Lonnie Morris Interview

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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GEORGE STONEY: OK, tell us the story about the man going to Alabama again.

M1: Oh, I’m sorry, oh, [inaudible], sounds like it’s 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 he’d 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 there’s a 1:00–- people just don’t understand what people had to go through with then. It’s unbeliev -- believable, to tell you the truth about it.

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

MORRIS: I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it. I wasn’t 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 -– didn’t try to run 2:00over 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 we’ve 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 don’t stand up for their rights. And that’s the reason I’m glad to tell you all what I know about it and what I’ve 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 3:00don’t 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 wasn’t right. Like they was trying to organize. Anybody should have knowed that wasn’t right from wouldn’t 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, that’s just like men going to your house and lock your door and say “you ain’t going in.” (inaudible) And to me that’d 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 4:00companies to lose a lot of stuff, and there just -– that just was no – there wasn’t no sensible way to do it at all.

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

MORRIS: Sure. If they’d 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 don’t think so.

STONEY: But just say that, that “I don’t think that [anything?] --”

MORRIS: No, I don’t – I don’t think so, I don’t think they would listen at them.

STONEY: Sorry, “I don’t think the company would listen –“

MORRIS: No. I don’t 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 5:00it out. But they didn’t 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 can’t say, because I don’t know. I’d -- I’d couldn’t –

STONEY: You never signed up.

MORRIS: Hmm mm. I couldn’t tell you, because -– I ain’t –- I didn’t [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 don’t know what they 6:00done with them. They got a lot of people up there. And I was glad I wasn’t 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 wasn’t that close.

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

MORRIS: No, [ma’am? man?]. Oh. [laughs] No. I was as close as I wanted to be down to East Newnan. [laughs] No, I didn’t go up there.

STONEY: Did you see any of the troops?

MORRIS: No, I didn’t see any troops, because -– see, they’d done come and happen while we was down there at East Newnan. We’d done gone to work -- back at work at East Newnan, and when this happened up there. They’d done opened 7:00the gates, unlocked them -- broke the locks and let people back into work down there. And that’s another reason that we wasn’t 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 didn’t think it would, I don’t guess. But they got fooled about it.

STONEY: Should we hold it?

M1: Yeah, let’s go ahead and hold it, it’s 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.

8:00

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 wasn’t 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 9:00could be loose. I come back to Sargent and went to work Friday. And that’s 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 wasn’t really no ways like East Newnan was run at all. And the company appreciated their help.

STONEY: We’ve 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. I’ll put it thataway. Because he didn’t no respect for nobody. He didn’t have no care for nobody. He was a hundred percent company man. And for -– having any care for his help, he didn’t have no care to no 10:00feeling, either one for them. That’s 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 didn’t work. That -- people had other places to go. He wondered how come they wasn’t in church, they had sick people that – they -- they had somewhere they had to be. So that didn’t 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. That’s 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 don’t think, to those days, I don’t think there were too many black wanted to work -- work in the mill, to 11:00tell you the truth about it. I don’t 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 don’t think it was racist is what done that, I think it was just that hard labor that they didn’t want to tackle with. Because back then, you never seen -– you never seen a white man come around hunting a job.

STONEY: Now, we’ve 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 can’t 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.

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. That’s it. That’s fine.

M1: [inaudible] Thank you.

HELFAND: OK. Oh yeah.

MORRIS: You want a chair?

HELFAND: No, I’m 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: I’m 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 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 they’d 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 didn’t 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: I’m sorry.

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

HELFAND: Too long.

[break in video]

HELFAND: [Airing?]

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 brother’s name was here.

MORRIS: Mm hm.

HELFAND: And I believe your sister’s name. And I’ll 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 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: That’s right. Yeah.

HELFAND: Who’d been employed one year. And Oscar Morris, picker room –

MORRIS: Yeah.

HELFAND: Who’d 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 you’re watching Judy all the time –-

MORRIS: Watching her. All right.

HELFAND: Is that hard?

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 don’t 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] HOW’S THIS, [WICK?]

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

HELFAND: HOW’S 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, 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 –- I’m 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 brother’s name, your sister’s name, and members of your brother’s 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 brother’s name on it, your sister’s name on it, and members of your brother’s family. This 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, 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 who’s mentioned here is [Dussy?] Morris.

MORRIS: That’s my sister. Now Oscar Morris, it mentioned his family.

HELFAND: Well –

MORRIS: He didn’t 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?] --

20:00

HELFAND: -- Lloyd Morris –

MORRIS: That’s my brother.

HELFAND: Mary Morris –

MORRIS: Mary Morris?

HELFAND: Marie Morris?

MORRIS: Marie Morris. That was my niece.

HELFAND: And Mariah Otwell.

MORRIS: I don’t know that.

HELFAND: Well, I’m wondering why your –- what – how –- why your brother and your sisters are listed here.

MORRIS: That’s what I can’t understand. And -- and why I’m listed there. I can’t 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 couldn’t keep up. She couldn’t run her job. Hold her job down. And that’s why they laid her off. She wasn’t in the union. [chuckles] She didn’t have no part with the union. That’s what I can’t understand about that. That –

HELFAND: And what about Oscar?

[break in video]

STONEY: [inaudible] Ten seconds.

M1: Ten, nine --

HELFAND: Someone’s talking in the background.

21:00

M2: It’s television or radio or something.

M1: No, it’s – [inaudible – people’s family?]

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

M1: And action.

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

MORRIS: That’s my brother.

HELFAND: And Marie Morris.

MORRIS: Niece.

HELFAND: And Dussy Morris.

MORRIS: Sister. -- There wasn’t any of these in the union. That’s what I can’t understand. Can’t understand that. I don’t know how that come about. Or how it got in an archives, either. [chuckles] Like that. Because that’s -– because -– now Oscar, my brother, he worked on -– he worked there several year after the strike. See, this went part of the time, they’d run 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 can’t understand it. Can’t understand that. And Lloyd –- Lloyd didn’t -– he didn’t have a thing to do with it, no way at all. No way. I can’t -– I really can’t understand that. Because – somebody done some filing that was using names – I think it wasn’t supposed to be used. And I worked there till – in the 40s, in the 40s, that’s when – you know, during the war, that got talking about freezing people. That’s when I left. I left on my own, too. [chuckles] Company didn’t have nothing to do with it. They’d tried -- tried to get me to stay on. But – that’s what I really can’t – I 23:00really – that’s 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 – there’s – when everybody was out of work, they had to go somewhere, pick a job. And that’s – that’s what he’d 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?

24:00

HELFAND: We don’t. 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 you’re talking about there, he lived with my daddy. At that time. He didn’t 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 -- there’s something I can’t explain, because I don’t know anything about it.

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

25:00

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

STONEY: There’s a reply from the company, isn’t there --

HELFAND: Well –- basic –-

STONEY: Just give us a moment to get it.

[break in video]

MORRIS: -- drawer. Sooner than using people’s names.

STONEY: OK. Just a moment –- let’s find out what the company said. Because there’s 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 it’s 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. 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 – that’s – that’s all. Your family doesn’t seem to be listed here as people that were eligible to go back to work.

STONEY: Ok. Now. See if the -- his family’s 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 don’t know – it doesn’t – I don’t 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 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 don’t know how many times – he would quit, went back, quit, went back -– but he -- they wasn’t fired. That’s –- that is what I can’t understand, right there. I really can’t. But I will say this much. As far as that union, that union would do anything. I guess you think I’m bearing down on the union. But it was [undemanding?], all the way around. It could have 28:00been that they was trying to draw up a suit and just drawing up names to –- verify it or something. That I don’t know. I can’t say about that because I – I just don’t 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, 29:00that’s right. That part’s right. That’s true. But that union business [chuckles], that is altogether wrong. That -– I -– I can’t understand it, really.

HELFAND: Now –- they – it’s -– 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. That’s –- uh. I understand that part. But what I don’t understand is, we didn’t get fired. And it’s -– went in the archives like that. Maybe y’all can help them out with that. Because that’s as new to me as it is to y’all. Because it’s 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 30:00lived there in that one house till Rosa Lee. That was a –- oh, I’m sorry. Rosa Lee.

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