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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Martha W. Evans, June 26, 1974. Interview A-0318. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Comments on John Belk and community growth

Evans discusses community growth in Charlotte, North Carolina, in the mid-1970s, when the interview was conducted. Jumping off from a discussion of incumbent mayor John Belk's accomplishments, Evans offers her thoughts on why there had not been more done to redevelop the downtown area.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Martha W. Evans, June 26, 1974. Interview A-0318. 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

WILLIAM (BILL) MOYE:
I've read a few things back then about how Ike Belk may run for lieutenant governor, he had his eye on state wide or….
MARTHA W. EVANS:
I think that was a figment of the Observer and the News imagination. Or the Knight publishing company I should say, rather than, I don't know whether it was the News or the Observer, I don't remember.
WILLIAM (BILL) MOYE:
You don't think he stands any chance much in a state wide race? I've heard sort of different views about John, and I've heard it said in connection with the others that one side says he's not the smartest man in town and the other says he sort of puts that on as an act to some extent.
MARTHA W. EVANS:
Well, John is basically warm and kind. I helped him.
WILLIAM (BILL) MOYE:
You have supported him in his… well, he's in his third term now I guess.
MARTHA W. EVANS:
Yes.
WILLIAM (BILL) MOYE:
Will he run for a fourth?
MARTHA W. EVANS:
I would think that he will continue to run. He has no reason to move out.
WILLIAM (BILL) MOYE:
Well, there's this angle, when you sort of glance back over the groups and you think of Belk, the first thing that you think of is downtown and then you remember South Park out here. What does this do to his focus as far as the downtown redevelopment and that sort of thing?
MARTHA W. EVANS:
Well, you see, you've got to remember that back in the 50's, Negroes couldn't be served in the Belk's Cafeteria.
WILLIAM (BILL) MOYE:
Right, that was one of the downtown demonstrations, the sit-ins.
MARTHA W. EVANS:
Yes, and then they put together this coalition out here patterned after Park Road, which was Paul Yount's first shopping center in the community, his one and only, I think. But he put that together out there and they had that as a pattern. Well, it's very easy to build on a pattern. It's much more difficult to be the first step without a pattern.
WILLIAM (BILL) MOYE:
Well, what I'm wondering is, if… I mean, a lot of people see something of a split in the desires of people who have interests in downtown and those who have interests in shopping centers, yet Belks has….
MARTHA W. EVANS:
Yeah, if he is responsible for it, and I don't know that he is, I think that it was a coalition of minds that brought South Park into existence. I think that he's probably… I mean, Belk's downtown, they don't like to be called Belk's, Belk downtown meets a need for a certain community. This meets a need for another community. The town has grown, and there is room for all.
WILLIAM (BILL) MOYE:
Well, let me ask you, why doesn't Belk redo a lot of their downtown. You know, there has been somebody that has suggested they should tear down some of the warehouse area, behind the main store and put up a big parking, here's NCNB going to town, Wachovia is going to town, Southern National is building a big new thing and….
MARTHA W. EVANS:
Because they are basically tight.
WILLIAM (BILL) MOYE:
Conservative in….
MARTHA W. EVANS:
Tight, money tight. When I say "Money tight", I don't mean that they don't have the money, they have the money, but they don't want to let it go. You've got to remember that these people have a heritage where money sticks to them closer than the paper to the wall. And they won't let it go. They'll do anything if they can get their name on something, but to just out and out make a contribution with no big Belk name in headlines, no.
WILLIAM (BILL) MOYE:
Yeah, I've heard it said that Belk's and Ivy's whatnot would put a lot of money into studies of downtown, you know, or something like that, but when it came time to actually put down millions of dollars to maybe build a new store, add some new stores, put parking facilities in, something along those lines, when it came down to putting down millions of dollars, then….
MARTHA W. EVANS:
They wouldn't do it.