Linwood Smith, a member of the Carl Stokes Mayoral Administration, recalls his time working for the city in the 1960s. He describes the riots in Hough and Glenville. He describes the Model Cities program and how people were incredulous that "free" money was coming to them through a $4,000 grant. They always thought there were strings attached. Smith then goes into the problems that Carl Stokes had to deal with, and he lists the police force as first and foremost. Smith discusses the chain of command and who he had to answer to, but he does recall one story about the Women's Job Corps when Smith talked directly to Stokes. It was not always business, Smith recalls his personal relationship with the Stokes brothers, and how they remained friends after they were out of office. Smith concludes by talking about the relationship that Louis and Carl Stokes had with each other and their personalities.


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Smith, Linwood (interviewee)


Houser, Joseph (Interviewer)


St. Clair - Superior Neighborhood



Document Type

Oral History


35 minutes


Joseph Houser [00:00:00] Okay. All right. Ready? Today is July 27, Thursday. This is an interview with Linwood Smith. This is for the Euclid Corridor Oral History Project. Mister Smith, just for the record, could you just state your name and spell your name for us?

Linwood Smith [00:00:26] Linwood J. Smith. L i n w o o d.

Joseph Houser [00:00:31] And I'd like to get some information, some background about yourself. I'd like to know, you know, your age and your date of birth, if possible.

Linwood Smith [00:00:42] I'm ancient. [...] That makes me 79 years old.

Joseph Houser [00:00:50] 79. I'd like to know, you know, where did you grow up?

Linwood Smith [00:00:54] Where, you know, I grew up in North Carolina.

Joseph Houser [00:00:57] North Carolina? And when did you come to Cleveland?

Linwood Smith [00:01:00] Came to Cleveland in 1954.

Joseph Houser [00:01:03] 1954. Okay. Was there a reason for you coming to Cleveland?

Linwood Smith [00:01:08] Yeah, I came to Cleveland to go to grad school. Right out of the Army.

Joseph Houser [00:01:12] Right out of the Army. And what, you know, what. You came to school to Cleveland to go to school. What school did you attend?

Linwood Smith [00:01:21] North Carolina A and T State University, Greensboro, North Carolina.

Joseph Houser [00:01:25] Okay. I'm very familiar with that. And where would you be doing your grad work at?

Linwood Smith [00:01:32] I was intended to do it at Western Reserve, but I got delayed for about 14 years, and I ended up doing my graduate work at the University of Pittsburgh.

Joseph Houser [00:01:45] Okay. All right. I like to inquire, just as a matter of information, when you did come to Cleveland, and I know you said that you got delayed in doing the grad work, what type of positions did you do before you got involved with the Stokes campaign?

Linwood Smith [00:02:03] Well, at that time, 1954 was hard times and ended up at the post office. I worked at the post office for six years. And after that I went to the City of Cleveland as a housing inspector. That was in 1961. And I had an opportunity to go to grad school, and that's when I left, took a leave of absence and went over to the University of Pittsburgh, got a degree in what we call a master in public administration.

Joseph Houser [00:02:47] All right. Some of the questions that I'm about to ask you is basically concern with the 1960s and 1970s, the civil rights movement within the city of Cleveland, and also some of the things that deal with at that time. Mayor Carl Stokes, I'd like to maybe set a little background. Can you tell me what was the mood of the city in the 1960s, especially when it relates to, like, the Hough riots of '66? Do you remember anything about that?

Linwood Smith [00:03:21] Well, it was a time, it was, unemployment was high, and of course, in Cleveland at that time, it's separated by the river and it was much worse then than it is now. You had very few black people working at city hall. If they were working at city hall, they were working in very low type jobs. You had, I think, at that time in city hall, we had one black director, and that was a community relations, I think it was, had no commissioners, and that was the tone around the city because, you know, equal employment didn't exist then to any great extent, and you didn't have too many black people working in the downtown offices, as they are now. Unheard of. When Carl Stokes went into city hall, we always say city hall was white. When he left, he left it black because of all of the people that were hired during his administration. Nothing changed. Everything went on as usual, but they just didn't hire in other administrations. I have a document here, meaningful minority employment, and it lists all of the commissioners and directors and other people that were hired during his administration.

Joseph Houser [00:05:07] You made the statement about the city being divided, and we talked about the city being divided by the Cuyahoga River. Yeah, you know, the east side. West side. And you made the statement that it's not as bad as it. As it. As it was. It was the. Was there a really a. I guess, would people really, how can I say, designate that the west side was white and the east side was black? Or was it really in the minds of the people at that time?

Linwood Smith [00:05:41] I. You know, I think it was factual. Very factual. You just didn't have people. No one ever thought about living in areas or suburbs of the west side at all. The near west side, that's always been a mixture. The near west side, even at that time, you didn't have any blacks living there. I had a. Puerto Ricans, a lot of old foreigners who, who couldn't afford to move out were still on the west side. But for the most part, blacks didn't start moving to the near west side until, oh, I would say in the seventies. Yeah.

Joseph Houser [00:06:28] Just as, you know, just trying to get some of the events that occurred in the sixties there. Do you have any memories of the Glenville riots that occurred in 1968?

Linwood Smith [00:06:38] Oh, yeah, I remember that well, I was. At that time, I was the. I don't know if I was a commissioner then or director, but anyway, a guy by the name of Dick Green, Richard Green, he was the director of community development, and I got a call one night about 12:00. So, Linwood, get downtown as soon as you can. Glenville is burning. So we all met down at city hall. He had all of the directors and commissioners down there and a councilman at that time. Leo Jackson was a councilman in the Glenville area, one of the councilmen. I don't know if you remember, he later became a judge. Yeah. But anyway, we all were there meeting in the mayor's office. And of course, at that time, I think about four white policemen had been killed. And there was a great argument going on between the mayor and Leo about taking, because the mayor wanted to bring all of the. Take all of the white policemen out of Glenville, and Leo didn't want it. He wanted all the policemen to stay in there. And that was the argument. And, of course, the mayor being the mayor, as it happened, all of the white patrolmen were pulled out of Glenville at that time because they were very, very angry. And what the mayor was saying, I don't want them going out there killing up a lot of innocent people. And that's why he wanted the white officers out. And they even had us, all the commissioners riding around. We didn't have cell phones then. We had walkie talkies. Had walkie talkies. And I was out in Glenville one morning about 03:00 and I decided I must be the biggest fool in the world. I don't have nothing but a walkie talkie, and I'm out here with all these crazy people. Let me get myself home. [laughs] And at that time, I drove home and I didn't go out in the streets anymore because I wasn't doing any police work.

Joseph Houser [00:09:10] What I wanted to also continue with is that by you being in Cleveland during this time period, did you participate in any of the campaigns before or after Stokes?

Linwood Smith [00:09:22] Yeah, all of the campaigns. I went in when I first went into city hall under Celebrezze, Mayor Celebrezze. And then there was Mayor Locher and all of these. I remember very well that they would have us sending out literature to the citizens of Cleveland, you know, making, stuffing envelopes and doing all that, sitting at our desks. See, and that was the thing that I never did, didn't like, but had to do it because I had to have a job that was under Celebrezze, Locher, and then Stokes. And of course, when Stokes campaigned, we had. We had set up offices throughout the city, campaign offices, one in Lee-Harvard, Glenville, and then we had the main office downtown. And, of course, we worked city time, off time, 24-24.

Joseph Houser [00:10:40] I understand while you were there in the city of Cleveland in the administration, we might say, under Locher, what was the climate of the city as far as racial climate, economic climate? Were there things being done to help or create or better the climate at that time?

Linwood Smith [00:11:07] Not really. I think there were people making some noise, but nothing really came out of it to any great extent. And, of course, you had NAACP, the Urban League, all these people were all clamoring for jobs, jobs, jobs. And, of course, you just couldn't get the good jobs at that time. But I think for the most part, back in those days, we just wasn't getting the response. You didn't have the power structure. You didn't have the power structure in place. They were in place, but they weren't doing anything to ease the situation at all.

Joseph Houser [00:12:11] The next set of questions that I would like to ask you is basically your professional relationship with Carl Stokes. According to what I understand, you were a commissioner under Stokes, and I would like for you to state your position and how did you get that position, and basically give a brief summary of, you know, what was your job description?

Linwood Smith [00:12:34] Okay. At that time, I was an executive assistant on a guy by the name of Richard Green. I spoke of him before, and Stokes wanted to increase the income tax. Wanted an increase. I forgot what the percentages were. But anyway, he had asked all of the directors and commissioners to make a contribution. I think it was $500 or something like that. And he had one commissioner who said, I'm not giving up a damn cent, you know, and he didn't. He was the only one. So Dick Green came to me and says, Linwood take the civil service test and pass. Take it and pass it. We're going to appoint you a commissioner. So I did. I was appointed commissioner, and, of course, the other guy was on his way out simply because he didn't make that contribution to help get that income tax passed. That's how I got to be director. I mean, not director, commissioner.

Joseph Houser [00:13:51] And so, you know, now you are a commissioner within the Stokes.

Linwood Smith [00:13:57] This is in the Department of Community Development, and I was the Commissioner of Rehabilitation and Conservation.

Joseph Houser [00:14:02] Okay, so what was your job?

Linwood Smith [00:14:05] You know what that did? We administered federal dollars. We would get federal grants, and we would had a program set up where we made rehabilitation loans. We were given a $400,000 grant to the senior citizens to make needed repairs on their homes. And we were making 3% loans at that time, up to, I think, 17,000 per unit. In other words, if you're on a vacant home, a single home, you could borrow $17,000 to make repairs on your home at 3%. So we did that, I don't know, probably in excess of $75 million that we got and administered that program.

Joseph Houser [00:15:00] So, basically, that I'm making the assumption here and you can correct, correct me, that this rehabilitation was not only to help the homeowners and improve the community, but also provided jobs. So it was. Could you say that?

Linwood Smith [00:15:16] Oh, yeah, yeah, a lot of jobs, because we had a lot of contractors out there and provide a lot of jobs for the unemployed at that time.

Joseph Houser [00:15:28] One of the things that I want to ask you also is that in the entire time that you were commissioner, what do you think was your greatest accomplishment?

Linwood Smith [00:15:43] Oh! [laughs] Well, you know, one of the things that happened at that time, you know, I don't know if you heard of the Model Cities program. We had a Model Cities program, and they were spending money, spending money, and finally it came to us and their money was running out and said, we want to create a rehab program. And that's when we developed a program using the Model Cities money. And we did that. We made those loans to them the same way we're doing with the [Model] Cities program. And if they completed those repairs, that loan was forgiven. In other words, if they came in and borrowed $5,000 from that program and they put in another $5,000 to make added repairs or needed repairs on their homes and bought them up to code, that loan was forgiven. Another program that we engineered that a lot of people don't realize that emanated from the Model Cities program was the community buses. You see these buses running up down the streets, outside of the average regular bus line, going into the communities? All of that that emanated from the Model Cities program. And I think with that and the number of home loans that we made, I think that was one of the greatest contributions because it was really gratifying to see the elder people. Some of them just couldn't believe that you're going to give me $4,000. Some of them went out and hired a lawyer to ask questions about, they think we want to try to take their home, see? But there was no paybacks, just a gift.

Joseph Houser [00:17:50] I can see there. You know, we talked about this year is year 2006, and $4,000 was an extremely large sum of money during that time period. So I understand why they would have hesitations. And you're gonna give me something to help myself. And I can really understand that.

Linwood Smith [00:18:14] It's a great program.

Joseph Houser [00:18:16] One of the things that I wanna flip that accomplishment and say, is there anything that you felt that you wanted to accomplish but were not able to accomplish because you left that position? Is there anything that you really wanted to do that was, you know, you really wasn't able to do? Just because of, you know, time?

Linwood Smith [00:18:41] Yeah. No, I think one of the things is that I wanted to do, and that was to make more loans. To make more loans, and we couldn't make them fast enough. We always had a backlog, and we just didn't have the staff to process. And, of course, computers. We didn't have computers then, and we were just getting into the stages where we were getting to a point where we could put stuff on a computer, that type of thing. But everything, for the most part, was done manually, and it took time. But that is the one thing that I think I would like to have done more, because to the people who needed help and wasn't getting it, you weren't doing a job, you see. So you had always had that over your head, and you had every councilman at that time. We had 33 councilmen, and we had 33 councilmen clamoring, why can't John Jones get a loan and all of this? And, of course, they had to. They had to be able to pay back that loan. We go through that process, and if they didn't have a job, and that was the sad part, if they didn't have a job and then they had means to pay back that loan, they couldn't get it, and that caused a problem. And if they were. If they weren't one of the aged persons who's got that $4,000 grant.

Joseph Houser [00:20:33] Okay, looking back, and this is maybe taking a little wider perspective, I want you to maybe give me some insight to what real problems was Stokes facing, Carl Stokes facing during his time that were main issues at that time.

Linwood Smith [00:21:00] I think it was like every mayor, police, the police department. Stokes, like all other mayors, always had a problem with the police. As you know, we had all those killings with the present mayor just last year. And as far as Stokes was concerned, I think he was under a glass. The whole country was watching, seeing what was going to happen in Cleveland, Ohio. Being the first major city with a black mayor was very unusual. And so he was. He was under the glass. The power structure was watching some of the things that some of the other males, since they had done. If Carl Stokes had done some of the things that went on with some of the other administrations, he would have been railed out of town. See, that's how. That's how bad it was.

Joseph Houser [00:22:11] Did Carl Stokes receive a lot of, I guess, resentment, or you might say resentment about bringing in a lot of blacks into the administration in the City of Cleveland?

Linwood Smith [00:22:30] You know, I think it may have been some resentment. I'm sure, there was resentment because what happened? A lot of blacks, well, all of the blacks replaced whites, and everybody was looking to see if things were, jobs weren't going to get done because of that. But nothing happened. Everything went on the same way. And you had a lot of councilmen who were very, very much against him. And I guess one of the most vocal councilmen was Dennis Kucinich. He was. He was on him all the time. But I think the resentment was there, I'm sure. But we were doing our job, and it didn't really didn't matter.

Joseph Houser [00:23:21] So basically you're saying that, you know, once they. I guess the administration proved to the rest of the city that we're changing the personnel, but things were going as usual. Did things kind of taper off, or did they, you know, people start to accept Carl Stokes administration?

Linwood Smith [00:23:41] It was accepted as far as I can remember. I don't think that, like I said, it was always some resentment, but things got done. Garbage got picked up, although they had a garbage strike. I don't know if you remember that. You probably wasn't born at that time, but had a stink city around here for a few days. [laughs] But that's just one of those things that. And at that time, that was the garbage strike was brought on by, not by any white folk, but by a guy by the name of Paul Wells. I don't know if that name. Paul was the. Was the local union man for the garbage collectors. And they went getting what they wanted, and so they went on strike.

Joseph Houser [00:24:32] We talked about, you know, your professional relationships with Carl Stokes. One of the things that I did want to ask is still staying on a professional relationship. Did you report directly to Carl Stokes or did you?

Linwood Smith [00:24:48] No. Chain of command was you had a director in each department, director and a commissioner. I reported to the director. Sometimes the mayor would call me directly. I never shall forget, I committed him to a meeting. The Job, Women's Job Corps out on Ansel Road. I don't know if you remember that. And they had, this house was very close to the building, and these girls at night would climb out on a tree limb and get on this house porch and come down and slip out of the building. And they were having a real party over there one Saturday night, and the people called me, and I was director of, the project director, over in Hough at that time, and they called the director for everything. So they called me over there because of this situation with those girls coming in off that house. A lady by the name of Zelma George. I don't know if. Zelma George was the director of the women's corps, and she was a very good friend of Carl Stokes. So that lady who was running the building at that time, that Saturday night, says, we want the mayor to come out here. Want the mayor to come. I said, there was some shooting up, so I committed the mayor to come to a meeting. And that's when I got a call. The mayor wanted to see me in his office right now. [laughs] So I went down and he sat. He smoked a cigar. He pulled on his cigar and said, Linwood, he said, you're my friend, but don't ever commit me to another meeting. He said, I'm going. I'm going only because of Zelma George. And they were friends, and that was the confrontation we had. And our birthday, his birthday was on the 19th June, mine was on the 20th. And we would always have a drink. When he was mayor, before he was mayor, and after he was mayor, we'd have a drink on our birthday. It so happens that he and Louis Stokes both were fraternity brothers. We all belong to the same fraternity.

Joseph Houser [00:27:32] Well, you know, that kind of segments into my next question is your personal relationship with Carl, and we want to bring up Louis Stokes. Could you give us some. Your relationship [inaudible] or, you know, any information you'd like to give to us?

Linwood Smith [00:27:53] Well, you know, it's a small community, and when I first came to Cleveland and I didn't know anyone, but I know there was a fraternity here, and that was a graduate chapter, and that's. I went to those meetings, and that's when I first met Carl and Louis at the fraternity meetings. And at that time, I think Carl was a probation officer. I think he was a probation officer, I believe. And I don't know what Lou was doing, but neither one of them had a degree at that time, a law degree. But as time went on, they both became lawyers and Carl got into politics and Lou practiced law. Carl went down to the legislature, and while he was down there, the Democrats have, every four years, they have to redistrict. And of course, the Democrats were in control then, and so they redistricted. And Carl made sure that the district in this area, in the black community, he made sure that that was plugged in, in the minority areas, a congressman by the name of Charlie Lucas, because Carl had, in his mind of going to Congress. But things got twisted around and ended up when those lines were drawn and a black could be elected. That's when Lou, after Congressman Vanik retired, Lou got elected to Congress, and then Stokes was still a legislature, but he came back and ran for mayor against, was that Locher? And Seth Taft. And of course, he lost the first go round and it came back. And I worked on all those campaigns, all those campaigns. In 19, was it like '67? That's when I was just getting out of grad school, and I came back just in time to. In the heat of that campaign, and I worked on it then. And, of course, I was. I was still, at that time, after coming back with a. With an MPA, the only thing I could get was a chief housing inspector. And, of course, after Stokes got elected, then I was appointed, Dick Green selected me as an administrative assistant to him.

Joseph Houser [00:31:17] As we look back in history, do you think it's important that we remember the jobs and things that were done by Carl Stokes and Louis Stokes? Is it really important? And had their effect on the city of Cleveland, on the state of Ohio? Did they really make an impact?

Linwood Smith [00:31:47] You know, I don't think we can overemphasize that, because, as I said earlier, no blacks were in those key positions. And, of course, when they got appointed to the various positions, everything went on as usual. Everything went on as usual. Nothing changed. We even had a black treasurer for the city of Cleveland. No money was taken. Everything was accounted for. And as I said before, we had a black billing commissioner, Carlton Rush, building commissioner. Everything went on as usual. And I think it just demonstrated that minorities could do a job as well as anyone else. All it needed was the opportunity, that's all. And I think now it's not unusual to see blacks in any position anywhere, whether it be city hall or anywhere else. It's just a matter of getting that opportunity.

Joseph Houser [00:33:01] This is, I'm going to say, maybe my final question here, just thinking about Carl Stokes and bringing him up to 2006, or actually the two thousands here, what would Carl Stokes think of the city of Cleveland now?

Linwood Smith [00:33:28] One thing he would probably say, the city hasn't changed, when it comes down to the police department. They haven't changed and went fit. In other words, I think with the situation at city hall now, although we don't have as many black directors and commissioners as we did when he was there, but he set the stage when he left there. He says, I've given it to you. It's up to you to keep it. And I think this document here, you can take a look at it later on, and you can see what he meant by that. There's a statement that says, when I became mayor of Cleveland, there was only one black cabinet member. The traditional token, the director of health and welfare. There were no black commissioners, no black deputy commissioners, and no women held significant positions of responsibility. The record shows that in the four years, more than 270 minority group individuals, most of them blacks, were hired or promoted by the city government for supervisor and skilled jobs. And I think that tells this story about Carl Stokes, and I don't think we can ever forget him and give him the proper respect of the job he did as the mayor of the city of Cleveland.

Joseph Houser [00:35:10] Well, at this point right now, is there anything you would like to add? I know I have given you several questions, but is there anything that you would like to, you know, add to, you know, the statements that you've given so far?

Linwood Smith [00:35:23] No, I just want you to keep asking questions, because I can't think. You know, I'm 79 years old. I have senior moments! [laughs]

Joseph Houser [00:35:32] I understand. One of the things that I like to go back on is did. And this is a question that you may or may not be able answer to. Did Louis and Carl doing their political careers, you know, as mayor and as a representative to Congress, did they have a. What was their relationship like? Did they or did they have a relationship? You know, I know they have a personal relationship, but did they have political relationships that you know of?

Linwood Smith [00:36:07] What you mean political?

Joseph Houser [00:36:10] Was there things at times in which that you think that Carl may have talked to Louis about? What should I do in this type of situation?

Linwood Smith [00:36:20] Oh, I'm sure that happens. That happened, but I wasn't that close to them to find out what they talked about. But being the mayor and being a representative, I'm sure they talked to each other about their recommendations on a bill in Congress. Lou probably called Stokes, called Carl, and asked him [to] give him his views on it, and vice versa, I think, Carl did the same thing. Lou, I got a problem here in Cleveland. What do you think? What should I do? I'm sure those things went on. Yeah.

Joseph Houser [00:37:04] You know, one of the things that I noticed is that, you know, a lot of times we try to judge two members of a family and say, well, you know, they're totally different. And when you look at Carl Stokes and you look at Louis Stokes, what can you see is different, and what can you see is the same?

Linwood Smith [00:37:25] Now, socially, they were very different. Carl was outgoing. I would say Carl, you could classify him as a party animal. Lou was a little subdued. But as far as their political careers, I think they were both on the same wavelength. Yeah.

Joseph Houser [00:37:57] Well, you know, at this time, I think that answers all the questions that I have, and I would like to, you know, thank you once again, I really appreciate it. And, you know, there's a lot of questions that you answered that gave me a lot more insight to some of the things and some of the people who were involved. And sometimes we kind of forget those people that are supporting the foundation of things that are going on that are very important to the city.

Linwood Smith [00:38:25] Yeah, probably on my way home, I probably could think of many other things, but won't do any good.

Joseph Houser [00:38:30] Then I do appreciate you coming.

Linwood Smith [00:38:33] Well, I'm glad I could help.

Joseph Houser [00:38:37] All right. Thank you very much.

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