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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with George Simkins, April 6, 1997. Interview R-0018. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Harassment by white segregationists

Simkins describes some of the harassment he faced as a black civil rights activist. White activists sent him products and services he had not ordered, and one white contractor sought to exploit the segregated court system to swindle Simkins.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with George Simkins, April 6, 1997. Interview R-0018. 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

You mentioned that some lawyers were hesitant to get involved in civil rights cases. Did you ever suffer any repercussions from this case? Did anyone give you trouble afterward?
I was president of the [Greensboro chapter of the] NAACP for 25 years here. I brought suit against the schools, the golf courses, the hospitals, the swimming pools and everything. I was constantly getting threats. At one point, we filed a suit to integrate Longview Golf Course. They would send a fleet of cabs here to pick up my party. They said it was my wife's birthday, and dozens of roses and new cars would be charged to me.
Who was doing that?
That right wing group out in California, I think it was the John Birch Society. I would answer the phone, and I wouldn't even say hello, I would just say, "I did not order anything." The phone was just ringing. You can't imagine all the stuff that they ordered, all to be charged here. Some of the guys got mad, because they said, "They're trying to hurt you, but they're hurting us." They would put me through all sorts of things like that. You find out that they use various governmental agencies like the IRS. When school integration was to take effect, one man called me and said, "If anything happens to my daughter, you are dead. Because we're going to kill you." It's like I'm going to have something to do with whatever happens to his daughter. It ends up in court, to give you an example. I had a piece of land out on Guilford-Jamestown Road, and I was going to develop it for HUD [Housing and Urban Development] for a public housing project. This white architect came to me and asked to do the work. I said, "As long as you take it on a contingency basis, you can do it." His name was Kabotnik. He was from Czechoslovakia, and he'd been here about two years. He took the work, and the Housing Authority was changing the plans on us. He said, "I need some money, because I'm doing this work, and HUD hasn't paid me yet." So I knew the man was doing work, and I told him I'd give him $7,700, and when HUD pays you, you're to pay me back. He agreed to it, I had legal papers drawn up. The builder finished building the project, HUD paid him, but they held back the $7,700 from his pay. He got about $65,000 for the project, which was 110 units, I think. The man sued me for the $7,700. The lawyers get an all-white jury.
He sued you for the $7,700 he owed you?
He sued me because the contractor had held back the $7,700 so that I could get my money back. The judge said, "I want the jury to answer three questions. Did Kabotnik have a contract with Simkins?" We'd made copies and showed each member of the jury the contract, so the jury said yes. "Did Kabotnik renege on the contract with Simkins" The jury said yes. "How much money should Simkins get?" The jury said zip. The judge said, "Wait a minute. This is not right." This was about quarter of five in the afternoon. "You all are going to come back tomorrow and rule on this thing, and answer these questions correctly." So they came back the next morning, and the first question, "Did Kabotnik have a contract with Simkins?" the jury said no. The judge threw the case out. So I said the hell with it, and just gave him the money, and I wasn't going back in court. But I have had a bad experience in court, I'm sure because of my civil rights activity. This case was much later than the hospital case, in the '70s.