Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Andrew Wade, November 8, 1989

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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FOSL: --November the 8th, 1989. In Louisville. Okay, um, now I think some of this might be a little redundant for you so I'll try not to, you know, go into it too much, but, um, wh-, what did you think was gonna happen when you first started this whole thing?

WADE: I really felt that I would end up buying the house of my choice. That was the basis of the whole thing. But too many, um, individuals and realtors, legal advisors and whatnot had, had advised me that I should buy where I was designated to buy. And after looking around, and I did look around quite extensively--I became very much, um, dissatisfied with, uh, what I had seen. And I wanted to buy a house 00:01:00that I wanted to buy--

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: --I would see a house that I liked, then it occurred to me that this was in a forbidden area. And I said, "This doesn't make any sense." I served in the services, and, um, felt highly, uh, right in trying to buy what I wanted to buy with my own money.

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: I wasn't begging. I was ready to buy, so, uh, why not get what I want? And I saw that there's a, a wall built that I'm not supposed to penetrate right in this own, my own country. Then I'm gonna penetrate the wall and get what I want. So, I really felt that there would be a repercussion that had to object to me coming in on the, uh, forbidden 00:02:00area.

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: But I figured right would prevail, and I would end up with what I wanted.

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: And then after these experiences, and all, there came a time when I thought that may never be. Made me more determined.

FOSL: Well, uh, in terms of the--(clears throat)--neighborhood reaction, did that--you hadn't expected that much--

WADE: No--

FOSL: --response.

WADE: --it happened that the builder that dev-, developed, uh, that area, um, he lived right in the same neighborhood.

FOSL: Right.

WADE: So, I talked to the builder's son, and I told him that, uh, he should have no objection to me moving in. That, uh--he was a young fellow and he had a future ahead of him, and, uh, how could he live 00:03:00in a democratic kind of, uh, a society and, and aid or abet such a conspiracy to keep me out of the neighborhood. I just tried to shame him out of it. But that didn't work.

FOSL: What did he--what did he actually say or do?

WADE: He said, "I'll talk to my dad." And his dad was very much worse than him. And his dad wouldn't listen to reason at all.

FOSL: And yet it was in that son's yard that the cross burned? Right? Or was it--

WADE: No, it was in a, in an adjacent lot to where I was, but, uh--

FOSL: Owned by them?

WADE: --uh, perhaps they, they hadn't built, uh, a piece of property on it.

FOSL: I see.

WADE: So, they may still have owned it. But, um, I remember one day, one or two days after it was discovered that I was black, um, a little kid came up--a white kid came across the street with one of the builder's grandchildren and walked into my property. And the mother-- 00:04:00(Fosl clears throat)--of the builder came over and grabbed the child by the arm, by the wrist--just drug the child all the way across the road back to the ------------(??) just a cussin her, and just ----------(??) so that let me know there was an extreme amount of antagonism.

FOSL: Hmm. (pause) Um--

[Pause in recording.]

FOSL: Okay, about after it all kind of came down--(clears throat)--and the conspiracy thing started, and Hamilton was after you people. Or he--actually, he was after--I mean, did you ever feel that Hamilton was after you?

WADE: Oh, yes. Yes, definitely. Some of his, uh, vague, uh, questions that let me know that were, had I ever been in the, had I ever tried 00:05:00to pass for white or anything? And I told him I never passed for anything. I just pass for what I am, and if someone mistakes me for something else, that's their problem. Uh, and he asked me, uh, so many questions about the possibility of my being involved with, uh, the Communist Party. And, uh, questioned the fact that I did belong to the Wallace Progressive Party and, uh, therefore must be a communist. So, I told him about the young lady, who was incidentally white, that, uh, belonged to the Progressive Party right along with me. I said, "She, 00:06:00uh, was one of the best workers in the group." And, um, she was Mark Ethridge's daughter. Mark Ethridge--

FOSL: Hmm. Right.

WADE: --was the publisher of the newspaper. Locally. I said, "If she was dumb enough to be duped, then we were both dumb."

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: Nobody complained about her belonging to it, why bother about me?

FOSL: Had you still been with the Progressive Party during that time in, say, about '49 and '50 when it began to be fairly seriously red-baited- -or it might have been later, '51, '52--when it began to be red-baited by, uh, in the papers, and that sort of thing, as well?

WADE: The last time that I was associated with it directly was, uh, when Wallace was running for president.


WADE: Henry Wallace.

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: And, uh, after that election time was over, I got told by them- 00:07:00-told that I was quitting. (Fosl clears throat) And I actually quit eleven organizations that same night.

FOSL: Oh, you did? (laughs) Why--

WADE: Yeah.

FOSL: --was that?

WADE: Well, I belonged to too many organizations, and it was becoming ----------(??). It was more than I could stand still going to school, so I just quit all of 'em the same night.

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: 'Cause I, I don't wanna be-, belong to any organization. That was before I bought the property.

FOSL: Oh. Let me just check something.

[Pause in recording.]

FOSL: Will you tell me what you recall of, uh, Carl and Anne? You know, again, you, you mention that a little bit. But just a little bit of, you know, why you chose them, and what were your initial impressions with them and your dealings with them? What kind of reputation did they have? You know, that sort of thing.

WADE: In the community, they had always been running as staunch, uh, 00:08:00fighters for civil rights and, uh, better conditions for any group of people. So, naturally, I thought of them as, um, someone who I could rely on to not be afraid. Since these other people that I had confronted just came out point blank and said that they were afraid. One of the men was, um, a restaurant owner and his wife was a school teacher.

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: And they just were fearful, obviously, of, uh, getting involved.

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: So, that drew me to Anne and Carl. I didn't even know where to find them. Because of--my only contact with them had been mostly--

FOSL: (coughs) Excuse me.

WADE: --in an organization that worked with the Progressive Party. So, I had to ask around as to where he might be, where he would be living.


FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: And someone told me down on Virginia Avenue. First I went to 15th and Ormsby where he used to live.

FOSL: Right. Um--

WADE: And, um, then when I found him, it was construed later by the Commonwealth that I knew where they lived all the time. But I didn't. I didn't even know where to find them.

FOSL: Hmm.

WADE: Didn't even look in the telephone book. I didn't think they would have a, a listed number.

FOSL: But they did, I think--

WADE: Yeah.

FOSL: --at that time.

WADE: Yeah.

FOSL: My. And then--okay, so what were your, uh--how did you find your initial dealings with them? Or your dealings with them all through the thing. I mean, obviously, it was a fairly explosive thing that happened, and, a--

WADE: Yeah.

FOSL: --and a difficult time for all of you.

WADE: I saw the time which was a few nights after we had been known to have bought the property--I saw a mob of people, uh, over his house and intimidate him. Including the builder and the realtor that sold the 00:10:00property and everything.

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: And, uh, Carl never, uh, faulted one inch, was very, very determined all the way. So, I never had any reason to question their, uh, loyalty--

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: --toward this.

FOSL: And what about Anne? Do you recall--

WADE: Anne--(Fosl clears throat)--the very same thing. No, no question at all.

FOSL: What was Anne like back then as compared to what she's like today?

WADE: Hmm--I don't really know because, as I said, I had known of them in organizations--

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: --but in, in the--and she was well-spoken in organizational work. But as far as, uh, otherwise I knew her son and daughter.

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: I learned to me-, to meet each of her children and everything but I never did know anything real close about her.

FOSL: I see what you're saying.

WADE: I would go to the house and I'd sit down and talk--we would talk mostly along the lines of what the dockets were on my case.


FOSL: Right.

WADE: So, I didn't really know too much about them other than the fact that they were known as, uh, very sincere, uh, civil rights advocates.

FOSL: And then, um, tell me some of your impressions of the prosecutor. I mean, Anne has some pretty strong, uh--

WADE: Is this Scott Hamilton?

FOSL: Yeah.

WADE: I believe Scott Hamilton was behind Jim Chris (??)--those that, uh, helped him get in office. And I think he was sincere in trying to, uh, do whatever he could to gain that objective.

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: And, uh, I don't think he cared too much who he hurt when doing it because, uh, I think he was convinced at one time that I was, uh, not as guilty as he might think in any respect. And, um, he talked pretty 00:12:00decent to me on many occasions.

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: But basically when he got it into, with the press and whatnot, he would release any kind of statement that would damage me. He didn't give a darn, I don't think, for anybody involved on our side.

FOSL: Do you think he really believed this conspiracy theory?

WADE: I don't think he could've been that stupid. But I do know that he was willing to take that chance in order to gain his objective. I think it all had to do with political as-, aspirations.

FOSL: Um-hm. Um, okay, and, and how did you feel when you were not indicted? I mean, obviously, on the one hand, you could be relieved that you weren't facing the same charges as they. And yet, you know, there was another level of racism in that. In that, you know, it was like you would have been this complacent black if it hadn't been for these radical troublemakers, white--stirring you, you know, stirring up 00:13:00people in the black community. What, what was your response to that?

WADE: I thought it was, uh, an indication that justice could prevail. But I couldn't really believe it firmly because at the same time that they didn't bother me, they actually threw Carl Braden into the penitentiary. They're stupid. And, uh, charging him with sedition. Such a, a, an unused, uh, legal weapon. And then the courts just threw it out. They had me charged at one time with a breach of peace 'cause I, um, objected to the police, uh, car standing around in front of my house and supposedly guarding my place. And, uh, things happen, and they don't see anything.

FOSL: Right.

WADE: You know? So, I said they--I have to have guards myself to watch 00:14:00the police.

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: To help protect me. I couldn't allow them--

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: So, I couldn't--

FOSL: Did you ever meet this fellow Millard Grubbs?

WADE: Yep.

FOSL: (clears throat) Tell me a little bit about him.

WADE: Millard Grubbs was a known antagonist, and, uh, he was dedicated to the community out there. And, uh, he knew that the ministers would even back him in that area, in their, uh, anxieties to put their ------ ----(??) as it has been--

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: --uh, lined up.

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: They were--they had it all figured that Shively should be in an all-white community.

FOSL: Right

WADE: And anything they could do keep it that way, that, that was their objective.

FOSL: That was another question I had. Did you realize at the time that Shively was like a primary place for whites to go to escape desegregation?

WADE: No, but I knew that--(Fosl clears throat)--it was designed by the realtors because I bought a place, uh, on, uh, Kramer's Lane.


FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: And I, I, I got a, a lawyer to certify my action, uh, who was Alfred Carroll at that time--

FOSL: Oh, yeah. I just met with his partner--his former partner yesterday.

WADE: Right. Well, Alfred Carroll advised me all the way down the line that I had a legal right to do what I was doing, so I made a, a down payment on this property on Kramer's Lane. This was before I bought the--

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: ----------(??). And the next day, a--the realtor called me and, um--I can't think of his name right now, but he was just like the other realtors.

FOSL: Right.

WADE: He called me and begged me to take the money back. And, uh, and, uh--let him call the deal off. So, Alfred Carroll told me under the circumstances that, uh, it would be better if I do that.

FOSL: Hmm.


WADE: So, I accepted the two, or three, or four--I mean, I think I gave him four hundred down on it. Then I went on and took the four hundred back and let them off the hook.

FOSL: Oh, and that--why do you think he gave you that advice? Do you think that was good advice, or?

WADE: Well, he said that, uh, the man, that the man didn't know who I was when he bought--when he took the money. I said, "But he was looking right at me."

FOSL: Right.

WADE: He said he thought you were Mexican, Spanish--

FOSL: Yeah, right.

WADE: --or something. I said, "Well, that's his problem." I said, " I don't go around telling people who I am ----------(??)." But somehow I just, uh, went on and did it. (Fosl clears throat) And this made me more determined the next time that I would buy--I would be buying in that same neighborhood. That's where I bought.

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: Right in the same area. So, when I, uh, went into the wrong color (??) deal, I had already tried Kramer's Lane.

FOSL: So you knew there was some community sentiment against you?

WADE: That's right. This made me more determined.


FOSL: Hmm.

WADE: I felt that I had a justification for doing everything I was doing. And a black, uh, treasurer of the Mammoth Insurance Company advised me to, uh, buy the place, and then they would guarantee the mortgage--you know, to take over the mortgage. Because the, the outfit, uh, the outfit that we bought it through was getting ready to foreclose on the--

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: --property. So, I guess you heard about Eric Tachau?

FOSL: Tell me--Anne told me a little bit about him, but why don't you tell me--

WADE: Yeah.

FOSL: --too.

WADE: Uh, the insurance company--the first action against the--of my ownership of the property was the insurance company cancelled the, the policy.

FOSL: Hmm.

WADE: So, uh, we tried several insurance companies and they refused to take it because it as a hot potato.

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: So, uh, Eric Tachau voluntarily came out and, uh, he, he ran an 00:18:00insurance company, and it has then, the insurance companies have been running through his family all his life. And he said he was definitely going, uh, going to insure it. And he made a public statement in the newspaper that he was doing it because of the basic right that I had--

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: --to the property, and that he felt obligated as a, an insurer--

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: --to give me a policy.

FOSL: So, it sounds like he'd be someone that'd be worth interviewing, too.

WADE: Oh, yeah.

FOSL: He probably took some flak for that.

WADE: Marvelous guy, yeah. Yeah.

FOSL: Do you still know him today?

WADE: Yes, I--in fact a couple of weeks ago he called me by mistake to do a little electrical job for the First Unitarian Church. And, um, I, I, and I called him and he said, "Wade, I found out that I had called the wrong Wade. It's another electrician." Said, "But thirty years ago when I dealt with you, um, your name just came to me so predominantly that I called your number."

FOSL: Huh.

WADE: So, we talked, and he, uh--well, I, I appre-, uh, I told him how 00:19:00much I appreciated what he did again, which I had told him ninety times.

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: Yeah. So, he's a good guy.

FOSL: Huh. Now, there was--that brought to mind another question I had. Oh--this incident that Anne describes in The Wall Between like sort of a, a moment of, you know, disunity between you and them. How do you recall that period?

WADE: Uh, the, the nearest I can say is that I made a statement, uh, to the commonwealth attorney, Scott Hamilton, that if Carl and Anne Braden work on this, then I think it was mighty dumb of Courier-Journal to have worked Carl for about eight years as a, as a proofreader. And they didn't have sense enough to see it. And then I thought it was very stupid also for them to, uh, think that if I was drowning, and if 00:20:00I had thought that Carl was a Communist and I could see him pulling me out of the water--

FOSL: Yeah.

WADE: --I wouldn't refuse their help. Yeah.

FOSL: So in a way--

WADE: I wouldn't.

FOSL: -- it didn't really matter to you.

WADE: Nah--no, no, it didn't matter at all.

FOSL: What was your opinion--

WADE: But--

FOSL: --of it?

WADE: Well, my opinion was--just when Carl told me long ago before we, uh, had the really scream troubles--he said, "I am a left Socialist."

FOSL: Right.

WADE: Now, he admits that. He said, "That's it." I said, "Now, if a left Socialist is a Communist, then that's his right."

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: I have a right to mine, and he has a right to his.

FOSL: Um--

WADE: And I told the communists--I told -- I learned more about communism after the purchase of that house than I ever knew in my life. So, they educated me.

FOSL: Um-hm. (Wade laughs) Um-hm. And had you known Vern Bown before that? Or--how did he come--


WADE: Um--

FOSL: --into the picture?

WADE: --I didn't know him, but, um, I did let him stay in my house for some time, uh, for a matter of convenience because he served as a guard among many more black and whites. And, uh, he, uh, he was just--they just grabbed him out of the dark blue sky and said he blew the house up.

FOSL: Right.

WADE: I don't think any evidence pointed to the fact. So, I saw him, uh, recently about a couple a months ago. He was in Louisville.

FOSL: For that reunion?

WADE: First time I had seen him, yeah. Yeah. Didn't hardly recognize him. (laughs)

FOSL: Yeah, well, you know, that's my, uh--

[Pause in recording.]

FOSL: How do you feel today about what you did, and what, what happened to you and the Bradens? You talked a little bit about this whole thing of opening up the housing thing, and I wasn't taping. And I'd like to hear--

WADE: Right.

FOSL: --some of that, and anything more.

WADE: Yeah. Well, I thought in the beginning that, uh, it was such a ridiculous thing to, uh, have guys coming back into the, uh, country 00:22:00from out of--overseas, uh--

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: --war and whatnot. And, uh, those that never left even were just as entitled to it. And every man is basically, uh, a master of his home. Of his castle or whatever he wants to call it. Then why should he be subjected to letting his children grow up knowing, knowing that he can't, can't even buy a damn house. You know? So, my feeling was very deep to break ----------(??) in any way I could.

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: Just tear it down. I got vicious about it.

FOSL: Right.

WADE: But I didn't want to hurt anybody.

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: But I did feel that it was my responsibility, if nobody else took it, to tear it down. And I think everything I did, uh, was well justified.

FOSL: And it certainly did have an impact.

WADE: Right

FOSL: I mean--you know, in the short term, not the one you'd expected 00:23:00but--in the long term--

WADE: Right. Right.

FOSL: --it seems to have, you know.

WADE: Yeah, I could see many avenues, uh, that may have gone maybe twenty more years. So, it seemed like we were expected to wait a hundred years for progress.

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: Uh, even our grandmothers, uh, older people in the family would tell you, you gotta be patient. You must turn the other cheek. All this crap to me was just a dead issue. I said, "No," I said, "They turned their cheeks, and they hit them on both sides."

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: I said, "I'm not gonna do it."

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: So, I thought that was something I could do and I was gonna do it.

FOSL: Um-hm. Now--

WADE: I feel like it was well worth it. Anything that ----------(??) if I'd been a wealthy contractor but now--due to other things--like one white person told me--he said, "Wade," ten years later, he called me. He said, "Would you do some work for me?" I used to do all of his work. He said, uh, "Mr. Wade," said, "I'll tell you frankly 00:24:00why I stopped giving you business. I got scared. Because I was just frightened." He said, "My family and all just, uh, agreed with me that we should stop giving you work." Well, how many other customers felt the same way? I gained, uh, some black, uh, support after--I mean black business. And I lost so much white business. But whether it balanced off or not, I never even gave a darn.

FOSL: Um-hm. Um-hm.

WADE: It was worth it.

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: Yeah.

FOSL: And your business has survived, I would think.

WADE: Oh, yeah, yeah. And we were never allowed in our earlier life of--when I was really--real progressive-minded--we were never allowed to draw on the elec-, electrical union--

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: --because they said they did not want blacks in it. But then, uh, uh, ----------(??) if I had been, uh, given the right to join--I would've joined because I was, uh, a union man. I'd rather I, I would 00:25:00be able to, uh, make up for that now, and I just never ----------(??).

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: The potential that I lost by being kept out of the union kept me into small business.

FOSL: Um-hm. So you never were allowed into the union?

WADE: Oh, yeah. When, when they finally opened their arms and said, "Come on in," a few years ago, I told the man--I said, "If you can pay me for, uh, uh, my loss of seniority over the years since I started into the business--breaking the union--

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: And the man agreed there was nothing they could do.

FOSL: Hmm.

WADE: I said, "I'd take you through courts and hang you because, uh, you, you kept me out."

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: Now, you beg me in. I said, "It's to my advantage to stay out now."

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: Because I have gained a lot of non-union business.

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: So, it would be st-, stupid of me to come and enter at this stage--

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: --you know?

FOSL: And you did some speaking with Carl about the case, not just locally, but around, right?


WADE: Yeah, around the country, yeah.

FOSL: Um-hm. Um, but did--later, okay, after the conviction, and all that--did you continue to hear a lot about the Bradens and how awful they were? I mean, apparently, their rep-, I mean, it sounds like your reputation suffered, too. But--

WADE: Yeah.

FOSL: --their--they became these pariahs of the community, you know?

WADE: Um-hm.

FOSL: What--you have anything more to say about that?

WADE: No, I guess, uh, most people that talked about the Bradens after that time, uh, to me directly, or around me, uh, didn't have the nerve to say anything against 'em--

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: --because they knew I was still with them.

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: Yeah. So, most of them look at Anne, and, and, uh, the whole Braden, uh, family as members of a group that, uh, very much, uh, in favor of better conditions for all people.

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: Yeah.

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: No question of it.

FOSL: Well, you mentioned a little bit about the response of the black 00:27:00community to this fear of communism. This, this--but, um, do you have any, like, concrete stories about that? Or examples of something that was going on during that time?

WADE: Hmm--no more than, um, if a person was accused of being, uh, communistically inclined, uh, generally, the churches, the ministers, even, would turn against them. And once the ministers turned against the person, they are doomed in their society or community.

FOSL: Hmm.

WADE: Now, The Louisville Defender was the black newspaper--

FOSL: Right.

WADE: --weekly at that time, and I'll give them great credit. They stuck by me all the way. Never--

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: --gave that up. We--they gave me headline coverage and everything. No problem whatsoever. But every time The Courier, The Courier-Journal came out, they said, uh, something, uh, derogatory about me as an individual. Until I went into a meeting with, uh, Mark 00:28:00Ethridge, uh, and, uh--

FOSL: Oh, tell me about that. I'd be interested to hear that.

WADE: Uh, Georgia Ethridge was his daughter.

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: And I told him--boy, I sat at his big desk and told him a long story about me and Georgia in the Progressive Party. And, um, he was very interested, leaning over his desk listening. And at the end of the story, I told him her name, Georgia Ethridge. He'd like to turn green. He really did. But he wanted to kick me out of the office. But I said, "Now, until you, uh, can put her name with mine in the paper--when you make derogatory statements--

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: --about me," I said, "Don't put my name in there anymore."

FOSL: Hmm.

WADE: And he did not anymore.

FOSL: Hmm. Yeah, I didn't realize his daughter had been--

WADE: Yeah, yeah.

FOSL: --involved that way. I mean, I knew he was kind of an old 00:29:00Southern liberal, but--

WADE: Oh, yeah, yeah.

FOSL: Huh.

WADE: But he got that picture. (laughs)

FOSL: Well, that's good. Well, um, let me think if I have--

[End of interview.]