Thomas Walter Gaither oral history interview conducted by Joseph Mosnier in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 2011-09-12.
TG: Well, I would consider Jim McCain to have been my mentor, uh, in the, uh, Civil Rights Movement. Uh, he was, uh, interested in me as a person and also as one who would be a participant in the, uh, movement and in fact, he was the person who, uh, persuaded me to attend a, uh, session held by CORE. This would have been in the, uh, summer, I believe, of 1960. CORE held at, um, Miami what was called an Action Institute, and at this Action Institute, uh, all of the, uh, upper echelon of CORE and a large number of, uh, students, uh, from the New Orleans, uh, area especially, uh, we were there to learn about how to stage, uh, sit-ins and so forth. In fact, that was the second time I was arrested because, uh, I was sitting at a table in a little community that is called Hollywood, California -
TG: Hollywood, yeah.
JM: Excuse me.
JM: Hollywood, Florida. Yes, you’re, you’re exactly correct, Hollywood, Florida, with a girl from New York, uh, named Dottie Miller. Dottie later was, was for a short time married to Bob Zellner. Bob Zellner may be the, the person who’s, who’s better known in terms of, uh, uh, participation in the civil rights. But we’re playing this game, uh, where you’d say, “I’m thinking of somebody,” and you have a whole bunch of clues and you finally say who the person is. And, uh, the management of this restaurant decided that they, uh, didn’t want us in their restaurant. So we were arrested, Dottie Miller and this whole, uh, group and, uh, we spent ten or twelve days in the Dade County jail. Bernard Lafayette was, uh, among the other persons that, uh, one would identify with who were parts of this group. And we had the most interesting charge I’ve ever heard. The charge was ejection of undesirable guests, ejection of undesirable guests. When it came before the judge, the judge said, “No adjudication, but if you guys stay down here, and if you are involved in similar activities, I reserve the right, uh, I’ll put you on probation and if you’re on probation, then, uh, you could wind up back in, in jail again.”
JM: I’m not even sure I understand what that charge means.
TG: [laughs] I don’t understand either.
TG: That was the charge, ejection of undesirable guests. It wasn’t trespassing. It wasn’t breaching the peace. That was the charge.
JM: Let me, you, you mentioned, this is in Miami and, and I think that Miami meeting, if my dates are right, was August 1960.