Oral-history interview by Emilye Crosby, 2013 Video + bio & metadata
After graduation from Cornell in June 1964, I volunteered for the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project (MSP) sponsored by the Council of Federated Organizations. I went to orientation in Oxford, Ohio the first week. There I received my voter registration assignment in Greenville. We canvassed primarily for freedom registration in the new Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). We helped organize precinct meetings, county conventions and district caucuses to send representatives to the MFDP state convention held in Jackson on August 6, 1964. The state convention elected 68 delegates, black and white, primarily farmers, domestics, and small businessmen, to challenge the all white segregationist Mississippi Democratic Party at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City. We planned a new community center in Greenville named the Herbert Lee Memorial Freedom Center.
I returned to Mississippi the summer of 1965 with the Law Students Civil Rights Research Council (LSCRRC). After the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights under Law rejected my assignment, LSCRRC reassigned me to the National Lawyers Guild. The Guild program in 1965 used member lawyers who volunteered time in Mississippi to identify public facilities that remained segregated after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and initiate lawsuits as necessary in several different counties for their desegregation.
In 1967 after graduation from Stanford Law School I moved to Washington, D.C. and worked for two years in the counsels office of the United Planning Organization, the local anti-poverty program that received funding from the office of Economic Opportunity and other federal agencies. I practiced corporate law in the city with Morgan, Lewis and Bockius and other law firms specializing in government contracts law. In 1983 the National Aeronautics and Space Administration appointed me a federal administrative judge with responsibility to conduct hearings involving contractor disputes with the agency. For over 22 years I served there and on the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals at the U.S. Department of Defense. I retired on March 31, 2006.
I have attended reunions of the MSP volunteers, conferences of the Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, and the SNCC 50th Anniversary conference in Raleigh in 2010. I have a large library of books about the civil rights movement, particularly SNCC and Mississippi.
I have written a memoir about my civil rights work, For a Voice and the Vote: My Journey with the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. The focus is an account of the MFDP Convention Challenge which I have discussed as a participant-observer and on the basis of research in primary and secondary sources. Only brief accounts have appeared in the history books to date. My book details the five days that began with Fannie Lou Hamers testimony to the credentials committee. The MFDP, represented by Washington lawyer and political insider Joe Rauh and aided by Martin Luther King Jr., confronted President Lyndon B. Johnson, Hubert H. Humphrey, Walter Mondale, Walter Reuther, and others to gain voting rights and end racism in Mississippi and the Democratic Party. My book is due to be published by the University Press of Kentucky in the fall of 2014.
I would like to connect with SNCC and CORE staff, other summer volunteers, and MFDP members and delegates for information about the MFDP and the 1964 Convention Challenge.