Oral Histories

Interview of William Elkins

Advisor to Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley. Member of the Second Baptist Church.
Second Baptist Church of Los Angeles
Politics and Government
African American History
Biographical Note:
Advisor to Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley. Member of the Second Baptist Church.
Foster, Lorn S.
Elkins, William, Jr.
Persons Present:
Elkins, Foster, and Rebecca Dale.
Place Conducted:
Elkins' home.
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 Lorn S. Foster, Charles and Henrietta Johnson Detoy Professor of American Government and Professor of Politics; B.A., California State University, Los Angeles; M.A., Ph.D., University of Illinois.Foster prepared for the interview by going through a series oral histories of related figures. Foster, as a native of Los Angeles, was already well-versed in much of the history of the church and the black social network.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript of this interview is a verbatim transcript of the audio recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. Elkins was then given the opportunity to review the transcript in order to supply the missing or misspelled names and to verify the accuracy of the contents, and those corrections were entered into the text without further editing or review on the part of the Center for Oral History Research (COHR) staff.
2.5 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
Second Baptist Church is the oldest African-American church in Los Angeles and the first African American Baptist church established in Southern California. It played a prominent role during the civil rights movement in campaigns against racial discrimination in housing, public accommodations and education. These interviews with members of the leadership of Second Baptist Church were conducted by Professor Lorn S. Foster of Pomona College. They document both the history of Second Baptist and the narrators' lives as members of Los Angeles' black community.
Elkins’ childhood in Arkansas along with his family makeup prior to, and following the family’s move to Los Angeles – Expansion of the importance of Elkins’ relationship with this grandfather Will Nesbit – Where Elkins grew up in his childhood home on East 25th Street in Los Angeles – Discusses the schools he attended while growing up, with an emphasis on the experiences he had a Jefferson High School – Elkins discusses how he ended up at UCLA after attending Jefferson – Discusses family’s socioeconomic standing and the neighborhood in which he lived – Ways in which he was associated with other influential members of the black community and how their lives became intertwined by being part of the church – Memory of having to enter the Army prior to attending UCLA – Elkins discusses how he came to know Tom Bradley, Jackie Robinson, Clayton Russell, and his soon-to- be wife Eleanor – Discussion of the Army and basic training.
Elkins’ experience in the U.S. Military--The racial dynamic within the military at the time, both in his unit and in general--Elkins’ experiences abroad being stationed in Italy and being an Italian-speaking Negro--Importance of Reverend J. Raymond Henderson in his life--Receives a scholarship from Independent Church and 2nd Baptist Church for his studies at UCLA--Forms close relationships with Eleanor Elkins, Jackie Robinson, and Thomas Bradley--Atmosphere for black students at UCLA at the time--Experiences at UCLA and in Law School--Memories of Reverends Thomas Kilgore and J. Raymond Henderson--Schism within the church at the departure of Pastor Kilgore--Elkins' relationship with Mayor Tom Bradley--Elkins is recruited by Bradley to help with his campaign just as he is going to take a lucrative position in the private sector-- Elkins becomes Bradley’s right hand man and closest confidant.