Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dad and Racial Integration

My Dad had a passion for treating black people right.

He grew up in the southeast corner of Kansas. As a boy, he saw at least one Ku Klux Klan parade. When he was in high school, he became a Christian. His school principal was one of his heroes, and that principal was a racist. Yet by God's grace, Dad knew racism was wrong.

The year was about 1935. The school was newly integrated, since the town thought it was too expensive to run a separate school for a tiny number of black students. Dad was class president, and was in charge of planning the junior-senior banquet. The lady teacher who was class sponsor said of the four black students, "They won't come, of course."

Dad said, "Yes, they will come."

I don't know whether it was the same day, but she finally said, "Well, if they come, they'll sit at a separate table of four."

Dad said, "Then we'll all sit at tables of four."
It wasn't a perfect solution, but for the 1930's, it was very progressive.

In the 1940's, Dad joined the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People).

Then, about 1952, his oldest son, John, went to Kindergarten. John came home excitedly talking about another boy that he had fun with. This went on for a day or two, with John telling all about him. Then Dad met the boy as kindergarten let out. Dad was surprised that the other boy was black, and was delighted that John had not thought to mention that fact.

In the mid-1950's, as pastor of a large all-white church, Dad arranged for his church and a black church to have an exchange of choirs for one Sunday. Then there was a community Good Friday service at the black church. Then an exchange of preachers for one Sunday. Then they had a joint Vacation Bible School. One of the white ladies who always taught Vacation Bible School told people,"I'm not having any of those N...'s in my class." Dad's associate pastor told Dad, who said, "Well, I guess she's not teaching this year."

In the 1960's, at a different church where Dad was then pastor, a black man named General T. Reed started coming to the church. Dad welcomed him as a member. By the end of the 1960's, the church had another black man--a university student named Willie J. Harris, who was a blessing to all he met.

In all of these things, Dad simply did what he knew was right, even though society's pressures often ran the opposite direction.


Jackie Houchin said...

What a marvelous bringing up you had Jim, and what a wonderful example you had in a dad. Thanks for sharing this.

Marley's Mom said...

Watch these 3 sisters sing at

Jim Swindle said...

Thanks, Jackie, for the encouragement. Yes, Dad was an excellent example in a number of ways. I'm thankful to God for that.

Marley's Mom, thanks for the link. I watched part of it; very talented. I plan to watch the rest in a couple of hours after returning from church.

Jim Swindle said...

Marley's Mom, the video shows talent. It's not my style, and I'm no expert. The three of you are attractive. Your voices blend well.

Au! said...

Thanks, Jim, for sharing your Dad with us. He was a courageous man to stand up for doing the right thing. What a great role model!

dfish said...

I wish a great many more pastors had been as aware of Paul's statement that there is no difference in Christ.

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Strangely, though I grew up in the days of segregation, and never met a black man in person till I went to college, I can never remember a taint of anti-black, or any other kind of racism, in my family.

Later, as an adult, my dad told me the story of how his dad was run off and forced to leave town in Northern Florida in the pre-WWI era because he insisted on paying all his workmen the same wage for the same work, white or colored.

Yes, 'colored' is what we called people of African heritage when I was growing up in almost suburban southwest Chicago, near Midway Airport. Strictly segregated, though there is one black child in my first grade class photo in inner city Chicago. I don't remember him personally, but he's in the photo.

It's hard for me to imagine the attitude exhibited by the Sunday School teacher described in your post. I'm not trying to look superior, but I just can't remember knowing anyone like that. The closest exposure I had to racism was in high school in semi-rural Illinois. My Croatian friends warned me to have nothing to do with kids of Serbian heritage, because they were 'as black and dirty as Turks, you can't trust them.'

I caved in to peer pressure and refrained from hanging around with my Serbian-American classmates. Ironic that I should later, as an adult, leave the Catholic faith and join the Orthodox, becoming in the process, 'as black and dirty as a Turk' too. I wonder what Rick Churnovic would think of me now?

Jj Rodriguez said...

late for me to read this but it was good that i checked it out... what an inspiration...

thank you! for sure you are proud of him...


Jim Swindle said...

Au!, Thanks for the encouragement, brother. I'm thankful for the ways the Lord's been working in your life.
dfish, Amen.
Romanós, Thanks for the ironic reminiscence. When I lived in Glendale, California, the question wasn't what you thought of black people. It was what you thought of Armenians. Different cultures find ways of hating each other. It's part of our sinful nature. I suspect that most of people's complaints about other groups (including complaints about mine) have some degree of truth to them. It's just that each group (including mine) is usually blind to its own sins, or thinks those sins are minor.