SPOHP is indebted to individuals and communities who share what are sometimes very difficult and painful memories with us in the hope that we will pass along their experiences to students in universities, public schools, and other venues. The people we interview (our narrators) come from all walks of life. Some, like Lawrence Guyot, Stetson Kennedy, and Patricia Stephens Due were iconic and famous even during life. Most others, like WWII combat veteran Marion Gordy never became household names. All however, lived lives of integrity and each sought to preserve what was good in life for future generations.
I smile fondly whenever I think of Lawrence Guyot who told SPOHP students in the fall of 2011 in Mississippi that the upcoming Presidential Election was not merely a contest between two men, but a test of the very health of our republic. This was a man who was very nearly beaten to death for advocating on behalf of the idea of democracy and when he talked, we listened—carefully!
Marion Gordy’s memories of being shot down near Berlin and surviving a Nazi prisoner of war camp were so very vivid—and poignant—that the moment we transcribed this interview, I shared it with UF President Bernie Machen. Dr. Machen immediately recognized the power of Gordy’s narrative of surviving a near-lynching at the hands of enraged German civilians and shared this interview with UF veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Proctor Oral History Program believes that all voices are valuable, and we also believe that stories have the power to connect people and to transform society for the better. Simply because a person passes away does not take away the power and example of their life and striving. One of the great things about oral history is that we will be able to preserve and promote our narrator’s voices for decades, even centuries to come. Please join the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program in remembering our remarkable narrators and friends!
Dr. Paul Ortiz
Dr. Robert Zieger, Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Florida, passed away on March 6, 2013. Professor Zieger was one of the preeminent labor historians of the United States. He was a two-time recipient of the Philip Taft Labor History Book Award for the best book in labor history.
He was a prolific writer and authored classic works including, “For Jobs and Freedom: Race and Labor in America since 1865,” “The CIO, 1935-1955,” and “America’s Great War: World War I and the American Experience.” Bob was a spirited and rigorous historian who introduced countless scholars, students, union members, and community organizers to the field of labor history. He edited several key volumes in southern labor history including “Life and Labor in the New New South” (2012) which presented some of the best new work in the field of southern labor studies.
Bob Zieger began teaching on the college level at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 1964, and he moved to Kansas State University in 1973. Subsequently, he served as a professor of history at Wayne State University, and his labor history courses were immensely popular with union members in Detroit.
Dr. Zieger moved to the University of Florida in 1986, and in 1998 he received the appointment of Distinguished Professor of History. Bob was a beloved teacher at the UF and his favorite courses were the History of American Labor and The United States, 1914-1945. Scores of Bob’s students went on to become union organizers and leaders in the labor movement.
Dr. Bob Zieger talked the talk, and he walked the walk. Bob was a longtime member and leader of the United Faculty of Florida, AFL-CIO. He was his union’s delegate to the North Central Florida Central Labor Council for many years, and he gave the keynote address at the CLC’s Annual Dinner in 2012. On the job, Dr. Zieger conducted scores of office visits beginning in the 1990s to encourage fellow faculty and instructors to join the United Faculty of Florida. His energy and knowledge of the labor history was an important element in a highly successful union drive on campus recently.
Bob Zieger was born in 1938 in Englewood, New Jersey into a union family. He is survived by his wife, Gay Pitman, a retired college instructor, his son Robert, and his granddaughter Persephone. He enjoyed taking long walks, playing with Persephone, and promoting Gay’s 2nd career as an artist. Bob Zieger will be sorely missed by his colleagues in the history profession, his comrades in the labor movement and by the countless students that he mentored over an exceptional career of teaching, research, and service. Bob Zieger, Presente!
Gainesville, Florida, March 6, 2013.
Read remembrances on the Labor and Working-Class History Association website....HERE
Read the article in the Gainesville Sun.....HERE
Our good friend, Victor Cote, passed away this morning in New Smyrna Beach at age 92. Victor was the beloved husband of Beulah I. (Gelineau) Cote, with whom he celebrated 67 years of marriage this past November. He was born in Tewksbury on April 7, 1920, a son of the late Francis and Emma (Morin) Cote.
The title of the POW documentary--"I Just Wanted to Live!"--was selected from Victor's UF oral history, which was done by Julian Pleasants in 2004. At the documentary's premiere in 2008, Herbert & Victor realized they had been incarcerated in the same slave labor camp in Japan. The most memorable photo taken at that premiere was of Victor & Herbert shaking hands. They passed away within four months of each other.
Victor told a SPOHP member as recently as November 2012, that he still had nightmares about his years as a POW. Those nightmares are over now. These are a few "experiences" of what Victor Cote had to endure:
The Battle of Bataan (January - April 1942)
O'Donnell Internment Camp (served on burial detail)
Bilibid Prison in Manila
Cabanatuan Internment Camp (starvation & torture)
a Japanese Hell Ship
Fukuoka Slave Labor Camp 17 in Japan working in a condemned coal mine
Witnessing the explosion of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki on Aug. 9, 1945
Only one of the ex-POWs is still alive; Conrad Alberty lives in North Carolina. His daughter recently told the SPOHP team that she'll be attending the annual meeting of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor held in Norfolk this May. She said the organizers are interested in showing "I Just Wanted to Live!" as part of the program. So these men's stories of survival continue to be heard.
You can read the obituary....HERE
You can read an article on Mr. Cote by the Lowell Sun....HERE
Col. Phillip O. Newman, a U.S. Army Air Corps pilot who flew a B-17 in more than fifty missions during World War II, died Saturday, Jan. 6, in Winston-Salem, N.C. He was 89 years old.
Col. Newman, who was born March 27, 1923, in Greensboro, N.C., flew most of his missions out of a base in Foggia, Italy, as the push against Germany intensified in the last years of the war. His unit was the 15th Air Force, 99th Bomb Group, 347 Bomb Squadron.
He was interviewed by Ken Samuelson on May 14, 1999, an interview in the SPOHP World War II collection. He was extremely active in veteran's affairs, and frequently called on SPOHP to increase our veteran activities. SPOHP also interviewed his wife, Chic Wallace, done by Ann Smith in 2008.
You can read the obituary printed in the Gainesville Sun....HERE
Mr. Guyot was founding chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and a founding member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
He worked closely with activists like Medgar Evers, Fannie Lou Hamer, Bob Moses and Dorie Ladner. Over the past few years, Lawrence Guyot also became a friend and a trusted mentor to the students and staff of the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program at the University of Florida.
We were profoundly instructed by Mr. Guyot's rousing community organizing workshop with us two years ago in Cleveland, and we were enraptured by his powerful panel presentation at Delta State University where he urged us to become politically active to honor the past as well as to provide for a better future for our grandchildren.
He taught us that politics deeply matters, often saying, "America as we know it is not only in question but that is the only question in the presidential election of 2012."
Charles Norton passed away on December 2, 2012, at the age of 100 years old. He was recommended highly to SPOHP as someone to interview because of his long time work with Ed Ball, one of the pioneer movers and shakers in the financial world of Florida. Alan Bliss did the interview in December of 2011 with Mr. Norton, and we placed his interview in the Florida Business Leaders collection.
Marion Leonard Gordy, was 95 when he passed away. He graduated from Gainesville High School, and served proudly in the United States Army Air Corp during WWII as a bombardier. His plane was shot down over Germany and he was taken prisoner, and interred in the same camp as his brother at Stalag LUFT III. He was a Purple Heart recipient and flew seven combat missions over Nazi Germany in a squadron of B17 bombers.
As one of the leading civil rights activists in the nation, Patricia Stephens Due has devoted her life to social justice and equality. At age thirteen, she defied Jim Crow and a “COLORED ONLY” sign by standing in a segregated line at a south Florida Dairy Queen. At age nineteen, she and her sister Priscilla Stephens established a Congress for Racial Equality (CORE) chapter in Tallahassee, Florida. And at age twenty, she organized a protest that became a watershed moment in the civil rights movement.
The Samuel Proctor Oral History Program and the Center for the Study of Race and Race Relations hosted Patricia Due and her husband, Civil Rights Attorney John Due at the event: An Evening With The Dues. She passed away Tuesday, February 7, 2012.
Read The Boston Globe's article.......HERE
Read the CNN article......HERE
Read the article by her daughter Johnita Due.....HERE
©2012–Website design by Stephanie Taylor