Jack Gunn Interview · Back to DSU Oral Histories

Gunn, Jack 8/21/99 Tape 1 of 1By Perry Barrett

 

This is an interview for the Mississippi Oral History Program. The interview is being recorded with Dr. Jack Gunn at his residence on Saturday, August 21, 1999. The interviewer is Perry T. Barrett.

 

PB: All right Dr. Gunn we really appreciate you taking part in our oral history project, and we thank you for providing this scenery. If you don’t mind us, tell us about your early childhood? Growing up? Early experiences? Waco?

 

JG: Yeah, Waco, Texas. I was born in same block. We lived in there afterwards, but we moved away for awhile. We come back. I was born in that place. It was the next block. I went to East Waco Grammar School, and my mother died when I was eight. My father married a few later to another woman whom was a piano teacher. This was a terrible thing to bring on a woman; four boys were in the family. We were very appreciated of her. She had her interest in music. She took us to hear operas or whatever else was available around. That was pretty well her position. Everything else seemed to be going well with us. I started to, there were four brothers, and I was number three. We use to go play baseball over on the yard on the grammar school. We would hit balls to each other. It got me interested in baseball. I did play in one of those little league well a park team. That doesn’t mean I was a baseball player. I never got back to that. I went to South Waco Junior High School; I was there for a couple of years. Then I went to Waco High School. There I got involved with track. I was too small to get involved with football. I went to a business school. Do you know what a business school was? It was not like a college, but where you learned to type and shorthand. I learned to type really well. Which was a God scent to me because it really helped. I never used my shorthand. I had a job locally for a little while about two years. I was running two years late going to Baylor. 1936 was the year we had a flood in Waco. Brazzel River overflowed, and it messed things up. Particularly on the East Side. We got over that. I was going to Baylor at that time. I had to find somewhere else to sleep. I visited with a friend, and they helped me a little bit. I went to Baylor for four years. I majored in History and Government. I worked in a museum in Bailer. It was a stretcher museum. We did a lot of things like play with snakes. We were kind of bird people in the museum. There was some Muddigs, multicolored short birds. A great wind blew them into the Amoco building in Waco. There they were all in the ground. They had smacked themselves fairly good. So we had to go out and collect all that and restore them, but not there health but we wanted to make collection of these birds in the museums. The head of the museum was my Biology teacher.

 

PB: This museum was this after you attended Baylor or while?

 

JG: While I going to Baylor. I received ten cents an hour. I finally finished Baylor after four years. I wasn’t running too late. I was two years later than my normal class would have been. I went to work at Dallas for a retail credit company, it wasn’t to my liking really. I moved around a place or two then I went to Tyler, Texas.

 

PB: Is Tyler near Dallas?

 

JG: It is about 100 miles from Dallas. I went to Shreveport to take my examination for the Air Force. I did get a private pilot license at Tyler while I was in the CPT course. Civilian training for the Air Force. They were trying to encourage people to go to the Air Force. This is 1940 when I finished. We have a lot of things happening in a little while. You would think they were already happening in Europe. We still weren’t in it. I finally decided if they train me to fly I would go into the Air Force. So I did. I went to California, went to Himmet, CA. I went to Bakersville California, and also to Stockpen, CA. I also went to instructors’ pilot school in Sacremo, CA. That is the capital. I went through that. I went training for my instructors. Then I finally got assigned for my first class in Broswell, New Mexico. That was the year I got married. As soon as I got finished with the first class I came back and got married. I moved back to Waco. So we drove out to Raswell on the way.

 

PB: You went to Raswell as an instructor in the Airforce?

 

JG: Yeah, flight instructor. It was the old Army Aircore, Airforce. They changed it later to the United Stated Airforce.

 

PB: About how many years were you in Raswell?

 

JG: They switched us around quite a pretty good. They moved us after a while to Mahuda Colorado. You are a historian so you should know the importance of what that is. It is the junction of the Santa Fe Trail. Trains came through there. It was a little fort. I use to fly around down there just look around, and imagine this fort down there and wonder what was happening. Now later on they will restore it. It is real nice since they have restored it. While we were even before we left Raswell we had some classes of Chinese. We instructed those. They had one man that spoke in English and the rest of the four could not speak. That was quite an experience. We were flying Beat 25’s at that time. The previous plane we were flying was the AT17. It was Bamboo Bottemer. This is what we did. We had a lot of problems with them Chinese. They were quite nice though. I went two more years. The combat pilots were coming back, and we were training them. Finally it got where we had enough people to instruct. So they gave us an opportunity to go overseas. Several people did a lot of things, and they went to Forto Recondus. They were flying P-38’s. They had taking the guns out and put cameras in their places. They were twin engines. We went to Oklahoma City. We went over the Pacific. I kind of wanted to go to Europe, but I did not make it.

 

PB: Where in the Pacific?

 

JG: In the Philippines, we came over seas through Haiwii then we went down to Johnson Island and to Beeak and New Guinea. They had a new training station down in New Guinea. They were resigning us to the west. They sent us down to the Philippines. We were taking pictures. We would fly over and take pictures of what was to be bombed. After we would take it we would come back. They would come back and take the pictures of the damages.

 

PB: So you would go out and take the pictures?

 

JG: Right

 

PB: Then a bombing mission would come right behind you?

 

JG: Not right behind me, but after I would come back with the pictures. So they could pick their target. I stayed over there for a little while. This was at the end of the war. So the bombs were dropped. We were going to Japan, but the island right below Japan. We went to Tokyo. I finally got enough points. Enough years so they sent me home. I came on a president’s ship. It was going to Port Lewis. I finally came home. They wanted me to stay. They offered me a promotion. I didn’t take it though. I was already married. My wife would live with me where she could. She went to San Atone, and I went to meet her there. We rode one of those cattle trains. It is what you call a cattle car. They used them in the war. People would write their names on them. Kilroy, do you remember kilroy? They had three tiers of bunks. I was on the top one so I could see what was up there. We finally made it home.

 

PB: This was 1945?

 

JG: Yes it was 1945, the war was over. I decided I was going to go to graduate school. So I went to University of Texas. I had already got my degree from Baylor. I could go to Texas, University of Texas decided History and Government would be my areas mainly History. So I spent several years there. From there I went to El Paso, Texas. There was an opportunity for me to teach History. The man there was going back to school. I was only supposed to stay one year but I stayed two. While that was happening, that was the Texas western college. It is now El Paso Esop.

 

PB: Texas at El Paso?

 

JG: Yeah, Texas El Paso. While I was finishing that year, I had time to go down a time or two to Texas to do some work on my research. While I was in graduated school I had an opportunity to go to Washington to do some research? I finally finished my degree. My supervisor decided I ought to call all of this off. So I was called back into the service. I was in the reserve. I talked to my professor, and got him to go ahead and finish me up. So he did. He was real nice. Dr Walter Prescott Webb, surely you have heard of him. Finally went into the service which I served two years there. We went to Diggs Airforce base in El Paso. I spent another two years doing that. Finally I got out of service in El Paso. I was looking for a job. I knew a fellow that had been at Baylor. He was in El Paso. So he called someone at Mississippi College in Clinton. He called them and I got a job. I came over here and he employed me. It wasn’t the best job in the world, but it was good. We spent twelve years there. We enjoyed it. I went to Houston, and I came from Houston to Delta State.

 

PB: That was Houston Baptist?

 

JG: Yeah, Houston Baptist well it is now. It was a Baptist college was what is was at my time, Houston Baptist College. They later changed it to University, about the same time everyone else was changing.

 

PB: So you were at Houston until 1967? Is that right?

 

JG: Yes, I had known a friend in graduated school who was a historian. He was in graduate school for his doctrine in University of Texas. I knew him and his wife were a student there. The man that was dean at the time he taught Dr. Ewing into employing you on the system. He got me up there as an assistant. He was in pretty poor health. I came to help. I came to Delta State.

 

PB: You came as the assistant dean?

 

JG: Yes, I was the assistant to the dean. Then five years later he had died. He had heart problems for a long time. That was a pretty big blow. I had decided that if I didn’t get promoted I was going to have to leave. Dr. Ewing did promote me to being dean. I was dean of the university. That is what it was called. I had a wonderful time with Dr. Ewing. I got along with him very well. Some people was frightened of him. It was alright. I went through Lucas, then of course Dr. Wyatt after that. He stayed through the rest of my tour.

 

PB: You came in ’67?

 

JG: Right

 

PB: If I could I would like to ask you about some of the well how was the general student behavior?

 

JG: Well we had one little problem. We had a protest back during when Martin Luther King when he was shot. They protested a little here. They were pretty good other than that. That was in Dr. Ewing time. He did not want me to fool with that or get involved. (tape cut off)

 

PB: I had ask you about some general student behavior, and you were talking about some protest I think that happened about the time.

 

JG: They had citians. It was what they called citians mostly blacks. There was one white student who did work with them. Other than that it did not last too long. We got along fine. We had some good students here. We have them all along. Not only there were a few blacks that were nice. We tried to get all that worked out. We had some black faculty members that we employed. See I had to charge up the faculty. So I could help do that. We had to look for them. So I was a historian. So I circled around and found people who were eligible. Most of the History teachers I think I had at one time are not teaching. Somebody like Lamar, James Robinson. Bo, what is Bo’s last name.

 

PB: Who?

 

JG: He is the head of the department. He was a little fellow.

 

PB: Morgan?

 

JG: Yeah Morgan that is right. He is a little fellow isn’t he? I didn’t hire him. Dr. Cash did. He was the head of the department. He finally retired. So then this boy came as a Mississippi Historian. He came after Cramford died. You might not know about him?

 

PB: I have heard the name, but I am not familiar with him.

 

JG: He was our Archivist.

 

PB: Oh yeah

 

JG: In fact the reason we have that Archive was because he started it.

 

PB: Let me ask you about the sixties. So much was going on during that time. Were there any student activities or protest that were aimed at the Vietnam War that you recall?

 

JG: Well I don’t know. I don’t think so. I don’t think there were. There might have been some that were opposed to it. If they were going to get drafted or something, they wouldn’t have like it. I had a son who spent. He had this degree from University of Chicago in Social Work. He went to Vietnam. He didn’t go as a soldier. He went as an aid, a medical aid. He spent two years over there. We knew what was happening all around. I don’t remember too much of that. We might have had some. It wasn’t too bad. Delta State people, not only the boys but the girls all of them, are well behaved and really nice.

 

PB: I believe in ’69, I believe in the Spring of 1969 there was some sort of incidence with fifty students protesting outside the president’s office. Maybe it was Civil Rights.

 

JG: Is that what we were talking about. That protest in the sixties. That is where they protested. They sat in, in the sit in.

 

PB: Here we go a group of African American students through up six demands. You recall that incidence.

 

JG: No I don’t remember it. Not that I am trying to, he sort of put me on the side on some of that.

 

PB: Oh okay.

 

JG: I know what happened in ’69. What had happened in ’69 is that we landed a person on the moon. I think that took everything else away. I was at a Dean’s Meeting in St. Louis. We went to the University of St. Louis is where it was. We all had a little party while it was on the television. We saw them actually land. It was something. We all cheered.

 

PB: When you were serving as dean did you also teach any courses?

 

JG: I taught one course in History. Usually it was just survey. When I was at Mississippi College I taught a lot of courses, History of the West, Civilization, American History. You name it, and even Russian History. Here I think I taught one, one time. That was Ms. Well I have forgotten her name now. She taught this. It was a world history also. I taught a few things like that occasionally. Most of that was when I was at Mississippi College.

 

PB: I noticed you wrote School of Aviation 1981 and 1983. Did you teach here?

 

JG: Well yeah, I retired in ’81. So they finally ended up getting somebody else to take my place. That was Dr. McArther. Have you met him?

 

PB: No sir.

 

JG: I had started. I had gone back to flying. I had a little airplane. I have a picture of it out there. I will show you. I was an Assena. A fellow named, Rico, Dr. Marlin Rico was at the business school. He was also was a flight instructor. He checked me out again. I got about eight hours. I already had considerable, but it had been twenty five years since I had flown anything. I finally did. I got this little airplane from my son-in-law who had some health problems. He finally got rid of it. I had already bought half of it. It wasn’t here. It was down there. He was in San Marcus. So I finally brought it back up here. Dr. Rico and a one or two other people went down there with me. So we flew back. The fellow who took us down was a farmer out here. He was a student of Rico’s. These were all civilian type things. We finally decided after a while. We ought to get us an Aviation Program here. So we went over to Monroe, and several other places and looked at these places. We also looked over at Monroe for a fellow named Bob Ryder. He was kind of a big shot in various places. He was in the national organization in flight instructors and so forth. We went over there to see Bob Ryder. We tried to talk him into coming, but he finally said he couldn’t come until mid year. So I had to end up. Then Marlin Rico moved over to Alabama, North Alabama. They probably paid some more. We played them to. He went over there. So here I was. I already got some of the preliminaries from Bob Ryder. Here I was run the place, because nobody was here. Rico would have run it if he had been here. He decided he was going to leave. He liked to move around anyway. Out of the first year I taught the History of Aviation. A lot of stuff goes that way. We were able to get someone. Well they didn’t have flight instructors at that time. We had a few, but not very many who could fly. So anyway this is sort of the freshman end of it.

 

PB: This is when it began?

 

JG: Right this is when it began in ’81, the fall of ’81. When Ryder came he started building up a program. This is what he had been doing, and he was in the National organization and so forth. He did get the thing started. I stayed another year and taught in the Aviation Program. I taught the primary, what ever they called it. Primary at that time, it was the first class before you go into flying. You have to have ground school. So I taught the ground school, and I taught also some other things. They were general. We employed some people who had come in. Most of them were World War II veterans. Not all of them, but some of them were had a lot of experience. One of those fellows is over there right now teaching. He also had some connections in Washington. So he was able to get us some money from the FAA for stuff out at the Airport. Also the building on campus that is how I ended up with my name on it. We were in the business school that Aviation Program. So I worked with Dr. Gibson who was the chairman of the school of business. Well I am answering the questions there.

 

PB: Yes that is great. That is perfect. Then you taught for two years at the Aviation School.

 

JG: Yes that is right. Then I retired again.

 

PB: Just thinking back when you think about your service with Delta State. How would you compare how students are today, student behavior today, and student’s attitude today, with what you saw when you came in 1967?

 

JG: Well I am not sure I can give you a very good one. They were much better as far as well they said sir and all that type thing to you. Now they don’t do that. Not very many anyway. That is what they did. So I always respected them. We had some unusual fine students who ended up being president of the student government. They did many things along that line. Well Billy Forge was one of them. His father taught on the campus here. Dr. Forge taught History, but his son went to school here. He went to Ole Miss and got his law degree. So he ended up in Washington working for somebody. He worked a little bit for one of the Senators, not for Lott but the other one. Cochran wasn’t it.

 

PB: Thad Cochran.

 

JG: He worked with him I think for a while in Washington. He ended up in a very good place. In fact somebody wanted him to come down here and be president. We couldn’t afford him. So he was doing very well.

 

PB: Well Dr. Gunn is there anything else you wanted to mention that you?

 

JG: One thing I might tell if you have enough space.

 

PB: Plenty of it.

 

JG: While I was here I went these. Well just let me tell you what they are. I was called a Coordinator of Aviation Program. We didn’t have a head at that time. Dr. Gibson was sort of head of it because it was in business school. Well I was involved in the Junior Historical Society. I would go to some of these meetings. One of them was from the American Association of State and Local History. Are you involved in that in any way?

 

PB: Well I joined something with someone at Hattiesburg.

 

JG: Probably would have been the Mississippi Historical Society.

 

PB: I thought you told me it was the Junior Historical Society. I joined it as a high school History Teacher.

 

JG: Oh you did.

 

PB: They had a little competition for the students back in April. I entered some students, but we were unable to do anything.

 

JG: This award for my writing for Mississippi History, and for Leadership in Mississippi Junior Historical Society. I kept with it after I came up here. I wrote a number of things. What I also started to tell you a while ago about I was the executive secretary of the Mississippi Baptist Historical Commission. This is the whole state. The Mississippi Baptist Convention there I finally ended up with the executive secretary of that. I finally went out the last time. I was there for about eleven years. I was the executive secretary. I wrote a number of books that I was interested in. Well one like this for instance I wrote about eight books I guess. They were mostly church history.

 

PB: Oh okay

 

JG: I had a hard time getting into those. This is the first one I did. It was Grenada, the First Baptist Church, in Grenada Mississippi. That got me started. Do you know where it is?

 

PB: Yeah I have been to Grenada. It is pretty over there.

 

JG: This book was the Bolivar Baptist Association of the Mississippi. I say we wrote it because Sammy Cramford was involved with that and there were several others. We tried to get someone from each church to write their own history. I was sort of the chairman of it.

 

PB: How about that.

 

JG: That is something good. This is another one. It is in Texas, Waco, TX, somebody had heard about my Grenada book so they wanted me to come and write the history. The only trouble was that you have to be so careful. I moved after I came here. I finished it up after I came here. I would send material down and so forth. The preacher ended up publishing it, and using the wrong Preface. I told him, I wrote him a note that if he don’t use the Title we had we would have to change it back. What he did was of course when it finally came out; it was the History of Columbus Avenue Baptist Church. I had given it a fancy name. He didn’t do it. He is not there anymore. Anyway it was not very good.

 

PB: You have done a pictorial history of Delta State University?

 

JG: Yeah that is right.

 

PB: I mentioned that Mr. Riley showed me a copy of that when I interviewed him. We were going through it, and he was showing me all the different people.

 

JG: He knew them all. See I came in ’67. I didn’t get all of that. I wasn’t quite noticeable of all those earlier people.

 

PB: Kethley was there until ’56?

 

JG: Yeah

 

PB: Was Lucas after Kethley?

 

JG: No, he was after. Well let me get that book out. I think it has them in there. You can look after it, if you want to look through this it will be all right.

 

PB: Ewing

 

JG: Ewing came after Kethley. Broom was the first president, but he died shortly after that.

 

PB: Kethley was up till ’56. He was there for thirty years.

 

JG: He was there for thirty years.

 

PB: Then you have Ewing up until ’71, and then Lucas.

 

JG: It would be twenty-six thirty-six right? I need to go back and look through this book. It has been a while since I have. This is the second decade, and I was trying to find McCain. That is who it was. McCain was president at Southern, and he came up here and delivered. He was a graduate of Delta State by the way. He ended up giving a speech at Dr. Kethley’s retirement. It was very good. I wasn’t there, but we have had a lot of people coming in. McCain was the one I was thinking about. He was graduate. He said during, we started around 1925 or there about. In 1927 the big flood happened. They could go up on the dormitories down here and see the water at Skein or someplace over there. They could see it from there. It never did get here.

 

PB: That was a flood.

 

JG: It was a booger, I tell you.

 

PB: Well I really want to express our appreciation for your participation in our oral history project, and your patience with my equipment. Is there anything else you wanted to add?

 

JG: I was wandering if you that if Dr. Zachary, is she keeping the oral history of Delta State.

 

PB: Right this project is focused on doing Oral History on Delta State University. The gal that is head of the Archives, I don’t know her title.

 

JG: Yeah that is who I am talking about Zachary.

 

PB: Zachary secured a grant from the State Department of Archives and History, and they are issuing grants to different non-profits around the state to do Oral Histories. Hers was focused on Delta State University.

 

JG: Okay

 

PB: So this is what this is all about. To interview the people, the faculty and staff, and associates of Delta State for the past few years, and to get their recollections and impressions of the University and its history. So then we would have that collection to look at.

 

JG: I know Pete Walker had done something in that, hadn’t he?

 

PB: I am not sure.

 

JG: I think he is. He is a retiree. He works well he is a faculty member. He also works on the golf course. He wanted to buy some recollections of Ewing, and I just never could, I have gotten started it one time, but I never went too far on it. My relations with Dr. Ewing were very good. As far as I am concerned that is all of it.

 

PB: Okay you did a great job. You are a very kind gentleman.