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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 >>

Political conservatism and southern culture

Reed describes himself as a conservative and explains which political leaders he aligned himself with philosophically. From there, he segues into a discussion of southern culture in relationship to politics, particularly in tandem with the ascendancy of the Republican Party in the South. In describing the South as more conservative in terms of traditional religious and rural values, Reed also addresses how views on economics and race in the South were typically well-suited to the Republican Party.

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 do you define your own political philosophy?
CLARKE REED:
I am a conservative.
JACK BASS:
Okay, nationally, what political figure would you say you associate most with philosophically?
CLARKE REED:
Bang Goldwater. Put Nixon in that category. Maybe a lot of my People don't. Reagan. I identify very well with the National Review crowd. Bill Buckley's a friend. Course as a politician I compromise more than they do. I pretty much agree with Buckley 90% of the time.
WALTER DEVRIES:
What would it mean on specific issues in Mississippi? Let's start with race.
CLARKE REED:
I never could put race in the conservative context. Moral…
WALTER DEVRIES:
Economic conservatism—
CLARKE REED:
Right. The main thing… identify with people of like back-ground. A southerner I think is a conservative. More in a sense of tradition and philosophy than economics or race. Economics does apply. More important, tradition. Your values. Being rural, you're more in tune with real life, nature, trials and tribulations of living. Being poor helps. Or living in a poor area. Church oriented. Family oriented. Traditional.
WALTER DEVRIES:
You mean in a social sense you're more of a traditional [unclear] …. a [unclear] ?
CLARKE REED:
That's right.
WALTER DEVRIES:
—a fundamentalist in that sense. What about economically?
CLARKE REED:
Conservative in that, well, I'm in business. Economics is somewhat of a hobby. Now I'm not in the [unclear] league. I couldn't carry on a highly [unclear] conversation with [unclear] Friedman or somebody.
WALTER DEVRIES:
I bet you could. Have you ever tried it?
CLARKE REED:
Yeah. [Laughter] In other words, I think business is interesting. Somebody said the business of America is business. I agree with that. I think it's the system. I've started businesses and I've had a good time at it. And I like the freedom and the opportunity of this country. I think it's… system's taken a lot of battering but I'm proud of it.
WALTER DEVRIES:
How do you describe yourself in racial relations?
CLARKE REED:
Oh, I guess in terms of what you're probably thinking of I'd say liberal. Enlightened self-interest, I think, is one premise of conservatism. Try to put everything on that basis. You all heard last night, my daughter was [something about private schools.] But anyway then all various sides of the civil rights question, [unclear] me just point out self-interest. Or, what do you plan to do? I mean we're here today. Blacks vote, they're citizens. Where do you go from here? Put it on that basis. Enlightened self-interest. Enlightened self-interest says you should see to it… go an extra mile. If they get more political participation, better education, make more money, pay more taxes, we'll all be better off.