county and the troopers, and they escorted us to the state line and we all went home, and everybody thought they was home. I went home and I got my guns, 00:20:00my pistol, my rifle, and my shotgun, Browning automatic, and a box of shells of each and put it in the front seat. And I went back and got back about six oclock the next morning and, uh, I went to breakfast with my .22 under my arm. And people said, What you doing with that? I said, You shouldve been here last night.

STONEY: (laughs) Boy! Doesnt he know how to cut and stretch. Thats beautiful. It just couldnt have been better! (laughs).

HELFLAND: Lloyd, could you tell what it was like on the picket line?

GOSSETT: Well, it was like being surrounded by a bunch of, uh, police men and enemies --

HELFLAND: Start again -- tell me -- use the picket line. Start with --

GOSSETT: Well, at the Atlanta Woolen Mill picket line, uh, majority of the people in Atlanta was against the union. And so all the people driving trucks and cars coming by there would holler at us. Union -- uh, uh, company 00:21:00-- trying to break the company. And, and, and give us hell. They wouldnt holler at the damn scabs is going in, trying to break the union. And we was trying to form a union to help the workers, and they was all against it. [Either way?] its ten to one, against it. On the picket line, going to work, coming from work, anything. HELFLAND: So, tell me about the, the people that were standing on the picket line with you.

GOSSETT: No, we didnt stand on picket line. We walked. They wouldnt let you stand. That was a violation of city law, if you stand. You had to walk up and down, make a circle and come back. You had to patrol. And had the National Guard every six feet, with bayonets on the gun and loaded rifles, seeing that you did keep moving.

HELFLAND: So you had to be moving all the time.

GOSSETT: Had to move all the time. You couldnt stop for one minute. You could stop for a minute and talk to someone for a minute, but you couldnt hold line. They had to step out on the sidewalk or the street or somewhere.

STONEY: [Music?].

HELFLAND: Yeah. Well, tell me, what kind of -- how did you keep everybodys spirits up while they were on the line?


GOSSETT: You didnt keep the spirits up. They kept them up themselves, or they let them drop. You try to keep them up, but your spirits wasnt too high, yourself. Youre starving to death and you wasnt getting nowhere and you wasnt gaining nothing, and it did look bad. It looked like an un-- it looked like a lost cause, which it finally turned out to be.

HELFLAND: Well, how did people keep their spirits up?

GOSSETT: They didnt!

HELFLAND: They didnt.

STONEY: Could you talk about music.

HELFLAND: Yeah. I -- I, Ive seen some people on the picket lines, and they were singing.


HELFLAND: Tell me about the music on the picket line.

GOSSETT: Well, the music on the picket line came from the smarter people, and the musicians, and the ones that had a good voice. Something just like in the movie pictures. You all have got someone who stands out at something, and some of them was a great speaker and some of them was a great singer, and some of them was a good dancer, and do the, uh, uh, Black Bottom or the Charleston dance down the picket line. We had one lady who won a contest at the theater, and she 00:23:00did the Charleston on the picket line.

HELFLAND: What kind of songs were they singing?

GOSSETT: We Shall Not Be Moved. And uh, different union songs.

HELFLAND: I dont know any of those union songs. Believe me, if you could tell me, that would be great.

GOSSETT: Well, I, I, Im not a singer. I, I -- so, I wasnt there, when it comes to singing, because Im not a singer or a musician. Im a mathematician historian.

HELFLAND: OK. But you must know some of those songs.

GOSSETT: Well, that was the main one. We Shall Not Be Moved. Thats one of the main songs, and Joe, uh, I forget his name now, hes -- I think hes dead, now. Wrote a lot of the songs. And played the guitar. Joe, uh, hmm, I cant even think of his name. Heavy set fellow. About my age.

STONEY: Whos the fellow we got to sing, uh, is this --

HELFLAND: Uh, Marion A. Brown. You know Marion Brown?



HELFLAND: Because, because he was -- I think he was playing at the time. He played the guitar with his family. He played that kind of music.

GOSSETT: Well, we -- there, some of them had kinfolks that did dancing. Some of them singing. But you mentioned the church a while ago. And then [would they get?] to the church. Well, there are very few churches did anything to help the strikers. They did to help the un-- the scabs. In other words, because they a member of the church, and they would help them feed the scabs thats going in, breaking the strikers, the church didnt help the strikers, very little. Because just like the company -- the rich, the men that went to church and could give money to donations, they was business men. And they wasnt for the union. They was for non-union, because they knew the uniond come in and make their wages go up, and they had to pay more wages. Um, insurance, holidays. We had no minimum wage! Working 15 cents an hour. Six hours, forty hours, six hours, eight hours a day. Six dollars a week.


HELFLAND: Did the church ever send anybody over to the picket line to talk to you while you were there?

GOSSETT: Yeah, they sent somebody over now and then, trying to get us to go back into work.

HELFLAND: Can you start -- start, start talking about --

GOSSETT: They, they, they --

HELFLAND: Use the church in the sentence.

GOSSETT: Different churches, uh, uh, at the time, had some of the deacons who was business men. (inaudible) Chambers of commerce would come over and talk to the pickets, trying to get them to go back in to go to work.

HELFLAND: Well, what would they say?

GOSSETT: Go to Hell!

HELFLAND: Thats what the deacons would say to the picketers?

GOSSETT: No, thats what the picketers tell the deacons.

HELFLAND: And what would the deacons say to the picketers?

GOSSETT: Well, You are fighting a lost cause. Youre never going to have a union, and you, and youre going to be blacklisted, and so forth. And they -- they was well educated. They was deacons in the church. They were leaders in the church and they had more education than the textile workers! And some of he textile workers belonged to the church that they was a deacon at.


HELFLAND: And Im sure the deacon also brought in the fact that, if you were a --

GOSSETT: Well, not only the deacons --

HELFLAND: -- Baptist, this wasnt a good thing to do.

GOSSETT: -- we had preachers! Oral Roberts! Preacher! He was one of the biggest liars ever was! He, he preached against the union. And him a deacon! Uh, him a preacher! At two churches, in Hartwell and Greenville.

STONEY: How many of the -- talk about the textile workers and politics. How many of them voted, or could vote?

GOSSETT: Uh, uh, very -- Id say less than 10% of the textile workers could vote, because we had the county unit system and the poll tax. You had to pay a dollar of poll tax before you could vote! And you didnt have that dollar. That was nearly a weeks wages. Take home pay, after you add your expenses. So, very few textile workers were allowed to vote. Thats why Gene Talmadge got reelected all the time. Because the working man, he was the man of the farmer! He got the farmer vote but he didnt get the worker man. He never carried Atlanta or Fulton County.


STONEY: OK. Anything else?

HELFLAND: Um, Im sure there is. Do you have anything else?


HELFLAND: No? Does that mean were done?

STONEY: I think thats done.


STONEY: OK, (inaudible).

HELFLAND: Uh, actually I do have one thing. Can you tell me a little bit about the strike in Cabbage Town? Did you do -- did you, did you go to organize over there?

GOSSETT: (laughs) Yeah, thats, thats Fulton Bag Cotton Mill. Fulton Bag Cotton Mill is known as Cabbage Town, today. And it was the largest textile mill in Atlanta. We had another one, the Avondale. And we had another one, thats Exposition, out here in Atlanta. We had the Atlanta Woolen Mill. We was one of the smaller. We had the southern mills, right across the street from us. We had the Eagan Cotton Mill here in Eagan, Georgia, which is East Point, but uh, the Cabbage Town was the largest and one of the poorest textile plants there was. It was one of the richest companies, but one the poorest people. And uneducated people, in Cabbage Town. Right at Oakland Cemetery, which is 00:28:00Georgia and Atlanta National Cemetery where the Civil War veterans on the national side and the southern were buried, at Oakland Cemetery.

HELFLAND: And the, and the str-- did you go and organize over there, in Cotton -- at Fulton Bag?

GOSSETT: I went to all of them, and tried to organize. I didnt organize none of them. I tried to. I talked for the union, and tried to show them good points, and all. But I didnt organize none of them because we didnt organize the mill in the southern textile strike (inaudible).

STONEY: Could you talk about what it costs to be a member of the union, and people paying up and then resenting it?

GOSSETT: Well, it didnt cost us a doggone thing to sign a union card, and we didnt pay no union dues until we got a contract! We, they asked for collections. We made volunteer collections, but there was no union dues until you got a contract. And you signed a card, volunteer, just like you sign for a 00:29:00drivers license or (inaudible) or something.

STONEY: Now, we have heard uh, from some people that some people came along and collected a dollar from a lot of people and then disappeared.

GOSSETT: Well, that may have happened. Theres a, theres a rotten apple in there. Uh, uh, some people did get on the picket line and collect money from the pickets, and also from the scabs and also from the company, and all to help the underprivileged. And some of them did do away with some of the money, but its so doggone few, because theres very little money go around. Like you always say, theres a rotten apple in every barrel.

HELFLAND: You know, before, you, you used the term lost cause a number of times. You know, youve said that the deacons told you it was a lost cause. And uh, you mentioned lost cause in relationship to Gorman. And I wonder if you could just talk about the um -- George mentioned before, when Gorman ended it. 00:30:00And did it feel like a lost case?

GOSSETT: I uh, uh, yes. When Gorman ended the strike, he admitted that hed made a mistake, and wed underestimated the strength of the company.

STONEY: Now, some people have described these --

GOSSETT: Thats my interpretation.

STONEY: Some people have described the strike of 34, because there was so few unions, you know, organized, before the strike, as more like a French Revolution than uh, a true strike. What do you think about that?

GOSSETT: Well, thats true! After, after, after the strike in 34, we had the uh, black church come in. Well, that had a revolution! We had the uh, uh --