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Mary Alice Dorsett


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Mary Alice Dorsett
Series Title:
Otis R. Anthony African Americans in Florida oral history project
Physical Description:
1 sound file (108 min.) : digital, MPEG4 file + ;
Dorsett, Mary Alice
Anthony, Otis R
Black History Research Project of Tampa
University of South Florida Libraries -- Florida Studies Center. -- Oral History Program
University of South Florida -- Tampa Library
University of South Florida Tampa Library
Place of Publication:
Tampa, Fla
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Subjects / Keywords:
African American businesspeople -- Interviews   ( lcsh )
African Americans -- Politics and government   ( lcsh )
African Americans -- Florida   ( lcsh )
African Americans -- History -- Florida   ( lcsh )
Oral history   ( local )
Online audio   ( local )
Oral history.   ( local )
Online audio.   ( local )
interview   ( marcgt )


Businesswoman and activist Mary Alice Dorsett discusses the role of education and business to African Americans and describes her attempts to run for political office.
Interview conducted April 21, 1978.
Statement of Responsibility:
interviewed by Otis R. Anthony and members of the Black History Research Project of Tampa.
General Note:
Other interviewers for the Black History Research Project of Tampa were Fred Beaton, Joyce Dyer, Herbert Jones, and Shirley Smith.

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University of South Florida Library
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University of South Florida
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All applicable rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier:
aleph - 020799555
oclc - 436228274
usfldc doi - A31-00017
usfldc handle - a31.17
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Dorsett, Mary Alice.
Mary Alice Dorsett
h [electronic resource] /
interviewed by Otis R. Anthony and members of the Black History Research Project of Tampa.
Tampa, Fla. :
University of South Florida Tampa Library,
1 sound file (108 min.) :
digital, MPEG4 file +
e 1 transcript (digital, PDF file)
Otis R. Anthony African Americans in Florida oral history project
Other interviewers for the Black History Research Project of Tampa were Fred Beaton, Joyce Dyer, Herbert Jones, and Shirley Smith.
Interview conducted April 21, 1978.
Businesswoman and activist Mary Alice Dorsett discusses the role of education and business to African Americans and describes her attempts to run for political office.
Dorsett, Mary Alice.
African American businesspeople
v Interviews.
African Americans
x Politics and government.
African Americans
z Florida.
African Americans
7 655
Oral history.
2 local
Online audio.
Anthony, Otis R.
Black History Research Project of Tampa.
University of South Florida Libraries.
Florida Studies Center.
Oral History Program.
University of South Florida.
Tampa Library.
4 856


COPYRIGHT NOTICE This Oral History is copyrighted by the University of South Florida Libraries Oral History Program on behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of South Florida. Copyright, 2009, University of South Florida. All rights, reserved This oral history may be used for research, instruction, and private study under the provisions of the Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of the United States Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section 107), which allows limited use of copyrig hted materials under certain conditions. Fair Use limits the amount of material that may be used. For all other permissions and requests, contact the UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA LIBRARIES ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at the University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fo wler Avenue, LIB 122, Tampa, FL 33620.


1 Otis R. Anthony African Americans in Florida Oral History Project Oral History Program Florida Studies Center University of South Florida, Tampa Library Digital Object Identifier: A31 00017 Interviewee: Mary Alice Dorsett (MD) Interview by: Otis Anth ony (OA) Interview date: April 21, 1978 Interview location: Unknown Transcribed by: Unknown Transcription date: Unknown Interview changes by: Kimberly Nordon Changes date: December 15, 2008 Final Edit by: Mary Beth Isaacson Final Edit date: Janua ry 23, 2009 Mary Alice Dorsett : I was born in Dade City, Florida, reared in Dade City and Tarpon Springs. I finished high school in Lakeland I attended Paine College in Augusta, Georgia and Trade and Professional School for Wom e n and Girls in Washington, DC, which the great giant Ms. Nannie Helen Burroughs founded. And she was a personal friend of m ine, a personal teacher of mine; and of course, it was through Rev erend [A. Leon] Lowry that I got to her school. In fact, Reverend Lowry used to be my pastor when I was attending college. So I feel very humble to have had that privilege. Now what do you want to know about? Otis Anthony : Hold it, you just mention ed something. What was your area of study when you were in school? MD: Christian s ocial s ervice w ork. Ms. Burroughs had me to take everything that her school offered, because she was fitting me for foreign mission work. And of course, she said to send me to Africa or to any foreign field, that I would have to know everything, because I would be going into an undeveloped territory. So, I was taught how to make furniture, how to make chairs out of barrels, how to take nothing and make something out of it. I was taught health, beauty culture, business you name it, Ms. Burroughs made me take it. OA: That is beautiful, that's I constantly say that that is what's missing with us. I couldn't even dream of having an opportunity to go [to] Africa when I graduate d from school, or even dream of having a chance to study in all those business areas. And it was an all Black s chool. W as it a land grant college? MD: No, it was private, very exclusive, very exclusive. One of the years that I was there, Ms. Burroughs had more teachers than she had students. So it was a very exclusive school. So when I came out of schoo l in fact, it's all a mystery to me, amazing to me, of


2 when I think about how it all came about. This was why, w hen Rev erend Lowry first came to Tabernacle [Baptist Church] in Augusta o ne Sunday morning he was unmarried, a very young man and one Sunday m orning he got up and he said that the church should do more than pray and sing That's the smaller part of it; the larger part is service. God want s service. H e want you to minister. And he said that the church should take some eligible young woman or man, and fit them for foreign mission work. And the Tabernacle is a large church, and he said, "A nd this Sunday morning I recommend this young lady he didn't even know my name, he hadn't been there that long. Of course, while I was there I was living off ca mpus with the chairman of the deacon board, he and his wife, Mr. and Mrs. Scott. But anyway, so he said he told Mrs. Chin, who was general president of the missionary society, to form a committee and to interview me, this committee, and see if I had the qu alities and the abilities to be trained to perform mission work. And if I had, the only person he knew in the world who could do the job would be Nann ie Helen Burroughs And so that's how I got to Ms. Burroughs' school. OA: So, when did you get back to Ta mpa? MD: I came into Tampa, July 19, 1950, my first time living in Tampa. It was coincidental, you know, when I was here quite some time before Beulah [Baptist Church] called Rev erend Lowry and it was just a coincidence. OA: Yeah, I was just going to as k you that. T hat is exactly a coincidence. MD: It was a coincidence, I feel often, I tell this. And one day [I was ] talking, speaking at a Woman's Day program at Beulah, and I mentioned this thing and it was so fantastic, because I'm real radical and af ter a while people are going to think I'm ready for (inaudible) But I can tell this, a lot of people still respect Rev. Lowry so he can verify that that part of me is not crazy. He can do this and then to have him here, to come to Tampa. OA: Because I r emember reading something about him being in Augusta, Georgia. T hat's w h ere he really got into his first civil rights experience, and that type of thing, from what I understand. A nd then he came to Tampa. Man, that' s amazing, to have two who push hard for the people, to come to the same place. MD: When I heard somebody say that Rev erend Lowry was gonna come to Beulah to preach, I said "I t couldn't be the Rev erend Lowry I know, and behold it was. God works in mysterious ways. And of course, the reason wel l I don't know, things have worked themselves out. Oh, and what I'm doing in Tampa, Reverend Martin, G. T. Martin, called him Dr. Martin, who was then director of the Baptist Fellowship Center there o n Green [Street] and North Blvd. Well anyway, he and his wife had me come here to help him set up summer vacation B ible school. S o that's what I'm doing in Tampa. OA: Ms. Dorsett, when you were here, did you have any other interest outs ide of setting


3 up Bible schools? MD: You mean after I got here? At the beg inning ah, well let me say this W hen I came well I am always interested in people, and even though this was my chief purpose, I did a lot of going and joining civic organizations and being o n programs and things of that nature. OA: I had already heard that from Ms. Collins. Yes, she's at St. Paul [African Methodist Episcopal Church] MD: Oh, perhaps Jean ette Collins. OA: I think so. So what were the conditions like in Tampa for Blacks, when you got out of school, and you was teaching B ible school at that time? MD: Well, the conditions are similar to now. OA: That's an interesting statement. MD: Yeah, perhaps a little of something, it s got a little worse instead of getting a little better Because things are subtle now; we still have the same prob lems, but they are settled now. If you are going to kill a snake, you can hit him better wh en you see his head sticking up than you can locate him in some big grass. So now the snake is in the grass and he is difficult to kill. At that time, the shingles w as hung out, his head was up. So, that's the reason I say, well it's just about the same, though it's worse now. OA: Okay, Jim Crow was all over Tampa Bay at this time. Can you recall instances where you were confronted with such? Any problem that you had with this? MD: No, no, not necessarily. This was something that I was born into I'm from Dade City you know cause from what I can understand it is the same way everywhere. And [now] that I have been and reading, and list en ing to other people talk, I hav e come to the conclusion that it is the same way all over. When I say all over, I mean all over the world. But nothing in particular that I had problems with, other than because see, at the same it was something that I was born into. And I am aware of the problems and I have been one of th ese type people, and still is. Y ou never see me go out of my way to force myself o n anybody. See perhaps if I had been doing that I would have met opposition. B ut I never [did] because I am the type who that feel that God has done a pretty good job with me, as he has don e with others too. So, I have, if you don't want me with you, I didn't want to be with you before you decided you didn't want to be with me. So, therefore I've never come in contact with a racial some thing, and as I often say my [being] Black has served as an advantage to me. Well most people feel that it is been a disadvantage. It has put color in my life, it has put adventure in my life, it h as put challenge in my life, an d it has made my life very colorful to me. So with this attitude, the problems that other people and I know after coming here, and going around o n


4 various programs and what have you, there were a group of there were some people, some of our leaders, suppose d to be at that time, they came to me and told me that I had impressed them that I could help force some doors open. So they wanted me to this is when they weren't hiring Blacks in the department stores and things of that nature. That has opened up for us, thanks to Mr. James Hammo nd and so many more, with supermarket deals and what have you. OA: I would like for you to explain some of those and some of the people who were involved, if you can, as much as you know about it. MD: We ll, there was Mr. James Hammond; there was Mr. Artr illo Fernandez who has passed you know; there was and he was the first, I understand, I think first Black here to earn his Ph.D. degree ; he had gotten it and o n his way back he was killed. OA: This is Mr. Fernandez? MD: Uh huh, Artrillo Fernandez who was principal at Henderson Elementary School; there was Fordom Jones, who worked v ery closely with them; Mr. Fordha m, William Ford ha m ; Mr. Rodriguez had his bit in too. OA: This is Francisco Rodriguez? MD: Francisco. There was Mr. Gregory Matthew and bef ore my time, I heard about Mr. Davis, Mr. Edward Davis of the Central Life [Insurance Company] that I have the utmost respect [for] because I understand he lost his job fighting for the equalization of teachers salaries. And I do feel that every Black t eacher should give at least twenty five cent, just twenty five cent every payday for him. And I understand Mr. Ben G riffin was also in this fight. B ut just to think of somebody, and I imagin e the average Black teacher the young ones doesn't even know abou t this, because nobody to tell them about this thing. But here is a man who took the lead in the fight, and they got it and he lost, he didn't get a thing. A nd here everybody else who was afraid to say anything, they getting the results, and he's just so C entral Life is giving him ah But I think we should learn to appreciate, and to give credit and honor to whom it's due And don't forget the bridges that brought us across. And so many more that ah I'm a see Ms. Hillman, Ms. Hillman ; Ms. Hilda Turner I ha ven't met her, but the people have told about these people Ms. Hilda Turner ; Ms. Clara Frye, Clara Frye Hospital ; and even Dr. Mays, Benjamin Mays he was here. A nd [we] can't forget about such a dedicated soul as Mr. Arthur D. Allen, who was over the Urba n League. We worked very closely with him. H e was a very dedicated man. OA: Can you r ecall what year, what year he MD: In '56, I know he was here in '56; let 's say about '55 [1955] '56 [1956] '57 [1957], and those years. I'm sure he was here because w e worked very closely. There's Mr. Allen, Rayford Allen well you just have any number of people and so many more that I am


5 not thinking of right now, who have done a good job. They had Venda Ray Hewitt, Dr. Hewitt's late wife ; Ms. Roach, Margaret Roach, now and so many wonderful people. OA: So, when they came to you and said they wanted to open some doors, what did they mean by that? MD: Oh, not these people, but there were some that had passed that I had called. They wanted to use me as, in terms of pu tting in my words, a guinea pig, you know. To use me to they told that they felt this particular fellow said that they were discussing it, and the y felt that I had the ability. T hey was trying to get somebody who could do a job and felt that I had the abil ity to do this, t o go down and apply for one of these positions. Often they say they would get Blacks to go down, but then they wouldn't be qualified when the position would come open. But I had a so that's what they meant about it, and then I could break the ice and open doors for others to come in. However, I had a different idea and I didn't do it. Ms. Burroughs taught me if you can't find the kind of job you want, you make it yourself. So o n those lines, rather than go and bother those White people wi th their jobs, I made my own job. And so, not only am I a secretary of taking orders, but I give my own orders. So this is t he reasons I didn't take that. A nd so as a result I have been self employed here in the city of Tampa for about twenty seven years now. OA: Okay, Ms. Dorsett. W hen you decided to go into business, were there any problems, say in you setting up your business? MD: O h yes A nything that [is] worthwhile comes with the price, it comes with the opposition and this is to be expected. And being born into our situation, I'm aware that the White man has all of the rules and the laws made in his favor A nd of course, you don't feel at least I don't, being so radical I don't feel bad with him because this is the first long danger of self prese rvation. And see, that's the reason he fights us so har d, because he knows once we get o n top that's what we gonna do, and he's gone be o n the bottom. So this is the reason it is important that we learn to do our own thinking, and stop l etting him do our t hinking for us See this is part of our problem, cause whenever he thinks and tells you something, it's going to be to his advantage. And since we say we is as smart as he, we got to show it. OA: We do say that too. MD: Yeah, we say it. B ut then we tak e what he says and we call it gospel. I went into my first wel l, Ms. Burroughs too had taught me, and we had touched o n it in some other classes before I got to her school. And when I got there, she put the finishing touches, that I was not going into a profession, I was to going into a bus iness. S he s aid it has made the Black race stagnant. They have misinformed us so much so, until we feel that if we aren't a professional, you aren't nowhere in the Black race. A nd this makes our race stagnant. S ure we need some professional people, but not as many as we have. That is the reason that we can't give a job, we have none to offer.


6 If a doctor we feel that a doctor is our utopia a doctor, if he have six or seven nurses and assistants he would be raising sa nd, he or she would be raising sand. A lawyer, if he had four or five secretaries, he or she would be raising sand. A teacher, if she had two, or he or she had two or three servants at home and a secretary, they would be raising sand. A preacher, if he had but he's about the best dog, cause he hollers two s ermons a week, he hollers two, twice a week and he get all his money and they gonna crucify me. But anyway, this is what Ms. Burroughs had taught me, whatever I do no professional business. And so I as ked her, and when I came here she reminded me, in one of her letters, that I was to go into business, and I asked her what kind of business. And she said just so it's business and see if you are in business, this is the reason in our race we don't have b ut so, cause we can't give jobs. Because we don't have the training for the job, at least we are not in the j ob market type thing. We end up we don't have Tampa Electric or Cohen Brothers S ee if some of our people say they going to be a plumber, or going to be a carpenter or contractor, we ki nd of turn up our nose at him. B ut it's because we don't know better. And so, so it is but anyway I looked after Ms. Burroughs. I just wanted to see what kind of business she had in mind I always had a mind of my own, but she didn't help me out there S he told me just any kind of business, just so it's business. And so since then I have thanked her and all the other people a thousand times over. So I looked around, to see what seemed to be the White man keeps getting into, this kind ah, and I spotted the bonding business. S o I got into the b onding business. Opposition? I didn't have any o pposition ge tting into the bonding business. I wrote and got the information. I must have gotten this information from the courthou se or someplace like that, how you go into being a bondsman, because there weren't any Black ones. And having a negative attitude that Whites wouldn't help you, cause I was taught that, more or less, so I'm sure I must have sorted myself through the courth ouse there, because I didn't know any bondsman personally. And I wrote to Tallahassee and got my info rmation, and at that time, you c ould either take a course from the u niversity, or they would send you some study material and you could study that, you h ad a choice. Of course, I chose the study material. Mr. Feleto was the one who g ave the test. H e was Sam Feleto, he was I meant John Feleto, he was insurance commissioner at that time. And I went in and I was beaucoup I was the only black, and there was be aucoup of White s there taking the test. It was suppose d to be a two hour test, and I gues s I must have gotten through with it in about twenty five minutes, something like that. And when I went in, Mr. Feleto told me "I f you have any problems with it let me know, and so I thanked him. So I sat down was it was just like writing my name down, and so I got up and he said, "W ell you got to do the whole test. And I told him, yes sir, I had done the whole test, and so I end up get my license A nd one day I made a bond, I was down to the City Hall to bond out a man, and there was a new employee back there who was a White man, and he was sergeant there and he told me he was very proud to meet me. And he said that Mr.


7 Feleto said at that particular time I had score d the highest s core that has ever been scored o n that test. That was my first of hearing that, but that's he told me So, and then and my greatest o pposition came from my people, not the White man, it was from the Black man. I can remember my first bond. I was up in the office there, with some of us sharing an office together in fact it was Mr. Rodriguez, Mr. Ford ha m, Mr. Sa u nders, Mr. Bob Sa u nders h e was at that time [field] secretary for the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colore d People] and myself ; it was four of us sharing an office. But anyway, o n my very first bond I'd been in business about three months, before I made my first bond. And when I got this call I ran all the way I didn't have a car I ran all the way from I was l iving with Ms. Middleton whose husband Middleton High School was named for d own o n Scott and Spring Street I t was about like 10:00 at night and I ran all the way from there up o n Central Avenue to our office, dark and I found my lights and got my mat erials and took it and to county jail I dashed off. Because Mr. Abe, a bondsman, had told me, "S ay what you got to do Alice, he say you got to be very swift, because if you don't hurry up and get your people out somebody else will, you know. So, rem embering this I dashed to the county jail and when I got there, the man was sitting there, and he said, Oh, Ms. Dorsett, I tried to call you but you had left your house. He w as working for a Black business man and he told me who he was working for, and he said and I told him that I had called you, and he said that if I wanted him to put the money up, he would have to use his bondsman. He's a White bondsman, and say I told him I had called this White bondsman two hours before I called you. He still said "I f you want to place the money for your bond, you are gonna have to use him. The White jailer, Mr. Griffin, was in there and he dropped his head and said Mary Alice, I feel so sorry for him, this is what the White man said, of the treatment I was gettin g from the Black man. And so I smiled it off, and I said "O h that's life, that's life, and I came out and I boo hooed when I got [out] but I smiled when I was in there. So most of my opposition came from my people. That's just one instances, I could j ust name them. And then of course, after the bonding business, I decided, well there was more to be done. S o with my bonding business I opened up a general employment agency. And when I first applied they had a law that in order to open up an employment a gency you've got to work three years with an established employment agency before you could be considered ; that was one of the requirements. Well, that was a law that the White man had put o n the book to keep Black people out of it. Cause during that time, Blacks were not hired in that capacity anywhere around here. And of course, when I got the letter, they had turned me down. All of this stuff was to be expected and I asked various people about what would they do, and all of them told me they would just d rop it, but I just do that to feel people out, to see what they think, cause as I say, I have a min d of my own. But anyway, I appealed the decision and as a result, I opened up employment agency. Mr. [James] Hargrett, Sr. came to me and wanted to know ho w did I do it, because he had


8 tried to open up one, and he was turned down for that same reason. Mrs. Thelma Morrow, an insurance woman, came and wanted to know how did I do it. My ace in the hole I 'm a religious fanatic, really crazy when it comes to God, and the supreme being, that's my ace in the hole, is God. I went to appeal when they had the hearing. T his same thing governs apparently W ell there were a lot of Whites down there. I still was the only Black going down. And they had their lawyers dow. A nd so when I went inside the bailiff aske d me, didn't I have my lawyer. H e said "I n cases like this you need a lawyer S o I just smiled at him, because I knew that if I had told him who my lawye r was they would have haul me Side 1 ends; side 2 begins OA: And so you opened the agency and what happen after that? You were able to get some people employed or what was the purpose, to get people employed? MD: Yes, I was able to get people employed, White and Black. So it paid off H ere just three weeks a go Ms. Leavengood called me wanting to know if I still had my employment agency, becau se the people we sent out, she s aid for her and her friends, they still have them and they are very good workers. She said that Dr. Brown at the University of South Flori da had come and his wife wanted somebody to work for her, and she told her to wait and let her see if I still had my employment agency, to get her somebody. I told her I didn't have it and, of course, the reason I don't have it, is because of our governmen t done fair practices, and in wrongness of our government, locally, district wide, regional wide, and federally wide and nationally wide, what have you. But anyway, nevertheless, I don't have it, but I told her as a courtesy, I would get somebody for Mrs. Brown and of course we did. OA: What is the policy say for securing a loan from banks to set up, ah, say a Black business? MD: Well, I never the businesses I got in, I didn't have to borrow any money from the bank. OA: Was there anything like the Negro Chamber of Commerce at that time? MD: No. T hey had tried to start one since I here, but it didn't ever get off the ground. I think they sa y Mr. Ben Griff in with it, Mr. Hargrett, Mr. Rodriguez, some of the ones who were with it. OA: So, collectively as in terms of a group, where d id we have money? The church, lo dges, fraternal organizations, that type of thing. Did we have any monetary strength? MD: What you mean now? Well, the same as it is now as far as I can see, with me not really having that infor mation. I should think it s just a thought that most of our money would be in churches ; this is where I would think most our money is, is in churches.


9 OA: I asked that question becaus e I was wondering had there been people here who we haven't heard about, who had really tried things in terms of developing business and kind of got started sort of the way you got started with your employment agency. And died out, or whatever because of these practices, and we don't know about it and we should know about it. MD: None that I know. OA: Okay we were just trying to give a biblical history. As an example, are you familiar with the Thrifty Bottling Company? MD: No, I heard about a co op and I think Mr. Hargrett have you talk ed to Mr. Hargrett? OA: Yeah, we alr eady have talk ed with Mr. Hargrett. MD: That's the only information that I had any collectively, something money wise collectively. OA: So it seems that everything you did has some kind of consideration for people and grew out of your love for people. You continue to expand upon it. What happen ed next in terms of MD: Well I worked very hard at th ese jobs and during income tax income tax was [a] divine gift. A nd so I was doing all these things at once, so if one didn't do anything the other did. Howev er, the employment agency was more or less a courtesy I got into for people because, like employment agencies want you to give half of your first week s salary on deposit so much down well I always felt that a person who was looking for work didn't have any money. So in most cases, I would just let them go to work, just send them o n the job. So it was really as a court esy. In 1962, I fou nded that Faith Mission, there o n 7th Avenue. That was to cater to the whole man. We had the mission part of it, the spiritual part, to deal with his mind, his soul, his ah we had the job part to deal with his learning to get his living by the sweat of his brow, working for an earning and we had shelter for him to sleep until he could do his own little bit. And then get ting into politics, it was another effort to take, to try to help people that was. That reason so often I ran so many times and I was defeated, however defeated according to other people, but to myself I won each time. And the very first time I ran for of fice, I won even according to their rules, but it was taken. OA: What year is this? MD: This was in '65 should have been in '65 [1965] ; it was either '65 or '68 [1969] I've got to get my thoughts together in '66 [1966] perhaps '66, '66. Be cause in tha t year they had it o n the TV and radio, that Dorsett and Bra s her in a runoff John Brasher,


10 who's now in the legislatu r e And then in a little while, they began to say they made a mistake Jack Rodriguez had t hey the man o n the air 10,000 votes T hey didn't have time to scramble it up, so they just put a one in front of a nine and gave him 10,000 votes. T hen that made he and Brasher i n the runoff. And then somebody people were calling me from all over in the Tampa Bay area congratulating me, and Mrs. Hill of Hills Dinner, the l ate Mrs. Hill, now called me to congratulate me. And I said "N o, they said o n Channel 8 they made a mistake ," and so she said, "W ell you better turn from that station and turn to C hannel 13 T hey are still saying that you and Brasher [are] in the runoff. S ure enough I did And they were saying b ut then in a short while, they began to say that they made mistake. Fortunately the day that I went, I wasn't going to check it out because I felt that my people wasn't concerned enough. And to my surprise, I was surprised afterward, that some of the say that they called down there to protest it, but I didn't know about it. So, anyway Mr. Byares that's another one that was here then, James Byares M r. Byares and Mr. Gilder that's right he's on e who help worked hard here. And Mr. Gilder came to me and wanted to know about about two or three days after and so I was telling him I didn't go down because I felt it was a little useless. Because you know when you're running for office out here and y ou're running to help the people, instead of the people even trying to see what you are trying to do, they seem to throw up a dislike for you, and you here trying to help them and they hating you for it. And then we complain about we don't h ave this and we don't have that and this White man is doing this to us when we are our own worst enemies. However, and so knowing that, and running for office at that time, at one of the times my boy was just five years old, and I had my boy out in the streets, me and my boy with all these here peopl e in town, m y boy was the o nly person that I could depend o n at one time, a five year old boy. And we would take one part of the street putting out card s an d he would take the other part. A nd when he would get to the bar, t hen I would have to cross over and go into the bar. And one night about 9:30 [it was] dark, black, hot, this particular campaign time hot, our clothes stuck to our backs, and Dwayne we were i n the project there off of Lake, the street back what is it 32n d or 31st b ut anyway he was back o n that line, and so Dwayne met me to the end. And he said, "M other I gave that man, he finally took the card, he said when I first went up, he told me no, he don't want none of that, ain't nothing to it, no Niggers and t his and that. Say, he [her son] say, "W ell I'm working for you too sir, and he said, the man said, "H and it here. He say, I'm out here working for you too sir. And then like, one Sunday we were going down Lake an d we got to the Rabbit Foot bar. S o Dwayne was a little upset because som e men were laughing at him and I told him, I said, "T hey aren't making fun of you. [They're making fun of] the very fact that you are so small and out here campaigning. And one day he was putting literature o n peopl e 's cars, and the police passed by and wanted to know what was he doing, bothering cars. A nd he say "I'm putting literature o n for my mother, so he say ; help yourself. So anyway, later, talking to Mr. oh and so when Mr. Gilder and Mr. Byares told me


11 say you have b ecause there are still some Blacks that voted. Whenever any of us run, particularly with me I know that most of my votes came out of predominately White precincts, rather than the Black precincts. But anyway, that day when I went down to ch eck after what they had said to me, because I felt that it would be a useless gesture ; here these White peoples are so dogmatic or so prone to have their way and not let me run. I'm gonna say take my rightful place, if they do this in the eyes of thousands and thousands of people, they would give their lives before th ey would permit it to happen. S o this was my reason, if they were this dogmatic about it, to do it in the eyes of thousands and thousands of people. But anyway, I went o n down, and fortunatel y that day, I met Mr. Brasher going in the door way, and what he told me he say h e decided he better come down. B ecause if they made that big a mistake with me, they perhaps made one with him too. And so it was very fortunate for me that Mr. Brasher came, because when we went in, and I told them why I came to see about the error that was made in the counting of votes, why they didn't even talk to me. They ignored me completely. OA: You went where now? MD: To the courthouse, down to the down near the elect ion place. Supervisor of election s down there where they count the votes, had the books ; and so Mr. Brasher would say something, they would answer. A nd so then Mr. Brasher say he would like to see the books, the tally sheets and stuff like that. So they would show it to Mr. Brasher but then before he would look, he say "H ere it is Mary Alice. H e would let me l ook first. This is the way I got a chance to see it, some of the thing they had the re. And then I questioned the la dy. I say, "W ell how coul d this mistake have been made ?" A nd when she told me how the mistake was made, she was insulting everybody' s intelligence She told me that each concern or each organization, each TV station, each radio station, they tally their own votes and she said the votes aren't given as a whole. Each precinct calls theirs into these various places W ell now you see, if it was as a whole it would have been a better thing to tell me. Because as a whole you could have said nine and somebody thought you said nineteen. B ut now with each individual precinct calling theirs in, nobody will ever get me to see where every TV station and radio stations gonna make the same mistake of 10,000 votes. B ut then anyway, that's what she said. But later after that, about two or three weeks after that, I called Mr. Raymond Sheldon not this one but the one who use d to be a state senator and he also had endorsed me and they had worked for me. So I was asking him about the mistake. So he apparently knew about it. H e say, "O h Mary Alice, he say "did that come o n TV, Mary Alice? Did that come o n TV? And I said "Y es it did A nd he said, "W ell this what they want you to do. Fight." He say, "It will be another time. T his is what he said. And I kept hearing this talking in the backgrou nd. He say Mary Alice, I can't talk for you for my wife. She's saying that you won th e election and for you to go loo k under the machine, a candidates machine. A nd he said this [by] time three ago the machines have been cleared. A nd he said "B ut next t ime I'll work hard. So that was my very first endeavor.


12 And then there was a client of mine, Mr. Dekal and Mr. Sylvester during that time it should have been Mr. Sylvester ; part of the time I was running it, Mr. Sylester had it. I believe that was Mr. D ekal B ut anyway, another one of my clients was working in Miami, he say some very rich fellow down there he was his b o ss, doing construction work and he see that Mary Alic e Dorsett that ran for office. H e didn't even know that Mr. Baten knew me. Say he to ld him that she had won that election the very first time that I ran T hat was my experience for the first time. But anyway getting back to why I have run for office I too have been taught that politics was something dirty, and you don't take part in it. C lean people don't take part in it. A nd see, we are so misinformed, and I too, say it was that way. But Eller oh my Lor d how could I forget Eller Bansfield have you talked to him? Anybody talked about him? OA: Seven th Day Adventist. MD: Seven th Day Adventist man. He has done so much to help Tampa. Eller Bansfield used to come to me at intervals while I still had this wrong impression of politics, and he would tell me, Mrs. Dorsett, you gotta run for office. And I couldn't see particularly comi ng from Elle r Bansfield a minister. And through the years he would come and sometimes he would come sit and t alk to me for one and two hours about different things. H e say I'm going to start dropping the word alon g. I say I don't want any part. So he i s really the one who actually sowed the seed in me about politics a bout my taking an active part. OA: What was the philosophy? D id it change your outlook what was his philosophy of why you should run? MD: Eller Bansfield to ld me that things were of such the thing that was keeping us down was because we had no voice in government, we had nobody to hel p us, we had nobody to speak for us, we had nobody to enlighten us. A nd he said, all and with the physical part, all of our material things is controlled by the ballot. And he told me that. And he got around in Tampa. T his commission [Bi Racial Committee] that they have, this integration commission, advisory of the mayor and stuff lik e that, that was part of his br a i n child, he and Mr. [Harold] Wolf. And he wa s with this Progress Village and [with] so many of the interdenominational ministerials T hey had an interracial one. He OA: He is a minister, that's the minister. I often wondered who that minister was that went t o Mr. Wolf and said we needed MD: Uh huh, Eller Bansfield. H e was killed last year. So, a nyway, he told me this is his idea, that I was the best qualified of all the people he knew in Tampa T his is what he would always tell me, to run for office. He say I could do a better job than any one person here in Tampa this is Eller Bansfield's idea. But he yet didn't convince me and he say I'm going to start dropping the word along, he say. A nd in politics you have to let the


13 people know, way ahead of time and get them some. This is reason of s aying that I was the best qualified of any person in Tampa that he knew. He say, "N ow there are other people with just as m uch training, just as much know how as you, but they aren't as qualified to run and serve the people as you are, because those people go within their circle ; they are friendly o nly with people in their circle. H e say, B u t you are a person who go around with all circles. So this was his reason for saying that I was the best qualified. The one that is suppose d to be the little man, h e goes and deals within circle. T he one who is supposed to be your middle class and such, they don't bother with this circle. He say that I was the only one that he knew that have the ability, who dealt with people o n all levels, cause they're all alike to m e. S o this was his reason for saying that I was the best qualified. A l l right. Eller Bansfield finally left with a promotion and they did some kind of reapportionment o r something. I wasn't even concerned. I was so busy doing my income tax, cause that's where I get my bread and b utter. And God has blessed me with a lot of clients, both Black and White, and so I was just busy working and her e comes Mr. James Marshall, Senior. I guess Eller Bansfield had been gone about two or three years, and he came and he had twenty three names, he said, written on, he had a little tablet, he had twenty three names written o n there. Of the twenty three names, he had two women he say that was Ms. Marian Anderson who too have done a job. Have you talked with her? But h e had her name o n there. H e had three wom e n 's name s. H e had her o n there, he had Ros a lin d Tallis name, who was quite a business woman you know S he's dead, but she's Whi te. S he own so much down there o n 22nd Street and my name. A nd he had other people like Mr. Rodriguez, Mr. Sloan it was others, was men. And he told me he had gone to two of those men, but they had told him, "W ell they'd think about it." I n fact, they had no interest. And he say, "Y ou are the fir st of these woman I'm coming to. And he ca me there, he say they have reapportionme nt and got an extra seat there a nd he say, "T he White man is not thinking now, and we could s lip you right into it. And I told him I didn't want to run for office, and I had my work and plus I had opened this missio n and my hands was full. And he stood there with tears in his eyes, pleading with me, and I say, "W ell why don't you run? I mean he could [see] the necessity of it more than I could. So when I mention the mission this is the thing that got me when I ment ion the mission he say, "B ut Mrs. Dorsett, you are only interested in people who don't have any place to sleep and food. That's all your mission will do but there are people who have plenty food and plenty of all this other stuff and they still need help. I f you are in office you can help everybody A nd that was it. He said, "A nd I'll pay for your qualifying fee A nd so I said, "W ell if you are interested." A nd then I thought about what Rev erend Eller Bansfield had been telling me. A nd he said "I f you are interested then I will. A nd so I told him I would, if he was that interested. So then I we we re to qualify he thought that I could qualify down to the courthouse. S o sure enough he told me the deadline would be 12:00 the next day ; he had that


14 inf ormation correct. But when I called down there that morning to get the papers and what have you, we found out that for the state office we had to qualify in Tallahassee. So it was utterly impossible to go to Tallahassee and get the forms filled out and g et them in by 12:00. That was in '65 [1965] so I promised him then, that the very next time they came to run, I would run.S o that's how I got involved in politics, into the running of it. OA: And you ran how many times? MD: I run at least five times. An d I'm still out here trying to encourage other people to run and still working for them. Because this is the only way that we are going to get into the main stream of things. This is the only way that we are going to become a part of things, this is the onl y key for it, is the ballot, people put into office. And what people don't I spoke here the other day and I mention it all the time because I feel that my people are not aware of it A nd now that God has used Eller Bansfield and Mr. James Marshall, Jr. to open up my eyes, I see all others so clearly A nd then it made me go back to a oration that I did when I was in high school, what Ms. Nann ie Helen Burroughs said and of course at that time, that was my first ever hearing of Nann ie Helen Burroughs' nam e I asked my teacher who was Ms. Burroughs And of course she [teacher] said, "S he was a Methodist, and you're a Baptist and you don't know who Nann ie Helen Burroughs is?" And I told her, "No ma'am, I didn't." S o she said if I was a Baptist and didn't kno w who Nann ie Helen Burroughs was then I wasn't suppose d to kno w. So she didn't even tell me. B ut that was the end of it until I met Rev erend Lowry But in my oration it say that Nann ie Helen Burroughs said that is the only way, the ballot box. So then I ti ed it all in. The ballot box Nann ie Helen Burroughs say that's the only way, the ballot box. OA: Before you ran, did any Blacks run before? MD: Yes, but nobody who ever run for the state. OA: Okay, let's get that straight what you ran for each time. M D: I ran for the state legislature, the House of Representative s OA: That was in '60 ? MD: Sixty six [1966], I was gonna run in '65 [1965] m y dates have come back I was gonna run in t hat '65 reapportionment thing. T hat [was when] Mr. Marshall came. But I didn't get a chance to run then. O h but, each every two years they run, and I was running only one man has run more than me and not got elected in Tampa.T hat's Jim Fair. I was one of the next highest. I ran at least four times for the House and one time my name was just put o n there for the election year. OA: Okay, you run for the House of Representative in District 1 ?


15 MD: I ran in District 17 mostly in District 17. S ee in the House, in the state, you can pick either one of the Houses; the s eat you wa nt to run for is not ah, cause now, like when I ran in the first time, a White businessman came to me and tried to get me not to run in District 70 because of Mr. John Children, who was running for office. See he was runnin g in the same seat and he had OA: ( inaudible ) MD: Oh, this White businessman he say Mr. John Children had started way ahead way ahead of time and he had gotten all of his literature printed up and what have you. S o this is the reason he was coming t o tell me, cause see I hadn't T ape 1, side B ends; tape 2, side A begins MD: But now with my business, as I say, I think this Black help me in that, in general, downtown I think they must feel sorry for me. Because I be struggling so hard and some of them bend over backwards to help me OA: Can I get you to another area ? During this time you were running for office, were they having a suit against the school system and they were beginning to prepare f or desegregation to some extent? I think it was around '67 [1967] ? MD: I don't know a nything about that. OA: Were you every involved when they had a struggle and getting involved with that anything in relation with the school system? MD: Not in that particular not in '67, you mean the part where they were going to OA: T hey filed a suit against Hillsborough County School System for segregated practices. MD: No, I never did get into that T he only thing that I did go around with was when they were with this integration and as far as Middleton, you know, phasing them out. OA: Could you t ell us about that or what that was like, in your opinion, of the community, how we felt and what we did right and what we did wrong ? MD: M y thing about that, I was going around filled with my ideas that the ballot is the only way and so and of course, to the meetings nobody wanted to hear me talk, because they feel that ballot is no good and it's long drawn out, so they don't want to hear. But every time, that's what I would go to the meetings and say. All this other stuff, any other way we take it, I feel is a waste of time, so you don't usually see me there. If I'm there, I'm only there to give support, to let you know that I'm in sympathy and I feel that the cause is right, but the method is all, you never hear me or see me going on a committee to ask th em people give us something and ask these people, because they aren't going to do


16 it. It's a waste of our time, we got to earn this thing, and like we say, well the ballot is no good, they gone to do what they want to, that can't be true. This is the onl y time the White man will get out with his pedestal and come and set in our homes and call us Mrs. T his and Mr. T hat A nd he becomes James or whatever his name is and his wife becomes Sally or Sue or Betty or whatever her name is ; they don't even do it o n Christmas. This is the only time and look like it would make us think that it must be something to it, this is the only time that they will come and buy us some beer or wine or give us some nasty money or in a whole or give us fish and all that, this is t he only time. And if there wasn't nothing to it, they wouldn't come by here to do it. And then by the time he gets into office, we just better call him J udge S o and S o, and Mrs. S o and So and then he forgets about it. So this should let us know that the ballot is the only way, all this other stuff, you see you got to be in a position to take these people out of office, they love this thing and you got to be in a position to take them out if they don't do what you want done. But you see, when we go down th ere to threaten them, well they know we can't threaten them, that we don't have no power. So that's what your committees and things are all about. That's th e reason you don't see me, I'm sure I wasn't in o n that. And when they having a problem and I'm ther e, if I get a chance to say something I always te l l them about voting and nobody wants to hear it, nobody wants to hear it, because they think it's off, but this is the only way, the ballot. Because God has ordained two institutions, the church to take car e of M an' s spiritual needs and the government to take care of M an' s physical needs. And so when we don't use this method, then we stay ( inaudible ) at the end of the totem pole. And I reminded t hem that we had a way to start o n this thing W e ran Mrs. [Sy lvia] Gri–‡n; did you talk to her? She ran for the S chool B oard and she came there crying one day to me, because it was I who suggested that she run and it was I who filled out her papers and notarized them, everything for her, took her down to the courtho use. But then one day, one of our leading men, she say, told her he hopes she didn't win. I understand Pat Frank, I had heard it before she told me because Deacon Allen had told me, that Pat Frank came, she had went to the same man, to ask his support for her, say he told her that he was sorry she didn't come before because he had already promised to work for her oppon ent and so he couldn't go back o n that, and she say he mention and told her that he hope Mrs. Gri–‡n didn't win. OA: What year did Mrs. Gri– ‡n ran? MD: I wouldn't know the year. I think it was about Mrs. Gri–‡n Mrs. Gri–‡n like about '68, '67, '68. OA: If you can recall who was some of the people before Mr. Hammond ran for something? MD: Uh huh, back to that. Mr. Rodriguez had run for the City Commissioner, Mr. James Hammond had run for the Election Board, and Mr. Harold Jackson had run for the


17 School Board before my time. OA: Do you remember Rev erend [C.G.] Oates running? MD: It's been since my time, but he has run twice, since my time. I was the first one to run and the first person to run for the legislature. OA: Tell me a little about the environment where Blacks would try to get together and support various candidates, whether White or Black. I remember, I recall something like one time, [C. Blythe Senior] Andrews and those got together to support, maybe [Mayor Nick] N u cc i o or [Mayor Julian] Lane. M aybe sometimes Club 77 was involved in this, that and the other, to get somebody in office. We had various groups like this working, that was set up to work to get people to support various candidates or not support them and did it amount to any kind of political muscle in terms of what we were doing? Did we have any maturity or were we just turning our own wheels? MD: We just at least the c ounty may be turning their wheels, them others be sitting down by me talking about you, but the c ounty may be spinning their wheels so to speak. One time, such a group was supposed to have been organized, I guess had run about twice, once or twice, and s o the Blacks got together, the Black fathers supposedly, got together and they said that we can put a Black in office and they were going to put two Black men in o ffice, I'm a see Mr...It came out in the [ Florida ] Sentinel [ Bulletin ] that Blythe Andrews wa s going to run for o ffice, Perry Harvey was gonna run for office, and Bob Gilder and Stewart, the four was going to run for office the next time up. Al l right, they had this committee and most of the fathers of our race, they were there, Mr. Stewart, Sr., Garland Stewart, he had just completed his house, hadn't been too long completed it. And one night I got a call about 10:00 at night and it was Deacon Allen calling me and [he] asked me if I would come out to Mr. Stewart's house T hey were having a meet ing to run somebody collectively, they were gonna the whole community was going to get behind these people. So I went out there I t was the very first time I ever saw Mr. [Warren] Dawson I saw this debonair young man and he was, ah and he had the gift of gab because I kept asking afterwards, "W ho wa s this fellow who was presiding?" H e was presiding, and he had people there like the ministers, Rev erend Lowry Rev erend Gordon A nd you had men like Mr. Perry Harvey, you had the Andrews, you had they even had my principal from Dade City, Mr. Meakin and my favorite man, Mr. Goodwin from Dade City A nd they had Lee Davis, and so many others, and Mr. Richard Pride, your principal Ben Griffin. The problem was the reason that they called me so late that everybody backed down A ll the men backed out but Mr. Stewart ; the other men were present but for some reason or other, they had an excuse for not running that particular time. And so they said, well if they just could just ge t two, and I understand my name p erhaps Deacon Allen could have brought it up, I don't know but somebody say "W ell call Mrs. Dorsett; she'll run ," and at the eleventh hour they called me and I saw the problem and said I was glad to do it if it helps the people, I was glad to do it.


18 Later, R ev erend Gordon gave me $8.00 o n my campaign because that was the first he ever given me, an d the others he didn't He told me he felt so bad to call for and hear all of them big old men all of him and all the other ones, big old husky men sitting up in the re and couldn't get but one to run for office. And then they had to call a little old woman at the eleventh hour to come, and he said I got to give you something. So he wrote me a check for $8.00. But anyway, this is what happened, so they explained to m e Mr. Dawson with this flowery tongue, they explained to me how they were going to get all the money. Dr. Brookins was the treasurer T hey was going to get all the money together, the whole community ; everybody was behind us, supporting the two of us and they were going to pull all the strings and we just dance, you know. And all the money that was raised, they were going to divide it between the two of us, Mr. Stewart and myself. And so we started to run and campaign and Mr. Dawson and those told me at on e point that for me not to use any of my own thoughts or what have you ; they pulled a string at one point of course don't you think I haven't told anybody Mr. Dawson was a stranger at that time, but these others had filled him in o n me. And he said that oh, he gave it to me I called him to see if I was supposed to try and get a campaign manager and stuff like this. He told me why no, they are going to get everything and he told me that I was going to he already knew that I always went contrary to everyb ody else. And he told me that they were going to pick the seat for me and everything, because I didn't have the background that Mr. Stewart had and they were going to give me the easier chair to fill. Because Mr. Stewart had a ll this flowery background, se e. I'm a poor little girl from Dade City, I had none of this stuff and so I said, "Y es sir, Mr. Dawson, yes. And boy he laid, he say, "N ow [you] are to do and say I know you never fall in line, but you are to fall in line and we gonna call the shots and w e gonna furnish the money, we gonna get this campaign manager and we are going to do all this stuff, and I said, "Y es sir, Mr. Dawson. And as it happened, even though they gave Mr. Stewart, Mr. Stewart got the best seat, contrary to what they had told me, he got best the one seat we like to get into, the seat with the most Whites, because that meant the votes going to have to be cut in so many places and where we Blacks can get in more. Well, seat 69 was like that, and that's the easy seat, and Mr. Man had promised me the easy seat, but Mr. Stewart got it A nd of course, to erase the guilt from his mind, he told me, Mrs. Dorsett, l et s flip coins o n it. I told him, "O h no, I'm just running for the good of the people, and quite naturally I wouldn't kn ow the better seat, because at that time he hadn't run, and that was his first try and you get experience as you go along S o I told him I was aware of that seat, but because at that time, we had about thirteen people in it. And I told him no, he keep it, we don't have to flip coins, cause I know if he flipped the coin, he would have flipped it where it was going to turn o n his end anyway a lot of people can do that kind of stuff, so why f lip a coin? I say "N o you have it." So I got in seat 70 and it onl y about two people in that seat and I would have made the


19 third. And the night oh, one time they had a meeting at Beulah and Mr. Lee Davis asked about some money that he had given Dr. Brookins to divide he had given $25.00 W ell he must had given $50.00 t o Mr. Stewart's house, and that was $25.00 he gave him another $50.00 I didn't know anything about it until Mr. Lee Davis asked in that meeting, had he given me my $25.00 A nd he hadn't ; I hadn't even heard of it and he never did he died without giving i t to me. And Mr. Lee Davis got up and he threw a mickey about not giving me my share, and then they got up, a lot of them Blythe Andrews and a lot of them got up T hey didn't think it was right to divide the money with me because I wasn't doing anything. See, wh ile they were going to the i r parties, I was ou t on the streets, I was in the b ars, I was in the gambling dens, I was up and down the streets to the people, I was out dodging trucks at the sanitation department early in the morning while everybody w as asleep from their hangovers. That's where I was. So as a results though, make a long story short, I had three or four more the times the votes, I got into the run off, than Mr. Stewart had with all of his influence. And they would have meetings, the r egular body would have meetings without my knowledge, what they would do, I later found, what they would do, they would call a meeting at 7:00 for the others, Mr. Stewart and the others, they would tell me that the meeting going to start at 9:00, so when I get to the meeting, they will have discussed all the important things, I wouldn't know what was going on. And so anyway, I still, even though Mr. Dawson had given me all his sales talk, I still went ahead and ordered my application blanks, the night bef ore the deadline the deadline was going to be the next day T hey came and asked me I'm a say they had us come to this meeting S o at the meeting I wanted to know who was my campaign manager and nobody wanted be my campaign manager, nobody Everybody was f or Mr. Stewart. T hen I remind M r. Dawson that he said he was going to get somebody ; at the eleventh hour they hadn't gotten anybody. And nobody there of the men wanted to work with me, nobody, they all wanted to be with the winner, Mr. Dawson, not Mr. Stew art, yeah, nobody. And so finally, after we say well we got to have somebody, and so then Mr. Reddick Harold Reddick s ay he would run it o n the train ; in order to fill out my form, you could put his name down as t he manager. And then Mr. Dupree say he wo n't have time to work at it, but to use his name so I can fill the form the application out I could put his name down as treasurer. But then, the next week or so Lorenzo Brown remember him ? H e's quite active too H e came and said, Mrs. Dorsett I'm goi ng to be working for you with everything I got, because I know, cause I been with them, and been a part of it I've seen and I have been impressed. Y ou have been treated awful in the meetings, and I know how they worked against you, he say before. H e was always friendly with me, and he had me bring him some literature the very first time that I ran for office


20 A nd he admitted this time, he say I have always been against woman ru nning for office, public office. I'm one of the type who feel that a woman' s place is in the kitchen, and I'll have to confess that literature that you brought me when you ran before, I threw it all in the garbage can, because I wasn't but it has been fantastic, the way they have worked against you, and you have been so humble ab out it, an d you haven't raised your voice." An d he say you, Delano got the best seat and the deadline date, sixteen people got in your, about sixteen of the, he say "T hat was enough for me. T here is something differen t about you and I'll be working." S o t hat's what he came and told me. And now, that's the reason I say most of my, most o f my problems in political and b usiness world comes usually from my own people more than from the White man. And the time before, there was one who suggested that I would go to the frontiers and get their blessing, and this I went to get their blessing and Professor Arches I call names because I'm telling the truth and because I have nothing to hide. Professor Arches kept yanking at me and I wondered why because I'd never come in contact with him. And kept saying "W e aren't going to give you this ." I told him I didn't come asking for money, I felt that the money would eventually come. But I wanted to know, since they were men of know how and experience, I came to see if th ey felt it was feasible for me to run. So he kept at it and he kept at it, and what have you, but then later, about what, three or four years hence after, that Rev erend Lowry had us come. See Rev erend Lowry had it in his mind to run for the S chool B oard before, and he had a meeting at Beulah and to see if he should Dr. Gruen was trying to influence him to run, so he wanted to see what we said and he wanted me there because I had run before. And so people like the Duprees, and Dr. Wright, and Mr. Gilder and Mr. A r ches and several of them were there to this meeting and everybody was in favor of him running until OA: I was trying to find out when was this. MD: I don't know. P erhaps it was about like '68, no oh it was '68, at least if it wasn't '68, i t w as there about. It was the sam e time that Ms. Gri–‡n ran for office ; why don't you talk to her and get that date ? Because after Rev erend Lowry didn't run, then I went to her, it was the s ame year. But then Mr. Perry Harvey, S enior, was there and he sugge sted that the time wasn't right and me and him had quite a conference, but then all the other people went o n his side, I was the only one sticking up and I told him if we weren't tried of these White people kicking us around and they do kick us around, and they kick us around now, and they are going to always kick us around until we get up and stand up like men and woman. And I told him if he wasn't tired of them kicking us around, then it wasn't time to run. But if he's tired of them kicking us around, the n it's time. But anyway, Rev erend Lowry backed out because of what Mr. Harvey said. And meanwhile Professor Arches got up in that meeting and he said that he feels that somebody should run for office who have proven themselves and they have the know how and the ability. And he says, "T hat's Mary Alice Dorsett and he walked down the


21 aisle and he say, "Y ou would have won the first election, but there was a train made up against you. Now he didn't elaborate, I have never asked him, but he did say that in the presence of all those people, Professor Arches. He got up that day and said it. OA: Who is he? MD: Professor Edward Arches ; he was principal until he resigned from Young. OA: Oh, that Arches. MD: That Arches, well in that meeting, that's what Profe ssor Arches said. He didn't elaborate as to what train or who it was, and I never went to him to ask him who it was or what he meant but he said it in that hour, in that meeting, that there was a train against me. OA: Okay, I want to ask you one other que stion. I know I got to go and pick up my wife and I think Fred got to go, I want to continue this. What would you suggest, in this day and time to young people like ourselves, who eventually have to do something more than what we are doing now ? In terms of how to move forwa rd, in terms of election politic s, I mean, how would one even began to go about it? MD: Well at this point, you know, as was saying all before, is the ballot. What you got to do is get organized, to get the whole Tampa, particularly in o ur area. These people, it's an educational process, because got us all brainwashed. See they handle everything and then tell us it's dirty A nd one of my pet things that I'm preaching against now is this minority bit. Y ou've got to firs t stop being a minor ity; you got to get out of the minority race A nd see, I never got in that race. It's a space vacant in that race, the one that they had set aside for me, cause I refused to get in it S ee, my mind is the thing, that's going to put me that race. I still maintain that I even go I wear my hair kinky too, and you see my lips, my skin, and my nose, and I maintain that I'm in the majority race, I'm in the human race. Because you see, if I get in the minority race, I could never get out because they've got bi rth control and family planning, so we can't multiply, so I can't get in no hopeless situation like that. Even though the White man say I'm in the minority race and the Black man but I know better S o that's one thing, to get everybody out of that minorit y race and then after you get out of the minority race, then you organize. And I have planned to go back in and I said it would be twenty years. Oh, we are our worst pr oblem. I have stuff, I started o n this thing see you got to do a house to house some thing, and I've been in that's the reason like what Mr. Dawson was telling me A nd the people feel that I'm offish, but you see, when I can see the problem see I'm impressed more by God than I am by M an, so it's what God would w ant me to do, rather than wh at M an would want me to do. C ause you see, M an would lead me wrong A nd see if you believe in God, you're peculiar anyway I love these people who they feel that I'm fighting I'm not fighting them, I'm trying to help them. B ut


22 I can't help them if I get into their little clique or their circle. I would have to do the same wrong things they do to be accepted in. So I've got to stay o n the outside, so I can act to the best of every body' s ability. So that's the reason I t's not that I'm, because people ca ll, White people call and tell me see I get a lot of information and they call people names to me, and they tell me what people say about people, and they say I wouldn't tell you this under ordinary conditions, but we think you are fine and we want you to watch your step, and how to protect yourself. Yeah, this is what they tell me B ut you know, we started a mass reg istration drive and the people let me tell you how it started. Dr. Hayes Mrs. Marshall had ta ken a leave of absence to work o n her docto rate degree and Dr. Hayes was in her place Tape 2, side A ends; tape 2, side B begins MD: Pa d gett and myself, so having this voter registration bit, I suggested in my first meeting that this is what we have to do S o we organized and I have some forms that I had years ago, when I used to work for when Mr. Foreman was heading up campaigns for the White man. I would take this material and put it aside to use for my people, and so that literature, the form that we use to have to go and knock o n door to doo r thing W e literally covered not those particular chairman, but the other people of the community we literally covered all of, and this Barbara Mobley h ave you heard of Barbara ? S he's fantastic. She stuck with me, we went down together. Well anyway, Ba rbara we worked with some more, literally covered every house out in Port Tampa and we were into the area of, what Lincoln Garden and what is that, Carver City or Lincoln Garden, covering those houses. Meanwhile, I was trying to find some funds for other p eople to work not for me, because I felt it was my duty and I was spending sometimes $20.00 during that time, $20.00 and $25.00, $21.00 like that, a week with my gas, carrying people to and from. But when I would ask other people about working, even old C harles Arline, he say they felt they should have been compensated for it. So it's for those people, I was looking for money, not for me. Of course, I felt that's what God had given me this change for. But anyway, the y finally got someone in here. B y this time, Mrs. Marshall had gotten back to the Urban League and Julian Bonds came in here. Now we had covered all this territory for f ree, all those who had worked. O f course some of them grumbled and they didn't come back. And when Julian Bonds and this Mr. Lewis came in, and they gave, I think it was $17,000 at the offset, a nd this was all at the Urban League this is where our group originated from, the Urban League. And do you know what the Urban League did? T hey went and got a whole group, instead of th e group that's already doing the work and doing it for free and who was dedicated, t hey got another group all together. T here were people like Judge Edgecomb, who got up and said I think it's wrong to do this, why not give the money to the group who is


23 a lready doing the job?" Mr. Dudey Richardson, oh that's another name, have y' a ll talked to him? Mr. Dudey Richardson fought it, Mr. Millner fought it a Black man B ut the Urban League went right o n and they would tell falsehoods T hey would call me names, and would tell Barbara Barbara was like my right hand during that time, and so they tried to win Barbara over. And so Barbara said she would go in and she say, "W hat about Mrs. Dorsett?" T hey pretend that I had said I didn't want to bother, and I didn't k now anything about it. But this is what happened A nd then they put a White young lady over it and it was right after the uprising here, and they were already scared of us. And here they were, even more afraid and she was even afraid to go into anybody house, to go into the area. B ut this is who Mrs. Marshall saw fit to head it up. And then would tell her to call me because I had the know how. And of course, I would tell her since she's heading it, whatever she wanted me to do, I would do it. I will stil l working in the afternoon with them and it just frizzed out and nothing was done I even turned in all my lists to the Urban League, so that they wouldn't have to go over that same, all that literature I gave to the Urban League. OA: So you would suggest that we try to get organized and start a mass voter registration drive, and start from there and everything else would fall in place. MD: A mass registration drive and education for our people A nd as I say, as I go around, I try to encourage people abou t this minority bit and plus the ballot and in the churches I tell them that, and politic s is only the science of government ; it's nothing dirty about that W hat makes it dirty is that dirty people handle it and clean people have refused to do their duty that's the only thing that makes politics dirty. It's negligence o n clean peoples' part and I tried to show the I was to a holiness church, what, last Sunday and I don't know their opinion because most of the churches here, you don't say it but I said it because I feel that God would want me to say it And as I told them, all these B iblical [people] that we idealize, they would be known as politicians if they were here to day. Moses, we talk about Moses. W hy Moses wasn't in the ch urch praying while God told him to go to Pharaoh that's the gover nment. He would be a politician; he was dealing in government stuff and "L et my people go. We talk about the three Hebrew boys and put them in the fiery place why, they weren't in the church when they refuse d to e at the candy, they were in the government. So this is the type I feel that our people need to be retrained, so it's going to be a slow process, but it's a worthy process. And we need to be enlightened and it would be done by the ballot and by people goi ng out and sitting down talking to these people, so it can be done. See my thing was to try to get and o f course, everybody get with it. I n fact I went to the NAACP and I'm always offering my service to help with voter registration drives I went there t o the NAACP and told Ms. Sa u nders and so she told me that good, Mr. Allen A nd I got in touch with Mr. Allen and then he said well they were going to start later o n with something like that. Oh, there was another thing see I can talk o n and on.


24 OA: Yeah, see we need to [have] a second session and we need to schedule it right now, cause we don't want it to stop; we want to get as much as possible. MD: I was into this organization o n Black affairs. Did anybody tell you about this organizat ion o n Black affa irs? That was one that was supposed to be organized to take care of the commun ity, the problems of the Black c ommunity R eally it came about because at that time, I was very active with the League of Wom e n Voters and they was trying to revise the charter, the Tampa charter and they had all that stuff practically against the Black man G oing around with them I could hear and we used to have these sessions to let you know what they think about the Black wome n. We had a hearing at the County Commission of fic e once and all the Black wome n were against this charter. But when we all went down to this County Commissioner s, this session, the White woman got up and made the report and they say it was unanimous, it was the consensus S o that means that they don't e ven count us, so they had a luncheon out in Davis Island at 12:00 and they had some of the representatives. Well I was the only Black to that luncheon and then they talked about it. In other words, I came back trying to see what I could do in my little way, since they don't count me anyway, to try to enlighten my people and alert my people. So I came back by the this place, the Longshor eman's to Mr. Perry Harvey, Senior. W e always had a run in, but if I figure he can help, I'd go right back. So I went ba ck there, I went to him and I explained what was happening, and what have you, and this was wrong. And he said, "W ell we ll call a meeting ." I called a meeting, so he did, but what I wanted was some money to get some literature to pass out and to alert th e people, and so he called this meeting. And then I'll this was born later on, this thing on Black organization on Black affairs The first president, and the only president we met at the Longshoreman's hall until Perry Harvey, J unior, said we were just wasting up electricity and stuff and so we had we started meeting to the Sugar Shack. Judge Edgecomb at the time he wasn't judge ; he became judge later on but soon fizzled out like everything else fizzle out. But then what I did do, of course Mr. Perry Har vey did get the material, did get my material printed up and we did get it out, but before they got around, because they didn't want to put their material out until the day before the election A nd with my people not being aware, they needed more time and of course, we had an argument o n that in one of the meeting. I'm always arguing with them, but anyway the way I decided to get some literature to put out I thought about going to an opponent against the two, because they were against for another reason, but nevertheless they were still against this charter, and I found coming down, going down, what, Tampa Street, over there by this dome parking lot, there was a little place in there, and they had a big sign out [saying] Defeat the Charter, and I went i n there and told them I was against the charter and if they had some material to give me so gladly loaded me up and he put, and gave me a car top and all kinds of material. And at one meeting at Blake, Mrs. Harmon told me that Pat Frank say that the months that they had put in defeating that, getting that charter, I tore it down in one night.


25 end of interview