BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Andrew Young, author of "A Way Out Of No Way: The Spiritual Memoirs," how come a spiritual memoir?
Mr. ANDREW YOUNG, AUTHOR, "A WAY OUT OF NO WAY: THE SPIRTUAL MEMOIRS OF ANDREW YOUNG" Well, you know, the only way I can explain everything that's happened to me in my life is to put God in the picture because I didn't know what I was doing, I didn't plan what I was doing. I don't think Martin Luther King did either. I think we were successful because we allowed ourselves to get swept up in the energy of history. And that's a spiritual phenomenon. Everybody else has written about the civil rights movement from a political perspective or an economic perspective or a social or racial perspective. All of that's true.
But I think the solutions came insofar as we were able to plug into a kind of divine energy that made a way where there was no way, and that's certainly been true of my life. I think it can be true of everyone's life. And the reason I wrote the book was to try to say people that they don't have to have all the answers, they don't have to plan their lives; that the--you know, the habits of successful people are--are interesting and wonderful, but there's something else going on under the surface that I think is far more meaningful. That when history is changed, it's not because--just because of men and women working harder. It's because we come in touch with an ultimate reality, which is a spiritual foundation of--of all of our politics and economics and everything else.
LAMB: Early in the book, you talk about two things that you say have been a downer in your life: your wife's cancer and your son being beaten by a policeman. Can you tell us about both of those?
Mr. YOUNG: Well, my son was a freshman here in Washington at Howard University.
LAMB: How long ago?
Mr. YOUNG: Oh, two years ago. And the very first week of school, before he even got into his classes, he was coming back on the campus, right at the edge of the campus. And there had been a party of students that had--too many people showed up, and the police came and were breaking up the party. He was in a car driving by. They stopped him, snatched him out of the car and proceeded to throw him on the ground and beat him. These were five black officers. And they didn't know who he was. He was never charged with anything. It was the kind of example, I think, giving the officers the benefit of the doubt, of a kind of frustration that occurs when overworked, underpaid police officers just get tired of dealing with--well, they would probably view Howard University as privileged kids. And their anger and their frustration just welled up and they took it out on my son.
Mr. YOUNG: Yeah.
LAMB: Where is he now?
Mr. YOUNG: He transferred because once he was identified, the police started following him around and harassing him, and the press parked out in front of his dormitory. And he decided he wanted to go someplace else--well, he really didn't want to go anyplace else. He wanted to be in Washington. He wanted to go to Howard University. But after this, he decided that he probably--well, he wanted to come to Howard in the first place because he was tired of being my son. He wanted to be someplace where he could just make it on his own. He never even used the name Andrew Young. He always wanted to go by the name of Beau Young so that he could be his own person. It helped him grow up real quick. It denied him of a lot of the frivolities of the first year of college that, say, I enjoyed when I came up here anonymously. But that may, in the long run, be better for him.
LAMB: Is he physically all right?
Mr. YOUNG: Yeah. They broke his leg, so it was a serious beating. But, you know, he was 18. Six weeks, he was walking and playing basketball again. But what it did to his consciousness, what it did to his thinking, I think it took him a long time. Interestingly enough, he was never particularly bitter against the officers. And I don't know for sure how he has dealt with it. But he's decided that--well, I got beat up actually by white officers.
LAMB: You, Andy Young?
Mr. YOUNG: Yeah. In St. Augustine, Florida. And I always saw that as contributing significantly to my maturity and awareness.
LAMB: What year was that?
Mr. YOUNG: This was 1964. It was kind of a Klan mob. And, for me, it was a realization that if you were going to be free, you had to be willing to walk in the face of death and stand up and take whatever happened. There's a sense in which today's young people have to make that same decision. It's not necessarily a racial decision. But long before our civil rights movement, someone said, `A coward dies a thousand deaths, and brave men, only one.' And one of the things I learned from the movement that I think everybody has to ultimately learn is that you can't live your life unless you have some ability to cope with the phenomenon of death and what's beyond death. And Martin Luther King helped us do that. Martin Luther King used to say all the time, `If you don't have something you're willing to die for, you're not fit to live anyway.'
I think what Beau began to find was that his own sense of dignity, manhood was worth standing up for even if it meant taking a beating. And I think he's probably a better man for that realization. I know I certainly was after--of course, I got a civil rights bill out of my beating. It was right about the time that the civil rights legislature was being passed, and the fact that we had those demonstrations that got so violent and emotional reminded people of what had happened in Birmingham, and I think made it a little easier for Lyndon Johnson to cut off the filibuster and pass the Civil Rights Act. I got beaten in June. The Civil Rights Act was passed on the 2nd of July.
And I always saw my--well, I was courting trouble. I was putting myself deliberately in the path of violence because black people were always in the path of violence secretly and silently. And they suffered in silence. We, through the demonstrations, deliberately took on the lot of--that ordinary people lived and put ourselves in their places as a means of changing it. Martin used to say you had to bring the evil to the surface, that racism was almost like a boil, that if it stayed under the surface, it was--it infected your entire body. In order for it to be healed, it had to be brought to the surface where the healing light of truth, or in the case of the boil, the sun, would help it to heal. And so we were doing this quite deliberately.
I'm coming to the conclusion now that all of life has to be lived that way, not just for black people, not just for poor people; that life is full of discrimination, full of injustice, full of evils, petty and great. And the challenge of life is to learn to stand up to them. When you do, it seems as though something special and significant happens.
LAMB: What are you doing now?
Mr. YOUNG: Well, I'm doing a number of things. I'm co-chairing the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games. And so we're hosting the Olympics in Atlanta in 1996. I'm also serving as vice chairman of an engineering company, an engineering company that has offices all over Africa and the Middle East and just opened two new projects in China. And I've been working with the international division, as well as most of the cities of the East and Southeast. We're everywhere from New York right down to Florida, on across to Phoenix and right on up the West Coast to Seattle. We're not very much in the Midwest, but in all of the cities around the fringe of the U.S. Law Engineering is the company that I'm working with.
LAMB: You say in the book that on July 21st, 1991, you found out that Jean, your wife, had cancer.
Mr. YOUNG: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: What did that do to you?
Mr. YOUNG: Well, we had lived virtually trouble-free lives. We had three daughters who were finished--had finished college. Beau was doing very well coming through high school, about to go to college. Everything had been perfect for us. I'd been in the civil rights movement. I'd been from there to--well, I'd pastored churches, the civil rights movement. I went with Jimmy Carter to the UN and then ended up mayor of Atlanta. It was almost like an effortless journey where everything I touched seemed to work out.
And then, all of a sudden, this. And she had never been sick. And we thought she had a stomachache. And the only reason I even took her to the doctor was we'd been in Africa for two weeks, and I thought she might have picked up a virus that ought to be treated right quick. But she had four children with natural childbirth and never—you know, never a moment. She played tennis. She never smoked. She never drank. She ate right. Sunday school superintendent, teacher in school.
And then suddenly to find out that she's got colon cancer, which has spread to her liver, that was at that time a death sentence. And the doctor said, `Well, you have a few weeks to a few months,' but that it was inoperable, and that we ought to just go on about our business and enjoy life and take what time we have. Well, that was hard to do. There's a little chapel in Crawford Long Hospital, and I went into that little chapel, and there, the Bible was open to the 103rd Psalm, which said, `Bless the Lord, oh, my soul. All that it is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, oh, my soul and forget not his benefits.' He forgives our sins and he heals all our diseases. And I latched onto that.
And I decided that we couldn't just resign ourselves to the inevitability of cancer. We're resigned anyway to the inevitability of death. But how you make death meaningful, how do you find meaning in your life even as you face death? And we started praying, reading, we talked about it. And I think the fact that we talked about it got a lot of our friends involved with us in prayer. And we were--a particular good friend, Dr. Levi Watkins, up at Johns Hopkins, who had considered himself sort of this doctor of the movement, he operated on Rosa Parks and Ralph Abernathy and Bernard Lee and just--well, he was a kid, actually, too young to drive, as a member of Martin Luther King's church in Dexter Avenue in Montgomery. And he took on the job of keeping the cars in the car pool clean and washing the cars and sweeping them out.
But he's always felt this linkage with the civil rights movement and with Martin Luther King. And when he heard that Jean was ill, he said, `Look, why don't you come up here and let us put together a team and just take a look at it?' Well, they decided at Johns Hopkins that it was operable. And they removed the cancer from her liver with ultrasound. And she began to recover. She did chemotherapy for six months, but then was given a clean bill of health. And so, for a year and a half after that, she was doing extremely well. And only this last month, we discovered that it's popped up in some other places. Cancer does that.
But we've not only learned to live with it, we've learned to fight it. And one of the things that it does that--normally a couple worries about paying bills, about going to school, about the car, about the yard, about the physical things. Living with cancer makes you live on another level altogether. You can take the car for granted and kids in school begin to do all right. The meaning of life is at your fingertips, on the tip of your tongue, constantly on your mind, and you approach a--you approach a new dimension of living when you're living with death.
Now everybody is. Most of us don't know it. There's a sense in which cancer, I think, in Jean's life, has helped us all to focus on the meaning of our relationships, what's important, what we want to spend our time on. And it's certainly not easy and there's tremendous suffering, but she basically refuses to give in to it and refuses the painkillers and just gets up every morning and puts on her clothes and goes on about her business as long as her strength lasts.
There's a story in the book about a lady who lived that way when—in our first church, Leola Hadley down in Beachton, Georgia. And I thought Leola was an elderly lady because she was about 45. I was just about 22, 23. But her husband asked me to do her funeral because the doctors had said she just had a few weeks to live. In fact, they gave her a six-week supply of morphine and figured that would be more than enough because she wasn't going to last long. I talked to her regularly and we prayed. We read the Bible together. She, too, refused to give up. And she didn't want to take the medicine. She never took any of the morphine. She wouldn't stay in bed. She'd get up because she didn't want people feeling sorry for her. And she'd get up every day and put on her clothes, and sometimes she'd sit in the living room, sometimes she'd sit on the porch. But she forced herself to get out of bed and dress and do things.
And I had to leave. I went to New York shortly after that. And her husband still made me promise that I would come back to do--preach her funeral because we'd been very close and this was my first real full-time parish. And so, I got very close to all of the people there. I came back two years later, and Mrs. Hadley was out in the yard transplanting some azalea bushes. And she had built cabinets in her house and she'd made curtains. And the thing I think happened was she forgot about herself and starting worrying about her husband and her child--her son. And she wanted to keep everything in order for them. And she built new kitchen cabinets, painted the house. I mean, she was a phenomenal woman. But I never got to do her funeral. She lived until she was about 85. And her husband had died and her son had died. And she was in a nursing home, and nobody told me when her death came.
But there are a number of instances that we've run across and they're constant--well, now there are books being written about a cancer in remission as though there's something you can do to facilitate that, that you don't have to give in to disease. And I think that's the struggle we're waging now. It's living life on a new level. It's integrating the physical and the spiritual in a new way. But it's--well, the only problem I have is I wish it was me instead of her.
LAMB: This book is published by what company?
Mr. YOUNG: Thomas Nelson Publishers. And there's a story there, too. Because when I was in seminary, I went to Marion, Alabama, as a student minister, and the first family that took me in, to care for me--I went--I ate dinner--ate my meals with a different family each week. And the first family to take me in had a Thomas Nelson New Testament sitting on the--was the revised standard version. This was 1952. And I think the Bible--the revised standard version really didn't come out until 1951. And here was a revised standard version of the New Testament that was all marked up with--it was underlined and there were notes in the margin. Somebody had been seriously studying the Bible.
And I picked it up and started reading it, and there were all of the passages that I liked were those that were underlined. So I said, `Whose Bible is this?' And Mrs. Childs said, `Oh, that's my daughter's Bible.' And she was away in school. She'd come home and gone to visit her brother, whose wife was having a baby. And she'd left her study Bible there. And I guess I decided--well, there was a study Bible and there was a letter for the basketball team from high school and a swimming--senior lifesaving certificate—Red Cross senior lifesaving certificate. Well, I was always--well, I was on the swimming team in college and the track team and loved sports. I'd really never met too many women who were both athletic and religious. And I decided even before I met Jean that she was going to be my wife, and that this was sort of all planned for me. I had gotten to that point, I think, because--I didn't intend to go to seminary. I was seeking what I wanted to do with my life.
And I went to--I volunteered to work with the United Christian Youth movement. And I was asked to go to Connecticut to work with young people in the auspices--under the auspices of the Connecticut Council of Churches. When I got there, they had not provided a place for me to stay, so somebody said, `Well, call Hartford Seminary and see if they have any room in their dormitory.' So when they picked up the phone--and I ended up living in the dormitory at Hartford Theological Seminary. And since most of my work was with high school--young people, after 3 in the afternoon, after they got out of school, I just wandered into the dean's office and asked if I could sit in on a few courses. And I started taking a course in philosophy of religion and New Testament. And he said, `Look, if you want to add a few courses, you know, and register as a student, if you were taking a normal load, we could probably help you with a scholarship or--and--since you're already doing church-related service as a volunteer.' And so I ended up registering for seminary. And, at that point, everything in my life seemed to be worked out.
LAMB: How old were you?
Mr. YOUNG: I was 19.
LAMB: When did you marry Jean?
Mr. YOUNG: When I was 22.
LAMB: But you absolutely decided that you were going to marry her before you even saw her?
Mr. YOUNG: Yeah, I did. And--well, I mean, I didn't need to see her. I saw a picture of her when she was 12 years old. And she was a cute little girl. But it was the Bible and the senior lifesaving certificate. And when we met, it didn't--well, it took her a little longer to--because she really--even though she was studying the Bible--preachers had a pretty bad reputation. And, I mean--ministers in the '50s were not anybody's role model of success. That was before Martin Luther King, before the civil rights movement. And there wasn't the respect and admiration of the ministry that has occurred since then.
LAMB: Let me read something--a couple of things you said about yourself in two different parts of the book. Earlier, you said, `I'm weak and an undisciplined creature.'
Mr. YOUNG: Yeah.
LAMB: And then, later on, you say, `I was superficial and irresponsible.'
Mr. YOUNG: Yeah.
LAMB: What led to you admitting that?
Mr. YOUNG: Oh, I think all of us are. But facing up to it is--well, even writing the book, I probably should have written that book 10 years ago. There's nothing--there's almost nothing in it that I didn't know 10 years ago. I have never felt that I've been in control of my life and that I've been--well, even though I talk about, and appreciate, living by the spirit, I do think I could do better in terms of my own organization and productivity. There's part of that Puritan drive, zeal for perfection that gets us all. And I was probably suffering from that when I wrote that.
LAMB: Go back to--you said that there was a story about the actual publishing of this book. But what--let me just ask you a general question. Are there things in here that you've never admitted to before, or never talked about before?
Mr. YOUNG: I don't know. I don't think there is much that I--much of it I have talked about before. And it's been a constantly unfolding story of my life. And I've talked about it fairly easily. That's one of the things that I've learned to do is just not--well, to accept myself as I am and talk about it and--as a way of dealing with it.
LAMB: It's a fairly small book, 169 pages. And you say that Sam Moore, who runs the Nelson Publishing Company, said that you ought to write this book. Why? When did it happen? How long ago?
Mr. YOUNG: Well, actually, I met him in the airport in Atlanta about two years ago. And when he introduced himself and said that I ought to write a book, I agreed. This is not the first thing I've written. When I was at the UN, I started on a manuscript. I ended up with about 1,000 pages of manuscript and two different publishers have had trouble with it. And one said that the editor that was working with me, Toni Morrison, left, which was true. And they didn't have anybody to work with me on it. So they weren't interested in publishing it. Then I signed another contract. Course all of these advances helped educate my children. Because a UN ambassador's salary, I think when I was there, was about $52,000 a year, which is a whole lot of money except that I still had to keep my home in Atlanta and I was living in New York and I had three children. Well, my daughter was here in Georgetown Law School, one was at Harvard Engineering School and one was down at Duke. You can't do that on $50,000 a year. And so the advances on the manuscripts really carried my family. So I can't complain about that.
But then another publisher assigned a guy to work with it who, literally--I--well, everybody--well, in the beginning, the first publisher, I think, wanted me to write about the UN. And I could not write about the UN while I was there. It was against the law. I had signed agreements with the Carter administration that I wouldn't write about things. Most of the things that they'd be interested in were documents that were categorized as secret. So it may have been that they were expecting me to write about the UN. And I insisted that I had to write about the civil rights movement first.
I think the editor that was working with me with the other publisher wanted to make me a bitter, angry Negro. And I'm not.
LAMB: Was that publisher white?
Mr. YOUNG: Yeah, both of them. All of them were white.
LAMB: Is this publisher white?
Mr. YOUNG: No, hmm-mm. Well, he was born in Lebanon. That's a little different. But everybody was accustomed to the angry black man book. I'm not an angry black man. I have no reason to be angry. I've lived a very, you know, comfortable existence. I had good parents that gave their lives for me.
LAMB: Doctor was a--I mean, your father was a dentist.
Mr. YOUNG: My father was a dentist. My mother taught school and worked as a secretary and...
Mr. YOUNG: In New Orleans, Louisiana. Again, I grew up in a neighborhood that was totally--it was a poor neighborhood. Everybody was poor, but it was Irish, it was Italian, it was Cajun, it was Creole, it was German, it was Protestant, Catholic and Jewish. My father's dental supply people were mostly Jews who were not in any exploitive relationship with me. I mean, I was going to the dental supply place when I was six and seven years old. And these were some of the most supportive adults that I knew.
I contrast that with, say, the kind of thing that Farrakhan--Farrakhan's experience with the Jewish community is completely different than mine. And there's no reason for me to write or say or think the things that Farrakhan thinks. It was sort of the same with Martin Luther King and Malcolm X. Martin was three generations of educated, successful, black people. I mean, his grandfather had been treasurer of a six million person Baptist convention. Ironically, my grandfather was treasurer of the Masonic lodges in the South and was managing millions of dollars in a bank in Franklin, Louisiana, in the 1920s. One of the largest buildings ever owned by blacks was a 20-story building in New Orleans that my grandfather's Masonic lodge helped put up.
LAMB: While you're on that, could you tell us the connection with your Polish-Creole grandmother?
Mr. YOUNG: Well, my grandmother's maiden name was Janowski, and I could never understand that. Her mother had been--her mother's name was Brown. And her mother in Louisiana--you had almost an encouraged mixing of the races back around--before and immediately after the Civil War. Actually, many of the Europeans who had families in Europe ended up taking on families in the United States. My grandmother's father ran a shipping line and his name was Janowski. And that's about all I know about that except that it was part of a--that was on my mother's side.
It was on my father's side that my grandfather--well, even as a child in the '30s, I mean, he had the biggest Buick in Franklin, Louisiana. And it was a little country sugarcane town, but he had a series of stores and businesses and managed the money for the Masonic lodges.
Jean's parents--Jean's grandfather or great-grandfather earned their own way out of slavery. And he was trading cotton up and down the Mississippi. They have bills of sale where he was a servant—he was working as a cotton trader in the 1840s before the Civil War. The Congregational Church, during and after the Civil War, came down to that little county in Alabama, as they came to New Orleans, and started schools so that my grandparents and Jean's grandparents and my parents all went to college in these missionary schools in the South. And that was--that's a different upbringing.
But--but that's--that's as authentically black American as anybody poor and mean. And I was always brought up to understand racists. I mean, my--from the time I was two or three years old, my parents told me, `Look, racists are sick people.' And you don't get angry and upset at sick people. You have to help sick people. And it's not their fault that they're racist. They haven't had good education and they're--you know, they're living a difficult life which they have tended--rather than take responsibility for it themselves, they want to blame it on somebody else. And sometimes they blame it on Jews. In the South they blame it on blacks. They blame it on anybody that they see being a little more successful. That's not something to get worked up over. That's part of the basis of existence and you've got to learn to deal with that.
LAMB: Where was this picture taken?
Mr. YOUNG: That picture was taken just before the march from Selma to Montgomery started.
LAMB: What year?
Mr. YOUNG: 1965.
LAMB: Several weeks ago Bill Bennett sat right where you're sitting. And we were talking about his "Book of Virtues." And one of the--he's got 370 items in that " Book of Virtues." One of them is Martin Luther King Jr.'s letter from the Birmingham jail.
Mr. YOUNG: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: You talk about that here. And I'd not read--but you talk about how he wrote it.
Mr. YOUNG: Yeah.
LAMB: What was the letter? What was the time frame? And how did he write it?
Mr. YOUNG: Well, Martin went to jail in Birmingham in 1963. And he went to jail because there was nothing else to do. We'd been demonstrating in Birmingham for over a month. And there were hundreds of people in jail. We'd run out of bond money to get people out. There were people, black and white, urging us to call it off and just say that we'd failed.
LAMB: How old were you then?
Mr. YOUNG: Hmm.
Mr. YOUNG: I was 31, I guess.
LAMB: And what was--who was paying your salary then?
Mr. YOUNG: Well, I was on the staff of my church, the United Church of Christ, the Board for Homeland Ministries.
Mr. YOUNG: Well, I was living in Atlanta and I was assigned to work with Martin Luther King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. And I was on a grant from the Field Foundation. And my job was to teach people how to read and write so that they could teach their neighbor. Well, we were looking for people across the South, as we define them, that had PhD minds but who had never had a chance to get an education. And we worked out with Mrs. Septima Clark from Charleston, South Carolina, and Dorothy Cotton from--who's now at—up at Ithaca at Cornell. We worked out a one-week curriculum where we could take somebody who was fairly bright--very bright and help them to teach--well, in fact, it's very similar to this big campaign now, Hooked on Phonics. My wife, Jean, was a reading teacher and she did the basic phonics book. And we did phonics to help people to get a driver's license, Social Security, voter registration, fill out a job application. And we taught people how to read. And our textbooks were the actual job applications and the actual--writing a check in a bank. And it was very basic education.
And what we did--we tried to get--between 1961 and 1967, we trained somebody in just about every county from Virginia to East Texas. And that leadership that we taught to teach their neighbors ended up being the leadership that ran the voter-registration drives. They started the civil rights movements. They are now, and their children, are the elected officials across the South. And it was a very quiet education program that contributed to the development of rural America as well. On top of that came the community action agencies. So these were people who were already organized, so they participated in the development of poverty programs. And it was a good process of development. I was the administrator of that project, assigned by the United Church of Christ to work with Martin Luther King on that program.
LAMB: He was in jail and, if my figures are right, he died when he was 39. So he'd be, roughly, around 34. So he's a little bit older than you. Were you close?
Mr. YOUNG: We hadn't gotten close then. I mean, we'd known each other since, basically, 1957, '58. We'd been on a panel together at Talladega College in Alabama while I was pastoring in Thomasville and he was pastoring in Montgomery. Jean and Coretta knew each other because they both grew up in the same little town of Marion, Alabama.
LAMB: Who were some of the other names of people that we see today? I mean, for instance, John Lewis over here in Congress. Was he around you then?
Mr. YOUNG: Oh, John Lewis was the president of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and was there with us in Birmingham.
LAMB: Where was Jesse Jackson?
Mr. YOUNG: Jesse was still in Chicago in school in '63.
LAMB: Hosea Williams?
Mr. YOUNG: Hosea was still in Savannah. Birmingham was one of--well, it was the first success story. And it was largely SCLC and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund--Thurgood Marshall had just left. And Jack Greenberg had taken over the leadership of the Legal Defense Fund.
LAMB: Fanny Lou Hamer?
Mr. YOUNG: Fanny Lou Hamer--that was just about the time we met Fanny Lou Hamer. In fact, James Bevel was in Mississippi with his wife, Diane, and they recruited Fanny Lou Hamer. And while we were in Birmingham, we brought her over from Mississippi over to Dorchester Academy--or Dorchester Center in McIntosh, Georgia, just south of Savannah, and she was one of those that we gave this one-week training course to. While she was--while we were in Birmingham, she was coming back from a meeting that we'd had there, and she and Annelle Ponder and Lawrence Guyot and several others were arrested in Winona, Mississippi.
LAMB: This is where she was beaten.
Mr. YOUNG: This is when she was beaten very badly. And I went over there to get her out of jail on the day that Medgar Evers was killed. And--so all of this was happening around the same time, I mean-- and Martin went to jail in the midst of that kind of atmosphere, when everybody was telling us, `Look, it's not going to work. Non-violence won't work. You have to quit. Call this off. You're getting too many people hurt, people are getting killed.'
And Martin thought about that and said that the only thing he could do was go to jail with them. And it was when he went to jail--he went to jail on a Thursday. And that weekend, the ministers--the local clergy--had in the Sunday newspaper--the local white clergy--a whole page ad blaming Martin Luther King for the racial troubles in Birmingham and saying that he should leave town and let them go back to their old, peaceful ways. And he was furious. And he was furious not at what they said because everybody had been saying that, including some black people. But he was furious because these were the clergy. These were the Episcopal bishop, the Jewish rabbi, the pastor of the largest Methodist church and the—these were people who he felt, if they were true to their own biblical traditions, should understand what he was doing. And so he wrote the letter, really, to them.
LAMB: What did he write it on?
Mr. YOUNG: He didn't have any paper in jail, but somebody had slipped him a New York Times. And he started writing around the margin of The New York Times. And, unfortunately, it wasn't a Sunday Times. And the South--The Times printed down South is rather thin, so he didn't have much space. So when he finished writing around every scrap of paper that was blank on The New York Times, he started writing on toilet tissue. And he normally fasted when he went to jail. He took only liquids. And so there's no question but that he was in a heightened state emotionally and spiritually. But it just poured out. I mean, he had nothing to turn to, nobody to quote except--I mean, he wrote it strictly from his own heart and mind.
LAMB: Who published it, by the way?
Mr. YOUNG: Well, actually, when he got it out of there, we paid to have it published in the Birmingham Post-Herald as an answer to the ministers. And the Friends Service Committee picked it up and called and asked could they print--publish 50,000 copies and we said, `Sure.' And they published 50,000 copies and distributed it. And from then on, it just took on a life of its own. But it was probably the first time that anybody had actually sat down and put in writing the specific plight of black Americans in a systematic and logical way that ordinary white people could be at least encouraged to read it and understand.
LAMB: Just quickly, so that folks that may not be from Atlanta know your entire career, what years were you a congressman?
Mr. YOUNG: I was elected to the Congress in 1972. Ironically, I was elected in the Nixon--when Nixon buried McGovern. I somehow survived and beat a very good Republican in a district that was 68 percent white.
LAMB: Who represents that today?
Mr. YOUNG: John Lewis represents that today. But after I left, Wyche Fowler--during the time I was there, it was reapportioned in '70 and became a black majority district. Then when I left in 1977 and went to the UN, a black majority district elected Wyche Fowler, a congressman, for three terms.
LAMB: So you were three terms.
Mr. YOUNG: I was elected three terms, I only served two.
LAMB: How long in the UN?
Mr. YOUNG: I was in the UN one month short of three years.
LAMB: '77 to...
Mr. YOUNG: '77, and I left just before 1980.
LAMB: When were you first elected mayor of Atlanta?
Mr. YOUNG: I was elected mayor of Atlanta in the fall of '81.
LAMB: For how many terms?
Mr. YOUNG: Two terms.
LAMB: How many years?
Mr. YOUNG: I served from '82 to 1990, eight years.
LAMB: Ran for governor of Georgia...
Mr. YOUNG: Ran for governor of Georgia, and lost. And then—but while I was mayor, I started working--and I have been a volunteer with the Olympic movement. But we won the--I lost the governor's race in August, but we won the Olympics in September. And so it—I continued as chairman--co-chairman of the Atlanta Olympic Committee and as vice-chairman of the Law Companies Group.
LAMB: We're jumping around here a lot, and there's a lot more, of course, in the book.
Mr. YOUNG: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: But from the Birmingham jail in '63 to when Martin Luther King Jr. was shot in '68 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis--where were you that night?
Mr. YOUNG: Well, actually, I was with Martin Luther King from Birmingham right on up through that evening in the Lorraine Motel. After Birmingham, we became fairly close, and I began traveling with him. Though I was working with the church, I became, more or less--well, I changed from director of that voter registration project and became the executive vice president of the organization to which he was president. So I was running his organization from '64 to '68.
LAMB: But that night when he was killed, where were you?
Mr. YOUNG: I was there with him. In fact, we were on the way out to dinner. And it--well, I don't know.
LAMB: Has that stayed with you all your life?
Mr. YOUNG: Yeah. And I don't know whether I've dealt with it adequately yet because he had been--the week leading up to that day, he'd been very depressed. He was depressed because of the violence that occurred in Memphis. And it was the first time that a march of ours--where people in the march actually participated in breaking windows in violence. Now later we found that some of those people were actually paid by the FBI to help disrupt that march. We didn't have any reason to suspect that at the time.
But when the march broke down and the kids who had been manipulated into doing that--I mean, he just didn't--I mean, he felt like he was responsible for keeping America non-violent. And whenever somebody did something that was irrational and violent, he felt like maybe he hadn't done a good enough job. He had come out against the war in Vietnam. We were in the midst of organizing the issue that's going to plague us in the next century, that is, how do we deal with the poor? Martin understood that much of the race problem was evolving into a class problem, and that it was not so much black against white, but haves against have-nots. And that people of privilege, of which he included himself and me, had a responsibility to try to do something to help the least of these God's children.
Marian Wright Edelman, who is now with the Children's Defense Fund, had come to him in Atlanta with four men from Mississippi. And these men that came over there with Marian were in their 40s and 50s and hadn't worked in 20 years. And they hadn't worked because government policy had paid the landowners not to grow food or fiber, and so all--while the money went to the people who own land, all of the people who worked the land were left poverty-stricken. And they didn't want to be on welfare. They'd worked all their lives; they wanted to work. Most of the younger people moved to the Northern cities, and they moved to the Northern cities without adequate educational preparation and created the problems that we now see in our Northern cities. But Martin understood that and said, `We need to get ahold of this quick.'
And so, at Marian Edelman's invitation, we began to organize the Poor People's Campaign, which was not just black poor. We had white poor from Appalachia, we had American Indians, we had the Hispanics from out West--Cesar Chavez was a part of it--we had a wide variety of urban poor that were represented in the makeup of that campaign. We didn't expect to succeed. We likened our plight to the bonus marches in the Depression, and we figured we'd get run out of Washington, but we hoped to establish an agenda that the next president would have to address. And we expected that next president to be Robert Kennedy, and then he was killed. And then we hoped it would be Hubert Humphrey, but by that time, people were so disillusioned--well, Hubert Humphrey, because he understood the cities and he understood--he'd been responsible for much of the civil rights effort in the Democratic Party. He also understood poverty around the world, and we couldn't get it together after Martin's death.
LAMB: We're out of time, so folks are going to have to get your book. And on the back of the book is a picture of Andrew Young, as you can see there on your screen in just a second, and then on the front, this is what the book looks like. "A Way Out of No Way: The Spiritual Memoirs of Andrew Young."
Thank you very much for joining us.
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