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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Clark Foreman, November 16, 1974. Interview B-0003. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

White citizens of Detroit and southern politicians worked together to get Foreman fired

Foreman lost his job as director of defense housing when his enemies from the South cooperated with Polish residents of Detroit to protest a proposed housing development for black defense workers. He resigned and worked for the navy instead.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Clark Foreman, November 16, 1974. Interview B-0003. 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

Tell me what you did as director of defense housing and how you lost your position.
In defense housing we had the job of getting housing built for defense workers. We could operate directly in those places where there was no local housing authority. Where there was a local housing authority, that was done through Strauss, the administrator of the USHA. In Detroit, for instance . . . it was almost an exception . . . . There was a great demand for houses for Negroes in the defense plants there. I don't know why they didn't want to go through the housing authority, then through the USHA, but they came to us. As I remember it, we got the housing authority and the mayor to recommend a number of sites from which we chose one. On that site was to be built what later on became called the Sojourner Truth houses.
Who suggested that name?
I don't know. I didn't have anything to do with that. That was all done locally. There was great opposition on the part of the Polish Catholics who lived nearest this site to having Negroes move in there. Although it was an industrial area and nobody lived close to it. But they objected, raised good deal of complaint through their Congressman and so forth. I took the position, well, this is the site that was recommended by the mayor and the local housing authority. And its not up to us in Washington to tell them they don't know what they're doing. The Congressman joined up with my enemies from the South-a good many of which I had accumulated by that time because of the Negro situation and because of the power situation-so that the Lanham Committee-so-called because the chairman was Cong. Lanham. He called over the representative of the head of the Federal Works Agency and told him that there wouldn't be any money for defense housing as long as Clark Foreman was the chairman of the division. John Carmody, if he had still been there, would have told him to go fly a kite, you know, and Secretary Ickes would have run them right out of the office, too. But by this time the war was on and it was a general there in charge. John Carmody had been moved to the Maritime Comm. who had been the head of the Federal Works Agency. The general gave in and he called me in and said "Look, when I took this job you offered to resign and I urged you to stay on. But now on the basis of this committee's action, I would like to accept your resignation." So I said okay. He said "I want you to stay on. I'd be glad to give you any other job that you think of in the agency." I said "Well, what did you have in mind?" He said "Post-war public works planning." I said "Well, the war is just started. We don't know whether there's going to be any postwar public works or not. I'd rather get in there and work to win the war than talk about post-war." So I went to work for the Navy. I was sent to England to work over there in the Admiralty. When that happened, I asked TarletonCollier, who had been the secretary in Kentucky, to take over as acting president. He did. So while I was in England for a year, Tarleton Collier was the president.
Who were your enemies in the South who brought pressure?
Well the worst one was Cong. Boykin of Mobile, Alabama. He had urged me to appoint his brother as the custodian of one of the housing projects. I had him investigated and the report came back that he was a thoroughly unreliable scapegoat. So I wouldn't appoint him. This made Boykin furious, you see, and he set out to get me, so to speak. So he was very irate. But also Sen.George didn't bear any love for me because of the campaign in 1938 there. He had connections in the Civil Service Commission. Cong. Ramspeck had gone there and he was a close friend of George's. So there were a good many people who felt that I was a dangerous radical. There seems always to have been.