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Oral History Interview with Terry Sanford, [date unknown]. Interview A-0140. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    Former North Carolina Governor Terry Sanford assesses the progressivism of North Carolina politics, arguing that though North Carolinians as a whole are not solidly progressive, they do tend to embrace progressive ideas. Sanford points to Chapel Hill as the beacon of North Carolina politics, where progressivism dominated the political discourse. He also discusses the potency of race in political campaigns, highlighting the 1950 Frank Graham-Willis Smith Senate race and his 1960 gubernatorial campaign against I. Beverly Lake. Sanford contends that racially charged campaigns often determined the direction and fate of politicians' careers. His work with established Democratic Party organizations taught him important lessons on how to divert the public's attention from racial matters to other campaign issues.

    Sanford explains that North Carolina did not support machine politics, although the state was dominated by the Democratic Party for nearly a century. Bert Bennett's integral role as political campaigner helped ensure Democratic rule over the state. However, as the Republican Party began to challenge the Democratic Party, North Carolina's one-party system was abandoned. Sanford asserts that the realignment of political parties was able to occur because unfavorable public memories about Republicans faded and internal fighting among Democrats increased. With his 1972 presidential bid, Sanford realized that Republican use of conservative political ideology and rhetoric heavily influenced the future of North Carolina politics. Sanford contends that southern distinctiveness no longer divides the nation, as ideology replaced race as important campaign issues in the 1970s. Sanford finishes the interview by emphasizing the importance of ethics and credibility in political campaigns. He discusses how the increased use of television ads changes campaign strategies and how they impact the ethics of politicians.

    Excerpts
  • Reflection on V. O. Key's views of progressive politics in North Carolina
  • Effective use of race in statewide campaigns drowned out powerful liberal influences
  • Sanford learned to avoid racialized discussions in the public arena
  • Forceful demonstrations pushed North Carolinians to an extremist stance
  • Sanford's missteps during his 1972 presidential candidacy
  • By 1972, political ideology overruled race in national and state elections
  • Party realignment splintered Sanford's Democratic supporters
  • Democratic Party's persistent strength despite the rise of the Republican Party
  • North Carolina voters oppose machine politics
  • Bert Bennett played an integral role in North Carolina elections
  • Historical relevance of the Republican Party continues to impact political decisions
  • Democratic coalitions are necessary after intraparty elections to garner public support
  • Challenges facing national southern politicians and regional realignment of the nation
  • Sanford rejects exclusive southern primary for its efforts to distinguish itself the nation
  • North and South share similar social problems, erasing regional differences
  • Sanford assesses his political leadership and decisions
  • New questions about fundraising arose with the advent of television campaign ads
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • Subjects
  • North Carolina--Race relations
  • North Carolina--Politics and government
  • Helms, Jesse
  • Press and politics--North Carolina
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.