RAYMOND: Larry, tell us where you're from, about yourself.
LARRY DAVES: Okay, well, I was born in Arizona, Superior, Arizona. My father worked for the Magna Copper Company, underground mines, semi-precious metal
mines in Superior.
DAVES: We lived there until I was about six years old. I had three siblings, two brothers and one sister. My parents split up when we were—when I was about
six years old or whatever.
DAVES: So all of us kids got farmed out to different relatives. I lived with an uncle and aunt in Friona, Texas for, I want to say, about eight months—eight
or nine months. I think I was in second grade at the time.
DAVES: Then my parents decided to try to work things out so they moved to Cypress, Colorado, which was adjacent, or was at that time, adjacent to
DAVES: And my dad and Uncle George worked in the copper—coalmines along Highway 12 up there.
DAVES: And we lived up there for about four years and then my parents split up again and my mother picked all of us kids up and put us on a train and we went
to a little place—it wasn't Amarillo, but it was close to Amarillo.
DAVES: My mother had gotten a job working for Pantex, so we lived in these old barracks out there and they bused us to school. It's kind of blurry.
DAVES: I just remember we did that—we lived like that for what seems like some months.
DAVES: And then my mother moved in—got us a little apartment in—no a little house, a very bitty place, very, very small, unbelievably small and it wasn't an
apartment. It was a little itty, bitty bitty house in Amarillo.
DAVES: We lived there for about a year or so and then we moved over to some apartments on Northeast 8th Street, which is a major highway.
DAVES: It was right across from a produce stand, Joe Garza's Produce Market. And that was important because my brothers and I started going to work
for—unloading produce trucks.
DAVES: So I started when I was pretty young doing that, and I'd previously helped my stepfather out because my mother had re-.married after several years out
there in Amarillo, and my stepfather was a produce man.
DAVES: I did some work for him but then they ended up having trouble. My stepfather and mother,
DAVES: so my brothers and I went to work for Joe doing spot produce stands and unloading these big watermelon trucks, tomato trucks, potato—that kind of
DAVES: I think we moved to another house about the time I started junior high school up in northeast Amarillo.
DAVES: I worked most of the summers in the produce business, operating little stands for different produce people, and I'd get up— I didn't have a license,
so they'd drive a produce truck for me, park me in the morning, and then I'd sit there all day and sell stuff and then they'd come pick me up.
DAVES: I did that the entire time I was in— from junior high school even through most of high school. That's how I earned my money back then.
DAVES: I went to junior high school at Travis Junior High and then went to high school at Palo Duro. I got involved in playing football. I played football; I
was a huge guy back then. I was over six feet tall when I started seventh grade.
DAVES: So I didn't have much choice but to become a football player. I enjoyed it. I loved it.
DAVES: I was first team, played offense and defense, but got busted up pretty bad in the process. Broke my back. Broke my nose. Ruined my shoulders.
DAVES: But it was fun. I was a kid and we had a great time. And we had a pretty good football time all the way through junior high and early high
DAVES: And my mother continued to work. She was a clerk typist making very little money and trying to raise all of us kids. It was very difficult for
DAVES: I think later on, when I was in law school and trying to make a decision where I was going to go work, I'd been planning on going back to Alaska.
DAVES: I'd worked in Alaska while I was in college and the first year of law school. I'd gotten my Alaskan driver's license. I was really wanting to go up
there and start a brand new world. Alaska was the last frontier.
DAVES: And actually once I had decided to go into law, and I decided to go into law while I was in college, really reading about these legal aid attorneys
from California Rural Legal Aid and all the things they were doing and sort of transforming California.
DAVES: So I decided to go ahead and apply for law school. It had been a very difficult decision for me, but at any rate I decided to do it, ended up getting
into law school,
DAVES: but even before going to law school, I started going and working in Alaska during the summers. That's how I made my money so I could go to
DAVES: My poor mother had absolutely no money. She sent me ten dollars the whole time I was in college. But I had a scholarship to go to college so I got to
go to school.
DAVES: I worked in work-study, and I had small student loans and things. But I had a great university—Washington University—very good for a lot of students
DAVES: That was a period of time when they really tried to open up. Very generous, and let us have a decent, good education.
DAVES: But at any rate, because my mother had such a difficult time making it, trying to take care of us kids and, in fact, it was so hard, she couldn't
really take care of all of us, she had to send my sister off to live with her grandmother and just tried to raise us boys on her own.
DAVES: It was extremely difficult. We lived in pretty serious poverty, and because of the neighborhoods we lived in, my brother Tommy, who was sort of a
rowdy fella—he was a little younger than me but he was a toughie.
DAVES: I always had just a different—I don't know. I always did well in school, played football. I was the baseball team manager. My whole life was either at
work, selling produce or in school. That's how I made my life.
DAVES: But my brother Tommy had a different personality. He was very tough. He loved to fight, and he couldn't—when you're big, you've got a problem because
everybody wants to fight you.
DAVES: I wasn't interested in fighting people and I didn't really need to because I was getting respect other ways: by making good grades, by being a
DAVES: So I didn't have to but my brother Tommy, he didn't— for some reason, he didn't get respect any other way so he had to kind of prove himself
practically every day.
DAVES: So that got him into gangs. That got him into continual trouble. And my brother Charlie, who was younger than Tommy, looked up to Tommy. And so they
both got in trouble. They kept getting in trouble.
DAVES: And so we'd have law enforcement people coming to the house all the time, looking for my brothers, taking them in for this, taking them in for
DAVES: I guess that's one of the reasons when I got to East Texas, issues like search and seizures were big things to me because we really had to deal with
law enforcement a lot in Amarillo I felt like.
DAVES: But these gangs were mean. There's no question.
DAVES: Back then— you've all seen the television shows—and even though it was a different world, it wasn't a drug—gangs at that time were not really
organized for purposes of drugs.
DAVES: They were organized for purposes of violence and just to see who ran this and that. It was a respect issue, as far as I'm concerned. But they were
genuine gangs and they were mean—they were mean.
DAVES: And they were all run by kids who had superb training in it. They had all gone to Gatesville, Mountain View and those other juvenile prisons.
DAVES: They came back tough as tough could be, and just as vicious as vicious could be.
DAVES: It's those little gangsters, once they end up getting into a little bit of trouble, going over to Gatesville, Mountain View and tormented the way they
were at these juvenile prisons, would come back and they would be the natural leaders, and everybody would look up to them.
DAVES: And that's the unfortunate situation that my brothers found themselves in too.
DAVES: They ended up getting into serious enough trouble that they ended up, right before my senior year, getting convicted and getting sent away for two
DAVES: Tommy got out by agreeing to go to Viet Nam, and Charlie was too young when they got at him; he was fourteen or fifteen. And so he went back.
DAVES: By then my mother had moved to Childress and he went back and went back to school for a while, a year or two.
DAVES: And Tommy, by that point, had already joined the Army and was in Viet Nam. He did a couple of tours over there.
DAVES: But at any rate, I spent all of my time, like I said, either in school or working, and then that senior year, my family just got completely wiped
DAVES: Both my brothers sent off, my sister living with my grandmother, my poor mother suffered a mental breakdown and she was in a mental hospital by my
DAVES: So I ended up living by myself there as a senior and thank goodness didn't get in any trouble. But again, my life didn't really change that much.
DAVES: I still just did my work on the weekends and still went to school. I was there at seven o'clock in the morning, and because I made good grades, all of
the football players— a lot of them depended on me to pass also.
DAVES: So I would help them with their homework, or teach them what they needed to learn in order to pass these tests and things like that. And that was my
life; that was just my life.
DAVES: And I was lucky. I got an offer to—I had a guidance counselor who helped me, talked me into applying for college. I was offered a scholarship to
Washington University and at Tulane, and a place called Case Institute.
DAVES: At that time I was going to be an engineer. So I applied to schools, engineering schools, and ended up getting a pretty good scholarship,
DAVES: and that summer I went off to Pampa and ran a food market in Pampa and made enough money to get up to college, which I did.
DAVES: Once I finished college, I decided to get back to Texas and go to law school in Texas, so I applied to go to the University of Texas law school down
in Austin. And that's what happened.
In Video 1, Larry Daves describes how he and small group of recent University of Texas Law School students first went to Nacogdoches in the early 1970s to assist voter registration efforts in Black communities; the virulent anti-Black racism and poor material conditions the students observed in East Texas; how they started a legal services office; effects of single-member districting; and his first criminal trial. He also describes his current work with the Piñon Canyon Expansion Opposition Coalition as it resists U.S. Army plans to turn much of Southeastern Colorado into a training area for a ground war against China. In Video 2 and the first part of Video 3 he recounts the capital murder trial of Herman and Thurman Davis. In Video 3, Mr. Daves describes his successful representation of undocumented immigrant children barred by Texas statute from attending public school, a case that he filed in federal court under Judge William Wayne Justice, and that ultimately reached the U.S. Supreme Court as Plyler v. Doe. Video 3 also describes Daves' unsuccessful representation of Mexican American women workers who lost their jobs and organized as Fuerza Unida when Levi's closed its San Antonio plant. Video 4 concerns Daves' upbringing in New Mexico and the Texas Panhandle, including high school in Amarillo, his family's early encounters with law enforcement and juvenile incarceration, and finding his way to Washington University and then U.T. Law School.
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Larry DavesRole: Narrator
Texas After Violence ProjectRole: Collaborator
Virginia RaymondRole: Interviewer
Gabriel SolisRole: Videographer
Jorge RenaudRole: Transcriber
Sabina Hinz-FoleyRole: Proofreader
Texas After Violence Project
University of Texas Libraries
North America--United States--Texas
North America--United States--Texas--Austin
Type of Resource:
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