Documenting the American South Logo
Loading
Title: Oral History Interview with Richard Bowman, July 8, 1998. Interview K-0513. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Bowman, Richard, interviewee
Interview conducted by Navies, Kelly
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Mike Millner
Sound recordings digitized by Steve Weiss Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2006
Size of electronic edition: 176 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2006.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2006-00-00, Celine Noel and Wanda Gunther revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2006-09-04, Mike Millner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of sound recording: Oral History Interview with Richard Bowman, July 8, 1998. Interview K-0513. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series K. Southern Communities. Southern Oral History Program Collection (K-0513)
Author: Kelly Navies
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Richard Bowman, July 8, 1998. Interview K-0513. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series K. Southern Communities. Southern Oral History Program Collection (K-0513)
Author: Richard Bowman
Description: 160 Mb
Description: 45 p.
Note: Interview conducted on July 8, 1998, by Kelly Navies; recorded in Asheville, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Unknown.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series K. Southern Communities, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Editorial practices
An audio file with the interview complements this electronic edition.
The text has been entered using double-keying and verified against the original.
The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
All quotation marks, em dashes and ampersand have been transcribed as entity references.
All double right and left quotation marks are encoded as "
All em dashes are encoded as —

Interview with Richard Bowman, July 8, 1998.
Interview K-0513. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Bowman, Richard, interviewee


Interview Participants

    RICHARD BOWMAN, interviewee
    KELLY NAVIES, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
KELLY NAVIES:
July 8, 1998. This is Kelly Elaine Navies in Asheville, NC in the home of Mr. Richard Bowman. We are about to begin our first interview on his experience as an alumnus of Stephens-Lee. And uh, let's just begin. Could you identify yourself?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
I'm Richard Bowman.
KELLY NAVIES:
Where were you born Mr. Bowman?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
I was born in Asheville in 1934.
KELLY NAVIES:
On what day?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
March 20, 1934.
KELLY NAVIES:
What part of Asheville were you born in?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
In the area called South Side. It's been redeveloped now, you probably wouldn't recognize it. In fact, I was oh, maybe about ten blocks from the train station, the depot, On Palmer Street.
KELLY NAVIES:
Okay, on Palmer Street. Thank you.
What were your parents' names?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Lila Bowman, Wright was her maiden name and my father was Nathaniel Bowman.

Page 2
KELLY NAVIES:
Can you tell me a little bit about them? What were their occupations?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
My father was a janitor—all of his life—most of his life. He worked for [unclear] furniture store and then he finally could make a little more money so he started working for James Ray of Ray Auto Supply who owned several apartments throughout Asheville. My father took care of those apartments for him. In fact I helped him take care of the apartments. We go around and [can't make it out] and take down the trash, clean the floors and what not. My mom was a domestic worker. She did housework at different places throughout the city. She'd work at one home in the morning and then another one in the afternoon. And she'd bring laundry into the house and do it—do the ironing and whatnot.
KELLY NAVIES:
How many siblings did you have?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
There were seven.
KELLY NAVIES:
And where were you in that?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
I'm right in the middle.
KELLY NAVIES:
You're right in the middle. So, uh, James Ray—the name sounds familiar to me. Is this a Black man?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
No, no. It's a white man.
KELLY NAVIES:
It's a white Ray. Okay, I know there are lots of Ray's in this area. So, the apartments he owned they were all over Asheville?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
They were all over Asheville and Biltmore.
KELLY NAVIES:
Okay, thank you. So, tell me what elementary school did you go to?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
I went to St. Anthony's elementary school. That was on Walton St. and I think I owe a lot of my success to the missionaries, the Catholic missionaries who came here- white

Page 3
missionaries who came here and dedicated their lives to teaching us at St. Anthony's. They gave us a very good education. In fact, it surpassed the education in the public schools, I feel. [KN: MmmHmm.] Because when I graduated from St. Anthony's and went to Stephens-Lee the first year was a bore because I learned nothing new. Everything that they covered in the first year at Stephens-Lee we had had it at St. Anthony's.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, you attended St. Anthony's from throughout elementary up to high school?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
From the first through the eighth grade.
KELLY NAVIES:
Ahh..
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Then went to Stephens-Lee after the eighth grade.
KELLY NAVIES:
So St. Anthony's—I've heard a little bit about that. That place is pretty significant itself. It was a Catholic Missionary School for Black Children. Mmmhmm. Tell me a little bit more about that. You got a really good education there—what else?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
We got a real good education starting from the first grade and we were tested twice a year-December and January. The tests were sent up from Raleigh to the teachers and they couldn't open the tests-the principal came around and broke the seal on the tests—[ The elegant grandfather clock chimed-we paused the tape briefly]
KELLY NAVIES:
We had a slight pause because the beautiful grandfather clock, occasionally rings-what is it gong? If that happens again, that will be the explanation for it. You were telling me a little bit about the testing?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
I was telling you about the testing. The principal would bring the test around and break the seal in front of the class and we would take the test. And of course the test would be sent to Raleigh for grading and the same test were sent to all of the Catholic schools throughout the state of North Carolina. I think that was their way of assuring that

Page 4
we were being taught the same thing as the white kids. And I often wondered if the same practice wouldn't be good for the schools today in all grades. So, you would some type of guarantee that you're getting a quality education.
KELLY NAVIES:
That's kind of a big issue right now—the testing situation. So, you were saying that you were ahead when you went to Stephens—Lee.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Right. We were way ahead of other students because we were required to take the—I would think the same courses they were taking there but anyway—they were a little stricter. If we didn't pass the test we were left back.
KELLY NAVIES:
About how many students were there per class at Catholic Hill—I mean, excuse me, not Catholic Hill, St. Anthony's.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
It varied. We had more in the first and second grade. We had two classes to a room. First and second grade was in one room, third and fourth in another, fifth and sixth in another, seventh and eighth in another. And of course, as we moved further up in grades, the class size decreased. I would say we probably in the first grade we may have had twenty or thirty students in a class and by the time we got to seventh and eighth grade we may have had twelve in the seventh and maybe bout twelve in the eighth.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, I'm curious at St. Anthony's were you taught anything like Black history or anything like that by the Catholic nuns?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Yes, we were taught a little of black history. We used textbooks that we were required to use by the state, but some of the things they told us about were not in the history book and some things were in the history book, but they elaborated on it. The thing that sticks out in my mind even to this day was the discussion we had about the

Page 5
Supreme Court decision uh, when Chief Justice R.B. Tanney made his statement that the Negro has no right whatsoever. And that statement—
KELLY NAVIES:
Dred Scott
RICHARD BOWMAN:
I mean—Dred Scott—uhhuh—Dred Scott decision—when Chief Justice R.B. made that—read the decision.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, you talked about that?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Yeah, we talked about that.
KELLY NAVIES:
That's interesting. So, um, it must have been a big change to move from having all white teachers in elementary school to having black teachers at Stephens—Lee—or was it?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
It wasn't. Because I didn't think in terms of race. Even through the eighth grade I never felt it—whites were any different, any better than I was. In fact, even in my work and all after school with whites— I just never felt there was any difference.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, there wasn't—First of all, it's obvious that you admired your education at St. Anthony's—so, it sounds as if they didn't treat you all any different because you were black.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Definitely not. They taught us more than we were required to learn. In fact, I can remember my first savings account—uh, Missionary Priest had us to bring our nickels and what not to him he gave us a little pass book and he saved our money for us until we got enough to put in the bank and then he would drive us down to the bank to put it in the bank. This is something extra that we were being taught—to save.

Page 6
KELLY NAVIES:
That's interesting. So, tell me you started Stephens—Lee in the ninth grade, and you were saying that race wasn't an issue to you, but did it ever dawn on you at any particular time that you were going to a segregated school?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Well, a time that it really dawned on me, was when I wanted to check a book out from the library—we had an assignment—and uh, we had a colored library. I went to the colored library to do my assignment and I couldn't find the books I wanted. And the lady at the library told me that she would get them from Pack Memorial Library, which was a white library—just a couple of steps away—and I made three trips up and the book still hadn't arrived and so I told her I said listen I need this for an assignment and I'll go up there and get it. And that really upset her—she really got worried I guess because she said, Oh no, no, don't do that, I'll get it, I'll get it for you". But to me, I felt that I could walk in there and demand the book. Because as I said before I didn't feel like I was any different from the rest of em. I probably would have gotten in trouble if I had gone, but uh—
KELLY NAVIES:
Where was the Colored library located, then?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
On the corner of uh—right where the YMI Cultural Center is located now—in that area—at Market and Eagle.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, in terms of access to books you started to realize that there was a difference.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
There was a difference, right. We couldn't get the books that we wanted.
KELLY NAVIES:
Okay, and— did Stephens—Lee become more challenging for you after the first year?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
In became more challenging because I took courses—selected courses we were not required to take. For example, physics wasn't a required course, but I took physics. I

Page 7
wanted something that was more challenging. And then of course, I took band and learned to play a musical instrument and then at recess I could go up and practice in the band room—that was something to do. And we had a library at school also—it had books (voice trails)
KELLY NAVIES:
Tell me about a little bit about your band experience. This band is pretty well known actually I hear a lot about the Stephens—Lee band
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Right—uh We used to march—we had one of the best bands—our director Madison C. Leonard, spent a lot of time with us. To give an example—we had what we call a clarinet club. I'll show you a picture—(lost word)—we would go from house to house and practice music—then after we finished practicing we would have little treats. He would take us in his car to different music groups at the colleges—music conferences—he used to take us to A&T and he used to take us down to Winston—Salem Teacher's College and different places to participate in statewide contests for music—and then of course we had our concerts at the school—which by the way I would always invite the people that I worked for— whites—and they would always come and see me play. At that time, I was a much better musician than I am today. Music does something for you—it's an out and it's something that you never forget—it's sorta like riding a bicycle. In fact, I still play in an Orchestra. I play in the Asheville Community Band and the Land of the Sky Symphony band, here in Asheville.
KELLY NAVIES:
Mmm. Wow—So, had you played saxophone before you joined the band?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
No, no.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, that was your first—?

Page 8
RICHARD BOWMAN:
That was my first—they taught me to play saxophone. Dr. Leonard at Stephens—Lee taught me to play—Clarinet is my instrument. And in the band I played clarinet and saxophone. But, right now I play clarinet.
KELLY NAVIES:
Oh, I see. So, what kind—I'm curious—can you give me an idea of what kind of music did you guys play in the band because I have no concept—my school didn't even have a band.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Well, we played classical, semi—classical, and uh jazz, and uh also marches. I think John Phillip Souza was one Doc Leonard's favorite uh music writers and we played a lot of his marches. And then we had these little music books—one we used to play was called "seventeen." [unclear] When we would march down Patton Avenue, he would say—he'd shout, "Play Seventeen!"—and that was one of the favorites of the people on the sidelines in Asheville.
KELLY NAVIES:
How did that go? Can you hum a little bit?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
I really don't remember [Laughter] I only remember the name of the piece and I really forgotten about it until one of our Treva Summey—Treva Chavis now—the young lady who directs the [unclear] played a medley of songs from Stephens—Lee and she included that in her medley.
KELLY NAVIES:
Oh, I've heard of her. I need to talk with her.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
You really do.
KELLY NAVIES:
Do you know what your favorite song was?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
At Stephens—Lee? The St. Louis Blues March.
KELLY NAVIES:
Oh, St. Louis Blues March! Is that the same—?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
It's the same as they play today.

Page 9
They start out with the drums and then it goes to you know (here he begins to hum it) But, it's jazzed up so you can march to it. And then the other song that I can recall us playing was uh, Tenessee Waltz, Carolina Moon—I know one time we played Carolina Moon at the half—time football game and they turned the lights off in the stadium and each one of us had a flashlight—we turned the flashlight on and it was—we marched and lined up in the shape of a half—moon and played Carolina Moon.
KELLY NAVIES:
Mmm.. That's nice. Mmm, so I wanted to ask you about the march down Patton street.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Patton Avenue—okay we were the raggiedest band in Asheville because our uniforms were hand me downs from the white schools and uh we didn't have money in the budget to buy nice, new uniforms when I started out. In fact, some of the students didn't have uniforms— they only had a hat. Maybe a uniform hat—but no uniform pants and clothes. But, uh we had rhythm and we had one of the—well, people would always—we would get more applause coming down Patton Avenue I think than anyone, because of the rhythm that we had and Miss Chappell taught the majorettes when I was in high school and I have not seen a band to this day—majorettes or anyone—that marched with the rhythm that she had the majorettes—in the form that she had the majorettes doing. The certain bends in the body. They weren't stiff— they were just so—they would go down—I wish I could demonstrate [Laughter] but, uh it's just different —and I think if the majorettes today would do it, it would add so much to music. I don't see any marching bands doing it.
KELLY NAVIES:
Not even the black colleges?

Page 10
RICHARD BOWMAN:
In none of the black colleges. Nowhere. It was really different. Because they would limber at the waist and as they marched they'd put their heads down and lift their heads up—they had rhythm in the head and uh, the arms and everything. They just don't do that today. They're kind of stiff. They march and they move only their legs today.
KELLY NAVIES:
It would be great to have that on video.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
It would be. It was really something to see.
KELLY NAVIES:
Is Miss Chappell still living?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
No, no. I don't think so.
KELLY NAVIES:
Okay, so um the band sounds like it was a very significant experience for you.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
It was very, very, significant.
KELLY NAVIES:
What were some of your other favorite courses?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Well, of course French. I enjoyed French and uh, typing. That was another elective that we weren't required to take that I took.
KELLY NAVIES:
I know that came in handy.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
It did. It really did. And then of course, music appreciation from Mrs. Reynolds—where we learned to do all of the different types of dances—waltzes, square dances, and whatnot.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, you were really into music.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
I like all types of music. I appreciate all types of music.
KELLY NAVIES:
Who taught the French class?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Dusenberry. Mr. Dusenberry. Paul Dusenberry.
KELLY NAVIES:
Okay, I've actually heard of him.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
He was a very good French instructor.

Page 11
KELLY NAVIES:
How did you get to school? —Your mode of transportation.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Well, sometimes we'd catch a bus. For thirty—five cents you could get enough tickets to ride to school for a week. But, uh we didn't have that much money, so we figured out we could take that 35 cents and spend it—if we walked to school we could have 35 cents extra in our pockets. So, a lot of times we walked to school.
KELLY NAVIES:
How long did it take you, if you walked?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Oh, maybe about—maybe about thirty minutes. It didn't seem that long because you'd always meet people as you walked along the way—and you talked while you were walking and it really didn't seem that far. And what we would do—as I said before you'd get ten attached tickets for 35 cents. So, some days you'd ride the bus and some days you wouldn't. You could use the tickets any time you wanted. They never expired. So, the next week you might say, well you decide to walk home with friends one day and at the end of the week you may have four tickets left over. So, you save those and next week you'd have some left over. So, you save those tickets for the rain—if it's raining hard then you'd use your tickets. But, if it wasn't raining you'd just walk home.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, you enjoyed walking?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Right, you enjoyed walking—
KELLY NAVIES:
And um, what was your social group? Who did you hang out with when you were in high school? You can give me names and or whatever—
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Most of the people that, uh—See Reece [Bassey?] was one that I hung with for quite a while—you know quite a bit. I guess Reese and I hung out more than—Fred Funderberg and— —Of course, it would all depend upon what's going on. Whenever it was something musically related and a lot of the band—we would hang out with the band. Julianne Mays,

Page 12
she played clarinet—Birtha Brown, Charles Sullivan, William Bailey, Sam Robinson, Lawrence Ivey. See, the different phases in my life—for example, I had a dance band and Lawrence Ivey played in the dance band—he and Moses Singleton—
KELLY NAVIES:
You had a dance band—outside of the school band?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Right—outside of the school band.
KELLY NAVIES:
Where did you guys perform?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Anywhere they wanted us to. We uh, performed at nightclubs here in Asheville.
KELLY NAVIES:
Really?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Yes, and uh—
KELLY NAVIES:
What was the name of your band?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Uh, Downbeats.
KELLY NAVIES:
The Downbeats.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Right. We played dance music. In fact, one night we were having an event—I think it was Junior or Senior Prom— where I got a call from Hendersonville that their band didn't show up—and so we left our prom and went to Hendersonville to play for theirs.
KELLY NAVIES:
Were you playing at your prom? Or you were at—
RICHARD BOWMAN:
No, I was just at the prom. Right, at the prom.
KELLY NAVIES:
That's something else.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
When we got there—I can remember when we got there the students were all in a depressive state of mind because they didn't have a band and we went in there and struck up the music and everything livened up.
KELLY NAVIES:
Was this another black school?

Page 13
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Another black school, yeah. And we played at the Castle Loma restaurant downtown—on the square. We didn't make any money, but we had a lot of fun.
KELLY NAVIES:
No, you never got paid?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
They'd give us a little money, but not very much.
KELLY NAVIES:
How many people were in this band?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Let's see we had Emory Moorehead, Moses Singleton, Lawrence Ivey, Harold Woodard, myself—Richard Bowman—someone else, one other person from time to time—a drummer. We didn't have a regular drummer, cause Moses Singleton played drums sometimes and he played piano and Lawrence Ivey played piano most of the time.
KELLY NAVIES:
What were the names of some of the clubs you played at?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Well, I said—Castle Loma—that was over where Pack Place is now downtown Asheville and um it was a nightclub out in Black Mountain. I forget the name of it. But, it was—In fact, I tried to find it and I couldn't when I moved back to Asheville. I don't know if its still there.
KELLY NAVIES:
Were these black clubs?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Well, the one—Castle Loma was a white club. And the one in Black Mountain was a black club.
KELLY NAVIES:
Hmm. It seems like you did a lot in high school. You played in the band, you had school, you had your own band sometime—did you have to work, also?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Oh yes, I had to work—or else I never would have made it to college if I didn't.
KELLY NAVIES:
Where did you work?

Page 14
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Different yards in Kenilworth. I would—I'd do housework—wash woodwork, wax floors, rake leaves, and uh, work in the—do yard work—prune, weed the flower beds, and whatnot and wash windows.
KELLY NAVIES:
How much would you get paid to do that kind of work?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Usually 25 cents an hour, yeah. And then I finally got up to 35 cents and hour.
KELLY NAVIES:
And this was all throughout high school?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
It was all throughout high school. And then I helped my dad, too. I'd go around and help him on Saturday and Sunday. Fill up the stokers—that's the thing that you put coal in— and it would feed into the furnace and then take down the trash, cut grass, at the different places and hedges and whatnot.
KELLY NAVIES:
Did you get to save your money for yourself? Or was this for the family or—
RICHARD BOWMAN:
No, no this was—I got to save this. It was my money. So, I got a chance to save it. I fact, what I did sometimes I would stop on the way home downtown and spend about everything I made because I would be hungry out here—get doughnuts and whatnot and take em home for the rest of the family. But, mom and dad never asked me for money. No, anything [we?] made—I'd use it to buy clothes and whatnot and school supplies and save for college. In fact, had I not, I would never have been able to go to college, because when I finished high school and wanted to go to college my dad said no and told me I had to work a year. And I told him that uh, I didn't want to work a year—that uh, I had saved enough money to get there and I had already registered and that I was going and I was going to stay until my money ran out.
KELLY NAVIES:
And that's what you did?

Page 15
RICHARD BOWMAN:
And that's what I did. And I told my dean about it when I got there so he told me don't worry—no one has ever been put out of Tuskeegee because of lack of money.
KELLY NAVIES:
Hmmm . . .
RICHARD BOWMAN:
He helped me get a job on campus—to work in the evenings and whatnot and my dad— I don't know how he did it, but I had a sister at Xavier and then of course I was at Tuskeegee, but he found money somewhere and sent it to me.
KELLY NAVIES:
Hmmhmm. So he ended up supporting your decision—
RICHARD BOWMAN:
He supported it—right.
KELLY NAVIES:
That's good. So, tell me when did you know that you wanted to go to college?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Oh, when I was in high school. My brother—Nathaniel, that lives here—he wanted to go and uh my father couldn't afford to send him. He had sent for a book—a bulletin from Tuskeegee and had it on the dresser. And I used to read through it—the different courses and I'd ask the teachers about it. And that's what really got me interested. Had he not ordered the book I probably never would have even thought about college.
KELLY NAVIES:
Really? So, did your brother ever get to go?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Unh. Unh
KELLY NAVIES:
He never went?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
But, he did extremely well. He worked—went into the service got out worked at the VA Hospital until he retired.
KELLY NAVIES:
Was he also a Stephens—Lee graduate?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
He's a Stephens—Lee graduate? And he sent me money while I was in college. It almost brings tears to my eyes [his voice has become choked with emotion] I remember one letter he wrote me and he said uh— I won this money (Here, Mr. Bowman

Page 16
begins to cry)—bettin on the World Series—he said, it might help you with college. [brief pause]
KELLY NAVIES:
So where is your brother now?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
He's here.
KELLY NAVIES:
He's here in Asheville?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Yeah, Mmhmm.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, you were in the middle—and how many got to go to college ahead of you?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
My sister—went to Xavier and then me and my brother and my youngest sister [KN: They all went? RB: They all went] See my sister at Xavier got a scholarship through the Catholic Church and my younger sister got a scholarship through the priest.
KELLY NAVIES:
Hmm.. Which Catholic church did your sister get a scholarship from?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
St. Anthony's set it up and she went to Xavier in New Orleans.
KELLY NAVIES:
Was there a high school guidance counselor at Stephens—Lee—if you had aspirations to go to college?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
All of the teachers—they were all counselors.
KELLY NAVIES:
Do you remember one in particular that you talked with about going to Tuskeegee?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
I didn't talk to any about going to Tuskeegee—In fact, uh the principal, Mr. Tolliver, the principal and all they wanted me to go to a couple of other schools. In fact, I had a scholarship to Talladega and a couple of other schools. What they used to do—they used to send people around to test students for scholarships and they'd always call me—the principal and the teachers would always ask me to go in and take the test and I would take the test—eventhough—I knew I didn't want to go to that particular school—Talladega

Page 17
was a music scholarship and I didn't want to major in music, but I took the test and got a a scholarship just because the principal asked me to.
KELLY NAVIES:
But, you had other options, though.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Oh yeah, I had other options.
KELLY NAVIES:
That was actually—that was very good—
RICHARD BOWMAN:
But, all of the teachers—Miss Carolina was a English teacher—Mrs. Rumley(?) our math teacher—they would all answer any questions that we had and then Mrs. Michael my next door neighbor was a college graduate. She was a dietician at Stephens—Lee and she would answer questions too—so, we had plenty of guidance.
KELLY NAVIES:
You had support and guidance there—um, this was—so you were there between what 47 and 51 about and this was a little bit before the 1954 decision, but I'm wondering was this anything that was discussed at all in school?—that the end of segregation might be coming or anything like that?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
No
KELLY NAVIES:
It was never—
RICHARD BOWMAN:
We never even thought of it—I mean we'd see the students uh come in and not realize what they were going through the students from the outskirts of Asheville—Black Mountain, Weaverville, Mars Hill and these used school buses that had been given to them by the white schools—some of em had no windows or broken windows whatnot and the students had to ride those buses and that's why when people would start talkin about busin, I said, gee we've been doing it for years with us—they've been busin us all over the place.

Page 18
KELLY NAVIES:
Right, right. That's interesting. So, can you think of the names of any students that had to do that busing from out—
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Emory Moorehead the one that I told you played in my band. He was one.
KELLY NAVIES:
Is he still living?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
No, he's deceased now.
KELLY NAVIES:
Okay. I would like to interview one of those people that went through that experience.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
But, I don't know of anybody—don't know that many—
KELLY NAVIES:
Were there any type of politics that were discussed in class—having to do with race relations, either in school or out of school or anything like that?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
No. I can't remember any type. The only type of politics that we had. We had a mayor of Stephens—Lee and a couple of other positions. It was an elected position—the students voted for the mayor. In fact, I know that uh, I ran for mayor one year.
KELLY NAVIES:
What year was that?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
I don't remember what year it was—somewhere during the time that I was there. And I ran against Frances Jackson and I know my English teacher, Miss Harrison uh, told me that was—she said my campaign speech was the best campaign speech she had ever heard—because I remember, that's when students from uh Asheland Avenue had to come to Stephens—Lee to finish up their—they eliminated Asheland Avenue and the seventh grade from Asheland Avenue moved over to Stephens—Lee.
KELLY NAVIES:
Oh, there was an Asheland Avenue school?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Right. Oh, so we used to have just the ninth—we used to have the ninth, tenth, and eleventh grade, and twelfth grade at Stephens—Lee—but, the eighth grade moved over to

Page 19
Stephens—Lee—so we had eighth, ninth, tenth . . .And uh, one of the things that I (?) in my speech—I said uh—this is an important decision that we had to make and in the past it was made by the ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth grades—but that particular year we were fortunate in having not only these students, but the brains of students from the eighth grade and Miss Harrison thought that was so neat to put that in the campaign speech and a couple of other things, yeah.
KELLY NAVIES:
Well, what was the outcome of that election?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Well, I lost the election. [Laughter]
KELLY NAVIES:
You lost the election [Laughter]
RICHARD BOWMAN:
That was a very close election. I bet I didn't lose by twenty—five votes—
KELLY NAVIES:
Yeah, that's very close. What were some of the other things on your platform—do you remember?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
I really don't well, I was not in favor of—we have something called "core" at Stephens—Lee—and I was not in favor of core at all and you go to your home room and the teacher was supposed to teach you, supposed to consist of English, Math, Civics, and something else. What you would do, you cut out newspaper articles and bring em in and discuss em. And like I said it was boring to me I wanted some math, algebra, geometry—some real courses—some structure
KELLY NAVIES:
So, core was like a homeroom class?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
It was kind of a home room class. And each teacher taught it differently and it was really a waste of time.
KELLY NAVIES:
You said that in your speech?

Page 20
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Well, no, no [Laughter] I didn't say it in my speech, but I told the teachers that I felt that way many times. But, of course I'm sure they've done a way with now—I don't think the parents would let em get away.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, tell me um—I'm curious—were there any issues in terms of color, skin color at Stephens—Lee? And class, and that type of thing—did those things ever come up?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
I never recall any of those things coming up. We just didn't think of it. We accepted segregation and we just didn't think about it.
KELLY NAVIES:
I mean skin color between blacks—like light skin/dark skin.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
No, no
KELLY NAVIES:
None of that ever came up?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Never with me—you could see evidence of it in the neighborhood [unclear] —but, even the majorettes—If you look at pictures of our majorettes, we had some beautiful dark skin black girls and we had some light complexioned black girls. We just didn't think of it—
KELLY NAVIES:
So, you don't think it was an issue—that's good to know. Tell me a little bit about the graduation ceremony—how was that handled?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Well, bout the same as it is today. We'd march down the aisle. In fact, I still have my commencement —you know, the program from the commencement.
KELLY NAVIES:
Where was it held?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
In the gym—no, not the gym the auditorium. We had a beautiful auditorium at Stephens—Lee—and we'd march down the aisle[KN interjects to ask if it were separate from the gym and he replies that it was] on different sides to the front of the gym and they'd award the diplomas.
KELLY NAVIES:
Do you remember who the commencement speaker was at your graduation?

Page 21
RICHARD BOWMAN:
I sure don't.—I think it was J.W. Bowers [unclear] the superintendent, but I still have the program I can look it up.
KELLY NAVIES:
Okay, we'll have to look at that. So, you graduated in 1951 and then you went off to Tuskeegee—
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Went off to Tuskeegee for four years and then completing—getting my degree at Tuskeegee. I took ROTC and again—I took ROTC for three years, because the world situation wasn't that safe so I got out of it my junior year—got out of ROTC, cause I didn't want to go fight in Korea. So, when I went to Tuskeegee, I knew I had to get in and out of there in four years—so, I took all of my difficult courses in freshman and sophomore year—so if I flunked em I'd have time to take em over—so, luckily, I passed em all which meant my junior and senior year I didn't have that much to do—so, anyway the major, commandant called me in his office and said, I see you took ROTC for two years and you didn't take it your junior year—he said if you come back and take it—if you'll come back into ROTC, I'll let you take two years in your senior year and you can still get a commission. And so, I told him I'll think about it—and I thought about it and I didn't even go back, but he called me again and said, not only that— he said, but now when you get your commission you could get in any branch you want—the Airforce, the Marines, or the Ordinance Core or the infantry and the governments paying, they pay you so much a month. So, I said okay. So, I went ahead and took the two years. But, uh see you usually go to summer camp between your junior and senior year and I had missed summer camp—so, he said the only thing see you'll have to go to Fort Bening after you get your —you know for summer camp—which means you'll get your commission at Fort Bening. I said,

Page 22
okay. So, that's what I did'I took the two years of ROTC and went to Fort Bening and got my commission at the end of summer camp.
KELLY NAVIES:
[a little confused about the events just described—not familiar with process of commission] So, you took two more years of ROTC?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
I took my junior and senior year of ROTC in my senior year.
KELLY NAVIES:
Oh, I see. I see now I understand. So, you took your two years, but in your senior year—because you hadn't taken it the junior year and you got to choose which branch of the Armed Forces you would go to. And you chose?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
I chose the Ordinance Core. In fact, I was the first black officer from Tuskeegee to get a commission in the Ordinance Core. Before that, everyone had to get a commission in the Infantry—foot—
KELLY NAVIES:
And is that in the Army? I'm not that familiar with that. So, where did you serve? Well, majority of the time it was in Germany and France. Germany first, [Kaiserslauten?] and Ryan Ordinance Depot—the German name is difficult for KN to understand)
KELLY NAVIES:
At where now?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Ryan Ordinance Depot in Germany.
KELLY NAVIES:
What city was that in?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
It was right out of—it was in Kaiserslauten. Then of course in France, I was at Brickoln [unclear] Ordinance Depot that's not too far from Bordeaux. About forty miles from Bordeaux—close to a town called Anglenem.
KELLY NAVIES:
I have to get the spelling of those before I leave.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Okay.

Page 23
KELLY NAVIES:
What was that like? Going from Tuskeegee, coming from the South and going over to Europe?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Well, you know—let me backtrack a bit. You talk about integration and whatnot, segregation—that's when I first started feeling segregation. When I got my commission at Fort Bening. They—I didn't know it was a tradition—it's a tradition to invite your girlfriend/wife/or mother to come down and pin your bars on you. They didn't tell me anything about that. So, I didn't have anybody to pin my bars on me when I got my commission. So, my white captain, Captain Sutnick—I'll never forget him—had to pin my bars on me. And all of the white soldiers had invited their friends and family down, but I had noone there to pin mine on. Because again, I was the only uh—black in that group getting a commission and that's the way I feel [unclear] {the next few words are unintelligible] You go to Ordinance School when you leave there and I was the only black in the Ordinance School which almost created an incident upon graduation there. We went out celebrate and ended up going to a white nightclub and when I walked in somebody put their arm around my neck and said, "Nigger, you not comin in here." Of course, I was in civilian clothes and all of my classmates that had gotten there earlier saw what was happening and came up to my rescue and made the man let go of me. But, uh—
KELLY NAVIES:
So, were you allowed to stay?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
No. We had to leave. In fact, this was at the Picadilly Club in Baltimore, Maryland and uh, we left and I had a friend at a black nightclub that I had been to before the comedy club— so I called down at the comedy club and told them what happened and told them they wouldn't let me in there and told them I had some friends and they were white and that we were out celebrating the end of our class, graduation. And I asked them if I

Page 24
could bring the white friends out and he said "sure, bring em on down." So, we all went down to the comedy club—in Baltimore—that's where we had our party, yeah.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, Fort Bening is in Baltimore?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
No, Fort Bening is in Georgia. You get your commission in Fort Bening. Then after you get your commission, you go and sit until you get your orders to report for duty. When you get your orders to report for duty they tell you where to report. In my case, I got my commission at the end of the summer camp in June—I reported for duty the second of December that same year. But, during that time between I was working.
KELLY NAVIES:
In Baltimore?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
No, no. I stayed around Asheville, here. Cause, it was just a couple of months.
KELLY NAVIES:
And then they told you to report to Baltimore?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
They told me to report to Aberdeen Proving Ground, in Maryland—Ordinance School at Aberdeen Proving Ground. We used to leave—Baltimore was close to Aberdeen—so, that's where we would go for the weekend. That's one of the places we would go
KELLY NAVIES:
So, that experience at the Picadilly Club—was that the first time that something like that had happened to you?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Yeah, that was the first time. In Asheville, my brother—we were riding the bus—the bus ran from the black section of town to the white section of town and of course it would always fill up—and say for example—this night we were coming from the movie and when we got on the bus near the black section of town, all of the seats were filled up in the back so we just filled on up to the front and we got up at Pritchard Park—one of the white sections and also close to where we lived, the seats emptied and some whites came and sat behind my brother and the driver wanted my brother to get up and move back but

Page 25
there were no seats back there. And I told him no, not to get up—this was before they had all the things about integration. And uh, [KN: interjects to ask: This is your younger brother? RB: No, my younger brother.] So, the driver told him again—I said, "no, he's not getting up out of this seat." So anyway, when we got to the end of the route—they usually open the back door so we can get out, but the bus driver wouldn't open the back door he opened the front door—so, I had to go by him and when I went by him he told me—he said, uh he wasn't gon do anything this time, but if it ever happened again, it would be the last time I would do something like that.
KELLY NAVIES:
Really?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Yeah.
KELLY NAVIES:
Last time—period you would do something like that!
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Yeah, the last time.
KELLY NAVIES:
That's quite a threat.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
It is, and so I just got off the bus and that's it.
KELLY NAVIES:
That was pretty brave of you—how old were you then?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Oh, let's see—I couldn'ta—I had t have been probably about fifteen years old or something like that. I was young. I was in high school.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, you were challenging the system.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Yeah, there and like I said with the library. Cause, I just never had any fear, you know.
KELLY NAVIES:
Let me back up a little bit. I want to ask you about the transition from Stephens—Lee to Tuskeegee. Did you feel prepared at Tuskeegee?

Page 26
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Oh yes. Of course, Tuskeegee made sure you were prepared. They had study hall twice a week—supervised study hall—and you had to go there to do your studying—if you had any questions, someone was there to answer them for you—to answer your questions for your. But, Stephens—Lee—we had some of the best teachers—we had more teachers with Masters. Every summer the teachers at Stephens—Lee would go to the different colleges to work on their masters and what not in different fields. And we probably had a higher percentage of Masters at Stephens—Lee than we had at Lee Edwards High School—the white high school, here in Asheville. The teachers were very well qualified.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B] [It seems that about five or so minutes of the interview is missing]
KELLY NAVIES:
Compare the experience of going to a black high school to going to the black college of Tuskeegee.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Well, I found Tuskeegee to be a lot like Stephens—Lee. The teachers were caring. They were concerned about how you did and just real concerned about your welfare—it was more like a big family, you know. And that—I don't think you find that in a lot of your colleges— your predominantly white colleges today. That's why even today, I highly recommend students to consider—if they're considering college—to consider an historically black college over an historically white college. Because even after you graduate, you're still like family if you meet someone from that particular school—they still treat you like a brother or sister, they're brothers and sisters.
KELLY NAVIES:
Yeah, that's what I hear. So, did you know when you entered that you would major in business.

Page 27
RICHARD BOWMAN:
No, because your first year or two, you take your basic subjects, you take your English and Math, Biology, Chemistry, and whatnot, so you have a little while to decide what your gonna major in.
KELLY NAVIES:
How did you come to that decision?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Well, I had planned on going into business for myself—which I did do, by the way.
KELLY NAVIES:
What kind of business?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Automotive business. I had a one—stop service station in Norfolk, Virginia.
KELLY NAVIES:
Oh, really? Right out of college?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Right, right out of college. That's where I worked until I was called to active duty.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, how long did you have that?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Oh, let's see now—let me back track a little—uh, I worked as a salesperson before then, selling roofing—home construction, you know— for Allied Roofing and Construction Company, here in Asheville. And then I went to—there and worked—for about a couple of years.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, what did you do? Worked on cars?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
No, I had a one—stop service station. Phillips 66 service station.
KELLY NAVIES:
Oh, I see it was a gas station. Okay, great—and you did that for a couple of years. You were at Tuskeegee from 1951—1955? [RB: Correct.] And there was a lot going on in those years, politically—actually, well at least—it was just starting—
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Well, not—it was just starting because most of the things happened after I was in service—see, I was in the service—Eisenhower became president while I was in the service and that's when they integrated—well, Truman integrated the Armed Services before then—right before then. But, most of the civil rights movement started— I think after 1955.

Page 28
KELLY NAVIES:
But, what I'm thinking about particularly is the Brown vs. Board of Education ruling in 1954 and then the Montgomery Bus Boycott and surely you heard of what was going on?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Right, we heard what was going on and when they had Brown vs Board of Education, I wasn't aware about all of the court—the time it takes something to go through the courts. I thought once the Supreme Court ruled [in favor of] Brown of Education, the next September everything was going to be integrated. And I was saying, gee I can see it now, they're going to have whites going to the high school where I attended and blacks going to the other school and whatnot, but never dreamed it would take this many years as it did before it finally—they still have some schools under mandate for busing for integrating and whatnot.[the rest of this sentence is unclear]
KELLY NAVIES:
So, you thought that whites would come into Stephens—Lee and some blacks would go to the white high school?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Right, I never even thought of tearing down Stephens—Lee. Yeah, cause you have all of the black teachers and you have the same number of students you have to teach—I just didn't see them doing it any other way.
KELLY NAVIES:
How did if feel when you found out that they were going to close down Stephens—Lee in 1965?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
I was very concerned—very concerned. And of course, I wasn't here. I was in California when I found out they were gonna close it down. And I just wondered why? Because they had closed down the other schools. They had closed down Livingston Street, that's the elementary school, and Hill Street school, the other elementary school they had closed down. In fact, most of the schools that they closed were black schools.

Page 29
KELLY NAVIES:
Uh huh—throughout the state of North Carolina.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
More than likely, if you look into it the same will probably hold true in other states.
KELLY NAVIES:
How did you hear about it? Someone called you, or did you read about it in the paper?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Well, in conversation. My parents were still here and they would tell me what was going on in the city.
KELLY NAVIES:
Were you coming back to visit?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Oh yeah, I'd come back all the time. I'd come back probably—at least every other summer, I'd come back to visit my parents.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, similarly when they decided to knock down the school, that must have quite a surprise, also.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
I really wasn't surprised, because I've been living in the United States and I'm—you know, when you pick up a newspaper, you look at the T.V. you know how our society works. I mean—it hasn't changed and I don't know if it ever will change. You have—you see a lot of white faces and they do things for the benefit of other white faces. You have some whites that are in favor of a level playing field, but you have more that are not than you have, that are. I feel that way anyway. And so, that's why they said, Stephens—Lee goes. And if it wasn't for Everette Parrish, we wouldn't even have the gym that's being renovated now. He was a fighter and he stuck to his guns and was able to push it through.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, tell me a little bit about that—how did Everette Parrish—how was he instrumental in that?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Well, he made the people in the community think for one thing. And then he did a lot of research and history on it and uh, was able to get the City to thinking and the City

Page 30
Council to thinking and kept them from doing a lot of things that they did. He was able to get—well, the young lady from Parks and Recreation I think wrote the grant—I may be wrong—but, I think based on what I heard that she submitted the grant for some of the many, and then of course there's other Federal monies and the City Council set aside some money. But, even after the money was set aside, it was a long time before they finally, actually starting doing things. And some of the figures they quoted as new members got into the City Council and government, were not accurate figures. And the only reason we were able to prove that they were not accurate figures is because of records that Everette had kept.
KELLY NAVIES:
That was real important. So, tell me in your opinion, as you look back on your years at Stephens—Lee and what's happened since then—how would you compare what's gone on in the black community since Stephens—Lee was there and now in the contemporary time? In other words, what kind of changes have gone on and what did the closing of Stephens—Lee have to do with that?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Well, [pause]—Stepens—Lee. When Stephens—Lee was open it trained the students to be leaders and to be aggressive and go out and some of the students took advantage of that and left the city because they knew that there was no way they could be aggressive here, because there were not job openings for blacks. So, they left the city and went to different parts of the country. They were aggressive and they succeeded in reaching higher level than they ever would have reached in Asheville. They worked in these positions for years and learned a lot while working in these positions and then when they retired from these positions they came back to Asheville and used that knowledge to help push Asheville up. Whereas as some of the people who stayed here and were not exposed

Page 31
to those things, uh seemed to be just as content at the level that things were thirty years ago and most of your movement is caused by people who left and came back. A lot of your movement is caused by people who left and came back.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, you, yourself are a part of that movement—you have returned—and we're gonna talk a little bit about where you went—but, you have returned to Asheville as a retired man—was it your plan to come back and give back to your community?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
To be honest, no. My plan was to retire and come back to Asheville and relax and enjoy these beautiful mountains, but when I came back and found out what was going on in Asheville, I said I can't retire. Cause, it's too many things need to be done—
KELLY NAVIES:
What kind of things are you talking about?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Well, one is uh, the education system—the number of blacks finishing high school. They don't have black graduating classes the size of the classes we had finishing high school—just a few blacks. In certain positions, blacks appear to be being used. The black males are strong and are used as football players to win games for the school, but after football season is over they are forgotten about. There's no concern about their education. In fact, I volunteered to work on a committee here to monitor the black athletes and see to it that if they don't maintain their grades, they not play football.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, you volunteer at the high school?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Yeah. And I volunteer to work on the Ashville City Schools Foundation Board. And that's another board where we work with education. I work on this listing [unclear] project to find out exactly why the students are having such a rough time—we interviewed parents and teachers and students—the board of education is implementing things that we came up with on that program. But, and uh the gym is being renovated now—I don't know how

Page 32
many blacks we have here that know how—that have had the experience in reading blueprints that I've had so I volunteered to take the blueprints and kind of follow through with the construction.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, you're quite busy.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Yeah—when I came here those were not my plans—not by a longshot.
KELLY NAVIES:
It sounds like you were needed. Were you involved—or have you been involved with the Alumni Association since its inception in 1980?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
The Stephens—Lee Alumni?
KELLY NAVIES:
Oh, you weren't here in 1980—
RICHARD BOWMAN:
No, no—I came back—I haven't missed any reunions. I came back for the reunions since 1980. But, I wasn't involved in the planning. This is the first year I was involved in the planning.
KELLY NAVIES:
Describe that experience—being involved in the Alumni Association—what that means to you.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Well, again—It was an eyeopener. Again, it permitted me to see certain areas where I might be able to contribute something to the Alumni. I know there are other people who have contributed, but you see a lot of areas you think that maybe they need a little more help on.
KELLY NAVIES:
What areas would you like to see improved?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Well, to give an example—well, the leadership, basically the leadership. Our last reunion just ended July—just last week—July 7, 1998 and most of the participants in that reunion were from out of state or out of the city—very few people in the city participated and I'm determined to find out why and what can be done to change it, you know.

Page 33
Because, people coming in from out of state, stayed four or five days in a hotel, they payed all the hotel expenses, the expense of flying here and uh, the expense of clothing and other incidentals and the people who live here only had a registration fee to pay and so there must be a reason that they're not participating and so I'm going to find out.
KELLY NAVIES:
What vision do you have for the Alumni Association and the types of things you'd like to see?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Oh, I have a lot of visions. Last year, I started the first annual awards luncheon. It was held at Grove Park Inn, honoring former teachers. When I asked how many former teachers were around—I was told that they only had about four or five here. I searched and searched—only about four or five. So, that's from people asking people. So, when I got to searching, we were able to locate twenty—eight.
KELLY NAVIES:
Hmmm . . . twenty eight teachers, in this area?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
No, some were in Greensboro, most of em were in this area.
KELLY NAVIES:
Oh, I'll have to get a list from you!
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Some of them said, "I didn't know she teached here," "I didn't know he taught at Stephens—Lee." Some were in Philadelphia, some in Greensboro and different places. But anyway, we had the appreciation luncheon, and we—I gave the teachers certificates of appreciation. And, uh, we gave out the first uh, Distinguished Alumni Award and that went to Everette Parrish—for work in renovating the school gym. And I asked at that luncheon whether or not they wanted to make it an annual affair—which they did and so I have some plans for an even bigger one this year.
KELLY NAVIES:
At one time of the year?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
In the fall of the year.

Page 34
KELLY NAVIES:
I'd like to come to that.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
I'd love for you to come. Because this is going to be—I haven't told anyone my ideas, yet—but, if they approve it, this is going to spectacular.
KELLY NAVIES:
Oh, certainly—keep me informed. What about the renovation for the school—you're working on the blueprints—or you're looking over the blueprints—what are your visions for what should go on at the center?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Well, I think—several things. I think our main focus should be on our youth, childcare, and after school care and in addition, something for the kids to do during the summer months when school isn't going on. So, we will have a child care facility, I understand.
KELLY NAVIES:
That's wonderful. So, I want to back up. We still have some time left—I don't want to wear you out too much—
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Oh, no, no, you're not wearing me out.
KELLY NAVIES:
But, I know in 1959 you moved to California. Tell me about that decision, what made you decide to move to California.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Well, I planned on moving to Michigan, but I made the mistake of going to Michigan—oh, not Michigan—but, uh Long Island—Amityville, Long Island—but, I made the mistake of going to Amityville, Long Island in the winter time—snow was on the ground. And I said nooo, I don't want to live here and then I was watching the Rose Bowl game on T.V. and I saw people in shirt sleeves in January in sunshine and I said that's where I want to go. So, this friend of mine and I said that we were going to California. But, he ended up going to Philadelphia. He didn't go to California, but I went to California and decided to make it my home.

Page 35
KELLY NAVIES:
Did you go to Los Angeles?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Yeah, straight to L.A.
KELLY NAVIES:
What did you do when you first got there, between 59 and 65?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
I start—the only job I could find—and they were just as racist in Los Angeles as they were in the South. I checked in at the department of employment and they sent me for interviews and the counselor there tole me—said one man told him over the phone don't send blacks, said he tore up the man's application in front of me, cause the man told him he didn't want black applicants, all he wanted was white applicants. So, he told him I won't send you anyone else. You get your job applicants from some other place. This is what the man at the State Employment Office told him. Anyway, the first job I had was pumping gas at a gas station, because I had to have some income from somewhere and so I uh did that until I found a better paying job driving a truck delivering automobile glass and when I first starting doing that job the man asked me could I drive a truck and I said oh yes, I could drive a truck eventhough I knew I hadn't had any truck driving experience.
Plus, I was a little afraid of the freeways and I had this big truck with a load of glass going to Anaheim, California, which was quite a distance away from Los Angeles, and when I got on the freeway, I noticed that everyone was getting out of my way and I said, gee I've got it made this big freeway here, I have all these lanes and I says they giving it to me—so, by the time I got to Anaheim, I knew how to drive that truck. So anyway, after working there I took the civil service exam to work for the County of LA and also to work for the state of California and to work as a Highway Patrolman, but anyway I was—the state called me first for DMV (the Department of Motor Vehicles) and

Page 36
I accepted that position since it came first.
KELLY NAVIES:
And you worked there?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
I worked there from 1965 until I retired in 1992.
KELLY NAVIES:
And you rose up in the ranks of the DMV.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Right, I started off as drivers license examiner and uh rose from that position to office manager of largest office in the state of California—Los Angeles office. And that was a very interesting experience because during that time I was responsible for issuing drivers licenses and everyone had to come by me, so to speak. No one was exempt. And during that time, just to give you an idea of some of the people that I issued drivers licenses to—was, I don't know if you remember Curtis Lemay—he ran for Vice President with uh—in the sixties. And Charleton Heston, I'm sure you heard of him—I've issued him a drivers license and Richard Smothers—Dick Smothers, The Smothers Brothers and Cher—In fact, I [here he was talking really fast—something about an autograph, interview, and a photograph], and Ernie Banks—Ernie Banks, the baseball player, Chicago [he says this to correct KN's assertion that Banks is an actor], and Esther Williams she was swimming, I issued her a drivers license in Santa Barbara, and I was surprised when I looked at her application because of Esther Williams as I saw her in the movies in a swim suit and of course she was a little—she had added a few [Laughter], but uh and Michael Jackson—
KELLY NAVIES:
You issued him a license?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Yes
KELLY NAVIES:
Wow! He can drive? [Laughter]
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Yes, Michael Jackson, LaToya Jackson, his sister, they both came in at the same time.
KELLY NAVIES:
Really? They took the driving test?

Page 37
RICHARD BOWMAN:
No, no—this was the written—they both only had to take the written test. And uh, Ronald Reagan—he came in between the time he was Governor of California—
KELLY NAVIES:
And he physically came in to the office?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
He had to!
KELLY NAVIES:
Everyone has to come into the office?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Everyone has to come into the office and a state official has to recommend that they be issued a license and so I—I put Ronald Reagan in a little back room and he had his bodyguards and I told the bodyguards you can't be in there with him— I said now—you can check the room if you like and there's only one door leading into the room—I said, but you'll have to wait, you know, out here.
KELLY NAVIES:
And how was he? Was he nice?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
He did—he was cooperative, he waited outside and Ronald Reagan, you know he passed his test. He missed a few, but he passed his test okay and he did okay on his vision test—And of course, you issued em to people of all ages— the oldest person I issued a license to was a Postman that was a hundred and one years old.
KELLY NAVIES:
And he never had a license before?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
He had a license, but he was renewing his drivers license—but I was amazed when he read the vision chart without glasses and passed, 20/20 vision. And he was very alert, very alert and he passed his written test with flying colors, he went to his reception and they presented him with a citation from the Governor, because of his age and he danced the whole time there—hundred and one, retired postal employee—and come to find out—he stayed in a nursing—you know, high rise—senior citizen home and he used to drive other senior citizens to Las Vegas, from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, when he was a hundred and

Page 38
one years old. I don't know if he's living now, but he was the oldest person. But, it was very interesting, very interesting.
KELLY NAVIES:
Sounds like you enjoyed your job.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Oh, I did and I think everyone should enjoy their job. I think job satisfaction is more important than money. I think it will add years to your life.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, tell me um, you were there —we were talking a little bit about this earlier—during two very important incidents. You were there during the first Watts Riot—you were also there in 1992 for the other riot. So, tell me what that was like—being in Los Angeles and working at the DMV.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Well, the first riot—during the first riot, I was working at the Winetka DMV office and it was predominantly white section of Los Angeles—
KELLY NAVIES:
I'm not familiar with Winetka—where is it?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
It's out at Northridge, it's close to—out that way, in the valley.
KELLY NAVIES:
Near Cal State Northridge.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Right, real close to Cal State Northridge. But, in the time of the riots, the office manager, Richard Phillips asked me if I wanted to work inside because of the watts riots—he was concerned and of course I told him no, I'd rather—since I was an examiner I rather work as an examiner. And then I'll never forget one supervisor I had when I was an examiner—I gave a young white girl a driving test and she failed the driving test and this is shortly after I started working as an examiner and she and her mother complained—went in and complained and the supervisor erased the score that I gave her and gave her a passing score—[KN asks if this was during the riot]—no this is right before the riot and uh, the young lady that scanned the applications and all told me about it and of course I went into

Page 39
the files and I checked the records and I saw it and of course I immediately confronted the supervisor. I told him I'd like to see him and he asked what I wanted to see him about, I said —well I had the application in my hand and I had my badge in my hand and I gave him the badge and the application and I told him I said she was not qualified to drive and I said if this is the way you do business you can have my badge, I don't want the job. And he apologized, he really apologized and said he was never going to nothing like that again, and he didn't— to my knowledge.
KELLY NAVIES:
Once again, there you are challenging—
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Yeah, you have to. When you're right, I think you should challenge.
But, to answer you question about the riots—that was um— we had no problems. You know, you see the things that were happening and I'd see the uh—I saw the white policemen pull people that were drunk—prop em up to the curb—people who'd broken in liquor stores and whatnot during the riots—prop em up on the thing and let em sober up. But, during the second riot—uh, my home in Los Angeles, is in the Baldwin Hills section it overlooks the city of Los Angeles. I could see the whole city and uh, I know when the Rodney King verdict came out, I got a call from Sacramento askin how I thought things were in the LA area and I told em and of course I immediately put my white staff—my janitorial staff—the white members of my janitorial staff—I had the supervisor to let them go home. I said, listen get em out—let em go because things may get a little rough later on and sure enough things did get rough. In fact, uh I had an appointment—an eye appointment that day and I was going out and I saw the other [unclear] — I saw the other people just leaving LA like the world was coming to an end. It was the streets and everything was jam packed. Like I said I turned back and had them to let the janitorial staff leave—but then, as I got home I could

Page 40
see fires breaking out all over the city. It looked like it was timed and was supposed to happen at a certain time. You see a fire here—a fire there—all over and—
KELLY NAVIES:
It was not too far from your house where a lot of this was going on
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Oh no, the bank right down the street from me—on La Brea—in fact, I had planned on going there that next day and uh to go to [unclear] to get a check cashed and that clock—you talk about the grandfather clock—I had seen the clock in the store and I was hesitating on getting it because of the cost— I said I wanted it, but maybe I'll wait and get it later. The riots broke out—I went back out after the riots and the clock was gone, of course.
KELLY NAVIES:
Really?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
That's right and that's a limited edition, so I had to trace it down and I found out where they made it—which was up in Polosky in North Carolina and I called them and they said they had three—they checked and they were able to locate three—so I had em to send me one from there—
KELLY NAVIES:
From North Carolina—wasn't that something. So, someone ran off with this clock? I can't—I almost can't imagine that—this beautiful grandfather clock. How did they run off with that without damaging it—I wonder?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
I don't know but someone has one—not that one.
KELLY NAVIES:
Are you sure? [Laughter] just kidding. Isn't that something? My goodness.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
But, of course seeing the people looting and walking in—I drove up to the service station to get gasoline and when I drove up somebody had a crowbar breaking in to the kiosk—and of course, I didn't stop—I just turned around and did without gas and came on home. It was really something to see.

Page 41
KELLY NAVIES:
Did the experience of being there in the second riot, did that affect your decision to move away from California?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
No, because the second riot happened quite a while before I moved out, moved away from California.
KELLY NAVIES:
No, I mean the one in 1992—
RICHARD BOWMAN:
See, I didn't move here until—I bought the house in 90 before the riots—I had already decided to move here—
KELLY NAVIES:
Oh, you had already decided—
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Right, but I didn't—the house stayed empty for years.
KELLY NAVIES:
Oh, when did you actually move back?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Well, we coming back and forth, but I didn't retire until 92 and we—I think about 95 when I finally decided to come back here and live.
KELLY NAVIES:
Oh, okay
RICHARD BOWMAN:
But, speaking of the first riot—we lived in an integrated neighborhood and my son that's the Deputy Sheriff now he was just a toddler and this is the first time that he realized—I mean I realized that he didn't know what color he was, because we had the military trucks and army trucks patrolling the city and everything—I know one lady didn't stop for a barricade not too far from where I live and they had machine guns at that intersection of Slauson and Crenshaw [KN: this is 1992?] No, this is the first riot—Yeah, they had machine guns there—and this lady didn't stop for some reason or another and the National Guard just sprayed to car with machine guns and cut her legs off up to her knees —because she was sitting in the car and they just went right through.
KELLY NAVIES:
Oh, you're kidding.

Page 42
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Anyway, the trucks patrolled the neighborhood daily and my son was about four years old came up to me and said uh, Dad they should kill all the Negroes—that's what my son said and I asked him why and he said because they burning the city and that's when I asked him I said do you realize what you're—that's the first time I realized that I needed to talk to him and let him know that he was a Negro, that he was black—becuase he didn't realize at that time that he was black.—but, he had heard it on the radio and heard the neighbors talking because we lived in a mixed neighborhood and he had probably heard those comments coming from someone in the neighborhood.
KELLY NAVIES:
Isn't that something? So, um what made you decide to come back to Asheville?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
The climate and the uh the slow pace, the quietness, and the neighbors. It's a growing city, it has a lot to offer—you have more doctors than you have regular citizen and good hospital facilities, good entertainment, very good entertainment. And of course, after I got here I found out that the need to have people giving back to the community—a combination of things.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, you've had a wide range of experiences—race relations living in the South, been to Europe, you lived in California—how would you compare the situation here, in Asheville to the situation in California?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Well, uh I think race relations are probably better here than they are in California.
KELLY NAVIES:
Really?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
I think so. I have some real concerns about some of the things that I see going on here—the Afrocentric schools, I'm sure you've heard of those. I have some real concerns about that.
KELLY NAVIES:
The ones in North Carolina?

Page 43
RICHARD BOWMAN:
The ones that they want to open up in North Carolina—right—I think it's a step back—it's taking a step backwards—because, we want to have schools for blacks only and I don't see how you can train students that will have to live in a mixed world, train em in all black society then expect them to go out and compete in a mixed world. If they're gonna compete in a mixed world, they should learn in a mixed world and I firmly believe that. And if they're not learning, then find out the reason why and correct it instead of going backwards the way we were.
KELLY NAVIES:
I'm glad you said that because I wanted to ask you what you thought about the Charter schools—so are you against Charter schools in general or do you think they should try to make the Charter schools more racially mixed?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Well, I have against a Charter school persay—because I look at Charter schools as being a little like St. Anthony's where I got my primary education. If they're teaching, fine—I'm just not in favor of black schools.
KELLY NAVIES:
Now, that's interesting, because you went to black schools and they seem to have prepared you very well.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Yeah, but see you're forgetting—I couldn't get the books out of the library that I wanted. Who knows what might have happened if I could have gotten everything that I wanted. I feel I was hampered to a certain extent.
KELLY NAVIES:
Okay, you do? Okay
RICHARD BOWMAN:
I feel like I wasted a whole year of my life the first year at Stephens—Lee—nothing against Stephens—Lee, but the people that fed into the system at Stephens—Lee didn't have that problem because they hadn't been taught as much as we had coming from a Catholic school. So, that's my reason for making that statement.

Page 44
KELLY NAVIES:
So, let me phrase this—this way—So, eventhough you had a positive experience going to a segregated school you still found that there were negatives to that situation and you are in support of integration?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Oh, I'm definitely in support of integration, because you got to compete. You have all of your exams—when you go to Law School you've got to pass the Law exam, written by people who attended—more than likely a white school—your civil service exams are written by people who most likely attended a white school and your nurses exams, your real estate exam, your whole—all of your—the things you have to prove yourself in in real life—are not designed for people who attended an all black school.
KELLY NAVIES:
So, why do you think so many people are criticizing what's gone on with integration—nowadays, and why there seems to be a return to afrocentric schools?
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Well, you know Governor Brown put it best—I think—you know, Governor Jerry Brown, Jr. put it best when he made a statement—he said, for every problem there's a simple and wrong solution—and I think that's the case here—It's simple and it's wrong—but, I just can't see why they want to—some of the people who are pushing it just haven't been exposed to as many things as other people have—so, I can see they might want to try it, but I just can't see it.
KELLY NAVIES:
Well, that covers about everything I want to talk about today—before I end this interview I want to ask you if theres anything you'd like to say that I didn't cover that relates to any of the topics that we've talked about or a closing statement.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Yes, I have one thing that I'd like to say—my only regret is that we do not have more Martin Luther Kings. I think one of the most influential people in not only this city, but every city, but especially this city and the ones that are doing the least in my opinion—I

Page 45
might be wrong—but the ones that are doing the least to improve things—are our black ministers and I think if they were involved more as a whole in the whole process I think it would be to the benefit of black students and to black adults. I think they're too involved in maintenance of what happens on Sunday morning and their personal agenda and the collection. Now, that's a strong statement, but I want to stress that that's my opinion—I'm not saying that that's a fact—I want to stress that that's my opinion.
KELLY NAVIES:
Well, it's been a pleasure interviewing you. I've learned a lot. Thank you very much.
RICHARD BOWMAN:
Oh, thank you. It's my pleasure.
END OF INTERVIEW