Oregon State University
Oregon African American Railroad Porters Oral History Collection

Group Oral History Interview of Eddie Butler, Lonnie Wilson and Others. 1980s

Group Oral History Interview of Eddie Butler, Lonnie Wilson and Others

Interview conducted by Michael Grice.


Location:  Location Unknown.

In this recording several retired railroad workers recall their experiences. Many relate stories about working on special trains, which were lucrative in terms of tips, and not easy to get chosen to serve on. One speaker describes being treated well by passengers on a train full of important Mississippians, one of which stood up for the workers when a white steward tried to refuse them time to eat. Eddie Butler describes black employees being reprimanded for taking offense at racial slurs, and his philosophy of diligently doing his work so he could more safely stand up for himself when being mistreated on the job. Lonnie Wilson relays his experience serving on a special train for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Harriman special train. Wilson also discusses being on a train trapped in snow for four days and the measurements taken to care for the passengers, as well as his experiences as a stationary pantry man. Please note that this interview includes remembrances of a culture of racism and the use of racist, derogatory language toward African Americans, including the N word.