Thomas Walter Gaither oral history interview conducted by Joseph Mosnier in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 2011-09-12.
JM: Curious about having you talk about that a little bit, if that did or did not in important ways connect to your personal faith through the church. I’m interested in those things and then I’ll -
TG: It ultimately did, but it did not initially. Uh, the first time I heard someone talk about nonviolence was a man by the name of Glenn Smiley, who worked for the Fellowship of Reconciliation. He gave a lecture at, uh, Claflin talking about nonviolence and I remember standing up and saying, “That is what is wrong with black people. We have been, uh, we have not, we’ve been too, we’ve been nonviolent too long.” But that was my naiveté. Uh, sitting and accepting something, [45:00] uh, that is demeaning or demoralizing is not nonviolence, but that shows you where I was [laughs] in terms of my comprehension of nonviolence. So I actually started to embrace the philosophy when I started to learn something about its tactics and techniques from this man, uh, Jim McCain.
JM: Yeah, tell, and I wanted, that was my next question. I want to ask, I want to have you describe James McCain.
TG: Uh, one of the, uh, most important people in the civil rights struggle, um, for South Carolina especially because that was his home, his home state, uh, a very low-key man, uh, a person whose primary commitment was to the cause, not to any kind of personal advancement that it, uh, would bring him. Uh, he was tactically a nonviolent person. If you wanted to go into the real substance and philosophy of nonviolence, uh, you’d have to, uh, read, uh, Homer Jack’s autobiography or, or Gandhi by Louis Fischer or something of that sort, which I, which I later read and, uh, which I found to be remarkably instructive about, uh, how Gandhi connected his, um, uh, how, how Gandhi, uh, staged his, uh, battle against, uh, the British for Indian independence using nonviolence.
JM: Um, tell me more about McCain.
TG: About what?
JM: Tell me a little bit more about, about Mr. McCain. Are there -
JM: And, and maybe your, the nature of your evolving relationship with him.