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This is Clifton Cox representing the Teaneck Library Historic Project. I will be interviewing Mr. Mal Goode
(I) Mr. Goode, how long have you been in Teaneck?
(N) Well I've been here, it will be this coming Saturday the 27th of October will be twenty one years. We moved here from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I came the year before to work for ABC. I had an arrangement with the company not to move my family until the following year because my oldest daughter, who now teaches school here in Teaneck, was in her senior year of high school and she wanted to finish with her class. That was one of the stipulations of my contract with ABC.
(I) As a news correspondent?
(N) As a news correspondent.
(I) What is your background before. .
(N) Oh, that's a long background. I was fifty four years old when I came here. I had worked fourteen years as a representative in circulation and public relations with the Pittsburgh Courier and I had, concurrent with that for about thirteen of those fourteen years, I did some radio in Pittsburgh. That's how I got my experience in radio. I really wasn't a journalist. I was principally a public relations person and I dealt with circulation because I had at one time been head of the borris (?) department at the Center Avenue YMCA and I had built some kind of reputation in dealing with young people and the Pittsburgh Courier asked me to come in circulation to deal with, they had over two hundred newsboys in the Pittsburgh area alone, and we were running in the neighborhood of 35,000 copies of the paper a week in Pittsburgh but 350,000 copies in sixteen editions went allover the country and into actually about 43 different states and about twelve different foreign countries, down in the islands and we sell our paper to soldiers in various stations in Germany and places like that. So when I got with the Pittsburgh Courier the year after, 1949, they everybody thought radio was going out of existence because television was coming in and they, station KQV which is one of the most popular stations in the country there in Pittsburgh, they called the Courier and they had two spots opened and fifteen minute commentaries on Tuesday and Wednesday night and Mrs. Van who owned the Courier at that time asked me if I would, I did some speaking, if I would fill in those spots for them with some commentaries and I was glad to do it.
I had no experience in radio and so I had to, I prepared these commentaries and they gave us the time free and in six months we built a terrific following and, of course as you know, radio did not go out of existence. A lot of stations were selling for whatever they could get, $15, $20, $30,000 and in six months we built quite a good following because we had the Pittsburgh Courier to promote the program. We called it the Courier Speaks and within six months, we had a following of, a terrific following and then station KQV came to the Courier and asked us if, wanted us to pay for the time and we said, nothing doing. And although I didn't make policy there, I wasn't an executive, but I was totally in favor of that but in the meantime, this little station WHOD, 250 watt station, had opened up and they decided to, they were doing that in Chicago, one station made a pitch to the so-called negro black market and so these six or seven fellows got together and bought WHOD for nothing. They must have bought it for $10, 15,000 if that much.
Today, of course, you wouldn't be able to get it for a million dollars. In fact, it was sold for better than a million about 1973 or 74 but at any rate, they called and they asked me to do this, these news programs and which I did and when KQV wanted to be paid for their time, we said, nothing doing and we went to WHOD. My sister, at that time, played records. She had a gospel program. They called it a gospel hour. No one was doing news on this program. She played records primarily and she, too, in no time, from 1948 until 1950, August of 48 until the beginning of 1950, she built a terrific following called the Mary D Program. Her name was Dudley, the Mary D Program and it became well known allover the country.
(I) Did they label her as a disc jockey at that time?
(N) Yeah, religious disc jockey. But they had no news and so they decided to, we talked to them about the possibility of putting in some news and they gave us the time and we just transferred what we had been doing, instead of a commentary, a five minute news program, from 3:00 to 3:05 every day, and they, I did news items sponsored by the Pittsburgh Courier. They gave us the time free. Well that didn't last any time until we moved it from 3:05 to 3:00 to 3:15, fifteen minutes. And at that time, as you know, Jackie Robinson was the talk of the country and
(I) That's when he was with the Dodgers?
(N) Well he had gone three years before and then Monty Ervin and Hank Thompson with the Giants and Roy Campenella and Don Newcomb had joined the Dodgers and we were getting
(I) What was the gentleman from Cleveland. .
(N) Larry Dobe from Paterson and next year, 1948, had gone with the Cleveland Indians and Satchel Paige in 1948, slowly they were seeping in and incidentally the Yankees were one of the last teams to accept (inaudible) because this is the house where the first black player the Yankees ever had, I bought this house from him. Elston Howard. But at any rate,
(I) Elston used to live here?
(N) Yeah. That's right. So we built it, we added a sports program, a ten minute sports program, and when these fellows would come in baseball season, I would take a big cumbersome tape recorder, nothing as unique as the one you have, and go to the hotel to talk with them and occasionally I would pick them up and take them up physically to the station and interview them for four or five minutes. That built us a terrific following.
(I) This was in Pittsburgh?
(N) This was in Pittsburgh in 1949 and 1950 so then we had, Mary had the four hours in the morning and then they started adding two hours in the morning, from 7:00 to 9:00, and I would go in and do a program, in the late 1950, we put on a program, news program, 8:00 to 8:15 in the morning and it may be immodest to say it but it got to be one of the most popular news shows in the area and of course in sold papers for the Pittsburgh Courier and we used it to advance our classified ad section. We built it to a terrific two or three pages of classified ads which is almost unheard of in a black paper at the time. And it was one of our commercials and occasionally they would takeout other commercials for which I got a little fee, it wasn't very much in those days.
(I) But at least your bright light began to . .
(N) Well it began to come out. And it was just an indication, not so much of me, but an indication of what the American negro, the term we used in those days, could do if given an opportunity. I don't think I was. .
(I) What spearheaded NBC's interest?
(N) ABC. Finally in 1956, they sold the station and converted it, the man who bought it worked with us. A young fellow, he was bright and ambitious and he got rid of us and my sister and I, she went to Baltimore to WSIB and I went up to Makeesport about ten or twelve miles away to WMCK. Makeesport, Pennsylvania. It was sixteen miles from the heart of downtown Pittsburgh.
(I) What year was that?
(N) That was in 1956. Then we, that didn't last for more than about two years and then I would freelance from station to station but by then, TV had come in strongly and I began knocking on doors in Pittsburgh and stations like KDKA and WTAE-TV, channel 4. WW1C channel 11. Well all of them said the same thing. The time wasn't right. It wouldn't work. The shocking thing is that many of the fellows who were there that I knew from radio, like general managers, one of them particularly, gone now, I remember him, Harold Lund, oh once a year or so, I'd go down. He used to invite me down to lunch and we'd talk about it and he would say to me, frankly I know you could do it, Mal, but we don't want to take the chance. Meaning that he was afraid people would not listen, not turn to their station. .
(I) Not respond.
(N) If they had a black person doing news and there was no, what I am trying to say, there was no Branch Rickey out there who brought Jackie Robinson into baseball. There was no white executive in Pittsburgh, and I suspect in no other place, that was willing to
(I) Take that chance.
(N) Take the chance. Finally in 1962, I would go on as a guest many times. I was a guest on all of the stations. KDKA, WWIC, WTAE and one time, just briefly, I filled in for a dear friend of mine, Bob Prince, who used to broadcast the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball games and the Penn State football games. He was quite a sports figure. And we became good friends and WTAE was initiating a five minute program on Saturday night from 10:30 to 10:35 and Bob said to me when he called me, he called me old buddy, he said old buddy, listen, they are going to try something out at WTAE on Saturday night and we talked about it and do a good job and go out early and whatnot. It was only five minutes, really only three and a half minutes, we had a 30 second opening and a minute closing commercial, closing rather. They didn't have commercials. But it paid $50 which was about half of what I made all week with the Pittsburgh Courier and he said if you get it, if they give you a commercial on it, it could be worth $150 to you for five minutes. From 10:30 on Saturday night to 10:35, it is unbelievable.
So I went out that night, I went out at 6:00 and by that time, most of the games in the east and midwest were over and we put the scores on the teleprompter and then of course from the farwest, they began to come in around 9:00 and those we couldn't get on the teleprompter, we'd put on a sheet of paper that I could read but I didn't really need, I memorized those practically. But the response was absolutely terrific. I sat and answered the phone for almost a half hour. Not a negative call. And most of the calls were from whites and from as far as Steubenville, Ohio, forty miles away and Greensburgh, Pennsylvania, thirty miles east in another direction.
(I) Now by you generating that interest in Pennsylvania, I guess the eastern TV stations began to look at that.
(N) No, it didn't get that far. It didn't get to the east. No. There was no thought at that time. I mean this was 1958 and there was no thought at all about, we weren't even in their mind and it is what bothers me about this town. We are not even in their mind in this town when it comes to sharing in the good things that the town has to offer. We'll talk about that later on. But at any rate, finally in, I continued. . oh, they wouldn't let me do it any more. The man had one negative call on a Monday morning. They wanted to know, "Was that a nigger you had on there Saturday night in Bob Prince's place" and the girl was upset and she said, well it was a colored man and he said, "well you keep him off that station or I'll never turn to your station again" and the manager who's still there, the gentleman, he is a little man in mind and I told him as much, and threatened to sue the station and he said, well do your damndest, was the term he used. He didn't care. I had no leverage except the Pittsburgh Courier and we blasted them, the Courier did and whatnot, but that wasn't the answer. So we lapsed another four years before anything took place.
Nowhere in the country was anybody black at the network level and finally Jackie Robinson, who was a good friend of mine and had been to my home many times and I had been up there to affairs where they honored him at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel and whatnot and we, he came to Pittsburgh to speak. At the same town, Makeesport, where I used to be on the radio a few years before at WMCK and to speak at the B'Nai Brith Lodge, that's the Jewish Lodge, they had a big celebration. In fact, they kind of called it Jackie Robinson Day. The mayor of the town, Andy Gicomis, was a good friend of mine and he was just thrilled and they had a parade in the town which was in March of 1962. On our way back to the airport, he said to me, I had lunch with Jim Haggerty the other day and he was talking about, ABC is talking about hiring somebody to do news, television news, Jim is building news department, he had been Eisenhower's press secretary and when he went out in 1961, he went to ABC and they gave him carte blanche and he thought he'd build a news program. Well you know what it is now. Lots of the times it is number one but it is seldom less than number two.
It is ahead of NBC almost every night. Peter Jennings is giving Dan Rather a fit. But Jackie said, why don't you write to him and not only Jackie told me but there were a couple of other black guys in radio that he knew and he had contacted them. So I did and Haggerty invited me up to talk about it. Not for a test or any- thing but, so I came, came on my own. He gave me my plane fare back but from November, they had been looking for somebody, slowly doing, no publicity, doing it quietly, quietly. Remember this is April. So when, I talked to, when I sent the letter, I gave the names of Jackie and Joe Brown, the general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Branch Rickey who was then living in Pittsburgh. So when I got up, I took tapes with me and he never played one. They had those big tapes then. I talked to Jim Haggerty. It was on West 66th Street. And Jim said, I don't need to hear any tapes. I know more about you than you think. It turned out that he had already called Joe Brown, who is a marvelous friend of mine, and I am going to write him today, I just got his address when I was in Pittsburgh last week, he is in California. He was the general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates baseball club and a real deal friend and Haggerty had called Branch Rickey and of course he had talked to Jackie. So we talked and he said, well we don't know what we are going to do. We are talking to some other people. We've talked to some men, no women, only black men. And we haven't made any decision but you call me in about a month. So I called him in May and he said they hadn't made any decision and I forgot about it and said it was just another one of those things.
(I) Of course.
(N) On the 31st of July, I got a letter from him saying we have interviewed 38 men and we've reduced it to eight that we want to come to New York for testing. Which of these days would you like to come. The 8th, 9th or 10th of August, whatever it was. I picked a Tuesday and went up Monday night, stayed at the Manhattan Hotel and one boy was Mal (inaudible) from New Orleans and another was a fellow from Newark who I saw for the first time about six months ago at a meeting. No about three months ago right down in Glenpointe. I hadn't seen him in a long time. But at any rate, I went in about 5:00. They had fourteen executives up in the booth overlooking the thing and I went in about 1:00 and I was to be tested. In the meantime, about 1:30 I'd say until about 5:00 and Jim said we prepared some news for you if you want it. I said well, not thinking that it would have any influence on him, I said, I'd rather put my own together and I had some experience in radio doing it but those were longer news programs and I said, I'd rather put my own program together. Can I use the typewriter and the news machines. They were banging away all day long in the newsroom. Jim said sure so they gave me a desk and a typewriter and I sat down and put together a five minute news program, full five minutes, no commercials or anything else and they put it on a teleprompter and I never will forget, they Marilyn Monroe's will was probated and Eddie Cantor's wife died and I remember years before when he wrote a song, Ida, her name was Ida, Sweet as Apple Cider.
(I) That's right.
(N) You may not be old enough to remember
(I) I remember. . I'm old enough.
(N) And then the Giants had lost their fifth straight game, baseball, this was in August and I said it looks like, which was wrong, it looks like the Giants are going down the drain.
(N) Was this the year 1951?
(I) 1962. Willie Mays and his fellow players were going down the drain.
(N) But they won the pennant so I was wrong but. . and a number of items that I don't recall offhand now but at any rate, we put it on and we taped it so when we went to do it on for the testing, the thing I learned later on was a couple of the fellows in that booth watching said, well listen, he hardly watched the teleprompter. Much of it I memorized and I could ad lib and what not. So when it was all the way up to three of us, the fellow from New Orleans and the fellow from Newark, we went back to my hotel and it was pouring down rain, got a cab, and we sat there and talked and agreed that we would keep in touch with each other which we did not do and about a week later, no a week passed and we were all packed to go to Virginia to visit with my aunt who has since passed away and she was in her 70s then, she was almost 90 when she died but she was in her 80s but at any rate, the phone rang; about 10:30 that morning and it was Jim Haggerty and my wife had picked it up and Jim's secretary said, Mr. Goode, Mr. Haggerty wants to talk to you. I said who. She said, Mr. Haggerty of ABC. So he said, Mal, I guess, this is Jim Haggerty, how are you? I said, fine. How are you? He said, fine. I said, well, He said, well, I guess you thought we forgot about you. I said, no, I just assumed that you'd made a decision and but I am going to keep on knocking until I get in. Well, he said, you don't have to if you don't want to. The committee has gone over the recordings and film and I've been authorized to offer the job to you if you want it. You figure that my wife was on the other phone and it is hard to describe our reaction. I'd never made $10,000 in my life
(I) Were you still living in Pittsburgh at the time?
(N) Living in Pittsburgh at the time and we had, see in 62 our oldest boy was out, he had been out of Penn State four years, our second boy was, had just graduated in June from Westminster College
(I) What's your oldest son's name?
(N) Mal, Jr. He's a retired lieutenant colonel from the Air Force. He went right in to the
(I) He attended Penn State.
(N) Penn State, that's right. The other boy attended Westminster College in western Pennsylvania.
(I) What's his name?
(N) Robert. He's now a division manager for the Mellon Bank and Trust Company. The highest black officer in the Mellon Bank operation and based in Pittsburgh but he comes here pretty regularly on business.
(I) He resides in Pittsburgh?
(N) He lives in Pittsburgh. And then the, he had just finished and the third boy, who is a minister, Richard in Anderson, Indiana had just started, he was about to start his second year at West Virginia University where he was the first black to play in the band at school, the first one on the debating team, the first one to win an athletic letter for running on the cross country team.
(I) He's a minister now?
(N) He's a minister in Anderson, Indiana.
(1) What denomination?
(N) Church of God. And he has charge of the urban ministries program for the whole Church of God denomination across the country, white and black, so he was in his, about to start his second year at West Virginia University. So I came up and I paid my way up but they gave me money back, a ticket back, a round trip ticket and we sat and talked. He asked me how much money I had ever made and I added a little bit to it but they were way beyond that and I couldn't, well I could believe it because it was there, it was happening and it wasn't the money, it was the exposure, it was the money too but it was the exposure, the opportunity but it came at 54 years of age. But I thank God all the time for it because it did come. A touch of it. But when I came, they sent me, I came the 10th of, Sunday evening the 9th of September and they put me up in a suite in the Waldorf but they didn't have a single room. That's how it happened but they didn't want to anger ABC and so the only thing they had available was the suite with a living room and a bathroom with a telephone in it. I had never stayed in a room like that in all my life and I stayed there two days and then they subsequently moved me out to a single room when they got one a couple of days later and I stayed there about maybe three or four weeks and then I moved to the Taft Hotel and I stayed there about two months until I got, had a chance to move in with a friend of mine.
(I) Were you on every night?
(N) Oh no, no, no.
(I) How many nights a week?
(N) I wasn't on any. I didn't go on the air for, I must have been there at least three or four weeks before I ever went on the air.
(I) You were sort of getting orientation?
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