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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Clarke Reed, April 2, 1974. Interview A-0113. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Growth of the Republican Party in Mississippi during the early 1960s

Reed describes his initial involvement in the Republican Party, leading up to 1966, when he became chairman of the party in Mississippi. First recognized in 1956, the Republican Party began to gain strength in the early 1960s, according to Reed. Particularly influential was the 1964 presidential candidacy of Barry Goldwater. Reed's comments here reveal the establishment of a strong Republican foundation in the South during those years.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Clarke Reed, April 2, 1974. Interview A-0113. 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

JACK BASS:
How did you get active in the Republican party?
CLARKE REED:
I was born Democrat. Family Democrat. I was not active in civic clubs, that sort of thing. Went to church. That's about all. Outside of making a buck. The state of the nation didn't look very good to me. I was [receptive?] maybe to some activity. I voted Republican. My first vote was for Eisenhower in 1952. But I thought the real good guys were the southern Democrats. But then people come to me, my predecessor , he'd say you need to get active. I'd say "Well, I'm not a community leader. Let's go and see a friend of Bank." And all these leaders. These guys running Red Cross drive and all. And I began to see maybe they were fakes. A little strong word, maybe. You know, I'd say this needs to be done. But I could see by and large that type of political leaders were pretty much followers. They go where the wind goes. At least on political and philosophical issues as a rule. And so I'd wind up taking on Republican chairman, county chairman, that sort of thing. And just devolved more into it.
JACK BASS:
What period was this?
CLARKE REED:
I did a little bit, very little bit, in the first Nixon campaign in '60. County chairman not long after that and got pretty active I'd say '63 in the governor's race and appreciably more so when became state finance chairman in '65 and then state chairman in '66.
JACK BASS:
You had been chairman for how long?
CLARKE REED:
I think ten years. A long time.
JACK BASS:
So you and he are really the only two chairmen of the Republican party has had in Mississippi in the modern era? What was the Republican party in those days, early '60s?
CLARKE REED:
Well, by the time I got up here it had devolved into something. [Earlier chairman's name] started. He went through the competition…. Wasn't until '56 that you had the party recognized [unclear] . Part of that time Perry Howard, black lawyer in Washington, voted the delegation. Then they seated… the '56 convention as I recall, understand it—before my time—both units, you know, with the understanding that the evolving group in the state, the viable party to be, would be recognized de facto and then be fully credited at the next convention.
WALTER DEVRIES:
What major changes occurred in that time until this time in the party?
CLARKE REED:
Well, you make all the mistakes you can make. Like, you know, in '64. The thinking… I wasn't part of it, but I don't feel I'd have any different position…was that it was all [something about having to prove to people that there is a party, in other words, that there is a difference.] That the Republican candidate is the conservative party. [Something about being part of the Goldwater movement]—if you want to call it that. The effective control of the party by the conservatives, which I think is now in question. So… they had the absurb notion we don't want to run anybody on the ticket and we want to be sure to carry the state for Goldwater. One Congressman ran and was elected. With the type vote we had we could have elected five. But… at the time I remember Reston was writing about filing deadline time that Rockefeller had a chance, about as much chance of losing the nomination as he did of going broke. That was the smart thing in the United States, see. So it was obvious that [unclear] had the convention sewn up before the delegates left their front porch. It was evident. So, people didn't run, not knowing, well, how things were going. [So we'd of done good, contrary…] Alabama did. And they did very well on the strength of it. That was one thing we did wrong. Then there was the governor's race. Then, of course, going through the race and problems and all.