ORAL HISTORY OF DWIGHT D. MURRAY
January 18, 2018
This is the second interview of the Oral History of Dwight D. Murray as part of the Oral
History Project of the Historical Society of the District of Columbia Circuit. The interviewer is
Gene Granof. The interview took place at Mr. Murray’s office in Washington, D.C., on
Thursday, January 18, 2018.
Mr. Granof: Where we left off last time was you were talking about discipline at your
elementary school, and you were about to give an example in which you had
Mr. Murray: Yes. I remember it well. It was in elementary school. I was kept in detention,
which meant I got home late. My mother asked me why was I late, and I
explained to her I was kept in detention, and I got a spanking from my mother,
and then I was warned that when my father got home, the same type of
punishment was going to be administered to me, and sure as shootin’, that
happened. But the interesting thing was that both my parents were required to go
to the convent and talk to the nun that kept me in detention. I don’t remember
what I did to be kept in detention. Maybe I was talking in line, or maybe I was
doing something I wasn’t supposed to do, because there was strict discipline in
school, but in any event, after talking with the nun and after going home, I got
another spanking. So that for that one offense, I got three spankings.
I got punished three times for the same offense. I think that was double jeopardy.
Whenever I think about the three spankings for the same offense, I have to smile.
The elementary school, like I said, had grades from first to eighth grade.
Mr. Granof: And this was male and female?
Mr. Murray: Male and female school. You weren’t allowed to talk in line, and you weren’t
allowed to get out of line. The students marched everywhere from the playground
to the classrooms, and if you misbehaved or if you talked when you weren’t
supposed to talk, you were kept in detention. So, I think my detention was for
something like that, because it was so minor, I couldn’t remember what I did. But,
in any event, it was a strict discipline school. I remember during the lunch recess,
once the bell rang all students in the yard would have to stop, freeze in their
position, and then walk to their assigned place in line, just like the military; and
then from that position, whether you were in 1st grade or 8th grade, you would
march to your classroom to the tune of one of John Philip Sousa’s marching
songs. It was quite impressive. What was impressive was how the nuns were able
to maintain control of approximately 600 to 700 students and move them all
efficiently from point A to point B. And that’s the way it was for eight years in
grammar school. So that’s why when I went to the high school, which was just as
disciplined, it was an easy transition for me.
Mr. Granof: And that was all male?
Mr. Murray: It was all male. St. Augustine’s High School in New Orleans.
Mr. Granof: And they didn’t have nuns teaching?
Mr. Murray: It was mostly priests and a few laymen, but the majority of my teachers were
priests. I had maybe two or three lay teachers in my entire four years. Most of
them were priests, and one of my homeroom teachers was Father Philip Berrigan.
You know, the priest who developed a reputation as an anti-war activist, which I
thought was the result of his exposure to the Korean War. The rumor was that he
got shot during the Korean War, and he went into the priesthood after he was
discharged from the Army, and that’s when he became a priest. I met Father
Berrigan years later at Georgetown Law School, my first year. Maybe eight years
had transpired between the time I had him as my homeroom teacher, graduated
from high school, went to college, went in the Marine Corps, served my time in
Vietnam, got into law school, first year law school. He was a guest speaker at the
law school, because he had become a famous anti-war protester. I walked up to
him and introduced myself, reminded him who I was. He said you look familiar,
and he said, “What have you been doing?” I told him I had graduated from
college, went in the Marine Corps, went to Vietnam, and it was like I turned him
completely off. And I was surprised at that. I respected Father Berrigan’s right to
protest the war, but he did not return the respect for what I had done. I was
Mr. Granof: You would think he would be at least sympathetic.
Mr. Murray: Well, understanding.
Mr. Granof: Yes.
Mr. Murray: But at the very minimum, not judgmental, at the very minimum. And I said to
myself, well everybody’s entitled to his own opinion. You know he gave up what
he believed in to fight against the war in Vietnam, and here I was a former student
of his participating in a way that he fought strongly against. So, I rationalize why
he wasn’t too enamored to see an old school student, a student that he taught at
one point in time. He was a very good teacher, by the way. I rationalized why he
wasn’t excited to see me at that time.
Mr. Granof: But, still, you didn’t exactly sign up to go to Vietnam, or maybe you did?
Mr. Murray: Well, put it this way. When you joined the Marine Corps in the 1960’s, late
1960’s, you stood a 95% chance of going to Vietnam. There’s no doubt about it.
So, I knew when I went in the Marine Corps, Vietnam was where I would
probably wind up.
Mr. Granof: As opposed to being anti-war, a conscientious objector?
Mr. Murray: If I was a conscientious objector, I could have joined the National Guard, I could
have gone in the Air Force, I could have joined the Navy, I could have done a lot
of different things, but I wasn’t brought up that way. I thought serving your
country was an important duty that every citizen had. It doesn’t matter how you
serve your country, but you must serve. My brother-in-law joined the Peace Corps
and went to Africa. I respected him for that. But I believed that if your country
was at war, which it was at the time, then you had a duty to answer the call. Just
like the Greatest Generation did in World War II. Now I completely understand
that not everyone feels that way, and I respect their feelings. But I knew I would
not be at peace with myself if I avoided the Marine Corps and if I avoided
Mr. Granof: I guess I was trying to figure out Berrigan’s antipathy to someone so young who
basically said, “Well, I went to Vietnam, I served,” and yet he held it against you.
Mr. Murray: Yes, well, because he was against the war. I think he would have respected me
more if I had gone to Canada, but I wouldn’t have respected myself.
Mr. Granof: Right. I understand that.
Mr. Murray: What I did was participate in an event that was against his essence, his being. He
was anti-war, and here I was, a warrior. So, he passed judgment on me, which I
thought was wrong, but I understood because he was committed to his anti-war
Mr. Granof: I think you were more understanding than I would have been.
Mr. Murray: It really didn’t bother me because as I figured at the time, I would probably never
see him again, and I never did. You know it was unfortunate that he had to give
up the priesthood, that he became so involved in the anti-war movement that
everything he believed in took second place, and that’s almost fanaticism. And I
just felt sorry for him quite frankly. I felt sorry for him.
Mr. Granof: We’ll get to more of that later when you get to your service in the Marine Corps.
But in high school where Berrigan was one of the priests, were the priests mostly
Mr. Murray: All except two, but the majority of the priests were white.
Mr. Granof: But this was not a white school.
Mr. Murray: This was entirely African American, black school. Right. All boys.
Mr. Granof: And that does say something about the Church. These priests were — I think at
one point you told me — they were really good teachers.
Mr. Murray: They were excellent teachers. That school, I mean if you did any research on St.
Augustine High School in New Orleans, it has an excellent reputation. We had
numerous presidential scholars. All the top schools, Ivy League schools, came
down to recruit from our school. You know if they wanted black students who
could meet their academic standards, that’s the school they came to in the South,
because it had a rigorous academic environment and the teachers were excellent
across the board. I didn’t have one weak teacher the entire time I was there. They
were all strong, they were all dedicated, and they were all knowledgeable about
their respective subject matters.
Mr. Granof: And did they challenge you?
Mr. Murray: I had homework, I had homework at least four to six hours a night for four years.
Four straight years. Four to six hours a night. Yes, they challenged me.
Mr. Granof: So how would you characterize your education at the high school?
Mr. Murray: I thought it was excellent. I thought my education at the high school level
prepared me for any college that I would have gone to, because the English, the
math, the history, even our civics teacher, who was also the principal, he required
every student to subscribe to Time magazine. We were tested on Time magazine,
any article in Time magazine, every week. So, we had to read it from cover to
cover — the art section, the social service section, the Middle East section. At that
time Nasser was big in the United Arab Republic, Israel, everything that was
going on in the Middle East, we read out of Time magazine. We kept current.
And one of my best friends, the one I went through grammar school and
high school with, he continued his subscription to Time magazine until the day he
died. Unfortunately, he died of pancreatic cancer. But he was close to 66, so from
the time he was 13 years old until he was 66 years old when he died, he kept a
subscription to Time magazine mainly because of the influence that St. Augustin
had on him. I kept my subscription to Time magazine until I was in my 30’s.
Mr. Granof: Other than the work, which was challenging, how about any other interests in
Mr. Murray: Mostly it was academic, because it was all time consuming. I didn’t volunteer for
sports. I worked after school. Sometimes I did janitorial work, and one summer I
painted the entire outdoor basketball court. We had about 16 basketball courts.
We didn’t have a gym. We practiced football at a local playground about two
blocks from the school. Our basketball courts were all outdoors, all asphalt, and
we had about 20 basketball, 18 basketball, something like that – the whole yard
was just basketball courts. And I painted the lines on every basketball court one
summer in the hot sun.
Mr. Granof: What else did you work at? You had other jobs?
Mr. Murray: I had a paper route. A huge paper route. It was big enough to finance my way
through college, and I did some work as a waiter. I waited tables, mostly banquet
Mr. Granof: Was that a steady job?
Mr. Murray: No. I got on a list, and the head waiter called when he needed extra people, and
one time he called me. I did such a good job, he would call me back whenever
they needed help.
Mr. Granof: So, it was an on-demand sort of job? And your paper route, that was a daily thing?
So, what time did you have to get up to do this?
Mr. Murray: About three o’clock, 3:00 o’clock in the morning.
Mr. Granof: So, when did you sleep? I think at one point you said you were a night owl.
Mr. Murray: Well, I slept, I went to bed around 11:30 or 12:00 o’clock, got up around 3:00,
took me a couple of hours to do the papers, got home around 5:00, I slept again
until maybe 7:00, and then got ready for school. As a result, I could never go to
the library because if I sat down and the area was quiet for about five minutes, I
would doze off. I could never study in the library.
Mr. Granof: I think at one point you told me you were a night owl because you lived opposite
Mr. Murray: I had to stay up late because the bar across the street played the jukebox very
loudly, and it went off around 11:00 o’clock, so sometimes if I had a test, I would
study before the music got too loud, and then I would take a break, take a little
nap, get up after 11:00 when the music was off and then study some more. Then I
would take another nap, get up to go deliver papers, and then come back. That’s
how it went for several years.
Mr. Granof: Never missed a day?
Mr. Murray: Even when we had a hurricane in ’65, I had to wade through water up to my
waist, everybody got their paper, they got it late, but they got their paper.
Mr. Granof: Maybe a little wet?
Mr. Murray: No, no. All the papers were dry. I kept all the papers dry, but I was wet, I’ll tell
Mr. Granof: Now that’s devotion. The school you were at, I mean you came from a family that
Mr. Murray: Right. Hard working family.
Mr. Granof: But in terms of the class structure of the school, how would you describe it?
Mr. Murray: When you say class structure?
Mr. Granof: I mean wealthy, poor, mixed.
Mr. Murray: Most of the kids were poor. When I say poor, I’m talking about blue collar, lower
middle class, or very poor. In fact, I was in the A group – they had A group, B
group, C group, D group – I was in the A group for the four years I was there.
Mr. Granof: When you say A group?
Mr. Murray: High achievers. One of the guys that sat next to me, he had two pairs of pants.
One pair he wore in the wintertime, and one pair he wore when the weather got
warm. That was it. Same two pairs of pants for four years. And they were very
threadbare. That guy retired as an appellate judge in New Orleans. So, you know,
it shows you the products that this school produced.
Another graduate of the school became a neurosurgeon. We had two
graduates of the school who became mayor of the city. A lot of our students who
graduated from this high school got into politics, practiced law, practiced
medicine, you name it, they did it. So, it was a very good school that produced a
lot of good citizens.
Mr. Granof: But the discipline, as in elementary school, was tough, wasn’t it?
Mr. Murray: Yes. It was physical. You either got paddled, you got punched, not in the face, but
like in the chest, or in the stomach, not hard, because you had grown men
administering punishment to young kids, young boys in essence, but you knew
not to step out of line. You developed a respect for authority, and I carry that to
Mr. Granof: But overall, that structure, that model of education seemed to work pretty well, at
least for this group of people?
Mr. Murray: It was excellent. Nobody complained about it. Nobody complained. In fact, I
remember telling you the story that many years later, when I was practicing law in
D.C., I ran across a guy who knew of Father Verrett, who was the Vice Principal
of my high school. Father Verrett was black. As I told you in our previous
interview, I went to see Father Rhett, who was living in Baltimore at this
retirement community along with many of the Josephite priests who taught at my
high school. When I contacted Father Verrett and asked him who were the other
teachers at the retirement community, he named Father McManus – Father
McManus was my math teacher — Father Gardner was my biology teacher,
science teacher, and two other priests I can’t think of right now. And I said to
Father Verrett, “Well if you’re available for lunch, let’s have lunch at this nice
restaurant in Baltimore.”
When they came in, I recognized all of them. And they recognized me,
especially Father McManus. Father Eugene McManus from Brooklyn was the
only white president of the Urban League in New Orleans back in the 60’s. And if
you knew Father McManus, no matter how you felt about race, you did not test
him, because he was a weightlifter. If you wanted to select a model of him, you
would think of Mr. Clean, because he had a very short haircut, big chest, bulging
muscles, big biceps, big forearms. He was short and compact. But Father Mac had
intense blue eyes, and he was brilliant, absolutely brilliant. He taught us algebra,
trigonometry, calculus, all the of the math sciences.
Mr. Granof: To me, it says something about these priests. Except for one or two, they were not
black, and yet they demanded and expected excellence from these black students
who were not — most of whom were not — from wealthy families at a time when
New Orleans was segregated. I mean it really does say something positive about
the attitude of the Catholic Church at that time.
Mr. Murray: It did, to some extent. And every one of those priests, every one of the adult
teachers, and all of our teachers were male, every one of them called every
student “Mister” — Mr. Murray, Mr. Lee, Mr. Johnson.
Mr. Granof: And that wasn’t true at the time in New Orleans, was it? You were likely to be
Mr. Murray: Right. The teachers treated you with respect. Just to show you how important that
respect is to an individual, when I graduated from college I volunteered to teach.
Looking for part-time work, I got this job teaching some underprivileged kids.
Well, they were not really kids because they were all high school age at this
summer school. And I would go down the row, and I would call each one
“Mister” or “Miss.” Mister So and So, Miss So and So, and one student stopped
me, and he said, “That’s the first time anyone ever called me ‘Mister’.” And
here’s a kid that’s about 19, 20 years old, no one’s ever called him “Mister”
before. I thought that was a shame, but we were taught respect, not only respect
for our teachers, respect for authority, but also respect for each other. When I
showed the students that respect, I didn’t have any problems in my class. I was
just a little bit older than they were, and these were some tough kids, these were
tough kids, but you know I commanded respect in the classroom from day one,
and you couldn’t lay your hands on them. You couldn’t do the strict discipline
because this wasn’t a Catholic school. And it was an enjoyable and memorable
Mr. Granof: I think at one point you said that while most of the kids were poor in your high
school, there were some from — there was an upper class of black society in New
Mr. Murray: At that time, if you were upper class, if your parents were professionals, whether
they were doctors, lawyers, dentists, or whatever, or businessmen, that’s where
you sent your kid.
Mr. Granof: Because of the fine education.
Mr. Murray: Yes. If you had a son, that’s where you sent your kid. I don’t care if you lived on
the other side of the city, your son would take the bus, public transportation to go
to that school because that school had an excellent reputation, and you knew your
son would stand a good chance of getting into a good college.
Mr. Granof: And you knew some of these kids and hung out with them?
Mr. Murray: Some of those kids were in my Boy Scout troop that I told you about. We went to
the same grammar school, from 1st grade to 8th grade. Yes. They were doctors’
sons, insurance agents’ sons, dentists’ sons, businessmen’s sons. Yes.
Mr. Granof: I think at one time you told me you went to a cotillion.
Mr. Murray: Yes. A young lady that I knew asked me to take her, be her escort to this cotillion,
and I went there. I was in the receiving line, and what I did not like about it was
that people had a tendency to label you by who your parents were. So, the people
ahead of me in the receiving line were sons and daughters of educators, doctors,
lawyers. When they got to me, “Murray, who are you?” And I didn’t like that.
Mr. Granof: I can understand that. You told me in one of our discussions that you had a
positive experience participating in Boys State. Tell me about that.
Mr. Murray: Boys State is an organization; I think every state has it. In Louisiana it was called
Bayou Boys State schools. Louisiana is famous for its bayous. And what happens,
young boys from various parts of the State of Louisiana would go down to this
university, at that time it was Southern University, which was an all-black
university in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and we would set up a mock state. We
would elect a governor, people would run for governor, people would run for
legislators from various parts of the state. I was put up, although I didn’t run
because I didn’t like politics, I was put up as the state’s attorney. I didn’t even
campaign, and I won.
So, during that week the people who ran the program wanted to conduct a
mock trial because the rumor was that somebody was caught smoking marijuana.
Before they turned them over to the police, they were going to try him in the
Bayou Boys State Court to see if he was guilty or not, before they turned him
over. We didn’t know that this was made up, but I was selected to be the
prosecutor, and I did a good job.
Mr. Granof: Did you get a conviction?
Mr. Murray: I got a conviction, and the guy that ran the program, who was a teacher at the law
school, I remember him being very excited about my performance and he said I
should seriously think about the law as a profession. And I thought about it, but it
wasn’t a serious thought at the time, but the seed was planted.
Mr. Granof: You were a senior in high school?
Mr. Murray: I was a senior in high school. And quite frankly, I felt good doing that job in the
mock trial. Things sort of came naturally to me. Even the elements of crossexamination. I would ask leading questions, and I was hard to trip up. I didn’t lose
my cool, and evidently this faculty advisor was very impressed with my
performance and really, really encouraged me; he grabbed me and said, “You’ve
got to think about going into law, you’ll waste your talents if you don’t.” I knew
he was being complimentary. I appreciated the compliments, but law school was
expensive, you know. It was tough enough getting enough money to go to college.
Mr. Granof: Yes. You had to think about college.
Mr. Murray: Law school on top of that. So, I said, “Okay, I’ll think about it.” The more I
thought about it, the more I thought, yes, if I developed a talent, or exhibited a
talent for the legal profession, I have always been interested in history, I said, I’ll
give it a shot, I’ll think about it more seriously.
Mr. Granof: You still had to think about college?
Mr. Murray: Still had to think about college. Well, I got into several colleges.
Mr. Granof: How did you decide to go to college? Had anyone in your family gone to college?
Mr. Murray: No. I was the first one.
Mr. Granof: And where did your parents stand on this?
Mr. Murray: They had more of a wait and see attitude. Because it was a cost, you know. I paid
most of it myself, 95% of it.
Mr. Granof: How did you decide that you wanted to go to college? In your high school class,
what percentage of the kids went to college?
Mr. Murray: In my high school class, I would say, in my grade, the A group, I would say about
95% went to college. The C group, the D group, no. The A and B group, most of
them went to college.
Mr. Granof: So, your peers at least went to college?
Mr. Murray: Yes.
Mr. Granof: And did that have an impact on you as well?
Mr. Murray: Well, what the school taught you was confidence that you could meet any
academic challenge. So college wasn’t something to be feared, college was
something to make plans to do, and the kids I went to school with, they didn’t
come from wealthy backgrounds, but they found ways to get the finances
together, whether they borrowed the money or whether they worked for it in the
summertime like I did, or they worked during the year. They did it.
Mr. Granof: Is there some point at which you said, say, between 1st and 8th grade or in high
school, “I’m going to college”?
Mr. Murray: Yes. When I was in the Boy Scouts, I had two of the richest kids in class in my
patrol. I was a patrol leader, and I noticed that the difference between their
economic status and my economic status, or my family’s economic status, was
education. Both of my parents were smart. My mother especially. And my dad did
not finish high school because his father died when he was in his early teens, and
he had to quit school to go to work. Eventually, when he was 60, he got his GED.
But I knew and recognized that if you want a better life and if you don’t want to
work as hard as my dad did, because sometimes he would come home with his
hands bleeding — you know he was in construction, he was a tile setter — the thing
that separated the economic status was education. I knew that education was a
key to a better job. And a better job was a key to a better life. A better life was a
key to providing better things for your family, opportunities for your family, and
it all hinged on education. So, I decided that if I wanted to make something of
myself and provide for my family, I needed an education, and college was it.
Mr. Granof: How old were you when you sort of came to this realization?
Mr. Murray: I was 12, 11, 12, something like that. I was still in grammar school.
Mr. Granof: That was pretty early on.
Mr. Murray: I was still in grammar school because I was still in the Boy Scouts, still active in
the Boy Scouts. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that was
right, a correct analysis of the situation. If you wanted to do well in life, you
needed an education, and education became paramount. When that was your goal
you start establishing things to reach that goal, which meant that if you want to go
to college, you had to do well in high school. If you wanted to do well in high
school, you had to work to get good grades. So, all of those steps went into
supporting that ultimate goal of getting into college.
Mr. Granof: Your father, I think it’s amazing that he decided at 60 to get his GED, but how
about your mom? Did she work? You told me she was a homemaker.
Mr. Murray: My mother was a homemaker until we were in high school and then she went to
work for a university. I guess you would call her a secretary back then, but she
was an executive secretary. She worked for one of the deans or vice presidents of
the university, and she was very, very good, because you would hear compliments
whenever I would go to her school, I heard compliments about my mother: “I
don’t know what I’d do without your mother.”
Mr. Granof: You certainly had a model for a work ethic from your family.
Mr. Murray: Oh, yes. My parents were hard working people. The whole family, both sides of
the family. My mother’s uncles had their own business, the roofing business,
carpentry business. In Louisiana, this gets back into history now. During slavery,
most of the whites were farmers, so a lot of your builders were the slaves. After
the Emancipation, they still had those skills, and what happened was that the
former slaves, ex-slaves, would teach the whites how to do brick laying, how to
do masonry work. This wasn’t true across the board, because they had stone
masons that came from Europe, but it was for a lot of the slaves. The slaves built
Mr. Granof: Yes, they were carpenters, they had all sorts of skills.
Mr. Murray: That’s right. And they had people out in the fields, but they had people who were
builders too. And slaves built the White House.
Mr. Granof: The planters weren’t about to get their hands dirty.
Mr. Murray: Because planting was their business. That’s how they made their money. In the
1880’s, when you started having guilds and labor unions, once a white person
would learn the trade, then they would organize a union or guild that would keep
the blacks out. So even though the black skilled workers had the skills, they
couldn’t get the jobs without the card, the union card, or the guild card, or being a
member of the guild. One part of my family, electricians, plumbers, they couldn’t
get electrical contracts because they weren’t part of the electrical union, the
IBEW, because they didn’t allow blacks. And that was the way of discrimination
that a lot of people didn’t recognize, and it kept blacks back, and held them back,
for a long time, until the Civil Rights Act.
I’ll tell you a story. I told you I was active in civil rights and voter
registration, sit-ins, kneel-ins, and whatnot, and I took my father down to the
voter registration to get him to register to vote.
Mr. Granof: What year was this?
Mr. Murray: It must have been early 60’s, ’62, ’63, something like that. Because I worked
with voter registration, I knew the tricks.
Mr. Granof: I mean this was before the Civil Rights Act?
Mr. Murray: Yes, before the Civil Rights Act. Yes. And I knew that they would get you to read
a portion of the Louisiana Constitution that was a paragraph that went on for two
pages. And they would get you to interpret that. So, I knew that trick. I passed the
voter’s test, but my dad didn’t. And let me tell you, he hid it, but I could tell he
was hurt, he was very hurt by that. Because he thought it was his education that he
didn’t pass, but it was a trick that he didn’t know how to overcome even though I
spent some time with him. He was reading every word instead of capturing the
essence of what the paragraph was trying to say. You don’t read every word.
Mr. Granof: Well, yes, that was essentially a test designed to exclude.
Mr. Murray: Yes, to exclude black people from becoming registered voters.
Mr. Granof: Sure.
Mr. Murray: Anyway, I know that hurt his feelings, and I tried to make him feel better, but
that’s why he waited so long to go back, because that was a slap in his face, and it
was a humiliating experience for him.
Mr. Granof: Well, I can understand.
Mr. Murray: And his son passed, and he didn’t. But that’s the way the South was back then.
And you learned to cope with that, you learned to overcome that. Like the Marine
Corps tells you, you improvise, adapt, and overcome.
Mr. Granof: And since we’re on that, I mean you grew up at a time when New Orleans was in
the South itself, Jim Crow.
Mr. Murray: Yes.
Mr. Granof: So, what was your experience like, how were you treated? I think you told me
previously about several incidents.
Mr. Murray: I got shot at.
Mr. Granof: You talked about that before, but it’s interesting enough to be worth repeating
even at the risk of some duplication.
Mr. Murray: I used to ride my bike all over the city when I was a kid, many times I would be
riding my bike alone. I called it searching for adventure time. Anyway, one time I
was riding in Central Park, and Central Park was primarily for white people. I was
riding my bike, because it was a nice park, and I enjoyed riding my bike, and it
was a long way from home, quite frankly. You know, if you were to drive there, it
would take you maybe 20, 30 minutes, so here I was on my bicycle by myself and
I just happened to be there at the wrong time when they had some white thugs
with a gun. The good thing is that it was a pistol and they were a distance away.
Mr. Granof: And they weren’t great shots?
Mr. Murray: And they weren’t great shots. That was a good thing. But I put some distance in
between me and them because I could go to a place on my bike they couldn’t go
in their car, and I made it out of the park safely, as you can see. But in getting a
Hiking Merit badge we had to hike through predominantly white neighborhoods,
to go to the lakefront, Pontchartrain Lake, and every single time we were verbally
assaulted. Not physically attacked, because we would have fought back, but we
had no easy time of it. Put it that way. And to get your Hiking Merit badge you
had to hike, I don’t know, 50 to 75, a hundred miles, I forget what the number
was, which meant that we had to go back to the same route every weekend, every
weekend, to fulfill that obligation to get the Hiking Merit badge. And since I was
a patrol leader, I was concerned about putting these guys in harm’s way, but we
made it. We all got the Hiking Merit badge in spite of all the harassment from
some of the local folks.
And then being denied the opportunity to go places where you want to go.
And the interesting thing is, when I came to this city – Washington, D.C. — and I
started practicing law, and people found out that I was from New Orleans, they’d
say “Oh, my favorite city, did you ever go to this restaurant, did you ever go to
this restaurant?” I would respond that I wasn’t allowed to go to restaurants, so the
answer is no, I’ve never been to that restaurant. But since then, when I’ve gone
back to New Orleans, yes, I went to some of these restaurants. Quite frankly, my
family cooked just as well and prepared meals just as well as what was served in
some of the finest restaurants. I mean we had some pretty good cooks in our
Mr. Granof: You were lucky.
Mr. Murray: Yes.
Mr. Granof: Let me talk about your family. I think you said you have a brother.
Mr. Murray: Yes. My brother is in Gulfport, Mississippi. That’s where he lives now.
Mr. Granof: And you described a trip you took to Mississippi before your brother went there.
Mr. Murray: We were visiting my uncle who lives in Pass Christian, Mississippi. And he lives
about, I don’t know, a mile and a half from the Gulf of Mexico, the beautiful
sandy beaches along that stretch of the Gulf. One day we went fishing. It was a
hot summer day. We didn’t have any water bottles or anything like that, so all of
us were thirsty, and we decided to go to this gas station and get something to
drink. And the manager of the gas station said there’s a hose around the back, and
there was a water cooler right there. So, most of the guys went around the back,
but my brother went to the water cooler, and he started to drink water.
Mr. Granof: How old was he then?
Mr. Murray: He was 7, 8 years old, and this manager kicked us out of the gas station, yelled
and screamed at us, called us all kinds of names and whatnot, told us to get away
from there. I said I’m not going to tell my dad, because if I tell my dad, that might
escalate things, and you don’t want that to happen, so we just kept it quiet. But
when my brother told me he was going to move to Mississippi, I reminded him,
and he remembered it. I said why would you move back to that place, and he said
because it’s changed. And it has changed. The whole South has changed. The
whole South is different than it was back in the 50’s and the 60’s, the early 60’s.
So, you know, he’s happy, he’s happy down there.
Mr. Granof: He didn’t go to college, though.
Mr. Murray: No.
Mr. Granof: By the way, did he go to St. Augustine’s High School?
Mr. Murray: He went to St. Augustine, but he didn’t like the academic challenge, so he
dropped out of that school. Well, not dropped out; he didn’t re-register, he went to
a public school instead.
Mr. Granof: How did you get involved with civil rights protests?
Mr. Murray: I never thought how I got involved, but I was interested, and someone — I was in
high school at the time. Someone said there was going to be a meeting and I said
well I think I’m going to go to this meeting and find out what it’s about. So, I
went to the meeting, found out, participated in some sit-in demonstrations, some
kneel-in demonstrations at Catholic churches, and some other demonstrations.
But the last demonstration I participated in was a kneel-in, coming out of church
and people yelling and screaming at you, and spitting at you, and evidently me
and this guy that I told you had two pairs of pants, we didn’t react the way we
were supposed to react. But when somebody spits at you, I was taught differently.
I was taught to fight back. Don’t let anybody spit, don’t let anybody disrespect
you. And the leader of our group saw this, and he took us both aside, and he said,
“I don’t think you have the right temperament for this.” And I said, “Well, if you
think we’re going to let somebody spit on us, you’re crazy.” He was right, I didn’t
have the right temperament. And I was stupid at the time. I was young and foolish
because I didn’t keep my mind on the bigger goal. What I was thinking about was
the personal insult, and not the larger goal. So, I said you’re right, you know,
because I would not jeopardize the goal of the group. Because if somebody hit
me, I’m going to fight back, I’ll defend myself. He said, “Well, that’s not the
purpose of this group. We believe in non-violence.” I understood the concept, but
I didn’t embrace it, and that was the problem. I knew that I would create a
problem if I continued, and if a button was pressed at the wrong time and the
wrong place, I would react in a violent way. I said, “You’re right.”
But I watched, and what I learned from watching was that the serious
battles were done on the street, but the war was won in the courtrooms. That was
another thing that further attracted me to the law, because no matter how many
times the people got arrested, the laws needed to be changed. You bring attention
to the frailty, the illegality of the law of segregation, but you win the battle, you
win the war in the courtroom, and that’s eventually what happened. The South
wasn’t going to legislate that. The change had to come from the federal
government. It had to take place in a courtroom first, and that was Brown v. Board
of Education. But that was 1954, and still in 1962 the schools were segregated. It
wasn’t until Little Rock, when people were pushing the envelope. Brown was
decided and that was the law of the land, and the president had to enforce the law.
Mr. Granof: In the South it was J. Skelly Wright.
Mr. Murray: J. Skelly Wright was brought up to D.C. because his life was threatened down
South. He was a good judge. Strong judge.
Mr. Granof: Very strong.
Mr. Murray: The Catholic Church has a lot to be ashamed about, but they have a lot to be
proud about too, because there were priests and nuns in these demonstrations, in
these marches, just as well as anybody else, just as well as the Baptist ministers —
Father Berrigan, Father McManus, all these priests who were my teachers in high
school. They all participated in the civil rights movement. The archbishop,
Archbishop Rummel, was forced into desegregating the schools. But once he
made up his mind, he didn’t back down.
There were two people who were Catholics, and I remember this, because
I’m not very good at names, but I remember these names, because I was interested
to see how they would be treated. One was an ordinary citizen, a woman by the
name of Mrs. Gilliot (pronounced gill-yacht) who was a very vocal protester
against school desegregation, and the other one was Leander Perez, who was a big
businessman from Plaquemines Parish in Louisiana. Perez made a fortune in oil
and gas, natural gas, on federal land, by the way. Both of them were Catholics and
both were avid protesters against school desegregation, particularly the Catholic
schools. The Catholic schools were where the crème de la crème of the white
society sent their kids. They didn’t want their kids going to schools with black
kids, so they protested the desegregation of the Catholic schools. And Archbishop
Rummel excommunicated both of them. And I said to myself, I wonder how this
is going to play out. The problem was Leander Perez bought his way back in to
the Church, and this poor woman, who was just a middle-class housewife, who I
guess was a Catholic, a relatively good Catholic in her own mind, she didn’t get
back in. And I thought that was unjust. I didn’t like what they stood for, but I
didn’t think the treatment was just by the Catholic Church.
Additionally, there was this Catholic Church on my paper route, that I
delivered papers to, and one Saturday when I was collecting, I saw this priest in
the yard and this black kid jumped the fence to get a ball that went in the yard.
The priest came running out cursing at this black kid to get out of his yard, called
him all kinds of names and — I was shocked — from a Catholic priest. So, every
Sunday, they had a Sunday paper. The Times Picayune was a very thick paper.
Mr. Granof: Yes.
Mr. Murray: I used to be able to throw this huge, thick, Sunday paper over the second story
banister. I could take that paper and throw it flat so it wouldn’t open. It would go
over that banister and bam! It would sound like a bomb went off. So that woke
everybody up, because when it hit, it hit that porch with a loud bang. I never
threw the paper over the banister like that before until I saw that priest call that
young boy a name. I said, “I’ll fix them.” But I never saw them because they
mailed their payments in, which was always good. I didn’t like that priest after
Mr. Granof: I guess to some extent they reflected society.
Mr. Murray: Yes. I mean they’re people, but you would think if they were devotees of the
Bible, if they were followers of Christ — I never saw Christ discriminate against
anybody, and I never saw any example of discrimination that was followed by
Christ in his 33 short years on this earth. No matter how they were raised and
what they were taught when they were young, at some point in time they had to
question those teachings, and at some point, in time they had to realize that those
teachings were wrong. This guy didn’t. The racial bigotry was too ingrained. And
I never really understood that until many years later when I saw an episode of
Archie Bunker. What Archie Bunker said when his son-in-law asked him why he
was prejudiced, Archie Bunker said, “When the man you respect, the man who
puts a roof over your head, clothes on your back, food on your table, who taught
you how to play baseball, when he tells you that black people are inferior, who
am I to say that he’s wrong.” And I understood it right away. A simple example
like that. You’re taught those beliefs. But at some point, in time, one should ask
one’s self if what was learned as a child about hating people because of the color
of their skin is wrong. I mean it does not make sense to ignore life’s experiences
where you meet people of other races who are good people. To ignore those types
of experiences is mind-blowing to me. I just do not understand. You might dislike
someone because you don’t like the way he laughs, you don’t like their beliefs,
you don’t like the way they talk, but you wouldn’t condemn a whole race just
because of the color of their skin. One should make one’s own independent
judgment based on your experience with that individual and the content of that
After that Archie Bunker episode, I said to myself, now I understand. You
know, people are taught hatred. Well, if they’re taught that, they can unlearn it,
and what you see now when you go down South, well it’s not so bad. Black
people are not the devils that white people were taught they were. They’re just
like us. I think people have more of an accepting nature because a lot of that
teaching racial hatred has died down, or had diminished, or the people who
believed that have gone their separate ways. That doesn’t mean it’s gone forever
because that teaching still persists, and you will always have the 10 percent no
matter where you go in the country. What I’ve learned is that, unfortunately, one
of the tragic traits of the human race is that there are people who think they’re
better than others, no matter where you come from. If you come from northern
Europe, you think you think you’re better than southern Europe. If you’re a
German Jew, you think you’re better than Russian Jews. Because I’ve represented
both, and I can tell you.
Mr. Granof: Yes.
Mr. Murray: And if you’re a light skinned Black American; you think you’re better than the
dark skinned Black American. If you’re Irish, you think you’re better than Italian.
It’s this belief which I still have a hard time with, of some people thinking that
they’re better than other people based on some non-logical, emotionally based
belief system. That’s still hard for me to understand. To this day, I have a hard
time understanding that. To this very day. I used to dislike Republicans because
when Republicans ran for office in the South, they were more segregationist than
Mr. Granof: Well, that was the Nixon strategy.
Mr. Murray: You were always choosing between the lesser of two evils. It wasn’t until I came
up here and I was exposed, because I didn’t know any Republicans in New
Orleans except the people on TV who were running for office who never got
elected, because there was always a Democratic primary and the Republicans
were always going up against a surefire winner. It wasn’t until I came up here
when I saw that Republicans are people who believe in smaller government, low
taxes, etc., etc., and I had this discussion with one of my former partners. I said
when I was growing up, Republicans to me were worse than the people who got
elected to office, because they ran on a platform that was more segregationist than
the segregationist platform. You had no other reasonable choice but to vote for the
Democrat if you were black. It was always the lesser of two evils, and it wasn’t
until much later on that I realized — because that’s what I was taught — that belief
was wrong. So, I changed. I get into these discussions with some of my
Republican friends: “Dwight, you should be a Republican. Lincoln was a
Mr. Granof: I guess you’re not a Republican.
Mr. Murray: No, I am not a Republican. But I will tell you, I do vote more as a Democrat, but I
voted against Democratic nominees for president on occasion. For example, I
voted for John Anderson. I tend to vote for people who I thought are more in love
with the country than they are with a political party. And those were the type of
people that I supported. I never voted for McGovern, I never voted for Clinton,
Bill Clinton. I voted for Hillary Clinton because she was running against Trump.
If someone else was running besides Hillary Clinton, I would have voted for
them. I didn’t vote for Bill Clinton because he dodged the war. The reason I
couldn’t vote for Clinton is because if he was in a position where he could send
other people to die for this country, he should have been willing to go to war
himself when his country called on him. If had gone to the Peace Corps that
would have been fine. If he did public service, that would have been fine. But to
avoid, in order to save his own skin, because he had ambition, I thought that was
wrong. And then to sit in the White House where you can send people to die
based on an order that you give when you weren’t willing to follow someone
else’s order back in ’68, ’67, when he was of that age. That was the only reason. I
thought he was a brilliant politician, I thought he was a good president, I thought
his moral compass was a little bit off, but as far as being a president, I thought he
did a good job. But if he ran again, I wouldn’t vote for him for that same reason.
Because too many guys died who respected the country. I personally thought
voting for Clinton would not have honored the sacrifices they made. Even though
it was an unjust war, they answered their country’s call. And when you don’t
answer the call, when you’re called and you avoid and don’t answer your
country’s call, automatically you lose my respect, just automatically. That’s just
the way I feel.
Mr. Granof: It’s interesting that among the African American population who grew up in the
pre-civil rights era, people are as patriotic and devoted to the country — more so
than, say, people who were much more privileged.
Mr. Murray: Yes, I am not articulate enough to say why, but Judge William Bryant gave a
good example. He said, he as he spread his arms out and said, “When this
country was founded, the Constitution was here, the rights for everybody way out
here. Some people didn’t have rights, but as time went on the two hands got
closer together. Now they’re not together completely, but based on the rule of
law, the court system, the political process, the democratic process, these rights
are getting closer and closer, so that everybody will be created equal and will
enjoy the same rights.” I mean, just think, gay people, lesbian people, 30 years
ago, they didn’t have any rights. Fifty years ago, they couldn’t even come out,
you know, but as time went on, people saw the injustice of it, the inequality of it.
People saw that they would not like to be treated that way. Nobody picks that kind
of lifestyle, just like nobody picks to be born a certain race; it’s just the way it
happens. And then to face discrimination because of that, because of something
beyond your power, it’s wrong, and then people tried to eliminate that. Now there
will always be the 10 percent. There will always be people who say certain people
shouldn’t have rights. I believe it is wrong to deny people equal rights because of
their status in life, it’s against our Constitution and against God’s law. I read this
book about the Spartans. Spartans were notorious for men being with young boys
that they were responsible for. It didn’t have anything to do with their lack of
manliness. Not that it’s right or wrong. I’m not passing any judgments on that, but
I’m saying that people should not be judging people for things that they have
almost no control over. And I guess I realize that I had a serious sense of justice. I
didn’t like injustice, and that was another thing that directed me towards the law.
I’m glad that I chose that path because every once in a while, you get a chance to
help somebody. Even though you’re not getting paid for it, it’s the right thing to
Mr. Granof: Are you still an optimist about the arc of history, and notwithstanding the last year
Mr. Murray: Yes, I’m still an optimist. As a matter of fact, a bunch of my Marine buddies and I
went down to Charlotte, North Carolina, one of the guys in our group was
diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. We went down there to lift his spirits, and we
always, always get into these political discussions. And this was back in
September 2016 when Trump was the nominee but before the election. I was the
only person in the group not supporting Trump.
Mr. Granof: Really.
Mr. Murray: These guys were conservative. I mean they were Marines. A lot of Marines are
Republican. Lot of Marines are Catholic. But I said, you know if Trump gets in, if
he gets in, we will be facing constitutional challenges. I said, but I’ll put my
money on the Constitution all the time. I’ll put my money on the system all the
time. Because I remember back in 1968 when Martin Luther King was
assassinated, Robert Kennedy was assassinated, we had all the riots, you had the
Vietnam War going on, you had the protests going on, you had cities burning,
Watts riots, Detroit, Washington, D.C. had riots and all this stuff going on, and
the country survived. It wasn’t a challenge to the political system as much as it
was a challenge to society, the way society was set up.
And then you had Watergate, which was a challenge to the political
system, and the country survived, the Constitution prevailed. And I said those
were serious challenges. Trump — I said this in September — I said he will have a
problem because he’s never shared power. He doesn’t know how to do that. I told
them there will be problems with his giving up chasing that almighty dollar. He
can’t do that because it’s in his blood. That’s what makes him tick. But that will
also be his downfall. I said, if he gets elected, I don’t think he will finish his first
term. I think he’ll be impeached, or so frustrated he’ll resign, or something will
happen. This was before he was sworn in, before he won the election. So, I don’t
know if any of this will come to pass, but I have a lot of faith in the system. I also
believe in a cyclical theory of history where whenever there’s a high power at one
pinnacle, there’s a countervailing power on the rise. And you saw it in the
elections in Wisconsin yesterday and you saw it in the election in Virginia, you
saw it in the elections in Arkansas, so there’s something going on, and it probably
won’t manifest itself until November 2018 when there’s a midterm.
So yes, I have faith. This is an incredible country. Absolutely incredible. I
mean where else can a guy who grew up in a broken home, of mixed-race parents,
rise to be president of the United States? Where else?
Mr. Granof: With a funny name.
Mr. Murray: With the funny name, and middle name after one of the mortal enemies of the
United States, “Hussein.” You can’t overlook something like that. Only in this
country can something like that happen. Freedom is a precious commodity. As
long as people are free to vote, free to express their ideas, the country will be all
right. I mean look at the Constitution, 25 amendments in 200-plus years.
Mr. Granof: Well, it’s certainly helpful to talk with you, because to talk with someone who’s
optimistic puts things in perspective.
Mr. Murray: You’ve got to look at the long range. I mean Trump’s only in office for four
years. If he decides to run again, I don’t know if he will, I don’t know if he’s
going to survive the first term. I think Robert Mueller is a fantastic attorney,
investigator. I mean this guy was a Marine. That’s what a lot of people don’t
understand. He’s a combat tested Marine, and when you’re in combat, you’ve
been tested and you survive that, there are not too many things that are going to
intimidate you — even the president of the United States with his vast powers.
Mueller won’t be intimidated. Robert Mueller will do his job to the best of his
ability, and if he finds that Trump is not guilty of anything, he’ll say so. If he
finds that Trump, that all of these things that are against the law, he’ll say so. He
won’t be intimidated.
Mr. Granof: And particularly because he’s not young anymore, he’s in his 70’s, I think.
Mr. Murray: Yes, and Marines are mission oriented. You give a Marine a mission, he’s going
to move heaven and earth to accomplish that mission. Just like I said, he’s going
to adapt, improvise, and overcome. That’s what he’ll do to accomplish his
Mr. Granof: That’s probably why Trump has Kelly as his chief of staff.
Mr. Murray: I feel good about Kelly, though not good about the last couple of days. I feel
really good about Secretary of Defense Mattis. He’s a Marine’s Marine. So even
with someone like that, someone like President Trump in the White House, as
long as you’ve got somebody like Mattis watching over things, because they put
country and God before everything else.
Mr. Granof: I think also the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
Mr. Murray: Dunford? General Dunford’s a Marine. All cut from the same cloth. All cut from
the same cloth. So that’s why I wasn’t worried. If they didn’t have those guys in
there, I would be a little bit more concerned.
Mr. Granof: They say that you don’t say “I used to be a Marine,” that once a Marine, you’re
always a Marine.
Mr. Murray: And that’s a true statement. One example that comes to mind is I was in a Burger
King getting a sandwich a couple of months ago, and I saw this guy who had a
Marine Corps hat on, 4th Marine Division. I said, “Hey, Marine,” and he said,
“Were you in?” And I said “yeah, semper fi,” then we shook hands like long lost
brothers. I saw the 4
th Marine Division insignia on his hat. I said, you must have
been in Iwo Jima. The guy was in Iwo Jima. He was 92 years old and in almost
perfect health. He was straight as a rock. Walked in and walked out of the Burger
King. And yes, never saw the guy before, and if we had time, if I wasn’t on the
run, we could have sat down and had a conversation.
The same thing in Seattle. I was in Seattle to see my daughter and her
family. Since I was hungry, I stopped at a McDonald’s after getting a rental car,
and I had on a little Marine Corps hat, a baseball hat, and these guys walk in. Big
guys, and they saw my Marine hat and said, “Hey, Marine,” and they say “Semper
Fi,” and I say “Semper Fi,” and asked them to come on over. So, we sat down.
We spent the whole hour talking. Never saw these guys before in my life, but
that’s the bond that you form in the Marine Corps. You know this organization is
the biggest fraternity in the world, and once you’re in, every Marine becomes
your brother, and that’s a true statement. And that’s the way the guys I went
through training with are, even though we disagree, and have serious
disagreements about politics. There’s one guy, a really smart guy, he’s a
Libertarian. No government. “I don’t want any government. I want to be able to
carry my gun wherever. I want to be able to buy a machine gun.” That’s his
belief. We have some serious disagreements, but yet there’s still that bond there
that our political differences won’t interfere with. So, it is a good thing. Yes, it is
a good thing.
Mr. Granof: We’ll get to talk more about your Marine experience. We’ll get to that, but I think
that discussion gives a pretty good flavor on the record for your perspective on
Mr. Murray: Well, that’s why I wanted to join, because it separated itself from the rest of the
branches. There was this spirit of camaraderie. I mean the Marine Corps hasn’t
always been at the forefront of racial integration.
Mr. Granof: The Navy wasn’t.
Mr. Murray: The Navy wasn’t. Heck, the Army wasn’t. You know Truman had to force the
services to integrate. Some of the same preconceived notions about prejudging
people and their abilities.
Mr. Granof: Although this is a little out of order, but since we’re talking about the Marines,
what did you know about the Marines, and when did you make that decision to
Mr. Murray: I believe I made the decision to join the Marine Corps before I went to college. A
high school friend of mind wanted me to go with him and join the Marine Corps
after graduating from high school and I said no, I wanted to graduate from college
first and try to go in the Marine Corps through the Officer Candidate Program.
Mr. Granof: Did you go in through the ROTC programs?
Mr. Murray: I read about it, I picked up some brochures, I found out that the Marine Corps had
a PLC law program where you can join the Marine Corps,go to boot camp for two
summers, and then when you graduate from college, you would be commissioned
a second lieutenant in the Marine Corps. And then under the PLC law program
your service was deferred while you attended law school, which meant you would
get time in grade. By the time you get out of law school, you would be a captain.
So that kind of interested me, but the recruiter down in New Orleans was from
Mississippi, and he wasn’t about to let a black kid in this program, and he said
“No, we don’t have any openings.” I asked him questions about it. He answered
all my questions, he was polite, but he said, “We don’t have any openings.” He
said the kind of guys that join from this office are football players, and I wasn’t a
Mr. Granof: What year are we talking about here?
Mr. Murray: This was ’64, ’65, something like that. But you had to join early enough so you
would have the two summers. I went back, maybe a year later, and he said no
again. The same guy. I went back a third time, and there was a different officer, a
different recruiter, completely different. This guy was a Vietnam vet, well
decorated. He embraced me. He answered all my questions. He said we’d be glad
to have you, but you can’t join the PLC law program because you’re already
graduating from college. You should have joined PLC law program. I said I came
two years ago, but I got rejected. He said, “Well, I am sorry about that, but we can
put you in the OCS program, Officer Candidate School.” I said, “I’ll take it, but I
got accepted into Georgetown Law, and what I would like to do is go to law
school one year, preserve my spot, and then come in the Marine Corps.” He said
we could work out something like that. The recruiting officer told me to see your
draft board to see if you would qualify.
Mr. Granof: Was there a draft on at the time?
Mr. Murray: There was a draft. They were in the same building. Draft Board and the Marine
Corps Recruiting Office. So, I went downstairs to see the Draft Board. I sat down
and talked to this lady. She didn’t even look at me. I told her what my situation
was, and she was writing. I said what I need is a year deferment, and then I’ll join
the Marine Corps, just want to save my spot in law school. She said you’ll never
see the doors of the law school open. You’ll be drafted before the end of the
summer. I got up, went back upstairs. All I had to do was take the oath because I
had passed all the other tests and whatnot. I took the oath, and that was it. Didn’t
even tell my parents before that I was doing that, but I came home and told my
parents, and my dad was upset, my mother was upset, but it was a done deal. My
brother was already in Vietnam.
Mr. Granof: Could you tell me again what year we’re talking about?
Mr. Murray: This was ’68.
Mr. Granof: So that was the height of the Vietnam War.
Mr. Murray: Yes.
Mr. Granof: And you clearly were draft material.
Mr. Murray: Yes, I was going to be drafted, no doubt about it.
Mr. Granof: So, let me get back to college. Or high school. You basically said you were going
to college and you had to look around for a college that was affordable.
Mr. Murray: Yes. I went to Xavier University. Like I said before, it was a Catholic college.
Mr. Granof: We talked about this before — but it wasn’t on the record — that they didn’t really
have guidance counselors at your high school, so you really had to do the whole
Mr. Murray: Right. It was a good school, and I got in. The money was tight, very, very tight.
And then I got a partial scholarship after my first year, to help, because my grades
in History were really good.
Mr. Granof: And your major was History?
Mr. Murray: Was History. Yes.
Mr. Granof: And you had a minor in Economics?
Mr. Murray: Yes. A minor in Economics. I didn’t choose my minor at that time. I just wanted
to major in History, and I didn’t want the Political Science, you know
History/Political Science. I wanted something different.
Mr. Granof: And why was that?
Mr. Murray: Well, I thought the two courses were too similar, for one, and I wanted a different
challenge. And so, I took Economics and I fell in love with it, because it was very
logical. I said, “Holy smokes, this makes a lot of sense.”
Mr. Granof: And it’s also very quantitative, especially these days.
Mr. Murray: Yes. When I was studying for the final exam, I said, “I like this,” and so then I
decided to minor in Economics. That’s what I did.
Mr. Granof: And where did you live when you were in college?
Mr. Murray: Lived at home. Couldn’t afford to live anyplace else. You know you had to save
your money. Took the bus, public transportation to get to school, which was way
on the other side of the city. That was a long commute. Where did I sleep? I could
sleep standing up on a bus.
Mr. Granof: And you were still working, right? Did your newspaper route. Did you have time
for any activities at college?
Mr. Murray: Didn’t have time, didn’t even have time to date, so I didn’t date the first year. I
didn’t have the money to date until I got that partial scholarship. But work and
study, that’s all I did, because I knew grades were important.
Mr. Granof: Because you knew then you were going to law school.
Mr. Murray: That was the only way to go to law school. I couldn’t afford to slack off on the
Mr. Granof: I guess at some point you basically said I’m going to law school and you had to
Mr. Murray: I had to decide where. I came up to D.C. in the summer of ’67. I got selected for
this internship program at the State Department.
Mr. Granof: How did you do that?
Mr. Murray: I applied for it.
Mr. Granof: How did you know about it?
Mr. Murray: Some advertisement in the school, and I was interviewed by this panel of people
who were going through a selection process, and I passed the selection process.
They were looking to recruit people for the Foreign Service. I didn’t know
anything about the Foreign Service at the time. It looked like an opportunity. I
took advantage of that opportunity. I passed the selection process. Came up here. I
stayed in a dorm at Howard University.
Mr. Granof: Had you ever been North?
Mr. Murray: Nope.
Mr. Granof: Had you been anywhere but Mississippi?
Mr. Murray: Nope. My first time, other than going up to Cleveland to visit my grandmother
who was dying. We drove up and drove back, that was it. This was my first time
on a train, because I couldn’t afford to fly up, so I took the train up to D.C. That’s
a 24-hour trip, almost exactly. Left 8:00 o’clock in the morning from New
Orleans, got here to Washington at 8:00 o’clock in the morning.
Mr. Granof: There was a train that ran from D.C. to New Orleans, I don’t remember what they
Mr. Murray: Yes, that’s the train I took.
Mr. Granof: The Crescent City, or something like that.
Mr. Murray: It was the Crescent something, and I got here, settled in a dorm, went to look for
someplace to eat.
Mr. Granof: Did you have a place to stay? I mean had they arranged for you to stay in a dorm.
Mr. Murray: I stayed in a dorm, yes. I got here, I had a little money, so I went to get something
Mr. Granof: What year were you in school then?
Mr. Murray: I was going into my last year of college.
Mr. Granof: So, between your junior and senior year.
Mr. Murray: Right. I got something to eat. They didn’t have the cafeteria open during the
summertime at Howard’s campus, so you had to eat on your own, and I found this
little restaurant close to the dorm where they served stew. It was just a couple of
bucks, and I had to budget myself. I was eating, — lost a lot of weight that summer
— I was eating on $12 a week. I was feeding myself for $12 a week. The big meal
was lunch. I had lunch at the cafeteria at the State Department through the
vending machines. Couldn’t afford the regular stuff, the hot food. At the end of
work, I would catch the bus back to the dorm and go to this little greasy spoon
where they served stew, and the stew was like two bucks, three bucks, something
like that, and that would be my dinner. I did that for the summer. Saved my
money that I earned as an intern at the State Department. I worked for the Bureau
of Economic Affairs. The people were really nice. That was a good experience.
First time I ever worked in an office. It was an eye opener. I didn’t know they had
all these opportunities of being a Foreign Service officer. Took the Foreign
Service officer exam. I wasn’t interested in being a Foreign Service officer, but I
took the exam. That was a hard exam, very hard exam. I didn’t do well on that
exam. So, I said the law is my profession.
Mr. Granof: Well, how did you decide to go to Georgetown? .
Mr. Murray: Well, it was a good school. I applied to several law schools. I got into the
University of Denver Law School, Howard, one or two other law schools I forget
now, but I got into Georgetown too.
Mr. Granof: But you weren’t interested in studying law in Louisiana?
Mr. Murray: If you practice law in Louisiana, you have to get into politics if you were black,
and you would do primarily criminal law, and you would not be hired by any
firms, and you would be relegated either to being a solo practitioner working out
of your house, because they didn’t have that many opportunities for black lawyers
in New Orleans. They had some good ones, they really had some good ones, but
the real good ones developed while I was in college, and guys who became
independently famous because they were good lawyers, they got involved in the
civil rights movement, the name was an advertisement because of that, and they
were able to develop a nice practice. But I didn’t want to be relegated, limited,
and I knew if I stayed in New Orleans I would be limited, so that’s why I looked
to some other place. I didn’t know I would wind up in D.C. I thought maybe I’d
eventually make my way to California, but as it turns out D.C. became home. One
thing led to another, as it does in most people’s lives. Sometimes you just follow
your path. You don’t have any choice in the matter. It’s the way, the path, what
the Chinese call the I Ching, the path, and I followed my path, and D.C. became
When I got accepted into Georgetown, I thought that was a gift from
heaven. I had a full scholarship, but I couldn’t go because the Draft Board forced
me — that’s one reason I wanted to keep that one year, to keep the scholarship
alive — but the Draft Board said I would never see the doors open, I would be
Mr. Granof: So, you must have notified Georgetown what your situation was.
Mr. Murray: Notified Georgetown. They said thanks for letting us know. And that was it. So, I
signed up for the Marine Corps, and that summer I got married, and I got that job
teaching disadvantaged kids that I told you about. My wife and I moved up to
Washington in September because she had a job with the Veterans
Administration. I mean she was in a special management program. My wife is
Mr. Granof: So, you got married.
Mr. Murray: I got married in ’68.
Mr. Granof: And then went into the Marines.
Mr. Murray: Went into the Marines.
Mr. Granof: She knew.
Mr. Murray: I had to tell her.
Mr. Granof: Since we’ve been going for a while, maybe this is a good time to stop.