Lonnie Morris Interview

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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00:00:00

GEORGE STONEY: OK, tell us the story about the man going to Alabama again.

M1: Oh, Im sorry, oh, [inaudible], sounds like its coming back.

LONNIE MORRIS: There was a man wanted this man to take him to Tallapoosa to see some of his people, said they was sick. He told him hed take him, and did, so he went on to near Heflin, Alabama, and come back and picked him up. This man he took, being a Good Samaritan to him, he come back and told the company that he got drunk. Which he was about thirty-five, forty miles beyond where he lived from there. Well, they fired him, and he stayed out of work about two months. And they found out that the man did lie about - well they put him back to work. And just such as that what you had to contend with then. And theres a 00:01:00- people just dont understand what people had to go through with then. Its unbeliev -- believable, to tell you the truth about it.

STONEY: How did you feel working under that kind of pressure?

MORRIS: I didnt like it. I didnt like it. I wasnt satisfied at all. Uh - now after I went to work at [Sargent?] - that was still textile - I loved it. The company was altogether different. The people was different. They would help you, they cared for you, they had feeling for you. And they were just altogether different. And you can work for a company like that, and work for the company and work with the company. I tried to make the company every dime I could, and be a good Samaritan about it. And tried to - didnt try to run 00:02:00over anybody.

STONEY: OK, all right. What [we are]?

[break in video]

MORRIS: I wish people would come forward today and explain to the young people, and tell the young people, what weve had to live through. Where they could understand and get more prepared for it for theyselves. I think that would be a great [tension?], to make them understand what it could lead up to if they dont stand up for their rights. And thats the reason Im glad to tell you all what I know about it and what Ive experienced about it.

STONEY: OK. We want to talk about Mutt Jones and Mr. Wilkins. Tell us about those fellows.

MORRIS: Well, Mutt Jones, he was just a farmer up here and how he got into it, I 00:03:00dont know. But anyway he got into this union business, him and Homer Welch, and Homer Welch like I said was from LaGrange They persuaded a lot of people into it. Which I -- I really believe, that they knowed it wasnt right. Like they was trying to organize. Anybody should have knowed that wasnt right from wouldnt stand up. Anybody should have knowed that. Looked like common knowledge would have taught them better than that.

STONEY: What do you think they did wrong?

MORRIS: Well, by - going and trying to shut plants down by locking them out of their own business and everything, thats just like men going to your house and lock your door and say you aint going in. (inaudible) And to me thatd be just about the same difference. And that was altogether wrong. And there they caused - it caused a lot of delay in shipment, it caused a lot of 00:04:00companies to lose a lot of stuff, and there just - that just was no there wasnt no sensible way to do it at all.

STONEY: Do you think there would have been a better way?

MORRIS: Sure. If theyd got organized and organized right and worked right, and went to the companies and worked with the company and explained to them and told them what they was going to do and they wanted to - to kind of come up to their demand. But no place for that. They just took all the power in their own hands.

STONEY: Do you think the company would have listened to any union man at that time?

MORRIS: I dont think so.

STONEY: But just say that, that I dont think that [anything?] --

MORRIS: No, I dont I dont think so, I dont think they would listen at them.

STONEY: Sorry, I dont think the company would listen

MORRIS: No. I dont think the company would listen at them. But still, to bet on the right track, they shoulda went to them and talked to them. To -- like they do up North. The companies and the union get together and sat down and talk 00:05:00it out. But they didnt do that here. Yep.

STONEY: You know what, talk about the union dues and what they charge you to sign up for.

MORRIS: That, now, I cant say, because I dont know. Id -- Id couldnt

STONEY: You never signed up.

MORRIS: Hmm mm. I couldnt tell you, because - I aint - I didnt [inaudible] dealing with

STONEY: Did you -- did you know about these people getting rounded up and taken to Fort McPherson?

MORRIS: Yeah. That happened up here at the old mill.

STONEY: But you were around at that time?

MORRIS: Yeah. I was down to East Newnan.

STONEY: OK. Could you -

MORRIS: that was probably - that was half of the same company I worked for.

STONEY: Could you just describe that?

MORRIS: Well, they said it -- they got -- everybody that was up there. They even got onlookers. Some of the merchants up in town was down there, going to see what happened. They carried them, then too. They carried everybody that they got down there, they carried them, locked them up. And I [know?] - some of them said they put them in the plain open place in Atlanta, I dont know what they 00:06:00done with them. They got a lot of people up there. And I was glad I wasnt up there. [chuckles] Yeah.

STONEY: Were any of your friends in the sweep?

MORRIS: No, not, not the people that I knowed. Because it was altogether a different place. And - there was some of them I knowed about, and knowed them when I seen them, but far as being close friends and everything, I - we wasnt that close.

STONEY: Did you go up there to see what was happening?

MORRIS: No, [maam? man?]. Oh. [laughs] No. I was as close as I wanted to be down to East Newnan. [laughs] No, I didnt go up there.

STONEY: Did you see any of the troops?

MORRIS: No, I didnt see any troops, because - see, theyd done come and happen while we was down there at East Newnan. Wed done gone to work -- back at work at East Newnan, and when this happened up there. Theyd done opened 00:07:00the gates, unlocked them -- broke the locks and let people back into work down there. And thats another reason that we wasnt up there. And we was devised not to go up there, too, because - they sent them word that they was going to send the National Guards down. They sent them word. But they didnt think it would, I dont guess. But they got fooled about it.

STONEY: Should we hold it?

M1: Yeah, lets go ahead and hold it, its probably going to get louder. [inaudible]

STONEY: The Sargent mill, explain, just to say - how you went from the Newnan from the East Newnan mill to the Sargent, tell me why.

MORRIS: Well, that was in wartime.

STONEY: But I mean - you -- when did you leave East Newnan?

MORRIS: I left East Newnan in forty - forty-three.

STONEY: I - so you were at East Newnan right the way through the thirties.

MORRIS: Yeah.

00:08:00

STONEY: I see. OK. Then no, I had that wrong then. OK. Now, were you ever - were you ever, ah, asked to leave that employ because of drinking?

MORRIS: Yeah. Mm hm.

STONEY: Could you tell us about that?

MORRIS: Well, one night there was a boy come and got into my front yard and was cussing and carrying on. And me and him liked to got into a fight, well somebody went and told it I was drunk. Well, they laid me off. And I went down to Grantville and went to work. And they wanted me to come back, and I went back up there and worked again. And I worked then till the war come up. They got talking about freezing people. Well, I wasnt fixing to be froze, at that place. So I went out in Alabama, on a farm, and stayed out there long enough, to where I 00:09:00could be loose. I come back to Sargent and went to work Friday. And thats where I stayed until I retired. And, like I said a while ago, Sargent Company was altogether a different company. A different command, different supervisors, it wasnt really no ways like East Newnan was run at all. And the company appreciated their help.

STONEY: Weve heard a lot of stories about Mr. Woods.

MORRIS: Well [chuckles] I just have to tell you, the most of stories-- if it was bad, it was true. Ill put it thataway. Because he didnt no respect for nobody. He didnt have no care for nobody. He was a hundred percent company man. And for - having any care for his help, he didnt have no care to no 00:10:00feeling, either one for them. Thats the best way I know to put him.

STONEY: And yet he was superintendent of the Sunday School.

MORRIS: Yeah. Mm hmm. Why he got it up in his head one time that he was going to make all his hands down at East Newnan go to church and Sunday School. But that didnt work. That -- people had other places to go. He wondered how come they wasnt in church, they had sick people that they -- they had somewhere they had to be. So that didnt work out. But he tried it.

STONEY: Could you talk about blacks in the mills at the time?

MORRIS: Well, at that time the only blacks that I knowed of that was in the mill was in the [opening?] room and the picker room. Thats about as far up as they went. The rest of it was white all the way up. But that opening room and picker room, they did have blacks then. But - I dont think, to those days, I dont think there were too many black wanted to work -- work in the mill, to 00:11:00tell you the truth about it. I dont think they wanted no part of it. And --

STONEY: Why?

MORRIS: Well, one thing I think was because they knowed it was a hard work. And they knowed how people, these here black people talked about, how hard it was. And I think that was the main thing. I dont think it was racist is what done that, I think it was just that hard labor that they didnt want to tackle with. Because back then, you never seen - you never seen a white man come around hunting a job.

STONEY: Now, weve got a document - you have the document- on the end - Washington. You want to show it to him?

MORRIS: You can show it to me, but I ca - I cant see it.

STONEY: Oh, I see. All right then, Judy --

JUDITH HELFAND: Yeah.

STONEY: I want you to show Mr.

[break in video]

STONEY - Judy --

HELFAND: Yes.

STONEY: You have to get closer to him.

M1: And speak loud.

00:12:00

STONEY: And speak loud.

HELFAND: OK.

STONEY: And -- you see how high you are?

HELFAND: Mm hm. Gotta drop down?

STONEY: You gotta drop down. Thats it. Thats fine.

M1: [inaudible] Thank you.

HELFAND: OK. Oh yeah.

MORRIS: You want a chair?

HELFAND: No, Im OK. OK. I was in the National Archive about a month or so ago and I looked under the heading of Newnan Cotton Mill -

STONEY: Hold it just a minute.

M1: Im rolling.

STONEY: I do

[break in video]

HELFAND: [Now?] -- ?

M1: Yes.

HELFAND: Fine. OK.

STONEY: [inaudible]

HELFAND: I was doing some --

STONEY: No. Call his name.

HELFAND: OK. OK. Lonnie, I was doing some research at the National Archive about a month ago, and I was looking in the section marked NRA Complaints and this was a section of materials that were gathered under the NRA program.

MORRIS: Mm hm.

HELFAND: And the way that it was organized was by mill company. And so, since I knew I was coming to Newnan, I was interested to see what kind of materials were in this archive, under Newnan Cotton Mills number one and number two. And one of 00:13:00the things that they found was that after this strike, a lot of the -- a lot of the union officials decided that they wanted to bring grievances against the companies -

MORRIS: Yeah.

HELFAND: On behalf of the -- the employees that had joined the union because they felt that theyd been discriminated against -

MORRIS: Mm hm.

HELFAND: And what I found was very interesting. I found -- first I found in, one section were a group of letters -- I didnt find any from Newnan unfortunately - that millworkers had written in 33 and 34 discussing a lot of the same things that you discussed --

MORRIS: Mm hm.

HELFAND: Talking about problems with the stretch-out --

MORRIS: Yeah.

HELFAND: -- that kind of thing.

MORRIS: Yeah.

HELFAND: And really describing the hardships that they were enduring. And why a lot of them were probably going to strike, or join the union. Another thing that I found was, later on after the strike, like I said, where these -

STONEY: Cut it.

HELFAND: Im sorry.

STONEY: We gotta start all over again [now?]

HELFAND: Too long.

[break in video]

HELFAND: [Airing?]

00:14:00

STONEY: Go.

HELFAND: OK. Lonnie. I was in - I was at the National Archive in Washington about a month ago, researching materials about the 1934 textile strike. And what I found in one section of the archive were mat - documents in a file called Newnan Cotton Mill which were materials that documented grievances that the local union here, the UTW in Newnan, brought up against the Newnan Cotton Mills after the strike on behalf of workers that had joined the union and whom they felt were distri - discriminated against and were not given their jobs back. And some were forced to evict. And what I found here, and one of the ways that I was able to locate you, was that I found that your brothers name was here.

MORRIS: Mm hm.

HELFAND: And I believe your sisters name. And Ill read it to you. It says Dear Mr. Coffey, and Mr. Coffey was the director of the Atlanta Regional Labor Board. It says, I wish to make a complaint of union discrimination in 00:15:00violation of Section 7A of the National Industrial Recovery Act against the Newnan Cotton Mill Number 2 in Newnan, Georgia. This company has refused to reinstate a large number of strikers and members of the union that were in the employ of that concern at the time of the strike. Many workers not members of the union, with less seniority than those refused employments, have been employed. Your prompt investigation of this complaint will be greatly applec - appreciated. Following are the names of some of the workers that have been refused employment and are victims of union discrimination. And listed here is [Dussy?] Morris, spinning room

MORRIS: Thats right. Yeah.

HELFAND: Whod been employed one year. And Oscar Morris, picker room

MORRIS: Yeah.

HELFAND: Whod been employed eighteenth months.

MORRIS: Mm hm.

HELFAND: And on another document, it says of these employees nine occupy houses in our removal. And their removal will also take the following members of their family

[break in video]

STONEY: IF youre watching Judy all the time -

MORRIS: Watching her. All right.

HELFAND: Is that hard?

00:16:00

MORRIS: No. Huh uh.

HELFAND: OK.

MORRIS: If I look at you, I have to turn and look at you.

M1: [talking through this exchange inaudible] Five.. Four three

HELFAND: OK.

MORRIS: Yeah, I dont have any side view.

HELFAND: OK. Well.

M1: Two one And go. [inaudible]

HELFAND: OK. I have two documents here, Lonnie. I have to start again.

M1: Start louder too, please. MUCH louder. [raises voice] MUCH LOUDER!

MORRIS: [chuckles]

HELFAND: [raises voice] HOWS THIS, [WICK?]

M1: OK, look at him when you say it.

HELFAND: HOWS THIS, [WICK?]

M1: Much better.

HELFAND: OK.

M1: Any time, shooting.

HELFAND: OK. Lonnie, I have two documents here from the National Archive in Washington that were drawn up by the local union here in Newnan in 1934, because they were trying to help some of the strikers who - mm, sorry.

M1: OK, take two, stand by please, [till?] roll. And action.

HELFAND: Lonnie, I have two documents here from the National Archive in Washington, which document the strike in 1934 that took place here in Newnan.

MORRIS: Mm hm.

HELFAND: And it lists a number of the people, the strikers, who really had a hard time afterwards. And these documents were drawn up by the local union here, 00:17:00the UTW, who were trying to help some of those strikers.

MORRIS: Mm hm.

HELFAND: And this first document I have is October 2nd, 1934, which is just about a week and a half after the strike was called off. And the second document is a document that is dated April 15th, 1935, and this document was written f - Im sorry.

[break in video]

STONEY: [Ten?] [inaudible]

M1: Stand by, please. And

[break in video]

M1: Rolling.

HELFAND: OK. Lonnie, I have two documents here. And both of them have your name on it, your brothers name, your sisters name, and members ofyour brothers family. One is dated October 2nd, 1934 -

STONEY: Cut. Start again.

[break in video]

HELFAND: OK.

M2: Take Uh, whatever.

HELFAND: Six. OK. Lonnie, I have two documents here from the National Archive in Washington, DC, and both of them have your name on it, your brothers name on it, your sisters name on it, and members of your brothers family. This 00:18:00document was was drawn up by the union local here. Just a week after the strike took -- was finished. And it reads: I wish to make a complaint of union discrimination in violation of Section 7A of the National Industrial Industrial Recovery Act against the Newnan Cotton Mill Number 2 in Newnan, Georgia. This company has refused to reinstate a large number of strikers and members of the union that were in the employ for that concern at the time of the strike. Many workers, not members of the union with less seniority than those refused employment, have been employed. Now this is dated October 2nd, 1934, and it goes on on April 15th, 1934 - 5 - as part of, um, a suit that was brought against the company. It goes on to say that this original complaint under date of October 2nd, 1934, was submitted to the Atlanta Regional Labor Board by S. A. Hollahan, Director, Textile Strike Headquarters, in Atlanta, 00:19:00Georgia. And it lists twenty-three complainants here. It says that prior to the strike, oh - it says that on that - oh.

M2: Keep on going. [inaudible]

HELFAND: It says that on November 13th, 1934, Mr. R. H. Freeman, president of the mill, stated that the list of twenty-nine complainants, twenty would not be rehired because of lawlessness when the flying squadron interfered with the operation of the mill. And - a number of - un as in - a number some of these twenty are Oscar Morris, who I believe is -

MORRIS: My brother.

HELFAND: And another one whos mentioned here is [Dussy?] Morris.

MORRIS: Thats my sister. Now Oscar Morris, it mentioned his family.

HELFAND: Well

MORRIS: He didnt have any family!

HELFAND: Well, it says of the above employees, nine occupy houses in the village, and their removal will also take Dussy Morris -

MORRIS: Yeah, that was my sister [now?] --

00:20:00

HELFAND: -- Lloyd Morris

MORRIS: Thats my brother.

HELFAND: Mary Morris

MORRIS: Mary Morris?

HELFAND: Marie Morris?

MORRIS: Marie Morris. That was my niece.

HELFAND: And Mariah Otwell.

MORRIS: I dont know that.

HELFAND: Well, Im wondering why your - what how - why your brother and your sisters are listed here.

MORRIS: Thats what I cant understand. And -- and why Im listed there. I cant understand that. Now my sister, the reason she was laid off, after the strike and everything - she went back to work. And they put that stretch-out on. She couldnt keep up. She couldnt run her job. Hold her job down. And thats why they laid her off. She wasnt in the union. [chuckles] She didnt have no part with the union. Thats what I cant understand about that. That

HELFAND: And what about Oscar?

[break in video]

STONEY: [inaudible] Ten seconds.

M1: Ten, nine --

HELFAND: Someones talking in the background.

00:21:00

M2: Its television or radio or something.

M1: No, its [inaudible peoples family?]

M2: Eight, nine, ten. Stand by, please. Quiet, please!

M1: And action.

HELFAND: Well, listed in these names, one is Oscar Morris.

MORRIS: Thats my brother.

HELFAND: And Marie Morris.

MORRIS: Niece.

HELFAND: And Dussy Morris.

MORRIS: Sister. -- There wasnt any of these in the union. Thats what I cant understand. Cant understand that. I dont know how that come about. Or how it got in an archives, either. [chuckles] Like that. Because thats - because - now Oscar, my brother, he worked on - he worked there several year after the strike. See, this went part of the time, theyd run 00:22:00full time maybe a week full-time, you might go three months and getting one day a week. I had worked on four-hour shifts down there. And that right there, I cant understand it. Cant understand that. And Lloyd - Lloyd didnt - he didnt have a thing to do with it, no way at all. No way. I cant - I really cant understand that. Because somebody done some filing that was using names I think it wasnt supposed to be used. And I worked there till in the 40s, in the 40s, thats when you know, during the war, that got talking about freezing people. Thats when I left. I left on my own, too. [chuckles] Company didnt have nothing to do with it. Theyd tried -- tried to get me to stay on. But thats what I really cant I 00:23:00really thats something new to me, right there.

HELFAND: What was your brother doing during this period of time? I mean, during the strike, what was your brother doing?

MORRIS: He went to Alabama. And he stayed out there, with brother-in-law, helped him on the farm, fiddle around. And theres when everybody was out of work, they had to go somewhere, pick a job. And thats thats what hed do. And Lloyd, my other brother, he never did go anywhere. He stayed on there -- through he went into service -- he went into service, he come back, and he stayed there till the mill shut completely down. He was there when it shut down. And then he went to American Thread.

STONEY: And Judy, do we have an answer from the mill company itself?

00:24:00

HELFAND: We dont. I mean, what I - what I know is, that these were drawn up as part of a lawsuit and a hearing that was brought against the mill company in April and May, of that period of time. And apparently, some of these folks were evicted. Now, it says here, that your brother was going to be evicted from his home. Did that happen?

MORRIS: No, my brother Oscar, the one that youre talking about there, he lived with my daddy. At that time. He didnt even have no house. He was just staying there with my daddy at that time. See, my brothers were all bachelors. And all that you get -- theres something I cant explain, because I dont know anything about it.

STONEY: Do we have any statement from the company? About that?

00:25:00

HELFAND Well [sound of her flipping through materials off camera]

STONEY: Theres a reply from the company, isnt there --

HELFAND: Well - basic -

STONEY: Just give us a moment to get it.

[break in video]

MORRIS: -- drawer. Sooner than using peoples names.

STONEY: OK. Just a moment - lets find out what the company said. Because theres a response from the company there.

[break in video]

STONEY: Elmer Brooks.

MORRIS: Yeah.

STONEY: OK. What you have here - uh, we have the people who they - the decision - uh - of the government was that the mill was to put these people back to work. So its implied that there were out of employment. Uh - see if any of his relatives are on either one of these lists.

HELFAND: OK.

STONEY: See, these - following above group are NOT - listed along with any of the above group who are NOT eligible for immediate reinstatement. 00:26:00The list includes the following - see if the -- any of those are --

HELFAND: OK. All thirty complainants this is - OK. All eligible for immediate reinstatement in positions which have been filled since September 24th and for which they are qualified the Bishops, Spazwell, the Brookses, Shandler, Phillips, Roberts, Slayton, Spratlin and Arrington, but - that thats thats all. Your family doesnt seem to be listed here as people that were eligible to go back to work.

STONEY: Ok. Now. See if the -- his familys listed in any other

HELFAND: Well, the other is for Mill Number One and they were at Mill Number Two.

STONEY: I see. Yeah.

HELFAND: So -

STONEY: OK. Shall we roll?

[break in video]

HELFAND: We dont know it doesnt I dont have any documentation on what happened to your family after the strike, except that they were, according to these documents, fired and were going to be evicted from their 00:27:00home. So what happened to Oscar and Dussy and Marie?

MORRIS: Well, Marie married, and she lived on there for I reckon she was still working there when the mill shut down. Now that was my niece. And - Oscar. Lord, I dont know how many times he would quit, went back quit, went back - but he -- they wasnt fired. Thats - that is what I cant understand, right there. I really cant. But I will say this much. As far as that union, that union would do anything. I guess you think Im bearing down on the union. But it was [undemanding?], all the way around. It could have 00:28:00been that they was trying to draw up a suit and just drawing up names to - verify it or something. That I dont know. I cant say about that because I I just dont understand it.

HELFAND: Now. Underneath these names it says, of the above employ - employees, underneath where it ways that your brother Oscar - um - and where your brother Oscar was fired because of his lawless - lawlessness when the flying squadrons interfered with the operation with the mill - underneath that it says of the above employees, nine occupy houses in the village and their removal will also take Dussy Morris, Lloyd Morris, Marie Morris, and Mariah Otwell. And it goes on: Of the remaining complainants, Lonnie Morris -- was fired for drunkness some three months before the check - strike.

MORRIS: That was what I was telling you about. About the feller --- Now, 00:29:00thats right. That parts right. Thats true. But that union business [chuckles], that is altogether wrong. That - I - I cant understand it, really.

HELFAND: Now - they its - it -- the union is saying that these people are being discriminated against by - you know, the union is saying that the company is discriminating against these folks.

MORRIS: Yeah. Thats - uh. I understand that part. But what I dont understand is, we didnt get fired. And its - went in the archives like that. Maybe yall can help them out with that. Because thats as new to me as it is to yall. Because its really something. And my daddy, he was the one that rented the house, when we moved there. It was in his name. And my daddy 00:30:00lived there in that one house till Rosa Lee. That was a - oh, Im sorry. Rosa Lee.

M2: Cut. We need to change tapes. Sorry.