Dr. Carl Lauter, July 7th, 2015


Dr. Carl Lauter, July 7th, 2015


Detroit Receiving Hospital—Detroit—Michigan,
1967 riot—Detroit—Michigan


In this interview, Dr. Lauter describes working at Detroit Receiving Hospital in July 1967 and taking care of patients that were injured in the civil disturbance, some of whom were under arrest, and being followed on his rounds by a military detail. He also discusses the changes that occurred in Detroit following the unrest.


Narrator/Interviewee's Name

Carl Lauter

Brief Biography

Dr. Carl Lauter was born December 30, 1939 and grew up in Detroit, MI where he lived and worked during the 1967 disturbance. Dr. Lauter worked at Detroit Receiving Hospital in 1967, and after being in the Air Force for two years, returned to Michigan to work at Beaumont Hospital. He currently lives in West Bloomfield, MI.

Interviewer's Name

Noah Levinson
Lillian Wilson

Interview Place

Royal Oak



Interview Length



Devon Pawloski

Transcription Date




NL: Today is July 7, 2015. This is the interview of Dr. Carl Lauter by Noah Levinson. We are at the Medical Office Building in Royal Oak, Michigan on the Beaumont Hospital campus, accompanied by Lily Wilson and Thea Lockard and this interview is for the Detroit Historical Society and the Detroit 1967 Oral History Project. Dr. Lauter, could you first tell me when and where you were born?

CL: I was born in Detroit, Michigan, December 30, 1939 at the original Providence Hospital, which was on West Grand Boulevard at that time.

NL: And where did you live growing up?

CL: When I was just a little baby, first born, family lived in an apartment on a street called Pingree. Pingree was near Twelfth Street. Twelfth Street is now known as Rosa Parks Boulevard. And when I was about a year or two old, my family moved into an up-and-down flat on Gladstone. And Gladstone was also between, which was only a block over from Pingree, between Twelfth and Fourteenth street. And I lived there until I was nine years of age, when the family moved to an area known as the Dexter-Davison neighborhood. And I lived on the street Burlingame. 3012 Burlingame. That was between Lawton and Wildemere, and a block and a half on either end was Linwood to the East and Dexter to the West. And I lived there most of my childhood and young adult life and my mother and my younger brother were actually living there still in 1967.

NL: Could you tell me where you were living and what you were doing in 1967?

CL: In 1967 I was a second-year internal medicine resident, that is a training physician learning to be an internal medicine physician, and I was at Detroit Receiving Hospital, which was the main teaching hospital of the Wayne State University Medical School.

NL: And where exactly was Receiving Hospital?

CL: Receiving Hospital at that time was in the city in the downtown area, not where it is now in the Medical Campus area, and it was basically in Greektown. It was right across the street from what was originally the main police station, and I wish I could remember the street address. I think the main address was a Saint Antoine address, and it was right on, just to the west of the Chrysler Freeway Service Drive.

NL: Can you tell me where you were and how you first
remember hearing about turbulence and civil unrest in the city in ’67?

CL: Yeah. Well, maybe a little background. I had started my residency in July of ’66, so I was technically done with that second year in June, but I was slated to join the Air Force. There was an obligatory draft, including doctors’ draft and I had joined a program called the Berry Plan where you get to choose your branch of service and defer until you finish some of your training, but I was called up to start duty sometime in early September. So I had asked my chief of the department, Dr. Richard Bing at that time, since I didn’t know what to do between June 30 and September, I asked if I could keep working as a third-year resident even though he knew I couldn’t finish the year for the next couple of months and he said yes, so I was in the very beginnings of a third year internal medicine residency. I’d finished a second year and I shouldn’t have been there anymore, I should’ve been somewhere else, but I was working at the hospital. I was off on the weekend that the riots started. I was off duty, and it was a Sunday morning that I first found out that there was something going on in the downtown area. I actually had been driving my mother grocery shopping. And since I usually got bored sitting around inside the market, so I was sitting in my car listening to the Beatles music and my mother was in the market. And I listened to the news and it described that some rioting was going on in the city of Detroit they said something about, I don’t remember the exact details, but there had been a police raid on a blind pig, that when they tried to arrest people, then a crowd gathered and then there was civil unrest, and shooting and fighting and throwing things, and by ten or eleven in the morning when I heard about it, it was quite a bit of problem going on in the city. So I took my mother home and when I was at the house I called Receiving and talked to some of my friends or colleagues that were working and I said “What’s going on?” And they said, “Pretty hectic.” And I said, “You need any help?” And he said, “Absolutely.” And I said okay. But they said, “But don’t drive your car, it’s hard to drive through some of this, it might not be that safe.” So I said, “How am I gonna get there?” Not gonna take the bus, it sounded worse. So they said, “Try and see if the police will bring you.” So I called the police and the police said, “We know you’re probably needed, Doctor, but we really are too busy to do this.” And they suggested that I call a black cab company. Now you have to understand that I didn’t know there was such a thing as a white cab company and a black cab company. But there apparently were two black-owned cab companies in the city at that time and the police gave me the numbers, they knew who they were, and I called and they said yeah they’ll come and get me, and they came to my house to pick me up. At that time, now I’m more grey than blonde, but I was blonde and very fair-skinned, and I walked out of my door and got into the cab and the cab driver was a really wonderful African-American gentleman and as we’re driving toward Chrysler Freeway to get on the freeway, I could see him looking at me, and he was starting to get nervous. And he said, “Doctor, it wouldn’t hurt your feelings, would it, if I asked you to scrunch down in the back seat?” Those were his exact words. And I said, “No, no problem.” He was afraid we might be a target. So we headed down the easiest way at that time from where I was living, which was in that Dexter-Davison neighborhood. So normally you would go down Chicago Boulevard where there’s an entrance onto the John C. Lodge or US-10 and then we ended up on the Chrysler. I think he took the Davison over and we ended up on the Chrysler, somehow. Somehow we got across to the Chrysler. And we’re driving down the Chrysler and it’s dawning on me that things are happening. You can hear a lot of gunshot wounds, gunshot noise, you can see fires already and that was just Sunday afternoon. And when we get the exit to get off into Greektown area where Receiving Hospital was Lafayette exit, which is still there, and we couldn’t exit the freeway onto Lafayette because there was a roadblock set up there by the police. So they wanted to know who we were, and [I] said “Doctor, going to the hospital.” And they let us through. When we got to the top of the ramp there was another checkpoint or roadblock and there were already state police there. And same thing, we had to say who we were, and they let us through. And then the cab driver dropped me off at the front door of the hospital, and he went on his way. I had the foresight, I guess, to realize that I might not be leaving in a while, so I had packed a small suitcase with shaving equipment and extra underwear and some shirts and so on. And it turned out to be a good thing that I did that because I was stuck there for almost seven days. At first I didn’t have a car, I couldn’t get out of there, and most people felt it was not a good idea to drive in the city of Detroit at that time, especially if you were white, you might be a target of snipers or things like that. So I ended up spending the week there at the hospital, there were a number of doctors there working really hard. Most of the activities, as you could imagine, were surgical rather than medical. There were gunshot injuries and knife wounds. I can say that after this all finished and I did go into the Air Force, I was in the Air Force for two years and I never saw anything in the Air Force two years like I saw in that one week at Receiving Hospital as far as those types of injuries. I’m a medical doctor so I wouldn’t normally see the trauma type of things, that surgeons were taking care of, but we were all chipping in to take care of that. The hospital, which I think at that time was much bigger and was probably 400 or 500 beds, basically by the time the week went on, every single patient almost in the hospital was a prisoner. You know, there was so much civil unrest and lawlessness, not just people shooting other people or trying to hurt other people, but all of the looting, and so a large number of people were arrested. Police had no place to put them, so if they had any injuries they obviously went to different hospitals and Receiving was the main hospital. But the Detroit Street Railway (DSR) Busses were parked all over the downtown area mostly surrounding the police station which was across the street from the hospital, and there must have been twenty or thirty of those busses filled with prisoners because the jails were totally filled. And so they would have to live in the bus and they would only get out of there to stretch or to go to the restroom and other than that they were in the bus for several days before they were able to process them all when things settled down. Well I think as you might know from reading the history or you’ve been going through all this, the police and the state police could not handle it and then the Governor, I’m trying to remember who it was at the time--

NL: Romney                                                          

CL: Romney, mobilized the National Guard on about the second day and then Lyndon Johnson, a day or two later, sent in the soldiers. So the city was under full martial law and by the third or fourth days when I would make my rounds going patient to patient to see how things were going, my typical doctor rounds, I was going around on rounds with four soldiers with me, dressed in full uniform—82nd Airborne—full dress uniform, carbine on their back helmet, that’s how I made rounds every day for the last three or four days of that week. And there were soldiers all over the city and my mom told me at her house, that was in that Dexter area, that one block over on Collingwood, there was a synagogue on the corner at that time called B’Nai Moshe, which is now out in West Bloomfield somewhere, and there was a tank, the military had a tank there to use to keep peace in that area and there were troops everywhere trying to maintain order. Back at the hospital, as you could imagine, mostly they were trauma—knife and gun, or people hit on the head with different things—but the medical patients that I was mostly involved with would be people like diabetics, who would run out of insulin and they couldn’t get to the drugstore because everything was closed. So they would come in, the police would have to bring them in because of that problem. We also had injured police and injured firemen, who were being shot at by snipers. The most amazing one that I was not in the emergency room when this gentleman came in but everybody was called down [because they] couldn’t believe this, was a fireman was brought into the emergency room, he had been shot right between the eyes. The entry wound was here and there was an exit wound here and he was absolutely normal. The bullet had apparently ricocheted inside around his skull, or the calvarium, and had not hurt him. It was like a miracle. So that was like one of these crazy stories that you hear. Wayne also ran the Veterans’ Hospital, which now is downtown, of course, in the Medical Center, but at that time was in Allen Park, and some of the surgeons were going back and forth so they were riding down I-94, and that was a disaster. One of the surgeons when he arrived said, “I’m not going again.” Because he said he heard a gunshot wound and a bullet went through his car. So people didn’t want to leave anymore, no matter what they were afraid. So this was the kind of activity that was going on at the hospital. At night we would sleep in the resident on-call room, so Receiving Hospital  was just a little on the east side of the downtown so we were just a couple of blocks off of Gratiot. You could look from the eighth floor where the resident sleeping quarters were, where we would go at night and was dark at night and if you looked down Gratiot, as far as the eye could see, both sides of the street were on fire. There was fire all the way down, you couldn’t see anything but flames and we couldn’t even sleep because it was so bright, it was like daytime out at night because of the bright lights from the fire. And finally, when things calmed down, one of the other doctors who had been trapped there earlier, so his car was there, his name was, I guess I shouldn’t use his name, Felix Liddell, he was a resident with me, he was leaving and he drove me home. Felix went on to practice, and I think he might still be practicing if he hasn’t retired, he became a lung specialist later. None of us were specialists in anything, we were in training. When I got home I was still surprised to find that even in our neighborhood, there were still some issues. My mom had told me that, when I would call her on the phone, and for awhile you couldn’t call on the phone either because the phones were down, and we didn’t have cell phones in those days, and she told me that my mom and younger brother were sleeping on the ground floor or in the basement because they were afraid of bullets, turned out none came into our house luckily, but they were afraid of that, or they were sleeping under their beds, you know. Even after I got home, the power was out in a lot of areas and I was watching out my window, like the second day that I was able to get home and the Detroit Edison crew came to fix the electric system and they came and it was a convoy—four Jeeps with four soldiers in each Jeep, two in the front, two Jeeps in the back and then the Detroit Edison truck. The people from the Jeeps, the soldiers, would fan out and basically control the neighborhood, so that then the Edison people could safely climb up the poles and do their work. They were afraid to go out, because they were afraid someone might try to take a pot shot at them. So it was that type of a fearful environment. Now my father-in-law, who I didn’t know at the time, was a family practice doctor downtown in the city of Detroit, his name is Dr. George Mogill. He’s still alive, he’s going to be 98 at the end of July. He had an office in the inner city and he had a lot of African-American patients and he had a lot of suburban patients, he had a typical practice of that era for many people who had offices in downtown. His office was saved, or spared, from destruction because some of his black patients actually parked themselves in front of his office with a shotgun and wouldn’t let anybody loot it or break in. He was able to actually go down a few times, I thought later this is just insanity, and when things settled down he was able to go back and see that his office was in good shape. So that was the story and then, of course, I finished up that month for a few more days and I headed to the Air Force, and I spent the rest of ’67 in a place called Rantoul, Illinois. When I got my orders I thought that is was Rangoon or something, I’d never heard of Rantoul, Illinois. Turns out it wasn’t in Myanmar or Burma, it was right here in Central Illinois, surrounded by cornfields. So I spent two years in a place called Chanute Air Force Base. C-h-a-n-u-t-e. Which has since been one of the air force bases that has been closed by our government, cost-cutting. But I spent two years there, and as I said I didn’t need to go to Vietnam or Thailand, the only war injuries I saw were people who were well enough to be air evacuated from Vietnam, which we saw them within sometimes 48 hours—amazing—so I saw war injuries but nothing like the type of thing I saw in the city of Detroit during that seven days.

NL: I have a couple more questions especially about your time in the hospital during the riots.

CL: Sure, oh yeah.

NL: Are there any other specific injuries or treatments where you provided the medical or surgical care that you care to share?

CL: Sure, well we all had to help out with minor suturing even though generally internal medicine doctors don’t do that stuff. You know, so people had cuts and bruises, so we would take turns because people in the emergency room were exhausted and they needed a break. We all went down and helped with cuts that people needed sewed up and so on, we all did that. I didn’t deal with digging out bullets, I had no idea what to do, and things like that but, mostly medical treatment. We were treating pneumonia, heart attacks, diabetics, so things that were just routine but they were precipitated or aggravated by the fact that there was no way they could get healthcare anywhere else. They had to go to a major hospital, there were no doctors’ offices to go to. There was no such thing as walk-in clinics in those days anyway, you know like we have urgent care today. And so you had to go to a hospital if you ever had anything wrong with you, and many went to Receiving, which was the hospital of last resort anyway.

NL: What do you remember about the collective mentality of the residents and the doctors of staff there, as compared to any other time you went to Receiving?

CL: Interestingly enough, it was mostly upbeat. And I think that there’s a certain type of nervous energy and adrenaline that you work on when you’re not getting a lot of sleep and you’re very busy and you’re not really thinking too much about what’s going on, you’re just doing stuff that  you need to do. There wasn’t a lot of time, maybe at night, we would think about it, but we didn’t even know the big picture that was going on outside of where we were locked in to this sort of protected environment. We were very safe, we had soldiers and military around us, as long as we didn’t go outside, it was like a fortress. So we were very secure and we were just doing our medical work and we didn’t even know ourselves the magnitude of what was going on outside. I’d get a little inkling when I talked to my mother on the phone or if we listened to the radio, but we didn’t really know until we went home and we started to really see the details of what had been going on. So at night when we were going to bed, or sitting up for a while and looking at those fires on Gratiot, is when we would say, “I can’t believe this, I can’t believe this.” You know that type of amazing, how can this be happening. Now the funny thing is, is it brought back some memories to me because my father was no longer alive, my mom was a widow at this point, but when my father was alive, when I was a youngster, he had told stories about a previous riot in Detroit that took place in the forties. I don’t know exactly what year it was.

NL: ‘43

CL: ’43. And then when he told me the whole story about it because he used to work in the city, so he was very much about them at that time and he said it started with some type of melee on Belle Isle, actually. And it exploded into the city and the city was also under martial law, and soldiers had to be brought in for a period of time, but I don’t think there were the deaths, there were forty people eventually who were dead, one way or another from the Detroit riots in ’67. I don’t think they had that type of situation earlier, people didn’t have guns in those days either, probably. So this was not the only time that this has happened in Detroit, but of course what had happened in Detroit in 1967, we know that this has happening around the United States. There was the so-called “Long Hot Summer,” there was a lot of racial tension, you know Newark, Watts, Chicago, a number of other places had riots of this type. Interestingly enough, the people doing the looting, we all find out later by the prisoners we saw, were not all African-American at all. Many white people participated in the looting, which was hard to understand what was [going on], they were just opportunists. They were just taking advantage of the unrest and trying to get free shirts and free clothes or a free TV and breaking in to the store fronts and so on.

LW: What was the function of the soldiers that follow you around during your rounds?

CL: Well I think they felt like they had to do something and they were doing their duties and they couldn’t just sit there all the time so they were assigned to the doctors. They were also there to protect us, because not all the prisoners were actually shackled to their beds. They had to be on a certain amount of good faith that they would behave themselves. Yeah, there were prisoners that were there for serious behavior, and they were shackled to their beds.
NL: Do you remember every seeing what you perceived as a difference in the care provided to somebody in the hospital based on their race?

CL: Never. That was never an issue. I’ve never seen it ever in my life. I don’t know if it ever occurs, maybe in other parts of the United States, you know where there’s more issues like that. I don’t know what people feel like in their personal life about who they want to date or who they want to go to a movie with or go to dinner with, but I can tell you, I’ve never ever seen that in the healthcare situation, where doctors or nurses ever differentiated. A sick patient was a sick patient. And I’ll tell you a vignette, since it’s about the same time frame, that had nothing to do with Detroit, but when I was in the Air Force, and here I won’t mention the name, but one of the doctors that was with me in the Air Force was from New York, and he happened to be a Jewish doctor. We had a number of other people from other militaries training at the base we were at, so we had Egyptian pilots that were at our base, and remember this was 1967 and there was the war in the Middle East, the ’67 war. And this particular doctor said, “Well, if any of them come to the hospital, I’m not gonna treat them.” We’re talking about Air Force, we’re in uniform, we’re doctors, and I said, “You’re absolutely full of baloney. Of course you’re going to treat them, and don’t say that out loud, you’re an idiot! You’re a doctor it has nothing to do with anything like that. You’re going to treat anybody who’s sick, and don’t open your big mouth and say stupid things.” You know, quite frankly. But almost never would you hear of people doing that. And we know for instance in Israel, the Israeli doctors take wonderful care of the prisoners that they capture, and so on.

NL: Do you remember how it was that food and drugs and supplies and things were shipped into the hospital during that week?

CL: That’s a really good question. I wasn’t really involved in that. I know that we had food, we did not run out of food. So somehow or another it was either arriving or we had a good supply. I can also tell you that the food at Receiving Hospital at that time was mostly inedible anyway. In fact one of the jokes we used to have, because the food was so bad, I used to carry a lunch because the food was just not very good, if you’d eat it, pardon the expression, and you’d get diarrhea half the time you’d eat the food. It was like traveling to Mexico, you know? Oh God, I can’t say anything bad about Mexico, I’ll get in trouble like Donald Trump. [laughter] So the big joke among us residents is if you stand out at Receiving, there was a big loading dock where things will be delivered and also there was garbage taken away and when food would be delivered and garbage was taken away, we always jokes about the food being delivered and we’d want to know if was shipping or receiving.  [laughter] Because you couldn’t seem to tell the difference. But we had plenty of food to eat, you know regular food that was adequate to meet our needs.

NL: And the medical supplies were adequate?

CL: Yeah, generally we were fine. That’s a major hospital, major trauma center and we had all the bandages and needles and syringes. We had a good supply of medicine, so we were okay. Now I don’t know how much longer it might have lasted, but we were okay for the week.

NL: So by the time you were able to leave it had been almost fully a week later ahead that the frenzy and the excess of patients and beds and prisoners and things, had
that started to decline?

CL: Yeah, it was much better. The city was obviously much better, though there were pockets of misbehaving people. And there were still many, many hundreds, maybe thousands of prisoners. They were slowly being processed and most of them were just released because they were minor infractions but they just had to get them off the street and so it was a winding down, but of course there was major damage to the city. Many buildings were burned and destroyed and had to be cleaned up and quite a mess. And there are still some, as we know.

NL: When did you come back from Illinois?

CL: I was in the Air Force for two years and I didn’t return to Michigan, I actually went on to finish my residency in another city, in Philadelphia. So I didn’t come right back to Michigan at that time.

NL: Okay. What point did you come back to Michigan?

CL: I was in the Air Force between 1967 and 1969 and I left Philadelphia in July of ’69 and I returned to Detroit, pardon me, I left in ’70 and I returned to Detroit and I completed my specialty training in infectious disease, I have two specialties one is infectious disease, at that time right back at Wayne State at Detroit Receiving Hospital and the affiliated hospitals in that network which is Harper, Hutzel, and those hospitals for another three years and then I became part of  the teaching faculty at Wayne Medical School for another six years and then I took a sabbatical year and did my allergy training at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit and then after that I came to Beaumont in 1980 and I’ve been here ever since.

NL: So 1970 when you first came back in the summer, so that’s a full three years after the riot. What do you remember at that point, physically about how the city had changed? Obviously the fires had been put out by then. What was the difference?

CL: The city looked pretty much back to normal. The only difference was, obviously, there was an acceleration of the white flight that had been going on ever since the fifties, but had been more of a trickle over time, it had just moved very quickly. So a lot of people moved out of the city, a lot of businesses moved out of the city and it contributed obviously to the problems that eventually Detroit had to go through the next thirty years.

NL: And how did it compare to your visions of Detroit when you were growing up?

CL: Oh well, you know it’s very hard, when I try to explain to my own children, and to young doctors or students here at the teaching hospital or the Medical School that we’re part of, at Oakland University, you know if I try to tell them what Detroit was like in the fifties, they just can’t imagine it.  And I say have you been to Chicago to the Miracle Mile? You know where all of the nice stores, the beautiful stores and high-rise department stores and high fashion, and I said well, Downtown Detroit was identical. It was identical. There were three major high-rise department stores: J.L. Hudson’s, Crowley Milner and Kerns. There were innumerable other stores. In fact, when I was in high school I worked as a stock boy in a men’s clothier called Harry Suffron, and then later there was a competing company called Hughes Hatcher. Their main office used to be right next door to where the Fox Theatre is, you know. I would work on Saturdays and sometimes after school for a few hours, unpacking pants, putting them up on the shelves, you know, stuff like this. I’d go to lunch, and if I’d go to lunch on a Saturday, I probably had 150 restaurants to choose from. And the library, which is still there, right behind where Hudson’s used to be, I used to go there and sit and read or, if it was a nice day, sit outside in one of the parks and it was such a beautiful downtown area. Of course there were fancy restaurants that I didn’t go to and there were bars and cabarets and stuff for nightlife. It was just an amazingly healthy and viable city. I would go to Saturdays sometimes when I was even younger and my mom would go shopping and she would drag me along, we would take the bus downtown, or even before that the streetcars, then they got rid of the streetcars, one of the hugest mistakes the city ever made, and here was a relatively low energy, clean form of transportation. I didn’t realize even then as a kid how extensive that Detroit Street Railway system was until when the Detroit Historical Museum reopened after they had been closed for a while, and my wife and I went down to see what it was like and there was a wonderful exhibit on the history of the Detroit Street Railway system, which you may know about. And what I didn’t realize as a kid growing up, because I lived in the city and I used it to a limited degree, I used to take that streetcar, there were two people there was a conductor and the guy that took your money, you know. And you’d get on, you’d get off, you know just like in San Francisco with the cable car, but it was a real streetcar, you know it was electrical stuff. But what I didn’t realize was that you could go up on a streetcar from Downtown Detroit to Port Huron. You could go on the streetcar from Downtown Detroit to Ann Arbor. You could go on a streetcar, I live out in West Bloomfield, and beyond me there’s an area called Keego Harbor with a lot of lakes, I was looking, I was shocked, that streetcar went out to Keego Harbor, people would go out to lakes for the day, you know, pack a lunch and they’d go to the lake. I mean it was an amazing, wonderful network where you didn’t need to rely on the automobile. And it was cheap, of course, in those days it was probably 20 cents or something like that for the whole ride. So, you know the automotive industry, are you familiar with a book called J’accuse?

NL: No.

CL: Emile Zola?

LW: No.

CL: You ever heard of that one? Alright, so the auto industry, J’accuse. I accuse you of being in collusion with the legislature, they ruined the bus system, got rid of the streetcars. Our streetcars still running in Mexico, by the way. And we were proud of having the best highway system in the world, and we did, at one time in Detroit because they wanted to sell cars. But look at ours now. We have no rapid transit, essentially, and we have the worst highway system because we haven’t’ been fixing it. So, I remember, as you say, going back, great highways and great public transportation. Clean and safe. And a downtown that was a beautiful place to visit. My mom as a treat would take me to, she’d get a cup of coffee after shopping at the Mayflower Coffee Shop, which is obviously no longer there, and I would get a glass of milk and a donut. You know, that was my treat. And, you know, there’s things you don’t forget, you know, there were just wonderful experiences growing up and, you know, when you see Detroit is coming back, you know, it’s making a wonderful comeback but it’s obviously slow and it’s gonna take a long time and there’s a lot of work to be done and there’s  a lot less people there, so there’s a lot of space to figure out what do with, but the fact of the matter is that it’s very hard for people who didn’t see that when they were younger, growing up, to imagine how wonderful and viable and healthy the city of Detroit was as late as the fifties, when I was growing up. Now in 1924, I was reading about this, Detroit was not just the richest city in the United States, it was considered the richest city in the world. Could you imagine the change that we’ve seen in less than a hundred years? And the reason why I learned that is when the Book Cadillac reopened there was a lot of literature with that, and my son had his wedding at the Book Cadillac and they had a lot of reading material, so I was reading about the history of the hotel and the history of Detroit. And there’s also a wonderful book and I can’t remember the author, and I feel really bad about it, but my brother-in-law insisted that I read it. My brother-in-law is a teacher at Cranbrook Schools and one of the books that used to be mandatory reading for the middle school, he’s a middle school math teacher, is a book called Arc of Justice, and that book takes place in Detroit in the twenties, and it’s a true story, but the beginning of the book paints a picture, what was America like in 1910, 1920, talks about Detroit. Actually if you aren’t familiar with that book it’s an amazing book about Detroit history. And what really happens is later on after they set the stage and tell you all about Detroit, there’s the events of a black doctor, a young doctor who trains in the South and comes to Detroit and he marries the daughter of a successful black businessman and they buy a house in a white neighborhood, in the city, they were large [homes], mostly white. And  they’re not accepted, and there is all kinds of turmoil and their house is surrounded  and there’s some gunshot wounds, and one person is killed and one is wounded and there’s this huge trial of the century going on, not the Scopes Monkey trial, but almost as big because the NAACP, a fledgling new organization, this is all in the book [that] I learned [this], wanted to make sure to have the best representation for the black people who were being basically lynched on this because they were under attack in the first place, they were trying to defend themselves from the white crowd. So they were able to get the best lawyers in the country, they debated black lawyers and white lawyers, they debated this and they decided they’re going to forget the racial stuff, and they got the best white lawyer and they actually worked pro bono, or for minimal money, and Clarence Darrow, the same lawyer that was in the Scopes trial was in Detroit for almost two years with his whole team defending these black people because they were trying to put them up for murder. At first there was a hung jury and then there was another trial and they got everybody off. And when you read the book you realize this must have been the most exciting thing you could ever imagine, but in the meantime, it’s giving all this background about Detroit and what’s going on in the twenties, you know, in that time. The judge who presided over that was Frank Murphy, and the police station downtown and the courthouse is Frank Murphy Hall. He later became the mayor, he became governor, he became a justice, and he became a Supreme Court Justice. He distinguished himself in this trial by keeping it fair. And he was a great man obviously because he was under a lot of pressure to stick it to the black guys. It was a white city at that time, and you know the police were all white, everything was white at that time. So it’s an amazing story and if you really want a good background of Detroit, obviously not ’67, but the type of thing that Detroit was like before things changed, you read that book, it’s an amazing book.

NL: I’ll have to check that out. Do you have any other questions?

LW: I don’t, but is there anything else about ’67 that you want to share with us?

CL: Well, I’m trying to think. Obviously ’67 started, I was a first year resident at Henry Ford between ’65 and’66, July to June, so ’67 started and I was halfway through that second year of the residency and you know, I don’t think there was that much eventful, at that time, you know, the Tigers were playing pretty good baseball, I wasn’t a big Red Wings fan. Basketball, nobody watched. I don’t know when the Pistons arrived from Fort Wayne, but it wasn’t a very popular sport at that time.

NL: If they had arrived though, the NBA wasn’t really popular until the eighties.

CL: And NFL, the last time the Lions won a championship was 1957, so that was already ten years before. So that was it. Detroit was otherwise like any other big city. When I graduated high school in 1958, the population of the city of Detroit was 1.8 million, it was the fourth largest city in the United States, and it was just a few years after that, that we were passed by Houston. Remember when we went from four to five [in the rankings], now we’re like 20. Okay.

NL: Alright. Thank you.

LW: Thank you so much, that was great.

NL: Thank you for sharing your memories with us today.

CL: I hope this was something that can help you.

LW: Of course.

NL: It’s tremendously helpful and we appreciate your time and willingness to sit with us and share this.

LW: Thank you.

CL: Thank you.




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Detroit Receiving Hospital, Medical resident, U.S. Air Force, Downtown Detroit, Detroit Street Railway System


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“Dr. Carl Lauter, July 7th, 2015,” Detroit Historical Society Oral History Archive, accessed April 12, 2024, http://oralhistory.detroithistorical.org/items/show/48.

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