Raymond Lakes and Yolanda Lakes

Recorded November 12, 2021 Archived November 12, 2021 39:53 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: mby021238


Yolanda Lakes (50) sits down with her father, Raymond "Ray" Lakes (72), to ask about his upbringing in Columbus, GA and the world events, as well as personal experiences, that have shaped his current worldview.

Subject Log / Time Code

RL discusses his education.
RL describes the segregation that he has experienced in Columbus, GA.
RL talks about how the decline of textile mills in Columbus affected the local economy.
RL discusses how Columbus State University impacted the city's Black community.
RL talks about racial strife in Columbus.
RL recalls the 1969 Moon landing.
RL looks back on the assassinations of JFK, MLK, and Robert Kennedy.
RL remembers Barack Obama's presidential election.
RL discusses the January 6 Capitol insurrection.
RL remembers members of his community who were killed for their political views.
RL talks about his work as an activist.
RL explains the benefits of early education.
RL discusses U.S. racial inequity and wealth.
YL thanks RL.


  • Raymond Lakes
  • Yolanda Lakes

Recording Location

Columbus Public Library



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00:01 I am ready. Lakes. I am 72 years old. Today's date is Friday, November 12th, 2021.

00:11 And I live in Columbus, Georgia. Yolanda Lakes will be my interview partner and she is my daughter.

00:23 My name is Yolanda Lakes. I am 50 years old. Today's date is November. 12th 2021.

00:32 I live in Columbus, Georgia. My interview partner is

00:48 So dead.

00:53 How long have you lived in Columbus, Georgia?

00:57 I have lived in Columbus, Georgia.

01:00 All of my life, except for

01:02 2 years, when you were a baby and I lived in Charlotte, North Carolina.

01:08 Do you have any other children and do you have any grandchildren?

01:13 Yes, I have a son who is also my namesake.

01:18 Raymond B, lakes and he's a local attorney. And I have a grandson to grandson d'adrien the Lakes, who's 23 years old, and he's a recent graduate of Auburn University.

01:35 I have a five-year-old, grandson Walker lakes, and he is the star of the show.

01:42 And I have a step-granddaughter.

01:48 Trinity betzold, who is 16 years old?

01:54 Okay. Where did you attend school?

01:59 I attended the Carver High School in Columbus, Georgia. I'm a 1967 graduate, and proud graduate.

02:15 Where did you attend college?

02:19 I attended college at Dillard University in New Orleans for about a semester, my money ran out and I wrote home for $10. It took two weeks to get $10. And so I decided I needed to do something else. So I returned to Columbus and I finished Columbus State University at the time. It was Columbus College. I graduated in 1971.

02:45 And I went back in 1975 through 1978 and obtained an MBA degree.

02:57 I guess it's just a masters of business administration degree.

03:02 Okay, if you mention some years in there, during this during the time that you lived in Columbus, since you've been here, most of your life, where the schools you attended integrated.

03:16 No, the schools that I attended segregated.

03:21 I started my education in a two-room school with the pot belly stove.

03:30 And what high school. I went to Carver High School. It was segregated. We had about 1,500 students back in those days. And then later attended Columbus State University. It was integrated. Well, they had maybe

03:48 4% of the students being people of color.

03:53 Okay, during your lifetime.

03:57 Can you give me? Like, three of the biggest things that happened during your lifetime. In any, you can add any social movements, or any, you think anything's that you were involved in kind of like your personal history during that time. So I'll just give you a few of the things that happened locally important. The first one is the end of racial segregation.

04:26 As a 14 to 15 year old. I was working at a laundry in Columbus, Georgia.

04:33 And I scraped the white only sign off of the laundromat that we had next door to us. And the integration was taking place because of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for bed racial discrimination.

04:51 And that was the end of what we call. Does you a certification that mean you segregation based on the laws and the other kind of segregation we have when we still fight it today is de facto segregation. That is based upon the local customs and mores of the of the community.

05:10 I felt when I scraped white on the sign that off of the window that sings with all of a sudden be magically different and I found that they were not different different and it took a long long time to get us to where we are. Now. A lot of struggles, a lot of folks died during the struggles. So that that's one thing that was very important to me locally. The second thing is

05:36 The death of the cotton Mills in Columbus, Georgia cotton Mills in Columbus. When I was growing up, they were the major employers of the community. We had large meal. Some of them had upwards of 2,500 people working everyday in them.

05:56 And as time passed, as I got older.

06:01 The cotton Mills lost the appeal. We could not compete with foreign countries in the textile industry. So the cotton Mills essentially in Columbus Georgia, which will at one time again. What is the major employers is almost completely dead and it's not dead. It's only on the respirator. I think the last time I looked, but we had only about 250 jobs in textiles one. Mule in town, on the hill.

06:31 Employed over 2,500 people at one time and we had meals all over town. So. So that was been a big, big, big change, the economy exchange from a and Economy based on textiles to a knowledge-based economy.

06:47 We have several large Employers in that category one being Aflac. Insurance company, global payment snow. Now.

07:00 This is a major employer in the community and it's all based on computers and software and then find a financial services company Synovus Corporation. And again, it's Financial Services. All of those things are based on a knowledge economy as opposed to a an Economy based on textiles.

07:24 And it is something that I would mention. I guess it's the founding of Columbus State University. My dear alma mater.

07:33 Columbus State University led to an educated middle-class in Columbus prior to CS you the number of college graduates in Columbus was relatively small, consider enough population.

07:48 But as soon as you came on-line and developed from a junior college, when she was, when I was there, it was transitioning from a junior college to a four-year University.

08:05 We had.

08:08 I'll give you an example, the chief of the sheriff, in Columbus, Georgia, get not have a college education when I was in school.

08:17 Most of the bank officials did not have a college education at that time.

08:24 It's awesome to see if you came online. We started to have

08:29 People with college degrees and they fit it. Almost perfectly into the knowledge-based economy without Columbus State University. I don't believe it would have a lower middle class grew.

08:51 The group because Columbus State University was here. They'd tuition was very low. I think in my four years of undergraduate studies there. I never had a quarter weather tuition was more than $125. So it was very inexpensive or complete set of books back in those days cost about 50 bucks. So almost anybody who wanted to go to college had an opportunity to go. And so I think those are some of that. The major things that happened in Columbus. It's been a struggle in Columbus.

09:28 We've had a lot of racial Strife, we still have it and I would submit that.

09:36 We're probably one bad incident away from the town blowing up.

09:41 That's because all this Strife that exist in our community today, and I do and I can use it but throughout the country.

09:51 I just want to add a few things as you alluded to earlier that did one can see that the dates that you graduated coincide with the year of my birth. So I spent a lot of time at Columbus Day. It was like it was Columbus College. Then it was like literally my second home and I could see I attended there for a little while. And the tuition. I were talking the mid that the mid-90s still was affordable and it did has Columbus State has really changed the dynamic from this, my little perspective of the community, and I'm I'm appreciative of that school.

10:41 I would like to ask you, you talk a little bit about the environment climate of the nation right now. And you also spoke about, you know, where the African American society was some advancements where we are now, but you also spoke of de facto racism and I wanted to just ask you about the the three biggest thing that happened to the nation and your lifetime kind of like, you know from your time at in the mid-60s to that maybe the 80s until maybe like now where we are, if you could kind of just expand on that a little bit force.

11:28 Sure, the first thing I think that was a big event in my lifetime.

11:35 Was the landing of a man on the moon?

11:40 That was a big, big event.

11:44 President Kennedy challenged the country to put a man on the Moon by the end of the decade.

11:51 And folks picked up the challenge. We spent the money necessary to do, the research and development on a rocket system and shirt off. We put a man on the moon.

12:06 Almost by the end of this day, what may be a little bit longer than the end of the decade. But, but suddenly real close to it. That was a big, big scientific event. It also was a big national pride event because the president laid down the challenge and we really went to work to

12:29 Make that a reality and it showed me basically what this country can do when we all pull together. And we Marshal our resources to meet the problem of the challenge stuff that we've faced.

12:43 A second thing that happened in my life down. That's pretty important to me. You would be the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

12:57 In 1963.

12:59 The assassination of

13:02 Martin Luther King in 1968, and then the assassination.

13:12 John F. Kennedy the presidents.

13:15 Brother.

13:17 Robert Kennedy, who is running for president at the time of his assassination.

13:23 The scary thing about that is that

13:26 As a young, man, it taught me that there are folks in this country who will

13:33 Kill you for your beliefs?

13:37 And that we often don't talk about the power of the ballot, but we failed to talk about the power of the gun and the the fact that

13:51 Especially in the case of dr. King a man might be killed for his beliefs.

13:57 And though it is not directly connected.

14:02 And you can't. All of the eyes but not bikinis assassination to a lot of myself as an African American into a lot of African-Americans better, percentage of of of of wipes.

14:19 We believe that that that may have been some government involvement in it with a call that doctor King was his phones. Were bugged his makeup with red. But Jessica who is head of the FBI? Got a task force that did nothing but work on trying to discredit this man.

14:41 And after they did, all of that checked his income tax records, check the income tax records off, s c, l c d. Southern Christian leadership conference with your head at

14:55 And look and followed him all over the country. They follow him.

15:01 They could not find anything in his background. They tried to prove them a communist or a cheater. All, it's our stuff. The only thing that they found that some people find Olivia defensive it. They found that maybe he had some extramarital affairs.

15:20 And to me, that that's not important. What that says to me is that

15:25 He was not a saint. He was a mortal man. Just like you, and I, and he, every morning went through the same rituals that we we we go through put on his job, is to get out the house and try to make a difference in the world every day.

15:43 I believe that those things are critically important to my development. I worked in a pretty much every political campaign in Columbus for Community Google and for better leadership in the community, but I do think those three men was Hallmark in my development.

16:08 Another thing that nationally there.

16:12 Was very important to me.

16:14 Was the election of

16:17 Barack Hussein Obama as President of the United States as an African-American and as a student of politics, haven't gotten a ba degree in political science. I never thought in my lifetime, or in two lifetimes that I would see the election of a black president. One be one of the biggest being that we are relatively small portion of the population.

16:46 But almost immediately upon

16:48 Barack Obama. Some of the presidency.

16:53 The opposition in the Congress was unbelievable. Mitch McConnell who's there?

17:03 The head of the Republican Party in the Senate announced with Obama's election, that he was going to do everything in his power to make him a one-term. President me. I'm not going to cooperate with him on anything. I don't care what he proposes. I'm against it, and we see that still carrying through today with the B Administration.

17:30 But Obama's election.

17:33 Really was a proud moment for me as an African American and also met as an American to see somebody in the White House, who looked like me.

17:45 And as happy as I was, when

17:49 Obama was elected.

17:52 He was followed by what I think, is the worst presidential leadership we have ever had in this country. And that is the election of one download J Trump. That he's a man who

18:06 Wraps himself in the Fabrics of the flag, but he knows nothing about the history of this country. He knows nothing about the laws in this country. Facts didn't matter to this man. He would make up things.

18:27 Tell lies.

18:29 And then we had the election where he said, says that the election was stolen from him.

18:38 He has no proof. We had multiple.

18:44 Court found is that there was no proof of any voter fraud. Yeah, he perpetrated the story and you continue at your press the story and unfortunately, there's a big segment of the population who work in that the election has been stolen.

19:06 And so, if you don't have any

19:08 Faith in the electoral process in a democracy. Then. What are you have? You have chaos and that's what he is. Spread it.

19:19 We're presently looking at his activities on January 6th, when we had it for the first time since I think the War of 1812.

19:29 The Congress of the United States being invaded by

19:35 A group of folks who?

19:39 Maybe not just protest. These were people who were bent on raising hell and really destroying the the Congress they were going from room to room looking for congressman.

19:55 And they look for the vice president, had a noose ready to hang him.

20:01 And then you find that after all, this is over.

20:05 The folks whose life was threatened, but they now embraced his lies and they repeat the things that he said, that, they know or incorrect.

20:20 But they still persist in saying, they can't believe how far we have strayed from our constitutional background of one of the things that is always characterized American. Democracy is a peaceful transfer of power that takes place every four years on January 20th.

20:47 This time.

20:50 There was not a peaceful transfer of power.

20:53 The Trump Administration did everything they could to handicap the biting, the administration as it was coming into office.

21:05 Trump today.

21:07 Is a big big?

21:11 Person in the Republican party and he ought to be a disgraced public official. Yet. They Embrace him. Why do they Embrace him? Because they don't want to lose his voters. They don't want to lose that power. So I guess there's an old political adage that says

21:33 Power, corrupts and absolute power corrupts. Absolutely. And this is what I think. We'll see it in our country. I think never before.

21:44 And suddenly it might not in my lifetime. Have I seen you?

21:49 And are aware. I worry about our country in about the directions that we're headed in.

21:59 If you don't believe in the Integrity of the election, by the way, a lot of those officials were also elected on the same day that buddy was elected. Nobody questions that the Republicans had a lot of success down ballot.

22:17 Everybody except nobody questions that I think Mike.

22:27 Chair.

22:29 A country apart.

22:34 So how so you see smoke. Now, nationally. So how has the political climate here in Columbus, Georgia, change over time, or you can sum it up and then just do the post-election, whichever way you want to go with it.

22:53 How do you know what time?

22:57 Columbus was a very segregated time town at the time of my, my birthday early life stores were segregated. Many of them would not allow a particularly black women to try on instrument Gulf governments. They have to take them home and try them all when. And if the merchant was willing, they might take them back and exchange them.

23:23 There were no blacks in any positions of authority, either in the government or private business, the community.

23:36 What is one where?

23:38 Just beneath the surface. There was a lot of racial Strife which many of our founding fathers here in Columbus. Wanted to sweep under the rug.

23:54 One of the things that happened when I was a real young child was there was a preacher.

24:01 Who was killed by the police?

24:06 And he was stoned to death.

24:10 And they tried to cover it up.

24:13 But there were even white prisoners in the area where this picture was kept.

24:19 In jail who witnessed it and testified in court about what happened and it went to the jewelry and all white jewelry. Nothing.

24:32 My dad when I was a kid on the gas station and rubbing picket the man who was killed bought gas for my father and came by his service station in just chatted and that sort of thing.

24:44 That showed me how brutal the police can convey.

24:52 Another thing that happened was the assassination of dr. Thomas Brewer.

25:00 If you are local.

25:02 White person, you referred to it as Doctor Brewer being killed, but if you're black and lived in their communities, as long as I have, we refer to it as an assassination.

25:17 Assassination means that he was killed for his political beliefs, doctor blew a head up. A lot of weight. Voter registration efforts for black folks in Columbus. He also was a leader in the n-double-acp.

25:34 And I he was he was killed and the guy who killed him family. How to store downtown flowers. He was not convicted.

25:47 It was rude that it was self-defense.

25:51 So that, that that was one big event that happened locally and then all along the way that were others.

26:02 Your mother and I participated in a lot of efforts to integrate things in Columbus.

26:09 One of my biggest effort was in the midst of the United Way. Campaign. We discovered that there were four agencies who received United Way contributions, who in their Charters did not allow for African-American or black folk Negroes are they were called back in those days. I can receive services from these organizations and so a group of black students from CSU and we were joined by some, some of the white students at CSU. And that really was eye-opening because these kids put themselves In Harm's, Way to the stand up for, what was, right. We taking it in 4 weeks.

26:57 They had a tote board on 12th and Broadway.

27:03 The staff writers at The Ledger Enquirer past virus daily.

27:09 Nothing was put in the paper about a ticketing. If there was a complete media blackout.

27:19 As fate would have it.

27:23 The fact that we were picketing downtown,

27:29 Call jaws of some folks who worked at Fort Benning. Particularly people who work at Fort Benning, that were part of the labor unions in Fort Benning and they brought it to the attention of the officials at Fort Benning.

27:45 At Fort Benning decided that it was not going to give

27:50 It's money to the United way, as long as they had these organizations, that discriminated against African-Americans.

27:59 Sorella, miraculously.

28:04 A couple of those agencies decided to change their that Charter.

28:09 And two or three of them just decided that they will go their separate ways and remain segregated, but that was a big, big thing for us. Because it proved to me that

28:21 If you get out and protest against something wrong, there are people who will join in and help you particularly white students and said she is and also the fact that the government will respond to Citizens. I

28:40 The Simpsons problem.

28:43 I think that sort of thing that happened to me that was during those years. That was a very important was the war in Vietnam.

28:53 I have a cousin.

28:56 Whom I played basketball with every day after school and during the Summers. He also was in my homeroom in high school.

29:07 And he was one of the first folks from Columbus killed in the war in Vietnam.

29:15 My cousin ever saw his 20th birthday.

29:20 I have to looking at.

29:24 The information regarding our participation in Vietnam.

29:29 Made the decision that the war was immoral. It was

29:37 The United States trying to force.

29:41 Western doctrines in Western thought on democracy.

29:46 On the present population in a distant land.

29:51 So when you're young you feel like a crusader and you need to change the world.

29:58 Until I got with some folks at CSU.

30:02 And later, we found some military Folks at Fort Benning who disagree with the war. And so we had a group locally call Patriots for peace.

30:13 And we protested the war in Vietnam.

30:19 One of the things that happened to me during that time was, I had an old raggedy car that I bought from an Allied officer, at Fort Benning. He was Egyptian. I got a call from

30:34 The officials at Fort Benning telling me, I need it to take the officer sticker off of that old plumber that I bought. So what did I say? That's it. That they've been watching me.

30:49 The US government watching a private citizen and overtime.

31:04 And as a result of the efforts of a lot of folk,

31:08 The war in Vietnam was ended.

31:12 Unceremoniously memories of Vietnamese folks who

31:22 Allegedly had helped us in fighting the war in Vietnam. They were left behind.

31:30 I Vivid memories of the helicopter, taking off of the roof of the embassy in Vietnam, and those folk holding onto the size of the helicopter, and many of them giving out and falling back to the the rooftop. We just left them there to be slaughtered by the Viet Cong.

31:54 Not coincidental already, but you know in the last few months we seen a similar thing happened in Afghanistan. We left for 20 years. We squandered a lot of National Treasure and then we just said okay guys just over.

32:11 We're going home and we left behind a lot of folks who were at risk. Now. I know that we can't take everybody who helped us out of the country and take them to a safe area.

32:25 But when we, when you fought for 20 years.

32:29 And really, at the end of, so what we quit.

32:33 We didn't win and we try to say we didn't lose, but I don't see how you can see if there's anything else I suspect that. We probably in Bowling the Taliban.

32:47 And the

32:48 That will probably have some terrorists coming from that party world probably real soon.

32:55 So those are just some.

32:57 Illuminations of an old man who's probably live too long.

33:06 Just a couple more questions left. I want to get your perspective on the you spoke about how climate has changed economically from textile to move. If I care more about banking somewhat medical Town. What what do you think is the future of Columbus? And when I speak of future, I mean, the economic the educational, like the impact of the educational environments. Can I can just kind of like a whole ball of where do you see this place being in the next 5 years?

33:52 Well, I guess I hope to hear the next 5 years.

33:58 I think Columbus is probably pretty well position.

34:03 I think we have leadership that's looking at the issues that face us and trying to do something about him. But we have a lot of problems, not just in Columbus, but all over the country.

34:21 The system.

34:23 Does not educate or does not do a very good job of educating people of color. And so with all of the money that's been spent black and Latino kids are still being left behind in droves.

34:42 And,

34:44 The president has proposed national daycare or preschool for four-year-olds. And that's why the hell would you be opposed to kids being educated? We know that a lot of Education takes place before school advantaged neighborhoods, in Florida, school behind. One of the things that

35:15 Interesting to me is that there is a group in Columbus. They work with me Frisk. I think it's proper name of the foundation, the first foundation and they give books for preschoolers and what they found in their research, was that kids from middle-class families for black and white come to school.

35:41 Knowing thousands of words.

35:45 I'm kids from impoverished backgrounds.

35:49 Come to school.

35:51 Knowing hundreds of words, not thousands, but hundreds of words. So what do I say to an old man? That says, to me that the day the first day,

36:06 The first day that the school bell, rings kids from disadvantaged neighborhoods are already behind and then the pop probability of them catching up and what time?

36:19 Fairly remote. So, we got to do a better job of educating folks, particularly kids in low-income areas. The other thing, is it some dreams will help people create some dreams. One of the things I said about the community here and all of the country. Is that young black men or slaughtering each other?

36:44 And,

36:46 I think they do that because they themselves don't feel like they have a future.

36:53 And they know that hustling drugs doing other things, still in and all that sort of stuff, pays a hell of a lot more than working at the local McDonald's. So he's supposed to have dreams. But do you think about dreams? Do you think about a ladder where you go up one rung at a time towards your dream, but if you don't have anything to shoot for, you don't have anything to lose. And these folks are really, I think,

37:22 Placing.

37:25 A lot of folks lives and and dreams in in jeopardy.

37:31 I think that's one of the things that that really scares me about the future and leave. The other thing is that they're using our community as there is nationally.

37:43 A lack of.

37:46 Wealth, a lot of wealth in.

37:50 African American. And

37:54 Latino.

37:56 Communities.

38:00 We have created in Columbus and I think around the country of permanent underclass, a group of people who cannot rise above the circumstances that they find themselves in and told you what neighborhood schools. If you live in a an impoverished area you go to school in that area with kids with just like you and you don't get to see kids who are medications are doing. Well. You don't get to see a lot of

38:31 A lot of fathers, taking the kids to school, working with him, that sort of thing that to me is a real that wealthy inequity is really a big problem. Not only Columbus, buddy, throughout the country, people have to have dreams.

38:48 And I think we as a society have to help them clothes of ate those dreams, and teach them how to work at achieving that dream. One step at a time. You're not going to get there one day. You guys going to take a lifetime to get there?

39:05 But I think I'm about to be a future. Here's very bright.

39:11 Okay. Well, I want again, thank you publicly for inviting me to participate in storycorps. I've lived all over the world spent 20 years in the military, all the return, back to my starting point of Columbus, Georgia and spend time with my best friend. My father. So I think you did days for this opportunity.

39:36 You were looking for Christmas recipe.