Title: Oral History Interview with William Gordon, January 19, 1991. Interview A-0364.
Interviewer: Egerton, John
Interviewee: Gordon, William
Subjects: Civil rights--Southern States Southern States--Race relations
Abstract: William Gordon was born in 1919 and was raised primarily in Mississippi and Arkansas. He describes growing up in the rural South, focusing on race relations, and explains what life was like for his sharecropping family. Sent off to school in Memphis, Tennessee, as a teenager, Gordon excelled in his studies and went to Le Moyne College in the 1930s. Following his graduation, Gordon enlisted in the army and fought in World War II. Gordon focuses on race relations in his discussion of his school and military years. He describes various customs associated with Jim Crow segregation in the South. Following the war, Gordon attended graduate school to study journalism. Gordon wrote for the Atlanta Daily World beginning in 1948, during which time he formed a close friendship with Atlanta Constitution editor and anti-segregationist Ralph McGill. Gordon also formed close connections with Georgia Senator Herman Talmadge. He discusses in detail his perception of changing race relations in the 1930s through the 1950s and argues that desegregation required legal action. Nonetheless, Gordon acknowledges the role of white leaders, such as McGill and Talmadge, who genuinely sought racial change. In the late 1950s, Gordon began to work for the United States Information Agency (USIA) and spent many years traveling through Africa and Europe.