Betty Jane Wilson
Interview: Betty Jane Wilson(bjw)
Medium: Audio and Video tape
Date: 14 April 1998
Place: Home of Betty Jane Wilson
Collected by: Amber Sue Pettiford(asp)
asp: State your whole name and where we are.
bjw: My name is Betty Jane Wilson and we’re in Marion, Indiana at my home at 101 Vickory Lane.
asp: And the date?
bjw: The date is Tuesday, April 14, 1998.
asp: Do I have permission to tape you with audio tape?
bjw: Yes you do.
asp: And video tape?
bjw: Yes you do.
asp: And do I have permission to submit this information to the Marion High School’s History Department?
asp: And do I have permission to submit this information to Marion Public Library?
bjw: Yes you do.
asp: Okay, where were you born?
bjw: I was born in Saginaw, Michigan. Do you want the date?
bjw: October 24, 1926.
asp: How was your family life when you were first born?
bjw: Well I was in a family of seven girls and one boy. So, every evening was like a party at the house because we had such a big family. And usually after dinner, my mother was a housemaker, a homemaker and after dinner we popped corn and made candy and that happened just about every night. And it is great being from a big family.
asp: What types of things did you do?
bjw: Well, we used to go to, what was the name of that bay?, we were born right on the point of Lake Huron and I used to go to the beach all the time in the summer time. And my father also liked to fish and he liked to hunt, but of course we never went hunting with him. But uh, we played a lot in the backyard and we were very . . Most of our social life took place in the church. But I moved to, my family moved to Marion, Indiana when I was about eight years old. So I spent most of my life here in Marion, Indiana. My mother and father were both born in Grant County, and all of our relatives were in Marion, Indiana. My father went to Saginaw, Michigan because of a job in a factory there.
asp: You guys went to church a lot in your family?
bjw: We went to church every Sunday. Usually twice on Sundays. And our social life was always built around the church.
asp: Did that change in between the time period of 1940-1950?
bjw: No, it was always the same because when we moved to Marion, Indiana my mother went to Second Baptist Church and all of our friends belonged to Second Baptist Church, or Bethel or Allen Temple. But at that time usually the people in your church that you socialised with the most.
asp: Did you work prior to that time?
bjw: No, the first time I had a job was my senior year in high school. I had accumulated so many credits that I only went to school for three hours a day. So I worked at a clothing store called the Paris.
asp: Did that change? During the time period of 1940-1950 was it hard for you to get a job?
bjw: Well I’ll tell you, when you say forty nine and fifty, I graduated from Marion Senior High School in June of 1944. And in August of 1945 I left here and went to Washington D.C.
asp: And what did you do there?
bjw: Well I had taken a Civil Service Exam, and I had been given a job at the ? Civil Service Commission, which is now the Office of Personnel Management. So, I started the job there. I left here when I was sixteen. I got on the train, when I arrived in Washington D.C. the only thing that I had was a letter from my minister that from Second Baptist Church. I took that letter to the YWCA there, Phyllis Weatley YWCA, and they were hiring women or girls who were coming to Washington to work in the government. And they found me a job.
asp: Why did you choose to go to Washington to work?
bjw: Well, after I graduated Mrs. ?, who was my typing and shorthand teacher, uh, convinced me that I should take the Civil Service Exam, because as a black graduate the only two options that were open to me after graduation was working in somebody’s kitchen, which I refused to do, and working at what was then the Farnsworth Radio and Television Company. And I didn’t want to do factory work, I always wanted to do office work. So, my only alternative was to leave home and go to Washington D.C.
asp: So, there were no other job opportunities here?
bjw: Not for blacks.
asp: And when you went to Washington, what did you start doing there?
bjw: Well I started out as a stenographer and then I worked my way up to secretary and I worked as a secretary for years and then I ended up being a Management Assistant.
asp: A Management Assistant for what?
bjw: Well, I was a Management Assistant in Plans for Progress, a quasi government agency. And you have?, and I worked for like the Vice President of J.C.Penney’s Gene Miller; I worked for Ted Allen who was Vice President of I.T.&T. I worked for Gene Madison who was Vice President of ? And I was on the administrative staff as a Management Assistant. Since they were there for only a year
asp: So what did you do basically for those people?
bjw: Well I was more or less a office manager, to see that everything was done. We had a lot of conferences throughout the United States, so my position then required a lot of traveling, because we had to set up for registration.? Most of the time our speaker was Lyndon Johnson who was then the Vice President of the United States.
asp: Did you ever work under him?
bjw: I worked for Hobart Taylor who was special council to the Vice President when Lyndon Johnson was President. Then, after the assassination of Kennedy, we moved into the White House, and I worked for the White House staff for the President?
asp: Did you ever meet any of the Presidents?
bjw: Oh, yes! Definitely. Well ? staff would have a lot of meetings at the White House, and there were a number of meetings that President Kennedy spoke at. We were around him a lot. And then after that I would see President Johnson every day when I was working in the East Wing of the White House?
asp: What did you do at the White House??
bjw: I was Management Assistant to Hobart Taylor, who at that time was associate council to the President, and I kept his office going. Another thing that was very interesting, people would write to the White House on various subjects, what I would do when they came into the office I would send them to the government agency that was handling that problem. They would send the letters back, I would edit them and type them out for ? general?
asp: So during your whole life pre-war, during the war and after war you didn’t find any trouble in getting a job?
bjw: No, I never had any trouble finding a job, but the only thing that kinda irked me was that I had to be much much better than my white counterparts who were applying for the same job.
asp: And how did this make you feel?
bjw: It upset me because I always wondered why I had to be so much better in order to get the same job. But, of course that was a matter of discrimination. And I worked for the Presidents committee on Equal Employment Opportunity also. And I was always just a spectator working in an agency that had something to do with Equal Employment Opportunity Since I had been so much discriminated myself trying to fight my way up the ladder.
asp: You didn’t have any war related experiences during this time period, 1940 through 1950?
bjw: I beg your pardon?
asp: You didn’t have any war related experiences during the time period of 1940, 1950?
bjw: Well, 1949, 1950.
bjw: 1940. Well I remember “V” Day because everyone was out in the streets in Washington D.C.