Accessibility Navigation:

Interview with Marshall I. Pickens

Pickens, Marshall I.
Causby, Anna
Date of Interview: 
Duke endowment; Community service groups; University of North Carolina at Charlotte
Mr. Pickens provides information concerning his fifty year tenure with the Duke Endowment fund. He discusses the people he believes were instrumental in community service groups in Charlotte and some of the key leaders of Charlotte during the period.
Interview Setting: 
Interview as part of the WSOC-TV Oral History Project. Interviews conducted at either the downtown public library or the Midtown Shopping Mall.
WSOC-TV Oral History Project
Collection Description: 
The Oral History Project of 1979, headed by Dr. Edward Perzel, was an effort to gather and preserve spoken recollections. Interviews were conducted with older citizens, primarily over the age of 65, who were encouraged to share their memories and stories.
MP (Marshall Pickens): I was born in Pineville, North Carolina, so I'm a native of Mecklenburg. There's county very few of us left. And I grew up, my father was a Baptist minister he moved all over west to North Carolina. We lived in many towns, Morganton, ( ), Lenoir.
AC (Anna Causby): I'm from Mooresville.
MP: You're form Lenoir.
AC: I'm from Mooresville.
MP: Mooresville? Even then I went to high school in Mooresville, graduated from high school in 1921. I felt Morganton was more home than any of the towns where we ever lived in because we went to high school and that's where I went to college. [Pause] So where were we, back getting back to moving around. We moved around and I went to college in Morganton and graduated from Duke University in the first class that graduated from Duke in 1925. The name was changed and, and January 1st 1925 and I graduated in June. And one interesting thing is that the diploma didn't have a seal on it. Because they hadn't got the seals by the time we graduated, the seal was not ready, and we didn't get the seal until our 25th class reunion. But I've been in Morg- I've been Charlotte for 50 years. I came here in 1928, with the Duke Endowment, and been with them all these years. The Duke Endowment is a trust fund that was established by James B. Duke. Under the terms of the trust, the endowment renders assistance to colleges, Duke University, Davidson, Furman, and Johnson C. Smith University were a poor education institutes and all non-profit hospitals in the two Carolinas; child caring institutes in the North and South Carolina; and rural Methodist Churches, superannuated Methodist ( ). Superannuated meaning over-aged or retired Methodist ministers in North Carolina and the maintenance building a rural methodist church in North Carolina. My principal worked with the hospital in child care ( ) rendering assistance to child care institutions, but that, that has been my career, which covered 50 years that I've been a trustee of this Duke Endowment since 1951 and was chairman for two years, 1973 to '75. I had to retire because by law of the calendar
AC: Um-hum.
MP: But my life in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County has been home. My travels of many years and didn't spend much time in Charlotte. My roots are here. I've been active in the Methodist Church for one thing, causing my family to connect with the Church. My father was pastor of Dilworth Methodist Church here back in the 30s and retired and lived here and-
AC: Did he live here during that time?
MP: Yeah, he lived here about during the old time but he retired in 1938. And lived here after he retired. And he and I were interested in the development of the Methodist Home for the aged. And he was the President. ( ) And long after that he retired, he was 79 years old when he became administrator of the Methodist Home. I don't know if you know where that is or not.
AC: Uh-hum.
MP: It was in Charlotte. it was out in the country then. And he was the first administrator, and I was Chairman of the Board for five years in the beginning of the, of the home. He and I helped develop that institution. So I've been active in the United Community Services organization since it started actually in the 30s. It was called the Community Chest. I was active in it then and then on the board. And after it changed its name, I've forgotten when that was, in the early 40s I believe, 1955 and '56 I was president of the United Community Service. Stan Brookshire who was the former mayor of Charlotte, I hope you get him in here for that will be-- he was chairman of the campaign out here. It was the first time that we raised a million dollars in Charlotte for the United Community Service. That was in '55 and '56. Actually that was the really the public enterprise, Stan Brookshire was in then was when he ran that campaign. After that he got in the Chamber of Commerce as president of the Chamber of Commerce and later became mayor, but he was younger than I am but we've been friends all our, all our lives really. But since I came to Charlotte and he came here, now they have a project that I've been in it was the Greater Charlotte Foundation. For a number of years the Greater Charlotte Foundation was handled by the banks of Charlotte. Nobody was interested in it or nothing for development it, but in recent years, it has become an active Foundation with Gordon Berg, who was the former director of the United Community Services is now the executive officer of the Greater Charlotte Foundation. And he's giving it a push for a million dollars income as used for many social purposes in Charlotte. I've been on that board for a good many years. Another thing that I'd like to record is Charlotte leadership through the years has been made up of some of the older families in Charlotte. When I came along, the Belk brothers, I knew Mr. Henry Belk, of course his boys came along and John and Tom have gotten interested in all the community enterprises. One who's been mayor and one who's been the president of the Chamber of Commerce. ( ) Those men didn't have to do that, but all they had to was collect their dividends, live half of it and go to Florida and travel all over the world, but they, they have become an integral, integral of, of Charlotte's life. And I have a great appreciation for them because they're rich, but you'd never know it. The other men in Charlotte, Jimmy Cannon is one of the outstanding citizens of Charlotte. He got interested in the United Appeal and United Community Services and through that, he became chairman of the board of Memorial Hospital. He's on the board and I think he's been chairman for many year. He's been a great leader. He's wealthy and he didn't have to do what he's done in the community. Every opportunity I get I pay tribute to those people. The University of North Carolina in Charlotte, I was I think at the borning of Charlotte College, Ms. Bonnie Cone and a group of people in Charlotte met in the home of Murray Atkins Sr., on then--they lived on Sherwood Avenue out at Myers Park. And they organized Charlotte College, and Miss Bonnie, of course, stayed with that, this was after WWII. Soldiers came back and needed educational facilities, and they developed it primarily for that purpose and they used the old Central High School down there where, where Piedmont Community College is now as the original school. They used it at night primarily and out of that grew UNC Charlotte. Patterson Reese, I don't know whether you knew Mr. Reese or not, was chairman of the board for many years. He died in 1977, but he, he was one of the great leaders in Charlotte. He moved in here from Baltimore. He came down here from Baltimore, and became chairman of NCNB and a real leader in getting UNC Charlotte established. He and Dr. Colvard here really got it all confirmed financial bidding and community support in developing the greater university. I don't know about anything else. Have I talked for long enough?
AC: Okay
MP: I think I've talked a long time. I've been active in my own Myers Park Methodist Church until I'm not active because I've always felt that as you get older you always turn things over to young people. And help them when they need help and let them take responsibility, but I've had very happy and productive career in helping the people in North Carolina and South Carolina, the problems and the local community. Great to be in Charlotte, I haven't lived here in so long.
AC: Okay thank you.