AACHM Oral History: Patricia Horne McGee
Wed, 09/22/2021 - 11:03am
When: September 7, 2021
Patricia Horne McGee was born in 1946 in Ypsilanti, where she attended Perry Elementary and Ypsilanti High School. She recalls the mutual support and accomplishments of many childhood friends and neighbors, and reflects on rising tensions between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti. Horne McGee has two master's degrees from the University of Michigan and UCLA. She taught child development and social work for fifteen years at Ferris State College and Mercy College. After leaving academia, she worked for the Wayne County Intermediate School District and she was director of Head Start for Washtenaw County.
- [00:00:15] JOETTA MIAL: We're going to get started. First I'm going to ask you some simple demographic questions so that our viewing and listening and reading audience will know exactly who you are. Okay?
- [00:00:31] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Okay.
- [00:00:34] JOETTA MIAL: Please say and spell your name.
- [00:00:39] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: My name is Patricia J. Horne [NOISE] , H-O-R-N-E, Mcgee M-C-G-E-E.
- [00:00:48] JOETTA MIAL: [OVERLAPPING] What is your date of birth?
- [00:00:50] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: I was born December 23rd, 1946. That makes me almost 75 years old. I am, as you see, African American and was raised in Second Baptist Church here in Ypsilanti.
- [00:01:12] JOETTA MIAL: Wonderful. What is your highest level of formal education that you completed?
- [00:01:21] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: I have two master's degrees as well as two postmaster's certificates from University of Michigan and UCLA.
- [00:01:33] JOETTA MIAL: All right. We'll get into more about that later. What is your marital status?
- [00:01:41] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Sadly, I'm widowed.
- [00:01:44] JOETTA MIAL: All right. Do you have any children?
- [00:01:47] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: I had no children. Myself, we helped to raise a couple of nephews and my husband's two boys who are all grown now.
- [00:02:00] JOETTA MIAL: What was your primary occupation?
- [00:02:05] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Educator and social worker.
- [00:02:11] JOETTA MIAL: And at what age did you retire?
- [00:02:14] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Sixty five.
- [00:02:16] JOETTA MIAL: All right. Now we're going to part two and this is going to deal with your memories of your childhood and youth. Even though these questions may jog your memories about when you're older, if we can keep it when you're young. What was your family like when you were a child?
- [00:02:49] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: My family was very close-knit. We had a large extended family in this area as well as there were six of us who grew up in this household. Six Horne children. We always lived as close-knit people together and just worked together.
- [00:03:17] JOETTA MIAL: You said six Horne children?
- [00:03:20] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Exactly.
- [00:03:21] JOETTA MIAL: Okay. Were there any special days, events, or family traditions you can remember from your childhood that your family? [OVERLAPPING]
- [00:03:33] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Well we just went through all of them actually. I guess Christmas probably would have been the most memorable because it was always a surprise, waking up in the morning to find whatever gifts we had and to celebrate together, eating and going to church. In our household and in our community for the most part, there were three points, touchstones, for us that made holidays good: the community center which you all now call Parkridge Community Center; the school, which most people from here would just say the school, but it's Perry Elementary School, was Harriet School part of the time we were growing up; and the church. There were celebrations at all three or at some of the three that made all holidays special for us.
- [00:04:39] JOETTA MIAL: You and your family and other families and these key places?
- [00:04:48] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Exactly. They were just part of the community. At Easter time there was always a fashion show for the teenagers at Parkridge Community Center, there was an egg hunt. At the school there were different programs that happened that invited the community in as well as at church there were religious programs where we learned to say pieces, if you remember that--some program for children to participate in to celebrate Easter as part of our heritage.
- [00:05:33] JOETTA MIAL: Wonderful. Did your family create any of its own special traditions or celebrations?
- [00:05:44] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Not really. We just merged in with the rest of the community.
- [00:05:49] JOETTA MIAL: Okay. Did you play any sports or any other extracurricular activities outside of the school?
- [00:06:01] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Outside of the school? No. There were no opportunities for that as I grew up. My brothers were involved in things like Little League and basketball and so forth that was outside of the school. But for girls they really weren't that many opportunities for participating in things outside of the school. Girls couldn't play on a Little League team, though I could have if that were allowed. But no. Our activities centered around not so much sports, at least for me, but things that were happening. I was part of the Baptist Youth Fellowship which met regularly and I was an officer in that. Things like Girl Scouts. When I was a senior in high school we had something called Club 64. I was an officer in that. We planned lots of activities for the community as well as to celebrate our graduating from high school. At the time we graduated in 1964, that was the largest class that had ever graduated from Ypsi High School. It was additionally the largest Black class that I had ever graduated from Ypsi High School. We certainly wanted to celebrate that with all of our peers and all of our friends, most of whom had gone to elementary school with us and we started kindergarten together. It was so nice to be able to finish with.
- [00:07:40] JOETTA MIAL: Oh, wow. That sounds great.
- [00:07:45] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: It was wonderful [NOISE].
- [00:07:47] JOETTA MIAL: It sounds like you had a really good time with family and friends.
- [00:07:54] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: We did.
- [00:07:57] JOETTA MIAL: You did all these outside of school. What about in school, did you?
- [00:08:03] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Well, I was involved with sports in school. There was something called Girls Athletic Club. I once was on Student Council and the newspaper at one time, the Ypsi Syn it was called, and that might have been all. Latin club, Spanish club, French club, those things like that. We were involved in school and that wasn't intramural. Some of them were intramural but basically they were within the school frame [NOISE] of reference.
- [00:08:40] JOETTA MIAL: Sounds like you were participating in everything.
- [00:08:45] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: I was. That was what we did. You went to school and you participated. [LAUGHTER]
- [00:08:56] JOETTA MIAL: [NOISE] What would you say about your school experience is different from the school as you know it today?
- [00:09:04] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Well, I can't exactly say but I don't think students, children, are as involved in school as they once were, or as connected to it as they once were, especially in this last year with everything being virtual. School in all situations, elementary as well as high school, was a central point to our lives. There was very little skipping school because school was what we did. It was what you do [LAUGHTER]. That's where you saw your friends and communicated with other people. I don't think it's that way anymore.
- [00:09:57] JOETTA MIAL: Were there any changes in your family life during your school years?
- [00:10:03] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: My father had a stroke before I graduated high school, about a year or so before, two years actually. That changed our family life. We were still involved in school but not as much because we did a lot more after school working and things like that.
- [00:10:26] JOETTA MIAL: Okay. All right. When thinking back on your school years, what important social or historical events were taking place at the time? How did they, if they did, personally affect you and your family?
- [00:10:54] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: I think that there was so much. That was the civil rights era. Lots of things were happening. I can remember President Kennedy got killed during that time. I believe I was in high school when that happened. But around here, the subtle discriminations and things like that, that happened in this city around the homecoming queen and that kind of thing. So, I don't know [OVERLAPPING]
- [00:11:34] JOETTA MIAL: What things around homecoming queen?
- [00:11:38] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: The mayor wouldn't ride with the homecoming queen because she was Black.
- [00:11:42] JOETTA MIAL: Oh, my. That was about what year?
- [00:11:49] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: I can't say now. Probably early '60s, late '50s. The homecoming queen was Betty Barfield.
- [00:12:00] JOETTA MIAL: Oh my. John--
- [00:12:02] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Yes.
- [00:12:03] JOETTA MIAL: Barfield's wife. Maybe we'll talk about--
- [00:12:10] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: That influenced our whole neighborhood because it was a very close-knit neighborhood. Black people lived on the south side of Ypsilanti for the most part. Everybody knew everybody and everybody was involved with basically three churches. There were only about three churches: Second Baptist, Brown Chapel AME, and Mount Olive Church of God in Christ. You had relatives and friends in each of those three churches. You knew everybody, so the fact that Betty was homecoming queen and that kind of thing was known, and everybody felt great pleasure in supporting her in that way.
- [00:12:52] JOETTA MIAL: Did other white students or people support it?
- [00:12:57] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Not to my memory. Support her as queen?
- [00:13:03] JOETTA MIAL: Yes.
- [00:13:04] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Well, she had to get elected. It was the city officials, as I remember it, who were not in support of it.
- [00:13:14] JOETTA MIAL: Okay.
- [00:13:15] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Yes. She was elected by the student body.
- [00:13:21] JOETTA MIAL: Right. You lived during the era of segregation as you've mentioned, and can you speak a little bit about that? Was your school segregated? Was the elementary school near your home? Was there a high school for Black students in the same area? How did you get to school? Who were your teachers? Were there restaurants or eating places for Blacks where you lived? Do you know anything about how Black visitors were accommodated in the city? You can take those one at a time. [LAUGHTER].
- [00:14:04] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Okay. I went to Perry School, very proudly went to Perry School, which was a segregated school for the most part. My teachers were Black women and men who lived in the community who you might have known from church, or you might have known from the neighborhood. They might have been your neighbors. If you got in trouble in school, it was very likely that your teacher might stop by the house before you got home or after you got home to speak to that. Paris School was pretty much segregated and that was grades K through six. While there we were taught that you had to work hard because you had to work harder than the students that we would encounter once we crossed Michigan Avenue, and we did for the most part. I'm trying to keep all your questions in order here.
- [00:15:11] JOETTA MIAL: No, doesn't have to be in order.
- [00:15:13] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Okay. [LAUGHTER] My elementary school was pretty much all Black. We had a couple of white teachers, and my sixth grade teacher was one of the white teachers. But for the most part, we had Black teachers who lived in the community. Our principal was Black, in fact he was the first Black principal in the state of Michigan. We were very proud to have been part of his children, if you will. We went to school with his biological children as well. We learned to do the best that you could and push a little harder, because we were actually led to believe that the white kids would be smarter than we were when we crossed Michigan Avenue. Going to high school, I went to high school from the sixth grade. We went from Perry Elementary School to Ypsilanti High School. Ypsilanti was at that time seventh through twelfth. The next year, they built two junior high schools, East and West Junior High School. I went to high school, seventh grade at Ypsilanti High School, went to West Junior High School for eighth and ninth grade, and then back to Ypsilanti High School. Those were not segregated schools. They were probably, it's hard to remember now, at least 65 percent white. Maybe more than that, I don't really remember. But with mostly all white teachers and a pretty much white school board, I think Mr. Washington and Dr. Perry had gotten on the school board by then. [NOISE] Have I missed something?
- [00:17:26] JOETTA MIAL: No. I was going to ask [NOISE] about high school, but that has slipped my mind. [LAUGHTER]
- [00:17:43] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Okay, I mean there were mostly white teachers at Ypsilanti High School and the classes were all integrated because home rooms were done alphabetically. We met and interacted with the white kids. Our demographics were mostly Black and white. There we're not a lot of Asian or others at that time. [OVERLAPPING] How did we get to school? For twelve years, I walked to school. [LAUGHTER] They did not send the bus over on the south side of Ypsilanti. Everybody walked to school from the south side. [NOISE] Even though Ypsi High School was at least a mile and a half away.
- [00:18:34] JOETTA MIAL: And so you walked a mile and a half to school every day.
- [00:18:39] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: When I first started seventh grade, high school--well Perry School was around the corner so that was a piece of cake. But when I first started in Ypsi High School, seventh grade, we walked home for lunch too and then back for a second half day and then back home. We got lots of exercise.
- [00:19:01] JOETTA MIAL: Now I remember what I was going to ask you. You talked about your principal was the first Black principal in Michigan, was that Mr. Beatty?
- [00:19:11] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Absolutely. Mr. Charles Eugene Beatty. He was not only a principal extraordinaire, he also had been an athlete, and had been picked for the Olympics. I'm not sure the year now, but we got the benefit of his experiences and his friends. Mr. Jesse Owens came to school one day because he was Mr. Beatty's friend. Then we got to meet him, and so our education was broader than class books.
- [00:19:52] JOETTA MIAL: That was very special.
- [00:19:54] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Yes, it was. That may have happened more than once with different people that he knew. Mr. Paul Robeson was a friend of his.
- [00:20:05] JOETTA MIAL: Oh, my.
- [00:20:06] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Came to school.
- [00:20:09] JOETTA MIAL: Well Mr. Beatty was quite a force in the community.
- [00:20:15] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Absolutely. One of the few people that just had the respect of just about everybody in it and, he lived right down the street from us. He lived in the community that he worked in.
- [00:20:33] JOETTA MIAL: One of the things I asked you, did you know anything about eating places and-- [OVERLAPPING]
- [00:20:40] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: We didn't go out a lot. As I was growing up, we didn't go out a lot. My father expected a meal every day and he worked hard and expected a meal and generally got one. We didn't go out. We didn't eat--McDonald's was not prevalent at those days. Haab's Restaurant downtown didn't really serve us, though you could go to--they had a window out front. You could go to the window and buy things. But my father did not allow us to do that. If they couldn't serve us, then we weren't spending our money there. There weren't a lot of other restaurants around at that time and we didn't spend a lot of time in restaurants. As we got older, there became a lot of things like the Chick Inn and the Squeeze Inn, which were drive-in eateries. You could get hamburger and soda, things like that and that was doable if you had a car.
- [00:21:54] JOETTA MIAL: Well, this is the second time I've heard about Haab's having Black folks come to the window to pick up food.
- [00:22:05] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Yeah, and people used to go down there, walked from the high school down there to get lunch and get french fries--they were known for their french fries and chicken, I think--at the window and then stand outside or take it back to schoolyard and eat it from Ypsi High School. We did not because we couldn't. That was one of my father's rules. You're not spending money down here if you can't go in and sit down. So that was the main eating place. Other eating things, there were lots of eating activities at the churches and whether you were at Second Baptist or Brown Chapel you'd go for that activity. The social--the devil's parties, I've forgotten what's that called. Ice cream socials and heaven and hell parties and things like that. [LAUGHTER]
- [00:23:06] JOETTA MIAL: Heaven and hell parties, how'd that work?
- [00:23:09] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: I can't quite remember. [LAUGHTER] But if you were going to heaven, you'd get ice cream. I don't remember, but the hell thing of it was you'd get something like chili, something that was hot.
- [00:23:24] JOETTA MIAL: Okay.
- [00:23:25] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: But it was kind of games going on with it and I wish I could remember exactly how that went. [LAUGHTER] It was great fun though.
- [00:23:36] JOETTA MIAL: Very creative. [LAUGHTER].
- [00:23:38] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Yes. [LAUGHTER]
- [00:23:43] JOETTA MIAL: Do you know anything about how Black visitors were accepted and where did they stay if they were coming from out of town?
- [00:23:52] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: For the most part, Black visitors stayed in the homes of friends or relatives or just people. In those days, because Eastern Michigan University was here, there were a lot of Black teachers from the South who would come up in the summertime to finish their credentialing. We actually had some of them stay with us for many summers because they were people that my sister had met up at Eastern Michigan University. A lot of the students at EMU at that time stayed in the homes of community people. There was a lady named Mrs. Williams, where the boy students, the male students stayed on Second Avenue and walked to campus. Dr. Clark's wife and Leo Clark's mother took in female students down on Hawkins Street. There was a hotel downtown, Huron Hotel, but I honestly can't tell you that I knew anybody who ever stayed there. There must have been, but I just didn't know them.
- [00:25:17] JOETTA MIAL: That's very interesting. We may want to back up a little bit. You said there were six folks in your family. I know about your sister. Who else?
- [00:25:35] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: There were four girls and two boys.
- [00:25:38] JOETTA MIAL: Alright. Okey-dokey, so now we're going to go to part three, and this will be fairly long. It's about your adulthood, marriage, and family life. Okay?
- [00:26:03] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Mhm.
- [00:26:04] JOETTA MIAL: It's going to cover the period from the time you completed your education, entered the labor force, and whether or not you started your family, until you and/or your spouse retired. We might be talking about a stretch of time spanning as much as four decades. We'll see. After you finished high school, where did you live?
- [00:26:34] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: I went to school at Michigan State University for four years. I came home, I went to work for the Department of Social Services in Ann Arbor. I worked there a year, and then went back to graduate school at the University of Michigan. When I was away at school both in Ann Arbor and at Michigan, I lived on or near campus.
- [00:27:01] JOETTA MIAL: Okay.
- [00:27:01] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: When I finished Michigan, I got a social work job in Ann Arbor, and I lived in Ypsilanti and I stayed there until I began teaching at Ferris State College. I taught at Ferris State College for five years, was tenured and promoted at Ferris State College, and stayed there for five years living in Big Rapids. And I then got married [LAUGHTER] and moved back to Ypsilanti and taught at Mercy College in Detroit for another 10 years and was tenured and promoted there also. I lived in Ypsilanti. My husband lived here as well, but he worked in Flint. We were halfway between both points, I going to Detroit and he going to Flint each day. I have been here ever since. I worked at Mercy for 10 years, and then I worked for the Wayne County Intermediate School District for another 13 years before coming back to Ypsilanti to work for Washtenaw County government, where I retired from.
- [00:28:42] JOETTA MIAL: What a resume. [LAUGHTER] So-- [OVERLAPPING]
- [00:28:45] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: That's hard working.
- [00:28:46] JOETTA MIAL: [LAUGHTER] What did your husband do?
- [00:28:52] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: My husband worked for General Motors for 30 years before he passed and he would have retired from General Motors, yes.
- [00:29:05] JOETTA MIAL: Okay. Where did you all meet? He was from Ypsi too?
- [00:29:11] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: No, he wasn't. He was from Flint. We met at Ferris because his best friend also taught at Ferris State when I was up there and so we met through him.
- [00:29:25] JOETTA MIAL: Okay. Tell me, when did you all get married and how long? [OVERLAPPING].
- [00:29:37] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: How long was what?
- [00:29:40] JOETTA MIAL: I was going to say, how long was your dating period?
- [00:29:42] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Oh my gosh. [LAUGHTER] Probably four years and we got married in 1979 and he passed in 1997. So we had almost 20 years, well if you count the courtship more than 20 years of togetherness.
- [00:30:02] JOETTA MIAL: Now I can remember being invited to a big anniversary party. I don't know what year it was. [OVERLAPPING]
- [00:30:14] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Yeah. That was actually my 50th birthday party.
- [00:30:17] JOETTA MIAL: Okay. [LAUGHTER].
- [00:30:18] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Yeah.
- [00:30:19] JOETTA MIAL: All right.
- [00:30:19] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Yeah, and that was a special time and it became even more special because he passed about two weeks later.
- [00:30:27] JOETTA MIAL: Oh my.
- [00:30:29] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Yes. We had a great time. It was a masque ball celebrating my jubilee year. I had friends that I grew up with in Ypsilanti as well as friends I'd met while working and in school. So it was a joyous time and one of the few times when everybody would come together and I was glad to have everybody together to celebrate with me.
- [00:31:01] JOETTA MIAL: Wonderful. [LAUGHTER] What was your wedding like? You got married in Ypsi?
- [00:31:07] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: I did, Metropolitan Memorial Baptist Church
- [00:31:10] JOETTA MIAL: Okay.
- [00:31:12] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: It was a big wedding.
- [00:31:14] JOETTA MIAL: Okay.
- [00:31:18] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: I don't know. It was a big, beautiful wedding on a day where we got lots of rain and then the sun came up. It was a lovely day. [LAUGHTER]
- [00:31:28] JOETTA MIAL: All right. Okay.
- [00:31:37] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Actually, the services were performed by my minister at the time, Reverend S.L. Roberson and his brother Reverend Garther Roberson, both of whom were long-time community people here in Ypsilanti and had come from the same place in Alabama as my parents had. Our families had been connected for years and years and years in one way or another. Even my father, when he first came up here, he stayed for a minute with the Robersons before going to the boarding house, he came along and then later after he got settled in his job and bought property, my mother came up with my two older sisters.
- [00:32:26] JOETTA MIAL: You were born in Ypsilanti?
- [00:32:28] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Absolutely, at the old Beyer's. Not to be confused with the Beyer's that is now a bariatric center, that's the new Beyer's. The old Beyer's is across the street, it's a nursing home. I think the name is Bortz. It was Bortz, I think it's changed the names now. But there was another Beyer's before that, that stood next to that and some of my relatives were born at the original Beyer's. The history is here in terms of the hospitalizations and stuff like that.
- [00:33:06] JOETTA MIAL: Were the rest of your family, the kids, born in Ypsilanti?
- [00:33:12] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: My two oldest sisters were born in Alabama and came here at about the age of two or three. Then my next sister was born here in 1944 and my two younger brothers were absolutely born here. Yes.
- [00:33:38] JOETTA MIAL: Okay. So your parents were from Alabama?
- [00:33:40] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Yes. Moundville, Alabama.
- [00:33:46] JOETTA MIAL: What did they do for a living?
- [00:33:49] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: My father came up here to work in the auto industry and he worked at just about all of the plants around here. He started off in Central Specialty, which was a foundry that a lot of the men worked in when they came from the South. When he got medical leave, retired, he was working at General Motors and that's the plant that is no more, the Corvette plant. He worked for General Motors in Flint, and basically in the auto industries. He worked for Packer and Kaiser- Frazer. All of them. My mama was a housewife. She had a lot of kids. [LAUGHTER]
- [00:34:41] JOETTA MIAL: Your sisters and brothers, where are they now?
- [00:34:48] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: I have two living siblings.
- [00:34:52] JOETTA MIAL: Okay.
- [00:34:52] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: My sister lives in Midland, Michigan and is retired from Dow Chemical Company, and my brother lives here in Ypsilanti and is retired from teaching.
- [00:35:14] JOETTA MIAL: We're going to go on to part four, work and retirement. You mentioned that you had two master's in social work. You've done a lot of things. What was your main field of employment?
- [00:35:56] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: It's difficult to say. [LAUGHTER] I guess I would say social work. When I was teaching at Ferris, I taught social work.
- [00:36:04] JOETTA MIAL: Okay.
- [00:36:05] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: In the School of Social Work there, and at Mercy, I taught social work but primarily I taught child development. My second master's is in child development and family life. Interesting, I worked at a place that's now called Childcare Network in Ann Arbor and got a lot of pullback because at that point I had my master's degree in social work, which was fine, but there were people who raised questions of my child development background and so forth, so I went back to school and got a degree in child development to squelch that. [LAUGHTER] When I went to Ferris, I taught child development and social work. The child development program was actually part of the School of Social Work at Ferris. I guess social work has been part of it all of the time, and teaching social work would still make it part of that. I got interested in social work as a field of elimination, there were few programs that Black women could go into easily back then: education, nursing, or social work. I was not cut out to be a nurse and I wanted to get away from teaching, but you see that I did not, and so I chose social work and I have enjoyed it.
- [00:37:59] JOETTA MIAL: That's good. What made you get interested in social work?
- [00:38:07] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: I don't know. I think the whole notion of being able to help others and to help the community to move to a different level.
- [00:38:17] JOETTA MIAL: It sounds like the social work and the child development all meshed together for good.
- [00:38:25] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: It did. It was a good mix and I have used it all sometimes together, sometimes separately, and for the good of the job.
- [00:38:43] JOETTA MIAL: Okay. Tell me what is the biggest difference in your main field of employment from the time you started to now?
- [00:38:59] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: That's hard for me to say, but I know that my first social work job was at the Department of Social Services in Ann Arbor where I had a caseload of about 75 people, many of whom were Black, and I was 21 years old and didn't have a lot of experience dealing with the same kind of problems. I guess I don't know how to answer that. What was the main difference between then and now? I think that poverty still exists and it's a different level of poverty I think than it was then. It was before without resources; now it's without resources and without hope. Maybe that's the difference.
- [00:40:18] JOETTA MIAL: You said without hope.
- [00:40:20] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Yeah.
- [00:40:21] JOETTA MIAL: What makes you feel that way?
- [00:40:23] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: I see a lot of people who are in situations in the victim role and I see agencies keeping them in the victim role rather than helping them to move forward. Putting band-aids on things.
- [00:40:54] JOETTA MIAL: On things, okay. I want to ask this one question but it depends on which area you were working on. What was a typical workday like for you? You can choose any one you want of your positions.
- [00:41:29] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: My last job was as the director--it was an administrative job--the director of Head Start for Washtenaw County wherein there were 562 children and families served. A typical day might have been the arrival and waiting in the hall for the children to come on the bus. It might have included counseling with parents who were trying to go back to school or who had an issue with something that happened in the school. Then to work with staff and have staff meetings because Head Start was a three-generational program, the child, the family, and change in the community. Then in community meetings of like-minded agencies or people who had the same goals of breaking the cycle of poverty for children and families. Then a night meeting with parents.
- [00:42:37] JOETTA MIAL: You were busy all day and part of the evening?
- [00:42:40] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Well, it was a labor of love.
- [00:42:45] JOETTA MIAL: Well, that will lead me into what did you value most about the work that you did?
- [00:42:55] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: I think touching the families and making a difference with families so that they can make the changes that they needed to make. That would be what I valued most, changing the families and then they can change their communities because as I said, Head Start was a three-generational program. But not many people know that, and they haven't savored it as much. But I think that parents were the key piece to the education of children. If we saw it as that and helped the parents to be able to make changes in their own lives for their children, then they would therefore then change the community which was the goal of Head Start.
- [00:44:01] JOETTA MIAL: Very noble.
- [00:44:03] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Yeah. Well, it's a noble change.
- [00:44:10] JOETTA MIAL: How did life change for you when-- Now, did your husband, had he retired before--?
- [00:44:16] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: No. He did not retire.
- [00:44:19] JOETTA MIAL: He didn't retire. How long have you been retired?
- [00:44:31] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Almost 10 years.
- [00:44:33] JOETTA MIAL: Okay. How did life change for you in retirement?
- [00:44:38] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Well, I think it's much more relaxing and I've done a lot more traveling which I continue to do and just volunteering as I want to getting involved, I should say getting involved as I want to and not as part of the job. I can pick and choose my roles that I want to take on. That's been relaxing and I've been able to catch up with friends more and just enjoy this time.
- [00:45:16] JOETTA MIAL: Well, that's good. I know you've traveled a lot. Tell me about some of your interesting places. I know you've been to Africa.
- [00:45:25] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: I've been to Africa probably about five times, different parts of northern Africa, South Africa, the western coast all of that, and Egypt, of course. I've enjoyed Africa very much. I also have done two around-the-world trips, one by plane and one on a cruise ship. Was actually on another around-the-world cruise trip when the pandemic called us back. I was two and a half months into a six-month itinerary when we had to return home because of the pandemic. Looking forward to doing something like that again when everything's straightened out. [LAUGHTER]
- [00:46:16] JOETTA MIAL: You want to tell me some of the highlights of some of the places that you've been?
- [00:46:22] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: I think I liked Brazil and Argentina quite a bit, they were spicy places to be. Of course liked Africa. Egypt, I found it interesting. I'd long looked forward to seeing the pyramids and things like that. It was interesting to me to find that the pyramids really, were right in the middle of the city. I'd always imagined them out in the desert someplace, but they were in the midst of the city. Trying to think. Japan and China. The Great Wall of China is fascinating to me just because of the historical significance and the fact that it was built so long ago and still stands. I don't know, I've had quite a few adventures and I'm glad to have had them all.
- [00:47:22] JOETTA MIAL: Good for you. [LAUGHTER] Now, when thinking back over your working adult life, what important social or historical events were taking place during the time you were working and how did any of the events personally affect you or your family?
- [00:47:47] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Well, pretty much the same. The Civil Rights Movement was in high gear and the March on Washington was something that happened during that time. I went to the March on Washington. I think I was a little more than a student. Then there was the Children's March on Washington that I also attended some years later. Our family was always pretty much aware and significantly involved. When I was a university student at the University of Michigan for graduate school, the BAM strike happened and I was active in the BAM strike. I think it flavored my education in the School of Social Work as well as the work that I started doing in the community immediately after that with Model Cities because we were able to use a lot of the strategies and things from the BAM strike. [OVERLAPPING]
- [00:49:00] JOETTA MIAL: You mentioned Model Cities. How did it--
- [00:49:02] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: That was my first job after graduate school. Actually, it was my graduate internship first and then I was hired by them. In the community, western Ann Arbor, West Park area, Gott Street, Miller, Miner. I'm not remembering everything right now, but that was our area. That was the Model neighborhood. As part of the Model Cities, we had some opportunities to try to make changes with the youth there, as well as with the community as a whole, with building things and so forth. Having been a part of the BAM strike, we'd learned a lot of strategies for working with people because there was a lot of folks that were not receptive to the Model neighborhood, that whole concept, and were jealous that the Model Cities program and it's board got that kind of money to do that. It had some successes. Basically the medical clinic, Dr. Pierce, up on Summit Street. The childcare center they ran for a number of years, I was part of starting that. There was something called teen outreach. I think that's what it was called, but it was for job programs for teenagers. Those are things that I remember now.
- [00:50:46] JOETTA MIAL: For those who don't know, the concept of Model Cities was what?
- [00:50:51] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: The concept of Model Cities was that in most big cities there were pockets that with a little bit more development, putting in money and resources, it could be developed so that the people within those communities could prosper, and could do well. There were activities in housing, education. I actually believe, Joetta, your husband was involved in that, now that I'm thinking about it, but that's an aside. [LAUGHTER] I can't quite I remember but somehow I think he was.
- [00:51:48] JOETTA MIAL: I think so. [LAUGHTER]
- [00:51:54] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Working with the children and trying to make changes that supported growth from within. It was a wonderful concept and lots of good things got started, but then it changed over after a while. I wrote that grant, and it was just very helpful. The community center was involved, and so it was a good piece of the 60s [NOISE] that helped the Ann Arbor community because it was only in Ann Arbor it was just for Ann Arbor, and the fiduciary was the city hall.
- [00:52:49] JOETTA MIAL: Wow. Looks like we need to bring some of that back.
- [00:52:55] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: It wouldn't hurt. [LAUGHTER] Working from within the community just makes so much sense.
- [00:53:05] JOETTA MIAL: Okay, we're going to go to the last section.
- [00:53:08] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Okay.
- [00:53:11] JOETTA MIAL: Tell me how it's been for you to live in this community.
- [00:53:17] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: I returned to this community, as a matter of fact, I returned to the south side of Ypsilanti after living away and have stayed here for forever. I love being a part of this community. It is not necessarily the best environment in the world. But I think that it's important that people are in the community who can be role models for folks in the community, who get up and go to work every day--and that's not to say that there aren't, there are lots of them--who can talk about the importance of education. Who are part of the community, the church community, the community center, the other things that are important to people or can be and then have a voice in trying to make those things better. If I didn't live here, I'm not sure that I could have the voice that I do have, who can support things, like the Frog Island concerts that just happened, to make things better for the community. I just have appreciated the history, the historians that were part of this community and the lessons that I learned from all of them, so it's been wonderful living in the community. People ask often why didn't you want to move away? Never wanted to move away. Wanted to be here to see things. To help in any way that I could to make things grow, to live as a community, because that's what I was used to when growing up. [NOISE] There are many Black people who live in Ann Arbor or who have lived in Ann Arbor who had their start in Ypsilanti. We were all connected. There were a lot of people in Ypsilanti churches and we lived as one community. When one hurt the other hurt as well. When one had opportunities, everybody helped. Growing up, there was a young lady from the neighborhood who had a great voice and had an opportunity to go and sing in Europe. Nobody, including her parents, working people, had enough money to make that happen for her, but the community did come together and make it happen. There were programs at churches, the Eastern Stars may have been involved, other community organizations, and she got to go and participate in the program in Europe. I went to school on an Eastern Star scholarship. I was very pleased to represent the Eastern Stars, and it was always my [NOISE] goal to make the Eastern Stars proud because they thought of me, to give me a scholarship for all four years, and I went with the blessings of my church community and other people in the community. We stayed in touch with teachers from our elementary school as well as the few Black teachers we had in the high school, and everybody wished you well in whatever you did and was supportive, and you knew that there was a backbone of support that could be very helpful to you and that you would appreciate forever. Did I answer that question?
- [00:57:20] JOETTA MIAL: Yes, you did. We could certainly use that village of support for folks right now.
- [00:57:29] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Yes.
- [00:57:30] JOETTA MIAL: It's so critical.
- [00:57:33] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Yes, and that's the word I was seeking: the village. I grew up in a village that I appreciated, and I wanted to try to be a part of the village for other children younger than me. People younger than me, so.
- [00:57:47] JOETTA MIAL: And you have been.
- [00:57:49] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Thank you.
- [00:57:51] JOETTA MIAL: When thinking back on your entire life, and you've answered some of this, of course. I'll see if it's going to be any different. But what important social historical events had the greatest impact on you? Maybe it's more than one.
- [00:58:15] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Yeah, I think the civil rights marches. I remember when Emmett Till died. I remember thinking about that for the longest time. I guess I'd have to stop there because it's been so many things that happened. May we live in interesting times and I certainly have lived in interesting times. I remember the war in Vietnam and lots of people from our era, some of my high school classmates going to the war, and that kind of thing. It's just been a lot of historical things that I remember.
- [00:59:04] JOETTA MIAL: Well, thank you for those. When thinking back over your entire life, what are you most proud of?
- [00:59:15] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: I'm most proud of the village offerings that I was able to do and the teachings from my parents and my neighborhood that I was able to keep and to impart and to try to make all of them proud of. In my work with the Head Start program in Washtenaw county, I built a building, a state-of-the-art building. I led that program to a program of excellence as noted by the federal government. That was the second time doing that because when I worked in Wayne county I did the same thing in terms of having a program of excellence and I was proud of that whole thing, but I'm more proud of the children, many of whom are now grown up, who I would see or who stopped by the house and say, "Look at me now," or "This is what I'm doing." Children and parents, because it was a two-generational program and I have students from Ferris as well as Mercy who do the same thing. "This is what I'm doing." Some of them are retired. I got a letter from a student I had at Ferris who was retired and said a lot of good things about how they might have hated me as a teacher--or they didn't think that, [LAUGHTER] but had some concerns--but how they now so appreciate doing their work, and as they retire. Those things make me most proud. All I ever wanted to do, I never had ambition for high positions. I just wanted to be good at whatever I was doing at that time, whether it was teaching or social work or anything else, and just to make a difference not for me, but for the people that I served and I always saw it as service, my work as service, because that's what you do in the village. You serve the people.
- [01:01:50] JOETTA MIAL: Well, thank you for all you've done, Pat.
- [01:01:53] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Thank you.
- [01:01:57] JOETTA MIAL: What would you say has changed the most from the time you are a young person to now?
- [01:02:07] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Oh, my gosh. I don't know. No, I don't know. [LAUGHTER]
- [01:02:20] JOETTA MIAL: Okay.
- [01:02:20] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: [OVERLAPPING] I was going to say, the respect that is accorded in conversations to elders and people. Maybe I could just say that.
- [01:02:34] JOETTA MIAL: Okay.
- [01:02:35] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Okay.
- [01:02:37] JOETTA MIAL: All right, couple more last questions. What advice would you give to the younger generation?
- [01:02:48] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: My father used to always say, be yourself and be about the children and families or the communities that you represent and that you serve and know that you're doing service. I'm not good at remembering where it is, but there's a quote, I believe it's biblical, "To whom much is given, much is required." For all of us just to be here, we knew that we were given much not that we were rich, we never were. But we had opportunities that so many people didn't and to take advantage of those opportunities and do the very best that you could. Not in terms of ambition trying to be big-headed or to get the top job or anything like that but because it's a good job, because you need to do a good job. If you do a good job, the rest will come to you because you did a good job, not because you coalesced and that bit or anything else. Just do a good job. All I ever wanted to be was a good social worker, all I ever wanted to be was a good teacher. Things came to me, having done that. There were lots of kicks as well from people who didn't think like that. Just be aware of it and stand your ground. Be true to yourself and be true to everybody else, in terms of standing up for what's right to stand up for. That's a period, I think. [LAUGHTER]
- [01:04:52] JOETTA MIAL: Thank you so much for that. Okay, this is the last one. And this just is asking you, how do you feel about sharing your story, so that folks will be able to view, hear, and read about for the museum that you've just given us? How do you feel about it?
- [01:05:19] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Fine. [LAUGHTER]
- [01:05:25] JOETTA MIAL: Well, I'm very glad that you decided to do it.
- [01:05:28] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Well, I think that Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor history is so intertwined for Black folks that I actually have always thought that more Ypsilanti folks need to be included and I'm glad that y'all asked. I just think that it is so intertwined. People who went to the University of Michigan sometimes stayed in Ypsilanti because they couldn't stay anywhere in Ann Arbor. The churches, lots of people who lived in Ann Arbor, who worked in Ann Arbor lived in Ypsilanti. It's so intertwined. In recent times it's been as if there were a rivalry or something between Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, and that should not be because many of the people in Ann Arbor got their starts in Ypsilanti, though some of them don't want to admit that anymore but that is the fact. That is the fact. [LAUGHTER]
- [01:06:36] JOETTA MIAL: I'm glad you brought that up.
- [01:06:39] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Yeah, I think it's an important piece if we're talking history. I guess I was glad to be asked because I want to be able to say that, among other things, and that everybody in Ypsilanti is not a thug, pitiful, uneducated, any of that. Out of our household of six children my mama got twelve degrees from her children. That's not an unusual story, growing up on what they called the south side. I grew up on a street that produced four lawyers. I just think that people are not aware and it's a different situation because folks did all right. We had great mentors, Mr. Beatty, Maude Odum, a cousin and family member, Maude Odum Forbes. I think that we learned lessons from people who were very learned and very concerned about us as people in the community and being good citizens throughout. We had good groups, the Eastern Stars, the L'Esprit Club, the Emanon Club was a men's club. The masons and all, as well as the church groups that were part of the village that made it so significantly important to grow up and be a supporter, an ongoing supporter.
- [01:08:49] JOETTA MIAL: Thank you. [LAUGHTER]
- [01:08:51] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: Okay.
- [01:08:51] JOETTA MIAL: I'm glad that you answered that last question like you did because people will hear this and I'm so glad that people will be able to view this and get your understanding. So thanks again, Pat.
- [01:09:10] PATRICIA HORNE MCGEE: You're very welcome. Thanks again for asking.
September 7, 2021
Copyright: Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
Rights Held by: Ann Arbor District Library
Perry Elementary School (Ypsilanti)
Ypsilanti High School
Ypsilanti High School - Students
Parkridge Community Center
Second Baptist Church of Ypsilanti
Ferris State College
Wayne County Intermediate School District
Washtenaw County - Headstart Program
Squeeze Inn Drive-In
Black American Community Organizations
Washtenaw County Department of Social Services
Beyer Memorial Hospital
Bortz Health Care Nursing Home
General Motors Corp.
Black Action Movement (BAM)
Naomi Chapter No. 12 - Order of the Eastern Star
LOH Education - Perry School (Ypsilanti)
AACHM Living Oral History
Patricia Horne McGee
Betty Williams Barfield
John W. Barfield
Amos S. Washington
Lawrence C. Perry
Eugene Charles Beatty
Rev. S. L. Roberson
Rev. Garther Roberson
Maude Odum Forbes