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IN QUEST OF FULL CITIZENSHIP
Interviewed by Ranford B. Hopkins
Completed under the auspices
Oral History Program
University of California
Copyright ® 1985
The Regents of the University of California
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violation of copyright law.
RESTRICTIONS ON THIS INTERVIEW
LITERARY RIGHTS AND QUOTATION
This manuscript is hereby made available for research
purposes only. All literary rights in the manuscript,
including the right to publication, are reserved to
the University Library of the University of California,
Los Angeles. No part of the manuscript may be quoted
for publication without the written permission of the
University Librarian of the University of California,
Biographical Summary viii
Interview History xiii
TAPE NUMBER: I, Side One (April 29, 1982) 1
Family background--Memories of Atlanta--Early
impressions of Los Angeles: jobs, education,
church — Marriage--Series of jobs--Social life in
church and Young Men's Christian Association--
Role in World War I--Black hospitals and hospital
integration — The Great Migration.
TAPE NUMBER: I, Side Two (April 29, 1982) 19
Rapid growth of Los Angeles' black community —
Housing problems--Racial discrimination in real
estate — Black movements for equality and
justice--A message for young people.
TAPE NUMBER: II, Side One (May 4, 1982) 25
Social activities--The Negro baseball league
and its star players — Founding of People's
Independent Church of Christ--Reverend Napoleon
P. Greggs — Church founders' community roles--
Real estate business open to blacks--Young
People's Lyceum of People's Independent
Church — Holman United Methodist Church —
Prominent blacks affiliated with churches.
TAPE NUMBER: III, Side One (May 11, 1982) 41
Founding of Golden State Mutual Life Insurance
Company--Pr incipal founders Norman Houston,
William Nickerson and George A. Beavers —
Development of company through sale of
"certificates of contribution" to community
supporters--California legislature doubles
required number of applicants with premiums
paid and financial guarantee fund in attempt to
prevent creation of a black-owned insurance
company--Last minute fundraising — Branching out
to Oakland--Learning the insurance business
from William Nickerson — Golden State's
philosophy of business.
TAPE NUMBER: III, Side Two (May 11, 1982) 57
More on the company and Beavers 's personal
philosophy — Breaking race barriers in competing
white-owned companies — Providing opportunities
for young employees.
TAPE NUMBER: IV, Side One (June 1, 1982) 61
William Nickerson's founding principles —
Breakdown of responsibilities within Golden
State — Golden State's ties to churches — Support
from Assemblyman Fred Roberts — Company expansion
and redistribution of duties — Beavers 's civic
activities and grand jury responsibilities —
National Negro Insurance Association — Breaking
TAPE NUMBER: IV, Side Two (June 1, 1982) 77
Golden State's racial policies — Golden State
Minority Foundation — William Nickerson's family
background and experience with American Mutual
Benefit Association — Norman Houston: family
and educational background, service in World
War I, early experience in insurance--Golden
State during the Depression era.
TAPE NUMBER: V, Side One (June 12, 1982) 90
Strong bond between Golden State and black
churches — Golden State expands during
Depression era — Great Migration provides
growing clientele — Expansion to Chicago —
Cooperation between competing black-owned
insurance companies — Finding clientele during
the Depression era--Enormous growth in 1940s
and 1950s — Technology and modernization —
Beavers 's priorities for the black community.
TAPE NUMBER: VI, Side One (June 22, 1982) 108
Policyholder and employee financial security —
Leadership opportunities — Retirement plan —
Monarch Award--Prominent women at Golden
State — Golden State's commendation system —
Commendations recognizing Beavers 's accomplish-
ments: selective service board, postwar
reemployment programs, community affairs.
Citizens' Committee on Crime and Police
Brutality in the Negro Community.
TAPE NUMBER: VI, Side Two (June 22, 1982) 126
More commendations: George Washington Carver
Citation, Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Award —
Founding of the fraternity — Beavers 's role in
the Community Chest — More human relations and
community services awards — Award from the Los
Angeles Region Welfare Planning Council —
Beavers 's election to presidency of National
Insurance Association — More community, church
service, and human relations awards.
TAPE NUMBER: VII, Side One (July 1, 1982) 140
Los Angeles Housing Authority Commission:
Beavers 's service — Controversy over public
housing — Implementation of public housing
programs — Other black commission members--
Function of commission — Beavers 's election as
commission president — Pressure from the House
Un-American Activities Committee — Sale of
Chavez Ravine property to the Los Angeles
TAPE NUMBER: VII, Side Two (July 1, 1982) 158
Mayor Norris Poulson — More on Chavez Ravine —
Disagreements between Beavers and Mayor Sam
Yorty — Beavers 's roles on Mayor's Committee on
Major League Baseball and Mayor's Citizens
Committee to Study Zoological Problems —
Geographical and political boundaries to Chavez
Ravine — Los Angeles County Redevelopment
Association — National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People (NAACP):
Beavers 's involvement, reaction to arrest of
Dr. H. Claude Hudson for sunbathing at the
TAPE NUMBER: VIII, Side One (July 8, 1982) 175
Young Men's Christian Association, importance
to black community in east Los Angeles — YMCA,
an early sponsor of desegregation — Beavers 's
involvement — Los Angeles Urban League — Skilled-
labor job-training programs — Enlisting
Hollywood community support--Hollywood
community makes the legal defense fund a major
issue of the NAACP — Relationship between the
NAACP and the Urban League — Beavers ' s
perception of NAACP ' s function in the whole of
society — Churches' influence upon black
community and society.
TAPE NUMBER: VIII, Side Two (July 8, 1982) 190
Improved social conditions for blacks — Black
community organizations involved in civil
rights — Challenges facing the disadvantaged
under the Reagan administration--Beavers ' s
political affiliation and voting history —
Republican party alienates blacks--3lack
support shifts to Democratic party--Necessary
steps for progress of black community--Los
Angeles black community contrasted to those of
other large cities — Opportunities for blacks
greater in the western United States — Willie
Mae Beavers 's death — Second marriage to Lola
TAPE NUMBER: IX, Side One (July 27, 1982) 203
Current status of Golden State — Fellows in Life
Insurance Management--Coping with difficult
economic conditions--Preparing for future
difficulties — Beavers's association with
Richard Nixon — Distinction between politics and
civil rights — Nixon's attitude toward civil
rights — Ralphe Bunche's association with
Beavers--Bunche ' s influence upon Beavers and
TAPE NUMBER: IX, Side Two (July 27, 1982) 218
Betty Hill — Kenny Washington — Opportunities for
black athletes to improve themselves--Jackie
Born ; October 30, 1891, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Education : Los Angeles High School, Los Angeles,
California; attended extension division classes of the
University of California, Los Angeles, and continuing
education classes at the University of Southern California.
Spouses ; Willie Mae Hutcherson: married 1911, deceased
1931; Lola Lillian Cunningham: married 1936.
Superintendent, American Mutual Benefit Association,
Co-organizer and vice-president/director of agencies.
Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company, 1925-45.
Chairman of the board, chairman of executive and agency
committees. Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company,
Chairman of the board and treasurer. Golden State Mutual
Life Insurance Company, 1951-56.
Chairman of the board. Golden State Mutual Life Insurance
Chairman emeritus and member of the board of directors,
Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company, 1965-80.
Chairman emeritus, director emeritus and co-founder.
Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company, 1980 to the
ORGANIZATIONS AND AFFILIATIONS:
National Insurance Association, vice-president, 1931-32;
Allied Organization Against Discrimination in National
Defense, president, 1942.
Citizens' Committee on Crime and Police Brutality in the
Negro Community, chairman, 1947.
Los Angeles Housing Authority Commission, 1946-62; acting
vice-chairman, 1952-53; chairman, 1953-62.
Urban League home building and finance committee,
Freedom Fund Campaign, national advisory committee, 1957.
Los Angeles Town Hall, board of governors, 1964-67.
All Nations Foundation, board of trustees.
Attorney General's Advisory Council, State of California.
Avalon Community Center (president for two years).
Commission on Equal Opportunities in Education, State of
Community Health Association (treasurer for two years).
Community Welfare Federation of Los Angeles, budget
Cosmopolitan Golf Club.
District Attorney's Advisory Council.
First African Methodist Episcopal Church, choir.
Foundation for Promotion of Equality in Professional
Goodwill Industries of Southern California, board of
Grand Jurors Association of Los Angeles County.
Holman Methodist Church, member and past chairman of
board of trustees.
Chicago Round Table of Commerce, interim committee.
Los Angeles Area War Chest, board of directors.
Los Angeles County Conference on Community Relations,
Los Angeles Family Welfare Association, board oi:
directors and secretary-treasurer.
Los Angeles Metropolitan Welfare Council, board of
Los Angeles Jletropolitan Young Men's Christian
Association, board of directors.
Los Angeles Rams Fan Club, charter member; served two
terms on board of directors.
Los Angeles Urban League, board of directors, for two
three-year terms; president for three years.
Mayor's Citizens Committee to Study Zoological Problems.
Mayor's Committee on Major League Baseball.
Men of Tomorrow.
Merchants and Manufacturers, employee practices
National Association for the Advancement of Colored
People, life member; served two terms as member of life
membership committee; guaranteed financial security of
the Los Angeles branch for ten years.
National Association of Housing and Redevelopment
Officials, board of governors, two years.
National Conference of Christians and Jews, member of
board and vice-chairman of the Southern California
National Housing Conference, board of directors.
People's Independent Church of Christ, chairman of
trustee board, six years.
People's Independent Church of Christ, clerk, fifteen
People's Independent Church of Christ, choir.
Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity.
Republican Community Advisory Committee.
Twenty-eighth Street Young Men's Christian Association,
board of directors.
United Negro College Fund, national vice-chairman.
United Republican Finance Committee.
United Services Organization, Inc., Los Angeles area,
board of directors.
Urban League, board of directors, three years.
Welfare Federation of Los Angeles, board of governors.
HONORS, AWARDS OF MERIT, AND CITATIONS:
Certificate of Appreciation from Franklin D. Roosevelt,
president of the United States, in recognition of
patriotic services rendered in aiding the administration
of the Selective Service and Training Act, 1943.
Certificate of Merit from Harry S. Truman, president of
the United States, for service in connection with the Re-
employment Program, 1946.
First African Methodist Episcopal Church Certificate of
Merit, in recognition of achievements in the interest and
welfare of the community and unselfish devotion to
religious, civic, and cultural advance of our city,
state, and nation, 1946.
Carver Citation Award, for outstanding service in
business development of community, 1948.
Crusade for Freedom Citation, for effective and unselfish
service in Southern California, 1951.
Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Social Action Achievement
Award, in recognition of meritorious service in the field
of social action and civil rights, 1951.
Outstanding Service Award from Los Angeles County
Conference on Community Relations, in recognition of
devoted effort and distinguished achievements dedicated
to the advance of democracy and improvement of human
Community Chest, Women's Gold Feather Award Division,
Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Human Relations Award, 1954.
Red Feather Plaque, Community Chest Award, for
outstanding citizenship, 1955.
Rheingold Civic Award, "in recognition of tireless and
unselfish devotion to his community," 1955.
George Washington Carver Memorial Institute's Gold Award,
for outstanding contributions to betterment of race
relations and human welfare, 1960.
Award of Merit for Community Welfare Service Planning
Council, Los Angeles Region, 1962.
Recognition Award, National Insurance Association, for
outstanding service as president, 1963.
Appreciation Award, from field representatives of Golden
State Mutual Life Insurance Company, 1966.
Appreciation Award, from home office employees of Golden
State Mutual Life Insurance Company, 1966.
West Los Angeles Branch, National Association for the
Advancement of Colored People, Scroll of Honor Award,
Resolution of Commendation for Public Service, from Board
of Supervisors, Los Angeles County, 1966.
Holman Methodist Church Award, for effective service and
Resolution of Commendation for Outstanding Community
Service, from the Los Angeles City Council, 1968.
Human Relations Award, from city of Los Angeles, 1971.
Pioneer Award, from Los Angeles chapter. National
Association of Media Women, Inc., 1974.
Ranford B. Hopkins, assistant editor/interviewer, UCLA
Oral History Program. B.A., M.A., History, University of
California, Santa Barbara. Ph.D. candidate. Department of
History, University of California, Santa Barbara; current
research entitled, "Leadership and the Growth of the Afro-
American Community of Los Angeles, 1900-1965"; interviewer
was born, raised, and has resided in Los Angeles for
TIME AND SETTING OF INTERVIEW:
Place: George A. Beavers 's home in Los Angeles.
Dates : April 29, May 4, May 11, June 1, June 12, June 22,
July 1, July 8, July 27, 1982. An untranscribed video
session was recorded August 8, 1982.
Time of day, length of sessions, and total number of hours
recorded : Interviews took place in the early afternoon.
Each session lasted about one hour; several were slightly
shorter and two sessions were slightly longer. A total of
nine hours, forty-five minutes of conversation was
recorded on audiotape, fifty-five minutes on video.
Persons present during interview : Beavers and Hopkins.
CONDUCT OF INTERVIEW:
Hopkins reviewed Beavers 's personal files, reports and
documents at Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company,
and articles on Beavers published in the Los Angeles
Sentinel and the Los Angeles Times . Hopkins also
contacted and talked with individuals who have worked with
The interviev/ followed a chronological outline. Hopkins
posed questions that would yield both oral autobiography
and documentation of the interviewee's status as a
community leader. Particular attention was given to the
history of Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company and
to Beavers 's many services to the city of Los Angeles.
Hopkins encouraged Beavers to speak freely about any
subject he wished, and the interview contains at many
points Beavers 's personal opinions on racial
discrimination, civil rights, education, the black power
movement, and community institutions.
X 1 1 1
Michael S. Baiter edited the interview. He checked the
verbatim transcript of the interview against the original
tape recordings, edited for punctuation, paragraphing, and
spelling, and verified proper names. Words and phrases
inserted by the editor have been bracketed.
Beavers reviewed and approved the edited transcript. He
made no corrections or additions. William E. Pajaud,
vice-president-secretary and director of public relations,
Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company, provided
essential aid in verifying spellings and identities of the
many persons mentioned in the course of the interview.
David P. Gist, editorial assistant, prepared the table of
contents, biographical summary, and index.
The original tape recordings of the interview, as well as
the untranscribed video recording, are in the university
archives and are available under the regulations governing
the use of permanent noncurrent records of the
university. Records relating to the interview are located
in the office of the UCLA Oral History Program.
TAPE NUMBER: I, SIDE ONE
APRIL 29, 1982
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, I'd like to begin by discussing the
years prior to your coming to Los Angeles. When were you
BEAVERS: I was the first child born to George and Annie
Beavers in Atlanta, Georgia, October 30, 1891. My early
childhood days were spent in the city of my birth. My
parents were — Did you want — ?
HOPKINS: Yes, yes, their names.
BEAVERS: My parents were George A. Beavers, Sr., and Annie
Beavers. They were very poor economically, but rich in
spirit and Christian principles. My earliest recollection
of my father's employment is of his job as a laborer in a
wholesale grocery store, at a salary of one dollar per day.
My mother supplemented the family income by doing laundry
work for private families. In addition, they maintained a
vegetable garden and raised chickens. We always had food,
clothing, and housing. As far back as I can remember, my
parents were devoted Christians and dedicated workers in
the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
In quest of full citizenship rights and better living
conditions, they moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1903.
At that time there were three children in the family,
George Jr., Mary Elmyra, and Leroy. A fourth child, Helen,
was born in Los Angeles. When we came to Los Angeles my
parents immediately joined the First A.M.E. [African
Methodist Episcopal] church, which at that time was located
on Azusa Street, but was soon to move to its new home, now
remembered as historic Eighth [Street] and Towne Avenue.
HOPKINS: Very good. What was your mother's maiden name?
BEAVERS: Andrews. Annie Andrews.
HOPKINS: Do you have any recollections of Atlanta? Do you
remember Atlanta at all, as to the kind of town it was?
BEAVERS: My recollections of Atlanta naturally are very
limited, because I was only eleven years old when we came
to Los Angeles. But I do remember going to elementary
school up to the fourth grade. I went to school out
in — well, I forget what section you call that, but it was
right across from Spellman University — it was called the
Old Roach Street School at the time. And we lived in a
section called "Mechanicsville" on Humphreys Street. I
have recollections of that, and also recollections of my
attendance with my parents to the St. Paul's First A.M.E.
Church. My parents were very active in that church, and I
remember at the time Reverend — I think his name was Joseph
Flipper, he later became a bishop. That might have to be
checked. But also I remember that my father always took me
to the — any big gathering where there was a discussion of
conditions involving our race, and when there was noted
speakers, bishops, and such characters as Booker T.
Washington, and other leaders at the time. My father
wanted me to get every benefit possible from hearing
inspirational speakers and leaders.
I remember also a very terrible race riot that resul-
ted from some activities of a man. I don't remember his
name now, but he killed some policemen in a little town
called Pittsburgh, which was a suburb of Atlanta, and of
course the excitement of the patrols going back and forth
to the site of that incident made quite an impression. It
was that type of thing that caused my parents to move to
Los Angeles seeking to find better economic conditions, and
better race relations.
HOPKINS: Why Los Angeles? Why not Chicago or New York?
Do you know why they chose Los Angeles over those eastern
BEAVERS: Well, I can't say that I do, but possibly because
of some friends they had who had come to Los Angeles. They
had heard from them about the splendid conditions that
existed at the time, and Los Angeles seemed to have been a
new heaven to the people. Particularly our people, who are
so burdened with problems from racial segregation and
HOPKINS: Now, Mr. Beavers, what were your impressions of
Los Angeles when you came? I know you were maybe, what,
eleven or twelve years old at that time. Did you have an
impression that you remember?
BEAVERS: Oh, my impressions of course would be in the
category of a child's impression there. I was glad to be
with my parents and to note the changes that were talcing
place. In fact, I felt very grateful to my parents for
their efforts and sacrifices to provide for the family, and
to the best of their abilities, the necessities of life,
education, and above all, good examples of Christian
living, concern for others, and a strong desire to see
racial segregation and discrimination removed from American
I recall that my first job I ever had was as a water
boy for the Pacific Electric Railway Company. At the time
the company was expanding its transportation system to
serve nearby smaller cities and communities such as
Whittier, Santa Ana, Long Beach and Santa Monica, and my
father was employed by this company. And my first job was
as a water boy for railway construction workers who were
building the Pacific Electric Whittier line. It was during
a school vacation period, and I was receiving as much
salary per day as the daily wage previously paid to my
father in Atlanta.
HOPKINS: What did your father do for the railway in Los
Angeles, at the Pacific Railway?
BEAVERS: Well, he was one of the workers on the — He was
employed to expand the Pacific Electric system that I
referred to, and he worked for the Pacific Electric firm
for a long time. But later his most permanent job was with
the Santa Fe Railway company. He served in the building
maintenance department at the head office in Los Angeles,
and remained in the employment of this company until his
HOPKINS: Do you remember when he retired? Approximately?
BEAVERS: Oh, I could look that date up for you. I don't
remember it, I don't have any independent recollection of
it at the moment.
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, before we continue with the visit to
Los Angeles, I would like to ask you: In Georgia, were
your parents, did they hold positions in the A.M.E. Church?
BEAVERS: Oh, yes. My father had a position on the stew-
ard's board, the trustee board, and my mother was a stew-
ardess, and active in women's clubs and that type of thing.
HOPKINS: In relationship to the other children that you
knew and played with, would you say that your family was
wealthy, average, or poor?
BEAVERS: They were poor.
HOPKINS: Poor. All right. Now your father, when he came
to Los Angeles, he took a position — Was the first position
he had in Los Angeles with the Pacific Railway?
BEAVERS: Yes. Pacific Electric.
HOPKINS: Pacific Electric. What kind of job did he have
BEAVERS: As a laborer.
HOPKINS: A laborer. Building tracks and so on?
HOPKINS: Were the work teams — the contractors, the labor-
ers — were they — Was it an integrated operation, or was it
BEAVERS: No, it was integrated. There were not many
blacks here at the time.
HOPKINS: OK. I'd like to talk about your education while
in Los Angeles a bit. I know last time you had told me
that you attended elementary school here, I think?
HOPKINS: Could you follow your education track here in Los
BEAVERS: Well, after completing the elementary grade
school I went to Los Angeles High School, and followed the
example of my parents. I became involved in church work as
a teenager. I was active in the Young People's Christian
Endeavor Society at First A.M.E. Church. I succeeded Paul
R. Williams as president of this organization. Paul and I
became good friends and that friendship continued until his
death. I guess you recall that he was famous as an archi-
tect, and he and I worked together in many religious and
civic organizations. During my second year in high school
I became engaged to marry Miss Willie Mae Hutcherson, one
of my schoolmates. We planned to marry after completion of
high school. Unfortunately, the next year her mother died,
and we felt it necessary to advance the wedding date.
HOPKINS: So, what year were you married?
BEAVERS: What year?
HOPKINS: Can you tell me something about your wife. What
was her background?
BEAVERS: Well, as I said, she was one of my schoolmates,
and she and I were married in a wedding ceremony at First
A.M.E. Church. Our first home was next door to the resid-
ence of my parents on East Washington Street in — near Santa
Fe Avenue. We were a very happy couple. Two years later
we became the victims of a disastrous fire. At the time we
had to rely on horse-drawn fire equipment. Needless to
say, when the fire department arrived my parents' house,
and well, both homes, my parents and ours, had been com-
pletely destroyed. We lost everything, including household
goods, clothing, family pictures, and records that could
not be replaced.
HOPKINS: Boy. What caused the fire? Do you know?
BEAVERS: We don't know. Something, I guess something, I
don't know whether it was electrical or what. We never did
know the real cause of that fire.
HOPKINS: Where was your wife born?
BEAVERS: She was born — the first wife — she was born in
HOPKINS: Did you know her in Atlanta before you came?
HOPKINS: OK. Now, you stopped in school in your junior
year, and you got married. Did you go to work once you
BEAVERS: Oh, yes. I went to work, my — I guess the first
job at that time was a job at the — it was called the German-
American Bank, and it later became a part of the Security
National Bank, which in turn has developed into the
Security Pacific National Bank, I think. And my job, well
I was an elevator operator and then I was a stock clerk,
and then a messenger. And it was during the War that
I — the first World War that I left that job and went to
work in Los Angeles Foundry and became a molder's helper.
HOPKINS: Molder's helper?
BEAVERS: Molder's helper.
HOPKINS: What's that? I don't know.
BEAVERS: Well, molding iron — hot iron — molding it into, at
that time, molding it into equipment for defense indust-
HOPKINS: I see. Was that segregated employment then or
was it integrated?
BEAVERS: No. It was integrated. You have to understand
that it was a very small Negro population in California at
that time. And they couldn't follow the patterns of
segregation as they, as had been done in the South, because
there just were not enough black Americans here. So they--
That was to come later when they learned, learned from the
South how to promote segregation.
HOPKINS: OK, I'd like to come back to these war years, but
we need to clarify a few points. The German -American Bank,
why was it called German-American Bank? Did it have any
relationship to German-Americans here or —
BEAVERS: Well, of course, I didn't know at the time why it
was called the German -American Bank. I guess they —
Perhaps it might have been the ownership, and then it could
have been the appeal for German patronage. I just don't
know. I never thought of that, as to why they named it
that. But, I know they changed the name after [Adolf]
Hitler and his escapades over in Germany, that World War.
HOPKINS: So it changed later in the thirties then? It
changed in the 1930 's? The name?
BEAVERS: Oh, it was changed — Well, it was changed before
the thirties I think, 'cause, you know. World War I ended
in 1918. That was the First World War, I'm not talking
about the Second World War.
HOPKINS: Yes. OK. Hitler is associated with the Second
World War, and maybe —
BEAVERS: Well, let's see, maybe they —
HOPKINS: I know Americans were fighting the Germans in the
First World War, maybe that was —
BEAVERS: Well, it was the German-American Bank when I was
working for them, and I might be in error about the time
that they changed the name, but I think it had something to
do with the — That might have been the Second World War.
You're right, it could' ve been. I might have confused the
time element there, but I know that subsequently the name
was changed in — it became a part of the Security First
National Bank. But I wasn't working for them at the time
the name was changed. You see, when I was there it was the
HOPKINS: I see. Now, I'd like to talk again about Los
Angeles High School. Was that the only high school in the
city at the time you were a high school student?
BEAVERS: No, no. They had other high schools, but Los
Angelas High School was — it was located up on North Grand
there. Up on the hill, well that's about the same site
where the Board of Education building is now. Of course,
it looks a whole lot different now. [laughter]
HOPKINS: What determined what school you went to? Did you
have a choice as to what high school you went to? Or was
it by neighborhoods as it is today?
BEAVERS: It was — You were assigned according to your
location. You were assigned a high school. You didn't
choose. The student didn't choose.
HOPKINS: OK. Mr. Beavers, during this time that you were
married, say in your early twenties, during those years,
what was the social life of youth like? What kind of
social activities would someone like yourself be involved
BEAVERS: Well, we were — The social life was revolved
around churches, and so far as I was concerned, of course,
there were other activities, dance, pavilion dance clubs,
and — But being brought up in the Christian environment, I
didn't have any experience with what was called the night-
clubs, and things like that. I just didn't have time for
it, and I didn't have that inclination of it. I was
brought up in the, and was attracted to the work of, the
church and the YMCA [Young Men's Christian Association] and
the charitable institutions, and community welfare and that
kind of thing. And I just fell right into it, and I didn't
have time for the others. There was a definite division
there, because I remember observing, and I knew what was
going on in some of the social activities of the young
people, but the type of program and the surroundings of the
nightclubs didn't appeal to me. And I don't say that with
any feeling of downgrading anybody. There were a lot of
good people involved in those kinds of activities, it just
didn't appeal to me . I was too busy, I guess, with the
other activities, trying to make conditions better and
HOPKINS: I've spoken to Miriam Matthews, and H. Claude
Hudson, and others, and I asked them the same question.
And they also did not frequent the nightclubs, and it seems
to me the leadership — black leadership — in this city was
not so involved in that kind of activity. Would you say,
in generalizing, that progressive blacks at the time
probably were not so much involved in that kind of social
BEAVERS: Well, I think that is generally true, and I think
the reason goes back to the important part that the church
life played in developing — I know that I had — I was
greatly influenced by my church activities and the training
there and the problems that we observed, and problems that
we were trying to solve. Trying to improve conditions, you
know, if you're dedicated to it, why you just didn't, you
felt that you were throwing away your time when you went to
the social clubs, and they all — The only thing they would
do — They were drinking, and dancing and that kind of
thing, and it just seemed to be a waste. And I think
generally, that — And because, too, the church leadership,
the ministers, you know, played a very important part in
building and improving conditions, and in the final analy-
sis it played an important part as demonstrated by the help
they gave us in organizing the Golden State Mutual Life
HOPKINS: As long as we're on the church, I know you were a
founder of People's Independent Church [of Christ] as we
talked about last time.
BEAVERS: I was one of the founders.
HOPKINS: One of the founders, excuse me, one of the
founders. Can you give me the background of how the
People's Independent Church came into existence?
BEAVERS: Well, can we go off the record just a bit? [tape
recorder turned off]
HOPKINS: OK, Mr. Beavers, we'll defer the discussion of
People's Independent Church. Let me ask you, then, about
your participation in World War I.
BEAVERS: During World War I, I was in a deferred classifi-
cation and worked as a molder's helper in a Los Angeles
foundry. During that period I was — served on the selective
service board and I was air raid warden, and generally did
what I could to help with the work that had to be done at
home, so to speak, not in the foreign service. But they
had a program worked out for those who were in a deferred
classification, so there was some participation here at
home. And I was active in that.
HOPKINS: What disability allowed you to be classified for
BEAVERS: Oh, an injury to my eye. I — In my teens, while
chopping wood once I — I think I was about, oh, I must of
been about sixteen or seventeen years of age — and I was
chopping wood, and a piece of wood flew up and hit my — hit
me in the left eye, and of course I suppose if medical
science had advanced like they have today they might have
been able to save that eye, but the fact of the matter is
they didn't, and I lost [the] sight of that left eye, and I
was in my teens. So that was the cause of my deferment.
HOPKINS: Was that traumatic — obviously it must have been
traumatic for you to lose the sight in that eye. Did that
in any way influence your thoughts about life or how you
perceived your future at all?
BEAVERS: Well, it was very discouraging to me at the time.
I did — Oh, I was greatly disappointed, and I felt very
badly over it for awhile, but I soon got over it, and
thanks to the environment — my parents and the church
environment helped me considerably. So I learned to accept
HOPKINS: I know eventually there was a Negro hospital
established in Los Angeles, or was there? I've read —
BEAVERS: Yes, there was one established. It was Dr.
[Charles] Diggs and his associates that established a Negro
hospital. And then there was an effort made to establish
another hospital, it was called the Good Shepherd, and
people interested in it — One of the moving characters was
Bishop [W. Bertrand] Stevens of the Episcopal Church. And,
of course, he was connected with the Good Samaritan
[Hospital of Los Angeles], and as a result of that movement
to establish the Good Shepherd Hospital, it was finally
decided that more good would be accomplished by breaking
the racial barriers in the Good Samaritan Hospital.
HOPKINS: So, rather than starting a separate black hos-
pital, it would be better to try to integrate the Good
BEAVERS: That, that's what happened. It might not have
been the key for the real motive for the acceptance of
black Americans, but that was the result. When we were
unable to satisfactorily accomplish the goal of the Good
Shepherd, to establish the Good Shepherd as a Negro hos-
pital, subsequently it developed that gradually barriers
were broken, and some aggressive doctors came along at the
time and helped to advance the integration program at Good
Samaritan. Of course, as you have suggested, I think the
result was that [it] was much better [than] trying to
establish a separate hospital for the blacks. It was much
better that they be accepted as part and parcel of the Good
HOPKINS: Dr. Diggs ' s hospital, did that ever get off the
ground? Or was that the Good Shepherd?
BEAVERS: No, that was a separate — That was another — They
actually operated. They were very small.
HOPKINS: What was the name of that hospital, do you
BEAVERS: I have a faint recollection, it seems it was
called [Paul Laurence] Dunbar Hospital. I think I ought to
check that out. I know that Diggs was the — I don't think
they called it "Diggs Hospital," I think they called it the
Dunbar. I want to see if I can get some information on
that, so I can be more accurate about it. But I know it
operated for several years.
HOPKINS: But it's not in existence today?
BEAVERS : No .
HOPKINS: OK. Was Good Samaritan — What years are we
talking about, with the blacks beginning to go to Good
BEAVERS: Well, that's something else I'll have to check
HOPKINS: All right. No problem. OK, We'll come back to
BEAVERS: I'll make a note to myself.
In connection with that participation in the war activ-
ities , I also served on the board to seek employment for
HOPKINS: Oh. Now was this a city generated activity, or
was this a conununity generated activity?
BEAVERS: Well, this was a — I guess it was generated by
the federal government. Yes, because I received a commen-
dation from — One of the a commendations I received from
the president was for that work in connection with reemploy-
ment activities. Helping secure jobs for veterans.
HOPKINS: For all veterans or for black veterans?
BEAVERS: Well, for all veterans. Of course, mine was —
Naturally I was particularly concerned with the blacks, but
in the natural order of things — but the program itself was
HOPKINS: Did you work with the Urban League in this
BEAVERS: No, this was a separate board, it was by the
HOPKINS: How was it that you came to be appointed to work
on the selective service board, and as an air raid warden?
BEAVERS: Well, yes, it just naturally developed because
I — my classification they were trying to use everybody.
HOPKINS: I see. [laughter]
Mr. Beavers, before we close this first session of our
interview, I do want to get your impressions on the so-
called Great Migration of blacks out of the South during
the period of World War I. Now I know that the majority of
blacks went to Chicago, and New York, and elsewhere, but
some came to Los Angeles.
BEAVERS: Quite a number.
HOPKINS: Quite a number. Do you have any impressions of
that that you can share with us?
BEAVERS: The impressions of —
HOPKINS: Did it seem like there was a large influx of
blacks to Los Angeles?
BEAVERS: Oh, there was, no question about that. There's
a — The population of blacks in Los Angeles just — Oh, it
was very rapid, and as an example: There were very few
blacks here in the early years when we came, but by 19 —
Well, I would say, it was — The big influx began after
World War II.
TAPE NUMBER: I, SIDE TWO
APRIL 29, 1982
BEAVERS: There were only about forty thousand black
Americans in the whole state of California at the time that
we were organizing the Golden State Mutual Life Insurance
Company, and that was in 1924 or '25. And by the end of
World War II there were, oh, something like two hundred
fifty thousand black Americans right here in Los Angeles.
And then of course, you know, now I guess it's over a
HOPKINS: Yes. Just shy of it.
HOPKINS: Or, just shy of it, yes.
BEAVERS: Somewhere around that.
BEAVERS: So you can see that during the years there's been
quite an influx of blacks. Of course, while we're on that,
there's been quite an influx of whites too. And they
brought with them those same prejudices that they had down
South. But fortunately we have had more political freedom
here, and we've been able to deal with it, as is evidenced
by the fact that we have a black mayor of Los Angeles, and
a black superintendent of education. The state, with a
number of state assemblymen, and even one state senator.
So it's being — The numbers are being fait. And still we
don't — We have been, we've had too many who were negligent
in participation in voting, and that's the big thing we've
got to correct now, is to get people registered and voting.
They don't — If we can get anything like our full voting
strength, why we could have even a larger piece of the pie.
HOPKINS: The blacks that were migrating from the South to
Los Angeles during the World War I period, did they seem to
fit in easily in the Los Angeles environment?
BEAVERS: Oh, yes.
HOPKINS: There wasn't major problems with housing?
BEAVERS: Oh, well, that was felt later as housing became a
problem, and then we had this situation and it brought
about the segregation that we have. We really have segreg-
ation, but it's not imposed by the law. It's imposed by
the pattern of living. The whites moving out when the
blacks move in. And whenever the whites feel that there's
a majority of the people in their area that are black, and
they're becoming a minority, they don't like to live in a
situation where they are the minority, so they move out. I
remember at first, there was a time when there were no
Negroes west of Central Avenue. Well, they moved over to
San Pedro. They moved the line over to San Pedro [Street],
then to Figueroa [Street], then to Vermont [Avenue]. Now,
let's see, then they got — Then they got to Crenshaw
[Boulevard]. I remember when, in 1949, when we built the
Golden State Mutual home office at Western and Adams, some
of the people complaining about the Golden State moving
away from the Negroes. And at that time, all this area in
here was completely — No at that time, this was a golf
course in this area. And I remember the time when the line
was in Western Avenue. There were no Negroes living west
of Western Avenue, and there were even Japanese gardens,
agriculture, agriculture all in this area.
HOPKINS: Baldwin Hills, and Leimert Park area.
BEAVERS: Well, then there was a golf course here, but down
Vermont on the other side there was agriculture all the way
almost to the beach. Of course, there's been a real — The
real estate business really soared in the development of
all these areas, and the whites moving right in. Of
course, they can't — You can't get away now — they can't
live in the ocean. [laughter] And the remarkable thing
though, is that long before the decision of the [United
States] Supreme Court striking down the illegal covenant in
deeds — racial covenant in deeds, which made it impossible
for Negroes to get clear title — before that decision, our
company was lending money on homes in white areas, and
despite the fact that these deeds contained race restric-
tions. But we knew that the race restrictions were not
valid, and that some time that they would have to be
lifted. But in any event, owning the property — They
couldn't keep you from owning it, they might keep you from
living in it. And so by virtue of that policy, we helped
to break the backs of the legal segregation, and bring
about this law — United States Supreme Court decision
outlawing the racial restrictions in deeds, and some of the
property that we made loans on was involved in the de-
HOPKINS: One more question here: Following the war, when
the industries — When the war-related industry dismantled,
and we had a lot of black migrants here from the South, was
it difficult for them to find jobs?
BEAVERS: Uh-hum. Yes, and as a matter of fact, we had
what is the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement
of Colored People], and the Urban League, and some of the
churches, all of the organizations that were concerned
about this discrimination brought together in one group
which was called Allied Defense — Allied Defense — I think
it's mentioned in my biographical data there. Allied
Organization Against Discrimination in Defense Industries.
And we worked together to force the industries to accept
Negro workers, and the Los Angeles Sentinel and the
California Eagle , and the churches all worked together on
that. The fact of the matter is Leon [Harold] Washington
and the Los Angeles Sentinel were — They headed a movement
called "Don't shop where you can't work." And they didn't
have any Negro employees on the streetcars we had-- Before
the buses we had electric streetcar transportation for the
local citizens, and the motormen and conductors had to be
white, and we knocked that out. And then they took on the
telephone company next.
And now, it's quite a different day now; of course we
have the Civil Rights Law of '64, and now it's fashionable
for them to advertise that they're "Equal Opportunity
Employers," or affirmative action. All of that has come
about because of the tremendous working that was done in
those years when they just didn't think about having blacks
in any of these places. In banks, in government positions,
even if they qualified. So our big problem today is to
urge our people to first register, and vote, and go to
school, get an education, be prepared to do something. Be
qualified. There are a lot of jobs, still a lot of jobs
that we don't have because we don't find enough people
qualified. That's hard to say, but it's true. And our
young people, the big message to them should be to study
and not be satisfied with anything less than the best
education possible, because the day is fast approaching
when there is just no opportunity for the menial jobs. I
think the technology today, so many things are done by
machine, and computers, and various types of electrical
equipment, automation. It's taking jobs, but it takes
people to operate those machines. And computers, and the
automatic machines, they don't do it by themselves. It
takes some people to tell the machine what to do, and
that's where we can be pointing our education.
TAPE NUMBER: II, SIDE ONE
MAY 4, 1982
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, you were going to talk something
about social activities today?
BEAVERS: Yes, Mr. Hopkins, I wanted to supplement my
remarks of our previous conference, concerning social
activities in the early days. Of course, while our social
activities were rather small comparatively, but at that
time, we young people received quite a bit of enjoyment at
the ice cream parlors, and at the motion picture theaters,
and stage theaters at that time. As an example, we had a
very nice theater building on Central Avenue near Twenty-
fourth Street, and we had stage plays and motion pictures.
But I remember one period in which the Lafayette Players
were giving programs every week. And that little theater
would be crowded every session to see and hear those
players acting the roles of well-known plays, and it was
very interesting and very entertaining.
I remember especially too, in the same theater that I
first saw and heard Lena Home, and in addition to the
theatergoing, we also had a lot of fun going to baseball
games, particularly in the winter season when major league
stars would visit the course in their training sessions,
and play ball with the Negro stars. Stars from the old
Negro baseball league, and such characters as Satchel
Paige, Bullet [Joe] Rogan [Wilbur Rogan ] , Josh[ua] Gibson,
and Biz [Raleigh] Mackey, Cool Papa [James Thomas] Bell,
these players representing teams like the Kansas City
Monarchs and the Home State Braves, the Birmingham Black
Barons, and the Cleveland Buckeyes, Philadelphia Stars.
And it was very entertaining and amusing to see these Negro
stars beat the major league stars. And that was a common
occurrence, and naturally the Negro community enjoyed
seeing their black brothers beat the white major league
teams out here. Then we also had the Pacific Coast Minor
Leagues , and the Los Angeles team was called the Los
Angeles Angels, and it came in for its share of beating at
the hands of the Negro stars. Which was demonstrating at
the time that there shouldn't be barriers to Negroes
participating in the major leagues. And, as you know, that
barrier was finally broken when [Brooklyn Dodger President]
Branch Rickey hired Jackie Robinson.
And in addition, we had from time to time the dance-
halls — dances — sponsored by various groups, collegiate
groups and other clubs, and that served to provide some
social activity for the young people in the early days.
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, what time period are we talking
about would you say?
BEAVERS: Well, we're talking about the time period when,
say in the 1930's, early 1920's, thirties, forties,
covering about three decades there.
HOPKINS: You mentioned the Lafayette Players. Do you know
anything about them or when they were formed? Who spon-
BEAVERS: No, I'm sure we could look that up in the Negro
Yearbook possibly, but it was a traveling group, and it had
very, very big talent. And of course they had few oppor-
tunities to use that talent nationwide, and like other
things in a segregated society, their opportunities were
limited in the same manner, perhaps, that our athletes were
limited at the time.
HOPKINS: Did a group like the Lafayette Players, did they
play — When they came to Los Angeles did they play ex-
clusively to a black audience?
BEAVERS: Well, not exclusively, but most of their oppor-
tunity for performance was provided by the Negro audiences.
HOPKINS: OK. All right, so do you want to move on to
Golden State — I mean to People's Independent?
BEAVERS: Yes, we can do that now.
HOPKINS: All right.
BEAVERS: Now, let's see, where ' s that book?
HOPKINS: OK, Mr. Beavers, I'd like to turn now to People's
Independent Church, which I know you had a great part in
the founding of this church, if I'm not mistaken. Can you
account for us please, how did People's Independent Church
come into existence?
BEAVERS: Yes, I ' d be glad to. The excitement of 1915
still lingers in my memory. The aroused action of a large
group of sincere members of First A.M.E. Church to —
reaction to the abuse of authority by the bishop of tha
district. This involved the bishop's action in terminating
the pastorate of the church by the Reverend N[apoleon] P.
Greggs, who had made a tremendous impact upon the Los
Angeles community as well as members of the church. He was
a man of sterling character, outstanding ability. Christian
zeal, and a most eloquent pulpit orator. He had not served
a maximum term of pastorate, and the membership had
petitioned the bishop to return him for another term of
service. On October 3, 1915, after trying for several
weeks to have the bishop give some consideration to that
petition, a body of members congregated in Christian — in
the Christian Church on East Eighth Street. They declared
themselves a separate and independent body under the name
and title of First Independent Church. The group then
authorized an invitation to be extended to the Reverend N.
P. Greggs to accept the pastorate of the new church. On
October 6, 1915, the Reverend Greggs accepted the invita-
tion, and the church was born, which later became known as
the People's Independent Church of Christ, and located at
Eighteenth Street and Paloma [Street] in Los Angeles. I
had the pleasure and privilege of serving as secretary of
the organizing group, and was elected to the position of
church cleric of the permanent organization. At that time,
I was the youngest member of the official family of the
church. During a span of twenty-five years, I served in
many other positions, including choir member, soloist for
the bass section of the choir, chairman of the board of
trustees, and numerous important committees.
Now, I want to ask, "do you want to continue about the
rest of that? About my wife?
HOPKINS: Well, I'd like to — Yes, just a couple of ques-
tions here. Do you know the bishop's name who was involved
BEAVERS: Bishop, what is his name? [tape recorder turned
HOPKINS: OK, so the bishop's name —
BEAVERS: I think his name was Bishop H. B. Parks.
HOPKINS: I see. And, then Reverend Greggs , his initials
"N.P. " stand for~
BEAVERS: Napoleon P. Greggs. I'm not sure what the "P."
stood for, but Napoleon was his first name.
HOPKINS: OK. You mentioned that Reverend Greggs was a
prominent person in Los Angeles, and he was well thought of
by the church community. Can you remember any of his
activities that are outstanding?
BEAVERS: Yes, he was — He was thirty-second degree mason,
and he was quite popular in fraternal circles. He was also
active in the Ministerial Alliance, and frequently appeared
in other churches. He was invited to other congregations
to visit and preach. And he took an action in anything
that was for the betterment of the race and our community.
He was very helpful to us in the organizing and promoting
of the insurance business, the life insurance business.
HOPKINS: Now, People's Independent Church broke away from
BEAVERS: The African Methodist Episcopal Church.
HOPKINS: And that was located on — ?
BEAVERS: That was located at Eighth and Towne in Los
Angeles, the First A.M.E. Church of Los Angeles.
HOPKINS: So then there was a larger — He was one of many
bishops then in the A.M.E. Church? Bishop —
BEAVERS: Yes. But he was the bishop of this district at
HOPKINS: Now, when you started People's Independent
Church, were your mother and father members of People's
BEAVERS: My mother died in 1915, prior to the organization
of the Independent Church. My father was included, my
father and my sisters, the rest of the family were in-
HOPKINS: I see. What did your mother die of?
BEAVERS: Well, paralysis and cancer.
HOPKINS: Now, Mr. Beavers, I see that you're listed as one
of the founding members of the People's Independent Church.
Who were some of the other founders of the church?
BEAVERS: Well, there was Captain F. H. Crumbly, and Mr. J.
[H.] Shackleford, a businessman. P. J. Alexander, a
businessman, and G. W. Whitley, a businessman, and Mrs.
B[essie] F. Prentice, who was owner of a novelty store, and
Mr. J. H. Shackleford, who owned a furniture store, and —
Those are some of the outstanding people who were as-
sociated with the movement.
HOPKINS: Can we take a moment here to maybe talk about a
couple of them. What can you tell me about Mr.
BEAVERS: Mr. Shackleford was quite an active member, and
he had a good business on Central Avenue. He dealt with
the furniture and household goods, and later he became an
outstanding real estate businessman. He was engaged in the
real estate business, in selling and renting property, and
he was also later one of the organizing directors of the
Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company.
HOPKINS: Well, do you know why he left the furniture busi-
BEAVERS: Well, to make more money, I guess. He thought it
was a better opportunity, and at that time the real estate
business was growing and new people coming in, and
providing housing for people was — offered quite an oppor-
tunity at the time. And, he saw another need to be filled
there, and he took advantage of it. In fact, I think he
made more money in the real estate business then he did in
the furniture store. Which proved the wisdom of making the
HOPKINS: I notice — I've seen pictures of him riding on a
bicycle with a table on his back. Were there other fur-
niture stores around at the time? Other black-owned
BEAVERS: Not black -owned.
HOPKINS: Not black-owned.
BEAVERS: No. I think his was — His was the only black-
owned furniture store that I remember.
HOPKINS: So when he went out of business, where did most
blacks that you knew buy their furniture?
BEAVERS: Oh, there was a furniture company by the name
of — I think it was Gold Furniture Company, and a number of
stores, and I — Yes, I'm sure the ownership — They were
Jewish people, and there were several furniture stores
operated by whites or Jewish people. You know, that's the
regular — seemed to be the regular order of things. The
Jewish people and the Caucasians going into the Negro
community to benefit from their trade. They wanted Negro
trade. They were not interested in developing any Negroes
to be their competitors, naturally. [laughter]
HOPKINS: There's a Mr. Crumbly, Colonel Crumbly —
HOPKINS: Captain Crumbly.
BEAVERS: He was an army captain, and he was a very out-
standing — He had an outstanding record in the army, and he
was also very active in the community, very good orator,
and very persuasive, and very honorable.
HOPKINS: Mr. Whitley?
BEAVERS: Whitley was also in the real estate business, and
he was very active in the church. Very determined sort of
character, and he and his wife played a very important part
in the organization. She was a deaconess and very sincere,
HOPKINS: You know, I noticed that there seems to have been
a lot of blacks who have gone into the real estate business
in this early period. And I know you mentioned already
that Mr. Shackleford did so, in order to — He felt it would
be more profitable. Was it difficult for Negroes to become
involved in real estate business?
BEAVERS: No, not especially. It was like other things.
They had to be — They had to qualify themselves, and get a
license, and that was a business where your success was
determined by your own ingenuity, and your activity, being
able to sell, and to persuade people to buy what you had to
BEAVERS: And of course, in those days, they knew people
were coming into the community, and if they didn't have the
money to buy, why, they had to have some place to live, so
they'd be interested in renting. So it was an opportunity
to help provide housing for the influx of the blacks who
were coming in from other states. Particularly from the
HOPKINS: Were there any — What would be the major ob-
stacle, if any, that a black real estate person would face?
To going into that business? Were there any obvious
BEAVERS: Well, in those days, there were no special
obstacles there, because the whites, the whites were glad
to use their services when they wanted to move out of a
Negro district. So there was no particular obstacle there.
the only thing they had to do was to qualify for a license,
and then to know how to manage a business and operate.
HOPKINS: Now, going back then to People's Independent
Church, I know preliminarily you've mentioned that there
was a Young People's Lyceum of People's Independent Church.
Can you tell me something about that?
BEAVERS: Well, yes. My first wife Willie Mae was very
active. And she supervised the Young People's Lyceum, in
fact, she was the organizer of the activity and she super-
vised for a long time, and it was an outstanding young
people's organization. It attracted many young people to
the church without regard for denominational ties. I
remember that Mr. Leon Whittaker was the first president
and my sister, Helen Beavers, was the first secretary.
Whittaker achieved notable distinction as the first of our
race to serve as deputy district attorney of Los Angeles
County. And the dramatic department of the Lyceum was
especially successful and came close to professional
standards in producing a number of plays that claimed city-
wide attention. These were presented in the theatrical
atmosphere, with stage equipment and props, at Gamaut Club,
an auditorium. It was located on South Hope Street. They
put on several prominent plays, such as Experience , Cast
Upon Th e World , A Woman's Honor , Crimson Eyebrows , Belle of
Barcelona, and some of the participants in these plays
later achieved distinction in other careers. For example,
the Honorable Ralph [Johnson] Bunche — now deceased — became,
became the noted Nobel Peace Prize winner, and assistant
secretary of the United Nations. Louise Beavers — now
deceased — was a motion picture actress. Kenneth Spencer,
who achieved international distinction as a bass soloist,
and my sister Elmyra — she was Elmyra Beavers at the time-
— played a starring role in Cast Upon The World .
HOPKINS: Did you have a part in the, in this dramatic
BEAVERS: Oh, yes, I played a little part. I was — In
fact, I — My own participation was in the leading role in
the play Experience , which I enjoyed very much.
HOPKINS: Now, Louise Beavers, is she any relationship to
BEAVERS: Yes, she was my cousin.
HOPKINS: Can you remember offhand any of the roles she had
in the movies?
BEAVERS: Well, she was noted in the role of — Shut that
off a minute. [tape recorder turned off] Imitation of
HOPKINS: Imitation of Life .
BEAVERS: It was a play that concerned a family — a
spiritual family where the young woman, she was light of
color and passed as white, and then this play had a strong
racial bearing, because it dealt with some of the race
problems. And the role played by Louise was the — She was
a servant in the family, but it brought out several life
situations that were very significant at the time.
HOPKINS: OK, thank you. This Young People's Lyceum, was
it a Sunday school, a kind of Sunday school, or — ?
BEAVERS: No, no. It dealt strictly with the — Well, it
was a social activity for the church, and development of
young people. It supplemented school, Sunday school
activities, and gave the young people something to do
during their weekdays.
HOPKINS: Now, when you say young people, what age group
would we be talking about?
BEAVERS: Well, generally from kindergarten size on up to
HOPKINS: To adulthood. OK. Mr. Beavers, now you cur-
rently belong to Holman [United] Methodist Church,
Episcopal Church —
HOPKINS: — or Holman Methodist?
BEAVERS: Holman United Methodist Church.
HOPKINS: Holman United Methodist Church. Why did you
leave People's Independent Church?
BEAVERS: Well, I — My wife and I felt that there was an
opportunity to serve in a church that was not confined to
the black community. Of course. Reverend Greggs , the
original pastor of Independent Church, he passed away in,
back in 1932. And we saw an opportunity, we thought, to
get into a church that was — that crossed racial lines, and
in keeping with our philosophy to get into the mainstream,
we thought that activity in the United Methodist Church
perhaps would offer more opportunity to promote that
philosophy of getting into the mainstream. After getting
into the — After joining Holman Methodist Church, I did
have the opportunity of serving on the board for the All
Nations Foundation, and the Goodwill Industries, all
organizations that cut across racial lines. And, it was--
It has been a nice experience.
HOPKINS: About — Do you remember what year that you joined
Holman ' s?
BEAVERS: Oh, I think it was '57. You can verify that, I
think it appears in my biographical data.
HOPKINS: OK. OK, now, so then from roughly 1915 to 1957,
you were a member of People's Independent Church.
HOPKINS: Can you — Were there any significant changes in
People's Independent Church over that time that are worth
BEAVERS: Well, of course, the church has moved from it's
old location on Eighteenth and Paloma, it's now on West
Boulevard near Fifty-fourth Street, I believe. And they
have a new pastor. They've had several pastors since
Reverend Greggs has passed. And it's doing very well I
think, but I have no regrets for having moved to the United
HOPKINS: I guess my question is generated from the fact
that there were so many prominent blacks during this early
period that seemed to be members of People's Independent,
and now looking at the church from what I know of it, which
isn't a whole lot, there still are some prominent in-
dividuals, but not as many as there were in the earlier
BEAVERS: Well, as conditions change and you have new
leadership, you see, there's quite a difference in the Los
Angeles periods since — in all those years, you have more
churches, and more able ministers. We have Dr. [Thomas]
Kilgore [Jr.] at the Second Baptist Church, we have so many
outstanding ministers in other churches, and of course. Dr.
James [Morris] Lawson of our church, he's an outstanding
minister, and there's Bishop [Hartford H. ] Brookins of the
A.M.E. Church too, he's outstanding. He's been a pastor —
I think they have a pastor by the name of [Reverend Cecil]
Murray, but the churches like other activities have grown
and there are so many more now, and there's so many more
outstanding people. So I think that would account for the
difference that you observe.
TAPE NUMBER: III, SIDE ONE
MAY 11, 1982
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, last time we talked about the
founding of People's Independent Church, and today I'd like
to talk about another institution in which you were in-
volved in the founding of, and that is the Golden State
Mutual Life Insurance Company. Can you tell me how you
came to be involved in Golden State?
BEAVERS: Yes, Mr. Hopkins, I'll be glad to review that as
much as I can recollect. You know, that's been a long,
BEAVERS: In the early spring of 1922, a young man by the
name of Calwell Jones — he was an agent for the American
Mutual Benefit Association [of Texas], that was a fraternal
organization — and he came to my home and tried to sell me
an insurance policy in that organization. I asked him many
questions that dealt with the association, its record, sta-
bility, management, and finally its ability to pay. Jones
talked a little about the insurance benefits, but most of
his sales pitch focused on race pride, and he didn't
satisfactorily answer my other questions. He requested
that I give him an opportunity to bring his superintendent
to further bolster his presentation, and I agreed.
Later he returned with the — Mr. Norman 0[ liver]
Houston. This was my first meeting with Norman, and we
engaged in a lengthy discussion, and Houston then arranged
to have me meet Mr. William [H.] Nickerson, Jr. Mr.
Nickerson had come to California in 1921. He was from
Houston, Texas, and was the secretary and general manager
for the American Mutual Benefit Association which had its
origin and home office in Houston. I shall never forget
the meeting with Mr. Nickerson, he had such a magnetic
personality and an abundance of enthusiasm, and that
enthusiasm was contagious. After talking with Mr.
Nickerson, I not only paid the premium for an insurance
policy, but I became an agent for the Association. And
that was the way that I first became involved.
Now that was a fraternal insurance organization, and I
started to work for them on a part-time basis, and I began
an intensive study of life insurance and salesmanship, and
Norman and Mr. Nickerson shared with me their experience,
and some special courses on the subject. Mr. Nickerson was
an excellent teacher, and he was truly dedicated to the
insurance business. Oh, in about a year, with the help of
others, he had built, we had built a sizeable debit. That
is, Houston and I. And I sold a building maintenance in
which I was engaged, and decided to make life insurance my
career. I accepted the philosophy of life-long learning
and started an educational program to take special training
and college courses, not for degrees or college credits,
but rather for practical use in business, and for helping
to find solutions to the various problems that confronted
Norman and I, with a small staff of agents, continued
building the American Mutual debit, but ever looking
forward to the time when we could realize Mr. Nickerson's
dream, to build a real life insurance company. At that
time we felt there was a great need for a life insurance
company for our people in particular, because they were
denied so many benefits from the operations of the life
insurance business by other companies. In other words,
they could get only substandard policies, and they couldn't
get any employment, no loans on their property. In other
words, they couldn't enjoy the full benefits of the
business that their premiums helped to build. Mr.
Nickerson was quite sensitive about this, and felt the
need. And he had a dream of building a big company that
would serve those needs, and give opportunities to our
people to have the full benefits of their life insurance
premiums. So Norman and I shared that dream, and we helped
to, we were glad to help make it become a reality.
Mr. Nickerson's associates in the business were in
Texas, and apparently they didn't share his dream to build
a larger organization, and as a result they refused to
renew the license that was necessary in California for the
year 1924 to '25. As a result, we decided to build a
company in California. And Mr. Nickerson was very happy to
have us join him in this endeavor, and I recall the major,
major crisis that faced us when they decided to change the
law during the time we were organizing. Of course, in
order to get going with the organization of the company, it
was necessary to find a law under which we could operate, a
law that didn't require such large expenditures as was
necessary for an old line legal reserve company.
I recall that I went with Mr. Nickerson to the offices
of some lawyers who were insurance specialists, and they
outlined what was necessary, and during the course of the
interview indicated what their fees would be for the
preliminary work, and having us to get started with such an
adventure. And, of course, their preliminary fee was
fifteen hundred dollars before we had anything in the way
of a license to operate.
HOPKINS: What company was that? Do you remember offhand?
The lawyers, I don't know if you remember offhand?
BEAVERS: No, they were life insurance specialists. I
don't recall their names, it was a group of them. I don't
recall their names. However, that incident brought out the
determination in William Nickerson, Jr. We left the
lawyers' office, and he said to me, "Beavers, where can we
get some law books?" And I took him to the law bookstore
that I was familiar with, and there he purchased a copy of
the Civil Code of California. In other words, Mr.
Nickerson would become his own lawyer. [laughter] And as
a result, he searched that law book, and he found Chapter
Four — It was called Chapter Four at that time, under which
the law in Chapter Four provided that you could organize a
guarantee fund insurance company, and the requirements were
a fifteen [thousand] dollar guarantee fund to be placed
with the state treasurer, and five hundred applications
with the premiums paid, and of course, you had to have in
addition to that some money to operate on. In other words,
it involved about an outlay of twenty-five thousand dollars
and five hundred members.
Well now, during the time that we organized we inciden-
tally choose that method of organizing, reasoning that that
was a starter and once we were successful with that part of
the organization we could convert into an old line legal
HOPKINS: So at this point, you were organizing a guarantee
BEAVERS: The Golden State Guarantee Fund Insurance
Company, we called it. And the policies had to carry an
assessment clause, and that's an interesting point too.
Although we carried that assessment clause in the early
policies, at the same time we maintained the full legal
reserves just as though it had been a legal reserve com-
pany. Having in mind that when we finally converted, the
reserves would have accummulated and there would be no
problem in transferring it into a larger company. So, we
went to work on that basis. And Mr. Nickerson, he was the
president and general manager, and was taking care of the
actuarial part of it. He succeeded in getting an actuary
to help him. His name was John H. Upton. He was a retired
actuary, and there were no black actuaries at that time.
And this man was retired and quite a help to us. He was
broad in his concept, and was very helpful in helping us to
get our original organization in order.
During that period, Mr. Nickerson, as I said, took
charge of the general management and the actuarial part of
it. Norman Houston was the secretary and he took charge of
the drive to sell "certificates of contribution," we called
HOPKINS: Was that like stock?
BEAVERS: That was similiar to stock, but it lacked the
quality and guarantee of stock. It was a contribution, and
payable only when the company had surplus sufficient to pay
it. So that it was to — Some people would call it a
gamble. At least it took a lot of faith to put out a
thousand dollars for something like that, in a nonexistent
company, hoping it would succeed and you would get your
money back, so you could get interest on it.
HOPKINS: Can you remember some of the people who bought
these first certificates?
BEAVERS: Oh, yes. There was, of course, naturally we had
to buy them. We were organizing the firm, and then there
was Dr. [Henry H. ] Towles , Dr. H. H. Towles , a prominent
physician. Mr. S[imon] P. Johnson, who was an undertaker,
in the mortuary business. And there was a man by the name
of Ed Banks, Edward Banks. Another doctor, Wilbur C.
Gordon, a Hartley Jones. And Jones was connected with the
Liberty Savings and Loan Association. See, we — Houston
and I had a lot of friends. Houston had a lot of friends
in Northern California where he was born, and he was also a
legionnaire, and I was very active in the Independent
Church, and I had a lot of friends there, including the
pastor, the Reverend N. P. Greggs , who was very popular,
and a great orator, a man who was very much interested in
business success as well as in religion. And those were
some of the people.
Then up in Northern California, we had another under-
taker by the name of Luther Hudson. Of course, you might
say that it was natural for undertakers to have some
interest in the insurance business, because that's another
way to guarantee they get money when the policyholder dies,
If he has insurance, why, they would be benefited by their
help in having them insured. But these men were of high
caliber, and they were concerned about building more
business owned and controlled by black Americans. Oh,
there is another prominent man, I should mention J. H.
Shackleford. He was in the furniture business, and later
became a real estate dealer. So they were quite a number
HOPKINS: What would be a rough estimate? I'm sorry, I
didn't mean to interrupt, but what would be a rough es-
timate of the number of certificates you sold?
BEAVERS: Well —
HOPKINS: In this early — In the beginning?
BEAVERS: — we sold the certificates. We counted them in
amounts of money, so we had to raise — The certificates
furnished the major portion of the money that we raised.
Of course, that was supplemented by the premiums that
people paid for the policies. And while we were in the
process of organization, they changed that law to — which
almost doubled the requirements. Instead of five hundred
members, you had to have a thousand. Instead of fifteen
hundred dollars, you had to have — I mean fifteen thousand
dollars, you had to have twenty-five thousand. And that
law was — The new law was to go in effect in July of 1925,
and we actually started the charter membership drive in the
early part of 1925, because in 1924 we were busy getting
the organization formed. In the latter part of 1924, we
were busy planning and getting ready for the drive, and
then the charter membership drive actually started in 1925.
When the news came out that they had changed this law, we
were more determined then, and that helped us as we went to
the people, to show them that some effort was being made to
block the success of this company,
HOPKINS: You mean these laws were designed — do you think —
specifically to —
BEAVERS: Well, it seemed to us that our company was the
only one in the process of organizing that particular kind,
and it was the first time that any company had used these
certificates of contribution to raise money. And there was
no doubt in our mind that it was specifically aimed at
stopping or blocking our success. We had one, only one
representative in the state assembly then, whose name was
Fred [Frederick Madison] Roberts. He was the first black
man elected to the state assembly in California. And he
was quite a help to us.
Now, if I think I can get back to our main subject
here. We had some interesting sidelights on the way to
raising this money. I remember that in the first part of
July, in 1925, the insurance examiner came and inspected
our books , and checked on the progress being made in
raising the fund. Then the day before we were to have the
final inspection, we needed about eighteen hundred dollars
more to really get just the minimum. We gathered at the
mortuary owned by S. P. Johnson, and we had a little
meeting — the directors — it reminded me something of a
church in raising money. The pastor needs just a certain
amount to round out the collection, and he makes a frantic
call for additional contributions. At that meeting though,
in about twenty minutes we raised that extra eighteen
hundred dollars, and it was put in the bank the next day.
And the new law I referred to was going into effect on July
23, 1925, and we received a telegram from the insurance
commissioner at noon on that day, informing us that we had
met the requirements and would receive the license to
operate. That was a very happy and glorious time.
At that time we were in a little office — well, the
building was owned by Dr. Towles . It was a little building
at the corner of Clanton [Street] and Central Avenue, and
that was between Newton Street and Fifteenth [Street] — that
street I don't think is there anymore. But we had a one-
room office up there, and we stayed there just long enough
to get — to find a place to accommodate our business. And
that was the second office that we had. It was at 3512
South Central Avenue, that was just below Jefferson. Right
at the intersection of Jefferson and Central Avenue. And
there we remained until we built our first new home office
That building was built by L. [Louis] M. Blodgett. He
was a black American contractor, and we had that building
on Central Avenue between Forty-first and Forty-third
Street — or between Forty-first and Forty-second. The
numbers of the streets later were changed, but that was at
4111, was the address. It was a two-story building, and we
occupied the second floor for the business, and we rented
out the three stores. One to a beauty parlor, one to a
barber shop, let's see, no, I guess it was two stores. Two
storerooms. And they rented out originally to a beauty
shop, and then a barber shop. We remained there until,
well, there's quite a bit of history that was made right at
that address. [tape recorder turned off]
By the end of 1925, the company paid its first death
claim, and this established a precedent of prompt service.
We made a special point of making a payment of the claim
within twenty-five minutes after proofs of death were
filed. The full settlement was made to the widow of a
charter member by the name of T. A. Torrance, one of the
first to express his faith in Golden State Mutual by
signing a charter membership application.
In December, the company dispatched one of its
talented young agents to Oakland to organize a branch
operation in that Northern California community. Edgar J.
Johnson, one of Golden State's first agents, was the man
chosen to be manager — first branch manager for the company.
He eventually attained the title of president of the
The tiny office in which the company had its beginning
had to be abandoned after seventy-nine days. Growth had
reached the point where it was unsuitable. And the new
storefront office was secured, and the company grew during
the next fourteen months to an organization of fifty-four
employees, with assets of $25,346. Income in 1926 reached
$60,793. Now between 1926 and 1928, Golden State extended
services to Pasadena, Bakersfield, San Diego, Fresno, El
Centre, and Sacramento. In Los Angeles a new home office
building was erected, and that was the one I just referred
HOPKINS: At 4112?
BEAVERS: At 4111.
HOPKINS: At 4111.
BEAVERS: By the end of '29, Golden State's assets stood at
$73,033. Its annual income was $188,847, and its employee
While economic conditions in America ebbed. Golden
State Mutual grew. In 1950 there was war again, and some
thirty-four thousand American lives were lost on Korean
battlefields before an uneasy peace was restored. In the
1950s there was the launching of the first man-made satel-
lite by the Soviet Union, and the first atomic-powered
submarine by the United States, and also the discovery of
vaccine against polio by Dr. Jonas [Edward] Salk. The
United States elected Dwight [David] Eisenhower president,
a British queen was crowned, and a new African nation of
Ghana came into existence. The outlawing of segregation in
public schools, and the Little Rock [Arkansas] incident
became a symbol of defiance of that ruling. And a Georgia
preacher named Martin Luther King [Jr.] led a bus boycott
in Montgomery, Alabama, in the struggle by black people for
economic, social, and political freedom.
For Golden State Mutual, the decade meant more ex-
pansion, and a new kind of identification for its represen-
tatives. Oregon, Washington, and Arizona joined Cali-
fornia, Texas, and Illinois as Golden State's service
states. The company broadened its services to include
mortgage cancellation insurance and group insurance. -^
I don't know how far you want me to go in discussing
this, but that gives you some idea as to the beginnings.
and you might have some questions to raise before we
proceed with the other progress.
HOPKINS: That was very good. Just a few questions if we
can start back in the beginning. Now, you mentioned that
you studied life insurance in part with Mr. Nickerson.
What kind of formal course work did you have in insurance
business? Or how was your training?
BEAVERS: Well, I took courses in the UCLA Extension, and
some special instruction from a professor at the University
of Southern California. For example, I was the vice-
president and director of agencies, and in the early days
we served in multiple positions. For instance, Mr.
Nickerson was president and general manager. Mr. Houston
was secretary and treasurer, and he looked after the
investments as well as the secretarial work. I was
director — not only director of the agency, but I was claim
adjuster, I was the public relations director. In other
words, we had to do — Whatever had to be done, we had to do
HOPKINS: I see.
BEAVERS: So during that period, at first, I extended my
knowledge of economics, I had a special economics course,
had a special course on insurance salesmanship, a course on
life insurance, and I had a course in advertising, a course
in public speaking, a course in special law — in commercial
law. And those are examples. I took those courses, and
naturally that helped.
Also, I think it well to point out at this time, and
this was my philosophy from the very beginning, was our
philosophy, we wanted to build a business — One of the
motivating factors in building Golden State Mutual was not
only to provide opportunities for better life insurance to
our people, but also opportunities for employment, oppor-
tunities for mortgage loans, these are the other benefits
that they did not receive at that time from other com-
panies. So I took the position then, knowing that it would
take time to build the kind of corporation we had in mind,
and that we were in fact trying to provide for the younger
generation coming on. And that was why I was not per-
sonally concerned about getting diplomas or degrees, I was
concerned about getting the information so that I could use
it to apply where I needed it, and when I needed it. I
knew that when the company grew and became large enough,
that there would be opportunities for the younger people,
and that's what I was interested in. I got as much as I
could to use where I needed it, and when it was important,
but I was very much interested in encouraging the younger
people to go on and get their degrees, M.B.A.'s, and all
the education they could get, because I could see that
there would be a need for it. And they would have places
to use it. At that time when we were coming along —
TAPE NUMBER: III, SIDE TWO
MAY 11, 1982
BEAVERS : OK?
BEAVERS: So, I've seen a number of cases in the business
world, and particularly in life insurance, where we were
specializing, where the old hands stayed on so long, that
there was no opportunity for younger people to come in and
to perpetuate the business. We in Golden State Mutual, we
had the philosophy of building not only the business but
building people and giving them opportunities. And now
that's being paid off, because we have so many people well-
trained. Our chairman of the board, and chief executive of
the company now, not only has his M.B.A. but he has a
degree in actuarial science. He has his C.L.U., Chartered
Life Underwriter. He has the F.L.M.I., that's a degree
from the Life Office Management Association [Fellow of the
Life Management Institute]. And there's another story
behind that, which I'll touch on later, how we — how our
people have helped to break the barriers of discrimination
in the life insurance industry, so that they not only got
in, we not only got the company in as a member, but our
people have served in various official capacities in those
trade associations. And at the time we were organizing
they were not accepted in any of the trade associations.
We managed to, through our activities in the community and
in the State of California, work through some friends who —
In the life insurance business here, for example there was
Leslie [J.] Hooper, who was an actuary for Pacific Mutual
Life Insurance Company. He and I served in the 1949 Grand
Jury together. He was also helpful to us in the life
insurance business, because — And there's, in all the activ-
ities in the community and the city, and the state, Mr.
Houston and I were very active in these various organi-
zations, and naturally we met people from these other
companies, leading companies here, like Pacific Mutual, the
Occidental Life Insurance Company, and the Prudential, and
meeting those people, and working through them, that we
helped to break the barriers to race in the trade industry
Our company, we belonged to Life Advertiser's Assoc-
iation. We belonged to the Life Office Management Assoc-
iation, we have more, I'll be giving you that too. We have
more members who — More of our employees and officers who
have that distinction, the F, L.M.I,, having completed all
the courses in office management and insurance. And it's a
fellowship degree, F.L.M.I., and —
HOPKINS: Now, what does that stand for again, F.L.M.I.?
BEAVERS: Fellow, Life Insurance Institute. Let's see, I
have these. See, a number of the officers there that have
that F. L.M.I, after their names. We made a special point
of encouraging our employees and our officers to take those
courses, and you'll notice the number of F. L.M.I, and
C.L.U.'s, and we have retired officers who receive those
— that recognition.
Well, getting back to the point, the philosophy of
building our youth, and giving them opportunities, because
take me now, I'm 90 years old, and I knew that I wouldn't
be the beneficiary of all these opportunities, so if I
could do something to help make the way for others, I'm
happy I made a contribution. And that's the philosophy.
And see, a number of our companies failed because the old
hands stay on too long, and they die, and go on, and
there's nobody left to carry on the business, see. Now, if
they carry — If they had left, they are not trained and not
able to keep up with the change in time. Business now is a
whole lot different now than it was in 1925. So —
HOPKINS: Were there competing life insurance companies —
black — was there competition from other black insurance
companies in Los Angeles when you started Golden State?
HOPKINS: What about this group from Texas? Did they just
disband then? Or did they send other agents from Houston?
BEAVERS: Well, no, they finally disbanded.
TAPE NUMBER: IV, SIDE ONE
JUNE 1, 19 82
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, as you recall, last time we met you
gave us an excellent sketch on the growth of Golden State
Mutual Life Insurance Company. We have some questions we'd
like to ask you, to clarify some points as well as to maybe
initiate some new ideas on the growth of this company. Can
you trace for us, please, your role in the growth and
development of Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company?
BEAVERS: Thank you, Mr. Hopkins. That's a big order, but
I'll do the best I can. Of course, I think we've already
covered the fact that I was one of the cofounders, and Mr.
Norman Houston was a cofounder, but the founder was William
Nickerson, Jr., who originally came to California from
Houston, Texas, and was the man who first conceived the
idea of a life insurance company on the West Coast that
would be owned and controlled by black Americans. Mr.
Nickerson believed very strongly that it was important that
some insurance company be organized here that would provide
not only the insurance benefits, but the other benefits for
our people that derived from the operations of the insur-
ance companies. Of course at that time, while there were
major companies — major life insurance companies — operating
here, at the time they did not look kindly upon Negro-
Americans as risks. Some thought that they were not
insurable, others thought that they were poor risks, and
there was little opportunity for black Americans to get the
full benefit of life insurance here or anywhere else. But
we were convinced, as Mr. Houston and I shared the opinion
and the concerns of William Nickerson, Jr., the founder,
that our people should have the opportunity to enjoy all of
the benefits of the operations of a life insurance company.
That is to say not only the best insurance protection, but
also the benefit of jobs, and mortgage money to buy homes,
and all of those benefits that accrue to members of a life
insurance company. And that was not the case at the time
that we started organizing the Golden State.
In fact, one of the motivating factors — the greatest
motivating factor — was to assure that we would have a
company that would be available and would provide for our
people all the benefits that accrue from its operation. So
at the time of organization — I think we covered the fact
that Mr. Nickerson took over the responsibility of the
overall management of the project, and Mr. Houston had the
responsibility for raising the fifteen thousand dollars
needed for deposit with the state, and I had the respon-
sibility for getting the five hundred members necessary for
qualification. Now, in all of our activities, we worked
together, this unit: Nickerson, Houston, and Beavers. And
each of us had multiresponsibilities during the
organization of the company and after the organization of
the company. For example, after we succeeded in qualifying
for a license, and that was on July 23, 1925, we received
the notice from the insurance commissioner that we had suc-
ceeded in qualifying for our first license, and that was
issued to the Golden State Guarantee Fund Insurance
Company. From that time on, we worked together, and we —
For example, I had the responsibility as vice-president of
the company and director of the agencies. Also I was the
claim adjuster, adjusting the claims, and I was also the
public relations man, so we had — You see we had multi-
duties to perform, and it was a small company, and we had
to grow to the point where we would have individuals
heading various departments, and for the time being during
the organization period, and during the early years of the
operations, each of us had numerous duties.
During that period, of course, the fact that I was
active in the People's Independent Church of Christ was
quite an asset to us, because in addition to having the
support of a dynamic pastor, the Reverend N. P. Greggs , we
also had the support of the membership of the church. And
that was quite an asset to me, since I had to get these
five hundred members, and naturally many of them came from
that church, and from other churches. I was active in
church work, and of course, my activities were not confined
to the People's Independent Church. And it, by the way,
was what its name implied, an independent church, and it
didn't restrict itself to denominational ties, but all
denominations were recognized and were encouraged. Through
the activities of that church many families were brought
together who prior to that time — One was a Methodist,
another a Baptist, and oh, some other denomination, but the
Independent Church furnished an opportunity for the family
unit to be brought together as one, so naturally the
Independent Church grew very rapidly, and it was quite an
asset to me to have that entree into the — that particular
church. I served as clerk or secretary, and I was on the
trustee board. I was at one time chairman of the trustee
board and also I was an active member of the choir. In
fact, I was the soloist for the bass section of the choir.
It was through those kind of activities that I was able to
make a valuable contribution to the organizing and the
operating of the Golden State.
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, about how many people — How many
members of Golden State came from People's Independent
BEAVERS: Oh, I have no idea.
BEAVERS: I couldn't guess.
HOPKINS: I was wondering, did it contribute more members
than say, some other church? Like Second Baptist, or
BEAVERS: Well, that's — During those — During that par-
ticular period I'm quite sure they did, because it had a
large membership and I was very active in that particular
church, and — but we had the cooperation and support of
practically all of the churches in California. And we're
always happy to give due credit to all of the churches.
They welcomed us from time to time to come and speak to
their congregations, and it was just — We just felt at home
in any of the churches, and they were always giving us
welcome and cooperation and support.
HOPKINS: Did the general public that you spoke to, did
they seem receptive? Did they seem to believe in your
company? Or were they looking at it in a skeptical
BEAVERS: Well, it was not only the people in the church,
but I'd say there was a certain amount of skepticism to
begin with on the part of the public and naturally they —
When you say the public, that includes the church. People,
they're human, they're people, and until they have some-
thing tangible to — by which to judge business or an individ-
ual, their skepticism is somewhat justified. So there was
skepticism. There were doubting Thomases who said it
couldn't be done. And there were a lot of people who
sought to block our path and prevent it from becoming a
reality. I think I told you about the incident during the
organization period, in which time the state laws were
changed. That was an effort to prevent our success in
organizing and meeting the requirements of the state, and
we're — We may not be able to prove that, but it was very
obvious to us, because nobody had thought to — thought about
this particular chapter under which we were organizing
until that time, and there had been no thought of changing
the law until we started our drive for membership to
organize under that particular guarantee fund law.
HOPKINS: Along these lines, as we talked of last time, you
said that Congressman Fred Roberts aided your company —
BEAVERS: Not congressman, assemblyman.
HOPKINS: Excuse me. Assemblyman is correct. Aided your
company. What was his role?
BEAVERS: Well, Fred Roberts, he was the first member of
our race to serve in the state assembly in California. He
had quite a long record, and he worked with us. He was
also head of a newspaper, I believe it was called the New
Age . He gave his support and he was very useful in keeping
us informed as to the legislative activities, and anything
that involved our operations, why, we always could rely
upon him to give us advanced information. And he also
spearheaded the adoption of a law that amended the insur-
ance code under which we were operating to provide for
insuring children and juveniles. So Fred Roberts was very
helpful in many ways.
HOPKINS: OK. Can we continue, then, with tracing your
role in the company? Now, in 1925 — around 1925, you were
instrumental in bringing some five hundred members, with
the help of others I'm sure, too, but where do we go from
there in terms of your contribution?
BEAVERS: Well, we — As the company grew, we were able to
divide up some of these positions. Of course, as the
volume of business grew, why naturally I wouldn't be able
to fill all those positions, vice-president, and director
of agencies, and claim adjuster, and public relations
officer, and so there were openings. Of course, it was
interesting that — I think, as an example, my secretary,
the young woman who served me for sixteen years as secre-
tary, was able to become our first public relations direc-
tor, Mrs. Verna Hickman. She was Verna Stratton at the
time. Of course, our public relations, or rather my public
relations responsibility, was taken over by her, and then
later we had — We would promote one of our staff to the
office of claims adjuster, Mr. Berke [N. ] Hunigan was our
first claims, claims adjustor, that is the first after me.
I gave those duties — Those duties went over to him, and
then later we had a superintendent of agencies that took —
First we had an assistant agency — assistant director of
agencies, and then finally a superintendent of agencies,
and finally another agency director. And then I was —
After Mr. Niclcerson passed in 1925, pardon me, 1945, Mr.
Nickerson passed in 1945, we had to reorganize, and we
followed the same script of — in the reorganization taking
titles that would identify the functions as much as pos-
sible, and I became chairman of the board and continued to
direct the agencies.
Now, Mr. Houston became — who was secretary/treasurer
— he became president, and we brought up to secretary a Mr.
Edgar J. Johnson, who had worked his way up from agent. He
was one of the first agents in the charter membership
drive. I recall that he came to us from UCLA, and had — He
worked in the charter membership drive and waited until the
company qualified to get his compensation, and he did a
splendid job as agent and manager of agencies. So he was
brought up to an executive level, and was secretary after
Mr. Nickerson had passed. And that made the new trio of
Houston, Beavers, and Johnson, in the early days.
I don't know — Well, to continue my role, I, in
addition to serving as an officer of the company, I was
very active — I continued my activities in the community.
I was active with the NAACP, the Urban League, and all of
those organizations named in my biographical data. I was
on the 1949 Grand Jury. That Grand Jury was noted for its
activity in indicting the chief of police [Clemence B.
Horrall]*, and notorious Brenda Allen who was quite a — Had
quite an organization around — She was known as head of the
prostitutes in Hollywood. And we also indicted Mick —
HOPKINS: Mickey Cohen?
BEAVERS: — Mickey Cohen.
BEAVERS: We had a busy year that year, that 19 49 Grand
Jury. And then, of course, I was also a part of the
organization of the Grand Jurors Association [of Los
Angeles County] which still continues.
HOPKINS: What does that — What's its responsibility? Or
what's the nature of that organization?
BEAVERS: As the members of the former Grand Juries, they
formed an association, it's called the Los Angeles Grand
Jurors Association, and it holds meetings, and has been
very active working with other — with the Grand Juries
that — the current Grand Juries each year. They take an
active interest in trying to promote those principles and
laws that are dictated by — from time to time — by the
* The charges against Horrall were later dismissed at a
results of the various services performed by the Grand
Juries. And I've served on several mayor's commissions.
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, I want to get back to those, get to
those commissions, but I do want to carry on with the
insurance, but you brought up now the indictment against
the police chief. Can we go into that a bit? What was his
BEAVERS: Well, that grew out of the connections of the
police department with organized crime. This Mickey Cohen
outfit — There was an incident that came up that was
investigated and found to have definite ties with the
police department. And that was the thing that lead to the
indictment of the chief.
HOPKINS: How were you regarded on the Grand Jury? Were
you the only black on the Grand Jury at that time?
BEAVERS: Oh, yes. I was the only black.
HOPKINS: How was your opinion regarded?
BEAVERS: Well, I guess it was regarded very highly, I was
the one that made the — that wrote the first draft of the
indictment for the — of the chief. But I think it was very
HOPKINS: How were you appointed to the Grand Jury?
BEAVERS: Oh, the appointments are by the Superior Court
judges make recommendations, and then after a given time
those recommendations — It's really by lot. They were put
into — They have some system of drawing, drawing their
names. And my name was entered by a judge. Judge Scott,
Judge Robert Scott, and he's deceased now. But through the
procedure of drafting I was one of the nineteen that went
HOPKINS: Did you know Judge Scott personally?
HOPKINS: Can you tell us about the nature of that relation-
BEAVERS: The relationship with the judge? Oh, no close,
no special close relationship. I just knew him, he knew of
my work on some of the committees, mayor's committees, and
in the Urban League, and that's — I guess that's how he
happened to think of me as being one for the Grand Jury.
HOPKINS: We do want to spend some time on some of the
other city-wide committees that you were on, but getting
back to the insurance, I'd like to ask you, the National
Negro Insurance —
HOPKINS: — Association. [Now known as the National
Insurance Association.] Can you tell me something about
that, and if you played a role in that association?
BEAVERS: Yes, our company played a role in that. We felt
obligated to maintain membership in that organization, and
to help as far as we could in inspiring and developing
the — and promoting the work of the organization. And it
was — The work of the organization was to encourage and
support the insurance business among black Americans. I
think you read M. S. Stuart's book [ An Economic Detour .
1940] on the history of that organization.
BEAVERS: That tells you— In that book that Stuart brought
out the services of the organization and the importance of
the business, and it's relationship to the — what he called
an "economic detour" in America. Then there was — Well,
you're interested in that particular organization.
HOPKINS: Were there any other organizations that were
formed that Golden State belonged to as a company?
BEAVERS: Well, I'm glad you raised that question, because
we made it our business to break down the racial barriers
in the trade associations generally. For example, at the
time we organized there were no black Americans who were
members of any of the major trade associations in America.
So we made a point of breaking those barriers, not just for
the sake of being a member of the white association, but
for the purpose of getting the benefit of the training, the
methods, systems, and procedures used by the major com-
panies. And at the same time, making our contribution as a
member of such trade associations.
So let's start with the Los Angeles Chamber of
Commerce. We became members of the Los Angeles Chamber of
Commerce. We had good associations with the officers of
the white insurance companies operating in California, such
as, particularly, the Pacific Mutual, and the Prudential,
and Occidental Life, those companies especially because
they had headquarters here in Los Angeles. Prudential had
its southwest division headquarters here in Los Angeles.
And through those contacts we were able to get into such
organizations as the Life Advertisers Association, the
[American] Life Insurance Convention, it was called,
American Life Convention, the American Life and Health
Insurance Association, the Life Office Management
Association. Those associations in particular — First, I
recall, we were able to get material from the Life
Insurance Association and we were accepted as auditors. We
could go to the meeting, but we couldn't get membership.
But when we — We took advantage of the opportunities that
were offered, and from that we were able to finally break
the barrier and get recognized. Now we belong to all of
the important life insurance trade associations. Now the
Life Advertisers Association, in that organization we won
our public relation — probably won many awards for excel-
lence in our advertising. If you're interested, I might be
able to get the number of awards that we won.
BEAVERS: Then our first— Mrs. Hickman and I attended the
Life Advertisers Convention, and finally the present
director of public relations, Mr. William [E. ] Pajaud.
Pajaud has served as chairman of the western division of
that association. And we've had other officers, too, in
positions. In fact, in the American Life Convention, Mr.
Norman 0. Houston was on their board, and later Mr. Ivan
[J.] Houston, the present chief executive of the company,
served as — on their board — He served on the Life Office
Management [Association] board, he was chairman of the Life
Office Management board, entertained that board out here in
So we broke the barriers racially. And we had the
help of officers of the companies operating in Los Angeles,
the white companies operating in Los Angeles which I named
before. They had the result — the help — of those officers
in breaking these barriers. And it was through our con-
tacts with them, in activities here in Los Angeles, that
helped us get this wedge to break these other barriers.
HOPKINS: Did companies like Prudential and others that you
mentioned, did they insure blacks before Golden State came
BEAVERS: Well, they insured them, but they didn't explore
the — In other words, they didn't give them the same type
of policies, and they didn't employ them in the numbers
that they do now, prior to the operations of the Golden
State Mutual, because, no question about it, whereas we had
the field all to ourselves, you might say, at first, and we
had no competition from — little or no competition from
them, from the other white companies, until a number of
things happened. Until we had set a pattern that showed
that the black Americans, in the right economic climate,
would be good risks. That was demonstrated not only by our
operation, but by the operation of other big black American
companies, for example the North Carolina Mutual [Life
Insurance Company]. I'm sure that the success of the
larger Negro companies opened the eyes of the larger white
companies, and shook them up a bit as to what they were
missing. Now, we have to — We have a job meeting the
competition of them, not only for the business, but for
employees. And we welcome that, because we — Our race
needs all of these other benefits that accrue from the
operation of the life insurance business. And that was our
major motivation at the start, and now we — It is some
source of satisfaction to see the new picture that has
evolved now, where we have our offices and employees so
HOPKINS: I know at one point, you mentioned that the
Golden State has also hired whites in the corporation,
where at one time they hadn't. Can you discuss the racial
policies of Golden State Mutual?
BEAVERS: Well, the — You understand that there are laws
now against discrimination. And, of course, we have to
live by that law, same as the whites. Of course, the
whites have — They are so indoctrinated with the segregated
pattern that we —
TAPE NUMBER: IV, SIDE TWO
JUNE 1, 1982
BEAVERS: They're so indoctrinated with the segregated
pattern that we don't have so much difficulty in employing
our own people. But we do have difficulty in getting
qualified [people]. So we, as a result, we have other
races, quite a number of other races, represented in our
employment. And more and more that's happening because of
the unemployment picture, and because of the inability for
the — Well, I — Maybe inability is not the correct word,
but there is a problem in getting really qualified person-
nel. That goes with black and white. And it's because of,
particularly within our own group, the failure of people to
take advantage of the opportunities to get business educa-
tion. That has caused us to sponsor a new nonprofit
corporation called the Golden State Minority Foundation.
HOPKINS: Could you talk about that a bit? I didn't know
BEAVERS: Well, that — Shut it off a minute. [tape recor-
der turned off]
The Golden State Minority Foundation is — was organized
for the purpose of encouraging students, and helping
students to become — to graduate in business administration,
to get their business education. That's — And it's been
operating for seven years, and we — Through that foundation
we have made possible grants to help students get higher
education, and to get student loans. We helped the
[United] Negro College Fund, we helped USC, and UCLA, and
have a number of graduates who have been helped and who
have been able to get their business education through the
efforts of our foundation.
I'll give you a copy of the update of this organiza-
tion. They're having a dinner and program at the Century
Plaza Hotel on the evening of June 9.
BEAVERS: And we give scholarships, and student aid to
students, and that's done for the purpose of meeting this
situation and trying to help to get more qualified people
ready for jobs in the industry.
HOPKINS: Can you remember the first date — the first time
that a white person was employed by Golden State?
BEAVERS: No, I can't, because it goes back a number of
years. We had — We had a white woman, Goodham, a good
white clerk and secretary up in the northern — in the
northern branches, and then we've had several — And we do
have several members of other races employed now in the
home office. Did you ever go through the home office of
HOPKINS: Right, I did.
BEAVERS: Did you observe some other — members of other
races working in there?
HOPKINS: Yes, I did.
BEAVERS: You know first hand, then, that this is true.
BEAVERS: And, of course, to tell you the truth, we've been
somewhat embarrassed by the fact that in this Minority
Foundation, we've had — We haven't had the number of male
students that we thought we would have, that would qualify
for these honors.
Let me see, where are we now?
HOPKINS: OK, well a —
BEAVERS: We were talking about the competitiveness in the
employment field, and what we are doing about it.
HOPKINS: And relations with other companies. I wanted to
turn now, if I might, to Mr. Nickerson, and could you tell
me something — give me kind of a biographical sketch of his
life? Share with us what you recall that may be interest-
ing and significant to us?
BEAVERS: Well now, yes. Mr. Nickerson was — He was born
in Texas, let's see, he was born January 26, 1879. He was
the first child of William and Emma Pool Nickerson. He was
born in San Jacinto County, Texas, and his parentage, of
course, was American black. It was not the worst time for
an American of black parentage to be born, neither was it
best. Two decades earlier, to be born black in America was
most likely to be born one of 3.5 million slaves in thir-
teen southern states, in border states. To be born black
in America in 1879 was to be born free, but into a wilder-
ness of social and economic repression. And there was
growing national indifference to the problem of the free-
dom — whom freedom had somehow failed to endow with money,
property, education, or skills.
Mr. Nickerson's father was a slave, and was a cotton
and corn farmer. Both his mother and father were off-
springs of slave owners, as well as slaves. And Mr.
Nickerson, he was a farmer, and then of course he became —
He prepared and became a teacher and he was — He taught
school prior to the time that he went into the life insur-
ance business. He was attracted to the life insurance
business, and he was working for a white company, the
American National [Insurance Company], I believe it was. I
can verify the name later. It was through the unfairness
and discrimination that was used by that company that
inspired him to try and organize a company in Texas, and
that was the — his reasons for organizing the American
Mutual Benefit Association. He and two other men, I was
trying to think of their names, I knew them, I have met
them and I knew them well. I can't think of the names
right now, my memory isn't that good.
HOPKINS: Well, OK, we can come back to that.
BEAVERS: But anyway, he and two other men organized this
American Mutual Benefit Association as a result of discrim-
ination that Niclcerson had encountered as an insurance
agent for the American National. I believe I told you
earlier about the American Mutual Benefit Association, a
BEAVERS: And he was representing that organization when he
came to California. He got a license to operate that
fraternal insurance, and did so for, well, about three
years prior to the organization of the Golden State.
HOPKINS: Can you tell us — We talked earlier about a trip
he took from Texas to California, it was an interesting
sideline. Would you share that with us?
BEAVERS: Oh, yes. That was quite interesting. In 1921,
in June of 1921, he and his wife and eight children jour-
neyed from Houston to Los Angeles, and to show the cost in
the mechanism, and the problems that result from segrega-
tion, his trip to Los Angeles, and how he made the trip, is
a good example of the, not only cost, but the silliness of
racial discrimination, and these are the facts:
Segregation had such a — Racial segregation had such a
hold on the people, on the white people, that in order for
Mr. Nickerson and his family, wife and eight children, to
come to Los Angeles in a first-class compartment of the
Southern Pacific Railway, the superintendent of the system
in Houston wrote a letter. And they had a sufficient
number of copies to furnish all of the stationmasters and
the personnel at every stop between Houston and Los
Angeles, advising them that this Negro family would be
occupying a stateroom, and that they were to be confined to
that stateroom at all times, and that they were to be given
service — their meals and all — in their stateroom. And all
the way from between Houston and Los Angeles, and of course
at each stop, the stationmaster and his personnel who had
the responsibility for handling the traffic had to be
informed, and they had a copy of this letter to put them on
the alert, to know that there was a Negro family in the — in
this compartment — in the compartment on this train. I was
really struck by that when I first read it, and noted how
difficult it was, and what lengths people would go to to
see to it that segregation was maintained.
HOPKINS: Can you give us an account of Norman 0. Houston?
BEAVERS: Now, Norman Houston, he — He was a native son. He
was born in California, in — I think it was San Jose. And
Houston was — He lived, when I first visited him up there,
he lived with his mother and stepfather in Fruitvale,
California. That was a little suburb of Oakland. Houston
was — He was a war veteran and he attended school at the
University of California [Berkeley], public elementary
school in Oakland, Fruitvale, but mostly north Oakland.
And then he went to the University of California, and — But
he didn't graduate, but he, I think — Yeah, I think he was
called to service and went to — He was in the Second World
War , and —
HOPKINS: Second World War, or First World War?
BEAVERS: Let's see, the Second World War — no, the First
World War, yeah, the First World War, the Second World War
we were in operation. Were we? Yeah. So that was in the
forties, wasn't it?
HOPKINS: The Second World War, right.
BEAVERS: Yes, thank you. That was the First World War.
His son [Ivan J. Houston] was in the Second World War. Mr.
Houston, a veteran of the First World War, that's right.
And he was — Let me see, what did he — He had an officer's
position in that war, such as it was. Let's see if I can
find that. That ought to be in the information here.
[tape recorder turned off]
Mr. Houston was born in San Jose, and he lived there
until he was three-and-a-half, and his father got a better
job at a new hotel in Portland, Oregon, and they planned to
make the trip by boat. Later, in Portland, the Houstons
found what Lillian [Houston Harris] would describe as many
colored people, but a town that was rather wild. And the
harsh Pacific Northwest winters did not agree with Norman
and caused him to have asthma. And after two years, the
family returned from the Bay Area, moving to Oakland. By
this time Norman was of school age. The family's economic
condition had improved, and they bought their first home in
north Oakland, near what was to become the boundary line
between Oakland and Berkeley.
Norman entered Derek School. The family situation did
not remain stable, the house did not remain stable, how-
ever. When Norman was twelve his parents were divorced,
and Lillian sold the house and moved with her son to
Fruitvale, then an unincorporated area of Alameda County
and later annexed to Oakland. Oakland was a railroad
terminal, known all over the country as the place where the
trains all stopped. A year after her divorce Lillian met
and married a railroad man, James Ervin Harris. She called
the next set of years the happiest period of her life,
marred only by a tragic accident in which her husband's
left foot was severed as he alighted from a slow-moving
train in a railroad terminal. Although eventually able to
return to work, James never completely recovered, and the
loss of his foot subsequently contributed to his death.
Now, that was his stepfather.
An ingenious woman, Lillian Houston Harris kept her
teenage vow to herself never to do laundry work for a
living, and she had fulfilled her desire for a richer life.
She took part in amateur theater, theatricals ia San
Francisco, wrote for the Oakland Outlook , a weekly news-
paper, and raised canaries, pigeons, and Irish setters
commercially. And like Mr. Nickerson's mother she exerted
a strong influence on her son, and she was quite an in-
fluence on Norman, and throughout her lifetime he was her
pride and she didn't mind telling anybody about it.
She was quite helpful to us during the organization
and operation of the company in the early days. I remember
■going up there on business with the company, and staying at
her house, the hotels were not so available then. She was
very helpful to us. Although her husband then, Harris, he
was just as — He couldn't have done more — No father could
have done more to encourage a child than he did to en-
I have told you about Norman going to college up
there. He worked as a switchboard operator in an apartment
house. And his first job, that was his first job, an
attendant left behind several volumes of Alexander Hamilton
Institute books, and he was quite a reader, he liked to
read, and he had a correspondence school business course.
And he graduated from high school, he entered the
University of California at Berkeley, and he majored in
business. Of course, he wanted to be in business. There
were jobs which offered security and perhaps minor promo-
tions, but they didn't satisfy his ambitions. It only
whetted his appetites for a meaningful part.
While attending the University of California at
Berkeley he was in good company. Earl Warren, who became
governor of the state and Chief Justice of the [United
States] Supreme Court, was at the same school. And then in
1917, Norman — In 1917, let's see — Oh, yes. He decided to
go to New York to finish his education, and that was when
he had to go to war instead. So he served in the war from
1914 to 1917. And I was trying to find where — [tape recor-
der turned off]
Colonel Young [ Lt . Colonel Charles Young], while he
HOPKINS: He met who?
BEAVERS: — while he was an inpatient at — I was trying to
find what hospital that was. It was one of the military
hospitals. And —
HOPKINS: You said he met somebody?
BEAVERS: Colonel Young. And Young gave him permission to
use his name, and Houston — He was commissioned in 1917,
and he went overseas with the headquarters unit of the
317th ammunition train, part of the historic Ninety-second
Infantry, Buffalo Division. In France, Houston was made
regimental personnel adjunct and became involved with the
army payroll. His unit witnessed the — Witnessed the
reduction of St. Mihiel, followed by the successful [Meuse]
Argonne Offensive which ended with the signing of the
Well, by November 20th the walled city of Metz was
reached and American and French troops entered the city.
But I guess you're interested now in getting back to the —
After that military service he came home, and was — Let's
see, he landed a job as clerk in the brokerage firm of
E. S. and H. H. Potter and Sons, later called The Loyalty
Group, it's a major fire and casualty insurance group.
HOPKINS: Was that — in what city?
BEAVERS: That was in San Francisco.
HOPKINS: I see.
BEAVERS: Although this was Norman Houston's third experi-
ence with insurance he had not yet considered it the area
in which his dreams of becoming a successful businessman
might be realized. But one day on his way home from work,
he ran into an acquaintance who offered him a job in Los
Angeles selling insurance to waiters and cooks at the
railroad commissary. Then he moved — This caused him to
move to Los Angeles. And that's what he was doing at the
time, he was working at that job as a life insurance
salesman selling insurance to waiters and cooks at the
railroad commissary. That's where he was when he met Mr.
HOPKINS: Oh, I see.
BEAVERS: I mean, he was in that job, doing that job when
he met Mr. Nickerson.
HOPKINS: What type of person was Mr. Houston? How would
you describe him?
BEAVERS: Well, he was — He was — You're talking about his
HOPKINS: Yes, right.
BEAVERS: Oh, he was very affable person, very friendly,
aggressive, and that's what I liked about him. In fact, he
and I worked together for all those years, for Golden
State, and we were good friends, and throughout our associ-
ations, and until his death.
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, we've been at it a while, but in
order to kind of round out the Golden State story, I'd like
to ask you at least one more question.
BEAVERS: All right.
HOPKINS: This is concerning the growth of the company
itself. There must have been some highlights in the growth
of the company, or say through key periods, that the
company had to deal with. For example, the Depression, how
did the company fare up under the Depression?
BEAVERS: Well, believe it or not, we did very well during
the Depression. We — Despite the Depression, we continued
to grow. I could-- Lets see, if I could— '32— It was in
1929 to 1932, three years. It'd be interesting to mark out
those years and see just what we did. You want me to do
HOPKINS: Yes, if you wouldn't mind at some point, yes.
BEAVERS: I guess it'll have to be next time, then.
HOPKINS: OK, yes, sure.
TAPE NUMBER: V, SIDE ONE
JUNE 12, 1982
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, we'd like to go back, if we may, in
concluding our discussion on Golden State Mutual Life
Insurance Company, and ask you if you can clarify and maybe
add to the role of the church in Golden State Mutual Life
BEAVERS: Thank you, Mr. Hopkins, I ' d be glad to, I recall
that no mention was made of Mr. Nickerson's church member-
ship. As I recall, he was also a member of the People's
Independent Church of Christ. He was not originally a
member, but he became a member during the process — the time
when we were organizing. Later he served on the board of
trustees of the Independent Church. Of course, he too was
quite impressed with the leadership of the Reverend N. P.
Greggs , who was the pastor of the Independent Church at
that time. Also, my other associate and cofounder, Norman
0. Houston, was a member of the First A.M.E. Church, and he
was also very active in the Ben Bowie Post of the American
Legion. He helped to organize that post. So, in addition
to that, we had on our board one of the leading members of
the Second Baptist Church, Mr. S. P. Johnson, and he was
quite active in the Second Baptist Church. Also Dr. H. H.
Towles, in whose building our first office was located.
Dr. Towles was also a member of the First A.M.E. Church,
and you can see from that that the churches were well
represented officially. But in addition to that, we from
time to time made it a point to visit all of the churches,
all the churches that were owned by members of our race in
California. And we felt at home in any of the church
buildings. Now, I think that would clarify that particular
point about our church affiliation and the support we
received from churches.
HOPKINS: OK. As I recall, we left off our discussion with
Golden State — We've talked a great deal about the leader-
ship in the church, we've talked about the internal struc-
ture of the church, and we left off last time talking about
some external impacts on the insurance company. We left
off with the Depression. Can you relate to us information
on the impact that the Depression might have had on Golden
BEAVERS: Well, you're speaking of the Depression, I guess,
in the 1930s?
Yes. The Great Depression.
About the 1930s?
Well, the — I can't say that the Depression did
not bother us at all. We did feel the Depression, nat-
urally, but we were not — We would not let the Depression
stop us. I think to give you some idea of how we felt
about the Depression, Golden State Mutual greeted the new
decade with its first dividend payment to life policy
owners in 1931. The Golden State Guarantee Fund Insurance
Company became the Golden State Mutual Life Insurance
Company, and the firm continued to expand. Assets during
this ten year span rose from $73,000 to $437,714 and income
from $188,847 to $487,262. In July of 1938 the Golden
State entered the state of Illinois, establishing an office
in Chicago for its first venture across California bound-
And it was in 1938 also that the company initiated its
drive to convert its legal status from an assessment
company to an old line legal reserve insurer. To do so
meant the company had to deposit $250,000 as a legal
reserve with the state treasurer. Now to raise such an
amount of money, the company directors decided to use the
same method which had proved successful in the organizing
effort, and the sale of certificates of advancement. This
project, which began in the closing months of 1938, was
still in progress at the end of the decade. And in an era
characterized by mass unemployment, business failures, and
overtures to war. Golden State Mutual Life Insurance
Company proved equal to the challenge of adversity despite
its youth. So in 1941 the company had accumulated enough.
through the sale of the certificates of advancement, to
make the required deposit that would make it eligible to be
reclassified as a mutual legal reserve insurer. So that on
January 2, 1942, the conversion was complete. Golden State
Mutual was licensed as an old line legal reserve insurer.
I might emphasize at this point that the payment of
interest and the payment of the original certificates gave
the people more confidence, and we were able to raise the
funds just mentioned, $250,000, much easier than it was to
raise the original amount.
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, you had massive migration of blacks
coming from the South to work in the war industries during
the 1940s. Did that aid or have any impact on the insur-
ance company at all?
BEAVERS: Well, it had some impact. Naturally the black
population in California increased, and with that increase
came more opportunities to serve. For example, it was
during that period that we organized what was called the
organization Allied — Let's see, let me get this correct
BEAVERS: The Allied Organization Against Discrimination In
National Defense. Now this group spearheaded a fight which
opened the doors of war industries to Negro workers on the
Pacific Coast. As a result, naturally that helped our
business, and it helped the new people coming in to
HOPKINS: OK. Did Golden State Mutual have any relations
— business relations — with other minority businesses?
Maybe Japanese or Mexican businesses that may have existed
in Los Angeles over time?
BEAVERS: No. At that time there were no important organiz-
ations among the other minorities, and we were so busy
trying to take care of the discrimination against the
blacks that we hadn't reached the point that we have now,
where there are so many other minority groups in the state.
We were focusing on the plight of the blacks at that time.
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, in continuing this discussion with
Golden State Mutual, before we get back to our chronology
and talk about the 1950s and 1960s, and then bring the
company up to date, I'd like to ask you about this question
of expansion. Now you've already mentioned that in July of
1938 Golden State expanded into Chicago, Illinois. Can you
tell me something about how the expansion process works, or
worked for Golden State?
BEAVERS: Well, to begin with every state has its own
insurance laws. You have to know — if you don't know, you
have to find out — the requirements of such state [laws],
and before you make an application you get that infor-
mation, and then you determine whether or not you are
willing to expand your operations in that particular state.
In the life insurance business there are two major ways of
operating: One is through a general agency method, and the
other, is of course, with the office management.
HOPKINS: Can you explain the difference between those two?
BEAVERS: Well, in the — With a general agent, you select a
general agent, and he has to be bonded or meet your require-
ments to represent your company in that state, or in
whatever city you choose to operate. And the general agent
is responsible for — All of the expenses in your contract
are with the general agent, and it sets forth the require-
ments that he must meet, and the compensation, and so on.
But on the branch office system you set up an office, and
you employ a manager and the assistant managers and the
agents, and you are responsible — The company is respon-
sible for the general operations. And it's, as you can see
and perhaps understand, it's quite more expensive to use
the branch office method than it is to use the general
agency method, particularly when you are confined to a
certain — to the business of a certain segment of the
population, which brings out the evils of the state of the
racial segregated system. No other race is subjected to
that kind of restriction except the Negro race. Now being
realistic about it, whereas we don't have any segregation,
or advocate segregation of the races, we have to be
realistic about it, and recognize that because of this evil
custom there's — we are not going to be able — we do not have
the same access to securing business from the other racial
groups, as, say, the whites have. But we take all that
into consideration to begin with and we knock down the
barriers where we can, and we — It's a never-ending battle
to fight against this racial segregation, because it
doesn't help us.
HOPKINS: Why did Golden State select Chicago, and why in
BEAVERS: There's a very simple reason, because Chicago is
a central point, and there's a tremendous population of
Negroes in Illinois, and so Chicago being a traffic center,
that was a natural for us we thought, and we — The records
show that we were justified in taking that position, and we
built up a nice business in Chicago.
HOPKINS: Why 1938? Why that year as opposed to earlier or
BEAVERS: Well, that was the year that we were prepared,
and the kind of business that we were doing at the time was
acceptable in Illinois, and so there was no other reason.
Of course, it's significant that it was only a few years
after that we qualified as a legal reserve insurer, and we
could really qualify to go into any state for operation.
But the Chicago — The Illinois laws were such that it
accommodated our purposes at that time. Now since that
time we have entered other states. Well, we've entered
Texas, and Oregon, Washington, Arizona, and several other
states. In fact, our company's licensed now to do business
in — in addition to Illinois — Arizona, Oregon, and
Washington, we're licensed in Indiana, Michigan, and Texas,
Oklahoma, Minnesota, Georgia, District of Columbia,
Louisiana, Nevada, Florida, Maryland, Kentucky, Virginia,
Missouri, Tennessee, Kansas, and Mississippi.
HOPKINS: Was there any state that refused you a license to
operate in that state?
BEAVERS: No, we haven't been refused. We have refused
ourselves to go into states where the law and the popula-
tion didn't justify it.
HOPKINS: Can you give me an example of that?
BEAVERS: Well no, I don't have any example in mind, but I
just have in mind some states where the population — the
Negro population — isn't very large, and there 'd be no
particular point in going into a state like that.
HOPKINS: You mentioned, Mr. Beavers, that New York was —
You consider it personally to be perhaps the most difficult
state to get a license, or to set up an office in. Could
you elaborate on that at all?
BEAVERS: Well, that's my personal opinion. I think that
their — Well, their laws are something like California, but
I think they're a little more rigid than California.
Really, the opportunities are there, and no doubt sometime
we'll probably be operating in New York, but not yet.
HOPKINS: Just a couple more questions again on this
question of expansion. When we talked about opening up an
office in Chicago in 1938, were there any other black
insurance companies in Illinois at the time?
BEAVERS: Oh, yes.
HOPKINS: Oh, there were?
BEAVERS: Oh, yes, there were a number of black companies
HOPKINS: Insurance companies?
BEAVERS: Insurance companies.
BEAVERS: Atlanta Life [Insurance Company], the, oh.
Metropolitan [Insurance Company] of Chicago, the — what's
the name of that company — Universal Life [Insurance
Company] . Those are the ones that come to mind now. There
were several, and of course, they had a number of burial
insurance companies in Chicago.
HOPKINS: How did these insurance companies receive you?
Did they look at you as a threat, or did they just look at
you as — Well, I'll let you answer that. How did they
BEAVERS: The other black companies?
BEAVERS: Oh, well, we belonged to the National Insurance
Association, and we have a very good relationship with the
other officials, and we all recognize that our main competi-
tion is coming from the other racial — white-operated
HOPKINS: I see.
BEAVERS: That's where the real competition comes from.
HOPKINS: Well then, through this association, do you ask
each other, do you get a consensus as to whether you can
move into a state?
BEAVERS: Oh, no, no.
HOPKINS: You decide based on your own policy, and then
BEAVERS: Yes, yes. There's nothing — In the National
Insurance Association we have a very good relationship, in
fact we have our conventions every year, and we have
committees that work through the year. We have a director,
and his job is to help in the promotion of the Negro
insurance business. And of course, as time goes on we've
had the problem of facing up to the importance of having
our operations meet the test of other companies. In other
words, we try to develop in our people the attitude of
building a good life insurance company, not just a good
black insurance company but a good life insurance company,
as measured by the best standards in the industry. We have
made it a point to break down as far as we could all of the
racial barriers, because when we first organized, why, no
Negro companies belonged to these leading trade associa-
tions in the life insurance business. We have succeeded in
breaking down all of the racial barriers to membership in
the trade associations. We are not only members of, but we
freely participate, and our officers have accepted respon-
sibilities and worked with the trade associations for the
betterment of the life insurance business. As an example,
our chairman and executive officer Ivan Houston has been on
the board, and has been chairman of the leading life
insurance trade association, the Life Office Management
Association. And that's the one that sets the tone, and
aids in development and training of life insurance workers.
As you'll notice behind the names of the officers the term
F.L.M.I., that's Fellow of the Life Management Institute,
and C.L.U., Chartered Life Underwriter, those distinctions-
-and you'll notice those letters following the names of
several officers of our company.
HOPKINS: You gave some documented evidence that during the
Depression years the company continued to grow. It's
amazing to me that people were interested in buying insur-
ance during the 1930s. An example is, you expanded in
Chicago in 1938. Were they as receptive to buying insur-
ance as they had been before? Could you note a difference
BEAVERS: Well —
HOPKINS: As you recall —
BEAVERS: — that Depression is a relative time. You see,
in times of depressions when there's a lot of unemployment,
why, you don't go around advertising the unemployment and
seeking business from the unemployed. You focus attention
on the employed.
HOPKINS: OK. [laughter]
BEAVERS: If you focus attention on the unemployed and try
to — and the agent uses all his time trying to insure
somebody who is not working, why you can see pretty soon he
won't be working because he won't be earning anything.
That's a little comical way of putting it, but it's very
factual when you get out to it. If you get into the right
frame of mind, you can — There's always a large group of
people working, there has to be to take care of the needs
of society. And of course, it's up to a businessman to try
to find ways of contacting those who are employed, who are
earning, and have them recognize that the need for insuring
so that their future and their dependents' future will be
taken care of. So, that's — I guess that's the reason.
And we in Golden State — Well, it just happens that
during that particular time, during the forties, we accumul-
ated — it was during the forties that we actually finished
the drive to become a Negro reserve insurer. After the
conversion of the company to a legal reserve status, why
then, we really were prepared to grow. So in spite of the
war years, and their restrictions. Golden State's growth
during the forties was tremendous. At the beginning of the
decade. Golden State's assets stood at $527,800, its annual
income at $496,395, and the company had 220 employees,
whose annual salaries added up to $211,736. But now, by
the end of 1949, the company's assets had grown to
$4,270,205, and its yearly income $3,496,663, and there
were 642 employees who were receiving a total of $1,750,223
in salaries and commissions. A fitting climax to an
eventful decade was the dedication in 1949 of Golden State
Mutual 's new home office building, at the corner of Western
Avenue and Adams Boulevard in Los Angeles. It stands today
as a symbol of black enterprise and of loyal service to
HOPKINS: As long as we've started — We've talked about the
forties, and in trying to conclude our discussion on Golden
State, can you carry this through today? What did the
1950s hold for Golden State?
BEAVERS: Well, for Golden State the decade meant more
expansion and a real — and a new kind of identification of
its representatives. In 1954, Golden State Mutual ' s board
of directors formally declared the "Golden Rule" as the
company's business philosophy. As a symbolic reminder of
this principle, the company began the practice of presen-
ting to each new employee a marble enscribed with the
phrase, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto
you." In 1957, also, the company adopted the new graphic
symbol and coined a new nickname for its field represen-
tatives. The Golden State agent thus became "The Man With
the Golden Pen," a name symbolizing not only the great
importance of the Golden State field underwriter services
to families, but also the professional nature of the
special skills for which his training has prepared him.
The fifties meant more for GSM than physical expansion, and
added services and bigger financial figures. It meant a
new high in technical proficiency and professional and
ethical standards. More and more, company employees were
increasing their technical competence through professional
insurance education courses being provided by such organiza-
tions as Life Underwriters Training Council, Life Office
Management Association Institute, and the Health Insurance
Association of America.
In an age of stepped up technology it takes not only
competent people but modern systems and up-to-date machin-
ery, too, to keep Golden State services efficient. In
1959, therefore. Golden State Mutual introduced into its
home office operations an electronic data processing
system, to help Golden State people perform their services
with the speed and accuracy expected of — expected by Golden
State policy owners. A celebrated milestone in the com-
pany's development was recorded in 1956 when insurance in
force reached a hundred million [dollars]. Golden State
closed out this ten-year period with $133,281,913 of
insurance in force, and assets amounting to $16,442,783.
Golden State people were providing services in six states
through some sixty branch offices and general agencies.
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, if you recall, of course, during the
1960s and 1970s there was an increased awareness in this
concept of blackness, and black is beautiful, and buy
black, and be black, and that sort of attitude. Do you
recall whether that made a positive impact or a negative
impact upon Golden State, just from your personal recol-
BEAVERS: Well, we have been reluctant to use, or to
confine ourselves to those terms, and they might be all
right for slogans, but in a day when there's such mass
unemployment, and people have to measure up to high
standards to — and have some skills to sell to get jobs, we
think it's more important to deal with the matter of
training and being prepared to serve. That's where the
beauty comes in. If you are well trained, and can render a
service that other people need, then you have a better
chance of fitting into the skilled operations of today.
We have — We have to face up to the problem of getting
the best training possible, and it was that idea that
caused us to endorse, or to sponsor, what we call the
Golden State Minority Foundation, which gives scholarships
to students in college, and encourages them to engage in
business careers, or prepare for service in business
careers. That organization through the past seven years
has done a remarkable job in focusing attention to educa-
tion, and getting the help of businesses and educational
institutes — institutions — and promoting this program of
preparing for more efficiency in business.
So to get back to your question, we think it better to
focus on education and being prepared to do something and
do it well, than to kid ourselves along with these slogans,
black is beautiful and all. Black can be beautiful, black
can be very ugly too, as witnessed by the crime picture in
BEAVERS: So, we've got to be practical and realists, and
try to do the best we can to keep pushing for black
Americans' citizenship and recognition of the contributions
that our people make to the state and the nation. We can't
put ourselves off, and just paint ourselves into a corner
and be black. We've got to get into this mainstream and
swim with the rest of the people.
HOPKINS: So then the company did not exploit that slogan
of "black is beautiful," and say, "OK, black is beautiful,
now, all blacks come and buy Golden State Life Insurance
Company." They didn't exploit that?
BEAVERS: No, that's right. And we don't exploit that, and
we hope that our people will wake up and understand the
need for getting prepared to do a job.
HOPKINS: OK. In concluding this discussion on Golden
State, which I might mention has been an excellent and
detailed and very rewarding experience to hear, I'd like to
ask you: Can you tell me the state of the company as it
stands today in 1980, '81?
BEAVERS: Well, by going with this training program and
getting new leadership for the company, I feel very proud
of our young leadership. I think Ivan Houston, C.L.U.,
F.L.M.I., our chairman and chief executive officer, and
Larkin Teasley, the president — Larkin Teasley is F.S.A.
[Fellow of the Society of Actuaries], and he's president
and chief operating officer. And then we have — *
* Due to technical problems. Side Two of Tape V was not
transcribable. The continuation of the discussion of
Golden State Mutual Life Insurance will be found on Tape
IX, Side I.
TAPE NUMBER: VI, SIDE ONE
JUNE 22, 1982
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, last time we were talking about
Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company, and I believe
this time you might have some concluding statements to make
about the company.
BEAVERS: Yes, thank you, Mr. Hopkins. I was just thinking
that behind the statistical data in the annual statement is
the real story of the service of Golden State Mutual Life.
For example, the benefits paid to policyholders, the
thousands of people who have received money to pay doctor
bills, hospital bills, and to buy other necessities of
life. Money to pay bills and funeral expenses. Money to
pay for education. For example, I'm thinking of a barber I
know who had — He has two sons. He had educational
policies on both of his sons, and they both have graduated
from college, and he is very proud of the fact that Golden
State Mutual policies helped to pay their tuition through
college. I am thinking of the money paid to finance
purchase of homes and medical centers and other businesses.
GSM has been a vital force in helping the people in every
community in which it operates to finance their operations,
such as home buying, and medical centers, and other busi-
nesses of that type.
And then there's another factor, the benefits received
by employees. Of course, naturally there [are] salaries,
and there are retirement benefits, and all of the fringes
that go along with the maintaining of a good working force.
Our company has a reputation of which we are very proud:
Not getting people to come to the company just because of
the race, but they come to the company and enjoy the
opportunities — the work opportunities — just as they [would]
go to any other business. These kind of things can be best
illustrated by citing certain examples. I'm thinking now
of a young man who came to our company years ago when I was
director of agencies, and I remember talking to this
gentleman about the benefits he would receive, and I was
also emphasizing the Monarch Award that we gave each year.
HOPKINS: The Monica Award?
BEAVERS: Monarch Award. We had at that time awards for
the best records of service each year. And I was thinking
of the reply, the response of this particular man. He
said, "Mr. Beavers, I appreciate all of the awards and
trophies that you give," he says, "but, I have four reasons
to do a good job here. Those reasons are at home: my wife
and three children." I thought that was a good answer.
And, of course, that young man came up through the company,
he served in various capacities. He was an assistant staff
manager, and then staff manager, and then finally he was
one of our trainers. That man's family has grown up, and
his son, no doubt you have heard of him, Johnnie Cochran,
Jr. His last job was assistant district attorney of Los
Angeles County. He gives Golden State credit for his
success, because his dad was able to earn money to put him
through school and give him the opportunity of becoming one
of the outstanding lawyers in our city.
HOPKINS: What was his father's name? Do you remember?
BEAVERS: Johnnie [L.] Cochran [Sr.].
HOPKINS: Johnnie Cochran, that's right.
BEAVERS: He was Johnnie Cochran, Sr. [laughter] Johnnie
Cochran, he had his daughters, one is a teacher in the Los
Angeles school system, and the other's a nurse, a graduated
nurse. That's just one example of what it means to have
this kind of opportunity — employment opportunity — that
would enable one to take care of his family in such a
manner and have them become a credit to, not only the
family and the Golden State Mutual family, but to the
entire Los Angeles community and to the nation. That's an
example. Of course, that's just one example, there are
many, many other examples.
Of course, since that time, we have a new system, a
leadership conference now, that every year the leading
agency personnel go to some designated place. We've had
conferences in Las Vegas, and conferences in Hawaii,
conferences in the, oh, islands, the Caribbean. And we've
had conferences up in Canada. Those leadership confer-
ences, that was instituted by Mr. Ernest Shell when he was
agency director. He made quite an outstanding record with
us. He's retired now, but he's the president of this
Golden State Minority Foundation we talked about.
Then, the matter of race relations, the company has
been very active in various trade associations. I think I
mentioned before how we focused upon breaking the racial
barriers in all of the trade associations. We have hanging
on the walls in the auditorium 102 awards, and we have
twenty-four trophies that are now on display. And, oh, I'd
say there are at least that many more that are packed away
from previous years that — awaiting the time when we will
have space for a real exhibition of the awards and trophies
in a special room, as it should be.
I think those are the remarks that I'd like to include
in summing up what our company's meant. And, in this also,
this matter of retirement, we have one of the best retire-
ment plans of any corporation. The number of our retirees
is continually increasing, because as people grow older and
they — most of them are glad to get out and get the benefit
of the retirement plan that they have, and that opens up
the way for a new employee to come in, you see.
HOPKINS: What makes this retirement plan exceptional? Is
there something — Can you give me an example?
BEAVERS: Well, it's exceptional in that employees have a—
They are not compelled to contribute, but they can con-
tribute and augment the amount of their retirement salary
by contributing, making an extra contribution to it them-
selves. They are given that opportunity every year.
That's one feature. And, of course, we keep it — keep up
with the changes that take place, and we try to keep our
retirement plan very, very up to date, see. We make a
special effort along that line.
Now, was there anymore on that?
HOPKINS: Well, you mentioned in terms of a question here,
you mentioned a barber who through your company, he helped
to better his life. Do you remember his name? The bar-
BEAVERS: Yes, his name is Bracey.
BEAVERS: Yes, that's the name of his barber shop.
Bracey 's Barber Shop.
HOPKINS: What was his first name?
BEAVERS: Oh, I don't remember his first name. He's — I
can get that, though, without any problem. [ Hayward
HOPKINS: OK. And also the Monarch Award, could you
explain that a little?
BEAVERS: Well, that's an award that's given to — At that
time, we were using that to recognize the outstanding
agency producers, the leading agents. We called them
Monarchs, because it was a term that we agreed on and was
used for this particular recognition. And every year, that
was — And, of course, we do it to a greater extent now,
because we've enlarged it so that we have different — I
guess I have one of them here — But we have different
classes, we have many different classes. And, that's — And
the winners each year, the top sales producers go on these
trips to what we call a leadership conference. And that's
a very good example of what it means to be a leader in
the — It's quite an incentive. It motivates the personnel
to seek to be up with their leaders, be numbered among the
leaders, so that they can take this trip, and the trip is
partially business, partially entertainment.
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, we've talked about racial matters
with the company, and we've talked about the company
progressing and using modern techniques. What about women
in general in your company? There's a lot of discussion
today about women's role in business, and so on. How have
women fit into Golden State Mutual ' s —
BEAVERS: Well, from the very start we had — we recognized
women, and we have a number of female employees who have
attained that distinction that I've mentioned before,
F.L.M.I., and the Fellowship Institute. They have advanced
along with the men. They have — We had a woman — she's
retired now — her name was Amanda Lockett, and she was the
head of our data processing department. And you'll notice
among officers listed in our statement, there's Gloria
Beasley as assistant secretary, there's, well, Brenda
Miller, she's F.L.M.I., she's assistant controller. Helen
Batiste, she was the first office employee way back in
1925, she's retired now, of course. She's still on the
board of directors. We have, well until she retired, we
had Lolette Davis, who was the head of our claims depart-
ment for a number of years, and she's retired now. We have
continually given recognition to the women, and they're
invited to — or rather they have opportunities to, advance
to any point according to their individual ability and
their interest in advancing.
HOPKINS: Has that pretty much always been the case?
BEAVERS: Well back in — It started with my sister back in
HOPKINS: Oh, I see, so from the beginning they've had
opportunities. Can you remember who was the first woman
BEAVERS: Woman insurance agent. Well, now you're speaking
of — I think, well I can't think of her name now. I
remember several but I would hesitate to say who was first.
BEAVERS: I remember a woman named Mary Morgan, I remember
a woman named Hackett, Mabel Hackett, and I remember a
number — Let's see, I think Hackett, she became an as-
sistant manager, and oh, the names don't come to me now.
HOPKINS: Can you put a date on any of these? Or when
there might have been the earliest?
HOPKINS: Can you remember a date, a year perhaps? I know
this is taxing, because probably — Can you remember a date
at all? Say, Morgan, what year was she an agent?
BEAVERS: Oh, that was back in — In fact, we've always had
some women on the agency staff from the very beginning.
And I think this Mrs. Morgan that I'm thinking about, I
think she's back then in 1925. I don't — I would have to
go back to the records, and I could get that out for you,
because, I'm sure we've always had some women on the staff.
There were some women that were particularly outstanding,
too, in their production. Of course most of these — Well
some of them became full-time agents, but we had several
who were part-time agents. Then we had quite a number, and
we have quite a number now who are full-time agents, and
they get out there and wrestle with the men. In fact, in
the leadership conference, we have a number of women who
qualify and go to those conferences. If you'd be in-
terested in getting some names, maybe I could — [tape
recorder turned off]
HOPKINS: Now, these are examples of some women who partici-
pated at — What conference is this?
BEAVERS: This was in 1976 — no, 1975.
HOPKINS: The Leaders Roundtable Business Conference, I
BEAVERS: Yes. And as members of that Roundtable, there
was Maureen Carroll, Louise Marshall, Doris Wilson, and
Erma L. Thompson. We had Helen Pinson, Lorene Jenkins,
Marcelma Johnson, Dorothy Alderson. That gives you an
HOPKINS: That is quite a few. What's the criteria for
selection as a leader?
HOPKINS: What is the criteria to be selected as a leader?
BEAVERS: That criteria is set up each year for — You see,
it's based upon the — Each year in the agency department
they set up the criteria for becoming, or qualifying for,
those awards. That's done each year, and it's movable, for
obvious reasons. Conditions change, you have different
sales material, and there is a difference in the, not only
in the type of material, but many times there's a dif-
ference in the sales program. In other words, the — You
have to set up conditions for that just as you would for a
budget, based upon the objectives and the — mainly the
company objectives, what the objectives are, and the type
of material you have to work with.
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, as you think back in the early
period, in the twenties and the thirties, can you remember
any particular or special problems that women might have
had as insurance agents at all?
BEAVERS: Any special problems?
HOPKINS: Right. Perhaps as an example, maybe clients
would not like to have a woman serving as their agent,
because perhaps in those days they would think that the
woman wasn't capable, or wouldn't be as aggressive as an
agent. Can you remember any things along those lines?
BEAVERS: No, I don't. Nothing like that has registered
in my mind. I don't — I know that women themselves
didn't — Well, I can't say that either. [Inaudible] they
didn't — This kind of thing didn't really appeal to them,
but we found that in the very beginning there was an
interest on the part of women in serving. I don't have
before [me] now the number of women, but there were some
women in our charter membership drive, I'm very sure there
were some women in our charter membership drive. Women
seemed to be
very active in business of this kind just as they are in
other organizations, like churches and societies, and you
HOPKINS: In looking at this Leaders Roundtable Business
Conference Guide again, I notice there are two other awards
that are possible here, the Ernest Shell Pioneer Award.
Can you give us an example on that?
BEAVERS: That's an award that he put up.
HOPKINS: Who's that. Shell?
BEAVERS: Ernest Shell. You know, I mentioned him as — He
made an outstanding agency director, he's retired now and
he is now president of the Golden State Minority Foun-
dation. That's that institution that helps college
graduates, it stimulates interest in getting a good busi-
HOPKINS: Then the other award or group are the Knights.
Who are the Knights?
BEAVERS: Well, that's the name that we use, that's a div-
ision, the Monarchs, the Knights, and what other. And then
the others are just members. But those, they are divisions
of — They represent divisions of the awards. Monarch is the
top. First you have the outstanding leader, the man of the
year, and then you have the Monarchs, and then we have the
Millionaires, and that's a million dollars of production,
and then Monarchs, then the Knights. They're divisions
that we have just set up in our own organization.
HOPKINS: I see. You can have a woman of the year too,
though. Or is it the man of the year, or is that agent of
the year, or —
BEAVERS: Well, we have had — A woman has qualified as
the — Of course, it was somewhat of an embarrassment, but
she was the leader for the year, and that's the one time.
[laughter] It happened once that a woman won the honor.
HOPKINS: What year was that?
BEAVERS: I don't remember the year, but she was a Texas
HOPKINS: Was it recently, I mean since, say, the sixties
or seventies, or was it back further?
BEAVERS: No, it's been— It's within the last, well, I
would say within the last fifteen years, I don't know just
which year it was.
HOPKINS: Sure no that's fine, as a reference that's good.
BEAVERS: But it happened one time.
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, you've shared a great deal of infor-
mation with us about Golden State, and we're sure you're
very proud of it, and I know the community as well as the
city of Los Angeles is very proud of Golden State Mutual.
And before we close here, just some random thoughts, do you
have any other summaries or final statements you'd like to
make about the company, or have you had your say?
BEAVERS: I don't think of anything at this moment, but I
did think it was important to get, to say a word or two
about the picture behind the figures. You read the state-
ment, but then to get the real picture of the service of
the company, you have to go behind those figures and see
what they mean.
HOPKINS: I notice that Ivan Houston now heads the company.
BEAVERS : Yes ,
HOPKINS: Do you have any relatives involved in the company
who might carry on the Beavers name?
BEAVERS: No, I'm sorry, we don't. [laughter] But I'm
very happy with the leadership that we have, and I'm just
hoping that they will develop other leadership that will be
able to take their places as time goes on, because we
expect the company to be perpetual, and to be perpetual you
have to have leaders developing to take the places of those
who have to go off the stage of action. [tape recorder
HOPKINS: OK, Mr. Beavers, you have an incredible list of
appointments to government, civil services, to community
organizations, and so on, and we'll try to cover as many as
we can. Let the record show that we're reading from a bio-
graphical data sheet.
Mr. Beavers, I see one of the first items here, in
1943 you received a certificate of appreciation from
Franklin D. Roosevelt, president of the United States, in
recognition of patriotic services rendered in aiding the
administration of the Selective Training and Service Act.
What was the Selective Training and Service Act?
BEAVERS: Well, that was in connection with getting draf-
tees, and that was the act that provided for getting
— selecting and training draftees. I was on that board in
HOPKINS: So, in the Los Angeles black community. Was
there a particular station you worked out of?
BEAVERS: No, it wasn't divided racially, it was just — You
see, at that time we didn't have the large population that
we have now. And, of course, it was not a racial set up,
it was mixed.
HOPKINS: How did you come to be appointed to this board,
if you can remember?
BEAVERS: I didn't apply.
HOPKINS: You didn't apply. [laughter] You were drafted.
BEAVERS: But I suppose by virtue of the fact that I
didn't — that I — Well, I don't know how it was I was — I
guess just due to my other activities in the city, I was
active in other committees and boards in the city. I don't
know — I couldn't pin down who caused my appointment or
anything like that.
HOPKINS: OK. Then in 1946 you received a Certificate of
Merit from Harry S. Truman, president of the United States,
for service in connection with reemployment programs.
BEAVERS: Yes, and I remember that distinctly, because we
did play an important part in trying to get jobs for the
servicemen when they returned. And that's what that was
HOPKINS: I see. Was that a successful program, to your
BEAVERS: Yes, that was quite successful. It was suc-
cessful in terms of getting employment, but of course, it's
another story when you deal with breaking down the barriers
of racial prejudice and getting equal opportunities.
That's another story. But this was a good thing, because
it helped to get these fellows jobs when they came back
from the service.
HOPKINS: How did you go about that? About getting them
BEAVERS: Well, we worked with the various businesses, and
through the Chamber of Commerce, and through the Merchants
and Manufacturers Association, those types of organizations
that had control of jobs.
HOPKINS: So, at least for a period, it was kind of an
employment agency, of a kind.
HOPKINS: How long did this organization last? Do you
BEAVERS: No, I don't recall offhand, but it must have
been — I guess it must have been a couple of years anyway.
HOPKINS: OK. Then in 1947 — Excuse me, let me back up
here, in 1946, the First A.M.E. Church, you received a
Certificate of Merit in recognition of achievements in the
interest and welfare of the community and unselfish de-
votion to religious, civic, and cultural advance of our
city, state and nation. Do you have anything you might add
BEAVERS: Well, I think that covers it pretty well. It was
just the attitude of the minister, and that minister was
the Reverend Frederick [Douglass] Jordan. He later became
a bishop. He's dead now, and it was just what it says
there. He appreciated my service, and he gave me a nice
plaque in recognition of that.
HOPKINS: Was this a onetime certificate —
HOPKINS: — or was it given to other people year after
BEAVERS: It was a onetime thing.
HOPKINS: Very good. In 1947, you were commended by Mayor
Fletcher Bowron for competent service as chairman of the
citizens' committee which made investigation of crime and
police brutality in the Negro community. Was there police
brutality in the Negro community during the forties?
BEAVERS: Oh, yes. We had — They had quite a bit of that,
and that was brought about by the protest of our people.
Police brutality seemed to have been getting out of hand.
And, of course, the mayor thought it necessary to have a
committee to make an investigation and make a report, so
that something could be done to change the picture. We did
that, and Mayor Bowron was — he was quite a sincere man, and
he wanted to see justice done, and I appreciated his
commendation, and he appreciated my service.
HOPKINS: What was the makeup of the committee racially?
BEAVERS: Oh, it was mixed. It was a mixed committee.
HOPKINS: You mentioned that the blacks protested, there
was community protest. What form did that protest take?
BEAVERS: Well, it was the usual form of protest. Through
the organizations, the National Association for the Advance-
ment of Colored People, and other civic organizations.
They — I don't remember any particular case or outstanding
case now, but it was just a matter of too many people being
beaten. I don't — There was no death involved, but it was
a matter of brutality.
HOPKINS: Why was this committee set up in 1947 ? i mean,
was this — ?
BEAVERS: Well, it was to make an investigation and a recom-
mendation to the mayor so that he could deal with it.
HOPKINS: Do you remember — Did people testify? Did people
from the community testify before the committee?
BEAVERS: Yes, we had interviews, and we'd make interviews
separately, and we got a pretty good report together.
HOPKINS: Are those reports, are those interviews, are they
a matter of the public record?
BEAVERS: Well, now I don't know that. I really don't know
HOPKINS: One final question on this, Mr. Beavers. What
was the result of the committee? I know you made a report
to the mayor. Was there some action taken against par-
ticular policemen or against the police department as a
BEAVERS: Well, as I recall, the report was submitted to
the mayor who in turn submitted it to the police com-
mission, and that way they brought about a change, improve-
TAPE NUMBER: VI, SIDE TWO
JUNE 22, 1982
HOPKINS: To your knowledge, is this the first such com-
mittee set up to investigate police actions with the black
BEAVERS: Oh, I wouldn't say that. I don't — I never
thought of it in terms of whether it was the first or not,
and I really don't know. It could be, and maybe it wasn't,
I don't know.
HOPKINS: OK. All right. Let's see, as we go through our
list here, we find that in 1948 you received the [George
Washington] Carver Citation Award for outstanding service
in business development of the community. What was the
BEAVERS: Well, that was a citation, and I think it's self-
explanatory, and the meeting was held out at the Beverly
Hilton Hotel, yes, there was a luncheon out there. And
quite a number of people gathered to recognize me and the
occasion, I guess.
HOPKINS: OK. Is the name Carver significant? I mean, is
this Carver —
BEAVERS: Yes, that is —
HOPKINS: — George Washington Carver?
BEAVERS: Yes. They used his name for these awards.
HOPKINS: Do you know who sponsored this award at all?
BEAVERS: It was sponsored by, oh, I forget the name of the
man. I had some, some, I had some questions about the
HOPKINS: Oh, I see.
BEAVERS: So I don't even remember his name. I guess he's
HOPKINS: OK. In 1951 you received the Crusade for Freedom
Citation for effective and unselfish service in Southern
BEAVERS: Let's see, who presented that? That was pre-
sented out here at the University of Southern California, I
think. And I'm trying to think who was the head of it. So
many years have gone, I don't remember.
HOPKINS: Yes. In 1951, the Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity
Social Action Achievement Award in recognition of meri-
torious service in the field of social action and civil
rights. Were you involved in social —
BEAVERS: I was involved in everything that had to do with
civil rights. [laughter]
HOPKINS: Were you a member of this fraternity? The Phi
BEAVERS: Yes. I was one of the founders.
HOPKINS: Oh, you were one of the founders. Can you give
us a little background to the founding of that fraternity?
BEAVERS: Just, we got together and we thought we wanted to
get this Greek-letter fraternity operating again,
[inaudible] and a fellow named Perry was really the leader
HOPKINS: Perry, do you remember his first name?
BEAVERS: No. What was Perry's name? I'd have to look it
up. I remember the man, but I don't remember his first
name at the moment. [William Perry]
HOPKINS: Sure. What year did this fraternity form,
roughly if not exactly?
BEAVERS: Oh, let's see, it came into being sometime in
the, either the late thirties or early forties.
HOPKINS: I see. Was there any university in particular
where this fraternity was established?
BEAVERS: They — UCLA was its starting point.
HOPKINS: OK. In 1951, the Outstanding Service Award was
given to you from the Los Angeles County Conference on Com-
munity Relations in recognition of devoted effort and dis-
tinguished achievements dedicated to the advance of democ-
racy and improvement of human relations.
BEAVERS: Uh-hum. Now, that was a human relations — No,
this is community relations.
HOPKINS: Yes. In 1953, the Goldfeather Award, Community
Chest, the women's division.
BEAVERS: I was very active in the Community Chest, and
that was one — The women's division, of course, was one of
the main divisions of the Chest. They appreciated my
extraordinary services during that period.
HOPKINS: Was there any particular area you worked in for
the Community Chest that you can recall?
BEAVERS: Well, I worked on the board, and on various com-
mittees. I served on the audit committee, and I served on
the — Let's see, there was the audit committee, and then
there was another committee that I served on, that — I
forget what they called that. But —
HOPKINS: The audit committee was auditing the Community
BEAVERS: Audited the social service organizations that
depended upon the Community Chest for contributions.
HOPKINS: I see.
BEAVERS: That audit would include going over the budgets
and checking — it was a large committee too — and raising
questions, and making suggestions as to how they could cut,
you know, and save the — The Community Chest had operated
within a savings budgetary framework, and of course, they
would have to make the allocations based upon the whole,
the total number of agencies that they helped. And, of
course, the auditing committee served to keep these or-
ganizations, that is their budgets, in line with what the
Community Chest budget would be, you see. That was the
thrust of that.
HOPKINS: In 1954 you received, from the Alpha Phi Alpha
fraternity, a human relations award.
BEAVERS: Yes, that was an award that was — I appreciated
them selecting me because I didn't belong to that frater-
nity, and they sought me out. So I felt rather grateful
HOPKINS: Yes. Do you know very much about the Alpha Phi
Alpha fraternity in terms of what university it's
associated with in Los Angeles?
BEAVERS: Oh, they don't go by universities, they're associ-
ated with all universities.
HOPKINS: Yes, yes, it's just a chapter I guess in this
case. In 1955 you received the Red Feather Plaque, Com-
munity Chest Award for outstanding citizenship.
BEAVERS: Yes. Well, that again was from my overall work
in the Community Chest.
HOPKINS: Again in 1955 you received an award, this time
the Rheingold Civic Award in recognition of tireless and
unselfish devotion to the community.
BEAVERS: Yes, well that was a commercial thing. I appreci-
ated it, but it was — And of course, we have to appreciate
the efforts of the corporations to utilize opportunities to
sell their goods and services. So while I appreciated the
civic award, I recognized what they were doing. [laughter]
HOPKINS: What business were they involved in?
BEAVERS: Oh, the — Oh Rheingold, that was a beer company.
HOPKINS: A beer company. I see. Was it a local beer com-
BEAVERS: Yes. They have long since departed. I think — I
really don't think that was worthwhile. We don't need to
carry on there. [laughter]
HOPKINS: All right. Here's an interesting one. In 1957
you were recognized for more than ten years of devoted
service as a commissioner of the Housing Authority of the
City of Los Angeles. Now, I know this could be a very
detailed study, and if you don't mind I'd like to save this
one until perhaps our next session
BEAVERS: All right.
HOPKINS: OK? Because this involves ten years of service,
and I know there were a lot of things connected with that.
BEAVERS: Well, that was — You know I served on that com-
mission for thirteen years, I believe. Let's see, 1946
— sixteen years, and nine of those years I was chairman.
I don't know, there might be some other awards down
here that —
HOPKINS: Yes, I'd like to touch up on all of them for our
tape, and then come back to the ones that we can discuss
BEAVERS: All right.
HOPKINS: In 1960, you received the George Washington
Carver Memorial Institute's Gold Award for outstanding
contributions to the betterment of race relations and human
welfare. During that year 1960, or maybe 1959, was there
BEAVERS: Wait a minute, is that a duplication of — ?
HOPKINS: It looks different. One is business development,
and this one is race relations and human welfare.
BEAVERS: This is the one that I was thinking about, and we
discussed it up here. This is the one that I was thinking
about, and I said about that hotel — the Beverly Hills
Hilton Hotel — that must be it. I don't know, I don't even
remember this one now, in '48, 1948. I don't remember what
that was .
HOPKINS: Well, then this one in '60, was there a par-
ticular or specific act that you did in race relations and
human welfare that earned you this award?
BEAVERS: Well, that's what they felt. This is, yes, this
is the one that I was thinking about when I was talking
about the one up here in '48, twelve years later.
BEA\7ERS: I don't just remember this one in '48. I don't
know what that was. Evidently it was — this says in busi-
ness development, too — Well, I remember this one in 1960.
Because that was one that I was thinking about when I
mentioned it just now.
HOPKINS: You mentioned that they probably gave this for a
particular event. Do you remember what particular activity
or event that you accomplished?
BEAVERS: No, that was a Rheingold you're talking about.
HOPKINS: Oh, I see.
BEAVERS: I didn't say that about the Carver Award.
HOPKINS: In 1962 you received an award of merit for
community service from the Welfare Planning Council [Los
BEAVERS: Yes, now that was an important award, because it
was the Planning Council. It was associated with the
Community Chest, because it planned, it helped organiza-
tions to plan their social service work for the entire Los
Angeles area, and I enjoyed working with them. A long
time, and I really appreciated their recognition of my
HOPKINS: In 1962 you received the Recognition Award for
National Insurance Association for outstanding service as
president. Now, did you serve as president in 1963, or is
BEAVERS: From '62 to '63.
HOPKINS: Oh, from '62 to '63. You've given us an account
before in earlier sessions on the National Insurance Associ-
ation, but could you give us a brief background as to how
you were elected president?
BEAVERS: Well, I was elected by their vote. [laughter]
HOPKINS: All right.
BEAVERS: I did their — I was a keynote speaker for that
organization. I believe that was in Los Angeles, and I was
elected at that meeting, I was elected president, and I
served until the next meeting, which was held in Chicago.
I think I — I don't know if this is on record or not, but
Martin Luther King [Jr.] was our speaker in the meeting in
Chicago. He was really dynamite. Was that on tape?
HOPKINS: I don't think you mentioned that he was a guest
speaker in '63.
BEAVERS: Well, let me see. I have, well, I'll show it to
you. [tape recorder turned off]
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, as president of the NIA, National
Insurance Association, what were your duties?
BEAVERS: Well, being president of the NIA, you held all
the responsibilities of leadership for that year. You have
to work with you a director, who is an employee, full-time
employee, and you actually direct the activities of the
association through that year. And you have a board of
directors, and you have the corps of officers who serve
with you, and you're responsible for the appointments of
the various committees that are needed to achieve the
program of that particular year. It's quite a job because
it's all volunteer service, and the company that you
represent of course takes care of your expenses while you
do this job in addition to the job that you occupy with
your own organization. So it's quite a big order.
HOPKINS: Do you work out of your own headquarters, your
own, say the Golden State headquarters, or do you go to a
central office of the association?
BEAVERS: No, you work out of your own, you have your own
office. For instance, I was chairman of the board of the
Golden State Mutual Life, and I was serving as president of
the association, and I had to take care of my duties at the
Golden State plus doing this. From time to time you have
to go to the other points, you go to the — I would visit
the headquarters of the NIA in Chicago, and attend other
meetings that involved the NIA operations from time to
time, as necessary.
HOPKINS: Is the NIA divided into regions?
BEAVERS: No, no. We don't have that many companies.
HOPKINS: Is there an attempt for you to visit as many com-
panies as possible during the year, or is that an obliga-
BEAVERS: That's not an obligation, but it's nice to do it,
as to visit when you can. But that isn't an obligation.
The obligation is to try to put over the association's
program for that particular year, and do the best you can
to lay the foundation for it succeeding.
HOPKINS: Did you have any desire to be re-elected?
BEAVERS: No. [laughter] You don't have re-elections. In
fact, everyone is glad when his time is up, because it can
come back to you later on after some years.
HOPKINS: In 1966 you received an Appreciation Award for
field representatives at GSM, an Appreciation Award for
home office employees of GSM?
BEAVERS: Yes, that's — The picture's up here. The plaques
HOPKINS: I see. And then the Scroll of Honor Award for
the West Los Angeles Branch of the NAACP.
BEAVERS: Yes, that was delivered to me at the Biltmore
Hotel, a big meeting that they were having. They held this
meeting at the Biltmore. A fellow named [Philip] Murray, I
believe his name was, he was a big labor leader, and he
came out and was the speaker. He's dead now.
HOPKINS: Of course, when we talk about the Housing
Authority, I would like to turn again to the NAACP, but for
now, I see that also in 1966 you received a, well, there's
a resolution made for a commendation for public service
from the Board of Supervisors of Los Angeles County. What
was that about?
BEAVERS: Well, just as it says. That was in 1966. I have
those listed around here. I guess I'll show them to you
when we get through, but I have all these awards hanging up
in different places.
HOPKINS: Oh, OK. We've mentioned your affiliation and
your membership with the Holman Methodist Church, and
they've given you an award also in '66 for effective
service and leadership, I suppose in the church?
BEAVERS: Yes. They were particularly happy over my work
as chairman of the board during the period that they were
building the — They built a second building there, what did
they call it? [Christian Education Building] The pastor
would be disgusted with me for not knowing the name of that
building, but that was in honor of my special service, and
the leadership given in getting that building built.
HOPKINS: In terms of financial support? Or —
BEAVERS: No. Well, I gave financial support too, but this
was in recognition of my leadership. Of course, that
involves several meetings with the Methodist board down-
town, and getting them to see the light. [laughter]
HOPKINS: Just a couple more here, then we'll stop for
today. The resolution — You received a resolution of
commendation from the Los Angeles City Council for out-
standing community service?
BEAVERS: That was in '68?
BEAVERS: I have that out there, and then I have a Human
Relations Award from the City of Los Angeles in 1971, and a
Pioneer Award from Los Angeles Chapter of National Associ-
ation of Media Women. All of these are nice awards, and I
have them here, I'd be glad to show them to you.
HOPKINS: As we stop here with '74 and this award, can you
tell me what is the National Association of Media Women?
BEAVERS: Well, that's an association of women involved
with the newspaper, or well, not only newspaper, but
newspaper, magazine, radio, television, that's the reason
they call it media.
HOPKINS: Is this an integrated organization?
BEAVERS: No, that's — I think that's strictly Negro. Yes,
it is .
HOPKINS: Well, thank you, Mr. Beavers for your time again
today, and we'll continue our discussion of community
organization and civic responsibilities and go into more
depth on a couple of organizations.
BEAVERS: All right. I'm pleased to have the opportunity
to give you this information, and to do whatever I can to
help promote your program of history.
HOPKINS: Thank you.
TAPE NUMBER: VII, SIDE ONE
JULY 1, 1982
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, today we'd like to continue our dis-
cussion of your participation in civic organizations and
voluntary associations. We left off last time in 1974 with
the Pioneer Award given to you by the L.A. Chapter of the
National Association of Media Women. There were some other
key organizations that you were involved in and we'd like
to deal with those today since we have more time. Can you
tell me about your service on the Los Angeles Housing
Authority Commission. Perhaps beginning with how you
became a member of that board.
BEAVERS: Well, I became a member in 19 46, Mayor Bowron was
the mayor at the time, and he appointed me. There was a
vacancy on the board occasioned by the resignation of Mr.
Floyd [C] Covington, and I was appointed in 1946. I
served on the commission for sixteen years. In fact, I had
the privilege of serving that commission under three
different mayors. Mayor Bowron, Mayor Norris Poulson , and
for a short time, Mayor — I can't think of the man's name
HOPKINS: Mayor [Samuel William] Yorty you mean?
BEAVERS: Mayor Yorty. Incidentally, that was quite an
experience, because it came at a time when the city of Los
Angeles — that is the council of the city — had reneged on
its agreement for a new housing program, consisting of
approximately ten thousand units. The division and the
tension and the animosities arising out of that were so
great that the city council couldn't get organized until
the matter was settled. And I remember going with the
representatives of the housing authority and the city
council to Washington, where we conferred with the federal
housing authority and negotiated an agreement, which was a
compromise settlement, which enabled the council to go
ahead with this meeting. That meeting was — That meeting
of the council in which they approved the compromise was
really something. I appeared before the council with Mayor
Poulson. We presented the agreement and got unanimous
approval of council.
HOPKINS: What was the issue of that was contended?
BEAVERS: Well, the Los Angeles housing development — A
private organization was opposed to the ten thousand unit
program, and through their activities they had succeeded in
influencing the council to renege on the agreement. Of
course, at the time they didn't feel that the program could
go through, despite the fact that the housing authority had
already signed the agreement, and had spent considerable
money preparing for the implementation of the program.
There was quite a feeling against public housing that had
been sponsored by this organization. So they didn't
anticipate that it would go on to the Supreme Court, and it
did take a ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States
to verify, to confirm that the agreement was good. And
that was the cause for having to negotiate or compromise so
that they could get organized. The factions in the council
were so divided that they really couldn't organize a
council. They couldn't elect a president, they couldn't
get their committees appointed, or anything.
HOPKINS: Because each side was lobbying for this and
BEAVERS: Well, they were so evenly divided and they
couldn't get a majority vote until the matter was settled.
HOPKINS: If you think back to that period, what were the
arguments against public housing that you can remember off-
BEAVERS: Well, number one, they objected to three stories
or more, that was one of the main objections, and of
course, there was some indication of racism in it too.
They felt that this was a program that would serve the
black population, and also they felt that we didn't need
any more public housing. Really that was a feeling that
public housing was encroaching upon the interest of private
housing development. It was quite a story.
HOPKINS: This company you mentioned, the private con-
struction company, was it?
BEAVERS: It wasn't a construction company, it was an
association of builders, home —
HOPKINS: Oh, I see.
BEAVERS: I think it was called the Los Angeles Home
Builders Association or something like that. I could go to
the records and get the exact name. I don't recall the
exact name, but it was — I think if that wasn't the exact
name it was something to that effect. The Los Angeles Home
HOPKINS: And what were the arguments for public housing?
BEAVERS: Well, the arguments for public housing were that
there was such a shortage of housing and that people — the
poorer class — which the housing development served, were
just, they just could not be served by any private agency.
Two things: in the first place they didn't have the money
to afford the kind of rents that these people would charge
— that private industry would charge — and under the agree-
ment of public housing, allowances were made for that.
They could pay so much of their earnings and there was a
limited amount that they would have to pay. They had a
formula that was based upon the number in the family, the
number of rooms that they occupied. And it was — That
entered into it also, the competition with private enter-
HOPKINS: Now, you first mentioned that you first served
under Mayor Bowron. When did this particular controversy
come to light, was it under Mayor Bowron or Poulson?
BEAVERS: No, it — This controversy started during the term
of Mayor Bowron, and really it was the cause of the defeat
of Mayor Bowron.
HOPKINS: It caused the defeat of Mayor Bowron.
BEAVERS: Yes, this housing squabble.
HOPKINS: What was his stance on it?
BEAVERS: Oh, Bowron was for it, and he was with the
housing authority. And that was the thing that defeated
him in the election — in the next election.
HOPKINS: Were there members on the housing authority who
were anti-public housing?
BEAVERS: Oh, no. No members on the housing authority.
They were all for it, you know.
HOPKINS: OK, now when Mayor Poulson was elected, what was
his stance on it?
BEAVERS: Well, his — He had a stance against public
housing coming in. But he was converted after he got in.
[ laughter ]
HOPKINS: How was he converted?
BEAVERS: Well, that trip to Washington, when he understood
the legal aspects of it, and he was reasonable, and he
was — He helped to work out the compromise.
HOPKINS: Was there any discussion among those individuals
who were against it that this was kind of a socialist
activity to have public housing, was that — ?
BEAVERS: Yes, they used that too. They used that, and the
communists, and all those arguments were used. And it was
out of that argument that new legislation was — State
legislation was approved which provided for no public
housing to be built without the vote of the people in the
HOPKINS: I see. So for each public housing unit that was
built there had to be a —
BEAVERS: No, no, not each public housing, but in each pol-
itical subdivision or each city or county of the state.
HOPKINS: They would approve it on a yearly basis, or —
BEAVERS: Oh, they'd have to approve — They'd have to get
their approval before they could build. Once they approved
it, though, that's — It's only a one-time deal. Once they
approved it, and then it was built, why that was it.
HOPKINS: When you were on the board, what was the first
public housing project that was OK'd?
BEAVERS: Well, after this compromise agreement, then we
set about to build, oh, four thousand three hundred and
some units, almost half of the program that was originally
HOPKINS: OK, so the program was approved for ten thousand
HOPKINS: Originally. And then the compromise was reached
about what year? Can you recall?
BEAVERS: Well, the year that Poulson was elected.
HOPKINS: I see.
BEAVERS: The first year, that was the first order of busi-
ness. The council couldn't get started until that item was
taken care of.
HOPKINS: So from there, do you recall the first site that
was allowed for the building?
BEAVERS: Well, it had a number of sites. I remember that
the largest development that was built was the Nickerson
Gardens, down in South Los Angeles, and I can't recall the
order of the finish of these projects because there were
several, and we had two that were down in South Los
Angeles, and we had one up on Pico Boulevard, and then we
had — of course we had that Chavez Ravine property, but we
didn't build any housing up there, and we had the develop-
ments on — oh, in East Los Angeles, called the Pico Gardens.
I didn't anticipate having to go into any detail on this.
I could get more detail on it, but I don't think it would
serve any particular purpose, because the number of units —
HOPKINS: Yes, yes, we can get that, but just in terms of
discussion — You related to me earlier about a story as to
how Nickerson Gardens received its name. Could you tell us
that for the good of the record?
BEAVERS: Well, I suggested the name of Nickerson because
William Nickerson was the founder of Golden State Mutual
Life Insurance Company, and at the time I thought it would
be of interest and be an honor to use his name as the — To
identify one of these projects, and in particular the
largest project that was being built. At that time it
seemed like a good thing.
HOPKINS: And now you have different feelings about it?
BEAVERS: Well, of course, through the years, why, the com-
munity has changed and we had some elements of the popula-
tion that are criminally inclined, and the community itself
has taken on a different aspect, not through any fault of
the housing authority, but in that particular community
we've had too much crime and drugs and homicides, and
things like that. And, of course, the housing authority
property in a community like that, it takes on, it has to
take on the image of that community. It can't be separate
and distinct from the community because it's a part of the
community, and I guess I personally kind of feel like that
it isn't such — isn't as great an honor as I thought it
would be at the time.
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, you mentioned earlier that one of
the fears — or one of the thoughts — among some people was
that these housing authorities were mainly geared for
blacks. Were the majority of these housing projects
inhabited by blacks?
BEAVERS: Well, eventually that happened, but that happened
over a period of years as the populations of the community
changed, but the housing authority had a very strict policy
of renting to people on the basis of their need and their
fitting the qualifications outlined for that housing, and
race didn't enter into it. But over a period of time with
the usual pattern of Negroes moving out and whites moving
in these communities changed, and that's one of the things
that has caused and continues to cause a pattern of segreg-
ation, racial segregation, in these large metropolitan
areas like Los Angeles. You can trace it from, oh back
from the early 1900s on. First, I remember distinctly
there was a time when there were absolutely no Negroes
living west of Central Avenue. The next border line was
Avalon, San Pedro Street, and the next was Main Street,
Figueroa, and progressing until they get to the ocean,
[laughter] So, there's a time, you see, when it wears out,
and it's an economic, it's both an economic and a racial
problem, because since the Supreme Court issued its
[ruling] against restrictive covenants Negroes live any-
where in Los Angeles. We find — It would be difficult to
find a community in Los Angeles where you wouldn't find
some Negroes. That applies even to Beverly Hills.
HOPKINS: Were you the only black member on the housing
authority during the years you served?
HOPKINS: And you served from 1946 to —
BEAVERS: Nineteen Sixty- two.
HOPKINS: — to 1962. I want to talk about that a bit, but
first I understand that there were at least two former
black members on the housing committee. Looking at the
records, was Paul Williams on the housing committee?
BEAVERS: No, he was an architect for some of the develop-
ments, he was an architect for the Nickerson housing
HOPKINS: But he didn't actually serve as a member of the
BEAVERS: No, no, no.
HOPKINS: Well, then Floyd Covington was?
BEAVERS: Floyd Covington, and then there was a woman that
preceded Floyd, I believe, yes, Mrs., oh — [tape recorder
HOPKINS: OK. So there's Covington, and —
BEAVERS: Mrs. William Terry.
HOPKINS: Mrs. William Terry. Do you remember her first
BEAVERS: Well, her husband's name was William. He was a
building contractor, but, oh, what was her first name now?
I don't remember at the moment, I might come back to that,
but Mrs. Terry was the other commissioner.
HOPKINS: What were Mr. Covington's years of service, if
you can remember offhand, or roughly what were his years?
BEAVERS: Well, I don't — I think he served a couple of
years. You see, this housing authority, it came about as a
result of housing policies developed under the Roosevelt
administration, and it was only in the thirties that it
came about, so it had not been operating too long.
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, on the housing authority, so far
we've talked about the public housing that they were
involved in. What were some other activities this com-
mission was involved in, or was that the principal?
BEAVERS: That was it, that was it. They had a sixty-five
million dollar program at one time, and they had their
hands full doing that. You see, it's volunteer work
anyway. You simply had your expenses paid, and there were
expenses you incurred in connection with the work, and you
got that, but it was volunteer work.
HOPKINS: So, you would not try to find private housing or
any kind of housing for people who were in need of housing?
BEAVERS: No, the public housing authority was confined to
developing, finding housing for people who were unable to
qualify for purchasing of homes or renting under the
regular procedures. See, in other words, the disadvantaged
people. People who's salaries were not, were below the
level, and they were classed as low-income applicants. In
other words, they couldn't qualify for public housing
unless total salaries were below the poverty level, and so
that was the class of people that the housing authority
served. And that was the one thing that set them apart,
and that was the one thing that enabled them to — enabled
these particular classes of people to have decent housing,
because it was demonstrated over and over that the regular
housing in the private industry could not provide housing
for these particular classes of people at rents that they
could afford to pay. That confined the operations of the
housing authority to serving that class of people.
HOPKINS: As we said, you began your career on this board
in 1946. Can you give us some thought, and trace for us
your activities on the housing board between 1946 and 1962?
BEAVERS: Well, I was just a member of the commission for
seven years, and I was vice-chairman for a part of the
time, but I became chairman, and I served as chairman for
HOPKINS: How were you first appointed to the board? You
BEAVERS: I was appointed by the mayor.
HOPKINS: And how did he know about you? How did he come
to know about you?
BEAVERS: How did he come to know about me?
BEAVERS: Oh, I guess through — He had appointed me on
other committees, I guess, and he knew me from the company,
from the business angle, and that's how I was known. I was
known as a part of Golden State Mutual Life Insurance
Company, and also I was active in so many things.
BEAVERS: Did that answer your question?
HOPKINS: You did. OK, then you were acting vice-chairman
from 1952 to 1953. How did you become vice-chairman? What
was the method of selection there?
BEAVERS: Oh, the board had its method of selection, it
elected officers every year.
HOPKINS: How many people on the board?
HOPKINS: Five. And then you became the chairman by the
BEAVERS: Yes, elected, and that means I was re-elected
every year for eight years.
HOPKINS: Was that unusual, or —
BEAVERS: Well, it was unusual they didn't have anybody
HOPKINS: Well, you must have been doing something right.
Were there any memorable events that happened while you
were chairman of the commission?
BEAVERS: Well, we had — Oh, yes, there were a number of
things that happened in the ordinary operations. Of
course, at that time there was a lot of attention given to
the activities of the communists, and if you recall that
was a time in which they had a committee, a government
committee that would search out the communists.
HOPKINS: Was this the [House] Committee on Un-American
BEAVERS: Yes, the Committee on Un-American Activities, and
that was the time when they were operating and in that
field I had the displeasure of terminating a man who was in
our public relations department, who was very gifted and
was doing quite a nice job, but we had to terminate him on
account of his activities. And, let's see, well, they had
reasons to suspect him, I assume.
HOPKINS: What was his name? Can you share it with us?
BEAVERS: His name was [Frank B. ] Wilkinson.
HOPKINS; First name?
BEAVERS: I don't remember his first name. His initial was
F. I don't know whether it was Freddie or what.
HOPKINS: Now, what did he allegedly do?
BEAVERS: Well, just being a member of the Communist Party
was sufficient, you know.
HOPKINS: And he was a member of the Communist Party?
BEAVERS: Well, that's what they said, and we had to take
their word for it, and they seemed to have had the evidence
to support it.
HOPKINS: Was this a local group who said this or a na-
tional? I mean, do you remember what body asked you — ?
BEAVERS: Well, they had — The Committee on Un-American
Activities made the investigation, and it came to our at-
tention, and naturally we had to act on it. And as chair-
man it was my responsibility to terminate his services.
That was on the darker side. We had many things that
came up. One of the things outgrowing, coming out of this
reorganization, and the compromise agreement, we had to get
rid of the property that we would not be using due to the
curtailed operations. And one of the good things that came
out was the selling of the Chavez Ravine property, that is
most of, it to the Dodger organization for the accom-
modation of major league baseball. And that was very
interesting, because it required negotiations with the
Dodger administration and, of course, there were those who
thought that the contract agreement with the Dodgers was
giving away some property, and they insisted upon — The
opponents of it got up a petition which required an elec-
tion to determine whether or not the city would approve it,
and that was a very interesting activity, and —
HOPKINS: Can you share with us — ?
BEAVERS: Let's see, that was voted on and I did have the
year — '56 .
BEAVERS: Yes. 1956. The property that we had in Chavez
Ravine, of course the city was not receiving any — it was
such a small amount of money, you might say they were not
receiving anything from that property. It was mostly, a
considerable amount of it was yearly, and then that that
was occupied, it had housing on it. The housing was in
such bad shape that the city was not getting any revenue
from that property at all.
HOPKINS: The little revenue it was getting, where did it
BEAVERS: Oh, a few scattered places that were in one
section of it.
HOPKINS: So property tax from those few properties.
BEAVERS: Yes, and it didn't amount to very much. So to
compare that with the millions of dollars that the city
receives now from the Dodger organization in taxes cer-
tainly demonstrates the wisdom of their action. It was a
real hot contest for the, in the election, but we won out,
and the contract went through. That was interesting. And
then from time [to time] we had meetings that kept the
public informed as to what the housing authority program
was doing, and its service to the city.
HOPKINS: How did the housing authority come to acquire the
Chavez Ravine land?
BEAVERS: Oh, under the eminent domain process.
HOPKINS: Now, I understand there was some process among
those people who were living in Chavez Ravine against the
housing authority —
BEAVERS: Buying the property?
HOPKINS: Buying the property.
BEAVERS: Against the condemnation of their property for —
Yes, there was. And, of course, the housing authority won
out in that though, and I don't recall any legal case.
What was done was just to assure the people that they would
provide other housing for them.
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, we had a interview with Mr. Poulson
a few years back, and he said that for three years he tried
to get public groups interested in the Chavez Ravine area.
but he couldn't seem to get anyone interested in developing
it. Do you have any comments along those lines?
BEAVERS: Well, I'm sure that was a fact, because he — Al-
though he came in as an opponent of public housing, I must
say that once he saw the problem, he did all that he could
to promote the program, and I'm sure that what he said
there is correct, that he tried to get other people inter-
ested. Because after he had been responsible for defeating
the mayor who was favorable to public housing, I'm sure
that he felt obligated to try to do something to justify
the faith and the support that he received from the people
who caused his election. I have found Norris Poulson to be
quite a good mayor, and whatever attitudes he had against
public housing, why, they got lost in the shuffle, because
during my association with him we worked together very
satisfactorily. I considered him one of my good friends, I
still communicate with him, send cards and all, so it is a
very good feeling that exists between us.
TAPE NUMBER: VII, SIDE TWO
JULY 1, 1982
HOPKINS: OK, so you were saying that pretty good relations
then existed between you and Mayor Poulson?
BEAVERS: Oh, excellent relations.
HOPKINS: I remember reading also in his oral history that
he mentioned that he did have member friends on the housing
committee, and he particularly and specifically mentioned
you, and that he still communicated with you,
BEAVERS: Yes, that's true.
HOPKINS: Now, as you said, he came in as an anti-public
housing person, and he changed and became, if not pro-
housing, at least responsive to public housing.
BEAVERS: He accepted his responsibilities as mayor,
because he had that program with him, like it or not, when
he went to Washington and they had this compromise agree-
ment, but then it was his program, he was mayor, and he
accepted it and, I think, did a very satisfactory job.
HOPKINS: OK, in your opinion, given the fact that he had
these feelings against public housing, did that have
anything to do with him allowing [Walter F. ] O'Malley [to]
take the Chavez Ravine area?
BEAVERS: Oh, no, no. That was strictly a business proposi-
tion, and everybody connected with it saw it as such.
HOPKINS: Was there any division in the housing authority
itself among its members as to whether Chavez Ravine should
be sold to Mr. O'Malley?
BEAVERS: Oh, no.
HOPKINS: The housing authority as a group unanimously —
BEAVERS: Yes, they were unanimous on that. We couldn't
use it for housing, you see under the compromise agreement
we couldn't use it, and this was a good opportunity to get
rid of it —
HOPKINS: And benefit the city.
BEAVERS: — and benefit the city.
HOPKINS: I see. Well, let me ask you, what was this com-
promise? Why couldn't Chavez Ravine be used as housing? I
might have missed it.
BEAVERS: Well, the number of units was cut down from ten
thousand to four thousand three hundred and some, you see.
Well, you have a lot of property there that can't be used.
HOPKINS: So, what you mentioned earlier about this four
thousand units, that was the ceiling then for public
housing in Los Angeles?
BEAVERS: That was a ceiling on this particular program,
because that was what we were dealing with.
HOPKINS: I see. OK, so those units had already been al-
located, so we had Chavez Ravine, with really nothing to do
with it in terms of public housing? Is that correct?
BEAVERS : No .
HOPKINS: No, oh, help me please.
BEAVERS: No, you see, the plans for use of the property
had all been approved and that included Chavez Ravine and
some other sites, and when we reached this compromise
agreement, it was agreed that instead of ten thousand units
there 'd only be four thousand three hundred and some units
used — built. Well, that — It was necessary — The basis of
that compromise was ruling out any units or any buildings
that would exceed two stories. They had some three- and
four-story buildings, and of course when you rule out that
number of units, and you have to confine it to two-story
units, well then naturally you can't build as many. And,
we had to narrow the — We had to reduce the number of units
and build them in such a way as they would be self sup-
porting, and in order to do that, why, you have all this
land, and it was hilly land which was involved, that we had
to dispose of. And nobody helped us to decide when and
where and what, that was our little red wagon we had to
work with. In that connection this happened to come along
as a very timely project that enabled us to come out of it
HOPKINS OK. The compromise again, who were the people
involved in it?
BEAVERS: That was with the federal housing authorities.
Federal housing is, it was back in Washington, they — all of
the public housing in the United States is under that
agency, and the superintendent of public housing at the
time had the responsibility and we had to work with him and
his board. Work with him on reducing and getting a program
that would take the place of the one that had already been
HOPKINS: What was his name, the superintendent, can you
BEAVERS: I think his name was Slusser.
HOPKINS: OK, very good, thank you. Are there any other
comments you want to share with us concerning the housing
BEAVERS: No, I think I mentioned that we had meetings from
time to time. They did have a meeting in which I was pre-
sented a plaque in recognition of my service.
HOPKINS: You retired from this committee in 1962. Why?
BEAVERS: Mayor Yorty was elected and there were some
things that he and I didn't agree on. I won't comment on
them in this —
HOPKINS: In this session? OK. We'd like you to though,
if you would, but if you'd rather not —
BEAVERS: Well, it's really political, and I don't think
those kind of things do any good.
HOPKINS: Do you know if he appointed any blacks to the
housing authority under his administration? Say in that
first session, in that first term?
BEAVERS: I really don't know. He didn't replace me right
away, he let me — First he thought he could use me, and he
found out he couldn't, and I really don't know who he ap-
pointed. He waited though until he was sure that he would
have a majority on the commission. One thing happened, one
of the commissioners got killed in an accident, and then
there was a vacancy that occurred, and then with my resig-
nation that assured him a majority on the commission. So,
as these things happened, why that was the reason I served
a year under his administration. He tried to get me to
agree with him and ignore the regulations for hiring, so
that some of his people could be employed in the housing
I said I wouldn't tell you, but I can tell you that
HOPKINS: Well, certainly, as you know, any part that you
say we can close for the record.
BEAVERS: And so I wouldn't budge on that, I told him, no,
I wouldn't make a deal. I wasn't going to — First of all,
I told him I knew how he felt, and if — I would step down
any time. All he had to do was to let me know when he was
ready and who he wanted to appoint, and it was all right
with me. I wasn't interested in continuing in the service,
so he tried a couple of times to win me over by — if I just
agree, you know, if we could agree on a number of jobs that
we would pass on, and they wouldn't be subject to the
regular civil service procedure. Well, I wouldn't want to
get in any nest like that. [laughter] So that was it.
When he found out I meant business, that it was no deal,
then he finally, as soon as he had this opportunity to get
a majority, why then he notified me that my resignation was
HOPKINS: Could you relate for us any specific example of
what he wanted you to do?
I just did.
All right, we'll leave it —
I wouldn't want to go into any detail on that.
OK. Mayor Poulson said that a number of things
that were begun under his administration. Mayor Yorty took
credit for, including the Dodgers to some degree, and so
on. Do you —
BEAVERS: He gave his full cooperation, we didn't have any
problem with him. Another thing that shows you about poli-
tics, now, of course, coming in, he was right with this
gang that was opposed to housing authority, and he stepped
right into office. And he got in there, and of course, I
have to agree there was nothing he could do because all
this had gone on before, and the best thing he could do was
what he did. He joined with us and went to Washington, and
that's where I really got acquainted with him. He made it
his business to invite me as his seat partner, and we went
on the train.
HOPKINS: This is Mayor — ?
BEAVERS: Mayor Poulson.
BEAVERS: We went to Washington, and we were together quite
a bit, and we just talked things out. And he let his hair
down, and I let mine down. [laughter] We became the best
of friends, it was real — He did all he could do to promote
the program, and he was due the credit. He appointed me to
the Dodger committee [Mayor's Committee on Major League
Baseball]. Major League Baseball Committee, it was called,
of course we didn't know about the Dodgers, who it would
be, and I served — It was his appointment, he appointed me
to his committee, and I served on that committee, and I
served on some other committees that he appointed.
HOPKINS: What was the function of this baseball committee
— or major league baseball committee? Obviously, to bring
a major league baseball team to Los Angeles —
BEAVERS: That's right.
HOPKINS: How did you go about that? What functions did
the committee — ?
BEAVERS: Well, the first thing, we had to get approval of
the voters on the contract, that was the first thing. That
was a big hurdle. Then, next thing was of course — Well,
it wasn't the next thing, because before we did that we had
negotiated this deal with the Dodgers, but it couldn't
become legal until the voters acted. Then after that, why,
we went ahead and did the things necessary to complete the
negotiations. And after that there was some other property
involved, in which these, oh, the banks and hotel, that
Bonaventure Hotel, and other properties that were a part of
HOPKINS: Part of the Chavez Ravine parcel?
HOPKINS: I see. You mean you took actions, or the com-
mittee [took] actions on that?
BEAVERS: Well, we made that property available. Then,
well let's see, with the housing authorities, that just
about — I'm trying to find the dividing line as to what
Poulson did and what would come within the scope of the
housing authority, and then some other things that were not
in the scope of the housing authority.
There was another committee that he appointed me to —
HOPKINS: Mayor Poulson?
BEAVERS: Yes. That was a recreation committee that had to
do with finding, enlarging the program for the zoo. The
Los Angeles Zoo. As we went to San Diego and checked over
their operation, that was a remarkable zoo operation they
have down there, the wild animals and all. And we worked
on a committee and it started an expansion of the Los
HOPKINS: What was that committee called? Do you remember
BEAVERS: It was called the Los Angeles Recreation and the
Zoo, I guess, because — I don't know what they called that
HOPKINS: I notice on your biographical data sheet you have
dated here, would this be the Mayor's Citizen Committee to
Study Zoological Problems, is that it?
BEAVERS: Yes, that was it.
HOPKINS: Oh, good. Mr. Beavers, you were on this baseball
committee for how many years? Or what were the dates on
that? Do you recall?
BEAVERS: Are they indicated in the biographical data?
BEAVERS: Well, I think that was '56, and probably lasted a
couple of years, maybe '56 to '58.
HOPKINS: Do you think the fact that you were chairman of
the L.A. Housing Authority had anything to do with your
appointment on this committee, the baseball committee, or
was that divorced from that idea?
BEAVERS: Well, of course, now, I don't know. That's a
matter of speculation, I don't know. I don't know — I
think perhaps I would have been on the committee anyway,
but that's something that I'd speculate on. I was chairman
and I was appointed. [laughter]
HOPKINS: Those are the facts, then. Were you a baseball
enthusiast during those times?
BEAVERS: Oh, yes.
HOPKINS: Very good, just one more question here concerning
this. I wasn't clear on the idea that the Chavez Ravine
parcel and land was somehow connected with the area that
now the Bonaventure Hotel occupies. That's all part of the
same land? How is that connected?
BEAVERS: Well, it's part of the same land. All of that
property up there, it was — That wasn't known as Chavez
Ravine, but it was adjacent to that, and it was under the
housing authorities. It was included in the housing author-
ities. Oh, that ran right into the land that was con-
trolled by the Los Angeles Housing Redevelopment Program
[Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Program].
HOPKINS: Which is different?
BEAVERS: But, there was a part of the land that was
connected with Chavez Ravine, and it came right on up and
it was adjacent to this other property that was under the
operations of the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment
HOPKINS: Now, the Los Angeles County Redevelopment Associ-
ation, was that a public — was that public land too?
BEAVERS : Yes .
HOPKINS: It belonged to the city, or to the state?
BEAVERS: Well, it belonged to — A part of the land, as you
say, was a part of the same parcel of the Chavez Ravine,
and then the other part was the Los Angeles Community
Development Program, and we cooperated with the Community
Redevelopment Program, and as I recall, some other land
that we could not use, and we had some kind of an agree-
ment, I think. I did something with the community re-
development forces that enabled them to go ahead with their
progrcim, which included putting up those — some high-rise
HOPKINS: Is Bunker Hill a part of that operation?
BEAVERS: Yes, yes.
HOPKINS: I see. Bunker Hill, and the Bonaventure, they're
owned by private enterprise, aren't they?
BEAVERS: Yes. But they, you see, the community redevelop-
ment program is a different type of program from public
housing, so under their guidance the private industry could
develop property, and that's quite independent of the
HOPKIMS: I see. And this group, the community redevelop-
ment program, they would be more in favor of private or
individual development, wouldn't they? I mean that's the
nature of their business, I mean of that operation?
BEAVERS: Oh, yes.
HOPKINS: Was it legal for — I'm sure it was because it was
done, but were there any problems with shifting this land
for development by private enterprise?
BEAVERS: No, no, no problem there.
HOPKINS: OK, very good. I think that about does it for
the housing authority. Before we close I'd just like to
ask you a couple more important questions concerning some
civic organizations. Of course, we know that you were, for
ten years, the financial secretary for the National Associ-
ation for the Advancement of Colored People, can you tell
us about your involvement with the NAACP. When did you
BEAVERS: Oh, Lord. I was with the NAACP since I was, ever
since I reached my maturity. [laughter] Yes, let's see,
maybe, I don't think you mean that. You don't mean when I
joined, when I first joined?
HOPKINS: Well, let's see, I think the Los Angeles Branch
was begun in, what, 1915 or so in Los Angeles, if I'm not
mistaken, and did you have anything to do with the initia-
tion of the organization in this town?
BEAVERS: No, I just became a member. I probably became a
member when they started. But I know definitely I was a
member in 1920, '21, and I think I have-- Let me see, was
there anything in my biographical data that would indicate?
HOPKINS: I didn't see the date, but I guess what we're
really after is when you became an active member. Maybe
you were an active member from the beginning. I mean in
terms of attending meetings and participating in the
organization. If you recall.
BEAVERS: Well, let's see, I have a way of arriving at it,
I think, here. [tape recorder turned off] I became active
in the Los Angeles chapter~I guess I became active around
about 1940, yes.
HOPKINS: When were you the financial secretary?
HOPKINS: I see that you were the financial secretary, do
you remember those years at all? I don't see them on the
data sheet. [tape recorder turned off]
BEAVERS: I was a member of the Grand Jury in 1949, and I
must have been a member in about the early forties, in
about 1940, because I was president of the Urban League,
they don't get that [on the data sheet] either, do they?
HOPKINS: We can come back to the dates, but can you tell
us something about the —
BEAVERS: Chairman of the Urban League home building and
finance committee, 1951. Well, before that I was financial
secretary of the NAACP. What was that you were going to
HOPKINS: OK. Are there any significant events that you
can relate to us about the NAACP in Los Angeles, where you
were particularly involved?
BEAVERS: Oh, I remember when Dr. [Henry Claude] Hudson was
arrested for — He was arrested — They made a case of it
down in Santa Monica, in the beach. No, not in Santa
Monica, it was in another place.
HOPKINS: Redondo Beach?
HOPKINS: Oh, Manhattan Beach, that's right.
BEAVERS: He was involved in a case there. He pointed up
the rights of black citizens to bathe in the Pacific Ocean
[laughter], and I was financial secretary of the NAACP
under his administration, he was president, and those
years, that was during —
HOPKINS: That would have been in the early twenties — the
1920s, when he was arrested. I discussed that with him
once, and I think he said it was 1923 or '24 when he was
arrested for bathing in Manhattan Beach. So you were
perhaps financial secretary at least during those years,
[tape recorder turned off]
BEAVERS: We organized the Golden State in '25, '24, yes, I
was financial secretary of the NAACP in the twenties, in
the early 1920s. It's a shame we don't have a — At least
when you're doing things like this and you don't have any
idea of it. I was the secretary of the NAACP for ten
years, and it doesn't say what ten.
HOPKINS: When Dr. Hudson was arrested, can you remember
some of the feelings in the community at that time?
BEAVERS: Yes, the feelings were very high, and of course,
there were a smaller number of Negroes, but the feelings
ran very high then. It was something else that happened
there, too. Oh, yes, I remember, but I don't know the year
of this, but I went with Tom Griffith down to the, well, I
guess to the police department, yes, to protest against the
arrest of a member of our group. And as a member of our
group, I mean race, we didn't know anything about the guy.
We went down there and raved hard about police brutality,
and come to find out this guy had a record as long as an
arm, he had been in — committed all kinds of crimes.
HOPKINS: Oh, and you had gone to help him.
BEAVERS: And we had gone down there on police brutality.
I never was so embarrassed, and this man, the clerk we were
dealing with, he thought I was a lawyer, and Tom Griffith
was the lawyer.
HOPKINS: Tom Griffith was the lawyer.
BEAVERS: Tom Griffith.
HOPKINS: Griffith. Was he black?
BEAVERS: Yes, he's a retired judge.
HOPKINS: Oh, oh, I didn't know him.
BEAVERS: And then to find out, we were — I don't know what
this Negro had done, and all, and then just — And there was
no way to put any credit on what he had said, we just had
to get on out of there. But that showed, to me it showed
the importance of two things. Number one, all — They had a
special [slogan] about "Black is Beautiful." Black can be
beautiful, and black can be very ugly, you see. And you
can't go just on the color of skin, and because somebody
said they picked on me because of my race, isn't neces-
sarily true. You have to — And the next factor is first
you, before you go protesting, get your facts, get your
facts, because before you make a decision you've got to
have the facts on both sides. Facts don't necessarily have
to agree with you, but you have to take the facts as they
are. That's one thing that we should keep in mind in our
protest. We can't go all haywire and start blaming people
and causing them trouble when we haven't got the factual
data to show what we are talking about is true. We can't
make a decision ourselves that's worth anything if we don't
first get some facts, and I heard somebody say that, that
wherever there's an argument, and you see two people
arguing, there's one thing that's sure. That one of them
is — neither of them is right. The truth is somewhere
between them. [laughter]
HOPKINS: That's very good.
BEAVERS: There are three sides to every question: There's
my side of it, the other fellow's side of it, and then the
truth of it, somewhere in the middle.
HOPKINS: Somewhere in the middle.
TAPE NUMBER: VIII, SIDE ONE
JULY 8, 1982
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, let's continue with our discussion
of your illustrious and active participation in civic
affairs. We left off last time with the NAACP , and we
noticed today, we'd like to start with your involvement
with the YMCA. Can you shed some light on your activities
with the YMCA?
BEAVERS: Well, some years ago, I was very active in the
Twenty-eighth Street YMCA. I was on their board of direc-
tors and I also served on the Los Angeles metropolitan
board of directors.
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, is it true that for some period
during the twenties, and the thirties, and maybe even
later, that blacks were not allowed to join the metro-
BEAVERS: Well, I don't have any recollection of such [an]
ironclad rule, but I do know that in the very nature of
things that Negroes did not participate with whites, but I
don't recall any discriminatory policies such as you've
HOPKINS: OK. Do you have any idea of when the Twenty-
eighth Street "Y" was organized?
BEAVERS: Goodness, that's— I don't remember the year, but
it was in the early days, back in the, oh, back; in the
twenties I believe. You might get a good lead to that on
the construction of their building on Twenty-eighth Street.
That was a big thing at the time, and I'm sorry, but I
don't remember the year. I think that it would be easier
for you to get that information though, as to the director,
the year, and pinpoint it.
HOPKINS: Sure, yes, we can get that. I guess what I'm
driving at is, do you know why blacks organized a YMCA of
their own? As you can recall?
BEAVERS: Well, as I can recall there was need for a YMCA
in our community, and the very — the segregated pattern that
is generally followed in large cities, as it developed,
naturally there was a need for that facility in our own
community, because it would do more good in the community
in which the people lived than it would in some other area
of the city. At that time the major portion of the popu-
lation was on the east side of Los Angeles, which is now
more the central part of the city, and there was just a
need for that facility in the community in which the Negro
HOPKINS: Now, as I recall reading, that actually Paul
Williams was the architect for the Twenty-eighth Street
YMCA, and it must have been a costly building. How was it
funded? Was it a city operation or what?
BEAVERS: Well, the metropolitan board helped to finance
it. It was, of course, like all other YMCA projects, they
had a very fine and cooperative secretary at the Central
"Y," the Metropolitan "Y, " and naturally they had an
interest in helping to fund and finance the one for our
HOPKINS: Now during the 1920s there were still a large
number of whites living on the east side of Los Angeles.
Did whites frequent this "Y," as you can recall, when it
was first built?
BEAVERS: Oh, yes. There was never any — I don't recall
any — bars against whites participating with the blacks. I
recall that there was always a good spirit between the YMCA
kids and, in fact, the YMCA sponsored integrated activity.
The YMCA was one of the forces used to break down the
barriers of racial discrimination and segregation, so they
didn't take a lead in promoting segregation.
HOPKINS: OK. Also, in reading back in newspapers during
the twenties and the thirties, we find that the YMCA seemed
to have been a focal point, or a focus of a lot of com-
munity activities, whereas today it doesn't seem to hold
the same part in the community. Do you have any thoughts
on that as to why, if it is true?
BEAVERS: I don't think that is true. For example we have
a YMCA in this community, in the Crenshaw area, and we
still have the YMCA on Twenty-eighth Street, and more and
more the YMCA has tended to encourage the integrated
activity. We take the YMCA camp program, for example.
They go to camp, and there's no discrimination. They try
to act as a force against that kind of thing rather than
HOPKINS: OK, Now, I understand that you became a member
of the board of directors for the general Los Angeles metro-
BEAVERS: Yes, that is true. I served, I don't know how
many terms, at least two terms on the metropolitan board.
HOPKINS: Do you know roughly what time that was — what
period of time that was?
BEAVERS: Oh, I'd have to go back to the — I'm hazy on the
years. I don't know if it was —
HOPKINS: So was it after World War II or before World War
BEAVERS: I think it was — World War II was in the forties,
BEAVERS: Yes. It seems to me it was before World War II.
It didn't have to be, it could have been later, but I wish
I'd known that you wanted the years, then I could have
HOPKINS: Yes, really, I never mean to pinpoint you on the
years, I guess I'm always kind of looking for just the
general time period, but we can touch upon that. It won't
be difficult to find it.
OK, and another very important civic organization that
you were involved in was the Los Angeles Urban League.
BEAVERS: Yes, I was very active in the Los Angeles Urban
League, I served on several committees, and I was a member
of the board of directors, and I served two three-year
terms on the board, and one three-year term as president of
the Los Angeles board. And I served also on the national
Urban League board, one term for three years.
HOPKINS: During your term as president were there any out-
standing events that occurred that you can recall, that
you'd like to share with us?
BEAVERS: Well, during that time, let's see, Lester Granger
was the executive for the national Urban League, and I
worked with him very closely, and he was a very fine man.
He was succeeded by Whitney Young, and I also worked with
Whitney very closely, and during that time we had our
office on — The office of the Urban League was on Central
Avenue, oh, yes, in the, I think it was the 3800 block,
right across from what is the city health bureau in that
area. City health facility. The accomplishments of the
board revolved around its yearly promotion of race rela-
tions in giving awards to the outstanding corporation for
employment, and also to sports organizations like football
and baseball, and that was — it was during that time that we
developed the training program, which is a very important
part of Urban League activities, training of people for
jobs. One of the weaknesses that we've had for a long time
has been the lack of qualified, real qualified applicants
for high class jobs, and the Urban League focused on that
program, on a training program, and housing. Let's see,
there was housing, employment training, and general welfare
of the people in the black community.
HOPKINS: Was there any conflict between the national Urban
League and the Los Angeles Urban League over the years that
you can remember? That is any serious conflict in terms of
BEAVERS: No, no conflict between the local chapter and the
national chapter. There was — There was some, well, I
wouldn't call it a conflict, but the national was inter-
ested in getting more help from the Hollywood community.
Because at that time Hollywood was in its heyday, and it
was — I remember having conferences with Lester Granger on
the matter of getting more help from the Hollywood com-
munity on getting jobs and giving support to the national
program. But that wasn't a conflict, that was just an
HOPKINS: Was that also a concern of the NAACP , to try to
attract Hollywood stars to participate or to help the
BEAVERS: Yes, the NAACP had, they had, it developed into
somewhat of a conflict, because the national office — In
fact there was an attempt made to have a Hollywood branch
of the NAACP, and it really developed into the Hollywood
group taking over the — Well, they didn't take it over, but
they focused on the life membership and the legal defense
fund, and they focused on the legal defense for the NAACP,
and I noticed just recently in the last convention, they
had a real — that was the focus of a real fight between —
within — the agency. I don't know what would be the exact
outcome of it, but it seems that there is a breaking of
relations there. They are going to make some changes, and
I noticed in the executive director [Benjamin Lawson]
Hooks ' s remarks on the program "Face the Nation," he
indicated that there was no animosity involved, just a
matter of making sure that the people in Hollywood and
elsewhere would recognize the real problems of employment,
and [that] the programs that were intended for the poor
were being affected by the cutbacks under the present
administration, and that the NAACP was determined to have
this money coming direct to it, and not going through other
hands, and maybe not serving the purpose for which it was
given. So I don't know how that's going to work out, but
it's — Seemingly he has a good point, and he's urging that
the programs that the NAACP is engaged in are due to have
support and get the same recognition as to tax deduction as
other programs, and that I think they've reached an agree-
ment to go their separate ways, I don't know to what
extent, but there is some type of agreement being worked
out on that now.
HOPKINS: Now, when you say go — Who would go their separ-
BEAVERS: The Hollywood group that was —
HOPKINS: The Hollywood NAACP?
BEAVERS: It was the Hollywood division for the NAACP Legal
Defense Fund, it was called. And there was some contention
about that money being used by the NAACP, and who would
have control and all that.
HOPKINS: I see. Whether it would be a local control or
BEAVERS: Well, I really don't know, because I'm not active
in the management of it now, and I'm only going by what I
heard on this TV show.
HOPKINS: OK, that's fair enough. Now, during the twen-
ties, maybe the thirties, there was a case where the NAACP,
the national branch, was trying to get the Los Angeles
branch to get movie stars like Mae West to hire blacks as
servants or in whatever capacity. Were you aware of that,
or do you remember that?
BEAVERS: No, I don't remember any specifics on that. Of
course, the NAACP program is so broad that it would include
any employer who had control over employment over a large
number of people. They would want them to include in their
employment program the people of all races, in particular
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, you've worked closely with the NAACP
and Urban League in Los Angeles chapters, and so you've
been with the growth to some degree of these two organiza-
tions. Were there jealousies between these two organiza-
tions over time, or have they pretty much worked in harmony
as far as you can see?
BEAVERS: They've been very much in harmony. So far as I
know, they have worked in harmony through the years,
because while the Urban League was interested in getting
help by more employment and better housing and those kind
of things, and the Urban League, they worked more from a
social and charitable viewpoint. And the NAACP, they work
through a legal and, not only legal, but what's the word I
want to use? Legal, and active support from major corpora-
tions, and affirmative action in employment, and that kind
of thing, and they worked through — The NAACP of course,
has to work through the legislative and political and
legal, through those forces. They are not confined to the
social and the economic boundaries that the Urban League is
under. You see, the Urban League qualifies as a social
service organization. NAACP is a protest organization, and
it is free to use whatever methods that are legitimate that
they can use to focus attention on these same problems. So
there's been no, no— I don't think there has been any
jealousy, competitiveness on the part of the two branches
in Los Angeles .
HOPKINS: OK. Just another question here along these
lines. Now during the sixties, of course, there was a lot
of discussion among militant blacks that the NAACP was
conservative and established in the status quo. Now, I'm
not talking about the sixties, but when you think back
during the 1920s, thirties, and into the forties, what
kinds of people were members of the NAACP? I mean, how
were you perceived by the community at large if you were a
member of the NAACP in Los Angeles?
BEAVERS: Well, I worked in both organizations, and I
didn't see any — I didn't see them as competitors.
HOPKINS: Oh, I'm sorry, I'm not trying to — I'm not
comparing NAACP and the Urban League now. I meant when you
look at Los Angeles, and you look at the black community in
Los Angeles as a whole, if you were a member of the NAACP
were you considered to be, in the twenties and thirties,
were you considered to be a radical, a troublemaker, or
were you considered to be just trying to help your race?
Do you see what I'm driving at?
BEAVERS: Well, I would say that I considered it as trying
to not only help the race, but help the country. I felt
that the segregation, and discrimination and racial segrega-
tion and discrimination was — it was a force that was damag-
ing to the whole nation. It wasn't just a black problem,
or — It was just as much a white problem as it was a black
problem, because it was injurious to the real welfare of
the nation. As far back as slavery time they recognized
that you couldn't advance a nation by keeping the races
separated, that racism was a detrimental force, and that
was recognized even back in the early days. So I think
that still holds, that when you are fighting for your
rights as American citizens, the racism is a detrimental
HOPKINS: So you perceived your participation in the NAACP
as helping not only blacks, but also the country as a
whole. And many liberal whites saw that as well. Were
there others who saw it otherwise? I know others did, but
in Los Angeles among the black community, was it pretty
well thought of as a positive group or as a negative group?
BEAVERS: Oh, it was positive.
BEAVERS: Of course there are always some people who will
go to extremes and, for example, if we have different
ideas, now, we want to improve race relations. Well, now
some want to improve by — They think they are improving by
engaging in racism themselves, and being violent, and I
think that Martin Luther King's [Jr.] idea was different
and it swept the nation. You know, it showed that you
didn't have to be violent to accomplish these things, and
when you protest you can have a legal protest and stay
within the bounds of reason, and then you can have another
protest and just go to the extreme, and burning, and kil-
ling, and that isn't a positive approach.
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, we'd like to leave then the civic
organizations now, and we've been — I've been trying to
solicit your opinions and perceptions of events over time.
I'd like to ask you a few questions in that line, just your
own opinions and impressions.
How do you perceive the church in the black community
BEAVERS: I think the church is a real vital force and
should be recognized as such. I have spent all my life — I
of course, I was fortunate to have good Christian parents,
and I think that the church still is a vital force in the
community, a vital force for good. And I think that all
organizations of course have their weaknesses, and there
are some good things that they do and there's some — Wall,
let me put it this way, in all organizations you'll find
there are some people who are true to the principles and
work hard to accomplish the programs of the organization,
and then there are others who have their names on the
books, but they are not actually involved in pushing the
program. There's always some who are just hangers-on, and
they are not motivated by real religious principles, or the
principles of their organization. What I'm trying to say
is that there are some good ministers, and some poor
ministers and just because a man is a minister doesn't
necessarily make him right. That isn't the point. But the
minister who takes seriously his obligation as a minister
to lead, and to try and enhance the church and build his
church on a strong foundation, that is a good minister.
Now, there are other ministers who try to make believe, and
use their offices in ways that are really detrimental to
the organization. You have that kind of separation in all
organizations, that's human, but it's up to — I think in
the final analysis the man who is really conscientious and
is qualified for his job as a minister, and tries to use
his talents and his opportunities to promote good and to
spread the gospel of Christ, that's the minister that's
running the best service to the community. I think that
was the philosophy expressed by Benjamin Mays. Benjamin
Mays, he's retired now, but I think he's president emeritus
of the, oh, the church, no, the college. President Mays
who was president of —
BEAVERS: — Morehouse [College]. Benjamin Mays was
president of Morehouse. I heard him say, in accepting an
award, that we are here, that God placed us here to do two
things: serve God and serve our fellow man. I think that
philosophy expresses the service that is expected of a
minister and an educator. That he is not only to serve
God, but he is to serve his fellow man, and if he looks
upon his obligations in that manner, he won't go wrong, and
he will not allow himself to be used for political pur-
poses, and used to help promote programs that are not in
the best interest of the people. And I think that philo-
sophy expresses what I have in mind about the good and the
bad, and particularly among the ministers. This applies to
HOPKINS: OK, when you think back to growing up in Los
Angeles, and going to church, do you think that the church
exerts as great an influence today on youth as it did then
when you were growing up? I know we're only speculating,
but it's important.
BEAVERS: Well, I don't know. I don't think it does for
this reason. Society is — the society of today is weaker in
some respects along that line, because the home of today is
not like the home of yesteryears. There's been a — We have
developed a permissive society, and much of it is due to
the weakness that we find at home, that so many — Well,
take the divorce rate, there's so many families where the
woman is the sole head of the family. And so there have
been so many divorces, and women have been forced [to] be-
come a wage earner, and the woman can't possibly do her job
as a mother and do, that is the average woman, can't do the
job that needs to be done at home and at the same time be
responsible for earning a living for the family. Of
course, I think black women in particular are due a lot of
credit for what they have done under the circumstances, but
not only is it true of black women, this is true of white
women too, to a certain extent. Just as has been pointed
out, the women, because of social conditions that we have
today there are more women having responsibility, financial
responsibility, for the home than at any other time in our
history. With that kind of situation there's bound to be a
decline, and so I believe that we have to say that because
of these conditions that it's very questionable as to
whether or not the church has the same influence or has the
same power in influencing youth as it had years ago.
TAPE NUMBER: VIII, SIDE TWO
JULY 8, 1982
BEAVERS: I'm not an expert in this field at all, but
you're asking me for my opinion, and that's my opinion for
what it's worth.
HOPKINS: OK, thank you. Along these same lines, comparing
the past with the present, when you think about the black
community the way it was in the 1920s, and you think about
the way it is today, do you think — Was there a greater
sense of community, well, a sense of community? Let me see
how that strikes you.
BEAVERS: A sense of community?
HOPKINS: That is, a sense of helping each other to pull
together to improve the group as a whole, or were people
just as individual as they are today, or —
BEAVERS: Oh, I think that all of the work that's been done
by the church, and such organizations as the NAACP and the
Urban League, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference,
I think that all of these things have developed an aware-
ness, and I believe that we are much better off today than
we were. For example, the work, the accomplishment of the
civil rights program, I believe that a tremendous good was
done by the adoption of the civil rights program, and
what's more the implementation of the program. You can
look at the number of political leaders, the number of
elected officers that we have now, and we didn't have then,
and the exercising of voting rights. Of course, we're
still working on — We have a long way to go, but I think
those conditions far outweigh what has happened in the
past. In other words, I think we're much better off today
than we were then, politically and socially, and in the
field of religion. I think we've made progress.
HOPKINS: I know these are rather vague questions, but
again they mean something in the larger scope of this
project, and so I ask you — When we talk about leadership
in the twenties and compare that with today, we talk about
black leadership, have the goals of the leaders changed? I
mean, I know we're dealing with a different environment,
but can you see a marked difference in the kinds of leaders
that we have in the black community today as opposed to in
the earlier periods?
BEAVERS: Oh, yes. Yes, I think — Well, the previous
comment I made about the progress made would be indicative
of the same picture, the fact that we have gone this far
and accomplished as much as we have in the last twenty
years, that in itself says something for the leadership,
because these things wouldn't just happen. I think the —
Let's take, for example, a little something that's hap-
pened. When the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
was — When they were arresting the blacks and putting them
in jail, the NAACP had money and was bailing them out as
fast as they put them in, you see. So, these organizations
working together, I think they are due a lot of credit.
The NAACP, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference,
and the Urban League, they worked together, and accom-
plished a tremendous amount. And without their working
together, and demonstrating to the American public that
they were together we wouldn't have had the civil rights
program and the affirmative action in employment and all of
that, which has made for a better life.
Now, of course, we are hard pressed under the present
administration, and the cutbacks in a number of the pro-
grams and all, and of course, now is the time when we've
got to work together to bring some form of order out of
this chaos that we are in. We've got to continue to work,
there's no letup, we've got to continue to work on these
same problems. And as has been brought out so many times,
the impact is not just on the blacks, but it is on the poor
whites. There are more poor whites suffering under this
reduced program than there are blacks. So it isn't just
blacks, but it is the poor people, and the ones who are
less able, with low income, and those that are without
employment, the unemployment keeps going up and up, and
that hurts the whole nation. We've got to find a solution
to these problems, and it is going to take a long time,
because while we have a whole lot of people employed, a
much larger number of people employed than we have unem-
ployed, but that unemployment is going to continue to rise
unless something is done about it.
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, what is your political affiliation?
Would you mind telling us?
BEAVERS: Well, my — I'm a registered Republican but I
don't vote that way. I think there has to be somebody on
the other side to try to make the balance. Of course, I
haven't changed my registration, and I don't intend to, but
I vote for the people that I think are the best candidates.
I haven't voted — I didn't vote for [Ronald W. ] Reagan, and
I did vote for [Lyndon B. ] Johnson. I know I voted for
[John P.] Kennedy, and then I voted for Johnson. Did
Johnson run? Yes.
BEAVERS: I voted for Johnson. That way, I don't think all
of the right and justice is in any one party.
HOPKINS: During the — Well, let's see, I think it was in
1928, I was reading in the L.A. Times that — The L.A. Times
had an article in 1928 that blacks had begun to reconsider
whether they should support the Republican party, because
they felt the Republican party wasn't being fair to blacks
down the line. Can you comment on the moods of blacks in
Los Angeles during the twenties, and the thirties in terms
of what was that article talking about. Not that you read
the article, but you must have been —
BEAVERS: You say in the twenties?
HOPKINS: Yes, it was 1928 in fact. I guess [Herbert C]
Hoover was still the president.
BEAVERS: Oh, well that was the beginning, I think, of
Negroes turning to the Democratic party, because when
[Franklin] Delano Roosevelt was elected, why, his program
attracted, oh, the poor and the disadvantaged, and that
included the blacks. And there was a movement to start it
then, and from that time on I think that blacks have been
more Democratic. In fact the overwhelming majority of
blacks belong to the Democratic party, there's no question
about that. And those who don't belong vote with them.
HOPKINS: OK. So, you mentioned earlier that you had
remained a member of the Republican party in order to
create a balance. Could you explain that?
BEAVERS: Well, I don't mean that, to create a balance, but
I mean that we ought to have some understanding about
what's happening on the other side. See, I get these
letters and all from the Reagan administration, and I know
exactly what their program is, and I think that's impor-
tant. Of course, I'm not able to be active out there on
the front lines now, so it's just as well to be able to get
information and be able to convey it to members of the
HOPKINS: Again, I'd like to stretch your memory. When you
think back even before Roosevelt was elected, and you were
involved in a number of civic organizations and you were
involved in the business world there must have been friends
who had begun to talk about, or criticizing the Republican
party. Do you remember, was that the case? Or what was
the attitude of your friends, the circles you were in,
concerning the Republican party before?
BEAVERS: You say before Roosevelt?
BEAVERS: Well, you're going back down to — No, he wasn't
much — The Republicans, you see, they had a good record.
Of course, the Republicans, the big mistake made by the
Republican party, they allowed the southern Democrats to
lead them, and they were really asleep as to the needs of
the blacks and the poor and disadvantaged. See, here's
what happened, in those days, the blacks controlled abso-
lutely the Democratic party — I mean the whites, the
southern whites, they absolutely controlled the Democratic
party. Every southern state then was Democrat, Democrat.
And they built up a seniority in the Senate and in the
House, all of the committees were chaired by, most of the
important committees were chaired by white southerners.
Now, you see, when the whites, when the southern whites
disenfranchised the Negroes, the whites in other areas of
the country didn't realize that they were being disenfran-
chised too. That disenfranchise was working against them,
because it enabled them to build up a seniority at the
expense of the Negro vote, they were able to build up a
seniority and control all the important committees in the
House and the Senate in Congress. So the Republicans slept
at the switch there, they didn't recognize that, and I
don't know whether they still recognize it today. Bur I've
had occasion to direct their attention to that on several
occasions, and of course you see what happened now. Lyndon
Johnson said in his speech at Howard University that he
felt that if the Negro was able to vote he could help
himself, he was in a position to help himself. And they've
been doing that. You see all these mayors in big cities,
there are so many mayors, and sheriffs, and councilmen, the
whole bit. There's more black elected officers now than
you've ever had. They begin to help themselves. And they
can do more of it if they'll just register and vote.
There are three or four things that we need to do, and
need it bad: Number one, we need for our young people to
get an education, to be fairly prepared, to be able to, and
qualify, to hold a decent job. Two, we need to register
and vote, use our vote. Number three, we need to be good
citizens. We have fought for first-class citizenship, we
need to be first-class citizens. Stop all this crime and
dope and all that. See we have a big job to do, if we just
do it. Those are three important things that we need to be
HOPKINS: One final question in this vein of questions.
Now, again, before World War II, before the forties,
through the twenties and the thirties, again in your role
as an activist, as a civic leader, as a businessman, you
traveled to other cities throughout the country, like
Washington, D.C, and so you've had an opportunity to see
other blacks live in these other major cities. How would
you compare the black communities in these other major
cities with that of Los Angeles?
BEAVERS: They are on the same pattern. They follow the
same pattern there. You take, in every major city, you
have the same movement of population, the whites moving
out, and the blacks moving in, and that same thing has
happened over and over again in all these big cities.
HOPKINS: Did you see Los Angeles as being a better place
to live for blacks?
BEAVERS: Oh, yes. Well, it's a better place. First of
all because the climate helps, it doesn't take you as much
to live here. The seasons are not so severe. Most of the
country is either real hot or real cold. And there's very
little time where you have just nice days like we have now,
and that's a plus for the poor. You don't have to have as
much heat, it doesn't cost you as much to live through the
HOPKINS: What about racial attitudes? Now, I'm not
talking about today or in the sixties, but in the thirties
— twenties and the thirties, did it seem like this was a
better place to live for blacks in the —
BEAVERS: Oh, yes.
HOPKINS: Racially speaking?
BEAVERS: Yes, definitely it was a better place, because
they had better opportunities.
HOPKINS: There was a large influx of blacks that came to
Los Angeles after World War I, just like there was a large
influx of blacks that came to Los Angeles after World War
BEAVERS: And there was a large influx of whites that came
HOPKINS: And, there was a large influx of whites that came
BEAVERS: They came from the same places.
HOPKINS: Same places, OK. [laughter]
When you think about the — we're talking about the
blacks at this point — did there seem to be a difference in
the kinds of blacks in terms of skills, education that came
in the twenties versus the forties? Did you get a —
BEAVERS: This is the forties?
HOPKINS: Yes. When you remember — OK, you were here in
the twenties, and you saw these blacks moving into Los
Angeles and you saw them try to fit into Los Angeles, and
then you saw the same thing happening again in the forties,
did you think to yourself, "God, these people aren't
ready," or "They are ready," or "They're better prepared
than the people that came in the twenties," at all?
BEAVERS: No, I didn't get that impression. I think one
thing about it is that when people were ready to move from
the South to come out West, we were getting the best of the
lot, because it took a certain amount of income and vision
to be able to do that, to be able to move so far west and
start over again. And another thing, the people who came
out here in those days, they were looking for opportunity.
They moved from places where they didn't have opportunity
and they were looking for opportunities to work and to be a
part of the community. So I don't know that I can say that
there was so much a difference.
HOPKINS: OK, then the final questions in closing are on a
personal note. I know you mentioned that in 1936, your
first wife died? Is that true?
BEAVERS : No .
No. I'm sorry.
She died in '31.
Excuse me, 1931, your wife — Her name again
Her name was Willie Mae, Willie Mae.
Then you remarried in what year?
For five years I was free and unencumbered,
[laughter] I really felt when I lost my first wife, I
thought there just were no more like her, and I just didn't
think about marrying. Then in the summer of '36, in August
of '36, a young lady came out here with her cousin, and I
went to accommodate a friend, I was going with him, he
had — He was going with my wife's cousin and he knew her,
and he was telling me about this cousin, and I went out on
a blind date, and I met this Lola Lillian Cunningham, and
that was about the second week in August, and somehow I got
tangled up in a whirlwind courtship, and on the 5th of
September we were married. And we've been married ever
since. She's a wonderful wife. She's not in good health
now, and neither am I, so —
HOPKINS: Can you tell me something of her background?
BEAVERS: Well, she was a schoolteacher. In fact, she had
just received her master's when she came out here, and she
was resting up from the ordeal.
HOPKINS: When did she come here? When did she come to Los
BEAVERS: In August of 1936.
HOPKINS: OK. And she was a school teacher in what city?
BEAVERS: Well, at that time she had just taken a position.
She had just served one semester, I believe, at Morris
Brown College in Atlanta. Prior to that, she had been a
teacher at Florida A & M [University]. Prior to that, she
was a teacher in the Kansas City schools. Then she came
out here and I stopped her teaching.
HOPKINS: You stopped her from teaching? [laugher] What
did you ask her to do? What did she do when she was
married to you, was she a housewife?
BEAVERS : Yes .
HOPKINS: And she's been a housewife through the years?
OK. Has she been active in civic organizations?
BEAVERS: Yes, she was active in the Urban League, she was
active in the — She was president of the Urban League
Guild, and she was active in church organizations, and
clubs, and that kind of thing.
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, we're about to close, do you have
any last words?
BEAVERS: Last words? [laughter]
HOPKINS: We've spoken for some eight sessions, so I didn't
know if you had a closing statement.
BEAVERS: Well, I think we've covered a lot of ground. I
don't know whether I've said much or not, but I — In
closing, and just summing up, I think you know my attitude
with reference to American citizenship and the — I would
say that my philosophy is something like the one I men-
tioned about Benjamin Mays. "We're here by the grace of
God to do two things: serve God, and to serve our fellow
man." And, I think the noted American author [Charles
Edwin] Markham summed it up pretty well in his creed:
"There is a destiny that makes us brothers. None goes his
way alone. All that we send into the lives of others comes
back into our own."
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, we thank you for your participation
and your patience over these long sessions. There is no
question that you are the epitome of black leadership in
Los Angeles, there's no question in my mind you're the
epitome of leadership — American leadership — at its best.
It's been a pleasure interviewing you.
BEAVERS: Thank you.
TAPE NUMBER: IX, SIDE ONE
JULY 27, 1982
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, today as you know we'd like to tie
up some loose ends in ending this interview session. In a
previous session we talked at great length concerning the
growth and development of Golden State Mutual and due to
mechanical error on my part, and on the part of the tape
machine, we did not get your response to one of my last
questions on tape. So, to that end, we'd like to get your
response on tape to the question.
Can you tell me something about the status of Golden
State Mutual Life Insurance Company as it stands today?
BEAVERS: All right, Mr. Hopkins, I ' d be glad to do that.
Our company, as it stands today, and I will use the
1957 — I mean I will use the fifty-seventh annual report,
which covers the status of the company as of December 31,
1981. Based upon this report, I have to say that I feel
that our company — the Golden State Mutual Life — has made
great strides when we consider the original statement back
in 1925, its first partial year, when we had something like
seventeen — We had something like seventeen thousand —
seventeen or eighteen thousand dollars in assets. At this
time, the company has assets of over $89,000,000. Total
admitted assets of over $89 million. Our income for that
year was $37,342,000. Our life insurance in force today is
$3,757,000,000. We paid to policy holders last year
I think the thing that I'm proud of, too, is the
efficient officer staff that we have. I think they are
doing an outstanding job. The chairman of the board and
the chief executive officer, Ivan Houston, has done a very
fine job. He and the president, who was Larkin Teasley,
he's our president and chief operating officer. Those two
men, backed with a good team of officers, well-qualified,
highly skilled in their respective positions, have done a
tremendous job in the last decade. And it's reflected I
think in the amount of insurance in force and the number of
people we have employed and the tremendous service that
they are rendering. I'm proud of the fact that they are
well qualified. Our total official staff, they are well
qualified for the job because they have taken advantage of
the opportunity to learn and to get this specialized
training offered by the life office management organiz-
ation. We have among our official personnel, oh more than
a dozen who have qualified for the fellowship, F. L.M.I,
designation, and then we have —
HOPKINS: What does that mean, Mr. Beavers, F.L.M.I.?
BEAVERS: F. L.M.I, means Fellow in Life Insurance Manage-
ment [Fellow of the Life Management Institute].
HOPKINS: Now, what exactly is that?
BEAVERS: Well, that's the highest training organization, I
think the one — the main training organization in the life
insurance industry. And it has a course of study divided
into many parts leading up to the fellowship degree. When
one completes that he or she is really highly qualified in
the life insurance field. And, of course, in whatever
specialty that they engage in, well that's — Well, it's a
complete training for life insurance business, and it's
sponsored by the Life Insurance Trade Association.
HOPKINS: So it is a fellowship of distinction? Not
everyone has this —
BEAVERS: Oh, no, you work hard for that, and it's — The
very fact that you receive it is evidence that you're
really highly trained and qualified. Of course, now what
you do with it after you get it is another matter. But you
have had the training.
Did I say how many we had? Over a dozen in our
employ. And we make a specialty of encouraging employees
to take this training, and most, well, not most of them,
but as many employees as we can influence to do that, and
more and more they are accepting the opportunity to take
this training as they do their other work, as they do their
regular work, and they get this training, and they are
prepared to do a better job by virtue of the training. And
our chairman, chief executive, he has his F.L.M.I., C.L.U.,
and in addition to his actuarial degrees, and the presi-
dent, Larkin Teasley, he has specialized in actuarial work
and life insurance management, and we have our agency
director and senior vice-president and chief marketing
officer, Stephen [A.] Johns. He has a C.L.U. and F.L.M.I..
And I think this training plays — it's a big factor in the
success of the company.
Getting back to the annual report, I mentioned the
amount of assets and the amount of income, and I might also
state that those assets are distributed among $46,000,000
in bonds, $3,000,000 in stock, $17,000,000 in mortgage
loans on real estate, and we have other assets and also we
have over $6,000,000 in surplus. So the company is in a
good position today and is doing fine despite the economic
Our chief executive officer reported that we are not
trying to, or we can't hide the economic conditions,
everybody knows the economic conditions are bad, but we
encourage our sales forces to work with the people who are
employed to solicit, and give more attention to people who
are employed and not worry so much about the unemployed.
Of course we are concerned about the unemployed, we want
to, as good citizens, help to find answers to some of these
problems, but then we can't afford to sit down and cry
about the unemployed and let those people who are employed
and need insurance, let that business go by. So that's a
pretty good philosophy, I think.
HOPKINS: You mentioned the C.L.U., what is that?
BEAVERS: That's a Chartered Life Underwriter. Now that's
a study that's mainly for field personnel. It qualifies
people to sell insurance and it goes into the life insur-
ance business from the sales point of view.
HOPKINS: Is that also a distinguished — Does every insur-
ance agent become a C.L.U.?
BEAVERS: Oh, yes.
HOPKINS: Oh, that's a standard. You have to have met some
qualifications in order to —
BEAVERS: Yes, that requires a study that's concentrated on
the sales side. Of course in doing that, that course
includes a complete understanding of economics and the
place of life insurance, and one's budget, and the many
ways in which life insurance can be applied to help the
individual. It's a course that's — It's a specialization
in life insurance from the sales point of view.
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, in 1925, did you ever in your
wildest dreams believe the company would be as prosperous
and as successful as it appears today?
BEAVERS: No, frankly I didn't. I didn't see the picture
then, but I knew and I had confidence in the ability — in
our ability — to develop a good business, and I fully shared
the view of our founder that our company was needed to
provide employment opportunities and mortgage loans and all
of the services that the insurance premium bought. In
other words, give the policy owners an opportunity to share
in all of the benefits that their dollars created. And I
fully shared that conception as expressed by our founder
back in 1925. And it was a privilege that I was happy to
have, and as I look back now over those years it is a
rewarding satisfaction to me to know that I played some
part in helping to make Golden State Mutual a reality.
HOPKINS: I know you were director emeritus of the company
at one point, and now I think you've retired from that
status. But as you look at the company, do you see any
obvious pitfalls or any problems in the direction the
company is moving?
BEAVERS: Well, let me explain that my status — I'm retired
— but while I was retired I received the honor of chairman
of the board emeritus. Of course, I'm a cofounder and
chairman of the board emeritus and director emeritus, so
that's past history. In regards to the pitfalls, there are
always pitfalls. There's a certain amount of risk a
company in any business has. But I don't see any pitfalls
for our company for the reason that our official staff
maintains its interest in seeking well-qualified personnel.
and as time goes on, and others, new personnel and new
officers must take over, I think the company has been well
established and it would take a lot of neglect and abuse of
authority and all that I don't see in any of our personnel.
With the type of management that we have at this time, I
just don't see that happening. I just don't see any
pitfalls that would come to our company that would cause it
to fail. So I think that would answer your question. I
can't see any pitfalls, because we have a very efficient
core of officers, and we have some very fine personnel in
our organization', employees in the office and field. So
many of them are dedicated to their commitment to make the
company better. In other words, we are not satisfied with
what has been done, but we are trying to do better all the
time. And with that kind of view and with that type of
personnel, well it's pretty hard to find — to see ahead any
pitfalls of any kind.
HOPKINS: OK, Mr. Beavers, we've concluded our discussion
about Golden State Mutual, and in the past we've talked to
some degree about individuals like Charlotta Bass and Paul
Williams that you've known. But, it also comes to our
attention that you've known some national and international
leaders; and in the international arena, Mr. Ralph Bunche,
and in the national arena, former president Richard M.
Nixon. Can we start with Mr. Nixon? How and when did you
meet Richard M. Nixon?
BEAVERS: Oh, I met Mr. Richard M. Nixon — Well, before he
became vice-president I worked in his campaign, in the
Eisenhower/Nixon campaign, and I became very close to Dick
Nixon, and he and I were good friends. I visited his home
up in Trousdale [Estates], and on one of my visits to
Washington I was his guest in the Senate. I attended one
of the meetings of the Senate as his guest. I thought I
knew him very well. I was in one of the meetings, one of
the campaign meetings, here at the Statler Hotel, and in
this meeting were just a small number of his supporters,
this was during a campaign for Eisenhower and Nixon as
president. And at that time one of the members in the
audience raised a question to Nixon, and he said, he just
asked the question bluntly, he says, "Dick, why do you fool
around with this civil rights business and the Negro vote?
We don't get their vote. Why are you so concerned about
it?" You could have heard a pin drop when — And Nixon in
answering him, though, he gave such a talk about the rights
of Negro citizens, and what it meant, I didn't think that
Roy Wilkins could have done a better job that he did
answering the question. I was really sold on the man. So
you can imagine what a shock it was to me when he got into
that Watergate mess, and I was very, very much disappointed
just as many of his other friends were.
HOPKINS: You mentioned then that you were working for his
campaign. I guess it would have been the 1952 campaign,
and as a Republican. And then earlier in a pre-tape
interview you mentioned that you would like to make some
correction about your affiliation with the Republican party
that you had talked about in an earlier tape.
BEAVERS: Oh, yes, I think you asked me about — You asked
me if I were a Republican, or I don't know how it came
about, but I would like to correct that answer, because I
gave you some answer to the effect that there was some
validity in being able to know what was going on in both
parties. But the real answer is that I believe that,
regardless as to whether it is a Democrat or a Republican
or independent, whoever is in the White House, they have
the same obligation to us as citizens as anybody else. And
it shouldn't — In other words, civil rights is not a
partisan politic [al] matter. It's a real national problem
that has to be dealt with, and the change of parties
doesn't change it one bit. Of course, I admit that the
Democrats have recently become a very real vital force in
the Negro community, and it's because they have given more
attention to civil rights. And that was brought about in
part by the work of the NAACP in getting the Civil Rights
Act of 1964 and '55, which requires the protection of the
Negro vote. It doesn't matter whether you're black or
white and where you live, you have a vote. And prior to
that time the Democrats, when they had the power they
didn't let Negroes vote in the South, in most of those
southern states. They intimidated the Afro-American, he
didn't get to go to the polls, and as a result of that most
of the chairmen of the very important committees in the
Congress were from southern states. I don't believe that
the white Americans realized how they were being disenfran-
chised until this happened, when the Negroes were able to
go to the polls and vote down in the South. Now, they can
understand, and even George [C] Wallace recognizes the
value of the Negro vote and he's talking about running
again. So that takes care of my feeling, and the reason
why I don't at this late date intend to change my party
affiliation. But I still vote for the candidate that I
think is best qualified and will do the best job for us.
When he does the right job for the blacks it will be the
right job for the whites, because the inequities and
injustices that are so counter to what's provided in our
Constitution and the Bill of Rights doesn't help anybody,
it doesn't help anybody but those who are guilty of trying
to defraud and take care of selfish interests at the
expense of those who are unable to defend themselves.
HOPKINS: Do you find the so-called Reaganomics a means to
bring about economic equality in this country?
BEAVERS: No, when you say Reaganomics, I can't go for
that, because Reagan seems to be so determined to have his
way, and he doesn't appear to be concerned about the plight
of the unfortunate and the lower income people, the poor.
He's so concerned about the communists and building up the
defense and the military that he wants to just forget about
the responsibility to provide jobs, and the matter of
equity and justice doesn't seem to enter his mind. He's
trying to do too many things at one time. Now, I admit
that the government should do more to balance the budget ,
and that the spending should be brought under control, but
not at the expense of the poorest class of citizens. And I
think the reduction of expenses and the reduction of taxes
at the same time is bad, because while you're reducing
spending you're reducing your revenue at the same time, and
you'll never balance the budget like that.
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, going back to Mr, Nixon, as you
said, you worked on his campaign. How did you come to meet
BEAVERS: Well I was a Republican, I worked in the Repub-
lican party, and of course when Dick Nixon became a can-
didate I met him.
HOPKINS: You met him, I see. Did you by chance have any,
as a Los Angeles or Southern California community leader,
did you have any discussions with Mr. Nixon in private
concerning his views on civil rights?
BEAVERS: Oh, yes.
HOPKINS: Will you share some of that with us?
BEAVERS: I just mentioned about the answer that he gave in
that meeting, I was very happy with him, and I thought he
was — And I also, you might recall this when there was a
disturbance in — [tape recorder turned off] Let's see,
what was I going to say?
HOPKINS: You were mentioning that I might remember an in-
BEAVERS: When they had that — It was a riot down in Greens-
boro, North Carolina, I believe it was. At any rate, Nixon
went down there to speak and he got off the plane, the
first thing, they asked him about his position. And he at
that time explained that he was — that he believed in the
principle that those Negroes had the right of citizenship,
and he believed in what their rally was all about. So
there are a number of things — In fact, up to the time that
he was caught up with the Watergate matter, I thought he
was really straight, straightforward.
HOPKINS: In 1954 we had the landmarlc desegregation de-
cision, did you talk to him about that? What was his
stance on the desegregation issue?
BEAVERS: Oh, he was for it,
HOPKINS: He was for it, OK.
BEAVERS: Yes. But something happened after he became pres-
ident. He didn't put into practice what he had been preach-
ing. And, I think it was due to two things. The blacks
were not supporting the Republicans, and of course that was
a thing that the other side could use. And the next thing,
it was just a matter of politics, it became a matter of
politics, because he needed the votes, and of course the
Negroes left the Republican party in droves, and partic-
ularly after the — Well, of course, that wasn't until after
the Voting Rights Act, last Voting Rights Act. That's when
they left in droves. And that's why we have so many
elected offices. Because they — And the segregated pattern
became a thorn for presidential candidates because they had
to recognize those people, because they had the vote. They
could vote them out of office.
HOPKINS: Nixon ran on a law-and-order basis, too, and, I
guess blacks were considered to be the lawless at the time.
BEAVERS: Well, we all believe in law and order. But it
should be equally applied. The law — All citizens, regard-
less of their ethnic identification, all citizens should
have the rights of citizenship, and their rights should be
protected under the law. We have to be against crime. I'm
certainly against crime, and that's one of the things we
have to fight hard about now, because in our own neighbor-
hoods we are the victims of more crime than other people.
So we have to be for law and order, but we want the law and
order to be, we want the law to be enforced all around.
The law should be blind as to color. The fact that a white
man doesn't make it any better because he's white, and it
doesn't make it any worse because he's black. Crime is
crime, and that's the position that our officials should
HOPKINS: You also — Of course, we mentioned in previous
tapes and discussed to some degree that you knew Ralph
Bunche, but later he became, as we discussed, the assistant
general secretary of the United Nations. Did you know him
when he held this position?
BEAVERS: Oh, yes. On October 12, 1953, I have here a day
pass he gave me. My wife and I had the pleasure of visit-
ing him at his office on the thirty-third floor in the
United Nations building, and we had a very enjoyable visit
that day. He gave us a pass that enabled us to tour the
United Nations building and to also sit in on one of the
meetings of the assembly.
HOPKINS: Did Ralph Bunche seem different very much from
when you knew him earlier? I mean obviously he's more
mature in 1953 than he was during the thirties when you
knew him earlier, but what kind of person was he, as you
BEAVERS: He was a very, very — He had a very pleasing per-
sonality. And the very fact that he won the Nobel Peace
Prize in that situation over there where, his white su-
perior officer — he was murdered, wasn't he? And aft
was over, he did a superb job. And he was well fitted for
that kind of work, he had a pleasing personality, and was
well educated and expressed himself so well, and he had
that tact, that natural diplomacy to bring people together.
It was beautiful. I shall never forget the day when I
attended a meeting out at UCLA campus. I think it was the
dedication of the Ralph Bunche building. That was a very
impressive meeting with me. It was there that I first
heard that song, the United Nations song, sung by some chil-
dren. I remember those words, "Let there be peace on earth
and let it begin with me. Let there be peace on earth, the
peace that was intended to be. God is our father, and
brothers all are we. Let me walk with my brother in
perfect harmony." Those words stuck with me, and it was
beautiful, and Ralph was really a truly great, great man.
TAPS NUMBER: IX, SIDE TWO
JULY 27, 1982
HOPKINS: From previous discussions we've had, it seems as
though Ralph Bunche made a wide impression upon the Los
Angeles community as a whole. You mentioned once that
Betty Hill had something to do with helping to see about
his education. Can you shed some light on that?
BEAVERS: Yes, Betty Hill was, oh, she led — She was a very
dynamic character. She was the head of a women's organiza-
tion, and she was very active in helping to raise funds to
contribute to Ralph's education when he was going to
college. Of course, Betty Hill, she was one of those kind,
you just didn't say no to her. All the political can-
didates knew her, that she was well respected, and she had
a very good and effective organization. That was a rather
interesting point, too, that she voluntarily made this
plea, and I don't know, I don't remember about the amount
of funds that were raised, but it was a pretty good amount,
and it was a rather successful affair.
HOPKINS: Now, this was for him to go to Princeton or was
it Harvard? I remember reading — Do you recall what?
BEAVERS: I don't recall which particular university was
involved, but it was for his — I know the campaign was for
his educational fund.
HOPKINS: Why was Betty Hill so interested in Ralph Bunche?
BEAVERS: Well, Ralph was active here in the community, and
his uncle was, his name was [Thomas] Johnson, and he was a
part of the community, and we knew him, and he went to
school here, and he was active in the church and the young
people's organization and we just knew him. He was Ralph.
HOPKINS: He must have shown great promise, I guess. There
was no doubt. Johnson, his uncle, what was his first name
do you recall?
BEAVERS: Oh, what was his first name? He was — For a long
time he directed the choir of the Independent Church. What
was his first name? He also sang for the Los Angeles
Temple. Before or after he left us? I'll get that name
for you. I can't recall it now.
HOPKINS: OK, we can get that.
OK, Mr. Beavers, do you have any further comments to
add concerning Ralph Bunche, or Mr. Nixon, or maybe any
other individuals that you knew that you'd like to bring to
BEAVERS: Well, there's another alumnus from UCLA that I
mentioned. I think we talked about Jackie Robinson, but we
didn't mention Kenny [Kenneth Stanley] Washington. Kenny
was a favorite of mine, too. I remember particularly being
present at the football game between UCLA and USC in 1939,
and the score of that game was nothing to nothing. Nobody
scored, but Kenny and all of the players, of course, but
Kenny in particular, played a marvelous game. So much so,
that the coach gave Kenny the opportunity to leave the
field just about a minute before the game was over. It was
seconds the way they counted, and I remember that whole
crowd of people, the Coliseum was full to capacity, and all
those people just stood and gave Kenny Washington one of
the greatest ovations as he left the field. It was outstan-
ding, and I was so impressed with that. And I have never
forgotten it. And of course I saw Kenny play many football
games, and he's remembered as one of the greats in the
football field. He was — Of course, I knew Kenny, and I
knew his, I guess it was his uncle. He was on the police
force for a long time, Washington. I can't remember first
names anymore, but I saw Kenny play many times, and even
when he was with the Rams. And of course, I, in the early
days, I was a member of the Rams fan club, their board of
directors, and so I knew Kenny and his activities in the
community. He was good.
HOPKINS: What made him an outstanding person? I've heard
his name for years myself. And I never — Other than the
fact that he played football for UCLA, what other activ-
ities was he involved in?
BEAVERS: Well, of course, he was involved in — He had a
job for one of the — I forget which — He was a salesman for
some company, and he was active in the community, and he
worked with the kids, and he was seemingly loved by most
everybody. He had a good personality and a good record.
He used to live up here in Baldwin Hills, over on that
street that runs into, oh, what's the name of that street?
Down Marianna [Avenue]. Yes, he lived over there when I,
when we first moved up here. That was back in the sixties.
These athletes, many of them are a real credit to our
race, and so many times they don't take advantage of the
opportunity to qualify in getting through some type of busi-
ness where they could be more effective in helping with the
problems in the community. Of course, some of them are
doing it. More and more we find them recognizing their
need for more than just skills in their particular sports,
but they need other skills to use when they can no longer
use those skills on the football field or whatever. I
noticed there's one young fellow that was a star in high
school, and this was something that happened just recently.
I can't think of the boy's name now, but he refused to
leave school and go into — and play football, either foot-
ball or basketball, until he finished his education. And
he was influenced to do that by his parents. And I thought
that was a good step in the right direction.
HOPKINS: We mentioned Jackie Robinson, I think in the
past, but I wasn't sure if we got on tape as to how you
came to meet him?
BEAVERS: Well, I met Jackie — I don't remember where I
first met him. I believe he came to our office once, but
my close association with him was in the Freedom Fund fight
for the NAACP. I knew of him as an athlete, and I knew of
his work, of course, the first black to break the racial
barriers in major league baseball, but I knew him person-
ally from working with him on the Freedom Fund for the
NAACP. Jack and I were good friends and he was a good
leader for that fund. They raised — I don't know the
amount of money that he raised, but he was very successful.
It was — I remember meeting with him in the NAACP office in
New York. Of course I had other meetings with him here,
and let's see, there were other members. Who else was
there? Let's see. [tape recorder turned off]
HOPKINS: Mr. Beavers, we thanked you a great deal in
Session VIII for your contributions, and again we have to
thank you again for allowing us to have this addendum tape
to round out our interview.
BEAVERS: Well, it's been a pleasure working with you, and
I hope we succeeded in covering up the mistakes, and hope
this last session will really get the job done. I am very
much interested in your work and in your goals, and what
you're trying to do, and whatever I can do to aid you I
want you to feel free to call upon me.
HOPKINS: OK, thank you again.
African Methodist Episcopal
Church, 1, 5, 15,
30, 39, 65
Alderson, Dorothy, 116
Alexander, P. J., 31
Allen, Brenda, 69
Allied Organization Against
All Nations Foundation, 38
Alpha Phi Alpha, 130
American Legion, 90
-Ben Bowie Post, 90
American Life and Health
Atlanta Life Insurance
Company, 9 8
American Life Insurance
American Mutual Benefit
American National Insurance
Atlanta, Georgia, 2-4, 8
Banks, Edward, 47
Batiste, Helen, 114
Beasley, Gloria, 114
Beavers, Annie Andrews
(mother) , 1-2
Beavers, Sr., George Allen
Beavers, Helen (sister),
Beavers, Leroy (brother), 1
Beavers, Lola Lillian
Beavers, Louise (cousin),
Beavers, Mary Elmyra
Beavers, Willie Mae (wife),
Blodgett, Louis M., 51
Bowron, Fletcher, 124, 140,
Bracey, Hayward, 112
Brookins, Hartford H., 39
Bunche, Ralph Johnson, 36,
California Eagle , 2 2
Carroll, Maureen, 116
Carver (George Washington)
Citation Award, 126,
Christian Church, 28
Cochran, Johnnie, 110
Cochran, Jr. Johnnie, 110
Cohen, Mickey, 69-70
Covington, Floyd C, 140,
Crambly , F. H. , 31, 33
Crusade for Freedom, 127
Davis, Lolette, 114
Diggs, Charles, 15-16
Dunbar Hospital, 16
Eisenhower, Dwight, 53, 210
First African Methodist
Episcopal church, 2,
6-7, 28, 30, 90, 123
First Independent Church.
See People ' s
Flipper, Joseph, 2
Gamaut Club, 36
German-American Bank. See
Gibson, Joshua, 26
Gold Furniture Company, 33
Golden State Minority
Foundation, 77, 79,
105, 111, 118
Golden State Mutual Life
51-52, 72-75, 106-
-Beavers' role, 54, 61-
-and black power
-church support, 13, 47,
-expansion, 52-53, 61,
-in Depression era,
88-89, 91-92, 100-1
-founding, 19, 21, 4 1-
51, 55-57, 59, 81
-Houston's (Norman) role,
46, 54, 61-62, 68
requirements, 44, 97-98
-legislative action to
prevent creation of
company, 48-49, 66
-Nickerson ' s role, 45-46,
-racial policies, 76-79,
-women's roles, 113-118
Good Samaritan Hospital,
Good Shepherd Hospital,
Goodwill Industries, 38
Gordon, Wilbur C, 47
Granger, Lester, 179-80
Great Migration of southern
blacks, 18, 34, 93
-into Chicago, 3, 18, 96
-into Los Angeles, 3, 18,
-into New York, 3, 18
Greggs, Napoleon P., 28-29,
38-39, 47, 63, 90
Griffith, Tom, 172-73
Hackett, Mabel, 115
Harris, James Ervin, 84-85
Harris, Lillian Houston,
Health Insurance Associa-
tion of America, 103
Hickman, Verna Stratton,
Hill, Betty, 218-19
Holman United Methodist
Church, 37-39, 137
Home State Braves, 26
Hooks, Benjamin Lawson, 181
Hooper, Leslie J., 58
Hoover, Herbert C, 194
Home, Lena, 25
Horrall, Clemence B., 69
House Un-American Activi-
Houston, Ivan J., 74, 100,
106, 120, 204
Houston, Norman Oliver,
42-43, 46-47, 54,
58, 61-62, 68, 74,
Houston, Jr., Norman 0., 83
Howard University, 196
Hudson, H. Claude, 12,
Hudson, Luther, 47
Hunigan, Berke N. , 67
Hutcherson, Willie Mae, 7
Jenkins, Lorene, 116
Johns, Stephen A., 206
Johnson, Edgar J., 52, 68
Johnson, Lyndon B., 193,
Johnson, Marcelma, 116
Johnson, Simon P., 47, 50,
Johnson, Thomas, 219
Jones, Calwell, 41
Jones, Hartley, 47
Jordan, Frederick Douglass,
Kennedy, John F., 193
Kilgore, Jr., Thomas, 39
King, Jr., Martin Luther,
53, 134, 186
Lafayette Players, 25, 27
Lawson, James Morris, 39
Leaders Roundtable Business
Conference, 116, 113
Liberty Savings and Loan
Life Advertiser's Associa-
tion, 58, 73, 74
Life Office Management
Association, 58, 73-
74, 100, 103, 205-5
Life Underwriters Training
Lockett, Amanda, 114
-appeal for black immi-
gration, 3, 19, 197-98
-black voters' political
-growth and influence of
black churches, 39, 188
-public housing, 140-49,
151, 155-56, 159-60
-Housing Authority, 131,
136, 140, 166
Committee To Study
Zoological Problems, 166
-Mayor's Committee on
Major League Baseball,
-Board of Supervisors,
-Conference on Community
-Grand Jurors Associa-
Los Angeles Angels, 26
rce, 73, 122
, 128-30, 133
High School, 6,
Los Angeles Times , 19 3
ip. The, 87
Markham, Charles Edwin, 202
Marshall, Louise, 116
Mays, Benjamin, 188, 202
Mechanicsville (section of
Los Angeles ) , 2
Merchants and Manufacturers
Company of Chicago,
Miller, Brenda, 114
Ministerial Alliance, 30
Morehouse College, 138
Morgan, Mary, 115
Morris Brown College, 201
Murray, Cecil, 40
Murray, Philip, 136
d People, 22,
4, 136, 169,
, 175-78, 131-
0, 192, 211,
nd Fight, 222
nse Fund ,
Women, 138, 140
71, 99, 133,
National Negro Insurance
Negro baseball leagues,
New Age , 66
Nickerson, Emma Pool, 79,
Nickerson, Sr. , William H.,
Nickerson, Jr., William H.,
42-46, 54, 61-62,
68, 79, 81, 87-88,
Nickerson Gardens, 146-47
Nixon, Richard M., 209-10,
North Carolina Mutual Life
Oakland Outlook , 8 5
Occidental Life Insurance
Company, 58, 7 3
O'Malley, Walter F., 158-59
Pacific Electric Railway
Company, 4 6
Pacific Mutual Life
Pajaud, William E. , 74
Parks, H. B., 29-30
People's Independent Church
of Christ, 13, 27-
31, 35, 38-39, 41,
47, 63-64, 90, 219
-Board of Trustees, 29
-Young People's Lyceum,
Perry, William, 128
Phi Beta Sigma, 127
Pinson, Helen, 116
Potter and Sons, 87
Poulson, Norris, 140, 144,
146, 156-58, 163-65
Prentice, Bessie F., 31
Prudential Life Insurance
Company, 58, 7 3-74
Reagan, Ronald, 193
Rheingold Beer, 131
Rickey, Branch, 26
Roberts, Frederick Madison,
Robinson, Jackie, 26, 218,
Roosevelt, Franklin D.,
Santa Fe Railway, 5
Scott, Robert, 71
Second Baptist Church, 39,
Security National Bank.
Security Pacific National
Selective Service Board,
14, 18, 121
Shackleford, J. H., 31-32,
Shell, Ernest, 111, 118
-Ernest Shell Pioneer
ence, 190, 192
Southern Pacific, 82
Spencer, Kenneth, 36
Stevens, W. Bertrand, 15
Stuart, M. S. , 72
Teasley, Larkin, 106, 204,
Thompson, Erma L., 116
Torrance, T. A. , 51
Towles, Henry H., 47, 50,
Truman, Harry S., 122
United Negro College Fund,
United States Congress —
House Committee on
Universal Life Insurance
Company, 9 8
University of California,
Berkeley, 83, 85-86
University of California,
Los Angeles, 54, 68,
78, 128, 219-20
University of Southern
California, 54, 78,
Upton, John H. , 46
Urban League, 17, 22, 68,
71, 170-71, 179-80,
183-84, 190, 192,
-Los Angeles chapter,
Voting Rights Act, 215
Wallace, George C, 212
Warren, Earl, 86
Washington, Booker T. , 3
Washington, Leon Harold,
West, Mae, 18 3
Whitley, G. W. , 31, 33-34
Whittaker, Leon, 35
Wilkins, Roy, 210
Wilkinson, Frank B., 153
Williams, Paul R., 6-7,
149, 176, 209
Wilson, Doris, 116
World War I, 8, 13, 20, 83,
World War II, 18-19, 179,
Yorty, Samuel W., 140, 161
Young, Charles, 86
Young, Whitney, 179
Young Men's Christian
Young People's Christian
Endeavor Society, 6
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