Terry Wall was born in 1944 and raised in Chattanooga TN. He was born into a poorer family and was taught the values of hard work as a child. In his teenage years he began to take on jobs to help support his family, such as working at a local gas station, which is where he began to realize the segregated society around him for what it really was. He entered into the Navy at the age of 16, where he was able to travel around the world and meet people from all different walks of life. Upon returning to Chattanooga he started up a home building company under the name of Wall Homes, which became successful, and has now seen two different generations of the Wall family.
Civil Injustice in the south
Segregation was something that almost every person in Chattanooga, and in the majority of the south, wanted to keep. It seemed natural to those who grew up in the south during the 50’s and 60’s. They were taught that African Americans were unequal and they were not to be treated the same as Whites. The reason that these ideas could not be broken were because they were so widely accepted and even in those places not targeted by the Civil Rights Movement, such as in the north, segregation was still accepted.
During the Bulk of the Civil Rights Movement Terry was building single family homes in “predominantly white areas in the county”. He explained that the majority of the blacks lived in “segregated areas such as the south side, and around Dodds Avenue” and that the black people were isolated from the whites and that they pretty much always stayed separate.
“During that period of time their vehicles were absolute junk, you never saw them in restaurants, people reacted if they saw them in restaurants.”
He went on to tell about about his time working at the Kendall Oil service station that used to be on main street. “In 56 I worked at the K.O. service station in the evenings with a friend of mine, and that service station had 3 different bathrooms, a men’s, a women’s, and a a colored. That’s how it was everywhere, even in the courthouse.”
Children were taught that African Americans were unequal. “We were taught that we were in our place and they were in theirs, they had cultural differences and moral differences”.
Black people in the south were mistreated and almost dehumanized like during slavery according to Terry.
“Even the newspaper in Chattanooga segregated the Obituary, they had this little tiny section called colored deaths, were they had very little about the people who died.”
Segregation In the navy
Terry served on a ship called the U.S.S Pursuit where he traveled around the world surveying the ocean floor. Out of the 102 member crew there were only two were black. He recalls the segregation in the Navy to be what he describes as “Unspoken Segregation” were there was no true segregation but it was still present. There were not separate facilities but according to terry “There was still a distinct difference in the attitudes”.
“We had two blacks on the ship, one was as nice of a fellow as you could possibly meet, he was the quartermaster, the other stole from his shipmates and was eventually court martialed and kicked out. One was a great guy, the other acted like what people expected of black people back then”.
Civil Rights Movement
The Civil Rights Movement opposed the unequal treatment of African Americans in the south and according to Terry “Stirred up the relationship between Blacks and Whites”. This movement began to truly show the people of America the civil injustice that was happening in the country to the point where those who lived during the era look back and are ashamed of what America once stood for.
According to Terry there was mass resistance to the civil rights movement in the South and nearly everyone was “adamantly opposed” to integration.
“There were confrontations everywhere during the Kennedy administration, The governor of Alabama resisted, the governor of Mississippi resisted, most everywhere in the south they resisted integrating the schools, the hotels, and eating facilities. There were new confrontations on the news everyday.”
He explained that there were still some great relationships between blacks and whites. He remembers his friendship with a man named Percy Smith. “He used to do the stucco for my houses. I would help him out when he needed it. I remember when I went to his funeral; I was the only white person there”