AACHM Oral History: William Hampton
Sun, 11/08/2020 - 5:03pm
When: August 13, 2020
William Hampton was born in 1948 in Tyler, Texas, and his grandmother was the midwife. He remembers attending church revival picnics, the Texas Rose Festival, and the Juneteenth parade in his hometown. While attending college in Arlington, Texas, he was active in the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. He went on to launch a Section 8 subsidized housing program in Arlington and in Ann Arbor, where he worked in the community development office. Mr. Hampton has been president of the Ann Arbor chapter of the NAACP since 2005.
- [00:00:14] INTERVIEWER: We're going to go ahead and start. First of all, William, we want to thank you for agreeing to be interviewed for our Living Oral History Project. This is going to consist of actually four parts. The first part, part one, is demographics and family history. I'm going to ask you some simple demographic questions. These questions may jog your memory, but please keep your answers brief and to the point for now. We can go into more detail later in the interview. Please say and spell your name.
- [00:01:02] WILLIAM HAMPTON: It is William Bandon Hampton. W-I-L-L-I-A-M B-A-N-D-O-N H-A-M-P-T-O-N. I was named for my two grandfathers.
- [00:01:23] INTERVIEWER: Okay, very good. What is your date of birth including the year?
- [00:01:31] WILLIAM HAMPTON: July 10th, 1948.
- [00:01:35] INTERVIEWER: So you're a Cancer as well?
- [00:01:37] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Yes, ma'am. In fact the date that I could've had this interview was on my birthday and I couldn't. My wife had something for me.
- [00:01:44] INTERVIEWER: Okay. How would you describe your ethnic background?
- [00:01:49] WILLIAM HAMPTON: I would describe my ethnic background as African American. But as you know, Joyce, if you are an African American in these United States, because of the marginalization of women, all African Americans in America in my opinion are multi-racial.
- [00:02:12] INTERVIEWER: Okay. What is your religion, if any?
- [00:02:18] WILLIAM HAMPTON: My religion is Methodist. I'm a proud member of Bethel African American Episcopal Church here in Ann Arbor.
- [00:02:31] INTERVIEWER: What is the highest level of former education you have completed?
- [00:02:35] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Bachelor of arts degree.
- [00:02:44] INTERVIEWER: Did you attend any additional school or formal career training beyond that?
- [00:02:48] WILLIAM HAMPTON: I've had many hours of formal career training. I've had the mini medical course at the University of Michigan. I've been through the leadership Ann Arbor course on two separate and independent occasions over 20 years apart.
- [00:03:10] INTERVIEWER: What is your marital status?
- [00:03:13] WILLIAM HAMPTON: I am the proud husband of Esther Laverne Hampton.
- [00:03:21] INTERVIEWER: How many children do you have?
- [00:03:24] WILLIAM HAMPTON: I have three children.
- [00:03:29] INTERVIEWER: What are their names?
- [00:03:31] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Their names are Tony, Ava, and Juliet with one T.
- [00:03:40] INTERVIEWER: Okay. How many siblings do you have?
- [00:03:44] WILLIAM HAMPTON: I had two brothers and one sister. Now, I have one living sweet sister, Helen Howard in Tyler, Texas.
- [00:04:08] INTERVIEWER: Okay. I had muted myself for a second. What was your primary occupation?
- [00:04:15] WILLIAM HAMPTON: My primary occupation was city administration in local government in two separate cities.
- [00:04:27] INTERVIEWER: At what age did you retire, if you retired?
- [00:04:32] WILLIAM HAMPTON: I formally retired from my job at age 53.
- [00:04:39] INTERVIEWER: So you retired young?
- [00:04:42] WILLIAM HAMPTON: At that time, I didn't think so. I did not think I was young.
- [00:04:48] INTERVIEWER: Okay. Now, we're going to move into part two, which is memories of childhood and youth. Once again, this part of the interview is about your childhood and youth. Even if these questions jog memories about other times in your life, please only respond with memories for this part of your life. What was your family like when you were a child?
- [00:05:13] WILLIAM HAMPTON: My family was an extremely connected family when I was a child.
- [00:05:23] INTERVIEWER: Could you say a little bit more?
- [00:05:26] WILLIAM HAMPTON: I don't want to say too much, but I was blessed enough to have three grandparents alive when I was born. I had great interaction with my dad's mother and father. I was much too young to remember my grandfather Bandon on my mother's side. He happened to pass when I was almost exactly one month old. I learned a lot from my grandmother. She was a midwife. She was illiterate, but she delivered almost 400 babies in her lifetime. My dad and my mom were both in the household. I learned a lot from them about how families support and protect each other. I was sheltered from a lot of experiences that a lot of people went through at that time because I had a very close-knit family.
- [00:06:41] INTERVIEWER: Okay. What is your earliest memories, some of your earliest memories as a child?
- [00:06:49] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Well, I remember a lot as a child. I remember probably as early as age 2. But in terms of significant events, I remember age 3 when my sister got married at our house. It was my first marriage ceremony that I recall being at and I was excited about being there. I was probably a little bit out of control. I also remember during that same year attending numerous funerals. Those were the first funerals that I remember being at and they both had great impacts on my life.
- [00:07:34] INTERVIEWER: Okay. I'm going to go back for a second to, one of your grandparents was a midwife?
- [00:07:42] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Yes. My grandmother, Minnie Roberta Hampton.
- [00:07:46] INTERVIEWER: Right. I'm just interested in terms of, she just self-taught or do you know about that at all?
- [00:07:58] WILLIAM HAMPTON: I do know about that. That's a great question. Thanks for asking me that. My dad's grandmother was also a midwife. She had a little bit more experience in the classroom than my grandmother did, and she took my grandmother with her when she did deliveries and my grandmother learned that, I don't know whether you call it a technique, from her. Ironically, if it's okay for me to expand on this a bit, my grandma Minnie, Minnie Roberta Hampton, is the person who delivered me. The only person that's still alive who was there when I was born was my sweet sister, Helen.
- [00:08:52] INTERVIEWER: That's wonderful to hear that you were delivered by your grandmother.
- [00:08:59] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Yes, ma'am. I used to take her fishing when I was a teenager.
- [00:09:04] INTERVIEWER: Okay. Not many people can say that.
- [00:09:09] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Well, your own experiences is something that you don't really think about in comparison to other folks because your experiences are your experiences. People say, "Why didn't you challenge this?" There were a lot of things that didn't get challenged by me because that was my life at the time.
- [00:09:29] INTERVIEWER: But I think that's a wonderful memory.
- [00:09:32] WILLIAM HAMPTON: You're the first person ever to ask me that and I appreciate it.
- [00:09:38] INTERVIEWER: You're certainly welcome. Were there any special days, events, or family traditions you remember from your childhood?
- [00:09:48] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Yeah. The two biggest memories other than going to church were celebrating the Rose Parade. Tyler is known as the Rose Capital of the World. But my biggest memory of purely African American experience is Juneteenth. Ever since I can remember, my family has celebrated Juneteenth, a big event where I'm from. It starts with a parade through the two predominantly African American communities in my hometown of Tyler, Texas all the way through downtown. That was a real feel-good experience for a little Black boy who had yet to start school .
- [00:10:39] INTERVIEWER: Okay. I want talk a little bit about Tyler.
- [00:10:43] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Okay.
- [00:10:43] INTERVIEWER: I know that you didn't grow up here, but talk to us a little bit about Tyler. You just shared that information. Anything else you want to share about Tyler?
- [00:10:53] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Tyler is a uniquely different city. It is right now more progressive than it was when I was a kid. I grew up in a segregated city. There was no places that allowed for people who look like me not to be segregated. The bus station had a Black section and a white section. We rode the bus. We entered the city buses through the back door and sat at the back. I just thought that's the way it was. But the thing that occurred to me, and I have known this all my life, a unique quality about Tyler is that Tyler had two African American places of higher learning. They had Butler College which my mom attended for a little while, and they also had Texas College. Although neither one of those places are HBCUs, Texas College is part of the Negro College Fund. I had a conversation with somebody about this the other day. It never occurred to me to consider attending one of those places when I left high school. Schools for me had just integrated and I chose to go to a school that at one time did not accept African Americans. My experience in Tyler, Texas was a presence on those campuses. Police would walk through those campuses. We had no restaurants that Black people and white people went to. There were separate sections almost everywhere for us. My only birthday that I celebrated that I remember being excited about was my eighth birthday. My eighth birthday was celebrated on the Captain Johnny Show. My eighth birthday just happened to occur on a Tuesday, and Tuesday was the day when African American children could celebrate their birthday at the television station. We were driven to and from the birthday party by one of the two African American police officers, and ironically, those two African American police officers could only interface with other African American people. They could not arrest people not of color.
- [00:13:56] INTERVIEWER: That's very interesting, William. In terms of celebrating your birthday, when you went on Tuesdays, that was a day set aside for Blacks?
- [00:14:07] WILLIAM HAMPTON: It was, and my birthday, my eighth birthday just happened to be on a Tuesday. I sang a country western song on television.
- [00:14:16] INTERVIEWER: Okay. In terms of the police escorting you, I'm trying to understand what was the significance of that?
- [00:14:27] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Well, at the time, I didn't think much about it. But looking back, it was to make certain that we didn't get out of line, that we acted properly, and that we did not challenge any of the segregated facilities even within the television station's waiting room.
- [00:14:51] INTERVIEWER: Okay.
- [00:14:52] WILLIAM HAMPTON: That's my opinion looking back.
- [00:14:55] INTERVIEWER: Okay. Getting back a little bit more to your education, you attended elementary, middle, and high school in Tyler?
- [00:15:04] WILLIAM HAMPTON: I did.
- [00:15:07] INTERVIEWER: Okay. What was your experience in terms of teachers? Did you have any Black teachers or not?
- [00:15:16] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Well, all of my teachers from first grade through 11th grade were Black teachers because I went to the Black part of the school system in Tyler, Texas. Brown versus Board of Education happened before I started first grade. But Tyler had what they call freedom of choice. Theoretically speaking, I could have attended a white school. But no white people attended our school and no Black person attended a white school, until 12th grade.
- [00:16:03] INTERVIEWER: What happened in 12th grade?
- [00:16:05] WILLIAM HAMPTON: In 12th grade, the football coach came to our school and met with us doing a government class with Ms. Paramore, who was our homeroom teacher at the time, and made a speech. He was talking about the lack of ability for the white school to win football games in the district and to compete favorably in basketball and track. He suggested that we could upgrade the status of the district by transferring to Chapel Hill School and participating in sports.
- [00:16:46] INTERVIEWER: Okay. That was going to be one of my questions. Did you play any sports or join any other activities in school or outside of school?
- [00:16:57] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Yeah. I ran track, I played football, and I played baseball. I had the pleasure of playing against a guy who made it to the major league level in baseball. I played against him when we came in second in the whole state in terms of the baseball tournaments. That guy's name was Cecil Cooper and he came in second to George Brett in the 1980 batting championship.
- [00:17:37] INTERVIEWER: So actually, you were a triple threat?
- [00:17:40] WILLIAM HAMPTON: [LAUGHTER] I wouldn't say that, but I was a glutton for punishment.
- [00:17:50] INTERVIEWER: Okay. All right. I'm going to go back to a couple of things about your family. Were there any special holidays your family celebrated or did they have any of their own traditions in terms of celebrations?
- [00:18:07] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Well, I'm going to answer the first question first and then I'll tell you about their own traditions. My family always celebrated Christmas. They always had a Christmas tree. We always got presents for Christmas even during the harshest of times when we got fruits and nuts and balloons. But it was always a happy time for us. Because nobody had a telephone, we visited other family and friends during that time and we always showed up unannounced because there was no way of calling anybody, right? The people in my community would have what they call "dinner on the ground". We had that during revival times in church. Everybody would get together and bring a different dish to church and we would all eat outside. I remember that being an exciting time for me as a little boy because at that time, I hadn't started first grade yet, so I had limited access to large gatherings of kids. Dinner on the ground for us was like a big picnic where everybody got together. There was no checking to make sure everything was sanitized. We had a great time. We always did that once a year during revival time.
- [00:20:05] INTERVIEWER: I've never heard that expression, "dinner on the ground."
- [00:20:10] WILLIAM HAMPTON: That's what they called it.
- [00:20:11] INTERVIEWER: That's what they called it. Okay, that's great.
- [00:20:14] WILLIAM HAMPTON: I didn't even think about that until right now.
- [00:20:16] INTERVIEWER: Right.
- [00:20:17] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Dinner on the ground.
- [00:20:19] INTERVIEWER: Okay. Everybody brought a dish or two to that event?
- [00:20:25] WILLIAM HAMPTON: They did. Well, let me rephrase it. Most people did. Some people just showed up to eat. But those people were usually some of my extended family members who always happened to show up at your house around dinner time. [OVERLAPPING]. Go ahead.
- [00:20:42] INTERVIEWER: We still have people like that, right?
- [00:20:46] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Yes we do. [LAUGHTER]
- [00:20:50] INTERVIEWER: Yeah. Okay. Now, anything else about celebrations you want to share?
- [00:21:01] WILLIAM HAMPTON: I need to say that we did not, that I recall, celebrate July 4th because my family looked at July 4th as an occasion which didn't cause freedom for us. We had a huge celebration for Juneteenth, which was African American Emancipation Day. What I cannot recall, maybe until I came to Ann Arbor, are really getting into celebrating July 4th.
- [00:21:35] INTERVIEWER: Talk a little bit more about that because there are people that will be listening to this interview who might not understand what you're saying about July 4th and Juneteenth. Just talk a little bit more about that.
- [00:21:46] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Well, that's a good question. When the Emancipation Proclamation happened, theoretically, African Americans were free. However, they couldn't be really free to the extent that we are right now, to that extent, which is not really free either, until the Civil War ended and that Lee surrendered to Grant on the 9th of April in 1865. The people in Texas and certain other parts of the Southwest were not made aware of the fact that the Emancipation Proclamation had occurred until fully two and a half years after the emancipation was signed into law, and--April, May, June-- more than two months after the Civil War ended. The rationale for that from the perspective of the land owners, was that for two and a half extra months, they got free labor in Texas and other parts of the Southwest. When Juneteenth happened, which was June 19, 1865, Black folks proclaim that as Juneteenth. Because of the fact that we could not really be at the parks because the parks were still segregated, people in Texas got together and bought a park for the original celebration. They bought a park. From 1865 until the end of Reconstruction, Juneteenth was a big holiday all around that area. It's the first African American holiday designated as a holiday anywhere in the United States. There are right now more than 40 states who have Juneteenth as a holiday, and Ann Arbor, Michigan is the oldest Juneteenth celebration in the state of Michigan. We've been celebrating Juneteenth since 1994, which ironically is the same year that Albert Wheeler died. In honor of him, we've always celebrated Juneteenth at Wheeler Park. Albert Wheeler was the only African American mayor of this city and he died ironically on the same day, 16 years after the day Martin Luther King died. He died April 4th, 1994 and Martin Luther King passed away April 4th, 1968. That's the brief history.
- [00:25:15] INTERVIEWER: That's great, so for those listening, especially for young people, that's a great lesson for them. I want to still talk about Juneteenth. Now, in your role as NAACP president, you've been heading that up for a number of years now. You want to speak to that a little bit?
- [00:25:36] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Well, I've been president at NAACP since 2005. I am proud to say that even during this great pandemic, we still had a Juneteenth celebration. I think this year's Juneteenth celebration which was our 26th may have been more valuable than any one we've ever had. This year's Juneteenth celebration was called the Juneteenth Liberation Day. We were able to march along the border to Wheeler Park this year. We had a video presence for our interaction with that. We had coverage from Channel 7 news. We were interviewed by CTN. It caused more interest in the NAACP Ann Arbor than we've ever had before. We believe that things are changing right now faster than they've ever changed in America. I think that the Black Lives Matter theme is being looked at in a different kind of way. Because ever since right before Juneteenth, the Black Lives Matter flag has flown proudly over City Hall here in Ann Arbor. I was talking to some of my contacts still down in Ann Arbor yesterday as a matter of fact and I was told that they was getting some pushback from some people who would push it back anonymously. I was on the Human Rights Commission video chat last night talking about that issue and talking about the statement from the NAACP and reiterating that statement. One of the things I said was the same thing I've said at City Council, all lives do matter. I think everybody knows that. But until and unless Black lives stop being marginalized, all life will not matter. I think that the occurrences of the last several months have highlighted that. I don't know whether you're noticing that but the high profile cases, everything except George Floyd, we really didn't know about them until either several months later or years later. Breonna Taylor, we didn't know about her until two months after that situation occurred. There was a man down in Georgia that we didn't know about that until over two months after that occurred, Ahmaud Arbery. We didn't know about the situation in Aurora, Colorado until a whole year had passed. We need more transparency in law enforcement in order to address things. I strongly believe there needs to be less collaboration between the prosecutors, law enforcement, and the judge. I know the reason why they do that is to expedite justice, but if you expedite justice and it's incorrect justice, you've saved some time but you've made the wrong decision.
- [00:29:30] INTERVIEWER: Thank you.
- [00:29:31] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Yeah.
- [00:29:31] INTERVIEWER: Thank you for sharing. I was going to actually have you speak to some of the things that have been happening as it relates to George Floyd and other people, and so I'm glad you spoke to that.
- [00:29:46] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Thank you, Joyce.
- [00:29:47] INTERVIEWER: Thank you. Now, the next section has to do with you living during the era of segregation. You've already really shared with us about your schooling when you were growing up. I'm trying to recall if you said anything about what happened when Black visitors came to town. How were they accommodated?
- [00:30:13] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Well, that's a complex question because obviously, there were no hotels for Black folks in my town. There were rooming houses that people stayed in who came in. But my family members who came to stay with us stayed there and my parents found room for them at our house. I remember when my aunt passed away, which was the first double funeral that I went to. She passed away when I was in the fifth grade, but she had three children. Those three children came and lived with us until the semester was over. She died in February so they were there for six months until the semester and summer were over. Most families found enough space in their house to accommodate folks who came to visit. It was tight. In my family, we had what I like to describe as a nuclear extended family which meant that my mom and my dad and my sister and me, my sister's husband and her four kids lived with us and her husband. That was 10 people living in a house anyway, in a small house, a small house with very few accommodations. But we were able to make it. We ate at the same table, it was crowded, there were a few fights, but it was a good time.
- [00:32:00] INTERVIEWER: That reminds me of my mom who had eight siblings and she often talked about you made space, you made it work.
- [00:32:07] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Yeah, you do. My mom never forced us to eat anything, but what she would do is she would say, "I have made whatever and you have two choices; you can either eat what I made or you can eat nothing." Since I was a little fat kid, obviously, I ate what she made.
- [00:32:32] INTERVIEWER: [LAUGHTER] Okay. We're going to move now into adulthood, marriage, and family life.
- [00:32:40] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Okay.
- [00:32:42] INTERVIEWER: This set of questions covers a fairly long period of your life from the time you completed your education, entered the labor force or started a family until all of your children left home and/or you and your spouse retired. We're talking about a stretch of time spanning as much as four decades. After you finished high school in Tyler, did you remain there or did you move away?
- [00:33:15] WILLIAM HAMPTON: I moved away. I moved [LAUGHTER] to an apartment 138 miles away, which was a tremendous distance from my family, to go to school and to room with three guys. I moved to Arlington, Texas.
- [00:33:32] INTERVIEWER: [NOISE] Talk about that experience a little bit.
- [00:33:38] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Well, it was my first time being away from home. It was my first time when I had to pay rent, because I didn't have to pay rent as a kid. It was the first time I had to learn how to make my own meals, to wash my own clothes, to have some semblance of ironing, which I still don't do well but I do enough to get by. It was my first time that I had to manage money. At one time I didn't. It was my first time learning how to do a schedule, which I didn't have to do when I lived at home. It was my first time really experiencing protests. Because at my school, we had an organization which I was a member of called the Collegiates for Afro American Progress, CAP. Our primary goal to start with at my school was to eliminate the rebel theme and stop the rebel flag from being flown over the school. The school was known as The Rebels when I first went there, and by the time I graduated, it was The Mavericks. I was able to link up with a great organization called Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated and meet a lot of folks who I otherwise wouldn't have met. Learned some experiences that were different from my own because we had people from all over the place attending school there. It was an opportunity for me after I moved there to be afforded an opportunity through affirmative action to become the first African American to work in city administration for Arlington, Texas, and I worked there almost five years. I left there because since I started out as a college student, they always thought of me as a college guy, so consequently, there was no negotiation for salary. It was, there's this salary, take it or leave it. When I decided to leave Arlington and come to Ann Arbor, it was one of those situations where they hired a person to assist me in my job, a guy that I was supposed to be supervising, but I discovered that this guy's salary was exactly the same as my salary. When I went to personnel to complain about it, they said, "Oh, that's no problem. As soon as you get your raise, you'll be making more than him." I said, "Well, that's true. But his raise and my raise are not linked in together, but when he makes his next raise, he'll be making the same as me again." Well, he looked at me like I was being disrespectful to him. He took his big leather chair, he swiveled it around, and he turned his back to me, and I knew then that I needed to seek other employment at other places. That's when I started really looking for a place to work outside of the city of Arlington, Texas. It did afford me an opportunity to launch a program here and in Arlington, Texas that had never been done in either place before. That program was the Section 8 subsidized housing program which afforded low-income folks the ability to live someplace else other than conventional public housing. They could find a place in their community as long as the landlord accepted that. Their rent was subsidized through us, and we offered a self-improvement program for them. We offered subsidy assistance with a meal program. It was a feel-good experience for me because I participated in the origination of those two programs.
- [00:38:17] INTERVIEWER: I didn't realize that. [NOISE] That's wonderful. So you started that program in Arlington?
- [00:38:26] WILLIAM HAMPTON: I did.
- [00:38:26] INTERVIEWER: Then you went to Ann Arbor, you started the same type of program?
- [00:38:31] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Yeah. The advantage to me was since there were not a whole lot of people who had really participated in that program since it was a new program, I had a heads up on other people applying for the job here in Ann Arbor. I had some experience with the program. That coupled with the fact that the Ann Arbor city administrator at that time was an African American and also a member of my fraternity. The mayor of the city of Ann Arbor was an African American. In fact, the mayor of the city of Ann Arbor was the second mayor to ever send me a memo. I know most young folks don't know what a memo is, but a memo [NOISE] is a piece of paper that used to serve as instructions or questions for folks. I still have copies of my memos from Mayor Vandergriff in Arlington and Mayor Wheeler from Ann Arbor. [OVERLAPPING] I'd never experienced that before. I was the only Black person working in city administration in Arlington. But when I came here, they had a Black city administrator, a Black mayor, a Black city clerk, a Black personnel director. There were some other high profile Black folk and three city council members who were African American at that time.
- [00:40:05] INTERVIEWER: William, you were I'd say an activist way back when you first started college. You've been an activist all these years.
- [00:40:16] WILLIAM HAMPTON: I never thought about that before. I guess I have though. Yeah?
- [00:40:22] INTERVIEWER: Yeah.
- [00:40:23] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Thank you.
- [00:40:24] INTERVIEWER: With the programs that you started in college and continued on until today, so that's great. I want to just go back for a minute. Once you left Arlington, you came here and this is where you've remained?
- [00:40:43] WILLIAM HAMPTON: It is.
- [00:40:45] INTERVIEWER: Okay.
- [00:40:48] WILLIAM HAMPTON: In all honesty, I have to say that I came to Ann Arbor with the expectation that I'd get another job someplace else that paid me more money. I did have an opportunity to move to a place that would have paid me more money, but that place was Montgomery County. I can't remember whether Montgomery County is in Virginia or Maryland, it's been so long, but it's right outside of Washington DC. Although it paid more money, which was very important to me at that time, the cost of living in that area, since that's where a lot of Congress people live, would've been way too much for the salary that they were going to pay me even though I would have made more money than I made here. So I decided that that wasn't a good plan for me, so I've been here ever since [NOISE] and that's a long time.
- [00:41:59] INTERVIEWER: Very good. Let me go back for a second. You mentioned when you came to Ann Arbor and you did some networking and got connected, you mentioned Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.
- [00:42:12] WILLIAM HAMPTON: I did.
- [00:42:12] INTERVIEWER: For those people that might not know what that is, would you speak to that for a minute?
- [00:42:18] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Yeah. My opinion is Alpha Phi Alpha is the best fraternity in the world. That's my opinion. [OVERLAPPING]
- [00:42:29] INTERVIEWER: You would say that? [NOISE]
- [00:42:31] WILLIAM HAMPTON: I would say that. [LAUGHTER] However, I think that collaboration is a lot better than competition. I think that the Divine Nine, which includes Alpha Kappa Alpha and Alpha Phi Alpha and seven other fraternities and sororities, have done a better job of working together than fraternities and sororities have done in the past. Some of the accomplishments that we have done working together in my opinion has helped shape my life. I was a member of the NPHC, I was Alpha Phi Alpha's representative early on, and one of the things we did to promote unity is to dress alternatively in the colors of the same organization. I got to wear pink and green. [LAUGHTER] I learned a lot from being in the NPHC about working together because you can obtain a lot more working together, especially if you're working towards the same goal than you can working separately. One of the problems that we have had as an African American people over the years is there's been, this is just my opinion, too many separate organizations working for the same cause. Between Jim Crow and the beginning of the civil rights movement, there's been about 300 different organizations that's supposed to be working for the same cause. Only a few of those organizations still exist. One of them that does still exist is the NAACP, and the NAACP collaborates with the rest of the Divine Nine that's still located here and other civil rights organizations which are also fighting for the cause of an equal playing field.
- [00:44:53] INTERVIEWER: Thank you for that. I'm going to now move to marriage and family life. I'd like you to tell me a little about your marriage and family life. First, tell me about your spouse.
- [00:45:09] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Well, let me start out by saying if my spouse was not an AKA and a very tolerant person, I probably wouldn't be still married for all these years.
- [00:45:22] INTERVIEWER: Okay. [LAUGHTER]
- [00:45:27] WILLIAM HAMPTON: She's a scrap booker and she's also an educator as you know. In fact, the school that she was at, Slauson Middle School, has an award for the person who's achieved the most within a particular school year. They get the Esther L. Hampton Award. But for me, she has used her scrap-booking techniques to help me to remember stuff. For example, she created a scrapbook for me that contains all the different quotes that she's heard me say from my father, who was a quote machine. He had a quote for almost everything. At the times, I've said, "Dad, I've heard that before," but now I find myself quoting him, in part because in fact I have this little book that my wife made for me to help me remember some of the quotes from my dad. Also, it's significant to mention that when I was in second grade, there was an event that happened that really changed my life, and that event was the Little Rock Nine. In the Little Rock Nine, those people returned to that school on the seventh anniversary of my wife's birth, and that experience made me think there was still hope for us as Black folks as we pursue an equal playing field. It also helped me out to know that the president of the United States was willing to send troops in to make certain that those little children were safe while they were at school in Little Rock, Arkansas. That was September 23rd, just in case somebody out there might want to know my wife's birthday. It's September 23rd.
- [00:47:41] INTERVIEWER: Okay. Thank you for sharing that. I want to talk a little bit now about your children. Well, let me make a couple of comments. First of all, I have seen your wife's scrapbooks and they're excellent. She's really talented in doing those scrapbooks. I want to ask, can you share a couple of quotes from your dad?
- [00:48:07] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Well, one of them that he used to always say to me, because failure was something that really concerned me. He used to always say, "Nothing makes a failure but a try." So if you don't ever try anything, you won't ever fail. But conversely, if you don't ever try anything, you won't ever succeed anyway. So if you learn how to treat your failures as a learning experience, you become a better person from that too.
- [00:48:40] INTERVIEWER: That's true.
- [00:48:41] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Yeah.
- [00:48:44] INTERVIEWER: All right. Now, talk to me about--share a little bit of information about your children.
- [00:48:50] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Okay.
- [00:48:51] INTERVIEWER: Their names, where they live now, anything else you want to share.
- [00:48:57] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Okay. Ava lives in a Houston, Texas suburb. She worked for years as a sports journalist for the Houston Chronicle. Ava has some health challenges now because her immune system is a bit compromised, but she still perseveres. Juliet, she works for the Dallas Cowboy organization in Dallas, Texas. She lives in Fort Worth. Tony is a technology whiz. Every time that we have a problem with the computers here, he's our first phone call. He's the quietest one of the three. Juliet, which is the middle child, is probably the most social of the three children. But I love them all and hopefully they love me half as much as I love them.
- [00:50:20] INTERVIEWER: I'm sure they do. Now, does any of them live here in the Ann Arbor / Ypsi area?
- [00:50:27] WILLIAM HAMPTON: No. The closest one is Tony and Tony lives up near Grand Rapids.
- [00:50:36] INTERVIEWER: Okay. Let's move into work and retirement. I think you've covered some of this, but that's fine. We already talked about your main field of employment and how you got started. What was a typical day like during the working years of your adult life in that role?
- [00:51:01] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Well, I'm going to start by saying a work day for me usually had too many meetings in it. But for me, it was a feel-good experience seeing the smile on a little person's face when I said, "you and your family have a new house to live in." Because most of my experience as a working person dealt with the truly disadvantaged population: people who were not getting proper nutrition, people who wasn't sure where their place to lay their head down for the next day was going to be, and the people who had been compromised by the system. I believe that it's of more value for me to be of service to others than to be of service to myself. I know that because of my work, a lot of people have places to live now that they otherwise would not have had. I know a lot of folks have access to further education that they may not have had if I had not been involved with that person. In fact, ironically, one of the guys who received a scholarship from Alpha Phi Alpha is at an HBCU now. I'm drawing a blank on which one he's at. But this is his second year there, and when he came back to town, the one person that he wanted to talk to was me. That was a real feel-good experience because here's a young man wanting to talk to me about his experiences in college, and ironically, he's at U of M right now, so pray for him. His name is Robert Malcolm. He had his appendix burst last Tuesday night. He's doing better. I talked to him this morning and it makes me feel good that through my participation in this community, I was able to play a role in him being able to go to college.
- [00:53:41] INTERVIEWER: That's a very important role. I want you to just talk a little bit, in case somebody's listening, to those that listen to this, when you said HBCU, do you want to expand on that? Because I recently did an interview and a person said, what is that? You want to explain a little bit about that?
- [00:54:02] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Well, HBCU means Historically Black Colleges and Universities. HBCUs were developed primarily because at one time, there was no places of higher learning specifically for Black folks. A lot of the white schools did not allow African Americans to attend there. HBCUs have played a huge role in who we are as a people. In fact, your sorority sister and the person that just got nominated for vice president in the Democratic Party went to Howard University, which is an HBCU. When we were doing straight-up funding for scholarships from the NAACP initially, all we gave money to through a certain period of time was the HBCUs, and that served two purposes. It helped the HBCUs out and it also gave people who were born and raised in this area an idea of what it's like to go to an all-Black school, which is a good thing. An HBCU is a wonderful opportunity for people who look like me to learn. My experience with the HBCUs through the NAACP has been highlighted by what we call the HBCU college trip, which we co-sponsor now. That's a trip that the NAACP partially funds. It's run right now by Michael Johnson and Joanna Johnson. I think Joanna Johnson is somebody you might know, Joyce.
- [00:56:20] INTERVIEWER: I do know her. [LAUGHTER]
- [00:56:23] WILLIAM HAMPTON: She's an AKA and her husband is an Alpha man. That trip, the idea was a brainchild, I like to say, of Patricia A. Manley. I think you might know her too, Joyce.
- [00:56:40] INTERVIEWER: I do know her very well.
- [00:56:42] WILLIAM HAMPTON: I think she might be an AKA too, right?
- [00:56:44] INTERVIEWER: I think so. [LAUGHTER]
- [00:56:46] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Part of the Divine Nine, right?
- [00:56:48] INTERVIEWER: Right.
- [00:56:49] WILLIAM HAMPTON: We take students there. We used to do it every year, but now, we do it most every other year. I don't know how it's going to work out this year. We're already fundraising for that, but I do know that it's a wonderful experience for children to expand their prospect for how you learn. When I was a little kid, the term HBCU was a term I didn't know. I didn't know that term when I was a kid. I didn't know that term because of the way my school was. Some of my teachers went to HBCUs but I'd never heard that term used by them. If I could just back up and say this real quick: my school experience was sanitized. The Civil War, for example, at my school in elementary school was known as the War of Northern Aggression. They wouldn't call it the Civil War, it was called the War of Northern Aggression, which meant that the North came to the South and tried to take over. They tried to take over because the economy in the South, because of free labor, was doing better than the economy in the North. The statement was that there was some jealousy in the North of the South's prosperity. Now, all the time, this intentionally left out race. Nobody said there are slaves involved. They said the North is trying to change our way of life. At that time, I'd never seen Birth of a Nation. I'd never seen [inaudible] because my parents didn't want me to. They wouldn't let me. But now, I know about a whole bunch of atrocity that happened in my school system to keep me from learning stuff that I needed to learn at that time which I didn't know, and HBCUs is one of them.
- [00:59:35] INTERVIEWER: Thank you for sharing that. [NOISE] I've always been really pleased that Pat initiated that and started that to give our students in the Ann Arbor / Ypsi area a chance to visit HBCUs, so that's great. Now, I'm going to move to the last section, William, and it's historical and social events.
- [00:59:58] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Okay.
- [00:59:58] INTERVIEWER: Tell me how it's been for you to live in this community.
- [01:00:02] WILLIAM HAMPTON: I've lived in Ann Arbor now a lot more years than I lived in Texas. My first plane ride was when I was living in Texas. But my first plane ride for a purpose was to fly from Texas to Ann Arbor for my interview. I'd never experienced a plane ride of that long a distance until I was in my 20s. I came here thinking that living here was going to be like living in utopia. I didn't know at the time that less than 20 miles away, that the Grand Imperial Wizard of the KKK was living there at that time. I didn't know that all of Michigan wasn't like Ann Arbor. I didn't know that. I learned that quickly the first time I went to Dearborn. I learned that no matter where you are, you're going to have some challenges, you're going to have some trials, and that the worst thing you can do is just turn your back on trials because they're hard. You got to deal with them. You got to engage folks. Even if they don't share your vision, even if they don't share your politics, even if they don't share your values, you still have to engage. I believe that an individual can learn a lot more from somebody that disagrees with them than they can from somebody who agrees with them. Now, that doesn't mean you're going to change your mind necessarily. It just gives you more knowledge on how people who don't think like you got to be like they are.
- [01:02:12] INTERVIEWER: That's true. When thinking back on your entire life, what important social or historical events had the greatest impact?
- [01:02:25] WILLIAM HAMPTON: When I did the Legacies Project at Skyline High School, I said 9/11. I said 9/11 because I thought they might be able to relate to that. But as it turned out, only one of those children were even born when 9/11 happened. I think that the thing that had the greatest impact on me in my lifetime was the death of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Junior. That's the first time I was seeing rioting in the street. That was the first time I was seeing African Americans trying to take a stance for something that happened. It was the first time that I really started to get concerned about the fact that I wasn't doing enough. I was a very young person at that time but I wasn't doing enough. That made me think that if everybody took the same approach to this unequal playing field as I was taking at that time, that change would not ever happen. So not only did I try to get myself involved, I tried to get other folks involved too. I participated and started and was the first president of the Black Employees Association here in Ann Arbor for the city. I was the president of the Diversity Action Committee here in Ann Arbor which promotes change. I was a participant in the Million Man March and got an opportunity to see Rosa Parks in 1995. I was a speaker for [NOISE] several different events that promote racial [NOISE] acceptance and value, taught people how to value differences. I am committed in trying to do the best I can not necessarily as a leader but certainly as a participant in actions for change. I am proud that I was here when some of the change started to happen.
- [01:05:07] INTERVIEWER: As I said earlier, you've been an activist all your life, which is great.
- [01:05:15] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Thank you, Joyce.
- [01:05:15] INTERVIEWER: Thanks for all that you're doing and have done. When thinking back over your entire life, what are you most proud of?
- [01:05:26] WILLIAM HAMPTON: I'm most proud of the fact that I believe that I've helped a lot more people than I've hurt in my life. I'm most proud of that. I love having younger folks share that vision with me. I think that it is amazing how little we learn about the children of the day from our own experience. I'm amazed at how many folks still say I wish things were like they used to be. Well, like they used to be for me was a tougher time than it is right now. I want to be a part of the change and not part of the people that's making [inaudible] say that. I started to say something political but I changed my mind.
- [01:06:18] INTERVIEWER: [LAUGHTER] You can say it if you would like to.
- [01:06:18] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Well, I don't want to be part of the Make America Great Again subgroup because "making America great again" eliminates the accomplishments of the truly disadvantaged population. If a group of people in the United States could go from being almost totally illiterate at the end of the Civil War to being almost 100 percent literate in less than one generation, that's quite an accomplishment. I don't think any other subgroup in America has ever done that, because if you think about it, somebody who looks like you and looks like me has probably been a slave in this United States of America. People say, well, that's something you should forget about. If I forget about that and if you forget about that, it means you forgot about them. I'm a big believer in researching my family background and I'm a member of ancestry.com. But I can only go back to 1837 with my family. People say, well, that was a long time ago. But that doesn't mean that there was not somebody in 1830, before that, who was related to me. They show up in the census as Hampton slave number 1, Hampton slave number 2, so on and so forth, or Bell slave number 1, Bell slave number 2, so on and so forth. I know that one of those people on the Bell side and one of those people on the Hampton side was related to me because I can trace my family back to those two plantations. The unfortunate thing is I can't tell unequivocally who those people were who were my relatives.
- [01:08:34] INTERVIEWER: It's good that you're participating in ancestry.com. That's great. Two more questions.
- [01:08:45] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Okay.
- [01:08:46] INTERVIEWER: What would you say has changed the most from the time you were a young person to now?
- [01:08:55] WILLIAM HAMPTON: As unusual as it might seem to hear me say this, I think the willingness and the ability to value differences is the biggest change. Because I watched my dad being called by his first name and by people who he had to call Mr. or Mrs. That's not the same anymore. My dad made a comment towards the end of his life when he was called again by his first name at the hospital that he was visiting. He made the statement, "How old do I have to be before I stop being called by my first name?" My dad was not exactly a revolutionary guy. He was almost 42 years old when I was born. He lived in some tremendously bad times, and my grandfather was worse than that. If I can just throw one thing in here real quick.
- [01:10:12] INTERVIEWER: That's fine.
- [01:10:12] WILLIAM HAMPTON: My grandfather owned 266 acres of land. William Claude Hampton. He owned 266 acres of good farming land. Two things happened with him. The land that he sold was decreased in value. It was sold for far less than it was worth. But to him, to sell part of his [NOISE] land for that amount of money was a lot of money for him at that time. Three things actually. The second thing was the children who needed some land too, unscrupulous people purchased the mineral rights for that land, which meant when oil was discovered on that land, they got to keep their land but somebody else got the profits from the oil that was discovered there. That's number 2. Number 3, his youngest son who died the year before I was born was lynched and nothing was ever done about it. I think that my grandfather, given all of those things that happened to him, did well for himself.
- [01:11:55] INTERVIEWER: Yes, I would say that for sure. The whole idea of not being called by your first name, oftentimes you heard people say, especially in the African American community, you need to put a handle on it.
- [01:12:07] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Absolutely.
- [01:12:08] INTERVIEWER: [LAUGHTER] Yeah.
- [01:12:10] WILLIAM HAMPTON: You need to put a handle on it, right?
- [01:12:12] INTERVIEWER: That's right. The final question; what advice would you give to the younger generation?
- [01:12:24] WILLIAM HAMPTON: As I said earlier, I think we forget how we were when we were younger. Younger people would rather be talked with than talked to. So if I had some advice for any young person, I would say you should not ever allow anybody to control the narrative of your life. That's up to you. That's your rite of passage. If you fail somewhere along the way, just get up, brush yourself hard, then try it again. That would be my advice.
- [01:13:08] INTERVIEWER: Very good advice. I'm going to give you an opportunity to make a final statement or something that you want to share that you didn't get a chance to share.
- [01:13:18] WILLIAM HAMPTON: Well, I'd like to say that there's only 82 days left to vote.
- [01:13:22] INTERVIEWER: Okay. [LAUGHTER]
- [01:13:29] WILLIAM HAMPTON: It's a very important election. There's a lot of unfortunate things that's going on right now, including some changes in the post office. I would advise folks to request an absentee ballot and send that in as soon as you can after you receive it. There are some tracking information that you could find out by calling the NAACP phone number. In the primary, which happened August 3rd, my wife and I voted by mail. It took approximately eight days to get from where we live, which is on the west side of Ann Arbor, to the post office, which is about a mile away, and be counted. Now, we were tracking ours because we knew that we could always go down to City Hall, and people need to know this. If you vote by mail and you're tracking your vote and it doesn't get submitted by the day of the election, you can still go to City Hall, request for that ballot to be spoiled, and vote in person at City Hall. Please remember that. If this is shown before the election in November, don't forget that if you voted by mail and you're tracking your ballot and it has not been received by City Hall, then you can go to City Hall, request for that ballot to be spoiled, and ask for a new ballot and then vote again. Please, please vote. There are lots of folks who look like us who were not allowed to vote. There's some of those people died to win the right to vote. Fannie Lou Hamer, who was a little-known person in African American history, when she got involved, she said, "I didn't even know I could vote," because somebody told her that Black folks couldn't and shouldn't vote. But we deserve this right, we've earned it. So please vote.
- [01:16:14] INTERVIEWER: Thank you. That concludes our interview and that was some great information there.
August 13, 2020
Copyright: Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
Rights Held by: Ann Arbor District Library
Ann Arbor - City Employees
Texas Rose Festival
United Negro College Fund
Black American Athletes
U.S. Civil War
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)
Black Lives Matter
Ann Arbor - City Hall
Ann Arbor Human Rights Commission
Collegiates for Afro-American Progress [CAP]
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority
National Pan-Hellenic Council [NPHC]
Civil Rights Movement
Slauson Junior High School - Faculty & Staff
Historically Black Colleges and Universities
Ku Klux Klan
Black Employees Association
Diversity Action Committee
Elections - President
Race & Ethnicity
AACHM Living Oral History
Esther Laverne Hampton
Minnie Roberta Hampton
Robert E. Lee
Ulysses S. Grant
Albert H. Wheeler
Martin Luther King Jr.
Tommy Joe Vandergriff
Patricia Ashford Manley
William Claude Hampton
Fannie Lou Hamer
Little Rock AR