Jackie DeYoung, April 5th, 2016
BB: This is Bree Boettner with the Detroit 1967 Oral History Project. I am sitting down with Jackie DeYoung today at her home in Grosse Pointe. Thank you Jackie for sitting down with us today.
JD: Oh you’re welcome.
BB: If you could start by telling me when and where you were born.
JD: I was born in Detroit at the old Providence Hospital on East Grand Boulevard. At the time my parents lived at 3010 West Chicago Boulevard. It was an apartment building between Wildemere and Lawton.
BB: Did you have any siblings?
JD: No, I’m an only child.
BB: And what did your parents do?
JD: My father was an attorney. My father was born in Detroit in 1904 in the middle of the Eastern Market on St. Antoine and Winder. My mother was born in New York, came through Cleveland, and settled here. My father went through Detroit Public Schools. He went to the Bishop School in the Eastern Market area. Then he went to what was Central High School, which is now on the campus – well it was Forest — what is it called — Old Main. That was Central High School and my dad went there. When he graduated, which must have been about 1918 or 1920, it became part of Wayne, which wasn’t a state university at the time. So he went to Law school there, same building.
BB: Okay, wow.
JD: You did not have to go through [an] undergraduate degree at that time; you just went to law school. So he graduated before he was able to become a member of the bar. He wasn’t twenty-one yet.
BB: Oh wow, high achiever. Awesome, okay. Just to preface your parents and you lived on Chicago?
JD: Yes, in an apartment building.
BB: Explain your childhood growing and living in the Detroit area.
JD: Well, it was a very good childhood. My mother and I – my mother didn’t drive until much later. She learned to drive probably when I was in school, [when I was] five, six, seven. So we took buses everywhere. All over downtown, wherever we had to go. You could walk anywhere. We had accessible shopping on Dexter Avenue. It was a very easy childhood. There were very few security fears, or crime, or anything like that.
BB: Do you remember where you went to school in the area?
JD: I went to Brady School.
BB: For all grades or?
JD: I went there until third grade. Then we moved to Manor and Seven Mile, which is on the northwest side, near Meyers Road. After that I went to McDowell school to the eighth grade. And then I went to Mumford High School through graduation. At the time the school system had started an advanced, sort of like an AP program, but they were only running it at Cass Tech. My mother and a group of parents who were active in the PTA did not want us taking the bus down to Cass every day. So they petitioned the school board, and the board opened the program at Mumford because there were so many students in the neighborhood who would have qualified for it.
BB: What year did you graduate from high school?
JD: 1961 I graduated from Mumford.
BB: And was your school integrated? Was it strictly white?
JD: My grade school was very integrated, as was Mumford. The black population at the time lived closer to Eight Mile, but they lived on the same streets we did. Manor, Monte Vista, just further west toward Eight Mile North.
BB: What’d you do after high school?
JD: Then I went to the University of Michigan for four years. I graduated. I came home and I was living with my parents on Manor.
JD: I got a job with the city of Detroit, which was a little interesting because at the time, I don’t know if you know this, they had a general entry level job for college graduates called Technical Aid. And at the time I applied, they were divided into Technical Aid Male and Technical Aid Female. The only difference was you had to pass the same test, but the females had to be able to type forty-five words a minute. So the first time I took the test I failed it because I can’t type. [Laughter] By the time I went to take it three months later when I was eligible again, they had taken away that requirement because the Civil Rights movement had started and they were trying to equalize all of the positions. Then I got the job with the city. I had worked for Wayne County several summers while I was in college. They hired me when I graduated, so I had a job with Wayne County until I got the job with the city.
BB: What’d you do with Wayne County?
JD: Oh, I had a number of different jobs. I worked for the road commission for a long time and in the summer I would relieve people in the accounting division who wanted to go on vacation. So they would teach me their job. I would do it for two weeks and then somebody else would teach me their job and I’d do that. That’s how I spent my summer.
BB: Wow, the Jackie-of-all-trades.
JD: Yeah, exactly. [Laughter]
JD: I learned about a lot of Wayne County systems by doing that: the parks, and the airport, and everything that the county ran, highways.
BB: Tell me about your city position. What’d you do for the city of Detroit?
JD: Well, when I was hired in August of 1966, I was assigned to the housing department. I was sent to a field office on Grand River and Grand Boulevard. And we were relocating families from the right-of-way of the Jeffries and the Fisher freeways which were just being built.
BB: That’s right. Okay.
JD: I liked the job, but it involved a lot of social work. My parents were really concerned because I was so involved with some of the families that I was trying to relocate, that I’d be going down to the area at night and taking them food, and money, and blankets, and things they didn’t have. So they said you’ve got to find something else. The other thing was that all of the Edison people, the utility peoples, were all out there in pairs. And I was out there by myself, which my parents didn’t think was real safe. Although, I must say, all the people I worked with did a good job at protecting me, but there were a couple of minor incidents. I went down to the civil service commission and said I’d really like a transfer. They sent me to a couple of different offices. In February of ‘67, the police department had formed a research and development unit. Maybe sometime in ’65; it was pretty new. They were putting personnel in it. They were looking for people. They absolutely did not want a woman. They told me that.
BB: Really? How’d you get the job?
JD: Well, They got desperate [laughter].They had to have somebody. It was a little awkward at first because I say that I worked in the men’s locker room for 35 years. The atmosphere before civil rights and sexual harassment was just incredible. I mean I know young women like yourself find it hard to believe what some of us went through, but the office reported directly to the deputy superintendent of police. He was as much a male chauvinist as the rest of them, but they needed the help badly. And he knew I was going to Wayne at night to get a master’s. He was going to get his bachelor’s degree. And I think in a way he used to send me out to pick up his books or assignments and things like that.
BB: (laughing) Oh goodness.
JD: So I had a lot of interesting assignments at the beginning. The office answered his—it was a commissioner at the time, commissioner of police—all of his correspondence. So it could be very serious from a citizen complaining about something, to the commissioner saying to me, “Write my mother a Christmas letter.”
JD: We also – the police department operates on the system of general orders that are written. We wrote all those orders and kept track of them, and so forth. Also, at that time, the federal government began the Office of Law Enforcement Assistance and began giving out federal grants to police departments, and we wrote those grant applications. Detroit was probably one of the first five in the country to receive one if I recall correctly. We had people coming in from the police executive research forum and other research organizations. Detroit was a big city at the time. We had a fairly large force. I was once asked to figure out how many blacks were on the job and I think at the time I did it, it was about five percent of the force.
BB: Okay, because at one time, if I remember correctly, there was almost what, 5,300 police officers?
JD: Yes, exactly.
JD: And we were pretty modern. We had the first traffic lights here. We had a lot of firsts. There was interest in the department. I also did things like, made center pieces for the Women Who Work Luncheon when some woman from the women’s division was being honored.
JD: Things, little tasks. I never knew what the job was going to be on any given day, but it was very interesting. So I was able to learn a lot about how the department operated. You know, I certainly knew all of its rules and regulations because I wrote a lot of them. [Laughter] That’s about it.
BB: At that time in ‘67, you know ’64 when you received this position, how was the city? Had it changed from what you had perceived it when you were child growing up? Had it changed in any way beyond you know the civil rights movement? How was the feeling?
JD: People were starting to move out to suburbs, but not for any particular reason other than you could get a newer house. Some of the jobs were moving. They weren’t all downtown anymore. But, it was pretty much the same city that I grew up in, you know I don’t recall. Our neighborhood started to change a little bit. When we bought our house in 1952 on Manor, my father had to break a restrictive covenant that didn’t allow Jews. We were a Jewish family. Those were outlawed by the Supreme Court subsequently. My father had a case of one of his clients, Orsel McGhee, who lived on Seebaldt Street, who wanted to buy a house on Seebaldt. And my father broke a restricted covenant at that time to get him the house. That case became combined with the cases that Thurgood Marshall eventually argued before the Supreme Court that struck down those restrictive covenants. They’re still in deeds but they can’t be enforced.
BB: Wow, I never knew that. That’s amazing. Leading up to—
JD: So we were the first Jewish family or maybe the second Jewish family on our block.
BB: As I’ve done this project I have not heard of that. That’s amazing. Kudos to your father (laughing). So leading up to the summer of 1967, obviously there’s reports of more civil unrest. How did you perceive that summer and then how did you learn about the event of the blind pig?
JD: Well, I got a call on Sunday night. Must have be what, July 23, from my office, saying there’s been some disturbances. They weren’t sure whether they wanted me to come into work on Monday or not, but they would send a car because I took the bus to work. Usually a Hamilton bus or there was an Imperial Express that ran down James Couzens, what is now the extension of the Lodge Freeway; that wasn’t built yet. So I just waited to hear from them and they said come on in. I went in. The men in my office, the sworn officers, it was a combination. The only other woman was our secretary. They did not have her come in for a few days. But the sworn officers were detailed to the roof of police headquarters with rifles.
BB: Oh wow. What happened?
JD: So I was the only one in the office a lot of the time except for our boss. They asked me to start clipping articles, any newspaper magazine, anything I saw that mentioned what was going on, to cut it out, and then we had this huge scrap book. Big, like, art-size paper, and I pasted these articles on it. Finally it was put together in a book and I hope it’s in the Burton Historical collection.
JD: I’ve never looked for it, but I assume that’s where it went.
BB: When we received your notes, that’s one of the things were going to look for next.
JD: They did make smaller copies of it. They shrunk it at some point. I thought I had one but I don’t. Anyway, then I understood that there were fires and looting, and things going on. It wasn’t like I wasn’t affected by it. I realize now that I had to travel through it to get home. Went right through one of the areas, but it just wasn’t anything in my experience that there had been a Kercheval incident but the year before. It was quieted down pretty easily. I knew that an officer had gone into a blind pig and that’s what started things going, and I heard about some of the people I knew in headquarters going out to the scene to try to calm things down. They were standing on trucks in the middle of the street with bullhorns, trying to get people to go home and so forth. Somehow it just didn’t seem real to me until maybe day two or three when the Army showed up, and there were tanks downtown. I used to walk to Hudson’s or Crowley’s for lunch, and there were tanks sitting there. And I thought, “This is silly,” you know, “There’s nothing happening down here. What are they doing?” They were sleeping on cots in various offices in police headquarters. When they first arrived they had no place to put them. And another interesting thing that I remember is that people were bringing food down to headquarters because the officers were on long shifts. It never occurred to us in a million years not to eat it. It certainly would today but back then no. We just accepted it, thanked the people. So it was sort of normal in a way. I mean it was weird watching TV or listening to the radio. You knew what was happening in those areas, and I had worked for the housing commission in the part of that. And some of it was the old neighborhood where I grew up around Chicago Boulevard. But it just never seemed quite real and then things started to escalate. We had the incident at Reverend Franklin’s church. Aretha’s father’s church. And then the Algiers Motel. I was keeping track of how many casualties there were, and officers injured, and things like that. I had all kinds of statistics. I also had all the utilities, Edison, and the gas company, and AT&T were headquartered in our office. Getting updates on where we needed them to guard their own facilities, where we couldn’t handle. The department did what it could to guard their facilities, but they had to put people out. So, we were keeping them apprised of where incidents were occurring and what was happening. It seemed to kind of be contained maybe within a week or ten days.
BB: What was the atmosphere because you did work with cops and deputies? How was the atmosphere with them coming from the scene to the office? Did you hear anything in particular about what was going on from them or did you just get most of your information from news clippings and TV?
JD: Well you heard a lot of racial animus. Some of the black officers on the department were out trying to do what they could to help. Also, black council people and, church reverends, and so forth. Everybody was pitching in trying to help. We couldn’t quite understand and I couldn’t, why people would, if you want to protest something, and maybe the department had been. I don’t know, and of course it never happened to me. But I’m sure they were probably hard on black people. But, if you want to protest something, why burn your neighborhood down? Why hurt yourself? That’s why when people call it a rebellion; it’s hard for me to use that word. You know I know people were angry, but what do you gain by chasing all the merchants out of the city? People who’d run businesses in those areas for years, and just were burned out. It was unthinkable.
BB: Yeah it’s hard. That’s actually my next question. How do you do you perceive the event? Do you see it as a rebellion, do you see the civil unrest, or do you see it as a riot? How would you classify what happened?
JD: I think the Kercheval incident was probably civil unrest, but I think what we had got in July '67 was big enough to be a riot. It was kind of contained to one or two areas, but it was spreading pretty quickly. The police department didn’t seem to be able to stop it, so it was a good thing that we got the National Guard and the Army in here to help. I don’t even know if the department had enough, I mean the officers wore side arms. There might be a rifle in a scout car or two, but I don’t believe we had enough rifles to handle any major disturbances. And there were discussions I heard about you know, "Should we pull everybody back? Is it worth risking police officers, or must we be out there trying to arrest as many people as we could." The other thing was, they didn’t have place to put them. They were bringing them to the garage of police headquarters, which prior to that, I used to walk through to get into the building but they closed it off, took all the cars out of it, and they just had people down there. There were no bathrooms. I mean it was horrible. And finally, Judge George Crockett from recorders court, one of the first black judges, came over and started holding arraignments right in the garage because the people couldn’t get processed fast enough. I don’t remember how long that went on, but a good probably the first week at least. They just didn’t have place to put the people.
BB: Yeah I’ve heard of locations like Belle Isle was used, and I believe the fairgrounds were used so, I’m not surprised. That’s amazing.
JD: They were housing people every because they were just sweeping anybody who happened to be—I mean I guess you could be innocently walking down the street, although, I don’t know why you would be.
BB: Yeah (laughing).
JD: There were curfews and there just were areas where you wouldn’t go.
BB: You say you remember the National Guard and the Army coming in through, do you remember working with them at all, or seeing police officers work with them?
JD: Yeah, I know police officers worked with them. I did not have much to do with them. I was really sitting in an office answering phones and trying to get information from here and there and collate it and get it to the people who needed to have it.
JD: My office was on the second floor of police headquarters and the executive floor was three. So I would just run up and down the stairs all the time, taking stuff up and I’d see them, pass them in the corridor. But I didn’t have anything to do with them really.
BB: Gotcha, gotcha. So after the event and the days following, how did you perceive your neighborhood and Detroit in general after that, after the event happened?
JD: Nothing happened where we were. My parents had been wanting to sell our house. I think it was August or September of 67’, they were able to sell it and we moved down to the Jeffersonian. It never occurred to any of us to move outside the city. They wanted an apartment. They didn’t think I’d be with them that much longer I guess. Although, in those days if you were a single woman you just did not go out and get an apartment. So we moved to the Jeffersonian. It was a pretty much brand new building at the time. There were very few tenants. I could take the Jefferson bus down to work. So you know I still wasn’t noticing much. Some of the areas that were involved in the Kercheval incident, I would pass on the way to work. But, they’d gone pretty much back to normal. I mean, there were still houses in all those vacant lots that you see today. People took care of their property. They were cutting their lawns. Life was pretty normal for me.
BB: When would you say that things changed?
JD: I won’t say the election of Coleman Young. I think it was before that. Would it have been 1970, or ‘69? Richard Austin ran for mayor against Roman Gribbs. I was kind of a smart mouth, running around telling people that if you voted for Austin, we’d have a reasonably competent black mayor who could perhaps gain the trust of some of these citizens who didn’t trust the government any longer. I didn’t quite understand why they didn’t, but I mean I knew why. It’s just that it wasn’t in my personal experience. I understood their point of view. I lived in a pretty white world. And police headquarters was a very white world, and city government was too. Anyway, Roman Gribbs won. Things started to change during his administration. But Coleman Young’s election was a real flash point, I think. And I think if he had served for two terms, he would have been the greatest mayor Detroit ever had. He served too long. But when he came in he made everything half and half. If he appointed a black department director, then the deputy was white, and vice versa. He made some excellent appointments. He started really pushing the police department to integrate. Other departments too, but police particularly. And they needed pushing. You know, the civil rights laws helped because I don’t think without that the department would have ever—he could have done whatever he wanted to and they would have sat there and said, “Well you’ll be gone and we’ll be here.” They had their own little culture. You know, for the most part the policemen that I worked with were very good people. They wanted to help the community. They didn’t want a bad reputation. The ones I knew weren’t out there beating people up. I heard more, and more, and more about that as I went through my career, because in 1983, at that time I was in charge of the department’s budget, which was about 350 million dollars. I was getting bored. Michael and I were married. He came home one day and he said, he was in the personnel department, “You know you can’t do personnel work anymore without being a lawyer. And I said, “Well if you want to go to law school,” – I tried to go to law school when I graduated from U of M [University of Michigan]. They were only taking one or two women per class at that time. And I could not get in. My grades at U of M weren't that good. I just forgot about it. But when he said that we decided we would go to law school. We both worked our full time jobs and went to law school at night for four years at Wayne and got our law degrees. When I got my law degree, the department put me in their legal unit.
JD: There was a high turnover in the unit, so at some point I became the head of it.
JD: Just longevity.
BB: You stuck through. You stuck through.
JD: [Cough] As a lawyer for the department and looking at the procedures we had from a little different perspective, when I was writing them, I was writing them for efficiency of operation. We had lawyers review them of course, but there just weren't that many – We could pretty much do what we wanted. By the time I became a lawyer, there were so many statutes and restrictions. We had to check a million different things before we made a rule. [Coughing] And we didn't know if it would conflict.
BB: Okay, so you had gotten your law degree and you were working with the budget and doing more human resources. So after you got your law degree, what did you end up using it for in the department specifically?
JD: Well I worked in the legal advisor section, and we were responsible for reviewing all the orders to make sure they were legal. We taught the legal curriculum at the police academy.
JD: There's a big portion of the recruit training that's legal training, naturally. We're liaisons with the attorneys who are defending the cases against the police department.
BB: Okay. What had changed when you were brought on to review policies and things with police officers? What had changed while you were in that position either policy wise or other?
JD: There was a lot of, kind of what's happening now. A lot of protesting about the way police treated citizens, and wanting to make it less confrontational. I know when I taught at the academy [Coughing] they would laugh at me. [Coughing] But I would tell the officers, if you just practice this, "Please, sir, cooperate", instead of saying you know, "MF get down on the ground, assume the position" or whatever. But, like I said, they laughed at me. We had so many lawsuits being brought, and so many citizen complaints [Coughing], that were going to bankrupt the city, which they [Coughing] helped to do. I kept trying to advise people [Coughing], let's do it this way, not that way. [Coughing] I was sent by the department various times to places like New York and Chicago to study how they were doing things. They're trying to modernize, neutralize I guess [Coughing]. I'm going to get some more water. [Coughing] I don't want to make it sound like—I certainly empathized with members of the community. [Coughing] I knew about the amount of prejudice [Coughing] that there was. When I say it didn't affect my life, I did a lot of academic research [Coughing] into what had happened. The causes and so forth. So intellectually I understood it, but I still couldn't understand how burning down your own neighborhood accomplished anything.
BB: Yeah, it's hard.
JD: And when you look at what's happened to Detroit. Now to my mind the, the worst thing, worse than the riot, was the threat of cross district bussing. L. Brooks Patterson was an attorney for a woman named Irene McCabe out in Pontiac. They were fighting the idea of cross district bussing. But that was the thing, when people thought that [Coughing] their kids [Coughing] were going to neighborhood schools with neighbors, that's one thing. But when you're taking white children and trying to integrate them into schools in the black neighborhood, it was a whole other story. I think that did more damage than anything. And probably, people were pretty predisposed to hate Coleman Young. [Coughing] He was, I think thought to be uppity, and he wasn't going to stand for anything. And he didn't. So he made a lot of changes but a lot of people's lives were affected and they didn't like it. I personally think the amount of racism was just, on both sides. Couldn't be overcome. Still hasn't.
BB: Yeah, It's still prevalent for sure. Where do you see Detroit going? Well you’re still in the area, so [Laughing].
JD: I'm glad to see it's coming back. Nobody would like to see it come back more than me. [Coughing] I lived in Detroit for what, [Coughing] more than fifty years. I would still be there, but, we wanted a condo and we weren't able to find anything. Where we are now is about twelve blocks from where we lived in the city, and it didn't seem like I was crossing that big of a line. Although Grosse Pointe has its own connotations. But, the thing – I lived on East Outer Drive [Coughing]. We had our own neighborhood snow removal, neighborhood police patrol [Coughing]. The only thing you can't hire is EMS. And that's what started to scare us. We were getting up there and we thought if we need an ambulance [Coughing], we’re not going to be able to get it. Because we thought a lot about moving downtown, which we lived in when we first got married and we would love to do that. Maybe we will be able to again sometime, but, the services just weren't there. And we’re paying very high taxes. We don't have children so we didn't have the school problem.
BB: Yeah, but you have positive hopes for Detroit?
JD: I do, yes. It was a great city. It is a great city. [Coughing] It has a great history. My family’s been here more than a century. I'm pretty tied to it. Did everything I could, working for it to try to make it better. But there are a lot of other outside forces [Coughing]. Oh my god, it just won't quit.
BB: Yeah I know. Well I know I don't want to make you suffocate here. I know coughing kind of gets to you after a while. One last thing. Is there anything you would like to add that I didn't cover with you in regards to before, after, during, or any advice you have for the younger generation coming in hoping to make the city great again?
JD: Well, I hope people can get along with each other better [Coughing]. I never understood the divisions. I wasn't brought up to them. I didn't know what the differences were. I always try to get along with everybody and I don't understand [Coughing] why we can't all get along. And maybe the younger generation didn't grow up with all this stuff that can bring it about. I think Mayor Duggan is doing a great job and working at it, but you know it's a working process. It's going to take a long time. I drive around the neighborhoods all the time. I'm in Detroit a lot. It's so sad. [Coughing] But I don't know, I'm sure I'll think of a million other things later.
BB: Well if you do think of anything else, you've got our email address. Please don't hesitate to email me again or give us a call. We can always add your written transcription to this. Because I know you're sick so I really don't want to [Laughing] bug you a little bit more. I really do appreciate you letting us come in and sit down with you guys and getting your story. We appreciate it.
JD: I'm pleased to do it.**