Why did you decide to work at CRS?


Angel Alderete


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

What drew you to CRS?

Answer:
One thing, and I'll be honest with you, was boredom with my job, the one that I had. At the same time, I was put in a position where I had nothing else to do but to resign, because I was demoted for becoming involved in some civil rights activity within the agency. For example, at one point we took over the Youth Authority offices in Sacramento. We felt there were two problems with the system. One, the lack of minorities in the system itself, and two, we felt there was prejudicial mistreatment of inmates because of who they were. So we protested those things and wrote articles, and then used the offices of the State Department of Rehabilitation and Unemployment to do our work. The person there who was the manager allowed us to do this as long as we did it at night, and we didn't go through the main door....so we went through windows to be able to do that. I was also involved with a prisoners' group; I acted as their advisor. I was used, I know that, but as long as it wasn't illegal, it was fine with me. But, I was suspected of not being loyal to the agency and that also angered other law enforcement agencies, so they had their eye on me. We also held conferences inviting correctional people as well as other inmates -- ex-inmates, rather -- to talk about mutual concerns. The conferences were okay, but they never really turned out the way we envisioned them. Somehow, the inmates thought that once we started advising them, that gave them power. There's no one who thinks he's God more than an ex-inmate who thinks he's "seen the light". You have to sort of reign them in, but not to the point where they just said, "To hell with it." Anyway, that's one of the things we were doing. The other one was that we used to have demonstrations, and on one, I went with the people who were demonstrating. Some of those marching were members of the correctional group that was trying to bring about reform. We never were given the opportunity to be heard; all we got was criticism. We said, "To hell with it. Let's demonstrate." So we demonstrated in front of one of their newer parole offices. Here I was, the highest-ranking guy involved in this thing and boy, the LAPD went wild taking pictures. Prior to that, I had made certain that my position was covered by my subordinate. I also made certain that whatever hours I took off to go to the demonstration, I put in that evening. Since I was the boss of that particular area, I didn't have to ask anybody's permission, so long as I made up the time. And that's what I did. But of course, once people are angry at you, none of that really matters. The issue went up to the director, and he understood. He, more than likely, wanted me to do some penance somewhere, but Reagan is the one that wanted me fired. So he finally reached an agreement with that group that I ought to have a demotion. They demoted me down from that position to Parole Agent 1, and it certainly hurt. Prior to that, I'd say about seven or eight months prior, I had been talking with one of the people from CRS, a tremendous worker in the L.A. office. He was asking me, "Why don't you come over here?" after I'd been demoted. I said, "Heck with it, I'll just consider going with you." So I submitted all my paperwork to come to CRS.




Edward Howden


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
What was it that attracted you to CRS?

Answer:
It seemed to me there was a real need for it and I liked the idea of working on community problem situations. In fact, a year or two before, while I was still at the State Fair Employment Agency, one of the original staff members of CRS came to see me to ask what kind of role I thought there was for CRS. I encouraged him strongly, as it seemed to me there was a real need for a trouble-shooting agency over and above the handful of city human relations commissions that existed here and there in the West. And I thought there was a real role for an outside intervening agency when problems got rough.




Bob Hughes


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

What was it that attracted you to CRS?

Answer:
When I came back from overseas, the New Society had developed a whole range of civil rights agencies that I had never heard of. For me this was a matter of becoming acquainted with as many of these as possible in a short period of time. Ultimately, pursuing and focusing on HEW, office of civil rights for one. The Community Relations Service with the Justice Department attracted my attention, because I felt like there was a need to go beyond the legal measure that had evolved under law of civil rights legislation. To get implementation, it ultimately comes down to working issues out at the local, community level. That's a position that I held for many years. Regardless of what state and federal government did.




Ernest Jones


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
What attracted you CRS?

Answer:
The way that I came to know about CRS, was the University of Maryland where I did my Undergraduate program. They were having trouble figuring out where they were going to place students. One of the places that I ran across was CRS and when they had talked to me about trying to work, I was originally going to become an Administration of Justice Specialist which sounded very interesting and so that was it.




Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Then what was it that attracted you?

Answer:
It was six months later that I finally said, "Okay." Once I got to know the agency, I felt that I could still do the same things and I could fulfill the same goals, but from a different perspective. And I would probably have more impact. As an example right after I had signed up, we had a community organization that had been trying to get more employment for Hispanics in the post office. It was very difficult. My old friends called me because they were going to picket the post office downtown because they couldn't get a meeting with the postmaster. I said "Okay, I'll see what I can do." I went to the post office, called the post master, and I was going to set up a meeting. Then I went to the picket line and some of my old colleagues were there. One of them said, "Hey Martinez, pick up a sign and get on the right side. You're kind of a traitor now." Or something like that. I said, "Look, I could join you, but all I would be is one more sign carrier, whereas now I can set up a meeting with the postmaster. You've been trying to get a meeting for months, I'll be able to get you that meeting." So I did. I got a meeting, they talked and things worked out. So I was doing the same thing but now from a different perspective.




Werner Petterson


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
When did you begin working as a mediator at CRS?

Answer:
In October of 1969. I was a Methodist minister in Alexandria, Virginia and left that position. CRS interviewed me in Washington and I took it. It's home for me so I was happy to go back. I had been a minister for about six years and I had been wanting to go in a new direction. I had been active locally in civil rights issues at the time and we had an incident in Alexander, Virginia. It's kind of apropos today because the person who was at the center of the controversy was Mr. H. Rat Brown. He had been arrested at a national airport. He was accused of inciting difficulties in Maryland and Alexandria and was in the jail or holding area for the Federal court. He was brought to Alexander, Virginia and held there in the jail which was right across the street from the Alexander, Virginia Housing Project. That became a rather heated environment for a while because the black residents of the housing project started demonstrating in front of the jail. I went down there to see what was going on and met some people from CRS who were there. In fact, one of the persons was a member of my church and after watching what they did I became interested. I spoke with this fellow member of my church and ended up getting some interviews at CRS and was offered the job in Chicago.




Werner Petterson


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Is there anything else that you want to say about what attracted you to CRS? What invited you to work there?

Answer:
Well, I guess it was the times. It was kind of the hype of the Civil Rights Issues and that was what I was interested in. The particular church that I was in was very conservative. I decided it was time for me to be in another environment and CRS looked like the place to be. Within the Methodist Church, we had a thing that's called a reconciliation, and there was some of that going on in the church, but I felt that work with CRS was much more concentrated and focused.




Manuel Salinas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Ironically, the director of CRS for the Denver region came into the office one day, saying that his secretary was ill for a couple days, and that he needed something typed. So I said "sure, my secretary can do it." So she did the work and I started talking to him because we were long time friends and I asked him, "What's going on?" He said, "well I'm getting ready to open up an office in Dallas. And we're going to have Denver as a field office. And Dallas is going to be the regional office, so that's great. "So are you recruiting here," I asked? I just happened to mention it and he said "yes." I saw an opening, because I'd already been in civil service before, so I thought "well from here I can go back in and then build my civil service retirement on that." Not thinking of retirement really, I was too young then, but just building. Sure enough, I was selected out of a group of five people. So that's how I got into CRS.

Question:
When you were at SER did you do any kind of conflict work, conflict management, or conflict resolution?

Answer:
No, not really, it was more just management and budgeting, time keeping, working with private industry for employment opportunities for the people that we were preparing, and working with the community groups in and around Denver in the area of employment. So you had to keep in touch with the community groups pretty much.

Question:
So you had a feel for community organizing and working with people?

Answer:
Well, I had been with the GI Forum for a long time and we always got into a lot of things, employment, housing, and education issues. A lot of them were police issues, so I had a kind of a feel for that sort of thing. So what I did in CRS was what I was doing for the GI Forum, only with CRS, I was getting paid We basically had the same issues coming up in the organization.




Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
So what was it that attracted you to CRS?

Answer:
That's a good one. I wanted to get out of just criminal justice per se, because I felt stuck in criminal justice. I was here in Denver at the Denver Juvenile Court, and I went over to the post office to get some applications for federal employment. I just wanted to know what they had; I had no idea what was there. As I walked toward the civil service office, I passed by this office that was labeled, "Department of Justice". I said, "Well, I'm interested in something like that." I just went in, to ask somebody what was going on. There was only one person there, just a little man sitting behind a desk, and I said, "Pardon me, Sir, community relations, what is the Justice Department doing in community relations, can you tell me that?" He didn't share too much information with me, but he did give me a big stack of papers and told me to basically just read them. I said, "Ok, I will," and as I headed out the door, he said, "Oh, by the way, we have a position that's open here." I said, "Oh, thank you, can you tell me more about it?" He said, "Well, the big bosses are going to be in town, and they're going to interview people. But, the first thing you have to do is submit an application." So I went back down to the civil service office and got my application; that's where I had been headed to in the first place. I got an application and filled it out.




Wallace Warfield


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Good. So then what got you to CRS?

Answer:
Thereís actually a story about that that Iíve told many times. An old friend of mine by the name of Jim Norton, used to work for the Community Relations Service. Jim was a New Yorker and a friend. In fact, Jim used to work for the New York City Youth Board, so we knew each other in those days. Jim was always traveling someplace, and he would come home from time to time. In those days, CRS did not have regional field offices; everyone worked out of Washington. Some people were able to get back to their original homes periodically, so Jim would come home and he would tell these incredible stories, stories that we always thought were apocryphal. He would tell stories about being one step ahead of the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama, and about the nationís civil rights movement... incredibly exciting work. I said, "God, that sounds really exciting!Ē and he said, "You know, you ought to come work for us." I said, "Well, Iíve got a good job, and I enjoy what Iím doing, working here in this community." Iíll never forget this -- it was April of 1968, and I was running a meeting of parents in the community, strategizing about how to get them into the policy-making arena of the local school district.

Question:
This was in New York?

Answer:
This was in New York. This young black kid burst into the meeting breathlessly, to say that Dr. Martin Luther King had just been shot and killed. Two months later I was working for the Community Relations Service. It had just changed my life. Thatís how I got started.




Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

I was recommended to CRS because they were looking for someone, but I wasn't intially interested. Then, out of respect for the person who recommended me, I talked to them and was very impressed. From the very beginning, it was the CRS mandate in the Civil Rights Act. When I read that, my feeling was if this agency really is doing that, then it would be an exciting thing to be a part of. My skepticism was, are they really doing that? I didn't have time or interest in just being somewhere where that wasn't happening, so the mandate itself is what attracted me to it. Because I was working on a PhD and doing private work, I had the freedom to try it; I pretty well figured on spending 6 months checking it out. Once I got into it, though.... I doubt that I've ever done anything that I've felt more matched for skill and interest wise, and I never felt more privileged to be able to do anything than what I did with CRS.



Martin Walsh


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

What was it about CRS that attracted you?

Answer:
CRS's work with race relations was especially appealing to me. I saw some of it when I was down in Miami. We had problems there. I remember two members of CRS' national staff came down. I worked with them because I was working on community issues with the bishop. One of them (Seymour Samet) recruited me later on while I was working for the Office of Economic Opportunity. It sounded interesting, so I came.






Leo Cardenas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

So what is it that attracted you to CRS?

Answer:
I think it was that CRS was attracted to me. At the time, CRS was concentrating a lot of efforts on preventive programs. One was in the area of media. CRS was concerned that there were very few minorities in the media, particularly in the electronic media -- radio and TV. As far as I could tell, I was the only Hispanic in a management position with print media, with the San Antonio Express, a newspaper. And so CRS recruited me. At the time Gil Pompa was a CRS assistant director. I had worked as a police reporter at the police station in San Antonio for several years, at the same time Gil Pompa was a prosecutor for the city. That's how we met.

Question:
So why did you decide that you wanted to work there?

Answer:
They recruited me -- they made me an offer I couldn't refuse. First of all the money was very good, and second it offered an opportunity that I didn't even know existed. The idea that I could help more minorities work with the media was very attractive to me.




Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

I went over to the post office to get some applications for federal employment. I just wanted to know what they had; I had no idea what was there. As I walked toward the civil service office, I passed by this office that was labeled, "Department of Justice". I said, "Well, I'm interested in something like that." I just went in, to ask somebody what was going on. There was only one person there, just a little man sitting behind a desk, and I said, "Pardon me, Sir, community relations, what is the Justice Department doing in community relations, can you tell me that?" He didn't share too much information with me, but he did give me a big stack of papers and told me to basically just read them. I said, "Ok, I will," and as I headed out the door, he said, "Oh, by the way, we have a position that's open here." I said, "Oh, thank you, can you tell me more about it?" He said, "Well, the big bosses are going to be in town, and they're going to interview people. But, the first thing you have to do is submit an application." So I went back down to the civil service office and got my application; that's where I had been headed to in the first place. I got an application and filled it out. I gave it to the man in the DoJ office, and he said, "Well look, we'll call you." I said to myself, "Sure." Anyway, I went about my business and went back to my job, of course. I was a supervisor, I had 14 probation officers under me at the time. I went back to my office and looked around and talked to a friend of mine and she said, "Why don't you call them up? You have the headquarters number here, there's a card, call them up and see if they're sincere." And I said, "Ok, I will." So I called this lady up in Dallas, Texas and she called me right back. To make a long story short, I waited and was very patient, and about three weeks later they did call. They asked me to come in for a first interview. The person explained to me that they were interviewing dozens and dozens of people. I must have looked very decent on the paper screening, and then I came in for an oral screening and I had three of them. I found out later on that there had been 48 candidates. So I beat them all out and I got the appointment. One guy was very close; he was very angry at the outcome. I was his nemesis. He was in one room and I was in another room and the director and everybody was in town. That's how they did things in those days. I won, and that was good for me.



Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
What got you interested in CRS?

Answer:
I heard of it many years earlier actually, and had explored working for the agency when I was in Washington in the media, but there was nothing available there for me at the time. In 1968 my CRS was looking for someone with experience in race relations and running a federal office. My name came out of the Civil Service Commission computer. I got a call asking if I was interested in the job in Atlanta or Chicago. I said I was interested because you always say that when someone offers you an opportunity, but we were pretty well settled in Washington at the time. My family had just bought a home in the District of Columbia and we had no thoughts of moving. So I didnít take this too seriously. I scheduled the interview, but didnít do the usual preparatory work that I would do if I was seriously interested. Just before the interview Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, and the city went up in smoke. I was in the middle of it because many of our borrowersí stores were going up in flames. We had a major roll in responding in the days and weeks after the riots, and all of a sudden the immensity of the work that had to be done came down on me. I felt that SBA wasnít the best place to be doing it. So I went to that interview. It was postponed because of the riots, but I went to the interview and ultimately I was offered a job in Chicago.




Silke Hansen


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

What was it that attracted you to CRS?

Answer:
Part of it was that I was looking for a job. At the CAP agency, when I was just a volunteer doing tenant organizing in the lower west side of New York, the person who recruited me was Wallace Warfield. He left the CAP agency to work for CRS in 1968. So a mutual acquaintance of ours told me that they had some openings and that I ought to give Wally a call and find out about it. I did and found out they were looking for an education specialist. I was just finishing my master's degree in urban education and applied for the job and got it and was thrilled. But, the clearance process took a long time, so while I was waiting and I really did need a job at that point that's when I started working at Model Cities as a budgeting person. You'd never know that now, because Lord knows, budget is not my strong suit. But I did a good job for them while I was there.






Bob Ensley


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

What kinds of things attracted you to the Community Relations Service?

Answer:
The comradery among the people that I met for the short interview. I was really taken in by their commitment and their willingness to go beyond that which was required. So I said, "Well, this appears to be fine group of people to work with."







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