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Interview with Stanford R. Brookshire

Brookshire, Stanford R.
Perzel, Edward
Date of Interview: 
Charlotte College; Dr. Klutz; Molasses; Farming; Building; Sugar cane; Segregation; Mill; Depression; Business; Construction; Sales; Election; Primary; United Appeal; United Community Service; Woman's Liberation Movement; Jewish; Greek; Negro; Black; Civil Rights
Stan Brookshire, the former four-term Mayor of Charlotte, talks about his term in office as well as his early life and events that led up to him becoming mayor. They begin the conversation by discussing a speech Mr. Brookshire made in which he called for a great university in Charlotte. He then describes his home town, Troutman, NC, and the kind of life he grew up in. His father was a farmer, banker and a builder. He talked about the crops they grew and the tenant farmers they had on the farm. Mr. Brookshire attended Duke University and majored in history but later became an engineer, with only a correspondence course and drafting as his only formal training. After college he moved to Charlotte to work with his father in his building business. He discuses how the depression affected Charlotte and it also forced his father's business to shut down. After that business went under, he and his brother went into selling machinery and equipment. He didn't consider serving a public office in the 1940s and 50s but was coerced by many people to run for mayor. He discusses the many people he worked with and ran against while in office. He also talks about how he dealt with the desegregation of Charlotte and he shares his personal beliefs on racism and segregation.
Charlotte, NC; Troutman, NC; 1910s to 1960s
WSOC-TV Oral History Project
Interview Audio: 
SB (Stan Brookshire): One of their great needs was an important university, a great university that I didn't know of any other region or important cities in the United States that didn't have one or more good universities, and at that time Charlotte had none, except J.C.
EP (Edward Perzel): Uh-hum.
SB: Johnson C. Smith, which didn't have the potential of becoming a great university I don't think.
EP: I was going to ask you, I read in the paper that you called for a good four-year university in, well of course in '64--?
SB: And of course at that time, we had Charlotte College, some hopes of it becoming a university and has since.
EP: I want to get on tape I'm interviewing former mayor Stan Brookshire, on February 16th 1973 so that we have that all documented on the tape.
SB: Yes.
EP: Otherwise it gets lost and then they say, "Gee did he talk in '65 or when?" When you made that speech, I guess it was--, well did you mention a four-year school when you were in the chamber of commerce? Was there a mention back in the early 60s? I remember it somewhere. I was just curious whatever reference was you were thinking of Charlotte College becoming part of the consolidated system or whether you were just making a general statement. Do you recall?
SB: I can't recall. I was president of the chamber in 1960 and without reviewing the things I said or wrote at that time I couldn't be sure, but I do know that in 1964 I may have made the speech in which I said among Charlotte's needs was a great university and that I thought we had a challenge to convert Charlotte College to a university, which of course has since happened.
EP: So you were considering Charlotte College when you were thinking about that?
SB: Yes, I thought it was a nucleus around which we could build a great university.
EP: I thought, I was just checking to see if I had a reference to when you said that. I've really been checking you out. [laughter] Let me, if I might just briefly explain a little but about oral history and the purpose of what we are doing here.
SB: Yes.
EP: The major purpose of oral history is of course to develop historical archives in the future for people who are studying Charlotte during the period in which you had some voice and leadership in it. And what we're really interested in getting on tape is not so much what people can do down to the Charlotte News and Observer and learn, but to fill in some of the background and intrigue and some of the decisions that were made and not recorded. You know, so, so much is now done by telephone and other things that it's lost and also we're interested in your views and insights in different people. I've got some people I'm particularly interested in what to have you talk about and you know as we build this and get views from various other people we'll have an interesting collection to understand. We'll talk to people about you for example. You might be interested to come out here and listen to it. ( ). [laughter]
SB: Maybe something I wouldn't want to hear.
EP: That's true. There might be some who don't want to have you here. [laughter] And some of it there is legal protection on all of this.
SB: Oh yes.
EP: We'll have these, talk to you about forms and all that so that this is all protected--, you are protected and we are protected both ways. We are obviously interested in you as mayor but we are also interest in your insights other than the period when you were mayor and your background. I understand you grew up in Troutman. Were you born in Troutman?
SB: Yes I was.
EP: In what year were you born?
SB: 1905.
EP: 1905.
SB: Ancient history to you I imagine. [laughter]
EP: Well being a historian it doesn't. I'm a colonialist so I go way back. Tell me a little about what you can remember about your youth in Troutman. Troutman was a very rural area?
SB: Oh yes, a small, you might call it a rural village community center and that's about all that it was. My first recollections of course would be about the time I started to school. And a minor correction, I wasn't born in Troutman, not within the city limits, of course at that time I don't think we had city limits, it was not a corporate entity. But I was born about two miles from Troutman. And walked to school, I remember that quite vividly.
EP: Were you born at home?
SB: Oh yes.
EP: Not in a hospital?
SB: Oh no. That was before the advent of that--
EP: Was a midwife involved?
SB: No, no. There was a doctor
EP: There was a doctor. There's been a concern about midwifes.
SB: Dr. Klutz, I don't remember his first name, but I do remember him.
EP: Country doctor type?
SB: Well he lived in the little village of Troutman. Was the community doctor and the only one we had.
EP: What were your parents? What--?
SB: My father started out in life as a farmer. His father was a farmer and his grandfather and great-grandfather, I imagine. In fact, I'm sure they were, but my father in addition to farming, got into the construction industry into building, building homes and apartments and store buildings and things of that sort
EP: In Troutman?
SB: rather early in life in Statesville and later in Charlotte. He also was a stockholder, director, and for a few years at least, a number of years, was president of our little local bank, Troutman Bank and Trust Company. So you might say on a small scale at least, he was a farmer, a builder and a banker.
EP: Very diversified.
SB: Very diversified.
EP: Is Troutman--?
SB: But he never made a lot of many in any of it.
EP: Is the Troutman Bank still in existence?
SB: No, it went out with the depression.
EP: It did, did it fold with the depression?
SB: Oh yes.
EP: It did.
SB: As many banks here and elsewhere did you know.
EP: Did it have--, do you remember did it have heavy investments in real estate, is that part of the problem?
SB: I'm not I'm not sure. I don't remember. I mean of course, liquidity in a small bank was quite a problem and when the depression came along when the banks were closed by President Roosevelt, those without sufficient liquidity couldn't even pay off the depositors, you know.
EP: Did you go to a one-room school? What was your school--?
SB: No. Actually the first school I attended was a graded school. It didn't have a high school at that time, and it must have--, it was a frame structure of five or six room. And as I remember, I think each room was heated separately with a wood stove.
EP: Uh-hum In Troutman?
SB: In Troutman.
EP: In what would be considered downtown Troutman?
SB: Oh yes, within two blocks of the center of the little village.
EP: And how long did you go there?
SB: Well, high--, high school classes were developed or added to the graded school before I reached high school age so I went to both graded school and high school there. I remember when they built the high school building adjacent to the old wooden structure, and when they built it they built it with enough rooms to accommodate graded school and high school. We had eleven grades at that time so I guess we had eleven classrooms.
EP: Was, was your grandfather a native of this area?
SB: My grandfather was a native of Alexander County, which is contiguous to Iredell, just northwest of Statesville or Troutman.
EP: And he was a farmer?
SB: And he was a farmer.
EP: What about, do you know what his father did? Where he came from?
SB: Going back four or five generations, the family lived in the Alexander-Wilkes County area.
EP: In the Piedmont.
SB: In the Piedmont.
EP: The fringes?
SB: Yes, my father and grandfather moved from Taylorsville to Statesville near Troutman when my father was two years old, which would be about ninety years ago.
EP: Uh-hum. And you, you completed all of your schooling in Troutman?
SB: All of my public school at Troutman.
EP: And you went to Duke University from school in Troutman?
SB: That is right.
EP: And you studied what?
SB: I majored in history. That might be of interest to you.
EP: You majored in history?
SB: Yes.
EP: You got your degree was in history?
SB: Yes, yes.
EP: I thought you were an engineer. Is that--?
SB: That had to come later.
EP: That came later. Had you had formal training?
SB: No formal training for it, nothing except a correspondence course and drafting.
EP: So you didn't have a degree from Duke in?
SB: In engineering no.
EP: I read about some reference in a news column about how you made molasses, ground molasses with horse-drawn grinder.
SB: Yes
EP: Do you remember anything about that?
SB: Oh, yes. That was an annual event in late summer, when the molasses cane, which was grew up on the farm reached maturity and was ready for gathering. You would cut it, strip it of its leaves, the stalks of the leaves and we had a molasses mill about a half-mile from our home, public molasses mill. And we would carry the cane over there and grind it out with one of those rotary mills pulled by a horse or a mule and then take the juice of the cane and cook it in tremendous vats until it reached, well, until it was well done or ready to, had reached the stage of molasses itself, and then you put the molasses in jugs and barrels or something.
EP: Did you--, now was this grown on the farm you grew up on?
SB: Oh Yes.
EP: How large was the farm?
SB: We had about 180 acres in the farm we lived on.
EP: And the molasses, was it a commercial crop?
SB: No, no we only grew the molasses, which we wanted for our own family and for tenants on our farm.
EP: And most of what you grew was what, cotton?
SB: Cotton was the primary crop.
EP: That was your major money crop on the farm?
SB: The major money crop. And I suspect I remember when cotton reached its all time high in price, which was I believe right immediately after the World War I. I remember my father selling, oh I've forgotten how many forty or fifty bales of cotton perhaps when cotton had reached some 50 cents a pound which was higher than it has ever been, and I guess was higher than it has been since.
EP: How many pounds in a bale?
SB: About 500.
EP: About 500. You mentioned tenants. How many tenants lived on your farm?
SB: Two tenants only.
EP: Were they black or white?
SB: Well, during the time I grew up, part of the time they were all black and one time we had a white family on the farm.
EP: And how, do you remember when's the last time tenant farmers were "the thing" so to speak around here in this region? Can you remember it dying out?
SB: No, actually I can't. When you raised the question, I'm not sure at the moment whether you still wouldn't find some tenant farmers in Iredell County. I expect you would.
EP: I think that is probably true. I just, it's an interesting phenomenon.
SB: Yes it is.
EP: I'm curious about that, I have some interest in that. You went to Duke in what years?
SB: '23 to '27.
EP: And in '27 you came to Charlotte?
SB: That is right.
EP: When you graduated?
SB: Yes, in, in '27, my father was building in Charlotte and so I joined him in the construction business and did some carpentry and that sort of thing myself on a manual basis. But we opened an office here in about the middle of 1927, a month or two after I finished college.
EP: Where was the office?
SB: In the Builders' Building.
EP: The Builders' Building?
SB: Uh-hum.
EP: On Tryon?
SB: On Trade Street diagonally across from the post office.
EP: Is that still in existence?
SB: It is still is here yes.
EP: Is it called the Builders" Building?
SB: Oh still called the Builders" Building.
EP: Where did you live when you came to Charlotte?
SB: Lived at the YMCA.
EP: Lived at the Y, the old Y?
SB: The old Y, which was situated of course where the City Club is now.
EP: I see and how long did you live in there?
SB: Oh two or three years I guess.
EP: You weren't married in other words when you came to Charlotte?
SB: No.
EP: Did you get married shortly after?
SB: No I didn't marry until '34.
EP: 1934?
SB: That's right and in the meantime, my father's business here had reached a point where he was doing more building here than he was in Statesville or Troutman and so he and my mother moved to Charlotte and I lived with them until I was married in '34.
EP: You have a brother or two brothers?
SB: Oh I have, I had five brothers.
EP: Had five brothers
SB: I now have three living brothers.
EP: Were your brothers involved in the business?
SB: One brother, the brother next to me. I happened to have been the oldest in the family. The brother next to me, Voris, and I were in the construction business with my father until the depression and knocked that business out and then he and I went into business of selling machinery and equipment.
EP: The engineering company?
SB: The Engineering Sales Company.
EP: Now you've retired?
SB: Yes. We worked that for forty years and then retired.
EP: Did you have any sisters?
SB: I had two sisters.
EP: So you had seven children in the family?
SB: There were eight children originally. I had five brothers and two sisters that made eight.
EP: Oh eight, I'm sorry. [laughter] Your math's better than mine. What do you remember about the depression in Charlotte and how it might have changed or didn't change things?
SB: Well the depression just brought business to a standstill in Charlotte for, I would say, a period of three to four years. My father had a number of rental units, apartments, and what-not, here, mortgaged of course, and he also in the course of construction the business had taken second mortgages on property which weren't worth the paper they were written on when the depression hit or after it hit. Actually he lost about all that he had in the depression but made a comeback after the depression and was able to leave my mother reasonably well fixed.
EP: I understand that a lot of businessmen in Charlotte now really were ruined in the depression but those who stuck it out have prospered fairly well.
SB: Yes.
EP: They might have lost everything then, but they have come back strong.
SB: I would say they lost everything except hope, many of them.
EP: Do you think that Charlotte being in a basically rural area might have been less affected by the depression? It was not an industrial area.
SB: I don't know. I am sure there must have been other industrial areas that were hit harder than Charlotte, but that is hard to imagine because this city was hit tremendously hard. I remember that some of the restaurants here, for example, made a practice of giving anybody who came in who looked hungry or said he was hungry a bowl of soup without charge.
EP: That's quite interesting. You've served as a trustee at Duke. Are you still?
SB: No. I am a trustee of High Point College.
EP: In High Point.
SB: And a trustee of the Methodist Youth Center in, at Duke University.
EP: Oh, you were not a trustee at Duke, but at the Methodist Center. I see. Are you presently on the board at High Point?
SB: Yes.
EP: You are. How was, what's your involvement with High Point?
SB: Well it's Methodist church related college, of course, and I was asked to serve on the board, to go on it about twenty years ago I guess, and have been on it ever since.
EP: So it is through the church that you built the connection with High Point College?
SB: Yes, right.
EP: What, tell me, what were your early political interest, prior to serving as president of chamber of commerce, which I don't consider political entirely.
SB: No.
EP: But, were you involved politically in any way?
SB: Not at all, except as a voting citizen. I had no ambitions, no interest in actively seeking public office.
EP: In the 40s and 50s you didn't concern yourself with that?
SB: None whatsoever.
EP: Did you serve in the army or armed forces at all?
SB: No, I was too young for World War I and too old for World War II.
EP: You were in the right place at the right time, in between. I just, never seen a mention of it; I was just curious. What, what was your business when you became involved with the chamber of commerce? Were you in the engineering business?
SB: Yes, I was President of Engineering Sales Company?
EP: When was that created?
SB: 1932.
EP: By you and your brother?
SB: That's right.
EP: And what was, what were you involved with at that time?
SB: Well primarily and categorically we were manufacturer's agents, so Engineering Sales Company was manufacturers' agency and we represented, and the company still represents, manufacturers, primarily of materials and storage equipment, conveyors, tram rails, cranes, hoist, power trucks.
EP: That's true in 1930, too?
SB: Yes.
EP: What, what how did you become involved with the chamber? How long had you been a member?
SB: Oh a good many years, but I don't remember how many and I had served on the board of directors. In 1959 the board of directors named me as first vice chairman or president and in 1960 as president.
EP: You had been involved in the United Community Service campaign?
SB: Yes.
EP: I believe that was the name at that time.
SB: I think it was 1956 I headed the United Appeal campaign here, the first campaign in Charlotte that raised a million dollars.
EP: A million dollars.
SB: A million dollar goal.
EP: Yes I recall that, that was probably quite an accomplishment at that time.
SB: Well we were quite proud of it. It was a landmark.
EP: We are growing quite a bit since then. Charlotte's grown quite a bit since then. But tell me now; in 1961 you became involved in the mayor's race, which I am sure related to your [coughing] chamber of commerce activities.
SB: I suppose you might say the chamber of commerce job was a stepping-stone.
EP: Who really, what persons were instrumental in your running for mayor in 1961?
SB: I would be a little bit hard pressed to, to name those who were most directly effective in persuading me to run, and I had to be persuaded because it didn't particularly appeal to me, frankly. During the spring of 1961, before the primary, a number of people approached me and asked me if I would run for either council or the mayor's office. And my reply for at least a couple of months to everyone who said anything about it to me was, "No, I wasn't interested."
EP: A serious no.
SB: A very serious no.
EP: In politics when someone says no, there is a lot of doubt. But you were a serious no at that stage?
SB: That's right. I had not interest in it and felt that there were others who had an interest in local government and politics who were even better qualified than I was, and I saw no reason why I should offer myself for public office.
EP: Do you remember any, was there any one individual who came and suggested you run for mayor at first?
SB: Oh yes I'll name you a number. Murrey Atkins, the late Murrey Atkins. And I believe isn't the library here named for Murrey Atkins?
EP: Yes. The library is the Murrey Atkins Library and the tower is the Dalton tower. But this building is the Murrey Atkins Library.
SB: I am real pleased, frankly, that you so honored the memory of Murrey Atkins because he and I were college classmates and real good friends all of those years since 1923. Murrey was one of them and Buddy Griffith was another. Joe Robinson was another. Mr. R.S. Dixon, the late Mr. R.S. Dixon was another. (Guy) Phillips, one of Charlotte's outstanding developers was another, and this might be of interest because this part of the story has never been in the news columns at all. But I, I'll give you a little background. As the city primary approached in 1961 there were six or seven candidates for mayor already in the field, including the incumbent, Mayor Jim Smith, Councilwoman Ms. Martha Evans, a former city manager, three or four others. And it was more or less apparent to those who could read politics that Ms. Evans was going to beat the incumbent Mayor Smith and for reasons satisfactory to themselves at least, a lot of the business leaders of Charlotte, business and civic leaders of Charlotte didn't particularly want Ms. Evans as mayor. Maybe it was because that the lib movements, the woman's lib movement hadn't advanced far enough, but they just couldn't quite see Ms. Evans as mayor. And with the picture showing her apparent win over Mayor Smith if there were no other candidates in the field, no new candidates, there was concerted effort made to get some other person, business person to run for mayor. And I am quite sure, and I'm not being overly modest, that the so-called power structure, the business leadership of the city it must have approached a number of other people in that period of time to ask them to run for mayor. Presumably failing in other efforts a group of them, there must have been eighteen or twenty, assembled one morning in the downtown business office conference room and called me at my business office and asked me if I would come down, that some of them wanted to talk to me about a matter, without telling me what it was about. I went on down and when I walked into the conference room, almost immediately I was confronted with the, the challenge of running for mayor.
EP: Did this include the men you mentioned?
SB: Yes it did. Most of them at least and some others whose names I don't recall at the moment.
EP: Do you remember where this conference was held?
SB: Well as a matter of fact, it was in Mr. Dixon's office, the R.S. Dixon Company office in I presume it's called the Wachovia Building on West Trade Street.
EP: The new building, yes.
SB: So the conversations that morning were rather brief because they came immediately to the point and they said that I just had to run, that they weren't going to take no for an answer. And that if I would agree to run the time was short I think it was about three weeks before the primary, that they would launch a campaign supply whatever campaign expenses were required and that I needn't put a nickel into not even my own filing fee unless I wanted to pay the filing fee itself and at that time, it was only five dollars. [laughter] So I without too much time to reflect on it although as I say I had been approached on an individual basis before that, I came out with a statement to them. I said, "Well, if you want me to run that badly and we agree to one thing, I think I just might do it." They wanted to know what that was and I said, "It was a clear understanding that I would not be obligated to any individual in that group or any other group or individuals." That I would be under obligation to no one, that I would run, I didn't want to be anybody's pawn in other words. I've always been a little and I just didn't want to be under obligation to anybody, and their proposition was extremely liberal, as you will admit. They were going to do all the campaigning and raise the money and it wasn't going to cost me anything. I didn't have much to lose except the humility of defeat if I weren't elected that's all. Very readily they agreed to that, and I want to say this, that none of those men ever asked me for a favor.
EP: Did the name Herbert Hitch enters into the campaign. It seems to me that it was said your announcement was made when Herbert Hitch declared for council and was not interested in the mayorship. Was he, were these men interested in running Hitch? Was he probably one of the ones contacted?
SB: I don't believe so. Not to my knowledge. But Herbert Hitch, a good friend of mine and was at that time mayor pro tem and has expressed some interest publicly in running for the office of mayor, but was seemingly taking a good deal of time to think about it. And I believe that his business partner would not agree to his running, but would agree to his running, wouldn't agree to his running for mayor, but did agree to his running again for council. His being a friend of mine naturally set up a situation where I wasn't interested in running for the office if he were also running, so I sort of waited on his decision.
EP: Was the feeling that he could probably have beaten Martha Evans?
SB: I believe so at that time. What happened between that time and the primary of the election, I am not sure because you know Herbert didn't even win his seat back on the council.
EP: Now Martha Evans had served on the council. Do you know what reasons other than maybe the fact she was a female that they were--, had she taken any stands on issues?
SB: Yes, there were other reasons. Her primary, her primary political strength was in the area of minority groups. She had a very good campaign organization when she had run for council before and her, her greatest strength was in the communities of minorities; the Jews, the Greeks, the Negroes. In fact, she was very liberal in her attitude on race relations, apparently she even catered to the blacks and Charlotte like other southern communities at that time, just weren't quite ready to, well they weren't very liberal in the matter of race relations.
EP: This was '61, sort of the turning point?
SB: That's right. The storms were brewing and here as elsewhere there was an inclination to buck the storm.
EP: Let me ask you about some of the other candidates. I have a list of them here. William McIntyre ran against you twice, I believe. Do you remember--, I doubt if he's alive, he was eighty-six in 1965 so I presume he's probably, has died.
SB: Yes he's dead.
EP: Who was William McIntyre?
SB: Well, I can't tell you much about him I didn't know him very well. Didn't know him at all before I got into the race. He had been a meat inspector in the health department.
EP: He hadn't served on council? He was sort of a people's candidate?
SB: He had a lot of ego and he thought all he had to do to become mayor was to run for mayor I think.
EP: But he ran. At eighty-six he ran and in 1961 I was kind of surprised by that. What about Gus Stevus, who was one of the candidates in the primary?
SB: I remember him vaguely. I haven't seen him since that primary. But he was not well enough known to garner any support.
EP: He wasn't a serious candidate?
SB: No.
EP: And Henry Yancey?
SB: Henry Yancey was relatively a strong candidate. He had served as city manager for a number of years and was certainly experienced in local government and knew Charlotte's needs and challenges, but the basis on which I combated his candidacy was the premise that we all, we had at that time a good city manager, and we didn't need two at city hall.
EP: And there's a Ralph Fleming. Do you remember Ralph Fleming?
SB: Yes, I remember him too, and he is another who was not a community leader and couldn't garner enough strength to survive the primary.
EP: You don't recall why he was running?
SB: No I do not.
EP: There wasn't a particular issue that he was--?
SB: No. I don't recall if he had a platform or promoted an issue.
EP: What about the incumbent mayor, James Smith?
SB: I think that Smith had been, let's say relatively successful as mayor. He was rather popular. He was elected without too much opposition or trouble to his second term. But now he was running for a third term and had bought a business. He was in the brush business, industrial brush business here in Charlotte, a company that his father had started and he inherited, and he had bought another brush business in Gastonia and moved all of the manufacturing to Gastonia. RECORDING INTERRUPTED RECORDING RESUMED
SB: So it was rather easy to, to fight his candidacy on the basis that if his business was in Gastonia, he ought to move to Gastonia or else he ought to give up his Gastonia business and be mayor of the city of Charlotte.
EP: He hadn't moved his residence?
SB: No.
EP: But his business, I remember that was an issue.
SB: No I laughed about it afterwards because during the campaign that year I said I thought he either ought to move his business to Charlotte or move his residence to Gastonia and shortly after the election he did move his residence to Gastonia. So I think he took my suggestion.
EP: Now you, you ran against Martha Evans in the actual election, the two of you finished the primaries?
SB: Yes, the two of us survived the primary and confronted each other in the election.
EP: And I guess the, her appeal was to the minority groups at that time. She got the Black vote, but you defeated her by quite a few votes.
SB: Yes, and I am going to say this that I guess you won't find in the press clippings, I think it was rather pituitous that I did not have the black support in either the primary or the election in 1961, for two reasons. In the first place the white community had to accept the fact that if I did anything for the blacks afterwards it was on my own and not in paying back any political obligations. In the second place, the blacks had to be somewhat appreciative of any efforts I made to improve their status as citizens because I had made no commitments to them and they had not supported me.
EP: You hadn't used it as an issue at all. You did not really try to appeal to them?
SB: No I did not.
EP: Did you more or less write them off figuring that the evidence--?
SB: I didn't exactly write them off. I did contact quite a few of the black leaders in the community and had some of their--, I had the support, for example, of Kelly Alexander and Fred Alexander. Kelly Alexander being at the time President the NAACP, Fred Alexander later to become member of city council. My appeal to them as a group of citizens in Charlotte was that I thought they at least ought not to put all their money on one horse that they could afford, some of them at least, to support me.
EP: Of course, it has been very typical of them to put it all on one horse, in all elections since then even.
SB: That's right.
EP: Do you remember a black by the name of Bishop Dale?
SB: Oh yes, Bishop being his first name.
EP: Oh yes Bishop being his first name.
SB: Not an ecclesiastical title.
EP: What function does he have?
SB: Well Bishop had been rather interested in politics for a long time and in the democratic pole. I would say that he was one of the black political leaders at the time. Since, his influence has waned considerably, in fact I guess he doesn't any more take much interest in politics.
EP: He delivered the vote in some areas?
SB: Oh yes.
EP: What areas was he most influential in, do you recall?
SB: Well in the black community he was well known throughout the black community here.
EP: With the lower class black particularly?
SB: Well, I imagine his strength was pretty uniform throughout the black community.
EP: He never held any official positions, did he?
SB: Oh not except as precinct chairman, or something like that.
EP: Within the party, the Democratic Party.
SB: I think it might be pertinent to point out at this time, however, that the city elections were then and still are nonpartisan.
EP: I was going to ask you about that. You came out at one point against partisan elections at the city level. What is your feeling about that?
SB: Yes. Well, I was, my position on that I guess reflects the experience I had in office because I had as fine support from my republican friends as I did from my democratic friends, and I have felt that partisan politics ought not to play an important part in local government. If we are to make progress it is much better to have unified, community-wide support for the man in the mayor's office, rather than partisan support primarily.
EP: Do you think, do you think this affects the county commission then because it is partisan.
SB: It is partisan, at the same time I am inclined to think that the people of Charlotte vote for local offices or local candidates for office on the basis of the person rather than party. I think the republicans, who have been elected to the county commission in the last dozen years or less have been elected largely by democrats.
EP: Have the county commissioners always been a partisan election?
SB: Yes. As far as the counties in this state are units of state government literally.
EP: The county has a lot of power then?
SB: Yes.
EP: The basic protocol. Why don't we continue through your elections before we pick up some issues or something if you don't mind?
SB: All right.
EP: In 1963 you ran for re-election. It appears that it was a sort of a ho-hum situation. Do you recall? Did you have any opposition in 1963?
SB: Well the records will show what the opposition was, but I think I had only one or two opponents in the primary.
EP: The, but it was, you had no serious problems?
SB: No. I believe Albert Pearson ran in '63 if I'm not mistaken and again in '65 against me.
EP: I think Albert Pearson is the only one who ran against you in 1963. I don't believe there was a primary then.
SB: Well, under our charter we had to go through the motions of the primary.
EP: Did--, how did you feel about that, what were your feelings as you were running for re-election.
SB: Well, with Mr. Pearson as my only opponent, chief opponent at least and I think was the only one, I wasn't much worried about winning the office for a second term.
EP: What is Mr. Pearson's--, what was his reason for running against you?
SB: I believe he said in that election that when he announced for mayor his candidacy for the office that he didn't think I ought to have the office unopposed.
EP: That was his major platform?
SB: Yes.
EP: You were accused, I remember, in '61 and I think maybe somewhat in '63 but less so, of being a chamber of commerce candidate. Do you recall?
SB: Oh yes, as a matter of fact I guess some of my opposition in all my four elections was quick to point out that I was a chamber of commerce man, having served as president, and it wasn't an illogical conclusion at all, and yet I remember in the, between the primary and the election in 1961, first, running for my first term in office, that the chamber of commerce had those candidates for council and mayor who survived the primary and at a luncheon meeting at the White House Inn and my statement that noon day was that I was not a chamber of commerce man, I appreciated the value of the chamber of commerce, and it's leadership in doing things for Charlotte, but that the chamber, nor the newspapers, nor any other organizations or individuals would run the mayor's office if I were elected.
EP: In 1963, in October, you were quoted as saying you wouldn't seek a third term for mayor.
SB: I was sincere in feeling, in my feeling at that time that, that if I served--, if I were elected for second term and if I served four years that that might represent a reasonable contribution to my city and I thought I would be quite happy to step down at the end of my second term.
EP: And you were very hesitant in making up your mind as late as March of 1965.
SB: I guess, in all of the four elections, which I was elected mayor I didn't make any public announcements of my candidacy earlier than three or four weeks ahead of the primary.
EP: Do you remember why you decided in '65 to run again?
SB: Well yes, I do. In '65--, do you have the date when I did announce, which was about the first of March?
EP: I, well, I have it dated in March that you had not announced yet, so it must have been the middle of March or so.
SB: It must have been in the middle of March or so. Frankly, I was waiting and in fact encouraging other leaders of Charlotte to announce for the office and would have been, I think, perfectly satisfied to step down if someone had indicated an interest and a willingness to run that I thought would make a good mayor.
EP: At the time of your announcement, I believe, Albert Pearson and William McIntyre at the age of eighty-six,
SB: Yeah
EP: and C.C. Beasley who was seventy-three years old at the time had announced. Do you remember Mr. Beasley at all?
SB: Oh I remember him very vaguely too, because he was another one of those who didn't have a chance and I couldn't ascribe any logical reasons for his running.
EP: And Mr. Pearson was sort of "keeping you honest" again did you get that feeling?
SB: That, I think, was his position.
EP: Now in '65, things got a little complicated. Gibson Smith declared his candidacy after you did, which according to reports was somewhat of a surprise in that Charles Ervin had already come out in support of you and I guess there was some connection between Mr. Ervin and Mr. Smith.
SB: There was a business connection there.
EP: They were partners?
SB: They were not partners, but Mr. Smith was selling a lot of the homes, houses that Ervin was building, and had an office in the Ervin Building.
EP: And did, Charles Ervin did continue to support you?
SB: Yes, he did.
EP: Do you remember what kind of race Mr. Smith ran against you?
SB: Oh I remember some things, rather vividly and I guess I have forgotten many others. I do remember distinctly that he made his announcement at 11:00 on the day, the final day for filing for the primary, and a news reporter came from the election headquarters over to my office and gave me that news. I was, of course, surprised, and I would say this, that if Gib Smith had come to me a month earlier or before I decided to run and asked for my support for the office, I probably would have given it to him. But when he came out on the last day before the closing of the, the closing date of the primary, I had no intention of dropping out and letting him have it unopposed.
EP: The, you were criticized in this primary race for calling for some good city council candidates and the reference was that there were already thirty people had filed for the city council. Do you recall that?
SB: Well yes I do, and I still feel the same way about it. The primaries in Charlotte had attracted a good many people to the council race but the business and civic leadership of Charlotte had been real slow or reluctant to offer candidates, and I have always said that the type of local government, I guess the type of any government we have, depends upon the type of people who are elected to public office. And I don't consider the city council any place for anybody to sit primarily for the purpose of furthering his own individual political future.
EP: In other words, you thought that the leader--, the real leadership of the community was not showing a willingness to serve on the council at this stage?
SB: That's right. I just felt that we had many more citizens in Charlotte better qualified than a good many of those who were offering the council.
EP: Do you recall anyone who might have filed after you made such a statement that you were favorably disposed towards?
SB: Yes. Milton Short was one who filed that year. I think if you check your records you will find he was elected that year, and I think he announced for council after I made those statements.
EP: Was there anyone else?
SB: I'm trying now to think, I believe we elected two new councilmen that year, Milton Short, oh yes, and Jerry Tuttle, both of them came out after I had made those statements and both of them, of course, were prominent Charlotte businessmen.
EP: How did you react to your what I guess would be considered an overwhelming primary victory in 1965? END TAPE 1 SIDE A BEGIN TAPE 1 SIDE B
SB: Oh, I don't think I had to buy a hat of larger size or anything of the sort.
EP: Were you surprised at it though?
SB: Not too much, perhaps.
EP: Do you think that Smith's late entrance into the race--?
SB: Well he got in too late for one thing, and I think he had a real problem trying to explain to the voters of Charlotte why he did run for mayor because several weeks before that he had announced that he would not run again for council, that he couldn't afford to take the time from his business to run for council. If he couldn't afford the sacrifice of time to run for council how could he afford the sacrifices necessary or entailed in being mayor?
EP: Did, in 1967, that was your last election, your major opponent was--,
SB: Jack Tate.
EP: Jack Tate, but it looked like it was going to be Mr. Widdington. Mr. Widdington came out and attacked you rather strongly as being a good planner but not much of an action man.
SB: Uh-hum.
EP: Did you recall that?
SB: Oh yes.
EP: Did you consider that Widdington would probably be your opponent?
SB: I considered or realized I would say, that he was a potential opponent. At the same time I wasn't really convinced that he would run unless I dropped out because he held at that time and had held for the previous what three terms the seat as mayor pro tem and I don't believe that Widdington, well let me say I believe rather that Widdington preferred to remain on council and it's probability would again be mayor pro tem, to running for mayor and losing that race which would have you know, eliminated him from city hall government.
EP: Now your running--.
SB: I think he would have run for mayor against me if he had thought he could win, and if I dropped out it was almost a certainty that he would announce immediately.
EP: In 1967 you were running for your fourth term, which was unprecedented. I believe only two other mayors had served three terms.
SB: That's right.
EP: Herbert Baxter and Mr. Douglas.
SB: Right.
EP: So you were really breaking a tradition, or setting a precedent, or however you want to look at it, and I've been told that the reason you ran in 1967 was to prevent Mr. Widdington from being mayor.
SB: Well I'm not sure that I want to admit that, but at the same time I won't deny it. But here is an interesting thing; you mentioned former Mayors Shawn Baxter not Shawn but
EP: Herbert Baxter.
SB: Baxter.
EP: And Douglas.
SB: And Douglas both served three terms and the only two mayors in Charlotte's history that ever served more than two terms. And because they didn't want to see anybody break the tradition of three terms both of them opposed me in that fourth effort
EP: Is that right.
SB: of mine to win the office.
EP: In 1967 they did not endorse you?
SB: They did not.
EP: There was--
SB: As a matter of fact, Mr. Baxter actively opposed me.
EP: There was a report that certain of your friends downtown were dissatisfied with your functioning as mayor and that they were looking for someone to replace you and Widdington was one of their candidates. Do, do you recall what this opposition was or anything about that?
SB: That opposition, and there was some, arose from the impatience on the part of some downtown Charlotte business people in getting urban renewal for the downtown area. We had applied perhaps a year before that '67 election for urban renewal funds to cover twelve downtown blocks, and of course the wheels in HUD, Housing and Urban Development, move rather slowly and we didn't get approval in May of '67, I guess it was, and our application I am sure had been in for several months at least prior to that time and in May of '67, HUD rewrote some guidelines which eliminated anti-commercial redevelopment with urban renewal funds for any city that had already had urban renewal programs, and that included Charlotte because we were in the process at that time of clearing Brooklyn as you know. So Charlotte was not eligible under the May '67 guidelines for downtown redevelopment money. But the downtown folks who were so anxious to get the revitalization program going downtown, which has since as you know, made tremendous progress, but at that point they felt like, that if I had enough political strength in Washington and we had a democratic administration, as you know, that I could somehow or another pull a miracle and get that money for Charlotte. Some of them even wanted to go see our two senators and our congressmen.
EP: You were having some controversy with Mr. Jonas over this type of thing, were you not?
SB: Yes. Mr. Jonas had never given us much support for local federal money, federal money to finance local programs; being the conservative that he was, he was just opposed to the federal government's participation in use of federal money for local needs.
EP: Did you, in 1966 1 believe it was there was talk that you might consider opposing Congressman Jonas?
SB: That was just political talk, because I had no intention of running for any other office.
EP: You, you hadn't considered that even with his dragging his feet on some of the local funding?
SB: No. Huh-uh. As a matter of fact, I wouldn't have run for congress if I had known that I could have been elected.
EP: You were not interested in congress?
SB: No and not interested in moving out of Charlotte.
EP: Some of the men who were mentioned in opposing you in 1967 for this reason, of course, was John Tate who did run against you and Ray King and Paul Younts. Can you tell me much, I'm sure you can tell me a lot about Ray King and Paul Younts. They're, they are rather important individuals in the political structure.
SB: How much support either of them gave Jack Tate I don't know. I felt at the time that they were more or less straddling the fence.
EP: In the election itself.
SB: In the election itself.
EP: You didn't get the feeling they were strongly opposed to you?
SB: No, I did not.
EP: How friendly were you with Mr. Younts?
SB: He and I were personal friends for many, many years, until his death.
EP: Now Mr. Younts was an extremely powerful political figure, was he not,
SB: Yes he was
EP: behind the scenes?
SB: Yes he was.
EP: Why--, from where did his power stem?
SB: From his early efforts and continuing efforts on behalf of the Democratic Party. I would say that he was the number one democrat in this county who would concern himself with, particularly with state and federal partisan elections. He was "Mr. Democrat."
EP: Did, did he ever hold any public office at all?
SB: Never did. He was postmaster here one time, but that was an appointed office.
EP: Did he ever serve as chairman of the party county or any level?
SB: He may have but I don't have a recollection of when it was. I think he did one time, but certainly he was a key figure in the local Democratic Party.
EP: Did, did he ever have much to do with your elections in the mayoral races?
SB: In my opinion, he supported me in, in all four elections. In the first election however, he had already promised his support to Martha Evans before I announced, and I am satisfied he voted for her. But I think that was about the maximum support he gave her.
EP: Did, did Mr. Younts would you say that Mr. Younts was powerful up to the time of his death?
SB: Yes I would. I think perhaps his strength was waning.
EP: Are there any, are there any particular episodes you might have had with Mr. Younts you could relate to us that might illustrate some insight into his character?
SB: No, and the only incident I can think of that might be of some interest to you is the fact that at least on one and I believe two of the elections, he came to my home to listen in on the returns, he and his wife.
EP: We're kind of sorry we can't interview him, I think he was the--
SB: That would have made an interesting interview, because Paul Younts was a, a real strong individual; he was a leader; he had served as president, as campaign chairman of the United Appeal I believe the year before I did, that would have been 1955; and in many ways had given, community leadership in and out of politics, including politics.
EP: Had he been a native of Mecklenburg?
SB: He was born in Pineville, I think yes in Mecklenburg.
EP: So his, his family connections and his whole life were in this area?
SB: Yes. And he was interested in the progress of Charlotte. He was a very progressive man.
EP: You feel that he had the community's interest at heart?
SB: Yes I do.
EP: Throughout the--?
SB: Yes, he was such a strong man in the Democratic Party that a lot of people felt of him in connection, that his interest was primarily partisan politics, but that wasn't his primary interest I'm sure.
EP: What about Ray King? Do you recall his opposition to you at this time at all?
SB: Well now Ray King worked for my first election, my second and my third. And as I said a moment ago I think he more or less sat the fourth one out because with Jack Tate opposing me and Jack Tate was at that time a prominent Charlotte businessman, a prominent banker, and I can't speak for Ray King but I have a feeling that perhaps he didn't know which way the election was going and he just--
EP: He wanted to be a winner.
SB: he just, he just sat it out, maybe for political reasons.
EP: Now, Mr. King was also very powerful in the Democratic Party.
SB: He was a hard worker, and an intelligent worker, and a very strong partisan man; he was democratic from the core out.
EP: Do you think that he was the equal of Mr. Younts?
SB: Well if Ray King had stayed in Charlotte I think he would have perhaps inherited Mr. Younts' position as more or less the nominal head of the party here.
EP: Was he more politically motivated than Mr. Younts in that?
SB: To the extent that I think he had some political, personal political ambitions himself. I think he had entertained an ambition to sometime or other run for congress.
EP: You feel Mr. Younts never had any political ambition in that for office?
SB: I don't think he had any ambitions to personally hold an office, whereas I think Mr. King did have.
EP: Could you name anybody that you think perhaps Mr. Younts was instrumental in furthering their political career?
SB: Well I would be a little hard pressed to name individuals, but I think if you go back to the records you'll find that most if not all of the people he supported won their offices.
EP: Of course the key office was probably congress
SB: Except for congress.
EP: and they never quite cracked that nut did they.
SB: That's right. I think that is the notable exception.
EP: I guess they're still working on that. In '67, it's also been said that you probably would have supported Mr. Tate had he declared earlier enough.
SB: I told him as much. If you remember, he announced for the mayor's office maybe what, three days or so before the closing date for announcing.
EP: It was in April or so.
SB: And I had already announced some two or three weeks prior to that, and having announced I wasn't about to step down and give him an open road.
EP: That was the second time a similar situation probably arose along those lines.
SB: Yes it was. It was somewhat analogous to the '65 election when Gib Smith ran against me, announcing real late.
EP: You, rather interestingly I find, engaged in a television debate with Mr. Tate and had refused to do in the previous three races. Was there any reason for this?
SB: Yes, because I felt like the community had shall I say rather two rather good choices for mayor in 1967.
EP: You didn't?
SB: And I thought having two qualified candidates, I'm still being immodest enough to say that I was qualified or egotistic enough to think that I was qualified, I just thought that the voters of Charlotte had, had a good choice and a public debate between the two of us just might be helpful to them in making their decision. And some of them had a hard decision to make because Jack Tate and I had many of the same mutual friends who couldn't vote for both of us.
EP: It is pretty well known that firemen are a very powerful voting block, and have been used politically, and you did endorse the Firemen's Assembly previous to this election. Was that partially political motivated on your behalf?
SB: No.
EP: Why did you endorse it at this?
SB: Well I've always been opposed to the firemen's belonging to a national union and helped to rid Charlotte of that unionization in the fire department, I guess it was back in 1959, but at the same time I felt that they had all, people in that department had things in common and an interest professionally shall we say in the jobs they were doing and I saw nothing wrong with them having a local assembly.
EP: You did come out in July of that year against them moving toward unionization.
SB: Yes I did, and I think all of them knew I was opposed to unionization, and I still am. I don't think that the people serving the public has a right to be bound by union rules and regulations with a right to strike against the public interest.
EP: You won this election by I think it was finally forty-three votes. The unofficial count was fifty-eight, and I believe the recount forty-three.
SB: That made history too.
EP: How did--, that was out, what 30,000 votes?
SB: Thirty--, wasn't it around 35, or 36,000 votes?
EP: That was quite a few.
SB: Percentage-wise it was just a minute majority.
EP: How did you react to that? Would you have been--, RECORDING INTERRUPTED RECORDING RESUMED
EP: would you have been relieved to have lost by forty-three ( )?
SB: No, I don't think anyone running for public office would, would be relieved to lose or be glad to lose or anything of that sort. I mean it's a race, it's a contest and all of us are competitive in nature, by nature I think and I was glad to win by any majority.
EP: The fact that Mr. Tate hasn't involved himself in politics, do you feel is an indication that he was not as serious candidate in 1967 as he might possibly have been?
SB: No, I think he was very serious, but I think because he changed business connections immediately following that election and it was subsequently moved his residence to Davidson where of course he became president of, what is it, the Southern Bank? A local bank there anyway, that removed him from city politics certainly.
EP: You think that's the major factor?
SB: Yes.
EP: There is always such a raft of council candidates who attend the council meetings the first month after the election to show their continued interest and then it just sort of falls off. I think that it's rather interesting. [laughter]
SB: Incidentally, Jack Tate and I were friends before the election and we have been friends since.
EP: Well it appears that most of your opponents you have maintained relative friendship with. I don't know, I guess that is a sign of a good politician or something.
SB: No.
EP: You have been criticized as not being a politician.
SB: Well, really consider, public or elected office of any sort an elective office at least entails some politics but certainly politics was never a major objective with me and I can say truthfully that I could have quit any time after the first term and would have had no further political ambitions.
EP: Have you continued any interest in politics?
SB: To the extent that because I have served in public office I feel it is terribly important elect the best, to attract as candidates the best citizens and the best qualified candidates, people we can, and then support them. And I say that in the interest of good government particularly local government, I am interested in politics.
EP: You view yourself in the elder statesman role?
SB: I don't think I'm old enough to be that.
EP: By any retired politician that has served as long as you have I think it's--, are you more active in the Democratic Party than you probably had been previously?
SB: Yes, I would think so, yes.
EP: Are you involved with precinct politics?
SB: No not precinct politics. I have never served in any precinct office.
EP: But you do, you do feel that your reign is near?
SB: I am a registered democrat and I am going, into the primaries, support and vote for those candidates I think best qualified in the democratic primaries, but when it comes to general elections I am inclined to forget political lines and vote again for the man.
EP: You do not vote party lines all the time?
SB: No I do not.
EP: you don't pull the lever? That means you are not very professional.
SB: No, I'm not, and it also means I have no interest in running for any further office that would be partisan.
EP: And I'd like to review some of the issues that came up during your time and I have a feeling we might have to get back together, I don't want to keep you forever. Would you like to come back later or do you want to continue for a while?
SB: No let's continue for a while.
EP: I don't feel we have to do it all today and I you know I think it might be good to get some perspective. One of the major thrusts of your period as mayor was of course the race relationships. I think, of course there were a lot of things, but this seems to be one of the major themes. You were mayor at a very important time when changes were taking place. How, how did you feel about that entire situation?
SB: Well I think I went to the mayor's office at a time in history when we were confronted with the, with demands on the part of minority, the minority, the largest minority being blacks; a time when they were more aggressive in their demands than they had been in a hundred years. It was a time of social change; we were confronted with demands that either had to be met or else we had to fight them with consequences which other southern cities only months before had been confronted with and had fought and had paid a tremendous price for opposing change. So we either had to accept change and make change work for the betterment of our city and community or else we had to fight it. In my mind there were no questions about which direction we should go. After all, the blacks in this country are citizens, they were entitled to citizenship rights. It was only, let's say that they were, that to give them their requests for equal rights and opportunities was both legal and morally right. That was the way I saw the picture and I had no intention of fighting them.
EP: Let me ask, having grown up in the South in a relatively rural area, your views toward race relationships probably as a child were very typical. Would you consider yourself typical or untypical?
SB: I imagine I was rather typical because as we were discussing earlier, we had Negro families on our farm and I grew up with the children in those families, played with them, hunted with them, worked with them, and I think I had always been inclined to accept people for their individual value. I know that we had one colored family, black family on our farm for whom I had a great deal of respect, so much so that, that I called them, and other members of our family including my mother and father, called the parents Uncle Pink and Aunt Mary. And that uncle and aunt business was a mark of respect for them. Another family I can remember on the farm didn't get that designation; they were just John and Mary.
EP: Never "mister."
SB: Never "mister" and never "uncle" or "aunt." I think typically that I felt that the difference between us was color, primarily. That was recognizable and that because of color and simply because of color, they went to their churches and their schools and we went to ours, and thought nothing of it and I don't think they did. It was just commonly accepted social practice.
EP: You didn't consider the rationale behind it all?
SB: Oh no.
EP: Well now, when you became mayor, how aware were you of the race problem or the fact that you might face some problems on those lines?
SB: Well, of course knowledgeable of the problems and troubles literally that had already arisen in Montgomery and Little Rock and in other southern cities, and in view of the lunch counter sit-ins which incidentally began in this country in Greensboro and spread to here and other places, I couldn't help but be cognizant. I had to realize that we were confronted with problems. Now the length of time between the time I entered the race for mayor that first time and the time I was elected I was so busy with campaigning and what-not that frankly I did not sit down and analyze it or didn't fully realize the problems with which we would be confronted.
EP: In, in 1961 now, as the mayor's race was in progress, Mayor Smith was faced with the sit-in problem, if I remember,
SB: That's right
EP: probably in the primary or during the campaign period.
SB: Yes.
EP: And a statement was there that he had solved the sit-in problem by his friendly relations committee. Do you recall in what way that was solved?
SB: Well, I don't believe it was solved. [laughter] [cough]
EP: The statement was that it was solved.
SB: Because if I recall, the black citizens who were demonstrating in our, at our dime store lunch counters, for example, and drug store counters, had not yet been given the privilege of eating at those counters. I recall that one-dime store or drug store, I've forgotten which, to prevent serving them, sitting down at least, removed the stools. But, giving Mayor Smith credit for the efforts he was making to in, in some manner or other minimize the problems of these demonstrations, he did set up or was in the process of setting up a Friendly Relations Committee, and I remember spending an afternoon with him following some of these demonstrations and then talking with him about the effort he was making. This was before I announced for mayor or knew that I would run for mayor and he had conjured in his mind a rather complicated cooperation, chartered corporation, non-profit, of course, with a board of directors, by-laws and all of that sort of thing as well as a charter, but never stayed in office long enough to perfect it. He did, however, have the nucleus of a Community Relations Committee, and one of the first things that I did after assuming office was to set up a rather simple structured Community Relations Committee, and I used Dr. Tom Cunningham, former President of Davidson College, whom Smith had named as chairman of his committee, or would have been president if he had affected the corporate entity. as the chairman of the mayor's Community Relations Committee.
EP: You're saying that--?
SB: And I also made the statement that my committee was not being established to put out fires, but rather to get at roots of problems and to erase the cause of the problems for which the blacks were demonstrating.
EP: What you are saying then, is Mr. Smith's committee was really rather complicated and complex to deal effectively with the problem?
SB: Yes I am.
EP: And your creation in July of 1961 of the Community Relations Committee which essentially replaced it was an attempt to be, deal more directly with it?
SB: More directly in a constructive manner, with the removal of causes rather than the effect of causes.
EP: You did use, or continue the use of the committee with a disturbance at Johnson C. Smith in May of 1961, just after you took office I would imagine. Do you recall that?
SB: I'm sorry I didn't get the question.
EP: There was some sort of a disturbance at Johnson C. Smith, some sort of racial picketing or something, I really don't recall just what it was. The papers made a statement that you had continued the Friendly Relations Committee, which Mr. Mayor Smith had created to deal with it. Do you recall what that disturbance was?
SB: No, frankly I don't. I do know that a number of students at Johnson C. Smith were actively engaged in the cause of race relations and they were primarily, they furnished primarily the leadership for these sit-ins and the marches that we had downtown which never reached the proportions that they did in Winston-Salem, Greensboro, High Point and Raleigh, where thousands came down in the evenings to block the sidewalks and the streets.
EP: You instituted a slum-clearance program in May of '61 just after becoming mayor. Was there any attempt within this program to deal with the race problem?
SB: I would say that the slum clearance, which we started of course in Brooklyn, and had the pleasure, literally, of knocking the porch, a porch column or post out from under the first house we demolished. That was an effort to get rid of slums and the kind of environment that our Negro citizens had had here for many, many years. I think it was very important; as a matter of fact I'm convinced that if we hadn't cleared Brooklyn, if we hadn't demonstrated to the Black community here that we were interested in improving their environment and their lives through furnishing better housing, getting rid of slums and providing better housing which they could afford along with giving them equal citizenship rights and opportunities in education and jobs, and so forth, if we hadn't done those things I suspect along with the clearance of Brooklyn we are talking about I think that we might have had such incidents here that they had in Watts.
EP: Do you, was there an attempt made at relocation of these families?
SB: Oh yes. That was a part of the requirements of HUD that in the removal of families from slum areas or areas under clearance by urban renewal. We had to provide them adequate housing that met the city building standards. And for that reason we immediately proceeded with public, additional public housing, which had been started twenty-five years before that. We had two units here and had not built any more public housing for about twenty-five years. So we immediately started public housing, which also included clearance of slums in First Ward, the Earl Apartments for example and then Edwin Towers here. And a great many of the residents of Brooklyn were moved into new public housing if they qualified under public housing standards for admission of course. All of them didn't move into new housing, of course. Some of them, by their own choice, found unassisted. They were entitled to assistance by the urban renewal commission but many of them on their own without asking or receiving help from the commission, went out and found their own public housing and that's why you saw a lot of areas around Charlotte that were originally white gradually becoming black, or integrated at least.
EP: There was a picketing at Memorial Hospital, the blacks. Do you recall that incident?
SB: Yes, I believe Dr. Hawkins led that. It didn't create any great disturbance here, no, no particular problems.
EP: What was their, Memorial was not integrated?
SB: That's right, Memorial was not.
EP: The black hospital was what, the Community Hospital?
SB: Community, what is now the Community Hospital at that time what was the name of it?
EP: I was just trying to think of it myself.
SB: We're thinking of the same institution down here on Mint Street at least.
EP: Right it did have another name, and they were pushing for integration of this what they considered public facility?
SB: Yes.
EP: But it was a peaceful, didn't cause you any particular problems as mayor?
SB: No, no. There were no public disturbances over it.
EP: Shortly after that you, you more or less tied a war on crime into the race relations.
SB: Yes because I was convinced then and I still am, that a lot of our crime is committed by second-class citizens whose opportunities to have personal dignity and opportunities in life simply resorted to crime.
EP: How successful was--, what did you do, this was in April of 1962, as far as this war on crime was concerned? Do you recall?
SB: Well primarily we continued to do those constructive things to improve the environment of our black citizens and to convince them that while maybe the progress we were making was slow, but at the same time the city was conscientiously trying to remedy bad situations for them.
EP: What sort of relationship did the police department have with the black citizens at this time?
SB: Well, the police department then, and I suspect to some extent or maybe a lesser extent today, failed in having full Negro support. Too many of them feel that maybe the police department, the policemen at least are enemies rather than friends, and that sometimes they are arrested because they are black instead of for what they did.
EP: Did, [pause] I had a thought I guess I lost it on developing it. You, you had contact with, I imagine it was a student from Johnson C. Smith named (Goral) Jordan, G--, which you told him in April '62, you disapproved of the methods he was using. Do you recall that incident?
SB: Yes I do. Well I simply, my position with him, and it is the same way I feel today, is that they had more to gain by cooperating with us than they did by fighting.
EP: Was Mr. Jordan a student?
SB: He was a student, as I recall, and very militant in his views.
EP: What, what had he done particularly at that point that had--?
SB: Well I believe he had led some of these sit-ins and maybe a march to city hall.
EP: And had he tried to communicate with you or you with him at all during this time?
SB: Well I guess I made the first contact with him, had him come to my business office.
EP: But he wasn't requesting to talk with you?
SB: No.
EP: He was demonstrating?
SB: That's right. Incidentally, do you know what has happened to him?
EP: No, I was going to ask you that.
SB: I haven't heard from him in years.
EP: I was just curious as to whether he had whether this was a whimsy at the time and he just faded from the scene or what, I don't know.
SB: His leadership didn't last very long; it may be that he was graduated from Johnson C. Smith and went on somewhere else. I'm not sure.
EP: It's hard to say in, in February of 1963 you came out against intermarriage.
SB: I'm still opposed to it. The blacks have a heritage of their own, a culture of their own and the virtue of the fact that you have seen some re-segregation I think you might conclude logically that they are happier in their own social elements, including the family than they are in an integrated situation, and I don't see intermarriage as a part of the solution. Dr. Marnie former pastor of Myers Park Baptist Church, sat in on a conference in 1961 in my office and I remember distinctly his making a remark that we could concern ourselves and must try to find answers to the current problems and current demands of blacks, but he said as far as full integration is concerned, so far as an amalgamation of the races--and that was one of the hang-ups so many whites had they were fearful of amalgamation through marriage, intermarriage and so on--he said, don't worry about that; that will occur, but it will be about three thousand years from now.
EP: What prompted that statement at that time? Do you recall? Was there, were there laws or debates on legalizing or--?
SB: No, not to my recollection. I don't really recall what prompted the statement.
EP: I forget what context in which I discovered that.
SB: I can remember but one thing that has relativity to that statement. I remember that there was a meeting of youth, black and white, at First Methodist Church to which I was invited to speak and one of the participants, a black boy, man a young black man in the audience, raised the question with me. They probably asked me point blank if I had any objection to intermarriage between the races, and I told him I did. I gave him my reasons, which I have just mentioned. I don't know whether that was the, whether that prompted my public statement--was it a public statement? Where did you pick it up?
EP: I got out of our newspaper. Maybe it was a reporter there who reported your statement.
SB: I expect that was it.
EP: That must have been the situation.
SB: And incidentally that has since not been an issue in this community.
EP: The, in 1963 the hotels and motels were de-segregated. Did you play any part in that or was that through federal decisions?
SB: No, as a matter of fact, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 required the dropping of discrimination in places of public accommodation and we in Charlotte did that in 1963, late spring or early summer of '63, a year or a little more than a year before the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of '64 which I think passed in August of '64. A number of things led up to it. There was background. One of the early statements I made in 1961 after going to city hall was that I was elected by all the citizens of Charlotte, considered that I was, and expected to try to serve the interests of all of our citizens. And in a number of speeches that I made at churches, civic clubs and whatnot, in the interim period between '61 and '63, I said point blank that I thought Blacks ought to have equal rights and opportunities. That was well received in some quarters and frowned upon in others, as you can imagine. But it was in, on a May Sunday, 1963, I sat beside Buel Duncan who was president of the chamber of commerce the year before I was, which was 1959. He and I belonged to the same church, the same Sunday school class and I said that morning during Sunday school--I said do you, I asked him if he thought Ed Burnside who was currently president of the chamber in '63, if Ed would consider calling together his executive committee and consider asking or requesting or recommending to Charlotte businesses doing business with the public, asking if they would give some thought or would consider voluntary desegregation. He said yeah I think he would. I think it was real fortunate that Ed Burnside was president of the chamber that year because there is no question about the chamber having considerable influence in this community. So I called Ed that Sunday afternoon and Ed said "sure" and he set a meeting up for Wednesday of that week. You have a record there I suspect and if you have been through the newspapers files, of that particular meeting in the chamber of commerce conference room. The executive committee passed a simple resolution in which it recommended, in rather strong terms, that Charlotte businesses doing business with the public drop discrimination on the basis of race, religion or color. In that same executive meeting or in the same meeting someone moved that the full board be called for a meeting the next day at noon. The motion was passed and the secretaries in the chamber of commerce were put on the telephone to invite members of the board, chamber board to meet at the City Club for lunch the next day to consider the resolution which the executive committee had passed unanimously, that motion was read by Mr. Burnside the next day at noon to the membership of the board. A motion was made there that the recommendations of the executive committee be approved and accepted; second was made; no discussion, and the vote was unanimous. And that, that actually was the basic move that enabled Charlotte to desegregate voluntarily, for which I think the Black community has given the white community a lot of brownie points.
EP: Did you receive any reaction, public reaction to this? I mean did you get crank phone calls?
SB: Yes, but before I mention that let me say that the action on the part of the chamber, the executive committee and approved by the board didn't, didn't desegregate. We still had the problem of persuading hotel, restaurant and theater people to drop discrimination. But the chamber officials, leaders and the members of the Mayor's Community Relations Committee, then went to work in earnest with a plan to effect desegregation. And the plan we used was offered by, I believe it was Claiborne. What's his first name? He runs Barclay's Cafeteria here.
EP: I think he's got a nickname of Slug Claiborne
SB: Slug Claiborne said to the group in a subsequent meeting of business leaders and hotel-restaurant people, he said would you white leaders invite black leaders or people END TAPE 1 BEGIN TAPE 2
SB: as your guests and come to our restaurants, hotel dining rooms and bring them as your guests. It was a real challenge, of course. But sure, we accepted that, that challenge and a date, fixed date, several days was set up with the understanding news media, of the local news media that they would not give the matter any publicity or coverage. And so the blacks and white went together on Thursday and Friday, Wednesday Thursday and Friday perhaps, this was two or three weeks after the action of the chamber recommending desegregation, went together in pre-arranged plans to these restaurants and hotels for lunch. And I remember distinctly taking a guest to the Manger, two of them I believe, we walked in--.
EP: That was the hotel that's
SB: The Manger hotel here.
EP: Oh the motel here.
SB: And I think the others had similar experiences. We walked in, arrangements were made in advance, the hostess knew we were coming, we were seated, a few people looked up, but after we were seated nobody seemed to pay us any attention.
EP: Do you remember who you went with?
SB: Mr. A.E. Spears, President of the Mechanics and Farmers Bank and one of those professors from Johnson C. Smith.
EP: Mr. Spears is still alive?
SB: Yes he is.
EP: I think I met him the other day.
SB: Now you wanted to know what reactions there were to that. I would say that on the whole people in Charlotte accepted that move, somewhat surprised by it perhaps, but more of Charlotte people accepted it as being logical and maybe the right thing to do than those who opposed it. I think that a clear majority of the people in Charlotte approved of it. But of course there were a number who did not and I got a number of telephone calls and anonymous letters. All of the letters and phone calls of course were anonymous, of course. And a lot of them were quite threatening and that sort of thing, but that was to be expected.
EP: How many blacks were on the Community Relations Committee?
SB: One-third of the committee; I've forgotten how many we had about thirty on the committee and one third of them were black which represented the approximate ratio of blacks to whites in the community.
EP: You received a medal from the National Conference of Christian and Jews in February of 1964, which I presume was in relation to race relations.
SB: I am sure it had something to do with it.
EP: the desegregation plan in the spring previous to that had--
SB: I suspect that was about the sole reason they gave me that.
EP: And you were also present, appointed by President Johnson on the Committee on the Civil Rights Act to help enforce it.
SB: Yes. I believe he called it his National, well, president's National Community on Race Relations. He invited Dr. John Cunningham and we both served on it.
EP: Did you go to Washington; did you meet with the president on that?
SB: Yes.
EP: Do you remember those meetings?
SB: Yes.
EP: Did you have personal contact with the president?
SB: Well, the committee was quite large and the contact was more or less formal. There must have been 500 people from the fifty states that were on that committee.
EP: So you really didn't have a chance to really sit down with the president.
SB: No. I had later opportunities, and I served on the executive committee on the U. S. Conference of Mayors, I would sit with him on occasion to discuss race relations and the total needs of urban communities, Vietnam War and all those things that were issues in the 60s.
EP: Did you find him receptive?
SB: Very receptive. In my opinion Mr. Johnson wanted to do the right thing and he, having been born and reared let's say "underprivileged" himself, he had great empathy for the poor and the blacks. And it may have been part of his political downfall perhaps, although I think it was the Vietnam War that really hurt him politically more than anything else, but there is no question but that a lot of the social programs he put through Congress, the social legislation had to do with his interest in helping the underprivileged and the blacks.
EP: What about the rioting and obviously before that happened they had the bombing of the civil rights leaders' homes here? Did you think that set back--?
SB: Did you look up those dates by any chance?
EP: In November of 1965.
SB: '65.
EP: The fall of 1965.
SB: That created a crisis here but except for holding the potential of a riot, actually I think it furthered our efforts to promote community relations between the blacks and whites because on the Sunday following that bombing we did hold a public meeting in Ovens Auditorium which was bi-racial and with about twenty speakers that afternoon each assigned three or four minutes time. Half the speakers were black; half of them perhaps were white, or something on that ratio, and an apology was made on behalf of the white community for what happened, but recognizing that actually it wasn't the community that did the bombing; it had to be one of the individuals who perpetrated that crime, but at the same time it was a community disgrace and apologies were made and assurances were given the black community that this community was trying to do its dead level best to maintain peaceful relations with the blacks and to extend to them not only their citizenship rights but a cooperation in helping them help themselves.
EP: Whose idea was it to hold that meeting?
SB: Well the idea itself originated with Kelly Alexander but on a limited sort of basis he was planning a meeting, a public meeting of blacks to be held in the, what was the name of the Baptist church here on McDowell Street, but it integrated the Baptist church on McDowell Street and he had invited the President of the (National) C.P. Wilkins, had already invited Wilkins to come up here. And that was a meeting set up for the black community and when I heard about it I gave him a ring and asked him if he would consider expanding that and letting us help him expand it to a community wide meeting and move it to Ovens Auditorium. And the Community Relations Committee because I was in constant contact at that time with the committee chairman picked up the tab for the rental of Ovens Auditorium and so we really took his meeting and expanded upon it to make a community-wide meeting. Incidentally an interesting thing came up. Alexander immediately said yes, but he called me back in half an hour and said mr. mayor, I've got a favor I want to ask, if we hold this meeting I want to know if it would be permissible for us to take up a collection for the NAACP at the meeting, Sunday meeting. He anticipated a good audience and I said, "No Kelly that I wouldn't even let him take up a collection for my Sunday school class," [laughter] because we didn't want it to be a NAACP meeting.
EP: The next crisis I suppose was the rioting over the slaying of Martin Luther King.
SB: That's right. That's right.
EP: A curfew was established. Was this partly your decision?
SB: Yes.
EP: Do you think that set the--?
SB: Of course I'm not saying that I made these decisions by myself I didn't,
EP: No.
SB: because I took the best advice I could get from our city manager, from the Community Relations Committee and other leaders here black and white.
EP: Do you find, do you think that the Community Relations Committee, the leadership within that committee perhaps was the most influential on you as far as race relations?
SB: Yes I would say so. It was a bi-racial committee and it's concern had to be race relations; that was the only job it had, the only assignment it was ever given.
EP: Did you ever go against their advice?
SB: No. I think they were progressive at all times; that is not to say all the members of the committee agreed with the majority opinions in the committee, but when the majority opinions were reached and those were the opinions and those were the guidelines that we tried to follow.
EP: In 1968, July there was the creation of a conciliation committee for complaints on anti-discrimination. What was the function of that committee in light of the Community Relations Committee?
SB: Well I believe that with a sub-committee of the Community Relations Committee set up for the express purpose of hearing complaints before they were made public.
EP: Were there many complaints? Is that why this committee was created?
SB: There were quite a few; there were a number of restaurants and as I remember the outdoor theaters, what do call it outdoor drive-ins that didn't voluntarily go along with desegregation.
EP: And the function of that subcommittee was to review the problems and make sure they were problems?
SB: That's right. For example, if a black went to a given restaurant and was refused service then that black would come to this committee and the committee then, being small, much smaller than the Community Relations Committee, could go to this proprietor and talk it out with him, find out first the facts and then if at all possible to with mild persuasion work out with him not to let that occur again.
EP: Well I'll tell you. I really, I'm about half way through what I want to do
SB: Well in that case we better--.
EP: I find it best not to stretch these things out and I enjoy sitting here forever but I really think it would be better if we could get together.