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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Margaret Carter, October 25, 1975. Interview A-0309-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Memories of various politicos and the downfall of the labor movement in Texas

Carter remembers more details about the various politicos she had known before again lamenting the downfall of the labor movement.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Margaret Carter, October 25, 1975. Interview A-0309-1. 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

CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
Who is Hunter McLean?
MARGARET CARTER:
Hunter McLean is a member of one of the oldest families in Ft. Worth. That picture that I was showing you, from the suffrage scrapbook, of the lady with the Scotch tartan around her shoulders? That's a picture of his Aunt Margaret, who was an enthusiastic Stevenson supporter both times and who lost a good many of her influential friends because of her outspoken support of Stevenson. Hunter owned an insurance company, which he had built by writing into the fine print exceptions which made it most difficult to get his company to pay out any of the income which he took in. [Laughter] He was the son of a very useful and very loyal Democrat, who was also a medical doctor and was an industrial surgeon whom working people trusted more in our county than anyone else. Other members of his family had been the first lawyers and judges in the county. The Scotts and the McLeans had a kind of a monopoly on the professions in early Ft. Worth.
CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
Well, Hunter McLean was a conservative who usually would not be expected to work in the Stevenson campaign?
MARGARET CARTER:
No. He was the kind of conservative who would have worked for Lyndon Johnson out of opportunism. Those three were the conservative but loyal leaders who helped the rest of us carry the conventions in '56. I was a delegate to the national convention in '56, because Mr. Buck said that the person who does the work ought to go to the convention.
CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
Did you get to know John Connally personally in this role?
MARGARET CARTER:
Yes, I got to know John Connally and found out what a double-crossing so-and-so he was and I have never had the slightest occasion to change my opinion. We were talking about the labor leader and I told you that I would tell you a story about that. Well, he was in charge of the office that labor set up to help with this coalition effort and he couldn't help but be impressed with the people from the Ft. Worth Club who were involved with us. Hunter was a gentleman, I'll give him credit. He was elected to the board of our labor-liberal organization. He accepted election to the board and he attended meetings and took part. Now, John never let himself get caught in the same room with us, but once. There was one point where we threatened to back out of the whole thing and he did allow himself to sit in the same room with us for a few minutes while Raymond Buck and Ross Mathews worked out the situation. [Laughter] But Hunter was a gentleman, he did work along with us, and this kid, whose name I can't recall at the moment, I'll think of it, was bowled over at the opportunity to play golf with Hunter McLean and they pegged him as the person whom they could persuade to accept their guidance rather than the guidance of impecunious liberals who had put him in a position to meet them in the first place. And that poor boy got so mixed up and so torn between the various loyalties that were fighting for him inside, that by the time Connally's inauguration was being held,-Connally went after the governorship, of course, after this '56 campaign,-and he was expecting a good appointment which we now think that Connally never intended to make, but he thought that he had a serious offer and he couldn't decide whether he wanted to do that or stay in the labor movement. He dropped dead, and he wasn't forty years old, at Connally's inauguration. He was typical of the kind of labor leaders that we have had since then. The lure of associating with executives is too much for them, especially as they get into positions where they have got to maneuver so as to satisfy conservative people or go back into the plant. Most of them aren't like Ross. They don't think that they could make a living with the skill they used to use to make a living. They can't bear the thought of becoming blue collar workers if they have had a white collar job. They have no intention of doing as volunteers, anything for which they have ever managed to draw pay and of course, we don't have job patronage, or contract patronage, or campaign headquarters financing to offer. They say, "Well, we provide the money and you liberals get the credit." Well, of course, they have provided a good deal of money, but they are mistaken about the liberals getting the credit. They provide the money but we do the work, because when their members see that they get the money, their members expect not to be called upon to do work. The situation is now impossible, in my opinion. It doesn't make any difference which personality is head of the state AFL-CIO. If he gets to be head of the state AFL-CIO, he is already committed to do nothing that will offend the governor, because they think that it is more important to be able to submit a few names for a few appointive positions to the governor than it is to keep their membership informed about who is gutting whom for what.
CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
When do you think this first began to be the dominant view?
MARGARET CARTER:
I'm not sure that it was at the same time in all parts of the country. I'm sure that it was not the same time in all the labor unions.
CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
Say so far as the Texas AFL-CIO was concerned?
MARGARET CARTER:
I can't say. Until the merger, we worked more with the industrial unions than with the craft unions.
CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
And that was when, 1956?
MARGARET CARTER:
No, surely it's been farther back than that. There were Jerry Holleman and Hank Brown and Roy Evans and Harry Hubbard, they've all presidents since the merger … I'm not sure exactly when it was, But I know back in the forties and early fifties when we first became active, the state secretaries of the Industrial Union Council, I believe they called it, they didn't even call it the state CIO for some time, and the one of those that we got to know best was Jeff Hickman who was an oil worker. Jeff had also been a schoolteacher and he was great.
CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
So, you see this gradual change in the labor movement as being really due to structural features, which are pretty much endemic in the system?
MARGARET CARTER:
I think so. I think that it is a tragedy.
CHANDLER DAVIDSON:
Do you see the labor movement as gradually splitting off from the liberal movement?
MARGARET CARTER:
Not gradually … well, I guess that it has happened gradually, but it has happened. The unions have been co-opted.