Oral Histories

The Crossroads to Freedom Project has conducted hours of interviews and collected the oral histories of many who lived through the civil rights movement. To mark the MLK50 anniversary, we are collecting some of these oral histories to present on this site. In addition to this page, the following stories from Rhodes Alums and friends of the college have also been placed in a Rhodes Remembers MLK50 Youtube playlist, where each has annotated descriptions with links to sections of the video where particular areas of interest are discussed.

Hud Andrews '70

Hud Andrews '70, describes what it was like living in Memphis during the latter part of the Civil Rights Movement. He also talks about race relations in Memphis when he was a student and today.

This interview was filmed on May 21, 2008, by Marrissa Scales and Francesca Davis.

Robert Atkins

This is an interview with Deacon Robert Atkins, who was the Director of Religious Education at St. Augustine Catholic Church, one of the two historically African American parishes in the Diocese of Memphis. In this clip, Atkins describes the emotions he felt while participating in marches and protests during the 1950s and 1960s.

This interview was filmed on July 9, 2007, by Francesca Davis and Tiffani Smith.

Judge D'Army Bailey

Judge D'Army Bailey (1941 - 2015) talks about the civil rights movement and the founding of the National Civil Rights Museum. During his third year of college, Judge Bailey was expelled for participating in Civil Rights demonstrations. His efforts led to the preservation of the Lorraine Motel, the location of Dr. King's assassination, and its transformation into the National Civil Rights Museum.

This interview was filmed by Francesca Davis on June 1, 2007.

Mike Cody '58

Mike Cody '58 worked on various civil rights cases in Memphis, including Dr. Martin Luther King’s appeal for the Sanitation Worker’s Strike. He currently works at Burch, Porter, and Johnson, a Memphis Law Firm.

This interview was filmed on November 11, 2007, by Courtney Eskew.

Fred Davis

Fred Davis is a native Memphian who was elected to the Memphis City Council in 1967. Davis also served as Chairman of the Public Works Committee while on the council. In this clip he describes his struggle to improve wages for the sanitation workers.

This interview was filmed by F. Jack Curley and Joan Beifuss on May 22, 2014.

Eddie Mae Hawkins

Eddie Mae Hawkins describes the days leading up to Dr. King's visit to Memphis, the announcement of the shooting, and what it was like for her neighborhood following the news of the assassination. 

This interview was filmed June 16, 2006, by Professor James Lanier, who also conducted the interview.

Rev. Billy Kyles

Rev. Samuel "Billy" Kyles kyles (1934 - 2016) talks about his inspirations during the civil rights movement. This clip is an exerpt of a longer interview which can be found in a playlist on the Crossroads to Freedom Youtube Channel.

This interview was filmed by Bill Thomas on November 7, 2006.

Dr. James Lanier

Professor Emeritus James Lanier was teaching history at Rhodes during the Sanitation Workers Strike. He shares his experience marching in downtown Memphis after the assasination of Dr. Martin Luther King, and his feelings at that time.

This interview was filmed by Katherine Pennington on April 17, 2009.

Bill Short '71

Bill Short '71, Associate Director of Paul Barret Jr., Library at Rhodes College, recounts his experiences growing up in a small, rural farming community during racially segregated times. He describes the tensions of racial integration on Rhodes' campus when he was a student in the 1960’s, and how he worked at the personal level to increase tolerance and understanding while in college and now.

This interview was filmed by Joshua Jeffries on July 27, 2007.

Dr. Coby Smith '68

Dr. Coby Smith '68 was one of the first two African American students to attend Rhodes College (then Southwestern at Memphis).  He was a founding member of the activist group The Invaders and was a local activist in Memphis during the Sanitation Workers Strike of 1968.

This interview was filmed by Jenna Sullivan on April 8, 2015.

Henry Turley

Henry Turley tells his experience of the first march in Memphis for the sanitation workers. Turley has watched the growth and development of the city of Memphis since his childhood. He discusses his childhood, his participation in the development of Memphis, and his memories of the Civil Rights protests that took place in Memphis.

This interview was filmed by Francesca Davis and Crystal Windless on January 9, 2007.

Johnnie Turner

Johnnie Turner, who was, and continues to be, a strong advocate for civil rights and education. At the time of this interview, she was serving as the Executive Director of the Memphis Branch of the NAACP. Turner describes participation in the Memphis sit-ins during the Civil Rights Movement, which led to the Memphis City Schools system telling her that she would never become a teacher. However, Turner rose to become not only a dedicated teacher in Memphis, but also head of staff development for the school system.

The interview was filmed on November 30, 2006.

Harmon Wray '68

Harmon Wray '68 (1946 - 2007) was a Rhodes student who graduated in 1968, and was at the time of this interview the director of the Vanderbilt Program in Faith and Criminal Justice. In this interview he describes his childhood growing up in Memphis and his early memories of race relations. He also talks about the controversy he was involved in at Rhodes over admitting a black student into the ATO fraternity, his memories of the period following Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, and his decision to become a criminal justice reform activist.

This interview was filmed on November 30, 2006.