Ronald L. Washington
Civil Rights

Ronald, a twin, was born at Charity Hospital in Shreveport to William Cleveland and Lula Washington. His father died late that year. Ronald had one sister and six brothers, and recalls his childhood as "a fun life. We enjoyed each other," he says of his siblings. "We were a close family. When one suffered we all suffered." His mother worked for White's Cleaning Shop, and also did "private home work." He recalls fondly his grandparents, Alonzo and Priscilla Washington. He remembers his grandmother as "a tremendous cook" and "the foundation of my life." His mother was working but could not afford to keep all the children. Ronald went to his grandparents, where 16 lived, among them other grandchildren of Alonzo and Priscilla. He says his grandmother taught him how to cook. While attending Walnut Hills, an elementary school, Ronald and his twin brother spent weeks during summer helping three elderly women with their gardens. "After I was about eleven years old we were working and bought all of our school clothes," he recalls. As a youngster he walked two-and-a-half miles to attend Mount Olive Church. He recalls the 1960s as "some tough days." During that time he worked at a Morrison's Cafeteria where he waited tables. While the white workers took their meals in the public dining area, he and other black workers ate "in the back." He recalls civil rights meetings at churches every Sunday. He helped organize the NAACP Youth Council in 1966. The council had an office above Lakeside Drugstore, where, he recalls, "we had to sleep a lot of times with our eyes open." He picketed Stan's Record Shop and other downtown businesses as well. "When we got down there that Saturday morning," he recalls in one incident, "they had blocked the streets and had dogs and water hoses," Ronald recalls of police intervention. "They turned the water hose on us. They hit us, but we ended up down on Milam," he recalls. Once, he was shot at while picketing on Line Avenue. He recalls it took "about a month" for stores to start hiring African-Americans in higher positions. In other actions his group burned books at Booker T. Washington High School to protest the outdated text books. The protesters were also advocating the teaching of black history. Ronald also helped lead a march from Booker T. Washington, in which most of the black students participated and succeeded in shutting down the black schools. Ronald went to work for General Electric, where he spent an 18-year career before retiring. He now engages in political consulting. Ronald has two sons.