Virgil Lee

Virgil Lee's parents came to Douglas County about 1905, when he was 16. He says there were no paved streets in Lawrence then. He describes the county fairs and circuses north of town at Bismarck Grove and street cars pulled by mules. His family initially owned farmland east of town, later rented land west of Lawrence. They family split up and some members moved into Lawrence when his father died. His country school was integrated. He didn't attend high school. A brother fought in World War I. He discusses picnics and social clubs in the l920s. Mr. Lee worked at Sunflower Ammunition Plant in Desoto in World War II. He discusses rationings in this war. He also talks about improvements in integration and the demise of black businesses in Lawrence. His children graduated from KU. Mr. Lee was a member of Ninth Street Baptist Church for many decades and discusses changes in church activities over this period. He also talks about medical services for blacks at the local hospital. He knew Langston Hughes and his mother. He worked for the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce as a volunteer for 15 years.

Virgil Lee
June 23, 1977

Interview by Curtis Nether

MR. NETHER: Mr. Lee, what is your name?

MR. LEE: Virgil M. Lee. That's what you want to know?

MR. NETHER: Right. What's your age?

MR. LEE: Eighty-six.

MR. NETHER: Marital status?

MR. LEE: In September I will be a year older on September 4 I will be eighty-seven.

MR. NETHER: What's your marital status, Mr. Lee? Are you married? Is your wife deceased?

MR. LEE: My wife is deceased.

MR. NETHER: How many children do you have?

MR. LEE: Two.

MR. NETHER: What's the ages of the children?

MR. LEE: My son is sixty-one. My daughter is fifty-five.

MR. NETHER: Okay. What's the name of your son and daughter?

MR. LEE: Virgil J. Lee, that's my son's name, and my daughter's name is Dorothy May Lee Driver. She's married now. Her married name is Driver.

MR. NETHER: What were your parents' names, Mr. Lee?

MR. LEE: Robert G. Lee was my father, Melinda Lee was my mother.

MR. NETHER: Where was your father born?

MR. LEE: In Missouri.

MR. NETHER: Do you know what part of Missouri?

MR. LEE: Tifton.

MR. NETHER: What about your mother?

MR. LEE: She was the same place.

MR. NETHER: When did your parents first come to Douglas County?

MR. LEE: They first came to Leavenworth County and then they moved to Douglas County along about 1905.

MR. NETHER: Approximately how old were you when they came to Douglas County?

MR. LEE: When they came to Douglas County? About fifteen-sixteen years old.

MR. NETHER: Why did your family decide to leave Missouri and come to Leavenworth and then leave and come to Douglas? Was there any specific reason?

MR. LEE: I don't think there's any specific reason. They had other relatives that lived in this part of the country, and so I really don't know any specific reason that they had to leave Missouri.

MR. NETHER: Did your parents like Douglas County when they lived here? Did they ever mention going back to Missouri or did they just become content with Douglas County?

MR. LEE: No. they only spoke they would like to see some of the old friends back in Missouri, but II don't think they ever went back to Tifton, the native part of Missouri.

MR. NETHER: Mr. Lee, I want you to think back to 1905 when you first came to Douglas County. Can you give me a visual account of what it looked like? What were the streets like? What were the houses like? How were the people dressed? If me and Linda were back during that time, what would we see if we came to—

MR. LEE: That's interesting. I will be glad to answer that because when we first came to Douglas County, there weren't any paved streets in Lawrence and they used to have county fairs in the northeast part of Lawrence called the Bismarck Grove. That's in the vicinity of Bismarck Grove. And they used to have race tracks there and have fairs, and the horse races. That's the only races they had, and they used to have interurban railroad service from East Nineteenth Street to Bridge Street. We called it Bridge Street at that time, Second Street right at the end of the bridge. And interurban transportation, interurban street car pulled by mules. I remember the man very well that drove those mules. His name was George Fry. As they get to the end of the track, they didn't turn the car around, just turned the team around, put it on the other end of the car, and back to town.

About the streets, I mentioned had not been paved for years and years after we moved to Lawrence, but I left the farm in 1912 and came to town to live. But my younger days when we used to come in from the country to the fairs and circus shows. Every year we would have circus to come to town and they would come in by train and we had a space set out in the south part of town where they had a show ground. No buildings in that part of town, east of Massachusetts Street, and north of Twenty-third Street. That was all prairie out there and big show ground. The circus would come to town on a train and that was quite interesting event because lot of people would get up at four o'clock in the morning and go down to see them unload the elephants and things of that—clowns and things like that, and take them to the show ground, and then we had carnivals on Massachusetts Street in the middle part of 800 block on Massachusetts Street on the east side of the street.

I remember I was still a farm boy, used to have carnivals set right up there on Massachusetts Street, and one instance I never will forget, I was in the country and I drove a team of horses to town and hitched them up on the street and went to the carnival and about 12 o'clock I thought it was about time to go home, so I went to look for my team and my team was gone. The policeman had taken them off the street and put them in what we used to have a livery barn over on Vermont Street in the 800 block. So I found that team over there, and they took it off the street and put them up. So I didn't have any difficulty in obtaining my team or wagon. I explained what I was doing and who I was and so he just let me have it, without any charge, so that was pretty good in those days.

MR. NETHER: How would you dress when you came into town?

MR. LEE: Huh?

MR. NETHER: How would you dress when you came into town? Say if you were going out on a date or something, what would you look like? What kind of clothes would you have on?

MR. LEE: Of course, fashion changed somewhat by this time. I always dressed what you call pretty good. Fashions were different but then whatever the fashion was, I followed it up.

MR. NETHER: Let's think, say, 1910 when you were approximately twenty years old, if you were in your best clothes, what would they be like? How would the coat be cut? Would it have big lapels, small lapels? Would it be waisted or three-quarter length?

MR. LEE: The coats would be waist line, about like they are now, maybe just a little different fashion, maybe the lapel would be shorter up here on the coat, and usually have pull buttons down the front. Usually had four buttons, sometimes five, and the early days always didn't wear a belt, they wore suspenders. And, of course, the trousers at first they didn't have cuffs on them, just plain at the bottom, and finally later on started putting cuffs on the bottom of the trousers.

MR. NETHER: What about spats? Did you wear spats in these days?

MR. LEE: Yes. I never owned a pair of spats myself, but I remember them. They used to have spats. And sometimes that was one of the fanciest dresses too, used spats for fancy dresses, parties and things like that. Boys used to wear boots more, that coming back to town. But boys used to wear boots when they were small. In the wintertime particularly, and overshoes. They had to wear overshoes or high boots because they lived on the farm and because they had so much snow and had to walk quite a ways to school and we had to be pretty well shod for traffic in those days, used pull-buckle overshoes and things like that on our feet, and high boots, knee-high boots. We didn't know what it was in those days when I went to school in the country to have a car to go to school in. Every kid would walk except bad weather some of the parents or older brothers would hitch up a mule team or horses to a wagon and take them to school and sometimes the roads would get so—the winters now are more moderate than they were in my earlier age. We don't have as big snows here as we did when I was young. We used to have snows as high as a fencepost and we used to just enjoy walking over the high snow drifts over the fence posts going to school.

MR. NETHER: Mr. Lee, how did your family get its farm they lived on?

MR. LEE: You mean how did they get started farming?

MR. NETHER: How did they get the land to farm on in Douglas County?

MR. LEE: Lot of times it was rented ground. My father owned a forty-acre plot of ground in the early 1920s, and we sold that. That was east of town. Then they moved from there to the west part of the county, west of town, and we never owned a farm out there. We just rented a farm out there until my father passed and then all the younger part of the family moved to town. Some moved to Topeka, some to Lawrence.

MR. NETHER: What was your earliest involvement in school like? Your grade school days. Did you have any black teachers?

MR. LEE: No. We did in town, but not in my day. In the country we never had a black teacher. And sometimes women teachers and sometimes men teachers, and some of the country boys were pretty rough sometime. A woman couldn't handle them. And I remember one school I went to in the country the first program on the school day would be whipping session, if you understand what I mean. The boys were so bad they had to have a bunch of switches every day set up in the corner in the teachers' office, and the boys had done something wrong, you know, disobedient in some way during the day before, and his punishment was to get him up there and use two or three of those switches on him. And the girls weren't disobedient like the boys. The boys would just do things. They called it funny, but it was destructive. And we had enjoyable school days though because we had recess. Recess in those days was different than recess today. We would get out to play ball, go to recess, or in the wintertime we had a game we called fox and hound, something like a race in a way, but that's the name of it, fox and hound race.

MR. NETHER: How did you play it?

MR. LEE: We select teams, one would be fox and one would be hound, so many of them would be on the fox team and the other would be on the hound's team, and the hounds get at the fox and the fox gets away from the hounds, something like that.

MR. NETHER: Were your classes integrated? Were you in all-black class rooms?

MR. LEE: No. That's one thing, in the county school we didn't know what segregation was. Everything was integrated. No different that way. I spoke of the man that teaches now. We did have some schools where the women teachers were more controllable with the students than the boys were. Maybe because the boys were more considerate that they weren't just as bad as a woman teacher. I have seen that happen different times.

MR. NETHER: Mr. Lee, I want you to think back now to around 1905.

MR. LEE: Uh-huh.

MR. NETHER: And I want you to think or relate how whites and blacks were able to relate to one another. Was there a lot of segregation here in Douglas County or were whites and blacks integrated then also?

MR. LEE: In the city, there was quite a bit of, you might say, color line. Still some of it you see in the city yet. They are trying to break that down. They are working on that all the time. It's getting better, but there was quite a bit of confusion in the integration part of it. But north Lawrence had integrated schools for a long time until just—I would say the last 20 years, and Woodlawn School is still operating. We used to have Woodlawn School, and that was a white school and Lincoln School was north of the river and that was a black school. But they got that integrated now. so there's no difference that way. And they have teachers now in all the schools. There's no difference in integration. The black teachers are getting in the integrated school just the same as the white teacher, if they are qualified. Qualification is what counts, to get in the different avocations of work, line of work. It's one thing to invite the young people to get the education that they can and then you have the civil rights, but if you was out of education, you are just out there and you don't know whether you are going to get a job, you don't know what you are qualified for. Of course, if you are not qualified, you don't have any chance. But now the younger people are trying to get that education so they can qualify for different avocations, blacks.

MR. NETHER: Mr. Lee, what was your junior high school days? Where did you go after you left the small grade country school?

MR. LEE: We used to have a business college here in town. Some called it business college. But they had a business college where you could go to school to learn different trades instead of going to the university. In the earlier days there wasn't so many students went to the university, nothing like they are now, just a few but of course the university gives you opportunities different fields of work, through the life where the business college would just give you maybe bookkeeping or you might say advanced arithmetic and English and things like that, but they don't have it now. The university has all that. That's all combined now.

MR. NETHER: So did you go to high school?

MR. LEE: No, I never went to high school.

MR. NETHER: Mr. Lee, now I am going to ask you about certain periods of time in history. Many of these time periods you won't recall things about, but that's all right. I am just kind of searching now and maybe you have heard somebody has told you something about those time periods that you can relate to us. The first one would be about the Civil War. Do you recall anything that happened in Douglas County that pertained to blacks during the Civil War?

MR. LEE: No. All I know about the Civil War is what I used to hear the older people talk about. My grandfather on my father's side was in the Civil War. I never knew my grandfather but he was in the Civil War, and that's the nearest of our family that was in any war until they got up to World War II.

MR. NETHER: What about Quantrill's Raid on Lawrence?

MR. LEE: That's all hearsay for me. I didn't see it. That was my area of history of Lawrence, but I have heard so many drastic stories about Quantrill's raid in town, that buildings were torn down and people are killed and the black people are hiding, seemed like, and they were more trying to murder the black people at that time. Wouldn't think so because of the Civil War, sounds like Civil, means to be associated with both races, by being civil, but I heard so many people speak of the Civil War and how the black people hid to keep from getting killed and things like that. It was just a drastic story you don't hear any more, but then once in a while you see a building and say that building was in the Civil War uptown. The Eldridge Hotel, I don't' know what that was during the Civil War, but there was no hotel there at that time on Massachusetts Street, but I don't know what was at that time.

MR. NETHER: Mr. Lee, during the early part of the 1900s was a bad time for black people. They were being lynched at the highest rate ever. They were being harassed, and many of them could not enjoy the use of a lot of public facilities. It was a time when people were held in lowest esteem. In 1917 the United States went to war. It was the war, they said, many people stood in line to fight. Can you remember anything about this time period as it pertains to blacks here in Douglas County? Were the blacks here anxious to go out and fight in this war for democracy when they were not accorded the same rights here at home, do you think?

MR. LEE: No. I don't remember anybody that was war-minded in that sense in our race. The only time that we got into the war when we were drafted and had to go in, and, of course, that was in the late years. I had one brother was in the draft for World War I. I never had to go but I was drafted for it. One of my brothers went to World War I and he came back alive and we have several associates in Lawrence that didn't return, only one didn't return, but that was in the First World War. Then the Second World War was all together different.

MR. NETHER: Have you heard of the jobs which many of the soldiers when they left Douglas County, what type of jobs did they perform in World War I, again?

MR. LEE: There weren't any avocations open for our people, particularly, unless you were in a professional line like a doctor or lawyer, and we had a few doctors and lawyers in this town. We don't have any now. They just died off. I know one lawyer that—one doctor that was here and he came here from the South someplace. I don't remember where. Seemed to me like it was Virginia or something. But anyhow, he came here. He's a young doctor, and he came here and tried to get set up and I spent quite a bit of time, spent all one Saturday taking him around town introducing him to different families, getting him acquainted, and then I went to Chamber of Commerce office and got a location for him to set up his office in town, and so he set up and had a nice office.

He was a young man and he had a wife and they was a very nice couple, but they got off on the wrong foot in this way: some of the younger generation in his age took him and grabbed him into their gang, instead of letting him get acquainted with the old established families, and you know how the younger generation at this time, they were just a good-time gang, and he got a lot of that good-time gang, and he didn't get much business from our people and so finally he moved to Kansas City, Kansas. That's been several years ago. I have often thought of him. His name was Van Doren and I went to his house since he was in Kansas City, but that's been many years ago, so I don't know where he is now, and we had one black doctor here, was a good doctor. He passed. And had an old doctor that passed away. We had an old lawyer that passed, and so that's just it. They just pass out by life and nobody else comes in to take up his space.

MR. NETHER: What were some of the old doctors' names?

MR. LEE: My first doctor, his name was Young. Family doctor. My folks' doctor, see. His name was Young. And the next doctor was Cabell. I have forgotten his first name now. But he was my family doctor. He was along my category, Cabell. He passed by death. And Harvey, some of the Harvey family lived out here in the country now. He passed. He was a family doctor.

MR. NETHER: Would these doctors make house calls? If you were out on the farm and became ill, would they come out to you?

MR. LEE: Oh, yes. They would come to the farm to see the patient.

MR. NETHER: What were their fees like? How did you pay them?

MR. LEE: Fees?


MR. LEE: That's passed my knowing. I don't know what it was because I was young at the time and when the doctor would come out, family doctor would come see  you out at the farm, I don't have any idea what he would charge.

MR. NETHER: What about Lawrence, were there any black lawyers here that you can remember?

MR. LEE: Yes. We had two and they both passed. Decoration Day I decorated grave over our last lawyer here. His name was Harris, LeRoy Harris, and the older lawyer was John W. Clark. He was the one of the black lawyers we had here, and he passed. He didn't have any relatives here except he has a stepdaughter lives in town.

MR. NETHER: Mr. Lee, the Roaring '20s was said to be a happy decade in history. It was a time when many people were working and prosperity seemed to evolve in the country, but it was a time when only big businesses were thriving. The laborer and the farmer were not enjoying prosperity. What did you do for fun in the '20s? How did you socialize in the '20s?

MR. LEE: You mean in the country?

MR. NETHER: Anywhere, in Douglas County.

MR. LEE: We used to have picnics and we used to have in the later history since I lived in town we had parties. We have family parties just like they have now since I have been a city resident, and then we had family—club get-togethers. Now, we had a club. My wife had a women's club called Self-culture Club. It was kind of a business club. Get in there and discuss things of value, in the club, and different avocations that they might want to work on, for the benefit of the city. They called it Self-culture Club. And they adopted me as a member of the Self-culture Club because I always took my wife to the club and went and picked her up, and then that club would have parties once in a while. Social club would have parties some time of the year, just to get all the men and women together, just have a social club, maybe in somebody's home. And we had a men's club too that I belonged to, a man's pitch club, for several years. There were ten  men in the club, pitch club, and we met every Friday night at someone's home, different ones, and whoever's home we met they put up the dinner for those ten men. We had lots of fun in that club. There was ten men in that club, only two men of that club living today. I am one of them. I am one of the ten.

MR. NETHER: In 1929, Mr. Lee, the stock market crash brought on the Depression. How did this Depression affect black people here in Douglas County? Were they able still to maintain their jobs? Were they able to still eat, do you think?

MR. LEE: There's no segregation at that time. Who come first was served first. That's the way it was at that time. And the segregation was not bad at that time, but the thing was, anybody that had ambitions to work could get a job of some kind. Of course, pay was low, pay was way low. The food was harder to get then than it is now, because we just couldn't get food into town like they can now. I remember during World War II there was a ration here in town, and people had certain times, certain places they could meet, get meat to eat. I worked at Sunflower Plant down there east of Lawrence for a while during that period, and we would have to get meat at certain times of the week, couldn't go to the store and get meat any day. Just certain time you could get meat and certain meat that you could get. Couldn't get your choice of meat. Had to get any kind of meat that was meat.

MR. NETHER: What about horse meat?

MR. LEE: I guess a lot of people eat horse meat and didn't know it. That was probably the thing of it.

MR. NETHER: Mr. Lee, I have asked you about a few periods in history. Do you think there was any major difference between the fate of black people compared to white people during these times? During the Depression, were whites out of work just as much as blacks were?

MR. LEE: I think they were.

MR. NETHER: Did you ever have to live with a threat of stepping beyond—stepping over a line?

MR. LEE: No.

MR. NETHER: Color line?

MR. LEE: No.

MR. NETHER: Could you attend theaters in the 1920s and sit most any place you wanted, to go to a luncheon or café and sit at the counter?

MR. LEE: Café is one place as I say gained quite a bit. I couldn't go any place and eat, and I can now. Isn't any place in town that I can't go to eat, but at that time they just wouldn't serve you because my face was the wrong color.

MR. NETHER: Do you recall any black businesses that operated in Douglas County during this time also?

MR. LEE: You mean any business of any race?

MR. NETHER: No, black businesses that blacks owned and operated.

MR. LEE: There's always been black barbershops in town and blacksmith shop. Don't have the blacksmith shop any more. Used to have blacksmith shop and their business was to shoe horses and sharpen plowshares that the farmers used. That was what the blacksmith shop was then. We don't have the blacksmith shops anymore. We got mechanical shops to fix automobiles, things like that. We had blacksmith shop for horseshoe and preparing farm machinery and things like that, and they all went out of existence now. And that's about the extent of it. Of course, we had teachers. The teachers were segregated at that time in segregated schools. And now they are not. They can teach any place in the city, and all in all, the situation of the city black was much better than it was twenty years ago.

MR. NETHER: Mr. Lee, in 1954 you had a court decision, which was Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education. This decision said that separation of the races was no longer legal. And that blacks had the right to integrate schools and any public facility. How did this court decision affect Douglas County? Did the cafes which you once could not eat in, did they readily open up their doors? Did Lincoln School integrate? Did they hire more black teachers and so on? What happened after this decision?

MR. LEE: Of course, they integrated the schools, Lincoln and Woodlawn Schools, but I don't know what time it was, in the 1920s something like that, probably, and the teachers were taken in, I don't know what percentage of the teachers were taken in, but they were taken in as a school teacher, and of course when they integrated they had more pupils in the integrated school by putting them together. Of course, they had to have more teachers, so our teachers got in after the schools were integrated that way and they are still that way. I don't know what happened to our teachers. Seemed like we don't have much application or desire to teach school anymore like we used to. I guess it's because they have more opportunities to do different avocations of work that they enjoy better than teaching school. But we don't have a lot of people clamoring for schools. All the teachers here now are ones that's been in several years, but not many new coming in—just don't want to get into school. Now, they get a degree from the university where they can go away. That's another thing. We have got very few students who stay here after they get degrees. They go to some other state. Maybe the field is better, wider than—in other states than it is right here in this state.

MR. NETHER: Mr. Lee, to back up a minute here, how did you feel when Franklin Roosevelt was elected?

MR. LEE: That time I thought he was a good president. I didn't hear a whole lot of objection to him like we have a lot of objection to other presidents, but my estimation he was pretty good president.

MR. NETHER: How did you feel about his relief programs, like the CCC and WPA and so on?

MR. LEE: I don't know. I don't remember much judgment about that part of it.

MR. NETHER: Mr. Lee, today do you see any major changes that have taken place in Douglas County, and if so, what are they? What are the major changes here?

MR. LEE: More used to get the consolidation of the people, the citizens of the city or the state, try to bring them together on different avocations, different projects that they are trying to work up, like right now they are trying to work out some plan where more people can get jobs, different avocations. Regardless of what race they might be in, if you qualify, they are trying to make more improvements along that line than they did before. It's just not for just individuals, but it means to get people organized so that all business can cooperate, now, with the citizens and get businesses like that. We got all kind of stores here in town and, of course, as I said, we pulled for our own city in particular, business appeal, and we want to help our own citizens' business here at home in particular. That's the first step. Then after we get the first step taken care of, our businesses at home, they want to reach out over the state and get the cooperation of the state in different fields like that. We have Chamber of Commerce representatives go to these state conventions and bring back reports of what they are doing and we send in our request too to these delegates what we would like to have done.

MR. NETHER: Mr. Lee, in your personal opinion, why are there not many black businesses here in town down here on Massachusetts, and why do you feel there's not many black people working in those businesses on Massachusetts?

MR. LEE: That's a 64-dollar question, but we don't have any stores. I don't know. I guess nobody has encouraged in a way to start up a business like that, and maybe it's because too much capital to get things on foot, but all we have is a couple of restaurants and couple of barber shops and that's the extent of what we have here.

MR. NETHER: Mr. Lee, would you want your children to live here in Douglas County?

MR. LEE: Yeah. They were raised here so I wouldn't have thought of anything else except raised here and educated here through the schools and university and then when they left here, they went, just like I say. They graduated from here in the school, graduated here from the university. My son got his master's. He couldn't get his master's here, because he was in the fine arts department. At that time in 1937 KU didn't offer fine arts. He went to California and got his master's out there. My daughter went to California before he did. She didn't graduate from KU but she went to Los Angeles, California, because her aunt lived there. My sister lived there, and she went out there and got a job working for some cosmetic department in a big school out there until about two years ago that cosmetic department changed hands and changed help. In the meantime she had married before that time and so her husband has a good job where he's been working for twenty-five years. He makes good money and they are buying a home and she's staying home take care of the home. Son working for May Company. He's worked for May Company for the last ten years out there. He designs for the newspapers. Makes design for newspaper advertisements, and that's what he's doing out there now.

MR. NETHER: Mr. Lee, do you attend church here in Lawrence?

MR. LEE: Oh, yes. Ninth Street Baptist Church.

MR. NETHER: How long have you attended the church?

MR. LEE: Since 1913.

MR. NETHER: All right. Mr. Lee, do you see any major changes that has taken place in this church since 1913?

MR. LEE: I can't think of any major changes. I have been a trustee of my church for a good many years. Just don't take me off the board, just leave me on there. We used to have better choirs in the early days. We didn't have junior choir and senior choir and gospel choir. We had a big choir, church choir, and there were mixed people in the choir, men and women, and we used to have one thing I could see that had gone down that's different, we used to have different classes of Sunday School. We had a men's class in Sunday School. I was a member of the men's class in Sunday School. Now, I am not in the men's classes. Don't have separated class—Sunday School—any more. Seemed like the Sunday Schools grades are mixed more than they used to be.

MR. NETHER: What about some of the ceremonial aspects of the church? Are funerals conducted basically the same, weddings, are the ceremonial aspects basically the same?

MR. LEE: No. I don't think there's any difference along that line in funerals, things like that. Of course, depends on who you are and how many friends you got and how many family and who you want to preach the funeral and all that. That's just a family affair. I didn't work this funeral. I went to the funeral the other day, couple of days ago. This man is a good citizen and he didn't have any special trade, but he worked with construction, and he was well thought of and a good citizen and too many people there that they couldn't get into church, and had one just a month ago just about the same way. This man was only sixty years old. He would have been sixty-one in July—that passed the other day, but just had a lot of people that couldn't get into church even for the review. I guess they all got in for the review but I got kind of tired out, so I left and went and got in my car and set out in the car while they was finishing the funeral, but it just depends on how well you are known about the funeral, and who you want to preach the funeral. Usually have a minister of the family preach the service, and some places they have some funerals where a person is well known, he's pretty popular in the community, whole lot of speakers got to speak on the outside, before the preacher gives the eulogy, tells about what a good person he was and what he done. That just prolongs the service, which I don't approve of, having such a long service, because some people just get fagged out, sit so long.

MR. NETHER: Mr. Lee, if you had become ill when you first came here to Douglas County, would there have been any difference in how you received health care compared to someone that was white? Could you be admitted to a hospital with doctors, any doctor?

MR. LEE: Oh, yeah.

MR. NETHER: Would any doctor attend to you and so on?

MR. LEE: Yeah. That's one thing. Anybody can be admitted to the hospital or have the doctor there  you want, and fortunately I never spent a day in the hospital myself, but my wife spent a couple of days in the hospital and so she wasn't getting the care that I thought she had. The last time I wouldn't take the doctor's advice and send her back to the hospital, so he said, "Well, I will send a visiting nurse to your house." So a visiting nurse came to my house and they were very energetic, and came every day, sometimes twice a day, called the visiting home nurses, and it's a good plan. As to today, they have more patients than the nurses can take care of properly, and another thing, the hospital fees have raised almost double what they were a couple of years ago. And lot of people really can't afford to go to the hospital. Of course, they have the medical care that helps some. That helps quite a bit and some of them have sick benefits and insurance, but the expense is terrific now in the hospital for any patient.

MR. NETHER: Mr. Lee, did you know Langston Hughes?

MR. LEE: Yes.

MR. NETHER: What was he like, can you remember?

MR. LEE: What do you mean?

MR. NETHER: What can you remember about him when he was here in Lawrence?

MR. LEE: I don't get your question quite.

MR. NETHER: Let me try to rephrase it. Langston Hughes was a black poet and journalist. Eventually he left. He had lived here in Lawrence throughout his childhood. He left and became famous. What I am asking, did you know him? What was Langston Hughes like when he lived here, do you know that?

MR. LEE: Langston Hughes was a young man when he left Lawrence. I remember him. He was well thought of. He was a poet, and he was well thought of. And I have read lots of his work since he left town. But I did know him. He was a young fellow that grew up here in Lawrence and I knew his mother, but just as I said before, he left here because his opportunities were greater someplace else in his line than they were at home. So after he left here, I saw his work since then, but that's just the whole thing. They move for the purpose of advancement when they can't advance at home. They get someplace else where they can.

MR. NETHER: Mr. Lee, I want to thank you for coming in and I have no further questions. Is there anything that maybe I didn't ask you that you want to bring out so that we will have it for our data here, anything dug in the back of your mind that you might want to bring out?

MR. LEE: I don't think of anything that might be any more helpful to me or my people than they are at the present time. I spoke of the Chamber of Commerce. That's one of the things I have been in fifteen years and I enjoy the work because it's enlightening for me and when it is enlightening for me, it is enlightening for somebody else. Enlightening for the city or anybody that's connected. We know what's going on. If you stay home, don't go to these things, then all you hear is somebody says something, maybe something in the paper, why, you know what they are talking about. But the opportunities are better for our people than they used to be. They never had anybody in the Chamber of Commerce in this town, before they asked me, they invited me to come in. You spoke of Bowersock Mill down here. I got a letter from him when he was living from the editor of the Journal World at that time. Dolph Simons was the editor of the Journal World at that time, and he wrote me a letter, invited me to join the Chamber of Commerce. Otherwise I just wouldn't go in, push in, but I was invited. I have been in it for about fifteen years and I like it, and, as I say a while ago, I have got two meetings scheduled next week same day in the Chamber of Commerce. I am on three different committees, so it's something I like. I think it's beneficial not from my pocket part, but for the citizens' sake.

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