Arthur Duncan Interview 5

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search this Transcript

ARTHUR DUNCAN: If any of you have to go to the bathroom, its at the end of the hall down there.


DUNCAN: Well, I dont know too much about that part of it. I do know that they had a public meeting at the courthouse, and they had speakers there to tell them that they could not be discriminated against them if they joined the union, if they, whatever in other words, they couldnt discriminate em about things they did like that, as long as theyd run their job and carried a job on them. But now, like I said all the time, my oldest daughter was very sickly, and I didnt get to go to any of them much, and I really wasnt at that one, but I do know they had a public meeting, and they told people that they couldnt they couldnt be fired for joining a union, and couldnt be fired for going to the union, for going to the meetings and things. Its sort of misleading, I dont know why, but its sort of misleading there in a way, either folks taking it the wrong way one, one of the two.

JUDITH HELFAND: But did it impress you, as it impressed me, that it was really public?

DUNCAN: Oh yeah-


HELFAND: And that it was out in the open, and that people, they were signing cards out in the open? Could you-

DUNCAN: Well, whenever they first started joining, they didnt try to hide them, theyd sign - the only thing they didnt do was to go on the job they didnt go on the job. They could go out anywhere else and get and finally, a little bit later on, the mill companies had em put so much pressure that they had to stop on their property. And then they had to meet somewhere mill companies then owned all the houses and everything. Nobody owned any private houses. The mill company owned everything, and they told you when you could move, or when you didnt move. I was reading they had so much influence over people moving and whatever they began to join the union, because it was their private property.

HELFAND: Can you talk about local leadership?

DUNCAN: Well, local leadership, I know whenever they first come there, I dont know why they picked [Mike Jones?], we called him, to be a leader, because he was a radical, but anyway, he led people to believe that they could just, you 00:02:00know, you can find radicals in everything, you know. And you can tell a person well now, a person cant do this, or a person cant do that, and then sometimes they overstep their bounds, and I think they done that back then. I think some of them overstepped their bounds because of the leadership, but the leadership had come in and they tried to stop that wildcat strike after it come on, but they told them well, if the campfires done burning with [Mike?] Jones and them, and they said well, just let em burn, theres nothing we can do about it. You see, the union didnt authorize that, that was done by men like [Mike?] Jones, and people that you know thought that well, well just bulldoze them into doing what we want them to do, which was the wrong attitude.

HELFAND: Can you turn it off, [Jen?]?

[break in video]

DUNCAN: Only about one, or maybe two, people come in from outside to organize and start it. But most of the stuff was done by local people, but they led them to believe the wrong way to go about it, you see. Either the local people wanted 00:03:00it done like they wanted it done, and didnt do what the leadership told them to, one of the two. Now I dont know which. But anyway that wildcat strike was absolutely unlegal, it was unlawful, but they, after the union had found out they already had the campfires burning, they said well, theres nothing we can do, just let em burn. Let it run out and do the best you can do with what you can. Cause they figured it would completely kill them if they stopped it right there, you see.

HELFAND: Now your dad and your brother signed up right from the very start.

DUNCAN: Rightyeah, right from the start.

HELFAND: And they got involved very soon.

DUNCAN: Yeah, they got em it was

HELFAND: Can you start explaining, my dad and my brother they joined up right at the beginning, and maybe you could tell me a little bit about that, and if they if they were picked on to be fired before that wildcat strike bring that up too.

DUNCAN: (inaudible)

HELFAND: And start with my father.

DUNCAN: Okay. When that union come here and organized, of course my daddy and brother joined it first and they was the ones that brought me the message back 00:04:00most of them from the meetings because I said I had a sick child. And theyd bring me back what theyd said. And I joined by sending my dollar and quarter in to join to (inaudible). But anyway daddy and them, they wasnt fired, I dont believe daddy and them was fired until after the wildcat strike, because I dont think they fired anybody until then. They had the barbeque on the Fourth of July 33 they warning people that they wasnt going to be told by outsiders how to run their plants and things you know. And all that kind of stuff, and they didnt make anything plain enough to them, I dont reckon. Anyway people went on and joined the union. Until after, I dont know anyone that was laid off after they had the wildcat strike really. And thats the reason why, when they had the Fourth of July rally, all them people like my Daddy was in there, in that, and he was one of guards that directed traffic. 00:05:00But anyway, they had, they gave him the wrong impression. I think from the very start, I think what the union done, the representative come picked the wrong local people for leadership. Because they didnt know they was picking somebody they thought would do the job but they picked the wrong people. And I think that Jones was one of the wrong people they shouldve picked. I dont think he should have ever been picked to be a leader of the union.


[break in video]

GEORGE STONEY: -- Russell, U.S. Senate. Say I knew Russell or I knew about him or whatever.


GEORGE STONEY: And then you say, Dear Mr. Russell, and this is a letter from [Odessa Johnson?].


GEORGE STONEY: You say, and I knew her.

DUNCAN: Yeah okay.

GEORGE STONEY: So you start with Honorable Richard B. Russell, U.S. Senator

[break in video]


GEORGE STONEY: Alright sir.


DUNCAN: This is a letter to Mr. Russell. It says, Dear Mr. Russell, I am writing to you

GEORGE STONEY: Im sorry you gotta tell us who Russell was.


GEORGE STONEY: Now lets start again.


GEORGE STONEY: No lets glass off start all out of your pocket, take your glasses out of your pocket. Okay go.


GEORGE STONEY: Alright sir.

DUNCAN: This is a letter to, from The Honorable Richard B. Russell, U.S. Senator in Washington D.C. It days, Dear Mr. Russell, I am writing you about our troubles here at the Newnan Georgia. And it goes, I joined the union on the 7th, on December the 7th 1933, and my father and brother began to, uh, belonged to. After the strike I went to see Mr. Parks and asked him for my job and he said that he could not use me, that he was full up. But he went right on 00:07:00hiring people from the country and putting them on our jobs. Then I went to see Mr. Karl Nixon, the mill superintendent and he told me that it would be impossible for the mill company to work me anymore on account of the stand that my father a brother took at the gate. And he said I was a very important employee until I went into that organization, the union, and he said that no fair minded person would join that organization. Mr. Parks told me that it did not have anything against me or my work. But he still refused to hire them back. I can comment on some, on some of that, a part of it. Cause I know some of it is a fact. I knowed Mr. Johnson and I knowed his, he had 2 daughters. This was the oldest daughter that wrote the letter here. And had, she was a belonged to the union and she was like some of the rest of them. She got fired as a sympathizer more or less than participating in the strike. All though she 00:08:00did belong she got fired as a sympathizer, which I did too. And therefore she wrote Mr. Russelthis letter. I dont know why she did but she went on to why tell that she asked Mr. Parks for her job back and he refused to give her, her job and still went right on hiring people. And thats a fact, they went right on hiring people all the time. They would get around you one way or the other. And they never thought about, as long as it wasnt where nobody could hear em, they was talking privately. Theyd tell you one thing and whenever they go in private theyd tell you something else you know. But anyway theyd tell them, We just dont need anyone, we have enough help right now, we cant use anybody, regardless of how good they are, we just cant use them. And its nothing against you, we just cant use you. You know. And they went on, they just kept on coming back and she went to see Mr. Nixon, who at that time was a mill superintendent. And of course he told her, it is impossible to work anybody who participated in it because they didnt want 00:09:00trouble and they scared if they hire them back that they would have trouble right on in the future.

GEORGE STONEY: Why do you think she wrote Senator Russell?

DUNCAN: That is one question thats a question in my mind now of w hy she wrote Senator Russell? Unless she knowed Russell better than most people did. And wanted to get his opinion or what he thought about. With the thought that maybe he might could do something for it.

GEORGE STONEY: Cut. Beautiful.

[break in video]

GEORGE STONEY: Just hold it.


DUNCAN: This is


JAMIE STONEY: (inaudible) with the shot.

GEORGE STONEY: No its gonna be difficult to play. So just hold on it close. And when I say go, you can just turn it, and start reading.




DUNCAN: This is a document was sent, it was written on Newnan Cotton Mill 00:10:00stationary. And its wrote to [J.M. Arrington?] Newnan Georgia. It says, The mill desired to have possession of (inaudible) occupied by you at the mill street and you are hereby notified to vacate same as on before Saturday March the 27th, 1935. Your failure to comply with this notice will be necessary to resort in illegal possession. In other words they was saying on thatI didnt get one of these because fortunately they never give me a notice to move. But anyway I saw some of these of people that did. And they was, they was threating them with putting the stuff out on the street unless they vacated at a certain time. They had a certain amount of days to vacate on. And that was the ones, I think, the leaders and the first ones that joined, the first ones that participated in the wildcat strike, they give them the notices. Now 00:11:00the other people that they call sympathizers and things I couldnt tell you whether any of them got any eviction notices or not.

GEORGE STONEY: Okay. Now lets try that again. Im sorry everything worked fine

[break in video]

DUNCAN: This is a document from Newnan Cotton Mill Company March 12th 19 and 35. Its to [J.M. Arrington?] It says, Dear Sir, The mill desired to have you possession of the premises now occupied by you at 23 Mi -- uh Hill Street and you are thereby notified vacate on or by Saturday March the 27th, 1935. And your failure to comply with this notice will unnecessary to research illegally possess you. Yours Truly, Newnan Cotton Mill Company, J.H. Freeman President.

GEORGE STONEY: What does that mean?


DUNCAN: Thats, I dont know hardly. He was, and Judge Freeman, he was a judge instead of just an employee, he was the judge of the whole district. So he had a lot of authority alright, in other words that gave them something to stand on. They thought, anyway.

GEORGE STONEY: Ok lets try it one more time. Because theres a

[break in video]


DUNCAN: This is a notice from Newnan Cotton Mill on March the, uh 16th 1935. And its [J.M. Arrington?] East Newnan. To Mr. [J.M. Arrington?] East Newnan, and it says, We will desire to have possession of the premises now occupied by you at 25 Hill Street, and you are hereby notified to vacate same as before Saturday March the 23rd 1935. Your failure to comply with this notice will necessitate our

M1: We need to stop. (inaudible)

DUNCAN:-- resort to

[break in video]

GEORGE STONEY: -- the man was.


DUNCAN: That wrote this.


DUNCAN: [Arrington?]

GEORGE STONEY: Who [Arrington?] was.




DUNCAN: This is a document from Newnan, Georgia, March the 16th, 1935. To Mr. [J.M. Arrington?] which was one of the leaders and organizer of the union there, and one of the first ones they lay off. First one that was tried and laid off. It says, Dear Sir, We will desire to have possession of your premises now occupied by you at 23 Hill Street, and you are hereby notified to vacate on or before March 23rd, 1935. Your failure to comply with this notice will necessitate our resort to legal possession. Yours Truly, Newnan Cotton Mill Company, signed by J.H. Freeman, Judge of Superior Court in Newnan, Georgia.



DUNCAN: And president of the mill.

GEORGE STONEY: What does that men?

DUNCAN: Well that means he was in the drivers seat I presume. I mean he was in the drivers seat, I mean what he said went with most everybody.

GEORGE STONEY: And what were they trying to do there?

DUNCAN: They were trying to dispossess people that had participated in the strike, in the wildcat strike. In other words they was reallytheir main purpose was to discredit the union and stop it from being organized.

GEORGE STONEY: Beautiful, ok. I think that does it Judy.

HELFAND: I just have a couple of questions-


HELFAND:-- old acquaintance reunion and


[break in video]

GEORGE STONEY: Just say after 35 we never had union in East Newnan and tell why.

DUNCAN: Well after 1935, after so much trouble folks had had in the strike, the wildcat strike, and the other, they just never did have the heart to organize 00:15:00again. So we never had a union in the mills in Newnan after that time. Just disorganized.

GEORGE STONEY: Great. Okay, now jumping almost 50 years later, 60 years later, can you tell about why you have the reunion and what it does.

DUNCAN: That East Newnan reunion?


DUNCAN: That they call it. I dont know theys just, we had that East Newnan Reunion, it started in, I dont know what year it started now, I cant recall. But anyhow the main purpose at that time, it wasnt for any organized labor or anything else, it was just an old acquaintance reunion. Something to try and draw the people who had been in East Newnan. We was a family in East Newnan for years and years, and they wanted to draw them back together cause that union, I mean labor (inaudible), it split people up and moved them off and they just wanted to draw the people back together. And see if we were still the same people, loved one another like we always did. And I 00:16:00think that they found that they did. I think most of them was loveable.

GEORGE STONEY: Okay I want you to do that again, a little, just smooth it our just a little bit. Cause this is so important for us.

DUNCAN: Yeah, ok.

HELFAND: And its the old acquaintance reunion.

GEORGE STONEY: Could you use the old acquaintance reunion?


GEORGE STONEY: Cause were using that.

DUNCAN: Okay, okay.

GEORGE STONEY: Okay, lets try it one more time.


GEORGE STONEY: Okay. Go ahead and just say we never had a union, but, actually it started 26 years ago wasnt it.

DUNCAN: Something like that, yeah.

GEORGE STONEY: Okay, but just say that 26 years ago we all decided to get back


GEORGE STONEY: Okay lets try, okay? Jamie? Okay.

DUNCAN: Okay in 19 andwhenever the union broke up in 1935 and the people begin to disperse and go to different places. And then later on somebody got the idea that we would have an old acquaintance reunion and that they sought about a place to find and a bunch of us that lived in Hogansville, Georgia we had a private club. Andwe give them permission to have that acquaintance reunion there. So thats where the old acquaintance reunion started. And they 00:17:00set out, they want to see if people still love one another like they did many years ago. And they found out that people hadnt changed much, although the trouble and hardships they went through actually draw us closer together. I think I never seen nothing, everybody enjoy that first old acquaintance reunion. It was mostly from people that had worked at Newnan at East Newnan Cotton Mill. And thats what it was for the old acquaintance reunion and it stood till 5 or 6 years ago when it finallywell its still going some. I mean at that particular place it stood 5 or 6 years ago and then that club was sold, and the moved it to (inaudible) Georgia.

GEORGE STONEY: Lets, Im sorry one more time.

[break in video]


DUNCAN: Whenever the old acquaintance reunion was formed back in the 30s some, anyhow it was several, 35 years ago something like that they was people that participated in all these strikes and things and they got together and decided that they wanted to bury the hatchet, and all get back and try to be friends like we used and see if they was. And that was the purpose, old 00:18:00acquaintance reunion. And they found a place in Hogansville, Georgia, it was a club and that give them privilege to have the meeting there. And for several years we had wonderful meetings and people did find they had forgot the past and realized we was living now and not in yesteryears. We living now and not living back years ago. And we found out that there wasnt any hardship, at, at least I didnt see any hard feelings on anybodys part, my very first reunion we had down there. So I think they re reunited and were still one people again.

GEORGE STONEY: Now in some places they gotten that feeling by nobody talking about the past


GEORGE STONEY: And there we found that people could talk about the past.


GEORGE STONEY: How do you feel about people hiding the past or talking frankly about the past.

DUNCAN: Well my first opinion about talking about anything in the past, I think if you air it thats the best thing you can do. Cause I dont think that 00:19:00anything that you bottle up in you its gonna get larger and larger and if you talk it out, even in a death you find that thats the best way out of it. And we found out that we wasnt mortal enemies, we were still friends regardless of the side we take in the strikes and things regardless.

GEORGE STONEY: Beautiful. Okay lets strike. Great, thats wonderful. Okay.

JAMIE STONEY: Hang on. Oops dont go

[break in video]

M1: (inaudible)

JAMIE STONEY: This is 92 Greenville which is a supervisors house.

M1: (inaudible)

GEORGE STONEY: Of uh, Mr. Freeman

JAMIE STONEY: Mr. Freeman. This is the house of Mr. Freeman who wont let you have mustaches.

GEORGE STONEY: President of the East Newnan and Newnan Cotton Mills.

JAMIE STONEY: President of the East Newnan Cotton Mill.


[break in video]

M1: Whos house is this George?

GEORGE STONEY: Joe Gibbs Arnold.


M1: This is Joe Gibbs Arnolds house in Newnan.

JAMIE STONEY: 199 Jackson Street. The side view beats the hell out of the front view.

[break in video]

JAMIE STONEY: This is the Ellis Penniston house. Number 80 Jackson Street Newnan Georgia.

[break in video]


JAMIE STONEY: This is an alternative shot of the house at number 80 Jefferson. Im sorry number 80 Jackson.

[break in video]


JAMIE STONEY: This is the A.W. Arnold house.

[break in video]


JAMIE STONEY: This is the R.A. Fields house at 37 College Street Newnan Georgia. Wanna do another mock commercial.

[break in video]