Oral Autobiography of a Modern-Day Baptist Minister, Life in California, Missionary to the RenoSparks Indian Colony, Office of Economic Opportunity, Nevada Politics and Civic Affairs
Interviewee: Clyde Mathews, Jr.
Interviewer: Mary Ellen Glass
UNOHP Catalog #029
H. Clyde Mathews, Jr., was born in California in 1924. He received his education in public schools in California, San Jose State College, and the Berkeley Baptist Divinity School. Mr. Mathews’s work and professional experiences range from a job as storekeeper in a small town in California to a position as head of the Office of Economic Opportunity for the state of Nevada. For ten years, Mr. Mathews was missionary to the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony. In 1968 he was a Republican candidate for Congress from Nevada. He was been active in community affairs in Nevada for the entire period of his residence in the state.
Clyde Mathews is known to many people in Reno and throughout Nevada with reference to different facets of his varied career—as a minister, an educator, a political candidate, and an administrator of social services. To most of us, however, he will be remembered as an indefatigable advocate of the interests of minority members of the local community during a period of Nevada history when few citizens concerned themselves with such matters. He is one of those who cared, and whose life orientation is to involvement and service—often with regard to issues which are unpopular to the majority.
In his memoir, Clyde Mathews reveals himself as a child of the Great Depression, the son of an itinerant churchman from the Midwest, whose early life was spent among the small communities of southern and central California where his parents carried out their missions. It was in the context of the intensive poverty and labor struggles of the 1930s and 1940s, in the period when the “Okies” were the vanguard of the tide of migration into California, that he recalls the earliest formation of those values and concerns which were to guide his later choices in work.
The circumstances of his coming to Reno in the 1950s, and the first years of his ministry at Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, will be of special interest to all who have actively participated in the improvement of Indian and white relations in this community. Clyde Mathews’s honest and uncomplicated recollection of those years, and his often ingenuous anecdotes, will provide a moving—and, in some instances disturbing—experience to those who may be familiar, but not so intimately involved, with the problems which existed.
A significant portion of the autobiography deals with the period in which Mathews emerged into active political advocacy, first on behalf of the Indian community where he had his mission, and then as a dedicated participant in the incipient civil rights movement of the late 1950s and early 1960s in Nevada. He provides a frank appraisal of this period—a chronicle of events seen from the inside and a sympathetic, though uncompromising, recording of impressions of legislative behavior and the role of political figures. Mathews’s warm, personal tributes to John Dressler of the Inter-Tribal Council and to Eddie Scott of the NAACP and Race Relations Center affirm the fact that involvement, dedication to major social issues, and participation in mutually significant social tasks are the fundamental conditions for the resolution of the serious problems of human relations in our society.
This introduction and oral history is reprinted with permission from the University of Nevada Oral History Archive, Special Collections and University Archives, University of Nevada, Reno.
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