Angela Munden-Johnson
History I-Mr. Braudaway
African-American in Del Rio, Texas
Interview of Lonia S. Haynes, 04/12/2005.

I interviewed Ms. Lonia S. Haynes of 600 Cantu Rd. APT 114, Del Rio, Texas, 78840 about being a long-term African-American resident of Del Rio, Texas. The interview took place on Tuesday, April 12, 2005. The interview is as follows:

Angela: Please say your name and, for the purpose of this interview, your race.

Lonia S. Haynes: My name is Lonia Haynes. I’m an African-American.

Angela: How long have you lived in Del Rio, Texas?

Lonia S. Haynes: Thirty-five years.

A: Why did you come to Del Rio and then decide to settle here?

L: Okay, my grandmother passed away and my aunt was my legal guardian and her daughter was stationed at Laughlin Air Force Base. So in the summer we would come down here and visit my first cousin, who we were like sisters and then I met my husband and eventually stayed here. [Laughs]

A: And you mentioned your husband. How long has he been…?

L: He’s from here originally and…. [garbled]

A: What areas of Del Rio have you lived in since you’ve been here?

L: Ooh, we…our first home was in an area called Chihuahua. And it was off Cochran Street. We bought a house there and had it remodeled and sold it. We paid $2500.00 for it and we sold it for $10,000.00. Then we had a house built on Sage Drive and then we moved to Austin for about four years. Then we came back and we stayed on Mariposa which is in the Buena Vista area.

A: Okay, I’ve seen that street. Are you familiar with the Tarver School?

L: I’ve heard talk of it. My in-laws talked about it and my husband talked about it.

A: Did they say anything specific about it?

L: Just that it was an all black school that uh they used and uh …I know some of the people went to school there. Like I believe Dell Warrior went to school there. My husband didn’t go to school there…he’s a little bit younger. And then after they used it…when it integrated they used it…the African-Americans used it for a Masonic Hall. And the women also called the Heritage of Jericho. They used it for a meeting place. Actually, I had my wedding reception in there.

A: Do you know what happened to the people when they were integrated? Did they send them to different schools or all to one school?

L: Uh, I believe some went to San Philipe. If you lived in the San Philipe area they went to San Philipe. I know my husband went to, uh, where the old eighth grade downtown, he went to that school because he lived in Chihuahua. There’s San Philipe then Chihuahua. So he lived in Chihuahua area so he went to the eighth grade that’s downtown…the old eighth grade campus

. A: How was the racial atmosphere when you arrived in Del Rio

? L: When I first got here it was okay. It was different because of the language, you know. If you didn’t speak the language it was different. And I remember coming, after I married my husband, going into my Junior year of college it was very hard to get a job, so that was… because of the not being bilingual. Even having the experience in college and in my educational field and I still couldn’t even get a teacher’s aid job. So it was kind of…there’s some…you know, it’s kind of hid but it’s still there. Yeah. [Laughs]

A: Was there any racism towards African-Americans from Caucasians and from the Hispanic culture…or one more so than the other?

L: Um, I don’t think like, like I said, it’s kind of underlying. You know, not just blatant out there but you could feel it like when you’re looking for jobs. Even when my kids graduated from school here it was still there. Like the hiring of their family…family members…saving those jobs for family members. So my kids, they had a hard time…getting’ jobs here also.

A: Do you feel there is discrimination now of African-Americans by Hispanics…not just in the job arena but do you feel it if you’re walking through a store?

L: Umm, not really. I guess ‘cause I’ve been here so long and [laughs] you know you shop regular but you know I don’t really feel a lot of that anymore.

A: When you arrived here in Del Rio, were African-Americans settling in any particular area or were they moving wherever houses were?

L: In Del Rio they were all over. Like I said, some of them lived in Chihuahua, some in San Philipe and some in the Buena Vista area. So pretty much all over near Laughlin Base.

A: How do you feel African-Americans have contributed to the growth of Del Rio, if you feel they have contributed?

L: Yeah, I believe that we have because the Black Heritage Committee…they do…they’re doing a lot of things within the community. And then our church, Mount Olive, we participate in a lot of things when they ask us. And we also fellowship with the White churches here on the fifth Sunday of every month…we fellowship with them. And this…I know they’ve contributed a lot. Like my husband was the first police officer…black police officer here in Del Rio. And my brother-in-law was DPS here. They was kind of like…they kind of were first things here in Del Rio.

A: That’s good to know. Were you guys married when he became the first police officer?

L: Yeah.

A: How was that transition? How did that affect the family?

L: I think it was good because his dad was a sheriff before in New Mexico so his sons kind of followed in his footsteps by going into law enforcement. And it was…he…I mean it was pretty good. I mean, he did real well. He really advanced because he had been there for like four years and he was already a lieutenant. So he tested out real…did well and he advanced real quick cause when we left and moved to Austin he was a lieutenant with the city here…the city police.

A: And you mentioned you have children. How was it for them coming up through the school system here? Was it more difficult? Did they learn Spanish?

L: They both speak a little bit and they understand a little bit but when they were in elementary school especially, I worked and plus on my lunch I would go to Buena Vista because they both went to school at Buena Vista and I would take my lunch and go to school and help the teachers. And I just stayed really involved all the way through with my kids going to school because I felt like with us being a minority you have to stay involved and make sure they’re getting’ what they need and we still do. I do the same with my grandson. We stay involved. That’s what I tell my friends you know? “Stay involved!”

A: And I know you stay involved with your granddaughter [both laughing] because she’s in your class and everything.

L: Yeah, that was a challenge.

A: How did your children feel? How was the ratio at the schools?

L: They were definitely the minorities at their schools but they didn’t really concern any ratio, any tension or anything. They had friends…they had Hispanic friends and they had Anglo friends so it really was…it was good for them. You know, the atmosphere was good for them. It was just like I said when they got out into that job market that’s when things kind of got, you know, it got a little tough for them. But going to school there I think they had really good experiences in school. Yeah, because they were very much involved in school. Amy was a cheerleader and Ray he was like, in elementary like on the uh, like student counsel and uh they stayed involved. We kept them into all the activities that they wanted to be involved in so…. Yeah, they did real well in school.

A: Do you feel it made them more well-rounded?

L: Yes, I do. I do because they …you know, it’s the variety, the culture…it’s variety here. So I think that’s good for the kids to experience that you know, so they have Hispanic friends and White friends. They were at their house and they were at my house so I think that’s good for ‘em then kids really…’cause kids, there’s not a difference. Kids, they’re taught what they’re taught. You know, they’re taught. If there’s any racism there you’re taught that. [Laughs]

A: I kind of want to get to how you ended up with your career and everything. Did you major in…?

L: Yes. I majored in Elementary Education in Langston University. And like I said, I was going to my junior year and I got married. And the only regret maybe I have, ‘cause I don’t have too many regrets in my life, is that I did not finish. Because I probably could’ve been at the top of where I am right now. But um yeah, I majored in Elementary Education at Langston…I always…I always knew I would work with kids. It was just…I knew that was my calling so I worked in a private center here for about six years and then I moved out to Laughlin.

A: Are your children in their careers or doing what they want to do?

L: Amy is. She’s still going to school as a matter of fact. So she was majoring in English. She changed her major to Early Childhood because she likes this field. And then she’s also taking some business classes because she and I will probably open up something after this. We will probably get into something else after we do this. And my son went to San Angelo. He was going to be a lawyer but he didn’t like San Angelo so he has not gotten back into school. But he’s working at the facility here. It used to be Wackenhut. I’m not sure what it’s called now.

A: I know what you’re talking about.

L: Yeah, the prison? He’s working out there.

A: How long did you say you’ve been here, at the base?

L: It’ll be sixteen years in August.

A: Really?

L: Yes.

A: Were you one of the first African-Americans to be here permanently?

L: When I came there were…Miss Finlay, she’s at the youth center, she worked here. And Cheryl Robinson. Actually they had a few African-Americans working here. And the lady that I took her place was African-American. And I took over her preschool class when she left. So now it’s not as many but it has been in the past.

A: So far, that concludes the interview but I know how things come up once the tape goes off [Both Laughing] so I might turn it back on every couple of minutes.

L: Okay.

A: So thank you very much for granting me this interview.

L: Oh, you’re welcome. You’re very welcome.

After I stopped recording Ms. Lonia S. Haynes and I continued talking. I continued recording, with Ms. Haynes’s permission.

A: Okay.

L: When my kids were in Elementary school, every year they were trying to move them to another school like you say for that racial balance, because their last name ‘Haynes’ is an Anglo surname. So my husband had a friend on the school board and he called him and told him, “You know what? You need to leave my children alone. They are Black!” And usually we’d try to move ‘em, we get this little thing and they’d get all upset because they didn’t want to leave Buena Vista, you know? So finally we got that straight.

A: So they would just look at a list with the names on it?

L: Um hum. At the sur…just look at the last name and that’s the way they were moving the kids. And didn’t realize, you know, they weren’t looking at the race.

A: I thought they would look at school records or something and decide.

L: I don’t know, maybe. But when we moved back from Austin, they did…that’s when they started keeping the kindergarten in that neighborhood because Buena Vista, most kids went to Buena Vista. Then they built Lonnie Green so they so that area up. But my kids both went to Buena Vista the whole time that they were in Elementary. But, yeah, they tried to move them several times. [Laughs] But my husband got with the member of the school board and they finally stopped doing that. Especially my daughter would be upset because she was cheerleading and then they wanted to move her to a new school and she would have to try out at different school. So she…but they would do that. And my husband said, “It may be an Anglo surname but, you know, we’re African-American. Leave my children alone.” [Both laughing] So that was interesting how they do that.

The tape stopped one again, and with M. Haynes’s permission I began recording again.

L: Yeah, [my husband] was on the school board. I forget what year it was. And I believe two years ago, I ran for the school board. But the politics here is somethin’. It was a lesson and usually learn my lessons pretty good and I feel like I don’t have time for that. You know like they were collecting votes from the elderly and signing and voting for them. And going out and getting early votes, you know. And it was really interesting, the things that they would do, you know. My opponent asked me not to run because that was something she really wanted to do, like it wasn’t something that I really wanted to do. But they did win but it was so interesting, you know, getting into that little political thing. It was interesting here. But I wouldn’t trade the experience. I enjoyed the experience but I’m not sure that I would do that again. I’m just kinda for right, you know. I think if you’re going to run, especially for the school board...but people were on agendas. That’s what I learned here, that everybody’s got their own agenda. So that was an interesting experience.

The interview concluded and again I thanked Ms. Lonia S. Haynes for granting the interview.