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Title: Oral History Interview with Grace Towns Hamilton, July 19, 1974. Interview G-0026. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Hamilton, Grace Towns, interviewee
Interview conducted by Hall, Jacquelyn
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 164 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-02-26, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Grace Towns Hamilton, July 19, 1974. Interview G-0026. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0026)
Author: Jacquelyn Hall
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Grace Towns Hamilton, July 19, 1974. Interview G-0026. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0026)
Author: Grace Towns Hamilton
Description: 173 Mb
Description: 44 p.
Note: Interview conducted on July 19, 1974, by Jacquelyn Hall; recorded in Atlanta, Georgia.
Note: Transcribed by Sarah Geer.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series G. Southern Women, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
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Interview with Grace Towns Hamilton, July 19, 1974.
Interview G-0026. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Hamilton, Grace Towns, interviewee


Interview Participants

    GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON, interviewee
    MATTIE, interviewee
    JACQUELYN HALL, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did… First, tell me a little bit about your parents, and their parents. About your origins.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
All right. I grew up on the campus of Atlanta University. My father graduated from Atlanta University, and then went to Harvard. Came back to Atlanta University as a member of their faculty, and that is where the greatest part of his life was spent.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was that about 1895 when he started teaching at A.U.?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I guess so. Famous class of '96, and I think he graduated from here, from Atlanta. Let me get… is it important? It would be important to pin down the dates. Let me see if I can't… I can't… [Interruption] Class of '94, my father used to say. He and James Weldon Johnson was his classmate. And Nathaniel Coffer Collier, who was… became the president of a school in Florida. I've forgotten which one it was now, but anyway… so that all of my early life, you see, was on the Atlanta University campus. And one of my early memories is we… I must have been three or four years old, I guess, was moving from the dormitory where they had an apartment, to our house which was built. Which was next door. This house next door was my family house, which was built about the same time as the Herndon house across the street. And my early memory was having a temper tantrum because I wanted to ride in the wagon

Page 2
with my little red rocker. And my grandmother, who… my mother's mother, Nana, was [unknown]. I was telling this tale to my grandchildren some years ago, and this child who was… Lisa was about eight then. Her eyes got bigger and bigger and she says, "Oh, please, Gracie, was it a covered wagon?" [Laughter] I said, "Not quite. Not quite."
JACQUELYN HALL:
You don't go back that far. Your father was a young professor living in a dormitory when you were born?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Yes. I was born in the dormitory, then, I was…
JACQUELYN HALL:
When were you born?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
In 1907. And then he came… he graduated from Harvard in the class of 1900, and then, you know, came back here and was working consecutively.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What is his… how did he happen to go to Harvard? What did his father… ?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I don't know why… how he happened to go to Harvard, except I guess because, at that period, there were probably people in the University… I don't know whether Dr. Bumps went to Harvard. Most of the people who were part of the early Atlanta University faculty that I remember were more identified with Yale. Mr. Ware was a Yale graduate. I don't really know why he went to Harvard. His father, my grandfather, was a cotton sampler. I don't know what a cotton sampler is, but… [Phone ringing]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Your grandfather was a cotton sampler.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Cotton sampler. And he lived… my father's family lived in Albany.

Page 3
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was your grandfather's name?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Towns. Lou Towns. And the little bit I know about his life, I discovered after he was dead when we were clearing out… going through his papers, and everything. And there I found this family tree and Grandpa… Lou Towns was the… Well, I'd better put it this way. Governor Towns, Governor George Towns, was my father's great uncle. Which I… and these notes from my father had… were things about… that he could remember about his father. And we were all very, very interested, and the notes… I don't remember his ever talking about that, but just an interesting thing.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh. You found… in your family papers, were you able to trace your family back… ?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Well, when I found this thing, I went… I don't know what's down in the archives, 'cause they haven't done anything about that, but that year I did ask for whatever the state archives had on Governor Towns, and found out… got a copy of his will, which was found, which was a very, very interesting document.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why? What did it say?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
They were Scotch-Irish people, and came into Georgia from Virginia. And his will made special designations of property for a Negro woman who was obviously… I guess, was a slave, in Virginia. And she came… they apparently, in Georgia, he lived in the Talbot part of the estate… [Phone ringing]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Governor Towns provided in his will for a…
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
For a woman. I have a xerox copy of the will, which, sometime, you know, you could go look at it.

Page 4
JACQUELYN HALL:
I'd like to. And what relation was she… ?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I don't remember enough about her, whether there was any clue, you know, to why…
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about your mother?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
My mother's family… My mother was a McNair, and she lived all her life in Atlanta. And my grandmother lived with us for all of my life. My mother's father died… I don't have any recollection of him at all. And my mother went to Atlanta University and taught for a very… She taught in Columbus, Georgia, I think, before she was married, but then never taught school after that. [unknown] on campus.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now, was your mother a friend of Mrs. John Hopes? Did she work with her in the neighborhood union, and… ?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Well, Mrs. Hope … yes, they were friends, but Mrs. Hope came to Atlanta, I guess … I don't know when. I guess maybe about 1910 or 19…I don't think before 1910. And they… all of the social welfare activity, there was a social… what was then known as the Gate City Free Kindergarten Association. It's now become the Gate City Day Nursery Association, was my mother's major interest. I don't remember whether Mrs. Hope was with that at all, but there were parallel ways of providing social services in the Negro community. And…
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was… Mrs. Hope was not instrumental in founding the Gate City Kindergarten? She… ?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
She wasn't here. It was founded long before she came to Atlanta.

Page 5
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh. Do you know who started it, or at what time… ?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Yes. Mrs. Gertrude Ware Bunts, who taught kindergarten, and Miss Amy Chadwick, who was an English woman who ran the Chadwick Orphan Home, which is the building which is now one of the Spellman buildings. And Mrs. Wynn, who was an Atlanta University graduate, and my mother, and… people who were in one way or another related to A.U. founded this Free Kindergarten Association. And operated…
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was the kindergarten for the children of A.U. people?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Oh, no.
JACQUELYN HALL:
It was for everyone?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I think they finally had five, in various… in neighborhoods pretty much around this part of the city, at that time. Though now they are all over, I mean, these day nurseries. They have five or six day nurseries in… you know, other parts of the community.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So they had five buildings in different places?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Oh, yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did they have… were the kindergartens held in homes, or… ?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
No, they had little rented facilities. They were, you know, little houses.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And was it completely free? [Interruption] I'm very interested in the Gate City Kindergarten, because I just read an article in the Journal of Negro History by [Unclear] Lerner about black women in community organizations. And I think that there are a whole lot of mistakes in it.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I wouldn't be surprised.

Page 6
JACQUELYN HALL:
One of the things that she says is that the Gate City Free Kindergarten Association was started by Mrs. John Hope.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
It surely was not.
JACQUELYN HALL:
That's what I thought.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
And I doubt… now, when Mrs. Hope came to Atlanta she may have… it would not have been surprising, because, you know, in a small community, all… or large community, the number of women at that period who had leisure and time and all to give to this, to give… Because all social work activity at that period was non-professional in the sense that…
JACQUELYN HALL:
Voluntary.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
… it was all voluntary service. AndBut she was certainly not a founder of the Gate City Free Kindergarten Association.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But the kindergartens were staffed by volunteers, mostly women like your mother… ?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
They weren't staffed by them. The board was made up of these women who had the job of raising the money for them and hiring the staff and providing what in this day and age we call supervision. But they were not staffed primarily by volunteers. Of course, the pay was small, but they were… they had paid staff.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were they women from the community who were… ?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I would guess so.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Poor women who… ?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
No, people - most of them - who had some training in kindergarten work. Because one woman who just died, just a few years ago, was an A.U. graduate, I know, and worked in… I guess they'd call it now the head teacher. And she was a normal graduate of Atlanta

Page 7
University.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did they raise money?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Tag sales, candy sales, bake and everything that they could do. All that kind of…
JACQUELYN HALL:
And this was the earliest day care facility in Atlanta?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
As far as I know. I know it's older than the… it was the first, and for a long time, the only child care agency that was a member of the Child Welfare League. So at the very beginning, they were interested in quality care. And I just saw a notice in the paper that the present president of the Gate City Day Nursery Association has just been chosen a vice-president of the Child Welfare League. So that, you know, it's had… I know that when I worked at the Urban League, the Day Nursery Association had been and was then a member of the Child Welfare League and the other child… the other voluntary nursery association… What's it called? did not belong, you know. Was not at that time a member.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I see. What else was your mother involved in?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
That, and the YWCA I think were her two major concerns. She was a… she was the chairman of the committee of management, and the treasurer for many, many years, of the branch of the YWCA. And active in the YWCA.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yeah. What was it like growing up in Atlanta University?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Oh, we'd need longer than this to tell you. It was like growing up in a little piece of society that was very unlike anything around it. You know, you find this out later. It was a very happy life, because… The thing that was unique about Atlanta University,

Page 8
even as contrasted with other schools for Negros at that time, was that there were no class differences between faculty and students, or between black and white faculty, or between black and white children. So that when my brothers - see, I had two brothers and a sister who was much younger, she was fourteen years younger than I - when my brothers and I were growing up, on the A.U. campus, almost our only playmates were children of faculty who were mainly white.
JACQUELYN HALL:
The faculty was mainly white?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
No. But the children who were in the neighborhood, who were our regular playmates, were campus children. The children of faculty. Not all, but there were as many white as black, is the point.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was the difference in A.U. and other black colleges… ?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
In this regard?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yeah.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Well, one thing that always comes to mind is that there was no difference in the dining room, there was no faculty dining room. The faculty ate with the students. And there was no difference between… And then, another instance which is recorded in history, is that the state of Georgia used to give Atlanta University some little bit of money back in those early days. Bacon's got a lot about that in his book. But there was some question raised about the children of faculty attending the Overfalls School, which was the elementary - and became the practice school for teacher training. And the children of faculty went to Atlanta University just like the white children of faculty went there. And when there was some state visitor, this was discovered, and that became the basis for the state demanding that the charter of the University be changed, or they would sacrifice their money. Unless

Page 9
the charter clearly said for the education of black youth. And the trustees of Atlanta University did not wish to do that, and did not do it. And they lost the state money. So… That is the main difference, in the tradition of Atlanta University versus…
JACQUELYN HALL:
You know, I think a lot of black colleges were rather authoritarian and hierarchical, particulary where they were run by… had started with white missionaries.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I guess in some ways the ways of education were more authoritarian than they are now, but I think this business that I'm talking about is the difference in the human relations and class relationships, which was just never present as a part of Atlanta University's tradition. And I'm sure it was due to the kind of people that were in the, you know, in the early… the early presidents and the early faculty.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you have… did you realize what a special situation you were in?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I didn't realize it until I left here and went on my first job, really. Now, this may seem very simple-minded, but after I graduated from Atlanta University I went to Columbus for my first job as girls' work secretary in the YWCA, in the Phyllis Wheatley Branch, the colored… the Negro branch.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Columbus, Ohio?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Columbus, Ohio. And that was the first time I really experienced the realities of a segregated society. You know, when I saw this at my age, you wonder how you could have been… But it's an example of the effect of which your life… Now, even when I was in college…

Page 10
Now, I'm sure my brothers went, but we were not permitted to go to any of the segregated theaters, you know, the balconies that were there. I imagine my brothers went, and I imagine when I got up into college I probably went too, but I don't remember. But I remember that that was not anything that the family approved of. And my father, after the time when streetcars were segregated, he and a very good friend of his who lived in the neighborhood, also, a black lawyer, rode bicycles, you know, rather than use the segregated facilities. And Mr. Allen was killed by an automobile on his way to his office over on Auburn Avenue, riding his bicycle. He just would not go on…
JACQUELYN HALL:
Your father was involved in voter registration drives, wasn't he?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
When he retired, must have been… I'm trying to place it in time. Must have been about 1942 or '43, because he had worked for a time as acting president of Fortd Valley State College, after he retired from Atlanta University. But this was the first year he was retired, and in fact, he… People went down to the next building to give in their taxes. I don't guess they do that now, but you would go down to the courthouse and give in your taxes between the first of January and March, and of course it was a poll tax at that time, accumulated poll tax, which you had to pay back, I don't know how many years, if you had not been registered, in order to… So papa used to go to the courthouse just as if he was going to a job, and talk to the Negros in the line waiting to give in their taxes, and ask them if they had ever thought about registering to vote. And they would say, "Yes," They'd thought about it, but they had never registered

Page 11
and they'd have to pay so much accumulated. So it'd be so much as… I don't remember the details of the law, how many years back they had to pay, but it could amount to as much as thirty dollars to get on the list at that time. And then if he could persuade anybody to go and register and pay their poll tax, then he'd make a little note in a book. And before the list closed, he had his little black book full of people that he had persuaded to get on the polls. Another funny story about that time, we were all distressed by the… I mean, not distressed, but had some anxiety about his… We just didn't think it would be pleasant at the courthouse then. And, sure enough, after two or three days some courthouse official came over and wanted to know who he was. And then the second question was, "And whom do you work for?" And papa said, "I am retired, and fortunately my work… my needs are few, so I am trying to encourage people to share in this democracy we hear so much about." They never did…
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did he wait until he was retired to do something like that because he was afraid of the trouble it would bring to A.U.?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Oh, no. He was a part of… he was one of the founding members of the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, really.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
But, I mean, this was… he had time to do this exclusively, and that's why this particular …
JACQUELYN HALL:
When was the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP founded?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Oh, I can't remember. It must have been about 1910, I guess.
JACQUELYN HALL:
He worked with De Bois?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Yes. DeBois was a member of the faculty at Atlanta

Page 12
University at that time. And of course, that was before I… that was before the NAACP was founded, and I can't remember the dates.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you have a feeling of difference between yourself… your own family and the Atlanta University campus, and the rest of the black community?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
No, because you had… the white people whom we saw were all people who were just, you know, part of the human race. And there were many contacts, many, many friends of the University who were friends of the people that… Philip Weltner, who was a good friend of the people, so he… People in the Atlanta community, not any large numbers, but there were always some, see.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But there's a… Did you have a feeling of being in a fairly privileged and isolated situation, within…
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
No, we thought this was what the world was like.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you happen to go to work for the YWCA as your first job?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Well, I had been very active in the student association at the school, both locally, and then I had been elected a vice-president of the National Student Assembly, when I was a sophomore, I think it was. So that, you know, I was interested in the program of the YWCA. And that was one job offer, and the reason I… I know the reason I decided to go there was because I it as an opportunity to go to graduate school, as I did, after the first semester. And I did my graduate work in psychology at Ohio State.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, I see. Tell me a little bit about the racial policies of the YWCA at that time. It seems to me that at least before 1920, and maybe after, the Y in the South was segregated.

Page 13
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Oh, the Y… the thing to remember about the YWCA is that though they were like most institutions, they, I think, provided the cutting edge in raising the question and modifying their own practices.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Even in the South?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Oh, yes, even in the South. Earlier than any other institution. I know much before the YWCA was so bold as to question the practices, because…
JACQUELYN HALL:
Where and when did that begin?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Well, that began even when I was a student. I graduated from college in 1927, and there were Negro members of the, what was then called the Regional Student Council, elected from all the student associations across the country. But there was… there would be… the conferences were segregated conferences. Summer conferences, which the major program event in the college YWCA. There were segregated conferences.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were they held at Blue Ridge?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
The white conference was held at Blue Ridge, and the Negro conference was held at College, most frequently. The one in the southern region. And the YWCA had an integrated council. The Negro members were elected from the conference, and the white members were elected from Blue Ridge. And then they'd have their joint council meetings. But it was a big deal about finding places for the meeting in the region, and much todo. But that is the origin of the YWCA's early questioning, and they… From that period on, they were, you know, among the groups that were regarded as radical,

Page 14
because they presumed to…
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was there a difference between the student council… the student part of the Y and the…
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Well, it was a unit. It was a business unit [unknown] And I think the student… I think the student department was always the cutting edge at that period, but they also participated… were a part of the national convention, where policy was made. So they would have their impact on… the student movement, I think, would have its … I know it had its impact on moving the whole YWCA organization ahead in the area of race relations.
Now, that's… you can find written material about this, but I can't cite you the sources, national or local. The YWCA would know.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you know where the papers are that relate to your work in the YWCA, substantial [unknown] ? There are very few in your collection here that really deal with…
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Well, I guess … I don't… [Interruption]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yeah, I want to look into the YWCA papers. One reason I was asking that is it seems… as I wrote about the beginning of the Women's Committee of the Interracial Commission, one thing that I found that had not been written about was the important role that black women played in initiating that. And the way the Interracial Commission… the origin has always been written about as having been due to the initiative of… first of white men and then of white women.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Well, that's just not true.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And I found some very interesting things about, first of all,

Page 15
the work of black women in the YWCA, and their…
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
And some of these same people were… I don't know whether the organization indirectly… 'cause, see, it was a little before my time, but Mrs. Wynn… There was a… the national YWCA staff had a Negro staff person for the… They called it the Department of Colored Work, or something of the kind. And they always had… they had national… they had Negro students there, people who… national staff people who would… One of my dear friends was a member of the national… They never had more than one or two Negro women, Negro staff in the student department out of a group maybe of twelve, you know, cross the country… was Frances Williams. Now, I think her… she worked for the… what was known as the Interracial… Department of Interracial Education, I think. And I think when I sent… I know those things are in the Negro collection, program papers of the…
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you know Eva Bowles?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Yes. Miss Bowles was Mrs. Wynn's sister. Miss Bowles was there before Mrs. Wynn, that's right.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I see. And she was a national staff member. Do you remember any of the other women who were early… ?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Well, Miss Bowles and Mrs. Wynn were the first two, and then there were these student staff people. Juanita Saddler, Frances Williams, Julia were national staff. Members of the national staff.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did the Negro women on the national board… ?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Yes.

Page 16
JACQUELYN HALL:
When did that begin? Do you know who those early… ?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Well, I know who some of them were. I don't… Mrs. E. P. Roberts, Ruth Logan Roberts, was a member. She lives in New York City and was a member of the national board. One of the very early and first. I mean, I don't know whether the first. Oh, let me see who else. I know Ruth was…
JACQUELYN HALL:
Charlotte Hawkins Brown?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I don't remember if she was on the national board or whether she… She may have been. I don't remember.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you remember anything about a controversy in Atlanta, before 1920, around… It was going on, I guess, between 1918 and 1921, over… It was over a number of different things, but it was… the black branches of the Y had to operate under different by-laws.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I don't know anything about that. That's the YMCA, too.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Both.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I don't think it was both. Because I don't think the YWCA… The YWCA had branches, and they didn't…
JACQUELYN HALL:
There wasn't any…
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I don't know that of my personal knowledge, but I know that there was something that the YMCA organization. They didn't have to… in fact, I think the Butler Street YMCA now is separately chartered. It may be by choice. I don't know.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You don't remember any controvery within the Y over…?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Not that I would know. See, I wouldn't have… I don't even remember hearing about it. And anyway [Interruption]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you know Katherine Lumkin?

Page 17
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Oh, yes. Of course I do. Do you know Katharine Lumkin?
JACQUELYN HALL:
I have been corresponding. I'm going to interview her in Virginia the first week in August.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Oh, well, give her my love, because she was the student secretary in the southern region, a member of an active student staff, during the time I was in college, and during the time my friend Frances Williams, who was an acting staff member. And I… When are you going to see her?
JACQUELYN HALL:
First week in August, I hope.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Up in… ?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Virginia.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
… Virginia, where she lives? I have promised myself some day I'm going to see her. I get a little note from her every year, saying, "And when are you coming?"
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, she… she mentioned you…
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Did she?
JACQUELYN HALL:
… and told me that I should talk to you. I already knew I should, but she was… What about Howard Kester? Do you remember him from those days?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Oh, yeah. I knew Howard Kester. He was a dear, dear friend. In those days we used to talk about… see, there were the… I happened to believe that the sharpest push in changing the practices related to segregation was provided by the student movement of that period.
JACQUELYN HALL:
In the twenties?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
In the twenties, that's right. And Frances tells these stories - I don't really remember them, but Howard Kester was in the…

Page 18
I guess he was a student then. But there would be these… there was the effort to provide places to get the United Women's Council together for students, and then to get… establish the organizational unity of the YMCA and the YWCA within an interracial fabric. And so one device was… were conferences that were held to which everybody was invited, see, but that took some doing. And Howard Kester used to refer to that as hitting the… hitting the… This was when I knew him as a student. I knew him later on when he worked with the sharecroppers. [unknown] lived in Memphis then, and was, you know, organizing.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who were some other leaders of the student movement you worked with?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Oh, I haven't thought about this in so long. You mean students?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yeah.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Well, I can remember the people who were on the Southern… the Southern Regional… the Council, the Student Council of the Southern Region, let me see… at the same time that I was. Let me see if I can remember who some of them were. Well, Norma Logan, who is a member of the national YWCA staff now, was one. Dr. Myer Logan, who is a surgeon now in New York City. She's Mrs. Charles Austin. And… let me think. Frances could tell you even more people.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Where is she living?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
She lives in St. Louis. And, of course, has been retired for some years. She worked for many years in Senator Leeman's office as a legislative aide. I don't think I can be very helpful on this

Page 19
'cause I'd have to…
JACQUELYN HALL:
All right.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Names would come to me if I really thought about it, but I'd have to…
JACQUELYN HALL:
When you refer to the student movement, do you mean primarily the YW and YMCA?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I mean primarily the YWCA.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Let me ask you one other thing about this. How do you account for the YWCA being so much more progressive than the YMCA?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Leadership.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But why were young women better leaders or more aggressive leaders or… ?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I don't know. I'd have to think about that, about why. But I don't think there's any question that there was more… there were more people with real sparks, more white and black women, in the YWCA than was true… You know, it's always bad to be judgmental, but it's an interesting question about why.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Has the Y continued to play that role, do you think?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I think so.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I have a friend who…
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Talking about the national YWCA right now.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I think, though, that even in the civil rights movement, at least for white students, a lot of the white students in the South, who were sympathetic towards the civil righs movement, involvement in it came out of the YWCA.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Out of the YWCA.
JACQUELYN HALL:
The women in it.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I couldn't prove that, but I wouldn't be at all surprised

Page 20
if that is not true about women moving from the YWCA into other things related to improving the conditions of life.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So you worked in Columbus, Ohio for a fairly short time as girls' work secretary, and then went to graduate school, and then you came back to A.U. and taught, I think.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Then I came back to Atlanta and taught for a semester or part of a year at the School of Social Work, and then I taught at Clark for a couple of years. Then I married and we moved to Memphis and I taught at Le Moyne College for a little while.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you move to Memphis because of your husband?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
My husband was dean of a small college. Of Le Moyne College.
JACQUELYN HALL:
He was dean of Le Moyne College?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
At Le Moyne College. And then I think we organized a Negro branch in Memphis. I had to organize a Negro YMCA branch in Memphis, that they had not had. I think there was… I know there was a white association, but they had no activity in the Negro community. And then I worked for the student division of the YWCA as… kind of a part time basis, but I think I was called secretary of the interracial activities, or something like that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did you do?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Largely worked within student congresses, with the leadership group. Helped develop material related to what was then called interracial education.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you visit college campuses?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I did very little college campus work. I would do… I did… I worked in student conferences across the country, and then

Page 21
did… helped develop program material and worked with the… with what was the New York based national group, which… I've forgotten now what they called it. The Committee, or something.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yeah. Did you work, or have any relationship to the New Deal, the relief organizations. The WPA or the…
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I had a job as the director of… what'd they call it? (To someone else in room.) [unknown], what did they call it? What did they call the WPA organization? I guess it was funded by WPA, but it was a survey which was done nationally. But I was the Memphis director of this survey of white collar and black… I'm trying to remember whether they called it white collar… I guess they just called it white collar, didn't break it down… of white collar workers in Memphis. It was part of a region plight study, and I think that was Johnson Fisk, was the overall director.
JACQUELYN HALL:
One thing you said earlier that I forgot to follow up was that you didn't really realize what a segregated society was like until you moved to Columbus, Ohio.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Then I had to cope with it, with the community. And I came face to face with the limitations of a… Columbus was exactly segregated in every way, including institutions, as was Atlanta. And may still be. May still be more so.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Right. Right. Right… Right. What kinds of experiences did you have there? You were working for the Y, and what were…
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Yeah, but it was all things about arranging for meetings, and occasions for all the girl reserves to do things together, that

Page 22
you had to just cope with, you know.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But when you had worked with the Y here, that had not been a problem?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
No, because I had worked for the student association. We had a student association on the campus of Atlanta University. And my life in the YWCA was largely inter-collegiate activity, by virtue of the conferences and by virtue of the student councils, which was the representative body.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And there were white as well as black students involved in it?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
In Columbus, were the white and black branches of the Y, did they desire to cooperate with one another…?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Well, perhaps they did. They had… I don't know what they called them. It'd be like ex-officio members from the black Board of Directors to the white overall board. I can't remember details, except that it was all, you know, by… you would… I guess the chairman of the black board would be ex-officio on the white board of directors, but there was not any integrated direction.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So you worked… you lived in Memphis for what? Four or five years?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Did what?
JACQUELYN HALL:
You lived in Memphis…?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
No, we lived in Memphis for fifteen years. Came back to Atlanta to live in '43.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You were there when the Southern Tenant Farmers Union was being organized, then?

Page 23
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you have any… What was your… ?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I think I made a trip over to Arkansas with Charlie Huston once, to visit with, you know, ride through eastern Arkansas where Because we had lots of friends who were involved, either in the legal activity or… of the NAACP, or in a certain kind of farmer's union. So that would be a good stopping off place.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you involved in the NAACP in Memphis? Was there… ?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Yeah.
JACQUELYN HALL:
… a branch? Tell me a little bit about the NAACP in the South during that period. How strong was it, and how active? Where would you place it among…
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
It's all it was, all there was.
JACQUELYN HALL:
It was all there was?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I can remember there were very few Urban Leagues through the South. Certainly when… even when I came to the League in '43 there weren't but, oh, six or seven Urban Leagues in the South, and that went up as far as Oklahoma.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How strong was the NAACP in the South?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I can't speak about anything except what I know about, in the Atlanta area.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about in Memphis and Atlanta?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
We had a very strong branch in Memphis. We had a very strong branch in…
JACQUELYN HALL:
About how many members?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I can't remember.

Page 24
JACQUELYN HALL:
Several hundred?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I would guess so.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What… you didn't work the Commission on Interracial Cooperation at all, did you?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
No.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did you not do that? Why did you not… what did the YWCA and NAACP rather than the Interracial Commission…
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
All I can remember about the Commission is the Commission would have conferences to which student organizations would be invited. And you'd know about their objectives, but there would be no way. I mean, I was not an adult in the community at the time when they were doing whatever they did, you know. Now, I was a part of the original group that… not the incorporators, but whatever the original group that organized… the organizing group that became the Southern Regional Council. I was a member of that group at the time of its origin.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But you weren't aware of the Interracial Commission?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Yes, I was aware of it. I knew Mr. Alexander and I knew Ms. Ames, but, I mean, I was not, in terms of doing anything about what they were about, except just sort of… I knew Mr. Alexander more. I guess after he went to work with…
JACQUELYN HALL:
The Farm Security Administration?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Yeah. Farm Security.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you know Miss Ames?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I guess I knew… my contacts with her must have come by way of student groups.

Page 25
JACQUELYN HALL:
She came as a speaker?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Probably.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was your impression of her?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I just remember she was a lady doing good works.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did… how was the Interracial Commission viewed by the time you were aware of its existence in the thirties, by the black community, or by people that you knew who were active in the NAACP and other organizations? [Interruption]
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
… encourage and be helpful in what ways you could be to anybody that was operating in any area of the Y. And I imagine the leadership of the… that there was a great deal of overlapping leadership. People who were active in the NAACP who were… Suddenly Mr. Hope was. Mr. Hope was suddenly among the people in the black community who were a part of the NAACP.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You simply viewed them as… mainly as being older than you? The leadership.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I don't believe I ever thought about it in terms of age.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So when did you move back to Atlanta?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
We came back to Atlanta in '43.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And that's when you became director of the Urban League?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
No. I didn't do anything for year but take a course with Dr. De Bois and a course with Irene. Then the YWCA asked me if I'd come and join… do a special half-time job, again, with the national YWCA staff. And I did. And then in… after I'd been doing that about six months, the Atlanta Urban League asked me if I would come and be their director. And I did.

Page 27
that the Board of Education announced that they were planning for the post-war school construction, the bond issue that they proposed to float. And they were going to spend twelve million on the white schools and one million on the Negro schools. This was just announced that way. So we, the board, we decided that the first way to launch an effort was to do this very careful analysis of the needs of the Negro schools. Which we did, and published it. And then we organized a Citizen's Committee for Public Education. And tried to make the information from the study widely disseminated over the community, with the objective to force the Board of Education to make a difference in its bond issue. That committee was organized with the decision that it would just be in existence for a year, because of, you know,… And we had great help. J. Walter Thompson had a friend that was one of the directors of J. Walter Thompson, and he offered to help prepare, you know, the wide public… what we called public education material. And then got all kinds of groups in Atlanta at least exposed to the material. I guess that's how I learned about how to be… the impact that you can make on public bodies if enough people really know what it is they…
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you succeed in getting the Board of Education … ?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Yeah. They finally… the final decision on the bond issue was an issue of ten million I think split half and half. Maybe six million for white and four for colored schools. And then the efforts of the people that were involved in that really became the first group of plaintiffs in the Atlanta school suit.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, really?

Page 28
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Some of them. Of course, they and their children were probably, oh… the original plaintiffs have long since grown and… but…
JACQUELYN HALL:
While you were working on trying to get equal appropriations for black schools, was it also being talked about and planned for…
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Well, one thing leads to another, you see, when you… The strategies of people that have carried… The NAACP has nationally carried the … and has been most responsible for all the work on schools, integration. And their strategy, and I guess everybody's, was to press for equality. And then when it was quite clear, as time moved along … In fact, even the basis for the school suit … I can't even remember back… of course, we were not directly involved in it by then, because we had no way of doing the … except to be supportive of the NAACP. And the original suit … you see, it was long … I guess it was filed … the original Atlanta suit must have been filed even before 1954, when the national school decision came down. But I'm not clear about what … when the basis changed.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who … what was the pressure on the school board that caused them to change their minds? The general … the press coverage?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Press coverage and people coverage of the extent of inequality.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was their pressure from the white community as well as the…
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Certainly. How else would it have ever gotten it changed? Negros have never… I mean, our effort was to expose to the total community, the tax-paying citizens of the city, the needs of the Negro schools. The Board of Education certainly didn't do it, you know.

Page 29
Wouldn't do it. And it was bad enough for everybody to begin to feel badly. And so there was much … At least, enough to make them change their mind.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who … what white organizations were your main allies?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Oh, I can't remember. 'Cause we got a list of all kinds of people. The League of Women Voters, the church groups, church women…
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about the League of Women Voters? How helpful have they been …
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Very helpful.
JACQUELYN HALL:
… over the years, to the different things you've been involved in?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Well, of course, when I first came back to Atlanta to live, in '46, I don't think they even accepted Negro women. [unknown] … the League of Women Voters had a big fight and that was because they didn't have any black women. But when they got to the point of wishing to change their … or to live up to the constitution, there were those who didn't want to do what … Well, I… and I have many friends who were a part of the League. But a group pulled out rather than open their membership. That must have happened … I can't place that in time, but that must have been in the late forties, early fifties.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Frances Pauley was there.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Frances Pauley was active at that time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Talmadge was plying this trade about that time.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Was what?

Page 30
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was in power about that time. What kind of … were you involved in voter registration … ?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Yeah, the big deal, the big … The [unknown] was the '46 state election and Carmichael race, when the citizens, the all-citizen's registration effort in Atlanta had been so effective that we tried - we being people that were in the Citizen's Democratic Club - to have a statewide registration effort. And to organize a big vote in behalf of James Carmichael. And we did, but of course the list got purged, and Carmichael won, but it was … Then there was … I guess that was, it must have been '46 or '48. I get mixed up about the dates, but I know that was the year.
JACQUELYN HALL:
In '46, I think, Rufus Clement was elected for school board, and …
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Was that '46?
JACQUELYN HALL:
So that… Yeah. So that was at the same time.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
That was part of the … when did the white primary … ? Of course, Atlanta always had … When did the Texas decision come? [Interruption]
JACQUELYN HALL:
So the report on schools, and the voter registration drive. What were the other … ?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
And the other big area that I think we made some fundamental … [Interruption] The other was opening up land for housing, which was a major part of our program during the years I was there. And the concept was that we had to make areas all around the city available for Negro occupancy, and I'm sure the efforts of our housing secretary opened up the big northwest for …

Page 31
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you go about opening that area so blacks could move in?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Oh, that's a big … I can't tell you that. I have to go and let you talk to Tommy, who was the … Robert Thompson was our director of housing. And we talked about it, and then the board was back of it. And then we'd find people who were interesting in finding and acquiring land. We organized a corporation. I say we, an organization was … was organized as a part of this effort. And in order to buy a big enough tract, great big tract that's now out … and …
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was it private real estate developers that you …
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
No, in fact it was a company which bought the land and held it for development, see. And that was …
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did they make a … did the corporation make a profit?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
They didn't actually even … yeah, they made a profit, but they didn't actually develop it. But the point was that it was in ownership which was sympathetic and which was strategically located, so that developers would have to take that into account. Then, I don't know in detail, but much of the same thing was done about the northwest. (To friend in room.) What do they call the northwest, Mattie? Crestwood Forest? That was that development, wasn't it? That's out in the… I don't know whether you know the city.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yeah, a little bit.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
This is the northwest area of Negro expansion.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you trying to challenge residential segregation in any way? Were you trying to make ?

Page 32
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
No, we were primarily … at that time we were primarily concerned that there be living space for Negros all over the city.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Rather than …
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
And we were very careful not to say "areas for Negro residences," but "areas that would be available to Negroes," see. Because at that time there was a great shortage of housing for people. There hadn't been any building all during the war, and the federal programs to encourage housing were very… were … white people got the major benefit of them. And so it was all part of …
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you able to get any F.H.A. money for those kind of things?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Yeah, [unknown] to it. At the time we really … There was a very generous title of F.H.A., 608's, and the government provided ninety per cent of the cost. That included land, development, the whole bit. And when the League got into it and we did an analysis of how many F.H.A. 608 loans had been made in Atlanta, I think the total out of some six thousand, less than a hundred units. And then the Aiken project and the West Lake Gardens helped … That log jam was broken. And that development, High Point was developed as a part of the push and the expose. And I guess this was developed by Aiken and subsequently by the Marsh Brown. But, I think the … no, the Aiken project for this was the only one. I think it's beginning to come back to me now. Out of some several thousands there were, over … in Atlanta, there were sixty-six units that had been approved, until our … until our staff, really. So we did … we were instrumental in breaking

Page 33
that log jam, and getting some housing available under this generous F.H.A. title.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You had a brief interlude there when you were associate director of the Southern Regional Council.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I took a leave and went there for one year.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did you do that?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Well, I was interested in the Council, and …
JACQUELYN HALL:
Had you been active in it, up till then?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Yeah.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You were on the executive committee?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Yeah. And that was when George Mitchell was director. I got very discouraged in those days. George Mitchell said to me one when I was pressing for something to be done that, you know, not to worry because I was their symbol of interracial fellowship. And I said, "Oh, no. My days of being a symbol of anything have long since passed." I told some of my friends of that, at the time, and I don't … that is not in any disparagement of George Mitchell, because I had great appreciation for his leadership, but … and of the many things he did. And …
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did he say that? What did he mean by that?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Well, I guess maybe some of the things that I was pressing them to do, he didn't … he figured they were not possible.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kind of things were you pressing them to do?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I don't remember. I really can't remember.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Really?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
… can't remember the specific ones, except that I was …
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, that was around …
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
… facing a lot of frustration.

Page 34
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yeah. That was around 1954, wasn't it? And the school desegregation decision had come down?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Might have been.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was the Council moving with dispatch to try to … ?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Well, I guess I figured they weren't … I can't remember really what the specific thing was that I thought they ought to be doing that they weren't doing. But I thought I had some responsibility for it, as that part of the staff. And George was trying to make me feel better. He said, "Now, just relax, because you are our symbol of interracial…" And I said, "Indeed I'm not!"
[Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
And did you leave pretty soon after that?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I think… I stayed for the period that I agreed to stay for. It was just a year.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Have you been active in the Council since then?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I haven't been on the board in years. I go to the … generally go to their meetings, but I was …
JACQUELYN HALL:
I've just been … I talked to Frances Pauley yesterday morning, and this afternoon I was talking to the young man who's now an interim director to the Georgia Council of Human Relations. And I am finding a really extraordinary amount of criticism and dissatisfaction with the Council around.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Well, I think many of us … and I share Frances's opinion, and I don't remember whether this was brewing at that time, many of us felt that the only way the Council could really be effective was to strengthen the state groups and the groups at the local level. And in order to do that, you know, resources had to be made available to do, you know, some kinds of things. And they never bought that. And then,

Page 35
the … This was after my time, but they finally separated themselves from the state groups, see, which they justified as … on the tax basis, because they said the state groups would be … could be more active, and then they wouldn't jeopardize the Council's tax-exempt status. I think as I remember … I don't even remember, when I was on, whether I was on the executive committee at that time. I know the … but Frances was director of the Georgia Council at that time, at the time when they withdrew, and really didn't do much.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What do you think the real reason was for not supporting the state Councils at that time? What kind of role do you see the Council as having played in the struggle for civil rights and that campaign?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Well, one good thing they did was get the VEP (voter education project) started.
JACQUELYN HALL:
That's right. [Laughter] They should have done that and then closed up their doors. [Laughter] I'm not supposed to make my opinions known.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Well, I'm not interested in this going in any kind of record, because it's my personal opinion, but …
JACQUELYN HALL:
It won't.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
… I think the Council is suffering from what I call an institutional lag, you know. Institutions rarely … I think the examples of institutions that continue to be sharp in the areas that they are organized … but they don't disappear once they're institutionalized. They have to survive for the sake of the institution. I don't … That may sound very harsh, but I think the Council

Page 36
has some of that. And I'm not in a position to know what they're doing now, because I just don't really know. I get their publication, but I don't think it's … I mean, I don't get excited about it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you director of the Urban League when the direct action started and the A.U. students were demonstrating and sitting in?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I think that was my last year. I think it was.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did … ?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Because I went … I get a little mixed up on which year I left. I almost have to look at my resume to remember what year I did what. But I think I left the Council and went … I went back to join the national YWCA community staff. I believe it was 1959 or '60, and that effort, that student thing started around then. But I probably was not at the League.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did the Urban League and other organizations like that respond to that departure?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
It was supported. It was very supportive.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kind of support did they … ?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Oh, people who were on their board made bond, organized committees to support the demonstrations sit inners when they were in jail, get them out. And …
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did all of that come as a surprise to you at all? Had you seen it coming?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I wasn't close enough to … I can't say that I was surprised, just rejoiced. I don't remember. And I think by and large the academic black community was very supportive. Of course, the original sit in activity didn't start here. It started in Greensboro. But the

Page 37
students in the Atlanta University center were supported by … it was a statement of affirmation that the University community drew up in support of the student activity, of the student effort at that particular thing, which I think expressed the feeling of the academic community.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was there any opposition among your peers to what the students were doing? I mean …
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Not at that period.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Later on?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Well, I guess at the time, as the student activity moved into the business of locking up the Board of Trustees and all of that. There were many who felt that that was … that they were a little unclear on their objectives and they were not … But that was not related to the civil rights effort. I guess indirectly it was. Certainly there was a relationship to it, but … I don't know whether you have seen, you know, a piece that was published in The Nation, which I think is very thoughtful, and the guy who wrote it brought me a reprint. So I've been busily giving them away to people who haven't seen them.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Excellent. I'm glad.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
And it relates … Here, let me give you a clean one. Clean copy. [Interruption] Interesting from the point of view of all of this bit about black studies, which is a …
JACQUELYN HALL:
An outgrowth of that.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
An outgrowth of some of those things.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Just … I don't want to take up very much more of your time, and I realize that we haven't gotten into your legislative career.

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GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Well, you know, I should have told you, this is not a good … you know, I feel kind of disorganized, because I have been … I'm having to focus on so many contemporary things, that I don't think I'm really as useful to you about these earlier periods as I would be in a more relaxed period.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, I think, too, I haven't had a chance to do as much research as I ordinarily would like to do, so I should be able to refresh your memory about things more than I've been able to do. Let me just ask you a couple of …
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
There was other … there were four things, just to sort of remind myself, there were these four areas that I think the League made the … a significant contribution in the change in the city. And one was the school … the push on school improvement and voter registration. And the third was helping hospital care, and we did a basic study of the hospital facilities available to Negros. That must have been published about 19 … I don't remember when.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were Negros treated at Grady Hospital then?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
And then the development of Spaulding Pavilion as a … was developed as a means of providing … Actually, the objective was to provide graduate training opportunities, available to Negros, in Emory Grady, as well as provide hospital facilities for the Negro population who did not have access locally to a hospital.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Negros were being treated at Grady Hospital, weren't they?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Negros were treated at Grady, but it was a hospital for … for the "indigency." And none of the other hospitals were … would accept Negro patients.

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JACQUELYN HALL:
So Grady was the only place that Negros could go?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
That's right. That's right. So middle class Negros who … and Negro doctors were not on the Grady staff, nor were they admitted to the graduate training opportunities which Grady … which Emory controls in the city. All graduate training in all the hospitals. And so that …
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did Negro doctors get graduate training?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
They got it somewhere else, if they got it. Anyway, they left the community. Some of them came back and some of them didn't.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And they weren't able to take their patients to the hospital at all?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
That's right.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did Emory oppose your efforts to get a wing … ?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
No, they gave up service. And the man who was chairman of the hospital authority, for whom Spaulding Pavilion is named, Hugh Spaulding was chairman of the hospital authority, and he was … did see all the iniquities and provided a great deal of helping bring back the.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I don't know … the Hugh Spaulding Pavilion was … both Negro and white patients, indigent patients, were treated by the hospital?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Right. Very segregated conditions. And Negro doctors did not have access, and …
JACQUELYN HALL:
So the pavilion was mainly to give Negro doctors access?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Well, the hidden agenda …
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes, that's how …
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
… was to provide a means of cracking the door at Grady Emory. The open agenda was to provide hospital beds which were available to Negro

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patients who did not have access to any of the … I think it was described at that time as paying black patients. I mean …
JACQUELYN HALL:
Paying?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Paying, you know, like people would go to Emory Hospital or to [unknown] or Piedmont or wherever.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I understand. So you ran for the Georgia legislature in 1966?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
'65.
JACQUELYN HALL:
'65. After the county-unit system was done away with and reapportionment?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Well, there were several stages in that. First was getting rid of the county unit system, then there was the re-apportionment of the senate, then there was re-apportionment of the congressional districts, then there was re-apportionment of the house. In the state, re-apportionment of the senate came first, and then re-apportionment of the house. And when that got passed and the house was re-apportioned, I ran in one of the newly created districts.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you decide to launch into electoral politics?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Just because I … see, the whole effort was to try to find good people to run for these new districts. See, Fulton County had been represented by three people, and when it was re-apportioned, we had twenty-four house districts. And twenty-six of that, the first re-apportionment, with five at-large and … how many single member districts there were… twenty, twenty-one single member districts. And so all of us who'd been interested in improving the participation of Negros in the political process were interested in trying to locate people, and I went to talk to another person who also ran for the first time who had run for something else, and I said, "Who

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are we going to get for this district, 112th?" And he said, he said, "Well, why don't you run?" And I really had never … I really hadn't thought about it. And so I said, "Well, I'll go think about it." And I did. And after all, I know as much about the district as anybody.
JACQUELYN HALL:
That's right.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
So I …
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were there any other women running?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
No, that year, that first time, my opponent was a white Tech student, 'cause Park Tech is in my district. His name was Mr. Strange. I never met him, but I won handily. Then I had to run again because that was an interim election following re-apportionment. I had to run again the next year. And let me see who was … I think that was … My opponent that year was a Negro woman who was put in the race by … and supported heartily by many people in the Southern Regional Council. And she was just a cat's paw. There was a white man, whose name I have forgotten, who came and lived down here in the [unknown], you know, saving the Negros. And this woman that … was the opponent in that race …
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who was she?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Her name was Helen Howard. She has since moved out of the district, as has the man. I think he went and bought himself a farm out near Stone Mountain. (To friend.) What was that man's name? Do you remember it, Mattie? Can you hark back that far? That white man who was going to save the … and in the meantime write a book. Lived down here in the Bottom.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why was Helen Howard backed in this race? Put in this race?

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GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I can't … I've never been able to understand that. I was invited to some fund-raising thing by somebody on the Council staff at that time, and I said, "Do you think she would be a better representative?" And I don't know what his answer was.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who was she? I remember her from something else. What was … ?
MATTIE:
She was with the Atlanta Domestic League?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
No, she …
JACQUELYN HALL:
Helen Howard. She doesn't work with Vine City?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
That's where she lives. She claims she ran the Vine City something or other …
JACQUELYN HALL:
Right.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
… during that time. But she was a person who had no …
MATTIE:
Did she have a son?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I don't think she has a son … I was told that he was. I don't think that's accurate.
JACQUELYN HALL:
She ran the Vine City Neighborhood Association, or something like that, but she didn't really … ?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
This man put this thing together, but she was then the director, supposed to be. But it …
JACQUELYN HALL:
But you won.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Very handily.
JACQUELYN HALL:
She didn't even … She didn't draw away the vote that you …
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Well, you never can tell about that. I've never had less than 90 per cent of a district's vote.

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JACQUELYN HALL:
How do you account for your incredible success as a politician?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I don't think that's incredible success. I think people just underestimate the intelligence of people. I generally … I think generally, in elective office, this great area of participatory democracy, you … we're in a period where we are having expanded opportunity to be … for more adequate representation, which is fine, see. And because the opportunities have been so limited, I think that there is very little understanding of the requirements of the office. Many people run for office … whether you're talking about the city or state or county or whatever. And … but when the chips are down, generally the people … Imean, this is a generalization. Of course there are … you find some exceptions to it, but I think generally the electorate has pretty good sense, you know. They … For example, the people in the district knew that Helen Howard had never been - I'm just using that as a specific case - knew that she had never been identified with anything of interest. Even PTA, see. [Interruption. Introduction and conversation with Hamilton's husband]
JACQUELYN HALL:
You were telling me that people underestimate the intelligence of voters.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I think so. I do getting ready to do a little experiment in this campaign. I'm going to address directly the people who have a history of voting, the last four times. I'm not worried about people that are just on the list.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now, what? You're going address the people who have, or have not, voted?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Who have. Those that I call the consistent voters. Those whose

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voting record shows a vote every time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Finish the example you were giving me. The voters knew that Helen Howard had not been in the district, that … ?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
I don't know that … She lived in the district. That was not a point. But she was not a person who had a history of identification with anything of general civic improvement or neighborhood improvement or anything else. I think the record showed that when it turns up … She got up … I remember that was in the year when there weren't such a rash of candidates for every office, but WSB had a program in which all the candidates for the house were on the panel. And the person asked her why she was running, and she said, "So I can get porkchops for the constituents." Except she didn't use the word constituents.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What are the most important things been that you've worked on since you've been in the legislature?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Well, I can't even give you in simple terms … I did some things. I'll give you this letter, which is what I call the basic letter of this campaign, which reviews what has been a continuous concern of mine. And … [Interruption]
On tape, interview continues for five more minutes.
END OF INTERVIEW