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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Richard Arrington, July 18, 1974. Interview A-0001. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

More black politicians means more attention to blacks' concerns

Arrington anticipates that a significant increase in the number of African Americans in the Alabama state legislature will lead to more attention to the needs of African Americans in the state.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Richard Arrington, July 18, 1974. Interview A-0001. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JACK BASS:
What effect do you think it's going to have . . . the increase from three to 15 blacks in the legislature? Both in Jefferson county and state wide.
RICHARD ARRINGTON:
I think it's going to have some significant impact in changing the whole political situation in the state legislature. I think, first of all, it's going to make the state legislature more sensitive to some black concerns and to problems that may relate specifically to black community, but at least the concerns that the black community would have. I think personally that the blacks just going down from Jefferson county will mean that I will be a bit more influential as a local black elected official. I have felt in the past, in dealing with the Jefferson county legislative delegation . . . when we dealt with matters that effected us locally, and of course we have to go to the state legislature for almost everything. We have no home rule. I felt that I could contribute almost nothing to it in trying to deal with the white legislators from this county. And that if we wanted to get something over, even if it was something that fell under my committee—I was chairman of my committee—that it did very little good for me to go down and try to deal with these legislators.
JACK BASS:
Which committee was this?
RICHARD ARRINGTON:
The transportation and communication committee. Even when trying to get the bill amended on the transit authority or what have you, I simply felt I did not have enough influence and was not acceptable enough to the white legislators from this district. That will be changed—
JACK BASS:
Did many of those white legislators have the endorsement of the Progressive Democratic?
RICHARD ARRINGTON:
In the past I would suppose quite a number of them have had the endorsement.
JACK BASS:
But even so you didn't find them very responsive?
RICHARD ARRINGTON:
As a black, no. Somehow in this town . . . I don't know how much this has changed now, but because I raised some issues that I felt needed to be raised, particularly police brutality and this kind of thing . . . for some folk, I guess that makes . . . you know, I'm the kind of guy . . . at that time . . . just sort of keep hands off. All I'm saying is that. . . . I'm not saying it was just because I was black. I think maybe Arthur Shores, who is also black, going to the state legislative delegation, I mean the Jefferson county legislative delegation, would have had much more influence as a member of the Progressive Democratic Council and as a recognized black. One who has been in this community all the time. One who's posture is more or less acceptable to whites here. Would have had much more influence. That may mean that he is perhaps a much better politician than I am. But, now with the blacks in there I will certainly have quite a bit of influence on the legislative delegation. Because most of the blacks elected are friends of mine, people I worked with. I worked in their elections and so forth. So it will have some impact there. Not only for me but for other black locally elected officials. And I think we're going to see some change in the way the legislature does business. Particularly when it comes to matters that relate to blacks or particular concerns of blacks.