Interview with John Gillis, December 21, 1997

Project: University of Kentucky: The African American Experience Oral History Project

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Interview Summary

John Gillis is interviewed by telephone from his home outside of Sacramento, California. Gillis was a member of the first class of African American students that integrated the University of Kentucky in 1954. He recalls his early years and his parents, who both died when he was young. He was raised in Lexington, Kentucky, where schools, public facilities, and restaurants were segregated. Gillis attended Douglas High School and received a scholarship from the Kiwanis Club. Gillis felt he was not prepared for UK, where he majored in agriculture, but emphasizes this was not due to the fault of the teachers. He was a member of the Reserve Officers' Training Corp (ROTC) and Scabbard and Blade. Gillis later joined the military in order to qualify for the G.I. Bill. He talks about the social environment at UK. He states that the students were helpful, and recalls few racial incidents.

Gillis briefly attended City College of New York after the service. He later moved to California, where he earned his bachelor's degree from California State at Los Angeles, and his master's degree from the University of Southern California. Gillis currently works with the criminal justice system. While he was an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, his daughter was murdered by gang member. Subsequently, Gillis became involved in crime victims' issues. He worked with Doris Tate, whose daughter Sharon Tate was murdered by Charles Manson, and was appointed to the California Board of Prison Terms, which handles the hearings for murderers.

Gillis talks about being assigned to security with Senator Robert F. Kennedy. He had to escort Kennedy's body to the airport after he was assassinated, and was later invited to Washington, D. C. by George H. W. Bush to receive the National Crime Victim Service Award. Gillis has also worked with John Walsh of "America's Most Wanted."

Interview Accession

2000oh081_af610

Interviewee Name

John Gillis

Interviewer Name

Sharon Childs

Interview Date

1997-12-21

Interview Rights

All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.

Interview Usage

Interviews may be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries.

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Interviews may be reproduced with permission from Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries.

All rights to the interviews, including but not restricted to legal title, copyrights and literary property rights, have been transferred to the University of Kentucky Libraries.

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Gillis, John Interview by Sharon Childs. 21 Dec. 1997. Lexington, KY: Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.

Gillis, J. (1997, December 21). Interview by S. Childs. University of Kentucky: The African American Experience Oral History Project. Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries, Lexington.

Gillis, John, interview by Sharon Childs. December 21, 1997, University of Kentucky: The African American Experience Oral History Project, Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries.





Persistent Link for this Record: https://kentuckyoralhistory.org/ark:/16417/xt7p8c9r504k