Henry Heath oral history interview, 2015 October 17
Henry Heath, a native of Charlotte, North Carolina, describes his life and his involvement in the Optimist Park community since 1987. Mr. Heath details his childhood growing up close to Beatties Ford Road, including his education at segregated local schools and collegiate education at Johnson C. Smith University. Mr. Heath discusses his passion for music and participation in the local jazz scene as a trumpet player and composer as well as his service to the Optimist Park community through tutoring boy scouts and supporting programs to alleviate poverty at his church, the Fifteenth Street Church of God. Mr. Heath also describes his involvement in local civil rights struggles during the 1960s as a student under the leadership of civil rights activist Charles Jones, stressing the difficulty of maintaining a non-violent stance in the face of provocation during the sit-In movement in Charlotte. Throughout the interview, Mr. Heath emphasizes the need to be humble, a quality he learned from his father growing up during the pre-civil rights era. He also stresses his religious beliefs, underlining the significance of service over personal gain. He reflects on the Optimist Park community, noting the strides taken by the community to combat crime and improve the neighborhood. He also expresses his concern that developers are making inroads into the community without regard to the existing neighbors.