Foots Weaver, Lucille Thornburgh, and Homer Logsdon Interview

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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(break in audio)

FOOTS WEAVER: The injunction down there. This, this gang. The gang was getting too big for them. And we was getting more of them in. More and more and more in the union, every day. And they had to do something. And they filed the (inaudible) injunction there, you know. To let those on the committee -- Lucille was on it. Jimmy Monroe was on it. Hell, [Belt Jones?] was -- not Belt, but um, Austin Jones was on it.


WEAVER: A McMahan was on it, there. McMahan, him and Jessie come back and scabbed on us.


WEAVER: They stayed out about a week.

THORNBURGH: And Jimmy Monroe was there.

WEAVER: Jimmy Monroe was good.

THORNBURGH: Jimmy Monroe was good. He was very good.

F1: Let me ask Homer about this. Homer, does the --

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HELFAND: We’re ready? OK, Homer, what, in that picture, what does it remind you of?


HOMER LOGSDON: Well, it reminds me of, of about the time -- if I could remember right, it’s about the time we put the, the chief of police come down and told us to move on. If I, if I could remember about right. Uh, as I say, it’s been so long. But we had to move over on this side. There was a bank, here. And we just milled around in the street, as far as I remember. Uh, but uh --

F1: Was the strike -- do you think it was a festive atmosphere, or where people really frightened because they were already near starvation?

LOGSDON: I think, uh, I think... The management and the police was more excited than we were. Because we didn’t intend to harm anyone, I don’t think. I don’t think that was in our mind. Uh, we just didn’t want -- I guess, at that time, we just didn’t want somebody else going in there, taking our job. 2:00Uh, because if we felt like someone -- which they did, come in and take your job. Uh, we might have had some fight. But uh, if the tempers on the picket line -- I don’t know, somebody might’ve hollered something, but I don’t remember exactly.

GEORGE STONEY: Lu-- Lucille. When this picture came out of the papers, what did people say to you?


GEORGE STONEY: Just say, when that picture came out.

THORNBURGH: When that picture came out, uh, they -- we had a, we had a lot of criticism. That was one of the things that started the criticism from the churches, and from other people. And wanting to know, “Why don’t you go back? Why are you quitting your job?” And uh, “Your family needs the money.” And all that kind of stuff. Yeah, there was -- there was a lot of talk about that picture.

F1: Did you know you had been blacklisted?

THORNBURGH: Uh, not at that time. Not then, we didn’t. Because see, the mill 3:00was completely closed down. Do you remember that, [Foots?]? It was completely closed.

WEAVER: Yeah, we didn’t get a black -- we didn’t get black list back from them --

THORNBURGH: After, after the --

WEAVER: The nationwide strike.

THORNBURGH: -- after the nationwide strike.

WEAVER: Yeah, was when we got the black list.

THORNBURGH: Yeah, was when we got the black list. Because the mill didn’t open, and I think one of the reasons that it didn’t -- well, all of the people were out. Uh, we were all out, so they didn’t have anybody to operate with. But you must remember, as uh, uneducated as we were, so far as union was concerned, management was the same way. And they were afraid of us, like Foot said. They were afraid of us. You know, they didn’t know what we were going to do with that strong backing.

F1: What did you think of these pictures, when they called you the “Beautiful Ms. Thornburgh, the debutante.” Did you feel like that was um, was um, a compliment, or belittling you as a leader of the strike?

THORNBURGH: I think it might -- they might have put it in there because I was certainly no beautiful, uh, girl. Was maybe to discourage me. If it was, it 4:00didn’t work.

F1: In what way would it discourage you?

THORNBURGH: Uh, well, maybe uh, maybe they thought that I was stupid enough to think that I was a pretty girl and I shouldn’t be on a picket line, I should be, uh, somewhere else. Anywhere else.

F1: Do you think any of the strikers or the other leaders of the local felt that way toward you?

THORNBURGH: Uh, no. They didn’t pay that much attention to it, no. They didn’t care. That came out of a Philadelphia paper, I think.

F1: And here’s another picture of Lucille.

WEAVER: That um, that picture there is, uh, something more like her, back then. Oh, I can see her through the glass doors there. They have a soldered-on platform. There’s one step going into her office there. And the first time I seen her, I went in there I was doffing. My aunt was working there on the reels. On the winders, they call them winders. They come, reels. But my aunt was working there. My mother’s sister. Lucille knew her, and uh, the first 5:00time I walked in there, I told her, I says, “Can I leave my lunch in here?” (inaudible) says, “They’re eating it up. I ain’t gotten nothing to eat for lunch.”

THORNBURGH: (laughs) We stole each other’s lunch.

WEAVER: Yeah, well, they was one guy down there, I caught, and I collared him. He (inaudible) my lunch, and he already got the meat out of it, and I always -- my aunt was packing my lunch, and I got a meat sandwich. I got a jelly sandwich. I got one with butter in between it, and a little piece of cake for my lunch. And it were wrapped up in newspaper. And they was breaking in that there, tearing that string open. They just ruining my lunch. Taking that meat out of there. And that made me mad! And I caught, I caught him at it. And it was too bad.

F1: Do you remember Foots as being a -- having a little bit of a temper and being a firebrand? What did he sound like on the picket line?

THORNBURGH: Uh, he sound like he yell louder than anybody else, you know. When you holler, “Don’t scab, don’t scab, don’t go back in, stand by the 6:00union.” And all that stuff. He was a little louder than the others.

GEORGE STONEY: Could you tell us about your singing on the picket line?

THORNBURGH: Oh, yeah. We sang on the picket line. Um, we got our songs, too. You, we was talking about Miles Horton in Highlander a while ago. Miles gave us the songs. He gave us the songs that we had. That, uh, “Solidary Forever,” I think, was one of the main ones.

WEAVER: Well, um, “Thou Shall Not Be Moved,” is the none I remember.

THORNBURGH: That’s good, yeah. Yeah, “We Shall Not Be Moved.” We used that one.

WEAVER: That, that, that was an -- that was an old, uh, song, there, out of a songbook. Christian songbook, there. So, “Thou Shall Not Be Moved.” That, that, that comes out of the Bible, too. Comes out of Psalms. I, I, I read the Bible a lot of the time.

F1: Do you think that the picket line and the strike actually was a part of the education of the people about the union? Do you think this was a chance for people to really understand the union and to know what the union was for?


THORNBURGH: Yes. Uh, it was a good time for that. Uh, but when -- when people were as poor as we were, and with nothing to eat and not -- were not knowing where the rent is coming from, it was pretty hard to teach them any-- anything except just plain economics. How are you going to get your next meal? But I do, I do think we all got a lot of education out of it. Didn’t you, Foots?

WEAVER: Yeah, well, I -- it’s educated me a lot. Darn right.


F1: Well, how did you feel when you lost your union?

WEAVER: I don’t, (inaudible) I had to learn how to get out there and sweat and make it with the sweat of my brow. And I, I did it, too. If somebody asked me, “Could I do something?” I, I could do it.

F1: Well, when you --

WEAVER: I, I didn’t turn down that.

F1: -- when you worked so hard to get your union, and you had it in infancy to 100%, you go out on strike because the leadership, Gorman said, “We really need to do this,” even though you felt like it was bad timing, how did it make you feel when you lost your union?


WEAVER: What, what made me feel so good, getting a job. Without a cotton mill. Oscar [Dunne?], a contractor, in Knoxville he helped the union together. Carpenter’s local.

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WEAVER: A week, $2.40 a day. That’s all you could make. Well, they -- but (inaudible) were making over there, was checks. And it didn’t matter -- it didn’t matter what, what you took off of your loans, because you could take a piece of it and line a raincoat with it.

F1: Well, how do you -- what do you think is the lesson? How would you like for this strike to be looked at by young people who are just hearing about it?

WEAVER: Well, they’ve got to -- they’ve got to, a lot, a lot are (inaudible) union, now, than they had back then. They’ve got benefits and uh, go in the union. I’ll say, go in the union! Young men should be in the union. Get 10:00them benefits. He got a second pension there coming, besides social security stuff. Still (inaudible) supposed to be the everything that we thought, thought it would be. A lot of people misled there. It’s just to help make the -- and, uh --

F1: Did you think that the strike was a disaster?

WEAVER: Well, the, the nationwide strike didn’t help any. Let’s say it didn’t help any. What do you think about it, Lucille?

THORNBURGH: Uh, I think the, the -- a sad thing about all of it was -- and I, of course, at, I keep going over this, how uneducated we were. But I didn’t realize it until later, when I started really talking to organizers and working in the labor movement myself, how very important it was to save your union. Uh, I remember people like, uh, Franz Daniels and Miles Horton, and people like that. When it gets right down to a real showdown, compromise if you have to in 11:00order to save your union. Well, if we could’ve saved that union -- we, we couldn’t. There was no way we could save it. But if, if we had it to do over, you know, and what I would tell people now, would be to have your people better educated and knowing what they were doing, before they would come out on strike. I think, now, that we might have even avoided that strike and saved our union for another day. But the way it was, we lost everything. I think it was a very untimely strike. And I think it left the people, uh, well, a lot of them -- and I’m sure you, uh, and Homer both would agree with me on this. I think it left a lot of the people completely disillusioned, because they could say -- and they did! Say, around Knoxville, “Well, look what happened to Cherokee. They didn’t win down there, and they had everybody organized. They, they 12:00didn’t win.” So it was, it -- we, we were a bad influence on other mill workers in Knoxville. It was really a sad situation.

GEORGE STONEY: Were you proud of what you did?

THORNBURGH: Yes. I’d like to do it all over again, but I’d do it a little differently.

GEORGE STONEY: Could you say how proud you were? Repeat -- say, “I was proud of what I did, but.”

THORNBURGH: I was proud of what I did, but I would do it a little bit differently this time.

F1: Well, let me ask you something. I’ve, I’ve seen, as you know, in the -- working with the union, I’ve seen a lot of people go through organizing campaigns and strikes where they’ve lost. But there’s something that they gain in the process of standing up to a company, or to injustice. Do you think that that took place in this strike? Did you see some things that you gained from it? Did it change you, Homer?


LOGSDON: Well, when I think back, it changed me a lot of ways. To use my [old?] mind, and to do uh -- I’ve always done what I said I would do. I’ve, I was taught that in my life. Uh, to always do -- if you make an oath, you do it. But uh, I think I would use my old mind but, to -- in our strike, I think our biggest trouble, we didn’t know really what was going on.

THORNBURGH: That’s right.

LOGSDON: Uh, because it’s just like going to school. You’ve got to be educated. And we weren’t. Because we didn’t know much about strikes, we didn’t know much about, uh, staying together. Pulling together. And uh, I think you’ve got to be taught to do that. But --

F1: But you did it. Y’all did it.

LOGSDON: Oh! And we have that trouble today, though! I know I’ve tried to 14:00(laughs) get our bus drivers together. When I was in the school system. But it’s impossible because they don’t -- you can’t get them together.

F1: Why did you --

LOGSDON: That’s what you’ve got to do.

F1: If you, if you -- if there are a lot of young people today, and times are as hard, in some ways, as they were back then, in terms of people being scared they’re going to lose their jobs because the plant’ll close down and move overseas. And they’re fighting to maintain their unions, they’re fighting for wages, they’re fighting for respect on the job. From your experience in this strike, what could you say to those young people who are in the middle of fighting to save a pension, or fighting in the coal mines to make sure that pensions aren’t cut out from under coal miners? What does this strike experience have to say to them?

LOGSDON: Well, what I really think, to see the young people today, they won’t -- they would come and take your job. If I was to go out on a strike today, to 15:00what I could see, through life, I’m a union man. And this guy over here is out of work, and, and half the time they don’t respect their parents. So they’re not going to respect the union. And they’re not going to pay any attention to you walking that picket line. They’ll just walk right on by you.


F1: Do you think that in your experience, the, the fact that you had a family in the plant and everybody stuck together, is that something that you think would help, if young people understood that?

LOGSDON: That’s, that would be the other way, is I say they would have to be educated. To, to know what the union was really all about. Uh, because there’s so many people that, in the South, that don’t know. But now there’s several places in Knoxville that, that are union. But now it’s hard 16:00for them to keep the guys together.

GEORGE STONEY: What would you say about that, Lucille?

THORNBURGH: Uh, I think uh, what, what we could uh, tell those, tell the younger people about that would be that, well, look at us. Back there, under -- excuse me, (coughs).

GEORGE STONEY: Let’s start again.

THORNBURGH: OK. See, what’d I say.

GEORGE STONEY: Uh, your, your -- ask your question.

F1: Lucille.


F1: If you can just picture with me, and you know them just as well as I do, these places where the local is under fire, and these kids are going to lose their local, and they haven’t been tested like y’all were tested in forming the local, but they’re fighting to save the pension for the pensioners. They’re fighting to save their union. They’re fighting to save their plant, and they’re scared to death that they’re not even going to be afford to -- be afford to keep their home. What could you say to young people today, from your experience? What can they learn from your strike?


THORNBURGH: Well, I think they could, um, I think they could learn that there is more solidarity -- we did-- we didn’t expect, when we came out on strike, we didn’t expect everybody to come out with us. But there is more solidarity among workers, even now, I think, than, than they, than the people realize that there is. And you talk to them, I would tell them that had we saved our union -- I would certainly tell them that. I would certainly tell them to save your union, whatever else you do. Uh, but now, they have so many places to go, so many things that, uh, you know. Back when, when we were on strike, there was no social security. We didn’t have a labor board that was worth anything. They finally had one. We didn’t have all those places to go. And I still go back to that educating the membership. You just have to do that. And prove to them that in unity, there’s strength.

GEORGE STONEY: Now, Lucille --


THORNBURGH: One could do that.

GEORGE STONEY: We could ask her about the pamphlet, the, the --

F1: I was going to ask Foots that question. Don't we want to get his answer?

GEORGE STONEY: Sure, OK, then.

F1: Foots, what would you say to some of these young people today who are losing heart, and scared to strike, and scared of uh, uncertain times, about keeping their job? What have you learned, or what did you learn, your whole time in the textile mill?

WEAVER: Well, I would tell them to be truthful. The main thing is to be truthful. About the whole situation. They catch you in a lie, you can’t lie out of a lie. You just tell them the truth, and you can always (inaudible) the truth. You got the truth, there. I tell them, it’s a hard job out there, on the strike. But you started it, don’t quit. Stay right in there and keep fighting. You can win if you keep fighting, but it takes time. Now, I’ve 19:00worked around the union from Brookside 21, 1921. I had it going there fine. I seen it happen down there. It was done away with down there. It was certain amount of people that didn’t -- didn’t like us. But we could’ve made them like us if we’d have won down there. We’d got them on our side!

F1: What did the --

WEAVER: If you ever win --

F1: What did the union do for you as a young worker?

WEAVER: As a young worker, had made a believer out of me to sell my labor at the highest price I could. If I couldn’t sell my labor at a higher price, the union wouldn’t be no good to me. That’s what a union’s all about, is to sell your labor there.

F1: Could you --

WEAVER: Get all you can out of it.

F1: Did you feel like you could stand taller when you had a union?


WEAVER: Yes, I could stand and fight and fight and fight. If I had three persons to stay with me. I would have a team there. We’re the four horsemans.

F1: And what did you learn about the, the fact that you were able to organize these workers?

WEAVER: Well --

F1: Did that surprise? What would you say to young people when they say, “Oh, we can’t get these people to organize a union. They’re not interested in a union.”

WEAVER: You get out there and tell them that you want a union. Tell them what the union’s all about. I’d try to educate the kid before he went out into the field to talk to him. Like boot camp in the army. You want to make him a little bit rougher, and you want to get some friends working. Now, you want friendship. You don’t want an enemy. You want friendship there. When you go to talk to them, try to make a friend there out of them. You make a friend out of them, then you got a friend to rest of your life. If you get out there in the union and take them in the union, if you can, if you belong to the union, 21:00take them in the union. Get them in there and get them a card. I was proud of my card. I was proud of it. It made a -- it made me feel good, to say, “I’m a union man.” That was 1945, I was getting old. Nineteen forty five, after the war. And they come to me, out there in my neighborhood said I was making a fool out of the labor (inaudible), you’re paying them too much. But I was paying union wages. A dollar an hour per labor.

F1: Did people look down on people who worked in the textile mill?

WEAVER: Yes, we was looked down on, in a certain way. It was the cheapest paying job there was. And it... Got farmers in there. As he said, awhile ago. Farmers’ kids. Yes, they were on it. But what would -- what were they coming across over here, when we first started this country? They was all 22:00farmers back then, or game men that didn’t have anything to eat, so what? We didn’t bring anything into this world, but we could make a better place for our kids, if we just work at it.

F1: As a textile worker, when, when you felt like people looked at you as the lowest paid people that were working in the factories --

WEAVER: Yes, we was.

F1: -- when you went on that strike, do you feel like it made people feel like they had shown the community something --

WEAVER: Yeah, it did.

F1: -- about textile workers?

WEAVER: We had just a little bit of pride, there, on us. We’ve a bit of a pride up there. But, we had -- we had better, better (inaudible).

GEORGE STONEY: (inaudible) OK, Lucille, could I ask Lucille this question?

F1: Lucille. I know that people call textile workers “hands.” They call --

THORNBURGH: No, they called us “lint-heads.” “Lint-heads.” And you 23:00know where we got that name? When I would come out of the mill, my hair was completely covered in lint. And that’s where we got that name, lint head. We went from lint-head to cotton mill hands, and then from cotton mill hands we got us a nice title. Textile workers.

F1: And what do you think -- did the strike change peoples’ feelings about themselves and the community’s respect for textile workers?

THORNBURGH: Uh, I think it did, in, in some areas. I think the real knowing and thinking people, uh, saw in us that, well, they have a determination uh, to do better. They don’t want to be cotton mill workers on these low wages forever. And I, I, I think we gained a certain amount of respect from it.

F1: Do you think, on the, on the issues -- they were the national issues, which were mainly about the NRA codes. But your local issues, the issues that made 24:00people unhappy in the plant, like your ventilation. Water fountains.

THORNBURGH: Working conditions.

F1: What were the working conditions that people were unhappy about? What did the -- what made them so unhappy that they would come out on this strike?

THORNBURGH: Uh, well, one thing, of course, was the wages. Uh, when you stand on your feet like I did, 10 hours, five nights a week, and you get $8.40 for it, uh, you’re mad, first, about the wages. And of course, we all -- everybody knows that 10 hours is too long to work. Particularly when you’re standing right there in front of a machine. That that -- and then, the working conditions. You remember how big that spinning and winding room was? You know it was all together, there. We had one little restroom with one toilet seat in it. There was one water fountain that was stopped up more times than it was working. And it was working conditions like that. And it was so hot -- I went to work at five o’clock in the afternoon, to work on that night shift. And in 25:00the summer, that -- it was so hot in there. And the mill didn’t -- you didn’t really, on any night during the summer, get cool until midnight. And you couldn’t open a window because it would blow the cotton into your machine. And it was, it was just suffocating. And we had a lot of people that did faint there. I guess you had those in the weave shop, too. It was so hot in there.

F1: Do you think this is something that motivated people to walk out with you and to form a union?

THORNBURGH: Oh, definitely. Working at -- working under the, the working conditions that we did, and for the low wages that we did.

F1: People were just fed up.

THORNBURGH: They were just fed up with it. That’s right.

F1: Well, you know, when I hear you talk about this, I am just amazed that you, number one, were able to get 100% union. Number two, you were able to build your strike like you are. Like you did. And it’s hard for me to look at it as a disaster. I mean, what would you say to young people about standing up against conditions in the mill where they are in danger of their lives?


THORNBURGH: Oh, I would definitely, uh, tell them to, to do it. Uh, even if the strike was a, a, a disaster. We proved something to ourselves. That, that you know, that we, we, we could come out. And we felt pretty proud of ourselves when we shut that mill down, you know. Now, look at us. “You rich people’d been calling us lint heads. We’re powerful enough to shut your mill down.” You know, yeah! We’s proud of it.

F1: Did you feel that way, Homer?

LOGSDON: Well, I guess I have a different outlook, maybe than --

THORNBURGH: You’s too young, any --

LOGSDON: -- they did. But uh, um --

F1: Did you feel proud that y’all had shut the mill down to --

LOGSDON: I feel proud that, that I, I’ve always stood tall. Tried to stand tall. Uh, whatever I do. And uh, when we went out, I had an obligation to the union, and I done that. And uh, as far as -- I don’t remember. I remember 27:00back when, maybe when I was a, a filling boy, back when they were cutting 10%, 10%, that kind of stuff, that I, I worked 13 hours a night for $6.25. But I was glad to get to $6.25, because I had to eat! But then when they come along and cut the night shift off, then, when I went back, the working conditions, to me, were better. Because I was making $25, $30 a week. And of course, that was big money. And so I say, I know what Lucille’s talking about in the spinning room. [Wasn’t?] much difference in the weave room. Her working conditions was bad. They stood right there in front of that machine. And we had to go from here to there, running the set of looms. And uh, you know, we didn’t 28:00stand still. And uh, but uh, if I was going to talk, to go back into union, I’d still do what I’d said I’d do, regardless! Uh, if I lost my job, which I did, I didn’t know that I was on the blacklist. But, and then I didn’t know it until the other day! But uh, I went back in the Cherokee, and they treated me -- this doesn’t ever happen -- of course, I done my work. I run my job. And uh, the bosses never said, as long as I was on that job. Maybe I wouldn’t see a boss all night. All eight hours. But --

F1: Let me ask you -- now, if you will, look at that, uh, leaflet, and Lucille, you went to the convention where the national union told you about the strike. Was that drawn up by the national union?

THORNBURGH: Yes, uh-huh.

F1: Do you remember this leaflet here, Foots? Do you remember this leaflet that 29:00y’all passed out?

WEAVER: Yes, I got ahold 500 of them, to (inaudible). Put, put 500 of them out. I’m very well acquainted with that poster, there. It’s a good poster. And it means a lot to me.

THORNBURGH: We, we put them in, we put them uh, in, if you remember, Foots, we put them in doors where there was any union worker there, not just to let the whole community know that there’s a strike on. We, we had a --

WEAVER: Get them on the door, anyplace. It didn’t matter. Stick them in the mailbox. It didn’t matter.

F1: Were you scared at all? Because people were dying in other communities from --

WEAVER: No, I wasn’t -- I wasn’t, uh, I wasn’t afraid of a [wildcat?] --