Collection Title: Jackson Purchase Oral History Project – Schools and Education
Series Number: OH252
Interviewee: Harriford, Robert
Interviewer: Bates, Mary
Date interviewed: October 26, 1979
Processed by: O’Daniel, Hannah
Date processed: February 27, 2014
Description: 1 sound disc (38 minutes)
Abstract: Robert Harriford begins the interview with background information on his parents, siblings and early childhood. He mentioned how his family coped during the Great Depression by surviving off food they grew as farmers. He discussed his time at West Kentucky Vocational School in Paducah, Kentucky during the late 1940s and early 1950s and how the training he received in automobile mechanics was useful in his future printing business. He also spoke about how he worked his way through West Kentucky Vocational School as a farmer for a Paducah couple and how their connections enabled him to get a job at Magnavox. He recounted the process of how he entered into the printing business, first by joining an architectural firm and co-starting a business with a man that he met through the firm and ultimately buying out his co-owner to establish his own business, Harriford Reproductions of Paducah. He discussed the state of African American businesses in Paducah, stating that the number of African American owned businesses were declining. He feels it is important for African Americans to continue to strive to be involved with local Board of Educations to help shape education. He mentions his experiences as an administrator during the statewide teacher strikes in Kentucky. He details his views on a variety of controversial issues and changes in education, including the integration of middle schools in Paducah, quota or percentage systems for hiring teachers of various races, raising the pay scale for African Americans in Paducah, and differential grading and testing for minorities. He finished the interview by acknowledging the people in his life who influenced his success.
Biographical / Historical note: Robert L. Harriford was born in Nobob, Barren County, Kentucky on June 28, 1927. His parents, Willie and Grace Harriford, were tenant farmers in Metcalfe County, Kentucky during his elementary school years. He moved to Paducah and enrolled in West Kentucky Vocational School on April 5, 1949. He was the owner and operator of Harriford Reproductions, a printing business, in Paducah. On November 19, 1969, he was appointed to the Paducah Board of Education, serving as the Board's first African American. He was appointed to the Kentucky School Board Association Executive Board of Directors after serving on the Paducah Board of Education for two years. He died on July 1, 2009 at the age of 82.
General information: No user access to original recordings. Use audio user copies, digital derivatives, transcripts, and/or tape indexes. This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code). Permission for reproduction must be requested from Murray State University.