LH: When and where were you born?
WG: I have to think my birthday June 19, 1932, in a small town in Greenville,Alabama. My mother went there to have me because her grandmother was a nurse in the hospital there and so she went there, and that's where I was born. I have never been there (since); I don't know what it looks like, but that's where her grandmother lived and that's where her grandmother worked, so that's why I was born there. Subsequent to that, I lived a short time in Montgomery with my grandmother. I assume it was because I was a baby and my mother was a pianist that had to travel so it was my grandmother who took care of me. I don't know for how long because I was a child, you know, but then my mother and my dad moved to Flint, Michigan, and that's where I grew up. I went to school in Flint 00:01:00Schools, graduated from high school there. Subsequently I went to college at Wayne State and I got my BS degree in pharmacy, and then a PhD in biochemistry-both from Wayne State University. Subsequently I was at Cornell (University, New York City) and a post doctorate with a dear, a person who became a dear friend of mine name Lemuel Wright and then when I retired-you see I'm retired-my wife said I was, when I looked for a job, I interviewed with a guy name Vernon Cheldelin for whom the high school, oh, the middle school was named after, and that was because he was a friend to my mentor in Cornell, which was a guy named Lemuel Wright. They both were at the University of Texas in the same laboratory where one of them got his PhD and the other got his PhD from here (OSU). So that's how I got to Cornell and then I came here. And I've been here officially since I'm retired...I officially was retired in 1998. Since that 00:02:00time, I've been in here working on the research in atherosclerosis. So that's my academic background.
About my parents-my mother's name was Clara and my father's name was Layden, andthey both now are deceased.
SB: Where were they from? They were from Alabama?
WG: Yes, that's right. My mother was from Montgomery and so was my father. Mymother went to college at Alabama State; she was a music major-and she was a musician until we (children) came along and spoiled her schedules. [Laughs] But anyway, there are five of us (siblings). So, at any rate that's how I got here. The way I got here was through friends and my mentor at Cornell who was a good 00:03:00friend of Vernon Cheldelin. They were both at the University of Texas, they were grad students there.
LH: Could you tell us more about your siblings?
WG: I have five siblings. Three girls and one brother; I'm the oldest. There arethree girls in between me and my brother who is the youngest-very much youngest. I was seventeen years old when he was born and we all, of course, said, "Mom, you waited too late. He should go back. We want to send him back. It's too late." [Laughs] Well, we won't say what she said, will we? Now they're all, none of them are out here. My one sister also has a PhD. The second sister is a nurse. Her name's Betty and she's the boss lady. She bosses us all around. 00:04:00[jokes] And then the third girl is named Caroline, and Caroline works for General Motors. We give her a hard time because she worked for General Motors as an administrator and she's the only one of us which doesn't have a graduate degree and she makes much more than we make. We accuse her of getting a job first because my dad worked for General Motors and secondly, the guy whom she worked for liked her since she was a kid, so...that's how she got the job.
But any rate, the final one is my brother, who as I said is 17 years youngerthan I am and he likes to call himself a sociologist, but I would rather refer to him as a politician. He doesn't run for office but he's always doing something for those who are out running for office. He is still in Michigan and he is also now retired from General Motors, from the business part of it. Yeah. 00:05:00So that's my family history. The one thing that I didn't tell you, was that my mother -I mentioned that she was a pianist-but the reason she had to retire was because first, not because of me but the second and third child and she couldn't take all those schedules. There weren't enough people to take care of the kids. But none of us inherited that musical talent. She was a tremendous pianist, and I used to say to her I wish I could do what she could do. You could play a fifth or a seventh chord, and she'd recognize that and if you played the wrong note she could hear. So she was very talented. But none of us had that talent. That's a fact. But I played in bands first E flat tuba, and then B flat tuba and finally trumpet and then euphonium. I love music and I played a lot so that's probably I could say is the one thing I do for fun.
SB: Do you play here in Corvallis?00:06:00
WG: Well, let me put it this way. I did because the director of low brass was aguy named Warren and he allowed me to play with the students, so I would go with them and play. But along came the trouble with my, what are these things called: teeth. So I don't practice very much anymore. And even when I play, it's for me. I put on my earphones-nobody can hear. But anyway, I just love music, so... But I was not like my mom. She was gifted and so that's the way she made her living.
LH: Was she a concert pianist?
WG: You would say that she was until she started to have children. And then shejust played for whatever she could do to make some money to subsidize our family. But she was a gifted musician. I'm prejudiced, but I wouldn't kid you, her talent was unusual and as I could say, if you practice and played a bad 00:07:00note, she would come in the room and say, "Read the music." It was good and bad having someone who's that good when you're not that good.
LH: What were your family's expectations for what you would do? Did theyemphasize education?
WG: They emphasized learning. And they never told us that we have to go be X, Y,or Z-my mom or dad or anyone. But you couldn't not be a student. Now my brother who is 17 years younger than I am, was quite different from me in the sense that he's very smart, but he did not like school. So even when he was a little kid, he would wake up and say, "I can't go today, mom. My stomach is hurting." Now she knew very well that his stomach wasn't hurting. We were reared in a family 00:08:00in which education was stressed. Not to be rich, not to become this or that, but to learn. And my great-grandmother insisted that we learn how to think. And so she would test you on things-especially about things historical.
SB: Tell us more about your great-grandmother.
WG: Her name was Mary Elizabeth Lawrence. Her mother's name was Molly Albritton.Molly Albritton-I knew my great-grandmother until she died at 96; she lived a long, long time. Now her mother, Molly Albritton, was the daughter of a slave. I have a picture of her on my wall. She died when I was 37 years old, so she lived a long time. Now then, there's my grandmother, who was her daughter, she had two 00:09:00children. One was my uncle, my granduncle who was killed in the war-they said near Paris or somewhere-in World War I.
He was my grandmother's brother. Yeah. And I also have a picture of him.Everybody in my family emphasized learning. There is a difference between education and learning-they all emphasized that. You wouldn't have to tell my grandmother but once that you didn't do your homework and the steep punishment for me-there was no baseball for a month. That's all she needed to say. [Laughs] My family weren't so much concerned about titles, although my I have one sister, 00:10:00the one next to me (in age) is the nurse, and she was very good; she became the head nurse-she's retired now-she was the head nurse at General Motors Tech in Flint. I used to kid her-she was very bright, but I used to kid her and say that's because my dad knows (someone at General Motors), who knew Mr. C. P. Mott, who had more stock in General Motors than anyone, and he also lived in Flint. He supported the Flint School systems. So she was the head nurse of General Motors Institute, which was for engineers and that sort of thing. The youngest sister is an educator. She has a PhD in education and now, though, she 00:11:00runs her own business. And the one in between is Caroline, earned a BS degree, but the others of us had advanced degrees. And she made, I won't say how much more, she made much more money than I ever made if I added it up for a long time. And I kid her too because my dad knew the guy in that part of the company. And I said, "That's how you got that job. That's why you make more money than I do." [Laughs] But seriously, I didn't get a PhD because I wanted to make money or be brilliant. I earned it because I was doing what I liked-biochemistry.
My dad was more financially oriented that I was. When I was about to graduate, I00:12:00took chemistry and earned a degree in pharmacy. My dad said "The rule is this: if you are past 18 and are not in school, you will either have a job or you will be seeking a profession, or you'll have your own place. You can have 30 days back home if you are sick. After that you're gone." And he was not joking. So that I say that to you because when I graduated I decided to get the chemistry degree, but then after my first year, I was working in the United States Post 00:13:00Office as a temporary hired student, a temporary worker. That Christmas I was sitting next to three guys, we were on what is a temporary desk where you either sort the mail and get it stamped or you sort the mail. So these guys, they were a little older. Well this is my freshman year and they asked me was I doing, and I said "I'm a chemistry major." And they said, "We're all chemists!" I said, "Why are you sitting here with me on this temporary desk if you're chemists?" And these two guys, who happened to be Black, said, "We are having trouble. We couldn't get jobs right away at Dow and all these places just wouldn't hire us." That's why they worked in the post office, and I was working there because the post office paid $1.65 and the university was paying 50 cents an hour. From them 00:14:00I learned that it wouldn't be so wise to stop at the bachelor's degree because they were having a hard time, so I decided to go on for the PhD. Besides that, my mentor as an undergrad was a guy named Larry Schrader who took me under his wings. He was a biochemist who saw that I got a fellowship to go to grad school and all those things. I tell everybody that my life is filled with angels-that's what I call them. And every time I call him that, he would remind me that he was from Chicago, "We don't produce angels in Chicago," he'd say.
He was a guy...I like to mention that to you because I don't ever want to givethe impression that I could get into any of these places without somebody like Larry. That's a fact. I took the pharmacy degree, and I got the license. While I was a grad student, I used to work on weekends, because I made more money in 00:15:00Saturday and Sunday than from the fellowships that they gave me. I could do this because I could do my experiments in the morning and use the instruments and I could go to work at the pharmacy and come back after work to check on things. I also I had a lot of colleagues so if something went wrong, they would just stop the experiment for me. By this time, all the siblings underneath me were, except the youngest one, all college age and they were all in school. I didn't want to depend on my dad or anybody.
My father was a machinist for General Motors. My mother would offer lessons but00:16:00never charge any of the people in the neighborhood. I was the only one to take up music, but my brother took the trumpet up because that's what I started on. He wanted to show, that he could do everything better than me, and he was-he was better (at the trumpet) than I am.
LH: What was your early education like-what subjects and teachers did you like?00:17:00
WG: I was a guy who liked to learn. So nobody had to tell me to do my homework.In fact, I used to bug my grandmother until she got my books. When I was in school, you had to buy your books; they didn't furnish them, they furnished them in my early ages. And in the Flint School system, you didn't have to buy books. It was the best thing that I could have ever had. Mrs. Moody was my sixth grade teacher and we said if you looked sad, Mrs. Moody would give you the paper and the pencil and everything. But, if you didn't produce, you don't want to come in to her classroom. She was very stern. All the guys liked her. She was the head of the junior high school's bachelor's club where they taught the guys to cook 00:18:00and all those sort of things. I should give it to you straightforward-I don't know how to cook. At this bachelor's club, the only thing I ever learned how to cook was cream puffs!
My favorite teacher was Eula Benoit. Now I'll tell you how I favored her becausemy daughter when she was eight years old, like all children, she liked to go into my office. And I'd tell her not to bother my things, but that didn't work so one day she found my high school yearbook and was reading it and she ran out 00:19:00so fast, I asked her, "Where are you going?" "I got to show this to mom." So my wife came to me and said, "Do you know what Priscilla brought? What your book said? She said look what Dad's old girlfriend wrote about him in this book." My wife was laughing; she said, "No, no, that's not dad's girlfriend. That's his Latin teacher!" I mention that because Mrs. Benoit was my favorite teacher of all times. And the reason is this: She was my Latin teacher. I took Latin from her ninth, tenth, eleventh grades. She taught us to read the Iliad and Odyssey and one time I said, "Mrs. Benoit, I'm from Flint, Michigan. I live in the ghetto and you got me reading the Iliad and Odyssey in Latin." I said, "What is 00:20:00this all about?" She said, "You need to be educated. You're a good learner," she said, "but I want to educate you. Once when I was in the ninth grade, I had a lot of guys who were friends, and we were encased by all these things that you had to have-if you had this, I had that. So I walked into her class on the first day and I had on a bright yellow shirt-I'll never forget it. It zipped up sideways and it had long sleeves. It was the pride of every guy in my group not to wear an undershirt. I walk into her room and I sit down. I was early. She was 00:21:00sitting at her desk and so I was sitting back and I was looking at her. She wore these half-glasses; she was doing something, and she looked up at me and she looked over the top of her glasses, she never said a word.
Now when I was fourteen, which is when I started in her class, I was four feeteleven and a half inches tall. And while I was at my desk, she stood up, Mrs. Benoit was 5'11" or 5'12", she used to be a basketball player. She stood up and she took my shirt, zipped it up, and then she took my hat and took it off and put it on her desk. We wore baseball caps, 'course we didn't wear them forward, but we were all wearing them backwards. She took it and she said, "In this class we are all gentlemen. You will not come in this class with your hat on." And she said while she was zipping my shirt up, "No one wants to see your little puny 00:22:00chest. Keep your shirt zipped up." I was speechless. I never said a word. I never said any word. I tell you this story because it stuck with me all my life. What she taught me was discipline and that how you impress people is very important. So you come in and you act like a gentleman. She would say to me, "Will, we know you're not a gentleman, you're talking again. But you will learn that if you behave a certain way, people will draw a conclusion which may not be accurate, but you want it to be a good one." I didn't take Latin a fourth year because she was trying to convert me into a Latin teacher and I said I'm not going to be a Latin teacher. She was my favorite teacher.
Anyway, the reason I mention Mrs. Benoit, is because she had the greatest00:23:00influence on me and she taught me things like what I just described to you. If I saw her in the school yard or something, I'd take my cap off because I didn't want to let her think I didn't learn what she tried to teach me. It has helped me all my life because what people think of you, whether it is accurate or not, is what they act on. That's what she taught me. So she's my favorite teacher-both because she taught me that and secondly because she taught me to like things which I had never thought about like the Iliad and the Odyssey in Latin.
KV: What led to your interest in biochemistry?00:24:00
WG: Now remember, as an undergraduate student, I was a chem major. So I alreadyliked chemistry. Remember I decided I would do the pharmacy program because I knew if I did that I could get a license and I could also go to grad school. So I took the pharmacy program and chemistry. When I finished my pharmacy degree, I 00:25:00took the state boards, the practical, the theoretical, and the licensing ones. So from that point on, I was a licensed pharmacist. And my classmate was another kid named Willie Flonori. His father owned drug stores, so not because I was a great pharmacist, but because he knew I needed the money, I could work on weekends in their place, and they let me set the hours, and I would also cover for people. So in those two days, I made enough money that I didn't have to worry about the scholarship money. But the scholarship led me through the grad program. So that's what I did. We still keep in touch, and believe it or not, he became a lawyer too. [Laughs] I told him he just wanted to maintain that family 00:26:00money, I don't think he was interested in law.
My interest in biochemistry was because I liked chemistry, and I likebiochemistry because two things: one is I was going through the pharmacy program so I had to have it anyway, and then when I finished, I did postdoctoral at Cornell with Lem Wright. And the way I got here was Lem Wright, who was my mentor at Cornell, and Cheldelin-a school in Corvallis is named after him-went to grad school at the University of Texas, both of them. When I started interviewing for jobs, I interviewed with Cheldelin first in a meeting and then I came here and gave a seminar; that's how I got the job here at Oregon State. I took the job here because the department would let me keep up my credentials in pharmacy. I did not work here in pharmacy because I was too busy. And when I was here, the teaching loads were a lot more than what I was accustomed to at 00:27:00Cornell or at Wayne State. But I kept that license. And I took all the tests all the time just in case I needed to (go back to pharmacy). And so that's how I was doing a post-doctorate here.
I need to emphasize that everywhere along in my life, there has been, I callthem angels. There's been somebody like Mrs. Benoit who taught me the meaning of discipline and also made me like reading the Iliad and the Odyssey, you know. I'm a ghetto kid. I couldn't even spell the Odyssey. [Laughs] But at any rate, she taught me and I liked it. Mrs. Benoit's husband was an engineer, and a very kind person; he also tried to convince me to do some engineering and I said "No, I have to do something that I know I can get a license in." And I knew I could in the state of Michigan. Also my dad was still alive and I knew I could get a job.
LH: About your time at OSU-why did you come here?00:28:00
WG: I came here because Lemuel Wright was a friend of Vernon Cheldelin, who wasa dean, and he and Vernon had been graduate students at University of Texas. I had met Vernon at meetings, but I never talked to him about a job or anything. I was interviewing at various places and Vernon invited me here and he offered me a position in 1962 in the chemistry department.
I had lots of helpers in industry, not because I was brilliant, but like Lemuel00:29:00Wright, and he knew people. I interviewed at Mead Johnson. Well, they were colleagues like if you two are colleagues somewhere, so they all knew each other and so I got these invites to go to places to interview like DuPont, and to interview at Mead Johnson. Everything that I got to do was not dependent on my being brilliant per se, because the guys who were introducing me and said I was good, were the ones who got me in the doors. Now I'll give you an example, I'll tell you what the times were like. Mead Johnson is in Evansville, Indiana, and Mead Johnson was located in Evansville and when I went there, the schools had just been desegregated. But when I arrived at the airport, and walked inside 00:30:00there on the pavement, there was the public address system saying-listen to this now, for me, you got a little kid from Flint and this is the first time I've had my name on a PA system saying, "Dr. Gamble, you are wanted at the white phone desk." This is a big airport and I wanted to say, "Which doctor is that?", but I did pick up the phone and there was one of the administrators at Mead Johnson welcoming me, telling me where my hotel was, and that there would be a taxi outside, waiting to take me to the hotel, and, if I needed to run an errand or so some shopping, a taxi would come back for me. And I said I wanted to pinch myself. Are you kidding? But it was because the man who was a big man at Mead Johnson was a classmate of my mentor at Cornell. And he's a tremendous human being. 00:31:00
Now Mead Johnson at Evansville had only desegregated the schools maybe three orfour years before. And so I decided we called the neighborhood. So I decided I'd better find a neighborhood and find out what this place is really like. That means I want to find out where Blacks live, so I went into this small restaurant. The guy I was talking to said, when I told him where I was from, I said, "I'm not from there, I'm from Flint." And so I got to talk to one of the managers and owners of the restaurant and he asks me why I was there. And I said I'm coming to Mead Johnson to interview. And he said, "You're going to interview at Mean Johnson?" I said yes. He said, "Are you still Black?" [Laughs] I said, "I hope so. My phenotype is so obvious I don't think you have to worry too much." But then I told him who invited me. He said, "Wow! He's the number one man!" And it was true. He was a really very smart biochemist, and a very nice 00:32:00guy. So that night he invites me to his home and about six or seven administrators at the high level about six or seven. So it was they and I. They never asked me any questions or anything. They treated me as if I were one of their guys.
The next day I go to meet a friend of mine named Bob Harkins, we were gradstudents together, and I met him earlier that morning before he started to work. And I said, "I have my own taxi." He said, "Will, how did you get us a taxi?" I said, "The boss man said there would be a taxi for me again." Bob said, "Will, now I ought to warn you: Mead Johnson only has one Black person working in this unit here. Only one, and he is the boss man's chauffeur!" And so I went round 00:33:00and they gave me a badge and they said, "You go wherever you like!" People were speaking to me like they had seen thousands of Blacks, you know. They saw this badge on me and then I had a little pin that they gave me. I didn't know what the pin was about; I didn't care, but they said "That's a priority pin." That meant I can go anywhere in the place. Anyway, so that's the way he treated me and that's how I interviewed at Mead Johnson.
But I ended up coming here. That's where I got here because there was achemistry department; I'm a chemist and I could still be a biochemist. So that's why I came here. And besides I knew Vernon way before; I knew I met him first when I was a first-year graduate student because they all come to the meetings and my mentor at Wayne State wanted to make sure that I am there. He said they'll notice you because in the circles he traveled in, there was some other 00:34:00Black guys-a couple of them from Harvard-but he said there won't be that many! So you get people to remember that they saw you, the guys that they hang out with. And I literally mean, hang out with, you got to see them when their meetings are over. Then we'd go to dinner and they become real guys just like we are. So anyway, that's what happened. But that was thanks to him.
When I came to OSU, they had more teaching load than I had ever experienced inmy life. By that, I mean at Cornell, nobody taught as much as they taught here. And I was the little guy in the department. All these guys were senior guys. I knew a lot of them because I'd see them at meetings, but I didn't know them personally. So in that department, just me and one other guy were the youngest ones and then finally a third guy came. We were in the disciplines: I was in biochemistry, one was in analytical, and the other one was in physical. The one in physical was named from India. He wasn't born in America. He was a physical 00:35:00chemist and he was so used to a different type of assignment, that it was really hard for him those first years. In fact, after the second year, he had a lot of trouble. We had to ask him to take some paid leave. For example, he was Brahmin Indian and he'd never washed a dish in his life. And he didn't know what a dish was, he said, "What is a dish called?"
We got to be friends, you know, but I said these are the two extremes. We'relike polar distances, you know? And it was hard for him because we were doing things as the junior guys that he was not used to doing. And he really couldn't take it for awhile, but the chairman was very cognizant of that, so he told him, he took him away from assignments like we had and let him concentrate on his classes, and then till he get his feet in, and then the chairman said to me, "Will, you stay with him because you're our ghetto kid. You can bring him down 00:36:00to where you are, so he'll learn to deal with a little dirt!" And that's what I did. He's a really nice guy. He's brilliant though, very smart. But that was hard for him-just really hard and to think that it was hard for him here. And I said, "If you lived in Flint," you know, I said, "I'm not going to take you to Flint. You got to be finished before I take you there because these people will be speaking a language you never heard before. And they are my friends." But you know, he finished the year, he went down to Cal Tech. He was a great guy.
At any rate, that was my first-year experience. I still took time to do myresearch and also I had all my connections. But most guys were not used to doing that much teaching that we did here, but myself, because of my undergraduate training, I had quote "taught students" in the laboratory. Schrader, the guy who 00:37:00got me all these jobs, he would take me into the lab and sit me with one of the graduate students. So I knew something about things, I knew how to do a teaching lab-there was no problem for me. But for my Indian friend, to have to do that teaching job, and then you got all your classes and all that too, was hard. But he finally came around. The research, for me, was good.
LH: Would you give us an overview of your work?-most of what we found wasrelated to atherosclerosis.
WG: That's because that's the disease I worked on a long time. So I worked inthe lab too after my classes with Larry Schrader, the guy who eventually got me 00:38:00the scholarship for grad school. And Larry is working on steroids. Cholesterol, for example, is a steroid. So I learned all about steroids from Larry. I will show you though, I made one statement in my first assignment in his lab as a worker just so that you realize how he taught me things. There's a disease called porphyria-it's a failure of your blood to take the molecules of your porphyrin and make hemoglobin. So the porphyrin molecules of your hemoglobin have four of these units. They are like this: like you had a rectangle, but they were sitting in the middle of each of these lines, and they are linked with an iron molecule in the middle. They are very critical for synthesis of hemoglobin, for example. If you don't have hemoglobin, you're in real trouble. But in people who have porphyria, one of the steps is missing. And lots of patients had it, 00:39:00and it's usually manifested when someone becomes an alcoholic because they notice this the amount appears larger and so my first assignment now- I was still an undergrad student when I was working in the lab, I would come in after my classes and work-was to take samples from people who are porphyric and one of the places they are where people are alcoholics. You know people who go for alcoholic treatment, they have a lot of porphyrins in there, and therefore, we could study these things in their excrement.
So, believe it or not, I was very surprised, but one of the best places to get alot of samples in Michigan and the Detroit area was in the beautiful farm area where they had to send priests from all over the country who had somehow become dependent on alcohol. And so they were there and all their histories were known 00:40:00and that's where we got samples from to get the porphyrins. Now they weren't drunkards, you know, but they were sick people who they should not have been drinking any alcohol at all. And they were priests; they were sent to this hospital, and that's where we could get a lot of samples. And my first job was to take, excuse the expression, both urine, that was not so bad, and feces, and extract the porphyrins from it. And my friend Dupree, we were dear friends for life and he used to say to me, "Gamble, if you think (like we used to help each other), he'd say, if you think I'm going to come and help you with this work, (he said) you are not going to pass a certain sample to me. You will do that one! I will do the liquid one." But it wasn't bad. They froze it before and then we had a big hood so you don't, it can't escape into the room. Its equivalent 00:41:00for us is just like a chemical sample, then we just treated it. So that's what we did the rest of the time I was an undergrad-both he and I.
He was also the best man at my wedding. And now he calls me up; he called melast year on his birthday, which is March 17. I'm telling you the story for a reason. He called me up and he said, "Will, we're the same age. I'll be 78 this year." He calls me last year and says, "I made it." I said, "You made what?" He says, "I'm 77 now." He said, "I call you on my birthday to pray for you because yours is in June and I don't know if you're going to make it to June!" This is my friend. [Laughs] He calls me on his birthday to tell me he's praying for me to make it to June. He is the craziest person in the world I'm going to tell you. So come March, he'll probably call me again and wish me luck, but that is the environment I worked as an undergrad student.
Then finally, I got to be a grad student and I worked there. I did not work with00:42:00Schrader believe it or not, I worked with Dr. Warden and I worked on porphyrins. And porphyrin chemistry, that is what I did for a part of my PhD degree. But I also, when I still got finished with a postdoctoral with Wright at Cornell, I had to choose something of my own. And so I chose atherosclerosis because it involves a lot of chemistry and that's what I like. It involved steroid chemistry and that sort of thing. So I'm still working, believe it or not I'm retired now, but I'll tell you briefly that when I came here, the reason I chose to work on atherosclerosis was because more people die of that than any other disease. They want to know what I've done and can you be an independent worker. So I started working on atherosclerosis, and the Oregon Heart Association gave 00:43:00me my first grant for this work.
Now I'll tell you very briefly and I'm going to give you some propaganda. Notright this minute, but I'll give you a little thing that describes something I did for people who perhaps don't know much about the disease. If I don't have it here, I'll find you and get it to you on campus. It's my propaganda. Anyway, so atherosclerosis is a disease in which is, forgive me, I don't know if you know, of course. If you don't watch TV, they say, "Take Zocor, take Lipitor..." and Zocor made $7.9 billion two years ago and at the same time Lipitor made $5.9 billion gross. Those are the drugs, and I should tell you that they do the same thing. There's no magic in either one of them.
So atherosclerosis, from my point of view, was to study it to try to learn whatthe etiology is and was. So to get a system to work with it I chose to use 00:44:00animals, and I chose to use first bovine-cows-because they have these huge arteries. And I could get samples. So what we did, and I'll quit saying "I" because I had a lot of students helping me, is to ask yourself the question, "Why does this stuff accumulate in the artery? Why do you get cholesterol there?" Then you get high blood pressure. But if you get an embolism, which floats and gets in your brain, you get a stroke. Now this disease was first described in 1500 B.C. by the Egyptians in those mummies. They described the disease, they described the material. Now they didn't describe it in the kind of detail that we now can speak about.
So what I decided to do was to try to learn why does this cholesterol accumulate00:45:00and what is the nature of, chemically, what is the nature of the disease. Now I studied this for a long time, but what I wanted to do was to ask the question, "How can we understand (it) and why does this occur?" I go back to the fact that it's been known since 1500 B.C., so I'm not suggesting that Will Gamble has the answer, but I'm going to give you propaganda before you leave so that you can say Will Gamble's crazy, but anyway, so I won't let you leave until you do that. I say it's a theory because we can write "theory" down on any paper we want to and nobody can take it off.
Let me tell you, first, there are certain animals who do not get the disease.Bears never get the disease. Polar bear, brown bear, sun bear, any of the 00:46:00bears-none of them get the disease. They eat berries, you know, but the bears can eat anything, and they can eat you if you (get in their way) like with the big taller ones. So, that the idea that it's only due to dietary reasons is probably not correct. But animals that hibernate, they don't have it, none of them. Cows have the disease, deer have it, salmon have it, trout have it. And people eat them and say they are going to help themselves to keep from having the disease. Trout, salmon unequivocally have been shown to have it. The animals 00:47:00that don't have it all live and hibernate.
I chose to study the bear because of two reasons: one of my colleagues is namedUrsula Becker. She's a faculty member here and a wildlife veterinarian who works with all kinds of animals. She's also a consultant for the Wildlife Safari, and so that gives us access to the bears. And now, the reason we chose the bears is, as I said, they don't have the disease but their cholesterol levels are the same as ours-humans-in that same range. And they eat whatever they want to eat. So this is a simple reason that I give for them not having it. When animals that hibernate, you could take the raccoon, an animal which can hibernate, and if you 00:48:00look at that animal in the summer when he first wakes up from hibernation, it's clear for most of them, and I'm talking about now, animals like a wild rat, a marmot, whatever, and they will not have any plaques when they wake up. A friend of mine in Colorado says he works with them, but when they keep them until the fall comes, and they examine the animals, and the normal food dies, then they have plaques. When they wake up in the spring, the ones they save, none of them have plaques.
So something happens to them while they are sleeping. And what we do is to studythe bears through its blood because you can't kill the bears. So if you argue 00:49:00that the bears, when they examine them, in the spring when they have no plaques and most of the time they don't have them anyway. So my argument is simple: there has to be a reason. The bears we work with are at the Wildlife Safari. We have worked with Washington State because they have 28 bears that live outside and they work with bears all the time. We needed large samples to study the blood. So the bear can hibernate. Brown bears may get to be 1400, 1600 pounds. Now the mother bear will eat and she gets fat and she goes and now the zoologists don't call it hibernation, they call it "torpor." And when a 00:50:00biochemist like I says hibernation, they say, "They're not hibernating, it's torpor." Well, let me put it this way, they go to sleep. [Laughs] They will sleep for that whole period. When they start out, they may weigh 1400 to 1600 pounds. The mother bear is pregnant and neither she, nor any bear goes to the bathroom during the time they're in this hibernation. She births the cub, wakes up, cleans off the placenta, then goes back to sleep. She doesn't take any water, she doesn't eat any food, and she does all this in that period of time.
Now, what Gamble's explanation is that they (the bears) are able to recycle thewater. So when the bear eats a lot of food first stores it all as fat, the energy as fat. Now fat is made of fatty acids and glycerol. Everybody knows what 00:51:00glycerol is, it's a carbohydrate-it's just carbon, hydrogen; it's like water except it's glycerol. And fatty acids are attached to it in the three positions. There are just long , long chain things, I don't know if you remember your chemistry, it doesn't matter, they have, fatty acids are like this [draws a diagram], they have a lot of carbons [drawing on pad of paper] and these are all-I have to do it right, so you can read. Students used to stop me in the middle of lecture, "we can't read what you're writing thank you very much" [laughs]. So, it's got these carbons but at the end of it, it has what we call a carboxyl group. Now it's more, I'll just put it in because it's longer than that. Now when this material, and now she stores it, and this is glycerol I'll just put that there, and glycerol looks like this. So all it's made of these two. Now, here's my oxygen on this side. Glycerol is like this, that's like the 00:52:00stuff you buy or least my wife does sometimes and puts it on this and that. And this is a fatty acid, let's see an example, there's a fatty acid called stearic acid, there's one called palmitic, now the reason I tell you about palmitic is because it's a fatty acid, but soaps are made of base, and fatty acids. And palmitic, is the one that the brand Palmolive is named for.
Now, what the bear does is eat a lot, gains weight and never eats anymore, andwhat happens in this is when you have a fatty acid, these little things [referring to drawing] are all converted to carbon dioxide. Now, everybody knows about that now, because they say, oh too much CO2 in the air. So, the fat converts that to this and the hydrogens become water. Everybody knows that H2O, 00:53:00so it's producing CO2 which is water and a gas. But the bear never wakes up (during hibernation), it sleeps all that time and it never goes to the bathroom. And that intrigues me, because, you figure, how can you not go to the bathroom? And you're doing all of this, now when he produces CO2 he exhales that, he gets rid of that. When he produces water he just recycles it. His kidney will recycle the water and he does not accumulate a lot of other things because of this process, what he does is just using fat. That's his energy source.
And so, he's only producing CO2 and water, the water the kidney recycles, theCO2 of course, he breathes out and maintains acid/base balance. They just take the fat and convert it to CO2 and water. You get energy when you do this. The 00:54:00water is stored and they exhale the C02. Now, you guys say why doesn't the fat, the bear get acidic and get an upset stomach? Well it's because the bear can maintain the pH of its blood by doing these things, gets rid of the excess CO2, cycles the water and then uses the energy derived from these bonds to produce energy. Everybody knows about ATP, it produces [indistinct]. This is the energy, this is the compound which the cells use, adenosine triphosphate, can you see my writing? It has these bonds in it, so three phosphate bonds.
Ok, and I'll just, I'm just doing a little biochemistry, I'll just write so you00:55:00can see it. I should go to the board [indicates white board on wall, moves to white board]. Here, this, it has, three of these, phosphate, phosphorous derivative, part it's called a phosphate. It has a molecule on the end called adenosine, now, you don't have to know the chemistry. But it's attached here, and when this wants energy, the cell breaks it down. It breaks this bond, and it forms, when it's broken, it's associated with some reaction which drives it, the reaction. Then, if you eat food then it stores it back in this, so ATP is kind of a thing for storing energy. Now, the bear, eats a lot of food and he has therefore a lot of ATP, and but when he breaks this down to from carbon dioxide, 00:56:00now that's acidic. They tell you now they don't want too much in the air, right? He breaks the CO2 and he has water, but he cannot excrete the water so, he just keeps recycling the water and he pushes the CO2 out of his lungs and he controls this process so he doesn't get alkalitic , too much acid or too basic. That's the normal process for a lot of animals, but nobody but hibernating animal can go as long as this, a bear will be in there three months, never go to the bathroom, and he never gets alkalatic, never gets acidotic.
And, I tell everyone, I don't know how the bear does it. We can't, that's forsure! But the bear goes all those months without going to the bathroom. Now, I told you it was because, when you say what does this have to do with the bear not having the disease? So, I'll just make it simple and say, what I'm saying is 00:57:00that bears can hibernate and all the animals that I know who hibernate, none of them have the disease. Not one. And I make a point of saying that they tell you to eat fish, that helps you to not to get the disease, and that's true, but the fish itself gets the disease. And, but the bears never get the disease. They also will lie in that position, all that time, they move around, and they never get osteoporosis or osteopetrosis. No soft bones, no hardening. And the thing that gets me personally, is that I don't how or why they were made up, but the thing they do is that because they have all this acid produced they neutralize it with base. So that the keep they maintain the acid. They help maintain it by getting rid of the CO2 just like we do, if we didn't breathe in and out the CO2 we end up being acidotic. So the bears breathing out but he's also neutralizing 00:58:00it, and then it uses the energy so that he doesn't have to eat anymore.
Now, why did I mention that to you? Is that, I don't know why that's true, but Ido know that all the animals that we know that don't have the disease have the capacity to hibernate. So I took that argument and said why does that happen, and it's a simple one. This paper tells you what we're doing. (Gamble W.  Atherosclerosis: The carbonic anhydrase, carbon dioxide, calcium concerted theory. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 239, pp. 16-21)
Yeah, so now what happens they say is that here's your artery, and you have anyartery, and you get these plaques inside here and they block off [draws on paper] and the plaques have the things that I've mentioned in them. But you say, "How come the bear doesn't have this problem?" The truth is that I don't know. But I wrote this theory to try and explain what happens. 00:59:00
I want to give you an idea of why we say in our theory of why the bear does notget this plaque formed in here. Now the plaque contains the following-protein, 01:00:00and you all will know what that protein is when I tell you. It contains albumin, and albumin is the stuff you have in egg white. So it does have, but it also has cholesterol as a protein, not the only protein, it has cholesterol, it has calcium, and it has phosphate. The normal blood doesn't have any trouble with any of these things.
But what happens when you get atherosclerosis is that you accumulate high levelsof cholesterol, and you have to be able to maintain that in some kind of 01:01:00solution otherwise it will fall out. You have water in the system, you have these types of protein in the system, albumin, and so these are soluble in water, but cholesterol is not soluble in water. Now you also have fat or lipids. Cholesterol is a lipid, so it is not soluble in water. So what happens when you get the disease, for reasons which are not, in my opinion no one can unequivocally say, this cholesterol starts to fall out of solution. If fat stays 01:02:00in solution, it can emulsify and keep it in solution. So there are things that can keep it in solution normally.
Even though the disease was first described in 1500 B.C., I'm about to tell youthat nobody really knows the etiology to this day. That's why they can sell you (cholesterol drugs) and make billions of dollars, because you want to keep this stuff from falling out of solution. Cholesterol is not soluble in water, and 01:03:00it's a big molecule, this is the way it looks [drawing on board]. Now this is cholesterol, I have a double bond there. Now, this is a picture of cholesterol, but it doesn't like water so it's insoluble. That's OK. But your body normally keeps it surrounded by protein and fat and it just goes along. But if you get too high cholesterol, it's going to fall out of solution.
So, my argument is that, it's ok it won't do any harm there. But happens is that01:04:00if it falls out of solution then you get you get these plaques formed in your blood vessels. I'll give you a good example, you take a piece of rope and you cut it up real fine and you put it in your mouth, it won't dissolve. Now, if you swallow it, it will go right down to your digestive tract and usually you won't die from it, it'll be surrounded by things. So that eating the cholesterol that gets out of you is not the problem. But in your vessel you have too much cholesterol it starts to be insoluble. So what happens is that let's say that you just get these crystals, they just start falling apart in here. But normally, they're usually surrounded by fat and proteins which keep it in solution. But in your vessel what happens is that when it precipitates out, when 01:05:00it falls out, now, all these things which gather around it and encapsulate it so now it can't dissolve very easily. And therefore, the stuff will start to accumulate. And pretty soon, if you've got too much, it will accumulate and block and the worst thing that happens, once it gets there and if it's encapsulated with calcium carbonate. Then it's not ever going to come back into solution. Now calcium carbonate is what your bones are made of. So when you're encapsulated with calcium carbonate, now, I'm telling you, that's a problem. But how does the bear avoid it? This is Gamble's prejudice: it's called a theory [laughs]. The bear avoids it because the bear has absolute metabolism control over its CO2 metabolism. It never gets acidotic or too much. So the bear never gets to this stage. And the reason it doesn't get to this stage is because the bear does not allow the calcium carbonate to stay there. It keeps the calcium 01:06:00ion which is perfectly happy in the water and converts it back to CO2 which the bear now exhales out. That's what the bear does, he never lets the calcium carbonate and the other proteins which are present there, he never lets them get big enough to encapsulate that cholesterol. 01:07:00
So that's, it's, that's the simple argument that I make and then I argue with mycolleagues about it. So what I'm saying is that for some reason bears and animals which can hibernate which control their carbon dioxide metabolism don't have that problem. Now, you say how come? Now, if you were to put your head in a paper bag and let that CO2 come in and you breathe too much you'll faint because your body is telling you something. And if you left it too long you probably 01:08:00would have some trouble with your acid-base balance. But generally you're saved because you can't breathe it too long or you'll faint and then you take the bag away from your head.
I've been studying atherosclerosis since 1962. But remember back in 1500 B.C. iswhen they first wrote about it and nobody knows the theory. I don't care what they say, nobody knows the etiology and if they tell you they do they're not telling the whole truth. We still don't know. And this, this is what I said this 01:09:00is my theory, a simple theory that the reason that the bear doesn't get it is the bear's metabolism allows it not to allow the calcium carbonate to trap this cholesterol in it . If it's encapsulated you can't dissolve it, and you can't, so when it breaks open it forms plaques all inside of the thing, and now you've got calcium and that's just like having lime inside of your body, you know. And they also make crystals, which can be sharp, and then people start hemorrhaging inside. So basically, now but that's a theory, no, as like I said and I keep repeating, 1500 BC they described it, the Egyptians knew about it. Everybody knows about it, but there've been several Nobel prizes, but I can tell nobody knows exactly why.
LH: What people have been the biggest influence for you at OSU, and why?
WG: Now, let's see, I came here as a junior guy and the person that gave me the01:10:00most support was the chairman, when I got here, Bert Christensen. Bert Christensen was a personal friend of Lemuel Wright who was my mentor at Cornell, so I sort of had it made when I applied here. The person that invited me (to OSU), Vern Cheldelin, he Wright were both graduate students at University of Texas together and they had been lifelong friends. So you know I was brilliant to get this job, right? [laughs] Extremely brilliant! [laughs] They gave me a job, now remember I came in 1962 this place was something for a kid from the ghetto, is a kind of strange new environment. I'd go.
But here people would ask me, why did I come to Oregon, and I'd say I'd come toOregon, I'd tell them for this job at OSU. And they'd ask me do you fish? I'd say no. Do you hunt? No. Do you ski? No. Do you mountain climb? No. Do you hike? 01:11:00No. [laughs] I said no, I'm an urban person, they'd say well why'd you come to Oregon? I said, well, my father always told us when you're 18 you either be in school or you have a job and you be out on your own. You have your own place. My mother did not agree with this. Now (for) the girls, that's different; they don't have the same rules for the girls as they had for us (two sons). They don't want them in despair, but my brother and I, he was 17 years younger than 01:12:00me. We'd go visit holidays and all that, and we'd go visit Mom on the weekend.
My dad was trying to teach us a lesson, and later, as I'm an older man, Iappreciate it. Anyway. I just said that Vern Cheldelin got me here and Dr. Christensen was my boss. Excellent, I mean, he said to me, "Look, we want you here." He said, "Lem is a personal friend of mine; he wouldn't send anybody who's not good. He (Lem) spoke very highly of you, he said, they would even keep 01:13:00you back at Cornell," but I told him no, no you don't want to get a job where you do your mentoring, people know you in a different way. The day I came to give my seminar, Vern Cheldelin was there; he was a professor in chemistry too but he became the Dean of the College of Science. So you know, I was brilliant, right? [Laughs] And, I've been away many times now, I mean, I go on sabbaticals. So I was at NIH three times.
SB: How long were you at NIH?01:14:00
A year each time, I was in the lab at NIH. I also was a Fulbright at Ghana. Ilived in Ghana for twelve months at the University of Science and Technology. Here's what happened, I got this information about Fulbright on my desk one time. And also, I knew a person at Cornell who was from Ghana, we were working for the same guy. So I applied for a Fulbright and I got it. I'd asked for special permission to be away, 'cause I wasn't here long enough to have a sabbatical.
And so I went to Ghana in 1971 to the University of Science and Technology. And01:15:00it turns out that the Chairman of the Biochemistry Department was the guy I told you I knew from Ghana at Cornell. He was the chairman there, but in fact when I got the Fulbright he, he had left to go to Lugan where he was the chairman there! So he wasn't there when I got there, but he was a friend. So I took my family, my wife and my daughter, and we stayed there a full year on the Fulbright.
I taught biochemistry and enzymology at the University of Science andTechnology. I had a great time there, of course they speak English. And so, one of my students from Ghana came to OSU, and was one the best students we've had here. Eventually she became a dean. She was a brilliant student, the first 01:16:00student at that university they ever gave first class honors , you know what I mean? They're on the British system. In, in chemistry, she was the top of her class. When I got there, she was at that time a student, and she had already won all kinds of awards. So, she was in my class, two of my classes while I was there. And then after, before I left Ghana she wanted to come here, and I said fine, so we brought her here as a graduate student.
My daughter went to school on the campus in Kumasi, Ghana, the primary school.And she was 7 years old when she arrived there; by the time she left she was speaking fluently one of the local native languages. Where I lived on the campus, they provided faculty housing and for some reason we were very lucky. On 01:17:00that campus there was an art school. You know, Ghana has a lot of art. And so, it was an art college, but they had moved the college to another place, so we got to live in the president's house, I don't know why. But at least 'cause I knew, remember, I knew the chairman of the department before I got there. I wouldn't take anything for the experience, students were all very intense and sharp and easy to instruct so I had a good time. And, my wife had to adjust of course. So you could get at the stores in Kumasi anything you can get anywhere because the British were and are still there. It just cost you more money.
My daughter went to school there, and this was the greatest shock for her. She01:18:00was in, they call it, class, here she was in the first grade, had been. You know, she finished that year before we left so she was supposed to be in the second grade. When she first got her first report, they give you kind of a warning report. And it says that she didn't know the math, and the one that got me the most was that she was getting, was having difficulty with religion. And I said, how did she get that? And it turned out that it was a Catholic nun who taught this aspect of religion to them, it wasn't against any rules. But, I asked my daughter Priscilla about it, my wife claims she's like me. But at any rate, I asked her; she said, "Dad, this nun said our hands are from God, we are to use them, use them from God." I said, "What's wrong with that?" She said, 01:19:00these are my hands, they're not God's hands!" [laughs]. But about the math. So I go to the math teacher and I see that they're giving them long divisions and multiplications and everything and she's in the second grade! And so, I said "oh my goodness!" The teachers showed me the test. So, I told them , "My wife's pretty good at math." And I said to her, "You've got to work with her every day, she's never seen that." She didn't even know what a test was, she'd never had a test! So, every day my wife had to go over the math with her. She was a little bit reluctant because she'd never had to do that before, but we couldn't afford to let her get poor grades there. And so by the time she got through, I said how did you like it? She said, "I'm never going to take second grade math again!" [laughs]. All the way through, but at any rate she (my daughter) survived. She's 01:20:00pretty good at reading she's pretty good at writing. But she'd never had any math like that. And when we came back I went over to her teacher, and she said, "Oh, no they've never had that." And I said that was like me throwing her into a fire where she wasn't prepared. But she made it and she survived.
The worst part was though, was that she was failing religion. And I said no,gosh, I take her to Sunday School every day, every Sunday here and they teach her about the Bible and all that. And so, I went there and the nun said, "She's ok but she just won't do certain things." And I looked at her and I said, I didn't say anything in the presence of the nun, I said ok, we'll make sure, my wife will make sure she knows what she needs to know. But she was very unhappy, she said, she keeps saying my hands are made for God [laughs]. She couldn't get over it. I said, "Priscilla Ann, you have to do whatever this nun says, we 01:21:00cannot have you go home, the only class you're failing is religion. This is not good." Her math teacher's name was Mrs. Teti, and she had this bright red hair, freckles, and I looked at her and I said, "You must be masquerading as a Ghanian," and she said "I'm a Ghanian." And then she said do you want to see my children? I said yeah, pictures, and she said, "oh they're here I'm about to take them home." She brought them in, there were two of them, a boy and a girl, bright red hair [laughs] with freckles. Now they weren't Caucasian freckles, 01:22:00they were more brown, but they were true freckles. Now I had a little when I was a kid so I wasn't so surprised at that. But, my point is that, I was very surprised. But then, the longer I lived there, I realized that this is a very heterogenous place. These people were absolutely all Ghanian. It was a good experience for my daughter, when she got back here. They were asking me, was she so far advanced? And I said, are you kidding me? [laughs] Advanced? I was teaching her and my wife spending every day trying to keep her to keep up with them.
LH: We understand that you were one of the first faculty members to establishBlack fraternities at OSU, would you tell how that came about? How important do you think they and the Black sororities are for the students of color on campus?
WG: The guy who was responsible for that was the one who also started the Black01:23:00Cultural Center, you know? And he was a Kappa and so was I. So, and the alumni chapter in Portland, they have an alumni chapter and they also have undergrad chapters. And, I knew him and he knew that I was a Kappa. Now, you should understand that I was Wayne State and Kappas are a social fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi. When I say it's a Black (fraternity), it was. But, two of our members on the campus were of course, Caucasian. We'll say historically it was a Black fraternity. And most, but here (at OSU), I mean you have about five cents' worth of Black students here [laughs] and we going to form a fraternity! So, but this fraternity's charter does not indicate any race, but historically, in the 01:24:00southern states, they were all Blacks. But when I was at Wayne State, because we knew each other, you know, two of the guys who joined were Caucasian. So here, we, and the guys in Portland would come down because they had alumni, to teach these kids what to do. The reason that I was involved, and Lonnie was involved, is because we were Kappas. I was a Kappa at Wayne State, and Lonnie was a Kappa at, I think, Tennessee State. So this is a historical Black fraternity, but it is not and never has been restricted to Blacks, by the fraternity . Anybody or any background or race can join the Kappa Alpha Psi. It's just historically, when they were in the South, there were hardly anyone else to join but Blacks, 01:25:00and Blacks couldn't join the Caucasian (fraternities). So, the reason Lonnie came to me is 'cause he knew I was a member. And the guy in Portland who also knew I was a member. So, they wanted to form a chapter here and they did because there were some Black kids down here, some of whom were athletes some were not. They knew about these fraternities because they were from other places and we didn't have any here.
So, Lonnie, myself, and people from the alumni chapter in Portland all, did theproper things, you have to go through the whole ritual to apply and all of that. And then, they had, I think, maybe 10 or 12 kids who wanted to be members. And you go through it, you know, you can see how silly we are as kids, we call it, the initiation is called the Burning Sands [laughs]. You know, you think about 01:26:00it, guys are crazy. Nobody would complain because you supposed to be tough, you know [laughs]. Listen, I don't know, if I was to judge by my daughter, I don't think the girls have to be that way. But guys, this is where. So that's how it got to be, and I was active as an undergrad from all the way through. And, then partially in the grad, because that I went to grad school in biochemistry after I finished at the med school. So I was very active and here, when I came there was nothing here. And once in awhile I'd go and see some guys up in Portland just to hang out with them, keep in touch with what's going on with the fraternity. So this is how that came about. And, but the fraternity has never had and never will (have) a restriction on membership from anyone. Even in the south, but you know none of the Caucasians in the south were going to join a 01:27:00fraternity associated with Black kids. Of course, 'cause you're too young, you may think, that may sound foreign. But that it was true, but it's true, no problem about it. But we were in Detroit, I was at Wayne State. And like I said, we had, two guys that I knew who were Caucasian. Then we had, there were several more, because, I don't know about you girls, but we'd just hang out together. And we hang out because we have common interests. And my wife says that interests turn out to be very common, because she, at one point, was one of those common interests. And, no it's true. Of course, she had friends too who were not Black, of course but we were.
So, it's Black because it's traditionally Black and there are several and theyhave big meetings, national meetings and all of that. You just hang out with 01:28:00people, it's a common interest, and sometimes in a place like Flint, it's a common defense. You got to have a group otherwise you gonna get pushed off the...we'd play basketball you know. Playground basketball, and if you don't have some guys on there who are good, you're not gonna play very long because every time you lose, you sit down. And so, on the playground it's, the guys are chosen by their ability not about whether they're Chinese, Japanese, Black or whatever. And so, you get to hang out with guys who like to play the way you do and that sort of thing. So it's not, it's not like the structure becomes more acute, I think when it comes to boy-girl relationships. Like, you know, if the girl is Asian and her daddy is from thousands of years back, you show up on the 01:29:00steps. They won't say anything but there is a cultural thing. But for most of my friends we're working our way through school, we're saving money, marriage and seriousness is not a part [laughs] of our thoughts, forget it. I know my wife because her parents' family were friends of my dad's family. They're from way back, some went to school together and all that. But, I didn't know her, and the only time I saw her was when they'd have a picnic. She was too much younger than I was. I'm a teenager and she's three years younger than I am. Like she, I'm 18, 19-she's 16, 15: forget it [laughs]. But because her family and my family, father's families from a long way back, that's how I got to know her at these 01:30:00family things. I didn't marry her until she was in her twenties. You know, I didn't even date her until she was in her twenties, But, she was much younger than I am. She'd point it out to you all if she were right here [laughs].
LH: Yeah, so kind of the follow up to that is that, you know, I understand thathistorically this was a Black fraternity, and it sounds like it was the first one at OSU.
WG: Correct. But now, there are several more. That's right.
LH: What do you feel the importance is of those organizations are for studentsof color?
WG: Well, the thing is this. I come from Flint, Michigan. We weren'tsophisticated, I mean, we were just kids. We had sports, and all that. They were just a part of life. But mine was baseball, they used to claim that I should've become the baseball preacher. 'Cause that's all I did, I said you play basketball, I'm 5'9", then you go play basketball. But while you're on that 01:31:00baseball field, I'm the man. I don't care if you're 6'6," you can't hit it any farther than I can. They played playground ball like you sit and wait and play. But it's a cultural thing, these guys will sit on your chest and not apologize, you know what I mean, it's just a game.
So now here, the reason that it is important is because if you are not a strongperson and you arrive in a town like Corvallis. Now when I arrived here, I probably could count when I see some Black person-no, you weren't even thought about. But so, it helps them to meet someone where you hang out and do the same kind of things. You speak the same language, and it's not the King's language. Like, for example, we used all kind of terms when I was growing up. For example, 01:32:00you never say to another colleague or guy who hangs out with you what is it? You say "what it is?" You never say "what is it?" to him, he'll look at you; he'll say you're no English professor, get over it. Because you want to be part of the group you learn the language.
And so, these kids are here now, they come from various places, especially whenthey used to come from Los Angeles, they come from Los Angeles and they go to Portland. I'm talking about Black kids, and see, I was an advisor too. And I was in the fraternity, so I knew young kids when they'd come. They'd come from Los Angeles, and people would tell them to go to Portland 'cause there's a Black community up there. And they'd come back to me and they'd say I didn't find any Black community. They said, those people aren't Black, I don't know who they are [laughs]. I thought you told me there were some Black communities up in 01:33:00Portland. He said, no, no. I had one kid, my wife just loved him because he was here from Los Angeles and he was a street kid, and she knew she had married a street kid. So, once she met him she'd have him come to the house to eat. And, but he always complained, he said, I go there and I talk to these people, there's nothing Black about them, except their skin, it's obvious they have dark skin but they're not Black. You know, and I said, well, I grew up in Flint, so if you were to go to Flint, right now, not now because this place, they've made it a ghost town. When you go from any other town, like, let's say Saginaw, those little towns where they do have Blacks. Then they gonna come to Flint, it's another world, it's entirely a different world, because the kids are all different. And they make their own language. And they speak sometimes and nobody 01:34:00understands what they're talking about because it's in the language.
Now, the reason that I knew both (ways of speaking) was simple; we'd hang outwith guys. But Mrs. Benoit, I told you my Latin teacher taught me a very important lesson, and when I walked into her class that , I told you, I was like every guy that I hang out with. I didn't have my shirt zipped up, I had it down. I didn't take my cap off, and she was the only person in the room, and I sat down. Now, my grandmother, great-grandmother, if they knew I did that in the classroom they'd probably shoot me. But, but they weren't there and that was at school, you are in this culture. They'd have what people call ice cream type parlors and that, you just go there to hang out. Now, if you go in there, you go home from school you stop in the parlor for a few minutes and you still have your books, and you walk in there, you don't want to do that, if you've got a bike or something, hide 'em in the bike. 'Cause when you walk in there, they'll 01:35:00ask, "What are you trying to prove with all these books?" you know [laughs]. So there's a culture, that they keep up with the language. But, nine out of ten of 'em are just like in my family: you don't do your homework, you don't get good grades, you're in a world of trouble. Because they're in a place like Flint, they do have the schools are great, and you have the Mott Foundation. You don't have to do anything but go to school and your parents who are there trying to get out of the hole. And if you mess up, any and all of the guys I knew and didn't know, knew if you mess up that's a deadly serious thing.
So they still have a subculture though, they still talk this language and theydo things which are stupid. Including myself, you know, you say things which are stupid. But, you're at the college here now and that's a different place. So they need to meet guys who can speak their language and still know that the language is stupid. You know what I mean? You have to understand that. But, if 01:36:00you try to take it away from them precipitously then they're not happy; some will even leave. But Lonnie, who started that program, understood that, he worked with juveniles from there and all over the country. And he understood the Black youth culture and that what they have to understand this is not a Black world, even if you go to Africa. If you go to Ghana, and you're speaking like you do from Detroit they'll look at you like you're crazy. You may have the same or some of the same types of pigments or features, but they don't care about that. They don't care if you black, white or green, there's a strong culture and some of it's tribalistic, you know what I mean. In fact, some kids, when I was there, went to University of Lugan and they got into a world of trouble. There was almost a riot there, college kids coming from all over the United States, 01:37:00but they came there to go to school, a special program. These people have been brought up here (in Ghana) all their life, everybody they see mostly is Black. You know, that is no identifier, they don't identify with you on the basis of the fact that you may have pigment or whatever. So you have to learn that there are cultural differences. And here, this was a problem because they just didn't have anyone to identify with, what I call phenotypically. But, once they deal with the students, they learn that there's no difference, you know, no more than the other group of people. You find the guys you want to hang out with. But, even when I came (to OSU), I was the only Black person in the Chemistry department. The only other non-white person was the guy I told you from India. 01:38:00Any rate, this is a good thing to have some of these (Black fraternities) here. But they don't take the place of you're learning how to deal with anything. And, I never had any trouble with that because I had a great-grandmother and grandmother all dealt with all kinds of people. And even what we call the old country.
My great-grandmother was a nurse in a little town called Greenville where mymother went to have me. But dealing in that Deep South, there were cultural things in some people who didn't obey the rules in terms of segregation and that sort of thing-they were trying to hold Blacks back and that. Of course my great-grandmother though, I showed a picture of her mother to a friend of mine 01:39:00who was from who was actually from Puerto Rico and he looked at my great-grandmother's mother and he said, "she has blue eyes!" and I said, "wait a minute, this is a black-and-white picture," and look at her eyes, her eyes are really, really light and she had not typical what I would call African-like features, and she was my great-grandmother's mother. And my great-grandmother didn't look like her mother. But she was a fair person, and she had hair like you [indicating an interviewer with straight, shoulder-length brown hair], she wore her hair very long.
Now, what I'm saying is that when you live in different places like my familydid. The ones who were my siblings, you would know they are all Black, they are all African-American, you could tell right away, because none of us are like those ancestors. But, what I'm trying to say is that it is not a simple matter. 01:40:00What you need to do, and I was an advisor, is find a guy, or if you are a girl, who is like you-forget about everything else and you will be just fine. And if you tell me you can't do that you've got a problem and you need to solve that problem. It's not a problem. I mean if that were true, I wouldn't be sitting here. Everyone who recommended me for this job, they were Caucasian! And I had lots of colleagues here, you know, the chairman of the department-they were all Caucasian. I was the only Black person there. And then we had two superiors, by superior I mean higher positions (at the university) who were Chinese.
So I guess what I'm saying is, yes these things are real, but they're just likeyou know: should you have a Fred Myers store? Should you have a K-Mart? For those kids when they first get here, they feel smart, and they're intelligent. 01:41:00You don't pick your friends by only the guys in the fraternity. They are what you call your "running buddies." You can't survive with that. There are things that you do that you are already familiar with that will be in this group of kids, so you have that and so if someone tries to ostracize you, you don't feel that you're so alone, but it depends on the person. It never was a problem for me so I guess because of where I grew up and the way we were educated and trained. I don't meet a stranger-my wife thinks I'm crazy-because I'm sitting in a restaurant and next to a guy-if I don't ask him who he is or what and we get into a conversation pretty soon because I'm just next to another human being.
LH: Do you have any opinion or ideas about why the proportion of minority01:42:00students has essentially remained unchanged over time? What could OSU do to attract more minority, particularly African-American students? 01:43:00
WG: First, they are going to come to a place if they are-and it's terrible nowbecause people don't have any money, they are losing their housing. If a kid came from there now he's need a lot of help because he'd have to make a too many changes. I don't know, I have a lot of nephews and they have good jobs, but even though they can get a transfer, they can't sell their houses. My father worked 01:44:00for General Motors for a long time, so he was quote a "middle class person." We lived on a street which has about eight houses and three of them are boarded up now-at least they were when I was there last summer. That means because if they leave them, people just break in, take all the fixtures and everything and nobody's going to stop them because these guys are horrible. They will hurt people. So all I'm saying, my aunt lives there, who is my mother's sister and she is actually the last living person in my mother's family. She lives there, but she's lived there a long time, since she was a girl. The neighborhood she lives in, it's still, you know, a lot of people aren't moving because these people are old. They're in their houses and they are also lucky because they have retirement and they have social security, just like my aunt. She's not 01:45:00going to move because it would take somebody with a bulldozer to get her out of her house, because, you know, she's a widow, and her kids are scattered except a couple of them still live in Flint. So you're not going to get her to move out of there.
But it is a tough place to be now; it's very difficult because of the economicstatus. But your specific question was about like-I think you need to have someone in your life that a person sees at least once in awhile, with whom, he typically, he recognizes. It would be like if you went to visit relatives in a town-you know all your relatives there. But you're not unhappy because when you go to a place you don't look to expect to know anyone else. You don't want to display ignorance, so will you go to somebody that knows your family. Now they're in the same position-they have to find someone-not, and it's not a 01:46:00racial thing. It's not even ethnicity. It's just someone with the same experience, the same kind of experience and they can ask questions and they won't sound, they won't feel stupid to ask the question. So that's a good thing to have, a good think to have quote "a native from the city." It's good to have people from everywhere whether they're from America or not. Now that's a bias on my part.
But I think it's good to made to deal with something you don't normally have todeal with. And there are certain things that happen that people are surprised at, in the culture, like in my family, as I said, there are three girls. My dad is from the old school. But he is a guy who would invite anyone to the dinner table. If they didn't have a place to stay, my brother would get so upset, because he (my dad) would make a place for them to stay. That's just the way he was, he was just, he didn't care, see he worked for General Motors. They are all kinds of people, they're from all over the world; he didn't care who it was. So that is not the problem: the problem is that when young kids start to grow up, 01:47:00as where we used to say, to give you an idea of how it was-I don't know how it is now: I'm an old man. But in Flint, when we grew up, there were people from everywhere. My street was like the United Nations, because they were all there, most of them were not rich, like my dad-they were there because they were working for General Motors. So what I'm saying to you is that if you come to a place like this (Corvallis) and you don't see anybody you know typically that looks like you-you see them on television-but it would be helpful if you want to have somebody to hang out with or share with or whatever, because you have something in common, so I think to have them (Black fraternities) is good, but they are expensive.
KH: What would have done differently, if you could do anything differently?01:49:0001:48:00
What would I have done differently? To be honest with you, I wouldn't have doneanything differently. To be honest, well, when I say this, I would like to have had different results. When I got here, I would like to have had a fraternity of guys. See, I grew up in a family where we, like I told you, I had a grandmother, a great-grandmother, a grandfather, and then I had all my aunts and uncles-my mother's family was seven children: four girls and three boys. So I grew up in 01:50:00that kind of an environment. Each one is different. My uncle, who was the youngest among them, he's the one I wanted to be like because he liked to do all these irresponsible things! [laughs] The rules didn't mean too much to me. Like for example, my wife, she's not a very vocal person, but she's also happy within herself, so it didn't bother her that she didn't know (anybody), but as soon as she got to be in chemistry, she knew the chemistry wives, then she belonged to, what do you call it, it was like a faculty club that everybody belonged to. I've forgotten what it was called. But they still probably have it, and they had a newcomers' thing. And she's not at all what I would call a socially outgoing person. But she was perfectly happy with being here. What she did miss was her 01:51:00family who were a long ways away, and when we came here, her husband was the assistant professor so it was maybe holidays and summer to go back to Michigan and plane fare then was relatively high. But she was able to adjust to being here. Because I grew up in a family within a lot of people and we were accustomed to dealing with a lot of people. My uncles, for example, worked in a lot of places where they were the only African-American there, but like my one uncle, Clarence, they invited all kinds of people to the house. Because they already had a house full of people, adding one or two more didn't make a difference. So, but for some people the adjustment is more difficult. I guess the way they grew up, sort of thing.
And me, I don't worry about some things because I feel that my experiences aresuch that human beings are human beings and I don't worry about it. What I do is 01:52:00try to do my own thing and to enjoy people. I don't see-the bottom line, when I'm traveling, most of the time if I'm sitting next to someone, I'll start a conversation with him even if he doesn't like to talk. And my wife, she says, "Will, shut up!" [laughs] But so, most people aren't like that. So the kids who come who are not what I would call aggressively outgoing people; they need a shoulder, or someone who has at least an experience similar to theirs. But I'm just very aggressive and I love people, so being here didn't bother me, and I was in the chemistry department. My instruction load the first years, I didn't have time to worry about what the place was like, you know getting all those lectures ready and also looking out on the class there. I was teaching three professional and one undergrad course, and it was about 225 students. I looked 01:53:00out, I didn't see one Mediterranean head of hair, you know what I mean? Nobody with hair even that was brown like yours [refers to the interviewer's long, straight, brown hair]. You know so, I say now, like some puzzle we get in the house, my daughter will say "This is very interesting!" [laughs] And here I am, a ghetto kid, trying to teach these kids. They were typical, perfect, you know, Northern European people. And I had a lot of friends like that because I was at Cornell, so I was no stranger. But generally, you know, Cornell because it had Italians, you know, and a lot of different ethnic groups. But here, it was pretty homogeneous. Now here (at OSU), it's better, you know. When I say "better" I mean you get to see different people but being here, for me: I just like people, so it's no problem. And also if you have to instruct, some people have to come to you anyway, they've got to get the papers, and you interact with 01:54:00students and especially the kids like myself, from the ghetto, and they tell me, and I say, "Why did you come to Oregon State?" And one little girl, she was actually from someplace small, I forget. She said to me, "I wanted to go to a larger city." [All laugh] Yes! I tried not to smile at this! But I understood her: it (Corvallis) was large for her.
LH: Tell us about your own family-sons, daughters? What are they doing? Didanyone follow in your footsteps?
WG: I have one daughter, her name is Priscilla, and now I have twograndchildren, one is named Marya. Marya is 14, and the boy is Cyril and he is 11. He almost cries because I need to (be able to) see them at all times (when I babysit). He doesn't like to stay still. Now the girl, though, she's good. Her father, my son-in-law, he's an artist. She's like my son-in-law, she's very talented. She's a very good artist.
SB: Where do they live?
WG: They live in Seattle, so I don't see them every day.
LH: What are you the proudest of? What will others think is your greatestaccomplishment? Well, you know, because of where I grew up, and the way my mother and father and parents are, the thing that I'm proudest of is that I was able to survive. That I was able to adjust to things that were uncomfortable, that I could retain those things which I had been taught all my life. I didn't care-people may think I'm stupid-but if somebody uh, chooses you out and says 01:55:00they don't like you and they don't even know you, they have nothing to base it on, I say that's part of life. And it has nothing to do with race per se because when you are in a place like Flint, there are 20, 30 percent of the people were Black. Just because they were Black didn't mean you know, you were admitted by them because you know some of them are crooks! [laughs]
So you know, when I say I came from a large family-and we were a family,starting with our great-grandmother-and my great-grandmother, my wife is about five one-and-a-half and she always tried to tell my wife she (my great-grandmother) was tall as she (my wife) was, and even though she (my wife) could almost look over her head. She was about, I would say at the most four-eleven. But she was like a little soldier and my uncle is 6'4" now and my other uncle, he weighed two-sixty-when she spoke, he listened! So I learned that 01:56:00size and all that doesn't matter. Oh, and she was very fair-I must tell you this-she was very fair. You wouldn't say she was Caucasian, but she was fair (in complexion). She was just like Mrs. Teti (in Ghana); she had red hair. But she was very fair and she was a tough little cookie and she was just very good. So basically what I'm saying is that I grew up in a heterogeneous family; I grew up with people who didn't care about whether you were rich or poor. My uncles they're the ones rich anyway-we were just guys. Besides I was too short to worry about whether somebody likes you or not. 01:57:00
What my dad taught us was how to survive. Don't worry about, don't choose your01:58:00friends because somebody looks like you or doesn't look like you. You try to make your way, and so that helped me here. Because when I got here, I'd be looking around to see how many people looked like me and when I looked out at my class, there was not one-there was no Mediterranean, there was no one even with black hair-real black hair, not brown hair, there was not one among my students! But that didn't worry me because I'd been at Cornell and Cornell was a small town, there was a small Black population, but there were people from all over the world.
So that's the way I lived, and I have discovered that it doesn't matter who your01:59:00friends are. And the problem is I had a slew of angels. I would not survive I believe, and people are hesitant, and I'm not talking about spiritual angels, I'm talking about real angels-I wouldn't be sitting here with you if all those guys hadn't reached out. I was [indistinct] three times, three times, for a month at a time, working in the lab, having lunch, and sitting at a table with people they don't know me but I know them-big prize winners and that sort of thing. So you don't get to those things because you are so brilliant and all; you need someone to help you. So I've got a lot of that-I'm proud of that. A lot of people helped me. You know, I'll give you one example here-A matter of several years ago, many years ago now in the 60s, I wanted to go and learn all about computers-back then we were doing a computer simulation, digital and analog, and I knew a guy, Tim, they were in the Johnson Research Foundation 02:00:00(Eldridge Reaves Johnson Foundation) and they were biochemists, so I wanted to go there and of course I needed support to go. I tell you that because it's the best thing at Oregon State I think. I had a lot of guys whose reasons were sweet and beyond me that have helped me to get around. Now what happened is I applied for a grant to go, an IS grant to go and do computer simulation at the Johnson Research Foundation at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
And out of the blue this guy calls me and he says, "Look, I see you're applyingto go and do a computer simulation, and I need to know about your grant background." I don't know how he knew to call me. And so I went through every 02:01:00math course I'd had from kindergarten to 4A transformers. He said, "That's OK, but I need to have somebody there to verify that you've been at the top of the math and you don't have to do anything." And I didn't have to do anything. So my friend Harry Goheen who was a mathematician who was also into computers and he worked with a relay machine, which is not a real computer, it's just an imaginary computer. So I called him up and he called the guy. The next day the guy calls me back and he said, "You have the grant!" I said, "Thank you!" And I did get the grant, and I did go to the University of Pennsylvania to learn about computers. But I tell you that story because 15 years later, after I had been to Penn and considered myself knowledgeable about these things, I picked up the Albany newspaper and on the front page was a picture of Harry Goheen who, I told you, was a mathematician, was being honored as one of the seven founding persons 02:02:00of the American Computer Society. So I get a recommendation from the founder! So the end of the story is I see this and I say of course, he did give me all kinds of tips and such, and showed me how to do things. But I called his wife, Molly, I knew her well. They both have passed now, but I said, "Molly, I'm looking at this Democratic-Herald paper and Harry's picture is on the front page. It says he was one of the seven founding members of the American Computer Society and he's being honored!" I said, "Harry didn't tell me!" And I tell that story because I didn't know he was one of those (founders). He never told me. But I have a lot of stories like that. Call them angels because they didn't have to do 02:03:00that, you know? And so I guess the NIH, the boss lady here, the lady I'm working with her husband is the head of the whole unit I'm in-I didn't know that when I went to work, because I went to work for a colleague that was in the same unit she was. And so my point is that I tell everyone the one thing that saved me and got me a job and all that is always some angel. I call them angels because they didn't have to do it, and they are real. And so when I can, I try to help anybody I can.
LH: When looking back on your life, what were some of the turning points? Whatdirection did they lead you?
WG: Oh, it's simple. "Turning points," you call them. Well, the first place,there were five children in my family and I was the oldest. The youngest one was 17 but there were in-between and there was college coming up. And so I always 02:04:00tried to do some things for myself. The turning point was, there were several turning points. One was that I grew up in a family that stressed family and education. If you didn't do your homework, that great-grandmother I talked about would have a few words with you. I didn't even realize the importance of that. Now, I went to college. When I went away for the first time in my life, I went from Flint to Detroit, and I was not going to go home-I couldn't go home every day. And the turning point occurred during that period where I was very fortunate. The first thing that happened to me was that I was going to be a chemistry major. Only. And I had to have a job. Remember my dad said, if you are 02:05:00sick you can go back home. You either got to be in school or get a job. And so I said, "How can I do something?" I loved chemistry, but you know I had to have a license to get something. So I decided also to major in the pharmacy program. So I was a chemistry person-that was my heart-but if you had a pharmacy degree, you can get a job. That first Christmas, when I was working at the Post Office as a temporary clerk, I'm sitting beside three or four guys; three of them are Black, like me. There were a lot of other people, a lot of guys were over there. When I asked what they were going to do, they were all chemists. They're here, sitting here with me, making the same hourly wage I am, and they said, "Well, we've been trying" and they'd been out of school a long time, trying to get jobs, through DuPont and all the big chemistry places; they just wouldn't hire them. And so 02:06:00they were doing that until they could find a spot to land.
So I said, I know I'm going to keep my pharmacy (studies). I went through thepharmacy program; I took the tests, you know, to pass the state boards, practicum and all that. I passed them. I was licensed and then very, very soon Larry Schrader that I told you about knew a person that I knew too, but I didn't know it. He said to me that (NAME) who was a friend of mine, his father-because we were always in the same classes, owns a series of drugstores, and if I wanted to work and earn some money, they would give me a scholarship. Because I needed extra money, because you know I came from five fellows and my dad sent all his kids to go to college. So he said to talk to Flonori and I did because he was a pharmacy student like me and he was getting his license, and I said, "Should I go someplace?" and he said, "No, don't worry. My dad will give you a job. You 02:07:00can work on the weekends-Saturday and Sunday." That was beautiful for me because I could set up my (chemistry) experiments on Friday, go in Saturday morning and make sure it's all right, then come back at the end of the day and go back to the job. And I was making more money as a pharmacist than I was getting from my scholarships. When I said that that was a turning point? Is because I would not have done that-the pharmacy thing-unless I was able to. And it was just that Flonori's parents owned a drug store and they gave me a job and I worked and I was making pharmacy wages. I was a licensed pharmacist.
Now I didn't tell you one important thing. One was I decided to do the pharmacy.And then didn't go and work at it right away. My dad said to me, "How much does 02:08:00an assistant professor in biochemistry make?" This is way back before both of you were born-this was in '55. And I said, "An assistant professor at Wayne State University in the chemistry department is making $5,500 a year." And he said to me-my mom was at the table-he said, "Look" and he named a guy who was the chief of the hospital pharmacy and everything in the Hurley Hospital. My dad was like a politician, so he knew this person, and he had talked to him. "He told me he would give you a job, because you are finishing up and he will give you a job and you can do like a residency with him and he will give you a job permanently." And he said to me, "You're going to tell me you want to go to school four more years and these people are now making $5,500 a year as assistant professors, and you're going to be a biochemist, and my friend is going to pay you $6,500 now! A year, with this license!" I should add, they are 02:09:00starting for $80,000 now-I've never made $80,000 in my life, if I add them all up [laughs]--$80 thousand! Forget it. So you see, turning points. So that was my big turning point. 2:09:35 Otherwise I'd have probably been still in Flint working (as a pharmacist).
Then when I took, got the degree it was a turning point because it allowed me todo other things other than work at the university. I could get to NIH three times, and all that. And they give you the salary right there. So those are my turning points. But I don't regret any of it. I don't look back and say I should have done this or that. The thing that I am most happy about is that I survived! I always knew two things-I couldn't go back home and I kept that pharmacy 02:10:00license in front of me [laughs]. I kept it up, I kept taking the tests, I kept paying my fees and that through all the time through grad school. Because in grad school I'm doing that because I love it, but when I got out of here, my salary was, when I came here was what-$6,200. And the pharmacy guys were making a whole lot more than that. But this is what I wanted to do. And fortunately for me, everybody-including my dad-he tries to be tough, but he means it when he tells you that I'm not going to let you do it. But he never tried to hold it against me because I went on and did what I wanted to do. And what I'm saying is that it made a difference in my life. You're not going to be rich anyway-I don't know anybody in my family who's ever gotten rich, and so I just do what I like to do and that's it.
KV: Do you remember the Henry Gates incident last summer?02:11:00
WG: Yes, I remember it well. Yes, I remember it very well.
KV: Do you think they handled that well?
WG: Well, here's the, I mean I'll give you my answer. In the first place, Idon't have the same attitude that Gates does. I don't have the same attitude as a lot of people. Like I said I grew up with people from everywhere. It was that time, you know. I was in school. There were a lot of rules that they made but all the kids found ways to break those rules. People from different parts of the world, they like to maintain their ethnicity, so but the kids don't care, you know what I mean: we were kids. So I'm going to tell you about that Gates thing. See, in the first place, let me tell you a little about myself and then you'll see why I have this idea. Look, if you go around worrying about what the people say and what they do, you, you are going to be in a world of trouble. If you go around not liking someone-even, whoever it is, no matter whether you are green, blue, yellow, white, or black-just because of one thing they did, that's crazy, you know. And so my feeling about his incident is that neither side handled it very well. But Gates has been Black all of his life!
You know, he wasn't born Caucasian and people thought he was Black, you know.[laughs] He has been Black all of his life. But now he's a Harvard professor. Now Harvard, they have this attitude-and rightly so-they are good! You don't get there unless you're good. But there are people who are good in a lot of places, they may just have chosen to be in that place, you know. What happened was, two things that happened: when they came to his house and accused him of something, he should have just let them speak. And he should have tried to, carefully, when they asked him questions, simply say, "You know it is my house, but of course your job is to find out if it's really my house. And therefore, I can do whatever you want me to do now, but I can also call my supervisors, and let you call them and you check and they will tell you that it really is my house. But if you don't have time for that, go ahead with whatever you want me to do now. We can do it. I'll sign anything you want me to sign."
But what he did was try to remember unnecessarily that he was Black and secondlythat he was a Harvard professor. So he was upset because, and it wasn't fair-it was based on something that somebody who had never seen him did. You can't run your life by, if you think you are going to get all fair treatment, I don't care if you're blue, black, or green, you are not going to get it. So he made that strategic error and the policeman who made the error of trying to get-now I wasn't there-but his error was that he should have explained to him. But both of them were letting their egos show. Policeman thinks he's authority and Gates thinks he's in authority because he's a Harvard professor. But they don't care if you're a millionaire, if a policeman stops you in a car to give you a ticket, keep your mouth shut, take your ticket, and drive off.
Or what I always do, I say for example, I'll give you an example of a strategicerror. I was driving down-where was it-Harrison, and I passed 25th there. The light popped "caution" just as I got to the intersection. I couldn't tell if there was anybody, so I just ran on through. I saw the police car, it was there. So they came later, and they came there. I knew they were going to stop me because they were waiting right there. I just passed through, the light wasn't red when I started, but then I could see that it was turning red, but I couldn't tell for sure-it was night, so I couldn't tell. So anyway, long story short is that they waited to stop me. I got almost down to Kings and I saw the (blue flashing) light, and I pulled over. And he said, "You ran through a light," and I said, "Yes, I did, but I didn't have time to see if anybody was behind me. So I looked up quickly and I couldn't tell, so I knew that I was running through that caution light as it turned red." And I told him that was why I did it. And I said, "You know what you saw. And would you like to see my license?" And he said, "Can I see your license?" And I showed him my license. And he looked at and he gave it back to me, and he looked up and he said to me, he said, "OK, you can go now." And so, I did, I left. But I knew that he wasn't just going to take my word, that I said that. He could judge. He waited until and then I saw they were pulling out. So from that point on, I drove extremely carefully. They followed me for awhile from way back-I knew they were following me. I didn't even go home, I just drove, and then pretty soon they stopped following me, and I went home.
Now the reason I give you this example is, what he (Gates) did was to try toimpress a police officer with who he was! The police officer did not care who he was! And when he mentioned, he was a Harvard professor, that police officer was working in Cambridge, so I'm sure that he was not the first Harvard professor that he had encountered. You know what I mean? He's just a police officer, you're a Harvard professor? He's stopping me, give me a break! So, that's what he did. And he (Gates), he got upset, and he was saying something which you cannot ever prove-that the policeman treated him that way because he was Black.
See, I don't know where Gates grew up, but he can never do that-he can neverprove it! And what, you don't care if he stops you because you're Black anyway! It doesn't change anything. What he's doing is (the policeman), is doing what he wants to do and what he thinks is right. I never saw that policeman before or heard about him doing this, but I grew up around in a city where a lot of police stop you just to check you out. See if you have got an appropriate driver's license. I never argued with them, and fine. And when they finished, I said, "Is that it? Can I go?" and they would usually say, "Yeah, you can go now." You haven't done anything, and they're not looking for you. So he's projecting. Now it doesn't mean that he's not right in the sense that it was his house. But if that policeman knew that and believed him, he wouldn't have had any trouble at all. When you see the guy doesn't believe you, then you just let him give you a ticket or you say, "Would you like to have my license? Would you like to check with some people who know that this is my house?" But he didn't do that. He was indignant because the guy was treating him the way he did. But that's stupid. That's really stupid. I'm sorry to say, that's really stupid. If Rockefeller came in here now, and we didn't know it was Rockefeller, we would treat him just like any other student. You know what I mean? We wouldn't make any special allowances.
Now, but if I knew he was Rockefeller, and head of a foundation, and he cameinto my class, I'd say, "Come in Mr. or Mrs. Rockefeller! Help us!" [laughs] You know what I mean? But if it was anybody, I'd treat them the same way because I don't know who they are. This is a classroom, and we're not just allowed to let anyone in. "Would you like to sit? It's my lecture, if you'd like to sit, fine, take a seat." But my point is: that's what he did wrong, and he still is not over it! This is stupid. I don't know where he grew up, but sometimes you have a heightened visibility and the police stop me for that reason-that's his job. He didn't say that I was crook when they stopped me or, he just said that I ran through the light and I knew it was the truth! So, I was going to say you saw what you saw. And that's fine. What Gates did wrong. I don't care who you are. It could have been a case like Detroit, and it could have happened with a Black police officer, because they don't like you talking back to them anyway and they don't care whether you are blue, green, or black-"I'm the police officer and you can't do a thing!" So that's my short, long-winded answer. But I just know that he made a strategic error and I'm not surprised. I've seen him on TV before; he gives lectures. He's living in a pseudo-world. The only thing that would've stopped them is if he's said he was J.D. Rockefeller. Of the Rockefeller Foundation. He might have stopped then, because that's money. But if he'd have said he's Dr. Smith, neurosurgeon at Cambridge Hospital, they would have respected (him), but they would still do the same thing. If there were power, they'd have paid attention.
What I do is I overwhelm them with cooperation. Really, you know he (the policeofficer) saw me turn around and I didn't, you know you have to turn around, I made a mistake by the hospital up on Harrison and I passed it, then I backed into the driveway and I turned around and went back to the hospital, so when he (the police officer) came and he stopped me, and he said, "You made a U-turn." I said, "Yes, I did make a U-turn but I did back up," and he asked me why. And I told him just what I told you, and I didn't say anything more. I said, "I did really make that turn, and I did back up, you probably couldn't see it." And he didn't say anything and pretty soon he checked in, he said something to me, he checked my driver's license and all that and then said, "OK." And I said, "Is that it?" And he said, "Yeah, you can go." So he let me go.
See, you can't do that all the time but you just can't win. You cannot win. Ifthis guy is a police officer, you think he's going to drive all the way and tell you he saw you do something and now do nothing! [laughs]. He's at least going to ask you something. You cannot live in a heterogeneous place and you happen to stick out. It's like in the classroom, in the music classroom, I have a loud voice as you probably can tell. And the music instructor, she uses the instrument and part of the music program, and we were playing in there. But the teacher used to go out-and this is a female teacher-and she comes back and says, "Mr. Gamble." When she says "mister" you know you're in trouble! [laughs] She said, "Were you talking?" I started to say no. I said, "Yeah, I was talking, but everybody else was talking." She said, "Is your name 'everybody else'?" [laughs] Then I shut up.
But what I'm saying to you is that just because you think you didn't do anythingwrong, she (the music teacher) had told us not to play unless you practicing something. But I'm hard-headed about that stuff, so before I spoke, I played a few notes, just ad libbing. And it was really a part of a song-but what her rule was, was that if she caught you doing that, she would ask you, "you better write it." So she didn't say that to the other students, but she said, I took this paper of mine, and you write whatever you were playing. I had to work on that because I could hardly remember what I was playing.