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University of California Berkeley 

Regional Oral History Office University of California 

The Bancroft Library Berkeley, California 

University of California Black Alumni Series 

Lionel Wilson 

With an Introduction by 
Professor Edward J . Blakely 

Interviews Conducted by 

Gabrielle Morris 

in 1985, 1990 

Copyright (c) 1992 by The Regents of the University of California 

Since 1954 the Regional Oral History Office has been interviewing leading 
participants in or well-placed witnesses to major events in the development of 
Northern California, the West, and the Nation. Oral history is a modern research 
technique involving an interviewee and an informed interviewer in spontaneous 
conversation. The taped record is transcribed, lightly edited for continuity 
and clarity, and reviewed by the interviewee. The resulting manuscript is typed 
in final form, indexed, bound with photographs and illustrative materials, and 
placed in The Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley, and 
other research collections for scholarly use. Because it is primary material, 
oral history is not intended to present the final, verified, or complete 
narrative of events. It is a spoken account, offered by the interviewee in 
response to questioning, and as such it is reflective, partisan, deeply involved, 
and irreplaceable. 


All uses of this manuscript are covered by a legal agreement 
between The Regents of the University of California and Lionel 
Wilson dated August 29, 1990. The manuscript is thereby made 
available for research purposes. All literary rights in the 
manuscript, including the right to publish, are reserved to The 
Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley. No part 
of the manuscript may be quoted for publication without the written 
permission of the Director of The Bancroft Library of the University 
of California, Berkeley. 

Requests for permission to quote for publication should be 
addressed to the Regional Oral History Office, 486 Library, 
University of California, Berkeley 94720, and should include 
identification of the specific passages to be quoted, anticipated 
use of the passages, and identification of the user. The legal 
agreement with Lionel Wilson requires that he be notified of the 
request and allowed thirty days in which to respond. 

It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows: 

Lionel Wilson, "Attorney, Judge, and 
Oakland Mayor," an oral history conducted 
in 1985 and 1990 by Gabrielle Morris, 
Regional Oral History Office, The Bancroft 
Library, University of California, 
Berkeley, 1992. 

Copy no. 

San Francisco Examiner 
January 29, 1998 

Lionel Wilson, tenacious builder 
and Oakland's first black mayor 

A giant in ... law 
and politics,' says 
political successor 

By Zachary Coile 


Friends and political rivals, for 
mer staffers and family members 
mourned the passing of Lionel Wil 
son, the soft-spoken former judge 
who dominated Oakland politics 
for more than a decade as the city's 
first black mayor. 

Mr. Wilson, who warily agreed 
to run for mayor in 1977 and was 
even more reluctant to leave the 
post 14 years later, died Friday at 
his Oakland home after a 10- 
month battle with cancer. He was 

A centrist who sought unity 
above party politics, the three- 
term Democratic mayor was re 
membered for breaking color barri 
ers and for his devotion to building 
Oakland's skyline. 

Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris, 
who defeated him in a three-way 
race in 1991, praised his predecess- , 
or for opening up politics to minor 
ity politicians in the East Bay. 

'^Lionel Wilson, a giant both in 
law and politics, blazed trails over 
which many have followed, includ 
ing myself," Harris said in a state 
ment. "This is a tremendous loss 
for the city." ; 

A highly private man, Mr. Wil 
son kept his illness hidden from all 
but his closest friends. His wife of 
many years, Dorothy, didn't an 
nounce his death, and some friends 
and family members found out 
about his passing through media 
inquiries. ,. 

The Alarneda County coroner's 
office said the death was reported 
by his doctor Wednesday. He will 
be cremated Feb. 3. 

Athletic, political skills 

Born in New Orleans, he moved 
as a toddler to Oakland, a city that 
was almost as segregated as the 
South his parents left behind. A 
gifted student, he graduated from 
McClymonds High School in West 
Oakland at age 16. 

Early on he showed an athletic 
prowess that belied his lean, 5-foot- 
7-inch frame. He played semi-pro 
basketball and two years of Negro 
League baseball. His brother Har 
old said a New York Yankees scout 
told him Lionel would have been 
signed by the team but for one fact 
his race. 

He later attended UC-Berkeley, 
where he earned bachelor's and 
master's degrees in economics be 
fore serving as an officer in the 
U.S. Army Air Corps in North Af 
rica and Europe. 

After graduating from Hastings 
College of Law, he became a civil 
rights lawyer. In 1960, he was ap 
pointed Alameda County's first 
black Municipal Court judge by 
Gov. Pat Brown. Four years later, 
he broke new ground again- as the 
county's first black Superior Court 

Though initially reluctant, he 
was drafted into politics in 1977 in 
an attempt to wrest control of City 
Hall away from conservatives led 
by the powerful Knowland family, 
the one-time owners of the Oak 
land Tribune. He was swept into 
office by an odd coalition that in 
cluded white liberals, Black Pan 
ther members and labor and busi 
ness interests. 

He immediately set out to rally 
a diverse community around a sin 
gle goal: rebuilding the city, espe 
cially the downtown. With a talent 
for attracting federal aid, he began 
a construction spree that included 
a new City Center complex and the 
Convention Center. 

"I think Lionel will be remem 
bered for setting a pace, for being 
an African American man who 
broke color lines as Oakland's first 
black mayor, and for getting the 
development of downtown going 
again," said Wilson Riles Jr., a for 
mer Oakland councilmember. 

Strong leader during '89 quake 

The most pressing crisis of his 
office came during the 1989 Loma 
Prieta quake, which flattened 
much of Interstate 880 in West 
Oakland, killing 42 commuters. 

"He was very much in charge, 
making sure assistance was being 
given to those who needed it," said 
Bill Patterson, a friend and consul 
tant to Mr. Wilson. "He had al 
ready laid the groundwork for uni 
ty (in the city), and the people 
rallied around him." 

He lost in a mayoral primary in 
1992, mostly because of concerns 
about his age and his costly and 
unsuccessful bid to force the Los 
Angeles Raiders to return to Oak 

Supervisor Mary King, bis one 
time chief of staff who was chair of 
his last two campaigns, 'remem 
bered that while she. and others, 
wept, the mayor was stone-faced in 

defeat '''- : ' -''T^-*' 

"He was like Muhammad All, 

King said. "You never want to see 
him lose a fight Maybe he fought 
one too many." ^ . 

In addition to his wife, he is 
: survived by his brothers, Harold,; 
Kermit, Julius and Warren; sister, 
Marie Anderson; sons, Robin, Lio 
nel Jr. and Stephen; and several 
grandchildren. Services are being 

Lionel Wilson / 
Ex-Mayor of 
Oakland, Dies 

First black to hold post, 
he served three terms 

By Rick DelVecchio 
Chronicle StqffWriter 

Former Oakland Mayor Lionel 
Wilson, a fiery competitor and 
compassionate judge who brought 
justice and opportunity to black 
residents who had felt shut out for 
has died at his 

Wilson, Oak 
land's first 
black mayor, 
was 82 and had 
been suffering 
from cancer. 

Wilson had Lionel Wilson 
not discussed his health even with 
close friends and family members, 
who were shocked yesterday when 
they got the news from the Alame- 
da County Sheriff's Department 

Sergeant Jim Knudsen said a 
copy of a death certificate filed 
with the coroner's office showed 
that Wilson died of cancer Friday 
in his Montclair district home. 

Wilson was born hi New Orle 
ans on March 4, 1915, and moved to 
Oakland with his*family when he 
was 3. His career was shaped by 
the discrimination he experienced 
as a talented black man growing 
up in an era of segregation. 

He was an excellent tennis, 
baseball and basketball player, but 
his athletic prime came a decade 

San Francisco Chronicle 
January 29, 1998 

page 1 of /? 
From Page 1 

before Jackie Robinson broke the 
color barrier, and he was denied 
opportunities in major league pro 
fessional sports. 

Instead, he graduated from the 
University of California at Berke 
ley, earned a degree from Hastings 
College of the Law and became a 
civil rights lawyer. In 1960, he be 
came Alameda County's first black 
judge when Governor Edmund G. 
(Pat) Brown appointed him to the 

He was elected to the first of 
his three terms as mayor in 1977, 
ending a long reign of Republican 
control of Oakland City Hall. It was 
a turning point in Oakland's politi 
cal history, coming at a time when 
whites were fleeing the city and 
blacks energized by the civil rights 
and anti-war movements were de 
manding a role in decision-mak 

As mayor, he was a pioneer for 
affirmative action in local govern 
ment, and used his skills as a nego 
tiator to make a mark on the city's 
economy the skyline of down 
town Oakland, though still incom 
plete, is largely a result of his de 
velopment and economic policies. 

Tide Turned Against Him 

Wilson easily won re-election in 
1981 and 1985 but failed badly in 
his bid for a fourth term, f inishing 
third in the primary in 1990. In 
part, he was defeated by the costs 
of his aggressive economic advoca 
cy, as residents became irate over 
subsidies for downtown develop 
ment and the city's pro sports 

Perhaps the greatest political 
damage to Wilson came at the 
hands of Raiders boss Al Davis. Af 
ter the Raiders moved to Los Ange 
les in 1982, Oakland sued to take 
over the franchise on the grounds 
that the team was vital to the city's 
economy. The novel angle proved 
a loser in court, and the city had to 
put up millions in legal fees. 

in 1989, Wilson supported, a 
plan to lure back the Raiders with 
taxpayer subsidies. A powerful cit 
izen backlash scuttled the deal. 

"I think people will 
Lionel's mayoralty as a transition 
period," said former City Manager 
Henry Gardner. "It was a transi 
tion as far as what was happening 
in the political culture. But Lionel 
was hardly a transition mayor. He 
was very clear about what his 
agenda was. He had very strong 
feelings about the importance of 
opening City Hall to minorities and 
women, and all minorities, not just 
African Americans." 

Wilson was a centrist who 
brought to politics the old-fash 
ioned values bred into him from 
his West Oakland childhood. He 
got along with the local kids who . 
had become radicalized and 
formed the Black Panther Party. 
As the head of a local anti-poverty 
program in the 1960s, he helped fu 
ture party co-founder Bobby Scale 
get a job at the agency. 

And he mixed equally well 
with business leaders who repre 
sented the old guard. Wilson was 
as concerned with the city's deteri 
orating economy as with civil 
rights and affirmative action. 

An estimated $1 billion worth 
of construction came during his 
term, and another $1 billion was 
planned. Landmarks of the Wilson 
era include the City Center com 
plex, a downtown hotel and con 
vention center and new federal 
and state office buildings. 

Praise From Friends, Foel& W 

"He was certainly ( a i^ial; leald-^' 
er for Oakland," said <3outicilman 1 ; 
Dick Specs, a conservative by Oak^ 1 
land standards who was often at 
odds with Wilson. "He was a per 
son who was very progressive in 
his politics and his personal belief 

r ' .. ,.:,.-;. ...i*T:':. SMMMVMftVl ' 

San Francisco Chronicle 
January 29, 1998 
page 2 of 3 

system, but at the same time he 
was moderate and even conserva 
tive in regard to finances." 

Wilson pushed his policies 
through despite operating under 
Oakland's "weak mayor" form of 
government, in which the mayor is 
but one vote on the nine-member 
City Council. His job was to line up 
a five-vote majority, and col 
leagues said he never gaveled open 
a public meeting without knowing 
the score beforehand. 

"That's why he'd sit there like a 
judge," said West Oakland activist 
Paul Cobb. "He didn't worry. 
There were no surprises on the 

Former Councilwoman Mary. 
Moore, who was first elected on 
Wilson's slate in 1977, said Wilson 
could be jealous of competitors or 
bored with the details of the job, 
but his brains and compassion 
shone through. 

Reaching Out to Crass Roots 

"All the people who came from 
that generation had to be super 
people to start with," she said. "Ba 
sically, he had real strong, clear 
values. .7. 1 would say they were 
old-fashioned liberal values. He 
had a tremendous f eeling for ordi 
nary people." 

Toni Adams, a former Wilson 
staffer; , told of ^the day ; a felon 
whom Wilson had sent to prison as 
a judge came to visit him. / 

"He just came in to say how im 
portant he (Wilson) was hi his life, 
even though he had thrown him in 
jail," Adams said. "He said (Wilson) 
talked to him like a man and 
helped him understand what was 

Wilson loved such encounters 

and remained in Oakland despite 

opportunities to make a name for 

himself elsewhere. He turned 

" . -.'.-' 

down a chance to be appointed to 
the state Supreme Court before 
running for mayor, a part-time job 
that paid $15,000. 

In a statement yesterday, for 
mer Black Panther leaders David 
Hilliard and Elaine Brown remem 
bered their old ally with affection. 

"Lionel Wilson's bailiff asked 
him one day in that last year he 
was on the Alameda County Supe 
rior Court bench where he had 
gotten the cigars. 'Huey Newton 
sent them to me from Cuba,' he 
told us was his reply. We all howl 
ed many tunes over the plain 

truth This was Lionel Wilson. 

He was everything he said he was, 
even if he didn't seem to be. He 
believed in truth, and in love, and 
in freedom." 

Struggle With Falling Health 

Friends said Wilson was proud 
of his athleticism and became up 
set in recent years when his body 
began to fail. They were disturbed, 
but not surprised, that the man 
who had, given his life to public 
service elected to end it privately, 
with only his wife, Dorothy, shar 
ing the experience. 

"They wanted some peaceful 
time together," said Bill Patterson, 
one of Wilson's closest friends. 
"His life had always been public. , 
Dorothy paid the price for that, be 
cause he was always out there in 
the community he loved." 

In addition to his wife, Wilson 
is survived by three sons, Lionel B. 
Wilson and Steven Wilson of Oak 
land and Robin Wilson of Sacra 
mento; brothers Harold, Kermit 
and Warren Wilson, all of Oak 
land, and Julius Wilson of Castro 
Valley; and a sister, Marie Ander 
son of San Leandro. 

Funeral arrangements have 


not been set. 

San Francisco Chronicle 
January 29, 1998 
page 3 of 3 


Wilson's election in 1977 as Oak 
land's first African American mayor 
united liberals and blacks who had 
chafed under the city's Republican- 
dominated City Hall. 

Wilson was a popular mayor dur 
ing the first two of his three terms. 
Both supporters and adversaries 
credited him with increasing the par 
ticipation of women and minorities in 
city government With a low tax base 
and the limitations imposed by 
Proposition 13, Oakland pioneered 
creative financing deals to raise 
money, including selling and leasing 
back its public buildings. 

Oakland's downtown skyline was 
shaped in part by Wilson's policies. 
He won a battle with then-San Fran 
cisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein for a 
huge federal complex that brought 
more than 4,000 government work- 

Wilson sworn in as new mayor 

ers to Oakland. But failures and de 
lays in numerous other downtown 
projects came to haunt Wilson, and 
by the end of his tenure in 1991 the 
city's main street, Broadway, was 
pockmarked by defunct and strug 
gling businesses. 

Wilson was a former professional 
baseball player and avid sports fan. 

He fought a long, costly and ulti 
mately losing battle to keep the 
Raiders from relocating to Los Ange 
les, and he engineered a $15 million 
loan to keep the A's in town. In his 
third term he supported a $600 mil 
lion offer to bring the Raiders back 
to Oakland, but dropped the effort 
amid a popular revolt 

When crack cocaine and associat 
ed violence swept the city in the late 
1980s, critics grumbled that Wilson 
had lost touch. At one memorable 
incident in 1987, a crowd of 2,000 
people jeered the absent mayor in a 
meeting called by the powerful Oak 
land Community Organizations. 

Oakland's mayor is now a full-time, 
$80,000-a-yearjob thanks to a bal 
lot measure Wilson offered up in 
1988. When he took office, it was a 
part-time post that "paid $15,000. 


P R I L 22, 

A father ; 
who keep music 
alive in The City 

Nicaragua at 
the turning point 

Culinary secrets 
of Marin County 


Oakland Mayor 
Lionel Wilson 


Cataloging Information 

Lionel Wilson (b. 1915) Attorney, mayor 

Attorney. Judge, and Oakland Mayor. 1992, viii, 104 pp. 

Education at UC Berkeley, 1932-1938 and Hastings College of the Law, 1946- 
1949; US Army service, 1942-1945; NAACP and other civic leadership 
positions; Oakland Economic Development Commission and Corporation; Alameda 
County municipal and superior court judgeships; election campaigns, 1945- 
1988; service as mayor of Oakland, California, 1977-1990, including 
reference to Port of Oakland, Raiders football team and other urban issues. 

Introduction by Edward J. Blakely, Department of City and Regional 
Planning, UC Berkeley. 

Interviewed 1985 and 1990 by Gabrielle Morris for the University of 
California Black Alumni Project. The Regional Oral History Office, The 
Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley. 


The Regional Oral History Office wishes to express its thanks 

to the following individuals and organizations 

whose encouragement and support have made possible 

the University of California Black Alumni Series 

Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. 
Rho Chapter and Alpha Nu Omega Chapter 


Robert Beck, in memory of Catherine Harroun 
Black Alumni Club, University of California 

Ruth C. Chance 
Chancellor's Office, University of California, Berkeley 

W. Russell Ellis, Jr. 

William Alexander Gerbode Foundation 

Marvin and Arlene Poston 

Norvel and Mary Smith 

Morris Stulsaft Foundation 

Ruth Teiser, in memory of James T. Abaj ian 

Ernst D. and Eleanor Slate Van Loben Sels Foundation 

TABLE OF CONTENTS --Lionel Wilson 


INTRODUCTION- -by Professor Edward J. Blakely iv 



Boyhood in Oakland 1 
College Years 5 
Discrimination; Passing for White 6 
University of California, Berkeley, 1932-1939, Sports and 9 


Brothers and World War II 13 

Re-election Campaign of 1985 17 

Hastings Law School, 1947-1950 20 
Studying and Working 21 
Passing the Bar Exam 22 
Establishing a Law Practice 24 

East Bay Democratic Club; Career Options 26 
Concerns for Social Justice 29 
NAACP Legal Redress Committee 30 
Campaigns for Berkeley City Council, 1953 and 1955; More on 31 

Oakland 1985 Campaign 

More About Berkeley Campaings 33 

Opening a Joint Practice with Carl Metoyer and Wilmont Sweeney 34 

Appointment Considerations 36 
Living in Berkeley and Oakland; Municipal Court, 1960-1965 39 
Impact of National Sports and Budget Decisions 41 
Superior Court Pre -Trial Release Program 42 

A Problem with Mayor Houlihan's Appointments 44 
From the Ford Foundation Grey Areas Program to the Economic 46 

Opportunity Act 

Lively District Meetings 48 

Relationship with City Government 49 




Campaign for Mayor, 1976-1977 


New Oakland Committee 


Campaign Organization 


State Political Figures 


Offer of Appointment to the State Court of Appeal 





Responsibilities and Accomplishments 


Oakland Raiders 


Port of Oakland 


Regional Government 


Advice to Young People 


More About the Raiders 







A. "Wilson Tells Plans," Oakland Tribune. May 19, 1977 


B. "Pros Elected Wilson Mayor," Oakland Tribune. 


May 22, 1977 

C. "Huey's Bad Timing," Oakland Tribune . July 10, 1977 


D. "Why Riley Decided to Resign," Oakland Tribune . 


February 22, 1978 

E. "The People Around Lionel Wilson," Oakland Tribune. 


February 27, 1978 

F. "Lionel Wilson's Outer Circle," Oakland Tribune . 


February 28, 1978 

G. "Jesse Jackson's 'Neutrality' Angers Oakland Candidate," 


San Francisco Chronicle . December 14, 1984 

H. "Oakland Mayor's Anti-drug Plan," San Francisco Examiner . 


December 30, 1984 

I. "The Assault on Pax Wilsona," East Bay Express . 


January 23, 1987 

J. "A Show of Pride," San Francisco Examiner Image Magazine, 


April 22, 1990 

K. "Undaunted, Lionel Wilson Faces Toughest Election Fight," 


Oakland Tribune . May 16, 1990 

L. "Wilson Leaves Oakland a Much-changed City," San Francisco 


Examiner. December 30, 1990 

M. "Wilson Won't Fight to Stay on Rent Board," San Francisco 


Chronicle. August 13, 1991 

INDEX 102 


In America education has long been an important avenue of 
opportunity. From our earliest years young people and their families 
have looked to the nation's colleges and universities to provide the 
knowledge and experience that will enable the new generation to take its 
place in the world of work and government and creative activity. In 
turn, one measure of the quality of American universities and colleges is 
the breadth and diversity of their students, including how well they 
reflect the mix of social, racial, and economic backgrounds that make up 
the communities from which they come and in which they will take part as 
graduates . 

On the West Coast, the University of California at Berkeley has from 
its beginnings in the 1860s welcomed the sons and daughters of small 
farmers and shopkeepers, railroad workers and laborers, as well as the 
children of lawyers and doctors, corporate executives, from many ethnic 
and racial groups. About 1915, as far as we know, the first black 
students enrolled at Berkeley, pioneers of yet another group of Americans 
eager to seek the best in higher education and to broaden their 
participation in the life of California and the nation. 

Those first black students to come to Cal were indeed on their own, 
with few fellow black students and no special programs or black faculty 
to guide them or serve as role models. During the Great Depression of 
the 1930s a few more came, maybe a hundred at a time in all. The 
education benefits of the G.I. Bill for men and women who did military 
service during World War II opened the doors to many more black students 
to attend Cal in the late 1940s and early 1950s. A census taken in 1966 
counted 226 black students, 1.02 percent of all the students at Berkeley. 
By the fall of 1988, there were 1,944 black graduate and undergraduate 
students, 6.1 percent of the student body. With changing population and 
immigration patters in recent years, as well as active campus recruiting 
programs, for the first time there is not a single majority ethnic group 
in the entire undergraduate student body at Berkeley. 

Looking back from the 1990s, those early trailblazers are very 
special. Though few in number, a large percentage of them have gone on 
to distinguished careers. They have made significant contributions in 
economics, education, medicine, government, community service, and other 


fields. It is fitting that a record of their initiative and energy be 
preserved in their own accounts of their expectations of the University 
of California, their experiences as students there, and how these 
experiences shaped their later lives. Their stories are a rich part of 
the history of the University. 

Since 1970, the University has sought to gather information on this 
remarkable group of students, as noted in the following list of oral 
histories. In 1983, the UC Black Alumni Club and University officials 
began planning an organized project to document the lives and 
accomplishments of its black graduates. In order to provide scholars 
access to the widest possible array of data the present series includes 
oral histories conducted for Regional Oral History Office projects on 
California Government History Documentation and the History of Bay Area 
Philanthropy, funded by various donors. 

With the advice and assistance of the Black Alumni Club, and the 
support of other alumni and friends of the University, the Regional Oral 
History Office of The Bancroft Library is tape-recording and publishing 
interviews with representative black alumni who attended Cal between the 
years 1920 and 1956. As a group, these oral histories contain research 
data not previously available about black pioneers in higher education. 
As individuals, their stories offer inspiration to young people who may 
now be thinking of entering the University. 

The Regional Oral History Office was established in 1952 to tape 
record autobiographical interviews with persons significant in the 
history of California and the West. The Office is under the 
administrative direction of The Bancroft Library and Willa Baum, Division 
Head. Copies of all interviews in the series are available for research 
use in The Bancroft Library and UCLA Department of Special Collections. 
Selected interviews are also available at other manuscripts depositories. 

Gabrielle Morris, Director 

University of California Black Alumni Project 

Willa K. Baum, Division Head 
Regional Oral History Office 

October 1991 

Regional Oral History Office 

The Bancroft Library 

University of California, Berkeley 


Interviews completed or in process as of September 1991 
Allen Broussard, On the California Courts, in process. 

Walter Gordon, Athlete. Officer in Law Enforcement and Administration. Governor 
of the Virgin Islands. 1980.* 

Ida Jackson, Overcoming Barriers in Education. 1990. 

John Miller, "Issues of Criminal Justice and Black Politics in California," in 
Legislative Issue Management and Advocacy. 1961-1974. 1983.* 

Charles Patterson, On Oakland Economic Development and Philanthropy, in process.* 
Tarea Hall Pittman, NAACP Official and Civil Rights Worker. 1974.* 
Marvin Poston, Making Opportunities in Vision Care. 1989. 

Emmett J. Rice, Education of an Economist: From Fulbright Scholar to the Federal 
Reserve Board. 1951-1979. 1991. 

William Byron Rumford, Legislator for Fair Employment. Fair Housing, and Public 
Health. 1973.* 

Lionel Wilson, Attorney. Judge, and Oakland Mayor. 1992. 

*Interviews conducted for other Regional Oral History Office projects, funded 
by various donors. 


INTRODUCTION- -by Professor Edward J. Blake ly 

Who is the hero of our time? If there is a hero of our time, he or 
she would have to come from Oakland. Nowhere in America has a city 
presented so many options, opportunities, and challenges as this city on 
San Francisco Bay. One person in our time- -Lionel Wilson- -personifies 
all of the city's glory and its pain. 

Lionel is a true son of Oakland. As in so many cases, his character 
was molded on the playing fields of Oakland. Those playing fields 
presented him with the most fundamental challenges for using all of his 
abilities to work effectively with others to forge victory. Oakland's 
playing fields taught him that it was not color nor family wealth but 
character that shaped opportunity. This view from Oakland shaped his 
view of the world. 

I have known and seen Oakland through the eyes of Oakland's hero, 
Lionel Wilson, for over a quarter of a century. I have known him as a 
friend and colleague, working on linking the University of California at 
Berkeley to the Oakland community. When I was a student at Berkeley in 
the early sixties, Lionel Wilson inspired me to devote my time and 
energies to working with him on youth and community issues in Oakland. 
He recognized the enormous power of the university as a force for 
positive change. It had changed his life chances and he felt it could 
change those of others. We worked together on how to make the entire 
institution feel this responsibility. 

Over the years, we kept working on this same problem from different 
perspectives. After Lionel Wilson's inauguration as mayor in 1977, one 
of his first acts was to call upon me to develop a formal program that 
linked the university and the city. We worked together for twelve years 
hammering out one of the most successful partnerships in the nation 
between a major research university and a city. This partnership is a 
symbol of Lionel's vision. It is this vision and determination that 
makes the stuff of heroes. He has become more heroic throughout our long 
friendship. His heroism emerged from the fate of the community. 

As Oakland grew in the postwar era, Lionel Wilson served it as a 
young student leader and later attorney. As the community became 
engulfed in social strife, he was there to calm the antagonists and win 
the hearts of the most disenfranchised groups with his persistence in 
their behalf. As the community matured and needed leadership, he was 

there to serve as a superior court judge. When Oakland needed someone to 
forge a new coalition against the ravages of poverty, he was there to 
lead the effort. As the community made its transition from leadership of 
the elite to leadership based in the community, he was asked to serve as 
mayor. He brought world leaders to share in Oakland's renaissance and 
brought the University of California's headquarters back to its historic 
venue on Lake Merritt. 

In essence, Lionel Wilson has made the community of Oakland live up 
to its promise to him and, thereby, to all of its citizens. He has made 
Oakland the center of his life and, in doing so, he has pushed and pulled 
many lives to give more to their community than they could have ever 
anticipated. He has done this by his example, his leadership, and his 
attention to people. His view of the world starts with how he can serve, 
not what he can get. These are the qualities of a hero. Certainly, 
Lionel Wilson is Oakland's hero, if not the hero for all of us in these 

Edward J . Blakely 

September 1991 
Berkeley, California 

Edward J . Blakely is professor of City and Regional Planning at the 
University of California. He is the executive director of the 
University-Oakland Metropolitan Forum, a partnership between the 
University of California at Berkeley, Mills College, Holy Names College, 
Hayward State University, and the Peralta Community Colleges. He 
received his master's degree in history at Berkeley in 1963 and his 
doctorate from UCLA. He received the San Francisco Foundation Award in 
1990 for his services to the Bay Area. He has been a friend and advisor 
to Lionel Wilson since 1962. 



Lionel Wilson is one of those whom The Bancroft Library most wished 
to interview for its project on the accomplishments of early 
African- American alumni of the university, A 1939 graduate of the 
Berkeley campus and 1949 graduate of Hastings College of Law, Lionel 
Wilson went on to become, in 1960, one of the first persons of his race 
to be appointed to the bench in California and, in 1977, the first 
minority mayor of Oakland, a city of 385,000. 

Five interviews were recorded between January 1985 and August 1990. 
The first was conducted in the formal, dark-panelled mayor's office in 
the neoclassical 1920s Oakland City Hall, and the later ones in 
streamlined contemporary quarters across the street where city 
administrative offices were moved when City Hall was declared unsafe- - 
symbolic of the condition of much municipal infrastructure of the period. 
The sessions were sandwiched in among the mayor's numerous managerial and 
political responsibilities, with a hiatus in 1986-1987 while Wilson 
recovered from a spell of heart trouble. 

Although brief, Mayor Wilson's comments provide insight on a 
dramatic period in the history of Oakland and illuminate the problems and 
promise of the complex urban issues of the 1960s -1980s. Wilson's 
narrative recalls his experience at the heart of self-help efforts that 
created a sizable and viable black political structure in the East Bay, 
resulting in a shift of the city's leadership from primarily downtown 
business executives to community-based multicultural spokespersons. 
Interestingly, he mentions several traditional corporate figures as 
taking the lead in broadening representation in city decisionmaking. 

The success of the movement is reflected in his comments on being a 
pioneer on the Alameda County courts, appointment to increasingly 
important civic committees, and leadership of a vigorous and 
controversial local antipoverty program. A possible clue to Wilson's 
style can be found in recurring references throughout the interview to 
his love of sports. As Professor Edward Blakely notes in his 
introduction to the oral history, the mayor has been active in 
competitive sports since schooldays. In 1991, Wilson is reported to 
continue to challenge all comers on the tennis court. Wilson is of 
medium build and speaks softly but, as he speaks of his long defense of 
Oakland as home base for the Raiders football team, one senses that he is 
a tough competitor who does not give up easily. 


Thanks are due to Oakland Tribune librarian Yae Shinomiya for her 
friendly efficiency in providing access to the paper's clip files on 
Mayor Wilson, which were invaluable in preparing for the interviews. The 
interview tapes were transcribed and lightly edited in the Regional Oral 
History Office and sent to Judge Wilson for review in April 1991, after 
his retirement as mayor. He read it over carefully and corrected names 
and dates as required. 

Gabrielle Morris 

Interviewer- Editor 

Regional Oral History Office 

March 1992 

Regional Oral History Office 

University of California, Berkeley 


BRIEF BIOGRAPHY- -Lionel Wilson 

1915 Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Jules and Louise Wilson 
1918 Wilson family moved to Oakland 

1932 Graduated from McClymonds High School with honors, worked as a 
newspaper boy 

1939 B.A., economics, University of California, Berkeley; student 

employment as a porter, dishwasher, and sugar factory laborer; 
played semi-professional baseball and basketball 

1940-1942 Maintenance worker at Alameda Naval Air Station; recreation 
staff, North Oakland YMCA 

1943-1946 First sergeant, U.S. Army in Europe 

1946-1949 University of California, Hastings College of Law 

1950 Began law practice with George Vaughns in Oakland; president, 
Berkeley NAACP; board member, South Berkeley YMCA 

1953 Ran for Berkeley City Council with Ura Harvey, candidate for 
Berkeley school board 

1955 Ran for Berkeley City Council, with Vivian 0. Marsh, planning 
commissioner and past president State Association of Colored 

1959 Metoyer, Wilson, and Wilmont Sweeney form new law firm; elected 
president revived East Bay Democratic Club; secretary, 
Berkeley-Albany Bar Association 

1960 Appointed to Oakland Municipal Court by Governor Edmund G. 
Brown, Sr.; named vice chairman of [Oakland] Public Advisory 
Committee on Education 

1964 Appointed to Alameda County Superior Court by Governor Brown; 
named to Oakland Museum board; opposed citywide school boycott 

1965 Elected chairman of Oakland Economic Development Council, which 
administered local anti -poverty program funded by federal 
government; held first public forums of neighborhood advisory 

1967 Recommended for new federal judgeship is San Jose; reorganized 

OECD independent of city government after repeated controversies 
with mayor, regional, and federal Office of Economic 
Opportunity, and others 

1977 Elected mayor of Oakland; retired January 4, 1991 


[Interview 1: 22 January 1985 ]## 1 

Boyhood in Oakland 

Morris: What I'd like to do is start at the beginning. I'll ask you a 
little bit about growing up in Oakland, how your family came to 
move here, and what it was like to be a youngster in the black 
community in the twenties. 

Wilson: It was a lot different community then. The black community was so 
much smaller. I was just under four when we moved to Oakland, and 
I don't think there were ten thousand blacks in the East Bay at 
that time. It was a pretty small community. 

Morris: Would that be San Francisco too? 

Wilson: I would think so, yes. I said East Bay, but probably in the whole 
Bay Area there weren't many more than that at that time. 

Morris: How did you come to leave New Orleans? 

Wilson: My mother [Louise Wilson] had a brother named Ponce Barrios living 
in Oakland, who had come out to work in the shipyards in World War 
I. So then he talked to my mother and father [Jules Wilson] and 
convinced them that this was a better place to raise their 
children, that they would have better opportunities here. Then he 
sent for them to come out. At that time there were three of us; 
two younger brothers besides myself, who were born in New Orleans 

Morris: They must have been tiny if you weren't quite four. 

Wilson: I wasn't quite four, that's right. 

Morris: So you don't remember New Orleans at all, or did you go back? 

Wilson: I remembered very little about New Orleans, yes. My mother used 
to say I used to go to the stores at that age, but I remembered 

1 This symbol (#//) indicates that a tape or a segment of a tape has 
begun or ended. For a guide to the tapes see page 71. 

very little about New Orleans until I went back. I didn't return 
to New Orleans other than during World War II, sitting on the 
outskirts of the city on a troop train for a couple of hours , and 
not even able to get off of it. 

Until, I guess it was around 1973, I was invited to address 
the National Association of Court Administrators, which was 
meeting in New Orleans. That was my first trip back. Since then 
I've made many trips back there. When the present mayor of New 
Orleans was running for election, he was calling, calling, 
calling, asking me to come back to do a little campaigning for 

I just didn't see where I could be of much help to him, and 
then Judge [Allen E.] Broussard got into the act, and he began to 
call me. He was from Louisiana, not from New Orleans, but near 
there somewhere down there, and was a former law partner of mine. 

Then I thought about it, and Dutch Morial is a very talented, 
very bright man, and I said, "If Dutch thinks I could help, maybe 
I can." So I went down for about three days. I guess it worked 
out pretty well for him, because he had arranged a press 
conference for me when I arrived; within an hour after I arrived a 
press conference, and each of the major newspapers turned out, and 
they had front page stories. 

Either that night or the next night he put on a gala around 
me, and it was kind of, you know, "the return of the prodigal" 
sort of thing. [laughs] In any event, then of course he was 
elected, and I went back for his swearing-in. Since then, I've 
been back a number of times . 

Morris: Did your uncle find a place for you to live and stay in close 
contact with you? 

Wilson: Yes, he did. Matter of fact, I guess we moved in with him for- -he 
didn't have any children, he and his wife. I think we moved into 
the same house. As I remember, it was one of these big old 
two-story Victorians. It was on the corner of 28th and Myrtle 
Street, where McClymonds High School is now. 

We moved in there. We lived there not too long, and then 
moved over to a house on 30th, between Chestnut and Linden, where 
we rented for a couple of years. My father bought a little house 
around the corner from us on Chestnut between 32nd and 30th, which 
was just around the corner. 

My father was from the old school in the South. He started 
out as a carpenter's apprentice, and then later shifted into 

plastering, and he was a plasterer then. But he could do 
carpentering, and a little of this, and a little of that in the 
way of building, so he bought this house, and then just did it all 
over himself. 

Morris: That's marvelous to have those kinds of skills. 
Wilson: Yes, yes. 

Morris: So you stayed close with your uncle, and were there other family 

Wilson: It was just my uncle and his wife. Ponce Barrios and his wife 

were the only other family members here, and then the other five 
children were born in that house, I guess. 

Morris: I see. So he was your mother's younger brother. 
Wilson: My mother's brother. She had one brother. 

Morris: And, as the elder son, were you the one that helped the younger 
brothers get along in school? 

Wilson: I guess we were pretty much on our own, each one of us. Even from 
a little bit of a fellow, I was always wrapped up in sports, so 
when I wasn't in school I was on some kind of a playground or in 
some kind of a recreational facility. I guess when I was ten I 
had a paper route, but I whipped through that paper route to get 
back to the playground; or to the recreation center. 

Morris: Did they have playground directors, and people like that? 

Wilson: They had playground directors, yes. I went to Clawson School, 

which is on Poplar and 32nd- -it's closed now; at that time it went 
from the kindergarten through the ninth grade . McClymonds High 
School is now where it was, which was just about two and a half 
blocks from where we lived. 

During the summer, McClymonds opened the grounds as a 
playground. The coach, who later became the principal, Doc 
Hess --he just died about a month ago --he worked on the playground 
during the summer as a recreation director. He lived a couple of 
blocks from the school, too. 

Morris : Was he a good coach? 

Wilson: Oh, he was a great leader, he was a tremendous leader of children 
and young people. Little bit of a man, about five feet four at 
the most, but he was a strong character, and dynamic, and strong 

disciplinarian, but worked well with young people, 
fearless little fellow. 

He was a 

Morris: Was there a mixture of children on the playground, blacks and 
whites? Any Asians at that time? 

Wilson: Very few blacks. A mixture of Portuguese and Italians and Irish. 
Very, very few blacks. At that time --well, even by the time I 
reached high school, oh, maybe, 10, 15 percent of the school by 
then was made of black students. No more than that. 

Morris: Were they mostly people like yourself who had grown up here as 
little kids? 

Wilson: Yes. 

Morris: So, did it mean that the teams were integrated, or was there any-- 

Wilson: The teams were integrated, yes. The athletic teams were 

Morris: I came across a reference by D.G. Gibson to you as a newspaper 
boy. Did you know him that long ago? 

Wilson: Oh, yes, yes. My first contact with D.G. Gibson was when, at the 
age of about twelve, I began to work in my uncle's barber shop 
after school, and on Saturdays, all day Saturday. He had a barber 
shop on 8th Street, between Broadway and Washington Street. 

Morris: This is Ponce Barrios still? 

Wilson: Ponce Barrios, yes, same one. He had a large barber shop, and I 
went to work in the barber shop shining shoes and keeping it 
clean. I did that through high school; junior high school and 
high school. 

Morris: Was this where Mr. Gibson would come for-- 

Wilson: He was a customer. Then, also, D.G. Gibson was a distributor of 
cosmetics, and also a distributor of black newspapers from the 
East, in particular the Pittsburgh Courier, as I remember, and the 
Chicago Defender. My uncle would buy the papers from him and then 
give them to me, and let me take them out and sell them. So I 
developed a little following of a number of people -- 

On Sunday morning, I would take the papers around to Oakland, 
and out to Berkeley. I remember walking out there to take these 
papers . 

Morris: That's quite a large territory to cover. 




Yes. [chuckles] 

Did you read the papers? 
the money? 

Or were you more interested in making 

I was more interested in making the money out of the papers. I 
wasn't too interested in the papers at that time. I did read them 

Was Mr. Gibson already involved in political activities? 

Yes, he was already active. I believe he had come to California 
on the railroads. I think he had worked on the railroads when he 
initially came to California. 

College Years 

Morris: Was he one of the people that encouraged you to go to college? 
Was your family pushing you, your teachers? 

Wilson: It was mainly, I guess, my uncle. My uncle was a strong believer 
in education. My father was like many of the Creoles out of 
Louisiana who felt that high school education was enough, and it 
was time to go to work. But my uncle believed strongly in it, and 
my mother did. They were the strong motivators that encouraged us 
to prepare to go to college and to go on to college. 

Morris: Did you think about any place but the university at Berkeley? 

Wilson: Oh, it was made clear to us that either we made the grades to get 
into UC Berkeley, or we weren't going to college. [laughs] 

Morris: How did you feel about that? Were your friends, and the people 
you played basketball and baseball with-- 

Wilson: Most of them were not- -no, they didn't have people motivating 

then, and I don't remember anyone in my class going directly into 
Cal but me. Some of them went to San Francisco State, and the 
state colleges, but I don't remember another one of my class that 
went directly into Cal. 

Most of them didn't have that kind of drive and motivation, 
except there was a small group of friends , and we formed a little 
social club. Some of them, their parents were pushing them, but 
it was just a handful. 



Was this a church -connected social group? 

No, it wasn't, it was just that our families had become friends in 
one way or another some of them, in any event. We'd gotten to 
know each other through different social contacts. 

Were these primarily other people who'd come from Louisiana, 
Creole background? 

No, they weren't, 

There were one or two who were , but not 

Have you stayed in touch with them? 
you went to school with? 

Are some of these the people 

Some of them. Not many. Most of us were from poorer families. 
There was one whose father was a retired major from the army, and 
who'd done well; he'd served a number of years, he had organized 
the Phillipine Constabulary Band in World War I at the insistence 
of the president; Quezon, then I believe, was the president in the 
Phillipines, and Major Loving had organized the Phillipine 
Constabulary Band, and had built an estate over there, and had 
property over there, and a home, and whatnot. 

He had one child, a son, who was a little younger than me, 

but he was part of our group, who ultimately went into the service 

himself and became a colonel, retired, and lives in Davis. I see 
him once in a while. 

They were not from New Orleans, or Louisiana, but then there 
was another one, the Smith family, and my parents had known the 
Smiths in New Orleans. They were from New Orleans. There were 
three sons, the oldest one and I were about the same age, a couple 
of months apart. 

He ultimately became a pharmacist, worked in Rumford's 
Pharmacy for a number of years in Berkeley. 

Discrimination: Passinn for White 

Morris: I think of Louisiana as being the deep South, and that being where 
life was most difficult for blacks. Was it different in 
Louisiana, or was discrimination one of the reasons your family- - 

Wilson: It was the deep South, and yes, it was. Yes, it was, and, of 

course, the schools were all segregated in Louisiana. However, in 
some fields, in the building trades, for instance, it wasn't 




unionized, so- -I don't know, you went through stages. You were 
"colored" when I was a kid coming up, and then you became 
"Negroes," and then "blacks" down the line. 

But while there was far more discrimination and far more 
segregation in the South than here, there was an awful lot of it 
here. And even as late as the early forties, there was an awful 
lot of discrimination here. I remember when I got out of law 
school--! didn't go into law school until after I came out of the 
service in World War II. I graduated from Cal before I went into 
the service. 

I guess I'd only been practicing law about two years, the 
early fifties, I remember being in this [mayor's] office with 
Byron Rumford, and there was someone else with us, arguing with 
the mayor, the city manager, and the fire chief, over the 
segregated fire department. There was one firehouse right across 
the street from this Clawson School, where I went to school. It 
was the only firehouse where Negroes could serve, which meant that 
whatever the number of firemen that it took to serve that one 
house, that was the maximum number of Negroes who could work in 
the Oakland Fire Department. 

And that was primarily in a neighborhood which by then was mostly 
Negro families? 

Well, there were a number, yes. And you couldn't swim in any of 
the swimming pools, public or private, so we swam in the estuary. 
There were many places that wouldn't serve you here. 


That's right. '40, '41, '42, there was one Negro teacher in the 
whole of the East Bay. 

And it took a long time. 

Ida Jackson, she's alive now, as far as I know. 

Yes, I've talked to her for this project. 2 

One teacher. There was one Negro teacher in the whole of the West 
Bay, Josephine Foreman, who taught in the parochial schools in San 
Francisco. There were no Negro teachers in the public schools of 
San Francisco. 

2 See Ida L. Jackson, Overcoming Barriers in Education, recorded in 
1984, Regional Oral History Office, University of California, Berkeley. 

Now, when I say there was one here, and there was one there, 
there may have been people who were passing for white, because as 
a result of the discrimination, you found many people who were 
fair-complected and passed for white to get jobs of one kind or 

Morris: They continued the rest of their lives as white, or did some 
people move back and forth as the circumstances- - 

Wilson: Some of them moved back and forth, and some if them didn't. Some 
of them just lived out their lives as white. And, of course, 
there were some tragedies . I know a family who were originally 
out of Louisiana; they were already here when we arrived in 
Oakland, had been here a couple, two or three years. 

One of them, the daughter- -there were three children; the 
daughter was the youngest, and two sons. She's married to a man 
now, he's way up in age and he's crippled, and he's been crippled 
for some time. But he had lived as white, and had two children, 
and then somehow or other, his children were ten and twelve, 
something like that, and his wife found out, and then immediately 
broke and dissolved the marriage . 

Morris: That's a pity. That really is. 

Wilson: You're right. In terms of employment, opportunities were few and 
far between, except in some phases of the building trades; 
plastering was one of them. A few carpenters. Many of the other 
building trades, such as electrical and plumbing, had little or no 
opportunities for Negroes. 

But in terms of working, I remember in the WPA days, I 
graduated, and I was working on EEP, Emergency Education Program, 
which was a professional project. I was at the North Oakland 
YMCA, which catered to Negroes primarily, and it was in a house, 
just in a big two-story house. They used to have classes 
preparing people to take civil -service exams. 

The post office exam I took myself, and the first time I 
think I was fifty- two on the list or something like that. The way 
I found that they had passed me up was when I ran into someone 
who was lower on the list- -120, 150, or two hundred- -who had been 
working for about six months. And that was the way I learned that 
they had passed me up on the list. 

Then one of my brothers- -he's now a dentist- -he had taken it, 
and he was 120 on the list. At that time the federal government 
didn't ask for race, but they asked for a picture. I was the 

Morris : 

darkest in the family. Well, when they looked at my brother, they 
thought he was white, so they offered him the job when they got 
down to him. 

Then I took it again, and this time I was fifth out of 
thirty-five hundred, I just had a couple of people ahead of me who 
had veterans' preference. I was called in for an interview, if 
you want to call it that, this time. But it didn't really amount 
to anything other than to be told by the assistant superintendent 
of mails that, "The fact that you're called doesn't mean that you 
are going to get the job," as I well knew. And I didn't. 

The probation department here, which, at that time, had no 
Negroes in it- -I took that exam, and in that exam you were not 
called for an oral unless you passed the written. So when I was 
called in for the oral it meant that I'd passed the written, and 
about the only question they asked me was, "You're Lionel Wilson, 
you graduated from the University of California, Berkeley?" "Yes, 
that's right." "Why'd you take the exam?" I told them. They 
said, "Fine. You'll hear from us in a couple of weeks." Well, I 
did, that I'd failed to pass the examination. 

Oh, dear. 

So . [ laughs ] 

University of California. Berkeley. 1932-1939. Sports and Studies 

Morris: How about Cal itself? When did you enter as a freshman, about 
1933, '34? 

Wilson: Yes, 1932. At Cal itself, there was a great deal of 

discrimination also, and then some of the professional schools you 
simply couldn't get into unless, as in the case of Marvin Poston, 
who became an optometrist, who was able to get in through someone 
who his family, his mother or someone, got to know, who had some 
influence . 

Morris: I think it was persistence, too. 
Wilson: Yes. 

Morris: Because when I talked with him, his recollection is that there was 
a faculty member who was determined that there not be a black 
graduate of the ophthalmology department. 


Wilson: --he [Nibs Price] was one of the prime reasons Negroes couldn't 
play basketball in the Pacific Coast Conference. I think it was 
broken open in the Northern Division first, and then in the 
Southern, even though- -and here again, I remember a fellow came up 
to Cal--I don't remember if I had graduated or was a senior when 
he came to Cal from Los Angeles --who did play for Nibs Price, 
played basketball, but Nibs didn't know he was black. 

He was blond, blue-eyed. I knew him from Los Angeles, 
because I had dated his older sister in Los Angeles. They lived 
in Los Angeles. I think, finally, before Nibs retired, I think 
there was a known black he permitted to play, but that was under 
the influence of the football coach at the time, who was very fond 
of this fellow, and he played on the football team. And they 
prevailed upon Nibs Price to let him play on the basketball team. 
That was Tom Tryon, who was in the Oakland school department. He 
was already on the football team. 

Morris: Wasn't Walter Gordon already a coach? 

Wilson: Football. 

Morris: He played football? 

Wilson: He may have done some coaching, but not basketball. He played 
football. There had been a few who played football. Walter 
Gordon had played football, and 1 remember someone named Francis, 
Smoke Francis, who had played football. There was one here and 
there . 

Morris: But a big, husky, young black student who wanted to play football 
couldn't just go out and sign up? 

Wilson: Oh, no. Well, if you played football, some of them could play on 
the football teams. Because I remember a very close friend of 
mine who was a couple of years behind me, two or three years 
behind me, but who was a great athlete, truly a great athlete. 

If he'd come along later, he'd have been a star major league 
baseball player. He could play anything, and was outstanding. 
Clint Evans was the baseball coach, and Clint wanted him on the 
baseball team, and they wanted him on the football team. But they 
had told him that if he came to Cal, he couldn't play basketball, 


and there wasn't anyone on the basketball team who could carry his 
shoes, in terms of being as good-- 

Morris: Athletic ability. 

Wilson: Athletic ability as a basketball player. But he had been told 
that he couldn't play because Nibs Price wouldn't allow him to 
play on the basketball team. 

Morris: Were there enough black students around to question that and to 

Wilson: No. There weren't more than a handful. There were several women 
when I enrolled at Cal , several women, and maybe a handful of men. 

Morris: Did you get a recommendation from one of the counselors in the 

high school, or did you just fill out the application and send it 
in, for enrolling at Cal? 

Wilson: I just filled in the application and sent it in. 
Morris: And how come you decided on economics? 

Wilson: I started out- -as a matter of fact, when I was in my last year in 
high school, my family suddenly wondered what I was going to do 
next. I'd just change the subject. So they cornered me one day 
and said, "What are you going to do after graduation?" I said, 
"I'm going to study law. I'm going to be a lawyer." 

By then the Depression had set in, and they looked around and 
said, "If all you're going to be is another starving lawyer, boy, 
you had better go to work." Well, that was a fiction, because 
there weren't any jobs, anyway. 

Morris: Lawyers or anything else, yes. 

Wilson: So I said, "Wait a minute, I'm going to college." They said, 

well, what am I going to study? They decided I was going to be a 
dentist, so I entered in pre- dental, and I never would have made a 
dentist. I never liked to work with my hands unless it was a 
baseball bat, [Morris laughs] or a tennis racquet, or a football, 
or a basketball. But I never liked working with my hands. First, 
I never liked the sciences, the life sciences. 


It took about a year and a half before I realized that my 
family didn't know what I was doing there, and so I changed my 
major, but I didn't have the nerve to change it to pre-law, Those 
were the days when you obeyed your parents more , so I thought 
about math, which I did well in, and languages, and I decided I'd 
go into languages . 

So I switched over to a major in Spanish, and a minor in 
French until -- 

Morris: Good for you. 

Wilson: After the first semester of my junior year, and then all of a 
sudden I asked myself, "What am I going to do with this? You 
can't teach." 

Morris: Did you have any thought of maybe going into business in South 
America, or Central America? 

Wilson: No, I didn't, I thought about it, and I thought about interpreting 
or something like that. Then I realized it wasn't realistic, so 
at that point I switched over to economics, with a minor in 
political science, and that's how I graduated. 

Morris: In view of your later life, it sounds like you ended up in the 
right place. 

Wilson: Yes. 

Morris: Were there some faculty members that you particularly liked or 
that were particularly helpful? 

Wilson: By the time I graduated, yes. There was one particular, Doctor 
Gulick, Charles Gulick. Then I also took a graduate course in 
agricultural labor from Paul Taylor. 

Morris: Was he already studying problems of migrant labor? 

Wilson: Yes, he was. Yes, he was. 

Morris: Did that make a real impression on you? 

Wilson: I don't recall particularly that it did. But I do remember taking 
a graduate course in personnel administration with Dr. Gulick, and 
he was an up- front person. And he called me aside, he told me, he 
said, "Look, I can place everybody in this seminar, but I won't be 
able to place you." Because, you know. 

Morris: Oh dear, yes. 


Wilson: I appreciated his forthrightness, and I was satisfied it wasn't 
something he wanted. I think he was very fair with me, I felt. 

Morris: Were you at that point enrolled as a graduate student, or were you 
able to take graduate courses? 

Wilson: Yes, yes. I had graduated. 

Morris : And then you continued to take courses . 

Wilson: Yes, correct. 

Morris: Let's see, that was 1937, the war hadn't yet appeared-- 

Wilson: No, I stayed out of school, you see. What happened is, when I 
thought I was going to be graduating, and about a month before 
graduating, I was notified that I was short three units in my 
major. Because I'd made the change, you see, and I was late. 

So I was told that I could file a special petition to 
graduate, and I did, and then about a week before graduation I 
received a negative response, that I couldn't graduate without 
those three units. So I was pretty disgusted, and I dropped out 
of school, and I stayed out a year and a half. 

Morris: I can see why. 

Wilson: And then came back. My family didn't think I'd ever go back, but 
after a year and a half, I went back, and graduated. It wound up 
I only needed one semester to pick up three units, and I took some 
other courses. And it was in '38, December '38, that I finished 
up and was in the graduating class of '39, then. 

Brothers and World War II 

Morris: Your younger brothers, by then, were they at the university, too? 

Wilson: My brother Kermit was at the university. It was when he arrived 
at the university, that's when I got the nerve to switch. 

Morris: He's the one that went into dentistry? 

Wilson: Yes, that's right. And it was good, because he had always liked 
to work with his hands , and had been good working with his hands . 
So it was natural for him, as it turned out. 


Morris: And it was good for your parents, too. They got their ambition 
fulfilled. [Wilson chuckles] One of the boys went into 

Wilson: Yes. 

Morris : I was wondering if having a brother who was still at Cal , maybe 
helped you make up your mind to go back and finish up? 

Wilson: That might have been. Then I had another brother, Barry--! guess, 
yes, he was at Cal by the time I graduated. Because I took a 
semester of graduate work, and then I stayed out another semester, 
and then I went back. Because I remember I took an upper division 
course with him. 

Morris: With your brother. 

Wilson: The younger brother, not the one in pre-dental, but a younger 

brother who is the only one in the eight of them in the family who 
is not alive. I was the oldest of eight children, six boys and 
two girls. He was the navigator on a B-17 lost in World War II, 
over Europe. But therein lies a story also, because there were no 
Negro navigators in World War II, but when he decided that he 
wanted to fly- -at first he didn't, because my mother didn't want 
him to. 

He had become interested in flying on a Thanksgiving day; a 
fellow was at our home who was my doubles partner in tennis at the 
time, and was one of the first blacks into the civil aeronautics 
program that they had. 

Morris: At Cal? 

Wilson: No. 

Morris: In the Civil Aeronautics Corps. 

Wilson: Yes, it was Civil Aeronautics Administration, or something. So he 
said, "Let's go out to the airport, and I'll take you up." We got 
out there, and it was too windy, they were flying Piper Cubs, the 
students, and we couldn't go up. But from that day, Barry wanted 
to fly. 

So when he was going to be drafted- -he was going to become a 
dentist also. This is what he wanted, and he had graduated from 
Cal by then, in pre-dental, but he didn't have the money to go on. 
This same uncle who had helped my brother Kermit into dental 
school wanted to help him, that's Ponce Barrios, but Barry was 


very independent, said, no, he wanted to save his own money. So 
he went to work as a laborer at Mare Island. 

Then when he was going to be drafted, he told my mother, 
"Look, I'm going in the army, I'm not going to fly," and she said, 
"All right." So the air corps had boards which were traveling 
around the country and they would sit on different college 
campuses. He found that the board was going to be meeting at 
Stanford, so he applied and went up before the board. 

An old air corps major, who was the chairman of the board, 
called him aside, and said, "Look, son, I see from your college 
papers you're a Negro." He said, "Forget that, you're an 
American." He said, "If you go in as a Negro, you're going to get 
inferior equipment, and inferior training, and that's a lot of 
nonsense anyway." 

He convinced Barry, so Barry went in. They said, "You're an 
American," and let it go at that. 

Morris: He just filled out a new set of papers? 

Wilson: That's right. [Morris laughs] Barry looked very much like my 

father, who was very fair, and had kind of grayish blue eyes, and 
that ' s how he wound up a navigator . 

Morris: Oh, my goodness. There was a black air corps unit, though. 

Wilson: Oh, yes. This same fellow, my doubles partner, he was one of the 
original 99th Fighter Squadron. They were the first blacks 
admitted in the air corps. It was a segregated unit, of course, 
all of our forces were segregated, you see. 

Ed Toppins and-- 
Morris: Is that your tennis partner? 

Wilson: My doubles partner, Edward Toppins. So he became an original 
member of the 99th Fighter Squadron. 

Morris: He'd already had flying experience with the CAA. 
Wilson: He'd had some, yes, with the Civil Aeronautic Authority. 

Morris: Boy, those were really remarkable days. You people were finding 
all kinds of ways of doing things you wanted to do. 

Wilson: Yes, yes, yes, that's right. The brother who was a dentist went 
through the service, he went into the service, he just signed up. 


No one said anything to him, and when he graduated from Cal dental 
school he was given thirty days to enlist or be drafted. Well, 
obviously, he enlisted, because he was commissioned. 

Morris: He would go in as an officer, with his dental training. 

Wilson: That's right. They sent him into training down near Bakersfield. 
Negro units kept going through, and he thought he was going to be 
assigned to one at any time, and he never was. The next thing he 
knew, he was shipped to England to a dental clinic for a heavy 
bomb group a couple of hours out of London. He finally realized 
that they had enrolled him as white. So he went through the war 
as white . 

Morris: That's a hard decision, then, when it comes to going back to 
civilian life. What do you do? 

Wilson: That's right. They drafted me, I went kicking and screaming. 

[laughter] I was at Monterey, and I had been there a couple of 
days, and I had a question on my mind about insurance. I went to 
the headquarters to ask about it. This corporal brought my 
service record out, and it was a little booklet about that size, 
and white. 

When he brought it out and put it on the desk, and I looked 
at it, on the cover there was a circle about three quarters of an 
inch in diameter, stamped in blue, with a "w" inside of it. I 
waited until he had answered the question I wanted. I suspected 
what it was, so then I asked him. "By the way," I said, "I saw 
the stamp on my service record with a 'w' inside it. What does 
that mean?" He said, "That's nothing, you don't have to worry 
about that, that just means you're white." 

I laughed, I said, "Somebody's made a mistake. I'm not 
white, I'm Negro." The poor guy was embarrassed. He scratched it 
out, reached under the table counter, and came up with another 
stamp, which had a "c" in the middle of it, for colored. 

Morris: So those service records didn't carry photographs. 

Wilson: No, no. I'm going to have to put this over to another time. 

Morris: I understand, thank you for taking this much time. 


Re-election Campaign of 1985 
[Interview 2: May 6, 1985 ]## 

Wilson: --and actually worked part time, and campaigned. I just haven't 
had time to campaign, very little. I've made appearances but I 
mean, to actually spend time and go out into the community other 
than formal appearances, I just haven't been able to do it, 
because there are so many things that keep coming up. 

Also, unfortunately, so many of them I have to handle myself. 

Morris: Yes, that's hard. Are there more kinds of things coming up now 
than usual because it's an election year? 

Wilson: I don't think so. I don't think so. No, I don't think so. And 
of course, a part, too, is that we just started with the campaign 
just very recently, recent weeks, and [Oakland City Councilman] 
Wilson Riles [Jr.] has been campaigning for sixteen months. I 
have this first letter he sent out sixteen months ago; he has 
nothing to do but campaign because he works part time; he has a 
job with [Alameda County Supervisor] John George. 

John has no program, because he's never been able to get any 
support at the board level, up until very recently. Now, with the 
changing make-up of the board of supervisors, he may be able to 
get a little more, but before that, John had nothing. So, Riles 
had nothing but time to-- 

Morris: Do the community contact thing. 

Wilson: That's right. There was a flap about it, but somehow or another, 
John managed to get some money out to him to buy a computer. And 
they just crank this stuff out, and he's been out there for at 
least sixteen months. 

And, as I just told one of my sons, who had called, he was 
laughing and kidding me about the campaign, and I said, "You know, 
if I weren't going to put on a good campaign, I wouldn't have 
gotten into it. You know, I would have just not run. But once I 
decided, and it wasn't an easy decision, but once I decided to 
run, then I'm going to put on a good campaign." 

Morris: You've certainly had a lot of experience in Alameda County 
politics, to know what it takes to put on a good campaign. 

Wilson: Yes, yes. 




Morris: That's where I thought we might pick up with this interview for 
The Bancroft Library. We got you into the army, and then I 
wondered at what point you decided to go to law school, and if 
that decision was related to an interest in political matters? 

Wilson: Actually, I'd always wanted to be a lawyer, but when I started at 
Cal , I was just turning seventeen. Those were the days when young 
people more or less did what their parents wanted them, in terms 
of direction. When my parents --actually it was my mother most, 
and my uncle Ponce Barrrios--but anyway, they got together, and 
said, "Hey, by the way, what are you going to be?" [laughs] I 
said, "Well, a lawyer." "A lawyer?! Another starving lawyer?" 
(The Depression had hit by then, and there weren't a handful of 
black lawyers here, and those that were here were doing nothing.) 

I said, "That's all you're thinking about, that I ought to 
find a job." That was really- -the idea of finding a job, where? 
There weren't any jobs, and what few jobs there were, they weren't 
for blacks, except maybe for waiting tables, running on the road. 
A handful managed to get into the post off ice- -not even a 
handful --three or four who had contacts, one whose father had been 
a plastering contractor, and one or two others. 

But there wasn't one black in Alameda County Probation, for 
instance. I think the city had one, a mail clerk. Even the 
federal government, the post office, was discriminating against 
blacks . 

So the answer to going to work is, "Work where?" So I said, 
"No, I'm going to college." What am I going to be? So they 
decided, looked around, that there were a couple of dentists who 
were scratching out a fair living, and so they said that I was 
going to become a dentist. 

Sure, if I had applied myself, I could have gone through 
school, but I would have been a terrible dentist and I'd have been 
a very unhappy dentist, and an unhappy person, because I've never 
liked to work with my hands. 


There's even a standing joke today, about how when I was a 
kid I made my first canteen in the fifth grade, and it leaked, you 
know? [laughs] But I started out in pre-dental, and it almost 
meant that I got dumped out of school, because I had no interest, 
and I didn't go to classes, and I perfected my basketball, on a 
daily basis, in the gym. 

Morris: Yes, I think a lot of young men feel that way. 

Wilson: So then after about a year and a half, two things happened. One, 
I realized that my family, their education was limited, too, and 
they really didn't know what was going on out there, and what I 
was doing. Two, the brother next to me was making it into 
college, and he was a natural for dentistry, so I let the family 
know I was making a switch. 

He then became the dental student in the family. It was 
perfect for him. Even in dental school, I remember when he got 
into working with gold in that stage of the training, that after 
doing everything he had to do, then he would sit up half the 
night, just working with gold, making jewelry. He loved to work 
with his hands, and he became a very fine dentist. 

With me, where do you go from there? I still didn't have the 
nerve to go into pre-law against the wishes of my parents. 

Morris: Did you do that after your military service? 

Wilson: Yes, I went into law school after I came out of the service. But 
what I did was I looked around, and I always did well in math, and 
1 did well in languages, so I switched over as a language major. 

So I was a language major until I completed the first 
semester of my junior year, then all of a sudden it dawned on me, 
"How are you going to use this?" 

There was nothing in education, there was no future in 
teaching. At that point, I thought about becoming an interpreter. 
When I looked into that, I found that the jobs were very limited 
in that field. So I changed over and I majored in economics and 
minored in political science, and graduated with that background. 

I probably would have gone right into the law then, but by 
that time the war had broken out, and it was too late. I knew I 
was going to be drafted, I was 1-A in the draft for a long time. 
I was one of the few who got deferred--! was working over at the 


Alameda Naval Air Station as a laborer, and I received two 
"Greetings. " 3 

The first time I went to the draft board, I might not have 
gone, because the naval air station tried to keep me over there. I 
got to know one of the chief administrators, when I was cleaning 
his office in the morning, and we began to talk. I had written a 
couple of seminar papers in a field that he was interested in, so 
we got to know each other. 

Then he had me pulled out of the public works department over 
into the aircraft repair and maintenance division. If I hadn't 
been in such a tough draft board, I would have been deferred, but 
I wasn't. But the first time, as I said, I got "Greetings," and I 
took them down, sang a sad song, [chuckles] and this lady, who had 
the reputation of being so tough, tore them up. 

So then this lasted another year, and then she called me and 
said, "Son, I've kept you out as long as I can, you've got to go 
now!" I said, "Thank you, I appreciate it," and off I went in the 
service. That's why I didn't get into law school after I had 
graduated, and took some graduate work for a year. 

I took one semester, and then I stayed out a semester, and 
had a little job, and then I went back for a semester. So it was 
after I came out of the service that I entered law school. 

Hastings Law School. 1947-1950 

Morris : Were there other people that you had been friends with growing up 
who were in that Hastings class with you? Were you the only black 
guy from Oakland? 

Wilson: In that Hastings class? 
Morris: Yes. 

Wilson: None with whom I'd grown up. There were thirteen blacks in that 
class, that started out in that class. There was one, whose name 
was Wilson, also, whose family was also from Louisiana, and people 
frequently got our families mixed up. Especially when one of his 

3 The government form letter for induction into military service during 
World War II began, "Greetings, you have been selected. ..." 



brothers was a dentist, and another brother was a doctor, and then 
my brother had become a dentist by then. 

He was in that class, but he was still working in the post 
office. He tried to get a leave, and they turned him down, 
although he'd been in the post office for some time. He wasn't 
able to get a leave, and he just dropped out of school. But he 
was the only one . 

There was another fellow who had moved into Oakland after the 
war, and had lived around the corner from me in Oakland, and that 
was Terry Francois, who later became one of the first black 
supervisors in San Francisco. Not the first black, I think there 
was one before him. But anyway, Terry and I became very close. 

But Terry didn't start with us, he wasn't one of the 
thirteen. Terry was a year ahead, but then, after his first year, 
he went back East to get married, and the woman jilted him. He 
was so upset about it, he didn't return, and stayed out a year. 
So when I was entering the second year, he was coming back for the 
second year, instead of going into the third year. But he lived 
in Oakland and he was the only one that I knew quite well. The 
others were more or less strangers. Most of them had just arrived 
here after the war. 

They were newcomers to California. 

Newcomers to California. As I say, there were thirteen. Of the 
thirteen, two of us graduated. Joe Kennedy, who became a superior 
court judge over there, and myself. Terry graduated with us, but 
he was not one of the original thirteen who started. 

Studying and Working 

Morris: Did you study together? 

Wilson: We studied together, yes, we did. Terry and Joe and I studied 

Morris: Was there anybody in particular on the faculty that you found was 
helpful to you? 

Wilson: No. 

Morris: It was sink or swim in law school? 



Morris : 


It was sink or swim. And my situation was a little different than 
even Terry or Joe. Joe's wife- -he was married, had no children, 
and his wife worked, and Terry's wife worked. I had a non-working 
wife and three children to support. So I was working three 
part-time jobs. 

At that time, Hastings was set up in a way that made it 
possible to work, because the classes, on a daily basis, started 
at eight, nine, ten, eleven. So your afternoons were all free. 
So I worked three part-time jobs. I worked in the YMCA in Oakland 
part-time, I worked for the city; a recreation director part-time. 
I worked as a janitor for my brother in his dental office 

So there wasn't much time for- - [laughs] 

Boy, that must have really been tough. 
do studying? 

Where did you find time to 

Mostly at night, except that on the playground job, I had spent my 
life on playgrounds, and working in the Y, and worked with a lot 
of the younger people. So I was good with kids, I got along very 
well with them, and I'd study on the playground. 

I remember one day, over at Hoover Junior High, I was 
outside, where I could see the whole playground area, and leaning 
up against the wall with my law book. Supervisor came along, 
started to give me the devil. I said, "Wait a minute," I said, 
"What's my purpose here? Isn't my purpose to provide program 
activities and keep these youngsters busy with programs?" "Yes, 
that's right." 

"Look around you. You see any kinds standing around with 
nothing to do?" "No," he said. I said, "Okay, then get off my 
back. [laughs] Anytime you come around, you find me sitting 
here, and the kids are doing nothing, and I'm just sitting here 
studying, I think you have a basis to challenge me. But other 
than that--." So that ended that. 

Passing the Bar Exam 

Morris: How about the bar exam? That's reported to be one of the toughest 
parts of getting to be a lawyer. 

Wilson: Less than 50 percent pass, and most of them were taking a course 
called- -a great legal writer, probably the greatest legal writer 


in the history of this state: Witkin. Bernie Witkin. Nearly 
everybody took Bernie Witkin' s course, but there was a black 
lawyer who had quite a reputation as a teacher. 

He would take the people with limited backgrounds. He had 
taken them, and taken them on through right from the beginning, 
and taught them law, and got them by the bar. So Terry and Joe 
and I took his course, along with-- 

Horris: What was his name? 

Wilson: I was just about to tell you his name, and then when you asked me, 
it slipped my mind. 

Morris: Sorry. 

Wilson: Bussey. John Bussey. He wasn't much of a practicing lawyer, but 
he was a brilliant scholar and a fine teacher. Actually, John was 
the first black judge in northern California. [Governor] Goodie 
Knight appointed him to the municipal bench in San Francisco. By 
that time, John was just teaching and doing appellate court. 

So we took his course. He was a very fine man to get along 
with. But he and I used to argue all the time, because I tried to 
convince him that he ought to change his approach. He did too 
much lecturing, and I felt that there was an imbalance in the 
amount of time that he was spending with us in interchanges and 
answering questions as compared with the lecturing he was doing. 

I just argued that we ought to know the law, we're just out 
of law school. We all went to full-time schools, and we ought to 
know more about law now than we'll ever know in our lives, but the 
important thing is, how do we put it together in a bar exam? And 
how do we answer these questions? 

He took it good-naturedly, and he later substantially cut his 
lecturing down and placed a greater emphasis on the discussion of 
questions. But he was good. We all passed. 

Morris: Great. On your first time? 

Wilson: We all passed the first time, yes. My biggest problem in terms of 
the bar, and I knew it was going to be, was that 1 would see too 
much in the questions and I didn't space myself adequately. As 
you may know now, it's a different bar exam now because it's part 
essay, and it's part objective, and it has been for about six, 
seven years . 


But at that time, it was all essay. It was three days, with 
three questions in the morning, three in the afternoon. You were 
supposed to allocate fifty- two minutes per question. For three 
days that means that there were six entire sessions. You know, 
one in the morning, one in the afternoon. 

In those six entire sessions, there was always at least one 
question where I had less than half an hour to read the question, 
analyze it, and write on it. John Bussey advocated a half an hour 
of analysis of each question, before you started writing. He hit 
hard on that. But, inevitably, on the first two questions I would 
have put too much time in writing, and then I wouldn't have much 
time for the last one. 

One question, I remember, I had fifteen minutes to read it, 
analyze it, pick the issues out, and write on it. But my 
strongest facility through law school was the ability to read or 
listen to a set of facts and get to the issues quickly. That 
probably was the very strongest part of what helped me; that made 
it possible for me, I think, to get through law school and to pass 
the bar exam. 

If I didn't have that, I don't think I would have made it. 
Because I didn't have the time to do all the reading that the 
others were doing on the outside and this sort of thing. 

Establishing a Law Practice 

Morris: So how did you use those skills? Did you go find a law office to 
practice with once you got your degree? 

Wilson: When I got out of law school, there was a lawyer, the senior black 
lawyer in the area, named George Vaughns, who knew me from the 
YMCA. I came up through the northwest [Oakland] branch, which was 
then called the Negro branch. He had been on the board for many 
years, and I came up as a child through it and then ultimately as 
a volunteer. 

I started coaching and playing with its senior men's 
basketball team at the age of eighteen. So he had known me, and 
he offered a job in his office. I actually went to work before 
the results of the bar came up. I went to work on the first of 
November of '49, in his law office. 


I didn't stay there long, though, I was there from the first 
of November for maybe about fifteen months, and then I left and 
opened my own office . 

Morris: Did you? Business must have been pretty good. 

Wilson: Not really. No, not really. But I just wasn't satisfied with the 
arrangement there, and what was happening. I wanted to strike out 
on my own and did so. So I opened an office over in what was the 
south Berkeley- -it' s probably not open now- -the south Berkeley 
branch building of the Wells Fargo Bank on the corner of Alcatraz 
and Adeline. 

The manager of the bank had a twin brother, identical twin, 
who was a practicing lawyer in Oakland. They didn't want to let 
me in to begin with. They didn't want to rent the property 
upstairs to begin with, and they didn't want Negroes in there, 
anyway, but he went to bat, and he got me in, at a reduced rate. 

I stayed there about two years, and then I moved right across 
the street. There was a pharmacy there- -it's gone down now, but 
they still do some type of pharmaceutical work- -on the southwest 
corner. Right behind it, on Alcatraz; there was a doctor's office 
downstairs, Dr. Joel Lewis. I took office space upstairs. 



East Bay Democratic Club: Career Options 

Morris: My chronology says you passed the bar exam in 1950, and then in 
1953, you were running- - 

Wilson: The results came out in '50, yes. Actually, the results came out 
in December, but the swearing-in was the first week of January, of 

Morris: And then in April of '53, you were running for the Berkeley City 
Council. That's pretty fast movement into the city political 
scene . 

Wilson: Well, I suppose so, but I was very well-known. Number one, I had 
played baseball for years at San Pablo Park, in Berkeley- -even 
though I had lived in Oakland, San Pablo Park was the mecca, 
pretty much, for blacks in baseball. They'd had a league there on 
Sundays for years, so I was very well known, because of baseball. 

Then our basketball team, that I had been coaching since I 
was eighteen, I was still doing it then. I didn't retire from 
competitive basketball (and it was with this same team, coaching 
and playing with it, the Northwest Y's Men's Team) until I was 
forty -four. 

Morris: That's marvelous. That takes a lot of time and a lot of energy. 
Yes. So you attribute your political base to your athletic 

Wilson: That's right. Then, of course, for three years, I'd been very 
active with the NAACP, and we were fighting battles around with 
the first case, Johnson vs. Pasadena. It was a schools case. I'd 
already become active, with some others- -Clint White, and Charley 
Wilson, who went to the FEPC [Fair Employment Practices 
Commission] as a general counsel. 

As soon as I started practicing, I jumped right into 
community activities of that type. Then, of course, there was one 


Democratic club, and I joined it even before I started 

practicing- -that was the East Bay Democratic Club. That was a 

club that the late D. G. Gibson was a leader of. It was built 
around Byron Rumford and D. G. Gibson. 

Morris: Had that started as the Appomattox Club? I came across a 

newspaper clipping that said the East Bay Democratic Club was 
formed, and that it was a new organization. But I think it was 
Byron Rumford who told us about something that he called the 
Appomattox Club. 

Wilson: No, the East Bay Democratic Club had been formed for some years, 
but it had been dormant. I suppose I played a major role in 
reorganizing it, and bringing out a lot of new, young people at 
the time. 

Evelio Grille played a major role in our organization. 
Evelio was primarily responsible for several black Republicans who 
changed their registration and became active. 

Morris : As Democrats . 

Wilson: As Democrats. Clint White, and Don McCullum, and Charles 

Furlough. Allen Broussard was not one of those, although he was a 
Democrat, and there was a realtor named McKey, who actually came 
out here and had a franchise selling a major vacuum cleaner, and 
then left and went into real estate, and became an inheritance tax 
appraiser down the line. 

So we had some really top people, outstanding people, in the 
organization, and it built fast, and rapidly, and with being 
backed by Byron and-- 


Morris: Was he [Tom Berkley] part of the Democratic Club? 

Wilson: No, he wasn't. Tom wasn't part of the club, Tom was pretty much 

for going it independently; he was a Democrat, but he was going it 
pretty much independently. He was one of the first to run for 
Oakland City Council. As a matter of fact, Tom Berkley had sort 
of a little unique role on his own. 

In those days, he and Byron didn't hit it off. It was a long 
time before they finally got together. When I was in my senior 
year in law school --in the junior year, Terry Francois and Joe 
Kennedy both went to work for Tom in his law office as research 
assistants. He offered me a job but I couldn't afford it; what he 
was paying, I couldn't afford to give up my three part-time jobs 


to do that work. So otherwise, my career might have been entirely 
different, because I would have joined with the others in working 
there with Tom Berkley. But I didn't. 

As a matter of fact, when I was deciding to enter law school, 
when I came out of the service and looked around, I went back to 
the naval air station, from where I was drafted. At that time I 
was working in the wing shop, where the repair work on wings was 
done. I had been pulled into a training program. They had a 
trainee program, where you could go from shop to shop until you 
learn all the facets of the business and then become a journeyman 
aviation metalsmith. 

The man who was over that wing shop when I arrived, that was 
my second shop after I was put in the training program, and I 
never got out of it, because the head civilian came to me and 
said, "Look." He was named George Smith, and he was trying to 
develop an assembly-line approach to the repair work. 

When he found out that I had graduated in economics and I 
knew something about time and motion studies, they didn't want me 
to leave. They promised me that I would get my journeyman rate 
without ever going into any of the other shops. I would have, if 
I hadn't been drafted. 

By the time I returned, George Smith was a master mechanic, 
which was the top level for civilian employees by that time at the 
naval air station. He offered me a desk in his office, and I 
thought about it. Then I thought about going back and getting a 
teaching credential, and thought about the law, which had always 
been my first love. 

I was working at the Y with Josh Rose. I was his full-time 
associate secretary- -combination of physical director and program 
director. As a matter of fact, I had come close to going into a 
career, just before I went into the service, in Y work. 

I was working under the EEP, the Emergency Education Program, 
that was a professional program related to the WPA, but assigned 
to the Y. So actually I was working as a Y secretary right there 
although I was being paid by the federal government, such as it 

They were opening a new branch in San Diego. Josh Rose urged 
me to apply; he was the Y secretary and later the first black 
councilmember here in Oakland. Josh urged me to apply, and I did. 
I was offered the job in a twelve -page letter that mentioned the 
salary on the twelfth page. [laughs] I looked at that, and I 
said, "No, no way." Otherwise, I'd have gone out into YMCA work. 


Concerns for Social Justice 

Morris: It sounds like you had some feelings about social justice and that 
it was time that something happened in the black community. Were 
those some of your concerns? 

Wilson: Yes, yes. 

Morris: By the time you got through law school? 

Wilson: Yes. You have to remember, I was raised in a city in California 
where everything was supposed to be beautiful for- -and my family 
having moved here to find a better place to raise their children, 
where they would have better opportunities, and yet where there 
were many places that wouldn't serve you food. The only hotels 
you could stay in were if you could find one that was run by a 
Japanese. Nowhere to swim except in the estuary or ocean. Little 
or no opportunity in terms of future unless you were going to 
become a doctor, lawyer, you know, professional. 

And coming up in that kind of atmosphere, and if you'll 
permit me a moment of immodesty, having been blessed by God with 
better than average intellect, school came very easy for me 
throughout, and I was at the top of the classes. [laughs] I was 
amazed; I spoke at the Naval Supply Center at an annual luncheon 
of federal managers, a couple hundred people, last week. The 
person who introduced me I couldn't imagine where he had gotten 
this --began to talk about my background, "raised and educated in 
the Oakland public schools and in the ninth grade won a citywide 
flag contest with an essay on the flag." 

My God, I hadn't heard anything like that in so long! 
Afterwards, I asked him. He had run into, somehow or other, an 
old friend of mine, someone who had known me from way back. But 
anyway, what I'm saying is that obviously I didn't even realize it 
myself, the impact that all this was having on me until later 
years. Actually until I became a lawyer. 

Morris: Dealing with white lawyers in the courts and in the various cases 
you found you were as competent as they were? 

Wilson: I found- -when I got out to Cal, for instance, I came from a school 
that was noted as- -McClymonds was known as a shop school. But for 
me Cal was easy, I didn't have any problems competing with the 
kids from any of the schools out there, as long as I did a little 


But what I mean is that I didn't realize the impact that 
these experiences , the discriminatory practices and segregation 
and so forth, had had on me until after I had, in later years, 
begun to reflect on why I had such a tremendous drive to work in 
the community and work with the NAACP. 

NAACP Legal Redress Committee 

Wilson: I was chairman of the Alameda County [branch of the NAACP] --when I 
came out of school. I became chairman almost immediately of the 
Legal Redress Committee, and then they broke it up as three 
branches; Oakland, Alameda, and Berkeley. I became chairman of 
the Legal Redress Committee for the Oakland branch. 

I think in my law practice I ran a legal aid office for 
people who couldn't afford services. Then I realized--! guess it 
was the impact from what I had experienced throughout the years . 
I suppose that the culmination of it, in one sense, was my role as 
chairman of the Legal Redress Committee, and walking into this 
very same office with this very same desk sitting there, meeting 
with the mayor and the city manager and the fire chief, to try and 
convince them that they ought to eliminate the segregated fire 

Because there was, as you know from talking to others, there 
was one house only in which blacks could work, down on Magnolia 
and 34th, right across from Clawson School. Which, one, limited 
the number you could have in the department , because you could 
only have the number of blacks it took to complement the house. 
Two, in terms of any promotions, it was limited for the same 
reasons . 

So we sit in here. I don't remember who was with me, Byron 
may have been there, I don't know. We put up our arguments, and 
they sit there. An interesting thing about it is that the mayor 
blacks out; I never even remember who that mayor was. But the 
city manager I remember, was Jack Hassler and the fire chief, 
Lloyd Burke. 

When we finished, the fire chief was the only one who 
responded. He spoke up and said, "If I were in your place, I 

Benid.beBefiyiHglCihg aarai ' thfmge ?hmefe fekyrngvillntieitiowdinldgiiaked 
fire department in this city." 

Morris: How could he see your point of view and still refuse to make some 


Wilson: Because he felt that there was a place for blacks, and that was 
it, and it was not in an integrated society. 

Morris: Was the black firehouse supposed to only deal with a fire in a 
black business, or a home owned by a black person? 

Wilson: No. 

Morris: They were firefighting in the whole city? 

Wilson: That's right. This was in the fifties. A couple of years later, 
the council passed an ordinance that abolished the black-only fire 
house staffing. 

Morris: Were the other young men that you were acquainted with feeling the 
same kind of urgency, that it was time to change things? 

Wilson: They were. The people I've mentioned, Clint White and Don 

McCullum, yes, and Evelio Grille , yes; they were all feeling the 
same thing. 

Campaigns for Berkeley City Council. 1953 and 1955: More on 
Oakland 1985 Campaign 

Morris: Then in 1953, you ran for a seat on the Berkeley City Council. 
Was the situation in the Berkeley political scene such that you 
thought there was a real possibility of winning that city council 

Wilson: Well, I don't remember how I got into that and [laughs] who 

euchred me into running that race. I suppose it was suggested 
that, "This will help to develop your law practice in some way by 
more exposure as a lawyer," or something. I suppose there might 
have been an element of thinking to win, because in '55, I think 
it was '55, on a budget with six hundred dollars, I only missed 
election by maybe around seven hundred votes. 

Morris: That's pretty good. There was a piece in the Tribune . on the 20th 
of February, 1953, which said that the South Berkeley Community 
Church held a mass meeting to foster your campaign, and that the 
Reverend John Mickle, who was the pastor, was the temporary chair. 
Had he been somebody who was really urging you to run? 


Wilson: Yes, he was urging a black candidate- -I guess we were Negroes 

then. I remember first we were colored, and then we were Negroes, 
and then somehow or other we became known as blacks. That's been 
an evolutionary process, as you know. At that period we were, I 
guess , Negroes . And he was one of those urging that there ought 
to be a Negro on the council. 

Of course, even today, the election results are close; 
although obviously the situation has changed substantially in 
terms of electability, but mainly because the moderates and the 
conservatives gave up a long time ago, and the moderates haven't 
any leadership. I guess the last was Warren Widener, 5 and then, 
as you know, I think that it was generally recognized that Warren 
never would have lost that race if he'd had any kind of a 
campaign, but it was just taken for granted that he would win. 

Gus Newport was new, nobody knew him, and it was "Gus Who?" 
It was kind of a joke, "Gus Who?" but Gus Who was backed by the-- 

Morris: Berkeley Citizens Action, which grew out of the April coalition. 

Wilson: BCA, and they were well organized and pushed him in. Even that 
race, as you may recall, was seven- or eight-hundred votes 
difference, and Warren Widener had no campaign in south Berkeley 
where his real strength was. He didn't have any campaign. 

Morris: Is that the danger of incumbency? 

Wilson: Yes. I've just been saying now we're working hard at putting on a 
campaign and putting on a strong campaign, but it's getting more 
and more difficult to convince people that I've got a problem. 
Becuase I'm hearing it from too many places, "Oh, he can't beat 
you." Riles is seen as the toughest candidate, and people say, 
"He can't beat you." 

Even though I believe that myself, that's no way to run a 
campaign. And I'm not running that kind of campaign. What 
bothers me most is that I could see --there's a fellow out there 
named Hector Reyna who's run for everything for-- 

5 Mayor of Berkeley, 1973-1977. 

Newport was mayor of Berkeley 1977-1985. 


Morris: Fifteen years or so. 

Wilson: Yes. I don't know, he's been out maybe eighteen of twenty times, 
and he's developing more and more name recognition. He got ten 
thousand votes when he ran at large against John Sutter a few 
years ago. Recently, Reyna ran for two offices; he probably only 
got away with it because no one challenged him legally, and he got 
sixty thousand votes in the Peralta Community College district. 
Granted, that's no big, broad district, and he lost 21,000 to 
60,000; but my point is that, having been in office for eight 
years, you make a lot of decisions. 

Every time you make a decision you win a friend and you lose 
one; you win and you lose. So that there's an opportunity for a 
certain amount of protest votes going to somebody like Hector. I 
would hate to have to get into a run-off. 

Morris: Because that's just enough to splinter the rest of the votes. 

Wilson: That's just enough to splinter it, and my people don't see it, but 
there is a potential --there are six other candidates besides 
Hector, I think, and they won't get much of anything but a few 
hundred here and a few hundred there, and if Hector got a fair 
piece of it, there might be enough for a run-off. 

My concern is I just don't want to have to campaign for 
another month. Raise more money and this sort of thing. 

Morris: Do it all twice. 

Wilson: But it is a danger, and I'm hearing it in too many places. 

Morris: All you have to do is remind your people to look at Berkeley. 

Wilson: That's right. Yes. 

More About Berkeley Campaigns 

Morris: There was a man named Ura Harvey, who ran for the school board in 
'53. When you were running for the council. 

Wilson: I remember, the storekeeper from south Berkeley. 
Morris: Had he been part of your group of young activists? 






No, no. He was a little older than us, and he was somewhat 
interested in the community, but hadn't really been politically 
active. A very nice man. 

There had been a couple of things that related probably more to 
the school campaign than to yours, but I had forgotten about them 
in this period of time . There was another candidate , named David 
Smith. Part of the opposition to him was that he was accused of 
having allowed Paul Robeson to sing in one of the Berkeley public 
schools. Had that been something that was going on, then, in the 
fifties, that there was a problem with a black person as 
distinguished as Paul Robeson? 

There had been 

Yes, I think there was. I'm trying to recall, 
somewhat of a problem around, that's true. 

Did that have any echoes in your campaign? 
I don't think so. 

Did the same people, by and large, work on your 1955 campaign, 
that had worked on the '53 campaign? 

Wilson: Pretty much. I guess the base broadened by '55. 

Opening a Joint Practice with Carl Metover and Wilmont Sweeney 

Morris: Then, the next thing that turned up in the Tribune press clippings 
was your opening a joint practice with Carl Metoyer and Wilmont 

Wilson: That's right. 

Morris: Did you get to know them in the NAACP activities? 

Wilson: Bill Sweeney and I met because Bill had been working for an older 
black lawyer I knew. Carl Metoyer was younger than I, but I'd 
known his family, and we're both Catholics, and we're both out of 
Louisiana, and he lived in the same general area, down in the 
Clawson School, the Watts tract area that I lived in. So I knew 
Carl Metoyer. He was a few years behind me in law school, 
brilliant student. A good lawyer, a very good lawyer. I had been 
a year meeting with George Vaughns, the man I started with, 
Clinton White- -he was Justice White- -Bill Dixon; William C. Dixon, 
Billy Dixon, talking about the formation of a partnership. 


We had spent a year. We got close enough that we had several 
target dates for opening. I backed off each time, and finally I 
just permanently said, "I've changed my mind." I wanted to 
practice with Clint, who I recognized as a brilliant trial lawyer. 
During my years on the bench, I've never seen a jury lawyer any 
better than him, he's that good. And George Vaughns was a good 
friend; an older man, but a good friend at the time. But I 
finally backed off, and then I began to look around, and someone 
said that Carl wanted to put something together, so then I talked 
to Carl. 

It was Carl who said he had some preliminary conversations 
with Bill Sweeney, and how would I feel about bringing Bill in? 
"Fine, I like Bill, I know Bill, and he's bright, and he's 
talented, and I think he's going to be a fine lawyer." So then 
the three of us met and found a piece of property that was up for 
auction by the city, and bought the property at auction, and put 
up a building. 

Morris: Your law practice must have been doing pretty well by then. 

Wilson: Yes. Yes, we were doing pretty well. Sweeney was the youngest in 
the practice. We built the building for four lawyers, although 
the way we built it, we could have added on, if we wanted, on top. 
We had some conversations with Don McCullum. He wasn't too ready 
to leave the D.A.'s office; he hadn't been out here too long, 
about four years . 

So then we invited Allen Broussard to join us as an 
associate, with the promise that in the near future we would make 
him a partner. So we started out, it was Wilson, Metoyer, and 
Sweeney, and Broussard was an associate in the office. When I 
left in '60 to go on the bench, Broussard was made a partner, and 
it became Metoyer, Sweeney, and Broussard. 

When I left for the superior court about three and a half 
years later, a few months after I left the muni court, we got 
Allen appointed into my spot on the municipal court. 


Appointment Considerations 

Morris: I remember, yes. Was part of the work of the NAACP at this point, 
and the East Bay Democratic Club, to stay in touch with the 
statewide Democratic and Republican people to get some support? 

Wilson: Yes, we did. Although, the way my appointment came about was a 
little different in that [Governor Edmund G. , Sr. ] Pat Brown had 
just been elected. He offered to appoint me to what was then the 
Adult Authority, and I said, "Thanks, but no thanks." 

Morris: That's a full-time job. 

Wilson: Yes. Then he leaked to the press the information that he was 
going to appoint a black to what is a state-level cabinet-type 
position, legal affairs officer. There 'd never been a black 
appointed at that level, serving at that level, in any state 
administration in California. The person he had selected was 
Loren Miller; the late Loren Miller, a great constitutional 
lawyer. He leaked the information because Loren, as a student in 
college, had made a trip to Russia. And so the Los Angeles papers 
redbaited him so badly that Pat backed off appointing Loren. 

But then he already made the commitment he was going to 
appoint a black, so he looked around. So he offered the job to 
Cecil Poole, with whom he had worked. Cecil had worked under him 
as a deputy district attorney when Pat was district attorney of 
San Francisco County. So he knew Cecil and Cecil's high level of 
competence and ability, and he offered Cecil the job. Cecil said, 
"Yes, if you will promise me a superior court judgeship." 

Pat reacted negatively to that, and didn't like that kind of 

Morris: Was Cecil saying that he wanted a superior judgeship for himself? 

Wilson: To follow. For himself, for himself. He wanted a commitment that 
when he left the job, that he would be appointed to the superior 
court. No black had ever been appointed directly, I don't think. 


There may have been one in southern California that had been 
appointed directly, but certainly not up here. 

Now, Pat's panicking, [laughs] he's got to find a black to 
appoint to the job as legal affairs officer. 

Wilson: It's also the executive clemency secretary. And I said, "Thanks, 
but no thanks. We're in the early years of a new law practice, 
I'm happy there." Then, as only Pat Brown- -you have to know him, 
he threw up his hands, and then he turned to [Assemblyman] Byron 
Rumford, who was the only other person in the room. He says, 
"Byron, what does Lionel want? Sh--." Byron just shrugged. I 
said, "Pat, I didn't support you because I wanted any kind of an 
appointment. I supported you because I wanted FEPC [Fair 
Employment and Practices Commission] , and I wanted fair housing, 
and I believe that you as a governor can deliver them. And that's 
why I supported you." 

I said, "I don't want the job, I wasn't looking for the job." 
That was like water off a duck's back. He never even answered 
that, responded to that. He just changed the subject, he said, 
"There ought to be a Negro judge in Alameda County, there should 
have been one a long time ago. How about it, would you take it?" 
He said, "But it's going to be in the Oakland Municipal Court." 

He knew that I, although raised here, at that time I was 
living in Berkeley. I lived in Berkeley for about seven or eight 
years right after coming out of the service. He said, "But you'll 
have to move back to Oakland, because it's going to be Oakland 
Municipal Court. How about it?" 

Morris: Were you ready for that kind of a question? 

Wilson: No, no. I said, "I certainly agree with you that there should 

have been a Negro judge a long time ago, and I think there should 
be. But I hadn't thought of myself in that respect." I said, 
"There's George Vaughns, who's been around many years, there's 
Clint White" and I mentioned a few others, two or three. 

He ignored that and said, "You let me know when you've made a 
decision." Once a month for eleven months he had a lawyer who was 
close to him, and later became a superior court judge, call 


me--who was active politically. "Have you moved into Oakland?" 
That was the question, "Have you moved into Oakland?" 

Morris: Oh, that was the clue. If you moved, you were ready to take the 

Wilson: That was the clue. If I'd moved into Oakland, then I had decided 
to take it, if I didn't--So then the last time, it was more 
forceful. The last time, after eleven successive months, the 
message came, "Fish or cut bait, make up your mind." "Tell Lionel 
he's got to make up his mind." 

Morris: This was somebody that was not in the governor's office as an 
appointments officer. 

Wilson: That's right. This was someone who was very active in Democratic 
politics, was a major fund raiser, and close to him. I had 
decided I would not take it. I discussed it with my wife 
[Dorothy], and told her that I'd made up my mind I wasn't going to 
take it. Then, before I could convey that information to the 
governor--! went down to the court one morning on some simple 
little matter, probably an uncontested divorce. 

The case was assigned to the late Justice James Agee . A fine 
judge, and a fine man, and I'd had a good relationship with him. 
When my matter was over, he said, "Lionel, do you have a few 
minutes, I'd like to talk to you." I said, "Yes, I do." So we 
went into the chambers, and for about thirty or forty minutes, he 
just talked to me about all of the reasons why I should accept 
this appointment. 

It was common knowledge that it was simply up to me to say I 
wanted it and I'd take it, and that I would be appointed. He 
changed my mind. He convinced me that I ought to take it. 

Morris: Really. What argument did he offer? 

Wilson: He was arguing about the good I could do in the community in that 
role, and the importance it was to the community and what it would 
mean to many blacks in the community and those coming before the 
court, to know that there was a black judge there. That it would 
give them a greater feeling of security. 

Also that it offered potential, that there was a future for 
me in the judiciary and that he was satisfied that I wouldn't be 
there too long before I would be moved up to the superior court. 

Morris: Was it the fact that it was municipal court that made you 


Wilson: No, no. Although I did resent the fact that if you were black you 
went to the municipal court regardless of what your background and 
experience was. But in ray case it wasn't a motivating factor 
because the superior court required ten years of practice, and I 
just barely had ten years of practice. 

But when I thought of Loren Miller- -he went to the municipal 
court. This man should have gone to the supreme court. John 
Bussey went to the municipal court. He should have been going to 
some appellate court. And it was very common practice among 
whites to go directly from private practice to courts of appeals 
and the supreme court. But if you're black it was a municipal 

There weren't that many black judges, anyway. There were 
none in this area- -well, the one, John Bussey. When I went on, 
there were none in Alameda County and one north of Los Angeles, 
and that was John Bussey who was appointed by Knight. But 
southern California, there were, I don't know, maybe two or three, 
that's all, four at the most. I did resent that, but that wasn't 
the factor there with me, personally, because I felt I hadn't had 
ten years yet. I hadn't been that distinguished, myself, in the 
law, to the point that I could fell that I should necessarily go 
to the superior court at that time. But Jim Agee also felt that I 
would move up to the superior court rather rapidly, and as it 
turned out, I did. 

So when I walked out of his office, I had changed my mind. I 
went back to my office. 

Living in Berkeley and Oakland: Municipal Court. 1960-1965 

Morris: What did your wife say when you told her you'd changed your mind? 

Wilson: I called my wife, and said, "I've changed my mind, I'm going on 
the bench. I've just had a talk with Judge Agee, and he's 
convinced me. So we're going to move to Oakland; you'll have to 
start looking for a place." So she did. She said, "Okay," and 
she started looking for a place. 

Morris: How had you happened to settle in Berkeley when you came back from 
the service? With your wife and three kids? 

Wilson: Oh, I think it was simply a matter that I was lucky enough to get 
some good housing. First in university housing, down below San 
Pablo, and then a nice little apartment in- -no, I moved to 
Berkeley just before I left, that's what, for the service. I got 
married, and I was married for ten months --a friend of mine, an 
older man who I had become friends with when I was in college as 
an undergraduate and working as a redcap. He was one of the 


senior redcaps , porters . He owned this building that was right 
across from San Pablo Park, and had kind of a penthouse apartment, 
which he let me have reasonably. That's how I got to Berkeley. 

Morris: Right across from where all those baseball games are played. 

Wilson: That's right, right across where all those baseball games were 

Morris: That's a nice neighborhood. 

Wilson: So then we bought a duplex on 62nd and Market, which was in 

Oakland, the house next door was in Berkeley. [laughs] That's 
how big a deal it was that we had to live in Oakland. We were 
buying a home on Glen, and we retained that home on Glen, figuring 
I'd move up to superior court, ultimately, and we'd move back into 

Berkeley was a different place then. I never thought I'd see 
that day when I wouldn't want to be caught dead in Berkeley. We 
rented the house out. We were renting it to students, and 
graduate students, and all went well until we rented it to a group 
of graduate students from another part of the world, out of a 
different culture. Not that they were bad people, their culture 
was so different, and what they were doing in the house my wife 
couldn't take it. 

She kept after me, "We've got to get rid of that house. I 
can't stand it what they're doing in that house." So finally I 
said, "Okay, all right," I caved in, "Sell the house," and six 
months later I was --here again I never had to fight to get the 
superior court. Pat Brown just said, for some time, "Lionel's 
going to get the next opening," so sure enough, when the next 
opening came he moved me up to the superior court . 

Morris: Did that legal redress committee that you'd been chairman of give 
you any sense of things that you would like to see happen as a 
judge, that you then- - 

Wilson: Oh, yes, certainly it did. Even as a judge, I continued to work 

with the NAACP, just as Don McCullum has continued to be a leader, 
to fight all the injustices, the discrimination and the 
segregation, that we saw around us. So I went on working with the 

Morris: By the time you went on the bench were there beginning to be some 
black men and women in the county probation department, and the 
sheriff's department-- 

Wilson: Yes, as a matter of fact, the irony of it is that, for instance in 
the probation department, my youngest brother became the first 
black senior probation officer in Alameda County. This was a 
direction that he decided to go, and went into probation work. I 
didn't steer him in any way into it; it was his own independent 
decision, that he wanted to get into that field. 

Impact of National Sports and Budget Decisions 

Morris: That might be a good place to stop for today. I've run over your 
time, I know. 

Wilson: Yes. Although I haven't had a buzz for my eleven o'clock 
appointment. I don't know what's happened. 

Morris: May be sitting patiently out there. Okay, thank you. Do you 

suppose maybe next week or the next week we could sneak in another 
session before your-- 

Wilson: I will try. Just a little tight, you know. 
Morris: I understand. 

Wilson: So many things keep coming up. The Coliseum is fighting to insure 
that Oakland will have a National Football League franchise here. 
The National Football League is meeting in Phoenix, so they've 
gone to great lengths to set up a team to go down and lobby the 
league. And they insist that it's very important that I be there. 

Morris: I can see that. 

Wilson: So, Sunday morning I take off for Phoenix, and I'll return early 

Morris: That shoots that week, yes. 

Wilson: I've turned down, in the last week, two requests that I go to 
China, one from the university, from one of the associate 
chancellors. Last week-end they wanted me in New York to fight 
another matter that's critical, I think, in this country, and that 
is [President Ronald] Reagan's domestic budget. They wanted me 
but only, they said, if you and your wife pay for your 
transportation and motel when you get back there. 

Dutch Morial, who is the new president of the U.S. Conference 
of Mayors, is doing an outstanding job of organizing the key 
mayors around the country, those they see as having the greatest 



political strength, organizing to fight it. A group of us met in 
San Francisco two weeks ago and then this weekend, as 1 say. But 
I just couldn't go. I already had four commitments I had to keep. 

Yes? Did you tell them to save all these things until after the 
Oakland election? 

Wilson: I sent them a strong telegram of support saying, "I'm with you, 
and just let me know what you want me to do." But it goes on and 

Superior Court Pre-Trial Release Program 

Morris: [It must be a difficult time to be a Democrat. 

Wilson: One of the things I really pushed when I went on the superior 

court was a better approach to bail. We put together a task force 
to work on that. There was] an officer of the Alameda County 
Public Defender; the district attorney [Thomas] Coakley; the chief 
of police of Oakland, and the president of the Alameda County Bar 
Association. Well, Coakley was bored. He thought everybody ought 
to go to prison anyway, but I'm talking about a bail, a pre-trial 
release program. 

So after about three months he turned it over to Ed, and Ed 
Meese was his representative. Because Ed Meese was the heir 
apparent to replace him, until he got tied up with Ronald Reagan 
in his campaign for governor and moved off in a different 
direction. Otherwise, Ed Meese would have been the-- 

Morris: County district attorney. 

Wilson: Instead of Lowell Jensen, Meese would have been the Alameda County 
District Attorney. 

Morris: That's interesting, I never thought of that part of the whole 
thing . 

Wilson: There's no question about it. It was all set up, it was wired, 

[chuckles] and it was going to happen. It's kind of sad to me; I 
think that Ed has become--! don't know whether it's his 
association with Reagan or what- -but far more conservative than he 
was. He [Meese] was more moderate before he left. Or maybe I 
just- -for instance, he was very supportive of the bail for 
pre-trial release program. After putting it together, I chaired 
it for a year, and then I turned it over to him. 


Anyway, I've had contact there. [Vice President George] Bush 
invited me back to a small meeting with twelve or fifteen people. 
It turned out that he wanted support for his zone-- 

Morris: Enterprise zone? 

Wilson: Enterprise zone program. I went back just to see what it looked 
like, really. But he got into a situation where he couldn't 
handle the mayor of Baltimore, who was the only Democrat in the 
room beside me. I took care of that for him, so then I began to 
get invitations [laughs] back there. Yes, I'm a Democrat, but I'm 
the mayor of a city of all kinds of people, of all kinds of 
political persuasions. 

I'm proud of the fact that- -although a lot of my Democratic 
friends don't like it- -that not once, in almost eight years, has 
any- -I don't even allow it to get into discussions on the floor 
around any partisan political issues. 

Morris: That's tough to do sometimes. 

Wilson: It's tough, but I've done it. 

Morris: The buzzer did buzz. Thank you. 

Wilson: Yes, thanks. 


V Oakland Economic Development Commission Chair, 1965-1969 

[Interview 3: July 31. 1990 ]## 

A Problem with Mayor Houlihan's Appointments 

Morris: When last we met, we had talked about your work on the superior 
court and we had just gotten to the point where I wanted to ask 
you about the Oakland Economic Development Commission. 

Wilson: OEDCI. 

Morris: Right. And you were appointed to that in 1965, according to the 
files of the Tribune . From those clippings, I put together a 
little biographical chronology. 7 

Wilson: Yes. Well, actually, I wasn't appointed, I was selected by- -well, 
I guess I was appointed, because Mayor [John] Houlihan was putting 
the board together and he asked me to chair it, and after some 
preliminaries with him I agreed to do so. 

Actually, my name was brought up in a meeting where they were 
selecting a board chairperson and Justice [Clinton] White, then 
Attorney White, I think, said, "Well, the judge won't take it, 
won't accept it--" 

Morris: Meaning you. 

Wilson: Meaning me. And I was on the superior court at the time, and so 
Mayor Houlihan said, "Well why won't he?" And he [White] said, 
"Well, because of you. He said that he's afraid that you are 
going to 'try to run the show' and control it and under those 
circumstances, he won't serve, because--" I had been approached 
and asked about it and I had told them that. 

7 See p. viii. See Appendices for selected clippings on Mayor Wilson's 


So Houlihan committed that he would not interfere with the 
operation, and not only that, but he wouldn't even serve on the 
board, and he didn't. And so I took the chairmanship and served 
for six years. 

Morris: What was your thinking? And it sounds as if Clinton White was a 
close colleague of yours. 

Wilson: Very close, yes, he was. 

Morris : And had you and he talked about what you hoped that OEDCI might 

Wilson: Well, I don't know that we had. He had asked me about whether I 
would take the chairmanship of the board. 

Morris: That's something that was of interest to you and your colleagues, 
that this commission- - 

Wilson: Well, it was of interest to me, it was of interest to me. It was 
the anti -poverty program. I had hopes that it was going to do 
good things for the people who needed help in the city and who 
were economically depressed, and I had hopes that it was going to 
provide some jobs and some programs that would produce training 
for many of the people who needed it and as a base for them, 
ultimately, for getting jobs. 

Morris : Had you had some differences of opinion with Mayor Houlihan that 
led you to think he might -- 

Wilson: Yes, yes. 

Morris: What were the problems? 

Wilson: Well, Mayor Houlihan called me one day and said that there were no 
blacks on any important boards or commissions in the city, and I 
don't know whether there were any at all. There may have been one 
or two on minor ones , but there were none serving on any of the 
important boards or commissions. And he said he wanted to correct 
that, he wanted to add, he was thinking of two in, as I recall, 
civil service, and I don't remember whether the other one was the 
port, or it was another important board, and asked me for 
recommendations of blacks to serve whom he could appoint. 

And I said fine, and I called together a committee of about 
fifteen people who were community leaders from around the city, a 
broad perspective, a real broad and representative group. 
Although I've been identified as a Democrat all my life, I had 
several Republicans with whom I was friendly--! guess Clint White 


was probably a Republican at that time. Anyway, I made it broadly 
representative of the community and put it up to them, told them 
of the call from the mayor and what he wanted and so they, they 
did not want to sit still for that. 

He wanted one specific person for each one, and they insisted 
on submitting three names for each of these positions, two 
positions. That was unacceptable to Houlihan when I called him, 
and we had words about it; he was a very volatile and aggressive 
personality, and I had to tell him off. And that was the end of 

Morris: Oh dear, so there were no minority appointments- - 

Wilson: No. All he wanted to do was he simply wanted us, me, to 
rubber-stamp a couple of people he had in mind. 

Morris: Oh, he already had some candidates. 

Wilson: He already had a couple of people in mind, and the committee I put 
together found that unacceptable and I did too. 

Morris: They weren't people that you and your committee would have come up 
with by, you know, your processes of selection? 

Wilson: No. 

Morris: And so did Houlihan go ahead and appoint those people that he had 
in mind anyway? 

Wilson: I think he made a couple, he did make two or some of the 
appointments . 

Morris: Did that kind of appointment process make it difficult for you to 
work with the people that were eventually appointed? 

Wilson: No. 

From the Ford Foundation Grey Areas Program to the Economic 
Opportunity Act 

Morris: How did the Economic Development Committee go about their work. 
Did you have some staff? 

Wilson: We had a staff, yes. We had a staff which really was a program 
group . 


Morris: Was that when Norvel Smith was director? 

Wilson: Well, yes. Actually, yes. I had served on a committee headed by a 
lawyer named Joe [Joseph E.] Smith who had been a former mayor 
[1947-1949], a one-term mayor on the council at a time when labor 
rose- -at that time it was stronger- -it rose up and I think the 
whole labor contingent was elected to the city council, and they 
only lasted one term. 

Morris: They sure, yes, disappeared from history. 

Wilson: That's right, and they were beaten right after that. 

Anyway, Joe was made chairman of the committee that was the 
policy-making group for the old Ford Foundation Grey Areas program 
that had started earlier in the sixties. The Ford Foundation had 
put up a considerable amount of money and Senator [William] 
Knowland was active in the formation of the group that drafted 
that program. 

Morris : The proposal to the Ford Foundation? 

Wilson: The proposal to the Ford Foundation that Evilio Grille wrote. That 
proposal was successful and was taken on by the Ford Foundation. 
They granted I think, first three million and then another two- 
and-a-half -million later on. That program had selected the 
Castlemont corridor as the area. 

It was in a state of flux at the time, but people were 
changing and in and out, and they wanted to try to stabilize it. 
The theory was, let's put some money into this as a demonstration 
project and see whether we can't stabilize that section of the 

Morris: Surrounding Castlemont. 

Wilson: Around Castlemont High School. So that program was still active 
when the Economic Opportunity Act was passed in 1964. And Evilio 
had written them [Ford Foundation proposals], but Norvel became 
the- -I guess Norvel Smith was the first director, was he? I guess 
he was . 

Morris: Are you saying that he had worked with Evilio Grille on the Ford 

Wilson: I'm trying to remember whether Norvel had worked on that project. 


Lively District Meetings 

Morris: There was a tie-in, if I remember correctly, with the old social 
planning council in the United Crusade. Is that correct? 

Wilson: I don't know, I don't remember that. The way we organized, we 

organized by districts into seven districts throughout the city. 
Each district had its own community organization and its district 
council, and those were the same district councils that exist 
today, without the same people, but that's right. 

So the board was made up of about a little over thirty 
people, maybe about thirty- two people. The city had three 
representatives on it, the mayor, George Vukasin, and the late 
Josh Rose. 

The first thing I did as the chairman was to move it out of 
city hall, where it originally met into Franklin Recreation 
Center, and we met there for maybe, I don't know, I vaguely recall 
maybe about six months or so. Then I changed that and we began to 
meet once a month in a different district each month. We moved 
the meetings- -the major meetings were held each month in a 
different part of the city in one of these seven districts, and we 
moved them around the city. 

Morris: Did that bring in new people to the meetings and get more people 

Wilson: It got more people involved in the decision-making process, and 
that was the purpose of it. And every meeting for six years, I 
can't remember a meeting where they weren't literally hanging from 
the walls, whether we met in recreation centers, church halls, 
school auditoriums or what. 

Morris: According to the articles I read in the Tribune, some of those 
meetings got pretty controversial. 

Wilson: [chuckles] Listen, I'll say they were. In those days, and of 

course the only security--! was a superior court judge- -the only 
security I had was if I thought that there was going to be a 
problem and I had good relationships with people around the city. 

For instance, there was an organization called GIG, Group to 
Industrialize the Ghetto, and they were nearly all ex-cons; they 
all had criminal records. They were all trying to develop an 
economic base for their organization of people around them and I 
helped them and supported them and they would keep me apprised. If 


there was a rumble, they'd call me and say, "Judge, there's going 
to be a rumble tonight. What time are you going to arrive and 
where are you going to park?" And they would meet me there and 
they would provide my security. 

Morris: To get in and out of the meeting. 


Yes . But I never had any trouble , I actually never had any 
trouble until the final meeting. They were sure there was going 
to be a rumble, and there was a rumble, and it was going to be a 
problem. Sure enough, they met me, and they were there, escorted 
me in when I walked in, and they were standing around the hall. 
They assumed the same type of dress that the [Black] Panthers did, 
and nothing happened. They were standing around, you know, 
obviously there for security purposes, and nothing happened. 

I remember the first time I found it necessary that I make a 
judgment, and I called the chief of police and said, "Look, I 
understand there may be trouble tonight. Would you have a couple 
of people there? I don't want them in uniform." So he did. On 
the way out, we didn't have any trouble; but I was walking out 
with one of them who is a friend of mine today, and he said, 
"Judge," he said, "How often do you have meetings like this where 
they're this controversial and with this many people?" 

And I said, "This is nothing unusual, this is a common 
meeting." He just shook his head and said, "My God, I don't know 
how you do it, because, you know, you're just, with no particular 
security. " 

And some of them were pretty wild. There was one in 
particular, a man named Baker who tried to be a real source 
trouble, but we managed that. Anyway, my time is up. 


Morris: Okay, that's a good beginning. Those were pretty exciting days 

Relationship with City Government 

Wilson: We were one of only two in the nation of all of the programs 

around the country that were able to become independent and we 
operated without any controls of the city. The city government 
had no veto power over our conduct. We handled millions of 
dollars without any scandal, and we handled our own funds. This 
is the three members of the council who served, the mayor and the 
two members of the council who served. They had one vote, just 
like any of the other thirty- two or whatever it was people who 


served on that board. That was the only input that the city had, 

Morris: Was it a big struggle to reorganize as an independent body out 
from under the city? 

Wilson: No. There was a struggle to get the independence, but once we got 
it we were staying the same body and the body didn't change, 
whereas it was a real struggle to get that independence. 

Morris : How did you do that? 

Wilson: I don't know, I guess I just went to the people and got enough 

community support, and we just insisted on it and kept pushing it 
and arguing it and got it. 

Morris: So am I right that this would require the city council voting to 
sign off their role in charge of the economic development 

Wilson: I'm not sure whether they did, because if they had, if it was that 
way, I imagine they might have tried to regain control at one time 
or another. They could have; it just would have taken a majority 
on the council to regain control, and that never happened; not 
before I left, anyway. 



[Interview 4, August 29, 1990 ]//# 

Campaign for Mayor. 1976 


Morris: This morning I thought we might pick up with a question I raised 
about your decision to go from the bench and the Oakland Economic 
Development Corporation into running for mayor. When did you 
start thinking about that? 

Wilson: Well, it didn't originate with me. There were some people in the 
community came to me approaching the 1973 election and suggested 
that I consider running for mayor at that time. This must have 
been in 1972. I looked at it and informed them, no, that I wasn't 

Because you had a good relationship with Mayor John Reading? 

No, no, simply because I hadn't thought of getting into that sort 
of- -I had been on the bench just about eleven years or twelve 
years, and I was thinking more in terms of a future on the bench, 
so I just- -it had never occurred to me that I might get involved 
politically in that way. 

Morris : What changed your mind? 

Wilson: Well, some of the same people and a few others came to me four 

years later in 1976. By then I guess I'd had about fifteen years 
on the bench, and by then I'd been through all the chairs and had 
presided over various phases of the court, the criminal division a 
couple of times, and the full court in 1973, and the appellate 
department, so I was viewing my work on the bench in a little 
different way by then. I suppose that I had reached a point where 
I found the idea just much more appealing. 

Morris: Were there changes in the political picture here in Oakland that 
made the mayor's spot more interesting? 


Wilson: Well, at that time, when they came to me four years later, I knew 
that John Reading was seriously considering not running, which 
made a significant difference, too. Not in terms of a question of 
any relationship I had with Reading, because I didn't have any 
relationship with Reading, but simply in terms of whether it made 
sense with regard to the element of success of such a campaign or 

Morris: Does that sort of translate into whether or not it was possible to 
elect a mayor who was black? Had that been a consideration 

Wilson: Oh, that was a consideration, yes. 

Morris: Was there a really strong concern in the black community for a 
black mayor at that time? 

Wilson: I felt there was, and there had been other people that had talked 
about it and had been talked about as potential candidates. There 
had been considerable talk around John Reading's side about a 
person, one man in the community. And then another one who 
couldn't make up his mind which way he would want to go if he 
went, whether he'd want to go with Reading's group or whether he 
wanted to go with the Democrats on the other side. 

Morris : Would that have been Otho Green? 

Wilson: No. 

Morris: Was Otho Green a serious candidate or a serious possibility? 

Wilson: I didn't look upon him as such at the time. No, that was the late 
John Williams, who headed up the Economic Development Department. 
As a matter of fact, he headed up the redevelopment agency. 

Morris: Does that mean you and he would have worked closely together on 
your interest in the Economic Development- - 

Wilson: He and I had talked about it, yes. We would have worked very 

close together. He had an untimely death; he died of cancer, I 
think, a relatively early death; he was still in his fifties. 

But he and I were friends and we had talked about it, and he 
had talked about the approaches that had been made to him from 
time to time. The approaches that had been made to him had been 
from the John Reading people. 


Morris: That's interesting, he was already in the city government working 
for the city at that point? 

Wilson: He was the redevelopment director. His bust is out there in City 

Morris: I know, I know. He must have been quite a remarkable fellow in-- 
Wilson: He was, he was. He was a very, very charismatic personality. 
Morris: How come he decided not to run for mayor? 

Wilson: I think because they didn't give him sufficient commitment in 

terms of money. Not for his pocket, but for his campaign. He felt 
that there simply wasn't a sufficient commitment there. There was 
talk, a lot of talk, but he didn't see any concrete evidence of 
willingness and ability to raise the money. 

New Oakland Committee 

Morris: Where were people like Bill Knowland and the Kaisers and some of 
the people at Clorox Company in this kind of discussion? 

Wilson: I don't know. I wasn't having any discussions with them, and when 
I did get into it, they supported my major opponent. There were a 
number of other candidates, but the major opponent was the 
president of the school board, a man named [ ] Tucker, and they 
supported him. 

The Tribune endorsed him and the business community got 
behind him and raised money and he had sort of a lot of money for 
his campaign. An interesting sidelight of that was that almost to 
the date of his death, Edgar Kaiser from time to time said to me 
how sorry he was that he went along with the business community 
and did not support me in my first campaign. He used to send this 
big plant once a year, I don't remember whether it was Christmas 
or something, almost right up to the time of his death. 

Morris: Even though, on the Economic Development Commission you had worked 
with people from Kaiser and from-- 

Wilson: Well, it wasn't the commission. I had worked with them when I was 
chairman of the anti-poverty board and also when the Black 
Panthers became very active. The Panthers had picketed two liquor 
stores, both on Grove Street, owned by the same person, a black 
man. One on Grove around 24th and one on Grove and about 54th. 


Then they had said to the press and announced publicly that 
when they completed that then they were going to look at the white 
businesses with a view to going after them on the basis of 
integration and employment. 

At that point, a group of the leading business people, 
including Edgar Kaiser and Bill Knowland and then chairman of the 
board of Safeway, Quentin Reynolds, a group of them had gotten 
together on someone's recommendation to form an organization 
called the New Oakland Committee, which exists today. 

What happened is that they raised the seed money for the 
organization. Then just about when they thought they had the 
three caucuses formed- -a business caucus, a labor caucus, and a 
minority caucus --when they got to the minority caucus, there was 
what was called the Black Caucus, made up of the late Judge [Don] 
McCullum--he was not a judge then- -Don McCullum, Elijah Turner, 
and Paul Cobb and a young fellow named Galloway who, at the time, 
was active with the NAACP. They said, when they were approached 
about this organization, "Fine, yes, but we have to be the 
exclusive representatives of the black community." That was 
unacceptable to the business leaders who were putting this 
organization together, so everything stopped. 

Then there was the chief administrator that they'd had for 
Kaiser, who worked with me then in the anti -poverty program and 
who apparently said to them, "Look, despite what the Black Caucus 
says, if Lionel Wilson is willing to do it, he can put together 
that minority caucus for you." 

So they approached me and I said, "Well," and I looked at it 
and I said, "Okay, I'll do it, only on one condition and that is 
that I get assurance that once you form the organization, that 
you're going to be going to the meetings, or at least send your 
second- level aides in to represent these corporations and that 
you're going to continue to be active," that is, that these people 
who were CEO's and so forth would continue to be part of the 
committee . 

They made that commitment to me and so then I sent the Black 
Caucus a letter saying, look- -or a call, I don't remember- -saying, 
"Look, I'm going to form it, the minority caucus, and you ought 
to be represented in order to be a part of it, but you can't call 
the shots--" 

Morris: You can't tell the committee what to do? 


Wilson: Yes, so they backed off of that, when I did that they backed off 
of their position and agreed to become a part of it, and that's 
how the New Oakland Committee was formed. 

Morris: Did some of those people later turn out to help in your campaign? 

Wilson: It was formed out of fear when the Panthers announced that they 

were going to then move- -after they had completed their attack on 
this black businessman- -that they were going to move into the 
white business community. 

Morris: Did you see the Panthers as a serious threat, or did you see them 
as having some ideas that needed to be discussed or were worth 

Wilson: Threat to whom? 

Morris: Well, to the comfort and good future of Oakland. 

Wilson: Well, I saw it from a dual perspective. One, in terms that I 
never have condoned violence and confrontation as the answer, 
solution to social problems. And the other one was that I saw the 
Panthers as a catalyst to bring about some meaningful change. 

Morris: Kind of following up all the work that the NAACP had been doing 
for years? 

Wilson: Yes, well, doing the same thing but doing it in a different way. 

Morris: And did some of the people who were active in the Black Panthers 
then come along into your campaign and into the mainstream? 

Wilson: Ultimately, when I ran for mayor, they did. The Panthers were 
active in my campaign in 1977. 

Now I had been told that Huey Newton had said that if I had 
been willing to run in 1973 that Bobby Scale would not have been a 
candidate then. I don't know whether that's true or not. 

Morris: Yes, because Bobby Seale, as I recall, was pretty much a young 

Wilson: Well, yes, I suppose he was. He ran in 1973 and got into a runoff 
against John Reading. Of course in the runoff he was very, very 
badly beaten. 


Campaign Organization 

Morris: Looking through the newspaper clippings on that campaign, I found 
that you had kind of an exploratory committee called the Friends 
of Oakland that [County Clerk] Rene Davidson was chairman of. Do 
you remember how that worked or what role Mr. Davidson played? 

Wilson: Rene became one of the leaders in our attempt to win the mayor's 

Morris: Was he one of the people who originally had been encouraging you 
to run for office? 

Wilson: I don't know that he was. It was more I think around the late 
Dick Groulx and some labor people. 

Morris: Was that when Dick Groulx was head of the Alameda County Labor 

Wilson: No, I think he was a deputy then to someone else; this was before 
he became the secretary- treasurer . 

Morris: But would some of those early people have been from the labor 
movement wanting you to run? 

Wilson: Yes. 

Morris: Who else do you recall? 

Wilson: I think there was a lawyer who was on the school board about that 
time named [Seymour] Rose. 

Morris: By the time that you did run, was Ron Dellums--he was already in 
the Congress --would he have been somebody you worked with at all 
or who offered some support for the campaign? 

Wilson: I don't remember Ron being in my campaign. I supported Ron from 
the first time he ran for Congress, but that -- 

Morris: When he was still more or less a candidate of the traditional 
Democracies or of the new coalition of more activist political 

Wilson: Yes. I wasn't a part of that, but I did support Ron. 

Morris: What I was kind of wondering about was, in Berkeley there's been a 
lot of attention given to differences of opinion between the more 
traditional Democrats and more activist-- 


Wilson: I was more in line at that time with the traditional Democrats. 

Morris: But was that difference a problem in Oakland, in trying to put 
together a campaign and run for mayor? 

Wilson: Well, Oakland was sort of just a big blob. There was nothing, no 
real organization other than-- The onle real organization, I 
guess, was the East Bay Democratic Club around Assemblyman Byron 

When I really took a good look at Oakland, I was amazed to 
find how little organization there was. 

Morris: That's interesting when you're talking of a city this size. 
Wilson: Politically, I mean. 

Morris: I understand. How did you go about putting together a campaign? 
Did you get a professional manager? 

Wilson: Well, as a matter of fact, I had a little group of people around 
me who were urging me to run once I indicated I was interested in 
running. There was a group of people around me, mostly pretty 
moderate Democrats, black, white, and Hispanics. I raised much 
more money than I anticipated I was going to be able to raise. 

Morris: More money was raised than you thought? 

Wilson: Ultimately, yes. But I didn't expect to raise that kind of money, 
so I was looking for someone to manage the campaign. I wasn't 
thinking of any of the high-powered consultants who were around at 
that day. 

I selected Sandre Swanson, who was a young fellow- -he had 
started to work for Ron, that's right. I remember now because Ron 
let him have a leave to run my campaign, and large numbers of 
people around me were very upset because Sandre was inexperienced. 
He'd never run a political campaign except in college, so he 
obviously had no track record and no history, but I had confidence 
in him. And he did a good job, I thought. 

Morris: Good, good. Well, sometimes a young man makes up in energy for 
what he may lack in knowledge of some of the ins and outs of the 

Morris: Did you and he put together an organization by district or ethnic 
group or what kind of a plan did you work out? 


Wilson: Well, we tried to do it by district rather than by ethnic group. 
Morris: What areas turned out to give you most support? 

Wilson: It was pretty broad in support in the flatlands, north, east, west 

Morris: Was that still the time when you had committees of lawyers and 
committees of doctors and committees of educators- - 

Wilson: Well, I did that; I did put together committees of doctors and 

committees of lawyers and a committee of teachers and a committee 
of cosmetologists and committees of ministers. 

Morris: Did you spend a lot of time out in the neighborhoods and in the 
churches talking to people? 

Wilson: Yes, I did. 

Morris: Did Mr. Swanson go with you on all those, or was he going out to 
other areas? 

Wilson: I don't remember, but I'm sure he did. 

State Political Figures 

Morris: Was Byron Rumford himself able to put some time in on strategy? 
Wilson: Yes. 

Morris: How about Nick Petris? 

Wilson: Nick was supportive, but I don't remember him as being 

particularly active in the campaign, other than endorsing and 

Morris: I guess I was wondering about how much interaction there is 

between a local mayor and council election and the assembly and 
senate races . 

Wilson: Well, up until the last few years, there was considerable 

interaction. But then, by that time, [State Senator] Nick Petris 
was pretty well entrenched. Then Byron and then [Assemblyman] 
John Miller, who took his place, each of them was pretty well 
entrenched. Then [Assemblyman] Lockyer moved in behind the 


assemblyman from Alameda who was killed by an automobile, 
[Assemblyman] Bob Crown, who he was just beginning to develop his 
thing. And particularly in the early years, well, even the first, 
say seven or eight years of my holding office, I had a close 
working relationship with the legislators. They were very 
supportive of the city issues and have been consistently so. 

Morris: How about [Assemblyman] Tom Bates? 

Wilson: Even Bates, when the chips were down. Bates and I never really 

saw eye to eye. Even in the early days, it was kind of a tenuous 

Morris: How many people who worked on your campaign had the time and 

energy to stay around and help once you, you know, in appointive 
positions or committees or anything like that once you got into 
the mayor's office? Was there much carry-over? 

Wilson: Only in a general way. 

Morris: At what point did you feel like it was a good possibility you were 
going to get elected? 

Wilson: I always thought I was going to, from the time I decided to run-- 
Morris: Did you! Good for you, good for you! 

Offer of Appointment to the State Court of Appeal 

Wilson: When the governor's office said to me, "Look, have you decided 

whether you're going to run for mayor or whether you're going to 
move to the court of appeals?" And he was offering me the court 
appointment to the court of appeals and asked whether I'd made 
that decision, and I said "Yes, I have." But I didn't say I'm 
going to run for mayor, I said, "I'm going to become the mayor." 

Morris: So you turned down the appointment to the appeals court in order 
to run for mayor. Was that a tough decision? 

Wilson: No. It would have been and I might have gone a different way, and 
I've often wondered about that, if I had known that I was two or 
three years younger than a judge in southern California who was a 
distinguished jurist who was a year ahead of me on the court. He 
was appointed to the municipal court in Los Angeles a year ahead 
of me and he was appointed to the superior court roughly, give or 
take, a year ahead of me. He was a distinguished jurist. I felt 


that there was going to be a black on the supreme court of 
California, but I thought it would be Justice [Bernard] Jefferson. 
If I had known that he was older, then the chances are his age 
would preclude him. That's the only reason he wasn't. 

Morris: And Allen Broussard was appointed instead. 

Wilson: Well, it went through other possibilities before it got to Allen 
Broussard. Allen ultimately was appointed [in 1981], yes, but 
there were some other ramifications. There was a lawyer in Los 
Angeles, a former Cal football player who was offered the position 
and turned it down, said he couldn't afford it. 

Morris: He was making more money in private practice than he would on the 

Wilson: Yes. 




He offered me the court of appeals, he didn't offer me the supreme 
court. Well, but down the line. Anyway, it might have made a 
difference, if I had thought when the time came, that I would be 
offered the supreme court. But, as I said, I thought it was going 
to southern California. I've never regretted it, though. 

Was this Jerry Brown [Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr.] you talked 
with, or was it all done through the appointment secretary? 

Which appointment? 

The possibility of going on the state appeals court. 

I guess you enter politics and you get a feel for what's going to 
happen and you get to know the people close. Tony Kline, who's 
now a justice of the court of appeals, was the legal affairs 
secretary, and I had gotten to know Tony well. 

I pretty much well knew that I was in line to be moved up to 
the court of appeals, just like I never asked for a promotion to 
the superior court. But Pat Brown just started saying, "Lionel 
Wilson is going to get the next opening on the superior court." 
So [later on] when the governor's office says- -I guess maybe it 
was Tony-- [one day] while I was in the governor's office, said, 
"Well, have you made up your mind whether you're going to the 
court of appeals or are you going to run for mayor?" And that was 
as much discussion as there was. 


Morris: It's kind of iffy; doesn't somebody say, we'd like to appoint you 
to the appeals court. 

Wilson: Well, not really, not in the real world. 

Morris: You make a major decision like that based on this sort of informal 
discussion that's in the air? 

Wilson: Well, if you think there's any question about it or you think that 
it's something that may or may not happen if you- -I was satisfied 
that, although I hadn't been formally offered appointment, that it 
was coming. 

Morris: That's very valuable. It takes a lot of intestinal fortitude to 
continue on in public life at that level. 

Wilson: Well, I wasn't that ambitious anyway, in terras of moving up from a 
muni court, for instance. Some of my fellow judges who ultimately 
went to superior court were, you know, they were just red-hot to 
go to the superior court. I was doing a job in the muni court and 
I was satisfied and happy doing the job I was doing and I wasn't 
worried about movement to the superior court. I never asked for 
it, the governor just started talking about it himself. 

Morris: Were you concerned that there wasn't enough diversity on the court 
so that there were some questions that perhaps were not being 
dealt with? 

Wilson: Yes, I felt so. 



Responsibilities and Accomplishments 

Morris: Could we talk a little bit about what you hoped to deal with as 
mayor of Oakland, what you saw as the pressing issues and, you 
know, how it felt to go from the bench into running a city the 
size of Oakland? 

Wilson: Well, if I had been in the same position that most judges are in, 
it would have been entirely different. But I had chaired the 
anti-poverty program for six years from right after the act was 
passed until December 31st of 1969. And I was a hands-on chairman 
and I was into everything in and about the city. 

While I was chairman of the anti -poverty program I started 
putting together the first anti -drug program in the city of 
Oakland. Actually, it was the first program that was put together 
in the Bay Area. And I put together the first formal pre-trial 
release bail program and I put together the first on- the -job 
training program for the city of Oakland, so I had been involved 

Morris: On -the -job -training for city hires, for city employees to bring in 
new kinds of people . 

Wilson: So I had been involved in so many different ways in the city's 

activities that this was not a new world for me when I moved into 
it, other than I had not been official- -well , I guess I was an 
official part of city government because the anti-poverty program 
did represent the city of Oakland. But even at that, I was 
successful in taking it more to the people than almost any other 
city in the country. 

There was only one other city that, as I think, that was able 
to go independent. That is, my anti-poverty board ran the 
program. We controlled the money. The city had no control over 
it, had no power over the money that was allocated to us in that 


Morris: Did that cause some problems for the city council? 
Wilson: Yes, for the mayor, mainly. 

Morris: Mayor Reading. But when you became a member of the council as 

Wilson: No, by then, that program had moved on. Model Cities had come 
along and replaced it and that program was no longer alive. 

Morris: The anti-poverty program. But the Model Cities- - 
Wilson: Things that had followed it were there. 

Morris: Model Cities, as I recall, also had its own elected board. I was 
wondering if some city council members saw some of these new 
decision-making bodies as kind of a threat to the city council? 

Wilson: I'm sure they did. 

Morris: Were there some city council people that you were particularly 
comfortable with, that were more likely to support you? 

Wilson: Well, when I came on, in terms of the city council, the city 

council had three representatives on my anti -poverty board. One 
was the mayor, the other one was the late Josh Rose, who was the 
first black council member, and George Vukasin, who was a leader 
on the council. 

The first thing I did was to call George after I was elected 
and said, "I'd like to talk to you." "Fine!" he said. "John 
Reading never talked to me," so he was happy to talk to me. I sat 
down and, although John Reading and I were constantly fighting 
over the anti -poverty program, I had never had any quarrels with 
George Vukasin while he was on the board. And we sat down and 
talked and he was happy to have a relationship with the mayor and 

So I moved in with a much stronger position than normally a 
mayor would have had, a new mayor coming in, especially coming 
from a different medium, because I had George Vukasin supporting 
me. And he brought with him three or four votes. 

Morris: More from the middle-of-the-road or business community? 
Wilson: Yes, that's right. 


Oakland Raiders 






Well, good strategy, good strategy. Could we take just a couple 
of seconds each to tell me some things that have gotten a lot of 
public interest like the Port of Oakland and the Raiders? Many 
youngsters reading your oral history are going to think first 
about Lionel Wilson and the Raiders . 

Like the voters did. There's no question among the politicians 
that that's what killed me. 

They left, you know. They were everybody's favorite local 
citizens and then they left, all while you've been mayor. 

That's right, and they'll probably be back while I'm mayor, 
least the decision, probably, to come back. 


Well, any one of those subjects, to even talk about them, are 
very involved. To just make a passing reference to them would be 
to do them an injustice. 

As far as the Raiders are concerned, there was a lot more to 
it than most people understand. Al Davis simply had made up his 
mind that he was going to move. He wanted to move, and he thought 
Los Angeles has a far more fertile field of opportunity for 
support in numbers and money, and that was it. He decided to move 
the team. He had made up his mind to move it, in my opinion, and 
he had complete control. 

He had won a lawsuit in a fight with a major stockholder. He 
just had a contract, and even though he owned some stock, he was 
only a minority owner. But then came the lawsuit, which was 
presided over by Judge Redmond Staats--and his contract prevailed 
over the equity interest of the owner of the majority of the 
stock. And that gave him the power. Out of that lawsuit, the 
court found that that contract he had gave him complete power to 
do anything he wanted to with the Raiders. 

That's interesting when the city and county also have an interest 
in it because the city and county built the Coliseum. 


Port of Oakland 

Morris: How about the Port of Oakland, which in some ways seems to be a 
more important factor in the city's economic picture? 

Wilson: Well it is, it is. It certainly is. In terms of economics, it's 
the most prolific and the most important economic factor, if you 
want to take a single one in the city, in relation to the city. 
The Port of Oakland simply was a port that, somewhere back years 
ago someone abused power and, as a result of it, the people gave 
it semi -autonomy. 

Then there was a far-seeing visionary port director [Ben 
Nutter] who foresaw that the then wave of the future was going to 
be in container shipping. 8 He moved the port into that area and 
they got the jump on all the other ports. 

But it was inevitable that as the other ports like Seattle 
and Los Angeles and Long Beach recognized the merits of focusing 
on container shipping that there were some physical factors which 
meant that, ultimately, they were going to pass up the city of 
Oakland in terms of ultimate productivity. And it's not really a 
reflection on the Port of Oakland, it's just facts of life, 
distances between Seattle and the Far East and the amount of money 
that these larger cities like Los Angeles and Seattle have to 
invest. Long Beach with its tidelands oil money had far more 
money to invest, in addition to some physical factors which relate 
to the distance the ships have to travel from Tokyo, for instance. 
So it was inevitable that they would pass up Oakland. 

Regional Government 

Morris: What about the long-running question of regional government? From 
Oakland's point of view, from your perspective, has it seemed at 
any point realistic or to anybody's advantage -- 

Wilson: Well, it would be realistic if it was done logically and 

objectively, if it was put together in terms of where the strength 
was and where the center of activity should be. And there's no 
question but what it's Oakland. 

8 See Regional Oral History Office interviews on the Port of Oakland, 
in process in 1991. 




San Francisco's dead, as some top key business people have 
said who were close to it. They said, even before they moved 
American President Lines over here, that they ought to recognize 
that, with container shipping there just was no future for San 
Francisco. It could not be the leader because, for instance, the 
trucks. It's a peninsula, and it isn't like here where the trucks 
come over land and they can just drive up to the port and drive 
out with the goods. Of course, that wasn't really what killed San 
Francisco at the time, but over a period of time it would have 
happened anyway because of the geography. 

There were politics in San Francisco which played a major 
role in its demise. San Francisco still wants to control the bay. 
Dianne Feinstein, when she was mayor, was trying to find some way 
to regionalize shipping in the ports, with a view to San Francisco 
having the power. It didn't make any kind of sense and that's why 
she couldn't succeed. 

Did you put any energy into some of these committees to address 
these regional issues, not only the port, but water quality and 
transportation and-- 

Yes, I have. I have been involved in- - 
Do you see any progress? 

I think progress has been made, and it's a difficult problem. 
When you're talking about power, you're talking about taking the 
power away from each city and giving it to a regional board, or 
committee, or commission, or whatever it's going to be. It can 
just change the whole balance of power in terms of who controls 
what. It gets into not only the political factors, but the 
economic factors and so forth, you know. 

Advice to Young People 

Morris: On* last question, what about some good advice for young people 
coming up, as to politics or government, where they might find 
opportunity and what it takes to be the mayor of a major city in 
the increasingly complicated world. 

Wilson: Well, I think that if a young person has any interest in 

government and if a young person understands that politics should 
not be a dirty word, that politics is something that invades every 
facet of life from the cradle to the grave of all of us --the very 
air we breathe, the clothing that we wear, the way the coffin is 


made up. Every facet of life is influenced and determined by 
political decisions somewhere. 

So it's so important to life, and I think that Oakland has 
become one of the cities where citizens have become more and more 
awakened to the fact of what an important part politics plays in 
their lives. And the citizens' participation is probably far more 
active here than almost any city in the country. 

It does play a very significant role and I think that in 
terms of anyone who ultimately was interested in becoming mayor, 
you have to find some way to get there, you know. You can't just 
say, well I just decided I want to be a candidate. The people 
decide that. You can- -technically , anyone can file, if you come 
up with the fees and just live in the city and be of minimum age 
and so forth and file. But in terms of ultimately winning- -the 
things that go into winning- -many factors can come into play from 
one four-year period to the other. 

More About the Raiders 

Wilson: For instance, a year ago when we were negotiating with the 

Raiders, I told some of the people representing the Raiders, "I 
was initially skeptical of the marketing plan that was put 
together to try to bring back the Raiders. But once I decided 
that it was a plan that was good for Oakland, a plan that in my 
view had a tremendous financial potential for Oakland, as mayor I 
had no choice but to support it without regard to what I thought 
of the Raiders. " 

And I did, but knowing all the time that it was a political 
negative, because part of it was that the media plays such a 
significant part and the media had jumped on what they saw as the 
ultimate cost, six hundred million dollars over a fifteen-year 
period. It was a fifteen-year lease and all this money [that 
would be spent by the city if the Raiders agreed to return to 
Oakland] . They emphasized, they gave people the feeling that this 
was money that could have gone into the schools or could have gone 
into other social programs , when as a matter of fact there was not 
a dime that was going to be available for the schools. The 
marketing program, the money was coming from the consumer, from 
the people who bought the tickets, and that's true if the Raiders 
come today. 


But it became a politcal football, and it was built up, and 
when the Ross people- -Richie Ross is a bright and creative 
political consultant, and they realized what was there and they 
just laid on that. And Riles jumped on it, and the press was 
saying over and over and over, were giving people the impression 
that, yes, why weren't these monies being used to do some of the 
more important things? And if there was money there, their point 
was sound, but there was no money there because the marketing 
plan, every dime has to do with the sale of tickets. Every dime 
of revenue was entirely related to the sale of the tickets. But 
that wasn't the way it was sold to the people, you see. 

So then people became so aroused from all over the city and I 
could just see it coming, they were so upset- -all you heard was, 
"The Raiders, Raiders, and all the money that's going into the 
Raiders that ought to go to the schools," in particular. 

And there was no support from the press, the media, to 
educate the people and say, hey, wait a minute, you're way off 
base, there's not a dime there. Every dime has to come from the 
sale of tickets, not from any government funds, not from any tax 
funds. And I saw that building up over a year ago and I told them 
that, but-- 

Morris : There was no way to talk to the Oakland Tribune? 

Wilson: No, no. Come on, absolutely not, no way! 

Morris: The Tribune has not been supportive of you as mayor? 

Wilson: No. 

Morris: Even though the publisher is now Bob Maynard? 

Wilson: Even though, yes, yes, very much so, even more so. It's been even 
less supportive under Maynard than it was even under Bill 

We could never get that message over, and when you're trying 
to deal with all the other city issues, there is only so much time 
and energy that you have to put into it. 

And I told them, I told one of the key Raider negotiators, I 
said, "This is going to be a real negative factor for me, but I 
have to go with it because I believe in it in terms of what is 
best for the city." 

Then the second factor [that was brought up] was that it 
won't work, that this is some phony marketing plan that isn't 


going to work. But ultimately, because of those signatures that 
they were able to get- -and here again without money, these 
signatures were gotten in highly questionable ways, many of the 
signatures. But they got the signatures and so the deal was dead 
because the Raiders said, nothing doing, we won't be a part of 
that. But then two days later--! had set up on the Tuesday night 
that we killed it, I had already set up a meeting for that Friday. 
I had switched it, I had put [city council members] Dick Spees and 
Aleta Cannon on it and I stepped out of it. The Raiders had 
indicated they were still interested in negotiating with the city 
and county and it took off. 

And for instance, the papers made a big thing about, well, 
now it's different because now there are no guarantees. Half the 
guarantees had been taken off publicly by Davis with the first 
plan, and the other half, privately, he had already said, "If we 
get a deal, I'll take those off too," you see, so there wouldn't 
have been any guarantees then, either. But now that became a big 
thing . 

I set up an advisory committee of citizens, [including] some 
of those people who had got the signatures, Cornell Maier who put 
money into getting the signatures, and John George. 

Morris: Oh, you put him on the following committee, after that petition? 
Wilson: Oh, yes. I put them all on that following committee. 

So then they said, "Well, we want a new and independent 
evaluation of the marketing plan." So one of the most prestigious 
worldwide financial institutions was hired to do an evaluation. 
What did they come back with? There's no risk, minimal risk, 
minimal risk to the city. 

But what happened is that under the first plan, yes, 
technically the city was taking the risk, and this is what was 
played up by the media. But now Al Davis realized, when they had 
that pre-sale, and what happened, he realized that there was no 
risk, he said, "Okay," when we started the discussions all over, 
"I'll take the risk, but you have to understand where the risk 
goes, that's where the money goes, the biggest part of the 
revenue . " 

See, under the first plan, the city would have gotten the 
best part of the revenue, because technically they were the 
risk- takers. But under the second plan, the new one, the one 
that's probably going through, Davis becomes the risk-taker. The 
city is eliminated as the risk -taker, and the county, so the 
biggest part of the money goes to Davis. You can't argue with the 


logic when he says, "Okay, wait a minute now, you want me to 
become the risk- taker? I agreed that you could have the biggest 
part of the funds, why, as long as you were the risk- taker. But 
now that I'm the risk-taker, I have to get it." And that makes 

Morris: Well, that sounds just like some of these deals in the business 
world. Amazing, amazing. I know your next appointment is 
waiting. Thank you very much for explaining so much about Oakland 
history and government. 

Transcribers: Michele Anderson, Pelly Fan 
Typist: Merrilee Proffitt 


TAPE GUIDE- -Lionel Wilson 

Interview 1: January 22, 1985 1 

Tape 1, side A 1 

Tape 1, side B 10 

Interview 2: March 6, 1985 17 

Tape 2, side A 17 

Tape 2, side B 27 

Tape 3, side A 37 

Tape 3, side B not recorded 

Interview 3: July 31, 1990 44 

Tape 4, side A 44 

Tape 4, side B not recorded 

Interview 4: August 29, 1990 51 

Tape 5, side A 51 

Tape 5, side B 60 


APPENDICES --Lionel Wilson 

A. "Wilson Tells Plans," Oakland Tribune . May 19, 1977 73 

B. "Pros Elected Wilson Mayor," Oakland Tribune. 74 

May 22, 1977 

C. "Huey's Bad Timing," Oakland Tribune . July 10, 1977 75 

D. "Why Riley Decided to Resign," Oakland Tribune . 76 

February 22, 1978 

E. "The People Around Lionel Wilson," Oakland Tribune. 77 

February 27, 1978 

F. "Lionel Wilson's Outer Circle," Oakland Tribune. 79 

February 28, 1978 

G. "Jesse Jackson's 'Neutrality' Angers Oakland Candidate," 81 

San Francisco Chronicle . December 14, 1984 
H. "Oakland Mayor's Anti-drug Plan," San Francisco Examiner. 82 

December 30, 1984 
I. "The Assault on Pax Wilsona," East Bay Express. 84 

January 23, 1987 
J. "A Show of Pride," San Francisco Examiner Image Magazine, 90 

April 22, 1990 
K. "Undaunted, Lionel Wilson Faces Toughest Election Fight," 97 

Oakland Tribune. May 16, 1990 
L. "Wilson Leaves Oakland a Much-changed City," San Francisco 99 

Examiner. December 30, 1990 

M. "Wilson Won't Fight to Stay on Port Board," San Francisco 101 
Chronicle. August 13, 1991 


City 'Is Changing 1 

Wilson Tells Plans 

Appendix A 
Oakland Tribune 
May 19, 1977 

THbwM MMcd tdilw 

Mayor -etert Lionel J. WU*oo seemed 
la tike cmsully the fact that be B ihe 
Tint Mack rruyor < Ibe Cay of Oakland. 

He s reminded of that at bit first 
full-fledged pita eminence yesterday 

jusi a feu hours after be had defeated 
Dave Tucker, president of the Oakland 
Board uf Education, by about S.60C votes 
Asked if he believe* that bis victory 
means that the Oakland electorate long 
considered to be on the conservative side 
of the political spectrum has changed. 
Judge Wilson said: 

"Yes. n does. I believe that there c, a 
willingness now to work with a mayor 
no happens to be black." 

Tence in the late stages of his vigor 
ously fought campaign with Mr. Tucker. 
Judge Wilson yesterday at noon ap 
peared relaxed, easily handling a stacca 
to sinng of questions from a large news 
media corps was optimistic on what he 
has to do when he lakes office July I. 

Earlier in the day. he had received 
congratulatory telephone calls from ben. 
Alan Cranston. Gov Edmund (. Brown 
Jr.. other Democratic party leaders, and 
even Republican Mayor John H. Read 
ing, vi ho pledged his cooperation to 
make the change of city administration 
flow smoothly 

Now. he tuld reporters, he and his 
wife. Dorolby. were going to lake a short 
vacation before taking up his mayural 
ihore and he admitted, dn some think- 
mi about how he was come to make a 
living on the 115.000 Oakland pays its 
mayor each year 

The mayor-elect will resign from his 
tW lJO-a->ear Superior Court bench al 
(fa- end of June He lonk a leave nf 
absence early Ihis year lo run for mayor 
and has been without salary Mine 

HP said he will have to practice law lo 
make a living while serving as mayor, 
whether m association with his wife 
also an attorney or some firm 

Bui lhr questioning mainly dealt uuh 

would do as soon as he touk 
nd Judge Wilson displayed a 
rue attitude 

xample. how dors he feel about 
of Oakland 1 * "The pon and Ihe 

vihat h 


Ihe Pun 

my will not continue to be divided as 
they have been (or so many years 
The pun outfit to contribute more to the 
City of Oakland both financially and in 
terms of providing employment Thuse 
are lhr critical areas." 

How much confidence did he have in 
Pulne Chief George Hart? 

I believe that George Hart is a very 
tapablc police chief." he said "From 
whai 1'ie seen he's a man who is 
nMtive to the problemTijf Oakland and 

I look forward lo working with him." 

Did he feel the same way about City 
Manager Cecil Riley. to whom UK city 
charter entrusts broad administrative 

"I expect in the next few days to sit 
down and spend some tune with nun." 
the mayor-elect said, "so that be can 
have a belter idea of what my concerns 
and my interests are in terms of provid 
ing for the needs of Oakland. He can 
express himself and we can gel of/ on 
the right foot." 

Pressed as In wtai would happen if he 
finds it difficult to work with the city 
manager. Judge Wilson said. "I expect 
that we shall be providing the city 
manager with stronger and more direct 
policy and I would expect he would 
comply with those directives ." 

Heavily backed by the Democratic 
party in bis campaign. Judge vtUson was 
uked whether his victory meant a repu 
diation of the city's business community, 
which has long dominated city hall 

He said. "My administration is not 
and will not be antibusmess and I don't 
interpret my election as a repudiation uf 
business I never at any lime during my 
campaign took that kind of a position 

I ve said all along that I fell thai I 
have a history nf being able to work with 
those people I expect lo nave strong 
support and cooperation (rum the busi 
ness community " 

Judge Wilson departed from the up- 
heal theme only when asked about how 
he felt the mayoral campaign was con- 
dueled, and tl was apparent he still had 
a sour taste 

"1 would like lo put thai behind me. 
but obviously the campaign was conduct- 
rd on a very low level ri>$l from the 
beginning." he said, referring to the 
Tut-ker campaign 

II started out that way and it wound 
up that uav Judge Wilson said 

But that wasn I unrtpecied. he said. 
because of the rvpuuiiun of Mr Tuck 
ers campaign manager iKun Smith I 
whom Judge ttilson described as "Mr 
Dirlv Tricks ' 

The mavcir-elo t declined In Be! spe 
cific *lmit what "dirty tricks were 
tried b> his opposition 

Appendix B 
Oakland Tribune 
May 22, 1977 

Party Pros Elected Wilson Mayor 

TribwM>oli1kal Editor 
The Democratic party staged a politi 
cal tour de force m tinting Judge Lionel 
J. Wilson mayor of Oakland. 

Mayor-elect Wilson did mil win the 

o(li iJI ov himM-tf 

He mas elected mainly bn-ausf the 
Democratic party spotted him as the 
first high-class candidate it could adopt 
to take over a city hall which over the 
yean escaped their grasp. 

Four years ago. it was (be Black 
Panther party's Bobby Scale taking on 
Mayor John H Reading and no one 
warned to take pan in that one Mayor 
Reading buried Scale 

This tune, there was a Superior Court 
judge with impeccable credentials, 
someone- -rto -hitf gotten his (H-I H 
with Oakland's social problems in the 
IMoi. when ibe timid were running (or 

But mil there was the problem.*' 
putting over a black mayor in Oakland, 
tin ihc whiles still huld a tUgtit voting 

Judge ttilvm did it beating Oakland 
School Board President Dave Tucker by 
appnixiniaii-lv OKI Mites but only be 
cause nf ihr prtis. 

Thcv jMrv who mme fnim cam 
paign In campaign frnm vear to >car. 
must remain, jl their mjuesl. unidenti 
fied, but they share a pmitica! realism 
that dues nut surfer in all campaign 


The candidates talk, as they should. 
about such issues as unemployment, 
cnme. business expansion and so forth 

Behind that. however, are the cam 
paign professionals who must put logcth- 
er the nuts and bolts 

All sides agree that the Democratic 
party drones, in this case a mishmash rf 
national and stale legislative staff aides, 
glued together an effort which ended up 
with Oakland electing its lint black 
mayor ,~ 

Judge Wilson's victory really started 
a few rears ago. when thine legislative 
aides to congressmen, sute senators and 

avsemblymen convinced their bosses^hal 
they should take a more acme role in 
Oakland politics, a hitherto nonpartisan 

Then* advice prevailed, and tm Ed 
mund <i Brown Jr . Sen. Alan Oanstim. 
Ri-ps Kimald V Ollums and Kurtney H 
tPetel Stark. Assemblymen Bill Luckyer 
and Torn Bales, and on and on. threw 
their max it- behind Judge Wilson. 

A Tucker aide said after the defeat. 
"Look, the most popular political figure 
in the Easlbay is Urllums He doesn t 
have to come into town, but he's still a 
jolt Tucker doesn I have anything like 
that behind him 

But it wasn I only the glamor of 
UHluim that made Judge Wilson a 
winner It was Iriwps As predicted even 
before the election by Saadre Swansuo. 
Judge Wilson s campaign manager <m 
leave of absence from Dellumi' staff, 
whichever party could marshal the most 

voter nimmit viilunfMrv wniltd mfi Jhp 


"They put out 1. 300 precinct walkers 
ekrt day and wild the good weather, 
that did it. : a Tucker aide said 

"I was praying for rain, it was the 
only way we could ha\e *m. he added 

Source* close to both sides did tat 
think the ick-viMon debates ma or modi 
difference in the outcome because-' they 
came late in the campaign:- . ' ; ... 

Tucker people behrvr Ihutr Ihrer 
debaU-s would nave been more effectne 
if they had been aired earlier. In give 
voters a chance to digest the contrast in 
perstmauties between Judge Wilson, wno 
at times appeared irascible, and Tucker,. 
wlw was sin! id unflappable and unin- 

The new* media, the pros agree._ 

( made the Oakland mayoral ctmtcst-a 
horse race because the> paid attention in 
it Television radio and Ba> Arri news, 
papers followed it closrlv 

Thai attention stanled both camps It 
| forced each side to do a lot of research 
ii the issues and to think about how 
their candidates looked and talked. 

\ 'You made us spend a lot uf m.inrv 
and time on preparing our candidates fur 
something more than just baby kissing. ' 
one campaign aide told a media group 

And Judge W'llson and Tucker did 
just that Bit by bit. dunng the cam 
paign, thcv revealed themselves im tnr 
clearcul issues and how they would 
handle them 

Regardless of some "dirty tricks' 
charges in the election's aftermath both 
Tucker and Judge Wilson ran high class 

behind the scenes, on both sides. ua> 
the black and while issue. Campjuni 
tacticians knew it would be a factor ir 
the voting, but neither side used it 
openly or covertly 

Even Judge Wilson, who in victor) 
appeared somewhat troubled bv the 
course of the campaign, admitted that 
the voters of Oakland elected him as a 
mayor "who happens to be Mack ' 

The Tucker camp knew they had a 
tough, if not boneless task, from the 
start Tucker's name identification fac 
tor was to* and Judge Wilson's was 
high Tucker speal BIS mow; to get ho 
name known 

But IV OtagcraUr part)'? voter reg 
istration in Oakland and its first-time 
cooperative effort to back m own mayor 
al candidate. s too much for Tucker 
and a downtown business establishment 
ohirh dominated Oakland city politics 
fur many yean. 


Appendix C 
Oakland Tribune 
July 10, 1977 

Huey's Bad Timing 

Tribune Political Editor 

Some Democratic Party insiders arc still groaning about 
Black Panther Party leader Huey Newton's timing of his 
return to Oakland to face murder and assault charges. 

"Heres Lionel Wilson, the city's first black mayor, 
trying to establish his credibility with all segments of the 
community, and this has to happen." one said with a gnmacc. 

Mayor Wilson, who already has had private meetings 
with top Oakland industrial and business leaders' to assure 
them of his sensitivity to their problems, received strong 
election campaign support from the Black Panther Party and 
one of its other leaders. Elaine Brown. 

Now Mr Newton, who fled to Cuba to avoid standing 
trial, says he's returned because the "political climate" has 
changed' at home with the election of Jimmy Carter as 
president and Wilson as Oakland mayor. 

Mr Newton told a clamorous airport crowd, which 
included Ms Brown and Black Panther Party members, that 
he fled the country because local heroin dealers had put up 
tlO.OOO for his assassination 

"I'm asking Mayor Lionel Wilson to help rid our commu 
nity of the evil sellers of heroin." he declared. 

One Democratic Party source remarked "It looks like 
Newton is trying to politicize his pending trial and it sure 
compromises Mayor Wilson." 

What can Mayer Wilson, a former superior court judge, 
do about if 

"I hope he does nothing and says nothing." the source 
said "He can t very well publicly turn his back on a group 
which supported him for mayor, but he can t very well get 
involved in this Huey Newton thing, either ' 

Actually. Mayor Wilson has no credibility problem as 
such. Despite some charges that he was a liberal judge too 
lenient with criminals, he won widespread support in his 
mayoral bid from within the legal profession. 
















O U 




CO 3 


iH M 

e..* ja 


CO 0) 


O fa 


Appendix E 
Oakland Tribune 
February 27, 1978 

The people around Lionel Wilson 

This is the lirst of .1 twtt-p;irt serifs on Oak 
land Mayor Lionel Wi/sons aides and adviser* 
Today: the inner cirt-lc. 


SUft WrutT 

In their own view the people around Lionel 
Wilson and the mayor himself arc like Oavidx 
battling Goliath Their approach must be original 
and their aim true if they arc to have a positive 
effect. And it wouldn t hurt having the Lord on 
their side- helping to get the City Center project 
fully under way. for example. 

Because impressive credentials and the best 
intentions may not count much in a city some 
helieve wait* io die. list-ally and environmentally 

Asked which of Oakland's many problems 
must be solved for Wilson to earn high marks at 
the end of his first term. Assemblyman Bill Lock- 
ver. a strong supporter of the mayor s. said: 
'Picking one is real bard." 

The Democratic legislator, whose district 
ranges from Castro Valley to East Oakland, then 
cited the following economic revitalization. jobs, 
crime, housing and minority hiring. 

Interviews with more than a dozen Wilson 
aides and advisers and the mayor himself show- 
that other mjjor problems perceived in and 
around city hall are: 

a charier giving real power not to the 
mayor and his assistants, but to a city manager, 

a sometimes-pernicious image ol Oakland 
that makes it difficult to stir up sustained interest 
in the city; 

higher expectations among Oakland s mi- 
nonues that may go unfulfilled: 

the Jarvis-Gann initiative on the June bal 
lot which, if passed, could bring the city to its 
knees by slashing property-lax revenues 

Nonetheless. Lionel Wilson and his people - 
mainly black male and in their 50s -arc here and 
they are working hard. And the mayor is thinking 
about 1980 "In order to achieve my goals I may 
find it important to seek a second term And it 
may well develop that 1 seek a charter change." 
he told The Tribune. 

Wilson and others believe at least one major 
goal already has been attained communicating to 
Oakland's minorities the fact that the welcome 
mat is out at city hall these days. 

Lionel Wilson was a fine athlete in his youth: 
today, at 62. he plays an admirable game of ten 
nis As mayor, be operates like the play-making 
guard on a basketball team, going to his team- 
mates only in areas where they are strong The 
result is that hard and fast distinctions among 
groups of advisers can't be pushed loo far with 
the Wilson administration Some people advise 
htm some of the time, others on other occasions 

One associate summed it up by saymg the 
mayor n a loner " Another said he 'keeps his 
own counsel ultimately anybody else will have a 
limited influence on him 

Certainly ihere u no Jody Powell or Hamil 

ton .lordan in city hall And Wilson has no con 
fidant as close to him as Bert Lance was land 
reportedly continues to be. unofficially* to Jimmy 
Carter unless it is Mrs. Wilson, whose judg 
ments, the mayor said, are incisive but perhaps 
too biased in his favor politically 

Tom Atoms, his chief administrative aide, 
handles correspondence, determines who sees him 
and represents Wilson at meetings he cannot at 
tendfor example, a gathering of businessmen 
concerned about plans for the downtown area. 
While a U.C. employee, she worked "very closely" 
with Wilson during his term as presiding judge of 
the Alamcda County Superior Court i chairing the 
criminal justice committee of the grand jury I 
Later. Adams found lime after office hours to 
help out during the mayoral campaign Neverthe 
less, she said today it's difficult for her to contest 
the view, held by others, that she remains politi 
cally naive. 

She interrupted doctoral work in public ad 
ministration to serve at city hall, theoretically as 
a liaison with municipal departments because of 
her academic training But Adams frankly doubts 
that the "concepts' of the classroom some of 
which she's learned from Golden Gale I'mversity 
instructor Egil Krogh. an cx-Watergatcr she ad 
mires - have had a significant impact on her city 
hall experience A willingness to work hard is 
the main thing Tom Adams actually brings to 
Wilson, she asserted 

Others have felt the 31 -year-old aide, with 
grcatef- access to the mayor than any administra 
tion figure, also brought what amounted to .in 
obstructionist approach to her duties She w-as 
ovcrprolectlve of the mayor s lime, they said The 
charges sling Adams, who in her own words is 'a 
very sensitive person." 

"The press has portraved me as the iron 
woman." she complained. "That makes it hjrdrr 
to get people to really understand" that the may 
or cannot deal personally with the 300 or so 
monthly requests for his presence 

"I'm the person on the end of the phone so 
I in fair game, added Adams, ruefully 

In November j handsome, well-spoken Meth 
odist minister named Charles Belcher look over 
the olher office that flanks ihc mayor s The 'Mr 
Outside" of the Wilson administration. Belchers 
job is keeping the lines open beiween city hall and 
the community, particularly church-oriented 
black neighborhoods "Perhaps I can facilitate 
meaningful dialogue." he said Like Tom Adams. 
Belcher is paid I20.UOO a year and is flirting with 
a doctorate in ministry 

Belcher s relationship with the mayor began 
in the late 60s when Wilson headed the Oakland 
antipoverty program As pastor of Downs Memo, 
rial United Methodist Church and president of the 
Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, his path 
and Wilson's crossed Eventually Belcher would 
feel free to call on the judge when the Alliance 
needed legal advice 

"The IradiUOD ol black ministry has not been 
a separation of the sacred and secular worlds It's 
part of the nature ol our calling to work for Uie 
liberation of the black people." Belcher. 39. ex 

plained "At election time in the black church 
there have been occasions when wt- (black minis 
ters) have taken Ihc ballot and indicated which 
candidates and issues would be worthy of consid 
eration, which would be good for the city at 

Eloquent and trim Belcher .1 star half mil 
er in college would seem lo IK- an effective 
advocate for whomever he is backing. During the 
mayoral campaign, he appeared on Wilsons be 
half at NAACP affairs, school meetings and meet 
ings of community groups Ho admires "the 
judge" and 'gravitated loward him before Wil 
sons candidacy More lypically. however. Belcher 
has been drawn lo candidates he said "some 
people would consider leftists 

He admitted hts daily dunes so far have been 
ill-defined, beyond being the person al city hall 
"who can suggest some ethical dimension." bui 
predicted his "low profile" will vicld to a more 
prominent role on the mayor s behalf, probably 
among neighborhood groups in East and West 

Meanwhile, the mayor looks to him as a 
spiritual counselor and sometimes as the larget 
of mild jokes "He kids me a lot about the minis 
try If I come in and he think s I'm wearing a nice 
suit, he II say. "Reverend. I see llie sisters have 
been treating you well'' Or he'll call me The 
Reverend Mixtcr Charles Belcher.' " 


The people around Lionel Wilson 

Continued from Page 1 1 

The minister's evaluation of bis city hall ex 
perience so far: "humbling. ' 

Neither Tom Adams nor Charles Belcher is 
invited when Wilson gets together with Don 
McCullum. Norvel Smith. George Scoilan and 
Zachary Wasserman to talk about moving Oak 
land toward fiscal health, his chief goal. 

The gatherings are irregular and the same 
people aren t always there. But while Wilson and 
his associates quietly try to discourage the view 
among observers that he has an "inner-circle" 
this would run counter to his widely professed 
aim of maintaining an open administration he 
docs concede mat Scotlan. McCullum and Smith 
are men he sees frequently and men whose opin 
ions he holds in the highest regard. Zack Wasser 
man sometimes makes a fifth member of this 
group, whose primary members are McCullum 
and Smith, close associates of Wilson's for the last 
20 years. 

McCullum succeeded Wilson on the Superior 
Coutt bench: some people around Lionel Wilson 
wouldn't be surprised if McCullum attempted to 
succeed Wilson at city hall as well. 

The two men appear to be entirely different. 
Where the mayor seems reserved and intense. 
McCullum is extroverted, relaxed and self-as 
sured During an interview in his chambers he 
said that among his goals as a Wilson adviser is 
attracting new businesses to Oakland Fortune 
500 companies weren't quite enough, declared 
McCullum: be wanted 'the top 10 on the Hit 
Parade " Then he mentioned the names of some 
of the biggest corporations in the world "I'm 

very, very pushy on creating capital instruments 
for the establishment of economic stability in the 
community." McCullum sjid. 

A "conservative radical" who believes he 
brings to Wilson "the feeling of" the NAACP. 
professional law enforcement and a number of 
neighborhood groups. McCullum doubts that Wil 
son will be able to fully satisfy the voters who put 
him into office. "But that's good. " he said. " Any 
leader should be pushed." 

After a phone call to keep abreast of a 
developing campus situation a large marijuana 
plant had been discovered under cultivation on 
university property Dr. Norvel Smith, associate 
vice chancellor for student affairs at U C. Berke 
ley, turned to the question of Lionel Wilson. 

'There's no doubt I represent two things to 
him: a close friend whom he trusts and one of the 
few people he's never had a major philosophical 
conflict with over the years. Also. I represent a 
cold bureaucratic type and he trusts my proles- 
sional judgment." 

Smith was appointed to the Port Commission 
by the mayor after critiquing the city manager s 
office as a member of Wilson's transition team 
"If he had to make a decision tomorrow on city 
government. I think he would call me." he said. 
citing his participation in a recent effort to per 
suade Bullock's department store to locate in 
Oakland City Center ithe issue remains unre 

Smith described himself as "a left-of-ccmer 
liberal Democrat" who gets most of his ideas on 
international affairs from the Manchester Guardi 
an, on domestic issues, it's the New Republic 

The 53-year-old career educator a native of 
Philadelphia who studied educational adnpimstra- 
tion at Berkeley, has a distinguished record of 
public service in the Oakland area As first head 
of the city's human resources department, he 
directed the Oakland antipoveny program (which 
was under a board led by Lionel Wilson) until 
1968. when he became president of Merrill Col 
legeand ibe firsl black junior college president 
in California. Alter five sometimes tumultuous 
years at Merrill. Smith in 1973 left for Ihe U C 
post he holds today. * 

He said he believes it's necessary lor Wilson. 
his "mentor." to lake risks in office 'With that 
fine career behind him. he can afford to " The nei 
resuli? "I ihmk we're going to see some quasi- 
revolutionary moves coming out of hrs leader 
ship ." 

There were times back before the Second 
World War when George Scotlan saved Lionel 
Wilson's neck. It was only a game, true basket 
ball at the YMCA-but Wilson often played like a 
man possessed. "He was a guard, fast and feisty," 

recalled Scotlan "Anytime a beef would break 
out he'd be taking on the biggest man on the other 
side. He was going to save everybody 1 We always 
ined lo restrain mm." 

Scotlan. 55. is a tall, low-keyed man with a 
deep voice who once he thought he could make U 
as a professional baseball player Today he is a 
U C. official, chairman of Oakland s Parks and 
Recreation Advisory Commission and a member 
of the Alameda Counly Delinquency Prevennon 
Commission. The closest he comes lo the basket 
ball court or any playing surface is the stands. 
And Lionel Wilson usually is at his side. "I guess 
we haven't missed a track meet here at Cal in 
years." Scoilan said. "In essence it's ... a kind of 
special friendship mainly lied in with our interest 
in sports. Just two guys who get along together 

Scotlan's politics go about as far as the back 
yard fence. "I complain about high taxes like 
everyone else." Bui he helped oul during his 
friend's campaign, organizing parades and social 
gatherings. And Wilson taps him for a particular 
kind of advice. "I like to think of myself as a 
pretty wholesome, whole individual." he said 
"I've been married 31 years and I've raised six 
kids I think I represent the solid family institu 
tion, someone you can reach out to and get the 
pulse of the people. I just tell him how I feel 
When it comes to problems of young people, mine 
is a strong position whatever we do for the city, 
we have to bring the young people along. We can I 
jusl let them sland back and walch ." 

Did Scotlan believe the mavor actually could 
positively aflect Ihe quality of life in Oakland ' 

"If 1 were lo say no.." Scotlan replied, slowly, 
"the balloon for a lot of people would break I 
think we have to think Lionel Wilson can ... The 
people have to have .something oul there they can 
be living for " 

One day during the summer before the iy77 
election Zac-hary Wasserman. a 30-year-old atlor- 
ney oul of Slanford who sludied wuh slate Su 
preme Court Chief Justice Hose Bird and prac 
ticed before Wilson, told Wilson he wanted to help 
in the campaign, ever since then Ihe Iwo men 
have worked closely, Wasserman gratis. 

His office convemenlly is located on 15th 
Slreet. directly across Irom city hall, and he s in 
and out of the mayor's office frequcnlly If ihis 
administralion has a Slu Eiienstat Jimmy Cart 
ers poml man for domestic affairs u is Wasser 

The attorney "I suppose what I like lo say 
when pressed is lhal I'm counsel lo the mayor." 

Wasserman has been involved with economic 
development plans, state programs for Oakland 
and the alfirmalive-action hiring plan for Hong 
Kong USA. "The fact that I am not there all the 
time means in pan 1 have the time and distance 
to look over <lungs. be a little bit of a trouble- 
shooter." He also headed the mayor's transition 
team and wrote a number of speeches for Wilson. 

Wasserman said he thinks like Wilson and 
that's the key to their relationship. "There is a 
good play between us" Though he's a liberal 
Democrat who first got his feet wet politically 
working lor John Tunncy. he declined lo charac 
terize his contribution lo the Wilson administra 
tion in ideological lerms. "It's more practical he 

"One of my jobs was lo put together in six 
weeks as good an administration as possible ... I 
think we did a fairly good job. but I think we 
could have done better." 

Tomorrow: The ooter circle. 


Appendix F 
Oakland Tribune 
February 28, 1978 

Lionel Wilson's outer circle 

Tnis is f/ic >c-i>nij of j ivn)-(iart scmrs on 
jvor /./one/ V4i/.Min.s c/osesi' .IS.SI*-M*CV 


Mud W rlli I 

Lionel Wilson s outer circle includt-s ,i housc- 
wifc who argues in public witli him and a rc- 
sorvifl. soft-spoken C-T [MH .iiiiiri pr-sidenl who jij 
mned Jolm Hcaifing. the mayors prcdecf-xsor 

Between these two polo* in actuality, city 
rounc-H member M.iry Moore and Clorox presi 
dent Hubert Shriierly --fjll. 

A populist council member Carter Gil- 

A liberal attorney with a strong interest in 
the environment, council member John Sutler: 

Twu -.i.iit- legislators. Bill Lockycr and 
Nirk IN-iris. who |>s.-.ihlv will c-jrrv legislation 
that wuulij mere. isc ili.imalically inc my s con- 
trol over busmos> 

A IH liiini ihe s< cm-- ojicraiivc long active in 
Kaslliay l<eiiiocrat:c politics Hill C.iv jl.i 

An milt-pendent stalwart of Oakland s busi 
ness community jinl one of the Ic.uling attorneys 
in ilif uirj lor .< generation, publisher Turn ftcrk 

Some of these |n->pte -the clei t<-d officials - 
obvlouslv were ihruM upon the mayor hy the 
voters others jrc his .H Knowli-dged natural allies 
in the immediate community 

Mjry Mnori- believes John He.nimg and the 
city coum ils duittii: In.-, vcars in office didn I 
really liki' Oakland 

They had .1 depressed Icvling about Ojk- 

liiml The OukLind Ihi-y liked h^irin t exiled for 2(1 

I year* jnd they rev nti-d the changes. " Mnore said 

"Lionel Wilson s elix-tiim was the eivl of. rvally. a 

dvnastv The <;(>(' d\n:isly 

A petMin.'il xu le that .it lline-s verges on 
boldness i harai leri/es Moore. 44. who in the 
April 1'J77 nlywitle electlun tahlulaled more 
votes lhan any eandid.ile hill one. im ludin^ Lionel 

The lack ol nl I lie spac-<- had rankled her ever 
since she joined (he council So. in January. 
Moore Iransportiil cartons ol personal dies to 
council chambers, which she then pronounced her 
own before a crowd of newspaper reporters and 
I photographers Ii was a grandstand P'-'V n >' a 
! woman who noncttieless is cau^iblv of telling a 
reporter. Tin not a public person, it's hard lor 
me 10 focus on myself 24 years of bemR a wife 
and 21 of being a mother doesn t lend one a large 
UO." iShe later was assigned space i 

Moore s politics arc liberal Democratic, for 
IS years she served as a party worker Among 
her "heroes." however is radical organizer David 
Dellmger. "someone who will devote a good part 
of Im life to things he believes in and is always 
honorable ..." 

She said she scvs the niavor formally and 
informally several times weekly On occasion 
thev come into conflict because, as Moore said, 
both are independent strong-minded people 
But she thinks they share "the same world view 
a higher, humanist one. 

"We had a minor row at a council work 
scsxion." s<ic recalled "One Journalist said she 
thought one of us wa going to hit the other over 
the hod! We were debating fail-food eiubluh- 
menu the degree of control that should be 

exercised My point was establishments like 
that should he m appropriate areas > that they 
are not destructive to neighborhoods 

"The mayor s view was that we need jobs MI 
badly Ihiit we should not hi- thinking in terms of 
limiting anything lie roared al me. 'Have you 
ever heard of a poor environmentalist"*' 

"What I think." Moorr went on. "is that the 
destruction of the environment hurts the poor 
before' it hurus anyone else. 

Last siimmrr <*arter d'ilmore Oakland's lone 
black counr.l member in addition tn (he mayor i. 
created a minor stir after Hilly drier used the 
word "niKcr" al an Oakland As party (tilmore. 
a onetime regional officer of the NAACI' rt<*- 
mandcd .in apology, the ('resident 's brother re 
fused Billy s*iHl he h.idn t intended it as a slur 

(iilmorc was campaigning at ihe nine ana he 
took p. tins lo deny thai he tnrrrly was M -eking 
publu itv In others mis mi^hi have been diftn ull 
Ln swallow, in ttdmore it w:i> noi ThT** i*> a 
diret'tness dftd simplicity "I slyle to (his liri:-r 
Texan (hut distin^ui>hes him dorn ntht-r. jK-rnaps 
more highly polished, mi-tubers ot WiKnn s inner 
und oilier c-iiele** 

In November (ilmuie .jf-t-rmipanietl WiKim 
in San Ant(;nio Villa, a troubled KaM Oakland 
hnuMn^ project Tenants complained vi^orou.\iy 
about Kurba^' problems tiilinorr told them to 
phone him wh-n cans bet an to overflow, promis 
ing In ( 'MTU- oui and have a took himself I \.,\<- 
lived in public housinK .ind I know what it is IIMV" 
Gil more a 51 -year-old personnel rnan<i^er said 
at tin* lime 

What is (jilinort' s contribution to the Wilv>n 
administration ' A "people's p**rsnftive. I'm not 
plavmi; an> panics, be s^itd. iioim^ witti pride i 
(hat despite an income that would viublc hun to I 
move away, he h.*s remain* -d in Ihe same h-j>t i 
Oakland neighborhood tiL'nd Avmue ihrouvh i 
bad limes as well as good 

r\ft\ home in ni\ in)ii)<<' .jrea fi.ij .1 , 
( '.uter (jilinon- M^n during the !.< i i<>n llw , 
( ould I move now he askeil 

\1y . background helps in dealing with the 
baloney . f'<-oplc w-ill ask for a variance. They'll 
say il we gel a yanam-e we II crank out umpteen 
goodies iButi." Sutler continued, we havi- to !> 
carclul we don't g<-t inflate*! ideas about ihe j<ibs 
.1 invosimeni will turn out I'i'ople will 
threatnn you: i;ne us what we want or we II 
leave Oakland.' You have to be leery.. " 

Democrat Nicholas I'etns represents Oak 
land in the state Senate. In the Assembly, the city 
has three legislators, none of which represent 
Oakland alone. They are DcmocraLs Bill Lockyer. 
John Miller and Tom (tali's The latter two cur 
rently don't figure as largely in Wilson's plans as 
do I'etns and Ixickyer. according to one of the 
mayor's top advisers. 

"In terms of dynamics you re going to get a 
lot out of Iiockycr. the adviser said 'Mis can-or 
is just beginning IVins is jt ihe end of a 

Ol the foiir-p<Tson liberal coalition on the j 

city council -WiNon. Moor*-. (Iilmore and altor- | 

ncy John Sutler- -only Sutler is a veteran of the i 

Heading years, when he frequently clashed with I 

Ihc former mayor on issues ranging from the war ! 

in Vietnam (Suiter sponsored a resolution calling , 

for a I' S pullouti lo polilical campaign tactics i 

"Reading is suffering from a liod complex 
Sutler once told reporters 

Will) Moore, he makes up Ihe while, environ 
mental Iv-onented half of Ihe coalilion. lemnera 
menially, he appears lo be Ihe more cautious and 
controlled ol the two. 

r*rior to the emergence of Lionel WiLson a.s 
the dominant Democratic candidale in Iho mayor 
al race. Sutler. 49 was regarded as a possible 
candidate ihe challenged John Heading for the 
office in 19731. today he is vu-e mayor of Oak 

Sutler s special contribution as a council allv j 
to Wilson comes down lo the matter ol memory ) 
"I think he sometimes asks me what happened 
before, because I'm been here since '71 Or 1 
volunteer" Sutler also believes he s especially 
useful when certain nuts-and-bolts quc&iion* 

Itoth men jdciixi ihe JUVIS.T may be a>ked 
to carrv legislation now in the planning stage thai 
would give ihe eit\ bonding [tower 'tor purpos*** 
ol economic development i and the authority lo 
establish business tax mi-entives and disincen 
tives- in order to belter tegulaie Oakland s eco 
nomic climate 

Lockycr is a M\lrh oulgrung young legisla 
tor whose political career dates hack, he says, to 
the sixth grade Hanging from the walls of his olfice arc photos ol the Kcnm-dy 
brothers and slain Oakland schiols ^upcnnicndcnt 
Marcus Ki>ster and a 'Star Wars poster 

He was very active on the mayors behalf 

during, the campaign. ' may be more construc- 

Conlmued on I'age 1-. Col. t 



( (iniioued trpgj. 1'jnr 11 

live." tnjjiiKd. t^jn my of nee-holder Ivne I'll 
It'll \*u what i m advice was during I hi* cam 
paign I *aid. l> what's rspht I think Lionel 
Wilson has very pttd instincts 

Lockvcr. whose district include^ Kasl Oak 
land. San lx>renzo. San Ixaindro and Castro Val 
ley. wants voters to review the mavor-city man- 
ac*?r sections of ihi* cn.irtcr portions fh.'tt h.Tinsir 
mp anv Oakland m.i\ir wn w-mis i<> Like serious 

We delimit iv need to put i-sne t** lore 

the vnters. ii'i me asM-nihlvman 

MoM ptitpir who t*o mio politics relish expo 
sure. William t ..\.il.i prefers anonvmilv It's nn- 
hkclv his n.itiir ever will .ipjtcar on .1 ballot, hul 
the names lhal do appear- prvdmnilUlCly Cali 
fornia and EaMbay Democrats -often as not owe 
something to this youthful t' C Berkclev political 
scientist who onev roomed with Assemblyman 

('aval* is an analvxl of covernmcni. a t.irtt- 
nan and an ideologue. "I'd say I'm a party hjt-tc." 
he jokes. The runv /urA has worked lor Assem- 
hlymcn lx>ckver and John Miller. D-Alanwda. 
Jesse I'nruh. Joe Alioin. George Mc<iovcrn and 
Lionel Wilson I spend lime Mudyinc politicians 
because they fascinate mo. 

Observers describe. Cavala. 'Ah. a.i "shrewd, 
j "MTV effective clevrr, nt'hifKMhi'-MVfK 1 ** troub- 

Recaii.*e he d"'>n l h.ive to answer to the 
\ulet.i ( .ivulj is rciatiwlv In-v to lake unfNipular 
positions And r;cht now. wn^n HIK Oovt-rnineni i^ 
j n.ii h- nu even M htx'r.tls. '*j\'alj is .ihle lu 

Lionel Wilson's election was the end 
of a dynasty, says one associate 

maintain a stcadtdM Nrwi>t-jl .ippronti '<> 'tic 
problems ot governmeni 

My presumption he s;nd. "is if I am 
ever of any us*- il s hecuuse I twiicve tin- rnuntrv 
wj.s Ituill by [H-upii' who were ;ilr;mJ ol ^oxern- 
nu-ni ;md as a c-nns<-<)uencc spl.i up us mristlio 
thins into 100 dtUercnl 'polnu ,11 *-niiliesi 

I think you have to put the pieces fti|ether if 
yfiu re K"i n tit achieve the ^n.ils people rt'n- 
sonahlv exju-ft *r(m government .11 ihi*- p'int in 

One Mirh co;jl i> jobs fav.iki helped Wil>>n 
attempt to pick tin the pirr(a alliT tin- city lost 
out. nn a $17 milhrn I S Department "t UlNtf 
prant that would h.ivc crrjted wrirk fur ihon*-^nds 
ol vnunK Oaklandepi 

I spoke in htm just to i^v- : tlut I 
thought he oueht to take a look .it our situation in 
Wj>hinnton and mavbe spend >nfne more lime 
hack there MI >rire up our p<isition with i he 
administration I thought he hart !< re evalu ite 
the rnle the c-ny s tnhhvrsi plays in Washmpton Is 
that the rifiht person 1 DIH-S he have the ncht 
connections'' I doubled il Wo ilcn t have ihc 

K<ir the record some wwks alter the- grant 
fell ihrouRh. the ntv dex- lined to renew its con 
tract with the |ohhyil 

In terms of persona I style the difference** 
between lree-whe-lini; Tom Hrrkley and Lionel 
Wilsun are enormou> i)rn" is somewhat Falstafti 
jn- anybody who s ever heard Herkley's booming 
laugh or seen him *-j d p his knee in delight knows 
(here s a robust jocularity to the man. The other 
is Oakland s answer to IVmce Hul an audacious 
beginner determined to huve ,i serious impact 

Cnlike Shake>peare s creations, however. 

T*mi Berkley and Li'inel Wilson la. k the bond of 
true friendship Said Wilson 

Our relationship goes hack j l>nK wav. but 
it hasn t been close I have been seeing more of 
him The interesting ihing is thai when we talk 
uhout national, international and local problems 
it's .inid/inj.; how consistently we see them - .md 
we're very different 

Rcrkl>v '.:' publishes the Oakland I'"*-' n 
newvfi.ipMT uricninl t<; black und < 'hic'ino reader-**. 
He also npet.iies .< Iji g<> Oakland t.iw firm and 
has ic\elorM i iJ tiousin^ tract**, apartnient com 
plexes .md shopping '-enters in ihis stal'* >ind 

M thf siine inn** B4 rklev -.!>- his heart <m<1 
mint) .ire open to irfi-leamnt; movements As a 
yMint* man he organized orange pickers in South 
ern California Later, while a law student, he 
c.irnert a card in Karrv Bridges dick-workors 
union And. in 1WSK Berkley journeved to f'uba to 
w itncsN (lie rise ol Fidel (.'astro T.xlav. he claims 
filack I'antht rs are welcome in his office 

"If people want to call me a conservative 
( ni le Torn, let them' But 1 I eel thai I'm part of a 
world movement that s tr>mg to change th*' pos 
ture nf ilie underdog 

/ know t>"w to make money I know how to 
use itn- capitalist *->siem Bui that s not what I rn 

Down the line my desire is to help Lionel 
Wilson make this ,t m>Hle| city that s half black 
and half white and in the process save the nation 
Because the nations in trouble ' 

Kcrklev s hop*- lo<MiO persons. 75 per ceni of 
them Third World, find jobs here during the Wil 
son administration 

His ^u.ils ,\.N jMirt commissioner. Ill do 
what I've done the last nine year** attempt to 
influence the pori to make jobs NVttllnhlc to 

Oaklanders. 'jnd a> a Wilson adviser), help mi- 
nontv people 

The view from Koherl Sliettcrty s 24tli-fliKir 
oflite would be supTb if the fidi lands of Oakland 
were anyihing to I.--K al. Bui they are not l*argc 
open spaces where homes and businesses used lo 
st.jn<l suggest past devastation and the lack o| any 
commitment to the luiure 

Luckily the ("lorox president appears to have 
a good imagination ne can envision a hotel and 
convention center ju*-t outside his window lo th<- 
south and. to the west and north, other new 
buildings -all part of the City Center project to 
which Shelterly. js ncad of the Oakland Council 
ffr tconomic I^evelopmcnt. is very strongly com 
mitted. The subject dominate?-, tub 2-3 weekly 
meeunps with the mayor. 

The crime rale is important lo smaller busi 
nesses located away from the central district The 
larger corporation* oon'l seem to have any seri 
ous concern with crime " Thai's how Shelter I y 
dismisses l he fatalistic theory thai downtown 
Oakland can I be revitalized as long as it remains 
a place many people lypically. members of the 
while middle-class choose lo avoid 

Is Ihe color of his skin an advantage fur 
Wilson in the drive to reviiah/.c Oakland "* In 
contrast lo mosl others around Lionet Wilson, 
Shelterly says no 

'I don t think the racial or political affilia 
tion is too important Certainly John Heading was 
just as determined to sec that the economy of 
Oakland us slimuUled as anybody I m a regis 
tered Republican However, that difference 
docsn l get in our way al all in my opinion. 

Has Wilson done anvthing lhal particularly 
impressed Shetterly whOMe Clorox Corp with 
Kaiser Aluminum and Combined Communications 
Corp . owner of The Tribune tn January pledged 
$1 million toward a City Center hotel and conven 
tion cenier'' 

Shetterlv recalled Wilson s speak ing out 
JK-tinst new environmental control*! al a meeling 
of the Association ot Bay Area Governments 
<X'KD perceived thai Ihe tasibay commumly. 
espetitilJv Oakland, might lose more economical 
ly than il would fiam L-nvironmcntally." 

Wilson said Shctterly. was verv respon- 


Jesse Jackson's 'Neutrality' 
Angers Oakland Candidate 

By Pearl Stewart 

Jesse Jackson heated up 
Oakland's mayoral race yester 
day when he refused to endorse 
Wilson Riles Jr., the man who 
headed Jackson's East Bay 
presidential campaign. .-- . ..-.^. 

Jackson, who insisted he is re 
maining neutral in the race be 
tween Riles and incumbent Mayor 
Lionel Wilson, was the guest of hon 
or at a *500-a-plate breakfast hosted- 
by the mayor to help Jackson offset 
a $700,000 campaign debt. 

Riles picked Jackson up at the 
airport and accompanied him in a 
car to Gallagher's restaurant for the 
mayor's breakfast, but he did not go 
inside, saying he was not invited. 

Wilson said he sent word to 
Riles that "he was welcome if he 
contributed the $500," rfe'ih .Y>;J 

A visibly angry Riles, saying 
that he had expected a Jackson en 
dorsement, denounced Jackson's 
neutrality as a "betrayal." Standing 
briefly outside the restaurant. Riles 
said, "He's not being neutral at all, 
his association with the mayor here 
proves that" 

Inside, Jackson said, "I have no 
plans to endorse anyone in this elec 
tion. I have great respect for the 
mayor and I have great respect for 
Brother Riles." 

He later added that he "had 
worked with" Riles in the past, but 
he did not acknowledge Riles' role 
as chairman of his East Bay cam 

Riles, an Oakland city council 
man, accused Wilson of "buying 
out" Jackson, and said Jackson 
"ought to have the guts to get out 
there and support the people who 
busted their butts for him during 
his campaign." > . ~- ~(^ 

Jackson swept the Eighth Con 
gressional District in the primary, 
earning all six delegates and the 
two alternates to the convention. 

Riles said that he asked Jackson 
for his endorsement en route from 
the airport yesterday. Jackson, he 
said, insisted on r >* '~ " 

He would not bock a backer 

either candidate. 

f '"If Jesse expects to have a polit 
ical future in this country, he has to 
be as upstanding and principled 
about the people who support him 
as he is about national and interna 
tional issues," he said. 

Throughout the morning, Jack 
son's appearances, to raise money 
for his campaign debt while urging 

an end to the apartheid policies in 
South Africa, were complicated by 
the mayor's race. 

Jackson and Riles met up again 
at an anti-apartheid demonstration 
of about 100 people outside the of 
fices of the Pacific Maritime Associ 
ation, which represents shipping 
firms, including some that carry 
cargo to and from South Africa. 

The demonstrators were large 
ly Riles campaign workers and 
Jackson supporters. Riles at first re 
fused to join the group of speakers, 
which included Jackson, and re 
mained on the sidelines throughout 
most of the demonstration. 

Finally, after Jackson deliv 
ered a characteristically fiery at 
tack against South Africa and the 
VS. government. Riles joined the 
circle of speakers but only after 
being repeatedly beckoned. .'~ . 

'-. In speeches to the crowd, Riles 
and Jackson put aside any personal 
differences and urged the demon 
strators to stage "tea parties," by 
blocking the unloading of ships car 
rying cargo from South Africa into 
San Francisco and Oakland ports. 

Riles has introduced a resolu 
tion to the City Council urging the 
Port of Oakland to reject cargo 
from South Africa. 

Appendix G 

San Francisco Chronicle 

December 14, 1984 


Appendix H 

San Francisco Examiner 

December 30, 1984 

111? J 

<~i u. ** , . * M 


e *~ o 5. j 

e E B PS 


Wilson lauds citizens in anti-drug war 

From Page Bl 

who> making $500 a week as a drug 
lookout ttfiake" 8150-a-week employ 

The strongest incentives" to keep 
young people away from drug deal- 
ine. Wilson said, are police sweeps, 
anu:dy in effect, cracking down on 
street dealers and the arrest* of sus 
pected major dealers, such as Mickey 
Moore, taken into federal custody ear 
lier this month. 

Many young people now involved 
in drugs "were born into violence dur 
ing the days of activism" of the 1980's, 
Wilson said. 

"They saw this type of activity, and 
they were raised around it," he said. 

"It was different (in the '60s) be 
cause you didn't have this open war 
fare going." 

What must be pursued now, the 
mayor said, is "a tough law enforce 
ment program that will show (drug 
dealing) is a losing game." 

"Significant progress" in the fight 
against drugs has already been made 
on the judicial and law enforcement 
fronts, Wilson said. '.-,-. .._, 

The mayor also credited ordinary 

"The majority of the people are 
feeling good about the city," he said. 
'They're getting involved in the 

Residents all over the city have 
become "more aroused, more coura 
geous" about informing the Police De 
partment about drug dealers, Wilson 

And that, be said, has led to in 
creased arrests of drug dealers. 

A special ID-member police anti 
drug unit made more than 100 arrests 
and confiscated more than 350 bags of 
heroin, cocaine and marijuana in two 
weeks after its formation early this 
month, according to police 

Wilson said the unit has been a 
highly successful "crash program . . . 
to hit the areas where there was great 
er evidence of open peddling." 

Judges have begun "understand 
ing the problem we have," he said, and 
are starting to give tougher sentences 
to drug dealers. 

He said Alameda County District 
Attorney John Median's "no plea-bar 
gain' policy in drug-dealing cases was 

another major step forward. 

He said Oakland must continue to 
"substantially strengthen our neigh 
borhoods" and provide assistance for 
small-businesspeople, especially in ar 
eas such as Elmhusrt that have been 
plagued by drug dealers. 

"Strengthening the businesses 
helps strengthen the residents," Wil 
son said. 

Wilson is running for a third term 
as mayor. He is opposed in the April 
election by City Councilman Wilson 
Riles Jr. 

In response to campaign charges, 
Wilson said he has been a vigilant 
fighter against Oakland's drug prob 
lems for years. 

He said Riles had "politicized the 

'The drug problem is a community 
problem," Wilson said 

He said Police Chief Charles Hart, 
also criticized by Riles, is "doing the 
very best job he can, being as creative 
as possible and using the resources 
within the department as effectively 
as he possibly can." 

Community involvement against 
drugs is crucial, Wilson said. 

Oakland s drug wars 

The problem 

There's a drug-related murder in Oakland ~ - 
every two weeks on average 59 in the past 
two years. The city's retail drug business is 
worth an estimated quarter of a billion dollars 
a year. There is open drug dealing on nearly 
three dozen street corners. Only about 1 in ev 
ery 84 Oakland drug arrests results in a state 
prison sentence. ---*.. , ; 

The promises ,*, : ^:.-,:f^ 

"We have an obligation to our city to 
marshal every resource available (to fight 
drugs). We (must) prevent drug trafficking from 
taking over our street corners and putting our 
neighborhoods in fear." 

Mayor Lionel Wilson, Sept 20, 1984 

The progress 

Dec. 3: A $15,000, consultant's report 
discussing the city's drug problem is released. 

The same day: The mayor's 13-member 
task force, composed of local, state and 
federal officials, met in closed session for five 
hours. No specific plan of attack was 
announced. The next meeting is Jan. 28. 

Dec. 6: U.S. Attorney Joseph Russoniello 

and Alameda County District Attorney John 
Meehan agree to join forces through a 
program in which local district attorneys can 
be deputized as special federal prosecutors 
and thus steer important drug cases into 
federal court. 

Dc. 9: Rep. Pete Stark, D-Oakland, 
announces that as soon as Congress 
reconvenes in January, he will bring the 
congressional Select Committee on Narcotics 
Abuse and Control to Oakland for hearings on 
the city's drug-gang "crisis." ... 

Dec. 10: Milton "Mickey" Moore, suspected 
ringleader of the Family drug gang, is arrested 
at his Oakland home with $100,000 worth of 
heroin and cocaine, a rifle equipped with a 
silencer and a bulletproof vest. The police turn 
him over to federal authorities for prosecution. 

Dec. 12: A newly formed police task force 
begins a dally program of sweeping drug "hot 
spots" to roust street-corner dealers. Police 
arrest 18 dealers in the first day. 

Dec. 18: Assemblyman Elihu Harris, 
D-Oakland, says he will push legislation to 
create a "Targeted Urban Crime Narcotics 
Task Force," with a two-year budget of $4 
million, to speed the prosecution of drug 

Appendix I 

i^T 1 '" ".' ?**' 

I The East Bays fiee^feeUy 

*i '*' -C^v?"- &- 

- ^*-'I* ; 

January 11. 1W7 ValaM *, Mo. II 

In the ten years 

since he was elected 

Oakland's first black 

mayor, Lionel Wilson has 

quietly dominated Oakland's 

sleepy political arena. 

But today, under mounting 

criticism from both 

grassroots Democrats'^ 

.-.*;,'-' J' ""- ' % f *r 

and corporate* 
Republicans, there * 

are strong signs' 
.:; that the mayor's 

r-. .- ..* .. . /vr- ' * *" 

:. : . grip is 
'- slipping, 

Last April, Oakland Mayor 
Wilson ctiTmhl^ during. 
Council 'meeting, pit f 'tw1 for 
ward onto the floor, and had to be carried ~" 
out of the council chambers on a stretch- 
er. Protesting all the while that he was ' 
fine, the mayor was loaded onto an am- " 
bulance and taken to Kaiser Hospital, f & 
where he spent the night in the intensive ' ' 
care unit Over the not few days, WD- 
son's gfatf dismissed any suggestion of .* 
serious health problems, ^plaining that ', 
his fall had probably been caused by a 
ynilH overdose of bursitis medication. " 
Two weeks later, however, reporters 
were again calling. the mayor's ' office, - 

"How ridiculous^' said the mayor's chief,* 
of staff "It's absotutelyppt prufi, He r 
vacation," t?~ , ^^L-t ... ' ,j. jf*, %\. $, 
For an important elected official to'col- 

lapse during a public 

tually drop out of sight for a couple of. ^ 
weeks, is unusual enough, but the fact iGjj 
the rmnr* was that the mayor had been 
admitted to Seton Hospital in Daly City-"*-""' 
to have an elective double bypass opera- \ 
tion and hadn't notified either the City *' 
Council or the press because he wanted a 
few days of privacy. Such privacy may 
not be an unreasonable desire for a shoe 

salp<anan or a PG& tp*-hnirian. but tb^ 

mayor of a major American city does not 
normally ^fp*yt to be able to have clan 
destine coronary surgery ""!* he hap- .' 
pens to be the mayor of ffeManH 

Oakland's reputation for political 
sleepiness is not new, of course. For 
years. Republican city father types held 
power over this integrated and politically 
liberal city only because of widespread 
apathy and loW^Voter turnouts. With ~ 
Lionel Wilscc v ISection ten years ago, ' 
however, ^ii*** uiinrLg were thaf all of - 
ha -would change. The **r** >rt * t ' n " ft 
were .wrong. What the last decade has ^ 
proved is t\a^'f^a^^Tv\ r-xn have a black '^ 
>emocraticBnyor and "^^ have wide-.'- 

and to vit- 





continued on pog I , - 

For some reason, local politics has 
never developed much of a following in 
Oakland. More than one organizer has 
looked at the city's demographics, noted 
the number of very serious urban prob 
lemscrime, unemployment, and neigh 
borhood deterioration and concluded 
that it should be a fertile seedbed for 
political action. More than one organizer 
has tried, failed, and given up, conclud 
ing that Oakland is some sort of mystify 
ing vacuum when it comes to politics. 

Every now and then a neighborhood 
preservation association or a community 
agency will pack a City Council meeting, 
but ordinarily you can rest assured of 
finding a seat in the 252-seat council 
chambers, with considerable elbow room 
to spare. During the last mayoral elec 
tion, in April, 1985, only 23 percent of 
registered voters came out to the polls, 
less than half the number who voted in 
November, 1986. '- v 

Mayor Wilson, who was rff\f(^ff\ to a 
third term, interpreted *hi low turnout 
as a sign of satisfaction with his perform 
ance in office and in a way, he's right If 
there is one area in which Wilson can be 
seen has having had extraordinary politi 
cal success, it's in ensuring an atmos 
phere of stolid moderation in a city that 
routinely elects the most liberal represen 
tative in Congress and the most liberal 
members of the state Assembly. Neither 
a particularly writing speaker nor much 
of a diplomat, Wilson nonetheless has 
been able to exercise considerable power 
in less visible ways, through endorse 
ments and fundraising. In direct conflicts 
between Wilson and the more liberal 
"Dellums" wing of the Democratic Party, 
the mayor has come off the winner more 
often than not, blocking rent control, for 
instance, and preventing candidates sup- - 
ported by the congressman from winning 
seats on the City Council and the county 
Board of Supervisors. 

Wilson has generally won these fights 
with the support of the conservative hills 
vote, moderate Democrats, and generous 
campaign contributions from real estate 
and business interests. In political circles, 
people often draw a distinction between 
the "North County" progressives (Con 
gressman Ron Dellums, Assemblyman 
Tom Bates, and Supervisor John George) 
and the "South County" moderates 
(State Senator Bill Lockyer, Supervisor 
Bob Knox, and whoever the chairman of 
the county Democratic Party Central 
Committee happens to be). Like Oakland 
itself, Lionel Wilson is smack dab in the 
middle of this north-south split, and more 

January 23. 1987 ixm. 

Once there was talk 
about a "Dellums 
Bates, George 

machine," but it's 

interesting to note that the 
progressives have not been 
able to make a single 
important inroad into 
Oakland politics since 1979. 
Thi^is in no small part due 
to the moderating 
influence of 
Lionel Wilson. 

often than not, he has helped tip the 

balance from north to south and from left 

T t was in 1973 that Bobby Scale's 

I surprisingly strong showing in a 
JL mayoral primary alerted Democrats 
to the potential of running a black Demo 
crat for mayor although they hoped to 
find one a bit more in the mainstream 
than a Black Panther member. A superior 
court judge who had once run the coy's 
anti-poverty program, Lionel Wilson was 
the choice. 

Bom in New Orleans but raised in West 
Oakland, Wilson attended UC Berkeley 
as an undergraduate and received his law 
degree from Hastings in San Francisco. 
Always a strong supporter of civil rights, 
Wilson has personally suffered from racial 
discrimination, During the '40s, he scored 
high on the civil service TTT but was 
refused a postal service job. T-afr he 
played semi-pro baseball and did well 
enough to make the Bay Area All Star 
team; every member of that All Star 
team went on to the majors except Wil 
son and one other black player. 

It's a historical irony one that vet 
eran Oakland political reporters seldom 
tire of pointing out that Wilson's 1977 
campaign was greatly helped by organ 
izers from the Black Panther Party (the 
irony being, of course, that Wilson has 
proved to be such a conservative mayor). 
His victory sparked widespread euphoria 
among white liberals, some of whom pre 
dicted the rise of a powerful new coali 
tion of minorities, women, labor, en 
vironmentalists. and other progressive 

groups and indeed with Wilson Riles 
jr.'s election to the City Council in 1979, 
Ron Dellums in the House of Represen 
tatives, Tom Bates in the state Assem 
bly, and John George on the Board of 
Supervisors, the progressives .seemed to 
be gaining momentum. At one time, 
there was even talk of a "Dellums, Bates, 
George" machine. It's interesting to 
note, however, that the progressives 
have been unable to mai"* a. single impor 
tant inroad in Oakland since the 1979 
election; this is in no small part due to 
Lionel Wilson's moderating influence. 

The 1979 election marked the original 
break between the progressives and Wil 
son. The mayor supported Wilson Riles, 
but opposed a white progressive named 
Marie Converse, who was, in turn, beat 
en by a white moderate Democrat, 
Margefiibson, That North Oakland seat, 
'in what should be a progressive strong 
hold, has- been a continual source of frus 
tration for the Dellums Democrats es 
pecially since the 1980 passage of a dis 
trict elections initiative. After the council 
went to district elections, the progres 
sives ran a black candidate, Cassie 
Lopez, against Gibson and lost again. In 
1983 .two more black candidates were 
elected to the City Council: Leo Baziie, 
an attorney, whose district is in East 
Oakland, and, in West Oakland, Aleta 
Cannon, an administrative assistant to 
Assemblyman Elihu Harris. This 
brought the number of blacks on the 
council to five all of them Wilson allies, 
with the exception of Riles. 

In 1980, Wilson began to show a more 
conservative streak when he successfully 

led the campaign against an initiative 
strong rent control On most social 
sues, Wilson is a moderate liberal, but 
certain areas, particularly where the 
has been a conflict between environm 
talists and developers, Wilson is com 
erably to the right of Dellums, Bates, a 
George ("Have you ever heard of a DC 
environmentalist?" he once retorted). . 
a mayor, Wilson has always believed 
the bilk between development and jo: 
"I think to a certain extent, the ma\ 
personally believes that what is good : 
developers is good for Oakland," sz 
Wilson Riles, Jr., who ran against t 
mayor in the 1985 election. Some eric 
have argued that after taking office, V> 
son simply adopted the platform of t 
1977 Republican opponent, Dave Tuc 
er, t 3 ^""^ a "business as usual" approa 
and establishing downtown developmt 
and "revitalization" as the main order 
business, in the 1985 race, the mi 
substantive criticism made by Riles w 
that the mayor had emphasized dov 
town development at the expense 
neighborhood revitalization. But the 
sue never caught fire, and Riles s und 
finannd campaign never went ai 
where. The mayor won with sixty pi 
cent of the vote. 

If East Bay liberals proved to t 
quite wrong in their original opt 
migm about the effects of Wilson 
election on local politics, some other o 
servers were much more prescient. Soc 
after Wilson's election in 1977, Pai 
Cobb. then director of a group calle 
Oakland Citizens Committee for Urba 
Renewal had predicted that a natural a 
liance between "minorities and industry 
would come out of the Wilson electioi 
and he was dose to the mark. In his se, 
ond rampaig-n Wilson was supported b 
the same downtown business figure 
who had supported Dave Tucker tot 
years earlier. The reservations th 
fai^in-cq establishment h a ^ had aboi 
Wilson were apparently forgotten. 

The "natural alliance" between WUso 
and Oakland's business establishmer. 
was strengthened still further by th 
mayor's high-profile opposition to Oai 
land's rent control proposition. Fror 
1980 on, rampaign contributions fror 
property managers, landlords, realtor; 
and developers began to flow more freel 
into the "Mayor's Fund for Oakland." 
As smooth as the transition seemed t 
be, however, there is an important dil 
ference between Wilson and the oli 
downtown establishment and it lies in th 
obvious question of race. A new capitalis 
form of black power came into being ii 
Oakland along with the Wilson admin: 
stration, and its battle cry and chief de 

continued on poo* K 



conhmwd from fay* 9 ' . . 

mand was "minority equity." 

As a slogan, minority equity is less 
bold and threatening than "black 
power," but as an official policy, it is a 
fairly radical idea, one that gfems from an 
even more radical economic disparity. If 
you compare the average annual income 
of blacks to whites, there is a definite im 
balance, but if you compare finanriai as 
sets, the differential is much more pro 
nounced. According to the US Census 
Bureau, the typical black family in Amer 
ica has a net worth of $3,397, less than 
one-tenth the net worth of the average 
white family. Minority equity is aimed at 
giving minorities apiece of the action by 
forcing developers to have minority part 
ners in multi-million dollar projects. Un 
fortunately, such a policy immediately 
faces one practical obstacle: there are 
very few black investors who have that 
kind of money to invest Consequently, it 
is frequently the same small number of 
black investors who, in Oakland's cay, 
are frequently friends and supporters of 
the mayor that get top consideration 
from the city in development deals. A 
white city coundlmexnber once com 
plained that the goal of local government 
should not be to create black millionaires. 
Nonetheless, increasing black wealth has 
dearly been a goal in the Wilson aHmm. 

By trying to use political power to 
achieve economic power, the Wusonians 
are, of course, following a well-establish 
ed American tradition among poor and 
disenfranchised ethnic groups. It is pos 
sible to push the analogy too far, but 
Oakland blacks, like the 19th century 
Irish in New York and Boston, are by 
and large first or second generation im 
migrants from backward rural areas. 

who arrived (or whose parents arrived) in 
the big city and were immediately at a 
relative disadvantage in terms of educa 
tion, job skills, and finanria] resources to 
the earlier, assimilated immigrants. And 
obviously Oakland blacks were at a much 
greater disadvantage than the Irish be 
cause of the much higher level of racial 

In addition to racism, however, there 
was also a big problem of timing. Charter 
reform, civil service standards, and, most 
of all, general rmnfw'v decline have 
made city politics less lucrative than in 
the past Thesp days most city politicians 
have to work as lawyers, administrative 
assistants to' (other politicians, or em 
ployees of^ private or public interest 
groups. A. df/ coundimember rarely 
strikes it rich. There are certain perks 
that go with the office season fy-icfte to 
the A's, memberships in health clubs, 
travel opportunities, and the ability to 

hobnob with 'influential people. But the 

political campaigning that's required to 
hold on to these perks is he/-nming in 
creasingly expensive. The tab can easily 
run as high 'as $50,000 for a closely con 
tested race. For candidates who are not 
personally -wealthy, that money has to 
come from somewhere. 

.. . Ii31 ft.'.: .:.:.. .-', . 

T n most cities, the potential donors 
I with the biggest pocketbooks are 
A generally related to real estate and 
land development interests. In Oakland 
there 'are 1 - two major developments 
worthy of note, the Chinatown Redevel 
opment Project and the City Retail Cen 
ter, a major shopping district which city 
planners. tope to- establish -downtown 
near the spacious old department store, 
Emporium CapweH's. In the fall of 1965, 
a host of development firms, mostly from 
outside the Bay Area, were competing 
for city contracts to undertake these proj 
ects. It wasn't surprising when generous 
donations from some of the bidders 

oegan to show up in the campaign dis 
closure statements of city elected of 

' What was more disconcerting, how 
ever, were indications that some elected 
officials were, aggressively courting con 
tributions, hnlHing fimHraiging dinners 
before deriding on important council 
jaaipfl and fairing in large sums from in 
terested parties. Coundimember Aleta 
Cannon, for eramplp, raised $15,000 at a 
fundraising dinner 3^ Gallagher's Res 
taurant in October, about a month before 
the Council vote on the Chinatown Rede 
velopment Project and received $4,250 
from two development teams competing 
for the project 

"My mind was made up [about the 
Chinatown project] king before any of 
those contributions were marie," says 
Cannon, who says she likes to have her 
campaign fundraisers during non-elec 
tion years for reasons of simple practical 
ity. "If you wait until election year, then 
all the candidates are [fundraising] at 
once, and everybody is asking for contri 
butions from the same people. My con 
cern is with the skyrocketing cost of 
campaigns. I don't think the contribu 
tions my colleagues receive have any ef 
fect on their votes. I know it doesn't af 
fect my vote." 

Mayor Wilson, who was reelected in 
April of '85, held a fundraiser in Decem 
ber of 1985, a month before the council 
voted on the downtown retail center, ex 
plaining later to inquiring Tribune report 
er Kathy Zimmerman that he intended to 
donate the money to the statewide Dem 
ocratic Party's races in 1986, the 1987 
council races, and the presidential race in 
1988. As Zimmerman reported, during 
the six months covered in the mayor's 
January 1986 financial disclosure state 
ment, the mayor received $17,000 in con 
tributions from the development teams 
who were interested in the retail center 
and Chinatown redevelopment projects. 

"I wasn't aware that it was that much 
money," he told the reporter. "I don't go 
over the contributions because I don't 
want to know who contributed or how 
much it was. A contribution to my cam 
paign doesn't mean it in any way infiu- 
eices my vote." 

A quick analysis of the contributions 
gives some support to the mayor's con 
tention. Although the winning team in 
the shopping center project the Rouse 
Company of Maryland, gave Wilson's 
fund $4,500, one of the losing teams gave 
him even more, nearly $4,800. On the 
other hand, the winning development 
team in the Chinatown project had given 
the mayor about $6,000 while the losing 
team had given him nothing at all It's 
impossible to prove that this or that con 
tribution jnflnenreH this or that vote, but 
there is a growing concern that the sheer 
size of the contributions by special inter- 
ests is corrupting the system. "There is 
more money in local campaigns," says 
Wilson Riles, jr., who's up for reelection 
in April "and the amount of money com 
ing from developers is growing. It's start 
ing to appear that you can't win a ram- 
paign unless you have big money, and 
you can't get big money unless you get it 
from real estate." 

"It gets to be a situation of continual 
fundraising," says Mary Moore, the 
coundimember from the I/aVe Mem" 
area. "Fundraising whenever there is an 
rrnKf And then you're into a mode like 
Sacramento and Washington of perma 
nent fundraising so you- have a perma 
nent war chest" 

Most large California cities, including 
Los Angeles and San Francisco, have 
adopted local regulations to limit the size 
of Campaign contributions and discour 
age the possibility of vote buying or in 
fluence peddling. For quite some time, 
the League of Women Voters and others 
have talked about pushing for campaign 
reforms in Oakland, but until recently 

nothing was 'actually done. The revela 
tions about developer, contributions in 
early 1986, however, -gave a new siaise of 
urgency to those who supported re forms. 
In late December, -when three Oakland 
coundlmembers announced that' they 
had drafted two sweeping reform ordi 
nances and would push to have- them in 
cluded on. the April -ballot, political ob- 
servers were, interested. The three coun- 
cilmembers included two liberal Demo 
crats, Riles and Moore rand the coun 
cil's last r^p^i"!"? white Republican, 
Dick Spees>: : __;;;,; ;^\. , ~' 

T f you were asked to imagine the 
I sort of person who would go on a 

J. crusade against the influence of big 
money in local politics, Dick Specs might 
not make your short list A senior neat- 
tive with the Kaiser Aluminum and 
Chemical Corporation, Specs serves as 
treasurer of the political action commit 
tee for the California Manufactures As 
sociation. He knows how to raise money. 
After the Democrats won control of Oak 
land city government in the late 70s and 
early '80s, Spees and Frank Ogawa were 
the only two Republicans n-mainir.g on 
the City Council. Spees, however, is 
quite a bit more liberal than the average 
Republican an "Oregonian Republi 
can," he calls hinwif He has been nore 
"liberal" than the mayor, particularly on 
environmental and neighborhood issues. 
On the Oakland council,' thm^gh_ ques 
tions of party or ideology have come to 
be less significant than questions of loyal- 

ty- .-."' ' ". . -..-,. 

For abouttwo months, the three ioun- 
tiimembers worked quietly with the city 
attorney's office to draft sweeping new 
reform measures. A Municipal Cam 
paign Contributions Act would undercut 
the flow of political contributions by put- . 
ting a $500 limit on individual (and cor 
porate) contributions to any Oakland 
elected official Just as significantly, it 
would impose a $500 cap on the amount 

"It's starting to appear like 
you can't win a campaign 
unless you have big money ," 
says Coundlmeinb^r Wilson 
Riles Jr., "and you can't get 
big money unless: you get it 
from real estate." 

of money that could be transferred from 
one Campaign fund to another. It would 
also ensure that campaign committees 
would file up-to-date disclosure state 
ments on the Monday before any given 
election. (Often candidates file late cam 
paign disclosures, so some of the con 
tributors can't be identified by the public 
until after the election.) Meanwhile a sep 
arate Municipal Lobbyist and Conflict of 
Interest Act would force lobbyists to reg 
ister .with the city and file quarterly dis 
closures with the city, listing amounts 
given to city officials It would prevent 
lobbyists and their employers from mak 
ing campaign contributions within sixty 
days of an election, and it would prevent 
dry frffiriaip -f^om accepting contribu 
tions from lobbyists while a "proceeding 
involving a license, permit, or entitle 
ment is pending and for three months 
preceding the decision." 

Armed with this shiny new reform 
package, Riles, Spees, and Moore began 
the fight to put it on the Acrfl ballot The 
showdown would come in the City Coun 
cil chambers. 

n unusually large crowd of spec- 
f\ tators was in attendance when 

XA. the January 6 meeting of the 
Oakland City Council was called to order. 
Though most of these onlookers were 
there to protest a proposed, tough new 
animal control ordinance, -they soon 
found themselves watching a brief but 
vitriolic procedural fight between Spees, 
Riles, and Moore and the rest of the 
council. . i^i;., 

When the three councilmembers had 
introduced their reform measures, the 
mayor had reacted angrily, saying it was 
unreasonable to by to put the ordinances 
on the April ballot Since he had to be 
away on business on January <?, he gave 
the gavel to one of his aaimrkest loy 
alists, Fraiik Ogawa- The , .mayor's in 
structions were quite clear. ; _,.; 

"This item is on the agenda with no 
discussion prior to this evening.". Ogawa 
complained. "To have this kind of ordi 
nance come before us at the last minute 
is unfair to the other members of the 
council." Ogawa went on to read a letter 
from the mayor, in which Spees, Riles, 

and Moore were accused of preparing 
the ordinances in secret. (In fact Spees 
had sent the mayor a draft of the ordi 
nances on December 19, but the other 
nfrvrs h^ not s^*n thpm until 

later.) Wilson's letter contended that 
there was not adequate time for the coun 
cil to consider the ordinances before the 
deadline for putting new measures on the 
April ballot, January 15. "Is there signifi 
cant evidence that council members have 
succumbed to financial interests in voting 
on issues," asked the mayor's letter, "or 
is this more of another [sic] political 
smokescreen based upon personal inter 
ests and/or ambitions?" This last innu 
endo appeared to be aimed at Dick 
Spees, a possible, although undeclared, 
candidate for the 1989 mayor's race. 

Bitter exchanges are not uncommon 
during Oakland City Council meetings, 
but the organized dissident front that 
persistently argued its case that night 
was somewhat unusual. With at least a 
five-member majority on nearly every 
issue, Wilson has been very effective at 
keeping the lid on council meetings, and 
ordinarily when the dissidents are on the 
losing end they quietly abstain or vote 
"no." Ogawa moved swiftly to put an 
end to this peculiar situation and squelch 
ed further debate by referring the ordi 
nances to the "rules and procedures" 
committee of the council. Ordinarily, as 
Spees angrily pointed out, new ordi 
nances would go to the legislative com 
mittee. By referring it to the rules and 
procedures committee, which consists of 
Wilson and three of his strongest sup 
portersCarter Gflmore, Leo Bazile, and 
Aleta Cannon Ogawa had ensured that 
the measure would not be considered be 
fore the January 15 deadline. Ogawa said 
later that the way the ordinance had been 
introduced was "very improper," and 
that was why he sent it to rules and pro 
cedures with a one-vote council majority. 

continued oo poo* 12 


connnvd from pog 1 1 .,' * ~x.'"'i " ^' w ' 

"Just imagine if a' corporation tried 'to do 
something without the knowledge, of the' 
rhairman or the 'board of directors," he' 

Dick Specs' office is on the 22nd : 
floor of the Kaiser Building. It's 
a grand suite with a towering 
view of the smoggy lowlands of down 
town Oakland, and could symbolize the 
time before Wilson was elected, when 
Kaiser, Clorox, and the Knowland-own- 
ed Oakland Tribune exercised a form of 
power that was even more direct than 
the influence of big developer money in 
elections. Some political observers, in 
fact, view the increase in. political contri 
butions from developers as a welcome 
sign of pluralism, or at least a decentral 
ization of power. But there .is also a stwif 
that with the escalation of campaign 
costs, both at the state and local level, a 
lot of businessmen are simply sick and 
tired of being hit up for money by the pol 
iticians. ."It's absolutely gross," said 
Spees. "Sitting on my desk right now are 
about four letters from assemblymen 
who have hit me up in the past five days. 
Every _ day .they, have fundraisers. 
They're creating Mia up there that are 
called 'juice bills,' that , they can raise 
money around. They raise these large 
sums of money and move it around from 
one campaign to another. The milk of 
politics is money. .-.-.,- -,j.;- .-,,.. ,- ,Y ; 
"There is always a strong temptation, 
when you have big developers doing 
things, to view the dry opportunistically, 
and I think it's really important for Oak 
land to maintain a really squeaky rj**an 
political environment One fear is that 
Oakland will get the reputation of being 
for hire and, when developers come into 
the dry, that folks are all over them like 
locusts, saying, 'I know how to get you 
five votes on the City Council. ' We don't 
want to have that kind of reputation."*? 
Good developers don't want <-hat They - 
don't want to get involved in that kind of 
system. We want to have the reputation ..- 
of being an open and dean city. Oakland 
has always been a dean dry. ,^-^ , : ' :'' 
- ' "There is also a concern that the '"sys-'^* 
tern is skewed in favor of mrnmhonty be- ' . 
cause of the cost oi campaigns, and in v 
order to preserve democracy at the local ?.- 
level, I firmly believe. there has, to. be,T' 

i . ' .-^ ,>~i'>>^\ _::;: > ".,'" 

In the letter-that Frank Ogawa read -' 
to the City Council, Mayor Wilson 
posed an ' ' n t < *rfi 8 t' T *g .questions 
Would, as he put it, "a flat cap on cam- 
paign contributions impart unfairly upon ' " 


'-: . The possibility of an 
. '. alliance, no matter how 
temporary or tacit, between 
"good government" 
Republicans and grassroots 
. Democrats to "clean up" 
Oakland politics is an 
entirely new political 
development and an 
ominous one 
for the mayor. 

minority C 7 i y\[^ tf ^ i . who, in an Oakland 
citywide eJejfJjpn, would not have the 
same accessj$Q,iarge numbers of corpor 
ate or busjpe^s; contributors as a candi 
date whq.ppmes out of the business or 
corporate,, community?" .Spees argues 
that this .is total nonsense, "I have the 
most to Jpfiev'n he says, "because I'm a 
very good ; 4undraiser. I'm treasurer of 
the BtatejfJACfpr the CMA and I'm very 
familiar, wj(h ^hia gtirff I'm willing to put 
myself under, this because I believe pas 
sionately, Jhat. we need restraint," Logi 
cally, it would seem that a member of the 
"corporate^cpmmunity" would be more 
.able to raise money in large chunks, for 
there are floly so many large corporations 
like Ka^er ; and Clorox. Some observers, 
in fact, ,; believe that, the cap might 
strengthen, {the hand of lobbyists, who 
would be more skillful at lining up large 
numbers .01. small -contributions. The 
other ordnance, however, would restrict 
the activities of lobbyists, so on the 
balanceTThey would' probably- stand to 
lose influence if both measures were ever 
implemented.* ** *.* * ! ***^%i - 
From a political standpoint, however, 

the most significant reform might not be 

the cap. ooundryidual. contributions, but 
the $500 limitation on transfers from one 
campaign chest to another. Every now 
and then, a developer may fly into Oak 
land. and drop $1,500 into the mayor's 
campaign chest, but that contribution is 
there for anyone to see in the mayor's' 

ram paign ' disdOSUTe Btatfrm^n,t and, 

since the mayor's vote is recorded by the 
City Clerk, connections are fairly easy to 

discern. If/8 in the shifting alliance of 

city, county, and "fot** politicians, all hav 
ing access to different sources of fund 
ing, that the picture of political contribu 
tions and political influence becomes 

more complicated. As it now stands, 
money can circulate quite freely between 
the campaign committees of state, coun 
ty, and local elected offr-i?'* Elihu Har 
ris, for example, contributed $2,500 to 
his administrative assistant, Council- 
member Aleta Cannnn, in September of 
1985; she, in turn, loaned $15,000 to the 
effort to. elect Don Perata to the Ala- 
meda-East Oakland seat on the county 
Board of Supervisors. Cannon also lent 
$5,000 to last November's campaign to 
pass the county transportation sales tax, 
MeasureB. ; .., . , V ... 

.With- money, passing .from one cam 
paign, chest to another,, tracing any .evi-. 
dence of undue possible influence to an 
original source becomes that much more 
difficult A state legislator who has ac 
cess to huge amounts of money from 
state PACs and lobbyists may donate 
funds to a dry coundimember who then 
may donate it to some other candidate, 
leading to a situation where money from, 
say, the 'State Association of Licensed 
Repossessors is helping to pay for cam 
paign mailers in an East Oakland school 
board race. Undoubtedly, there would be 
no direct influence on the school board 
by the State Association of Reposses 
sors. The money would no longer be 
serving its original purpose, and would 
-now have become part of an unspecified 
political pool, making the question of in 
fluence a matter between politicians. 
When the Democrats won a majority 
on the Oakland City Council, there was, 
for the first time in decades, a network of 
like-minded politicians operating at the 
state, county, and local level. Historical 
ly, California has had a very weak party 
structure, and as a result, efforts to de 
velop cjrndjHatcs raise money, and ce 
ment aiiian/vs have to a great extent 

fallen on the shoulders of individual elect 
ed officials, people like Lionel Wilson, 
Elihu Harris, and State Senator Bill 
Lockyer, the most influential of the mod 
erate South County Democrats. >. . 
i-A'- former county party chairman, 
Lockyer has. been a Democratic activist 

mmy he ramnflignp<3 for AHlai StCVCnSOn 

as a, sixth grader, .and he has been 
described in the press as someone who 
"lives, breathes, and ears politics."'" As a 
Democrat, it was always frustrating in 
Oakland," says Lockyer. "You'd have a 
dry that was overwhelmingly Demo 
cratic, but it kept electing Republicans. 
For decades Oakland was dominated by 
the Knowland business establishment. 
That changed rather dramatically when 
Lionel Wilson was elected. I have a feel 
ing there are now multiple competing 
elites rather than one somewhat united 
group. What tends to happen is power is 
more distributed and there is more com 
petition between different perspectives 
and philosophies and geographical con 
cerns, which would increase the total 
amount of .campaign money in the sys 
tem. But it might actually reduce the grip 
of any particular interest, because there 
would be more cancelling out" 

/ I \ he alliance between city and 
; I county Democrats has clearly 
. JL .reduced the influence of corpor 
ate Republicans, but it has also reduced 
the mfhipnre of the more leftist, ideolog 
ical Democrats like Tom, Bates and Ron 
Dellums. Moreover, this c alliance has 
i-rjqpH despite a very real conflict of in 
terest between a poor, urban .district like 
Oakland and the ^painting suburban 
areas near Pleasanton, Newark, and Fre 
mont A good example of the conflict was 
Measure B, the one-half cent sales tax to 
fund highway improvements, road re 
pairs, and mass transit needs that was 
easily passed in November. The Measure 
B Campaign Committee described itself 
as being "a lot of people sick and tired of 
sitting in traffic," but a quick-once-over 
of campaign statements indicates that 
the main contributors were contractors, 
realtors, leasing agents, lending institu 
tions, home builders, construction prod 
uct suppliers, and large property owners 
the interest group known collectively 
in Sacramento giang as "the sand and 
gravel boys/' .Prjyjng .down the Nimitz 
Freeway south of San Leandro, it's easy 
to see why these interests were eager to 
pass the tax; there are huge subdivisions 
with hundreds of partially constructed 
homes right rt to the 1-880 corridor. 
The traffic jams are bad enough as it is, 
but once those new townhouse owners 
start driving to work, the Nimitz could 
begin to rival the Long Island Express 


January 23, 1987 umss 1 

The spending plan lot the. tax was 
drafted by a s^hmmrriitTre appointed by 
the county supervisors. Last year a small 
scandal erupted when the Oaklard Trib 
une revealed that two members of the 
subcommittee were employees of two 
development companies that stood to 
benefit from the proposed highway im 
provements: Harbor Bay Isle, near Ala- 
nvda and the Harifnd? Business Park, 
near Pleasanton. The original draft of the 
tax spending plan was heavily weighted 
toward highway projects that benefited 
the suburbs 'and specific developers, and 
some critics argued that Oakland resi 
dents would be spending more in addi 
tional t* Yp ? i than they would be getting 
back in terms of m?^Q transit or urban 
street improvements. Eventually, a com 
promise was worked out that increased 
the pot for AC Transit and street repair. 
Although, to be fair, the mayor was not 
in the best of health at the time, it was 
Councilmember Mary Moore who point 
ed out Measure B's negative impact on 
the urban East Bay, and pushed for a 
compromise (with the help of Assembly 
man Tom Bates). Mayor Wilson and his 
allies on the council sat the conflict out 

Can one trace the possible mfhvnrr of 
the sand and gravel boys on Oakland of 
ficials? It isn't quite as simple as it was in 
the case of the City Retail Center, where 
it was possible to simply look at the 
mayor's campaign contributions. In this 
case it is necessary to look into political 
allianfyg Take Judy Briggs Marsh, for 
instance Marsh is the Harbor Bay Isle 
employee who sat on the transit tax sub- 
committee. She has aiv been a fundrais 
er for Mayor Wilson. Bill Cavala, who 
lobbied in Sacramento for the state legis 
lation to authorize the county tax, is a 
former dose advisor to the mayor. And 
Mary King, a campaign consultant for 
Measure B, has worked at different 
times for the mayor and the other king 
pin in county politics, State Senator Bill 

Lockyer. . ;.-..... 

A moderate liberal, . who repre 
sents the heart of sand and 
gravel country Pleasanton, 
Union City, Newark, San Leandro, Hay- 
ward, and a small part of Oakland- 
Bill Lockyer has helped launch the 
careers of a number of East Bay politi- 
cos, nvhiriing supervisors Bob Knox and 
Don Perata, both of whom were strong 
supporters of the transportation tax. 

"This is always a very dtffiniit prob 
lem, trying to sort out private goals and 
the public interest," admits Lockyer. 
"There .are numerous transportation 
jq^pg that ve nffid to address; the Nim- 
itz, number one, and the BART r*t?n- 
sion. Now, if in trying to solve those 
problems in a fair and conscientious way, 
there happens to be a ripple fffot that 
benefits somebody who wants to develop 
some land, but can't because of the ab 
sence of infrastructure, does that mean 
you shouldn't try to solve'the problem?" 
Lockyer' s own campaign disclosure 
statements list a considerable number of 
contributions f nnn nfv&u iimiAnt ' inter- 
ests, as well as state PAC money that is 
related to his activities in -^t l r ra r n ^ Ti tn 
From that large pot, Lockyer has, in 
turn, contributed large sums to other 
candidates, most notably in the supervis- 
orial elections. "I don't operate from any 
sort of demonology," says Lockyer. "I 
guess it's one of those changes that does 
occur with people. Most of us, while 
we're first elected in a sort of advocacy 
perspective, shift to a more meditative 
one in time. Partly -because you meet 
some very smart people with -different 
philosophies and, if you're a sensitive 
human h^mg, you can't be quite as cer 
tain about the opinions you once held. 
I'm not sure who's responsible for the 
social glue, if not us. So you find that 
there is a need to mediate and harmonise 
the competing interests and that's a 

legitimate job. One of the things you 
have to do is mount campaigns, and so 
you look around for interests that may be 
j or may be self-interested, 

and you try to many those particular 
goals. That's part of the art of this pro 
fession." . .-_.' . 

There is some evidence, however, that 
the social glue has covered Oakland a lit 

tle tOO thickly, . and -that the allianry 

which Wilson has helped to cement be 
tween gtatj^ county, and local politicians 
with financial support from the sand and 
gravel boys has had a smothering effect 
on Oakland politics. On the grassroots 
level, there has been a growing dissatis 
faction with the "Pax Wiisonia" that the 
mayor hag established through his con 
trol over the City Council, a growing sense 
that there has been little improvement , 
over the last ten years in the most serious 
problems plaguing Oakland: high crime, 
unemployment, the high cost of housing, 
and the deterioration of neighborhood 
business districts. This grassroots dissat 
isfaction became much more visible (and 
audible) during the Oakland teachers 
strike, when -it was revealed that the 
mayor wanted to spend $15 million to 
bail out the Oakland A's. People were al 
ready grumbling about the sums the city 
expended in its futile effort to keep the 
Oakland Raiders. More and more letters 
began to appear in the Tribune criticising 
these sports expenditures,' and council- 
members began to report an unusually 
large amount of angry mail 

As a further sign of potential dissatis 
faction, several promising randirtatps 
from the progressive wing of the party 
have announced they will run in the April 
election: Ignado De La Fuente, a union 
leader who has been instrumental in the 
fight to keep the Delaval engine plant 
from closingi is pk* n nirg to run against 
Frank Ogawa; Chappell Hayes, a grass 
roots organizer in West Oakland, is plan 
ning to run against Aleta Cannon; and 

Lopez is planning to rim one* 
agamgt Marge Gibson in Nortl 
Oakland, A^thmigh these grassroots fan 
didatffl are clearly the underdogs, th* 
rampaign reform issue could have ; 
weakening effect on the firm grip Lione 
Wilson has had on the city. (Now that th< 
council majority has refused to put th< 
reform ordinances on the ballot, the nex 
step for Spees, Riles, and Moore migh 
be a signature drive to put the ordinance 
on the nf-irt ballot, or perhaps even t. 
bold a special election.) The possibility o 
an alliance no matter how temporary o: 
tacit between "good government' 
Republicans and grassroots Democrat; 
to "dean up" Oakland politics is an en 
tirely new political development and ai 
ominous one for the mayor. 

The question of rampaign reform 
meanwhile, could well have a gignifiran 
impact on the 1989 mayor's race. Wilsoi 
hag said that he plans to run for a iourti 
term, but some observers wondei 
whether his health will allow it Other 
mentioned as possible candidates art 
Carter Gilrnore, Leo Bazile, Assembly 
man Elihu Harris, Port Commissioner 
William Hunter (all Wilson supporters) 
Wilson Riles, Jr., and of course Did 
Spees. As it stands now, should Wilspi 
decide to step down, he could easih 
run his campaign fund up into the sb 
figure range in the ^ avt fl^rtiop he rais 
ed about $350,000 and hand it over to i 
favored ranriiriatp If so, he could be in < 
position of virtually naming his sue 
cessor, most likely a moderately Ubera 
black Democrat with the mayor's view: 
on city government and with his ties tc 
the county party establishment But if the 
Campaign reforms ever become law, the 
mayor would be able to give away only 
$500 from his fund, which could mean a 
more competitive election and a more 
spirited debate of the issues in 1989. 
And, perhaps, an end to the yawning 
vacuum that hag been Oakland politics. 


Appendix J 

Oakland Mayor Lionel Wilson seated in front of the Interfaith 
Choir n a memorial for victims of the Oct. 17 earthquake. 

Like the city he 

governs, Oakland 

Mayor Lionel Wilson 

suffers from a 

tarnished image. 

But he stands by his 

controversial record. 

Photographs by Fran Ortiz 



San Francisco Examiner 


Tve known Lionel all my California adult life, and 
he has always been for me the image and symbol of how I 
would like to have people respect me. He was intellectual 
ly superior, he was absolutely firm in his conviction, he 
was principled frankly to a fault. He was devoid of any of 
the obvious trappings of most politicians. " 

Assembly Speaker Willie Brown on Lionel Wilson. 

Lionel Wilson knows all about images: his own, 
his city's, the images of his past. 
He acknowledges that, to many, he is the 
mayor of a poor city plagued by a monumental 
drug problem, a leader who can't lead effec 
tively. But Wilson is not haunted by those im 
ages. "I just feel that I have a job to do and I try 
to do it. I try to deal with the problems and issues and 
move on There are many things I've done that be 
cause of my style and because of the lack of a press officer 
haven't come to the attention of a lot of people." 

He bristles at the contention that he has shown a lack 
of leadership. "Now, I wonder what they call leadership 
when for over 12 years, working with a council which 
contains some very independent people, I've hardly lost 
any major issue. And you have to remember I have no 
powers as mayor over the council, I have no veto over leg 
islation passed by the council." 

Wilson notes that during his reign as mayor, the city's 
tax base has more than tripled as new businesses have 
moved in and the Port of Oakland has advanced into the 
forefront of busy ports around the nation. He notes that 
Oakland's first new hotel in three decades the Hyatt 
Regency was built during his administration. 

And more recently, he lured the University of Califor 
nia headquarters to Oakland and beat out San Francisco, 
among other cities, in landing a 4.500-employee federal 
office complex. He helped resolve a long and bitter dis 
pute among warring factions of the Oakland Museum 
and guided the city through a devastating earthquake. 

Wilson's success is directly linked to his talent for con 
fronting problems and presenting solutions in one-on- 
one meetings, whether he's trying to convince university 
or federal officials that Oakland is the place for them, or 
whether he's mediating a conflict. His hole card is the 
promise of stable leadership and council support he's 
been able to deliver for more than a decade. 

Wilson is most often criticized for catering to down 
town business interests at the expense of the city's neigh- 

4 * I M A G E * Sunday April 22. 1990 



By Charles C. Hardy 

borhoods. The city's record-break 
ing murder rate, its school system 
that ranks among the worst in t he- 
state and it? high rates of poverty 
and unemployment are just some 
of the ills for which his detractors 
say he is at least partly responsible. 

His support of the controversial 
billion-dollar proposal to bring 
hack the Raiders football team 
and of the earlier fruitless $9 mil 
lion legal effort to force their re- 
uirn are seen as evidence of inept 

"1 think Lionel Wilson is a tragic 
figure." says Barry Bloom, a long 
time Oakland resident and astute 
political observer. "He was cast by 
i former governor 1 Edmund (1. 
Brown as the pioneer of the race. 
As best I can tell, he was a decent 

Suna-n 22. WJ * I M A G K * 5 


judge. I don't believe he has ever 
had substantial backbone. I think 
if (former Black Panther) Bobby 
Scale had not run so well (four 
years earlier) against (white Re 
publican Mayor) John Redding 
that Lionel Wilson never would 
have tried it. 

"I think in the big picture that 
Lionel Wilson is indistinguishable 
from Coleman Young, Carl Stokes 
and a whole number of moderate 
black civil rights leaders who took 
over American cities. All of them 
without exception, (LA Mayor) 
Tom Bradley included, bought into 
the specious notion that downtown 
development and wooing corpora 
tions and sports teams would save 
their cities. That strategy has failed 

in our society black-dominated 
cities have those kinds of character 
istics magnified because they're re 
ally misunderstood. I don't think 
the drug conditions are nearly as 
pervasive in Oakland as they are in 
Los Angeles, but Los Angeles is not 
a black-dominated city." 

Brown says Wilson has taken 
Oakland to the precipice of great 
ness. "When you compare Oakland 
with cities of comparable levels of 
population and income you find 
that Oakland is head and shoul 
ders above them, all over America. 
Oakland is, should be and will be 
the center of economic develop 
ment in Northern California, at 
least for the Bay Area. . . . Lionel's 
legacy will be that he put the in- 

his 42-year-old protege. Assembly 
man Elihu Harris, D-Oakland. But 
Wilson announced months ago that 
he would run again, much to the 
disappointment of Harris and sev 
eral other candidates for mayor, in 
cluding council members Leo 
Bazile and Wilson Riles Jr. 

Wilson says the original rumors 
that he wasn't going to run were 
accurate, but that plans to bring a 
huge regional shopping center to 
downtown Oakland appear to rest 
on whether he remains in office. "I 
didn't plan to run again, but the 
people around this shopping cen 
ter, the builders, the developers, 
told me the only way they can get it 
done is if I'm mayor and the gov 
ernment is stable. That's why I'm 

and it remains unchallenged in any 
meaningful way in any minority 
majority city I know in America." 

Still, says Bloom, "I regard Li 
onel very ambivalently; he is by no 
means a bad man, but he has made 
repeated choices that have exacer 
bated rather than ameliorated 
Oakland's most serious problems." 

Wilson says he is keenly aware 
of such criticism, but that his strat 
egy of attracting business to the 
city will increase its tax base and 
thus provide more services to 
neighborhoods and more jobs for 
residents. And Assembly Speaker 
Willie Brown says that neither the 
mayor nor the city of Oakland de 
serve their negative reputations. 

"It's a black-dominated city, and 

frastructure in place that will ulti 
mately allow Oakland to reach the 
pinnacle of success." 

In fact, says Brown, the real 
problems with Oakland are that "it 
suffers from this image thing and 
there is not enough new capital. 

"You have to understand that 
Oakland is like a child going 
through teen-age growth problems 
that teen-agers go through; it is be 
coming racially dominated in every 
respect of decision making by mi 
norities, from the school district lev 
el to the City Council, and that sends 
shock waves throughout the city." 

It was widely felt that Wilson, 
who is 75, would not seek re-elec 
tion this year and instead would 
turn the leadership baton over to 

running again. Otherwise, I'd 
rather be doing other things with 
my time right now." 

| ules and Louise Wilson 

m moved to Oakland from 

m New Orleans in 19 18, at the 

jm urging of Louise's brother. 

j^V Lionel, the oldest of their 

children, was just 3V2. 

The Wilsons settled in West 
Oakland and completed their fami 
ly of eight, six boys and two girls. 
Jules Wilson was a plasterer by 
trade, who like countless others 
was without work through much of 
the Great Depression: he later 
worked as a post office custodian. 

A story Lionel Wilson tells about 
his father's job with the post office 

6 * I M A G E * Sunday April 22. 1990 


defines to some degree what life 
was like for blacks in the Bay Area 
at that time. Jules Wilson had been 
working as a custodian for years 
before his supervisors discovered 
that the light-complected man was 
actually black. The fact came to 
their attention only after young Li 
onel applied for a job at the post of 
fice to support himself while he was 
in college. Lionel Wilson didn't get a 
job, though some of his white class 
mates with lower scores on the 
postal exam did, but Jules Wilson 
was the real victim. 

"My father had been with them 
for years, but he caught hell in the 
custodial service of the Oakland 
post office from then on," says Wil 
son, whose father died in 1972. 

points in the old California Basket 
ball League, the highest level of 
basketball in the state before the 
National Basketball Association. 

Wilson says it was athletics that 
set the tone for much of his later 
success. "I had to utilize every re 
source I had in developing whatev 
er talent I had. So many of these 
things that one learns in sports are 
transferable. It's the same way in 
dealing with people. One of the 
things I learned in sports is you 
don't underestimate anybody in 
terms of your opponents, and that's 
something that's very important as 
far as trying to play a leadership 
role in the community." 

Wilson graduated from Cal with 
an economics degree in 1939. He 

in Alameda County which purport 
edly would handle problems of this 
kind, but in the 10 years that I prac 
ticed law, I can't tell you how many 
times I referred people to Legal Aid 
for one problem or another, and I 
never had one instance where they 
accepted or handled the case. 

"But there were a few of us, 
black lawyers, who thought noth 
ing of getting into situations of this 
kind and fighting them without 
monetary return," says Wilson. "As 
a matter of fact, I guess actually we 
were spending our own money be 
cause all a lawyer has is time. I 
can't tell you how many pro bono 
cases I handled in those 10 years." 

Wilson was also one of the black 
attorneys who fought to integrate 

'Lionel's legacy will be that he put 

the infrastructure in place that will 

ultimately allow Oakland to reach 

the pinnacle of success/ 

Alameda County Supervisor Don Perata celebrate 
approval of the plan to bring back the Raiders, far left; at Cole 
School on one of his periodic visits to city schools, center; and 
attending a Mickey Mouse diamond jubilee at Lake MerrM. 

Wilson attended McClymonds 
High School, which at the time was 
a predominantly white vocational- 
oriented school. He graduated 
with honors and was admitted to 

He worked as a redcap at the old 
Oakland Mole, as a dishwasher at 
a Lake Merritt area restaurant 
and as a laborer in the Crockett 
sugar factory to pay his way 
through school. 

Wilson was slight about 5- 
foot-5, maybe 130 pounds but he 
was always athletic. In his spare 
time he played semi-professional 
baseball and basketball. He was an 
all-star in a 30-team baseball 
league and once missed winning 
the scoring championship by two 

knew he wanted to be a lawyer, but 
World War II curtailed those plans. 
He spent most of it in the Army, 
some as a sergeant serving in Eu 
rope. In 1945, he was discharged 
and returned to Oakland. 

During his military stint, Wil 
son had lost his 6-month-old son. 
Timothy, to illness. But he and his 
wife would have three other sons, 
twins Lionel and Robin and their 
youngest, Stephen. 

Wilson graduated from Hast 
ings College of the Law in 1949 and 
began practicing about a year later. 

He remembers being part of a 
cadre of black lawyers in Oakland 
who often took cases for a cause 
rather than a dollar. 

There was a Legal Aid Society 

the Oakland Board of Realtors, 
which until 1965 did not admit 
blacks, and he worked on other civ 
il rights issues as a local leader of 
the National Association for the 
Advancement of Colored People. 

In 1960, Gov. Edmund G. (Pat) 
Brown made history by appointing 
Wilson to serve on the Oakland- 
Piedmont Municipal Court, mak 
ing Wilson the first black judge in 
Alameda County. 

"I learned from some of my 
friends that the judges in Munici 
pal Court had had a meeting to de 
cide whether they wanted to work 
with me or something of that na 
ture," says Wilson. "So when I went 
down there, since I didn't need any 

[Continued on page 28] 

Sunday April 22, 1990 * I M A G E * 7 


A show of pride 

[Continued from page 7] 

of them to do the job I was assigned 
to do, I stayed away from them. I 
wouldn't attend their meetings 
and in a few months they were 
begging me to join in and become 
one of them. So in less than three 
years, the same people who didn't 
know whether they could accept 
me on the bench, as they put it, 
had now elected me as their pre- 

Being the "first black" pioneer 
ing new grounds, says Wilson, can 
be either a burden or a challenge, 
depending on how one approaches 
it. "It can be a real weight on one's 
back if you look at it in that way, 
particularly at the level of judges 
when most of them had had very 
little to do with blacks and they 
don't understand us and they think 
that we're inferior. 

"On the other hand," he says, 
"my approach has always been to 
see it as a challenge, an opportuni 
ty for me to show them the fact I 
can do whatever they can do and 
can be just as effective doing it." 

Two examples of the Wilson phi 
losophy in action stand out in the 
mayor's mind. Both are from the 
period after he was elevated to 
Alameda County Superior Court 
in 1964. One instance occurred 
when Wilson was presiding judge 
of Superior Court. It was his re 
sponsibility to dole out small- 
claims assignments to his 
colleagues as their calendars 
cleared during the afternoon. But 
on one particular Friday, all of his 
colleagues took off" early for the 
weekend and left him with 40 
small-claims matters on his desk. 

"So, I decided, 'Damn it, I'm go 
ing to hear these cases.' I an 
nounced in open court that I was 
alone, I have no help but I want to 
get to each one of you.... By 4:30 
that afternoon I had heard every 
one of those cases. Of course, I was 
fortunate in that I can make deci 
sions rapidly, listen carefully to the 
facts and apply the law and move 
right on." 

When his colleagues returned 
the next week they were "sheepish, 
but it taught them -something in 
terms of what I couloTdo. in spite of 
the fact that I am black, which was 
something negative to at least 
many of them." 

In another instance, Wilson was 
successful, despite the earlier fail 
ures of others, in getting his Superi 
or Court colleagues to move from a 
seniority-based system of case and 
court assignments to one based on 
merit. It took months of lobbying 
individual judges. 

Wilson proudly believes that his 
performance in roles traditionally 
denied blacks helped blaze a trail 
for others to follow. 

"I believe I did open up some 
doors," he says. "I believe the way I 
conducted myself I attempted to 
be eminently fair and I worked 
hard so that I made a major point of 
carrying my share of the load did 

I believe I was the first major 
candidate elected over an 
(Oakland) Tribune endorse 
ment," says Wilson. "At that 
time, the paper was very 

When Wilson came into office in 
1977 the City Council was predom 
inantly white, as was the city man 
ager, who under the city's charter 
was the chief administrator of city 
affairs. Still, Wilson soon found a 
way to gain influence. 

With the help of then City Coun 
cilman George Vukasin. now presi 
dent of the Oakland-Alameda Coli 
seum Board. Wilson quickly- 
gained a voting consensus on the 
council. Almost as rapidly he 
moved into the arena of king-mak 
ing, mapping out strategies for 
bringing more minorities onto the 
decision-making body. 

"I supported Wilson Riles Jr., I 
endorsed him and through a busi 
ness friend helped raise most of the 
money for his initial campaign," 
says Wilson. "And it was my deci 
sion years ago, that here we had a 
City Council, in a city with a popu 
lation that was about 45 percent 

28 * I M A G E * Sunday April 22. 1990 


black with two Caucasian women 
on it and no black women, to find a 
way to get a black woman on it." 

Wilson initiated that agenda by 
successfully lobbying Gov. Jerry 
Brown to appoint then at-large 
Councilman John Sutter to the Su 
perior Court. Despite some resis 
tance, he accomplished that mis 
sion and then lobbied the council to 
get the votes necessary to have Ale- 
ta Cannon fill out the rest of Sut 
ler's at-large term. After that term 
expired, Cannon ran as a West 
Oakland district representative 
and won. Meanwhile, veteran 
Councilman Frank Ogawa at 
tained the lone at-large seat Wilson 
had pledged he would get. 

On a personal level, life present 
ed a greater challenge to Wilson. 

After he and his first wife di 
vorced, Wilson married his second 
wife, Dorothy, an attorney. They 
live in the Montclair section of Oak 
land. But some years ago when 

Dorothy, who is white, tried to buy 
their house, she ran into an unex 
pected obstacle. 

"I came home one day and she 
was terribly upset," says Wilson. 
"When I questioned her, I found out 
she was upset because the seller of 
the house had called and he wanted 
to back off the sale because he had 
learned that she was married to 
this black judge. I said, 'don't worry 
about it.' " He had already signed a 

"I called this man this was in 
1961 or '62 and said, "Mr. so-and- 
so, I understand that there's a prob 
lem with the purchase of your 
home and I don't understand what 
the problem is.' He said, 'Oh no, 
Judge, there's no problem, you're 
not colored.' 

"I said, Tou're misinformed.' Ap 
parently, he knew that she was 
married to a black man but didn't 
know it was me. Then he began to 
tell me how he had promised his 

neighbors that he was going to 
keep the neighborhood up and this 
sort of thing. I didn't listen long be 
fore I said, 'We have a valid con 
tract. You must remember that I 
was a lawyer before I became a 
judge and my wife is a lawyer and 
we will have the property.' " 
And they did. 

Today, notes Wilson, re 
searchers have named 
Oakland the "most inte 
grated city in America", a 
designation with which 
the mayor is in agreement. 

"It was a gradual process of evo 
lution," Wilson says. "Today, Oak 
land is a place where people come 
together. People are able to live to 
gether here in relative peace and 
harmony. Here's a city made up 
predominantly of ethnic minorities 
and there aren't any pockets that 
are all white or all black. Through 
out the city whether it's one of these 


substantially black areas, there are 
whites, Asians or Hispanics living 
among them. The same is true up in 
the hills area which at one time was 
all white. 

This hasn't happened in a revo 
lutionary manner," says Wilson. 
"It's the development by process of 
evolution, by people getting to 
know each other and to work with 
each other and to play with each 
other over a period of years." 

Wilson acknowledges the city's 
ills. He says foremost among them 
is the drug problem, the city's fail 
ing public schools, unemployment 
among its youth and the shortage 
of affordable housing for low-in 
come people. He believes a major 
part of the solution to all of these 
problems is attracting new indus 
try, dollars and jobs to Oakland. An 
other factor, he suggests, is inspir 
ing a new philosophy among the 
city's black youth. "It's important I 
think for our children, our youth, to 
learn that school is not important 
simply because adults tell you it's 
important," says Wilson. 

"It seems like 12 years is a long 
time, but when you apply it to 70 
years, that's one-sixth of your life 
roughly. So, what's going to happen 
to you the rest of your life basically 
is determined to a substantial ex 
tent by how you apply yourself in 
school now. That's where the 
change is going to have to come 
from, our children." 

Charles C. Hardy is an Examiner staff writer. 


Appendix K 
Oakland Tribune 
May 16, 1990 

' This is the fourth in a series of 
profiles', of candidates in the ' 
Oakland mayoral race. Today: 

' Brian Johns 

. Ten rows behind the Golden 
SUite Warriors' bench, Oakland 
Mayor Lionel Wilson watches 
point guard Tim Hardaway take 
it to the Dallas Mavericks. 

With bis back to the basket, 
Hardaway yo-yos the basketball 
in 'his left hand and bumps his 
fnan in. Suddenly, he switches 
{bands, pivots and charges into 

.-Contemptuous of the giants 
around him, Hardaway explodes 
toward blue sky and backboard, 
banking in the the ball for two 
points. The muscular rookie 
wheels around and half-trots, 
half-swaggers back upcourt. 

"Tough kid," Wilson says. 

At 75 years of age, the former 
baseball and basketball player 


turned lawyer and judge, is 
known as a pretty tough cookie 
himself. With an acid tongue and 
an occasional piercing stare, 
Wilson is not easily rebuffed. 
He'll cajole, browbeat or bully, 
whatever it takes to win. 

"He's a very difficult man to 
say 'No' to," said Mary King, 
Alameda County supervisor and 
chairman of Wilson's re-election 

"And that regularly translates 
into five votes. It's like you don't 
want him to be displeased with 
you. And it's not just me that 
thinks that" 

Still, it remains to be seen if 
Wilson can turn aside this year's 

field of mayoral challengers, the 
toughest he has faced during his 
12 years in office. 

He's currently limping 
through a re-election campaign 
hamstrung by defections, and 
the twin losses of a campaign 
treasurer as well as a recently 
hired campaign manager. 

Wilson admits he's having 
trouble raising money for his 
war chest. And 31,000 signatures 
gathered in opposition to a mul- 
timillion dollar proposal to bring 
back the Raiders a proposal 
which he belatedly but whole 
heartedly supported has given 
Wilson a lot to deal with. 

Topping his political problems 
are some pressing issues: an esti 
mated billion dollars in damages 
from the Loma Prieta earth 
quake, poorer neighborhoods 
clamoring for "more balanced" 
development, richer neighbor- 
See WILSON, Page C-2 


Continued from Page C-l . among people in the community 

hoods demanding no develop- that none of that growth is for 

nient, UtUe affordable boosing, a him or her," said David Glover, 
short-staffed police force, a executive director of Oakland Ci- 
crack plague, shoddy schools, I tiaiis Committee for Urban Re- 
and a local tax base in need of : 'Tnewal (OCCUR). &<$>>& ^&&{ 
enhanced revenue from retail "The city seems to have max- 

a question in my mind as to the 

validity of the accusations when 

; I don't see the government tak- 

manded that the fallen Cypress 
overpass not be rebuilt where it 
bad stood, Wilson got on the 


But he maintains that he's the 
only man who can do the job, the 
only man who can pull together a 
majority of the city council. 

"If I felt there was anybody 
out there who could do the job, 
and get elected, I wouldn't be 
running," be said. i ." 

Wilson is proud of Oakland and 
how far it's progressed during 
his tenure. - 

The Port of Oakland, whose 
commissioners are appointed by 
the mayor, long ago passed San 
Francisco's and has become one 
of the top cargo facilities on the 
West Coast The areas of China 
town, .Piedmont, Fruit vale and 
College Avenue are overrun with 
shoppers. And downtown, a new 
federal building is coming in to 
join the City Center and the 
sprouting American President 
Lines building. 

The mayor has on several oc 
casions said he's running to com 
plete the city's rebirth, particu 
larly by shepherding through a 
proposed $300 million downtown 
retail center. 

"I have a vision of a regional 
shopping center that will serve 
the needs of the people who live 
in a city this size, a shopping cen 
ter that will, over a period of 
time, develop a retail sales tax 
base and help solidify and 
strengthen the income base of 
the city," Wilson said. 

But he's being increasingly 
criticized for ignoring the city's 
less well-off neighborhoods. And 
some community-based organi 
zations also claim the city's mi- 
norites aren't getting a piece of 
the development pie. 

"There's been great growth 
downtown, but there's a feeling 

imized its participation as far as 
the political process, but it has 
far from maTimid its partici 
pation as far as the right to work 
and participate on the economic 
side of the equation," be said. 
- Even when Wilson has brought 
in the traditionally "locked-out," 
the participants have often had 
more political clout than exper 
tise, critics say. 

The most recent example they 
point to is attorney Zachary Was- 
serman. Wasserman recently re 
signed from his position as the 
mayor's official campaign trea 
surer after it was disclosed that 
Wasserman had financial stakes 
in two high-profile city projects. 

Wilson claims be didn't know 
about Wassennan's involve 
ment :'''. * , 

He also said be knows that de 
velopers, hunting for city busi 
ness, often look for people who 
are politically well-connected. 
But Wilson refuses .to shoulder 
any responsibility, saying it's 
something developers do on 
their own. 

"This isn't a matter of the 
mayor feeding these people with 
a developer here and a develop 
er there," be said. 

Wilson said that because he 
knows so many people, his rela 
tionships sometimes come back 
to haunt him. But his judicial 
bent and sense of loyalty will not 
let him cut loose a friend unless 
there's real evidence of wrong 

"Sometimes what happens is I 
read a long stream of allegations 
in the paper, then nothing seems 
to happen," Wilson said. 

"Knowing how stringent the 
federal government is about the 
misuse of public funds, it raises 

ing any MttOBftg%$gii$)e$; .-'i-i phone with Sam SWnnerrthe fed- 
As for affirmative action and v eral transportation secretary, to 
..increased minority participa- v see what could be done... > 
I tioo, Wilson points out that 59 , - "it's just the way I .do things 
' percent of the city's 8,259 full- : '~ 
time employees are minorities, 
and 31 percent are female -n 
In 1977, minorities and worn- 

en made up 42, percent and 24 
percent, respectively, of a 3,763- 
member work force. 

And of $49 million in dty con 
tracts awarded during the 1989 
fiscal year, minority-owned 
businesses pulled in $20 million 
worth and women-owned com 
panies grabbed $3.7 million. 

Wilson is often criticized for 
his out-of-the-limelight style of 
governing. While San Francisco 
Mayor Art Agnos was grabbing 
headlines during the Oct. 17 
earthquake, Wilson kept a low 
profile, letting the various de 
partment heads do their jobs 
while keeping himself well-in 

When West Oaklanders de- 

The guy who's out there making 
the most noise isn't necessarily 
getting the most done," be said. 

As lie stands and prepares t( 
leave the Coliseum Arena, man} 
other basketball fans come ovei 
to greet him. Wilson smiles 
shakes hands, looks directly inb 
their eyes. . 

As be heads toward the park 
ing lot, he's smiling. 

"Great game wasn't it?" hi 
asks. , . ... 

Then he spins on his heel and is 

Friday. Dene Woods-Jones 


Appendix L 

San Francisco Examiner 

December 30, 1990 

T TT T "I '**""** i ''"X,. " =: **5s, y->y 11 i 

Wilson leaves Oakland 


<-"i *- i| j'-- ;( -^.-- 

a much-change 

Former judge 
looks back on 
accomplishments of 
1 3 years as mayor 

By Charles C Hardy ~ 


OAKLAND When Lionel J. 
Wilson took office as mayor in 
June 1977, it was not a position he 
had long aspired to. 

"I never had ambitions for a 
political career," said Wilson, the 
city's 46th mayor and the first 
black elected to that post "I guess 
it was just a matter of having been 

.on the (judicial) bench over 16 
years and needing a new challenge, 
and having the opportunity to do 
something with this city was an 
opportunity I couldnt turn down." 

On Friday, Wilson, 76, leaves an 
office in a city that has changed 
dramatically since he took over as 
mayor. For example, when he be 
came mayor, the City Council was 
predominantly male and white, as 
were most city departments and 
city commissions. 

Today, the council consist of 
one black woman, two white wom 
en, one Asian Tn an i one white man 
and three black men. Thirteen of 
the city's 20 department heads are 
minorities, including four women, 
and the city's work force is dramat 

ically more reflective of the city's 
ethnic composition. 

"The thing I take the most pride 
in is bringing about a representa 
tive government and a participato 
ry government, where people 


WILSON from B-l 

Wilson leaves 
a different city 

throughout the neighborhoods are 
involved," Wilson said. 

He began by lobbying the coun 
cil to ban the appointment of peo 
ple to more than one board or com 
mission at the same time, except 
under special circumstances. Wil 
son said at the tame he found peo 
ple serving on three or four boards 
simultaneously, limiting the num 
ber of people allowed^ partici 


Wilson, who was bom in Louisi 
ana but grew up in predominantly 
black West Oakland and is the son 
of a postal worker, like many 
blacks found that his ambitions of 
ten flew in the face of convention. 

At a relatively young age, for 
example, he decided he wanted to 
be a lawyer. His parents and uncle 
him, pointing out that 


there weren't any black lawyers in 
what was then a largely segregated 

Oakland . ... ,:;~F 

But Wilson, who attended UC- 
Berkeley and Hastings School of 
Law, pursued his legal studies, al 
though his parents thought for a 
time he was engaged in a more 
acceptable course becoming a 

After practicing law for 10 years, 
Wilson was appointed by then- 
Gov. Pat Brown to the Alameda 
County Municipal Court, becom 
ing the county's first black judge. 
Later, he served on the Superior 
Court and became the presiding 

For many, the political emer 
gence of Wilson in the late 1970s 
was an acceptable political change. 
In the previous mayoral election, 
Black Panther Party co-founder 
Bobby Scale had come surprisingly 
close to unseating Republican 
Mayor John H. Reading, reflecting 
the city's growing black population. 

Wilson was seen as a more mod 
erate, establishment-based black 

That image lingered through 
much of his tenure. To many 
blacks, he was considered more a 
mayor for downtown and the afflu 
ent hill interests than for the com 
mon, working minority. 

But Wilson saw himself as a 
mayor who held the city together, 
during a tumultuous era of change 
and postrProposition 13 tax-cut 
ting, a mayor who brought blacks, 
Hispanics and Asians into the 
mainstream of city life. Wilson also 
saw himself' as someone who 
served the city in totality by hiring 
business and jobs and ad 
vancing its port. 

!He says Mayor-elect EKhu Har- 
ria must now take the next step. 
: ' ' "I hope Mayor Harris would be 
! able to advance the development of 
^some of our neighborhoods, some 
of our streets Eke East 14th, San 
'Pablo and MacArthur and Seventh 
Street," Wilson said. "I would hope 
that some of those streets can be 
revived in many ways, commercial 
ly and residentially. They've be 
come quite depressing, slums." , , 

Wilson, who lost much favor 
over the failed effort to return the 
Raiders football team back to Oak 
land and finished third in the June 
primary behind Harris and Coun 
cilman Wilson Riles Jr., said up 
-grading neighborhoods was the 
next tiling on his agenda after 

> ** * . 

working to attract major projects 
to downtown. 

"Over the next four years, the 
development of downtown will oc 
cur, that's already been set in mo 
tion," Wilson said. "Hopefully 
Mayor Harris will be able to carry 
out the rehabilitation of those 
streets. That's the next frontier." 

But, Wilson says, Harris will 
face difficulty finding needed gov 
ernment subsidies for small busi 
nesses as well as finding people 
interested in developing small busi 
nesses. \ 
The most difficult problem he 
leaves behind is that of youth un 
employment, especially among 
blacks and Hispanics, Wilson said 

"It's just a tremendously diffi 
cult problem," he said "We were 
making some headway before CE- 
TA (the federal Comprehensive 
Education and Training Act) went 
out. We had a good program here. 
Because so many of these young 
people come out of homes lacking 
stability, having little guidance or 
discipline and the parents are un 
able to give them the support they 
need in schools, they end up drop 
ping out and being out on the street 
functionally illiterate. 

"And this is in a society where 
there is an increasingly small pool 
of unskilled jobs. Small wonder 
when something like cocaine the 
drug that really activated and 
brought out the kind of drug prob 
lem that we have comes along, 
that these kids get involved When 
just by acting as lookouts they can 
make more money than their par 
ents, what it's done to our kids, to 
their thinking, their attitudes, their . 
character is disastrous." 

In retirement, Wilson will at 
tempt in at least a small way to 
combat the problem. He is working 
with Superior Court Judge Gordon 
Baranca to reopen the old YMCA 
building on Market and Broad- 
hurst streets so West Oakland 
youngsters will have a place for 

Wilson also will work part time 
with the Judicial Arbitration and 
Mediation Sendee, a private group 
of retired jurists who are assigned 
civil cases to help with the backlog 
in the court system. 

He is looking forward to relax 
ing, too. An avid tennis player, Wil 
son said he plans to take up golf as 

Wilson said he will look back on 
his career fondly: 

"I must say that I've been 
blessed, not only with good health, 
but support from the majority of 
the City Council and the support of 
the people." 


Appendix M 

San Francisco Chronicle 

August 13, 1991 

Wilson Won't Fight to 
Stay on Port Board 

By Rick DeWecchio 
Chronicle East Bay Bureau 

Former Oakland Mayor Lionel 
Wilson yesterday urged the city 
not to fight a judge's order oust 
ing him from the Oakland Port 

"There are several holes in the 
opinion," Wilson said in an inter 
view. "I don't believe the opinion 
would stand up on appeal." 

But he said an appeal does not 
make sense because it would drag 
the city through a two-year legal 

In a written statement, Wilson 
insisted that the issue of whether 
City Council members or the may 

or can do double duty as port com 
missioners was "clearly not deter 
mined" by Alameda County Supe 
rior Court Judge James R. Lam- 
den's decision last week throwing 
him off the panel 

Lamden ruled that the city 
charter makes it illegal for council 
members and the mayor to hold 
other municipal offices. And he 
said there is no reason to exclude 
the port commission from the ban 
against self-appointment. 

Even though the Port of Oak 
land is an independent body and 
its commission is created by the 
city charter rather than by politi 
cians, the prohibition is warrant 
ed, Lamden said. 

Lamden said such policies are 
"fundamental to the effective ex 
ercise of democratic government 
throughout the state." 

Wilson said he would not re 
spond to Lamden's legal points. In 
stead, he recounted that he had 
asked the City Council to appoint 
him to the commission on the basis 
of two opinions by the city attor 
ney suggesting that such a move 
would be legal 

The former mayor recalled an 
oral opinion by the city's legal 
counsel about four years ago, 
when the mayor was considering 
nominating Councilman Frank 
Ogawa to the port commission. He 
also noted a written opinion in 

1988, on the question of his own 

Wilson, who nominated him 
self for a seat on the commission 13 
months ago after a humiliating 
third-place finish in his run for a 
fourth mayoral term, noted that 
commissioners work long hours 
for low pay in a critical function of 
city government. (Port commis 
sioners are unpaid volunteers.) 

He added that the mayor and 
council should have "a much clos 
er working relationship" with the 
commission, arguing that the ap 
pointment of one council member 
to the board could serve that pur 

Wilson's removal from the 
commission was the result of a law 
suit by the Alameda County Cen 
tral Labor Council Labor leaders 
feared that Wilson would tilt the 
port toward investments in real 
estate rather than in maritime op 
erations that would preserve 
union jobs. 

Owen Marron, the labor coun 
cil's executive secretary-treasurer, 
said Wilson's statement yesterday 
rehashed arguments already re 
jected in court 

"It would seem to me he's just 
trying to obfuscate a clear legal 
decision," he said. "Sounds like the 
mayor just doesn't want to face the 

INDEX- -Lionel Wilson 


African Americans 1-70 passim 

Agee, James, 38, 39 

Air Corps, 99th Fighter Squadron, 

Alameda County Bar Association, 

Alameda County Board of 

Supervisors, 17 
American President Lines, 66 
appointments, to the bench, 23, 

36-37, 37-39, 40, 59-61 
Appomattox Club, 27 
April Coalition, 32 
Asian Americans, 29 

Bates, Tom, 59 

Berkeley, California, 26, 31-32, 

39-40, 56 

Berkeley Citizens Action, 32 
Berkeley City Council, 26, 31 
Berkley, Tom, 27-28 
Black Caucus , 54 
Black Panthers, 49, 53, 54-55 
blacks, see African American. 
Broussard, Allen E. , 2, 27, 35, 


Brown, Edmund G. , Jr. , 60 
Brown, Edmund G. , Sr. , 36-37, 40 
Burke, Lloyd, 30-31 
Bush, George, 43 
business, and government, 43, 53- 

54, 63-66 
Bussey, John, 23, 39 

Cannon, Aleta, 69 

Castlemont High School, 47 

Catholics, 7, 34 

Coakley, Tom, 42 

Cobb, Paul, 54 

Conference of Mayors, U.S., 42 

courts, 37-38, 42, 51, 59-60, 61, 


Crown, Bob, 59 
Davidson, Rene, 56 

Davis, Al, 64, 69 

Dellums, Ron, 56, 57 

Democratic party, Democrats, 27, 

38, 43, 45, 52, 56 
Depression, 1930s, 8, 11, 18 
discrimination, 6-10, 12, 15, 29- 

31, 33, 36-37, 40 
Dixon, William C. , 34 

East Bay Democratic Club, 27, 57 
economic development, 44-50, 53, 

54, 62-63 

education, 3-5, 7, 29 
election campaigns, 17, 31-32, 

51-59. 67 
employment, 40-41, 45, 54, 63 

discrimination in, 7-8, 18-20, 

30, 39 
Evans, Clint, 10-11 

Feinstein, Dianne, 66 

FEPC [Fair Employment Practices 

Commission], 26, 37 
Ford Foundation, 47 
Foreman, Josephine, 7 
Francis, Smoke, 10 
Francois, Terry, 21-22, 23, 27 
Friends of Oakland, 56 
Furlough, Charles, 27 

Galloway, [ ] , 54 

George, John, 17, 69 

Gibson, D.G. , 4-5, 27 

Gordon, Walter, 10 

governor's office, 36-37, 60 

Green, Otho, 52 

Grille , Evelio, 27, 31, 47 

Group to Industrialize the Ghetto, 


Groulx, Dick, 56 
Gulick, Charles, 12 

Harvey, Ura, 32-33 
Hassler, Jack, 30 


Hess, Doc, 3 

higher education, 5, 9-13, 18 

Hispanics, 57 

Houlihan, John, 44-46 

integration, racial, 30-31, 54 

Jackson, Ida, 7 
Jefferson, Bernard, 60 
Jensen, Lowell, 42 
Johnson v. Pasadena. 26 

Kaiser, Edgar, 53, 54 
Kennedy, Joe, 21-22, 23, 27 
Kline, Anthony, 60 
Knight, Goodwin, 23, 39 
Knowland, William, 47, 54, 68 

labor, 47, 54, 56 

legislature, California, 37, 58- 

Lockyer, William, 58-59 

Maier, Cornell, 69 

Maynard, Bob, 68 

McClymonds High School, 2, 3, 29 

McCullum, Don, 27, 31, 35, 40, 54 

media, 4, 31, 36, 53, 54, 67-69 

Meese, Edwin, 42 

Metoyer, Carl, 34 

Mickle, John, 31-32 

Miller, John, 58 

Miller, Loren, 36, 39 

NAACP [National Association for 
the Advancement of Colored 
People], 26, 30, 34, 40, 54 

Negroes, see African American. 

New Oakland Communittee, 54 

Newport, Gus, 32 

Newton, Huey, 55 

Nutter, Ben, 65 

Oakland, California, 1-70, passim 
Oakland City Council, 27, 49-50, 

Oakland Economic Development 

Commission, 44-50, 53, 54, 62- 

Oakland Fire Department, 7, 30- 


Oakland Raiders, 64, 67-69 

Oakland Tribune . 31, 53, 68 

Pacific Coast Conference, 10 

pas en blanc, 8-9, 15-16 

Peralta Community College, 32 

politics, 2, 66-67 

in Berkeley, 26, 31-32, 33-34 
in Oakland, 27, 28, 31-33, 45- 
46, 51-59, 64 

Poole, Cecil, 36 

Port of Oakland, 65-66 

Poston, Marvin, 9 

poverty, see War on Poverty 

Price, Nibs, 10, 11 

public administration, 62 

race relations, 6-8, 30, 45-46, 

52, 57 
racial discrimination, 6-10, 12, 

15, 18, 29-31, 34. See also 


Raiders, football team, 64, 67- 

Reading, John, 51-52, 55, 63 
Reagan, Ronald, 42 
redevelopment, 43, 52-53 
regional government, 65-66 
Republican Party, 27, 45-46, 52 
Reyna, Hector, 31-32 
Reynolds, Quentin, 54 
Riles, Wilson, Jr., 17, 32, 68 
Robe son, Paul, 33 
Rose, Joshua, 28, 48, 63 
Rose, Seymour, 56 
Ross, Richie, 67-69 
Rumford, Byron, Sr. , 7, 27, 57, 


Safeway Stores, 54 

San Francisco, 66 

San Francisco State University, 5 

Seale, Bobby, 55 

segregation, 7, 30 


Smith, David, 33 

Smith, George, 28 YMCA [Young Men's Christian 

Smith, Joseph E. , 47 Association], Oakland, 8, 22, 

Smith, Norvel, 47 24, 26, 28 

South Berkeley Community Church, youth, 66-67 


Spees, Dick, 69 
sports, 3, 9-11, 14, 15, 19, 24, 

26, 28, 41. See also Oakland 


Staats, Redmond, 64 
Sutter, John, 32 
Swanson, Sandre, 57 
Sweeney, Wilmont, 34, 35 

Taylor , Paul S . , 12 
Toppins, Edward, 14-15 
Tucker, David, 53 
Turner, Elijah, 54 

U.S. Conference of Mayors, 41-42 
United Crusade, 48 
University of California, 

Berkeley, 5, 7, 9-13, 19, 29, 


Hastings Law School, 20-22 
San Francisco, dental school, 

Vaughns, George, 24, 34, 37 
Vukasin, George, 48, 63 

War on Poverty, 44-50, 62-63 
White, Clinton, 26, 27, 31, 34, 

37, 44-45, 56 
Widener, Warren, 32 
Williams, John, 52-53 
Wilson, Barry, 14-16 
Wilson, Charley, 26 
Wilson, Dorothy, 38, 39, 40 
Wilson, Kermit, 13-15, 19, 22 
Wilson, Lionel, family, 1-6, 8, 

11, 13-15, 18, 22, 41 
Witkin, Bernie, 23 
World War II, 2, 14-16, 19-20 
WPA [Works Progress 

Administration], 8, 28 

March 1992 


Gabrielle Morris 
Senior Editor 

Professional Activities 

Interviewer- editor, Regional Oral History Office, 1970-present. 
Specialist in state government history, Bay Area community concerns; 
focus on key participants' perceptions of selected administrative, 
social, economic, and political issues in California 1938-present. 

Project director, Bay Area Foundation History Projects (1974-1977, 
1986- ), UC Black Alumni Project (1984- ), Ronald Reagan 
Gubernatorial Era Project (1979-1990), Volunteer Leaders Series, 
(1978- ), Cutter Laboratories Project (1972-1974). 

Coordinator, California State Archives Government History Project, 
University of California, Berkeley, component, 1986-1990. 

Panelist and consultant, Joint Center for Political Studies, Oral 
History Association, Northwest Oral History Association, National 
Council on Public History, UC Santa Barbara public history program, 
Society of American Archivists, local historical societies and museums; 
advisor, UC Office of Relations with Schools, UC Graduate School of 
Education, California Heritage Quilt Project, California Heritage Task 
Force , others . 

Prior Experience 

Historian, U.S. Air Force, documentation of Berlin Air Force, other 
post-World War II issues. Research, writing, policy development on 
community issues for University of California, Bay Area Council of 
Social Planning, Berkeley Unified School District, others. 


Graduate of Connecticut College, New London, in economics; 
independent study in journalism, creative writing; additional study at 
Trinity College and Stanford University. 

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