Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Jan Phillips, June 24, 1991

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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FOSL: June 24th, 1991 in Louisville at her home. And Anne actually suggested that I interview you. It hadn't, I, you know, I don't have, in fact, I, I told you I'd show you that list of people to interview.

PHILLIPS: Yeah, right.

FOSL: And if you'll remind me, I will do that later. But I don't have a real specific agenda, although I certainly have read a lot about you in the last forty-eight hours because Bill Allison has given me all this information on the last days of SCEF.

PHILLIPS: Interesting, ----------(??).

FOSL: Yeah. I had some of it. (Phillips laughs) And he really has ----------(??)--


FOSL: So that's kind of interesting. But why don't we just begin by your telling me just a little bit about your own background and where you're from and when you came here and your entry into the movement.

PHILLIPS: Okay. Um, I grew up in Detroit. And my father was a 00:01:00newspaperman. And, uh, was a founding member of the Newspaper Guild's chapter there, and was active as a trade unionist all the days of his life. Um, and after--well, I don't know how you--there aren't any places, I don't think, in anybody's life where you can decide; this is where I became active.

FOSL: Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: But I grew up in the fifties, which was a time when you didn't become active. You know, things were going on. You knew those things were wrong, but you had no particular outlet to, you know, to express that. I mean I remember very distinctly the death of the Rosenbergs. You know--

FOSL: What year--

PHILLIPS: --and it was wrong.

FOSL: --were you born?

PHILLIPS: Thirty-seven. Um, but I didn't know anybody that was doing anything about the Rosenbergs, for heaven's sakes, you know?

FOSL: Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: (laughs) Um, and any number of other, you know, events that, 00:02:00that happened during, you know, during that period. And I think probably the thing that most, uh, focused my political view was I was in college, I was an undergraduate. I was a senior the year that-- February 1st, 1960, when the students sat down at, at lunch counters. And all of a sudden, here it was on television. And there had been other things that had seemed pretty amazing, the Cuban Revolution and so on. But these, these were me. You know, these were the same people, you know? And look what they were doing with their lives. I mean it was just a--

FOSL: Now where were you--

PHILLIPS: --really--

FOSL: --at college?

PHILLIPS: I was at a school called Hillsdale College, which was at that time, a very small, private, um, school. It had, uh, years ago, a religious heritage, which it had mostly shed. In subsequent years, it 00:03:00has become a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow Chemical. Um, I mean it's just it's, it's an outrageously right-wing school. It was very--

FOSL: Where is it?

PHILLIPS: --conservative. In Hillsdale, Michigan. It was very conservative when I was there. I mean I remember, I had one real good friend whose father worked for the Teamsters Union. And I can remember she and I talking about the fact that we were practically the only students we knew whose fathers belonged to a union, for heaven's sake, you know?

FOSL: Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: We had a small Young Democrats, uh, Club. And that was very small, and incorporated practically every black student, you know, on campus. I mean everybody that belonged was, you know, some sort of societal reject--(laughs)--for Heaven's sake. All the rest of 'em belonged to fraternities and sororities, you know.

FOSL: Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: Um, but there's always, you know, there was always a handful of us that were, you know, not Christian, not white, not, you know- 00:04:00-fitting into the, to the mold of this, of this school. So those students were, you know, an enormous impact. And--I went to Colorado. I was--I got married and moved to Colorado with my husband. And I didn't really get involved in anything out there until--I guess--I think the thing that was, really prompted some action was when James Meredith went to Ole Miss.

FOSL: Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: And that just seemed like, you know, the icing on the cake. You know, this shit has gotta stop. And I got involved with the CORE group there and worked with CORE for a while, worked, um, on the March on Washington in '63, and then got very involved with SNCC and a Friends of SNCC group. And because of all those--

FOSL: And where was that?

PHILLIPS: --in Denver. Um, and we did all the usual things that support 00:05:00groups, you know, did. I mean we raised, you know, food and clothing and stuff for, you know, people who were on strike or been thrown off of plantations 'cause of voter registration activity. And, you know, did a lot of that, and, and spent a lot of time driving stuff down to the South. Worked on Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party Challenge. Colorado was, I think, one of two states where the delegation was fully in support of the Freedom Democrats. Um, so my connection to SCEF, then, grew out of what was going on in the student movement and in SNCC and across the South, and the changes that came about as people moved to a position of realizing that white people, if they were gonna do something about racism, that they need to do that in white communities and, you know, the divisions that, that came and went. So that's, you know, at-- how I made the connection, then, with SCEF. And I moved here in--well actually, to Tennessee--


FOSL: I was just about--

PHILLIPS: --in '67.

FOSL: --to say.

PHILLIPS: Yeah. Yeah, I was in Tennessee in '67, and met SCEF people instantly. You know, and developed friendships that continued. (laughs) So that was sort of the progression.

FOSL: What were you doing in Tennessee?

PHILLIPS: Um, well, we had tal-, I was still married then. And we had talked about moving to the South. And we sort of, you know, looked at the map and decided there were places you couldn't live and survive in. I had a child, too, you know, um, including most of the Deep South states. Um, and we just--I mean we just sort of picked Nashville, thinking that--

FOSL: Huh.

PHILLIPS: --it would be somewhat more tolerant because of the large concentration of both black and white universities and certainly that must have made a dent in this, um, kind of, uh, Old South mentality. Obviously, it had not. (laughs)

FOSL: Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: I mean, it was pretty amazing, you know, how incredibly 00:07:00backward Nashville was. It's terrible--was a terrible, terrible town to live in. You know, there weren't any jobs for black people. Um, used to be able to stand on the state capitol and look out to the north end or--was that what it was called? North end? North side? Anyhow, into North Nashville, where people--

FOSL: I don't know Nashville.

PHILLIPS: --black people lived in housing where there was no plumbing.

FOSL: Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: It was the city of Nashville. I mean--(laughs)--you know, it was pretty, pretty decadent. But there was also a lot of, you know, of good movement activity, you know, going on there.

FOSL: Yeah. Well of course the Bells (??) had been there.

PHILLIPS: Yeah. Yeah. Now they were, were long gone by the time--

FOSL: Right.

PHILLIPS: --I got there.

FOSL: Right, sure, yeah.

PHILLIPS: Um, but a lot of the SCEF people used to come down to Nashville. For one reason, the, um, the printer was in Nashville, which is--just too bizarre that, that we brought The Patriot down to Nashville to have printed. We did that for a number of years. They 00:08:00had, had met the test at one point in their history when the FBI had come around and asked for the mailing labels.

FOSL: I remember that.

PHILLIPS: And the printer said, "Oh, I don't think I'm supposed to give you these." (laughs)

FOSL: Right.

PHILLIPS: You know, and called Carl up and said, you know, "Make them stop." So there was a great loyalty to this print shop, which had anybody no real commitment to the movement, but it was just seen somehow unfair. And they, you know, they accepted that that was not a good principle.

FOSL: And did you know Anne and Carl by that time?

PHILLIPS: Um, trying to think. Uh, the first SCEF person I met was in '67 when I was still in Denver. God, I can't say this guy's name. He was out of New Orleans. I think it's someone that Anne is not terribly fond of, in retrospect.

FOSL: Not Jim Dombrowski?

PHILLIPS: No, no, no, no. No! (laughs)

FOSL: New Orleans.

PHILLIPS: No. This was a staff person. And I think he was out of New 00:09:00Orleans. How in the world could there have been a staff person in New Orleans in '67?

FOSL: Uh, there were a few--well, uh, 'cause Bob Zellner was running that GROW Project out of New Orleans--

PHILLIPS: Not that early.

FOSL: Not then.

PHILLIPS: Well, I don't know.

FOSL: Well, but the next year, the next year.

PHILLIPS: No, it wasn't, it was not consq-, it was not someone who was connected to, to the Zellners or any of those--that generation. Jesus, I wish I could remember this guy's name. Anne would remember this. But anyhow, he came through. He was on some kind of traveling road show. Actually, it was before '67.

FOSL: How old was this guy, probably? I'm just trying to think--

PHILLIPS: He was certainly older than I. Um, you know, he was maybe forty or so. I just don't remember that clearly.

FOSL: Not Allen Maund?


FOSL: Al Maund?


FOSL: That was, he was much earlier.

PHILLIPS: He would have been much older than that.

FOSL: Yeah. He's about Carl's age.

PHILLIPS: Um, Anne will know. But the point was that he made a really 00:10:00good presentation about, about racism and about the role of white people in that struggle, and so on. And it was a, you know, it was a good presentation. It was before '67. But it was the first time I'd seen the Patriot.

FOSL: Oh yeah, huh.

PHILLIPS: And I know I met Carl first. 'Cause I knew Carl much better than I knew Anne when I moved up here. But I can't remember exactly, you know, how that came about. And, you know, I don't have a distinct remembrance of that first meeting. I knew, uh, Joy Portugal (??) was editing the paper at that point. And she would come to Nashville once a month to--or was the paper coming out monthly? I think it was.


FOSL: Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: I think it was like ten times a year. And she would come down to go over the galleys and stuff, and, and--

FOSL: Yeah. It's not a long way.

PHILLIPS: --she would stay, you know, after just the first couple times we met, she used to stay at our house and stuff. And then we became real good friends, and still are, um.

FOSL: And she's in New York now.

PHILLIPS: Yes. Right. Um, and it was probably through her that I met Carl, but I can't even remember--very shortly after I moved to Nashville I was on the SCEF board, though.

FOSL: Right.

PHILLIPS: So--[noise]--that's awful not to remember how I met Carl. But Carl was much more likely to be the person that, if you wanted somebody to come work on something in your community, and he came down to Nashville a number of times. And a few years after that, I was living up in Clarksville, Tennessee, which is about sixty miles northwest of 00:12:00Nashville. And he'd come there regular as clockwork, Carl used to, you know.

FOSL: What were you doing in Clarks-, Clarksville?

PHILLIPS: Um, well, let's see. We went up there, because when we had come to the South, we thought we would try to live in a rural area. So part of being in Nashville, it was--part of that time was spent trying to find something outside of the city of Nashville where we could live. And we found this old log house out in Montgomery County that's, you know, we could afford. I mean--didn't have anything. So obviously, it was dirt cheap. (laughs) So we moved out there. And for, about a--over a year, my husband commuted into Nashville to work.

FOSL: Right.

PHILLIPS: Um, until there was a shop built--he's a printer. And, uh, there was a plant built in Clarksville, and he went to work there.

FOSL: But was your husband also involved with SCEF?

PHILLIPS: No, he was not. He was involved in earlier things with SNCC and with CORE. But he never, he was never really involved in SCEF, 00:13:00although he was pretty supportive of that kind of thing in those, you know.

FOSL: What was his name?

PHILLIPS: Roger. Um, and then when I was there, when I was in, in Clarksville, I didn't have a job. I'd been working when I was in Nashville, but I didn't have a job up there, and had very little idea about, you know, how you, how you'd ever find employment in, you know, a small town like that. And there was a big meat cutter strike going on. And I worked--did some work around, uh, strike support there. And then I went to graduate school at Austin Peay, which is part of the state university in, in Tennessee. And--


PHILLIPS: In Clarksville.

FOSL: No, but I mean what was your department?

PHILLIPS: Well southern history, of course.


PHILLIPS: What else would it be? (laughs) So I'm, you know, and it was a real good way to get involved in a whole lot of, you know, things real 00:14:00quickly, because you met people fast. And--

FOSL: Right.

PHILLIPS: --it was a, you know, a period of some, you know, change and challenge on, you know, college campuses. So there was a lot of, you know, good stuff that was--we were able to do real quickly because people were ready for some change at that point.

FOSL: And then when did you come to Louisville?

PHILLIPS: Came up here in '72. That's right. Yeah. Yeah. My husband and I's, my--our marriage was falling apart for reasons which were not particularly related to movement things, although there was some tension and frustration because of, you know, the amount of time. If you're putting into something like that, you know, that kind of, of thing. But not major, you know, disagreements over the validity of, you know, of political beliefs. And, you know, right away of course Carl said, "Well, you just come to Louisville and go to work for SCEF." His recruitment process was terrific. You know--(laughs)--everybody 00:15:00thought that was a good idea, so what the hell? What else am I gonna do? (laughs)

FOSL: Um-hm. So that's what brought you to Louisville?

PHILLIPS: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And I want--I was gonna stay, you know, in a relatively close environment. 'Cause my son was still pretty young at that point and, you know, had a relationship with his father, which he, you know, maintained. And I didn't wanna, you know, I wasn't gonna pack up and move to Boston, for heaven's sake. You know, I was gonna stay in the neighborhoods, you know, so that they could have som-, a continuing, you know, kind of relationship. So it was '72 when I moved up here, just in time for great traumas. (laughs)

FOSL: Oh, I know. And you went to work--you were, what, the receptionist, or, or what?

PHILLIPS: No. No, there--the woman who did that in a very non- traditional way, is a wonderful woman named Penny Lane (??), who lives here in Louisville. Actually, Penny's using a married name now. She 00:16:00got married a couple years ago. Um, and, she worked in the office and did most of the, you know, incoming phone handling kinds of things. Um, we all did everything, you know? (laughs) I'm trying to think if anybody had a clear-cut job description, it was sort of like what needed to be done and rushing around and trying, you know, to do that, uh.

FOSL: And this was about the same time, I think it was January '72 that Anne kind of handed over the E.D. to, uh, Helen Greever. Is that?

PHILLIPS: I was thinking that was somewhat later. But it's hard for me to separate that, because I already had this pretty intense relationship with the organization from being on the board, and being part of that.

FOSL: Talk to me for a minute about that. Like I know the board of SCEF 00:17:00was probably growing by leaps and bounds at the time.

PHILLIPS: Hmm. Yeah. Yeah.

FOSL: How would you characterize that? How many people? What was it like? How much political unity, when you got on it?

PHILLIPS: I don't know how much, you know, real unity it was. That board had historically been a very, not an activist board. I mean they didn't really get involved in the program of the organization. They were all real supportive people.

FOSL: Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: But many of them were living in areas where they were really the only contact that SCEF had. I mean I think of Modjeska down in Columbia. Um, you know, other people that were kind of the one person from East Tennessee or from, you know, Northern Georgia or something. You know.

FOSL: Right.

PHILLIPS: There wasn't any real network. Um, I don't think that there were any real major differences among people. It's just that people 00:18:00had--a lot of these people had been on this board for a long, long time.

FOSL: They didn't really carry over sort of the--


FOSL: --lone, white southerner ----------(??) or something.

PHILLIPS: Yeah. I mean they had had a long time commitment, some of 'em going back to, to the old Southern Conference. So, you know, they were, they weren't a real cohesive kind of thing. And a lot of new, younger people who had really come out of the movement of the sixties, you know, were coming on the board of the--on the board or on the staff. And that was creating a lot of change.

FOSL: Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: And I guess there was probably some tension because younger people thought older people should do more or something. You know, I don't know. Um, I don't have any--I mean they were great people. I mean I remember, you know, fondly some of those people and, and, you know, you'd get 'em to come to meetings. And, you know, it was great, you know, 'cause you'd have a sense of, you know, continuity and history and stuff.

FOSL: Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: Um, certainly from Jim Dombrowski more than anybody. But--


FOSL: Right. Anne ----------(??).

PHILLIPS: --your know from uh, Will--

FOSL: ------------(??).

PHILLIPS: No, from Jim. It, it--Anne and Carl didn't seem like history then.

FOSL: I guess so.

PHILLIPS: You know?

FOSL: You know, other--(Phillips laughs)--people view it differently. Like Bill Allison really feels like they were, you know, they were older and they were--had lived through this hell, and were still with it, and had dedicated their lives to it and stayed with it. And, you know, certainly they don't have the history that Jim--

PHILLIPS: I think I had that feeling of them--I have that feeling more of them now than I did then. Then it seemed--I don't know, more normal. (laughs) Um, you know, now--

FOSL: ------------(??).

PHILLIPS: You know, 'cause we're, you know, because of--we're all aging, you know. And, and now--obviously, because, you know, Carl's dead and has been for so long. You know, then you start to, you know, I mean 00:20:00we never got to value Carl. We got to value Jim, and, you know, and did up until the day he died, um, both in terms of, just the kinda person he was, but also, in terms of his political leadership in that organization. You know, we never got to really value that with Carl 'cause his death was so sudden and unexpected.

FOSL: And at a rough period.

PHILLIPS: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

FOSL: Huh. Okay, so, um--

PHILLIPS: Also, the thing is, too, that Bill grew up here. You know. And that--

FOSL: That probably does ground him maybe.

PHILLIPS: Because people--yeah, white people all the time, from Louisville, who are not necessarily movement kinds of people, say, "Oh yeah, I remember--"

FOSL: Oh yeah.

PHILLIPS: Like nobody else would. (laughs) You know, like the world does not remember the house on Rone Court? (laughs)

FOSL: Oh, absolutely. Yeah, 'cause, you know, I would, I have a connection with Louisville that goes back to--ever since I was that tall.


FOSL: I spent two weeks in Louisville every summer 'cause my grandmother was from here and that's who raised me. We spent--her mother and 00:21:00brothers were here.


FOSL: And they--some of them are still alive.

PHILLIPS: Yeah, yeah.

FOSL: My grandmother has two brothers. A brother and a sister-in-law still alive in this town. And they say, "(gasps) Miss Braden, yeah, I remember her." (Phillips laughs) Everybody views her very differently now. Lucky. I mean not everybody, obviously, this woman, Delores Rome (??) doesn't. (Phillips laughs) Okay, so--well, why don't you just sort of give me sort of your, some of your impressions of that period with SCEF.

PHILLIPS: Oh Lord. I should look over Bill's papers. (laughs) Um, there's no question in my mind that the biggest drain that was facing that organization was its role as a predominantly white organization to the black community. There is no question in my mind about that. 00:22:00Um, and how were we going to, in practice, carry that out? And that, I think, was the biggest division. Um, I'm constantly amazed by the debates, uh, led by the Bush administration on the, uh, Civil Rights Act, last year and this year both, I know. Um-hm. I mean we had that argument. We had that argument. And people--

FOSL: Of quotas.

PHILLIPS: --you know did not--yeah, that's exactly what they were say--I mean they were not using that word, but it was the same argument. "Well, we couldn't poss-," I'm sure you've read the p-, the proposal that we should halt adding additional white people to this board--

FOSL: Right.

PHILLIPS: --until we reach some sort of, of parity, and that if we don't, you know, many of us believe that, as, as white people, we were gonna make some real serious mistakes. That we had to have some kind 00:23:00of interchange, you know, in that organization. And I mean people said the most amazing things, um, about, you know, well, they thought it was a real good idea, but they were always these good, white people. (laughs) Jesus. Yeah. (laughs) You know, and that, you know, people just viewed it, and they lined up on either side. And I tell ya, it got messy. But I think that was--

FOSL: It sounds--just--

PHILLIPS: --the basic, I think that was the basic dif-, decision is that people just, you know, they took one side or another on that one.

FOSL: But I know a lot of that--gosh, it's just so--it's hard to even ask questions about it. It's a very, uh, it's a very delicate-- (laughs)--matter, in, in some ways. But I know that a lot of that, 00:24:00after what happened with the kidnapping and the mental inquest won and duh, duh, duh, duh, duh, you know, that it took a long time. At--now this is just my reading of papers.


FOSL: And Bill Allison has talked to me about it a little bit. Anne and I have, have not talked about that specific period. I'm really--in my interviewing with Anne, am still in a much earlier period.

PHILLIPS: Um-hm. Um-hm.

FOSL: So, we haven't, I mean we, you know, had brief conversations about it. She's referred to it. But I haven't had--done an in-depth interview with her on this subject.


FOSL: So my knowledge of it is based more on her writings and her, uh, and other people's comments, and other people's -----------(??).

PHILLIPS: And you've been to Wisconsin--

FOSL: Yes.

PHILLIPS: --too, and seen--yeah.

FOSL: I've spent a good bit of time there.


FOSL: And I had gotten some of the papers from there. And then Bill has really given me a lot more.

PHILLIPS: Yeah, yeah.

FOSL: And, and then I took some from Anne's personal papers at her house 00:25:00a year or so ago. So I don't know that I have the whole picture. But I have a good bit of it. And yet, I haven't really talked to many people about it.


FOSL: It's more on paper. And I think the whole story is--probably a good bit of it hasn't been told on paper, or I don't know, maybe it was. But people sure were writing these kind of treatises.


FOSL: Major treatises.

PHILLIPS: Right. Right. Right.

FOSL: Now were you one of them?

PHILLIPS: Oh God. Um, God, you know what I remember about the, the, you know, paper after paper after paper is that people would just send this to the office and expect us to distribute it to the world. You know, "Before our next meeting, will you please see that, you know." And I can remember, uh, Judy Smith, who was, was my dearest friend for many, many years, you know. I mean just--I thought she was gonna torch the mailbox--(laughs)--if she saw one more thing that we were supposed to, you know, typeset and duplicate and get in the mail, and, you know. 00:26:00(laughs) She'd sit there typing things and curse, "Motherfucker make me write that--" (laughs)

FOSL: Right.

PHILLIPS: Well, hey, you know? (laughs) All of this having been done pre-Xerox machine. That's pretty scary. (gasps) God. I don't know how we ever managed to do this shit.

FOSL: Tell me this, were--you were one of the people that was actually threatened by them, is that correct?

PHILLIPS: Oh God. I don't know. I don't know. Um, I was one of the people in the house, the office at--

FOSL: Right.

PHILLIPS: --at 3210 on the day that he got off the bus with the gun. And I took responsibility for calling the police. I'm not sure that I felt particularly threatened. I thought he was gonna kill Judi. 00:27:00I firmly believed that. I still believe that he was gonna. I mean he was so fragile at that point. He was so fucking fragile. And I don't think I had a sense of fearing for my life, just--it was sort of his, his, um, I mean he was so angry, and it was so unfocused and undirected. And the man standing across the street with the gun. You know? Um, well, you know, it was, you know, I thought he, you know, I--do you call the police and risk their killing him? 'Cause that was a real distinct possibility.

FOSL: Right, absolutely.

PHILLIPS: Or, you know, does Judi step outside to try to talk to him and he blows her away? Another very distinct possibility.

FOSL: Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: I mean I had, I had seen him brutalize her before. And I wasn't gonna see that again. Um, you know, I mean there weren't any 00:28:00good decisions. There wasn't a good decision to be made. There was not a good decision to be made. You know? And it was--I didn't make that, you know, with any joy. But I didn't know what else to do, you know, at that point. Um, you know, nobody ever knew what to do.

FOSL: Right.

PHILLIPS: You know, about that situation. You know, there's, there's no question but what he was--he was losing it. And that's not to say that he's crazy or that he belonged in a mental institution or, you know, any of that. But we didn't have anything--we didn't have any solutions, you know. And--

FOSL: Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: You know, so we called the cops on him.

FOSL: I wanna also tell you that my--it--I just have an intense interest in this story right now 'cause I've been reading. I have like spent- -(Phillips laughs)--so much time over the last few days reading this story.


FOSL: And it's such a kind of a convoluted and very, you know, just a 00:29:00difficult, complicated time. And--I mean it's not like the main or the only thing I really wanna interview you about. I just--I have a lot of, like sort of intensity--


FOSL: --about it. So I wanna ask you a lot about it. Wherever you don't wanna--

PHILLIPS: You probably--yeah, and you probably have some--I'm sitting here wondering about sequence stuff, you know? 'Cause I'm having trouble remembering.

FOSL: Right.

PHILLIPS: I mean where was Helen then?

FOSL: I wanna ask you this.

[Pause in recording.]

FOSL: Okay. Um--

PHILLIPS: Oh, it is rolling.

FOSL: Right. (Phillips laughs) Well now there were a few people in the office who were sort of openly with the CP or open within SCEF. I mean--see, that's--

PHILLIPS: More than a few. (laughs)

FOSL: Right, quite a few.

PHILLIPS: Yeah. (laughs)

FOSL: And you were one of them.

PHILLIPS: Yes, absolutely. Yeah.

FOSL: And--now Anne said this in one of the documents, and I'm just trying to refresh it for myself. You joined the CP after you came to 00:30:00Louisville or before?

PHILLIPS: After, but--that was really a matter of geography more than anything else.

FOSL: I see.

PHILLIPS: You know. I mean it, you know, there's--I mean I guess that's reason for being in the party if you can't, you know, relate to it in a k-, in the daily kind of work that you do. But, um, you know, I never thought that there was. I mean I always thought there was something that you had to be, you know, closer to, and had to be more functional and stuff. So it was actually right after I came to Louisville. I mean was about twenty minutes. You know, I remember that sequence. (laughs)

FOSL: Oh, twenty minutes after you got to Louisville. (laughs)

PHILLIPS: It was very--I'm sure that I wasn't here a month before I was in the Party, you know.

FOSL: Oh, that's so interesting.

PHILLIPS: Yeah. You know.

FOSL: Which kind of makes it--


FOSL: --almost a moot point. I mean if, you know, if you'd been in Louisville a long time, and then--

PHILLIPS: Yeah, yeah.

FOSL: --encountered the CP, that's a different--

PHILLIPS: Yeah. But I--

FOSL: --set of circumstances--

PHILLIPS: --I mean I knew people in the Party, you know, in the South. 00:31:00And I knew what they were doing.

FOSL: Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: And I had, you know, friends, and I respected what they were doing. I mean it wasn't a big--I mean I, I think it's always a big deal when you join the Communist Party, 'cause that's, that's a pretty irreversible line.

FOSL: Yes, it is.

PHILLIPS: You know, when you cross over that. And I think that's probably, you know, you know, the--I don't think that's changed. You know, that's, that's--and I'm not, you know, discounting that. It's just that I had already been through a lot of that decision-making process, and, you know, I mean I'd been real active in the Angela Davis campaign when I was, uh, in graduate school. You know, well, I mean what's the first thing somebody says if they're trying to discredit, you know, the movement to free Angela Davis? She's a Communist, you know. Well, yeah. Yeah, that's right. Um-hm. (laughs) So, you know, 00:32:00I mean I did, I already had to, you know, work through that and be comfortable with that, you know, myself.

FOSL: Well, how would you characterize--now this is for my own information. It's not for this book, really. Although I guess you never know. But it's not--I--as a historian, I'm not, I'm not an historian of the Communist Party, although I know a good bit about the history of the Communist Party. But much more so between, you know, its founding and, say, 1957, or whatever.


FOSL: This later period, I really am not very familiar with at all. And how would you characterize the relationship nationally between the Party and the Black Panthers? (pause) I guess what I'm really trying to 00:33:00ask you is, if what was going on Lou-, in Louisville was a reflection of what was going on in--on a larger scale in terms of this kind of breakdown.

PHILLIPS: I don't--I mean there were theoretical differences of which, you know, I was certainly aware and certainly have had long conversations with a number of friends that, that were members of the Panther Party here. Um, but I--

FOSL: But you wouldn't characterize it as hostile?

PHILLIPS: No. No. No. No. No, absolutely not. Um, in terms of the Party here in Louisville and the Panthers, um, I think there was 00:34:00some, some pretty good mutual respect there. The divisions and the problems came, you know, fell down along race lines. You know? And, you know, that was not necessarily, you know, I mean, I mean obviously, the Panthers were a black formation. I mean there's no question about that. But, you know, there were both black and white people in the Party. And I, I think there was some respect there. I mean we were doing an enormous amount of work around issues that were very near and dear to the Panthers' hearts, um, particularly issues around political prisoners. And we had Ben Chavis in jail. And that with something SCEF was working on, too. You know, and so there were some things that, that there was some good, uh, you know, exchange with. And I 00:35:00think a, a certain amount of, of respect. I mean I think of Ben, you know, I mean Ben and I, you know, would sit around for hours, and other people, you know, sit around and talk about, you know, how are we gonna work on X, Y, and Z. You know, there was--

FOSL: Right.

PHILLIPS: You know, there was some, some real good stuff there, and some real positive stuff. Um.

FOSL: Hmm.

PHILLIPS: And he was certainly, you know, the, the person given leadership in, in the Panther Party.

FOSL: Well, how do you think [knocking sound] well--

[Pause in recording.]

FOSL: Okay, tell me this. Again, you know, I have some other people's opinions on this, just from some of the writings. But because you, you were in the CP at that time, it was, it's interesting to hear your perspective on it. And how would you--I mean would you say that his and Judi's marital problems had to do with CP membership?

PHILLIPS: I think there's a laundry list here so long. (laughs)


FOSL: Really?

PHILLIPS: Um, I think part of it is overt sexism. I mean the Panthers were the boys.

FOSL: Right.

PHILLIPS: And the girls were there to clean up and type and make lunch and have babies. I mean it was--and there weren't very many women around the Panther Party, either. I mean there were only, you know.

FOSL: So people might have married, but their wives weren't--

PHILLIPS: Well, most of 'em weren't married. I mean--

FOSL: Really?

PHILLIPS: I think there was a high--I mean I have to look back at those lists. I think there were a lot of single men.

FOSL: Probably a lot of divorces. (laughs)

PHILLIPS: Right. (laughs) Right, right.

FOSL: Yeah.

PHILLIPS: Um, in terms of there being a couple of real--you know, couple with child, et cetera, I mean I can't think of any other than Ben and Judi.

FOSL: Hmm. So--but you would agree with the idea that, as Judi was 00:37:00growing closer to SCEF and to the Party, Ben was growing more alienated away?

PHILLIPS: I think that's--yeah.

FOSL: From both those two.


FOSL: And how do you feel today about--

PHILLIPS: But I think some of it was more his not wanting to lose her. You know, it was that personal, you know, he didn't wanna lose her. You know? I mean she was, among other things, the meal ticket. Let's- -you know.

FOSL: Right.

PHILLIPS: You know, she's the one who went to work. She's the one that supported the child. She's the one, you know--

FOSL: Oh, they had a child?

PHILLIPS: Yeah. Oh, absolutely. Yeah.

FOSL: Yeah.

PHILLIPS: That child's facing a murder charge in Atlanta right now.

FOSL: Really?

PHILLIPS: Yes. Ben Simmons. Yeah. Yeah. (clears throat)


FOSL: Is she there too?

PHILLIPS: Yeah. I--as far as I know, I have not--it's been, God, six or eight months since I've talked to her. And--

FOSL: I thought you were gonna say six or eight years.

PHILLIPS: No. No, it's--we've had some long, dry spells, but, you know, yeah. I mean she's still probably the woman I've been closest to in my life. I mean I've--

FOSL: Oh really?

PHILLIPS: --never had such a close relationship with anybody. I mean it's just--and it was so-- and she feels the sam-, I think she feels the same way. I mean she certainly has expressed that to me.

FOSL: Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: But just how we could come out of such different cultural backgrounds and I mean just have just the incredibly tight relationship. I mean we've been mad at each other and, you know, there's been ups and downs. But--I mean she still has my confidence, despite the fact that she's been through some really bad shit-- (laughs)--in her life, you know. I mean subsequent to this whole thing.


FOSL: Hmm.

PHILLIPS: She's a terrific woman.

FOSL: Wow. Well, um, how do you feel today about your decision to bring in the police?

PHILLIPS: I--the same way I felt then. I mean I didn't like it. I didn't know what else to do. And what happened was--

FOSL: 'Cause you were severely criticized for doing that. PHILLIPS: Oh yeah, right.

FOSL: I mean all--

PHILLIPS: You know, like I wanted Ben blown away before my very eyes. I mean, what is the matter with this? And Judi was there at that time. She was in on that discussion. She was in the house. And I mean we--I mean I took responsibility and made the phone call. But she was certainly in on the discussion. We were all in on the discussion, were sort of huddling in the back of the house and trying to watch to see, you know, I mean if the police just drove down Broadway and saw him, what was gonna happen. Um, but when I called the police, we were 00:40:00crying. I mean were really just, it was real painful. And she left. I mean she walked out of the house to him, you know, which, you know--

FOSL: To Ben?


FOSL: Wow.

PHILLIPS: Which is, um, you know, unfortunately what we do a lot of times with men that we shouldn't--(laughs)--be doing. Um--

FOSL: Especially after y'all--

PHILLIPS: --and he didn't kill her.

FOSL: --called the police.

PHILLIPS: You know. He didn't kill her. Well, because the other thing was, we thought the minute the police will get here, they'll kill him. I mean, you know, it's--

FOSL: Right.

PHILLIPS: Whose death are we gonna watch, you know?

FOSL: Right.

PHILLIPS: And for very justifiable reasons, she couldn't watch that one, you know. And she went out. And I, I mean he got off the bus with this fucking gun, I think put him in a car and drove him away.

FOSL: Hmm.

PHILLIPS: If I remember right, that's what happened.

FOSL: The police?

PHILLIPS: No. No, no.

FOSL: She did.

PHILLIPS: She did. Oh yeah, he was long gone by the time the cops got there. And she mi-, I can't imagine that the two of 'em got on the bus and--(laughs)--rode down Broadway. But hey-- (laughs)--given the 00:41:00flavor of the times, it's probably a possibility. No, she must have of, of put him in the car and taken him. That's--yeah. I'm sure she did. And, and they were gone by the time the police arrived. The police, of course, as it turned out, didn't exactly rush over. I mean what the hell did they care if these people on West Broadway got blown away? It sounded like a good idea to them.

FOSL: Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: (laughs) You know? Um, so they came by in a rather nonchalant way. And then we're dealing with now what do we tell these people? Oh well, let's see. You know. We made a mistake. I'm not sure who it was. (laughs) You know.

FOSL: So what did you tell 'em?

PHILLIPS: Oh. (pause) Boy, I wish I could look at those papers and remember some sequence things. I think we told 'em it was a man with a gun. I don't think we identified who it was.

FOSL: Hmm.


PHILLIPS: Now I know that when Helen was kidnapped--

FOSL: Right.

PHILLIPS: --that, you know, that that--it was identified who, you know, we thought had done that. Now, I was not involved in that part of it. Um, and I'm not sure who all was.

FOSL: Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: Um, Mike Welch.

FOSL: Right, I'm sure that he was.

PHILLIPS: And I don't know if Judi was or not.

FOSL: I think so.

PHILLIPS: I think so, too. Tell me, when did that happen? (laughs) The kidnapping? Was that after--

FOSL: It was, uh--

PHILLIPS: --the gun in front of the house routine?

FOSL: Yeah, I'm pretty sure.

PHILLIPS: I thought so.

FOSL: Wait, I have some of it written down here. (pause) Summer '73 was 00:43:00the kidnapping. I'm not sure when the other thing happened. But I do have it back at the Allison's. And--I've got January '72 is when, uh, Helen took over the directorship.


FOSL: And I'm pretty sure that's right. So I would tend to think spring of '73 or just shortly before this.

PHILLIPS: Yeah. It seems to me that those--that that was a pretty compressed period of some really, you know, awful, terrifying stuff, that it didn't stretch on, you know, for a year, for heaven's sake. 00:44:00But it was a matter of a couple months of things, you know, terrible things.

FOSL: I guess, uh, I--from Anne's writing of it later, it's mainly her comments that I have. It seems like--I mean she had the strong impression, and I'm sure everybody in the Party had the strong impression, that, you know, this was just used as a, as an opportunity. That--okay, may-, there were legitimate grievances that, you know, this idea. I mean I certainly think, from my easy vantage point now, of trying to analyze this situation that calling the police was not a good idea.

PHILLIPS: Um-hm. Um-hm.

FOSL: But--and I think probably there was somewhat--quite a bit of agreement, probably, with people in and out of the Party on that topic, in and out of the staff, and what have you, that maybe the 00:45:00police shouldn't have been called. But and that, and that mental inquest warrant should not have been filed. But, but that even though people were trying to make amends for that, that then the whole set of incidents were used as an occasion for ousting the Party from SCEF, or certainly greatly decreasing its influence in SCEF. Are--you're with me on this?

PHILLIPS: Yeah, I think so.

FOSL: Do you think that's--


FOSL: --the case?

PHILLIPS: Yeah. I mean we didn't--I mean we weren't talking about the issues.

FOSL: Right.

PHILLIPS: You know? (laughs) Um, and we certainly weren't looking, you know, for any solutions. Everybody just, you know, lined up on barricades. I mean the only issue I really ever remember us talking about was the issue of what we were gonna do with this board, you know, and its changing composition. And--

FOSL: Well, I guess--


PHILLIPS: --you know, there was damn little--

FOSL: --what I'm really interested in is who were the people on the other side of this? Were they, they weren't just the October League, right? They were the RU and the--

PHILLIPS: I don't know. There were a lot of initials, what did Carl used to say? Oh God, he was so bad. Carl was so bad. Um, tendencies in search of a party. (laughs)

FOSL: Right.

PHILLIPS: Shut up, Carl! (laughs)

FOSL: But I think that's right.

PHILLIPS: Um, yeah. I don't, you know, I don't know what the cohesive force was, other than anti-Communism that kept those folks togeth--

[Pause in recording.]

FOSL: Right, they just happened to be the group that kind of, you know, played the ace or something.

PHILLIPS: Um-hm. Um-hm.

FOSL: It didn't seem like it was so much flying around. It wasn't like a struggle between the CP and the OL. That--it wasn't that simple.



FOSL: Which is kind of--I went into it thinking that, in a way.

PHILLIPS: Yeah. Yeah. No, I don't think that there was even any real- -I think when the divisions first occurred, I think that the really, the only party that had any representation in the SCEF board was the Communist Party. Um, I think that, but that, you know, that was changing, and that board was changing. And more and more people came on. I mean people that--who the hell is that? You know, nobody--

FOSL: Right.

PHILLIPS: --had any sense of knowing, you know--

FOSL: --all white I'm sure--

PHILLIPS: --who these people were. And, you know, all of a sudden, there would be three more people that would appear as if by magic. And I think that there were people that were representing political parties that, you know, were doing their organizing, you know.

FOSL: Um-hm. Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: Um, and, you know, we would go to meetings--I mean we suddenly were going to meetings with people that--whole new players, you know, 00:48:00that you didn't have any, you know, sense of, of, you know, mission with, for heaven's sakes. You didn't know who the hell they were. Nametags, I mean--(laughs)--you know, what's the solution here? Um, and in the meantime, you know, all this was happening at--in--you know, shortly after we had been through a period of incredible stress. You know, and there had been an earlier period of that, too, which Anne can talk about. It was before I came here.

FOSL: With the JOMOs?


FOSL: Right.

PHILLIPS: With the JOMO's stuff. And I really, you know, I was on the board, and I heard about it, but I wasn't here, and I wasn't seeing what was happening. You know, with the Panthers, I was here, I was seeing what was happening. You know, I was very much aware on a day to day kinda basis of what that relationship, how it was, and when it went up and when it went down. Um, you know, but there had been a previous- -and, you know, we weren't responding well to this stuff. You know, we 00:49:00really were not--


PHILLIPS: Yeah. Yeah, right. Well, they weren't, either. But, you know, I'm not, you know, I'm not casting stones. There wasn't anybody, wasn't responding right.

FOSL: Right. Right.

PHILLIPS: You know, and so when you go through these crises and you don't have any solutions and you, you know, everybody's just incredibly frustrated and scared. I mean there were periods of time when we were real scared--

FOSL: It sounds really scary.

PHILLIPS: --about what the hell was going on. You know?

FOSL: Sounds pretty scary.


FOSL: Well, I don't wanna belabor the point. I just--I think an overall scheme of Anne's life and the scope of this book, this you know, is a, of limited, although some value, but, you know, as I say, I've just gotten like real driven to kind of understand it better. (Phillips laughs) I don't, I, it's just--

PHILLIPS: I can't wait until someone explains it to me. (laughs)

FOSL: You know. It, it's really--it, it was a hard time.

PHILLIPS: Yeah. Yeah.

FOSL: And, um, okay, well after you were--were you fired, asked to leave?



FOSL: Pressured to resign? With--

PHILLIPS: The exact words--but, well, what they did was they fired Helen.

FOSL: Right.


FOSL: Oh, 'cause I've gotten the impression she was sort of pressured to resign. Of, of, al-, of you all, she was the one who really was not fired, now that's--I know Mike Welch was fired.

PHILLIPS: No, Mike had already quit.

FOSL: Oh, really?

PHILLIPS: Um-hm. Yeah, he'd left the staff by that time. Yeah. He was on the board, but wasn't a staff person anymore. Helen was the first to go. And something you just said triggered something, that maybe it was more, it was less than a direct--

FOSL: Right. I, I don't--it was--I'm almost certain it was not a direct firing, or all of the documentation was--

PHILLIPS: I think there may have been an election, and they elected Walter Collins to replace her. That may have been how that happened. 00:51:00Um--

FOSL: In any case, she was forced.

PHILLIPS: Yeah, she was out first. And Anne and Carl resigned in protest of, of both the content and the process. And then Walter, as his first act, said that he was going to fire Jan Smith and Judy Phillips, two of our favorite people. And we just--


PHILLIPS: --broke into laughter. I mean it was the best laugh we'd had- -(laughs)--in six months. God, this is all right. (laughs) You know, um, you know that was--(snaps fingers)--wave that magic wand, you know. Can we go home now? Of course with Anne, you don't go home. (laughs) Anne thought we had another meeting. (laughs)

FOSL: Wow. So were you very bitter about it?

PHILLIPS: No, I think in a lot of ways, it was an incredible relief. I mean we had just been dealing with this shit on a very day to day kind 00:52:00of basis. I mean it wasn't just your work, it was your life. It was, you know, the stress was really incredible. And I mean I think I felt, well, we're not gonna hold this fucker together. You know? I--and I thought it was an awful, awful tragedy. I mean, you know, when you sit in--we used to have caucus meetings, for God's sake. You know, our guys would go off in room A in this dingy hotel in Atlanta, and they used to train people for the CIA. It was a lovely place. And, you know, the other team would go off over there. But you'd sit in a room with people like Modjeska Simkins and Jim Dombrowski. And you think, you know, God damn it, how can--after all this organization has been through, and forty years of really being out there and being the only voice for interracial, you know, interracial voice for change in the South, you know, how can you let this go down the tubes? It was just so-- but, I just felt, well, we lost. You know.


FOSL: Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: And it's a, it's a tragedy. But there's not that much that we can do about it now. Of course Anne did not view it that way. There was always something you could do about it. (Phillips laughs) So we stayed in for a long time--

FOSL: On the board?

PHILLIPS: --really in, in deference to her, to try to, to, to--I don't know, be interesting to think whether she--I mean she really did wanna bring that group, group back together. But I think it was--

FOSL: Well, she had a real--

PHILLIPS: You know.

FOSL: --vested interest. I mean--

PHILLIPS: Yeah, sure.

FOSL: --more so than most, after--just the amount of time.


FOSL: She dedicated her life to it.

PHILLIPS: Yeah. Yeah.

FOSL: And then--okay, so the, the documentation, the papers that I've got on it, sort of drop off in about, like early '74. But when did the real, like split happen, where there was just nothing other than the 00:54:00October League left, in a way? Or--

PHILLIPS: (pause) Well, I--boy, I'd have to look at some of those papers. I don't know when we even stopped having these meetings. You know? I mean--

FOSL: Um-hm. I think it was like right around the first of '74, or the end of '73. I know Anne--


FOSL: --resigned from the staff like the last part of '73.

PHILLIPS: Yeah, I--yeah, okay. I went to work for the, for SEIU, uh, for a local here doing, um, hospital and nursing home organizing. And that was very early on in '74. And my ability, given the job I was doing, to do very much about any of the rest of this, was really very, 00:55:00very, very limited. Um, and it--by that time, yeah, by that time, it was somebody else's thing. You know, somebody else owned it and, you know, we all waited to see if anything, you know, would flow from that. Um, I mean I can remember going back, you know, into the office. Um.

FOSL: And so your kind of work, coalition work, with Anne continued, though?

PHILLIPS: Yeah. Yeah. Um--

FOSL: And you were not really close friends with Anne during those years, though, as you are now, right? Is--am I right?

PHILLIPS: Well, I was always closer to Carl than to Anne. Um, yeah, Anne is--yeah, I think that is probably true. I've never thought about that. Anne and I have become friends. And we were not necessarily 00:56:00friends at that point, we were allies.

FOSL: Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: You know? And--but that's how things start with Anne, too. You know, you have to share a political agenda with Anne before you're a friend, you know? And that--I guess, you know, you're always pretty intimidated by Anne. Anne's a pretty intimidating person, you know? I mean, you know, anybody that can abuse a human body that badly and you know--(laughs)--

FOSL: Everybody talks--

PHILLIPS: Are you ever gonna sleep, you know? (laughs)

FOSL: Right. Was she that way when Carl was alive, too?

PHILLIPS: Oh, he was a--definitely a moderating force on that. 'Cause he was--he and I shared temp-, temperament much more than I do with Anne. Um, you know, I mean Carl's, "Fuck this. We've discussed it. I'm going home." You know, and he'd stand up and walk out of the room. And I wanna burst into applause. And Anne, of course, was just getting comfy. (laughs) So, you know, Carl would discuss something. 00:57:00And if you could resolve it, fine. If you couldn't resolve it, it was time to go home.

FOSL: Things were more black and white with him.

PHILLIPS: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Absolutely. Um, but he was moderating in a lot of her, um, personal habits, too. Uh, I mean every summer, they went for a month to Harvey and Jessie's and went up in August to spend the month at Harvey and Jessie O'Connors. And after Carl's death, he watched that degenerate, you know, to the point where Anne would, you know, fly up and spend three days, you know. You know.

FOSL: On the phone a lot of the time.

PHILLIPS: You know--right. (laughs) You know. I mean I remember with Carl physically watching Anne putting a typewriter into the trunk of the car and Carl taking it out--(Fosl laughs)--and taking it back in the house. I mean this would, uh, and when they were--you know, when the children were younger, there was more of a motivation to do that, too. Because obviously, you know, you wanted to spend some time with 00:58:00your children, et cetera. And, um, but, you know, by the time Carl died, and, and, you know, Beth was, was older, and of course Jimmy was gone, you know, she had no restraints whatsoever. She could meet twenty-four hours a day and smoke incessantly and talk on the phone the rest of the time. I mean ----------(??) drink bourbon till three in the morning. You know? (laughs)

FOSL: Right. Well, you sound lovingly critical.

PHILLIPS: Oh yeah. Yeah. I mean I am. I love Anne dearly. And I am cer-, but I am certainly critical of her. You know. And she knows that. I mean it's not any big secret.

FOSL: Do you still feel intimidated by Anne?

PHILLIPS: No, I don't think so. I don't think so. Um, I mean I've- -because now I feel pretty comfortable in saying, "Stop it," or "No." (laughs) You know. Anne's--it's very hard to say that. And it's 00:59:00particularly hard to say that when you're, you know, a younger person. And, you know, she's a political leader. And she is. You know, I mean I owe a lot of what I know about the world to, to both Anne and Carl. You know. Um, you know, and it's very hard to face somebody that you, you know, that you really revere in terms of--

FOSL: Right.

PHILLIPS: --of their politics and their direction, you know. No, well, I don't know any problem with that now, telling her no. No. No. I can't talk now. Bye. (laughs) You know, 'cause she's on, she's on everybody all the time, you know. And she's a meddler. She is a meddler. I mean, and you can't get her to stop.

FOSL: Can you be more--can you elaborate on that a little bit?

PHILLIPS: Well I mean it's not necessarily a bad thing. But she takes on--I mean one of the, the criticisms I have of Anne is that she takes on too much. Um, she'll take on detail work that she really should not 01:00:00be doing. Um, 'cause it's exhausting her for things that she should be doing. I mean the fact that, you know, we're looking at 1991 and maybe getting a preamble to The Wall Between, um, I've been listening to that story for, uh, you know, twenty years. Well now as soon as I write this--you know. I mean that--she should be doing that, you know, because she has the potential of meeting a whole lot more people by doing that than she does organizing a meeting. You know. And if nobody's gonna come to this meeting, unless you call everybody, then it maybe doesn't need to happen. You know. (laughs) And that, you know--so I'm critical of her for doing things that, that I really wish she would set aside, 'cause I think there's bigger fish to fry.

FOSL: Um-hm.


FOSL: Tell me about your work with her since the split-up of SCEF.


PHILLIPS: Um-hm. Oh. Trying to think, what's, what's some things?

FOSL: Were you involved in the PIE thing ----------(??)?

PHILLIPS: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Boy. Absolutely. Sure, I had a kid in public schools. Um.

FOSL: Over here?

PHILLIPS: Um-hm. Um-hm. Um, yeah, we both worked, you know, real hard on, on the issue of, of trying to--the--that year that I worked for the union, it was actually more than a year. In that year, I had very little time to work with anybody. You know, if they weren't coming out to leaflet a hospital with me at six o'clock tomorrow morning, I didn't have time to talk to 'em. You know. I mean it was a constant stream of, of meetings with, with workers and leafleting and you know, continuing a union, a local that had a number of different components 01:02:00of workers from different, you know, uh, shops that, you know, needed their needs met, and, and, you know, writing contracts and, you know, bluffing our way through, you know, arbitration--(laughs)--hearings, and making it up as we went along. (laughs)

FOSL: Right.

PHILLIPS: Um, so I just, you know, there was a whole--over a year there that I just didn't have time to do anything other than union work. I mean it was a real--that was what, you know, had to be done. But by the time '75 rolled around and the union was out of money, and I went to work for Legal Services here, the Legal Services, um, affiliate. And that's, you know, that's when the school--

FOSL: Right.

PHILLIPS: --desegregation stuff was coming down. And, and, you know, there were a number of people, a lot of people that worked real hard on pulling that thing together, including, of course, Anne. Um, so, yeah, 01:03:00that was--that took up a lot of energy for a long, you know, six or eight months, really.

FOSL: Uh, tell me this. This is a--more of an individual question, too. Apart from this whole SCEF thing, how much would you say that you, your work was impaired, your effectiveness was impaired, or you personally were impaired, by red-baiting in the seventies? Here in Louisville.

PHILLIPS: Well, I got a job with the union because I was a Communist. I always thought that was quite handy. (laughs)

FOSL: Because you were a Communist?

PHILLIPS: Yeah. (laughs) It was a wonderful scenario. I was, um--we were working on impeaching Nixon is what it was. And that was how I first really worked with Suzy Post.

I sort of knew who she was, but I had never really worked with her on anything.

FOSL: Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: And the ACLU was big on impeaching Nixon. And so she started 01:04:00calling these meetings. And we met over here on Eastern Parkway at this woman's house. And we're sitting around one time, and this guy from this union local was there. And another--a black guy who was out of a shop here in, in Louisville, he had a long union history, who I knew through the Party, and a couple other more traditional liberal sorts of folks. And somebody, who clearly knew that there were reds amongst us, said something about, you know, I don't know what they said. It, it was just something really perverse about being careful about who, um, was involved with this, or something. Jesus Christ, give me a break. 01:05:00Um, but there was a, a little red- baiting tag in there. And this guy from the, from the local, who turned out to be a real good friend of mine, said, "Well, I don't know why we're even talking about that. There aren't any Communists in Louisville." (laughs) So--(laughs)-- there was a shuffling of eyes. And I said, "Well--"

FOSL: Wow.

PHILLIPS: --somebody better step in here, and I guess it's me." (laughs) You know, not only--

FOSL: Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: --is there a Communist Party here, but I'm chair of the Communist Party Club, and I really resent the idea that you're saying that it doesn't even exist." (laughs)

FOSL: Wow, and you said that in this meeting?

PHILLIPS: Yeah, yeah. You know, and he went, "Oh." You know, it never occurred to him--(laughs)--that there would be a Communist. (laughs) So I mean we turned out to be real good friends and he worked real closely with the Party for a number of years. (laughs)

FOSL: That's interesting. 'Cause people--I mean I have--people in the CP usually wouldn't say so.

PHILLIPS: Yeah. We were, we were pretty gutsy. I mean there were a 01:06:00number of people that were real open about--

FOSL: And in '72--

PHILLIPS: --being in the party.

FOSL: --I know there was work to get the Communist Party on the ballot.

PHILLIPS: Sure. Yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah.

FOSL: And who would, who were running, who was running for office, who do you think?

PHILLIPS: Uh, in '72, it was, uh, Hall and Tyner.

FOSL: Oh, but not local candidates?

PHILLIPS: No, no. No, no, no. There weren't local candidates.

FOSL: I see.

PHILLIPS: We never got to, to that level of involvement. But that's-- the process of putting a third party on the ballot in Ku--in Kentucky is very difficult, and getting more difficult every time the legislature meets. Um, so there's a big effort that has to go into getting signatures of registered voters--

FOSL: Right.

PHILLIPS: --in order to qualify them.

FOSL: I know Anne wrote some piece in the paper about it.


FOSL: As I recall.

PHILLIPS: Yeah. And it's, it's getting worse all the time.

FOSL: Why she was going to be an elector ----------(??).

PHILLIPS: Yeah, she was an elector and, and, you know, a number of other people have been at various times. But '72 was really the first year 01:07:00that the Party made efforts all over the South to get the, the national candidates on the ballot. There had not been that kind of an effort in '68 because the party wasn't really--

FOSL: Right.

PHILLIPS: --ready to jump in and do that when, when, uh, Charlene and Mike, uh, Zagarell ran. Uh, but by '72, there was a big effort, you know, to do that. So there was a pretty open face of the Party, you know, in this community. And some of us, you know, had been open practically from the get, you know. People just, you know, knew some of us around SCEF as being, you know, Party people.

FOSL: Right. Hmm.

PHILLIPS: So, you know, we were pretty up front about it, and didn't- -there was, there was such a shock thing, you know? They thought holy cow. And yeah, and they never thought they'd ever really met a 01:08:00communist except they sort of suspected some people.

FOSL: I just love it when people come--

PHILLIPS: You know.

FOSL: --up to me and say something about it. I think that is the best way.

PHILLIPS: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

FOSL: I mean--

PHILLIPS: You know, I mean Suzy, you know, never knew me as anything other than a Party person in SCEF (??)--

FOSL: See, I, I guess--

[Pause in recording.]

PHILLIPS: You know, a really important thing is that the Party be visible.

FOSL: Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: You know, I mean how else are you gonna build, you know, this organization and the and be effective in larger mass organizations if, you know, you gotta run around, you know--

FOSL: Hiding in your--

PHILLIPS: --hiding all this stuff, you know? And, um, so the--I, you know, there was just, I mean I know, you know, the-- I certainly was not the only open person in Louisville. And there were others in Nashville and--

FOSL: Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: --Memphis and Birmingham, you know. You know. It was, you know, there was a, um, you know, a whole number of people that were, 01:09:00were open and, and up front about their, you know, political view.

FOSL: Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: And it was, and it was good. 'Cause it really did, you know, people did go, you know, you know, you tell people you're out there getting the Communist Party on the ballot in Kentucky, "Huh?" (laughs)

FOSL: I bet.

PHILLIPS: I'm gonna say this slowly. (laughs) You know. But it was, you know, it was changing people's minds about, you know, all the scary stuff they'd been hearing.

FOSL: Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: You know, all their lives. All of a sudden, they're talking to somebody who seems relatively normal, and by God, they're talking about putting Communist Party candidates on the ballot, you know. So, it was good. You know, it was good that that, you know, that could happen. I mean it was an, an enormous change that happened in this country in that, you know, ten year span or so.

FOSL: Um-hm. Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: So, but there were other people, obviously, who could not be open, you know, for various reasons.

FOSL: Right.

PHILLIPS: Um, and that was fine, too. I mean it was not like they were 01:10:00not working, you know, and weren't--(laughs)--you know, trying to get the same kinds of, of things done. It was just that they were not in a position, 'cause of jobs or family or whatever, to, to be open.

FOSL: Um-hm. Yeah. It's funny, um--

[Pause in recording.]

FOSL: Okay, so let's get back to the matter at hand. (laughs) I'm sorry, um, I, I really love to talk about the Communist Party actually. (both laugh) Because so few people will that know anything about it. Um, okay, so you were kinda bringing me up in time--


FOSL: --in terms of your work with Anne.

PHILLIPS: Yeah. Well, we spent, you know, six or eight months working real hard on the, um, um, all the, the school desegregation issues.

FOSL: Right.

PHILLIPS: And trying to have some expression of--for support for desegregation from, you know, the white community. Um, let me think. 01:11:00Boy, I can't, I can't remember what all. This is awful. God. You find yourself wondering which decade it is, you know?

FOSL: Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: God! Real aging process here. I'm trying to think some of the things that we were doing, work around when--during that period that I was with, with Legal Services. Which went on for a long time. I worked for Legal Aid for like six, seven years--

FOSL: How long have you been--

PHILLIPS: --till Reagan.

FOSL: --with the ACLU?

PHILLIPS: Just--well, I started a little over two years ago. I was doing program stuff. And then Suzy left.

FOSL: Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: And they hired a fool. These people should not be allowed to 01:12:00hire. Um, and he lasted a couple months and left us in terrible shape. And so I took it over, doing it as an active thi-, acting person. And I've been doing it since February, I guess.

FOSL: Hmm.

PHILLIPS: Uh, you know, as a regular person.

FOSL: So--

PHILLIPS: Acting was more fun.

FOSL: I bet.

PHILLIPS: (laughs) Acting out, acting up.

FOSL: One of my closest friends was in that situation at ----------(??).

PHILLIPS: Not Ellen?

FOSL: Yeah.

PHILLIPS: Oh God. Make her come back. It's driving me crazy, a voice of reason. I just love Ellen.

FOSL: She's great.

PHILLIPS: I think she's wonderful.

FOSL: I've known her for so many years.

PHILLIPS: Oh God. And she finally did it and took the job and then, bingo.

FOSL: If they offered her that job sooner, I bet she wouldn't have gone. It took them forever.

PHILLIPS: Yeah. Yeah. Well, their big mistake was they hired--


FOSL: But--

PHILLIPS: --Hilary beforehand.

FOSL: Right. But see, she really wanted to do what she's doing, so--

PHILLIPS: Yeah. Oh yeah. I'm really glad. In terms of--

FOSL: Right.

PHILLIPS: --on a personal level, I'm really glad she's doing it. 'Cause she sounds like she's real happy with what, you know, what's been offered. And I'm glad she's, you know, taken it. I don't know what's gonna happen to the affiliate. The young woman that she was working with--

FOSL: Is acting--yeah, now that I--

PHILLIPS: But she's not gonna do it--

[Pause in recording.]

FOSL: --interview, now, okay, moving more into the contemporary period, I don't even know what to ask you, because I don't really know. I mean your, uh, what I know about you, your affiliation with Anne was in that latter SCEF period, which--


FOSL: --we've already covered. And I know that you're good friends. So you've told me a little bit about your impressions of Anne. But is there more that I don't know enough to ask you that you think you should tell me? I'm very interested to hear it.

PHILLIPS: Yeah, I don't know. Um, I think that that Anne and I drifted 01:14:00apart somewhat during probably the late seventies. Um, because at--that was the point when she was beginning to organize SOC. Um, actually, before that. But it was beginning to take more form and stuff. And that was something I was never involved with. I just did not wanna go through this again. If you get this organized, Anne, maybe somewhere down the road. But I really stood back from that. That had--you know. I'd had enough of those meetings. Um.

FOSL: What do you think of it now?

PHILLIPS: Well, from, you know, what I see, and I really don't, you know, see a whole lot--I mean I went to the, the conference in, in Birmingham--

FOSL: The labor--

PHILLIPS: You know, the--no, I couldn't go to the labor conference--

FOSL: Oh. I was at that other conference too.

PHILLIPS: At the anniversary con--

FOSL: Yeah, I was--

PHILLIPS: --conference. Um, and there's a lot of real interesting 01:15:00people that I've met through other ways that, you know, have that linkage. And I think that's a, a real important thing to do.

FOSL: Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: Is not obviously without problems. I mean I hear stuff periodically about stuff that's, you know, with any organization, any coalition, has. Um, but I just didn't wanna get into that one. 'Cause that's, you know--I did that. I think I'll just sort of step back. You organize the South, Anne, I'll just hang out here and, you know. (laughs) But we've worked a lot on Rainbow Coalition stuff together since, actually, since the '84 campaign. I think that was--yeah. Yeah, we had a, uh, yeah, we were--in '84, Kentucky voted by, um, caucus, which is, you know, when your precinct gets to--

FOSL: Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: --yeah, which is a great way to vote. I mean that's a great way to organize. In fact, Bill and I worked on that, because we worked 01:16:00in the same--we were living in the same legislative--

FOSL: Right.

PHILLIPS: --district. And so he and I and three, four other people, you know, worked on that, you know, together.

FOSL: Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: And of course Anne was involved in doing that, too. Um, and so that-- maybe that was the first time we started working closely together again was through Rainbow kinds of, of things. And that's, you know, that's continued, as we've tried to, you know, build a Rainbow presence here in Kentucky.

FOSL: Right.

PHILLIPS: Um, but I think there was a long period when we, you know, we would see each other and, but not, you know, spend long, intense periods of time, you know, working on, on something together. The other connection that Anne and I have had has been through the Davis Fund, um, which is a scholarship fund that was set up about twenty-seven years ago initially to help students who were being denied grants and 01:17:00fellowships and what have you because of their political persuasions.

FOSL: Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: And it's named after a woman named Marion Davis, who was red- baited out of teaching in this country. Um.

FOSL: Where?

PHILLIPS: In--actually, I can't say that stuff off the top of my head. Both Marion and her husband, Horace, had problems. At one point, they ended up--Horace, who was called Hockey, it's one of those names.

FOSL: Oh--(laughs)--my gosh.

PHILLIPS: Hockey was teaching at a black school in North Carolina. Um, because there weren't--other schools weren't gonna hire, you know, him. Um, their son, Chandler, was driven out of the University of Michigan because he refused to sign a loyalty oath in the fifties, you 01:18:00know. So initially, it was to try to respond to the problems created for students with red-baiting. And then later, um, it was responding to the kinds of problems that students were having because they were involved in civil rights and anti-war stuff, when suddenly scholarships were being withdrawn, and so on. And when I went to school in Tennessee in '72, Carl said, or no. No, that was before that, '69 Carl, said, "Oh, you know, get you one of these scholarships here. Fill out this form." (laughs) We were a little loose. And so I don't know, he went off somewhere and, you know, came back with a little bit of money that made a big difference in terms of my ability to be able to, you know, to go to school.

FOSL: Hmm.

PHILLIPS: Um, and, you know, we've managed to hold that, that thing together. And Anne and I--I've been on the board for--

FOSL: It's not local, it's national.

PHILLIPS: No, it's a national fund. Um--


FOSL: I am not at all familiar with that.

PHILLIPS: Yeah, I'll get ya, um, a brochure. I usually have some lying around--(laughs)-- somewhere. My kid comes home and says, "Your house looks more and more like Anne Braden's every time I come home." "Shut up." (laughs) 'Cause there's a minimum amount of--

FOSL: How old is he now?

PHILLIPS: --paper, but--he's thirty. He just turned thirty last winter, which is something of a shock for me, I don't know about him. (laughs) But anyhow, that's his standard, you know, is how bad this is, is compared to Anne, you know. So every time I think he's coming, I start hiding papers--(laughs)--away.

FOSL: Wow.

PHILLIPS: Um, but anyhow, so we worked on this fund together.

FOSL: So he's not crazy about Anne.

PHILLIPS: No, he loves Anne. I mean he thinks she's crazy as a loon, but he thinks--

FOSL: Whatever.

PHILLIPS: --she's just fine. You know. You know. But he recognizes housekeeping standards, you know?

FOSL: Right.

PHILLIPS: And that I may not be the cleanest person in the world, but next to Anne, I am sterling. You know, I have probably taught him this- 01:20:00-(laughs)--over the years. You think this is bad? Go look at Anne's house. (laughs) I remember one time going for Thanksgiving dinner with him. And this young woman that he was dating at this point, this must have been, oh, I don't know, maybe eight years ago, who had never met Anne. Her parents had told her, "Anne Braden, that Communist--

FOSL: Here in town?

PHILLIPS: --et cetera." Right, she grew up here. And so she didn't know what the hell to expect, you know. And she was absolutely amazed. I mean we had pushed the papers down to the end of the dining room table- -(laughs)--so we could get the turkey out there. (laughs) And she's going--(laughs)--yeah, this is it. This is it. She had--

FOSL: It looks better.

PHILLIPS: --a great time. She thought Anne was absolutely amazing. You know. And she is.

FOSL: It looks better right now.

PHILLIPS: You know. I understand that, yes, vast improvements have, uh, have s-, I haven't been down to Anne's house for a long time except maybe to drop something off or pick something up. But anyhow, I 01:21:00started--I was--been on the Davis Fund board for--someplace back there in the late seventies, I guess.

FOSL: Um-hm.

PHILLIPS: And Anne was, and Carl was, and a whole number of, of others of us. So that's been a real tie. And for about five years, I was administering the fund, which entailed keeping track of the people that we give money to, essentially. And Anne would do the annual brochure. So once a year we'd be thrown into this frenzy of--because of course if the brochure has to be printed by such and such a date, you don't start it beforehand. You know, and I'm, I'm real anal compulsive about stuff like that. And I'd come back from a meeting, and I'd have all these summaries that I've written up. I'd give her the ones, said, "These are the grantees." You know? Why do I do this? Two months later, 01:22:00she calls me because she doesn't know what she did with them. (Fosl laughs) I mean why have I done this! (laughs) But that's something that we've worked on consistently for, you know, a long, long time, has been the fund, and holding it together, which it has managed to do.

FOSL: Okay. Well, can you think of anything else that I might need to know that--

PHILLIPS: No, I think you'll think of questions as you go along through this. (laughs)

FOSL: Okay. I, I might need to call you.

[End of interview.]