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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Terry Sanford, [date unknown]. Interview A-0140. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Challenges facing national southern politicians and regional realignment of the nation

Sanford discusses the political chances for a southern presidential candidate. He contends that a candidate's southern identity is no longer an impediment, as the South becomes in step with the rest of the nation.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Terry Sanford, [date unknown]. Interview A-0140. 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

Can you talk a little bit about the role of the South in national politics, say, in the seventies. Or even looking back a little bit. Where do you see it? Do you think it's now possible for a southerner to run for something other than vice president?
I made a speech in Roxboro about 1955 or 6, and I don't know whether I've got a copy of that somewhere or not, I never have bothered to look, in which I contended that it was time to put away the regional inferiority complex. And I named a whole list of people that we could run for president. Some of them I could have justified, and some of them I simply had to include. That we had gone past the time when we had to think of ourselves as a deprived region where our candidates were not eligible for the top office, and that I thought we ought to start now to contend for the presidency and not consider ourselves as [inferior]. I remember having a conversation with Lou Harris and Jack Kennedy about that very thing in '60, because Catholicism and the South were two things that automatically excluded a person from being president. Catholics had to be vice president, if anything. Southerners had to be vice president, if anything. And it would be great if we could break both of those myths of the past. I don't know whether they were myths. Facts of the past, maybe. So I, for a long time, contended that it's degrading to the region for a person to contend for the vice presidency, or to seek it. That a governor of a southern state is just as qualified as the governor of Ohio or any other place. Or a senator from the South. And that we should see ourselves in this role. And that was one reason that urged me to consider the odds to go ahead and run for president anyhow. You don't know this, but I do. If McGovern had offered me the slot of vice president, I would have flat turned it down. No question in my mind. I was braced to do it, against any other advice, though agreed with me, for different reasons. He agreed with me because he thought it was such a lost cause, that it would be damaging in the long run and of no good effect. I would have flat turned it down, simply because I contended that I wasn't running, that I didn't think the South ought to put itself in the role, and I would have made my point even stronger in that way. I didn't have a chance to do it, and I'm just as glad, but I would have. And so I'm speaking from a considerable bias when I answer your question, in effect, to hell with the vice presidency. The southern political leader ought to aspire to the presidency if he wants to move into that level.