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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Zeno Ponder, March 22, 1974. Interview A-0326. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Ponder worked on his brother's successful local sheriff campaign

Ponder helped his brother E. Y. win the local sheriff election in 1950 even though his chances looked slim. They won by campaigning hard in certain precincts.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Zeno Ponder, March 22, 1974. Interview A-0326. 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

ZENO PONDER:
47, 48 and 49. Was trying to think about getting Madison county in line with the state capital so that we could get our share of roads and schools and appointments. Various and sundry patronage ties that just naturally tie in on our political system. That's just the way the ball bounces.
BILL FINGER:
Was there any particular incident that really brought that home and made you decide I have to be the one, or I have to be one of the ones to build a Democratic party in this county.
ZENO PONDER:
Well yes, there was. It wasn't by my choice. It was like many arguments that I've had and lost and it turned out that maybe I was glad I lost. My brother, E.Y. Ponder, who is presently sheriff and is serving now his 19th year . . . yes, next year will be his 20th. And he's a candidate, too. He's running again. He succumbed to the demands of his friends to make the race for sheriff of Madison county and I did everything I thought within my power to discourage him. To keep him from making the race at that time. I just didn't think it was the right time. I didn't think he should get involved, at that point.
BILL FINGER:
This was 1950?
ZENO PONDER:
This was 1950. But he succumbed to the demands of his friends and intercepted me on a business trip. I was up to Asheville. Said "Zeno, I've decided at the meeting last night that I am going to be a candidate for sheriff." I told him it was a bad mistake, I just didn't want to see him do it. "There's no way at this point. We're just not well enough organized. I don't believe we can make it. I just don't want you to run." He said "Well, I just got no choice. A man doesn't go any further in life than his friends will push him. And my friends are very insistent. I've got to make a race." So, I said "Okay. If you've already committed yourself I'll hush. What do you want me to do?" He said "I want you to be registrar in the Marshall precinct." "My god . . . I've never . . . I don't believe we can do it, Elymas. I just don't believe we're prepared for this. We haven't got it organized that well." "Well," he said, "we got no time. History doesn't wait and time doesn't wait. And if we're going to do anything about the county [END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A] [TAPE 1, SIDE B] [START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
ZENO PONDER:
So, E.Y. and me, from that point on, we worked very, very close. We figured out right down to the vote what would be the minimum in each of the 24 precincts. And the Marshall precinct was by far the largest precinct. And we concluded that he would have to have a split in that precinct to get it. If we wanted any part of the ticket we would have to have a split—that is, a 50-50 break. And that never had happened in the history of the Marshall precinct.
BILL FINGER:
It had been strongly . . .
ZENO PONDER:
It had been strongly Republican. Usually losing by 2, 3, 400 votes. So my work was cut out for me and I had helped cut out my own work in that particular precinct. So I really went to work and working hard. And with the help of other Democrats we carried that Marshall precinct by 2 votes. And E.Y. was elected sheriff by 32 votes.