Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with David Pryor, June 13, 1974. Interview A-0038. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Growth of political organization in Arkansas

Pryor describes some of the political changes that have taken place in the past few decades in Arkansas: the Democratic Party has grown to the point where its strength threatens the very two-party system, new blood has helped clean up the political process, and staffing has improved.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with David Pryor, June 13, 1974. Interview A-0038. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

DAVID PRYOR:
Well I think when they're talking about getting too strong they may be talking about too much executive control over it. Do you think?
JACK BASS:
Talking about another Faubus kind of machine.
DAVID PRYOR:
Yeah. Frankly, internally, for the state of Arkansas for state politics, I can't get overexhilerated about trying to make the state party. . . . I want it good. I want they should hold clean elections. We should keep moving in the area of certain reforms and so forth. But so far as making it stronger, it's pretty strong right now. And I don't know how much more strength we should have or how much more organization we should have. It's so much more operational and functional and organized now than it was seven or eight years ago, it's unbelievable. Like I say, we have nothing to relate it to because we had nothing to begin with. I said we didn't have a file cabinet.
WALTER DE VRIES:
Did you get involved in elected politics in 1960 for the legislature? Was that the first time that you ran? Say from 1960 on, what are the basic changes you've seen, political changes.
DAVID PRYOR:
From '60?
WALTER DE VRIES:
Well, whenever you got actively involved in politics. Our book covers the period from 1948 through 1974. I don't think you're old enough to go way back to 1948. . . .
DAVID PRYOR:
Let's see. I was running for class president probably along about that time. What changes? [long pause] Well, the University of Arkansas board of trustees is a possible example. Today the board of trustees at the University of Arkansas is made up of extremely capable and intelligent men. And college boards all around the state would be. There's a great movement, in this area. I've seen great change here because in past years we would see on many many boards and commissions nothing more than a raw political reward for employment. To something like the University of Arkansas board of trustees or to a highway commission job, or whatever. But now there is, not only in practice but also by public demand. . . . They demand a higher quality individual to serve in these capacities. I've seen a remarkable and drastic change in the state legislature itself in the past 14 years, since the time I went there. It's frankly not the same place.
JACK BASS:
Is that the result of reapportionment?
DAVID PRYOR:
It's the result of time and it's the result of people. . . . I think it's the result of people wanting to be a part of the system. For some reason or another it is attracting better people. Maybe because its affluence or something. Many young people now are getting to the stage where they can afford to accept $100 a month and go to the state legislature. Maybe it's because the people are demanding better representation. Reapportionment evidently certainly has something to do with this. There's just a higher standard in the state legislature. There's just a higher standard. I think people who, 14 years ago, would introduce what we'd call a revenue bill. . . . And when I'm talking about revenue bill, I'm talking about a bill that would bring some special interest to make them kill the bill or not bring it up or to bring it up or whatever. I think people who would do that now would be totally ostracized from the state legislature. Fourteen years ago it was kind of the accepted thing. Everybody kind of laughed about it and went on about their business. But now I think there would be a total ostracizing of that legislator.
WALTER DE VRIES:
Any other changes?
DAVID PRYOR:
Better staff for the legislative council. More strength in the joint budget committee and in the legislative council. They meet kind of constantly throughout the year where they used to meet right before the state legislature went into session. There's more money in the state and as a result, I think, they've upgraded the departments and have been able to attract better people into real positions of influence within the state government. We're going to have to address ourselves to that soon. In special session. Going to have to raise the salaries for some people. University of Arkansas today I think to their president pays $35,000. Maybe $35,700 or something. And I'm sure we're going to have to update that in order to get, to attract the right kind of president here. Football coach is paid $35,000. At one time he made more than the president. But now the president makes more than he does. Everybody makes more than the governor. That poor guy makes ten grand and that's kind of a bad situation.