fighting in public -- Cyrus Eaton and Carl Stokes

Submitted by Susan Miller on Mon, 02/18/2008 - 14:51.

Back in the summer while researching the history of Cleveland Trust, I came upon this fascinating chapter in Carl Stokes' book Promises of Power: A Political Autobiography. Thank you Cleveland Memory!

Here are some choice quotes:

"For a brief time in Cleveland, I was the man of power. I had what no black man in this country has had before: direct control of the government of a predominantly white population. That power came to me because I seized a situation that had made me seem like a savior to men who ordinarily look on blacks as an alien and vaguely dangerous force.

Most of what you hear about the power structure is so much easy talk. We feel the vague presence of a monolith out there, some well-defined but hidden body with an organization that can act for it. But the monolith is a myth. There were no times in the country when certain men, the great captains of industry, could command what they wanted; they could bring together the resources of a community by the overwhelming presence of their personal wealth, power, and control over others, and perhaps our notions about the power derive from those times."

Stokes represented Cyrus Eaton vs. Cleveland Trust beginning in 1967. "

One day about 9 A.M., the secretary buzzed me on the intercom and said, "Mr. Cyrus Eaton wants to speak with you."

"Sure," I said back, "and you're Jackie Kennedy."

"Seriously," she said, "it's Cyrus Eaton."

"You get back on the phone and ask him which Cyrus Eaton."

After a minute she called back and said, "He says he is the Cyrus Eaton who is chairman of the board of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad."

He sounds like Roldo in this quote:

"Doesn't the public have the right to know, for instance, when it is reading an article in the Plain Dealer about some action of the Cleveland Trust Company that the Plain Dealer is up to its neck in financial ties to that bank? Newspapers hold a public trust because they influence the course of government. Public trusts should be accountable to the public."

So here we 40 years later. What has changed?

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Thanks Susan.  It is a remarkable piece of writing that comes alive.  It feels almost like a conversation with Carl Stokes.  What happens to us?