Skip to main content

Jerome Bettis interview, 2021-12-05

Identifier: rwhc_ohp_2021_003.wav

Content Description

From the Collection:

Oral history interviews recorded by students in the Real World History class at Center for Inspired Teaching.


  • Creation: 2021-12-05


Language of Materials


Biographical / Historical

Mr. Jerome Bettis was born in Graniteville, South Carolina, a textile manufacturing town, on January 7th, 1944. He grew up in a family of ten with eight children (five girls and three boys), of which he was the 4th oldest. Throughout his upbringing Mr. Bettis attended large Fourth of July celebrations at Bettis Academy (a school founded by one of his ancestors) in nearby Trenton, South Carolina. He and his family decided the house was too crowded and there was more opportunity and freedom up North, so he moved to Washington, D.C., in 1955 to live with his aunt and her husband in Northwest. He soon returned to South Carolina due to personal issues with his aunt's husband, but he later returned to the District to live with his first cousin (who he considers to be an aunt). He attended Hine Junior High School and Eastern High School in Capitol Hill, but, due to a technicality about guardianship, he returned to South Carolina once again and finished high school at Martha Schofield High School in Aiken, South Carolina. After graduation in June 1963, Mr. Bettis moved to the Bronx to live with his father’s sister, Edna Bettis Williams, who lived at 153rd and Melrose Avenue. He worked the summer in Manhattan before he was given an opportunity to study at Southern University A and M College in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Mr. Bettis matriculated at Southern University that fall and lived with James and Ida Bettis Slaughter, his father’s sister and her husband, as well as their four sons in Baton Rouge. On top of living in South Carolina, Washington, D.C., and New York City, Mr. Bettis has also lived in Atlanta, Georgia, Maryland, and Vietnam (While serving in the US Army during the Vietnam War). Mr. Bettis worked in the Department of Social Services for about 33 years. In 2000, Mr. Bettis left the Department of Social Services and went to work for Turner Construction Company in Arlington, Virginia, for about three years before retiring. Throughout his upbringing, Mr. Bettis played football and basketball, but as he got older he developed a passion for tennis. When he felt like basketball on the public courts of the District was getting too rough, he became involved with the Deanwood Tennis Association. He paid his friend, David Best, to teach him how to play tennis. In September of 2017, Mr. Bettis started the Tennis At Fort Lincoln Park organization (TAFLP, located in Ward 5 at Fort Lincoln Park Tennis Courts), a 501c3 non-profit tennis corporation. TAFLP received IRS status and was incorporated as a business in the District of Columbia in April 2018. To this day, Mr. Bettis continues to coach tennis and advocate for justice and equal treatment in the judicial courts, business world, tennis courts, and other areas where he, himself, is adversely impacted.


From the Collection: 27.1 Gigabytes (DIG_0029)

From the Collection: 228 Files (DIG_0029)


In this oral history interview, Mr. Jerome Bettis, a longtime D.C. resident, discusses his life and experiences moving from Graniteville, South Carolina, to Washington, D.C. Mr. Bettis discusses his upbringing and family life in Graniteville as well as his experiences with racism and segregation during his early life. He then talks about his move to D.C. for junior high and most of high school and his return to South Carolina to complete the twelfth grade. He also talks about his passion for tennis, some of the various places he’s lived, and his career in D.C. Government. Mr. Bettis concludes the interview by reflecting on his migration north and his fears about the contemporary political situation.

Repository Details

Part of the The People's Archive, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library Repository

901 G Street NW
4th Floor East
Washington DC 20001