MORRISON: Are you from St. Louis, Mr. McNeal?
McNEAL: If you mean was I born here, no? I was born in Arkansas.
MORRISON: When did you move to St. Louis?
McNEAL: In 1921.
MORRISON: How old were you then?
McNEAL: I was sixteen then.
MORRISON: Did you go to school here, then?
McNEAL: No, I finished high school in Arkansas, and I have no further formal education.
MORRISON: What did you do when you came to St. Louis?
McNEAL: I really came to St. Louis en route to Seattle, Washington where I intended to enter the University of Washington. I spent part of a summer here with an aunt who lived here, and then decided that I was not going to get a college education. So, I took a job with the Burlington Railroad.
MORRISON: Why did you decide not to get a college education?
McNEAL: Well, I guess it was a combination of things. At that time, blacks with a college degree were not getting employment commensurate with their education, and I think another factor is that I became interested in a girl here.
MORRISON: And then you got married?
McNEAL: No, I didn't marry that girl; in fact, about six weeks after the college semester got under way out at Seattle, the girl stopped speaking to me. [laughter]
MORRISON: So, what did you do then? Or, how long did you work for the railroad?
McNEAL: Well, I worked for the Burlington about two years, I think, and then
took a job with a local company that manufactured ceramic products. Stayed with
them until 1929 at which time I went to work at the Pullman Company.
MORRISON: And what did you do there at the Pullman Company?
McNEAL: I worked as a sleeping car porter.
MORRISON: For how long?
McNEAL: For about...a little less than a year on the actual job, and then I started working with the Sleeping Car Porter's Union.
MORRISON: What was the big difference between Arkansas and Seattle, Washington,
when you moved here when you were sixteen?
McNEAL: Well, I didn't get to Seattle until I went to work for the Pullman Company. I had an uncle who lived in Seattle who was involved in city politics out there. He had arranged for me to enter the University of Washington at Seattle, but I never made it out there, as I indicated.
MORRISON: Then what was the big difference between the South and St. Louis...Arkansas...
McNEAL: Well, at that time, there was not a lot of difference. The opportunities here were not any greater; it was just a larger community. Discrimination was just as bad, if you're thinking of that factor. The only difference in Arkansas and St. Louis at that time was that blacks could ride the streetcars without being segregated.
MORRISON: In St. Louis?
MORRISON: And they couldn't ride in Arkansas? [segregated]
McNEAL: That's right.
MORRISON: Would you say they were more hypocritical in St. Louis than in Arkansas?
McNEAL: Perhaps in some degree, but there was really no pretense of recognizing the rights of blacks here at that time.
MORRISON: How would you react to racial discrimination that you encountered there?
McNEAL: Well, I'd lived with it in Arkansas until the age of sixteen. I never did like it, of course, but it was unfair. Practically all the time I'd been in St. Louis, I'd been affiliated with some organization seeking to break down this kind of barrier.
MORRISON: What organizations?
McNEAL: Well, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, all the way.
MORRISON: When did you join that?
McNEAL: I joined the N.A.A.C.P. when, I think, I was nineteen.
MORRISON: And then, what have you done in the organization?
McNEAL: Well, I worked at membership drives, fund-raising drives. I was the treasurer of the local organization for many years, and vice president for awhile. Then when World War II came along, we set up, across the country, an organization we called the "March on Washington" at that time. I headed the Missouri chapter of that, and we carried on a campaign for jobs in war plants, during which we had numerous peaceful demonstrations, picketing in large numbers...
MORRISON: In St. Louis and Washington?
McNEAL: In St. Louis was where my activities were centered. The organization was based on the concept that if President Roosevelt did not, as head of the Federal government, take steps to correct the situation of discrimination in war plants, that we would march on Washington. The march didn't occur at that time. It didn't occur 'til many years later, after the basic organization had gone out of business. But we did succeed, here in St. Louis, in opening job opportunities for about 16,000 blacks in war plants.
McNEAL: We built a membership, I believe, of...at one point, so the effort, I thought, was successful. We picketed all the utilities, Bell Telephone, Laclede Gas, Union Electric, the local bullet plant, the government TNT plant out in the county, every firm that was doing war work for the Federal government and where we were being barred.
MORRISON: How many people were involved in this had 15,000 members here.
MORRISON: I mean, how many were actually picketing?
McNEAL: Our picket lines usually consisted of from 150 to 500 people, all adults, no children.
MORRISON: Was there any trouble at all?
McNEAL: No, no, real trouble. We were getting threats during those days from, strangely, the Communist Party. After the United States got into the war, on the side of Russia, most of our threats came from the local Communist Party. They didn't ever engage in any violence, though. All of our demonstrations were called to the attention of the Police Department before, and pointed out in writing each time that we were exercising our rights as Americans, and there would be no destruction of property or any violence engaged in. I mean, we usually asked the Police Department to protect us.
MORRISON: You would need protection then?
McNEAL: Well, we didn't really feel that we would need it; we were trying to set up a situation where the police themselves would not try to exercise any violence on us, because our movement was not popular in those...in the group around us.
MORRISON: Now, this went on in St. Louis and Washington and any other cities?
McNEAL: In St. Louis, well, the places where I would say we were most successful were New York, Chicago, Washington, St. Louis, and Los Angeles. We had some degree of success at New Orleans, at the plant there, but I think that, percentage-wise, the St. Louis experience was as good as any. I mean, the 16,000 jobs were actually opened up to blacks, comparative to the size of New York, Los Angeles, and what not.
MORRISON: At that time was there a lot of unemployment?
MORRISON: At that time, was there a lot of unemployment?
McNEAL: Yes, there was a lot of unemployment among blacks while these war plants were begging for people. They were importing people in here from the Bootheel, from the Southern part of the nation, at the same time that thousands of blacks were walking the streets begging for work.
MORRISON: So, this was a big help, in terms of jobs for them?
MORRISON: How long did these jobs last...just until the war was over, I guess.
McNEAL: Well, in the plants like the bullet plant...when the war was over and they had to phase down production, well, those jobs ended. But in the process, blacks, for the first time, in large numbers, gained skills that could get them other jobs.
MORRISON: Did they have these skills before they got the jobs or...
McNEAL: No, they set up training programs, under pressure, to train people to leam some of these skills, and I think the gain was a permanent one that many blacks recruited through this effort, later got permanent jobs in other work situations.
MORRISON: When did the N.A.A.C.P. begin?
McNEAL: Well, the NAACP began, I suppose, before I was born, or around the time I was born...around the turn of the century the NAACP was organized. After we phased out, we felt that after the war ended, the techniques we were using were no longer valid...this kind of pressure tactic. So, the officers and the key people in the "March on Washington" unit here went into the NAACP, practically took it over, the local branch.
MORRISON: Was that the first time such tactics were used...pressure tactics like that?
McNEAL: I think so, yes. For instance, in 1942, they had the first sit ins that I know about, right here in St. Louis in the downtown department stores, and restaurants where black customers were not served. A group of women, white and black, had initiated the effort to get department stores to serve all customers at their lunch counters and in the restaurants, but some local banking interests had been able to put pressure on them to the extent of threatening mortgages and that kind of thing. So, they came to me, as the head of M.O.W....
MORRISON: Now, what is that?
McNEAL: March on Washington.
McNEAL:...and asked that I assume, publicly, the leadership of the movement. I'm trying to say to you that I didn't organize that effort. These women did; they came to me only because they were under pressure on home mortgages and any other kind of pressures that could be put on them. And under my "leadership," they started picketing the department stores and finally arranged for sit-ins at all three of the major department stores at the time. We still had Scruggs, Vandervoorts and Barney here at that time, plus Stix, and Famous, and in each of the sit-ins, the operators would finally close the restaurants or close the lunch counter or whatever we were, without serving blacks, but it led to, I think, I know...it led to the opening of the lunch counters some time later...before the restaurants were actually opened. But, I think, these 1942-sit-ins were the first time that that tactic, sit-ins, were used in eating establishments in the nation.
MORRISON: Was the NAACP one of the first major black organizations in the country?
McNEAL: Yes, it was and still is, as a matter of fact.
MORRISON: What other organizations came into existence after that?
McNEAL: Well, the Urban League...
MORRISON: That you were in, too?
McNEAL: I was involved with the Urban League...on their Board at one time. We had another organization called the "Colored Clerks Circle"...which put up the tremendously good fight in the black neighborhood shopping areas where all of the help, clerks and what-not, were white. This was led by others; I was just a member, but I think they made the contribution to human rights here, because it did put such pressure on businesses to hire black clerks. Later on, in the NAACP, we organized a special committee to work on job opportunities...where we talked with businesses where we thought they should have blacks, or more blacks, and if they didn't respond, we used mass picketing to call attention to them...the Kroger stores, A & P, this kind of thing, and made some headway there. We succeeded in, through that effort, getting black butchers in some of these retail outlets, so it's been something moving all the way.
MORRISON: During this time, was there a lot of animosity from white people when all these marches were going on?
McNEAL: That was, as I saw it, the expected, but nothing was too bitter.
MORRISON: But never...
McNEAL: I used to get threats on the telephone late at night...someone would call me a lot of obscene names and say they was going to blow the house up and this kind of thing, but that was the extent of the threats.
MORRISON: Did they ever make you think, well, I shouldn't be doing this, because of the threats?
MORRISON: Or scare you in some way?
McNEAL: Well, it didn't make me feel any more comfortable to get a call from someone at three o'clock in the morning who was going to blow up my house, and we had the opposition of the FBI, at that time, and Army Intelligence. Army Intelligence had, at one time, two men assigned to keep track of me. The local head of the FBI at that time let me know that he thought that our activities here were embarrassing the Federal government in the South Pacific, for instance; of course, my reply was, "Stop discriminating against us here, and you won't have anything to explain in the South Pacific." I was never really fearful that anything would happen to me.
MORRISON: How did you find out that you were being trailed by two Army Intelligence personnel?
McNEAL: Well, our meetings at that time were being held in the local Colored YMCA, and the executive of the YMCA, learned.. .he was a member of our organization...that one of these fellows was living in the YMCA, and he confided to the executive what he was doing here; Army Intelligence Headquarters in Omaha had sent him here to watch me, and he had joined our organization and sat in the front row. I knew the guy, didn't know why he was there, just thought he was another person who was interested in civil rights. But I went along with him quietly. Finally, about three months later, I blew my stack, pointed him out to the membership one night and, of course, they yanked him right away, and sent in another fellow. All of them were Second Lieutenants in the Army...in civilian clothes, of course, and the guy they sent in came directly to me.
MORRISON: The second guy did?
McNEAL: Yeah, he said, "I'll be black when this war is over. I believe in what you're doing. I was sent in here, but I don't intend to do you any harm." He told me about the reports that had come in.
MORRISON: They were both black, then?
McNEAL: Yeah, he told me that there was another fellow coming in here,that he would point him out to me when he came, and he did. The third fellow never knew that I knew about him.
MORRISON: So, they were just doing their job, even though they really didn't feel...
McNEAL: Well, this was was. This one came to us, came in and told me what his assignment was, that he didn't intend to lie about us, and believed in what we were doing, because he said after he came out of the Army, he would be suffering from the same discrimination that we were fighting.
MORRISON: So, he wasn't really supposed to tell you that?
McNEAL: Oh, no, he wasn't supposed to tell me!
MORRISON: So, it didn't really do them any good; I mean, they were just trying to keep tabs on you, I guess.
McNEAL: Yes, they did, the FBI and the Army Intelligence. This matter of keeping track on civil rights organizations' leaders is not a new thing.
MORRISON: Did they have wire-taps at that time?
McNEAL: Nah, I'm not sure. I'm not sure at all about that. Of course, you didn't have the sophistication of electronics then that you have now.
MORRISON: How long did that last, the trailing by Army Intelligence?
McNEAL: Until the war was over.
MORRISON: So, a couple of years...two or three?
MORRISON: Did it ever get under your skin?
McNEAL: No one likes the idea of being spied upon. When the last...after the new man...came in and leveled with me, I was comfortable.
MORRISON: Did you ever try to lose him...like if you were in a car and they were behind you?
McNEAL: Well, this last guy didn't really follow me around, unless the fellow who was with him knew. But my life wasn't interfered with. I was single at the time, had a little apartment, and has some social life. Once I knew what was happening, and the person who was assigned to follow me wasn't...wouldn't...lie about what I was doing, it was much more comfortable than those three or four months that I knew that we had a spy in the organization and keeping quiet about it.
MORRISON: Was anyone else spied upon, other than yourself, that you know of?
McNEAL: I don't know. I would assume that everyone who was rocking the boat was being spied upon. The FBI put pressure upon my draft board, for instance, to put me in the Army. I was engaged in work as an organizer and negotiator of labor unions directly involved in transportation which entitled me for deferment. Everyone who was doing the kind of work that I was were deferred. My deferment was withdrawn; I appealed to the second level in the draft situation, and they told me to my face in the hearing that, "We understand that you like to march. So, we're gonna put you in, and let you do some real marching...[in the war]" I appealed to General Hershey, who at that time was head of the draft situation, and while that appeal was pending, I got orders to report to Jefferson Barracks at six o'clock some morning, and some of my friends decided to throw a party for me the night before. After that party...we had some booze, I frankly overslept the next morning and didn't report, [laughter]
MORRISON: Did you get a phone call or...
MORRISON: Did you get a phone call, you know, saying to wake up, because you overslept?
McNEAL: No, nobody called you. Nobody called me, and I didn't ask anyone to call me.
MORRISON: Well, I mean, since you didn't report, they might have called you.
McNEAL: Oh, no. The machinery moves rather slow. After failing to report, they would probably have the police, or the FBI come and pick you up in the next three, four or five days. But, amazingly, I went that day by the hotel where I had previously lived, and the mailman had just brought a letter that day from Hershey granting my deferment.
MORRISON: Oh, really?
McNEAL: So, I didn't get in trouble by virtue of not reporting. But I still think that had I reported at six o'clock that morning, I would have been in the Army.
MORRISON: Regardless of the letter?
McNEAL: Regardless of the letter, yeah, because they were very anxious to get me out of the streets.
MORRISON: Did you try to appeal to anybody in St. Louis before you wrote to General Hershey?
McNEAL: Yes, I appealed to the regional board here, and that's the one that said they were going to send me someplace where I was really going to do some marching.
MORRISON: I mean, anyone else who'd be able to get you out of the draft in St. Louis?
McNEAL: Well, I had one friend who was with the Teamsters Union who was on that regional board and who tried to protect me, but he was unable to.
MORRISON: How did you...what did you say to General Hershey in that letter?
McNEAL: Told him I thought I was being discriminated against...
MORRISON: Just exactly what happened?
McNEAL:...that everything, all others who were doing the type of work that I was doing were being deferred. At that time, I was already thirty-seven years old. They weren't taking people as old as I was, but until my thirty-eighth birthday, I was eligible, and they were determined to get me, so...
MORRISON: So, how long did you work with the labor union?
McNEAL: I worked with the union until the end of 1970 when I retired.
MORRISON: Which labor union was that?
McNEAL: The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.
MORRISON: Was there much discrimination in the labor union?
McNEAL: In the labor movement, there was. There wasn't in ours, because most of our membership was blacks, Mexicans, Filipinos.
MORRISON: What type of discrimination in the labor union was there...not in yours...but..
McNEAL: Well, in the labor movement, there was just certain jobs that were considered to be white jobs, and throughout the time I was in the labor movement, my union fought it all the way, all the time, in the AFL, at the national level, the local level, the regional, wherever we found it. We found it everywhere. We fought it.
MORRISON: Did that help a lot to get jobs?
McNEAL: I think so. I think these efforts caused, finally, every union in the AFL-CIO to eliminate their color clauses. Most unions, when we started out, had clauses barring blacks from membership in their constitution.
MORRISON: How long did that take to get rid of that clause?
McNEAL: Oh, twenty years plus.
MORRISON: Un-huh. Did you demonstrate there at all?
McNEAL: Well, we demonstrated, not in numbers, but we took the floor as delegates at these meetings and raised hell about it...pointed out how unAmerican it was, how it was negating everything the labor movement was supposed to stand for: democracy, exceptional...[INTERRUPTION]
MORRISON: Was there much animosity when you were trying to get rid of discrimination in the labor unions from other labor members?
McNEAL: Oh, yes, of course.
MORRISON: Did you get threats from them?
McNEAL: Well, they threatened to put us out of the labor movement if we didn't pick up our shit and go back to baling hay and things like that. Our union was headed by A. Phillip Randolph who, in my thinking, was one of the great American leaders in the cause of human rights and civil rights. A great orator and very persuasive person, he had that advantage.
MORRISON: Was he black?
McNEAL: Yeah, he was black.
MORRISON: And what was he trying to do? I mean, how was he successful?
McNEAL: Well, he was fighting discrimination wherever he found it. He had, incidentally, organized the National March on Washington movement.
MORRISON: The one you were talking about before?
McNEAL: Yeah, he finally became...gained enough influence in the so-called house of labor, the AFL-CIO, to become a vice-president. He's retired; he's still a vice-president of the labor movement. But I think that's indicative of the fact that we did succeed to some extent in gaining the respect of the labor movement. When the last...when the actual March on Washington occurred sometime back, the Martin Luther King thing, it was Randolph who organized it and labor unions, such as the Automobile Workers, Teamsters, put up a couple hundred thousand dollars to pay costs we couldn't have got any other way.
[END OF SIDE ONE OF TAPE]
MORRISON: Leaders at that time...back in the Forties?
McNEAL: Oh, say, Walter White of the NAACP, Phil Randolph of the Sleeping Car Porters Union were the principal recognized black leaders at that time.
MORRISON: In what other organizations, beside the NAACP and the Urban League,...
McNEAL: The Urban League at that time was not claiming to be a civil rights organization.
MORRISON: What was it claiming to be?
McNEAL: An organization to help urbanize blacks who were migrating from the South, show them how to live in the urban situation, and this kind of thing.
MORRISON: So, it wasn't actually fighting discrimination or...
McNEAL: No, not at that time. It didn't claim to be a civil rights group.
MORRISON: Wasn't the NAACP established by white people when it first came out?
McNEAL: Yes, some of the leaders were white. Dr. DuBois, a black, though, was the principal factor, as I read the history of the NAACP, but there were several whites, liberals, who helped to make it possible to put it together.
MORRISON: When did the NAACP first run into opposition from other black organizations...I'm sure, maybe back in the Fifties, more militant organizations. ..
McNEAL: Well, the NAACP was criticized by some of the new black youth organizations, but they never lost sight of the fact that this was a principal source of strength. For instance, the NAACP national treasury was brought down to a very low figure...the national treasury...getting these young black leaders out of jails in the South. So, I don't think there was ever any permanent hostility against the NAACP. They thought the NAACP route of fighting these things out in the courts was too slow and, perhaps, they were right. But the NAACP never failed to answer the calls for help from these organizations.
MORRISON: In looking back, did you ever wish you had changed some of your tactics...not you yourself...but as a member of the NAACP? Anyway that you could have it faster and still have stayed within the system?
McNEAL: I guess perhaps so, but I couldn't point out any specific situation. I thought that, at the local levels, branches changing leadership every year, this kind of thing, slowed down the local level, not only here but in many other places across the country. But the national program has been pretty sound and pretty successful. It's amazing how many law suits the NAACP has won before the United States Supreme Court. They have lost very few. Therefore, I think that that part of the program had to be sound or else it wouldn't have prevailed.
MORRISON: How would you say the NAACP has changed over the years from when, well, you're still a member of it, but say, back in the Forties and Fifties, compared to now?
McNEAL: Well, I think it's more militant...
MORRISON: In what way?
McNEAL: In some areas. Well, back in the Forties and the Thirties, the NAACP used only one technique, and that was the courts. But during the Fifties and early Sixties, they joined many of the demonstrations across the country. In the Fifties, we had the NAACP sponsor demonstrations here in our further fight for jobs, for instance. This, I think, was the result of contributions made by youngsters, white and black, who proved that some results could be gotten this way.
MORRISON: So, that's how you would say it's changed the most? The using...well,
back in the Forties when they had demonstrations, for that time that was considered
pretty militant, wasn't it?
McNEAL: Yeah. During the war, it was being disloyal to your country and all that.
MORRISON: Now, when did you become a state senator?
McNEAL: Uh...I was elected in 1960.
MORRISON: How did you decide to run for the State Senate?
McNEAL: Well, really, I can't take any credit for deciding to do it. We'd...in the district in which I lived, a white person who had been a Senate representative in that district for many years. His name was Senator Hogan, and some parts of the black community were displeased. They'd tried to remove him for, I guess, eight years before I got involved. Some of the black leaders in the community started talking to me about running for the office. I was pretty well known from my activities in the civil rights situation. The district at that time was about 55% black and 45% white. And the organization,the political organizations,were largely under control of white leadership. There were just two of eight ward organizations involved in this thing that was led by blacks. And only one who's ward was fully in the senator district. I didn't know anything about politics; I had never been a member of a political party. And I told them that...that I didn't want to become involved...I talked with my wife [I was married at that time]...she opposed it, so I had the handy alibi. But they kept pressing. Finally, I was out at El Paso on a trip for the Union, my wife got me on long-distance and told me the committee had been in to talk with her and had convinced her that it was something that I should do. So, she said, "I'm no longer opposed to it." And, of course, they kept up the pressure then after they got my wife to say that. I told them that under the Union constitution, I had a full-time job, and I would be breaking the terms of the Union rules if I took any other situation. Then they got in touch with Phil Randolph in New York, who was president of our union, got in touch with Milton Webster, in Chicago, who was chairman of our executive board in the union, and got them to agree that it was something that they waive. So, by mail, they polled the executive board of the union, and they voted unanimously that they would waive that provision, so that I could run. So, I didn't have any further defenses, [laughter]
MORRISON: Was that only for you? Or, just for anybody from then on?
McNEAL: No, it was only for me in this situation here...to run for the State Senate.
MORRISON: But, I mean, after you ran, would other people be allowed to do the same thing?
McNEAL: Not without a separate waiver.
MORRISON: It had to be decided for each case?
MORRISON: So, before that time, you were still...
McNEAL: Well, they sold it to my union on the basis that this would help the civil rights movement, if they had a black in the Missouri Senate, which was the extremely conservative arm of the legislature, that there would be a better chance to get civil rights laws passed. Of course, we had the kind of union that would go for that kind of argument that involved...in of union that would go forthat kind of argument that involved...in fact, we spent half of our union money on civil rights' fights. But, anyway, I ran and won. Surprisingly, my heaviest majorities came from the white part of my district.
MORRISON: Why do you think that was?
McNEAL: I think, perhaps, they got sick of the kind of representation that Senator Hogan had been giving them.
MORRISON: He was just a really bad representative?
McNEAL: Well, he wasn't too much concerned about the district. He was the head of the Bottlers' Union, very close to Anheuser-Busch, and he spent a good part of his time fighting off fair taxation of the brewing industry, rather than fighting for people in his district. I don't say that with any disrespect; I met him after I defeated him, and I found him to be a pleasant sort of person.
MORRISON: Just a bad legislator.
McNEAL: I didn't throw any mud at him during the campaign, I was throwing everything at him that I had...
MORRISON: Did he throw any mud at you?
McNEAL: Oh, he did everything he could to beat me, including filing another McNeal at the last moment.
MORRISON: Before that, you were still in the Sleeping Car Porter Union...I mean, as a porter?
McNEAL: No, I was working for the Union then, full-time.
MORRISON: In what capacity?
McNEAL: As vice-president...national.
MORRISON: I see, and they had national headquarters in St. Louis?
McNEAL: No, the headquarters were in New York. But we had four regions, over which a vice-president presided. My headquarters were in St. Louis for my region which went west to Arizona, south to the border, and east to include Alabama.
MORRISON: Did you know any political leaders right before you ran for state senator? How did you get organized and get a campaign going?
McNEAL: Well, one of these political leaders, Fred Weathers, who is still the leader in the Eighth Ward, was among...was the leader of the committee that was trying to get me to run. And when I agreed to run, he reached into his pocket and handed me a thousand dollars, ten-one hundred dollar bills and said, "Here, you can start on your campaign." I had savings amounting to $1400 at that time, so I drew out a thousand of my own money and added to that, and that was the beginning of the money that was necessary. We started immediately contacting professionals in the black community...dentists, lawyers, educators, what not...asking for help on the campaign on the position that this was a black thrust,that black people should pay for it, and we raised enough money to campaign effectively. In fact, I beat Hogan and six other people who had filed, half of them filed by Hogan. But I beat Hogan himself by six-to-one in the primary.
MORRISON: And then, who did you run against in the general?
McNEAL: I ran against a black Republican in the general election and beat him by seven-to-one.
MORRISON: What type of campaign did you run?
McNEAL: Just the distribution of literature, telling about my background, the civil rights movement, my civic activities, my union, attending meetings, whenever we could set them up, and putting pressure all the way on the white leadership in the district to endorse me.
MORRISON: And they did?
McNEAL: Finally, yes. By the time I...by the time the primary day, the day before I had every political organization in the district publicly endorse me.
MORRISON: Were there any contribution laws at that time per campaign contributions?
McNEAL: Yes, there were; they were the same loose laws Missouri has now, which provide that you must account for any money you spend within ninety days of election day. You can spend a boxcar of money before that ninety-day period, and don't have to account for it.
MORRISON: There's no limit, then, on the amount that you spent?
McNEAL: No, not before the ninety days. There was a limit...I forget, I think ten cents for each person who voted in the last election in that political subdivision.
MORRISON: Were there any people...
McNEAL: ...which was very inadequate for a successful campaign, of course. So politicians dodged it by laying out their advertising accounts, printing stuff before the ninety-day period began. As long as you spend before that, before the beginning of that period, you didn't have to account for it.
MORRISON: Was this prior to the election...the ninety days?
McNEAL: Yeah, same thing with both the primary and the general.
MORRISON: No other black was in the State Senate before you? You were the first one?
MORRISON: How much money did you think you spent? Do you remember from the
McNEAL: In the first campaign, I think I spent around $14,000.
MORRISON: Was that considered an average amount, or a lot, or...?
McNEAL: Well, I learned later that some of the money that I spent need not have been spent. But we didn't want to leave anything to chance, if we could sew up by buying it. Some of the organizations that endorsed me made contributions of $500, $1,000...this kind of thing.
MORRISON: How did you find Jefferson City when you first got there being a state senator?
McNEAL: Well, there was only one hotel where I could get a room, and that had
been changed just prior to my coming. There were many places there that were
off-limits to blacks whether they were in the general vicinity or not. But I
found that the Senate, the other thirty-three members of the Senate, were fair
to me. Some of them, with Southern backgrounds, particularly, didn't think too
much of the idea at first, but I stayed there. And I think, really, the fact
that I was black, the first black in the Missouri Senate worked in my favor,
because no one...we had reached in that time...in '61, in that period, wanted
to, by his own actions, prove that he was a racist. So the guys would lean a
little backwards to be fair; this kind of thing.
MORRISON: Were you surprised by the margin, six to one, that you won by?
McNEAL: Oh, yes, I was!
MORRISON: Did you think that you might not win? Did you ever think that?
McNEAL: No, I thought I could win, and really I worked at it, day and night.
MORRISON: It was a full-time job then?
McNEAL: Yes, this running involved was a full-time job. I opened a headquarters out here in the district and had some of my relatives, and friends, man it then. But we kept moving all the time. I didn't expect any six to one, of course, but I thought I would win. Both of the daily papers immediately came out backing me.
MORRISON: Before you won?
McNEAL: Yeah, as soon as I filed, the Globe-Democrat, for instance, which is not popular in the black community, endorsed me. Then the Post-Dispatch endorsed me, and I had the backing of the black, about half of the black press, I would say. So, I felt I had a chance, and I was getting good response from the white part of the district.
MORRISON: You couldn't have won without the white support, then?
MCNEAL: Oh, no, no, I couldn't, because some of the blacks stuck with Hogan
because he had done favors for them over the years. The top black political
leader in town at that time was George Chambers in the Nineteenth Ward, and
he publicly went against me.
MORRISON: Did you think that would have a major effect when he did?
McNEAL: Yes, I thought so.
MORRISON: Why did he go against you? He was with Hogan?
McNEAL: Because he was a friend, he said, of "Jellyroll" Hogan. He and Hogan had been friends over the years, and he was not going to turn his back on him. He told me that to my face and gave it to me, personally. And he did stick with him. He sent...he even filed another man, another black, in the race to try to help Hogan. So..but, without white help, I probably wouldn't have won.
MORRISON: What was the major purpose of your running for the Senate in your mind?
McNEAL: Well, I had finally become convinced that perhaps I could do some good.
MORRISON: How did you finally represent the people?
McNEAL: Well, by trying to get proposals passed that would benefit the people.
MORRISON: Well, I mean, any certain proposals at that time that you...
McNEAL: Well, I was interested still in civil rights. In my first session, in the General Assembly, I succeeded in passing the first civil rights in Missouri ever passed.
MORRISON: Which one was that?
McNEAL: That was the provision against job discrimination.
MORRISON: Was that hard to try to get passed?
McNEAL: Yes, it was a task, and yet this attitude of fairness on the part of the thirty-three white members was the only reason that I was able to do anything with it. No civil rights law had ever gotten out of a Missouri State Senate committee prior to that time. Never had one been debated on the floor.
MORRISON: How long did it take to get it passed, do you remember?
McNEAL: Well, we had a six-month session, and I field it, I think, the second
month of the session, and it was passed by both Houses, I think early in the
sixth and last month of that session.
MORRISON: Was that the major legislation you got passed?
MORRISON: You were elected to a four-year term?
McNEAL: Yes, but the districts were re-arranged in 1962, because of the fact that the City of St. Louis had lost population...the census of 1960 had indicated this...on that basis the senatorial districts were re-drawn. I was elected in what was the Seventh District. In the re-shuffling, the Seventh District was transferred to St. Louis county. I had the right to serve the four years out, but at the end of four years, I would have been out. I'd had had no place to run. And I didn't want to spend two years representing Ladue and that area where the Seventh District was.
MORRISON: Now, you district was taken away from you...more or less?
McNEAL: Well, I had the right to serve there for four years as a Senator from the Seventh, under the Constitution of the state. But the district in which I found myself...where I was living...was the new Fourth District, and it was open for election in 1962. The Seventh would be 1964. So, I chose to run in the new Fourth. I only served two years in the Seventh, and was elected in 1962 in the new Fourth District. And so, as of the time that I was elected in the general election, I resigned from the Seventh in order to permit the people in the County to elect whomever they wanted in the Seventh.
MORRISON: And then you ran, well, you were in the Senate for twelve years all
McNEAL: No, ten years all together.
MORRISON: Ten years?
McNEAL: I served the two-year term to start with because of the change in the districts, and then served two four-year terms in the new Fourth.
MORRISON: And did you feel that you were gaining experience? I mean, as you
were in the Senate longer in...
McNEAL: Of course, it's impossible not to gain experience. But I did gain experience and effectiveness. When I retired from the Senate, I was the head of the Senate Democratic Caucus, chairman of it. I was chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, chairman of the Budget Control Committee, and I had just resigned as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.
MORRISON: How did you like being a politician? Would you call yourself a statesman or a politician?
McNEAL: Well, I...the word "politician" and "politics" have, perhaps, a different connotation in my thinking. I look upon when I use the word "politics," I'm thinking of the art of government. Any politician is one who has some skills in that art. So when I'm called "a politician," to me it's a compliment. But I was never, I think I was the queerest kind of politician in that, the very way that I was elected left me free. I didn't ever take enough money from anyone that they would have any right to believe that they controlled me. For instance. Wethers, when he gave me that first thousand dollars, when he ran next time, I gave him a thousand dollars for his campaign which, in my mind, made us even. And,of course. Wethers had promised when I first ran that he wouldn't attempt to control me. But I was an oddity as a legislator from St. Louis, because most legislators from the two large cities in Missouri are on orders to vote the way the bosses back home want them to vote.
MORRISON: And you didn't...
McNEAL: I didn't have this restriction.
MORRISON: Because you didn't receive money from them, is that right?
McNEAL: That's right, because I won each time by such huge majorities that in 1966 no politician could claim that he elected me. The last time I ran, in 1966, I won by ten to one.
MORRISON: Did you ever feel that you had to compromise in any way during your
McNEAL: Well, the legislative process is a process of compromise. Who takes the position of all or nothing at all..."It's gonna be all my way with no changes for anyone else,"...is gonna...is a loser.
MORRISON: It doesn't work that way?
McNEAL: No, it doesn't work that way. You have to anticipate compromise. But you seek honorable compromise, compromise which with you can live with good conscience.
MORRISON: What was your political philosophy? Did you have any back in the Sixties...1960...when you were first running?
McNEAL: No, I think other than I thought government should be responsive to the people that you represented.
MORRISON: Did you feel it was harder to be responsive once you got in the Senate? Harder than you thought when you were running?
McNEAL: It was easy for me to be responsive to my district, because the average leader in the district, the average citizen in the district, when I would go to meetings and ask them what I should do about this or that would say, "Ted, you know, you're up there; you know what the thing is. I would rather if you would exercise your own judgment." It was harder trying to be responsive state-wide, because I got more correspondence from other parts of the state than I ever got from my own district. But I tried to be responsive to what I thought were the needs of all Missourians.
MORRISON: When you were in the Senate, were there other black senators who came up before you retired?
McNEAL: The last two years that I was there, I served with Senator Howard who was still there.
MORRISON: So that you had only yourself and Senator Howard?
McNEAL: The first eight years I was the only black there, and then the last two years, there were the two of us.
MORRISON: So, you didn't feel that you opened the path for more blacks_______
to run for the State Senate?
McNEAL: I don't know. I don't know whether I did or not. I know one thing in the district in which I served which was changing, which is now, I guess, probably 85% black, I think my successful race proved that it could be done by a black. I think perhaps it didn't occur to these other blacks to try.
MORRISON: When you first ran, it was only 45% black, is that right?
McNEAL: 55% black, 45% white.
MORRISON: Why do you think it rose so much from 55% black to 85%?
McNEAL: Well, the general trend of people who move out of the city; whites move out of the city into the county. These homes and residences were taken over by blacks.
MORRISON: What problems did you have then when you were a State Senator? You know...any major problems throughout the ten years?
McNEAL: All of the problems inherent in trying to change laws. Any change, of course, is a problem.
MORRISON: Did you feel discrimination was ended by the time you retired from the Senate, or before that time?
McNEAL: You mean, discrimination in the city itself?
MORRISON: In Jefferson City.
MCNEAL: A great part of it was ended, as it has ended all across the nation.
But Jeff City didn't move any faster than the rest of the nation!
MORRISON: How long do you think it took? Just as long as it took...
McNEAL: As long as it took in other Southern states, or those with a definite Southern exposure.
MORRISON: When were you elected to the Board...President of the Board of Police Commissioners?
McNEAL: I was appointed to the Board of Police Commissioners by Governor Bond in January of 1973, last year.
MORRISON: Did you think you would be elected, or how did you think you were elected...or why?
McNEAL: I wasn't elected. The four members of this Board, the fifth is the mayor, who is the only one elected, the governor, under Missouri stat law, appoints four of the St. Louis Police Commissioners. Governor Bond appointed me and stated that I was to be President of the Board. However, under the state law, the other four members had to go through the process of electing me. But it has never failed that if the governor says, "I want X as President of the Board..."
[END OF SIDE TWO OF TAPE]
Rough Draft - Tom Flood
Final Copy - Helen E. Wehrspann
December 26, 1974
STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF MISSOURI RESEARCH CENTER-ST. LOUIS
222 THOMAS JEFFERSON LIBRARY
UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI-ST. LOUIS
1 UNIVERSITY BLVD.
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI 63121