Civil Rights Greensboro

UNCG Home > The University Libraries > Civil Rights Greensboro Home > Oral History Interview with Terry Sanford by William Chafe

Oral History Interview with Terry Sanford by William Chafe


Date: circa 1975

Interviewee: Terry Sanford

Biographical abstract: Terry Sanford (1917-1998) served as governor of North Carolina from 1961 to 1965.

Interviewer: William Henry Chafe

Description:

This transcript of an oral history interview conducted by William Chafe circa 1975 with Governor Terry Sanford primarily documents Gov. Sanford’s involvement in racial issues during his term as governor of North Carolina from 1961 to 1965.

Gov. Sanford discusses Gov. William Umstead and Gov. Luther Hodges’ responses to the Brown v. Board of Education decision; the surge of white supremacist groups in North Carolina; and opposition to the Pearsall Plan. He describes the role of racial issues in his gubernatorial campaign; enrolling his children at a desegregated school; North Carolina as a leader in school desegregation; and the formation of the Good Neighbor Council.

Topics related to Greensboro include responding to the 1963 protests and incarcerations; devising a policy to address jailed students; working with Dr. Lewis Dowdy and David Schenck; and employing Jesse Jackson as an advisor.

Subjects:

Format of original: Oral History

Collection: William Henry Chafe Oral History Collection

Repository: Duke University

Item#: 4.23.673

Rights: It is responsibility of the user to follow the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Materials are not to be reproduced in published works without written consent, and any use should credit Civil Rights Greensboro and the appropriate repository.



Oral History Interview with Terry Sanford by William Chafe

William Chafe:

—North Carolina during the first four years of the 1960s. You came to the state legislature or the state senate in what, the mid-fifties?

Terry Sanford:

Well, I served one term, '54 session. Fifty—when did me meet in August—'53 session.

WC:

And so that was just before the Brown [v. Board of Education] decision came down. You were probably in the legislature—

TS:

As a matter of fact, the Brown decision came down in the spring of '54, as I recall.

WC:

Right. One of the things that I guess I've been interested in is the immediate reaction to the Brown decision. And Governor [William] Umstead and Lieutenant Governor [Luther] Hodges seemed initially to react with the sense that we would comply or we would do what we had to do. I wonder how that—what do you think was going on in the legislature or what your recollections are of the political atmosphere at that time?

TS:

North Carolina had a reputation of being a forward-looking state, a tradition that was set in large part by Frank [Porter] Graham. Frank Graham was a person with influence on both Hodges and Umstead without their perhaps admitting it. Umstead was very fine gentleman and not given to demagoguery in any sense of the word. He was also very ill at the time. As a matter of fact, I'm not so sure that Governor Umstead was not dead by the time the decision came.

WC:

He died about five months later.

TS:

Well, all right. But in any event, he was pretty much confined to the mansion. He attempted to find a way to take the sting out of it, because there were a great many people, including Assistant Attorney General [I. Beverly] Lake—I believe at that time was already in that office—at any rate, a great many people around the state were declaring, as Virginia had declared, massive resistance, and it was becoming a political issue. And to somewhat blunt that, Umstead set up a committee. I believe that this was the beginning of the Pearsall Committee.

WC:

Right.

TS:

It was a device to answer it by not saying yes or no, but saying that we intend to comply with the law and we're now trying to figure out how to do so. They were careful not to draw the issue too sharply because I think the political reaction would have been overwhelmingly pro-Virginia approach. And I thought it was done very skillfully. And then Governor Hodges carried that on, really at that time beginning to feel the pressures from people who were insisting we do other things like close the schools or whatever. And I think it was handled fairly well in view of their own intentions.

Now they were not close political associates, and it's quite possible they never discussed it. It's quite possible that Governor Hodges and Governor Umstead never discussed anything, but at least Hodges knew what Umstead was doing and picked it up very quickly. And I think Tom Pearsall not only had been a friend of Hodges, but I think was a business associate of Hodges in the Howard Johnsons, so they carried on very well.

And we were therefore beginning to hear less of the shrillness that you found in other states. And we were at the same time seeing so—called White Citizens' [Council] groups beginning to be formed around. And I know in my home county a group of people were organizing, one of whom later became a good supporter of mine, but at that time he was all in favor of whatever racist movement was going on. I remember I volunteered to speak for the Pearsall Plan at various places, and I walked up to this little country school one night where I was to speak, and this particular fellow was standing there. And I heard him out of the darkness where I was saying, “Any red-blooded American with one drop of white blood would be against that court decision.” So we had the red and the white blood mixed. That was not an unusual reaction, but it never was allowed to come to a head until maybe the 1960 election year.

WC:

Were you close to Irving Carlyle at all?

TS:

Yes. He was a very good friend of mine. Irving Carlyle, of course, was out of that Frank Graham, UNC [University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill] tradition.

WC:

And he was taking a much—a very strong position against the Pearsall Plan, right?

TS:

Well, he took a position against the Pearsall Plan for the wrong reason. It was not a time to be a purist. But those who knew, knew that the Pearsall Plan was obviously designed to accomplish compliance with the court and the law of the land, and it was a very skillful political move. And actually, the people that were against—that ought to have been against the Pearsall Plan were the racists and the kind of people I spoke of that wanted a confrontation, that wanted massive resistance. The Pearsall Plan, for all of its verbiage, nevertheless was designed to comply with the Supreme Court decision. And no school was ever closed under the Pearsall Plan, no petition was ever signed, but that safety valve in there did the job, and that's what it was designed to do. It was not a device to get around the law; it was a device to comply with the law and the cool the temper of the public, and it did it very well. Somebody else voted against the Pearsall Plan on that kind of pure principal. I've forgotten who that was.

WC:

There were two votes against it. I think Dan Edwards was one.

TS:

And I think that was why Dan voted against it, because Dan, of course, was a very liberal, forward-thinking person, whose father, incidentally, was a long time professor and dean at Trinity [College] in Duke [University].

WC:

I didn't know that.

TS:

Professor, very distinguished physicist.

WC:

Interesting. Well, you come to office in the midst of, of course, the direct action movement having really commenced again with the Greensboro sit-ins and all of the sit-ins across the state. And, as you say, that was when the issue came to a head in the state. I wonder—well, I want to ask a number of questions about those first few months. I was impressed, for example, by the fact that you sent your children to school—to desegregated school before you even took office, I think, or the same month as you took office. What went into your making that decision, you and Mrs. [Martha Elizabeth] Sanford?

TS:

Well, it was the closest school to the mansion, and to bus or have done anything else would have been an obvious evasion. It was not all that—you know, it always struck me as somewhat ridiculous that the public even call that an integrated school. It was one little black child that had been admitted. But nevertheless, that was the breakthrough and the careful breakthrough so that the following year many more were admitted around the city. But it would have been a—had we not done it, I think it would have pulled the rug out from under the school people who were working very consciously to make this work. It would have been a slap at everybody that had stood up for the principle and the Supreme Court decision. It had been a pretty shoddy trick. You know, we didn't really have to discuss it. It was just pretty obvious that's what we would do. I was really trying to do it so that it didn't look like we were making a play for it. I didn't go put the children in, she did. I did send Hugh Cannon[?] to be sure she didn't get ruffed up. The intensity of the reaction was such because that was not in one of the better sections of Raleigh. The mansion is not in a better section. And the PTA [Parent Teacher Association] abandoned—dissolved itself as a result of that child being admitted.

WC:

I didn't know that.

TS:

So it was [something?] to do, but I was happy to do it. It wasn't something that we were trying to capitalize on. It turned out that picture of Martha Elizabeth and the children was sent all over the world. But my point is that we didn't do it for that reason. We just did it to give support to the school people and the fact that it was the closest school. It was the one that they were supposed to go to.

WC:

In your inaugural address, correct me if I'm wrong, but you had not really made a pro-civil rights stance part of your campaign.

TS:

I had tried to play that issue as carefully as possible, having been through the Frank Graham election in 1950. During a period of several years, I had kept a notebook on the top of my bureau in the bedroom, and every time something occurred to me that was a way to handle a racist campaign, I put it in that notebook—just a memoranda, just a little handwritten note to myself, that this is the way to do such and such. Part of my experience with the Frank Graham thing, part or my anticipation that I might very well have the roughest, racist campaign in the history of the state—I could see it coming as the big danger. Well, it didn't come in the first primary, particularly. And then I had that little experience with Kerr Scott in '54 where he put down the racist thing at the last minute. So I was anticipating it, and I was trying to be very careful not to say anything that would give any encouragement to the non-conformists or the people who didn't want to live by the Supreme Court rule. But I didn't want to take an Irving Carlyle position that would have defeated me. So I was trying to keep the banner flying, but I was trying to mute it enough so that I didn't get slaughtered on pure principle and miss the chance to save the state from the kind of governor otherwise we would have had. At least that was my view of the issue.

I talked about—I was very careful not to use—to not to let myself be called an integrationist. So you could be with the Supreme Court, and you could even express some reluctance about the force and speed of it, and you could therefore be against segregation without getting tagged an integrationist, and that's what I was trying—that was the line I was trying—or the tightrope I was trying to walk, and I think fairly well. I don't think anybody came out of that campaign without understanding that the issue had been drawn and that the issue had been won.

WC:

Right. Now, in your inaugural address, though, you do address the question, at least implicitly—actually, more than implicitly—when you emphasize that no one is going to be left out of this, the full citizenship. And then you—there seems to be an immediate process whereby—and the question I guess I'm asking here is whether you are soliciting memos from places like the North Carolina Human Relations Council and the Durham Committee on Negro Affairs, or whether they are just coming to you. But they do seem to come to you very frequently in the first two or three months of office and with a whole variety of suggestions, almost an agenda of action. And I'm just wondering how that happened; whether it was just because they saw you as a receptive person or that you encouraged that.

TS:

I don't know what memos you're talking about.

WC:

There were two in particular: one from Henry [Ruark?] of the North Carolina Human Relations Council, which initially suggests the biracial committees in each community and a whole variety of things on merit employment and other issues, and then there's a memo from John Wheeler which comes in sometime in April or March.

TS:

I probably solicited John Wheeler because I more or less picked John Wheeler up and attempted to develop his—and use his leadership for the advantage of the state. And I tried to put him in national positions and other things that added to his status. Henry Ruark was a good friend of mine, a Methodist preacher, and he probably did that without being asked but knowing he was welcomed to do it or that it would be well received. So I can't answer that specifically.

We were attempting to do what needed to be done while being fairly cautious that we didn't overdo it. I wasn't trying to be a hero. I was trying to get us through this to a brighter viewpoint of everything. And I not only wasn't trying to be a hero, I certainly wasn't trying to be a martyr. But I did see that my great contribution to the state, and to that extent, to the nation, would be proving that we could turn around and start in the right directions from the wrong positions on race for a hundred years. And I had hoped to accomplish that, and so we were trying to accomplish it maybe sometimes with a muted voice like the Pearsall Plan, which nevertheless got the job done without letting everything blow sky high. And I think it did. I think what South Carolina was able to do what Governor [Stuart] Russell and Governor [Ernest F. “Fritz”] Hollins did with the Clemson College admission, would not have been possible had it not been for the North Carolina example, and I think they would say so. And it made it easy for South Carolina, finally—and South Carolina could have been predicted to have been the worst state in the union on this issue, but it wasn't. It maybe was next to North Carolina in its acceptance of accommodations. That wasn't very close next, but it was next.

WC:

Right. [laughs]

TS:

Well, I don't want to overlook Carl Sanders in Georgia—

WC:

Yeah, in Georgia.

TS:

—but, because I think he did a remarkable job, and not so much because North Carolina had, but because he wanted to. But he came two years later.

WC:

Well, it seemed that many of the things which eventually took place in your administration on the issue of civil rights were talked about in that first three or four months, including at least the notion of the Good Neighbor Councils and the whole notion of merit employment and things like that. I wondered what the process was that led you to decide both the timing and the content of the Good Neighbor Council speech or proposal.

TS:

The first issue we had to worry about was the highway restrooms. This was an issue that was very difficult because of—again, of public accommodations, but they were attacking it not in the downtown, but on the highways where tourists came. We had lots of problems there, including black diplomats coming through. Angier Duke was asked by the president to set up committees in each state to give personal attention to this kind of a thing. I appointed Judge Riddle[?]—now a judge; wasn't a then a judge—of Hickory, who had been an early [President John F.] Kennedy supporter and an old friend of mine—to be our representative. And so we could pretty well arrange to get black diplomats through, but an ordinary black family couldn't use the bathroom. I wrote an article in a Look magazine, which you might find a copy of. It was written at a time when my memory was fresher about some of our attitudes at that time.

WC:

Right, yeah I've seen that.

TS:

I think it was maybe written in '64 after—I think I specifically told them that I didn't want it printed until after [L. Richardson] Preyer's campaign. I suppose that the Good Neighbor Council was an idea of bobbing—I didn't want to call it an FEPC [Fair Employment Practices Commission.] And I was in Texas, and they—the Good Neighbor, of course, was Franklin Roosevelt's expression for Latin America, but that had pretty well been worn out and abandoned. And I was in Texas, and they were calling their committee to take care of diplomats—because they had a good many coming from Central America and Latin America—they were calling the committee that Riddle headed their Good Neighbor Committee. So I got to thinking about that word, and I said, “That sounds like a good name for FEPC.”

And I then tried it out on a speech to a Methodist group up in—I don't know—up around Cleveland somewhere, that we had to get away from this business of holding blacks out of employment, and I put it on an economic base. And then probably sometime I wrote that out on a yellow pad, the Good Neighbor concept, and I showed it to several people, including Jonathan Daniels, who made a couple or corrections and suggestions. And then I called a breakfast group together that included mostly blacks—John Wheeler and so on, John Stewart from Raleigh—who probably became a closer advisor to me than any other black, because his judgment was really better than John Wheeler's, for example. John Wheeler was more inclined to be caught up in the activists' point of view that sometimes would have been detrimental if we had followed what he wanted. Now, it's true that when he called me and said, “Did you know that the airport has a white and black sign?”

And I said, “No, I didn't.”

He said, “Well, it just says men's room, but once you go in, this is white and this is black.” And he said, “I think it would be bad if the president came.” He was coming that fall. I said, “Well, the president is not going to use the men's room in the terminal, but you're absolutely right. The newspaper people, in other words—,” and I said, “I don't think you need to worry about that. I think next time you go over there, that thing will be off.”

But I called the manager of the airport. I had a maid do it, and the fellow said “Yeah, I'll take it off.” Just like that. “The governor told me to,” he could say. Of course, the governor didn't have any authority, but that gave it [unclear]. Obviously the man was embarrassed by having that and didn't know how to get it off.

Anyhow, this thing sort of began to gel, and I thought it would be good if we had us an agency and if I had all arm of the governor's office that could attend to these things. I was giving great deal of personal attention to it. I'd brought Capus Waynick in to help handle the street demonstration situations, but I needed a more positive agency. And this occurred to me—the name; the concept had been developing, I'm sure—and it had to do primarily with employment. At that point, that was the issue. It really was the old FEPC concept, but on a voluntary basis, which is the only way it would have had a chance. So I don't know that I can point to a particular time or even to a particular suggestion that led to this, just a great many things building up. But this was a pretty good way to go on this. We were working on the open accommodations with Waynick.

Ultimately, Dave Coltrane—that appointment just turned out to be a stroke of genius or luck—but he had been a conservative budget man, catering more to the Bill Umstead group than to the Kerr Scott group. In fact, Kerr Scott had fired him and Umstead had given him his salary retroactively and gotten it approved by the legislature in which I sat. I voted against it, but nevertheless Coltrane got his money. I inherited Coltrane. He was a good budget man, and he was loyal to me. Scott thought he wasn't loyal to him because he supported Umstead instead of Scott's candidate, and I would agree with Scott. But he was loyal to me and very helpful, but I wanted to get him out of that office. I just didn't—he didn't respond in the way that I needed, though he responded to what I told him. But I wanted a stronger, younger person. I wanted to put Cannon in that job, so I eased him out and had him searching out waste in the highway commission and put him on the advisory budget commission, which he greatly appreciated. And I treated him with a great deal of generosity, but he had given the state good service, but nothing to really amount to anything. His whole life was balancing the budget and holding back on progress. But he really blossomed in this job. I knew he was a great Christian Methodist lay leader and a person that had, I thought, Christian sensitivities, and he proved it. And it was just really terrific. He rose to greatness that he never would have done anywhere else.

WC:

Well, during that spring, after the Good Neighbor Council is developed—of course, that's when, I guess, the demonstrations really reached their peak and lead to the kinds of breakage that takes place in Durham, Winston-Salem, Charlotte and Greensboro, but it seems in some ways Greensboro is worse than the—or as bad, certainly, in terms of the crisis. It got almost fourteen hundred people in jail there at one point. And I know the—in your governor's papers, the intelligence reports that are coming in are talking about there being a real concern over intensified violence or that kind of problem. And one of the questions I guess that still is somewhat puzzling to me is there comes a point in late May where—with the jails totally overburdened in Greensboro—there is an effort to return the students to campuses under the custody of the presidents. And I've been told at least that that was initiated as a result of a phone call from you to President [Lewis] Dowdy. And I wondered if you could recall the—both the climate and the events that led up to that, and what happened at that point.

TS:

Well, the reason Greensboro was worst is that Greensboro was first, and that nobody quite knew how to react to something that they hadn't seen reacted to, and particularly when there was such a strong hand on it that they were not to put those demonstrators down, but simply were to protect them and the public from each other, if the public indeed was against them; and of course, a good part of the public probably was. And our policy all the time was to simply keep order, but not to break up demonstration. And we never did really, but here and there you found the mayor getting out of hand. One of the most effective meetings we had was the July 5 meeting of mayors that to the best of my knowledge was never carried in any paper. The press wasn't working on that weekend. But it was a very significant meeting.

Greensboro had a mayor—that is now dead—a splendid person named [David] Schenck. But he really wasn't up to this pressure, and he went off to Florida, so that gave me a chance to be the mayor of Greensboro without putting him in an embarrassing situation. I can fully understand his—and then he didn't have the resources that I had. I never went to Greensboro, but I stayed on top of it and I stayed in close touch with Schenck, and Schenck was completely cooperative, completely in sympathy with our philosophy and our approach, our strategy. I know on several occasions I had the National Guard alerted, and probably no one ever knew about that. But I had them in the armories. Now I didn't expect to use the National Guard to break up the demonstrations, but I expected to use the National Guard if we had a riot that got out of hand. The highway patrol was very effective, because ten highway patrol cars is a very impressive force. We once sent sixty highway patrol cars into Thomasville, and that looked like the whole army had taken over the town, and we put a curfew into total effect in that way. There had been a shooting over there.

In any event, Greensboro—Dowdy is a great fellow. Duke recently gave him an honorary degree, and that's the main reason I remember it. He was playing that thing as skillfully as a person in that awkward position could play it, and I think maybe he was just the acting president then.

WC:

He was. [Samuel] Proctor was the—yeah.

TS:

Proctor had gone to something easy.

WC:

Gone to Africa, right.

TS:

[laughs] Well, Dowdy—it occurred to us, and I'm not sure why it occurred to us, that if you would instead of putting these kids in jail, take them back to the campus—and even if they got back off the campus, you have broken up the continuity and the aggregation, and it's just a good piece of strategy, even if they ran right back up. Well, if you told them not to, a certain number wouldn't. And if a certain number did, it didn't make much difference; at least you were better off. And putting them in jail served no purpose except to make them bitter and to aggravate the whole problem. So that began to work.

And then Wense Grabarek, who was mayor over here [in Durham] at the time, did a brilliant job. It's too bad that later the blacks turned on him and turned him out of office, because Grabarek saved the day in Durham. He went to the jails and gave them cigarettes and candy and talked to them and then followed out procedure. And I'm not so sure he didn't suggest it. I'd be glad to give him credit for it because he certainly did it, though I think maybe we doing it in Greensboro first. But he would send them back out to the campus, and that began to break that up.

WC:

Well, I've gotten the sense that Dowdy was upset about the fact that he was asked to do that.

TS:

Oh, I don't doubt it.

WC:

Because he made a number of phone calls in the middle of the night to other people.

TS:

But he did it.

WC:

He did it.

TS:

You see, and it had to be done, and he had to take that responsibility. And he took it about as well as anybody in the state. And as I said, I've admired him every since. No, I know damn well that he didn't take it with glee.

WC:

I've talked to about four—

TS:

But we didn't—see, he kept out of—he didn't ever get in the position of being the governor's pawn or the governor's Uncle Tom. He handled that thing. And I didn't intend for him to be in that position, didn't want him to.

WC:

Right. No, he handled it very well.

TS:

He wouldn't have been any use had he gotten that tag.

WC:

Right. Well, that was—as I sort of read that—those demonstrations in Greensboro, that was the first point of crisis. The second point comes when Jesse Jackson gets arrested about three weeks later—two weeks later, and all hell is ready to break loose, and there is a killing over in Lexington. And Schenck is in a situation where he has to basically make a decision which way he's going to go. He's either going to have marshal law, or he's going to finally intervene and put the pressure on business. And I've seen—I've been into his papers and I know where he drew up two statements, one of which was really kind of a hard line rejection statement, which I think he would have wanted to give if he had followed his instincts, and the other was a very statesman-like posture, which of course he did give, and which President Kennedy then praised and other people. I wondered whether you had talked to him at all about that statement before he made it.

TS:

Oh, yes. Oh, yes, and furthermore had gotten the president to follow through on it. I wouldn't say we wrote it because that would be unfair, but we were all over that situation and encouraging him and trying to give him the necessary backbone. And, again, not reflecting on his personal courage, but we had resources that he didn't have, and to have our encouragement certainly would give him a little added sense of strength.

WC:

What kinds of resources would those be?

TS:

Well, first of all, you had the prestige, whatever it was, of the governor's office. You had our ability to get the White House to make a statement. You had our highway patrol that was an extremely well-disciplined group. They absolutely understood the policy, and I never heard of a violation where the patrol tried to push anybody around. They were backing up the local police, and we put the burden on the local police to do the job right too, and in most cases they did. And they did in Greensboro. So those kinds of resources. We just had—obviously as the governor and I had the National Guard, and I know one night we put the National Guard on that kind of ready alert in the armories. I've forgotten how many times, but I know once in Greensboro we did, probably right at that point.

WC:

I know that there comes a time later in the fall when he—when Mayor Schenk writes you and asks you to convene a meeting with himself and President Dowdy and yourself to in effect work out a strategy keeping the demonstrators on campus. And you refused to do that, and you have a very interesting letter to Wayneck, I guess, who basically delivers it, that that's not the way to proceed. I wondered whether there were other efforts like that to get you to quell the demonstrations by personal intervention.

TS:

I don't even recall that incident, but that sounds reasonable. But I think I would have—again, I wasn't trying to be the hero. I wasn't trying to ride into the fray on a white horse, which I think would have been a grave mistake. And I don't know how we handled that particular thing, but I also realized you couldn't absolutely put a cap on these students and expect anything to come of it. I knew very well that during that summer when it would, we hoped, calm down a little as people went home, a good many of them weren't going home.

I asked John Stewart[?] how they were staying in Raleigh. That would apply to Greensboro, too. He said, “The older ones are paying the way. They are providing the money.” He said, “See, it hurts our conscious if we didn't do this.” So they had plenty of community support. And it wasn't a bunch of damn young wild radicals, it was the whole black community, with white supporters here and there, but it was the John Stewarts. And if John Stewart felt the way these young blacks did, then it was a force that we ought not to try to cap. We ought to try to accommodate.

And that of course was our strategy to find out what the hell was bugging them—though I thought I already knew—but to find out for the public and let the public understand that this was a tremendous and totally justified point of view they were trying to express by demonstrating. And it wasn't any question about it. It was just an overwhelming view of everybody in the black community. And maybe one reason we survived better than the others did during that period is we understood it wasn't a bunch of young radicals but it was a very substantial movement. Maybe one reason we later survived here when I understood that the students weren't crazy anti-war radicals, it was a great segment of people and we weren't going to put them down either. But, anyhow, that was our philosophy: that you weren't going to put them down and shouldn't try to.

WC:

Let me just ask you one more question about Jesse Jackson. How it came that he was your—he became a consultant, I believe, with the state.

TS:

Jesse—I had invited all the leaders of the demonstrations to the capitol. I spoke to them a minute or two and left, and left Waynick to talk to them. Now, they raised Cain for a little while because they wanted to confront the governor. Well, I wasn't stupid enough to get into that trap, because in the first place I would have appeared to be standing up there arguing with them, and that's the way it would have come out, and I would have been the opponent. As it was, I had put them together and we were designing something.

Then I asked a limited number of young and old people, including Jesse Jackson, to the mansion, where we had about maybe forty or fifty people; I don't remember now. By that time the March on Washington had occurred where I had had a very favorable review, if you recall. So Jesse Jackson said something in that meeting very sharply to me about, “Why don't you do so-and-so, and so-and-so?” And I said, “I'm the only governor in the country, let alone in the South, that's been praised for what he's done already, and I can't do everything.” And I gave him a sort of sharp answer. I'm not sure that's what I said, but that was the tone of it. He came up afterwards and more or less apologetically said, “I wasn't trying to accuse you of not doing things. I know that.”

And in the course of that conversation, I had said, “There are a lot of things that we can do. Now, you could—see, you've reached the point of diminishing returns. You got the attention with these demonstrations, but they don't know what your problem is. They don't know what's bugging you. Now, you might think that's unusual, but they don't know what's bothering you. So why don't we try to do some things that let them know.” I said “I'm sure we can get President Kennedy to come here and sit in on a panel or something to get the attention of the people. I'm sure that some of you students can test it. Why don't we put together a television program where you tell your story. And you don't need to tell it the way I want you to tell it, I'll just supply the technicians and we'll pick one of your leaders, Jesse Jackson, and he can be in charge of the program, and that's all that I'll ever say to him. Say whatever you want to on television and we'll run it.”

So that's how he got to be on my “staff” or advisor. He wasn't so much a consultant to me, because I put him in charge of that project and put him on the governor's payroll. Some people would have said we co-opted him—a word later to come into use—but I don't think we did. We certainly weren't trying to.

WC:

He wrote a very nice letter to you after that, which I've seen, of warm praise.

TS:

Oh, I had forgotten about that. [clock chiming] And I've sort of—I haven't really kept up with Jesse very much because he went through a right bitter period and I thought I would just—but I'm sure my relationship with him would be very good because it ought to be.

WC:

Right. Well, let me turn this off. I think I've used up my allotted—

[End of Interview]