Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Wilson W. Wyatt, December 17, 1986

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:02 - Desegregation--His efforts as mayor

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Partial Transcript: We, uh, talked last time about your, uh, your years as mayor, and we're going to move on away from that, uh, today, but before we do, I wanted to follow up on just a, a few, uh, a few items, uh, regarding your years as mayor.

Segment Synopsis: Wyatt recalls his discomfort with the segregation he observed growing up in Louisville, Kentucky, and he describes his efforts against segregation during his term as mayor (1941-1945) such as in company boards, hotels, and the police force, explaining that the Second World War smoothed the way toward desegregation. He names the philosophies of Woodrow Wilson, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine as influences in his belief in the equality of all people regardless of race. He notes that he also pushed for fair salaries for women teachers.

Keywords: Desegregation; Hotels; Lyman T. Johnson; Police force; Second World War; Thomas Jefferson; Thomas Paine; Women's rights; Woodrow Wilson; World War II

Subjects: Race relations.; Racism.; Segregation.; World War, 1939-1945.

GPS: Louisville (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 38.250, -85.767
00:11:40 - Desegregation--Integration of the University of Louisville

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Partial Transcript: And of course at that time, we still had the, the Black, uh, municipal college in Louisville. University of Louisville, uh, was all white, and the municipal college was all Black.

Segment Synopsis: Wyatt discusses the integration of the University of Louisville with the Louisville Municipal College for Negroes. He explains that even after his term as mayor (1941-1945) segregation was still practiced in some businesses in Louisville. Racism was still strong in Kentucky, he says, as demonstrated by the general displeasure evoked by a Black man's loud proclamations of Wyatt's support of desegregation during his senatorial campaign in 1962.

Keywords: Colleges and universities; Louisville Municipal College for Negroes; Political campaigns; School desegregation

Subjects: Race relations.; Racism.; School integration.; Segregation.; University of Louisville

00:18:23 - Desegregation--Leaders in Louisville

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Partial Transcript: Uh, while we're about race relations, I, I wondered if you might comment on the individuals in Louisville, the Black leaders who you would most likely turn to in terms of, uh, those who were, uh, identifiable leaders in the Black community during the time that you were mayor.

Segment Synopsis: Wyatt discusses several leaders in the effort toward desegregation: Atwood Wilson, Rufus Clement, Charles Parrish, Charles Anderson, Lyman Johnson, and Earl Pruitt. He discusses efforts against segregation in the remodeling of Central High School and in the desegregation of the rationing board.

Keywords: Atwood S. Wilson; Central High School; Charles H. Parrish, Jr.; Charles W. Anderson, Jr.; Desegregation; Earl Pruitt; Lyman T. Johnson; Rufus Early Clement

Subjects: High schools.; Johnson, Lyman T., 1906-1997; Race relations.; Racism.; Segregation.

00:26:12 - Private utility companies

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Partial Transcript: Before we move on, uh, away from your time as, as mayor--and I, we are going to move on here pretty soon--um, we talked last time about the Louisville Area Development Association and how, how important that was and, and you mentioned in your book about that becoming--merging with some other organizations to become the Greater Louisville Chamber of Commerce.

Segment Synopsis: Wyatt discusses his efforts toward putting utilities under the control of the municipal government of Louisville, Kentucky, as well as his interactions with utility companies as a lawyer.

Keywords: Louisville Gas and Electric Company (LG&E); Taxes

Subjects: Practice of law.; Public utilities.; Taxation.

00:36:36 - The 1944 Democratic Convention

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Partial Transcript: The, uh, the two chapters in your book "The Great American Lottery" and, uh, "Washington Hot Seat" I thought were just, just wonderful, and I enjoyed them very much.

Segment Synopsis: Wyatt discusses his attendance of the 1944 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois, particularly the crisis after President Franklin D. Roosevelt named Harry Truman, rather than Alben Barkley, as his running mate for the 1944 presidential election. Wyatt notes that fellow Democrats Paul Porter, Leslie Biffle, and Lewis Schwellenbach were present.

Keywords: Alben W. Barkley; Bob Hannegan; Chicago (Ill.); Democratic Convention; Leslie Biffle; Lewis B. Schwellenbach; Paul A. Porter; Robert E. Hannegan

Subjects: Barkley, Alben William, 1877-1956.; Democratic National Convention; Democratic Party (Ky.); Politicians--Kentucky; Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945.

00:46:09 - Americans for Democratic Action

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Partial Transcript: It was, um, during this, uh, uh, 1944, 1945 period that, uh, you became involved in the formation of the ADA. Is that, is that about the right time period--

Segment Synopsis: Wyatt discusses the Americans for Democratic Action (ADA), an organization created in 1947, of which he was the first chairman, whose purpose was to ensure that New Deal policies remained in effect. He explains that in the administration of President Dwight Eisenhower, New Deal policies became permanent, lessening the need for such an organization.

Keywords: ADA; Democratic Party; Dwight D. Eisenhower; Franklin D. Roosevelt; Harry Truman

Subjects: Americans for Democratic Action.; New Deal, 1933-1939.; Truman, Harry, 1896-1980

00:51:43 - Post-war housing crisis--Other Kentucky politicians / pushing housing legislation

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Partial Transcript: Of course, uh, in the chapter Washington Hot Seat you talk about your appointment as Housing Expediter, which was in the Office of War Mobilization, and your subsequent appointment as Administrator of the National Housing Agency.

Segment Synopsis: Wyatt names other politicians from Kentucky serving in Washington D.C. when he worked there as Housing Expediter and then as Administrator of the National Housing Agency: Fred Vinson, Alben Barkley, Paul Porter, Ed Prichard, Wiley Rutledge, Stanley Reed, and Brent Spence. The reason, he adds, for this concentration of Kentucky politicians in Washington seems to have been simply coincidence. He discusses the hard work involved in dealing with the post-war housing crisis, both in planning legislation and in persuading such organizations as the National Association of Home Builders to support it.

Keywords: Alben W. Barkley; Brent Spence; Edward F. Prichard; Frank Courtright; Fred M. Vinson; Office of Price Administration (OPA); Paul A. Porter; Sam Rayburn; Stanley Forman Reed; Supreme Court; Wiley Blount Rutledge, Jr.

Subjects: National Association of Home Builders of the United States; Politicians--Kentucky; Spence, Brent, 1874-1967; United States. National Housing Agency

GPS: Washington (D.C.)
Map Coordinates: 38.905, -77.016
01:02:46 - Post-war housing crisis--An offer for Solicitor General / his differences with President Truman

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Partial Transcript: I was, uh, uh, curious, uh, about the, uh, the place in the book where you talk about, uh, uh, Tom Clark talking to you about the position of Solicitor General.

Segment Synopsis: Wyatt discusses his turning down the offer to fill the position of Solicitor General during his term as Administrator of the National Housing Agency. He discusses his differences with President Harry Truman on housing policy, and denies that any bad feeling existed between them, contrary to popular belief.

Keywords: Attorney General; Harry Truman; Second World War

Subjects: Truman, Harry, 1896-1980; United States. National Housing Agency; United States. Solicitor General.

01:12:59 - Impressions of Washington, D.C.

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Partial Transcript: In the year that you were in Washington, what, what impressed you, what made the lasting impressions on you in terms of the federal government or how Washington worked?

Segment Synopsis: Wyatt discusses the regular bureaucracy he found in Washington D.C., interrupted in times of emergency by extreme efficiency, such as in the post-war housing crisis.

Keywords: Internal Revenue Service (IRS); United States. National Housing Agency

Subjects: Bureaucracy.; Federal government.; Housing.; Internal revenue--United States.; Washington (D.C.)

01:17:21 - Leaving Washington, D.C.

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Partial Transcript: Did you consider at any point, uh, staying in Washington, going to some other, uh, area of government, or even setting up a, a private practice in Washington?

Segment Synopsis: Wyatt discusses his career options when he left Washington D.C. in 1947, explaining that he was offered a high position in the newly-created United Nations but because of financial constraints chose to return to Louisville, Kentucky to rebuild his law practice.

Keywords: Bank of America; Henry J. Kaiser; Lawrence Rockefeller; Nelson Rockefeller; W. Averell Harriman

Subjects: Housing.; Political parties.; Practice of law.; United Nations