Interviewer: Nathan Coulter
Interviewee: Don Coulter
Q. How old were you and where were you living when the changes in Civil Rights started happening? Were you in school, working, or doing something else?
A. I guess I was about 24 or so…mid 20′s. But during the actual events going on at Central High I was in the Navy and we were at sea in the pacific ocean. I was stationed on an aircraft carrier and we really had no means on communication with the country. Technology wasn’t what it is today so we couldn’t even get a radio signal out on the water. We had no idea what was going on. It wasn’t until I got back to land that I would find out about any kind of news that had gone on while we were at Sea.
Q. What kinds of changes did you see happening where you lived? Were they happening to you or to someone in your family or to someone else you knew?
A. Like I said, I really wasn’t able to see any of these changes until I got back from the carrier. None of the guys on the carrier with me knew what was going on so it didn’t really affect us at all.
Q. Do you remember particular events or experiences that have stayed with you? When and where did this happen? Who all was involved? Do you remember particular things that people said or wrote? What happened? How did it start and how did it end?
A. I remember when I first heard of what was going on. It was when I first got back to land and I cant remember if it was on the radio or on the paper, but I was just shocked that the whole country was talking about the state where I was from and where I live.
Q. How did you feel at the time when it was happening? What did you do? How did you feel about it later? have you thought about it much since you’ve grown older?
A. When I didn’t find out about it, I really felt bad for these nine young men and women. I respected what they were doing and I really had never, you know, had any problem with African Americans. They are just trying to get an education like anyone else. My main thing that I really thought about though, and have thought about whenI was older, was how embarrassing this was for the state, as far as the things that the governor was doing and the mobs of white protesters were doing. It was just not a positive thing for the whole country to be hearing about us and what was going on in Little Rock. I have thought though, more recently, that though it seemed like a bad things at the time, it’s not a bad thing now, it was obviously a good thing and the right thing happened in the end as far as letting those nine African -Americans into the school.
Q. How did this experience change people you knew? How did it change you? Did it affect you in any choices or situations that you were in later in your life?
A. I think that, obviously, the main thing the event that happened in Little Rock changed was the public schools in Nashville and across the state. When I was done in the Navy I went back to live in Nashville and eventually they integrated the schools there too. It didn’t really affect any decisions hat I made, it just increased the amount of respect I had for the nine young men and women as my life has gone on.