Oregon State University
Oregon African American Railroad Porters Oral History Collection

Cleophas Smith Oral History Interview. June 23, 1983

Cleophas Smith Oral History Interview

Interview conducted by Michael Grice.

June 23, 1983

Location:  Location Unknown.

Cleophas Smith was born in Mississippi on December 1st, 1916. He grew up in Chicago and began to work for the Union Pacific Railroad as a waiter in 1942. He discusses growing up during the Depression and the sudden effects on his family’s lifestyle, the contrast of racism in Chicago versus Portland Oregon, voluntarily joining a railroad union, becoming familiar with working for tips, being trained on the job by fellow co-workers, the duties of the job, the uniform, and the hierarchy among railroad waiters, which was based on age, experience and seniority. Smith also recounts an incident where he and his railroad crew banded together to defend a fellow crewmember who was being kicked off the train by a steward.