Legacies Project Oral History: Titus McClary
Thu, 01/16/2020 - 9:22am
Titus W. McClary was born in 1937 and spent his childhood in Georgetown, South Carolina. After moving to Detroit, he attended Highland Park High School and worked at his uncle’s North End restaurant. During his time in the army in the early 1960s, he picketed a segregated theater and restaurant in Killeen, Texas. In 1965 he became the third Black police officer in Highland Park. McClary ran the juvenile division and helped found a Black officers’ organization. He served as mayor of Highland Park and remained a city council member until he passed away in 2017.
Titus McClary was interviewed by students from Skyline High School in Ann Arbor in 2010 as part of the Legacies Project.
- [00:00:09.12] SPEAKER 1: --idea that you remembered yesterday--
- [00:00:12.86] TITUS MCCLARY: No. If a question comes up, and it's a good story, if I-- and I can expand on it, I'll do that.
- [00:00:19.22] SPEAKER 1: OK. Now we're in the section where we're talking about your youth.
- [00:00:22.76] TITUS MCCLARY: OK.
- [00:00:23.58] SPEAKER 1: Did you go to preschool, and where?
- [00:00:26.04] TITUS MCCLARY: Yeah. I went to Hobcaw County School-- Georgetown County School in Georgetown, South Carolina. Like I indicated yesterday, I started going at 3 years old, to be truthful about it. Because my sisters and my brothers used to babysit me. And when, of course, they had to go to school, and they were babysitting me, they would take me to school with them.
- [00:00:48.54] Of course, in those days, when we went to school, we would take a lunch. You had to take a bag lunch. And I remember the one thing that we all used to take with us was peanut butter and jelly-- peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I still like it today, in fact, because that was one of the staples that we had, and that was peanut butter and jelly and bread. It's amazing. In those days, there was nothing but white bread. We didn't have wheat, and rye, and all those other kinds of bread. We just had one type of bread-- white bread.
- [00:01:20.29] And the only kind of other bread we had in the house at the time was cornbread. Now, we used to cook some cornbread, too. We used to cook cornbread in the regular style of cooking the cornbread, and also fry them in the skillet. And if you've never had fried cornbread or fritters of cornbread, it was good. But we used to do it ourself. Mama didn't do it. We would cook it ourselves.
- [00:01:43.26] Well, I started cooking when I was, what 10, 12 years old, because you had to, because mom and dad was always at work most of the time.
- [00:01:51.67] SPEAKER 1: Did you go to kindergarten?
- [00:01:53.62] TITUS MCCLARY: I started at 3 years old, at 3 years old. When it came time to go to kindergarten, I was finished with kindergarten, because I was listening in to all kids in the class. There was one great big schoolhouse-- I wouldn't say great big, because when I say great big, you think there's a whole bunch of folks. There's only about 20 to 25 students in the whole schoolhouse. That's all it was.
- [00:02:18.69] And of course the different grade levels. So the teacher taught grades kindergarten through-- I believe, through 7. Kindergarten through 7. Kindergarten through 7, she taught all those grades. And after you got to the age of the seventh grade, at eighth grade you went into the nearest town to go to the eighth grade. And which was, again, there was a segregated school that my brothers--
- [00:02:50.64] I didn't get a chance to go to it because I was younger than my older one sister and my older two brothers. But they got a chance to go to that school because they were in eighth grade, and ninth grade and 10th grade.
- [00:03:06.93] Well, when I got to the eighth grade, I started going to that high school in Georgetown, in the eighth grade. But then we moved to Detroit. We moved to Detroit. Then I started going to Greusel Intermediate School in the city of Detroit. But prior moving to Detroit and going to Greusel Intermediate, I was taught in a one-room schoolhouse, one teacher, Mrs. [INAUDIBLE]. And she was in command of all the grades, kindergarten through seventh grade.
- [00:03:43.17] SPEAKER 1: You said yesterday they you went to Highland Park High School, correct?
- [00:03:46.32] TITUS MCCLARY: That's correct.
- [00:03:47.43] SPEAKER 1: Do you remember what it was like, not just the different things, like you said, the [INAUDIBLE] and whatnot before, but how was the school system set up? Do you remember?
- [00:03:57.48] TITUS MCCLARY: --time when I was going there. In fact, of course, we competed with Cass Technical High School. Because Cass Tech was one of the best schools in the state of Michigan, as they were indicating. And Highland Park would usually-- we used to always tell them folks from Cass Tech, oh, we better than y'all.
- [00:04:15.08] In fact, I was part of the debate team. Also, when I first started going to Highland Park, and before I stopped, I had a terrible speech impediment. I used to stutter all the time. And so the teachers-- also my mother, too, my mother helped me to get rid of my fears. Because my studying fear was my fear of feeling, fear of not saying the right word, fear of just looking to be-- looked like an idiot, I guess. I was fearful of that. And that's what caused me to stutter, and not say the words that was meant to be.
- [00:04:59.26] And I had a knack of changing words. Because certain words, I couldn't say because of my speech impediment. Then I would learn other words that I can substitute. And that's what helped my vocabulary immensely, by being able to substitute words for the words that I couldn't speak clearly.
- [00:05:23.59] SPEAKER 1: What colleges did you go to, if there's more than one?
- [00:05:26.31] TITUS MCCLARY: Well, my very first college was Allen University in Columbia, South Carolina. It's a small black college. And my uncle was on the board. And he was the minister at the-- it's an AME school, African Methodist Episcopal school. And he was on the board, and he was the minister down in that area. And so of course he had convinced that we had to go to Allen University.
- [00:05:51.10] And I went there in August of 1955. And that's where I was at until December. I came home for Christmas. I came home for Christmas in December. And that was the year that they had the sit-in at the black-- at the lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, when the kids were beaten, and arrested, and so forth. And so my mama wouldn't let me go back down south. She said, no, you go back down there, you'll get killed. So that was the year after Emmett Till was murdered in Mississippi, et cetera.
- [00:06:37.78] So when I came home in December of 1955, I never went back. So I then started Highland Park Community College in January of 1956. And I went to Highland Park Community College, which is a two-year college. And I dropped out of school. After attending Highland Park College, I dropped out of school, and got myself a job.
- [00:07:00.88] What I did was got a job and bought myself a car. And I bought a car. And that car made me have to work to pay for it. That was the worst mistake I ever made in my life. But at the time, I thought it was the best thing I can do, because I bought myself a car. I had a job. I mean, I was on the ball now. So I bought a car, and I had to start working to pay for that car. Of course I didn't go back to school until-- I didn't go back to school until 1950-- went in '55 and '56, didn't go back in '57 or whatever. So I dropped out of school. And then I got a job, and got working.
- [00:07:37.84] So then I met my wife, my first wife, met my first wife, and I got married. And then after I got married, I was working. And then, after I got married, of course we lived together for a while. And then I was drafted into the army. With that, what happened on the draft to the Army, they drafted me into the Army, and I didn't want to go. I didn't want to go. So I went down and I told them that my wife was pregnant. But she was, she was. And I-- they was not going to draft someone if their wife was pregnant or they had a child.
- [00:08:21.88] So I told them my wife was pregnant. And they told me, they said, OK, bring in the proof. So I went and got the proof, and I took it in. They said, it's too late. We've already got you to go to the Army.
- [00:08:33.08] And so they drafted me into the Army. And this was in 1961. And I went into the Army. And I spent two years there. Two years I spent into the Army, which was-- I thought it was a good life. There was a lot of things happened to me when I was in the Army.
- [00:08:48.30] You want me to go on with the Army story, or you want to change subjects? But anyway, when I was in the Army, I first went to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. And I was in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, and we had basic training. And I came home for Christmas. When I came home for Christmas, my wife, who was pregnant-- and I was home for Christmas, and we went out on New Year's Eve, my wife and I, and her parents. We went out to a New Year's Eve party. While we was at the New Year's Eve party, my wife says, I think the baby's coming.
- [00:09:25.87] So we left the New Year's Eve party. Here I am in a tuxedo. My wife's all dressed up. We left the New Year's Eve party and went to the hospital, Highland Park General Hospital. And I sat there all day on New Year's Day, until the next morning, when my son was born. My son, my oldest child, was born on January the 2nd of 1962.
- [00:09:52.10] Now, he was born on January the 2nd. January the 2nd, I was scheduled to be back in Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. I was scheduled to be back with the Army. But I didn't go back because my child was being born, and I thought this was more important. So I tried to call Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, to let them know that, listen, I'm coming back as soon as I can.
- [00:10:16.09] So after my son was born on January 2nd, the very next day, I got on a bus and I rode back to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. When I got back to For Leonard Wood, Missouri, the captain called me into his office. I was in big trouble. I was AWOL. I was AWOL for my duties with the Army. He called me into the office. And he started telling me that he's going to charge me with desertion, and all this kind of good stuff.
- [00:10:45.59] And we talked, and talked, and talked, and talked. And he's going to write me up and give me an article 15. Article 15 means that you are written up on a charge, and you can be charged, and put in the stockade, or whatever it may be.
- [00:10:58.13] And we talked for a while. And I said to the captain-- and he gave me a chance to say something-- and I says, while I was home, your brother sent message to you to tell you hello. And he didn't know that I knew his brother back in Detroit. He said, you know my brother? I said, yes. His name was Captain Foster. And his brother lived in Highland Park, on West Grand, at the time. And his brother's wife used to be my administrator when I worked at Highland Park General Hospital. His wife used to be my boss. And so I told the captain that I know his brother, and knew his sister-in-law, and all this good stuff.
- [00:11:43.49] (WHISPERING) I was let off, completely let off. He said, go and do your thing. Take care. Take care. You got it.
- [00:11:50.57] Anyway, I spent two years in the Army. But more so than just spending two years in the Army, I was in Fort Leonard Wood Missouri at first. And after basic training, after you're trained, you are sent to advanced training to some other unit, some other place. Well, since I had been working as a cook at Highland Park General Hospital, they didn't send me for advanced training, because I had training as a cook. So they put me right in to being a cook. So I went to Fort Hood, Texas as a cook. So I didn't have to go to advanced training for that. I just started working in the kitchen and doing cooking, cooking for the soldiers that was there.
- [00:12:35.00] And Fort Hood, Texas is right outside a little town called Killeen, Texas. Killeen, Texas had-- or maybe I think it was-- they had a theater, and they also had a drive-in theater. But they had a theater. And at the theater, the white folks sat downstairs, and the black folks sat upstairs. And so all the black folks have to go upstairs, and all the white folks have to go downstairs.
- [00:13:07.93] But if you were a Spaniard, and if you were a Mexican, and if you were from South America, and even if you were black as I am and you spoke Spanish, you get to sit downstairs. So what we all did, we learned how to speak Spanish, we learned how to ask for our ticket in Spanish. And we would ask for our ticket in Spanish, they'd let you in.
- [00:13:33.34] Well, I thought that was discrimination. I mean, that is true discrimination. I mean, you can't tell me that's not discrimination. So being a soldier, and on an Army base-- we went off an Army base. And me and my people that I got together, we picket the theater. We picket the theater in Killeen, Texas, in 1963. We picketed the theater. So what do you think they did there?
- [00:14:03.42] SPEAKER 1: They got mad.
- [00:14:04.80] TITUS MCCLARY: (LOUDLY) They put me in jail. I'll never forget-- the officers came out and said we could not do it. They put me in jail-- not just me-- put me and I think it was five other folks, all told, of us. Because we was the ringleaders, they said. They put us in jail.
- [00:14:24.49] And well, after they put us in jail, since we were soldiers, they had the notified the Army base that we have your soldiers in jail. So one of the attorneys from the adjunct general came and got us out, and marched us back, and took us back to the post, and of course give us the three degree-- don't do that. You know where you are. You understand where you are. You in the south. You've got to act like you in the south, and all that good stuff.
- [00:14:52.22] What happened, there soldier in my outfit named-- I can't think of his-- I think it was Millano from New York. He had went to law school. And he had dropped out of law school, but he had been to law school. He was not an attorney, but he knew the law. And he took up our case. And we got off spot free. Back in the day.
- [00:15:21.91] I tell you, a funny thing happened in Killeen, Texas. We were-- you go by the restaurant. The restaurant, after we picketed-- we'd picket this after we had picketed the theater. So they had start letting-- but first, we go back, the first time I went there, and they said that we couldn't eat into the restaurant. We couldn't sit down at the booth because we were black.
- [00:15:48.03] And so they finally let us in at the booth to sit down. And at the restaurant, they had a big sign on the window of the restaurant, says T-bone-- that's what it says-- T-bone, $0.59, with meat, T-bone dinner. T-bone dinner, $0.59. Then with small letters, it said, with meat, $1.59.
- [00:16:16.78] What you're saying is that they were selling T-bone steak dinner for $1.59. But they advertise it as $0.59 in the big letters-- T-bone, $0.59. In the small letters, they put, with meat, $1.59.
- [00:16:32.80] So we all took $0.60 in our pockets, it was about four-- my fellows again, four of us. We had only $0.60, $0.60. So we go to the restaurant. And we were specific-- we were specific. We ordered a T-bone dinner. We were specific not to say-- no, never-- so we ordered a T-bone dinner. So they brought us out the T-bone steak, and we ate it.
- [00:16:59.80] [CHUCKLES]
- [00:17:01.71] And then, after we gave them the $0.60, because that's when it said on the sign on the window. And they says, no. They call the police again. Here comes the same police as-- not to same ones, but different policemen come back again and tell us that, you have to pay. You go to jail. And we said, no. We argued about it there again. Here come the folks from the Army, had to come out and get us out of the jail again.
- [00:17:23.57] [CHUCKLES]
- [00:17:24.35] Put us in jail again. Because we was doing exactly what they advertised. We knew it wasn't right, looking back on it. I knew it. But we did it for a cause. It was really for a cause. We knew we were going to jail, too.
- [00:17:45.08] Now, I'll tell you why that happened in 1963. If you go back and think about it, why it happened in 1963, is because in 1963 when they had the march in Washington, DC, but before the march, Martin Luther King's March in 1963, "I Have a Dream" march, you had it in Detroit in April 1963. And then they had it in Washington DC in August of 1963.
- [00:18:14.92] Well, we had to do something-- we had to express ourselves some way, too, in Texas. So we did that in Texas. It was me and a big guy. One of the persons with me was Collin. His last name was Collin. He was 6 foot 6. He was a big, big fella. And another guy, his name was Taylor. And another guy named Polite. Polite was from Texas-- I mean, from Florida. But he taught me how to play golf. And I love golf till today, because he taught me that.
- [00:18:48.18] I had a good time in the Army.
- [00:18:53.89] SPEAKER 1: Going back to your school days, when you were in high school, you said before that you boxed and that you were on the debate team. But did you ever do any other sports or activities outside of school besides that?
- [00:19:06.15] TITUS MCCLARY: Yeah, outside, in the intramural sports, I played basketball. I was the shortest guy on the team. I was the last one to be picked by anybody. I'd sit back, waiting, hope somebody would pick me for their team. I was the last one to be picked.
- [00:19:20.14] But once, we played an intramural game-- in Highland Park, it was the Willard side and the Angell School side. And the Angell School side, we was the weak side of town. And the Willard School side, they had good basketball players.
- [00:19:35.59] So the championship game was being played at the Highland Park High School. And we were the intramural team. And Willard School was supposed to beat us. And almost the last shot of the game, I threw a hook shot up. I'll never forget it. My basket went in. We won the game. But we didn't win the fight.
- [00:19:56.99] [CHUCKLES]
- [00:20:01.25] Do you understand what I'm saying? We won the game, but we didn't win the fight.
- [00:20:10.91] You laugh if you want to, but that-- hey, that's life. You win some, you lose some.
- [00:20:16.92] [CHUCKLES]
- [00:20:22.60] SPEAKER 1: As an alumni from Highland Park, what about your experience going to Highland Park-- what about it as you know it from when you were in school is different from as you see it today?
- [00:20:36.23] TITUS MCCLARY: Oh, there's much different now. My goodness, when I graduated from Highland Park High School, there was over 300 students in my graduating class-- over 300. Now I think it's about 120, 120 students total in the graduating class at the Highland Park High School.
- [00:20:57.74] When I went to Highland Park High School, there were-- hm, I would care to say they were at least close to 4,000 students in the building in the high school building. And now it's less than 1,000.
- [00:21:22.21] In 1977, I ran for the school board to become a member of the Highland Park School Board. And I was elected to that position in 1977. And at the time, we had almost 7,000 students in our school district. And as it stands right now, we have less than 2,000 students in the whole school system.
- [00:21:48.87] And when we opened the Highland Park Community High School on Woodward in 2000-- no, in 1977. In 1977 we opened the new high school on Woodward Avenue in Highland Park, September 1977. We had over 1,800 students in that building, for students. And with the teachers and the maintenance employees, security, and other auxiliary employees of the district, we had over 2,400 students in that building at one time. It was a huge building. Now there's less than 1,000.
- [00:22:31.12] So what's the difference? The difference is the size of the community. The community is much smaller now than it used to be.
- [00:22:41.26] SPEAKER 1: As an old member of the Highland Park Alumni, are you disappointed about the different drastic changes they've made?
- [00:22:47.65] TITUS MCCLARY: No, I'm not disappointed. I mean, this is going to happen, not just in Highland Park, but all over the world. I mean, it's going to happen everywhere. Just the same thing's happening in the city of Detroit. The same thing's happening in other communities.
- [00:23:02.83] When you find new-- same thing happened, you go get your history book, and go back and say, what happened in Nineveh? You know, you can't even find that on the map anymore, and different countries. Because we move forward. We improve. We improve our status.
- [00:23:25.27] The same thing happened in Highland Park, is that when-- after 1968, and we had riots in Highland Park after Martin Luther King was killed. And the riots that we had, well, soon thereafterward, we had what is known as white flight. Most of the white folks left the city. White folks left. And we have black people who consider that they are middle class. They are middle class as well. And they themself leave.
- [00:24:04.39] And if they can afford to buy a house in suburbia, they did just that. They did just that. And they moved. And they ran, too. So who were they running from? They was running from you and me. They was running from themself. Now, how far can you run? How far could you run?
- [00:24:22.54] But just like we had white flight, we also had black flight, people who thought they was a little bit better than their neighbor. They had a neighbor that they thought that was not keeping up their lawn, not keeping up their house, not keeping up their kids, et cetera. And so they moved out. And that's the same thing happening in Highland Park that had happened in other communities.
- [00:24:51.24] SPEAKER 1: Could you describe some popular music from your years?
- [00:24:54.10] TITUS MCCLARY: Sure. It's amazing, I remember the first time that I heard-- I went to see James Brown. And he was singing, (SINGING IN PLAINTIVE TRIPLETS) Please, ple-e-ase, pl-e-ase, ple-e-ase.
- [00:25:08.19] I thought that was dynamic. But that was James Brown. And Etta James, she's-- in fact, Beyonce just made a thing about Etta James, or maybe made a movie concerning Etta James. Percy Mayfield, you probably never heard that name before. He was very popular in the blues area. And that-- Billy Ward and the Dominoes, when they was singing.
- [00:25:44.50] Jackie Wilson was a friend of mine. Jackie Wilson lived in Highland Park. Ever heard of Jackie Wilson? Yeah, maybe not. But he sang a lot of records. And he lived in Highland Park. In fact, he was a boxer as well. He boxed as well. He was a boxer. But those are some of them, yeah.
- [00:26:06.10] SPEAKER 1: Did the music have any special dances to it? Like, you know--
- [00:26:09.22] TITUS MCCLARY: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. I used to try to do them all. I used to do The Chicken, the Mashed Potato, the-- you name it, I used to do it.
- [00:26:21.79] I have a brother. I have a brother, Earl. He was a good dancer. I used to always want to dance like him, because he was good. I mean, anytime you go to a dance, the girls would always gravitate to my brother Earl. And I used to go, man, you got to show me how you do that, babe.
- [00:26:35.81] [CHUCKLES]
- [00:26:36.68] But he used to do all kind of dances. And he was good. I still love-- he lives in Buffalo, New York now. But when we used to go to dances and stuff together, he was good. I used to just go down with him. Because if two or three girls come to get him to dance, I mean, he only danced with one. I could get the other one. I wasn't no dummy.
- [00:27:00.48] [CHUCKLES]
- [00:27:02.80] I just looked dumb. I wasn't dumb.
- [00:27:04.93] [CHUCKLES]
- [00:27:10.64] SPEAKER 1: What were some popular clothing styles and hairstyles from your day?
- [00:27:14.91] TITUS MCCLARY: Believe it or not, we-- I'll never forget when the Bermuda shorts came out. You probably never heard of that term, Bermuda shorts. In South America, in Bermuda, folks used to wear shorts all the time. So they finally started wearing them in the United States. And everyone referred to them as Bermuda shorts, which were short pants, comes down to your knee-- right down to your knee. Bermuda shorts. That was popular. I had to get me some Bermuda shorts. And I did.
- [00:27:44.35] I even wore some Bermuda shorts with suspenders, some Bermuda shorts with suspenders. It was the style, baby. It was good, you know? I was in style. I was doing my thing.
- [00:27:57.08] [CHUCKLES]
- [00:28:00.90] SPEAKER 1: Can you describe any other fads or styles from the era besides that?
- [00:28:06.30] TITUS MCCLARY: Well, bell bottoms came out later. That was after. Bell bottom pants, you know the pants made, and it goes down like a bell at the bottom? These big, wide, bell bottom pants. Those were popular. Everybody wore bell bottoms.
- [00:28:25.40] SPEAKER 1: What are some slang terms that were used back then that you don't hear very often being used now?
- [00:28:33.12] TITUS MCCLARY: Well, everybody used to say what Ray Charles used to say-- you know, hit the road, Jack. I can't think of any right now. But hit the road, Jack, was one of them.
- [00:28:48.87] SPEAKER 1: Now was there anything that you would like to add on to yesterday's--
- [00:28:53.05] TITUS MCCLARY: Add on to what?
- [00:28:54.75] SPEAKER 1: As far as anything that--
- [00:28:56.04] TITUS MCCLARY: Where did I leave off? I can't recall.
- [00:28:57.66] SPEAKER 1: You left off at talking about--
- [00:29:07.45] TITUS MCCLARY: And the dances we used to do. Which we used to do the-- I guess, of course, being a shy person at the time, I was afraid to go and ask a girl to dance slowly. I was afraid. So we used to do The Chicken, and the Hully Gully. You ever heard of that? And dances like that, where I can do it by myself, without really have to hold a girl's hand.
- [00:29:34.63] But when I got older, of course, when I got older and I got enough nerve built up in me, and the lights are down low, where my boys-- where the boys couldn't see me dance-- you know, you didn't want the boys to see you dance, your fellows. But you want the girls to see you dance. Because the girls see you dance, then when you go to ask them to dance, then they said, OK, I'll dance. But if you can't dance good, you want the lights to be down low so no one can see you, but you can dance, and then smooth, you can do that.
- [00:30:06.90] Yes, I used to like that. I used to like that very much.
- [00:30:11.21] As a teenager, do you remember any special traditions or foods that you guys ate, just for the sake of tradition, like at Christmas or certain times?
- [00:30:20.28] No, not really. We had the regular food. I mean, it's amazing that we did not have meat on our plate every day. We would have a lot of vegetables, a lot of rice, a lot of beans, and tomatoes, and potatoes. But not like a pork chop, or a lamb chop, or a steak. We didn't have meat everyday at all.
- [00:30:49.24] But on the weekends, we'd get to have meat. But most of time, we had chickens. And when I lived out in the country, we raised chickens. And so we raised chickens. On the weekend, when you'd kill a chicken-- if my mom says, OK, go kill a chicken, we'd go outside, go to the chicken coop, and we'd kill a chicken.
- [00:31:16.93] [CHUCKLES]
- [00:31:18.19] It used to be-- the first time, I remember, first time I saw my older brothers kill a chicken, I was scared to death. I was scared to death. Because they chopped the chicken head's off the chicken. And put the-- you know, one hold the chicken, and they chopped the head of the chicken off. And the chicken was still running around-- (SHOUTING) with no head! No head, but the chicken was running around. And of course
- [00:31:43.70] I was afraid out of my life. But as I got older, then I have to do the same thing. We have to kill a chicken. And then we have to pick all the feathers off from the chicken. So how do you pick all the feathers off the chicken? You get some hot water. You put the chicken in some hot water, and you pick all the feathers off it.
- [00:32:00.61] You ever seen a chicken cleaned? You never know how it's done. You get some hot water, pour it all over the chicken, and then you pick all the feathers off by hand. That's how we used to do it. It was not fun. But if you want a chicken dinner, you do that. That's what we did.
- [00:32:21.35] In school years, were there any-- as you were going to Highland Park High School, was there any historic events that you can remember that happened as you were at Highland Park?
- [00:32:31.76] No, not really. Well, no, no. The only thing that I remember when I was in high school that-- I remember Eisenhower being elected president. And of course, we had to do a civic paper from the civic class. I remember that much. I remember when he was elected president-- and I remember Truman being the president, too, Harry Truman being the president. And then Eisenhower-- I remember when he was elected President, when Dwight Eisenhower was elected president. Because it was a time when we had to do a civic paper on his election. And that's when I became knowledgeable about elections. Until that time, I was not.
- [00:33:25.66] Thank you. That ends our segment of speaking about your teenage years. Now we going to move on to your young adult and marriage, and your family life.
- [00:33:34.11] OK.
- [00:33:37.21] After you finished high school, where did you go first? After I finished high school, I was trying to get myself a job. No, let me tell you a story about finishing high school, now. In high school, I took machine shop. And traditionally, when you took machine shop, the top student in that class got a job with Ford Motor Company in Highland Park. So my shop teacher was Mr. Conway. Since I was his top student, I was then recommended to Ford Motor Company to go into the tool and die, a Journeyman program. That's what I was recommended by the top-- from my teacher in Highland Park High School.
- [00:34:27.80] So I got the letter, and got the form, and I went over to Ford Motor Company, which was located in Highland Park at the time, with my letter, to let them know that I was sent over from the school district to start the journeyman program in the tool and die.
- [00:34:47.11] My name was McClary, meaning that they didn't know that I was black until I got there. So when I got there and they saw that I was black, they have to find a reason that I could not start the program.
- [00:35:04.81] So first they says, you need to bring your birth certificate. So I took the birth certificate. When they saw the birth certificate, they saw I was 17.
- [00:35:14.83] So they says, you've got to be 18 before you can start the program. And so that way, I couldn't start the program in September of 2005 because I was only 17, and you had to be 18 to start the program. So that's when I went off to college instead of that.
- [00:35:37.56] Even when I became 18-- of course, when I became 18, it means that I thought that I would become eligible for it when I turned 18. But then they says, no, you've missed your chance. Because if you didn't start it when you was recommended by your school, you can't start it now.
- [00:35:54.36] So really it was discrimination. They didn't want a black person. They didn't know what I was black until they saw me face to face.
- [00:36:04.05] SPEAKER 1: So if you didn't go to the program with General Motors, where did you live?
- [00:36:08.97] TITUS MCCLARY: It was the Ford Motor Company. It wasn't--
- [00:36:10.42] SPEAKER 1: Ford Motor--
- [00:36:10.65] TITUS MCCLARY: Ford Motor Company, not the General Motors. Ford Motor Company, right there in Highland Park. Ford Motor Company in Highland Park is where Ford Motor started its production-- started its assembly line-- that's the home of the assembly line in Highland Park in 1916. And so this was-- of course, when I graduated from high school, it was 1955. But still Ford was known for its production line that started in Highland Park.
- [00:36:37.77] And so where did I go to? I went to school, like I indicated, went to school in the South, before one-- didn't even complete the semester because of the racist atmosphere that was going on at the time. So I came home for Christmas, I never went back to school down in the south. And so I went to Highland Park Community High School.
- [00:36:56.91] And then I told you the story about me getting a job and buying a car. And I got-- and I became a slave to my car. I became a slave to my car. I had to pay for it. So I had to pay for my car. I mean, I had to work. Because there's no if, and, and but about it. I had to work. And if I had to work, that meant I couldn't go to school and work. So I worked.
- [00:37:22.56] SPEAKER 1:
- [00:37:22.80] TITUS MCCLARY: OK, what type of jobs did you do ask you worked?
- [00:37:26.05] My first job was at a supermarket, where I was working as-- just stocking, putting food on the shelves, stocking the food on the shelf for the supermarket. And I did that.
- [00:37:42.59] Now, what I did before that, back when I was in high school, in 1952, I worked in my uncle's. My uncle had a car wash and a shoeshine parlor. And I worked there. I shined shoes, I washed cars, and I did anything else to make money.
- [00:38:02.89] Eventually my uncle also bought a restaurant on Beaubien and Bethune. And he had a restaurant there. So I had to wash cars. And I even washed dishes in his restaurant to make money, in his restaurant. And in fact, it got to the point where I did more than just wash dishes. If somebody-- if the cook didn't come and show up, I would help out cooking. And I would do anything to make the restaurant survive.
- [00:38:31.39] And I remember a lot of folks used to come into the restaurant. And especially it was in the area-- right across the street from the restaurant was a nightclub, on Beaubien and Bethune. And folks would be drinking at the nightclub or whatever they may be doing. And they would come over to the restaurant and eat. And I used to have lot of fun there, doing that, helping-- feeding the people, and hearing stories, and et cetera.
- [00:39:00.68] SPEAKER 1: Where did you meet your first wife? How did it come about that you two got married.
- [00:39:05.35] TITUS MCCLARY: Oh, my first wife. Hey. One Sunday morning, I was on my way to church. And my wife-- a lady at that time was walking on the street, and she asks me that she wanted to find this girl--
- [00:39:29.12] --doing here. My wife-to-be wanted to find what house she lived in. I had no idea who she was. I had never seen her before in my life. And I told her, I says, well, if you walk-- and I told her to go down the street and ask somebody, whatever--
- [00:39:49.61] But anyway, I went to church. And when I came home from church, she was sitting up in my house, the same girl that I had talked to that morning. Well, you know, I see a girl. She was cute. She was cute. Cute, little button. Cute as a button.
- [00:40:06.00] And so I went to church, and I thought, ah, that's a cute little girl. And so I went to church, and I thought about her. And I thought of nothing else. And I went home, she was there. And that's how I met her. She came over to my house for my sister, to do her hair.
- [00:40:24.05] SPEAKER 1: So from that point, you two dated, and--
- [00:40:26.14] TITUS MCCLARY: Yes.
- [00:40:27.30] SPEAKER 1: --the rest is history.
- [00:40:28.25] TITUS MCCLARY: Yes. History. I must have been 19 at the time. And she must have been 19. No, wait, she's-- no, I must have been 20 and she was 17, because I was three years older than she was, yeah, yeah.
- [00:40:47.03] Well, wait a minute now. I can't-- it's somewhere in that area. Because we got married when she was 18 and I was 21. I couldn't wait. I said, hey, this is it.
- [00:41:03.20] SPEAKER 1: Did you two have any children together?
- [00:41:05.67] TITUS MCCLARY: Sure. Sure, we had two. We had two children. My wife, her name was Betty, Betty Shelby. She moved to Detroit from Louisville, Kentucky. And she had just moved into Highland Park when she was in search of my sister to get her hair done. She had just moved into Highland Park. And she didn't know a lot of folks in Highland Park at the time.
- [00:41:34.34] And so we had-- like I indicated, my son who was born on January the 2nd. That was our first child. And then my daughter, (REFERRING TO PEOPLE OFFSCREEN) their mother, was born on December the 17th in 1965. I had been in the-- between the two times, when my son was born, I was I was in the Army, and I went back to the Army, and I served my period of time. And my wife and my son came and lived with me in Texas for a little while. We lived in a trailer, a trailer park, for a little while.
- [00:42:09.78] And she came back. After the stayed with me for a little while, they came back to Detroit. And she went back-- she started working, then, for General Motors. Because when I came home, she had bought a brand-new car, brand-new Chevrolet. I said, whoa. We was doing pretty good. We was doing pretty good when I got home.
- [00:42:33.71] And that was in 1962 when my son was born. Then, in 1965, I had become a police officer. And I was a police officer in the city of Highland Park. And my wife called me on December the 17th. And she said, pick me up because I need to go to the hospital. I was in the squad car working when she called. She didn't call me directly, because I didn't have cell phones then. She called the police desk. She called the police station. And they indicated to me by radio. My radio says, meet your wife at-- I think it was 235 Courtland. She needed to be picked up and taken to the hospital.
- [00:43:21.66] So I went over there and picked up my wife, too her down to Henry Ford Hospital, rush her into the emergency. And I'm all frightened as can be-- oh, my God, what's going to happen here? And I took her. And of course I had a partner with me as well. And I waited and waited at the hospital until my daughter was born.
- [00:43:45.36] She was born right-- I was supposed to get off from work at 11 o'clock. That's when I was supposed to get off from work. So I waited at the hospital until about 10 minutes to 11:00. And I rush back to Highland Park, turn in my gear, jumped in my own car, and rushed back to the hospital. Now, I got back to Henry Ford Hospital, rushed up to the emergency room, to the birthing center at the time, to the birthing center.
- [00:44:11.10] Got there. As soon as I got there, here come little Millicent. 5 pounds, 2 ounces, that's what she weighed when she was born, 5 pounds, 2 ounces. (REFERRING TO PEOPLE OFFSCREEN) Now, they were bigger when they were born.
- [00:44:24.07] [CHUCKLES]
- [00:44:24.74] A little bit bigger. But my daughter was 5 pounds, 2 ounces. Cutest little thing in the world.
- [00:44:33.62] SPEAKER 1: Growing up with your two children, how was it raising them?
- [00:44:38.82] TITUS MCCLARY: It was good. It was good. It was good. I was with my first wife until my daughter was 10. That means my son was about 12, 13. Then we separated. We separated. And so I still had a good relationship with my kids, because even on Christmases and holidays, they would be over to my house. And they would even-- I had a good relationship with them.
- [00:45:17.25] There's not one time-- and I'm proud of this-- people say, what the heck, but I'm proud that there never was one time that my ex-wife had to go to court to make me pay child support, not one time. My child support was always ahead of time.
- [00:45:38.05] SPEAKER 1: You were married twice, correct?
- [00:45:39.81] TITUS MCCLARY: Yes. I'm with my second wife now. My first wife died in 2000. When she died, right? Was it 2000? I think I was in 2000 my first wife died, which would be my grandkids' grandmother. And I live with my second wife. We have been married since 1974. On September the 14th it will be our 36th anniversary.
- [00:46:15.86] SPEAKER 1: Good. So you and your second wife, how did you two meet?
- [00:46:24.82] TITUS MCCLARY: She was working at Highland Park Municipal Court. And I was a police officer, and going in--
- [00:46:35.26] --talked to people. And so that's how we met. She was a court officer. I mean, she was a court employee, and I was a police officer. So I met her that way.
- [00:46:46.98] SPEAKER 1: What did your family do when you were married with your first wife-- and your second wife-- what did your families do to have fun, like, to keep the family spirit together, per se?
- [00:46:58.41] TITUS MCCLARY: Well, my whole family? We have a big family.
- [00:47:01.06] SPEAKER 1: No, I mean your--
- [00:47:04.06] TITUS MCCLARY: My nucleus family, my small family. We did a lot of things. I remember, even when my first wife and I were separated, and I was with my second wife, and I took my kids, and we had to pick up the kids from my wife during the summer. And we would go up to Mackinaw, and go up to Sault Sainte Marie. We went the whole way to Sault Sainte Marie. We went to-- just traveled. Did a lot of different things.
- [00:47:33.62] SPEAKER 1: Were there any traditions that you practiced with your nucleus family, compared to anything that was different when you were a child?
- [00:47:41.57] TITUS MCCLARY: No, not really. You just do the-- we did normal stuff, nothing special. To me, it was just stuff we do, just normal stuff.
- [00:47:53.27] SPEAKER 1: As an adult at the time, do you remember, as I asked before, any music, hairstyles, or anything that was different?
- [00:48:00.78] TITUS MCCLARY: No, not really.
- [00:48:02.19] SPEAKER 1: So pretty much at that time, everything was all the same?
- [00:48:04.89] TITUS MCCLARY: Oh, yes.
- [00:48:06.28] SPEAKER 1: At that time period, was there any historic events that happened?
- [00:48:11.73] TITUS MCCLARY: As I indicated, the only thing historic that happened when I was in the Army was the March in Detroit that I couldn't attend, and also the March in Washington, DC, by Martin Luther King, that I thought was-- and it was the time of turmoil, especially, that was going on in the country. Everything was happening.
- [00:48:36.61] The only thing important to me was the time when I was in the Army, and we were stationed in Fort Hood, Texas. And then the Cuban crisis took place in 1962, in Cuba, and in November of 1962, to be exact about it, November of 1962. And we were getting ready to invade Cuba. And I was on the ship, when the ship was being shipped over to Cuba. And it was in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean when President Kennedy stopped the invasion.
- [00:49:19.22] I'll tell you one thing about that. Prior to going on the ship, going over to Cuba, I was a cook in the United States Army at Fort Hood, Texas. And then we were transferred to Fort Hood, Texas to Fort Stewart, Georgia, awaiting our invasion of Cuba.
- [00:49:37.78] And while I was at Fort Stewart, Georgia, everybody was saying, President Kennedy is coming to the base. So President Kennedy is coming to our mess hall to have coffee and cake. And so we had to cook. We had to prep. While we were making preparations for President Kennedy to get there, a lot of Secret Service men came. They watched us make the coffee. They watched us cook the food. I mean, all the Secret Service men was all around. When President Kennedy first-- and then when he finally got there, he was only there about, I would say, 20 minutes at the most. You know, he came, and talked, and everybody-- first, he came and talked to the troops. And then he came into our mess tent to have coffee and-- I think it was coffee and cake. I think it was cake, whatever it was.
- [00:50:32.61] But the Secret Service man scared the hell out of you. They scared me. Because I didn't know why there was so many of them there making sure that we do everything right. This was because the president was coming.
- [00:50:47.29] SPEAKER 1: Thank you. That concludes our segment on your adult life. And now we will move on to working and retirement life.
- [00:50:55.12] TITUS MCCLARY: All right.
- [00:50:57.22] SPEAKER 1: What was your main field of employment? How did you get started in this profession and/or job? And what got you interested in it?
- [00:51:03.51] TITUS MCCLARY: Well, I had a big brother. My brother, Robert McClary, was a fireman. And I wanted to be a fireman. So I went and took the tests with the city of Highland Park to become a fireman. And there were-- I think there were about 50 people taking the test. Out of the 50 people who took the test, there were 15 of us who were of color. Out of the 15 of us who took the test, us of who were of color took the test, I was the only person to pass the tests, the only person of color to pass the test.
- [00:51:50.13] And since I was the only person that passed the test, I wanted to be a fireman. So they didn't know that I was-- again, they didn't know that that I was black, because the name was McClary. And they called me in for the oral interview after the test, and were they surprised? Yes, they were surprised. But they had already certified me as passing the test.
- [00:52:17.98] So then they says that I was too light. At the time, I was a weight where they have to-- the minimum weight to become a police officer or a fireman was 160 pounds. Well, I weighed 155. I didn't weigh enough. I was too light. So they said I did not qualify.
- [00:52:41.56] Then they took me into the doctor. And the doctor says that I had an irregular heartbeat, that I could not become a police officer or a fireman because my heartbeat was irregular. So I went to my doctor, and my doctor wrote a letter indicating that my heart was fine. There was nothing wrong with my heart. And so they had to certify me.
- [00:53:03.74] So when they interviewed me, since we did not have any black firemen in the city of Highland Park in 1965-- '64, all those interviews took place in 1964-- they told me, we'll hire you as a policeman because we're not hiring any folks as firemen. The main thing was that they were not going to hire black firemen. In fact, the city of Highland Park did not hire a fireman of color until 1969, which was four years after I became a police officer.
- [00:53:41.91] And I was the third police officer of color that was hired in the Highland Park Police Department. The funny thing about it, when I was hired in the police department in 1965-- this was in January, January the 5th, to be exact, January the 5th of 1965-- I went, and before they even sent me to school, they give me a badge, and a gun, and you need to act like a police officer.
- [00:54:17.33] In February, they indicated that I had to go to school. So I went to school, along with the other five-- it was five of us who was hired at the same time-- with the other four white police officers and me. Five of us went to school together to be-- because we was hired in together-- to be police officers.
- [00:54:37.16] And we went to school. And we to go through all the rigamarole of being educated and learning the ordinances of the city, and all this good stuff. And while we was in school, of course, being the only black person-- no, it was me and another guy from Wayne County. There was two black people in the whole class, me and another black officer from Wayne County Sheriff.
- [00:55:06.12] And while we was there, we were discriminated against terribly. And so I filed a complaint. I filed a complaint about being discriminated against. So when I finally got back out of the school, got back to the police department, and went into doing my job as being a patrol officer, walking the beat, which I did walk the beat, I came to work one day, and on the blackboard in the assembly room where we would all come in to meet, someone had written on the blackboard, "We got a real nigger this time." And I was sure that it was referring to me.
- [00:55:44.56] The other two black officers who had been hired was John Holloway. He was hired in 1960. And John Maddox, he was hired in 1963. And I was hired as the third black officer in the city of Highland Park in 1965. Then, after that, the city started hiring black officers after that.
- [00:56:19.27] SPEAKER 1: What materials did police officers use at that time that we don't use now? Were there any?
- [00:56:25.53] TITUS MCCLARY: Yes. Little blackjacks, I almost called it-- it's a billy club. You ever heard of something called a billy club?
- [00:56:36.21] SPEAKER 1: Yes.
- [00:56:37.53] TITUS MCCLARY: All of used to walk-- we used to walk the beat. Used to walk the beat with a stick, and a flashlight, and a beat stick. And we used to walk the beat, up and down Woodward, Hamilton, Ford, all the streets, and go to a pull box, and let the folks know where you are. Because you didn't have telephones. We didn't have a telephone to call in or nothing like that.
- [00:57:02.92] So I don't know if you know-- if you ever can remember that. Used to be little call boxes on the corners, different corners around the city, where we'd go to the call box with our key, open the box, go in, pick up a phone, and call directly to the police department, and let them know that we are checking in on time. That's the only way that they knew where we were, was when we check in. And we had to check in on the call boxes.
- [00:57:30.40] SPEAKER 1: What training was used for your job?
- [00:57:33.50] TITUS MCCLARY: As a police officer?
- [00:57:34.27] SPEAKER 1: Yes, sir.
- [00:57:34.76] TITUS MCCLARY: Yeah, we had a lot of different training. The major thing was writing, because our main focus-- and people don't believe it or not-- the main focus was on writing a good report. If you write a good report, then especially if you make an arrest of someone, that person stands a chance of being convicted. But if you write a messy report, that person have a chance of getting out of it, because you have screwed up the whole arrest process.
- [00:58:10.03] So the main thing was learning, people, how to write a-- now, I make that observation now, because when I got to the position where I had to, then, supervise officers, then it became more prevalent on me, of making sure that they write a good report. Because then the report came to me, and I had to review those reports. And in reviewing the reports I had written, a lot of times I had to tell the officers to go back and put in the main body. The same thing that you are being taught in school now. You know, what have you been taught?
- [00:58:49.71] SPEAKER 1: [INAUDIBLE]
- [00:58:51.29] TITUS MCCLARY: The whys, you know? Yeah, OK, the Ws.
- [00:58:54.28] SPEAKER 1: The what, when, where, why.
- [00:58:56.43] TITUS MCCLARY: That's right. That's right. That's the main thing that we'd request in the police department as well.
- [00:59:06.76] SPEAKER 1: What technology changed over the years that you noticed?
- [00:59:11.47] TITUS MCCLARY: Everything. Everything has changed. Like I indicated, when we used to walk the beat, we didn't have radios to call in. Well, eventually, you find that if you see a police officer today, they don't walk the beat anymore. Because it doesn't make sense to walk the beat. Why would you walk when everybody else is riding, number one, as an example.
- [00:59:38.02] And they all have a portable radio, small portable radio they can contact. And you find that most of them on the job now have a cell phone, a telephone, with them as well. And so the communication part of it is one of the best tech-- even the scout cars, now, every car have a computer and a camera. The camera is really to protect the officers and protect the citizens out on the street as well. But the technology has really grown immensely, even since I retired. I've been retired 20 years.
- [01:00:19.65] SPEAKER 1: In your opinion, what's the biggest difference on how police officers act now compared to how they should-- well, compared to how they did back then?
- [01:00:28.57] TITUS MCCLARY: I truly believe now that the police officers are much more smarter than it was back when I was. Because when I first became a police officer, it was known for brute force. If they can't get a person to get the information from them, they would beat it out of them.
- [01:00:46.68] I'll give you one for-instance, what happened in my department in Highland Park. I was home one Sunday, in fact. I was home one Sunday. And a police officer came to my house and told me that a citizen of color had been arrested, and he had been beaten up. And the officer says, he shouldn't have been beaten up, but he was beaten up.
- [01:01:14.04] I left home, and just went to the Department of Justice to see if this was true. And it was. And so I we-- the officer and myself-- went to the judge's house, since he lived in the city, and let him know that we are finally tired of it. And from that day, we formed a black officers' organization called The Blue Knights of Highland Park. We formed the Blue Knights of Highland Park, where we would monitor all arrests against our people. Because we did not believe that it was necessary for them to be beat up when they was arrested.
- [01:01:53.76] But the first thing we said, to stop the assault on our people by the white officer, what have to be done? The black officers have to stop first. The black officers have to stop first. And we made sure that we got it out known that we would not tolerate any assault at all.
- [01:02:18.88] SPEAKER 1: With that being said, how do you judge excellence in your field? How do you judge an officer that you feel is doing his job properly? How did he earn respect in that field?
- [01:02:29.29] TITUS MCCLARY: By doing what is right-- doing what is right. You know, the Golden Rule-- if you follow the Golden Rule, even if, in life, you follow the Golden Rule-- what is the Golden Rule? Do you know what it is? Do you know what it is?
- [01:02:41.99] SPEAKER 2: Treat people how you want to be treated.
- [01:02:44.17] TITUS MCCLARY: Do unto others as you would wish that they'd do unto you. The Golden Rule. If you go by the Golden Rule, you can't go wrong. You know, it's amazing, talking about the Golden Rule, I have to tell you what I said to my Sunday school class one time. I told them what the Golden Rule is, do unto others as you'd have-- and I said to them, and I just-- flippantly, I says, the Golden Rule is, he who has the gold makes the rule. Those kids went out and told their parents, Mr. McClary said, the Golden Rule is he who has the gold makes the rule.
- [01:03:22.16] [CHUCKLES]
- [01:03:24.03] I had to clear that up. In Sunday school, they went and told their parents that. Of course they-- Mr. McClary, Mr. McClary, you have to be careful what you say to the kids.
- [01:03:36.15] I teach Sunday school. I still teach Sunday school today. But I teach sixth, seventh, and eighth grade-- sixth, seventh, and eighth grade Sunday school at church. So I have to be awful careful what you say to the kids.
- [01:03:51.73] SPEAKER 1: What did you value most about your days as a police officer?
- [01:03:58.05] TITUS MCCLARY: I tell you what I value a lot about is doing what is right. My best portion of being a police officer was when I was in charge of the youth division in the city of Highland Park. I had an opportunity-- and the lady just told me about it last week. Last week, Saturday, she talked with me about it. She said, you don't remember when I was here. Because she told me about me bringing a youth down to juvenile court, and how she thought how well I presented myself.
- [01:04:34.18] She told me that, last week, Saturday. That's amazing. I go, how do you remember something way back from the '70s-- the '70s and the '80s, when I was in charge of the juvenile division.
- [01:04:48.55] But my best response on what makes me proud of being a juvenile officer is when a young man that I took home instead taking them to juvenile, who came back to me years later and says, Mr. McClary, I want to thank you for taking me home and making my mom and daddy beat my butt than to taking me to jail.
- [01:05:19.01] And he was grown when he came back from college. In fact, he came back from Texas, in fact, when he came back to Highland Park, from Texas. He was grown. Had a family. He was married. And he was telling me what I did for him when he was a little boy. (WHISPERING) And I didn't remember it.
- [01:05:37.95] [CHUCKLES]
- [01:05:39.95] I didn't remember it. But was telling me-- he tell me what I did for him that made him so proud of me. I didn't remember it, but hey.
- [01:05:48.77] And there's another lady, she lives on Richton in Highland Park, Mrs. Mia. And I don't know people's name, but Mrs. Mia, she was telling me how proud she was that I brought her son home one time instead of taking him to jail.
- [01:06:08.74] In those days, when you was a police officer, and you knew the family, and you knew the kids, and you pick up a kid for doing something wrong, you don't have to really take them to-- you don't want take them to jail and that stuff. You would take them home and tell their parents. And here's what this person do. What you going to do about that? You know, do something with it.
- [01:06:31.60] What else you got for me? Now, I have these pictures to talk about, and you haven't gotten to that yet.
- [01:06:36.69] SPEAKER 1: We'll get to it.
- [01:06:37.95] TITUS MCCLARY: OK.
- [01:06:40.98] SPEAKER 1: As a working man, what moves did you make, ad in physically move from house to house? Did you move out of the community of Highland Park at any time?
- [01:06:50.55] TITUS MCCLARY: We moved to Highland Park in 1952 as a family. We moved to Highland Park. When Highland Park started going down in the '60s-- my family moved out in 1961, because Highland Park started going down. I went to Nam in 1961.
- [01:07:15.41] My parents then bought a house on Cherry Lawn in Detroit, in a Jewish neighborhood. In fact, they was the first black family to buy a house on that block. But they bought a house. In 1962, they bought that house there, in 1962. Well, I was in the Army when that occurred. And when I got back from the Army, I moved back to Highland Park because I was working from the city of Highland Park at the time, at the Highland Park General Hospital. And I looked around, and I was the only-- my sister, Lillian, she was married. And so she moved home, and into a house in Highland Park. And then I had another brother. But he moved to Detroit.
- [01:08:10.90] But anyway-- and over the time, I was only McClary family living in Highland Park. All of them had moved out to better grounds, I guess. My brother moved to Grosse Pointe. My other brother moved to Hope Park. They moved to suburbia. They followed where other folks went to. And I was the only McClary family still living in Highland Park.
- [01:08:39.11] And so I'm still there. I do have-- I have a niece that still lives in Highland Park now. I started to say I have a sister, but she moved out. She just moved out, too. [CHUCKLES]
- [01:08:58.55] SPEAKER 1: How do you feel about still living there? How do you--
- [01:09:00.96] TITUS MCCLARY: I love it. That's my home. That's my home. That's my home. Hey, my grandkids, they come over, they think I live in a mansion.
- [01:09:11.05] [CHUCKLES]
- [01:09:14.89] Or especially the little girl that came over the other day.
- [01:09:22.47] SPEAKER 1: How did life changed for you as a family-- you and your wife-- when you both retired, if you're both retired?
- [01:09:28.04] TITUS MCCLARY: Yeah, we're both retired now. It's less money. Money cut in less that half. You know, that's not good. You work all your life, and you live at one level. And then, all of a sudden, I retired, and my pay went in half. You have to get another job.
- [01:09:51.94] Since we had bought everything, and we have everything, good thing we don't have to buy nothing. We don't have to buy nothing. So that's one good thing. Everything is paid for. We don't have any debts, none at all. And that's a good thing. You know, that's a good thing.
- [01:10:07.63] But I pity those folks who started buying a new home in suburbia someplace after they retire. It'd be tough. But we do good. We do good. We go to church every Sunday-- every Sunday. I teach Sunday school every Sunday that I'm there. We do good. That's all. That's about it.
- [01:10:36.44] SPEAKER 1: Was it a sigh of relief when all your children grew up and went off to college or wherever they went?
- [01:10:41.62] TITUS MCCLARY: [CHUCKLES]
- [01:10:43.93] Of course it is, you know? You still miss your kids. That's why-- you see, the best things-- the question you ask is, do you have-- I always ask the question, Titus, do you have any regrets? I say, yeah, I have regrets. I regret that I had to work two jobs to make a living. When I was a police officer and working at Sears Roebuck at the same time, I worked two jobs, and I didn't have time for my kids. I didn't have time to take them places. I didn't have time to play with them, and good stuff like that, because I was working two jobs.
- [01:11:20.07] And yes, there's a lot of regret in that department. But I feel great that I have two of the best granddaughters who want to come and watch grandpa all the time. I feel good that they want to even look at me, you know? But they're great-- sometimes.
- [01:11:43.67] [LAUGHS]
- [01:11:45.50] SPEAKER 1: What is the typical day for you now?
- [01:11:50.40] TITUS MCCLARY: For instance, I'll give you today. Today, I got up at 8 o'clock.
- [01:11:55.74] [CHUCKLES]
- [01:11:56.52] I don't really have to get up till 8 o'clock. Got up at 8 o'clock, and I had breakfast, which was I had some cold cereal and milk. And after getting dressed, I went to a funeral. I went to a funeral today. And that's the reason why I have on a tie. If I didn't have to go to a funeral today, I would have one shorts. That what I would have on. When you see me, you will see me-- my granddaughters will tell you, when they see me, they seeing me wearing shorts. They say me yesterday. I had on shorts.
- [01:12:34.48] [CHUCKLES]
- [01:12:36.65] So I went to a funeral today. And after the funeral, of course we went to the cemetery. Then the wife and I went home. And my aunt called me. And she said, I baked a cake for you and the girls. I said, you did? She said, yes, come and pick it up.
- [01:12:53.46] So on the way down here, I stopped by my aunt's and picked up a cake. And then the girls came. I told them, I said, I have a cake in the car. So they're going to go home with me. And I might give them a little slice.
- [01:13:05.38] [CHUCKLES]
- [01:13:07.25] Give them a a little slice (RAISING VOICE) of my cake.
- [01:13:10.68] [CHUCKLES]
- [01:13:12.45] SPEAKER 1: Even though all your children are grown, and with children of their own, what do you do as a family, even today?
- [01:13:26.52] TITUS MCCLARY: We always get together now. We have to get together. We have one of those things where we have family meetings. We have family meeting like once a month, and we go over to somebody's house, you know, somebody's house. And they all come. And even when they have birthday parties, and my niece who lives right down the block from me, she has a big backyard, as I do. But they're down there for-- they were down two times last month, weren't you? Two times they had big parties down at my niece's house last month. And they all got together.
- [01:14:06.81] And they went camping. They all went camping. And they were sleeping on the ground. But they had air mattresses. They had air mattresses.
- [01:14:17.53] [CHUCKLES]
- [01:14:19.38] That was good. That was good.
- [01:14:20.85] And we have family reunions. Our family reunions are huge. I should have brought you pictures. I used to be almost officially photographer from the family reunion. And I stopped taking pictures. I stopped taking pictures in 1990, I think. I said, I'm through with it. I stopped taking pictures in 1990.
- [01:14:38.80] But I used to take pictures of every family reunion. And our reunions, there'd be over 200 people there. The last one we had in Detroit was 2006. We had a big family reunion where we rented-- we was down at the Pontchartrain Hotel, and went on the boat. Was that The Queen, or The Star, or whatever it was. We went on The Star. And we had a big family reunion. In fact, I even have a CD of it.
- [01:15:10.82] SPEAKER 1: So the family reunions, it that your favorite thing to do with your family?
- [01:15:14.53] TITUS MCCLARY: Sure. Oh, yes. Oh yeah. You get to know your family-- get to know your family. Like I indicated, you find out different things about your family. Like I found out that part of my family on my mother's side, they used to be owned by the Dozier slave master, the plantation or whatever. And then they were sold to the McCullough plantation.
- [01:15:48.98] Now, this was in, like, 1860-- between 1860 and 1865. In that five-year period, they had gone, been sold from one slave master to the next slave master. And when the emancipation came about, in 1863-- do you know what date it was? The Emancipation. The Emancipation was January the 1st, 1863. In Saint Helena, South Carolina. That's when Abe Lincoln, the president, went down on his boat and notified all the slaves that they were free.
- [01:16:44.48] Well, a lot of folks didn't get the message then.
- [01:16:46.92] SPEAKER 1: [INAUDIBLE]
- [01:16:48.58] TITUS MCCLARY: Then I told you about that. I told you about Juneteenth. Folks didn't get the message until 1865. Well, my full family, there were Doziers and there were McCulloughs. Well, when they freed the McCullough-- when black folks were freed, what are they to do? OK, if I tell you, OK, you're free, so what are you going to do?
- [01:17:14.21] SPEAKER 2: [INAUDIBLE]
- [01:17:16.76] TITUS MCCLARY: You have to find a job, you have to do something, sharecropping. So when they freed them from being in the McCullough, brothers and sisters, some choose to stay with the McCullough, some choose to go back to the plantation where they had been before, the Dozier. So you had a brother who was a McCullough, and a brother who was a Dozier. And so we have McCullough and Dozier in the same family.
- [01:17:45.69] So we had a family reunion with McCullough and Dozier. But they were like brothers.
- [01:17:56.90] SPEAKER 1: When thinking back on your life as a now-very-much-so mature, grown man, and your family life with your kids and your nieces, and cousins, and sisters and brothers, everything as a whole, what history event in your life, personally, hits you the hardest?
- [01:18:17.23] TITUS MCCLARY: What comes to mind when I think back on my life? I am blessed. I am blessed. I am blessed to have wonderful sisters, blessed to have had wonderful parents, I am blessed to have wonderful children, and I'm doubly blessed to have good grandchildren. I'm doubly blessed, because grandchildren are the spice of your life.
- [01:18:47.28] SPEAKER 1: So you've had a really good life.
- [01:18:49.27] TITUS MCCLARY: Yeah, my life's been good. My life's been good. Shoot. I've had a good time, too, now. I had good times. I had good times. Good times.
- [01:19:01.97] You know, my dad and they all-- since he had nine brothers that were preachers, they wanted, Titus, you gonna have to be a preacher. And I knew that I could not stand that rigor. I knew that I couldn't hold true. I knew that I couldn't be true. So I choose not to become.
- [01:19:26.48] But I do all the other things. I'm always giving. I'm in this organization, I'm in that. Right now, I'm in a lot of different organizations. I'm giving. I give. I give. And I do. I do.
- [01:19:44.94] SPEAKER 1: I see that you have a picture there. Is that a family heirloom?
- [01:19:47.43] TITUS MCCLARY: Yes, it is. Oh, this my family heirloom. You see this? I want to show you something. This is my mother's father. This picture was taken in 1904. That's my mother's father. This is my mother's-- this is Samuel, and this is Lillian, my mother's mother, Lillian.
- [01:20:14.77] This is my mother's brother, Robert, the one who came to Detroit that she lived with when she came to Detroit. Robert is-- he's only about eight years older than my mother. He's about eight years-- he was born in 1900-and-- he's 12 years old. Because my mother was born in 1912, and he was born in 1900. So he's 12 years older.
- [01:20:36.87] This is my mother's brother, Paris. Paris-- now, Robert died in Detroit in 1925. Paris, we believe-- we don't know, but we believe that Paris died in Cleveland-- in Ohio. Actually, we say Ohio, in Ohio.
- [01:20:57.08] What Paris did when he was in Detroit, he stole a truck of butter. And he drove the truck to Ohio. That's where he was arrested and put in jail. And I think that's the last they heard from him. We don't know.
- [01:21:15.42] But he stole a truck of butter, and took it to Cleveland, and sold it. And they caught his butt and put him in jail.
- [01:21:23.62] Of course, when something happened bad in the family, people-- you don't talk about it. They don't talk about. So they never talked about it.
- [01:21:30.31] This is the only aunt-- which is my grandfather's sister-- that I saw alive. Aunt Sue was the only one. All the others had died before I had-- well, before I realized that they were living. Because my grandfather, Samuel, and my grandmother, Lillian, they died in 1916.
- [01:21:56.06] So this is the picture I have. This was my mom's picture. And my sisters and brothers, all of them wanted the picture. They all wanted the picture. But they couldn't get the picture. You know why? Because I had it.
- [01:22:13.21] [CHUCKLES]
- [01:22:13.97] I had it. And they couldn't-- so this is amazing, but they said, well, when you die-- I said, I'm not going to die. So you can't get the picture.
- [01:22:24.73] SPEAKER 1: [INAUDIBLE]
- [01:22:26.96] TITUS MCCLARY: And so that's the only picture I brought. You know, I did bring one more. This is my mother. That's my mother. This is her obituary. That's my brother, Sam, who was murdered in 1974. And that's my dad, Frank, who died in 1979. And that's it. That's my family. That's my family.
- [01:22:57.72] This is a picture of my mother when she was in Detroit, 1925. She was sharp. She was cute. I said to her-- I said to my mom once, I says, if I had met you when I was your age, I would go for you, woman. I said that to my mama. She was cute. She was cute.
- [01:23:25.81] [CHUCKLES]
- [01:23:27.22] SPEAKER 1: Thinking back on your life, what are you the most proud of out of everything? What makes the top number one on your list of the things that you pride yourself on?
- [01:23:37.07] TITUS MCCLARY: Being a good grandpa.
- [01:23:41.10] [CHUCKLES]
- [01:23:43.43] Honestly.
- [01:23:44.59] [CHUCKLES]
- [01:23:46.96] SPEAKER 1: Thinking back--
- [01:23:48.39] TITUS MCCLARY: I must be good. They want to hang around me. I must be pretty good. Because if I was a bad grandpa, boy, I mean, three days? My goodness.
- [01:23:59.63] [CHUCKLES]
- [01:24:02.77] SPEAKER 1: [INAUDIBLE]
- [01:24:04.63] TITUS MCCLARY: [CHUCKLES]
- [01:24:06.50] SPEAKER 1: Thinking back to when you were my age, to now, what changed the most, in your opinion?
- [01:24:12.73] TITUS MCCLARY: Respect.
- [01:24:13.99] SPEAKER 1: Respect?
- [01:24:14.91] TITUS MCCLARY: Mm-hmm.
- [01:24:15.37] SPEAKER 1: Mm-hmm.
- [01:24:16.30] TITUS MCCLARY: That's what has changed most, more than anything else. When I was a teenager, we used to we used to always say, yes sir, yes ma'am, no sir, no ma'am. We had respect for the elderlies. And that is not there now. You'd be surprised. I see kids yelling at seniors, and cussing at them, and everything else. The respect is not there.
- [01:24:45.11] SPEAKER 3: Parents are getting younger.
- [01:24:47.52] TITUS MCCLARY: Well, I can't say that. Because I know some people that I know that was-- I know that-- she said, parents are getting younger. But I said, because I know some folks that I knew, they got married when they were 13. A lot of folks got married in the olden days when they were 13, 14, and 15. So I don't think that the parents are getting any younger than they did in the olden days either.
- [01:25:14.23] But to some folks, they believe parents are getting younger. But I don't believe that is true.
- [01:25:22.06] SPEAKER 1: What advice would you give my generation as of now?
- [01:25:27.32] TITUS MCCLARY: My best advice is to study hard, real hard. Be number one in your class-- number one in your class. So what you learn, no one can take it from you. Be the top. Don't look at someone else and say, I want them-- oh, I think John is the smartest person in my class. You want them to look at you to say, he is the smartest person. That's what you want. Be number one.
- [01:26:04.90] SPEAKER 1: With that being said, I don't know what else we can say. This is the end of the packet. That was the most inspirational thing I've ever heard someone your age tell me. And that's the end of our interview. This has been one of the most informative three days I've ever had.
- [01:26:18.36] TITUS MCCLARY: (LOUDLY) Talk to me--
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Greusel Junior High School [Detroit]
Highland Park High School
Historically Black Colleges and Universities
Highland Park Community College
Highland Park General Hospital
Civil Rights Movement
Civil Rights Activists
1967 Detroit Riots
Black American Singers
Ford Motor Company
Cuban Missile Crisis
Blue Knights of Highland Park
Ebenezer AME Church [Detroit]
Black American Veterans
Black American Politicians
Race & Ethnicity
Titus W. McClary
Betty Shelby McClary
Martin Luther King Jr.
Fort Leonard Wood MO
Beaubien Blvd & East Bethune St Detroit