The Only White Vice Lord

by Bobby Gore

I met Dave in the summer of 1967 when we were putting on a fundraiser for poor counties in Mississippi at the Senate Theater.  We were busy trying to keep security when I looked up and here this guy had come over on Kedzie and Madison at night during the Black Power era.  And he came by himself — nobody brought him.  With all the bad press we were getting, I thought he was a gutsy guy for being there.



Pep: First Leader of the
Conservative Vice Lords

A few days later, Pep brought him through the pool room.  He was working for TransCentury in Washington D.C., doing a study for the government, and he needed four or five guys to work with him.  We were to do a door-to-door canvas with printed questionnaires so we went through training and how we should present ourselves.

This questionnaire asked how youth felt about different agencies.  Were they doing a good job?  Did they have meaningful programs?  Then there were questions about playgrounds? Did they have equipment?  Baseballs?  Basketballs?  That's when we found out there had been millions of dollars poured into Lawndale to reach young people on the street, which at that time was the so-called gangs.

We decided to check out a few centers, wanting to know how much had come to the street—not necessarily money but what programs, maybe basketball teams, baseball teams, only to find out these people were afraid of us.  Even though we didn't go to college, when things are not right, you can tell.  And this is what activated Dave too — he had some idea of what was supposed to be going on.

        A lot happened during that summer.  Dave was hanging around and saw that we were serious in wanting to rid the community of crime and violence so when he had to go back to TransCentury and make out his reports, he promised to return to Sixteenth Street to help us.

         A couple months passed and the next thing we know, Dave popped up again.  Just the sight of this guy coming back told us he was sincere.

         Dave started going out with us, and you can imagine what the reaction was when we went into an all black dance hall — not disco, but dance hall and Dave's the only white guy in there.  The place was full of blacks, but Dave had as much fun as we did.

         I began to put a lot of trust in this guy.  He was razor sharp and dedicated to making our ideas become a reality.  But there was always a danger for Dave being a white guy, running around Sixteenth Street, the West Side.  He was living on the street, just like we were, and there were a lot of Lords that wanted to hurt him.  In fact, there was a policeman we used to call Gloves who wanted Dave off the streets.*  This guy was known for breaking heads, just beating people:  “get off the goddamn corner; I'm not gonna ask ya but one time, and if you didn't move, this guy had either knocked you down or kicked you in the rear.

         We weren't goin' for a lot of that as a matter of fact, part of our move was to contact police commanders in Marquette and Fillmore to let then know we were going to improve the community—cut out the gangbanging.  But people like Gloves and some of the Lords who were snatching pocketbooks had a hard time accepting Dave.  Some wondered what is this guy doing?  Is he an FBI plant?  Is he out to crush us?  So we put out a communication that if anything happened to Dave, it had to happen to all of us.

         Dave started coming up with some possible answers to what we were trying to organize, and after hearing what Dave was saying to some of the people he said he would contact, I started believing that he was really going to give us some help. As time went on, Dave became more involved with the street life and our prograsm — to the point that he used to get darn right angry when we wouldn't get off our butts and do what we were supposed to be carrying out.  And that was another learning thing from Dave.  When you got something to do, you were supposed to go ahead and do it.

         I can remember the time when Dr. King was assassinated.  That was another night of total chaos.   Looting, burning, the whole bit.  And Dave was out in the middle with us, passing out handbills, saying this ain't the way to do it:  we're destroyin' our own property we're hurting the neighborhood, and that's not what Dr. King would have wanted.

         Dave was out there in the streets with us, and that was a very dangerous situation for him.  But the cat was a trooper — he was a real live Lord then.  Everybody knew him by that time, and they knew that this cat was always up front.  Some carried little suspicions, but they were beginning to relax with Dave.  And that wasn't because of what we said earlier.  That was because Dave was part of what was going on.

         Another time, we had occasion to go to East St. Louis.  We were working on a national program called Y.O.U.  Basically, it was black.  There were some whites there that were sincere like Dave, but one of the guys from East St. Louis stood up and said:  "We don't want any whites in this meeting — they gotta get out."

         Well, the Lords, being from Chicago, had to take a stand.  We just made the statement: " Look, if this guy that's with us has to go, we won't even be a part of this ourselves."  So by us being a leader in this whole concept of Youth Organizations United opening communication, one group learning from another when they asked that all whites leave the room, we just made a decision that if Dave had to go, we'd go too.  So a vote was taken, and we won.  Dave and all other whites were allowed to stay and as a result, YOU was born and became a reality.

         We stood up for Dave because at that point, he had become a part of us.  We weren't lookin' at color; this guy had become a regular.

I heard time and time again what is this honky doin' over here "he ain't gonna do nothin' but go off and write his book."  We heard it from policemen, from Vice Lords, from some white liberals jealous people.  What they didn't know is that Dave put time in and he had the right to do the book.  Hell, Dave couldn't write the book if he hadn't lived this shit.  And the good part is that the book was done under contract, and some of the profits would be channeled back into scholarships.

  I was locked up when Dave went back to Boston.  I was in the wrong place at the wrong damn time and some killing went on.  I ended up being convicted for a crime I didn't commit.  Our biggest fear had been something just like what happened — that the people would come in and crush the whole thing.

David Dawley
1991 Stuart Bratesman


      I served 11 years and 3 months in Stateville, and I was in communication with Dave on a fairly regular basis while I was incarcerated.  Even through the letters that this guy would write, you could feel warmth and concern.  The guy made some moves for me and even came down during my parole hearing.

         Today, though we're living in different cities, we share the memories of having worked to turn the Vice Lords into a constructive organization, of helping to make the streets safe, of providing hope to the hard core that society gave up on.

         After twenty years, we're still brothers.

*Gloves Davis was reported to have killed Mark Clark in the Black Panther killings in 1969.  The Cook County District Attorney's Office was condemned, and years later, the government paid nearly $2 million in an out of court settlement with the families of those who were killed.

 While in the Stateville Penitentiary in Joliet, Illinois, Bobby Gore completed high school and college and founded a chapter of the Jaycees inside Stateville.  Since his parole, he has worked for the Safer Foundation in Chicago, a nonprofit job placement and counseling service for ex-convicts.  He has bee honored as Safer’s Employee of the Year and while Director of the Cabrini-Green Outreach Center as Manager of the Year.


From Dawley, David.  A Nation of Lords:  The Autobiography of the Vice Lords.  2nd edition.
Prospect Heights, IL:  Waveland Press, Inc.    1992.  pp.199-202.