Rochester Black Freedom Struggle -- Horace Becker

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Interview Subject: Horace Becker
Date(s) of interview(s): 8/20/2008
Interviewer: Laura Warren Hill

Mr. Becker came to work at Xerox (then Haloid Co.) in 1958. As chief engineer, he led the team that took the Xerox 914, the world’s first plain-paper copier, from development into the product engineering phase and manufacturing. Later, as Vice President and Head of the Xerox Manufacturing Division, Mr. Becker played a central role in supporting both the Step Up program and Operation Mainstream. Both of these programs were partnerships between the Xerox Corporation and FIGHT to help educate and employ minority workers, and they led to the creation of the FIGHTON factory. Before retiring in 1988, Mr. Becker was Vice President of Xerox Research and Development. He is a former member of the Fuji-Xerox Board of Directors.

Mr. Becker and his wife Gloria have three children. He was born in Brooklyn New York, earned his B.S. in mechanical engineering from Drexel University, Philadelphia, and worked with Eastern Paper and Mergenthaler Linotype — both in Brooklyn — before coming to Xerox.

In this interview Mr. Becker recalls how Xerox and FIGHT began a partnership based on conversations between Franklin Florence and Joe Wilson. Mr. Becker also recounts the dispute between Kodak and the FIGHT organization. He also shares his recollection of and involvement in the creation of the Step Up Program, designed to help Xerox educate and hire minority workers. Mr. Becker discusses some of the challenges of the program including the need to introduce an early form of “sensitivity” training to his foremen. The creation of Operation Mainstream and the FIGHTON factory, a further collaboration between FIGHT and Xerox, is also discussed as is the eventual sale of FIGHTON and Kodak’s potential involvement in that sale. Mr. Becker also comments on the business and social climate in Rochester during the 1960’s, particularly the relationship between Xerox and Kodak.

Transcription Policy

The Department of Rare Books and Special Collections has made every effort to transcribe the oral interviews as recorded. It is standard in transcriptions of oral histories to retain dialect, grammatical idiosyncrasies, and the natural rhythm of the spoken word. The transcript is meant to reflect verbal conversation as recorded rather than a polished written document. Our transcription policy adheres to this protocol. While each interviewee was asked to read and edit his/her interview transcript to ensure the proper spelling of people and places, all transcriptions retain their original wording. Any post-interview content additions or corrections are placed in footnotes. Occasional interviewee requests to remove selected passages have been honored, and the point of such removal has been designated. We believe this policy preserves the integrity and spontaneity of the original interview.


This set of oral history interviews was conducted beginning in 2008 by historian Laura Warren Hill in conjunction with her research project, "'Strike the Hammer While the Iron Is Hot': The Black Freedom Struggle in Rochester, NY, 1945-1975." Statements in these interviews are those of the interviewees alone, and in no way speak for the University of Rochester as a whole, or for individual members of the University community. The University accepts no responsibility for the content of these interviews


Transcription of Interview: 8/20/2008;

Laura Hill:  Today is August 20th. I’m Laura Hill, here with Mr. Horace Becker in a room affiliated with the University of Rochester Rare Books and Special Collections. Mr. Becker, we spoke a little bit about your role with Xerox and your history with them—can you start now by telling me how Xerox came to work with FIGHT?

Mr. Becker:[1]Okay, we’re gonna have to jump right clear up into right after the riots.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: Um, at the time of the riots, Xerox actually—not knowingly, but in actual fact—certainly not intentionally, had about—approximately, two employees who were black.

Laura Hill:  Out of how many?

Mr. Becker: Out of maybe, oh, a thousand people here in Rochester. They were making sensitized paper. There was—the place was unionized. The agreement with the union was that we would only hire people who had a high school education, that in order to apply for a job, you had to have a high school education. The majority of the blacks seeking work in the Rochester area did not have high school educations, so that made ‘em ineligible for hire. One or two had been hired. A lot of the work was done in darkrooms. There were women working in the dark rooms and the union actually, unofficially, said that some of the women are uncomfortable in a darkroom with a black.

Laura Hill:  These are white women, of course.

Mr. Becker: These are white women. So, let’s just say the blacks didn’t have high school educations and the union was not gonna give on that point and nobody thought it was really important to do any sort of diversification out of fairness. So what happened was we had the riots. And Joe Wilson, who is very, very, very community-minded, was really upset, because he didn’t understand what had happened to his town. So he really, from a personal standpoint, went to visit Franklin Florence, who was running FIGHT, at FIGHT headquarters in a rather difficult neighborhood for white people to be in at night.

Laura Hill:  Uh-huh.

Mr. Becker: He went to visit him all by himself, at night, sat down across from Franklin, told Franklin who he was and said to Franklin, “What can we do?” And that was the first interaction between the Xerox Corporation and FIGHT. Now, this happened right after FIGHT had gone to Kodak.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: The sequence of events is the riots, everybody says we gotta do something, they bring in Saul Alinsky and Chambers[2], and everybody’s going around saying, “What are we gonna do? What are we gonna do?” and there’s a lot of hand wringing, but nobody’s doing anything.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: So FIGHT sits down with Kodak, who was the biggest employer in town, who had a policy that the way you got a job at Kodak was your father worked at Kodak, and Kodak was one big family. When your children graduated high school, you went and said to your foreman, “My kids have graduated high school,” and he then got ‘em jobs, because Kodak was growing and they had, I don’t know, sixty, seventy thousand people employed here in Rochester and they were the big outfit.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: Well, Franklin went to Kodak and ended up sittin’ down with a guy by the name of Mulder, M-U-L-D-E-R, and I’m sorry—.

Laura Hill:  John Mulder.

Mr. Becker: John Mulder, I couldn’t remember his first name. And Mulder was really a nice guy and he and Franklin sorta hammered out an agreement, and not being present, I still use the word “hammered”.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: ‘Cause, I—in later years when I met Franklin, I believed that if there ever was a guy who was a militant in the true sense of the word, it was Franklin. He was not gonna do things diplomatic, because after the riots, he felt that it’s only by rattling the cage that you get things done.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: He was not gonna do things in a diplomatic fashion. Personal opinion—nor should he have.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: I think they would have just ignored him and Rochester-Smugtown, USA, would have just waited ‘til he disappeared.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: Okay, now John Mulder cut out an agreement that said they would do some things—I never saw the agreement; this is all based upon hearsay through all the years—that they would hire blacks.  ’Cause they were hiring. Well, poor John, he was an honest, well-organized individual—he went back to the Kodak powers that be and said, “Here’s what I think we oughta do and I more or less have signed an agreement with Franklin to do it.”

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: Well, the powers that be at Kodak performed a thing that this town later came to be a verb, called being “Mulderized.” What it is—you cut a deal, you believe your bosses will back you, and then when they hear about it, they chop you off at the knees. And John got chopped off at the knees. He got “Mulderized.” It actually, in this town, is a verb.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: And making a Xerox copy is not a verb, it’s the name of a company; you’re not supposed to do that.

Laura Hill:  [Laughs] Sure.

Mr. Becker: Okay, so that had already happened and Franklin was not sure what to do next. And Joe Wilson shows up on his doorstep. Now, I don’t care what you know about Franklin, let me tell you, he is one bright guy. You might think of him as a black minister, I think of him as a hell of a nice black guy who is very bright and who, if you deal with him with respect, returns it. Okay, he said to Joe, “We need jobs.” And Joe said, “Okay, I’ll be back to you.” So Joe goes back to the corporation, talks to Bill Asher, who is running relations with the union and sort of running—they really didn’t have a human relations department. We had a hiring department and we had a payroll department. And Joe is surprised to find out how few black people there are working for the Xerox Corporation.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: And they sit down and they talk, and they involve the corporate guy for HR—Walker was his name—and out of that comes the—and they also involve the union.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: Because Kodak was non-union, Xerox was union, and the union at Xerox, the relationships, were excellent.

Laura Hill:  Okay. And if I can just ask you—this is Abe Chatman?

Mr. Becker: Yes.

Laura Hill:  Is heading the union at this point.

Mr. Becker: Yes, Abe Chatman[3] is heading the union. The relations are excellent.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: I mean, we don’t have a labor relations problem. We used to say that if ya gotta reach into the book, into your drawer to take out the agreement, that something’s wrong. That we dealt with people—shop stewards would talk to their foreman, foremen would talk to people. The number of grievances that we were handling for the corporation was almost zero. They spoke to the union and the union said, “Look, we have an agreement that we only hire high school grads, and, truthfully, we like that, because then the people we work with are sort of like us.”

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: And they didn’t mean it from a bigoted way, they meant it from a social way. I mean, it was a legit—.

Laura Hill:  It’s not race, it’s class.

Mr. Becker: No, it’s class.  I don’t associate with people who are three or four classes down, because we have nothing in common.  And Haloid and Xerox was a big family. We used to have company picnics, we used to have all sorts of events, and it was a family. So it was more or less agreed that if these new hires would have to pass the same barrier that other people, that the union was willing to cooperate.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: Now, what happened was—I don’t know whether it was Walker or Asher—came up with the idea that we hire these people but send them to school internally. They’d work part time, without really being members of the union, and they’d go to school part time.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: And somebody said, “Well, how the hell are we gonna pay for this?” And they actually went to somebody in the Department of Labor—and the names can all be looked up— and there was a partial grant.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: So Xerox didn’t carry the total burden, and everybody sort of worked through the nuts and bolts. And whad’ ya know, we said to Franklin, “We’re gonna do this.” And Franklin said, “Fine. I’ll kinda, sorta pick the first group of students.” And he loaded the deck with people that he thought weren’t gonna be trouble makers.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: And they were not.

Laura Hill:  Men? Women? Both?

Mr. Becker: Uh, the first group was all men. The first group was all men, all black, varying ages, mostly with families.

Laura Hill:  Okay. How many?  How many men?

Mr. Becker: Now, I was not running manufacturing at that time—

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: —this was gonna be—I was, at that time, still an engineer. I would say there were twenty-five in the first class.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: And when we get these pictures of the first graduating class, we can count ‘em.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: Okay, well, Minister Florence organized the people, the personnel department hired some people to act as the teachers, we hadda—when I say we, the Xerox Corporation—had to teach these people that they were only going to get paid, once every—I don’t know if it was one week or two weeks—and they had to sort of make their money last. And of course, Rochester transportation in its ultimate wisdom never really had a bus running out to Webster and these people didn’t own cars, so somehow Xerox subsidized a bus route out to Webster. And because of the wonderful bus system we have here, which is a star system, rather than a north-south-east-west system, these people hadda come downtown, change buses and get on a bus to go to Webster. So the personal burden on them to get to work—God knows what time they had to leave their homes to get to work for—we were running three shifts at that time. They probably had to start work at either 7:00 or 7:30; they probably had to leave their homes at 4 o’clock in the morning, I don’t know.

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: How they stuck to it beats the crap out of me, because it was not easy.

Laura Hill:  It sounds like an amazingly arduous process for them.

Mr. Becker: Yeah.  But, Minister Florence had told them they were gonna go to work, and herecognized the opportunity, because suddenly, he had somebody who was workin’ with ‘im instead of a repeat of what had happened at Kodak.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: But don’t forget, Kodak was downtown, in the heart of town, just blocks from where these people lived.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: Well, first class started and these people got to class, they worked out in the factory, and the people workin’ with ‘em said, “Geez, some of these guys are pretty solid citizens, you know. Some of my best friends are blacks.” The workforce, which was goin’ through a period of constant promotion, because we were goin’ through a period of ridiculous growth—you were coming in as a material handler and in six months, you were makin’ twice as much money as a machine assembler, so nobody was feeling threatened.

Laura Hill:  I see.

Mr. Becker: See, the guy who’s threatened most is the guy one step up the ladder, because he feels somebody grabbing his ankle. But that situation didn’t exist because people were moving up. And also, we had to find foremen, so the whole thing was a big escalator and these—I just said that word, I say “these people”—these people from FIGHTON[4] were not a threat. There were a lot of people coming in the door and now we just happened to have a couple who were black and who were coming through in a little different process, and the union said, you know, “Nobody’s complaining.” And people weren’t complaining.

Laura Hill:  Uh-huh.

Mr. Becker: So, the situation went along, and a second class came into being. Now—.

Laura Hill:  If I could—how frequently or how often do you have a class come through?  How long is the program until they graduate?

Mr. Becker: You’re gonna have to ask—I tried to come up with some mental numbers and struck out.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: My memory just won’t dredge it up.

Laura Hill:  No, that’s okay.

Mr. Becker: You’re gonna have to ask Germaine and Rhona.[5]

Laura Hill:  I will.

Mr. Becker: And Tom[6] .  Now, you understand where they came from? They came from—.

Laura Hill:  Yep.

Mr. Becker: Okay.  Catholic Ministries, inner-city.[7]

Laura Hill:  So the union, you were saying, is not complaining.

Mr. Becker: No, and the people are not complaining. They’re not getting’ robbed or mugged or whatever people associate with—.  Today Xerox has a black president.

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: Gee, I don’t hear anybody complaining that she’s black. And they get two points because not only is she black, but she’s a woman.

Laura Hill:  Right, right. So—.

Mr. Becker: That was sarcastic—very uncalled for, very un-gentleman-like, but I’m old enough to be sarcastic.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: Okay, now—

Laura Hill:  Go ahead.

Mr. Becker: —suddenly, there are some problems with the guy running manufacturing.[8]

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: He starts exhibiting things that people say are medical. I think he’s startin’ to feel a little powerful. Anyway, the guy running manufacturing suddenly leaves. I had just returned from being polished at Harvard.

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: Which didn’t take—I dulled a lot of people at Harvard, rather than them polishing me.

Laura Hill:  [Laughs] I thought you were going to tell me it didn’t take long for them to polish you.

Mr. Becker: Well, they tell a story about—that before I went to Harvard, when I used to work with the engineers and we’d discuss something, I would say, “No shit!” And the engineers knew that that was one of my favorite expressions. Well, when I got to Harvard and when I came back and we’d go through something with the engineers, they said, “Jesus, Horace learned something. He now says, ‘Incredible!’”

Laura Hill:  [Laughs].

Mr. Becker: And then somebody said, “Yeah, but when you go up to Harvard and tell ‘em something, the people at Harvard all walk around now saying, ‘No shit.’” So the result is, instead of Horace getting polished, he kinda sorta screwed things up at Harvard. Now, by the way, that happens to be a story that is repeated every time people talk about me.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: Now, what happens is, I get moved over to run manufacturing.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: Now, for the first time, I suddenly find out—because in engineering, we didn’t really care about Step Up. I mean, what they were doin’ over in manufacturing was their problem. Our problem was to create new products. The fact, how they were hiring, wasn’t even on my—wasn’t even a blip on my radar, you know. And I suddenly find out I’m running an operation and, as a citizen of Rochester, I knew about Franklin from what I read in the papers, but I had never met him. I had no reason to cross paths with him.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: I mean, he wasn’t brought in and introduced to everybody in Xerox, “This is Franklin Florence. We’re gonna work with him to right all the evils of the last hundred years.” You know, that never happened.

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: So I found out and started to have some interfaces with Franklin, because this was my workforce, and I suddenly came to a very unhappy revelation, where I found out that one of the reasons this was not going quite as smooth as Joe wanted it to go, was because some of my foremen—not the union—some of my foremen, hadn’t signed on.

Laura Hill:  I see.

Mr. Becker: So we had some talks, and for lots of personal reasons, I was very sensitive to just how this was gonna work out. So I had some talks with my foremen, because I had a bad habit, when I took over this job, of spending about half my time walkin’ around the factory floor talking to people.

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: I was a firm believer that any general manger of a manufacturing operation who goes around and says to people, “I’ve got an open door policy,” doesn’t know what the hell he’s doin’, because any time some guy from the manufacturing floor comes up to the manager’s office and opens the door, it’s gonna to be a cold day in July, because he’s got dirt in his shoes and he can’t leave the floor to come up there anyway to talk. His foreman won’t let him.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: And in a union situation, it’s unheard of. You have to go through channels. So I had a bad habit of roaming the floor, and I started to get involved in what was goin’ on in Step Up.  And after a series of some things that occurred, I spoke to some people. I set up a sensitivity—that’s a fancy word for instruction backed up by serious threats—a sensitivity program for my foremen.

Laura Hill:  I’ve read about it.

Mr. Becker: Where did you read about it?

Laura Hill:  It was in the Democrat and Chronicle or the Times-Union—one of the papers had an article about it.

Mr. Becker: They did? I don’t remember it.  I doubt very much if we told them the truth.

Laura Hill:  [Laughs] Okay.

Mr. Becker: But I’m going to tell you the truth now about the first class, because I ran it. And I brought down a group of my foremen—now this was, we were running a factory three shifts a day, so this required a little bit of planning, so a lot of these guys were there during their off shift.

Laura Hill:  Uh-huh.

Mr. Becker: They didn’t get—they put in some extra time. So in preparing the classroom—by the way, we had alotta classrooms because we were promoting people, and we were takin’ people who were coming in, who drove a forklift truck and moving them up to running machines and doing—we were teaching blueprint reading. We were teaching mathematics. We were doing alotta teaching to all of our employees, because the union agreement required promotion from within. So, yeah, they had a high school education, but they couldn’t read blueprints.

Laura Hill:  Sure, no technical skills.

Mr. Becker: So we had classes in blueprint reading, we had classes in how to use measuring instruments—we were running a big school, anyway, because the union agreement was that we did not hire in up here, but everybody moved up through the system.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: Now, under the old manufacturing they were doing of sensitized papers, that worked fine. Under the new system, we were doin’ a lot of schooling.

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: But, we were on a curve; we could spend the money. Okay, let me tell you what happened in the classroom. Before they came in, we had made up a group of signs, which we hung around the room. And the signs had words on ‘em, and one of the words up there was “guinea,” and one of the words up there was “wop,” and one of the words up there was “polack,” and “kyke” and “jew-boy” and we had the n-word up there. And we had several other words that in the vernacular of factory people were pretty commonly used.

Laura Hill:  Okay. What are they?

Mr. Becker: What the other words are? It’s been so long, my vocabulary doesn’t include ‘em. You see, I didn’t even say—I said, “The n-word.”

Laura Hill:  I know.

Mr. Becker: I find that word so disagreeable that the other day in the boat yard, some guy, a mechanic, used that word and I took him apart and he still doesn’t understand, in this day and age, what he did. And he happens to have come to this country only about five years ago and now has a good job as a mechanic, yet that word is in his vocabulary. He told a watermelon joke. He doesn’t understand why I got upset, so today, we still have ignorant people.

Laura Hill:  Did he understand why the joke was funny?

Mr. Becker: He thought it was funny.

Laura Hill:  Did he understand why in a cultural context?

Mr. Becker: He told me the joke. He thought it was funny or he wouldn’t have repeated it.

Laura Hill:  Sure, sure. So you have these signs up around the room.

Mr. Becker: Can you turn that off for a minute? Can you turn that off just for a minute?

Laura Hill:  Sure, we can pause it.

[Break, 0:32:48-0:34:04]

Mr. Becker: Okay, have we got it back on?

Laura Hill:  We’re all set.

 Mr. Becker: Now, I talked to the fellas, the foremen, and this is a very easy thing for me. I am not ‘Mr. Becker.’ The day I come on—see, I had worked with these guys when we started out on the 914. The engineers lived on the manufacturing floor.

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: And they knew me. Number one: if you lied to me, you were dead. Number two: if you told me the truth then I would protect you against the next level, until both of us were dead.

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: Things were not difficult. And I told these fellows—sensitivity training—that I demanded their help, that we were gonna make this go ‘cause Joe wanted it to go, and either they get on board or get the hell out. We didn’t reason with them. We told ‘em, and we said, “Fellas, either sign up or get out, because this is the future and you’d better understand it. Now, we’ll talk it through.” And they talked and said that some of the women weren’t comfortable and that these guys didn’t come to work on time and, oh, all the usual bullshit. And we said, “All right, if they don’t come to work on time and after we talk to ‘em, we’re gonna give ‘em one more chance, like we would somebody else, and then we’re gonna get rid of ‘em.”

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: “We’re not gonna stick you and hold you responsible for quality with workers who aren’t willing to do the job. You are not gonna get stuck, but we want you to have a mental attitude that says, ‘They are part of my team and I will treat them with dignity and respect.’ Now, the sensitivity part is over fellas.  Any more questions?”

Laura Hill:  What did you do with the signs around the room?

Mr. Becker: Well, that’s very interesting, because as we’re walking out of the room, a chap comes over to me and says, “Gee, Horace, I understand why you don’t want me to use the n-word, but did ya have to put ‘guinea’ and ‘wop’ up there? D’ya know how that hurts me to see those words? You know, I’m very proud of my Italian heritage, but those words really hurt.” And I said, “No shit!” I said, “You just graduated from the class, number one. You got the message.”

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: And he looked at me and said, “You know what, I think I did,”

Laura Hill:  Were most of the foremen Italian?

Mr. Becker: Coming out of the clothing industry—Italian, Polish—what else was there in Rochester? This was a clothing industry town.

Laura Hill:  Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Becker: No Latinos.

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: What else is there? No Jews. Jews don’t become foremen. We’re the bankers, you know, have all the money.

Laura Hill:  [Laughs].

Mr. Becker: And make all the political decisions. We run the country. Two percent of the population, and we run the country. I apologize for sarcasm at times.

Laura Hill:  No, no, I appreciate it, but tell me—how does Step Up serve Xerox’s needs? I understand how Xerox serves Step Up’s needs. How does it work in the reverse?

Mr. Becker: We were hiring like mad, so Joe wanted to do the right thing. So it was just another way of hiring people. Our needs were people.

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: We were going through a hiring curve—we can dig out a Xerox fact sheet, but when I say we were going through a hiring curve, we were hiring like, maybe thirty or forty people a day.

Laura Hill:  Wow. Jobs are going unfilled.

Mr. Becker: Yeah.

Laura Hill:  I see.

Mr. Becker: We need people. Now it would’ve been much easier for us to hire people with a high school education, but Joe had made a decision that he was going to do something about what had happened on the not-hiring of blacks. But we weren’t gonna back down on that agreement we had with the union. So it was just another way to get hired.

Laura Hill:  So as part of the education component of this, the classroom component, are the attendees of Step Up, are they getting GEDs? Are they getting high school diplomas?

Mr. Becker: They get the equivalent of a GED. Now, I don’t know the—how that all worked. And Rhona and—.

Laura Hill:  They’ll be able to tell me everything.

Mr. Becker: And I couldn’t care less.

Laura Hill:  [Laughs] Sure.

Mr. Becker: I mean, my job was to build good machines, to keep a union happy, not to pay salaries—not to pay wages that were out of line, find good people and meet the production schedule. My life was really very simple.

Laura Hill:  Sure. How does Rochester’s business community respond to Step Up? Everybody’s talking about it.

Mr. Becker: Nah, they’re not talking about it. They figure Joe Wilson has had a weak moment and is just being a do-gooder. I don’t think Kodak could care less, and I don’t think Bausch & Lomb could care less. We had gone off because we were on this hiring curve—those newcomers in town had gone off on this toot and big deal.

Laura Hill:  I see.

Mr. Becker: I don’t think anybody gave two cents worth of a damn. Well, I was sittin’ in Engineering, and I didn’t even know we were doing it.  See?

Laura Hill:  Sure, sure, sure. Does the city government respond in any way? Are they aware?

Mr. Becker: Beats the crap out of me. I don’t know and I couldn’t care less.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: See, Joe had decided to do it.

Laura Hill:  I see, I see.

Mr. Becker: You don’t understand this—what Joe says, we did. You know, he didn’t micromanage, but he sure as set the tone.

Laura Hill:  Sure, sure.

Mr. Becker: He sure as hell set the tone, though.

Laura Hill:  How does Step Up lead to Operation Mainstream?

 Mr. Becker:Ah-ha-ha. Now, I’m running Manufacturing and I’ve got a lotta vendors I need parts from, and let me tell you, you can’t build a machine with 99.9% of the parts. For some strange reason, you need ‘em all.

Laura Hill:  [Laughs] Sure.

Mr. Becker: I’ve never  figured out why purchasing departments brag that we got 99.9% of all parts on time that met specifications, and managers of Manufacturing put up a sign that said, “You screwed up. We didn’t have the last .001 of parts, so we didn’t ship anything today.” Now, Purchasing never understands why we complain, ‘cause they think the job—nobody can do perfect, and Manufacturing says, “We’re sorry, we need ‘em all. We apologize.”

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: We need that last motor. We need that last nut that costs .0001 cents, but if we don’t got it, we can’t put it together.

Laura Hill:  Of course.

Mr. Becker: There’s a mismatch here in communication.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: Okay, Franklin, out of a clear blue sky, one day shows up in Joe’s office.

Laura Hill:  I assume at this point the two of them have an open door policy?

Mr. Becker: Well, Joe’s done. Step Up’s running. Franklin goes downtown to—I don’t remember whether Xerox Square was built at that time or if we were still in Midtown—he says, “You know Joe”—‘cause Joe’s secretary would let Franklin in. “You know, Joe, we’re getting’ jobs now,” and maybe we’re into the third class or the fourth class, twenty-five at a time, but, “Things are happening. We’re getting’ jobs. We still aren’t working at Kodak, but you know, we wanna be part of mainstream America.” Franklin came up with the word. “We want you to help us, the black community, to be part of mainstream America.”

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: How in the hell Franklin ever thought this up, I have never figured out.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: So when I said to you, “He is one bright, decent guy,” let me tell you, he had a head on him—has a head on him—

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: —that’s a pleasure to talk to. You’re not gonna find a black minister who’s shouting about God, you’re gonna find an intelligent guy when you talk to him. You’re going to learn that if you treat him with respect, he will give you back not only a smile, but friendship.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: I was so annoyed when he said that he had sloughed you, because that ain’t the Franklin I know.

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: See? Okay. Now, he comes up to Joe with “mainstream.”  Well, Joe now goes to the community and says to the community in one of these meetings that the people in the community—you know, Rochester really only had three or four big companies, you know, and they sort of—I don’t know where they did it, whether they did it down at the—what the hell did we call it? The Industrial Management Council, which I sat on, which was a bunch of bullshit, or the Chamber, but this town really didn’t have any problems, you know—unemployment zero, everybody hiring, prosperity. And by the way, they built just enough homes for those that were needed—no empty houses. The only slums are where “those people”  live, because, you know, we built Hanover Homes, which it would be better—we should have built a prison, you know, than the Hanover Homes. We finally had to tear ‘em down because they couldn’t manage ‘em. And FIGHT is talking about building FIGHT Village.

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: Small houses. You’ve seen FIGHT Village?

Laura Hill:  I have not been there yet.

Mr. Becker: Oh, it’s not Hanover Homes twelve stories; it’s FIGHT Village.

Laura Hill:  I understand, yep.

Mr. Becker: You’ll probably have to go down there to talk to Florence; he’s not gonna come on your turf.

Laura Hill:  I’m going there next week.

Mr. Becker: You’re going to FIGHT Village.

Laura Hill:  So “Operation Mainstream”—.

Mr. Becker: Is Franklin’s idea.

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: Okay, so there’s some conversations. I don’t know, I wasn’t allowed to join the country clubs, because, see, in this town we have Oak Hill and we have Rochester Country Club and Monroe Country Club and because the Jews can’t belong to any of those country clubs, the Jews have their own country club. It’s called the Irondequoit Country Club.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: So, I don’t wanna join any club that would have me as a member anyway, so I’m not playing golf, because I’m pretty busy running a manufacturing operation. So, somehow, there’s a conversation.

Laura Hill:  Uh-huh.

Mr. Becker: That the town’s gotta listen to Franklin about Operation Mainstream.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: Well, I get a phone call, “Horace, could ya come down to the Square?” I said, “Yes, sir.”

Laura Hill:  The call comes from Joe Wilson.

Mr. Becker: That’s the only reason I go to the Square—nobody down there I gotta talk to.

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: I’m running Manufacturing out in Webster, let me tell you. It’s three shifts;  it’s a full-time job. And we’re going up the production scale and we’re introducing new machines and those lousy engineers—because I’m not runnin’ ‘em—are doin’ a crappy job of giving me a product that I  gotta finish engineering before I can ship it, see.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: So I’m a busy man.

Laura Hill:  Sure. So, Joe calls, you run.

Mr. Becker: You’re damn right. “Horace, Franklin Florence was in.” I said, “Are we having a problem with Step Up?” “No, no, he’s happy with Step Up. It’s running along rather nicely. He wants to know how he becomes part of the big picture and has a corporation owned by the black community that’ll become part of our vendor network, supplying us with product.” And I said, “Aw shit, Joe. I have enough trouble with established vendors—getting’ ‘em to make parts correctly, deliver ‘em on time, at a price that will fit the big picture, and now we’re gonna get some people who have never done anything running a factory, and you’re gonna tell me that you’d like me to kinda sorta make this happen?” He says, “You got it, Horace. You’ve got an assignment.”

Laura Hill:  [Laughs].

Mr. Becker: I said, “Joe, you’re kiddin’.” He said, “Horace, I am serious.” I said, “Is this worth talkin’ about?” He said, “No.” So I said, “Then I guess I oughta be smart and say I accept the assignment.” He said, “I knew you’d say that, Horace, because,” he said, “you accepted the assignment back when we decided to go ahead with the 914[9]. When your boss said it was a mistake, you accepted the assignment, and I’m glad the last manager of manufacturing isn’t here, because I think you can make it happen.”

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: Well, I took the guy from Purchasing and we started to have meetings with Franklin. And Franklin brought with him a solid core of educated people in the area of manufacturing—Minister Chandler[10], Minister Shankle,[11] and about a half a dozen other black ministers, who didn’t know a screwdriver from a wrench, and we sat down and we started to talk about how the heck you do this.

Laura Hill:  Yeah. What year is this?

Mr. Becker: It’s gotta be ’66. It’s gotta be ’66, I guess.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: ’65, ’66, I don’t know.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: All I know is, I am introducing, I think, three new products; I’ve got three assembly lines goin’; I am up to my ass in alligators. I need this assignment like I need a hole in the head.

Laura Hill:  Yeah.

Mr. Becker: But—.

Laura Hill:  Joe Wilson said “jump.”

Mr. Becker: Joe Wilson said “jump” and not only that, he told me how high to jump. So, I had my guys start lookin’ at what area did we buy the most parts. Now, we actually bought a lot of motors, but to start having people go into business makin’ motors, they were competing with General Electric and Bodine who had been making motors for the Wright Brothers, for their airplane, you know.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: And we said, “Well, maybe a company making stampings, because if the tools are right, and people don’t get their fingers caught, and you supply ‘em with the tools and you help ‘em buy punch presses, you can pretty well make good stampings. And we were using a lot of stampings. If you look at a machine built back in those days, it was all hunks of metal bent and turned and curved; it wasn’t electronic boards, like you look at your computer today—there’s a bunch of boards with a bunch of little cockroaches on ‘em and other kind of bugs. That wasn’t the business. The machine was 95% stampings.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: And we started to talk about—I actually found a couple of guys who worked for me who were willing to take a temporary assignment to pursue this.

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: Now, we’re still talking to Franklin about how the hell we’re gonna  do this.

Laura Hill:  These were people that volunteered; you didn’t have to strong-arm anybody.

Mr. Becker: Nope, people I assigned to FIGHTON, I never strong-armed, because if I couldn’t get a commitment that they understood why we were doing this, strong-arming them, Christ, was sure to bring failure.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: And you know what? I’m having trouble remembering the names of the people who stepped forward.

Laura Hill:  That’s okay.

Mr. Becker: I’m sure they’re all up in heaven laughin’. Okay, now right in the middle of this thing, Kodak steps back in the picture. They have heard about this desire, and they have taken some of their finest industrial engineers and put together a plan, called “The Blue Book.”

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: Without any input from Franklin.

Laura Hill:  Right. Has their issue been resolved at this point?

Mr. Becker: What issue? Hiring blacks?

Laura Hill:  The struggle between FIGHT and Kodak.

Mr. Becker: No, no.

Laura Hill:  It has not been resolved.

Mr. Becker: No, no.

Laura Hill:  Flemington has not happened yet.

Mr. Becker: What?

Laura Hill:  The Flemington, New Jersey shareholder’s meeting has not taken place yet?

Mr. Becker: Oh yeah, that probably took place right around that time.

Laura Hill:  Okay. I just wanna have a sense of the chronology.

Mr. Becker: All right, now the Flemington shareholder meetings, which Reverend Florence insists happened at the Chamber of Commerce, and he’s wrong—very straightforward. FIGHT had bought one share of Xerox stock and showed up at Flemington and proceeded—Shankle, not Florence, well, Florence says he did it—it was Shankle who stood up and said that he wanted to compliment Xerox for what we had been doing and wanted all the other shareholders to know. And he also wanted to let everybody know what a bunch of bastards Kodak was, and he started to berate Kodak. Now, here’s Joe Wilson running a stockholder’s meeting. You’ve got a black guy out on the floor who’s just said lots of nice things about you and the next thing you know, he takes off on this tangent and starts beating up on Kodak. Now, if you were Joe, you’d say, “Let him get done and we’ll get on with the meeting,” right? What the hell, why rock the boat? Not Joe. He says, “Shankle, knock it off. You are not going to use this stockholder’s meeting as a forum for beating up on Kodak.”

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: “I will not accept it and you’re out of order. Kodak has contributed too much to this town—” Christ, I’ve got Kodak neighbors on the right of me, Kodak neighbors to the left of me, Kodak neighbors in front of me and into the Valley of Death rode the Brave 600. You know, Kodak built this goddamn town. We look at the museums, we look at the U of R, we look at the schools—.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: Golisano just came along last week, you know. I mean, Kodak was givin’ away money, because they were running a cash cow. Joe said, “Knock it off.”

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: He didn’t say, “Knock it off.” He should have said, “Knock it off.” Shankle was shocked.

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: He sat down, and they finished up the business of the meeting.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: Okay.

Laura Hill:  So Kodak has this blue plan, blueprint—.

Mr. Becker: Now, I haven’t told you what the book is for.

Laura Hill:  Yeah.

Mr. Becker: Do you know?

Laura Hill:  I don’t.

Mr. Becker: It was a complete factory to make wooden pallets—high technology. They had where you buy the wood, how you cut it, how many nails you drive in each piece, how long it will take to build the pallet and the number of people who need pallets, a list of all the customers, and it’s a high technology. You see, you have to hit the nail on the end with the big head on it, and when you’re going through the nails, you find some have the head on the wrong side and so you have to turn those over—but this was a complete book.  Matter of fact, I often say I should have taken the book and I should have left Xerox and opened a factory making pallets and I would have had my own factory and I would have had something to leave my kids, other than Xerox stock today, which is still in the tank. But this was a complete analysis—.

Laura Hill:  Who came up with this at Kodak? Any idea?

Mr. Becker: I haven’t the foggiest, but I think he lacked the brain.

Laura Hill:  And, of course, Franklin has not bought into this at all.

Mr. Becker: Franklin—the first time he sees it—it’s all complete. Well, he went through the roof. And the next couple of meetings I had with him, all he did was carry on about those bastards.

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: And I would just sit there and say, “Franklin, I’m not workin’ on that. I’m tryin’ to work on what Xerox is gonna do.” “But do you know, the nerve—.” And I would get a long lecture.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: Well, we finally got over the pallet factory. It took several weeks, and when I spoke to Franklin about it at lunch time, we both laughed. He laughed. I still don’t think it was very funny.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: I think it was so stupid of Kodak it wasn’t even funny.

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: And the fact that they’re in trouble today because they thought the whole world was not going to go digital, based upon what they did then, I am not in the least bit surprised.

Laura Hill:  Sure, sure.

Mr. Becker: They lack management skills.

Laura Hill:  So, you have come up with stampings—.

Mr. Becker: We have come up with stampings and also, we also had one other area. We used to have power supply failures.

Laura Hill:  Uh-huh.

Mr. Becker: And the rebuilding of power supplies is sort of a sloppy job, because when you build a power supply, you build a bunch of electrical components, you put ‘em in a box and you fill the box with tar.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: And in order to repair ‘em, you have to melt the tar out.

Laura Hill:  I see.

Mr. Becker: And then you find—you just take a couple little probes and you find which electrical component in there crapped out and you replace it—a little hand soldering. And you put the parts together and you put the tar back in.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: Well, we were going through a lot of power supplies, and nobody wanted to repair ‘em, and we said, “Gee, here’s something that really has some skills—troubleshooting, soldering, understanding, and we need it and we haven’t found a vendor to do it—and stampings, we think if we provide the dies and help somebody build—buy—punch presses, because there’s a lot of ‘em around in this world—there’s billions of ‘em. And we put a couple of temporary assistant foremen in there to help their foremen, we can get a factory running.”

Laura Hill:  And vacuum cleaners—industrial vacuum cleaners?

Mr. Becker: Ah, that comes along later.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: That comes along later on.

[Tape change, 1:01:59-1:03:11]

Mr. Becker: Well, we kinda sorta thought it through and said it was doable. And we actually agreed to buy from this corporation we were creating a certain dollar value of parts, which represented about what we could see for a small factory. We knew what stampings cost, but we were lookin’ for the community to also—the Bausch & Lombs, the Ritters, the Kodaks, to also perhaps find in their purchasing area some parts that fit in with this factory. And we also went to the Department of Labor and got a grant—we didn’t get the grant, FIGHT got a grant.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: And at that time, by the way, Franklin flew down to Washington on the company plane.

Laura Hill:  On Xerox’s plane.

Mr. Becker: When I say, “the company,” you have to understand it’s like when you say “theschool” in Boston—you don’t have to say, “What school are you talkin’ about?” You’re talking about the school. The company plane with a big X and it’s not a verb—and FIGHT got a grant.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: To sort of train people and to form a corporation. The company’s real estate department went lookin’ and found a building.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: The company’s engineers went out and found some punch presses.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: We identified some parts that were not the most difficult parts, but didn’t cut off the other vendor.

Laura Hill:  Sure, sure.

Mr. Becker: And we proceeded to set up a small factory on Sullivan Street, and we were to have Board of Directors’ meetings about twice a month.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: I was on the Board of Directors.

Laura Hill:  Of FIGHTON.

Mr. Becker: Of FIGHTON, and somehow, we got that place on its feet and got some people trained and started to knock out some stampings that after a couple of go-rounds and corrections by the company’s people, actually they became part of our vendor system.

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: On a day-to-day basis, the guys who had agreed to help me do this worked like Trojans. They had people who couldn’t read blueprints, who didn’t know their left from their right, who didn’t understand that if you made something wrong it ended up in the garbage pail and who didn’t have any feeling for safety. I mean, all the growing pains of a—trying to build a new factory, together with a total shortage of capital. [Pounds table].

Laura Hill:  How is it funded? You mean, you get this grant from the Labor Department.

Mr. Becker: The grant.

Laura Hill:  It’s fully funded by the Labor Department?

Mr. Becker: Well, some of the punch presses kinda sorta didn’t cost too much and we dragged them through our Repair Department and kinda sorta got ‘em fit, put ‘em on thecompany’s truck and delivered them down to Sullivan Street. We were puttin’ forth—I was almost treating it as one of my departments.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: And when I would ask for extra money to cover some of this, I was told that I got a pretty big budget, I got about four thousand people workin’ for me, that you’ve got lots of people who do lots of things—we buried a lot.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: But, they got some machines, some punch presses that worked, and we found ‘em some tables and my guys taught some people how to rebuild power supplies, and they’re gettin’ on there.  Board of Directors meetings are still started where we all join hands and pray. Then we would have a financial report and find out that [pounds table] we weren’t always making ends meet.

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: But we were gonna find more customers, which never really happened, because the rest of the town didn’t sign on.

Laura Hill:  I see. Why don’t they?

Mr. Becker: Beats the shit outta me. That wasn’t my problem. I had been told to get this factory up and running. The fact that Kodak or Bausch & Lomb or Schlegel or anybody wasn’t sending the purchasing guy around—I wasn’t gonna go knock on their door.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: And say, “Why aren’t you helping us?” You know what?  That was somethin’ they had to discuss at the country club. I don’t want to sound annoyed about this, but let me tell you—it pissed me off.

Laura Hill:  Yeah.

Mr. Becker: I mean, Joe gave me an assignment. The rest of this town was no more interested in seeing FIGHTON successful than some guy jumpin’ off the top of the building. What did they care?

Laura Hill:  Right, right. When does FIGHTON start to become financially successful?

Mr. Becker: Well, that’s why I’m so annoyed with myself. I had a lot of financial records, and I could have answered that. Now, I cannot fix on a time, but we slowly pushed them along, because they didn’t have to pay for capital goods. We purchased raw material for them, onour bill, so they didn’t have to pay bills.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: So then they’d get their material, they’d make parts and they’d get paid for the part and there was no cash flow necessary—it was a strange vendor-customer relationship.

Laura Hill:  Mmm-hmm, sure. Who’s running FIGHTON at that point?

Mr. Becker: DeLeon McEwen.

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: Now, I’m going to get to the vacuum cleaner.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: At that point in time, we had—and still have, probably—ten, fifteen thousand service people who are going around taking care of Xerox machines. You know, we do all our own servicing. We are different than all the other copier companies in the business, all the people who do what’s called copying today—although, you know, the machines we sell now sell for $500,000. They’re part of demand publishing.  The copy machines really don’t need service calls because they’re pretty reliable, but we have fifteen thousand or so service people running around the United States.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: And xerography is a dirty process. It has this black crap in it, and it sort of—.

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: So one of their important tools is a vacuum cleaner, because every time they open the machine up, they sort of vacuum it. Well, the engineers said to the Service Department, “You know, we can’t be bothered. You guys need a better vacuum cleaner, go out and find some guy who makes vacuum cleaners and tell him you need a better vacuum. We’re building machines for the future. You know, we’re not vacuum cleaner designers.” Well, the Service Department at Xerox gets annoyed, and they get some pretty bright people, and they sit down and they bootleg a design of a vacuum cleaner, which isn’t their assignment—they’re supposed to be working with customers, but they can’t find anybody to make a vacuum cleaner, so they bootleg a design. And they design a pretty good vacuum.

Laura Hill:  Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Becker: And by the way, some of those guys are my best friends, and they’re pretty bright. And they’ve got nice wives and we talk to each other, and they bootlegged this vacuum design. Now they don’t know what to do with it. And I find out that they bootlegged a vacuum design, so I said to them, “Do you really care who makes this?” They said, “We don’t give a shit who makes it, we need vacuums. The ones we buy are no good.” I said, “What about FIGHTON makes these vacuums?” They said, “FIGHTON, you know, A, B, C—can you get us the vacuums?” I said, “Let’s go look.” So I take a couple of my engineers who have volunteered to work with FIGHTON and they figured out—first thing you know, FIGHTON’s in the vacuum business. And not only are they in the vacuum business, but Canon looks at the vacuum for their service people and say, “Hey, that’s a pretty neat vacuum. Has Xerox patented it?” “No, no, no. It’s now FIGHTON’s product. They can sell it to you.” And Ricoh and IBM and Hewlett-Packard are buying vacuums.

Laura Hill:  Mmm-hmm. And does FIGHTON patent it?

Mr. Becker: No, you can’t patent something you’ve already disclosed.

Laura Hill:  I see.

Mr. Becker: First of all, they didn’t create it. They can’t patent it. It’s not patentable; it’s too late. You can’t patent something you’ve already disclosed.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: You’ve made it public knowledge. If you want a discourse on patenting, we can go through that, but—

Laura Hill:  [Laughs] Off camera.

Mr. Becker: —‘cause, I’m gonna be talking at the patent dinner in September for all the people at Xerox who got patents this year.

Laura Hill:  I see.

Mr. Becker: Of which there’s gonna  be some—three hundred[12]-some people.

Laura Hill:  Good Lord!

Mr. Becker: Well, one of my best friends, Bob Gundlach, has over 162 patents.[13]

Laura Hill:  So FIGHTON is—

Mr. Becker: Now got a product.

Laura Hill:  —now got a product. They now have customers other than Xerox.

Mr. Becker: Yeah, just for the vacuum.

Laura Hill:  Just for the vacuum, okay.

Mr. Becker: And, some members of the Board of Directors don’t feel that DeLeon is really cuttin’ the mustard.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: His past business experience was he ran a barber shop.

Laura Hill:  Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Becker: They go lookin’ for a manager.

Laura Hill:  Let me—let’s back up a little. Why—I mean, other than inexperience—why is he not cutting the mustard?

Mr. Becker: Running a factory is not something you learn on the job. You gotta kinda sorta understand that presidents and vice-presidents don’t do a goddamn thing. They are leeches living on the backs of the people who day-to-day pick up the tools and do the work.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: Now, a lot of vice presidents will tell you how important they are. I think they’re full of shit. They have a—they have a lot of power, but they’re much easier to replace than the guy who does the optical alignment at final assembly on a machine on the Xerox floor.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: Because, when we first start trainin’ those people, it takes ‘em four hours a machine, and in a little while, they’re doing it in about twenty minutes.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: Vice presidents sit around and read the history of what happened at the last meeting in order to be geniuses. I have a great deal of contempt for a lot of ‘em, because they have no idea what’s going on.

Laura Hill:  What is DeLeon McEwen’s title, at that point? Is he CEO?

Mr. Becker: No, he’s General Manager.

Laura Hill:  General Manager, okay.

Mr. Becker: They didn’t use the term CEO and President—he’s the General Manager.

Laura Hill:  General Manager.

Mr. Becker: It’s run by a board of directors. They go lookin’ for a new general manager, and you’ve got to give them credit, they decide we’re goin’ to bring in—set their sights pretty high—a Harvard man.

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: And they talk to Matt. Matt[14] actually gets hired as General Manager and Deleon does not get upset. I mean, he might not have been a General Manager, but he sure as hell was a team worker.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: And by the way, back before FIGHTON, we skipped Bernie Gifford.

Laura Hill:  We did.

Mr. Becker: And we oughta backtrack.

Laura Hill:  We can go back.

Mr. Becker: Before Step Up, before FIGHTON, there was an internal fight within FIGHT as to who was going to run it.

Laura Hill:  Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Becker: And Franklin was running it. And Bernie Gifford came along—black, U of R graduate, and said to the black community, “We have got to stop being militant. We’ve got to learn how to be diplomatic, and I’m gonna lead you out of the desert and into the Promised Land by diplomacy.” And Franklin said, “I’m President of FIGHT. I created it. Saul Alinsky didn’t create it; I created it. I’m President. We’ll hold a floor vote of the brothers and sisters and find out who they want.”

Laura Hill:  Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Becker: Well, it was a very—I happened to go to that meeting because I was interested. It was a rather interesting meeting. There were people in the audience who had weapons. I was sitting with Germaine Knapp, who at that time was a nun, and I was glad I was sitting with her. I figured that way I was safe. I was hiding behind her. There was a rather fiery election. I don’t think there were ballots; I think there was sort of a show of hands.

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: And what do you know, Gifford lost. Now, I don’t want to say people were intimidated, but—

Laura Hill:  Gifford lost?

Mr. Becker: Bernie Gifford lost.

Laura Hill:  Lost, okay.

Mr. Becker: And he did not become President of FIGHT.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: I won’t say people who voted were intimidated, but I think I would not have called it a democratic election. It was certainly not a secret ballot.

Laura Hill:  Hmm.

Mr. Becker: And Bernie Gifford left town.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: And went to New York, got involved with the Board of Education there.

Laura Hill:  Bernie Gifford runs for FIGHT President—

Mr. Becker: Right, against Franklin.

Laura Hill:  Against Franklin, and withdraws his name.

Mr. Becker: Oh, he withdrew his name? I thought he just wasn’t elected.

Laura Hill:  He runs a second time, it’s a very contentious convention, and he wins, and he is actually the FIGHT President for nearly a year.

Mr. Becker: He is?

Laura Hill:  This is—

Mr. Becker: See, I don’t remember that, because—

Laura Hill:  This is ’69—

Mr. Becker: Oh wow, I don’t remember that.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: Then he disappears.

Laura Hill:  He disappears, that’s absolutely right.

Mr. Becker: Yeah, I think somebody visited him at home and asked him to disappear.

Laura Hill:  And Raymond Scott[15] becomes the President.

Mr. Becker: Oh, that’s right. I forgot that. I forgot Ray Scott.

Laura Hill:  Yep.

Mr. Becker: See what happens? That’s where you’re gonna get more by having two people together.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: I forgot about Ray Scott.

Laura Hill:  No, no, that’s okay.

Mr. Becker: Now, I never had anything to do with Ray Scott.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: ‘Cause I wasn’t working with FIGHT. I was doin’ two things. I was making sure that Step Up—that my foremen understood their task, and that I wasn’t getting sandbagged with crappy people. And I was tryin’ to get FIGHTON up and running so I could get the hell back to worrying about other things, and I really am not a do-gooder.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: I mean, I’m trying to make a living!  I got three children; I’m trying to put ’em through college. I got a daughter who says to me, “One of these days I’m gonna move out.” And I said to her, “Why don’t you move out now? I’ll help you.” And I threw all her clothes out the front door. And my wife said, “Okay, Mr. Business Executive, what’s your next move?” I mean, things are going along fairly well with me.

Laura Hill:  Of course.

Mr. Becker: Got three teenagers in the house—you know.

Laura Hill:  That’s—.

Mr. Becker: Thank God I had a dog who took care of me.

Laura Hill:  Had a loyal dog.  So, uh, Matt Augustine is recruited—the Harvard man.

Mr. Becker: To be General Manager.

Laura Hill:  Tell me about that transition.

Mr. Becker: I don’t know anything about it.

Laura Hill:  You were done at that point.

Mr. Becker: I was just going to Board of Directors meetings—the people wanted to look for a new General Manager. That’s—I just wanted to make sure that they were giving me good parts. That—I was worried that we weren’t getting other business. Board of Directors meetings were kinda sorta becoming somewhat of a bore for me, because it looked like the financials were all right. I couldn’t spend the time.

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: You know, this is not my life-long ambition to be—.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: I mean, I was running a factory of four thousand people. This was a department I could sneeze and lose, or put it to work shoveling snow, you know?

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: But let’s be practical.

Laura Hill:  So—but you’re still, you’re still contracting with FIGHTON at this point.

Mr. Becker: Yeah, the Purchasing Department gives ‘em orders. They’re delivering parts on time.

Laura Hill:  The quality is good? No problems?

Mr. Becker: It better be or the guys who I got workin’ over there get beat up. I mean, I know who to hold responsible for the quality. I don’t call Franklin up. I called up my guys and said, “How come the last shipment was shit? What are you guys doing over there? I’m paying you. What’s up?” “Well, Horace, we tried to get a die repaired in the die repair shop in Webster and the guys did a crappy job.” I said, “Good.” I go down to the die shop and beat them up. And understand that I didn’t need the headache of a vendor having crappy dies, and things got straightened out pretty quickly.

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: See, when you’re managing—by that time, I was Vice President of Manufacturing.

Laura Hill:  Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Becker: When I go down to the die shop to tell somebody I was unhappy, they paid attention.

Laura Hill:  It sounds to me then like one of the things that Xerox is doing for FIGHTON is running interference in these other ways.  Is that a correct?

Mr. Becker: In where?

Laura Hill:  In other places—anywhere that FIGHTON might have trouble as their own man.

Mr. Becker: Oh yeah, we taught ‘em how to buy sheet metal, we taught ‘em how to run safety, we taught ‘em how to set up books. And there’s a guy by the name of [pounds table]—they hired an accountant, a black accountant, a little guy, who was really good. As a matter of fact, I was gonna  hire him, he was so good—who kept the books and reported things in a way to this Board of Directors that Shankle and Chandler understood them.

Laura Hill:  Do you know if he was with RBOC—the Rochester Business Opportunities Council?

Mr. Becker: I don’t know. I can’t remember his name—I can picture him.

Laura Hill:  Clarence Ingram[16]?

Mr. Becker: No, no.  He was a black guy.

Laura Hill:  Not him.

Mr. Becker: Uh, Franklin would tell you his name.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: I was thinking of having our finance—see I have my own Finance Department, because, you know, I’ve got a budget to build machines. And I one time, said to the guy running my finance operation, “This guy’s the neatest guy. We could probably triple his salary, probably quadruple it—why don’t we go steal him?” But we decided that Franklin would get pretty upset because he had this guy workin’ for him for peanuts who was a pretty bright guy.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: Okay. Now, what happens, I only found out the other day.

Laura Hill:  Okay. Tell me.

Mr. Becker: Franklin tells me. I said to Franklin, “Where the hell did Matt get the money to one day come up with the idea that he was gonna buy the company?”

Laura Hill:  Right. How does that happen?

Mr. Becker: Now, this is what Franklin told me at lunchtime the other day. I have no knowledge of this prior to this time.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: He believes that Kodak gave a lump sum of money to RBOC[17] so that RBOC could give a loan to Matt to buy the company, and he was shocked that I didn’t know about that.

Laura Hill:  That has been confirmed in other interviews.

Mr. Becker: With whom?

Laura Hill:  RBOC staff.

Mr. Becker: They admit they got the money from Kodak or they just got money?

Laura Hill:  No, no. They got money from Kodak.

Mr. Becker: Well, just between you, me, and the lamppost, what in the hell business did Kodak have getting involved in financing a guy to buy FIGHTON? What business was it of theirs? They had an ulterior motive.

Laura Hill:  What was it?

Mr. Becker: To get rid of Franklin!

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: He was a goddamned pebble in their shoe.

Laura Hill:  Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Becker: You can’t tell me if you sit here until hell freezes over that they did it out of goodness of heart. What did they owe Matt Augustine? And I finally have figured out why Matt Augustine, when I meet him socially, which I do every so often because he’s part of today’s “in”  Rochester group, why he never wants to talk to me. He thinks I know that story.

Laura Hill:  I see.

Mr. Becker: And he’s embarrassed in front of me on how he got FIGHTON.

Laura Hill:  I see.

Mr. Becker: But I never knew the story, and I can never figure out why he always sort of socially—I’d be at some sort of thing, United Way or Cariola House or Sojourner House—where we’d be sitting there or drinking and we’d bump into each other. I’d start—and he’d sorta—like I had the warts or something, he would kinda sorta move off.

Laura Hill:  {Laughs] Sure.

Mr. Becker: Because he thought I knew that, and I never did. I thought he got the money—you know, the tooth fairy, I don’t know.

Laura Hill:  Sure, sure.

Mr. Becker: And I really didn’t give a damn. Now, what I was shocked about is that FIGHT was willing to sell.

Laura Hill:  Why—what was Franklin’s explanation for this?

Mr. Becker: Well, you ask Franklin.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: There was an argument within the Board of Directors that did not include the white guys.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: Whitey was left out of the discussion.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: Some of the ministers wanted some money because their church’s doors were falling down, and they needed a new car—I don’t know what the hell. I was not included in the conversations. Somehow, those people decided—the owners of the stock, there was actually stock.

Laura Hill:  Yeah.

Mr. Becker: To sell it. I was sort of surprised, but it kinda sorta made life a little simpler for me, because now I—if somebody else owned it, I could start treating them like a real vendor, couldn’t I?

Laura Hill:  It’s no longer a social—.

Mr. Becker: It’s not a social experiment anymore, is it? I use the word.

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: Just like every other town was doing—in Detroit and Newark—they were all having these.  Nobody did an experiment like this because nobody got told by Joe Wilson to go do it.

Laura Hill:  Right, right.

Mr. Becker: Well, Matt Augustine buys FIGHTON and the first thing he does, he really sticks it to Florence. Because Florence doesn’t think very much of Matt, in case you’re interested, which you’ll find out for yourself.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: He wants to change the name. And Matt says, we have to get rid of the taint—those are the words he used—you’ve already spoken to Matt.

Laura Hill:  I have.

Mr. Becker: Did he use the word taint?

Laura Hill:  He did not.

Mr. Becker: Of FIGHTON, because it doesn’t sound like a corporation that wants to do business, it sounds like a militant organization. And by the way, the name was picked “FIGHT On”—it wasn’t magic. I mean, we struggled with the name, and let me tell you—it was almost called FIGHT Inc., but we said, let’s sort of make it look—so young people could say, “Fight on!”

Laura Hill:  Yeah.

Mr. Becker: Well, there was some sort of internal fight. Matt Augustine ended up—he changed the name to Eltrex. He has increased the product line to include office products today—I mean, uh, furniture and some other things. It’s a respectable corporation. It makes money. Xerox is one of their customers.

Laura Hill:  It continues to be.

Mr. Becker: Oh yeah. We buy office furniture, because we have a big minority purchasing program that we have to buy a certain percentage of our parts from corporations owned by minorities and by women.

Laura Hill:  Is that a holdover from Joe Wilson’s time?

Mr. Becker: No, it’s just part of the way good American companies operate today. And Anne Mulcahy is a good CEO and she believes in diversity, but not affirmative action. And there is a big difference between the two that you can—if you treat everybody equally, you can get good black people and good white people and they better damn well learn how to work together or they’re gonna  be unhappy. Now, by the way, somewhere along the line with Step Up, going back before FIGHTON, we had a little problem one time, in that the Latino community came forward and said, “Hey—.”

Laura Hill:  “What about us?”

Mr. Becker: “What about us?” Led by the—what do they call themselves? The Iberian—

Laura Hill:  Ibero.

Mr. Becker: Ibero.  And Rhona handled that, and she actually was gonna set up a program sort of like an English as a Second Language program, so that we could hire some Latinos. And I just let them run that, let Human Relations run that. I was not about to waste my time getting involved in that. In the big picture, that wasn’t even a blip.

Laura Hill:  Okay, right. I wanted to—.

Mr. Becker: How are we doing on your list?

Laura Hill:  We’re fantastic. The only thing that we haven’t covered, that you and I have already had a conversation about, that I would like to return to, is the climate between Kodak and Xerox.

Mr. Becker: Ah, well. First of all, originally, Kodak kept Haloid in business so they wouldn’t have a monopoly.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: All right. Now, we come along and Xerox is looking to hire people.

Laura Hill:  They’re growing.

Mr. Becker: Yes siree. And the best person you can hire is a person who already lives in Rochester, because you don’t have to relocate ‘em. They’ve come to grips with living with the horrible winters we have in Rochester. Their children have learned how to speak Rochester-ese and know how to pronounce “water” and “water” and “bottle” instead of “bottle.” So, there’s a great opportunity as Xerox is goin’ up the curve, and there’s some good engineers over at Kodak.

Laura Hill:  Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Becker: And would you believe, Kodak is lookin’ at xerography, because patents are expiring. So there’s a great tendency to sort of sneak over in the other guy’s patch and hire people. Now, in Silicon Valley, there are people who go out to lunch and change jobs.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: This is Rochester—you don’t do that.

Laura Hill:  Once a Kodak man, always a Kodak man.

Mr. Becker: No, because Joe Wilson and somebody else agree or they’ll never admit it, that they won’t poach in each other’s territory.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: There’s sort of a gentleman’s agreement. And sort of, to keep it all clean, let’s make sure our engineers don’t talk to each other about what they’re working on, because we see our businesses coming together. And, by the way, we are direct competitors today in many areas, head-to-head competitors. You find people with a Kodak machine and a Xerox machine side-by-side doing the same job. So, there’s sort of a gentleman’s agreement. As a matter of fact, at one point in time, Kodak announces a new machine that my engineers go over and look at. By this time, I’m back in engineering, and they said to me, “Horace, that’s the best goddamn designed machine we’ve ever seen, and it’s going to give us lots of problems.” And Kodak, with one of their great decisions, takes the dealer route and doesn’t establish a Marketing Department and moves just a handful of machines. Xerox had their own Marketing Department and their own Service Department. Kodak goes the dealer route with dealers doin’ the servicing, and they introduce a spectacular machine, which proceeds to die an unnatural death. A magnificent piece of hardware—as a matter of fact, it has some features that we proceed to steal, for which we agreed to pay some licensing fees, which upsets the hell out of some of our executives. But, those of us in engineering say, “Why go out and re-invent something that somebody else has invented that we know is good. We’ve seen it. Let’s get a license.” And my boss says, “I’ll never take a license from Kodak.” Well, we finally convinced him that we should take a license. Our guys then take this device, put it into our machines, and figure out an improvement in it that makes it twice as good, so Kodak then has to license the improvement from us, so it ends up that stealing it in the first place doesn’t cost us anything and Kodak  gets in the second place a better one. So, from an engineering standpoint, they’re pretty good guys, but we still have a gentleman’s agreement; we don’t poach in each other’s backyard.

Laura Hill:  Mmm-hmm. I understand there are intramural basketball teams?

 Mr. Becker:Oh yeah. That’s Rochester.

Laura Hill:  This is just—corporations are playing against each other?

Mr. Becker: That’s Rochester—one big great family.

Laura Hill:  I’ve never heard of this before. Okay.

Mr. Becker: See, there’s only a couple of big corporations in this town—there was. You know, that’s part of this Rochester thing.

Laura Hill:  And so if engineers are playing racquetball at the JCC and one of them—

Mr. Becker: They don’t talk about what they’re doing.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: Because they’ve been told not to. Because if they find out that they talked and had big mouths, they’re gonna get fired.

Laura Hill:  Does anything that Joe Wilson does in this period of time that we’ve been talking about today—is any of that designed to make Kodak look bad?

Mr. Becker: No.

Laura Hill:  To cast the light on Xerox.

Mr. Becker: No, no, no. That guy—that thought would no more cross his mind than it would for him to think about going to church. Even though he’s married to a Catholic, his children were brought up Catholic, Sunday mornings he didn’t go to church. He used to take walks around the reservoir with Sol Linowitz and they’d talk.  Joe?  That kind of thinking would be so foreign to him that I’m shocked that you bring it up, because I would say—you’re talkin’ about Joe Wilson. That guy didn’t have a—he just rolled over in his grave.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: If Chris[18] was here—who I worked with on that book[19]—she’d look at you and she’d say, “Where the hell did you get that stupid idea?”

Laura Hill:  It’s—and this is not to suggest that this was Joe Wilson’s intention, but it is very, very clear that the way these—the way the battle between Kodak and FIGHT is structured in the newspaper and the way that these programs Xerox is doing are structured in the  newspapers—

Mr. Becker: That’s just the newspapers looking for a little excitement.

Laura Hill:  Fair enough.

Mr. Becker: See, that’s why you’ve got to read that book. Do you know that Life magazine gave Sol Linowitz the credit for creating the Xerox corporation and didn’t give it to Joe?

Laura Hill:  I didn’t know that.

Mr. Becker: And Sol Linowitz never straightened them out, so Sol Linowitz’s wife and Peggy Wilson stopped talking to each other. And it’s covered in that book, it’s called “The LifeMagazine Story.”[20]

Laura Hill:  Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Becker: This is after Sol has gone to Washington.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: The newspaper’s got nothin’ to do, and if a newspaper said something like that and somebody would say to Joe, “Are you going to call somebody at the paper and straighten them out?” Joe would say, “Look, I’ve got more important things to do.”

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: That guy was a boy scout. You know, when we wrote—when we worked with Charlie Ellis on that book, Charlie Ellis said, “Gee, the guy’s coming out like a boy scout.” I says, “Yeah, he actually believed it.”

Laura Hill:  Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Becker: I mean, he got up each morning and said, “I shall do no harm.” I mean, the guy—born with a silver spoon in his mouth—had the highest level of integrity. His ability to grasp and understand financial, marketing, and engineering, without any trouble at all, and to get people to work and knock themselves out, because he asked them to.

Laura Hill:  Yeah.

Mr. Becker: You know, if you found out in the newspapers—the interesting thing is, if I saw it in the newspaper, I probably read it and said, “What a bunch of crap! I wonder who dreamt that up?” The guy didn’t know what the word revenge meant.

Laura Hill:  In—.

Mr. Becker: Is that actually documented in the newspapers? That he did some of this to try and make Kodak look bad?

Laura Hill:  It’s not—No, no, no.

Mr. Becker: For why?

Laura Hill:  It is—no, no, no.

Mr. Becker: What is—how much does it pay?

Laura Hill:  There’s nothing about Joe Wilson’s intent. It has to do with the way that these stories are being told side by side, because they’re happening simultaneously.

Mr. Becker: Can’t help that. I was busy. Can’t help you.

Laura Hill:  Sure. But it’s why I ask. I want it from the horse’s mouth.

Mr. Becker: You know what? If you say that to Franklin, he’s gonna get up and walk out on you.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: Because, to him, Joe is one step below God.

Laura Hill:  That’s interesting.  That’s interesting.

Mr. Becker: You know, be careful what you say to him. You can beat up on me, but don’t beat up on Joe, because I’m gonna tell ya, he’ll say—by the way, he’s going to call you “sister,” you realize that—he’s gonna say, “Sister, this is over. I didn’t want to meet with you. I’m only doing this as a favor to Horace. I’ve got a lot to do. Good day.” And it’s just going to be that simple.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: See, I say to you, “Where the hell did you get that stupid story.”  Minister, he wouldn’t do that. You would find out just what a tough guy he is, and he would tell you that he has to go—some church business came up and he’s sorry, but goodbye.

Laura Hill:  Sure. You have to appreciate that for the researcher, of course—.

Mr. Becker: Yeah, you go to the newspapers and read everything and all the news that’s fit to print is the truth.

Laura Hill:  No, no, no. Not the truth, but this is why we ask, this is why we check it out.

Mr. Becker: All right. What else have you got on that list besides your little myth?

Laura Hill:  That’s it. You—

Mr. Becker: Jesus, you didn’t ask me any questions and all I did was talk.

Laura Hill:  That’s how it should go. You’re a fantastic interviewee.

Mr. Becker: You didn’t get any glare off the top of my bald head?  And it’s almost lunch time?  Can I take both of you to lunch?

Laura Hill:  We—I would love to, but we have a 1:30 interview.

Mr. Becker: Oh, well, Christ, I’m practically—who you meetin’ with now?

Laura Hill:  Peter Tolliver, probably not somebody you’ve come across. He’s earlier in my time period. He’s with the Dr. Cooper[21] sort of crowd. You’ve yet to come across Dr. Cooper, right?

Mr. Becker: Well, I’m going in two weeks to a medal presentation that Cooper’s—

Laura Hill:  Will you be there? Phyllis will be there.

Mr. Becker: You’ll be there? Well, you’ll meet my charming wife. Now, so I now know who Cooper is.

Laura Hill:  Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Becker: Franklin, by the way, thinks very highly of him.

Laura Hill:  Really? 

Mr. Becker: Just so you know, because at lunch, I said to Franklin, “Who the hell’s Cooper?” He said, “Oh, Horace. He’s a pretty bright guy,” he says. He says, “He was kinda sorta very active,” he said, “with the educated blacks.” He says, “He wasn’t part of FIGHT, but” he says, “He did a good job. He sort of worked uptown and I worked downtown.”

Laura Hill:  Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Becker: He says, “Haven’t had much to do with him, but I gotta tell ya, he’s one of the good guys.” And Franklin has a very, very short list of good guys. I mean, if you think Obama’s having trouble pickin’ a Vice President, you oughta look at Franklin’s short list of good guys.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: I mean, it’s short.

Laura Hill:  Sure.

Mr. Becker: He thinks Cooper’s a good guy. He says he’s very interested in education.

Laura Hill:  He is.

Mr. Becker: And that he really understands something—by the way, Franklin has a very, very high regard for our new Superintendent of Schools.

Laura Hill:  Okay.

Mr. Becker: Just so you know. He sat and talked with him, ‘cause Franklin’s newest mission that he’s working on today is keep the kids in school, and mission number two is keep the kids in school, and mission number three is see if we can coordinate the 6,000 black churches we have in town so they start getting something done by acting with a single voice. And he says that last job—he says he doesn’t think—everybody’s worried about turf.

Laura Hill:  Yeah.

Mr. Becker: I said, “Well, Franklin, you invented turf.” He says, “Yeah, but I’ve learned that ain’t the way to run things.” 

Laura Hill:  That’s interesting.

Mr. Becker: That’s what he’s workin’ on right now—trying to get all these storefront churches to get together.

Laura Hill:  Yeah, yeah. Well, I’m very much looking forward to talking to him. Thank you so much for that.

Mr. Becker: What happened when you called him? That was his cell phone number, you didn’t get the slough at the office.

Laura Hill:  No, no, no. I went straight to his voicemail. I left a message and he called me back within an hour. Mmm-hmm, he—

Mr. Becker: He told you he was busier than hell.

Laura Hill:  Well, he wanted to talk, he was willing to talk. He did not want to do a formal interview, initially.

Mr. Becker: Yeah.

Laura Hill:  And that’s fine. I offered that, of course, one of the problems given the multiple interviews he’s done, is that none of them exist anywhere, that none of them are accessible. And he said, “Well, there’s a reason for that, and we’ll talk about it on Wednesday.”

Mr. Becker: Oh, now, I didn’t even get into that with him.

Laura Hill:  Yeah, I mean, we didn’t really get into it either, other than that he agreed to meet with me.

Mr. Becker: I hope you will share some of that with me, because I’d like to understand. Because, I’m gonna tell you, you’re going to be shocked. He’s, he’s the kind of guy you want to have as a friend.

Laura Hill:  Honestly, Mr. Becker, everybody has said how wonderful he is. Now, I have heard the stories about him, I mean everybody has stories, but they—

Mr. Becker: When he was young he was noisy. So was I.

Laura Hill:  Yeah, yeah.

Mr. Becker: But he’s so goddamned mellow now and laid back, he scares the crap out of me.

Laura Hill:  Yeah.

Mr. Becker: You know?

Laura Hill:  Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Becker: You want to see—we run into each other in Wegmans. We stand there, he puts his arms around—my wife says, “I’ll see you later, in the car, when you two get together.” And he slaps me on the back and he raises his voice up. He starts tellin’ people around there what a great guy—strangers—he’ll say, “Do you know who this is? Do you know what a great guy he is?” I say, “Franklin, would you cut the crap out? My wife is shopping, she asked me to come along so we could get done.” But he says, “I don’t see her.” And the answer is no. We have no reason. Now, he told me about something, that he had problem with Ursula Burns.

Laura Hill:  Ursula Burns—I think I’ve heard that name.

Mr. Becker: Who is President of Xerox, who is black.

Laura Hill:  Right, I see.

Mr. Becker: They had a problem with her a couple of months ago. We asked her to do something and she didn’t follow through, so I’ve got a meeting with Ursula. Ursula is going to get a lesson in history.

Laura Hill:  Mmm-hmm.

Mr. Becker: That she wouldn’t be President today—.

Laura Hill:  If it weren’t for Florence.

Mr. Becker: Because we went out and did affirmative action hiring and she was hired as a working engineer and today is President of the company, if Franklin hadn’t sat down with Joe Wilson. And she’d better understand that the next time Franklin calls up, she says, “Yes sir, how high do I jump?” Now she and I have an appointment, and I’m gonna tell ya something. If she doesn’t pay attention, I have an appointment with Anne Mulcahy.[22]

Laura Hill:  Yeah, yeah.

Mr. Becker: Because I’m annoyed with her.

Laura Hill:  It seems like a common thread through all of these interviews is that Rochester has a very short historical memory.

Mr. Becker: You’re damn right.

Laura Hill:  I have heard that repeated over and over.

Mr. Becker: You’re damn right. This place is run by a clique, always has been run by a clique, and there is money down East Avenue and they make the decisions. And how we ever got a black mayor, I’ll never know. And right now, we’ve got a Monroe County Republican, Maggie Brooks, who is the dumbest individual. She used to be a County Clerk and she started with the sales tax thing and screwed that up and is screwing up this education thing, and is trying to build Renaissance Square, which makes absolutely no sense at all, to put all the buses indoors. That’s the most expensive thing in the world. Even in New York City, they don’t put buses indoors.  You go down to the Port of Authority building, and it’s open. She wants to bring all the buses indoors. Louise Slaughter says the Renaissance Square is the dumbest thing that’s ever happened. There are some politicians who are promising money to suck up to her.

Laura Hill:  Hmmm.

Mr. Becker: So some of us who are trying to do some things in this city are trying to beat Renaissance Square and Maggie Brooks wants to go forward. And it’s now become the Democrats don’t want her, the Republicans want her. The answer is, technically and financially, it won’t work.

Laura Hill:  Right.

Mr. Becker: Nobody wants to put the money up. And every time we hear somebody’s not giving money, we cheer because it’s going to die a natural death. See, there’s some federal money hanging out there, about 15 or 20 million dollars and we’re hoping that if we delay it long enough, the money disappears when Obama gets elected President.

Laura Hill:  Okay, then. Okay. Thank you so much, Mr. Becker.

Mr. Becker: We all right?

Laura Hill:  Oh, we’re fantastic. I appreciate your time.

   -End of Interview-


[1] Mr. Becker made additions/corrections to his transcript in October 2008 and August 2011.  Spelling corrections are reflected in the transcript text.  Content additions and corrections that change the transcript text have been included in footnotes.

[2] Edward Chambers, interviewed August 9th, 2008 as part of the Rochester Black Freedom Struggle project.

[3] Abe Chatman, Chairman of the Rochester Joint Board of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers

[4] FIGHT — Mr. Becker  later stated.

[5] Germaine Knapp and Rhona Genzel were interviewed together on 8/20/2008 as part of the Rochester Black Freedom Struggle project.

[6] Tom Knapp, husband of Germaine Knapp, and for a time a Catholic clergyman, Mr. Becker later explained.

[7]  A portion of the original was removed at the request of the interviewee.

[8] At Xerox — Mr. Becker later stated.

[9] The Xerox 914 office copier.

[10]  The Rev. Marvin Chandler, interviewed May 13th, 2009 as part of the Rochester Black Freedom Struggle project.

[11] The Reverend Herbert C. Shankle, of the Clarissa Street Church of God.

[12] Five hundred-some people, Mr. Becker later clarified.

[13] A portion of the original was removed at the request of the interviewee.

[14] Matthew Augustine, interviewed August 7th, 2008 as part of the Rochester Black Freedom Struggle project.

[15] The Reverend Raymond Scott was Interviewed July 11th, 2008  as part of the Rochester Black Freedom Struggle project.

[16] Clarence Ingram, interviewed June 10th, 2008 as part of the Rochester Black Freedom Struggle project.

[17] Rochester Business Opportunities Council

[18]  Chris Wilson, Joe Wilson’s youngest daughter, Mr. Becker later clarified.

[19] Ellis, Charles D. Joe Wilson and the Creation of Xerox. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2006.

[20] Mr. Becker refers to chapter 26, of Charles Ellis’ book Joe Wilson and the Creation of Xerox (2006).   Chapter 26, entitled “Life,” pp 301-313,  refers to the following  article:   Howard, Jane. “The Busiest Copycat of Them All.” Life July 1966: 69-76.

[21] Dr. Walter Cooper, interviewed May 21st, 2008 as part of the Rochester Black Freedom Struggle project.

[22] A portion of the original was removed at the request of the interviewee.