Interview with R.L. McFarland, Sr., May 22, 1999

Rev. McFarland was the first African American city commissioner in Owensboro. He also was employed by the telephone company for about thirty years. In this interview he stresses the people who were role models in the black community, such as Thurman Wheatley who owned Agner-Wheatley Funeral Home (now Young Funeral Home) and was a prominent land owner, and Emma E. Edwards, a teacher and later principal at Dunbar High School. Ms. Edwards also was one of the founders of the Mary Hardin Home for indigent blacks, located at 7th Street and Orchard. Rev. McFarland and his wife served on the board of the home, which existed for 35 years. Rev. McFarland talks about changes that he has seen over the years in Owensboro. He mentions the disparity in pay experienced by blacks, and that his father had worked as a janitor in an apartment building for 45 years without ever having received a raise. During World War II, McFarland worked in the Chrysler plant in Evansville, Indiana, and this was the first time he or any of his friends had ever made over one dollar an hour. He states that after the war, some of his friends were able to maintain that wage, but others were forced to return to a poverty level existence.

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