Albion Monitor /Features


...In one of many cases, Decca rallied forces to defend a black family...

Buddy Green: Wilbur Gary was a building contractor who had recently moved with his family to a place called Rollingwood [in Contra Costa county]. Within a few days, a white crowd started gathering around his premises chanting slogans, you know, like, "Get out nigger" -- that kind of stuff. There was a bonfire set in his yard. It was supposed to be a cross, but it was made of paper or something and burned real fast. They were applauding, saying , "Hurray, hurray." The sheriff sent one deputy in the car to cruise around, but he didn't do anything, hardly, to dispel the crowd. They were throwing garbage and other things.

At the time, I was working as a reporter for the Daily People's World, and the paper was highly interested in civil rights issues. I was to meet with Decca sometimes once a week, sometimes twice a week, to check and see what new cases she had.

Decca got wind of what was going on and almost single-handedly organized about 400 people, some in the Civil Rights Congress that she headed, some in the labor unions, such as the Longshoreman Union, Warehouse Union, and other smaller unions. She got them to get their people out there and show some kind of support.

But when Decca and Buddy arrived, no supporters were on the scene -- only the mob. Rather than waiting, she and her friend charged through the crowd to the Gary's front door.
Buddy Green: Yeah, and boy, was it scary. I'm telling you, people were shouting all kinds of things: "Niggers, we don't want you here!" And here I am, walking through the crowd with a white woman. Nobody punched me -- nothing like that. I was only about 28-29 and in excellent condition; I'd been a prizefighter for about five years. But I don't think that really frightened them off.

See, these were pretty much housewives and people who lived there. They were not really mob-type people; they had been whipped into a frenzy. They had been told that if the niggers move here, if we allow him to move here than others will -- and what would happen to the community? So these were people that were frightened. But not all of them; some came in to stir things up more, with the cross burning, the Klan stuff. Somebody had rallied them around the basis that their property values were going to be destroyed. But basically, the people were just run-of-the-mill, folks who if you would encounter them at a checkout lane in a supermarket, something like that, they'd be courteous and nice.

Soon some 400-500 people, black and white people, showed up and gathered in the man's yard, as a buffer between him and the people on the street who were shouting these epitaphs. Some of them parked their cars surrounding the premises. They would spend the nights sitting in their cars, so these people would know that they were being watched, that they were not getting away with it. The people who did civil rights things that Decca had organized would just park around the man's place day and night, cars just sitting and watching, black people and white people sitting in the same car. It was marvelous.

Over the week, the first two or three nights were pretty intense. High numbers, 400 for, 400 against. Then it started cooling down. Decca put pressure on the sheriff. When he saw the gathering of the people that supported the Gary's, then he started dispatching, he came out there himself. I think I had a picture where he was there. People was shouting at him: "What you took so long?"

I was there in the crowd for awhile, on a side of the street, to hear them shout. I'd confront them that one time; not to argue with them, but from a newspaper reporter's point of view. "Just wanted to know what your thinking about this, would you care to comment." Let them talk freely without debating it. And talking to me, they didn't use the term "nigger," nothing like that. They'd only shout that from a distance. *

The Making of a Muckracker

Albion Monitor October 9, 1995 (

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