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Interview with Elisabeth G. Hair

Interviewee: 
Hair, Elisabeth G.
Interviewer: 
Greeson, Jennifer
Date of Interview: 
1993-06-25
Identifier: 
MUHA0039
Subjects: 
Women and Politics; Democratic Party; League of Women Voters; Charlotte Women`s Political Caucus; Mecklenburg County Commission
Abstract: 
A Charlotte politico for much of her adult life, Elisabeth "Liz" Hair discusses her involvement in local and state politics in North Carolina. She details her work in organizations like the Democratic party, the League of Women Voters, and the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections. A pioneer in many aspects of her political career, Hair reflects upon her experiences as a woman on the Mecklenburg County Commission and as its first female chairperson. She discusses many aspects of her political pursuits while in public service, including task forces on education, the State Community College Board, city planning, affirmative action, and the food stamp program and her leadership within the Charlotte arts community. Reflecting on her move to Charlotte, she discusses her initial impressions of the South and what she describes as its insular, stifling qualities.
Coverage: 
1930s-1990s
Interview Setting: 
The Hair home on Stanford Place in Charlotte
Collection: 
Levine Museum of the New South, Professional Women Series
Collection Description: 
Jennifer Greeson interviewed a number of area professional women for an exhibit at the Levine Museum of the New South.
Interview Audio: 
Transcript:
JG (Jennifer Greeson, interviewer): Hair in her home, and I`m here to talk to you about your involvement with the Charlotte community and especially the involvement you`ve had with different political organizations and groups, and other organizations and groups as well.
EH (Elisabeth Hair): [Laughter] My life`s field, yes.
JG: Right, right. So I`d like you to just talk to me and tell me whatever you want me to know.
EH: Oh, gosh, Jennifer. [Laughter] I don`t know where to, where to start.
JG: Right.
EH: I guess I--. My father was a lawyer. And he was very public spirited kind of person
JG: Um-hum.
EH: and I think we just grew up in an atmosphere of you do get involved in your community and you do owe something to your community. And so--. And then a very political background, because he ran for the U.S. Congress and lost in the year 1928. So at a tender age, I was standing on the street comer handing out, you know, cards that said, "Green for Congress." And seeing my father go off then in those days [Laughter] wearing black tie and everything to go speak at precinct meetings and practicing, practicing his speeches. Well we all- I have two brothers-and we`re all very conscious of politics and what they meant as I was growing up. I think that`s very important in families, if you establish that there`s a world outside your household. So that had a big influence on me. My mother was a big cheese in the women, League of Women Voters and of course she and my father usually were on the opposite side of issues, like disarmament and so forth in the 30s, you know. So it was, it was--. It did make us conscious of a lot of things. And then I went to Wellesley, which is now a very good political affiliation to have. And I sort of lost track of politics. I was the editor of the student paper there. Got into it a little bit. And then I was, I was married and working on these newspapers in, during the war. And then I was, I was married in 1943, got divorced in 1946, meanwhile having a small- I guess about `47, I`m not sure when- a, a small child. A daughter, wonderful daughter, by that marriage. And I remarried in 1949. But during those interim years after college, I was busy working, having a baby, just sort of keeping afloat, and I was living at home with my parents and had sort of a built-in background of people that I already knew that took my time up. But when I got married to Sam Hair, he was from Chicago but he had moved down here to work in Charlotte. And I moved to Charlotte in 1949 with my daughter Camilla, who was then three. And although I was, I was not a bit jaded, I, with housework because I`d never really done any and that`s the period when I was finding out that dust got under beds and things like that, you know. Quite a shock when they moved the bed. And--. But after we--. Soon after that, we moved to a little new development of small houses. And I immediately got interested in the League of Women Voters and in politics. And kept trying to offer my services to the local Democratic party because, needless to say, I`d been raised a good Democrat. And in fact had gone out putting up posters for Harry Truman when he was running for the Senate with my father, going with my father. So I thought well this is a good chance to get involved in politics again. And I got very involved in the League of Women Voters, and beca--, went on their board and became voter service chairman to get out the vote and so forth. Then I kept, you know, trying to infiltrate the Democratic party here, which is, had really just had a lock on everything until about the time that I moved here. I thought I was moving to the land of milk and honey and Democratic majorities and Democratic world down here as opposed to all the Republicans that I always had in my class at school and everything at home. But, low and behold, it was just on the verge of a massive change and switch. And then we elected our first Republican congressman in 1940, `52. And from then on we`ve had one ever since. So it has been not a Democratic scene nearly as much as I had anticipated. But I found, found that there really was not any desire for people to say, "Yes, come on down and work in our headquarters." If they even had a headquarters or return your phone call to the chairman of the party. So I thought, well, darn it, I`m going to--. I, I, I just found there was a candidate for some office in our neighborhood. And so I went over to meet him, bumped into another woman who was interested in politics, and we started working for this candidate from our neighborhood. And I`d go out with my stroller and all that and pass out leaflets and get to know people, which I had never done before. So that`s sort of how I got started with politics in Charlotte. And then, I got involved in the next congressional campaign. I was also voter service chairman, still, and voter service chairman actually when Eisenhower was elected in 1952, I guess. And we had something like almost ninety percent, or maybe more turn out of the vote, which was very exciting and made the national headlines and so forth then. But I was still having babies, and I had a baby in 1950 and then one in 1954 and finally in 1956, so I had four daughters by 1956. So it took a little time to have them, but I was always--. I`d pile them in the station wagon, you know. We`d go around, and they`d have their homemade posters that I--. Sort of ran a sweatshop here in my dining room, to make them paint these posters, you know. And they wanted them to look handmade, and believe me, they did. They`d be hanging out the back of the station wagon, the two-year-old would begins hollering, "Yea! Seppie Bell!" That was Spencer Bell, who was a very leading person in the city, a lawyer, and who was--, had very much, a great conscience, a civic conscience, I would say. Meanwhile, a few, just about four or five people were working this congressional campaign of Ben Douglas who had been mayor of Charlotte, the city of Charlotte and was running on the Democratic ticket in I guess 1954 and got zero support from any Democratic party that we could see. And in the meanwhile, also the Democratic party structure such as it was had been taken over by a very negative force as we viewed it, and I think it was. A coalition of sort of dissatisfied people who really--. I can`t remember what all was wrong with them, but we thought a great deal was wrong with them at the time [Laughter]. I think there was. So there`s also a big political boss here named Paul Younts, who was postmaster of Charlotte for some time. And he was I say a political boss in the best sense, because my father brought me up to say that, you know, "Politics," you know, "bosses are not bad. You have to have them. And politics isn`t bad. And this whole structure- there`s a reason for it." And so Paul Younts was a--. Became a very good friend. He was a retired general among other things, but he was very, very involved in the Charlotte community. But he had--. He was not the chairman of the Democratic party, which we felt he should be. So, I got [Clears throat] very shortly, at some point the--. I`d say in the early half of 1954, fifth -something like that. Spencer Bell--. There was a vacancy. Someone died or dropped out of the legislature. And Spencer Bell was the choice of everybody who was everybody in Charlotte, and he was a close personal friend of ours. And all these people were calling each other saying, "We`ve just got to work over this weekend and get the executive committee," which was to fill that vacancy, which was composed of all the precinct chairmen to elect Spencer Bell. Well, the trouble was that not even Paul Younts had a list of the executive committee members. I had a list of the executive committee members because I had worked in this congressional campaign, and I knew who all the ( ) precinct chairmen were. And so I remember sitting in Spencer Bell`s office with, you know, heads of big law firms and a bank president or two, something. And they`re all saying, you know, "What are we going to do?" And we went over this list, and I learned a great lesson from, from Paul Younts there, because, he and I decided--. We worked on this list together, and everybody else was going to work on individuals on this list, too, that they knew. But I saw Paul Younts then and there go to the phone and call, start calling some people on this list. And I always contended that action, and prompt action, and just do it, and don`t say, "Well, we ought to get in touch with so-and-so." If it`s something at all important, go to the phone and call them and do it. And it was a very important lesson for me, just watching him work. And I think it is an important lesson. The other lesson that I learned is that I tried to line up precincts after that, so we could take--. If Spencer Bell did get the nomination, did get in the legislature, went on to become a senator then went on to become a federal judge and died several years ago, a few years ago, quite a few years ago. But he was a big asset to Mecklenburg County and to the state. He put in a lot of court reform legislation and was really very highly regarded and very beneficial to public life. So that was a success. But then we realized that we had to take back the precinct organization from these other people. And so I, I said, "I`ll split the list with you, Paul," or "Mr. Younts," whatever I called him. And I found out, you know, how it just takes incessant contacting people and staying in touch with people. And if you just get a feeling. I mean, you`d just be sitting there and all at once, a name will come in your head of somebody there. And you think, you know, I ought to call him. I don`t know why, but I just ought to call him. And you do. And there`s always something you need to know. And then my--. And you`re always on the phone when you`re really lining up close to those--. You do understand precinct organization? Yeah. Close to the precinct elections, then you really have to keep on top of it. You can`t just say, "Well, they`re taken care of." And so it got so that I was getting phone calls from people out in Steele Creek-it was much more rural then-about 5.30 in the morning, and somebody would be telling me about the boils under their arms or something like that. I have to listen to all this stuff, you know. And my husband would say, `Why do you have to listen those people?" I said, "Well, because I want them to [Laughter] vote for the right person!" And politics is a lot of listening, too. So at midnight I`d get some calls from somebody else, just right practically around the clock, but you have to be prepared for that if you`re really trying to get these people and hold them in line. So I learned a lot of that, too. And then we did take over the precinct organization, and I got more deeply involved in politics and--. I lead what I call the accidental life. I`ve never planned my life at all. I, I guess I have some goals, but I don`t, I don`t really have a life plan. I see a lot of people, thinking kids today, when they get out of college they have their whole life planned out, you know, what job they`re going to have, and when they`re going to buy a BMW, when they`re going to make president, when they`re going to--. All this stuff. I think it`s just so overdone and so oppressive. So I never have--. Wonderful things have happened to me in my life, but I never planned them and I rarely expected them. I`ve gone on a theory that, if you`re learning something, which I enjoy learning things of all kinds, practically, maybe not science so much, but. Learning things is very interesting and fun, and you keep on learning things and all at once you find, unwittingly, you`ve prepared yourself for a door that`s opens for you, that you didn`t even, never even knew was there. And that`s sort of what`s happened in my life. I`ve never expected lots of things that have happened in my life.
JG: Um-hum.
EH: So in, 1960, there was a vacancy on the board of elections, which is also appointed by the precinct organization. And I went on. I`m not sure whether I was the first woman on the board of elections. I think I was. But, at any rate, fortuitously, which does not mean fortunately. But maybe it was fortunate. The chairman of the board of elections resigned for some reason practically right after I got on there. I don`t think it was--. It was because he was, he had another project, or running for office or something like that. It was not just because I got on, he didn`t like it. And so by seniority, I became the chairman of the board of elections. And I kept that job, I would say--. It`s a policy-making job, you don`t spend, don`t go to work from 8.00 to 5.00 or anything. Sometimes you do work a lot of long hours for an election season. I was able to promote further the, the League of Women Voters, program for, to get voting machines, and also to, over some dead bodies, to take registration out into the precincts. Had our first mobile registration units out there, and it was when Jack Kennedy was running for office. And you`d see people come out that hadn`t voted since they voted for Franklin Roosevelt. I`d would go out in some of those mobile things. I mean it was just interesting to me. I guess curiosity is a tremendous asset to a politician, as it was to a newspaper reporter. I mean, always curious about things. So that was very interesting, and I think I could, you know, help bring--. I think I helped bring, bring about some good changes in the board of elections. Although I will say this, that I was not--. I was in favor of literacy tests at that time, because I thought it was ridiculous for people to go vote that they didn`t, couldn`t tell what they were voting for and that they would be taken advantage of. Because, in the olden days, when they were controlling the votes--. You must have had a lot of political science because you seem to understand this. What you`d do would be-you may know this- go over to the polling place, bring out your own ballot without voting it, hand it to all your stooges that came along, and they`d bring out another clean ballot, and so forth. So as you could control how they voted. However I was very surprised that in Charlotte, they paid off their bag men before the elec--, before the election, whereas in most places they wait until after or pay half before and half after, in Chicago and stuff like that. It`s horrifying. They pay them and then, you know, they might bring in zero vote. I was never attached to that side of it, but it`s just another observation I made about Charlotte that they, they pay them ahead of time. And I didn`t--. I never saw any of this happening. I don`t think much of it happened after I was--. You know, it probably mostly been abandoned by 1960 at least. So anyhow, what made me talk about that? I can`t think. [Laughter] I got to know a lot about elections, and there are some policy decisions we made statewide and locally on elections and that was very interesting. And then meanwhile, my children are getting bigger, and I was doing a lot of stuff with them in school. I was interested--. I`ve always been interested in the arts, even when we first moved to Charlotte, and we really did not have a dime. I thought that it`s necessary to be a member of the Mint Museum, for example. Even if you never get time to go there. And I always had that feeling, but I never was that much involved in the arts during the 60s; however, I also, before I became chairman of the board of elections, had done a lot of work on Terry Sanford`s campaign for governor. And I was very naive. I met some wonderful people, some friends that are good friends and good political friends and very powerful friends today. I met Jane Patterson, who was, in the first Hunt administration, secretary of the administration, who is today the governor`s chief policy advisor. I had lunch with her yesterday. And such a brilliant, brilliant woman, and other various dear friends over the years. Betty McCain, who is now secretary of cultural resources in his new administration. And other friends, so it was a really good experience. But I didn`t think, you know, I never thought about what might come afterwards. So one day I was in my kitchen, looking at the children playing in the sand-pile thinking how nice it was that they had least had a nice sunny childhood. And the phone rang. It was the governor`s office, and Joel Fleishman was on the phone saying would I be interested in serving on a committee on education beyond the high school, which was a phrase I never even heard before. And I said, "Well, yeah. I guess so." And I had seen so many of these committees and commissions that never did a darn thing, so a few weeks later I was seeing Spencer Bell. I said, "Spencer, you know, the darndest thing. The governor`s office called and asked if I`d be interested in being on the governor`s commission on education beyond the high school. And I said, oh yeah, I`m sure it`s one of those committees that never meets or anything, but, anyway, I said OK." He said, "You said OK?" He said, "I have been absolutely breaking my back to get you appointed to that commission, and it`s going to meet. It`s going to be very important." So, I`d never thought of getting an appointment. It never crossed my little mind that I`d get any appointment. Never--. Was not part of my experience. I`m sure, I know it`s been going on for years and years, but it just never occurred to me that I would, which was another accidental thing. And it turned out to be the Carlisle Commission, which, was the commission that, among other things, drew up the blueprint for the community college system and really helped start the community college system. And then it made a number of other changes, especially in the governance of the university system, and in admitting Charlotte College to, at first two-year, and then finally from that went four years, into UNC Charlotte. And a great many significant things came out of that, and there are very many, and very many interesting people I got to know, and interesting ideas that I got. I just had never-- even realized, you know, how, how white and black the schools were, and how ridiculous it was to think in those terms, you know, until I got there and we`d have to ask, "Gosh, is this possible?" I also learned that university politics is about the most vicious politics that there can be. I mean, it`s worse than church politics. So that was all very educational, interesting, and I would ride up there frequently with, with Bonnie Cone, who is just the most wonderful people, and probably responsible of people. And she`s probably responsible for Charlotte having UNC Charlotte, and she`s just a diehard woman. I learned a lot from her. [Coughing] So that was an experience. Except that I disagreed with the plan that the governor, that Terry Sanford himself, wanted for the board of governors for the university system. Because he was going to have, I think maybe the chancellors of each one of the universities be part of that, which of course would make it total conflict of interest all over the place. And I still--. I`d never served on any kind of commission like that, which always met at the Institute of Government and so forth, at all. So here came our recommendations, and I didn`t--. I disagreed with that recommendation. And there was--. Am I talking too long or too much?
JG: Not at all.
EH: Oh, OK.
JG: No.
EH: There was someone, a man named Major McLendon, the major, who was a very distinguished lawyer from Greensboro-and his law firm is very prominent now, but he is no longer with us-on that board, and then two other persons whose names I really forget. I`m not sure whether one was Dallas Herring or not, but who also took exception to this. But nobody was doing anything about it. So--. [Laughter] I began, you know, pick up the phone. And it winds up that I write a minority opinion, which Major McLendon was down in Florida for his health, and these other people were scattered around the state somewhere or other, but they all signed off on the majority opinion that I wrote, minority opinion that I wrote, rather, opposing this concept. And although Major McLendon got the credit for this thing, such as it was, but, you know, I had really actually written it. And it was just surprising to me that, because it, it was accepted, ( ). And over the governor was overruled. I, I`ve forgotten the process by which that happened, but I was at a dinner honoring Major McLendon and Terry Sanford was there, and he said, you know, "The major even beat me on that issue." So it was an interesting experience. I have, I have gotten to be extremely assertive in asking about things or not just let things roll by me. And I`m on the Community, State Community College Board now, and there are so many things that I have problems with there that I know they`re probably kick me--. Probably already want to kick me off of that board, but I`ll ask questions and do something. I just will not let things slip, almost to a fault, probably, my husband would probably say, but nevertheless. So then, this is sort of an historic account, I gue--, I mean, chronological account.
JG: That`s OK.
EG: I thought of something else that happened. Well, I could still be active for the Democratic party. I didn`t ever take it upon myself to make predictions as to election outcome, to have a bumper sticker on my car when I was chairman of the board of elections, or any outward sign of--. Everybody knew I was a democrat, but I was not supporting any candidate. I was not visibly politicking or supporting the Democratic party. However, I did, as part of Terry Sanford`s organization-and he had a wonderful campaign, by the way, for governor. I`ve never worked in such a good campaign. But--. Get sent around to talk to women`s groups around the state, so I got to see another part of North Carolina. I got to see these small towns, which were smaller then than they are now. I got to go to places in a hot sunny day in October and get over there at ten o`clock in the morning and have the female, probably as old as I am now, chairman of the party, in her lovely old Victorian house, and had all the ladies in and having a cake with a flag on it, you know, and all this sort of thing. And then going down to the town hall, and, or some kind of little auditorium downtown, and this brilliant sunny day, and all the Council of State candidates, you know, all Democrats would be lined up to parade, and they`d be playing, "When the Saints Come Marching In." And I just loved that. It was such a wonderful thing. And all acro--. I learned also, at least it seemed to me. It might have been I was just fantasizing. I seemed to see in those towns the imprint of the University of North Carolina, the influence, and I know how important--. Well I always knew the reputation of that university. In fact, when I was in my sophomore year--. You know, so many people want to change colleges in their sophomore year. And I was one of those. And I wanted to come to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, even then, so it`s sort of coincidence. But I think it`s one of the most valuable assets of this state. And of course, Duke University is, too. [Laughter] But, you know, it`s a public institution. And I hope we don`t ruin it, now. Anyway, that was, that was--. I just learned about North Carolina. And I learned to know different kinds of people from North Carolina. And I really, really loved it. I loved the people. And I`d go around and make these talks. I had also started, in 1954 or something, right after this Congressional campaign that I was working in, when Douglas flopped, I`d also helped to start the Democratic Women`s Club, which is still going on now. And we, for a while, we were the only Democratic organization there was until we got the party reorganized again. So I was doing some of this for the Democratic Women`s Club, and going around meeting with people and talking to people. Considering that I have always been a very shy person, which is true, but I must have [Laughter] overcompensated for that by now, I guess. People laugh when I say that, but I always have been. And I don`t really enjoy public speaking, but I have learned to do it. And sometimes, and sometimes I actually enjoy it, but I mean I just as soon never speak, make a speech to anybody again, I think. Anyhow, so that was all going on, too, and I was getting to know the state. And my children were in the schools, and by that time, oh, I was already having run-ins with education. I`m very big on education. By 199--? Six, seven. Fifty--? How old was Cammie, about eight? About, about 1954, my, my mother came to visit me. I don`t know who that is, maybe it`s--. Maybe--. Don`t worry about it. [Pause] Duchess? Oh, it`s the mailman.
JG: Oh.
EH: He`s outside. OK. My mother came to visit. You know, when your mother comes to visit when you`re married and have a family, why, your mother usually can make observations and give you a little advice. So I was still very influenced by my mother [Laughter] in those days, and she came to visit. And she said, "Well," you know, "What`s the matter with Cammie?" That`s my oldest daughter. She was in the second grade, third grade. And I said, "What--what--what do you mean?" And she said, "Well, she doesn`t like to read. And you know, you children, when you were growing up, you were reading all the time, wanted to bring your book to the dinner table, read in the bathroom, read all the time. And she just doesn`t seem to like to read." And "Is she--. Can she read very well?" And I said, "Well, she`s getting A in reading, Mother." And, nonetheless, of course, my mother`s influence being what it was, I thought, "Oh, well, I`d better go to the school and see." So I went and talked to her third-grade teacher, and I said, you know, "I`m concerned because Cammie doesn`t seem to read very well and doesn`t like to read, and yet she`s getting A in the third grade." And the teacher said, "Well, Mrs. Hair, you don`t understand. Cammie is reading at the second-grade level. That`s the best she`s ever going to do, and that`s why she`s getting an A." I said, "Wait a minute." [Laughter] And she repeated that. I said, "Well, I`m done at that. That is not it." So I went and got a friend that--. Of course they were doing this "look, see" reading stuff, and never--. No phonics, no alphabet. What we had done somehow. But in those days, parents were not supposed to interfere with the schools, unlike today, when the parent`s supposed to do everything. They, they, you were not supposed to interfere, so. And I told them, I said, "Mother, we`re not supposed to interfere with the schools. You don`t know." And so I got a friend to teach her phonics, and I took her to the eye doctor. The school had said she had 20/20 vision, but I took her to the eye doctor and she had 20/20 vision, but she always saw two rows of type with 20/20 vision. So instead of one, you know, she--. They were double. So we got that corrected, and she`s an avid reader today, and became one, and did well in school. So I learned about the schools. That was my first lesson with the schools, and I became increasingly disappointed in them. And that was in the 50s, see. I had been watching public education since 1950. And I support public education, but I--. You know, when they was first started, I could have analy--. I could have written, practically, it was Harvard or Cohen reports on the public schools. I could have written them in the 1950s. Because one of them ended up saying, you know, if a foreign power wanted to undo the United States, demolish it, they could do no better than what`s happened to our public education system. And that was about in 1960. I consider that in late 1940s, a foreign power did indeed come over and they sprinkled a whole lot of dust over the so-called education establishment. It was when they began calling themselves educators instead of teachers, and it was because--. It`s when they decided that, you know, competition is bad; children shouldn`t compete with each other. I mean, this shows how conservative--. I`m partly liberal and partly conservative. Very conservative on education. That you shouldn`t have standards. It made it much easier to teach, because if you didn`t have to prove anything like this teacher over here, just keep on giving your kids A. And I really got into that. I read a book by Jacques Barzun, so I lent it to a million people and now I can`t find it, but it was "The House of Intellect". If you ever come across that book, it`s an interesting book. Among other things it pointed out the people that know the alphabet. But the alphabet is really the basis of all logic and reason, according to him. Furthermore, the stuff I kept hearing when I got on the county commission about, "Teaching the whole child. No, we can`t have testing because we have to teach the whole child." You know, they never--. I don`t see how you teach an arm or a leg. My contention was, and it was drawn, confirmed, by Jacques Barzun, that a child who knows how to read well, or do other things well, math or whatever, is going to feel much better about himself, as we say all the time, you know, so much about self esteem. And I think it`s important, but I think some people have too much of it already. So, I know, I know, I know it`s extremely important, but, nonetheless, that children--. We just dropped all standards. Anyway, and expectations, they kept getting lower and lower, and then they have--. Now we have a set of parents who never had any good education in public school, and they don`t know what it`s even supposed to be. It`s very difficult to pull them up for their children. Just another theory of mine. [Laughter] So then, let`s see, where were we? We were about to 1970, up to about 1972 actually. The summer of 1972, Cammie, my oldest daughter, was at that time married, and still is, married to a--. Well, he`s a lawyer now, but he was a law student on the GI Bill at Chapel Hill. And they had one little kid, about a year old. And they lived on a shoestring, and she worked in the basement of the medical school, in the library there. And so they came down to visit for a weekend in the summer, and we had a party, and you know, everyone finally dispersed. It was about midnight, and I was starting to go upstairs, and she`s sitting here, said "Where are you going?" I said, "Well, I`m going to bed, Cam. Why don`t you come up to bed?" She said, "I want to talk to you." And I said, "Well, OK." And I came back down and sat in that chair and she was sitting here. She said, "Well--." I said, "What do you want to talk about?" She said, "Well, I`m sitting at a desk next to a guy that does the same job that I do, and he hasn`t worked there any longer, and he makes eight hundred dollars a year more than I do." And she said, you know, "It`s, it`s not fair. It`s not fair. We need eight hundred dollars in our family. I`d like to buy some hot pants, you know. Even, even mothers want to buy hot pants." And I thought, oh, you know, that`d break, break a mother`s heart to hear that. So I said, "Well, Cammie, you know, I hate it, but what can I do? What can I ever do?" She said, "I don`t know, but you could do something." So then a few months later, my good friend Martha McKay, who`s now moved to Florida but who`s been so powerful and influential in women`s issues. I don`t know if you--, if anybody`s mentioned her to you, but she is terrific. And she was in school with Terry Sanford at UNC, and she has been a national committeewoman, and she`s been, had the foresight and the leadership about so many women`s issues. I think I`m a good doer. I`m not necessarily the most imaginative person. And I can think of ideas, and I had a lot of ideas, but neverthe--, [Laughter] as you can see, but still, I would never have the vision to say, "Well, we need to have a women`s political caucus in North Carolina." She`d been involved with key women in Washington that started the caucus. And so, I didn`t even know what one was, nor, when we were having lunch at the country club one day when she mentioned affirmative action, I`d never heard of it. I pretended. I was so embarrassed, I couldn`t tell her, even though she`s a good friend, I didn`t know what it was. I just said, "Oh, um-hum. Yes. Um." But I went up there to a meeting with Betty Chafin Rash, who is probably on your list to interview, and a few other people. About twenty-five women got together to start the Women`s Political Caucus of North Carolina. And then we were charged. I`ve always said, well, you know, "I think I`ve done--. Martha McKay tells me what to do and then I just go do it." So she said, "Go back to Charlotte and get with Ruth Easterling," who`s another person probably on your list, "and get some women together and start a political caucus." So we have a little--. We tore down our garage a long time ago and made a little house out there in back. It had one room and bathroom, and we have a little pool out there now behind it, but it was a good place for kids to hang out and bean up, because this house doesn`t really have a good place for teenage parties, and so forth and so on, and also became campaign headquarters for many a campaign. And that`s where we met Republicans, very suspicious, and Democratic women. Republicans always tend to be more suspicious surveys have shown, than Democrats. I think somebody went through a Boston apartment house and, you know, did a little survey with all the housewives there and found that the Republican women were just very suspicious, and the house--. Other Democrats would go, "Oh, come on, have a Coke, da-da-da-da." [Laughter] So that`s just a story, but anyway. Let`s see now. Where was--? What in the world? My mind has wandered again. Oh. We got them together, and we had--. And I was the temporary chairman. And we had a meeting, called a meeting over in the basement of the auditorium at , Dana Hall, and that was done. I think was done in January of 1972. It was I think 1971, November, is about when we started the state caucus. I think we did it early January. And then, immediately, we were in a frenzy to--. We had a lot of good people show up though virtually no blacks. And we never have had any blacks to speak of in the women`s caucus. The women, black women got their own caucus. I don`t know whether that`s good or bad. You know, pros and cons. I think it`s too bad in many ways, that we haven`t united in one women`s caucus. But there are various reasons for that, and they have some different agendas than we do and so forth. But that needs to be worked on. However, we were looking for candidates, women candidates. And I wanted Betty to run for the county commission. You had to file in February. And she said really, no; she wasn`t ready to. And she was just about thirty then, I guess, so just turning thirty. And she had a lot of stuff to do, and she wasn`t well known. And I had the benefit of having a well-known name, because my name was on all the ballots, you know. So people had to see it, and I`d get in the papers now and then. My name had gotten--. I had pretty good name identification. And then the Observer got on this rumor that I might run and they wrote an editorial, very, urging me to run, which is most unusual. And then I, I was terrified, because I was--. I am shy. I never wanted to be out there in the limelight. And I wasn`t one to go around and get to know everybody in the crowd, and I wasn`t--. I`m not as outgoing as a, naturally as a politician should be. So I thought about it, and I asked. The time--. The deadline was drawing near, so I asked my husband, and he`s very supportive, and he said, "Yes." You know, he always thinks I can do anything, so [Laughter] "Yes, go ahead and do it." And then I asked a newspaper reporter who was a very good friend of mine at that time, and he said, "Do it." I`m not sure if I asked anybody else. I might have asked one or two kids. But nobody came, you know, no groups came and said, "Oh, will you run?" Da, da, da, da. No, no. I was unimplored by masses of people to run for the county commission. But the thing was that I`d been sitting down in the election office as chairman watching the county commission, so I was familiar with it and not entirely satisfied with it. In fact, while I was chairman of the board of elections, I had--. My consciousness had been raised all on its own to the extent that I noticed all these committees that were appointed by government, local government, were men. And I finally went up to the then-chairman of the county commissioners, and said, "Gosh," I won`t use his name, but anyway, you know, "I read in the paper you`re going to appoint five more men to another committee." I said, "Don`t you ever, don`t you, don`t you ever think about women?" He said, "Sure I do, honey, all the time," and gave me a little pat. [Laughter] And, you know, that was as far as I got. But as time has gone by, the more I see these pictures of men worldwide or whatever just making all these decisions without a woman in there. It just infuriates me. So belatedly, I`ve, you know--. That`s just heightened and heightened and heightened. Anyway, it seemed as though--. This party chairman called and said, "Liz," you know, "We`ve got to have a fifth person on the slate for the county commission." And, you know, " I think there is some guy we can get to do this." So, I said, "Oh, sure. Yeah, I will." And I really didn`t get the irony of it for a minute, and then, after I hung up and I said, "Listen. I`m thinking of somebody right now, so." [Laughter] Without further--. That just, that just did it. [Laughter] And went back to the caucus and told them I was going to run and of course filed and sat down. Then I wanted to pull the sheets over my head for about three days. I just was terrified. And then I sat down and coughed up a card file of everybody I`d ever known. I sort of regurgitated all these names, all the time I`d been here for twenty years or whatever and never worked with on anything. [Clears throat] And started making that file. And a friend of mine called and offered if she, if she could help me, and I said, "Oh, yes, Pat. I`ve got all these cards of people. Call these people and ask them if they`ll help, and they`ll say they`ll help." And well of course, when she came over she said, "Well, Liz, talked to all these people. They`re good people, but what did you ask them to do?" And I said, "Oh, nothing. They just said they`d help me." [Laughter] So that was another lesson I learned. Ask someone to do something specific when you ask them for their help and pin them down then and there. And after that, I, I did that. I also learned I wanted, when people were working in my campaign or search, I, I would sit down and I wanted to know why they wanted to work in my campaign. And I think it`s perfectly fine to have an, an agenda for a person to work in a campaign. That they want to advance a cause, or get to know more Democrats, or get the experience, or run for office themselves sometime, or whatever. But I just wanted to, to know that. So, and then I also felt that you had to be--. I didn`t get this, probably didn`t do it myself, but through the years of campaigns and working on other people`s campaigns, I have come to the conclusion that if a candidate cannot say in one or two sentences why he`s running, forget it. Or she`s running. It`s just ridiculous how many people run for office and have no idea. In fact, when I--. After I filed, I was out with some old friends. We were out with some old friends, and another friend had offered to have a coffee for me. And these, and these, and these people were driving me out there and they said, "Well, what are you going to talk about?" And I said, "Well, I think I`ll talk about housing, you know, and I think, like that habitat experience up in--, I mean experiment up there in Canada." And they said, "Well, Liz, I don`t think the county does housing." And I said, "Oh." [Laughter] "Well, I`m really concerned about housing," I said. "Well, now the county does do some housing." But at that time it did zero housing, and I had to go to get my wits together. And though I also don`t believe in long position papers, every time I hear, "We`re, we`re preparing a position papers," I just cringe, because they`re much too long, and they`re never used, and so forth and so on. But anyhow, I did get elected and I led the ticket on the Democratic, the Democratic primary. Alec McMillan, who is our Republican congressman now, as you know, led the, got more votes than anybody else on the ticket when the general election came, but I was second. And Mr. Bill Harris, who`s a wonderful person and had been president of the Chamber, was the Harris in Harris-Teeter, came from a farm in Georgia from a family of about eight or ten children. Never forgot where he came from. He got to be a very big businessman. He was a wonderful guy that always, never lost perspective. And though he--. When I was running for office, I ran into him and another male, well, they were all male, candidate for the county commission. Democrats. And they said, "Well, you know." They didn`t say, "Well, you know." They said, "Well, we`re, we`re glad you`re running. We really had in mind--. We think it`s good for a woman to be running. We had another woman in mind, but--." [Laughter] So I thought uh-oh. But--. And then, the tradition had been that the Democrat--. If I`m talking too long and too much, let me--. I`m probably --.
JG: You`re not at all.
EH: Wearing you out.
JG: You`re not.
EH: That the Demo--, that the highest vote-getter would be the chairman of the county commission, in the majority party, that is. Highest vote came from the majority party. So when the election results came out, I was second and Mr. Harris was fourth. But he had been chairman the previous year, and he knew a heck of a lot about it. He was a very good person to be doing it. And we had our little cau--, Democratic caucus. No one ever mentioned. I made up my mind, and I`m not, I`m not going to try to be chairman. That would be stupid to try to be chairman, but a lot of people would have. So no one, no one ever said anything, but I, I sort of made it clear that I wasn`t going to run, and Mr. Harris wasn`t. There he and some of his--. The incumbent Democrats, all the ones that just gotten reelected, we all met and they decided that so-and-so would be, you know, sort of assigned to education, and so-and-so who was a lawyer would get this role, and so-and-so. And I could be sort of like, this is what they said, sort of like, "Uh, uh." They left me for like, "Well, Liz, you can be sort of like a hostess to make people feel at home when they come up there." And I said, "OK." [Laughter] "You know, people coming up before the board, make them feel at home and at ease." So I said, "Great. I`ll do, I`ll be glad to do that." And, but I got on the board. I knew that Mr. Harris was not really happy about that, or nobody was. Well, I had a couple of new, new commissioners on there that were not as, as--. Were a different generation, so that was different. But Mr. Harris, initially, was very nice, but I knew that--. I already knew that I was not his first choice for a woman to run for the county commission, so. I became vice-chairman, because of my vote, and sat by him. And [Clears throat] I never got on the offensive about--. I offered, said, "Can I get you a cup of coffee?" If he had a great big zoning map or something, because he was even older than--. He was about ten years older than I was. I`d help him straighten out this map, and so forth and so on and just never felt like I couldn`t do any of these little menial tasks. And we got to know each other very well. Got to be wonderful friends in that first two years. But then, progress is so slow. It was then in the first two years also that Betty Chafin Rash and, and someone else from the caucus--. I can`t think of her name but, anyway. [Clears throat] I can see her but anyway, Betty knows who it is. A good friend of Betty`s. Came down before the county commission, and they wanted to have, us to have a woman`s commission. And it took a year. They came down pretty soon after the election, because it was a triumph for the first woman to get on there, and presented this proposal, the women`s commission, as far as the status of women`s commission is what the governor set up already. And that`s what it was called here, but it was, it was like the ch--, as I`ve said many times, the Chinese water cure. I mean, every time we sat down a little, in formal meetings. Now I`d say, "Now, the woman`s commission." They`d say, "Well, what about a men`s commission," you know. It was just the Chinese water cure, just keep dropping drops. So finally they said, "Well, OK." And I`m telling you this and another thing because it`s a reflection of the relationship or the attitudes toward women. They said, "Well, all right. You can have a woman`s commission, but they won`t have any staff. They have to do all their own work. They won`t have any funds." Well we had a woman`s commission that would not quit. I mean, it was just dynamite. Very highly professional people. They did a fabulous report and didn`t--.
EH: All right. You must be getting tired.
JG: I don`t get tired. It`s really interesting.
EH: OK. Well, so we did get funding, but it`s always a battle. When the subject of battered women came up, it was not unusual to hear a certain commissioners say, "Well, that`s what women are supposed to be." I`m serious.
JG: When was this?
EH: This was in 1974, say. You know, it was not, and a lot of similar remarks. They just, quote, "Didn`t get it." I also brought up the question of affirmative action, which I had finally learned what it meant. And I had talked to the county manager a little about necessity for this, and he was not totally opposed. But there was no leadership from him on it, certainly. So I kept, kept asking about affirmative action, and finally, I got him to, he prepared. I got the board to request a plan, and so forth and so on, and they brought it before us. And the board members, you know, said, "Well, now, what does this mean?" And Bill Harris said, "Well, it`s OK. It just means we`ll have more pretty faces up here on the fifth floor of the county building." And I said, "Yeah, that`s it, boys. Don`t worry about it." [Laughter] So that`s the way you had to, you know, do things. Not rub it in. But it was another lesson that I learned on the county commission. What I started to say, that Bill Harris was not running again the second time, the next term. And, even though he was really a close, dear friend, and our friendship continued as long as he lived, and I`d go out to lunch with him regularly, and so forth and so on. We had a great time together. In spite of that, he could see that I would lead the ticket, and I would be the chairman. And he was not ready to see a woman chairman. He just didn`t think it was--. It just wouldn`t work. He didn`t tell me that, but I knew that. And the cha--, at the last, you know, probably about a month before the election, I`m not sure, but pretty close to the election, the Chamber came out with a "Stop Liz" campaign. It was, I don`t know how--. I mean it was identified in the paper as the Chamber, it was the Chamber. I don`t know how exactly they did it, whether they did it unofficially or how. But it was well known. It was a "Stop Liz" campaign. So--. And Bill Harris, I saw my now good friend Ed Peacock, a Republican who got elected then, coming out of Bill Harris`s office. I knew Bill was supporting him. And I just came in the offices one day, and Peacock was coming out of the open door of Bill Harris`s, the chairman`s office. And I heard Bill Harris say, "Well, she`s a hard worker." And I knew that he was telling Peacock to don`t spare the horses, because he didn`t want to have me as the chairman. So you know, it`s just a--. You can`t have a very thin skin. And that`s another thing I learned in politics is nev--. Try--. You know, unless it`s just blatant, always assume that people didn`t mean that and--, or didn`t, you know, weren`t really--. You shouldn`t be offended, or they didn`t really mean to offend you. I probably bent over backwards the other way and would not even realize that people were trying to shoot me down or something sometimes, but it`s better than just getting all uptight. I also learned about teamwork. I also learned that women tend to think that they have to settle, solve everything themselves. And I learned to do the best I could on an issue and know that someone else is going to come in there and help, too. Most of the time the help will come, if you`re doing the best you can. And these all sound like platitudes, but they`re, they`re very true in my life. So I learned a lot, a lot of things. I learned, certainly, to get used to being the only woman in a room with men, time after time after time. And I still am in many, many cases. I just went to see the governor last week and sit around in a room full of men, and you`re the only woman there. So it`s still very much a man`s world. But during the same period, I have to go back and pay tribute to Mrs. Gladys Tillett, whose husband was a international lawyer here when I first moved to Charlotte and was a good friend of the Spencer Bell`s. And Gladys Tillett had been born in Morganton and grown up with Sam Ervin. She`d been a national committeewoman. She had been vice chairman of the national committee, I think in 1946. And a very prominent role in the convention. Of course, that was as high as a woman could go at that point in the, in the party organization. And she was very active in state politics. Now Gladys Tillett- I`m going to take some time out and tell you about her, because this is somebody that somebody ought to write a book about. I`ve been trying to get people to write a book about her. I think her papers are all up at Chapel Hill now. But this was a remarkable woman. One of the great women in the country, I truly believe. About 1928, when there was a reform movement, and who later became Judge Bobbitt- I forgot the first name-was running and was given no chance, but, he was, you know, to reform things. It was just totally stacked against him. Gladys Tillett got, and some friends of hers, got very concerned about this. And they started going house to house on behalf, which was unheard of, on behalf of Judge Bobbitt`s candidacy, and ringing doorbells, and talking to people. Never done.
JG: Why was it unheard of? For women to do it?
EH: For women, yeah. Well, yeah. And they got this man elected. And then she got more interested in party organization and she said, you know, "I think we should have it so that women can be chair, precinct chairman. And that half the precinct committee has to be women," and so forth. "Well, Gladys, you wouldn`t want that." You know, all the biggies in the party and the town. "You wouldn`t want that. You might even have to be precinct chairman yourself." In all seriousness. It`d be horrible, you know. She said, "Well, I wouldn`t mind." And she just became more and more of a political figure. In 1932 when Franklin Roosevelt came here, for what was known as his famous "Green Pastures" meeting and talk, speech at the Memorial Stadium, I think. I wasn`t here then, but--. Then there was a breakfast afterwards, and she stood up and spoke her piece. And Franklin Roosevelt said, "Who is that woman?" And she became the friend of presidents, you know, really friends, yeah, on a first--. You know, "Franklin, this-" and so forth and so on. She spent a great deal of time in Washington. Her husband, meanwhile, had committed suicide. Not because of this, but very shortly after he came to Charlotte actually. Apparently he was in a bad mental state. So she was footloose and fancy-free and had the money to do things, too. But she always kept a strong foothold here. Now, she lived over in Sherwood Avenue, just one block up the street through here, and we began, she began helping with some congressional campaigns. I got to know her, and more and more she would call up on a summer evening and say, "Can you come? I`m working on this speech, can you come over?" And Sam, my husband, would stay with the kids, and I`d hike over. And spent, I spent a great deal of time. And I never knew what a mentor was then, but a mentor. I learned so much from her. The most remarkable woman. She subsequently in the Kennedy--. Kennedy appointed her as ambassador to the United Nations, and then it turned out that Marietta Tree was such a good friend of Stevenson, that Marietta Tree got Stevenson to wangle Gladys Tillett out of that post and put her in it after a couple of years. And Gladys Tillett got put on the status of women commission or whatever it is, committee in the UN then. From being, from being an ambassador to, our ambassador, at the UN, she became that. And she did wonders. She traveled all over the world. She met with women and men all around the world, working on this marriage covenant which was to get them to agree on, you know, a minimum age for young girls to be given away in marriage. I think it was fourteen. Had a lot of opposition. She would sit down in a temple or a tent with these people. Not that I was there, but I, I just heard so much about it. It`s totally true. And just--. She always had the most reas--. She never got angry or impatient, something at least, certainly not any choose--. A wonderful diplomat. I just think now how in the hell did she ever think of saying that. I would never be able to think that way. I kept trying to just get her to go through the motions of thinking like that because it was so interesting, and I knew I`d never master it. She was just a remarkable diplomat. And she brought all these people into agreement, except the United States. And who shot it down in the Congress but Sam Ervin, her childhood playmate. Which was very wounding. The United Nations would not sign this treaty. I don`t know if they`ve ever--. [Phone ringing] I mean the U.S. wouldn`t. I don`t know if they have since then or not. [Phone ringing] Excuse me a minute.
JG: Sure. [RECORDING INTERUPTED, THEN RESUMED]
EH: [Phone ringing] But for her it was incredible. [RECORDING INTERUPTED, THEN RESUMED]
EH: Write a book about her because she had so many experiences, and now they`re all evaporating. Lots of people knew a lot about her, and I knew a lot about her but my memory`s getting terrible. She would talk about the day that she went down, when she was--. After she`d gotten this political prominence, was then a prominent Democrats, she`d be invited to speak different places. Out in those years, the 30s, they had what they called mothers` clubs out in the rural kind of county part. It was the only night a week the mothers could ever get away from home. And she`s told us one time about going to the Steele Creek Mothers` Club one warm summer evening, and still sunlight and everything, and being introduced to the group. And the president was introducing her, and she said gave her a little background and she, "And you know, Mrs. Tillett is a college graduate, but you`d never know it." I mean, "Don`t hold it against her." [Laughter] So that`s where things were in people`s heads then. And that`s, I think that is a true story. But there are so many fascinating adventures and funny things that I should have written them down a long time ago. It makes me sick that I haven`t. If you know that if somebody wants to write a thesis, it`s still a possibility because there are all her papers and all her accomplishments are just unbelievable. And she should be, it should be done. It`d be a fascinating book to write. But all of us--. Her children are still living but, the people who knew her and worked with her, you know, are fast disappearing or forgetting things. So I`ve try to get people to write a book about her, but I haven`t been successful. Anyway, now we`re back to--. Where were we? I was at--.
JG: While passing the law.
EH: Oh, I was on the county commission. Yeah, right. So we did get the Women`s Commission. We did get the affirmative action. And then I also, fortunately, I had learned that--. I`d gotten to know a city official, staff person, very, very well. Because I was also doing a little airport, I was representing a company that had airport space for sale, you know, for advertising. So I was sort of doing, run out every couple of weeks and sell some advertising and then forget about it, or whatever but. At the time I thought it would come in handy for college education for the kids, and as a matter of fact it did. Eventually. I think I made 5,000 dollars the first year, so you can see it was prosperous for a long time. Anyway, this man told me, he said, "As your friend, I want you, I want to tell you something. Whatever opinion you get from your staff, I mean in a major matter, always check it out with somebody else. Never trust your staff completely." This from a city staff person. And so I did. Well, I learned how much I didn`t know by that time anyway. And I, I, I was going to do this anyway. So I set up sort of a, these, these sort of citizens` councils of people who were experts in different fields, more or less like Jim Quay of the University, was teaching about runoff and sedimentation and all that stuff. And I had different people I could call on for different matters, who were outside the county sphere. I found that this was very good advice, because--. And there are two good examples of it. One was- or that they`ll deliberately steer you other way. The county had no food stamp program. Food stamp programs are not perfect. But I also got a really big vote from black peoples, and a lot of contact with blacks. And Jim Richardson, who is now a very effective state senator, was active in Democratic politics at that time, and he and Phyllis Lynch, actually, educated me about the problems with commodity foods. Said they only picked them up, I think, twice a month. You had to rent a car or pay a taxi to haul them all off. That they were just large bags of flour and this and that, jars of peanut butter. Everything had to be made from scratch. Suppose you`re trying to make a living for your family. You`re a single mother. What? You come home and make everything starting with the plant--, the flour, and everything. Plus they all didn`t have any decent place to store it, so it all got weevils by the end of the month. And the flour would be used to lay out baseball lots for kids and so forth and so on. And we needed food stamps. Well Bill Harris was convinced of this, but he, since he was a grocer, he had a very difficult time getting, initiating it. It was awkward. So I initiated it, and I got one report after another from our staff. No, it would be terrible. Food stamps would be awful. It`d be corrupt. They`d be this, that and the other thing and a million arguments against food stamps. But I didn`t pay any attention to that. And we got the food stamp system put in, and it certainly hasn`t been perfect, but it`s better than this other system. And it`s been a very valuable program to a lot of people. So that was my first experience with the staff`s opinions. And then, for the first in 19 probably 73, `74, several leading citizens, including Alec McMillan who was then on the commission, came up with the idea of buying the old First Baptist Church downtown, First Ba--, which became Spirit Square. The county had never spent a dime on the arts. This church and its education building and everything would sell for 325,000 dollars. And I thought it was a great idea, and I, you know, went to millions of meetings where they all convinced me of it, and so forth and so on. And we got the support of the commissioners and ultimately did it, but not before we had a report from the staff, actually serious, that of course we could go ahead and buy the church building. But it was in such terrible, fragile condition that all we could do with it would be just tear the whole thing down and use it for a parking lot for the library. And that might be a good idea, he said. [Laughter] So when we got in there, you could hardly chisel through the walls of the old church, you know, to make the needed alterations or remodeling and stuff like that. And that was just a really--. I mean, I know I`ve talked about it a lot, but it`s just this perfect example of the staff trying to have you do what they want you to do or don`t want you to do. Also, I got over there--. This--. I just had a hold of this the other day. The then-county manager had a plan. We needed a new courthouse. And, you know, we have a lovely old courthouse on Trade Street that`s quite classic in design and that has since been brought up to scratch in many ways and renovated in the interior. I think it`s very, very nice building. It`s got some lovely different offices and cubicles, I mean corners of the building and stuff like that. The district attorney`s office is still there, I think. Very nice. And he had planned to get this to build ten--, build an addition on the back of it, which there`s some space behind it-I don`t know if you`re aware of it- between Fourth Street. Between the courthouse, the back of the courthouse and Fourth Street. They`re going to build part of a new courthouse there. Then they were going to tear down the old courthouse, tear it down and build another courthouse there. Now this is just an example of the wild things that your staff would have you do. So we said, "No. Forget that." And we didn`t do it. But I just got very, another eye, another impression of the general bureaucracy, and it`s made me question them and profitably so, ever since. So that`s, you know, that`s what I remember about my county commission years except that I became chairman in 1974, December 1974, and was chairman two years and then you come up for reelection by your board, because the board elects you. There were only five on the board then. And there was a Democratic commissioner who has been my vice chairman who had always wanted to be chairman, and he came to see me one day and said, "I want to be chairman, I want to be chairman." And I said, "Well, that`s fine if you, if you--. You need to get the votes, certainly." And he said, "I`m going to be chairman. I know I`m not going to get the votes, but I`m going to be chairman." So, I said, "Well, OK. And, I mean, " It`s your privilege to try to be chairman." So meanwhile, we had incorporated under our board another person who is very, very conservative and sometimes I think it`s good to have gravel in the machinery, but there was a little too much gravel in the machinery on occasion. And very chauvinistic about women. So what happened was that two of the county commissioners, one of whom was still on there, the Democrats, got together with this Republican to unseat me and to put this other guy in as chairman, after I`d been one year into the second term as chairman. And I knew it was com--. I mean I could see it all coming, because despite quite a few lies and other things from people when I felt it was going to happen. I remember Ed Williams at the Observer calling me up about the night before it was going to happen. He said, "Liz, what are you going to do?" And I said, "Well, Ed, there`s nothing I can do, you know. If people have been calling and leaning on so-and-so and so-and-so, and I can`t believe a word so-and-so says, and they`ve just got their own motives, because Pete wanted to be chairman. Bob Walton wanted to be vice chairman, never would have been otherwise. And that was the deal, and this other guy just wanted to dump me. [Laughter] So, I`ve got a cartoon I`ll show you in my office; it`s really good. Anyhow, the paper wrote this, you know, big front-page thing about this, and said that I remained sort of impassive except for a slight flush or something on my face. But really, it was the best--. Very--. Again, the best thing that ever happened to me, because as chairman you really feel that you have to be on top of every issue, on top of everything. And I also--. I don`t like a lot of detail, I mean, always I hate shuffling through my piles of background material. Somebody always has to pull out the right page for me, you know, and stuff like that. I would much rather concentrate on a few issues, and I really was able to do that plus help get another Republican woman elected to the county commission. My first recruit, I think I was the first person to recruit her, Ann Thomas. And regardless of party, she was a, she is a marvelous person and, we were just very lucky to have her come on that board. And I did help her all I could help her. So, but meanwhile, after, after these guys dumped me, then there was another election a year later. And the guy that became chairman ran a poll and found he`d never make it. And the other guy ran and got defeated. Now he`s back on because he`s from a district that`s all black, and so he`ll always be there. But it was sort of a little demonstration. People had, then the people had these bumper tags printed, "I Love Liz," you know. This was before everybody had the little hearts and stuff like that all over the place. You saw people going around, and I still get people calling saying, "Do you have any more of those bumper stickers that say `I Love Liz`?" I really--. I didn`t invent them. Somebody else invented them, but I said--. They said, "We have a daughter named Liz, and we`d just like to have one." I said, "Sorry, but I don`t have those anymore!" [Laughter] It`s only twenty years or something like that so. But anyway, that was, that was really a good experience. It was not pleasant at the moment, but it certainly freed me up to work on things that I cared about a lot. I was getting increasingly interested in the environment, and energy and health care, so I was serving on the ( ) health systems agency, which is too long a story to tell you what that is, but they had regional agencies to review purchases of very expensive technology by hospitals and so forth, or opening another hospital. Often they were politically overturned in Raleigh, our decisions and recommendations, but I learned a lot about the health- care system in that. And I was very interested, so by the time I ran again in 1978 because I wanted to show these guys that I could still be the chairman, and then I did that. But I would otherwise quit. I think six years is enough in public office. You get to think like a bureaucrat. When you come on, you think, you know, you say, "Why don`t we just do this," and just go ahead and do it. But in six years you say, "Oh, we couldn`t possibly do that." That`s what bureaucrats always say, " Oh no. We can`t do that. We can`t do that." So I think six years is enough, but I stayed eight years. Then I got off voluntarily. I probably could have led the ticket again. And one year I got more tic--, more votes than anybody, that is to say in this county for president, the governor, and usually, the smaller the office, the fewer votes you get, etcetera. And that was, that was sort of stimulating. Very nice feeling for a shy person. So, anyway, that was that, and so. And I had also served on the Arts Council, as the county`s representative to the Arts Council, for several years too. And I just kept on being on the Arts Council, much too long, actually but became the chairman of the Arts Council in about 197--, 1988 or `89. So I was getting more into the arts, which have always interested me. But I also was enlarging my business because I found out that after I got off the board, people were calling me up, guys, you know, developers would call and say, "Listen. Here`s the situation. Should I have a press conference, da-da-da-da?" And I`d spend about forty-five minutes on the phone with this guy. And I finally well, you know, I`m going to start the meter running. And then, surprisingly enough, Piedmont Natural Gas Company chairman, president, CEO, whom I just had met on a trip to, one of those Chamber trips to Portland when I was still a county commissioner couple years ago, before that called me. And I had actually, when I went to Portland, said, "Well, would you like to come with me to see about Portland`s propane gas because I`m having the hardest time. I can`t--. Denver`s got a, I mean, Portland`s got a air problem, and I`m worried, worried, about energy." See, I`ve always been concerned about being so dependent on, I mean, since I became aware of it at all. It`s terrible to be so dependent on foreign oil. And also, natural gas is much less polluting that gasoline. So I had to fight to get an energy commission established, and it`s probably dissolved now, for all I know. But at the time we had, we got one of those. I was trying to get somebody. I called Piedmont Gas, and they never did anything about it. And I called Suburban Gas, who was thinking of doing something about it. But I said, you know, "It`s the hardest thing for me." And I wasn`t even thinking I was talking to him about his company, of course. [Laughter] And he said, "Oh. Well, I`ll come down to city hall with you and see about this." And I said, "Oh, great." And we went down and found out what they were doing, and then he said, "I`m going to have--," you know, "Monday morning, you`re going to hear from somebody. 8.00 A.M." And I did. From Piedmont Gas, and they got on the, the stick. And we did put the county on propane. It was, in our view, a successful experiment. But the garage manages how things work, I guess, in private or public hierarchies, was against it, and he just did his best to kill it. And the county manager didn`t like it. And finally the new county manager also didn`t seem to like natural gas, so he killed it. But, in my view, it was still a mistake. However, I`d meanwhile gotten very much into--. I, I was still--. Piedmont Gas asked me if I, in 1981, to, if I would come and help their government relations person as a consultant. And I`d have to go to Raleigh maybe once every couple of months or something like that. And they were very dormant. They wanted a low profile, and I was just going to be around to do some of that and talk about political issues and maybe help them think about their PAC contributions and stuff. So I said certainly. And then in 1980, and I worked for them. I never did--. I didn`t go to Raleigh very much for a while, because there was really nothing too much to do up there. Occasionally, but of course I had the contacts still with the governor then, who now is governor again. Anyway, so then, in 1983--. Well, actually I was in a charter flight with John Maxheim going up to meet with the governor in about 1982, and I was thinking about somebody to run for the U.S. Senate, and I was thinking about Bill Friday. And I, somebody had said, "Well, Bill Friday, you know, he would need some outside income." And, you know, he ought to be able to get on some of these boards and get some outside income to do it. And so I said, "Well, John," because we`re too long on this plane, the three of us, "how can, what does it take to get somebody on your board?" He said, "Well, I`m not ready to do that for you yet, Liz." And I was totally embarrassed. So I said, "I`m not talking about me, I`m talking about Bill Friday. You know, so he can have a little extra income. And he ought to run for Senate, he`d be great." So that was about that. So about a year later, he said, "I`ll talk to you about coming on the board." And I almost, you know--. I had lived in my station wagon in carpools until I got on the county commission. And then I got exposed to the corporate world, which was another education--. I never--. Because my father was a lawyer, I wasn`t really, I thought really, in my early days, I thought big people in business were sort of a little declasse compared to lawyers and so forth, professionals, but now everybody`s a professional anyway, so. Anyhow, I thought--. And the more, as time went by, more and more things to deal with in Raleigh. I mean, some major things in the last few years came up, and I got more and more. And so I`m a registered lobbyist in Raleigh. And I`ve really enjoy it. It`s been very interesting, and I spend a lot of time. I`ve spent more time this session up there-I`m seventy-three years old, and I`m still not the oldest lobbyist up there-than I ever have. And it was really interesting. I like problem solving and strategizing and stuff, so there`ve been a lot of interesting things going on. And I have, of course, over these years as I mentioned earlier, developed innumerable contacts up there, and people who know me from way back, so I have a little entree, even if they suddenly reappear in Raleigh with some new job, why, I`ve known them. And it`s been very helpful. And now, and accidentally, again, two years ago, the General Assembly, I mean the House of Representatives elects one or two people to the community college board, and the Senate elects two people to the community college board. And once more, I was, you know, running around Raleigh and not, never even thinking about the community college board. And I have several very good female friends up there. Mary Colten, who is the speaker pro-tern of the House, and then Ruth Easterling, and Bea Holt, who is a wonderful person. Picture`s in the paper this morning about marital rape, and she is older than I am. But anyway, they came in one morning and said, because we all stay at the Brownstone Hotel over there. I mean, they stay and I stay there whenever I can, too. "Well, we decided last night that you should run for the community college post." And I said, "What are you talking about?" They said, "Well, you know, we`re going to elect a community college representative, our nominations for the community college board in about ten days, and we really think you should run. You`d be great." And I said, "Will I have to politic myself? Is it like the board of governors?" You have to go around night and day for months to get on that board of governors. And--. Because I didn`t want to do that. I really had to --. You know, it`s not my burning ambition to be on the community college board, actually. But I was interested in it and I thought this is very important. So, they said, "No, we`ll do all the, all the work on it." And they did a lot of work on it. They said, "You`d better get your resume in. Go around. You`d better talk to a few people yourself." Well, of course, so because I don`t like to lose. [Laughter] So I did that. And there was a man running who had been in the legislature and then had been working with the legislature after he got defeated over in Gastonia. Perfectly nice man, but I didn`t really think he`d probably be the world`s greatest addition. But it`s very hard to defeat a former legislator, no matter what. But he was also a pro--, a pet of Liston Ramsey who was (thinking more of) the Republicans in the legislature, who have come in increasing numbers. Then there was a woman, another woman, running from the eastern part of the state and I thought Oh, that`ll do it, you know. But as it happened, I got in a run-off with this man, and then, next thing I knew, I got elected. All the Republicans voted for me. And a lot of them I had known, you know, in various ways. Many contacts through being a county commissioner or with them on other things, and they`re not all rabid. And one or two of them said, "Well, I voted for you. I think you`ve got the best credentials anyway." Stuff like that. They weren`t happy. But nevertheless, I became a member of the State Community College Board and I--. So that takes me up to Raleigh or someplace for that once a month. And there`s plenty to do there, to say the very least. I mean it`s just been a very, very--. In my, to my surprise, because I went over there with the highest regards for the system, and the whole idea. And it just needs a great deal of help and it had a very, very placid board. Very acquiescent board. That really never has asserted the powers that it has and needs more powers. And it`s never prone to ask questions, except, well, we had a wonderful guy from IBM who had to get off this time, but he would ask questions. And then he said--. When he told me he was leaving, he said, "You`re going to have to stay and ask the questions." I said, "Well, you know, [Laughter] I`ll probably get kicked off, but don`t worry." I mean, I just call up and ask. I say, "I have four picky questions for you, Pam, today, and here they are,da-da-da-da." They all, they might be picky, but they add up to something, and I`ve found so much, really, stonewalling and inability to answer questions that it`s just has been very shocking to me and fortunately to one or two other people who have come on the board, especially another woman. We ask lots of questions. So, meanwhile, I`ve been accumulating grandchildren. I have six grandchildren now. The oldest is twenty-three, and the youngest is two months. It`s nice to have them spread out in ages because you have a baby coming along every once and a while; you don`t have all the babies at once. It`s great. And. I`ve been--. I`m very interested in the environment, and I`ve had an opportunity with Piedmont Gas to be their sort of environmental gadfly. [Coughing] I keep on talking to them about natural gas vehicles, which they said, "Oh," you know, "forget it," you know. "It`ll never happen there." I could talk about it, but nothing ever happen. Finally got them to get into natural gas vehicles, and think it`s a big deal, and I`m still working on that. There`s a lot to be done with natural gas vehicles. There`s a great future for natural gas vehicles, and I have the luck of sort of being in the forefront of that for Piedmont Gas. It`s been fascinating. The gas business is fascinating. And then we have many political aspects to it, regulate the utility and to the natural gas business entirely. Because a lot of places in North Carolina do not have natural gas, and politicians in general cannot understand why they don`t have it. And it`s a long story, but anyway, there`s more to it than meets the eye. But I, I became more and more involved in the arts and chaired the arts council in 1978. This is my life history. I guess that`s what it`s turned into. [Clears throat] At the same time we got this wonderful new director, Michael Marsicano. I was lucky enough to have him. He is a great person, a wonderfully nice person [Coughing] and incredibly bright. Best arts administrator anybody could possibly have. You know, he`s been talked about for chairmanship of the NEA, which I hope he doesn`t get offered and I hope he doesn`t take, because it really can chew you to pieces. And he`ll have another opportunity at it. Greatest person in this world. And learned a lot from him. In fact, when he came, he first came down here and started talking with the symphony about its problems. I thought gosh, you know, he could just pinpoint what the trouble was. And I thought I never heard anybody talk like this here, you know, just--. So this great opp--. Another learning opportunity for me. And then, we did a lot of things that I, I am pleased that we did under my, I would say initiated a lot more business-like approach, which Michael would have done anyway. Certainly changed the allocation process a hundred percent. We got it so people on the opera board weren`t sitting on the board that decided where the opera got some money, or the committee, and all that stuff. It just was incredible. So. [Coughing] Then the North Carolina Dance Theater from Winston-Salem- are you familiar with them?
JG: Yes.
EH: Have you ever seen them?
JG: Um-hum.
EH: Aren`t they wonderful? They are terrific. I think they could appear, and I`m no expert. I`m not the only person who thinks they could dance about anywhere in the world and get praise.
JG: Oh, sure.
EH: Just think.
JG: They have.
LH: You look sort of like a dancer. Are you a dancer?
JG: Yeah.
EH: Are you?
JG: Um-hum. At school.
EH: At school. Great! Well you should--. You`re not ever here, though, are you?
JG: [Laughter]
EH: I guess that you should come when we have--. Sometimes we have these "Seeing is Believing" things, you know. Peop--, we invite people in, and they`ll have some refreshments and all the groups sit in on rehearsal and stuff like that. [Coughing] I`ll have to get your name and address in case I can ever get you to come there. You want to be a, you don`t want to be a dancer though?
JG: Not professionally.
EH: Not especially.
JG: Not professionally.
EH: Um-hum. You have to really be dying to be a dancer. The pay.
JG: Right.
EH: Is so terrible. And these people--. We have wonderful people, and we`ve had applications from people, a man from, a man from China, a man from Holland. It`s just unbelievable.
JG: Right.
EH: Sal is so great. So.
JG: Yeah.
EH: Anyway, back to this politics. Which isn`t really--. You said civic, didn`t you? Include civic?
JG: Sure.
EH: Because I--. They came over here, and they were 500,000 dollars in debt, and they had such terrible bookkeeping they didn`t know what they were in debt or where anything was. And they left Winston-Salem, and Winston-Salem had not been really a big enough audience for them. And there`d been some--. They had a board full of millionaires who nonetheless had allowed them to run up all kinds of bills for the IRS and Social Security and so forth and so on. Are you familiar with this?
JE: Yeah.
EH: You sound familiar with it.
JG: I, I read a little bit about it.
EH: Yeah, right. And they were given a rather dark, unheated warehouse to stay in awhile, which was very generous of Walter Wells, but it was not a good place--. I mean no place to rehearse, no pl--, etc. and so forth. Freezing cold, little heat and being, and being vandalized and robbed every night. Over there on Independence Boulevard across from the Auto Bell. So, we`re now in a warehouse at 800 North College Street. And I could not join its board, though they asked me to, before they even got over here. And I said it was impossible. I couldn`t do that while I was doing the Arts Council and still had a year as past chairman. And they darn near died here, but the manager of AT and T in North Carolina came on their board in February and gave them some corporate status. And then I picked up ano--, Bill Stewart. Some people had really some substance to help the board, help the dance theater. And eventually, then I came in August, and we got moved to this warehouse. We got a director. And--. A woman. And it was an interesting search because I was chairing our search committee, and we had a number of men come in. They all wanted more money than we wound up paying Myrna. And we were desperate; we had to get somebody. And her application had come in at the end. And I said, "Well, let`s just see." There was one man, I really, I`d been making most of the phone calls to check on references. Lots of the people liked a lot, but I did not like him. I didn`t any get good vibes or reports from him. I got some, but some weird ones, too. So I didn`t--. They said, "We`ll go with so-and-so." I said, "Oh, dear, well." I said, "Well, OK. [Clears throat] If this one isn`t any good or, well you know, unless this one is it, we`ll do it." Of course it was Myrna, and she`s so passionate about dance. And that was great. So we have a wonderful, marvelous world-class- if you have to use that term. I personally think that if Charlotte`s ever world-class, it`ll be on account of this dance theater and not on account of the NBA or the NFL or the World 600. I mean. But--. And that`s one reason that I wanted to say that I did not want it to die here. And it just takes a lot of willpower. I mean you just have to decide that, that it`s going to happen and do it. And we`re doing it. So that`s been a very gratifying experience. It`s taken a lot of time, and I`m still going to be chairman next year, but then I am backing off you know, so. Now what would you like to really know? [Laughter]
JG: Well, I`ve written down some questions.
EH: OK.
JG: Of course, so. Do you want me to go all the way back to your childhood?
EH: Whatever. I don`t care. Do what you want to do. I would, I`ve said all--. I haven`t said that I`m very concerned about children`s issues. I`m very concerned about the family today.
JG: Uh-hum.
EH: And about children. I don`t know what the heck to do about it either, but I am very supportive of children`s issues. It`s just heartbreaking what`s happening to children in this country. All children, at every level, see. And, and, and I think that divorce, even though I`m divorced. I got my divorce at an early age, which I always advise. [Laughter] And I think divorce is--. I`ve seen that divorce as a very negative thing on children even [Clears throat] even though you don`t think so at the time maybe. Not on my child, because Meg is different, but so many, and I see so many down in Wilmington you just would not believe what`s happened to teenage kids that are friends of my grandchildren, you know. They`re just--. Parents are divorced; they have no place to go, you know. One parent kicks them out. The other parent kicks them out or whatever. And there are homeless upper-middle class kids running around Wilmington with no place to live, just for example. I mean it`s just terrible things are happening at all levels. OK. Well what do you want to ask? Great ( ). Don`t tell me--.
JG: Do you have somewhere to be?
EH: No, no, I was trying to read my watch. Does it say after four?
JG: It says 4.15.
EH: Oh goodness. OK, well, I don`t have--. I can manage this. Yeah.
JG: OK. [Laughter] All right, way back at the beginning you said that your mom and dad were always on different sides of the issues?
EH: Not always, but frequently.
JG: [Laughter]Were they both Democrat?
EH: Yeah.
JG: Well, what, how did they fall out on things?
EH: Well see, there would be a candidate that was in favor of disarmament for Congress in, in the primary. And my mother would have me distributing little League of Women Voters` leaflets up and down the block.
JG: Uh-hum, uh-hum.
EH: And then my father would come and say, "For God`s sake!" No, he wouldn`t say that, but he said, "Oh, there`ll never--," you know. "It`d be disaster if we did that. We can`t do that."
JG: [Laughter]
EH: So. But no, they weren`t. They were both Democrats.
JG: Right.
EH: And very--. In fact, my father was a friend of, to some extent of Harry Truman. And my brother`s father in-law was a very close friend from Fulton, Missouri, of Harry Truman. And my father went to Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, a Presbyterian college, and, and his brother went there and my--. I think his father had gone there. And anyway, we were very closely tied to Westminster College, a little Presbyterian college there in Fulton. And my--, one of my brothers went there. So they wanted--. They--. My grandmother wanted to make a memorial to my grandfather and give a fund to bring a distinguished lecturer there every year. And, and Harry Truman and Harry--. I forget his last name. The sort of the court jester in Truman`s regime. It will come to me. Anyway, Harry-somebody had been a roommate of my father`s at Harvard Law School. And only he was--. This guy was in the business school, but they roomed together. And so that contact had continued, and the upshot was that Harry Truman asked Winston Churchill to come over and make this speech address for the first opening of the John F. Green Foundation speech. I think it was the first one. I`m not sure. And I was home. My husb--, my then-husband was in Iceland. I was home, living with my parents and pregnant as could be. My father was fascinated with the idea that he was going to have a--. He just loves children and loved children, and he was thrilled to be having his first grandchild, and so forth and so on. But then this thing, event was coming on March 5th in Fulton, Missouri. And he and mother talked to the doctor, and he said, "Well, that`s all right, you go ahead. Just a family friend. She`ll be fine, she`s not going to deliver until done." Which the baby was already two weeks late. I`d gotten to the point where I`d pick up the phone and say, "Maybe it`s," I named her Camilla. I didn`t even know if it was a girl, but anyway. "Maybe it`s Camilla on the phone." I mean just--. I was just getting in a terrible state. And so then the day before the 5th, my mother went to Fulton to be there to host all these festivities, and my father stayed in St. Louis to meet the train at nine o`clock and ride with Truman and Churchill up to Jefferson City and then be driven over to the college. And my father was presenting him with his honorary degree from Westminster College and he had about two lines to say. And he kept sitting there in his chair in the living room, just rehearsing these lines. He`d say, "Get me some more ice, baby." And I was just, "Uh!" He wouldn`t--, forgot all about my being pregnant, and he had me walk about three miles with the gas shortage up to pick up his cleaning, suit that he had dry cleaned and so forth that day. And I was fine, but all at once, about eleven o`clock, I said, "Daddy, I think the pains are starting, I think that--." He said, "Call the doctor, babe." [Laughter] He`d just go on and rehearse his--. And the doc, and the doc--. I called the doctor. He said, "Well, come on in at once." The upshot was about twelve I said, "Daddy, we`re supposed to, I`m supposed to go to the hospital now." And he said, "Well, call a cab, babe." We didn`t, we didn`t have--.
JG: [Laughter]
EH: Any gas for the Cadillac, and my mother had taken the Ford. So I called a cab. And I went and got my suitcase which was full of Coca-Colas which you couldn`t get then, you know. I`d been hoarding them for this event.
JG: [Laughter]
EH: [Laughter] Nothing else in it. And we went down to the hospital, and he stayed there until my mother was driven back, accompanied by two secret servicemen to St. Louis from Fulton, which is about a hundred miles, to take over the watch. And my father met Winston Churchill and Truman on the train at nine o`clock, just as my first child was being born. And she made the national little AP blurb there, as part of the whole event. It was really interesting.
JG: [Laughter]
EH: That`s just a little historic sidelight. But you can ask your questions now. I`m sorry I got carried away.
JG: No, no! That`s great! Actually, I, I think I`ve seen newsreel footage of that speech.
EH: Have you? It was the "Iron Curtain" speech.
JG: OK. Yeah.
EH: Yeah. You probably saw my father then.
JG: Let`s see. Oh. Did you, did you feel whenever you were growing up that the League of Women--, that women`s organizations fell out on issues
EH: No. I didn`t.
JG: Differently than the Democratic party?
EH: I just thought it was more personal.
JG: It`s just your parents?
EH: Yeah, um-hum. I never thought about , you know, women`s--. I mean, it`s so belated with Cammie sitting here in 1971 or 2.
JG: Uh-huh.
EH: Whatever, saying, "Why don`t you do anything?" And I never even said I`d--. I never--. My consciousness was tremendously raised by my daughters.
JG: Um-hum.
EH: Incredibly.
JG: Um-hum.
EH: It just wasn`t--. I just was brought up so conventionally. You`re supposed to get married, da-da-da-da, and it never crossed my mind. Even though I had an aunt--. My father`s sister was a lawyer, but it never crossed my mind to be a lawyer. So, no, I was a very belated bloomer.
JG: [Laughter] Yeah, I just wondered because most of the peace organizations in the United States.
EH: Um-hum.
JG: You know, in that time period were women, so you would think--.
EH: Are women. Yeah. START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A
EH: Among them was Ben Chavis. I had an opportunity through newspaper work, working for a newspaper in Chicago, to meet a lot of well-known people in my life. Just met several presidents and so forth, but, just here and there people suddenly turn up that I knew another somebody else. Ben Chavis is now, of course, is the head of the NAACP. And that`s another interesting story I can tell you some other time, but we did get one vote out of the North Carolina delegation for McCarthy. And all that summer I was using my grocery money, I said, "You go here," to fund the McCarthy campaign here. It was--. And I`m really glad I did it.
JG: What was it like to be divorced? Was that a big deal?
EH: Nothing. I was the happiest divorcee.
JG: It was no problem?
EH: (It was terrible.) I--. I knew I wanted to be divorced and I had, and I should have been panicked, you know. But, no, I was living with my parents and, I remember, the baby was just a few week old. And in those days, by the way, you could get back, you got back into your own clothes in about two weeks instead of going around wearing maternity clothes forever.
JG: [Laughter]
EH: I just can`t understand that custom.
JG: [Laughter]
EH: My daughters have all done it.
JG: [Laughter]
EH: But anyway. I was just, I was pushing the baby carriage in April or something like that and just having--. Thrilled to death. Wearing a yellow dress, I remember, and feeling great. And just--. And I didn`t have job, but I went out and got a job. And I was, became Midwest editor over shoe publication. Two shoe publications actually, one for the retailing trade and one just for the trade. And, you know, I loved--. The baby was wonderful. I had worried before she came. I thought, I hear- this is another thing people don`t think of anymore, a lot of them don`t. But, you know, here is somebody coming to live with me, and I am responsible for him or her for the next twenty-one years, as I see it. And what if I don`t like him or her?
JG: [Laughter]
EH: Well, of course, as soon as I set an eye on her, I just fell in love with her and started talking with her, talking to her immediately. I always talk to the babies, just so they`re grown up practically. And I think that that`s something that`s an attitude that a lot of people don`t have today. They`re going to be responsible for this child, come hell or high water. At least until they`re twenty-one, and maybe sometimes much after. But it was not bad at all. Except my father was concerned. He`s very conservative, and he did not want to see a marriage break up so fast. In deference to him, I waited to get that divorce and then I remarried very quickly after that.
JG: Let`s see.
EH: Who would wait for their father to let them get a divorce today? Can you tell me that?
JG: Somebody who respect their father a lot. [Laughter]
EH: Yeah.
JG: What was it like to move to Charlotte?
EH: Oh.
JG: Because I heard from some people that it`s hard to fit in if you`re not a native Charlottean.
EH: You can ever imagine! Oh, if you`re not a native Charlottean. Well, it is to a degree. But mainly, when we moved here, you know, it was over in Sedgefield, if you know where that is. Yeah, this little house. Cost 11,000 dollars. And, and as I say I was not jaded by housework. I mean, I was washing and scrubbing and buying a second-hand vacuum cleaner from a man from the church who came to call on me, and also to sell second-hand vacuum cleaners. And that was a surprise. And I, you know, was determined to become a good church member and everything else, but it was a total culture shock because, when I left, I had been working, you know, in downtown St. Louis. And I would, you know, go out to lunch with people I needed to see in the shoe business who were all men, as it turned out. And once in a while, you know, I`d have a cock--, a martini or something with lunch. (Mike- that`s when he said), "Well now you really cannot go out to lunch and have martini, with men, and have martini for lunch in Charlotte." Of course, when I got here I found out nobody went out and had a martini for lunch, because, unless you were at a club, because it was all brown bags. There was no possibility that I`d get lured out to have a martini. And besides I was too busy and expecting my wonderful new vacuum cleaner. Old vacuum cleaner and having the washer machine overflow. We had a portable washing machine when, after the baby came and it was always overflowing, you know, with suds.
JG: [Laughter]
EH: Rolled around, had these suds that flow out of the whole kitchen into the little dining room. I had paper curtains up in my dining room. I was just so domestic. And I really did a lot of it. You know, I usually like things I get into. And I usually learn some things, and I think learning is a great secret to being happy and successful. And I usually think I`m going to be successful. So that helps too. I`m getting very philosophical. So but it was strange because we had, I had never lived--. My mother thought I had mosquito netting over my bed and everything you know.
JG: [Laugher]
EH: Tarantulas running around. Once in a while, I`d have one in here actually. But, or some kind of big spider, but. Also, the people--. Our neighbors were so different. And our Saturday nights, it was one television set in the block. And we`d go over there and, you know, have many drinks Saturday night and dance around and balance records on our heads and stuff like that. And that was different.
JG: [Laughter]
EH: [Laughter] And then I had this wonderful neighbor across the street who came from Walhalla, South Carolina. And this real guttural voice; this real guttural accent. And her name was Katherine. And, one--. I didn`t have a car. I mean Sam took the car most of the time. And I found Charlotte was an impossible place to get around in. You know, if you drive, if you look for a street and it`s off another street, you go on the first, on the street and see it there and go one--. You go past it to the next block, then you say, "I`ll turn here and get it." You never see it again. You go clear across town, you`re clear across town. Because it was laid out in cow paths, I later found out. But, anyway, this neighbor of mine was trudging back down the street from the bus; we took buses a lot then. And it was very hot. And I knew she`d gone to this Gregory Peck movie. And I said, "Hi, Katherine. How is Gregory Peck?" And she said, "Ah! What I need is an affair with Gregory Peck. But who could have an affair living in such filth?"
JG: [Laughter]
EH: So it was like that. I mean, it was just--. Nobody could do anything unusual. And, in fact, they`d have a double spread in the paper when it was proposed that dogs and cats be put on leashes. Be mandatorily put on leashes, which only happened to dogs much later. And people would write to me these two whole huge pages, double spread and people writing about cats. "Cats would commit suicide if you put them on a leash."
JG: [Laughter]
EH: And so forth and so on. Just, it ought to be a big thing. You`d never see an ethnic name. You would never see any discussion of homosexuality or race or anything. [Phone rings] Excuse me a minute.
JG: Sure. [RECORDING INTERUPPTED] [RECORDING RESUMED]
EH: Stereo--. I mean, not stereotype but--. There`s so little difference for folks so marginized. And the attitudes were very different from what I was accustomed to. And then you had to learn to play bridge, and I was a terrible bridge player. Never could stand it.
JG: [Laughter]
EH: I had to learn to play bridge, and you`d be sitting there with your little children running around, you know, in the afternoon in the neighborhood. Be playing bridge and the little kids would be coming up there, and the mothers would say, "Don`t be ugly!" You know, I say oh, what is this? And I could never remember the Blackstone Convention and so forth. So I, you know, I was thrilled to get into politics and get out of some that really.
JG: [Laughter]
EH: So what else?
JG: OK. Whenever you got on the Board of Elections Commission and you did the mobile registration and so forth.
EH: Um-hum.
JG: Why did you feel that was necessary? Were people not registering in certain areas?
EH: Oh, yeah. Yes.
JG: And couldn`t get to registration?
EH: Oh, yes. Socio-economic areas and blacks, you know,
JG: Um-hum.
EH: had much less access to that than whi--. And I was very idealistic. I`m less so now about getting all registered. But as I mentioned earlier, I did believe in the literacy test but that got declared unconstitutional. And I began to see that people who knew how to read still didn`t seem to make much [Laughter] sense in their voting efforts.
JG: [Laughter]
EH: So I relaxed. And then in the--. Also in the 1960s, I--. Well in the Kennedy years, which were short, of course, I`d get calls from Matt Reese every Monday morning when I was brushing my teeth about a quarter to eight or something. And he`d say, "How many blacks did you register last week?" And that really incensed me because, you know, we, we don`t distinguish between blacks and whites, you know. And so on. But they always wanted to know every week about how many we registered and how many we had.
JG: How did you get that done?
EH: What?
JG: Here. I would think there would have been enormous opposition to that.
EH: Well, there was.
JG: Uh-hum.
EH: Some, quite some opposition. But also some good public support for it. And probably the Observer supported it, and the Leagues of Women Voters supported it. And again I didn`t know it how it was impossible to do it, so [Laughter].
JG: [Laughter]
EH: We did it. And it was very interesting.
JG: Were you involved with desegregation of the public schools at all?
EH: No.
JG: In that capacity?
EH: I was not. Although a good friend of ours was, Judge McMillan. Yeah.
JG: Oh, OK. Let`s see. Whenever you wrote the minority opinion to the--. Where am I?
EH: As part of the report on.
JG: Right.
EH: The Carlisle Commission's report.
JG: Yes. The Carlisle Commission report. There it is.
EH: Yeah, um-hum.
JG: You said that Major McClendon got credit for it?
EH: Yeah.
JG: Did that bother you at all?
EH: No.
JG: No?
EH: [Sound indicating negative response] He was a wonderful man.
JG: [Laughter]
EH: And it did not bother me. You know, you try to learn. It doesn`t matter as much who gets the credit. Once in a while you would like to get the credit. No. But I, I have great experience doing that.
JG: Uh-hum.
EH: Which was a miracle in retrospect.
JG: Uh-hum.
EH: What happened, I`m remembering now, is that we came--, went in as a minority report and then various powers that be decided we cannot do the Board of Governors the way the majority wants it to be done.
JG: Uh-hum.
EH: Maybe the legislature, whoever, did that.
JG: Uh-huh.
EH: But it did overrule the governor`s wishes, yeah.
JG: That`s good. Do you, do you--? Have you noticed that women are behind the scenes in, in politics everywhere? Because you`re talking about being the first woman on these specific boards.
EH: Uh-hum.
JG: Or in elected positions.
EH: Uh-hum.
JG: But apparently you`ve worked with women all the way through.
EH: Uh-hum.
JG: Your career and your mother was involved.
EH: Uh-hum. Well I think women have come a very long way, unquote, in that they always were the, you know, the ones to call on to decorate the auditorium or something red, white and blue. And there`s some women really get in politics because, if you ever read "The True Believer" by Eric Hooper. Have you read it? Oh, it`s a--. I discovered it. It was written about the mid 50s. I discovered then. I`ve been fascinated with it ever since then. It`s this--. It`s a book about psychology of mass, fanatical mass movements, including Christianity. And it contends that, you know, there`s so many people just feel that they don`t belong. They`re spoiled--. What do you call it? Spoiled lives. And they just like to join it. It made me--. It upset me that I didn`t mind if they liked to, you know, cook and bake, and I also cooked and baked for the Democrats. But, after we did all this stuff, then nobody ever took it--. The women never took an interest in any issue.
JG: Right.
EH: And I always try to get the issue. I have been issue oriented. I contend that people are interested in issues, and it`s been uphill. And I think women are much more issue oriented than men when they finally catch on. But I`ve seen women, you know, that learn how to raise money. You have to raise money. You have to contribute to women. I do that. I belong to Emily`s List. And I think it`s extremely important to do that. And they come out of the stamp-licking and envelope stuffing. They`ll do it, but there`s lots more women are asked to do and take upon themselves to do now.
JG: Let`s see. Whenever the, the Women`s Political Caucus came about--.
EH: `72.
JG: Right. What was, what was the need for it?
EH: What was the need for it?
JG: Um-hum.
EH: Well first of all, Martha McKay explains the general need for Women`s Political Caucus, that one could happen. And we, we were having one in North Carolina and then told me to come back here and do it. So.
JG: Right.
EH: [Laughter] Well, the need was that--. I think our first motto was, "Make policy, not coffee."
JG: Um-hum.
EH: And we were beginning to see that we were making a lot of coffee and had no voice in policy. We wanted to get into the smoke-filled rooms. And the first thing we wanted to do was open the windows.
JG: [Laughter]
EH: So I thought I could see the need for that because I had been frothing about, you know, all of us realizing how men just dominate every scene and every appointment. And then we did a survey of the city commissions, and I think there were like 200 of them then or more at that time. Or maybe there were 200 people on, a 112. I`ve forgotten. I had that somewhere in my missing files. I have no idea where. But, in any event, there were, there were twelve women. Six of--. Nine of them-this is, this is rough-were by ex-officio or whatever. My mandate on the housing at the Authority`s Advising Commission had to be on. And then three of them were on the Cemetery Committee, and one was on the Tree Committee. And that was it. Every other committee, and none of those were significant committees. I mean the housing one because they are just sort of advisory capacity. That was a real shocker. And then the Dictionary of Labor Statistics, I think it`s called. Martha McKay had also gotten hold of that and we were all, you know, surprised to find that I think a zoo keeper got more than a daycare worker and so forth and so on. All these rather compelling facts that we never, you know, had never crossed our minds.
JG: Do you feel like you`ve paved the way for other women?
EH: I don`t know. I`m always--. I`ve never recognized myself in descriptions. Maybe I helped little bit but--. Yesterday I went to a luncheon, and Jane Patterson was the speaker and she said a whole lot of fantastic, wonderful things about me. And I did not even recognize myself, but maybe I had more influence than I, than I have seen. I hope I have helped women. I always will help women. I like to talk with young women about their careers, if they want to--. Any young woman that seriously wants to talk with me. Whatever. I`ll talk with her. Partly maybe from being a mother with four daughters. Yeah.
JG: Have you seen your daughters face obstacles?
EH: Um-hum. Our daughters, one is married to a lawyer in Wilmington, has three children and has worked outside the home and not worked outside the home. She`s done PR and been newspaper reporter and so forth. And her oldest child is twenty-three, and then their youngest is fourteen so. They`re getting--, you know, growing up. And then my next daughter married quite late. She lives here in Charlotte and is a marital family counselor and a very good one apparently. Because I hear raves about her a lot. And it`s just astounding to have daughter that`s a marital and family counselor. And you`re thinking well where were you Pepper when--.
JG: [Laughter]
EH: Daddy [Laughter] and I needed you or whatever? It`s such a shock, but she has a four year old child, a little boy that`s the apple of my eye and very nice to have here in town. And then the next daughter is our MBA, fast-track daughter, who has a very fast-track job with a company called Bloomberg. The Bloomberg Financial Market is the name of it. They`re sort of like Reuters with all kinds of financial and other, all kinds of other news so. And she`s their marketing director for that so. She`s married to an actor and they have two little kids. And then the youngest is an artist, a graphic designer and musician. Went to art school and graduated from Kansas City Art Institute and became a rock and roll musician right after that.
JG: [Laughter]
EH: And so, but she is married and divorced. Lives in New York. Has no children. So they`re all very different, but when they sit down, you know, when we`re at the beach together or something like that, they`re sitting down talking about issues, I`m pleased to see that they all have a real conscience about things I think are important and that they do too. And they all care and come out more or less at the same place on major issues like education, children, and so forth and so on. I, I just am terribly worried about children and have every reason to be from reading the paper just again today. So, it`s been very gratifying to see that they all, whether they want to have nothing to do with politics or whatever.
JG: [Laughter].
EH: Some did and some didn`t. They`ve come out caring about what happens in the world.
JG: Who do you think your major constituencies have been in Charlotte? Who do you think votes for you?
EH: Voted for me?
JG: Um-hum. Well, blacks.
JG: ( )
EH: I got more votes than any other from the blacks. I think blacks trust white women more than they trust white men. And I had a good rapport with them and good experiences with them on the whole. Though I also, you know, dueled with some of the--have a swords points with some of them--.
JG: Um-hum.
EH: In my career as an election voter.
JG: Um-hum.
EH: But I had to earn their respect and their affection. The first I went to a black church, after I was elected, I was referred to or introduced as the most powerful woman in Mecklenburg County. Well at that point, Jennifer, I thought power was just a totally a negative word about a woman, and I was shocked to hear myself described that way and sort of embarrassed. So when I had to get up and say a few words, I said--. I thought about it as I was walking down the isle. I thought well if I am powerful, I`m glad I have a power to make some change. And that`s what I said when I got up there. I said, "I never thought of myself as a powerful person but, if I have any power, I`m glad to have it to make some changes we need to make." And, you know, you never see yourself as powerful as other people might think you are very powerful, and you never see that yourself. I have always though thought that power is something that, and I feel the same way about love, if you give it away, you have more back. And some of you just keep their power clenched like this and it has never worked. I mean I never even felt like doing it, and it`s worked very well for me not to do the opposite and spread power around and responsibility around and get people really involved and not just try to tell everybody what to do and control everybody. Of course I`m a very controlling person. I like to have things go my way. I like to control what my family`s doing, where we`re going on vacation, things like that. You know I am sort of a controlling person, but I`m, I`m a Capricorn. I mean I can`t help it.
JG: [Laughter]
LH: Perfectionist. But not--. But in politics and so forth, I think you have to share the power. And I like to do that. So where--? That`s the end of that question I guess. Now who else, my con--. Well women were, in the very headlines when I first left the, "Liz Hair floats to election on tide of coffee." In those days, not all women were working outside the home. And innumerable women-stop that-had coffees, morning coffees, and I go and meet them and talk with them and so forth. And I`m not a formal speaker. I`m much better informally talking and also do well in question and answer.
JG: Um-hum.
EH: I just don`t like to get up and make a prepared speech. Though I have done it, used to do it fairly successfully. But, so that--. Women are my constituency. A lot of people thought I was sort of a nice person. I got a lot of--. An honest person. I had a reputation for fairness on the Board of Elections.
JG: Uh-hum.
EH: And for integrity. And was very visible. So a lot of Republicans have always voted for me. And because they think I`m, you know, not some horrible Democrat.
JG: [Laughter]
EH: I`m an exception. I`m, I`m--. Many people would tell you I`m the only Democrat they`ve ever voted for. So, that was gratifying too. But in fact they`ll still ( ), you know, and people--. It`s interesting to me, people--. I, I got off that commission in 1980. And I probably changed in my looks more that I`d like to think since then. People still--. I cannot go out one day without meeting at least one person who comes up that I don`t know that speaks and speaks to me.
JG: Um-hum.
EH: That say, "I wish you were back there."
JG: [Laughter]
LH: And sometimes it`s more than one person. Blacks particularly remember me. Blacks overwhelmingly remember me and are very fond of me about--. In the grocery store, wherever. Getting a plane ticket. Name it. They remember me, and that`s very nice. So that was something to be a first woman.
JG: [Laughter]
EH: Anything else?
JG: Yes. Whenever I was reading your file in the library--.
EH: Oh.
JG: You have a clipping file.
EH: Yeah.
JG: A lot of the articles centered on the same sort of thing that happened to Hillary Clinton in the last election. Like they had your cookie recipe in there in December.
EH: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah.
JG: Of 1978. Not that there`s anything wrong with that, but I wondered if you felt you, you had to play that game for most of your career?
EH: Well, I don`t think that because I like that game.
JG: Um-hum.
EH: And I`d made Christmas cookies. For a while, I was making--. I mean since we moved to Charlotte--. Well even before that, I was making--. Every year.
JG: Right.
EH: And I used to make 1,500 of them.
JG: Um-hum.
EH: Now I make many fewer, but I still make them and I have my grandchildren occasionally they help and stuff like that. No. I enjoyed that and it was part of me, and I always--. One thing, you know, people say, "Oh, it`s terrible you`ve been dubbed Black Monday," so forth and so on when I got dumped from the chairmanship.
JG: Uh-huh.
EH: And I was not pleased at the time, but I said it was good thing and, it certainly was. But at the same time, I`d kept--. Nothing can really hurt me except if something happens to my family.
JG: Uh-hum.
EH: And that`s something I don`t men can necessarily say.
JG: Uh-hum.
EH: Hi there! Oh God, we`re going over to the men. I forgot about that.
JG: [Laughter]
EH: I think its--. I mean. Maybe, maybe some women can`t--. But only my family--. The thing I can be hurt by if something happens to them.
JG: Um-hum. Uh-hum.
EH: And--. So any other defeat, you know, it might be humiliating, embarrassing, or disappointing.
JG: Uh-hum.
EH: But it`s not going to hit my inner soul or whatever. My inner self. Get past the armor.
JG: OK. Well great.
EH: That`s--. I`m saying that because my family has always been my first, most important thing to me.
JG: Uh-hum.
EH: That`s why I like doing Christmas cookies.
JG: Uh-hum. Well, thank you.
EH: God, I forgot we were recording.
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