The Civil Rights Act of 1964: A Long Struggle for Freedom
Walter White's Personal Tragic Story of the Segregated South
NAACP leader Walter White (1893—1955), interviewed by NBC radio host Mary Margaret McBride, tells of the death of his father in an Atlanta Jim Crow hospital and his inspiring last words. The program was broadcast live on December 26, 1947.
Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division. Courtesy of NBC News and the Estates of Mary Margaret McBride and Cynthia Lowry
Mary Margaret McBride (Radio Host): Do you know what I was thinking as you were saying that about hate? I was thinking of what your father said to you in the hospital. Could you tell that? It's right here anyhow.
Walter White: Well, it was the time when my father was lying in a rather filthy, dingy, cockroach-ridden Jim Crow ward of a hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. He had been struck by an automobile. And first they took him to the white ward because they thought he was white. And they were particularly solicitous because he had been struck by a doctor in the hospital who naturally wanted to save my father's life and thus escape whatever punishment or damages that he might have to pay. And then my brother-in-law, who is brown-skinned, came in and asked for my father.
And they asked him, said “Do you know this man?”
And he said, “Yes, he's my father-in-law.” And they said, “What? Have we got a n----- here in the white ward of a hospital?”
And they picked up my father's broken body and took it across the street in the driving rainstorm to the Jim Crow ward, and there 7 days later he died.
And just before he died, he called my brother and me in and he said to us that hate is a dynamic thing. In the opinion of most people love is considered to be a passive thing. He said, “But that is not true. You've got to use your ability and whatever training whatever advantages your mother and I have been able to give you two boys and you've got to make love dynamic to use it as a positive force against bigotry and hatred and meanness and cruelty in the world.”
And with that he died.