Robert Carter -- born in Seattle, 1929 -- a fourth-generation African-American Seattleite and son of prizefighter “Wildcat Carter.” A “political nut all my life,” he worked for many years on Democratic Party campaigns and was assistant director of community relations for Governor Booth Gardner. He became Lambert House’s original manager in the early 1990s, initiating programs and raising funds.
photo: Marina Wiesenbach / Trine Multimedia
Now, half the counter had stools. The back half had no stools. We sat down at the stool and she says, "Oh no, your food's back there." She had put our food on paper plates, and gave us these flat, wooden Dixie Cup type things you eat with, down where there were no stools.
My brother was furious. "We're not eating this shit, and we're not paying for it." So we walked outside and waited for the bus.
That year, students were coming in from all over the world. I think we had about a hundred white students, and kids from Africa and wherever else. At their first assembly the students brought this up, about discrimination in Dayton. You'd go to the theater -- blacks were on one side, whites on the other. You'd go into a drugstore -- blacks on one side, whites on the other.
The students decide to go en masse to the theater, to the stores. So they get 20-30 white students, 20-30 black students, go to the theater at the same time. All the white students sit on the black side; all the black students sit on the white side. They did the same thing in the stores. After about two, three weeks they integrated.
In the 60s, in Oregon, we had just finished our finals and were celebrating, and we went to Springfield because the bars opened early. We went into this country place. I had four or five other friends with me, and I was the only black. We all sat at a table. Everybody ordered drinks and I ordered a martini.
The waitress came back -- brought everybody a drink but me. A guy says, “Where’s Bob’s drink?” and she kept moving around. Finally I went up to the bartender. I said, “I ordered a drink too.” He says, quote, “We don’t serve niggers here.”
I said, "Well, that's not what I asked for; I asked for a martini." And he didn't think it was funny. He said, "You're not getting service in here."
Of course, the guys are: "Let's tear the place up!" I said, "No, let me take care of it." I went back to the bartender and said, “You’re in violation of the law. I’m going to call the police.”
He says, “Do you know any of the police here?”
I says, “No.”
“Well, I know them all.”
I decided I’d take a chance anyway. The guy wouldn’t even let me use the phone. So across the street there's a little cafe. Got on the phone and called the police department. They said, “We’ll be down in ten minutes.”
The Chief and his deputy show up and ask me to walk back into the bar and order. He comes in and sits on one side of me, and the deputy sits on the other side. The bartender says, "What'll you have?"
"This gentleman was here before us."
"We're not serving his kind in here."
"Did you tell him that earlier?"
"Yep. We don't serve niggers in here."
The Chief says, "Do you know who I am?" He says, "No."
"I'm the Chief of Police! You're closed."
Oh, the guy nearly hit the floor. My friends are laughing, just busting a gut.
Monday we went to court. The owner was there. We settled for the maximum without going before the judge -- $500. But they had to put a sign there for two years: "We do not discriminate because of race, creed, color or national origin." And everybody knows that they've been cited by the police. But that guy never went back to work there, I guess.
Lesbian and Gay Black Lives
Source: Oral history interview with Robert Carter
Interviewed October 17, 1995 by Mikala Woodward
and April 17, 2002, by Ruth Pettis and Emily Hazen
Transcribed by: Ruth Pettis
Seattle, WA: Northwest Lesbian and Gay History Museum Project.