Oral Histories

Interview of Lewis MacAdams

Poet, journalist, and filmmaker. Founder of Friends of the Los Angeles River.
Environmental Activism in Los Angeles
Social Movements
Environmental Movement
Biographical Note:
Poet, journalist, and filmmaker. Founder of Friends of the Los Angeles River.
Collings, Jane
MacAdams, Lewis
Persons Present:
MacAdams and Collings.
Place Conducted:
MacAdams's home in Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Jane Collings, interviewer and senior editor, Center for Oral History Research. B.A., Communications, Antioch College; M.A., Communications, University of Iowa; Ph.D., Critical Studies, UCLA.Collings prepared for the interview by researching the organization founded by MacAdams, Friends of the Los Angeles River, and by researching the poetry world and communal living movement of the sixties and seventies in the United States, in which MacAdams played a part.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. MacAdams was then given an opportunity to review the transcript but made no corrections or additions.
5.5 hrs.
Interviewee Retained Copyright
Series Statement:
The series documents environmental activism in the Los Angeles area from the 1970s through to the present day. The majority of interviews are with either founders or knowledgeable participants in major regional environmental organizations. Represented groups embody a wide range of issues, including conservation, restoration, environmental justice and toxic waste disposal.Additional partially processed interviews are available through Library Special Collections.
Family background—Father’s career--More on family background—Siblings—Involvement in Civil Rights movement—Black-white relations in MacAdams' neighborhood growing up—Involvement in CORE—Family interest in politics—More on involvement in the Civil Rights movement—Kennedy assassination—Kennedy inauguration—The climate in Dallas at the time of the Kennedy assassination—Extra-curricular activities while at high school—Religious background—Attends college—A developing interest in poetry—Involvement in poetry scene in New York City—Political involvement—Attends University of Buffalo—Relations with draft board—Meets future first wife—Heads west to Bolinas, CA—The attraction of the culture in San Francisco—Travels in North Africa and Europe.
Initial attraction to the L.A. River—Does a performance art piece on the L.A. River—Establishes FOLAR as a non-profit organization—Meets future wife Joanne Claibon—The transformation of the L.A. River into a flood control channel—A poetry-reading as a kickoff fundraiser for FOLAR—The first L.A. River walk—A proposal to turn the L.A. River into a freeway—Growing public awareness of the L.A. River and FOLAR—Growing the organization in the early years—Hires an executive director for FOLAR—The Trinity River in Dallas—More on MacAdams' initial attraction to the L.A. River—The FOLAR Board brings ecology expertise to the organization—The influence of Robert Smithson on MacAdams' thinkng about FOLAR—The motivation of Board members for their involvement—Tom LaBonge brings Mayor Tom Bradley for a visit to the river—The creation of the San Gabriel River and L.A. River as separate channels—FOLAR sues the Army Corp of Engineers—Los Angeles County—Dorothy Green—The formation of the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Watershed Council—Melanie Winters—The creation of the L.A. River Center—Melanie Winters leaves FOLAR—A contentious meeting at Zev Yaroslovsky’s office on the bulldozing of trees at the river—FOLAR’s Los Angeles River cleanups—FOLAR’s first fundraiser features kayak rides—Tom Hayden’s differences with the FOLAR mission—Hayden’s differences with Heal the Bay’s mission—The FOLAR Fiestas—FOLAR’s role as a catalyst for bringing the City of LA to a river revitalization plan—The ongoing work of raising the awareness of the city about the river—Mike Davis writes an article on FOLAR and the river—A piece on Lewis MacAdams in the New Yorker—The cost to MacAdams' personal life of working with FOLAR—A FOLAR planning charette to organize media companies situated on the river—A planning charette for promoting the idea of a River Through Downtown involves neighborhoods—Eastside politicians meet with Westside environmentalists at the River Through Downtown planning charette—More on Melanie Winters—The L.A. River Master Plan.