Oral Histories

Interview of Burt Wilson

Co-coordinator of the Campaign against Utility Service Exploitation (CAUSE) and other public interest campaigns focusing on water in Southern California.
Series:
Environmental Activism in Los Angeles
Topic:
Social Movements
Environmental Movement
Interviewer:
Collings, Jane
Interviewee:
Wilson, Burt
Persons Present:
Wilson and Collings.
Place Conducted:
Center for Oral History Research office, UCLA.
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 reviewing newspaper articles, informational fliers published by Wilson and other printed material dealing with Wilson's work on environmental campaigns and for the Campaign Against Utility Service Exploitation (CAUSE) and other consumer's rights efforts. These materials are part of Wilson's private collection.
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. Wilson was then given an opportunity to review the transcript and made a few corrections and additions. Those corrections were entered into the text without further editing or review on the part of the Center for Oral History Research staff.
Length:
4 hrs.
Language:
English
Copyright:
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Audio:
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.
Born in Stockton, CA—Growing up in Sacramento, CA—Attends Sacramento City College—Transfers to University of Southern California—Graduates with A.B. in telecommunications from USC—Joins the military—Early career in radio and television—Opens advertising firm—Leaves advertising in 1965 and moves to Venice, CA—Rejoins advertising business, working at Boylehart, Lovett, and Dean—Hired as creative director at Needham, Harper, and Steers—Meets guru, Ralph Houston, in 1966—Begins working in Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles—Effect of President John F. Kennedy’s death on Wilson—Social programs and involvement in the Watts neighborhood in Los Angeles—Use of radio in organization—“What You Can Do for Your Country” radio show on KLAC—Family background—Background in radio and television—Impressions of World War II and involvement in Ken Burns’ documentary on the war—Involvement with Taos Pueblo Indians—Roerich Banner of Peace—Involvement in anti-Vietnam War movement—Involvement in George McGovern’s presidential campaign—Public relations work for the farm workers against the teamsters—Impressions of Ray Huerta, Cesar Chavez, and the United Farm Workers Union—Begins producing television show “Citizens Intelligence Association” (CIA) on PBS channel 63—Various issues and tactics employed on show—Involvement in CAUSE (Campaign Against Utility Service Exploitation)—Campaign against ARCO—Works with Tim Brick—CAUSE wins settlement against the PUC—Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) campaign.
Reflections on the organizing process—Zen Buddhism vs. Mahayana Buddhism—More on the ARCO campaign—More on LNG campaign—Impressions of hippie movement in the sixties.
Importance of clear articulation of issues—The disbanding of CAUSE—A public interest campaign regarding phone rates—Runs for state assemblyman—Problems with campaign—Runs for Democratic County Committee—Explains website “Ancient Wisdom for the 21st Century”—More on problems in Wilson’s and Tim Brick’s political campaigns—Disagreement with Ralph Nader on key issues—Impressions on losing an election—Battles with thyroid cancer—Joins campaign against the proposed Peripheral Canal.
Works for Dr. Wilson Riles as press secretary—Hired as director of advertising at Pleasant Hawaiian Holidays—Moves to Simi Valley and becomes a producer for cable television commercials—Becomes involved in Citizens Action—Returns to Sacramento.