PRESTAGE: --conducted as a part of the American Political ScienceAssociation Oral History Project. It is being conducted at Prairie View, Texas on August 10th, 1990. My name is Jewel Prestage and I'm doing the interview with Dr. Earl Lewis. Dr. Lewis would you kindly give your full name? The date and place of birth?
LEWIS: Yes. My name is Earl McKinley Lewis. I was born in McComb,Mississippi some very many years ago. And I have recently retired from the faculty of Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas where for the past twenty-two years I've served as chairman of the Department of Urban Studies. And, uh, uh, and taught, uh, courses in both the Urban 1:00Studies Program and the Political Science Department.
PRESTAGE: Dr. Lewis, we'd like to know something about your earlybackground and training. Where you lived? When and why did you develop an interest in political science? Uh, a little bit about your elementary and high school experiences in your home state of Mississippi. About your undergraduate work, what you majored in? And, uh, just a little bit that will introduce us to Dr. Earl M. Lewis.
LEWIS: Well, I'm very pleased to talk about, uh, the things in myearly life, literally, my childhood that had a great deal to do with 2:00stimulating my interest in teaching, and have probably have me at the point now in my career, uh, having retired. If I had a chance to start all over again, I'd start with, uh, I would probably want to do pretty much the same the thing that I have tried to do through these years. There is a--I'm an only son of, uh, of, uh, Peter Lewis and Estelle Lewis. Uh, two wonderful parents. My father was a railroad foreman. Uh, one of the ingredients in my past that was, I think, critically important in my whole life was that my mother, uh, had the opportunity to stay in the house, every day of my life and was not obliged to go outside the home. And so she was a homemaker in the full-time sense of the word. And that cultivation by a mother who's 3:00100 percent on the job was for me as an only son extremely important. Uh, my parents are not only concerned and loving but they were extremely generous and that had a great deal to do with, uh, uh, the, the confidence that I had in my own potential. And the appreciation of, uh, myself and others reflected in the way my parents taught me to relate to them, to them and to others. But I do want to make a federal case of another aspect of my development which I have thought so much of in recent years. And that has to do with the black people in the segregated part of McComb, Mississippi who added an incredible amount of love, concern, support, encouragement, trust, uh, in me as 4:00a child as we went about the business of going to school, going to church and participating in a variety of things in this subset of the general community of McComb, Mississippi. Uh, it's--one of my regrets now is that public institutions educating black children have lost that intimate contact with the parents of those children and with the friends of those children in the community who had a special sense of obligation. The black women in, in McComb, uh, went out of their way to fry fish dinners and fix chicken dinners to buy the things that the public schools in Mississippi would not provide for black children in a segregated system that was really a thinly disguised conspiracy to propagate the ignorance of black children. Uh, they made my life as a child in the school system there and in the churches and in the community, just absolutely exciting and enjoyable. And the key 5:00ingredient was, everybody concentrated on showing concern and caring and love for me. And went out of their way. I need to tell just this, this--the, the chairman or rather the president of the PTA that did so many things to make our lives better as students in the elementary school there which went just to the eighth grade was a woman who didn't have any children. And she worked washing clothes for white people and ironing them, uh, with the old-fashioned irons that you heated on, uh, coals of fire, of, uh, heated coals to get them hot. And then, and she, she used that for ironing. But she had phenomenal leadership qualities. She was a great civic leader, and she lead the PTA to do things for our school and for our principal and our teachers that 6:00had a great deal to do with my development. It's just impossible--my principal and the black teachers were equal to that, um, concern and support from the community. They were dedicated to the proposition that our resources notwithstanding, they were going to see to it that we developed as young, as young people as fully as we possibly could. And that meant that, uh, uh, they supplemented our, our textbook. We used second hand textbooks from the white schools. We even used second hand crayon from the white schools. And these people tried to make up the difference and they succeeded in my life in ways that I could never adequately describe. Uh, I left, uh, after finishing the eighth grade in McComb and went on to Jackson, Mississippi which is the family seat of my family and stayed, uh, alternately with an aunt and with, uh, two grandmothers while I went to Lanier High School. And there I 7:00found, uh, still the nurturing and caring that, uh, was so important in keeping me aware that I had an enormous opportunity and there were a lot of people interested in my taking advantage of it. And I had a great career in Lanier High School. I ran into teachers again who were just phenomenal. They were, they were, they were dedicated to the proposition that they should help me and my, and, and all the other, uh, students as much as possible. And I--right this day there are members of that faculty I can recall, uh, in that high school who had the influence that I've just indicated in my civic life and in my educational life. And I carry around in my mind a good number of, uh, poems from poets. And there was an English teacher, a black woman, who--from the community who went to college and came back and 8:00taught English in that high school. And she gave us a development of, developed a sensitivity about poetry and about, uh, literature that just has gone with me through life. And she was Mrs., and I never forget, she was Miss Al-, Albertine, uh, uh, Harris and she was a phenomenal force of, uh, as were others, of course, in the teaching. After finishing, uh, Lanier, I was in the capitol city of the state and therefore probably one of the best public high schools, uh, segregated high schools for black children in the state. I, uh, left Lanier on finishing and went to Tougaloo College, a small private black institution, north of Jackson, and finished my college work there.
PRESTAGE: Dr. Lewis, when you were in high school at Lanier, did you9:00participate in any extracurricular activities in athletics perhaps, uh, or were you, uh, mostly confined to purely academic pursuits?
LEWIS: No, no, no, I, I, I did enjoy the academic work greatly. But Iwas also very, very active in basketball. I was a prominent member of our basketball team. In fact, I had been that at, in, um, in, um, in, at the grammar school level. Our grammar school basketball team was coached by our principal. And, uh, uh, in, after-school on days he would roll up his sleeves, take off his coat and actively play with us in order to develop us as youngsters. Uh, and when you are playing and being, uh, coached by, uh, an elementary coach, a principal like that, there's a lot of teaching that occurs in that process that, that we benefit from. But, uh, no, I, I think that the athletic side and the 10:00academic side were both very attractive to me. Uh, the good teachers, though, saw to it that I didn't neglect the academic and that was to my great advantage. That, uh, uh, that English teacher that, uh, that has me going around often reciting Shakespearean sonnets to myself. Uh, recently, I had a retirement honorary dinner and I, uh, was trying to speak about the spirit that would come to encourage me that night, uh, on that occasion. And I, uh, just on the spur-, it just seemed such a wonderful evening of people exuding a very, very fine manifestation of the human spirit, caring, support, concern.
PRESTAGE: Apparently some of the poetry that you, uh, learned from her11:00that you were introduced to by this wonderful teacher, had a major impact on your life. Uh, and at this point, would you like to share with us what came to you on the occasion of your retirement?
LEWIS: Yes, I, well, I think it's one of Shakespeare's sonnets thatI asked them to let me adapt to the audiences' purposes, and it was, Shall I compare thee to a summer's day? Thou art more lovely and far more beautiful. Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May and summer's lease hath all too short a date. Sometimes thou eye of heaven. Sometimes the eye of heaven, uh, I'm lapsing, and often in its oft'--this signs, this is a corruption of the line from Shakespeare. But it gets too hard. And often in its gold complexion dim and every fair, from fair sometimes declined by chance or natures changing course untrimmed. But by eternal summer shall not fade, nor lose possession 12:00of the fair thou owest. Nor shall death brag that thou wanderth in his shade when eternal lines to time thou growest. So long as men shall breath and eyes can see so long lives this. And this gives life to thee. And it's--I'm, I'm sorry I, I lapsed on that one line, but I thought that was, uh, that Shakespeare wrote those poems and they're romantic things. But I had a romance with that audience that night, and I substituted, uh, them for the normal target in that Shakespearean sonnet.
PRESTAGE: At the end of your tenure at Lanier High School, you enrolledin Tougaloo College. Tell us a little bit about the experience at Tougaloo? What was your major? Did you have a mentor? Or a person who took a special interest in you and did you continue your exploits on the basketball court? 13:00
LEWIS: Tougaloo was another splendid experience. It's amazing--mostpeople think that Mississippi when I was growing up and before and since is a terrible state with all kinds of problems and, uh, inferiority, um, and realit-, and inferior resources and opportunities for black people and indeed oppression and very brutal forms of racism in many cases. And all of that's quite true. And yet it's possible for me to look back, uh, and, uh, remember some of those brutal features of life rooted in the racism of the time and the traditions of the state as to race. On the other hand, there was just wonderful other many, other things that were so wonderful and Tougaloo was a case in that. It was a small campus. Uh, run--the Tougaloo College was a part--one of several, uh, colleges throughout the South created by Congregationalists of New England in the period immediately following the Civil War. And, uh, uh, Talladega in 14:00Alabama, LeMoyne initially in, in Tennessee, Fisk in Tennessee, uh, uh, Huston-Tillotson, I believe over here in Texas and others. I'm, I'm less sure about Huston-Tillotson. Tougaloo was such a college and we had, uh, almost throughout the history of those schools interracial faculties. Wonderful black and white men and women who worked together on the faculties of those schools. And very, very dedicated leaders of those institutions that were concentrated on, concentrated on maximum stimulus and development of the, of the, of the students. Uh, we had, uh, a very closely knit campus and I participated in football and basketball. We had so few, relatively few students, uh, male students, if you were hail and hardy you almost had an obligation to help fill out the athletic, I would, uh, teams, and I did. And enjoyed them very, very much. But the principle thing that I would characterize 15:00that institution was the individual investment of each teacher of concern and interest and support for each student. And that is one of the most remarkable motivators for young people you can get. To have adults who care and who want to see you succeed and who demonstrate that through their daily contacts and, uh, and encouragement of you.
PRESTAGE: At Tougaloo, did you have a--any special mentor who had aninfluence on you and did you major in political science?
LEWIS: I majored in economics and history at, at Tougaloo and, uh, I didhave, uh, not one but several people who were so, I thought, exemplary as human beings and educators. One of them was the Chaplain, Reverend Bender, W.A. Bender, who was the chaplain of the institution who was 16:00such a wonderful, flexible, warm person. And all of the students felt that he had this keen interest in them and that had a lot of influence on all of us. Uh, the, uh, the other was, uh, my history teacher, a woman, Dr. Lula Johnson who I believe was one of the earliest Ph.D.'s from, uh, the University of Iowa. Uh, um, and perhaps from a number of the, of the major universities in the country. I suspect she was on among the, uh, the first with, uh, with extraordinary in history and I had the pleasure and the advantage of studying with her. A young black woman, extraordinarily well educated and who took her teaching so seriously, prepared so thoroughly and challenged us so thoroughly. Was so intolerant of the, of the kind of apathy toward history that 17:00young people have when they don't know any better until they get older to understand what--how the knowledge of the past connects to the present and the future in organic ways. So those two particularly. But I, I want to tell you that I had, uh, uh, a tall, thin white woman who was my biology teacher. She was also my employer. I worked, uh, uh, to clean, uh, my job was to clean up her laboratory and throw out all the things that you have to throw out when you clean up a college biology lab. And our relationship held throughout my whole four years at, uh, at Tougaloo. And it was a beautiful relationship. Uh, she, she taught me and challenged me. She insisted that I do my work thoroughly and she almost unfailingly would send, uh, a desert to me across the dining hall when from the faculty section of the dining hall 18:00when we were having, uh, uh, dinner, students and faculty and there was something excellent on the menu. And you can imagine, uh, I had a great appetite, still, I still do. And those little delicacies, that thoughtfulness, her name's Miss. Chambers. Uh, a wonderful, warm woman who had a great deal to do with my ex-, experience at Trinity--I mean at Tougaloo.
PRESTAGE: Dr. Lewis, uh, who was the major influence on your decisionto go to graduate school? You note I'm not asking what. I'm asking, who was the major influence? I assume based on the, uh, the description that you've given of Tougaloo, it was probably somebody rather than some thing.
LEWIS: Well, I think your assumption is absolutely, uh, plausible. Inmy case, though, it doesn't work. I, uh, I didn't get an encouragement 19:00to go to graduate school from a specific source and to do, uh, study political science from a specific source. I tell you what I think. That first of all the totality of my cumulative education experiences and the multiple investments in my education by so many different people going back to my elementary school targeted me for getting as much education as I possibly could. I was, I was biased toward education. Everybody patted me on my head and told me to keep going in school and do well in school. And I heard that from, from, uh, the earliest moment of my grammar school grades, throughout, uh, my college career. And I think I assumed and my parents and others assumed that since I was doing well and had always had that encouragement that I would want to go on to graduate school and get more education beyond the college level. However, there was a second factor that I think 20:00probably was im-, was more important than that intangible one. And this second factor is I was deeply sensitive, and Tougaloo was a place where you could learn about the brutalities and insensitive, insensitive, insensitiveness of racism. We, we were not isolated, uh, in our academic program and in our interactions with each other and in our interactions intellectual and otherwise with the, with externalities to our campus. We under-, we grew to understand so much about the institutions of racism and discrimination and prejudice and oppression. And they become, that became a part of our lives along with the kind of wonderful human relations and educational relations we had on the campus. But one of the things that happened to me was that I became persuaded in my own mind that given all the status of black people, there were two areas in which they needed, uh, uh, uh, 21:00more and more of us to get prepared and to contribute. One of them was to get more and, and, and more teachers who could help educate young blacks, in, in, particularly to take their place in the fight for, uh, uh, justice for the black community generally. And so I got deeply committed to getting equipped to help through better education and more education, black people move ahead in the country and to do that as a teacher. And then the second thing that was extremely explicit in my own thinking and no one ever lectured me about this. I gradually reached this conclusion through all of these wonderful contacts we had, and interactions with my fellow students and teachers and people in my community and my parents. I became persuaded that the government was a critical ingredient in the future. That, uh, the political arena 22:00and the governmental policy, governmental behavior, what the government does or doesn't do. Uh, whether it treats people justly or unjustly. Whether it, it seeks to reduce disparities in economic opportunities and other opportunities or not. All of that's very important. And that decided that I would--made me, made me decide that I would choose political science as the area in which I would do my graduate study and, uh, I've never regretted that.
PRESTAGE: Dr. Lewis did you serve in the military in World War II andwhat impact if any did that, did that have on your career in terms of choosing to go to graduate school and that kind of thing?
LEWIS: Yes, I spent, uh, uh, three years in the military in World WarII, I was inducted shortly after I graduated from college and I had the ambition of being a, a airplane pilot and there was a segregated, highly segregated element of the air corps, uh, for blacks. The 23:00training being--starting out at, uh, Tuskegee for pilot training. Uh, I did succeed in, in passing the motor skills elements of the test for pilot training, and I failed that test in my home state down at Biloxi, Mississippi where most of the, uh, uh, uh, candidates for airplane pilot, uh, experience in the Air Corps I think went at that time. Uh, after that failure, I stayed in the Air Corps and, uh, served, uh, time first at the Charleston Army Air Force Base and then later served at, uh, at, uh, at Guardman Field in Kentucky. Uh, and my military experience was very instructive too in, in matters racial. 24:00And it was therefore an extra inducement to try to find ways to equip yourself to help black people escape. For example, when we were being sent to Biloxi to get those tests for possible pilot training at Tuskegee, uh, we were accused of, a group of black youngsters going to Biloxi to become pilots and to fly for our country; we were accused by the conductor of, of a train we were on of being boisterous and disrespectful. And he called ahead, had all of us taken off of the train at, uh, Hattiesburg, Mississippi where is fairly near where we live. And, and not many miles above Biloxi and we were taken to a military post, and, at, to Camp Shelby as a matter of fact, at Hattiesburg, and near Hattiesburg. And, and put in the stockade and we were interrogated by a rather rabid bunch of white military police. Who actually played or to the best that we could determine a 25:00little Russian roulette with their guns with us. They were so upset about this group of blacks who were evidently presumed too much about themselves and their potential for military service of the country. And that was one of the extraordinary experiences that stayed with me. Uh, I didn't have anything nearly that bad, uh, uh, through the rest of my career in my Army, but I did serve as a corporal, that's the highest I did get. Uh, at Charleston we were in a segregated unit that cleaned the base, the military base. My job in that unit was a sort of special services officer who tried to arrange recreational and cultural things for those, for those troops. I continued with that specialty, uh, when we got to Guardman Field Kentucky which was an all black base to which they brought the pilots from Europe. Uh, uh, the 477th Bombardment Squadron, a squadron of B-26 bombers was, was being 26:00trained there. They were converting white, I mean black fighter pilots into black bomber pilots. And I was in the headquarters squadron and I wound up having the responsibility of creating--running the recreational and cultural and educational program for the, for the base and enjoyed that very, very much.
PRESTAGE: Dr. Lewis your graduate experience took you to the city ofChicago, would you tell us how you made the selection of your master's degree institution as well as your Ph.D. granting institution.
LEWIS: Yes, uh, one of the things about Chicago that was not the first,but the second factor in my choice of the city. Very important second factor which, I just have loads of relatives; black people have left Mississippi in droves to go to Chicago. And I had relatives in one, in certain sections of Chicago where blacks were concentrated. We had 27:00a lot of relatives and so that it was going to be possible for me of have the advantage of being in the city, if I went to the University of Chicago and to Loyola University of Chicago, and I went in reverse order, uh, uh, I would have a lot of people to, to relate to. The, uh, but the key factor that, that, uh, that dro-, took me to Chicago was the presence of the University of Chicago there and a reputation that I learned that it had for having one of the best, if not the best political science department in the country. I was very anxious to get exposed to the best education in political science that the country could offer. And at that time, that department, uh, uh, was very, very highly rated. And that was the most important. When you combine the quality of the program in political science at Chicago with all of those relatives I had, then you--that solves the problem of ultimately 28:00I was gonna go to Chicago to, for the Ph.D. Now, I took a year and half at Loyola University on coming out of a service as a more or less a warming up exercise. I decided that when I came out of the service, I would do the master's degree first and do it in history and sharpen up my graduate research skills before enrolling in the doctoral program at Chicago. And I did that and it worked very well for me.
PRESTAGE: The University of Chicago experience, uh, then, was one thatyou had look forward to for a long time. Uh, once you got at the University of Chicago, uh, how did you go about organizing your, uh, graduate program? Um, what about the faculty members? Did, uh, the department have a special reputation in any of the subfields of the 29:00discipline? With whom did you work as a major advisor or mentor? Um, just, uh, tell us also what influence did the University of Chicago have on the discipline at large? And what was, what was really special about the University of Chicago once you got there?
LEWIS: Uh, one of the, one of the things about the university, of course,was a great liberal tradition. It is true, uh, I think, uh, uh, uh, Gabriel Almond who gave what now is regarded as a tremendous speech to a combination meeting of the International and the American Political Science Associations. Uh, credits in that speech the University of Chicago with generating, uh, a large part of the strong liberal tradition in political science, uh, that started in the twenties and, 30:00uh, evolved for a period. Uh, secondly, there was a man of enormous stature and sensitivity at Chicago as its chancellor, Robert Maynard Hutchins, and I was attracted to him because of his reputation and the kinds of values he reflected as a president of a major university. Uh, I was also attracted because the student body was allegedly very, very comp-, uh, high quality and there was a good healthy competition, intellectual competition, uh, within the groups. When I got there, I, uh, the, the names of the professors in, uh, uh, in that department of political science that, uh, stick, uh, stand with me, a number of them are still alive. Uh, I, uh, uh, I had a chance to study constitutional law under Robert Horn and C. Herman Pritchett. And Horn 31:00was a young professor that had come over, come from Harvard or Yale, I've forgotten which. And I took my first constitutional law course under him and that was one of the specialties that had interested me because of the civil liberties issues that you address when you get into that field. The second one was that, uh, uh, I took, uh, um, I was challenged by the opportunity to take, uh, two courses with the Robert, uh, Morgenthau who was the, uh, student of international relations, Hans Morgenthau, I'm sorry. Hans Morgenthau. And, uh, uh, I was particularly interested in my ability to do successful work in a course taught by him. Uh, I had a very close personal relationship and I think this man more than any other man contributed to my, uh, uh, uh, to my success in a number of ways, educational and non-educational. Jerome Kerwin was a professor of political theory at the University 32:00of Chicago. Uh, as a matter of fact, he--I worked for him, uh, uh, in his home and, uh, stayed in his home for a while, uh, while I was at university, because he was so close to the campus. Uh, at other times, I stayed with relatives across town in the city. Uh, I'm trying to think if there, if there's another. Oh, yes, I'm about to--the man who directed my graduate work with a degree in political, in public administration. I mean a thesis in public administration and I--he had me studying the regulation of banks and insurance companies and railroads in New York state, state regulation of economic activity in those areas. Uh, and he was interested in that because as you know Leonard White had--has done a lot of the critical work about the history of the evolution of the public administrative function in this country. And, uh, I had the pleasure of doing, uh, my doctoral, uh, 33:00dissertation, uh, under, under him and getting what I was so gratified a very complimentary note when we finished the process which was a little arduous and extended because, uh, uh, he and I both, uh, were a little short on very first hand knowledge of the regulation of those institute, economic sectors at the state level generally and to say nothing about the New York experience. The New York experience was particularly, uh, provocative because it such a rich mixture of high political lobbying and other kinds of, uh, and economic factors in a state that was distinguished in so many ways.
PRESTAGE: When you were at the University of Chicago, studying for yourPh.D., were there many women involved in graduate study in political 34:00science at that time, or was the woman graduate student a rarity?
LEWIS: I, I must say that I think women graduate students were, weresmall in number and if I, and trying, as I am doing now at this moment to recall. Uh, them, I, they were just, they were, they were conspicuously small in number and so much so that I can't call up a face or name at the moment. And I'm sure there were several, but there were very, very few. And this was also true of blacks. I'm allegedly the second, black Ph.D. to come out of that department. Robert Martin who was in, on the faculty at Howard was the first, and it was he who had something to do with my going on to Har-, Howard, uh, to serve as a substitute faculty member there for a couple of years for, uh, Robert 35:00Vincent, uh, who was on leave.
PRESTAGE: Were there any women on the faculty or any blacks on thefaculty?
LEWIS: No blacks on political science faculty then. You understand thatthis period was the period nineteen hundred and, uh, about forty-seven through 1951. I took my degree in the fall of '51, and, uh, I don't recall a single black faculty member. And I don't believe we had a woman faculty member at that time. At least during the time that I was on the campus.
PRESTAGE: Do you recall any black students doing graduate study there inany field at the time you were there or any black on the faculty of the university in any department? 36:00
LEWIS: At that time, I don't, I don't recall that there was a blackfaculty member, I'm, I'm, if, I'm, and there may have been in some compartment of the university that I wasn't aware of. I, uh, uh, there was a--there were several black students in political science. There were at least two or three others. Uh, and, uh, they were working at the doctoral level, and I just happened to be a little ahead of them or else one of them would have been that second Ph.D. out of the department.
PRESTAGE: How influential would you say that the Department of PoliticalScience at the University of Chicago was during your tenure there as a graduate student. And, uh, how did that influence impact your post- Ph.D. career? 37:00
LEWIS: You know, I think that the department was, uh, a prestigiousdepartment. Uh, uh, uh, Herman Finer was on that department, uh, uh, uh, the British, uh, particular student, great British student of public administration. Mor-, Hans Morgenthau was there, uh, at that time. Um, Leo Strauss, uh, was there, uh, Avery Leiserson was there and, uh, uh, to name a fraction of the outstanding people in the discipline and obviously they were the department benefited from the presence of, of that kind of, uh, Mr. Pritchett, uh, uh, C. Herman Pritchett was, of course, chairman of the department during most of the period that I studied at the university. Um, I, uh, I was just happy to use the university to get the credential and to do hopefully 38:00decent work in the process, uh, so that I could get out in the world and, and, and teach. And all of my teaching has been either in, uh, predominately black institutions or as in the case of Trinity, I set up a program in which minority students dominated at the graduate level.
PRESTAGE: My next question was to tell us a little bit about yourexperience as a political science teacher. You have indicated that you initial appointment was at Howard University as a temporary replacement for a professor who was going on leave. Would you, uh, tell us a little bit about, uh, what it was like to be at Howard, the department that was, uh, really built by Ralph Bunche and, uh, about the appointments that you had after Howard?
LEWIS: Well, it was a great experience for me to go to Howard. Howard39:00has this reputation, you know, had it then perhaps more than now for being such an extraordinary predominantly black institution. Uh, the department had, just the social science sector at Howard had some impressive black scholars, and also, they were also in other sectors as well. I thought I was on campus with a, with a good number of authentic academic, uh, scholars. I, uh--Frank Edwards was there in sociology and, uh, E. Franklin Frazier, uh, was, uh, was, was either there or had just, uh, uh, uh, left former identification with that faculty. An enormously prestigious sociologist. Um, John Hope Franklin was teaching there in, in history while I was there and I had 40:00a chance to, uh, to give him. And there was a man named Blackburn who went on to the West Coast to head a faculty in mathematics, the faculty in mathematics at one of the leading, uh, California universities. And Frank Snowden and, and, and a few others. Uh, uh, what's the woman, Handsbur-, Hansberry, uh, the Raisin in the Sun author. Her father was on the faculty and was an historian with an enormous strength in things African. Uh, and wrote a remarkable book in that area which I don't know whether he got published before he passed or not. So that, uh, that being on, uh, uh, in the department, itself, Frank, uh, uh, Emmett Dorsey and Bob Martin and a few others were there. But it was a wonderful, wonderful setting to be in, there were a lot of accomplished black academicians.
PRESTAGE: The president of the university at the time was a man of great41:00vis-, visibility and energy and influence, uh, Mordecai Johnson, did you have the opportunity to, to interact with him at--what can you tell us? There are so many, uh, stories with regard to his influence as a builder of a powerful educational institution, do you have anything that you can tell us about how that, uh, how he impacted your life and your intellectual outlook?
LEWIS: As a young junior member of the Howard faculty, I didn't havea chance to have to, uh, to have contract with, uh, with, uh, Dr. Mordecai Johnson, but I was very, very attentive to his leadership of 42:00the university. Uh, it was a great delight for me just to go to the scene of one of his speeches to his faculty or to a faculty meeting at which he presided. He was just a powerful charismatic figure and translated those powerful personal qualities into a variety of ways that he supported and built and expanded that university and, uh, and directed it. So that, I didn't--no, I didn't have the personal contact, but I almost didn't need it. I was constantly aware, that he was the president, he was on the campus, and I was on the ---------- (??) campus. And he was, as a remarkable president as he was.
[Pause in recording.]
PRESTAGE: Dr. Lewis the transition from the University of Chicagoto Howard University must have been an interesting, uh, transition because, uh, you have, uh, indicated that the black presence at 43:00the University of Chicago was minimal. While at the University of Chicago did you encounter any specific incidents of racism? Either as it related to your work in political science or the operation of the university overall?
LEWIS: I think the answer to that's no. And it's, it's a remarkable,uh, uh, it's remarkable that I can say that. What struck me was that I was able to come up from Mississippi, just a completely undistinguished background, an undistinguished person, undistinguished family, uh, uh, and compete very effectively. And while I was, all I wanted was the opportunity to compete. But no professor, uh, uh, got in the way. 44:00Uh, I, uh, I can recall, if I can be this personal in making what I'm told was the highest grade in the political theory class, an exam taken by about a hundred students, mixture of master's and doctoral people. And, uh, I was delighted about the opportunity to compete. And I have an excellent academic record there, a very, very good one. And, that was only possible because the teachers were color blind when it came to, uh, rewarding students or punishing them for their performances.
PRESTAGE: From Howard you came south to Texas and, uh, have been inTexas most of the time since your initial employment at Prairie View A & M University. Would you tell us a little bit about what it was like 45:00to be a political scientist from the University of Chicago at Prairie View A & M University, uh, in 1953 when you joined the faculty here?
LEWIS: Well, I tell you what it meant. It meant that the thing thatI had wanted to be and become all my life I had a chance to be it. That's what it meant. It meant that I had a chance to go to a campus of a segregated state university and try to make an impact on a significant number of students to stimulate them to, to, to realize how much, uh, how they could excel and how they could achieve and how rewarding a gratifying it was to, to fall in love with the business of excellence. And the thing that gives me such satisfaction as I sit here and talk about this. I believe I succeeded as I'm, as you have at Southern University. Uh, there's hardly anything more rewarding. And I've got letters that, uh, I, that just delighted to hear from. And 46:00you have to be in a setting like Prairie View to have an opportunity to do as much good as we did. And so I coached the debating team and took them all over the country. I set up and ran the honor society for the best students at the university. I wrote proposals for money that had nothing to do with my own department which I chaired at political science, they raised money for English laboratories that brought, uh, concert artists to and ballet companies to the campus. All because it was just a lovely, wonderful place to invest yourself in the development of the students who came from, uh, small communities in the main in Texas that had little in educational opportunities and resources that those communities had invested in their preparation.
[Pause in recording.]
PRESTAGE: Dr. Lewis the years at Prairie View, as you have indicated,were very good years, could you identify some of your prized students 47:00from that era and, uh, perhaps what they have gone on to do today?
LEWIS: Yes, and this is a little difficult, because a number of myprized students didn't go on to some particular distinction. They were just people who, uh, who did well in their lives and who, uh, worked at doing what they were doing particularly well. And I, uh, but, but I can name some that come to my mind. Dr. Wally Miles at, uh, at, uh, the University of California in San Diego. Uh, and, uh, Dr. Maurice Woodard who is at the Howard University and has been associated with the staff of the profession. And, uh, one of the very outstanding 48:00lawyers in the city of Houston and a former president of the national, uh, uh, organization of black lawyers, um, Rowland Smith who was in, uh, held an extraordinary high, uh, significant position in academic leadership, uh, in the provost office at Carnegie Mellon and who's now at the University of Houston. Uh, we've had a number of our graduates, uh, William Cotton in the Dallas Independent School District who has provided administrative leadership there for a long time. And then there's one other man whom I taught who, uh, was a great inspiration to me. He's now, uh, I don't know whether he's still on active duty, but he's a general in the United States Army and his name was, uh, Johnny Forte, uh, General Forte, F-o-r-t-e, and I remember him so well because 49:00I can. I hope I can tell this story on him. I was trying to give him a research project to write for the third time, and I was trying to prepare him psychologically for getting that kind of, uh, suggestion, uh, that I thought he could do an improvement. And he interrupted me when I was trying to offer this, uh, challenge for a third time for him apologetically. He says, "Go ahead and let me have it." Says, "Don't worry about, uh, softening the blow." He says, "I don't want to write an inferior paper." And I was--I've always remembered that and been terribly struck by it. Uh, there were, this is doing an injustice to the large number of fine people I had a chance, uh, to be helpful to as a teacher when they were at Prairie View. I had students in the honor society and the debating team, all of whom distinguished themselves while they were participating and many later in life. 50:00
PRESTAGE: It's striking that on that list of students were no womenstudents. Is that the way political science was then?
LEWIS: I'm afraid so. I had a number of women in my classes, butsomehow or another, I think, the ladies thought of political science as, as often women have in the past, regrettably. It's changing now, happily. As though politics and government as something for the men to get into. And now, heaven knows, we are so grateful that's changed. But, uh, but very few women involve themselves and study for a major in political science. Almost all of our majors--I'm struggling to recall a single woman major in political science while I was here at, uh, Prairie View and I'm afraid, I cannot. And I regret that.
PRESTAGE: As you look back on your time at Prairie View and the system51:00of segregation in higher education that was in place in Texas at that time, do you have any particular incidents or memories or generalized impressions of, uh, higher education in the South after Brown v. the Board of Education was decided that, uh, made a, an impact on you as you went about trying to do your work as a teacher of political science in the 1950s and sixties at a historically black land grant institution?
LEWIS: Yes, you know, this is--I have, I have a dual response tothat, at least a dual response. One is that, uh, I regretted that 52:00the segregated system which I had been subjected to and which the students at Prairie View were being subjected meant that we had to try to educate these people for life in this society on a completely isolated basis and that by definition, uh, it seems to me, was highly problematic. Uh, it would have been so much better if we had educated Americans who have to live together and make the country work if we had educated them together and improved their knowledge. Uh, if one ever picks up the decision of the Supreme Court in, uh, in, uh, McLaurin v. Oklahoma, uh, when, uh, Chief Justice Vinson speaking for the court talked about how regrettable and regressive it was educationally for the University of Oklahoma to try to isolate McLaurin from the rest of the white students inside the University of Oklahoma. Because he said, "A great deal of the education of a graduate student gets is from, uh, 53:00a fellow student." So that, that was regrettable. On the other hand, I want to tell you that, uh, and this is one of the things that makes me so concerned and, and positive about black colleges today. As a black teacher I enjoyed getting my hands on a room full of black students. I--knowing that there was an extraordinary amount of potential in the room. But there was also a great deal of, uh, of, of educational disadvantage built into the background that they had and because of economic condition of their family, the racial oppression, traditions and the poor quality of education that, uh, the white community with the governing authority in its hands made available to black children in small communities all across the South. And so I, you, you have a feeling; well here's a chance for me to do a little remedial work. And I enjoyed that enormously and worked very hard at it.
PRESTAGE: Dr. Lewis during these early years, what kinds of contacts54:00did you have with your colleagues in political science in the state of Texas, in the southern region and, and nationally?
LEWIS: Well, uh, I did, in those days, when I was at Prairie View, Iwas chairman (??) never of any significant consequence as a member of the national fraternity of political scientists, but I did attend a, the, the, a large fraction of the major meetings. I, I, more than that I raised funds and sent, uh, undergraduates, uh, from Prairie View to national meetings. I remember, uh, uh, Dr. Maurice Woodard commenting, uh, once that, uh, that one of the great experiences he had was that he was in a delegation of undergraduates from Prairie View that we sent to a meeting of the National Political Science Association, its first meeting, such meeting, in Washington D.C. Uh, we, we, I, we regularly went to the Gatlinburg meetings of the Southern 55:00Political Science Association and attended the national meetings regularly. Uh, trying to keep in touch with the profession at that level. And that was the only linkage that we had at, at the time. And I considered it enough. I almost preferred sending students, uh, to national meetings to hear the papers and to critique the presentations and to hear the interchanges between, uh, outstanding, uh, political scientists in those settings.
PRESTAGE: Could you tell us something about your faculty colleaguesat Prairie View during, uh, the 1950s and sixties, uh, not only in political science, but in associated social science disciplines?
LEWIS: Yes, I, uh, I had the advantage of a, of a, of a very splendidrelationship with a number of colleagues in other parts of the, of the university. The English department linkage is for an example. Now, I had the political science and heaven knows there should have been 56:00enough on my plate as the chairman of the political science department. But I chose to try to be helpful to English. And the English people were very responsive and cooperative. And that led me to raise Title III money to build, to build from scratch an English laboratory for upgrading the communications skills of English, uh, students. I did, as I said, direct debating and, uh, the honors organizations and the teachers cooperated in the propagation of the activities of those two groups which were extensive. Uh, we held national meetings of the honor society here. We sent out people abroad and we coached, uh, debates, uh, by our students in various parts of the country so that, uh, uh, we had enormous cooperation from, uh, uh, colleagues. Uh, I also am indebted to the man who brought me to Tri-, to, to Prairie View. He came to Washington and interviewed me at a time he was recruiting. Uh, his name is Dr. T.R. Solomon. He, he's a political 57:00scientist himself from the University of Michigan, with a Ph.D., uh, from the University of Michigan, and, of 1939. And he, uh, he was, uh, head of the political science department here. And he surrendered the leadership of that department to me when I came and he confined himself to being the registrar for the college and doing other things. But he was a very good friend and supporter. He took delight in the initiatives that we undertook on behalf of the students in a variety of ways. I had a colleague in history, who chaired history, Dr. George Woolfork. Uh, uh, I had the pleasure of working on, uh, master's degree thesis committees, uh, for his people in history, uh, who were seeking to get the master's degree in history from, uh, the institution at that time. So that, uh, all, all in all, I had excellent, uh, uh, faculty relationships. I'm afraid that I stayed so busy with the 58:00teaching and the, uh, the money raising the entrepreneurial stuff for cultural events and other things of that kind that I didn't have as much time for intellectual camaraderie as I would have liked. Uh, there was a sort of isolation in that regard and that was my fault, because I may have spread myself so thinly, too thinly to have had that kind of contact.
PRESTAGE: Dr. Lewis over the years you have been involved in a diversityof activities and enterprises and the like. Could you tell us a little bit about your experience as a researcher? Your experience as a public servant, especially as it relates to advocacy or public policy issues? The way in which you have in fact done policy related research, uh, especially in connection with school finance and the like. 59:00
LEWIS: I must confess that, uh, I don't think I have much businesstalking about, uh, my research products, uh, in a context where we're thinking about national standards and practices of research by professors in departments. Because I must tell you that I have done, uh, far, far, far less of that than I would have liked. And, and I am in no sense, uh, competitive or up to speed in that. I have concentrated on teaching and then on the, uh, extra activities that have--the developmental for students. And I have been very pleased to do that. And then I have managed departments and put faculties together. You asked me about our faculty and our department. And, uh, we did have an excellent faculty I thought. Uh, we, we worked well together. I believe I may have desegregated the faculty of the university for the first time, because I reached out and brought what 60:00was then called, uh, Woodrow Wilson Fellows. These were, uh, white graduate students from excellent universities that, uh, that had completed their doctoral work and, uh, were amendable to being offered, uh, uh, temporary appointments on our faculty. And we must have had three or four of them that we employed and, uh, allowed them to invest their backgrounds and so on in our students. Uh, so that, uh, the amount of research I have done has been associated in participating in policy making groups at the state level. The, uh, I've had more experience than I can tell you in efforts to reform public education. Uh, I have served on the constitutional revision commission and a member of its subcommittee on education and, uh, uh, helped to prepare parts of a wonderful draft of a Texas Constitution that the people of Texas turned down in 1975. I have served on, uh, commissions to, uh, 61:00upgrade all of public higher education in Texas. One was a commission for the University of Texas, itself, and another was a commission for all of public higher education in Texas where I served as chairman of the--on one of the three task forces on that commission. Now, I have generated, uh, documents pursuant to responsibilities to try and influence those commissions and promote, promote as policy, uh, much more than I have generated anything to be published in the conventional journals of the, of the discipline where I have not. I had a short tenure that was very engaging for me as an editor of PS. Uh, uh, I have had the experience of serving as a chairman of a committee that picked the best doctoral dissertation in a period of time for the Leonard D. White Award which the American Political Science Association gives. But I, I must confess that I have very, very deliberately invested the great mass of my time in teaching, in student development, 62:00in entrepreneurial activities to generate resources to finance programs that have cultural and educational consequences for students. And then in the area of public affairs, uh, more committees, charter committees for the city and other committees that were dealing with substantive problems than I can possibly remember. But that's kind of where, where the emphasis has been and not in education and research. I would--I hope now that I'm in retirement that I might do something to demonstrate that I could have done research for publication in the professional journals if I had taken the time.
PRESTAGE: Do you feel that these commitments that have marked your lifeas a professional political scientists have their roots in the kinds of things that you talked about from your childhood and early education at Tougaloo and, and earlier?
LEWIS: Absolutely. Absolutely. Uh, that's exactly why I got in63:00the business. And there's another thing I must say. We, political scientists, have not gotten our act together about what we're going to be and what we should be. Uh, uh, we are divided in, in terms of, uh, sex or tables to use the Almond analysis. And there are a great dispute about our role as advocates and whether we can act without values with respect to critical public issues. And for that reason I, I, I'm, it's been easy for me to stay out of the research arena, because I've always felt that we need to be deeply involved in trying to be constructive influences for improving the life of the society in critical areas where the problems were severe. And I've chosen to take that route.
PRESTAGE: In connection with your Urban Studies Program at TrinityUniversity, you have been very active with ASPA, I'm sorry with-- 64:00
PRESTAGE: --with NASPAA, and with ASPA to some extent. But especiallywith NASPAA, could you tell us what year you joined the faculty at Trinity and a little bit about your work with, uh, ASPA and NASPAA.
LEWIS: Yes, I, I joined the faculty at Trinity in 1968 and, uh, wecreated--planned a department of urban studies for a year and became and activated that department in 1969. Um, we, uh, had to generate a great deal of resources to support graduate students, uh, uh, at a private university. And, uh, that took up a great deal of our, our, of, of, of our time. Uh, the National Association of Schools and Public Affairs Administration was organized first in 1967. And soon 65:00after we got the department orchestrated at, uh, at Trinity we joined NASPAA. That was the logical organization for us to be a part of. Our dept-, our professional program in urban studies at the master's level at Trinity was primarily an urban management degree program at the master's level. And so I became active, ultimately became a member of the national executive council. I had an opportunity to lead, uh, site visit teams evaluating, uh, major programs in public administration at universities, uh, in different parts of the country for NASPAA and to serve on special committees, uh, for NASPAA from time to time. Uh, I, uh, I, I have focused more in public administration and urban affairs. Uh, I have not been active in the, uh, University Association of Urban Programs, uh, with its staff anchored at the University of Delaware. 66:00Uh, but, uh, we have kept the department active and our membership active in that organization as well. With respect to ASPA, I have been particularly active at the local level. We are--we're responsible for creating a chapter of ASPA in San Antonio, uh, through my graduates and, it, it sort of waned a bit, but has been, re-, reactivated. Uh, we think that this collaboration between practitioners and educators in all--in these organizations simply invaluable. And we've got to find ways, better ways of making it pay off for the, uh, government institutions around the country.
PRESTAGE: Dr. Lewis we have just, uh, two or three other types ofquestions that we want to raise with you. One, I'd like to ask about your overall prospective on the profession. As you look at the discipline as it has developed over the years, uh, what do you think 67:00have been the most important movements in the discipline? And if you'd like to identify and this might put you on the spot in a way that you might not like to be. I know I wouldn't like to be. Who do you consider as the most, uh, significant and influential thinkers and scholars in the discipline?
PRESTAGE: And I, I guess I ought to give you two hundred words or lesson that.
LEWIS: Well, let me say that in many, many ways I have been verypleased to be associated with political science. Uh, I think it has an enormous challenge to try to be a constructive influence in our society in things political. I have, I must tell you, been disappointed about the extent to which we have gotten fragmented. Uh, I'm, those are my--the ideological division, uh, within our, uh, discipline is one that troubles me greatly. And I, I suspect it's partly because 68:00the people don't, uh, I'm opposed to the people who don't share my ideology. I'm liberal and I think that we've got to be of, advocate, advocates, uh, uh, uh, within limits. What we must do is not to try to disassociate policy, uh, political science as an academic research enterprise from, um, the problems of the country, but to try to connect them more effectively together. We have not done that as well as we might and that's one of my, my great, uh, regrets. Uh, when it comes to people who have, uh, who have made an enormous impact on the discipline. I'm afraid I--two names that, uh, usually come to my mind almost automatically. And one of them is a man named Charles Merriam. I think the Chicago School of, of, of, uh, Politics which had two dimensions. One of them as a power orientation as a focus of the discipline. And the, the, the, the unabashed, uh, uh, liberalism 69:00having to do with trying to, uh, humanize and develop the society in human terms through appropriate and not inappropriate, uh, uh, research and other activities by scholars. And the other one is a man that, uh, whom I thought was just enormously significant and prolific, and that was Harold Dwight Lasswell. And not just for the work that he did vis-a-vis power, uh, uh, uh, and, uh, other aspects of the discipline. But Lasswell did his best to try to get us interested in the study of the psychology of political leadership. And, uh, we still put people in public office knowing very little about what makes them tick. And I regret greatly that we haven't been able to get some collaboration with the psychologists in order to maximize our ability to, uh, to interpret the political personality of men who present themselves for our highest office.
PRESTAGE: Dr. Lewis as I talk to young graduate students in political70:00science today, they express concern about, uh, what they consider to be obvious discrimination on the basis of race and gender in the profession. To, uh, what extent, uh, have you thought about this and, uh, do you have any prospective on it?
LEWIS: Yes, uh, I think a great deal of what I describe as neo-conservatism or conservatism among political scientists is a function of honest judgments by, uh, my colleagues, some of my colleagues, about issues that put them on the conservative side. A side which I regard as non-responsive and, uh, uh, not as humane as it might be. So I don't, I don't characterize conservatives, uh, in and out of political science as automatic racists. I do think however that there is a racial factor in the conservatism of a large number of my 71:00colleagues. It's, it's easy to take these positions about government, uh, the, the, the beauty and infallibility of the free market. And the fact that government is a, is a liability for all of us rather than an asset and we need to try to get as little government activity going as possible. I think those, uh, positions often disguise a growing indifference to social justice and a growing indifference to the interest of underprivileged minorities, the black in particular. And they just, they, they provide a very thin, sometimes not a, a very poor disguise for a species of racism. They don't do this in every case. And I can't separate infallibly the cases in which they do and which they don't. But I don't how anyone given human nature, everybody knows about the nature of human nature. And knows about the necessity of a government. And everybody knows how important it is for us to make government a positive factor in our lives the way other societies 72:00are able to do. To treat government as the problem in a free society like this where government has been so positive in its development of our institutions and our people, seems to me to be a device that is a function of ideology more than good sense.
PRESTAGE: You have spent a lot of time in university administration, didyou seek these positions or were you drafted? And did your work as an administrator give you a different prospective on political science?
LEWIS: I think that maybe I need to put in a disclaimer here. I don'tconsider myself as having been a university administrator. I've never been anything more than a departmental chairman in a very small department in, in small institutions. So I can't claim administrative- -I did have a chance, the, the vice-president for academic, academic affairs at Trinity, uh, wrote the president and strongly urged the president to appoint me. And he would have if I had accepted the dean 73:00of one of our divisions at Trinity, and I turned down that because I have a natural aversion. Uh, I'm so concerned about the teaching function and the promotion of students in that relationship that I've never been the least bit interested in leadership that is truly administrative. A small department chair is no more than a good target for the criticism of his colleagues in the department.
PRESTAGE: All right. Um, you, your last position at Trinity wasBreckinridge Professor and, uh, that, uh, must have been, uh, quite an, a pleasant experience, uh, to have been so honored. But I have one last question to ask, and I apologize for the way in which this has gone on. It's gone long past the time limit that I had promised. But what have been the most enjoyable and rewarding experiences that you 74:00have had in the profession over the several decades that you've been involved and what, uh, have been the least enjoyable experiences?
LEWIS: Uh, number one, on the first, the most enjoyable ones. At thetop of the list have been those students who come to me to tell me, especially after being in the world, out in the real world a while, how critical my contribution to their development was. Uh, sometimes and you've had this experience I'm sure and almost all good teachers do. Teachers, teachers, students will come and tell you that you made a difference in their lives and that they don't know what would have happened to you, them if it hadn't been for you. And that has to be the most wonderful thing that can happen to you. And, uh, that happens to all good teachers and I'm no exception. I've just enjoyed 75:00that immensely. You can--that gives you the sense of accomplishment that is more important than anything else. Now, an-, an-, and I've lived for that. The second thing on, uh, the second question, the most disappointing. I'm very, very disappointed about the extent to which my colleagues in the profession seem to me to get inordinately concerned with the advancement of their personal and professional interest related to upward mobility in the profession in terms of rank and status with other colleagues. Uh, I, uh, I believe that that has robbed the university of a lot of concern and wisdom that those faculty members could generate if they concentrated much of their talent on the development of the institution and the students of the institution collectively. Taking the whole smear into account. It's tough to get educators from the faculty members who have great philosophical positions and are prepared to fight for them. Because they think the 76:00institution and the students would benefit from the adoption of them. That indifference by faculty people to institutional interest and concerns is one of my most severe disappointment.
PRESTAGE: And now, I attended your retirement, at least one of themrecently in San Antonio at Trinity University, hosted by the president of the university and the mayor of the city of San Antonio, and, uh, that, uh, certainly must have been a high point in your career. But I'm not sure it's the highest point. Where do we go from here Earl McKinley Lewis?
LEWIS: Well, I'm not sure we're going higher in any sense at all.The only other thing I, the only thing I can say is that as long as my health holds and our economic necessities continue as severe as they are within my family. We'll probably try to continue to work a bit. And I have agreed to go on to the faculty as a professor at the University of Texas at San Antonio in their public administration 77:00program. And I'm looking forward, uh, to trying to be a conservative influence in that setting.
PRESTAGE: And I'm sure that you will. Thank you. This concludes theinterview with Dr. Earl Lewis.
[End of interview.]