Voices of Minnesota

Oral History Interview with Nettie Sherman

DATE: September 17, 1974

INTERVIEWER: Lila Johnson Goff

Nettie Sherman (née Brown) was born in Mount Vernon, Kentucky, May 20, 1900 of an Irish father and an African American mother. The family for whom her mother worked as a domestic provided Nettie's formal education in a southern parochial school and at the Boston Conservatory of Music. In 1917, Sherman moved to the Twin Cities. During the Prohibition era, she worked at various clubs and for several years operated her own club in St. Paul. During this time, she also worked for the Minneapolis radio station WLAG, later WCCO, and appeared on some of the first Betty Crocker shows. In 1937, Sherman moved to Chicago where she was cast in nationally broadcast programs and soap operas and sang in nightclubs. She returned to Minneapolis in 1974 and at age sixty five, following the death of her fourth husband, Roger Sherman, started a boarding home for children of poor working mothers, later raising three of the children. Nettie Sherman died on March 31, 1986.

Subjects discussed include: Sherman's education and the influence and generosity of the family that provided it; her introduction to radio work at WLAG and WCCO, as well as her work in Chicago on nationally broadcast radio soap operas and programs such as Helen Trent and Duffy's Tavern; radio colleagues including Marion Hustad, Cedric Adams, Gloria Dale, Al Sheehan and Earl Gammons, and Dwight Fiske; the atmosphere of the Prohibition era nightclubs in St. Paul, law enforcement and her familiarity with underworld notables such as Dillinger and Baby Face Nelson; anecdotes of her associations with socially and politically prominent people from both St. Paul and Minneapolis, including the Towle family, Hubert Humphrey, Milton Rosen, James J. Hill, Floyd B. Olson, and others; her experiences in trying to secure and provide adequate care for children of poor and disadvantaged working mothers and her commitment to these children; her philosophy of life, her views on racial discrimination, African American/white relationships, and intermarriage.

LENGTH OF INTERVIEW: 1 hour 17 minutes

TRANSCRIPT: 21 pages