Conducted by: Lucas White
Date: April 27, 2001
Lw: My name is Lucas White, and I am interviewing Oatess Archey, in his offices. The date is April 27, 2001. Do I have pennission to interview you for the Community History Project?
Oa: Yes, this is Sheriff Oatess Archey, and Lucas has permission to interview me.
Lw: Do I have permission to submit this interview to the Marion High School?
Lw: Do I have permission to submit this interviews to the Marion Public Library?
Lw: Let’s begin then. Growing up in your life, I’m sure you had to deal with a lot of things that have had to do with segregation. In your everyday life, early on in your childhood, what restrictions or what things were you held back by, from segregation?
Oa: Well, growing up in Manon in the ‘30’s, I was born in 1937, Marion had just gone through the lynching, in 1930. I was born seven years after the lynching. Marion was still pretty tense. The life, especially for a young black male, was pretty tough. Name calling, not being allowed to swim at Matter Park. You had to swim either in the river. . . For the blacks that lived in central Marion, they swam in the river. The blacks that lived in south Marion swam in Deer Creek, out by Weber’s Junkyard. My family lived in north Marion. We were the only black family over there for a number of years. I think there might have been one other family, Alexanders, and they left.
Lw: The interview was stopped due to a telephone call. We are going to resume now.
Oa: Okay, as I was saying during the ‘30’s, ‘40’s, and ‘50’s, it was pretty tough in Marion. Growing up in north Marion and being one of the only black families out there, my brother and myself we had to swim in a gravel pit over behind Washington School. It’s now no longer Washington School, its called Blinn Apartments, or something. We were not allowed to swim at Matter Park. Those of us, who wanted to learn how to swim, either swam, like I said, in the river, Deer Creek, or the gravel pit. Then Don Hawkins, a former Marion Police officer, who was a former military man, and a Navy man, well I guess he was in the Navy, he would take the black kids from Marion, we would catch a bus. The kids from central Marion would catch a bus, at 10th and Nebraska Street, at Bethel AME Church. And the rest of us would meet. . . well my brother and I would get with that group at 10th and Nebraska.
Black children who lived in south Marion would meet at 35th and Washington Street, at Allen Temple. We would take a couple of buses to Anderson, and swim all day at the Urban League Pool, over there. Going to the movies, the Paramount Theatre and the Indiana Theatre, where this office is now is where the Indiana Theatre was, we had to sit in the balcony, blacks were not allowed to sit downstairs. We couldn’t eat at any of the eating establishments around the courthouse or around the square, the little restaurants. They would either say to you to go, or wouldn’t serve you at all. You couldn’t swim at the YMCA, you could play Ping- Pong and basketball, but you couldn’t swim. It was tough, it was tough growing up being a young black male or female, in Marion during the ‘30’s, ‘40’s, ‘50’s, or ‘60’s.
Lw: In the schools in Marion, when you went there, was there any segregation then?
Oa: It wasn’t really open. We were allowed to talk to each other and socialize. There used to be, up on 3rd and Western, the Medigold. It was kind of a little hangout for all of the high school kids. We couldn’t go there. There used to be a little black club, out on...right across the street from Wesleyan Health Care Center, called the 36th club. It was kind of a dive, and the black kids would sneak there. Their parents would kill them, if they had caught them there, but there was no place else to go. Then there was another club, out in west Marion, called the Blue Ribbon. Then again, it was dive, and most of the black parents didn’t want their kids there. Eventually Marion built an Urban League. I think its now on 14th and Western or out in that area. And that is where we had to go to play basketball, play ping-pong, and dance. We really were not welcome at the YMCA or the YWCA.
Lw: In your work, I know that you began as a teacher. How did that evolve?
Oa: Well, when I was in high school, when I was your age, God blessed me with some athletic ability. I ended up being an all-stater in football, Marion Giant basketball player, starter on the basketball team in my senior year. I started some as a junior. In track and field, I was an all-stater. In fact, I’m Marion’s last state champion and record holder for track and field. I broke the state record, and I held state record in l20—yard hurdles from 1955 to 1962. And that’s Marion’s last state champion and record holder.
After completing my high school career, I received six scholarships to college. One to Indiana University, Drake University, Tennessee State University. . .Tennessee State I had football, basketball, and track. The other schools were just track. Houston Tilliston College out in Austin, Texas, then I had Gramblin State in Louisiana. I ended up going to Gramblin State, because my older brother was there, and no one in our family had gone to college. . .
Lucas I might tell you something that may be of great surprise to you. But my grandfather and great- grandfather migrated up here from Jackson, Tennessee, through Hopkinsville, Kentucky, riding bicycles from that area all the way to Marion. And they settled at 1709 South Meridian Street. My great—grandfather, John Boyd, had a shoe shop or he was a shoe cobbler. And a Marion police officer stopped buy to pick up his shoes. An argument broke out between the two, and the police officer pulled his gun out and shot and killed my great-grandfather right on the spot. This was around 1895, my grandfather, who was 20, stood there and witnessed the shooting. He saw his father killed right in front of his eyes. Not much was done, because, you have to think about the times, my great-grandfather. . .this was 1895.
They felt a little sorry for my grandfather, a little black kid who couldn’t read or write. So, they gave him a lifetime job on the Marion City Street Department. He started out around the square, of town here, with a barrel with wheels on it, a broom, and a dustpan, and he cleaned up all the trash. He graduated from that to the city sweeper. Old Marion city sweepers, one guy sat on the front, and that was my grandfather. He sat on the front with a stick, and he used to push the trash down in the front of the city sweeper, while the white guy drove the thing. And my grandfather inhaled all the dust and dirt and everything. Anyway, in 1960, a new mayor came in and he was saying, “Who’s this old codger, Tom Boyd or Tod Boyd, on the Marion City Street Department.” And they said, ”This Tom Boyd, Tod Boyd. He’s 85 years old, but he has a lifetime because of what happened to his father.” So the mayor said, “Where is it in writing?” And he said, “It’s not in writing. It has just went from one administration to the other.” So he said, “Get rid of him. Fire him.” So it was about this time of the year in April that he was fired from the Marion City Street Department.
He lived two months, and he died, in July. The first part of July, around July 3rd, I believe it was. In 1960 he died. It just took his life. That was all he lived for. He started sleeping late, and they just changed his whole pattern. The guys on the city street department enjoyed working with him. He told them the old stories, about how Marion had changed. And they fired him. But he stressed education, to my brother and to myself.
My parents, my father had a fifth grade education, because he was hurt. Then he wasn’t expected to live, to be older than 12 years old. His sister tipped him over in a highchair, and almost killed him accidentally. She was older than him, about three or four years older. And they thought he was going to die. He hemorrhaged a lot, but he lived to be 79 years old. My mother she went to Marion High School, and she went till the 11th grade. Then she quit. But our parents talked to my brother, Tom, and I, about the importance of education. And my brother, Tom, is now a Ph.D. He is a retired high school principal, and also at the present time, he teaches at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas. I finished up getting a BS degree. I have a Master’s degree, and a year beyond. I was working towards a Ph.D., when I went into the FBI.
Lw: When you first started teaching, you started in maintenance?
Oa: Uh-huh. I went to college, and when I was freshman at Grambling State University, I placed 7th in the national track meet, in San Diego, California. My sophomore year, I was getting better and better, and I pulled a muscle, hamstring muscle, and it just ended my track career. I ended up having about 15 cc’s of blood taken out of my leg. So, I just basically gave up track. I ran, but I wasn’t very good after that. But my aspirations were to get to the Olympics, but I had damaged my leg so badly, that I had scar tissue, that I just started hitting the books to become an honor student.
So I graduated from college, and came home, with all expectations of being a teacher/coach. I never thought about it, just like you, as a high school boy. I never thought about segregation, really, because I was their boy when I was in high school. I was a Marion Giant basketball player. Everybody loved me, I thought. When I came home, they slammed the door in my face. My teachers, counselors, parents, grandparents, grandfather, neighbors, preachers, everybody said, “Keep your nose clean, and good things will come to you.” I did that.
I recall the superintendent coming out... I came home in June, and worked at the RCA a couple of weeks, and got laid off in a summer shut down. Then I went to General Motors, worked out there about three weeks, and got laid off, in a steel strike in 1959. Then I went with the Marion Community Schools System, as a janitor. I worked from probably July until about October, as a janitor at the football field. And the superintendent came out and asked me if I still wanted to teach school. And I said, “Oh sure, of course!” So, he told me to be down to the administration building on Monday, this was a Friday. I told my family and my wife’s family, “I’m going to be a school teacher.” And Monday, I went down to the administration office, filled out my teachers contract, for $4200, that’s what all teachers were making back then.
After I filled out my contract, the superintendent's secretary took me into see the superintendent. So I asked Dr. Simon, I couldn’t hold the anticipation any longer, so I asked him, “Where am I going to teach?” And he took of his glasses, and kind of blew on them and humholed around. And I thought, “What’s going on here?” And he said, “Well, you’re really not going to teach. We have a situation, in back of the coliseum. It’s a little elementary school.” It was a little portable school. It was a little white building. There was about four of them at the time, I think it was. Kindergarten to 5th grade, four or five of them. And he said, “The teacher is losing control of her class, if she hasn’t already lost control of her class. She’s a lady from Fairmount, Indiana, and all we want you to do is sit in the back of the classroom, and keep the kids quiet, while she teaches them. In other words, we want you to be a bouncer or a sergeant of arms.”
So, I sat there and I said... I just sat there stunned. So he said, “Do you want the job, yes or no?” I was 22, I had no one to talk to, no one to go to, and I said, “Yeah, yeah.” He said, “Well, follow me.” He took me over to Grant Elementary School. My degree was in secondary education. I wasn’t an elementary teacher. He takes me over there, and he says, “I’m going to take you to the 5th grade class. These kids are rambunctious, and they just need someone to keep them under control, while the teacher teaches them.” Back in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s, there was a boxer, by the name of Archie Moore, and the kids all thought I was Archie Moore the professional boxer. They were all afraid of me. I guess I had that mean look on my face. I was pretty tort, you know, what had happened to me. Now they’re all adults, and they tell me, “Mr. Archey, we were afraid of you. We all thought you were Archie Moore the professional boxer, and you were going to box our ears.” So anyway, I was sitting in the back of the room, in a wooden chair with no arms. And I would say to the kids, “Where are you going? Give me that paper wad. Give me that tack. No you can’t sharpen your pencil.” So by lunchtime I had them under control. Then I went out to lunch, and I came back. I was sitting in the back of the classroom, and I was thinking to myself, “I can’t do this.”
And I got through the day, and I went home. And my young wife said to me, “Tell me about the first day.” And I told her. She said, “You’ve got to be kidding me?” And I said, “No, and I’m not going back tomorrow. I’m going back to the football field. This is really not teaching, and I’m not using my education.” And she says, “Wait a minute now. You’ve got your foot in the door. Let’s think about this. You want to be a coach. What grade is it?” And I said, "5th grade, and I’m not an elementary teacher.” And she said, “That doesn’t make any difference. You’ve got your foot in the door. Help them. What are they doing?” I said, “Multiplication tables, division.” She said, “Well, help them. Read to them. Grade papers.”
So I go back the next day, and talk to the teacher about grading papers. So she gives me a stack about eight inches thick. I took the kids out for recess. The kids started to enjoy being with me; I enjoyed being with them. Then it started to get cold. It was like in December, January. The other teachers started to dump on me, by saying, “Oh, Mr. Archey, Miss, so and so’s class...”--I won’t say her name--“seems to be having so much fun. Can you take my class out?” So, what they were doing, they were all inside, drinking coffee, and waving at me. And I was standing out there, as young 22 year old, you know, freezing my buns off.
So the next year, I went to the principal and the assistant principal, Mr. Clevenger and Mr. James, at Martin Boots. And I asked them, “Can I just go to Martin Boots full time, to the middle school or junior high school.” It used to be 7th 8th and 9th So they said, “Yeah, we want you full time.” So I got you out of the elementary school. So asked them, “Can I coach?” “Well, we have to go to the school board.” So we go to the school board, and they’re like, “I don’t know... I guess we’ll let him coach. They were grumbling, “What are the people going to think? We don’t know what the reaction will be putting the black guy as a coach.” So they said, “Let him be 7th and 8th grade assistant football coach.” To the math teacher, who had never played sports in his life. I’m his assistant. Now some of those people are Willie Campbell, who works at Dana, Don Grant, who was a deputy sheriff here, but those are some of the kids I started out with. “Can I coach basketball?” “No, you just feel lucky you have a job.”
The next year I said, “What about basketball? Remember I used to shoot the old pill for the Marion Giants?” “Yeah. Okay, I guess.” They started mumbling and grumbling around. “Okay, let him coach 7th grade.” Now remember, it used to be 7th, 8th and 9th They started me at the bottom, 7th grade. So the first year, I was 22-0. The second year, they say, “Hey. Oatess knows basketball.” So they move me up to the 8th grade. Guess what? Second year 22-0. Okay, then they move me up to the 9th grade. So in four years, I become the winningest basketball coach in Marion, with a record of 64 wins and 7 defeats.
So the Marion High School basketball coach gets fired. So I put in for the job. They didn’t even interview me, didn’t even interview me, didn’t even get a smell. So they brought in another coach from the outside. So I put in for the JV job, like Mr. Smedley’s son. So they call me in. Guess what they said to me during the interview? “If you don’t get the job, how would that make you feel?” And I told them, “It would make me feel terrible.” I got interviewed down at the old coliseum, and I said, “I’ve worked hard, and I feel I deserve the job.” I remember saying this, quote, “If I don’t get the job, I’m not going to go over here to Washington Street Bridge with my basketball and place it under my arm, and jump off. But I will be disappointed.” Guess what? The next morning, I picked up the Chronicle newspaper, and they gave it to one of my friends, who was two years younger than me. He had come back... when I was a Marion Giant as a senior, he was a sophomore. He had a basketball record of 15-15. That’s what percent?
Oa: Mine was, 64. . .what did I say?
Oa: I won 91 percent of my games, 91.4. Now, you’ve taken math, which one is better, but it didn’t matter, Lucas. No matter how hard I tried, they just wouldn’t recognize me. So, what they did... I decided I was getting out of Marion, but before I had made that decision they called me in and said, “Hey listen Oatess”.. .Now you tell me. You’re a junior, you’re a smart kid. They told me this, you see if you believe this. I’m about mid- twenties now. “You have this uncanny ability to develop kids. We’re going to keep you as a freshman coach, to develop these kids. We’re going to keep you in the feeder system, because you have this uncanny ability to develop these kids, and that’s where we need you mostly.” Would you believe that?
Lw: No, not at all.
Oa: I didn’t either. So I decided I was getting out of Marion. So I went down to Indianapolis and applied for a job at Indianapolis Attucks. That’s where the great Oscar Robertson went to school, and I talked to his old coach down there, Ray Crowe. I told him my story, how I’d been winning in Marion, and he said, “I want you down here.” Oh, he said, “We’ll get back with you.” So he called Marion. The new superintendent, a new man by the name of Bernard McKenzie, a new superintendent, nice man. He calls me in. Being young, I hadn’t thought about it, I didn’t tell him I was going to Indianapolis. So he calls me in and he says, “Before I tell you what this interview is all about, I want to ask you a question.” He said, “Please tell me this story about you starting out as a bouncer and whatever they started you out as, is not true.” I told him, “It is true.” So what he did Lucas, he came out from behind his desk, and he sat knee to knee, just like this. And he said, “Please don’t leave Marion, please don’t leave.” He said, “I don’t know what it feels like to be black, but I was a prisoner during WWII and the Germans mistreated me. They beat me, they tortured me, they put up on me.” And he says, “I know how it feels to be mistreated. Please don’t leave Marion.”
And so anyway, I go home, and my wife says, “Tell me what he said. Did he seem sincere?” I said, “Yeah, but I’m tired of all this cock and bull stuff. They’re jerking my chain. I’ve done every thing except walk on water, and I still can’t be promoted. And she said, “No, lets stay here.” And I said, “No, we’re going to Indianapolis.” Well, we stayed in Marion. She talked me out of it.
We went to California that summer, to see her family. Her mother lived in California at the time. And while we were out there, the phone rings and its Mr. McKenzie, the superintendent. My mother-in-law says, “Oatess, Mr. McKenzie wants to talk to you.” So I go to the phone, and I say, “Hello.” He goes, “Oatess, how’s the weather out there.” “Fine.” “Have you been out to the ocean yet?” “No.” “Have you been out to Disney Land yet?” “No.” And I’m thinking, “What’s he want?” And he says, “Oatess I want to be the first to tell you this, congratulations on becoming Marion High Schools new track and field coach.” It was like the big one, like Red Fox. And anyway, I came home and took my track team over to Kokomo, and first track meet we got tore up. Not tore up, we got to’ up. They tore us up. They beat us 80 something to 30 something. And I’m coming back on the bus with Mr. Lootens, who the football field was named after, and Rex Wortner. They were my assistant coaches. The boys were in the back, pinching each other, laughing, and goofing off. The coaches are patting me on the back. Saying, “Don’t worry about it. It’s a young team. We’re going to get better.” I’m thinking to myself, “Yeah, I’m probably going to get fired.” I was thinking all of these negative things. I got home, and there’s my wife. She says, “They gave you a losing team.” You know, it used to be the football coaches would be the track coaches. And all they did was use track to get the football players in condition. So anyway she says, “It’s going to take time.”
Well in four years, I become Marion’s all time winningest track coach in the history of Marion in high school. I took 15 boys to state, and no other track coach has done this in the history of Marion High School. My track, teams my last two years I was head track coach four years, ‘68 and ‘69, we won NCC championships back to back. No one has done that since, no one. I was even nominated as coach of the year in the state of Indiana. Thing now are rolling, okay.
So now I get recruited to go to Ball State University as assistant track coach. So I leave Marion, and go to Ball State. I was assistant track coach and assistant cross country coach and assistant professor. In four years I worked my up from assistant professor to assistant department head of physical education at Ball State. I coached one boy who was in the ‘72 Olympics in the steeplechase. This is the janitor, the guy from Marion, Indiana. From there, things are just happening. I wrote two articles. I have them down here; I can show them to you. Two national magazines...
I get recruited into the FBI by a former Marion, one of my assistant coaches, Henry Williams. Better know as Hank Williams. He said the FBI was looking for qualified blacks, and since I had a BS, Master’s, and a year beyond, I got into the FBI. And then it seemed like things really started happening, when I was in the FBI. When I went to Detroit, my first assignment I worked the Patty Hurst kidnapping case, a nationally known case. I was then transferred back to the Washington D.C. area to Guanaco, Virginia, and I was an adjunct professor at FBI academy. I was certified through the University of Virginia, as an adjunct professor. Even though I was an FBI agent, I was an adjunct professor teaching police officers from around the nation and around the world. Also teaching new FBI agents.
From there after about three of four years, I was transferred up north to Washington D.C., to the J. Edgar Hoover Building. I worked the Tylenol poisonings  up in Chicago, the Gallo Wine poisonings on the West Coast. Also, I was involved in investigations for skyjacking, when the Cubans were taking the planes back to Cuba. I was also the supervisor of the D.B. Cooper case, when the guy jumped out of the plane out on the West Coast . Then I was transferred to the office of Congressional Public Affairs. I became the chief firearms inspector for the FBI, and met and greeted over half a million people every year. I was the FBI’s representative. I became known as the “top gun” for the FBI back in the ‘80’s. From there I was detailed over the director of the FBI to travel with DEA for a year, the Drug Enforcement Administration. I traveled with Mrs. Reagan on her “Just say no to drugs”. I showed you the picture over there on the wall. With superstars, athletes, and Hollywood stars...
From there I was transferred back to the FBI headquarters, and became the director of security or unit chief of security or chief of police for the FBI police force. One high profile case I was involved with was with Marion Barry, the mayor of Washington D.C., when he was arrested smoking drugs. I was involved in a sting operation with the Washington Field FBI office. And he served time for that, the mayor. I was involved in that case. As I told you before we went on tape, I was the agent in Washington D.C. in the J. Edgar Hoover Building, I took the call from secret service when Ronald Reagan was shot. And I was one of six agents who headed up that investigation, and received an autographed picture from the president who headed that up... get John Hinkley’s billfold and take it to the command center. And I was one of six agents who headed up that investigation. We sent leads out to other FBI agents around the country to investigate the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan.
I was then transferred to Los Angeles, and I had an opportunity to head up the applicant civil rights squad. I was out there when Rodney King was beaten up. My quad was involved in that investigation of the Rodney King beating. And then I was transferred to the bank robbery squad. The bank robbery squad in LA is the bank robbery capital of the world. In one day that squad handled five bank robberies in one hour, 26 in one day, 2,355 bank robberies. In Marion yesterday, they had one bank robbery. Here in Marion they might have one bank robbery or none at all, but we had five in one hour, 26 in one day, 2,355 in one year.
From there I was transferred to the domestic terrorism squad. My squad handled the... do you remember the World Trade Center bomber? The World Trade Center bombers bombed in New York City, and then they caught a plane to LA, and my squad kept up with them while they were in LA. Then they went back to New York, and they were eventually arrested. Then my squad was also looking for the guy, who was sending bombs to people out on the west coast, killing people and maiming people and hurting them, Theodore Kaczinski the Unabomber. My squad was after him. I also was involved, my wife and I were out there when they had the floods, the fires, the earthquake, and the riots. I was out there and was detailed to the LA sheriffs command center when we had the LA riots, when over 50 people were killed. I was a part of trying to get those riots squelched.
After that I retired and was sent to Pasadena... well I retired, and went with the men’s World Cup Soccer when it came to America in 1994, and was the venue security manager. I personally headed up security for FBI, secret service, safety department, DEA, LAPD, the LA Sheriffs Department, Pasadena PD... I coordinated all of the security. We had eight games there, and I had the largest venue in the United States. In LA we had the semi-finals and the final games. At the last game, we had 40 presidents from 40 countries, including Vice President Gore was there, Henry Kissinger, even Arnold Schwarzenegger was there. I personally was asked to escort three superstars to the stage. I went in and said, “Well who are they?” They said, “Kenny G, Pele”--the greatest soccer player in the world from Brazil--and I said, “And?” They said, “Whitney Houston.” If you recall the movie The Bodyguard, I was the real bodyguard for Whitney Houston.
So I was standing in the tunnel, when they were getting ready for the introductions, and they said, “And now, please focus your attention to the southwest tunnel and lets all stand and give a round of applause for our superstars.” They weren’t talking about Oatess Archey, the black guy from Marion. But, Lucas, as I was standing there, I was thinking to myself, where I had come from, from Marion, Indiana, from Memorial Field, from the toilet bowl, to the Rose Bowl. That I had worked my way up. To all of those people who had dispitefully tried to keep me back, I thought to myself, “I wish you could see me now. That I am here at the Rose Bowl.”
So from there I was recruited to go to Atlanta to the Olympics... well, let me back up. I spent one year in Hollywood, doing executive security for the stars in Hollywood. I did Charlie Sheen’;s wedding. I did security for John Travolta, Whoopie Goldberg, Stephen Speilberg, Jane Fonda, Martin Landow, Dustin Hoffman, it goes on and on... Danny Devito. It was a great experience for me. Then I went to Atlanta, to the Olympics, and had a chance to be venue security manager at Hartsfield International, doing the security for the accreditation facility for all of the athletes around the world, around the nation who were coming in, and also doing all of the security for the equestrian horses. Also, Dream Team II came, and I personally escorted Dream Team II from the accreditation facility to the bus as they were getting ready to go to the Olympic Village, with Shaq and Barkley, and all of them guys. Shaq is a really big guy.
Now can you imagine this, Lucas? This is the little black kid form Marion, the janitor, you know, that nobody would give a chance. It seemed like everybody was giving me a chance in life except my own hometown. I had all of these big jobs, guarding some of the biggest people in the world. Then, I didn’t tell you this, that I had the opportunity, when we were living in California, to do the executive security for three Rose Bowl games. I’ve done executive security for three Super Bowls, in Tempe, also in New Orleans, and San Diego. I was out on the field in San Diego with John Elway and those guys, protecting them. I personally in New Orleans, escorted Don Shula around the field, as he waved and gave his victory lap for being inducted into the hall of fame. Now, this is the guy from Marion, Indiana, that no one would give a chance in Marion. So, anyway after that, I went back to LA and did executive security another year for the stars in Hollywood.
Then I finally came home to Marion to take care of my mother-in-law. My wife was saying, “What are you going to do with your life?” And I said, “I have no idea.” Back in Marion, you know, after that kind of life style. People started talking to my wife, and talking to me, “You ought to run for sheriff.” And I thought, “Yeah.” My wife said, “Why don’t you give back, all that you’ve learned, and all that you’ve done with your life. And I thought, “Yeah.” So, not thinking again, I just put my name in.
At first I asked, “Well, what party should I run on?” Most everybody was saying, “What you want to be is Republican, because this is a Republican county.” So I said, “Ok, I’ll be a Republican.” Then they said, “Well, you really don’t want to do that, because the Republicans already have their candidate, and they’ve pretty much already endorsed him.” I said, “Well, I’ll run on the Democratic ticket.” They said, “Well, you don’t want to do that, they’re a bunch of losers. They haven’t won in about twenty years.” But everybody said, “Well, it wouldn’t be ethical for you to go in and talk the Republicans out of taking their favorite son, and take you.” “So, I’ll just run on the Democratic side. I’ll run on the losers ticket.” I thought, “Oh, well that’s great.”
And so, then I started hearing, “Hey, you’ve been gone too long, 29 years. You’re over qualified.” Have you ever had an over qualified doctor or dentist or something. And I didn’t like that very much. “He’s running on the wrong ticket. You’re black. This county is 91% white, nobody’s going to vote for you. Why don’t you just go back where you came from.” It was like, “Welcome home, again.” You know at first, remember I came home in ‘59 and they made a janitor out of me. I come home this time and they tell me I’m over qualified. I’m too good. I thought, “Well, what do they want from me? What does Marion and Grant County want from me?” So, I just ran anyway.
Marion--I guess the county is 91% white, 8% black, and 2% other. Everybody kept saying, “You’re not going to win. There is no way you can win. In fact, Marion’s never had a black sheriff before. How do you think you’re going to win?” So I ran in the primary, I beat the guy. I had 65% he had 35%. Then I had to run against this guy who was a 25 year veteran. The first guy had about 24, 25 years, and I beat him in the Democratic primary. So then I ran against the favorite son, who was supposed to win the whole thing, and I beat him 51% to 49%. Close race, I beat him by about 500, 600 votes. Then everybody confers on me, Channel 6, Channel 8, Channel 13, Channel 2, “Well, what does it fell like to be the first black sheriff in the state of Indiana? It only took 183 years. How do you feel?” “Well,” I said, “I’m not interested in being the first black sheriff, I’m interested in being the best sheriff that Indiana’s ever had.” So they backed off of that.
Then I went to sheriffs' school. I won in November, so I go to sheriff’s school in December. I went down to Indianapolis. I went in this room where all of these other 92, there’s 92 counties. So we all had to get up and introduce ourselves, and tell who we were. Tell about ourselves. It was 91 and 1, me. So I’m looking around at all of these faces, and I’m the only black sheriff there. So we all had to get up and tell about ourselves. Well guess who had the best credentials, the strongest credentials of anybody there? Oatess Archey. So, then they figured out his guys is not just a token, this guy deserves to be here.
So right now, the Indiana Sheriffs Association has rallied around me, and they call me for a lot of information. “Hey, how do you do this?” They now know that I know what I am doing, and they’re very proud of me. I’ am very proud to be a part of the Indiana Sheriffs Association. In fact, I was sent to Longmont, Colorado, and I was nominated to the National Sheriffs Institute. I was in a class of the top 30 sheriffs in the whole United States of America, and my classmates... again I was the only black guy there, and my classmates nominated me for vice-president of the class. (pointing to a picture) There’s the president, I was vice-president, and there is the secretary. So I felt honored to be part of this.
As I told you earlier, I had received the “Applause Magazine” Award in Cincinnati, a black tie affair, over a thousand people there. I just recently received this award from the governor. This is the governor’s award for excellence in the area of public safety July 12, 2000. I have received a lot of awards. I’ve had book offers. I had a TV documentary done on me about a year ago, by Danny Glover, called “Courage”. I’ve had book offers. Right here, I’m writing a letter back to a gentleman who wants to write a book on me. I’ve had several book offers. I have another outfit in California right now, wanting to do a story on my life, a feature film. I’ve been contacted by the Montel Williams people. They might want to talk to me sometime. Everybody can see something in me but the people of Marion. To ask you what it was like growing up in Marion, as a young black male. It was tough, but I didn’t give up. It took a lot of courage, not to give up, and especially coming back the second time. I was hoping that Marion would finally accept me. The first time in ‘59 they didn’t accept me. They made me a janitor. I come home in 1999 become sheriff, I was over qualified. It hurt, but I persevered.