John Wesley Shepard

John Wesley Shepard's parents moved to Leavenworth County from Missouri, where they had been born in slavery. His father worked for a farmer and the family lived in the farmer's chicken coop. He attended Lincoln School in north Lawrence and Liberty High School. He worked in a rock quarry for the WPA in the 1930s. He later farmed seven acres in north Lawrence and discusses how rising taxes drove blacks from north Lawrence farms. Mr. Shepard described the differences between blacks who lived in north Lawrence and those who lived across the river in Lawrence. He discusses attitudes of blacks about fighting in World War I and social activities in the 1930s. He was a bootlegger in the Great Depression and he got lucky hauling wheat then. Two of his sons fought in World War II. He discusses black businesses in Lawrence. Mr. Shepard was a member of the First Baptist Church.

John Wesley Shepard
June 29, 1977

Interview by Curtis Nether

MR. NETHER: What's your name?

MR. SHEPARD: John Wesley Shepard.

MR. NETHER: What's your age, Mr. Shepard?

MR. SHEPARD: Seventy.

MR. NETHER: What's your marital status? Are you married?


MR. NETHER: How many children do you have?


MR. NETHER: What are the ranges of their ages, starting from the youngest to the oldest?

MR. SHEPARD: I can give you?looking for the birth date, but I couldn't find it.

MR. NETHER: How old is your oldest child?

MR. SHEPARD: Oldest one is 50, down to 35, I believe, the baby.

MR. NETHER: What were your parents' names?

MR. SHEPARD: Albert Dean.

MR. NETHER: Albert Dean?

MR. SHEPARD: That was my father. Mother's name was Amanda.

MR. NETHER: Where were they born?

MR. SHEPARD: Leavenworth County.

MR. NETHER: How long had they lived in Douglas County before you were born. Can you remember that?

MR. SHEPARD: They hadn't. They lived in Leavenworth County.

MR. NETHER: Is that where you were born?

MR. SHEPARD: That's where I was born. When I came here, I was seven years old.

MR. NETHER: Thank you. When did your parents first come to Leavenworth County?

MR. SHEPARD: They were born in Leavenworth County, my parents were.

MR. NETHER: When did your grandparents come to Leavenworth County?

MR. SHEPARD: Now, that's a question there. My grandparents were in slavery, but they came from Platte City, my grandmother did. I have heard them talk about that.

MR. NETHER: Platte City where, Missouri?

MR. SHEPARD: Platte City, Missouri.

MR. NETHER: Do you know why your grandparents came to Kansas, you ever hear?

MR. SHEPARD: I heard my mother say that they was held as a slave, and he got a chance to get away. He swum the river. I don't know what river, but they was trying to shoot him, but he made it. He got to Missouri. Then they came into Leavenworth County.

MR. NETHER: What's that river that goes through Kansas? Is that the Missouri River?

MR. SHEPARD: That's the Missouri River.

MR. NETHER: I betcha that's the one. Lot of slaves came on there. Mr. Shepard, I want you to think back now to when you were seven years old, if you can. What did Douglas County look like? What was Massachusetts like when you first came to Douglas County? Was it a wide street?

MR. SHEPARD: No. It was a narrow street. I can remember they got a streetcar line run down the middle of the street. It ran down the middle of the street to Breezedale. Now, Breezedale was way out in the country. You know where Breezedale is, I suppose, that sign there. That house that sits out here, did call it the Colonial Tea Room. My father hauled coal for 25 cents a ton and they used to fuss because they had to take that load of coal from Derby's across the river to the country. Now, that's how much it has built up after we came here.

MR. NETHER: What about the bridge down here? What was the bridge that goes from south Lawrence to north Lawrence or [old] west Lawrence to go across to north Lawrence?

MR. SHEPARD: It was just an iron bridge, rails on it, and a wooden floor in it, plank floor.

MR. NETHER: About how wide was it? Could two cars go on it, you think?

MR. SHEPARD: Being careful you could pass.

MR. NETHER: That's narrow.

MR. SHEPARD: Yes, it was pretty narrow.

MR. NETHER: What was north Lawrence like?

MR. SHEPARD: When I came they had 1903 flood and it was pretty well tore up when we came.

MR. NETHER: Did many black people live in north Lawrence?


MR. NETHER: Did they? Could you say predominantly it was black people there, you think, or 50/50?

MR. SHEPARD: I would say about 50/50 at that time. You see, at that time we had a colored school over there, Lincoln School, and Woodlawn. There was enough colored children there that they had to build a new school when they built there. Now they call it Ballard Center.

MR. NETHER: Was Woodlawn for white kids?


MR. NETHER: And Lincoln for black kids?


MR. NETHER: All right.

MR. SHEPARD: There was something else now. The older colored people wanted this school, didn't want them together, so they voted against it. They wanted to build a school for the white and colored, but the older colored didn't want it, so we had to build Woodlawn School, new Woodlawn School, and a new Lincoln school.

MR. NETHER: How did most of the black people feel about having separate schools then?  Do you think they kind of had a lackadaisical attitude or not caring or thought it was good for them or they thought the school should be the same, should be integrated?

MR. SHEPARD: The black and white thought they should be integrated over there, by integrated, I mean not together.

MR. NETHER: Oh. Okay.

MR. SHEPARD: Then after they built the schools, it was only the trouble in north Lawrence. After we went to the ninth grade, I think it was and we came across the river here, we all went to school together, but the colored children was the meanest kids that ever went to school there. Why? Because we wasn't used to it and all we wanted to do, the white and the colored, if they said anything, they wanted to fight.

MR. NETHER: Okay. What did most of the black people do?what type of occupations did most of the black people have in north Lawrence?

MR. SHEPARD: Most of them worked in Lawrence at one time, all they could do was cook. They had a job here at the paper mill, a nasty place, and dye and ground paper to make boxes. We get that dye in our clothes or skin, it wouldn't wash out.

MR. NETHER: And that's what most of the jobs blacks did?

MR. SHEPARD: That was the main part here that the blacks had.

MR. NETHER: Were there any farms in north Lawrence?



MR. SHEPARD: There were farms in north Lawrence. At one time the colored owned about all of them.


MR. SHEPARD: Most of it, anyway.

MR. NETHER: Were you born on a farm in Leavenworth County?


MR. NETHER: Then when you moved here, did you move to a farm?

MR. SHEPARD: No. My dad worked for a farmer and to make it we moved in the chicken house and cleaned it out and had newspapers.

MR. NETHER: That's where you lived?

MR. SHEPARD: That's where I lived and worked for this farmer, and Dad made 50 cents a day and the farmer gave him a section of the pasture. If he had a horse, he could put it in there, in the pasture. My dad traded horses and saved $400 working for 50 cents a day. When they got the $400 saved to get out of that kind of living, we thought he had enough money to buy a place in Lawrence.

MR. NETHER: How long was it before your father was able to finally buy him a place?

MR. SHEPARD: We had the place bought. I don't know just how long he was trying, but when we moved to Lawrence, I was only 7, but I know we moved right to the house. Now, what his business was coming to Lawrence, I wouldn't know, but I do know when we moved from Reno, off of the farm, we moved in the house we still own.

MR. NETHER: The house that you are living in now?

MR. SHEPARD: No, that's down on Lake Street. My brother lives down that way. But we still own the home place.

MR. NETHER: Mr. Shepard, when did you move into the house that you are living in now?

MR. SHEPARD: 1939, I believe it is.

MR. NETHER: How much land did you acquire when you bought the house?

MR. SHEPARD: A half acre, just the house. I bought the house there from my wife's uncle. I give 50 dollars down on it and 8 dollars a month, and making 9 dollars a week.

MR. NETHER: Were you farming any at this time?

MR. SHEPARD: No. I was working on WPA.

MR. NETHER: What was WPA like for you? This was during the Depression?


MR. NETHER: We will come back to that one then because I am going to ask you some things about the Depression then I will ask you about the WPA. Okay?

MR. SHEPARD: Anything. I want to help if I can.

MR. NETHER: The property that you owned now, was there ever a time when you owned more? What's the most land you owned that accompanied your property?

MR. SHEPARD: Seven acres.

MR. NETHER: Was that in north Lawrence?

MR. SHEPARD: Right there at my home.

MR. NETHER: Was it farm land?


MR. NETHER: What were some of the names of the families, the black families, that owned farms in north Lawrence?

MR. SHEPARD: There was the Jameses, the Hackleys, John Hill, Della Strode, Taylors.

MR. NETHER: Would that be the Franklin Taylors?

MR. SHEPARD: It's kin to them, Franklin. That's about all I can name of them right now.

MR. NETHER: Was there a definite difference in north Lawrence, Mr. Shepard, do you think? Has there ever been a definite difference?

MR. SHEPARD: I don't quite understand what you mean difference, you mean in the people?

MR. NETHER: Yeah, in the people.


MR. NETHER: What kind of difference, do you think?

MR. SHEPARD: North Lawrence, we were sandrats.

MR. NETHER: What do you mean by sandrat?

MR. SHEPARD: That's what I don't know. Anybody lived over there was a sandrat. Over here you were bluebellies. I couldn't come over here to see a girl. I had to get back before dark. I have seen many of them had to jump in the river and swim the river to get away from the bluebellies, and the bluebellies had to do the same thing. If you were caught over there, there would be a bunch?

MR. NETHER: What did the names mean, do you think? Just names put on you?

MR. SHEPARD: Just names.

MR. NETHER: Okay. That's something. Mr. Shepard, how do you think white people and black people related to each other in Lawrence, now again going back as far in time as you can? Did whites generally accept blacks? Could they go in restaurants and eat? Could they go to movie houses and watch the shows? Was it like it is now?


MR. NETHER: What was it like then?

MR. SHEPARD: It was no place for the black to eat, only one little restaurant?as wide as this room here and there was a bar. His name was Demp Muzzy that ran the place. He fed everybody.

MR. NETHER: Where was this at?

MR. SHEPARD: In the 800 block on east side of Massachusetts Street. The show, we could go to, I think they called it Dickerson Theater. That's in the 600 block.

MR. NETHER: Of Massachusetts?

MR. SHEPARD: On Massachusetts Street. But you had to go in and go way back in the top.

MR. NETHER: Any others? Any other businesses that was Jim Crow? What if you went to the hospital, Mr. Shepard, were whites and blacks treated the same in the hospitals?

MR. SHEPARD: I haven't been there to the hospital much, but when I have been in there, but I know they have tried to Jim Crow me. Not the hospital, patients that were there. They wouldn't complain about being in the room with me, but I have heard at one time that they didn't put white and colored in the same room. Most of us was born without going to the hospital. We knew nothing about no hospital.

MR. NETHER: Where did you go when you became Ill? Who took care of you when you became ill?

MR. SHEPARD: I have only been sick about twice and I was married and had a family.

MR. NETHER: How were your children born? Were your children born in a hospital here in Douglas County?

MR. SHEPARD: I think three. We were just talking about that, my son and I. That was born in the hospital. The last three children we had to go to the hospital then.

MR. NETHER: But what about the ones before that?

MR. SHEPARD: Just born at home and the doctor come, colored doctor, Dr. Kenner. Have you heard of him?


MR. SHEPARD: All right. He taken care of all of our family.

MR. NETHER: Is that how most black babies were born--the doctor would go out to the house?


MR. NETHER: At the time?


MR. NETHER: Was this true of the?

MR. SHEPARD: Either a doctor would come or they call it I guess mid-mother, I have heard them say, just a neighbor, somebody could help.

MR. NETHER: Any other thing about how blacks and whites related that you can remember or anything at all about that, say the restaurant, the movie theaters? You talked about the doctors.

MR. SHEPARD: Yeah. We talked about all of that, and the jobs.


MR. SHEPARD: I was working on WPA and I guess there was 25 or 30 of us working in the rock quarry. I was the only black there. So one guy spoke up and says, "Well, if we keep on" ?you want me to tell it like it was?

MR. NETHER: Tell it like it was.

MR. SHEPARD: Say, "If we keep on sending our niggers to school, we will be right where they are." It kind of hurt me because where was he at that I wasn't? We were both doing the same thing in the same ditch. That there. And I seen every job that I know of back there was dirty work. We did it.

MR. NETHER: What did you do? How did you react when this white man said "If we keep educating blacks they are going to?we educate our niggers, we are going to be just like them"?

MR. SHEPARD: What was my reaction? The boss had to come and get me and take me up to the office, up to the shack, we called it, where we ate dinner, but after that they moved me from there, put me some different places, and I worked right down here at the plant for 11 years there when a colored person couldn't even get?they wouldn't let him do anything only work cleaning restrooms and sweeping floors till the union came in there and said they had to hire ten percent colored. Took them all down there and put them in one area, one building. Restroom right by the building there, close to it, but was closer to the white row house. They made us walk clear across the field there to the restroom way over there, so they put in a complaint about that. So they taken the colored and scattered them all around, put one here and there and different houses. We got along fine, no trouble at all.

MR. NETHER: Mr. Shepard, what were blacks doing in the United States when World War I came along? Do you think that World War I was a period of time when they said people stood in line to fight? But this was a time when blacks were being lynched at home here. They couldn't get jobs. They were segregated, they couldn't use public facilities. Do you think blacks right here in Douglas County were anxious to go fight in World War I?


MR. NETHER: Why not?

MR. SHEPARD: They said fight for your country, and we didn't know where was our country. What was we fighting for? We couldn't get a job here, we couldn't go to a show, we couldn't go in no place to eat.  What were we fighting for?

MR. NETHER: Did many blacks go to the World War I?

MR. SHEPARD: Yes, because they had to.

MR. NETHER: That makes basically the only reason though, because they were forced to?

MR. SHEPARD: They were forced to go. I can't name any that went up and just volunteered to go.

MR. NETHER: Were you acquainted with many people that went to World War I?

MR. SHEPARD: Not too many.

MR. NETHER: Do you know where most of them were stationed after they left Douglas County? Where did they generally put them?


MR. NETHER: During Prohibition, which came after World War I, this was during the 1920s, what did you do for fun, Mr. Shepard, during the '20s, which were also the Prohibition years? How did you have a good time? You were a young man then.

MR. SHEPARD: Back there people would come and visit you. I remember the yard being full, come from Reno, everywhere, driving their wagons and bring food, and we would play marbles, pitch horse shoes, and everything to have a good time we did it mostly at home or at the neighbors. Most of the time, the men, my father, with us, neighbors, we would play marbles, get up in the morning and play marbles all day or go to the river swimming. We couldn't go to the swimming pool or nothing. I went to Topeka there at the park and was just standing there looking at the swimming pool and they come and run me away from the swimming pool. Wouldn't even let me look at them.

MR. NETHER: Did many black people swim in the river then?


MR. NETHER: Was that one of the only places they could swim?

MR. SHEPARD: That's right.

MR. NETHER: Was it safe?


MR. NETHER: I bet it wasn't. During the 1920s, which again was also during Prohibition, was there a way in which a black man could get a drink of liquor if he desired to?

MR. SHEPARD: That depended on who you knew. Now, that the way I made my living for my family. I bootlegged. I am not ashamed of it. I didn't take anything. I was buying whiskey in Kansas City for 5 dollars a gallon and bringing it to Lawrence and selling it for 7 and a half.

MR. NETHER: So this was a way in which you were able to raise your family though?


MR. NETHER: After the '20s, after the stock market crash, you had a period of time known as the Depression. What was life like for blacks in Douglas County during the Depression? Were they employed? Could they get jobs? Did they leave Lawrence?

MR. SHEPARD: It was hard to get a job. When they built Woodlawn School over there, I sat under the big trees out there on the parking myself waiting for a job, and they didn't have any way to haul the concrete to the top of that building. You had to wheel it by wheel barrel. You go up so high and turn and go up another ramp, and they would holler, "Bring the concrete on," and I stood there and waited for somebody to get too hot, so I could grab the wheel barrel. Whoever could beat to the wheel barrel had the job. And we was all sitting out there?fifteen-twenty men. Men fell out and grabbed the wheel barrel, the first man that could get there and get to the top, what's your name, put your name on the payroll.

MR. NETHER: You got some good stories to tell us.

MR. SHEPARD: I have seen a lot of stuff here, but I don't know, I am glad you are asking me that, because I couldn't think of it, things like that.

MR. NETHER: What kind of jobs or when did blacks finally start to get jobs here, do you think, if ever?

MR. SHEPARD: To tell the truth about it, never opened up here until they had--I don't know what you would call it—the trouble here in Lawrence, the shooting in the black power they call it and all of that, then things began to open up. We can go in any store now most anywhere, and there will be blacks working there, maybe two or three. But they built this store right here on Ninth Street and the first colored boy that worked there in the store.

MR. NETHER: What was the name of the store?

MR. SHEPARD: Dillons, I believe it is.

MR. NETHER: The grocery store?

MR. SHEPARD: Right now it's Waymire's.


MR. SHEPARD: It's Waymire's now. When it was built, I think it was Dillons. But anyway, lady came in, bought some groceries. He picked the groceries up to carry them out for her. She said, "Well, what are you going to do?" He said, "I am going to carry your groceries out for you." She said, "If that's the way it's going to be, I will trade someplace else, and they had to lay him off that job because they were losing trade.

MR. NETHER: Okay. So blacks never really had good jobs until the 1970s, is that right?

MR. SHEPARD: That's right.

MR. NETHER: How did you get hired for the WPA?

MR. SHEPARD: I got hired there with help. There's some good people and bad ones, all races. There was a lady by the name of Miss Smith knew I was having trouble. At Christmas she brought me a big basket of groceries and I talked about trying to get on WPA and so somebody turned my name in and said that I needed it, and after I worked on there and saved my money, I would save what I could, I worked three days. My other three days I took an axe, my old truck, I bought an old touring car and made a pickup out of it to haul my wood in. My three days I was hauling wood, going out and cutting it down, loading it, bringing it to town, sawing it up, loading it up again and selling it for $5 a cord delivered. It took me a good two days to get that wood cut up and delivered to you for five dollars. I saved a little money by working my three days and things were cheap, if you had the money, but getting the money was hard. They say back there you could live easier than you can now. I don't ever want to go back there.

MR. NETHER: Is it from this little job that you did that you were able to save enough money to buy your home that you live in now?

MR. SHEPARD: No. I hit I call it a lucky streak. This old car I had made a truck out of, I was working right here Thirteenth Street in the alley. They was pouring this concrete, doing it all by hand, scattering it, raking it, leveling it, everything. That was WPA. They was making that to let the people have a job. During that time, I decided I had all those colored boys out there shoveling concrete with boots on, the white boys were driving stakes and laying the mesh down. That's where I woke up. I just kicked the concrete off my boots and stepped up beside the boss and stood there and looked back at them. He said, "What are you going to do?" I said, "I don't know. I'm not going to shovel any more concrete." He left. He thought well, you will either shovel it or else.

So I went down to Winter's Chevrolet and they had an old truck down there, wanted $125 for it. I had $25 and the old pick up. I told them I would give them the old pick up and my $25 down on it, but they couldn't do that, so I went on home. When I got home it was early, my wife said, "What are you doing home?" I said, "I quit." She said, "What are we going to do?" I said, "I don't know." I walked around for I don't know how many days looking for something to do. Finally came back to the old truck, my old pickup I made. There was a note on the steering wheel, said, "If you want that truck, come and get it."

I didn't have the $25 then. I done lived up most of that. I had one big hog, and I sold that and got the $25 and went down and bought the truck. BF Goodrich down there, he was selling tires. Potato digging time. I went to work for a man named Mr. Schockey, working on the potato order. I had this truck. He came in said, "Whose truck is that out there?" I said, "Belongs to me." He said, "Would you like to haul that hundred acres of wheat down there and haul it on the interurban line?" I said, "Yes, sir." I was afraid my tires would give out. So I came over to BF Goodrich down here and told them I had a job, I would pay for the tires when I finished the job. They put the tire on.

I know after I got out there I had one good tire and that other one was so weak I would almost stand up in the seat trying to take the weight off so I wouldn't have a blowout. I know if I blew that time out somebody else would come in and take it and I owned for my truck and owed for the tire. Mr. Shockey came down to see how I was getting along. I asked if he would call Goodrich, ask them to bring me another new tire. They did, mounted it on the field while I scooped that load of wheat off. I had to scoop that wheat off the truck and get in the boxcar and scoop it to the other end and load that car before the man could get another load in his combine.

MR. NETHER: And that's when you started?

MR. SHEPARD: I got some more of it. So I got that job done. When we got through there the man would come through and ask me if I would like to come to Bismarck Grove and haul that wheat. I went out there. I finished there, they said he's got some more to combine out by the airport, and I followed that man around with him until I finished up that. I got through with that, the grasshoppers ate up everything that year, just stocks of corn sticking in the field. Mr. Morgan was renting all the silos that he could get and cutting sunflowers around the wheat fields and stuff for feed and giving me a dollar an hour, my truck and I. And that's where I got the money to pay for my place. Gasoline was only 10 cents a gallon, and I was making if I could get in 8 hours, 8 dollars, and everything that I have got, I think I still have it where I paid $20 or $25 or $40 on my place. But I always said if I hadn't throwed that shovel down and went to work on my own before I quit fooling with that old truck, I had bought two good trucks, was working for Crall and Burton down here in Eudora in the potato field. I went from $9 a week up to where I was making from $110 to $125 a day, and that's where I bought my land around my place.

MR. NETHER: That's good. So still you had ingenuity, when you cut that car down, I think that was a big step too because you had that one now to trade.

MR. SHEPARD: I got a picture of it.

MR. NETHER: Do you? Would you consent to us maybe making a copy of that picture of your truck and using it in the book?

MR. SHEPARD: Sure, you can. Be glad to.

MR. NETHER: I would like to see that.

MR. SHEPARD: I got the truck sitting at the woodpile.

MR. NETHER: All right. Few more questions here and then we will get you home.

MR. SHEPARD: That's all right. I'm in no hurry. I enjoy it.

MR. NETHER: All right. How did you feel when Franklin Roosevelt was elected? He was elected during the Depression in 1932 and he's the one that started WPA, CCC, AAA, those organizations. Were you happy that you had a change in the White House?

MR. SHEPARD: I never thought of it that way because what we had been through, it made no difference, it couldn't be any worse.


MR. SHEPARD: But after he had made the WPA and the CCC camps and all of that and made something for us to do, that's when I begin to think he was the only president that ever was. I had confidence in him.

MR. NETHER: In 1941 Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. This is going to start World War II. Black people were still treated bad.


MR. NETHER: What was it like here in Douglas County for blacks? Were they anxious to go and fight in this war now, do you think? Did your sons fight in World War I?

MR. SHEPARD: Yes. I had?

MR. NETHER: World War II?

MR. SHEPARD: I had two sons, but they didn't go because they wanted to. They only went to get away from home. John, the policeman, he didn't go. My oldest son went and the youngest. But he wrote back to John and told him whatever you do, stay with dad. These boys now, he said, they don't know anything. Said, all I am doing now, he was in boot training at that time, going around and showing them how to pick up and lay a rock down after they whitewash it. He said, I thought Dad was hard on me, but now I can see what he was doing.

MR. NETHER: Was they serving in all-black units? Have they ever mentioned that to you?


MR. NETHER: How did you feel? Were you proud when your sons went to fight in World War II or did you think it was kind of an outlet for them to escape Douglas County and find opportunity somewhere else?

MR. SHEPARD: No, I wasn't proud. I wanted to make men out of them, whatever they wanted to do. As long as it was work and not walking the street and into something. I had to sign for them to go, not that I wanted to, but I did.

MR. NETHER: Mr. Shepard, in 1954, you had Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education court decision passed. This outlawed segregation. It said that you could no longer have a white school, all-white school, and an all-black school. After this court decision was passed, say between 1955 to the present, were there any major changes made in the school systems? Was Lincoln School allowed to continue as an all-black elementary school?

MR. SHEPARD: No. They cut it out. Put them all together in Woodlawn.

MR. NETHER: Did Lincoln School before it had to integrate with Woodlawn, did it have all-black staff, all-black teachers and principals?

MR. SHEPARD: Yeah. Right.

MR. NETHER: What was education like there? Did they have good school books?


MR. NETHER: Did they learn black history?

MR. SHEPARD: No. I don't remember any of that. I went there myself.

MR. NETHER: Never taught you about people like, well, Du Bois, Washington, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Richard Allen?

MR. SHEPARD: No. I don't remember any of them, just arithmetic and reading and stuff.

MR. NETHER: Did they have a PTA at Lincoln, Parent Teachers Association?

MR. SHEPARD: I am pretty sure they did. Seemed as I remember my wife going to PTA meetings.

MR. NETHER: What was some of the names of the teachers at Lincoln, probably some of the better teachers, the one that maybe had an influence on your life, if any?

MR. SHEPARD: There was Miss Dillard. She was principal of the school there. Miss Sawyer, a Miss Moten there. I think they were all nice teachers.

MR. NETHER: Do you remember the racial unrest that took place in Douglas County in the early 1970s when blacks were involved with conflicts with the police, when "Tiger" Dowdell was killed?

MR. SHEPARD: Yeah, I remember some of it.

MR. NETHER: What were blacks here in Douglas County finally trying to get? Why do you think they were so upset?

MR. SHEPARD: Because they wanted work, jobs like now. I have worked on jobs doing the same thing with the white. They give me $1 and give him $2.  Then tell their answer, I don't like to live by blacks. They won't clean up. How do you clean up when all I could do is put something on my table for my family to eat? I couldn't buy a gallon of paint. I couldn't buy grass seed.

MR. NETHER: Were there any black businesses here?

MR. SHEPARD: One years ago. There was a black cleaner, Panatorium Brown, and I think he committed suicide down here on the bridge. He jumped off the bridge.

MR. NETHER: Really? Were there any other black businesses? Do you remember Gleeds?

MR. SHEPARD: Yes, that feed store, Gleeds was out on Twenty-third Street. I have to think.

MR. NETHER: What was Gleeds like? What type of business was it?

MR. SHEPARD: They run a feed store there, bought chicken poultry and sold feed.

MR. NETHER: Were there any black businesses on Sixth Street?

MR. SHEPARD: Might have been, but I can't remember. You remember anybody saying anything about it? Maybe I can recall.

MR. NETHER: That's all right. I have heard something about them and I just try to see if you remembered anything about it. Mr. Shepard, would you want your children to live here when your sons came of age and they made a decision like John made a decision to stay here in Douglas County and live? Was that all right with you or did you kind of want your children maybe to leave and go somewhere else where it might have been better?

MR. SHEPARD: I wanted them to leave.

MR. NETHER: Why did you want them to leave, particularly?

MR. SHEPARD: There was nothing here for us. My brother went to school up here, James Scott, George Brown, sent there in Topeka, in Denver, all my brothers and all went to school together. When they came out and graduated there was nothing here, they couldn't even teach here or anything. My brother went to Birmingham, Alabama. His friend, he went to Little Rock, Arkansas. George Brown went, I think, to Denver. He came back and made a speech here a while back that Lawrence was the same old Lawrence it was when he left here. Nothing here. Yes, I would like to have left here myself but I had my family and everything, and I couldn't start again.


MR. SHEPARD: So I was just stuck here.

MR. NETHER: You say Lawrence doesn't have any opportunities. Why do you think many younger people leave, and this is kind of in line with what I just asked you. Why do you think young people leave Lawrence or leave Douglas County?

MR. SHEPARD: I don't see any reason for them to leave right now since things has changed after the trouble here in Lawrence. They give us all a break. There's people right now, colored, that own nice homes and practically, I would say, half of them or two thirds of them own their own places, since we have got the jobs and an opportunity to work.

MR. NETHER: What are some of the other changes that you see that has been made here, changes in Douglas County? I guess today you could go to any restaurant that you want.

MR. SHEPARD: Go to any one you want. There's a job out here, you can go up and ask for it. They want help, we can go to work. I was a mechanic myself. World War II, might have been the Korean War, I'm not sure. They was asking for mechanics. I went down here across from the police station, went to the office just like I am sitting here now and passed all my tests. They give me my papers to go to work. I went to work at the plant then. They told me they was sorry. They didn't have no place for a colored mechanic. Why wouldn't I want to leave? They find me something else to do, I said, no, don't find me anything. I came to help. I said I have a garage on Vermont Street myself.

MR. NETHER: Did you go to high school here?


MR. NETHER: Did they have any black teachers in the high school?

MR. SHEPARD: No, none that I know.

MR. NETHER: Could you participate in activities in the high school? Did you go out for the basketball team?

MR. SHEPARD: I never went much for that. I was kind of a boxer or wrestler.

MR. NETHER: Could you wrestle or box there?

MR. SHEPARD: No. One time when this was junior high out here and I was down here on Ninth Street. There were three schools there, junior high, until they built this out here, I had to go from one building to the class or gymnasium. I had to go over to the YMCA. We could go over there and have our  gym. They had a swimming pool in there, but I had better not go in there.

MR. NETHER: Is it at the YMCA?


MR. NETHER: Where is the YMCA located?

MR. SHEPARD: It's destroyed there now. They have a parking lot there. But it's right across from the police station where that parking lot is.

MR. NETHER: Get my bearings.

MR. SHEPARD: Police station is on Eighth Street, Eighth and Vermont.

MR. NETHER: Yeah. By the new library?

MR. SHEPARD: New library. Right north of it.


MR. SHEPARD: Okay. Right across the street they got a parking?just a parking lot over there now. There was YMCA and they went from there to Jenny Wren Broadcasting Station. Then there was a laundry there, but the fire practically destroyed it, so they tore down the old broadcasting station.

MR. NETHER: So if you wanted to get involved in athletics most of the time you had to go to the Y in order to wrestle?


MR. NETHER: Do you attend church, Mr. Shepard?

MR. SHEPARD: I belong to church, but I don't attend regular like I should.

MR. NETHER: What church do you attend, if you don't mind me asking?

MR. SHEPARD: First Baptist Church.

MR. NETHER: How long have you been a member of the church?

MR. SHEPARD: Oh, I would say fifty years.

MR. NETHER: Were your parents members of the same church?


MR. NETHER: Is this an all-black church?


MR. NETHER: Okay. Do you see any changes in the church that has taken place from where your parents were going and they encourage you to go until now?

MR. SHEPARD: Only thing I can see changes, but I can go to church now and I am able to see any race of people there. I see that change, they are all welcome.

MR. NETHER: Any other changes you can think of?

MR. SHEPARD: All about the same to me.

MR. NETHER: Do you think there's class distinctions among blacks? You remember Judge Clark? Does a judge?do they relate well with say the farmer, the black farmer, with the blacks that live in north Lawrence, with the blacks that's on welfare? Is there class distinctions? Do you think blacks kind of discriminate amongst themselves?

MR. SHEPARD: Yes, I do.

MR. NETHER: What are the distinctions? What's the highest distinction you can have professionally? Do you think once you get to be a professional, do blacks generally forget where they came from?

MR. SHEPARD: Yeah. I have a son-in-law right now that started out with the firemen and I can see the change in him right there. Then he went to highway patrol, another change. Now he's a pilot and he's driving for the government and he's changed so much that him and his wife now, she's had a nervous breakdown, and he's walked off. He don't know us any more. I hate to say that, but you asked me. I will tell you how I think about it.

MR. NETHER: I tell you, when you got a problem, you got to accept it. I don't think it's a real bad problem, but you have a few blacks that will either look down upon someone because they are doing better than they are or look down on them because they are doing worse than they are.

MR. SHEPARD: I think that runs in all races.

MR. NETHER: Oh, yeah.

MR. SHEPARD: Now, that my biggest trouble is the white man, if anything amounts to anything, he don't bother me. It's the middle man that bothers me. He can't go up there with the big man, he don't want to come back with me, so he just stands right there and keeps bumping me. The poor man, he looks up to me, and the middle man is on my level. He can't go forward and he won't go backward. That just worries me.

MR. NETHER: That's where it usually starts too. Once you get in that middle category, you find where you have a battle there which way to go. That's bad. I have to even think about that. I will ask you a personal question and I will only ask one. Why did you sell your seven acres or most of your seven acres of your property that you owned? Was there any particular reason?

MR. SHEPARD: Two reasons. One, when I bought the ground I could make something on it, but the tax kept raising, raising, raising on it and it was costing me more to keep the ground than I could raise on it. By the time I bought the seed and everything, and then I needed the money too. It cost quite a bit of money to maintain machinery and stuff to farm that ground with.

MR. NETHER: Do you think most blacks sold their land in north Lawrence for about the same reasons?

MR. SHEPARD: Yeah. Right.

MR. NETHER: You had a lot of blacks there that owned land, and now today you don't have any major landowners in that part of town.

MR. SHEPARD: Practically all of them that owned it, how they got it, I don't know. But they know now what land was worth and it really wasn't sold, they was practically talked out of it.

MR. NETHER: Were you particular who you sold your land to when you did sell it, decide to sell it?

MR. SHEPARD: I was particular about what kind of neighbors I was going to have, if that's what you mean.

MR. NETHER: But it wasn't an issue of black or white?


MR. NETHER: Did you know Langston Hughes?


MR. NETHER: Did you know George Brown Sr.?

MR. SHEPARD: Yes, he's the one that's in Denver. Sr.?

MR. NETHER: Uh-huh.

MR. SHEPARD: Yes. That's the one that passed.

MR. NETHER: Yeah. Recently. Just a couple of weeks ago.

MR. SHEPARD: Him and I worked at the plant together. We all came here from Reno. He lived right in town and we lived on up the highway just a little further.

MR. NETHER: Why do you think George Brown left Lawrence, George Brown, the one that's now the lt. governor?

MR. SHEPARD: Oh, he left for looking for work, just like my brother and all the rest of them that graduated off the Hill here, nothing here for them to do.

MR. NETHER: Were blacks on the Hill generally teachers or janitors?

MR. SHEPARD: Janitors.

MR. NETHER: Did you have any blacks on the campus police patrol up there?

MR. SHEPARD: Not that I know of.

MR. NETHER: Okay. Why do you think your son wanted to become a police here in Lawrence, or do you know?

MR. SHEPARD: I wouldn't say that he wanted to be a policeman, but that was an opportunity he had that nobody had a chance for it.

MR. NETHER: How long has he been on the police force?

MR. SHEPARD: I don't know. He's been on there for I would say several years anyway.

MR. NETHER: Another personal question: How do you think he's treated? Do you think he's looked up to by blacks or looked down upon? Do you think he's a token? Do you think whites put him there in order to pacify blacks to show you have one black here on the police force?

MR. SHEPARD: I think they put him in to pacify the blacks. When that boy was killed, we was all threatened. He had nothing to do with it. He was sitting in the office up there. That's something I don't like to talk about, but anyway, little son got so nervous I didn't know it until it was all over, that the whole Shepard family was no good, was threatened, on that account, for him being a policeman and killing that colored boy.

MR. NETHER: Was he involved with the racial unrest that took place? Was he sent out into the streets and so on or did they keep him kind of at the station? I am just asking for this searching. I can understand if you can't remember what was going through your son's mind.

MR. SHEPARD: I know. You asked a while ago was he put out in the street. Let's say it this way, he was put out of town. They give him a vacation to get his son and get out of town, but he had nothing to do with it.

MR. NETHER: Was this for his safety?

MR. SHEPARD: For his safety.

MR. NETHER: I think those are all the questions I have to ask you right offhand here. I want to thank you for coming in.

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