Isaac Haggins Sr. Interview, 6 August 2013

Isaac Haggins was born in New Bern, North Carolina, in 1930. He grew up in Tennessee and Asbury Park, New Jersey. After graduating from West Virginia State College in 1949, Haggins moved to Cleveland to join his brother in the Glenville neighborhood in 1953. In 1956 he bought his first home near Rockefeller Park. After a stint selling shoes, he entered the real estate business, opening an office in Glenville and later in Union-Miles. In 1968 he was the first black real estate broker to open an office in a Cleveland suburb, which was at 2221 North Taylor Road in Cleveland Heights. Within months the office got bombed. The crime was never solved despite an FBI investigation, but the incident so outraged the community that Haggins found many white sellers coming to him wanting to list their homes on the open market as a matter of principle. Haggins claims he listed the first house sold to an African American buyer in Lyndhurst after the bombing. He and his family later moved to Cleveland Heights. Haggins's grandfather, Isaac Smith, was also a real estate pioneer. Born a slave, he developed a large black residential neighborhood in New Bern in the early 20th century after serving as a black state legislator until the passage of the Disfranchisement Act of 1900.

Interview Transcript

Mark Souther [00:00:01] Today is Tuesday, August 6th, 2013. My name is Mark Souther, and I'm interviewing Mr. Isaac Haggins Sr. at 2231 North Taylor Road in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. Thank you very much for agreeing to be interviewed today.

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:00:21] You're welcome, sir.

Mark Souther [00:00:22] Could you say your name, your full name, for the record in your own voice?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:00:26] Yes. Isaac Haggins Sr.

Mark Souther [00:00:29] OK, I'll adjust the microphone a little. When and where were you born?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:00:34] I was born August 18th, 1930, in New Bern, North Carolina.

Mark Souther [00:00:41] New Bern?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:00:42] Yes, sir.

Mark Souther [00:00:42] I've been there. In the eastern end of the state. How long did you live in New Bern?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:00:52] Truthfully, only a short time. I think I was about four or five years of age, and then it seems that we moved to Tennessee, which is my father's home, and we stayed there until I was about eight or – no, we moved there to New Jersey, Asbury Park, New Jersey. And I spent most of my young life there until I was 18 years of age. Then I went to college at West Virginia State College and I stayed there until I mean, I graduated. I was 23 and – 23 or 22 – anyway, then I came here to Cleveland and then I've been here ever since.

Mark Souther [00:01:37] I want to go back to Asbury Park for a second, but you mentioned West Virginia State College. And I'm wondering, given you probably were probably after she was there, but do you remember a Dorothy Lane McIntyre or Dorothy Lane at the time who was a pilot? She was probably there before you.

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:01:59] The name doesn't stand out. She could have been there with me, too.

Mark Souther [00:02:02] I think she may have been there back in that day. Just curious because she mentioned that she went there and she became the first African American licensed female pilot.

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:02:12] Oh, that's fantastic.

Mark Souther [00:02:14] I interviewed her as well. You mentioned Asbury Park. What did your parents do for a living? And both in Tennessee and then...

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:02:22] Well, my dad was a waiter. He waited tables and he was still waiting in Asbury Park. And he also did it in Tennessee, as far as I knew, he was in the service area. And cause when he died, he died at a very young age, at 46. I was 17 years of age and he had a stroke and he was working there. He worked in Princeton, New Jersey. I mean, somehow or another, he didn't have to work there in Asbury Park, but he did work. He went to Princeton, New Jersey. And that's where he worked. And mother? No, she never worked after she taught school until after I was five years of age. She never worked anymore. But she was a college graduate as well. But she just was a housewife. I was... I have an older brother, Everett, and he was, obviously, was born first. There's a year and two months difference in our age. He is 84 now and I'll be 83 the 18th of this month. So.

Mark Souther [00:03:51] And when you lived in Asbury Park, were you very close to the beach?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:03:56] Oh, yeah, yeah. I mean you could walk to the beach, the parks, this whole city. So, yeah, I mean, I recall that I did 'cause there was no cars. My mother didn't have a car. My dad didn't have a car. So we had to walk or you catch the bus everywhere. So yeah, I remember going to the beach and I worked at the Berkeley Carter Hotel. So I mean, I was working. I was 17. I was a bellhop at a, I don't remember the place, but a resort hotel right off the beach. See and during the three months of summer was the summer people would come and right on the boardwalk, which was a really beautiful (inaudible). They get the suntan and they went to lay in the sand and just really enjoy. That boardwalk was always beautiful. You just walk up and down that it was always much cooler on the boardwalk then it would be into the city itself. It was about six to eight degrees cooler. Fresh air that you get from there.

Mark Souther [00:05:14] Do you remember at the beach, I've read about Atlantic City, where there were African... mostly African American pushers of all the carts and roller chairs?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:05:25] Oh yeah. Yeah. Oh yeah. Oh yeah.

Mark Souther [00:05:27] Did they have the roller chairs in Asbury Park?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:05:29] Oh, definitely. Oh, yes. Yes. That was definitely a thing. You just didn't want to walk or you just wanted to enjoy the scenery. So you just got in there and they push you wherever. Get to charge so much a certain amount of distance that you be pushed and you would enjoy it and you get off. And I pay him and you give him a tip if you wish to. And that would be it. But that would be loaded with pushers. You see 'em, you know. Yeah. At that age, you know, I always liked to walk, but you know.

Mark Souther [00:06:07] Pardon me one second. I'm gonna ask you not to tap it. It's the easiest thing in the world to do but it also, you know, the microphone, it's very sensitive. And did... Were only Whites being pushed in these chairs or was it open?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:06:26] I don't really... I know back in those days you did have, you know, discrimination. I understand. And I don't recall. Maybe I did, maybe. Well, I know the beach was all "White" sand and they had one little section, this was in Asbury Park, where they had "Black" sand I understand and that's where the colored was. So there was definite form of discrimination there. There was no Black over there in the larger beach. So I would imagine... I didn't notice that, but I would imagine that would been. I don't know whether there would've been a restriction at that time. See we looking back. So, I was born in 1930, so this would've been in the '30s 'cause I started working there, as a shining shoes, selling newspapers at five years of age. And I know on the boardwalk, cause I was scared to go into the restaurant, and some soldiers, so I must have been eight or nine, and they told me it was okay. And then when I worked, they used to have a colored dining room and a White dining room. And I told them I just couldn't go for that. I had to be where everybody else eat, at least where they ate. And most of the time they were lying to me too because I didn't appreciate, you know, segregation. I didn't -- I knew it was existing, but I didn't want to be a party of it. And so I just most of the times, I would object strangely to it. But Asbury Park was, yeah, it was segregated, even though it was up North. I mean, cause I remember in the school that I went to, I feel like I have a picture of it, and they... The high school, the grade school. They would definitely, you know, you had the separate schools at that time. I'm going back to when I was born in '30, I would've been in school around five years of age, yeah five, and that'd be in 1935. Ya know. It was definitely -- it was no question about it. It was segregated.

Mark Souther [00:08:53] So you went then to West Virginia State...

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:08:55] Yes.

Mark Souther [00:08:56] Right after high school?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:08:57] That's correct.

Mark Souther [00:08:58] And what was your major?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:09:00] Business administration. Yeah.

Mark Souther [00:09:03] Did you know that you would get in at that point, that you might get into real estate?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:09:07] Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, that was the goal. That was my goal when I went to see, because my grandfather, which I was named after, he was... he, in fact, they celebrated him in Black History Month. He died in 1915, but he was a very wealthy man, very proper, born a slave, and then just did marvelous things. He's a very good friend to Booker T. Washington, but they named me after him. Isaac. That's how I got... He was Isaac Smith. But I definitely... but I didn't get into real estate when I first left there. I went into the shoe business and that's where I met Isaac's wife. She worked as my secretary. And I hired her and I stayed there for five years because I didn't have the funds to start in real estate initially. So after about five years, I think in 1959, I decided real estate. But I started in '54 '53 '54 to '59 in the shoe business. I was hired then as the first Black manager of Charles Chester Shoe Company. As the vice president had said to me, "did you know that we never had a Black manager and all our managers who had 30 years of age and over?" And I do remember telling him, I said, "well, sir, you do have a problem." He said, "what is that?" I said, "because I give you one week to decide to hire me. He decided in two days so I was very successful as the manager. But I decided then to go into real estate and I've been in real estate for, say, makes 50 years.

Mark Souther [00:11:07] Were... Are we talking... When did... I want to back up and find out when and how you came to Cleveland. And was the shoe store that you mentioned in Cleveland or was this before?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:11:19] No, no. This was... This was in Cleveland. I came here because my brother was here. That's my older brother. He was here and he told me of Cleveland. I didn't know anything about Cleveland to be honest about it. But I know he was there. So I stayed with him and began to work. And as I were used, I've been used to working since I was five years of age. So easy to go ahead and find a job. I was I did the same thing my dad did initially and waited tables. I waited the country clubs, (inaudible). So.

Mark Souther [00:11:55] What did he do here? Sorry, your brother.

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:12:00] Oh, my brother. Oh yeah. He worked in insurance. He worked in insurance. Along with working in insurance, he worked for the Internal Revenue. And, you know, my brother worked with Internal Revenue as a special agent. He had his law degree. In fact, in one period of time, he worked along with me, which I can show you in this part, he's retired now. He works as a prison ministry, just gives his time. Very strong man. And his name is Everett T. Haggins, which he named after my father.

Mark Souther [00:12:57] When... You stayed with him when you first came to Cleveland?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:13:00] Yes, I did. Yes.

Mark Souther [00:13:01] That was about the late '40s or when was that?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:13:04] But no, that would have been in 50... Let's see, '53.

Mark Souther [00:13:11] Oh yeah. After college.

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:13:12] After college. Yeah, after college. I graduated, I think '49, yeah. So that was '53 that I came here. He was already here of course.

Mark Souther [00:13:23] What neighborhood was he living in?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:13:25] He was living on Lakeview. He was living in Cleveland. On Lakeview. And he lived in an apartment there. It was nobody but me at the time. I'm single. And I believe he was single too. No, no, no. He was (inaudible), but I stayed there as a single person and worked. And then I eventually got a place of my own.

Mark Souther [00:13:53] Where was your first house?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:13:57] My first house. Our first house is on Parkgate. When Ike was born. Let's see...yeah. 1953 I think it was. Shortly after I got here. Not sure... well yeah. It was in '53. No, no, no. It was in '56 when I got the house. Or when I bought a house for myself. And then because it seemed then I was married when I bought a house there in 9719 Parkgate. We stayed there until we moved. When she moved down the street on Parkside. And then we moved right in the neighborhood here on Langston, right off Monticello and North Point. The kids all got grown and then my wife and I, we moved in the apartment where we are now.

Mark Souther [00:15:08] When you first bought in the Glenville area, on Parkgate, I understand that that area, it's right around Rockefeller Park...

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:15:17] Right.

Mark Souther [00:15:18] And some people have mentioned there being almost an understood, sort of color line, a racial barrier near the park at some point around that time. And yet, I know Hough was also transitioning pretty fast in the '50s.

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:15:35] Right.

Mark Souther [00:15:36] What would you say was the racial makeup right around where you were when you arrived on Parkgate?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:15:44] Well, I imagine on Parkgate, to be honest, as I recall, I think the racial makeup there was just... It was mostly Black at that point, but it was... That part, 'cause you know, it was close to East Boulevard, which is very good. I know (inaudible) he was a little kid there too, Jeffrey Johnson. He was in the same area. These are kids that went up to in politics. But you know, there was in that section, 97th Street and 98th and East Boulevard was always a pretty good section. I don't recall. I mean, it could have been, but I knew that at that time all the suburb areas were very very restricted and most of the realtors just didn't show this because they say they had to ask the owner if he would... Which was wrong, but that's the way it was done at that time. So that's just...

Mark Souther [00:16:54] So what do you attribute that most? Would you attribute it more to the banking practices or to the real estate industry? What – well actually they're all complicit at some level. What else would you...?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:17:10] Well, you know, here's what you had going. There would be a good bit in the real estate industry, but it also turned back to what the custom was. Like, for example, in Shaker Heights, they would say that I sold properties and also in the Shaker school. The Van Swerigens had in their bylaws that you had to get six signatures on either side of the street, you know, to move in. So most of the time, the customers in many areas were the same point but the local customs would be and they would just have been put in rather than see an even integration of people which it should be based upon, you know, character. Based upon their financial need and not based upon that kind. But it had been in and installed so much that, you know, like you see in Forest Hills. I mean, and throughout. And so the industry just picked up. And so then you had the title companies, which would not honor, like say in Shaker, that if the Van Sweringens didn't meet those requirements... or you didn't meet those requirements because of that law that they had passed, you didn't move in. They didn't care who you were, and most of the time, they would be Black. They say, no, I'm not going to sign for you to come in. I don't know your character, but if there was a White counterpart, they didn't have the same problem. So those problems existed for obvious reasons that they were just to separate and just, you know, to keep the parties out. And that was historically done. And when we were in Glenville and Hough areas, we go there, it was traditionally where the Black could not go anywhere else. But now, of course, it's different. And we have the financial situation to be able to go. But it was that way back in the '40s, '50s. I mean, well I'm gonna say it's the '50s, which I know about. In the '60s, it was completely different.

Mark Souther [00:19:31] You had your realty company. I know it had two locations I read and were in the city of Cleveland before you opened the one here in Cleveland Heights. Which one was the first office?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:19:44] It was on St. Clair. 10215 St. Clair Ave. was the first office. And it was there. That was a location that was even to see if you can get in was the general practice taking place. And I'm young and didn't have the knowledge. I mean, I knew I wanted to serve people, but it was easy. That I think it was a grateful thing I bought that office. I paid $26,000 for a gentleman there. And that seemed to be practical to get this spacious office. And then the next one was moved over in the Mount Pleasant area. And the thing that I did that I wanted so badly to have done, was me to see... 'cause I had met with Carl Stokes – he was the first Black mayor of Cleveland – and Dr. King, now he had a party and I was invited to it and I did personally talk with him and he gave me his idea of his dream and his idea. And I thought as a Black person/realtor, that I couldn't just sit back and just so – black, but I was equally a licensed body. And I was in an area which this time was more of an integrated area here, so might as well. And that was the idea. We did. It didn't. And I did it. I mean, I worked hard, but even my staff, many times they felt they were being punished because we didn't have the economic thing to go. But I still and I still know today that it's critically important that we all work as individuals. (inaudible) It has got to be more love in our country. I mean, locally, state-wise, country-wise, because it's so easy to love as to hate and truly as bad as all parties and all races. And it's also the good. So if you look just for the bad, you'll find the bad, you look for the good, you'll find the good. It's so much easier to look on both sides of the fence. This is all as human as human beings.

Mark Souther [00:22:30] When you were looking into opening the office here on North Taylor. What went into choosing a location and were there difficulties in establishing it from the start?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:22:45] Oh, yeah, there was... I had started back on Mayfield Road up here in Mayfield Heights. And I mean, we talking about a hard time. I mean, I would.. Some would think my brother just got his law degree and we started. I worked. I loved the work and I went down and we would look in the paper to lease, I think at that time to purchase. And many times, we would we go in and we just made the appointment to see the place and the realtor would say "we lost a key." An owner, anything in the world besides, I mean, he just dropped dead, decided not to. We had several places and this place, it was an Italian fellow and I won't forget it. And when he came in, he said, "I will lease it to you, but I will not guarantee your safety." And I'm young and I'm not thinking nothing of it. I had no idea it was gonna be a bomb. But he must have had a thought that it was going to happen. And, man, I'm telling you, that day, it was about 11 o'clock at night when I left the hospital. Ike had his operation and they had... because I wanted to leave early. My wife said, "no, it's your first son. Let's wait until he recovers and be able to see him." And we did. So, thank God, the night, the day before I was sitting in the office, same place in the office where the bomb went off.

Mark Souther [00:24:23] Let's back up for a second. I want to ask for clarification on one thing. You mentioned Mayfield Heights and with the situation that you mentioned before in which the person said, I can't guarantee or, I'll lease it to you, but I can't guarantee your safety. Where was that location? Was that...

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:24:43] That was at here. Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Mark Souther [00:24:44] But outside of Mayfield Heights, where else did you look?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:24:47] I kept on down at Mayfield, South Euclid, all the areas that were at that time... They will say like these areas when say 99% or even 100% White. And I knew then in order to be successful that I had to operate, same as any other broker in that area. So that was a point that I, as a licensed broker, could go anywhere and people could go anywhere. That was my intent. But those areas that they lost the key or when they saw me, they said somehow... They said everything but telling me that, "look, you're Black and we're not going to do this. We're not gonna let you have this place. They told me everything else. "It was just sold by somebody else." Those are the things that went forward before I got to here. So I came down here and this area was basically still, say about 80% White, maybe 90%. But I had no idea I was across from Forest Hills and I didn't know the restrictions at the time I moved in. I might've... I still would've have moved in because I be damned... But this gentleman, he was at a cleaner's and he knew or had a suspicion to know that something might happen. So he said, "I won't guarantee your safety." And, you know, that was the outcome of what happened there.

Mark Souther [00:26:20] When did you get the office originally, because I know the bombing occurred in February of '69. How long had you been here before that happened?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:26:31] I hadn't been here that long. Was it '69 the bombing took place?. Well, we came here... It didn't seem like it was that long from the time I was in here, but whatever time it came. You know, it's been '69. Maybe it was about... Well, yeah. It took place. I know the civil rights law and those things had not passed then. And it was the guy... I had sold... Louis Stokes, he went to Congress and he asked me to give him a call if I had any general problems. And I called him. And that's somehow when we got the FBI involved. And I talked to the...

Mark Souther [00:27:33] One second. (Loud air conditioner comes on) Let me give you... I'm sorry, let me get you to back up for a moment. (inaudible) I want to maybe get you to retrace the story of the day the bombing occurred. Tell me about your son having appendicitis and all of that. Can you walk me through it as though I hadn't heard it? Can you tell me the story about just like what happened in your words, as you remember it?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:28:17] Well, I mean, we were... He was complaining that he had a pain in his side. And I know when he did not want to go to school, he didn't want to go to school with the pain. Said the pain was pretty severe. And my wife and I discussed and we said, well, Ike doesn't just lie about things, so we better take him in. And we took him in to Cleveland Clinic. And they looked at him right away and they said, "look, this appendix could bust so he's got to be operated on." And they did it. I mean, it put him in and do the operation from right away. And naturally, he was our first son, we just stayed there, stay with him. And, you know, they, you know, when they finally operated on him, then, you know, it was about 5 o'clock in the afternoon, 5 or 6, as I recall it. But he had to be restored and, you know, and it took time for him to recuperate so we could be able to see him. And When he came up to his room, it was about 7 or 8 o'clock. We stayed with him until that time. And then I came out. It was... I remember it was about 11 o'clock at night. And they had a sign on the building. I mean, the building was easy. I saw it. It was all demolished that what had happened. And that's that was the case. It was bombed. I don't know. I guess we could find the time. But the time that I came to saw it, it was about 11 o'clock that night. And that was the event, from taking him into the house, taking him into the Cleveland Clinic. And deciding that his appendix must come out. So in other words, if they bust, We all know. Which they probably wouldn't have been. (inaudible) He had been possibly dead. I'm sitting in the office, as I would have been, either I would have been either dead or my body would be looking like Chinese checkers because the bomb was... The kind of bomb they had was just cutting up everything. So it just slice you. I mean, it was... I mean, you could see the way the furniture was all sliced up. Like somebody just took it and twisted on itself. So this probably happened there.

Mark Souther [00:30:52] Was the building itself... How badly damaged was the structure of the building itself?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:30:59] The internal part of the building was just that. I mean, I don't think the outside of the building was not-- I mean with the roof, that stuff, it was not seeming as damaged as I recall it. But the internal part was it was just a big explosion and the explosion was... If you'd been in there, you'd been cut up if not killed. That's what would happen to you. Yeah. So it was but no, I think the cost was ten thousand dollars to get things back as I recall. Ten or twelve thousand. And you know, that's, you know, a few years ago. So consequently the cost factors are much less than they would be been if the same things was done today.

Mark Souther [00:31:50] When once you found out what had happened, did you have any thought as to who might have done it or was it just so wide open?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:32:01] Well truthfully, no. I knew it was a hostile thing that was done. I seemed to have known that it was friction was very strong across the street, which I didn't know, and that was as far as sales. And they thought would have been that I'm being Black, that I would bring some Black people in Forest Hills, which would have been a no-no! At least at that time. That years then, of course, it's different today. But, you know, you're not going to bring... I mean, that was an unwritten law that I later found out that was the reason that say they just a thought. I mean, it was... That area was rough, obviously, not just because there were cases where there's one man, he was a doctor. He listed his house with me because not other people gave me a listing because they wanted to feel count that it should be an open market for everybody. And they spit on his kids, fighting his kids. Aye man, it was terrible. And he finally tell me. He said, "I wanted to do it. But I got to, you know, because I'm being threatened." He was worked at Huron Road Hospital. I mean, it was all so... It wasn't just me. They would go after whoever. I had another experience up here in South Euclid. I had a house, a lady after the bombing, some people gave me listings and I had with the idea that I would sell to the Black... And they people, he told me he was Italian. He said, "look, we want to buy the house." They bought it. So we just said, "look, yeah, anybody can buy it." But they got the money together, the neighborhood, and that house was sold to them. So I had experiences that they openly said they just wanted to buy that so that... They found the lady and I just said, "no, I'm a realtor with. But knowing that they were going to be selling it to black, but I would have sold it to Black if Black came along and qualified to buy it so. But they bought it. She was a Jewish woman and he was an Italian man. He said they set it up. And so we had a good experience. Another deal I had in Lyndhurst, but – yeah, it was Lyndhurst – and where this lady... She gave me a listing the same way. I sold this to a White man because I don't wanna... I don't want nobody to kill me. So I knew when I would just show houses to Blacks, there was so much pressure on me. They'd be watching me like and I could feel and this lady came along. She was Italian too, and honestly, she had the money. So I went out later on in the same Lyndhurst, which at that point I sold to a mixed couple there. It seemed like the person wasn't watching me as close then, because I guess at first that we sold. At that point there was no Black in Lyndhurst. That's the next suburb over here. So I put it, and in a sense, it's pretty rough. But I've been determined, you know, it's come to life you know, today.

Mark Souther [00:35:37] Were you the... Do you know if you were the first realtor to sell... to enable Black buyers to buy a home in any particular suburb, like in this case or in any other cases, or were they not the first?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:35:51] Well, Lyndhurst should be the closest. And they were not the first. But yeah it was a mixed couple. But yeah, well in that case, it would've been, yes. Lyndhurst. Lyndhurst at that point was... It was a mixed... It was a White and Black couple. I sold the first house I had listed. Then I had another listed in Lyndhurst at that point. So he would have been there. And they went on without any seemingly any problems in that vein because he... I didn't know of any problem. But that would have been the one that I would say that I did.

Mark Souther [00:36:29] Was that in... What year would that have been or in relation to the bombing, if you can't think of the year, how many years after the bombing?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:36:36] No, this was... All this was pretty early. It seems like this was in the '60s because... no, no. It was after the bombing, but it was right after the bombing, though. So because the bombings where people came, they... I got tremendous support from everybody. And then I got a lot of listings of people... And that's how I was... In other words, I wouldn't have got these listings. I got them and because they would have gone to people in the neighborhood. And yeah, it was right after the bombing. So I just went to work and start service to people and they told me the reason. I went and said, "look, I'm fair-minded. And I think what happened to you should not have happened. And we want to go ahead and see if we can--" in their own way, they was thinking they could rectify it by is to have a property they wanted to sell. So I was... was a broker in this case. Yeah.

Mark Souther [00:37:42] When the investigation was going on, I read in one Plain Dealer article, just a brief article mention of another realty company putting up a reward for information that would lead to an arrest. Do you recall anything about that agency? I can prompt you with the name of it if you want.

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:38:09] ...No.

Mark Souther [00:38:10] Villa? Villa Realty? Does that...

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:38:11] Oh, yeah, yeah,

Mark Souther [00:38:12] That was the one that I read.

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:38:15] Yeah, I don't. You're saying they would put up an award...?

Mark Souther [00:38:20] For information that would lead to the arrest of the perpetrator. (inaudible) dollar reward according to The Plain Dealer in 1969.

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:38:28] OK, no, I know. But I know usually time as a broker. So I think by and large, the whole communities were struck by the act because it was just... There was no reason for it. I mean, no more than it had to be a hate situation. And that's why when Louis Stokes who was the representative in Congress, which he said that the way they got the FBI involved because my civil rights was violated. So wasn't this a normal crime, if you just been there, many crimes, the FBI doesn't get involved in all of the crimes. So it had to be, you know, something that... But then they killed the young man that came out from the FBI. He said confidentially, we cannot prove this type of bomb is made by a little bakery in Little Italy. You know, I mean, I passed by there, mean I have no way of knowing, and yet I guess since the FBI has more knowledge of streets and he probably got him but -- "say we can't pinpoint it here, we don't have any witness yet, but like a lot of things go unsolved because of that."

Mark Souther [00:39:48] He recognized the way the bomb was constructed based on how the explosion?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:39:55] Yeah, yeah.

Mark Souther [00:39:56] He traced it? He knew enough about a particular bakery in Little Italy? Is that what?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:40:02] Yeah, yeah. This is how they... I mean yeah, well at that time... Well, yes, he definitely said that to me. Said this was traced to... They could not place the party right here. But from Little Italy, this was a bakery. It ain't but two bakeries there. I say, what, two or three? I think I'm going... I can go by there. I go by there and I've seen the bakery. I mean, I think he told me at that time it was 45 years ago and I remember but it seem at that time. But he didn't that, so he... This was a guy that came out to do door to door because that's the way they do in order to try to locate the party who done. And doing that, just like I'm talking to you, I talked to him and that's the knowledge that he given to me.

Mark Souther [00:41:04] Did... Was the crime ever solved?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:41:06] No, no, no. I mean well...

Mark Souther [00:41:09] Have you found any mention of it's been solved?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:41:12] No, no.

Mark Souther [00:41:15] And I want to ask also, prior to coming to the office here before we first bought the or leased the office, excuse me, there was no other trouble from anyone? Only that statement by the person that you couldn't guarantee your safety? But there was never...

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:41:39] No, no, not none that I know of. There was other trouble. There was trouble. People from the bomb, they gave me a listing and they did it out of the heart. But they got retaliated because they... by the neighbor, by someone, by the kid being spit at and being chastised in some way. So it was, it was many areas that came from them, but they would probably would not have given me a listing if the bomb had not taken place or the bomb had a positive thing, that they showed that we are some good people. A lot of good people in this world that disagreed with what took place.

Mark Souther [00:42:28] Did you have friends when you were looking for an office in the suburbs? Did you have other real estate agent friends who were trying to do it at the same time, or were you really the first one to really pursue it?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:42:42] Oh, yeah. Yeah, I think I'd be the first one. I mean, most people even we just do our own little nest. My thought had always been to branch out. I mean, it just... I mean, that was only way I think. And I think that way today. I always thought people are people and, you know, God made us all. I mean, we come... We have different backgrounds, different cultures, but by and large, and I... We go to the system and see the Black here and White... I mean no. That shouldn't be and the more that we can be together, the better the system, the better the country, better everything else. Cause you have to have communication. And with communication, you can do that with husband and wife. You do it with your kids, and you have certainly do it with people. You have to do it with your churches. Communication is... I mean, even I see what happens in Washington today. And I once I know, you cannot eventually... It has to be communication because you at least have to know what's on the other side in order to make some either compromise or some work together.

Mark Souther [00:44:13] You ended up moving to Cleveland Heights, you said, but this was, I assume, after the bombing? As you were still, I think still on Parkside?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:44:21] Yeah, right. You're right. Yeah, this is maybe a year or so after. Well, the kids wanted the truth and we want to... The kids were in grade school then. And we wanted a little better system for them. So we thought it would be good to move. I think that's why we moved at that point. It went ten months. I don't think it connected with the bombing. We just said the wife and the family involved. And I thought that her and us, we could move and we got a good buy on the property there and a good buy on the property that we had in Parkside. So. And the move was made.

Mark Souther [00:45:09] So the kids are really little when you were...?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:45:11] Oh, yeah, yeah, whatever--

Mark Souther [00:45:13] Not yet school age?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:45:16] No, I see. I know Ike was... He's always the oldest child and it seems Ivan probably wouldn't have been there, but I know my baby would not have been. They would have been in the high school, I mean, which is a great school. And so they've probably been 5 or 6 years of age when we moved up here. Cause I do remember my daughter and my son going to the grade school, which is right up the street from where we moved to.

Mark Souther [00:46:00] I'm almost done, but I wanted to with I think we've covered that story pretty well unless you have other things you think we should add? I wanted to ask of you a few other questions unrelated to the real estate business? Were there any other things related to the real estate business that you'd like to share? That I haven't asked you about?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:46:18] Yes. Could I --

Mark Souther [00:46:20] Pause?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:46:20] Yeah.

Mark Souther [00:46:20] Yes. Oh sure. [The recording was paused momentarily because Mr. Haggins wished to share information off the record before resuming.]

Mark Souther [00:46:25] Yeah. I wanted to go back to your grandfather, Isaac, Sr. Get you to tell me about his legacy in New Bern in your own words?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:46:37] Well, I mean, his legacy is very, very good. He died in 1915, but before he died, he was a banker. He was a real estate broker, and he was accomplished in real estate by having a city named Smithtown. And there was over 300 homes that were brought to him that he had leased out to recipricants at that point. And he did. There was a big fire there which did demolish most of them down there. And which most of them were Black, which was this... They had to be relocated at that point. But he was a very giving man, very powerful. And he was in legislation at that time. One of the first Black to win in North Carolina. So unfortunate he left here in 1915. But because of his accomplishments that he's done, he is still being honored today. He was honored in February Black History Month as one of the promises that is given a lot to the world. And he is and was born back into slavery. So he said that he had come out. And naturally, I am very, very proud of him. Of course.

Mark Souther [00:48:07] Did this fire in New Bern, this was in, says 1922?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:48:13] Yeah.

Mark Souther [00:48:14] Was Smithtown built? Is this right in the town of New Bern?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:48:19] Yes, it is. It's right in New Bern. He was in Smithtown. Smithtown was named after him. And of course, it was after his passing. But that part was there when he was alive and it just burned. And it was... But they're still on it because this has been... It has been, I mean, the area has been redone, recuperated in there. So he... His legacy still goes on and that what he has accomplished and they will go on forever.

Mark Souther [00:49:04] So I see now I mixed it up. I must've read this: the fire happened well after and it happened after he died. So he is it correct to say then that he built a neighborhood that was predominantly for African-Americans, maybe exclusively or African-Americans?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:49:24] Yes, I would definitely say at that time. I would just be projection-wise looking at it. But we could see today, in 1915 and before it was there existing. See he died in 1915. So it was there when they put in his death. The fire took place seven years after his death. Yes, so no. The time was there. And it was named just like you have a town. It was such a strong institution that he was able to get a legal aspect of the city. Which they're saying is honored today. It's still evident in Smithtown. It's still there in his honor and it's a hundred years later! I mean that not 100, 98 years, that's practically a hundred. That really has to be something that we certainly would all be very, very, very proud of. And it certainly is a part of being a Black history to say that we can go back and really with honors the achievement and knowing that if this type of thing was done today, that he would be up there with the same as Obama or King. That they all are fighting to help people to something bigger than themselves. And that's what's important in life. That we all... we're all going to leave here. But a legacy should be as to who did we help? Who did we pull up on the way? And what was the things that we give to in our life there? That's critically important there.

Mark Souther [00:51:08] And I wanted to ask you just a couple more questions before we close. Shift gears a little bit to the Glenville area. Also, the Euclid–East 105th and the so-called Gold Coast. Do you have many recollections of businesses in that area that either you spent time or that you could describe?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:51:35] In Glenville area?

Mark Souther [00:51:37] Well either Glenville or the so-called Gold Coast?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:51:44] To be honest with you, I know we had the Glenville development which was promoted to promote business, generally, cause say Black in that area would been promotion of them. And I knew there were businesses that was established and because of them and have moved forward here. But I don't know, say specific, I know by then that many years. I know that you had the (inaudible) when they did the Glenville development where my office was at 10215 St Clair. They put the development and it's still there. They have the stores. They have the McDonald's, you know. So you had a general uplift for the area with new developments coming in there. So that was done. (inaudible).

Mark Souther [00:52:52] You reminded me of something I really wanted to ask that I haven't asked anybody else. Much earlier than that, you would have been in Glenville at the time. What can you tell me about Martin Luther King Plaza? And that was in Hough, of course.

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:53:07] Yes.

Mark Souther [00:53:08] Can you tell me anything about that?

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:53:10] Well, I know it was developed in honor of him and it was the plaza. I mean, it's ongoing plaza. And I've been in there several times to the market itself there. So I don't have itself... So yeah, I know exactly where it is at. And it's like you know, like the development. I say one positive thing that's been up along with that is been Hough itself because what you did, you had a chance and that was done to us. The lady she's dead now. The councilwoman, Fanny Lewis. Yes. You had anywhere from 300 thousand dollar homes to a million dollar houses. And people moved back from the suburbs to savor to call their little homes she had there. Yeah, they're and they're still there. So that they said that they would be a development that I mean, because I go to them and I go with other people to them and they've been amazed as the quality of the other homes and the upkeep. That is... And that's, you know, right off from the Hough. I mean, which is the marketplace that is named after Dr. King is, you know, right in that same area there. But I think that is really showing houses that would definitely would be of the poor and the really, the lower class, that you have in that sense, how people could move to and be together and people could be affluent. That they could live anywhere. In fact, I know several people that moved back from the suburbs to back into the Hough area because they were... They knew that number one, they get a quality home and their price of being built was even less than they would built if they went in suburbs in their taxes. So if you make the conditions right, they can be good for you anywhere there. But that would be something that I've noted and which is certainly has been uplifting for the city and for the areas of there.

Mark Souther [00:55:26] OK, I'll conclude now, unless there's anything you'd like to add. It's getting rather warm in here.

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:55:34] It is.

Mark Souther [00:55:34] We should...

Isaac Haggins Sr. [00:55:43] The only thing that I would like to – and I think we've covered – is just to say that in summation and we talk said all that. We... First of all, I have to thank you for being here with me, allowing me to express stuff. The key can be here that is all we got of our color. Having a market that is open. I mean, in real estate, that's very important because that's a foundation of us as people. And just look upon it immorally just confidentially that you look at people, and when that's done without prejudice and really feel... And I think what we've done here so you can open eyes to people, see, when that's done, it can have a very positive effect on all of us. So thank you again, you know, for the interview.

Mark Souther [00:56:54] Thank you. We'll conclude here.
Cite This Page: “Isaac Haggins Sr. Interview, 6 August 2013,” Cleveland Voices, accessed September 23, 2021, https://clevelandvoices.org/items/show/2378.
Source Record: engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/crohc000/430