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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 >>

Community and family connections are important to Madison County politics

Ponder argues that Madison County politics have remained personal despite a statewide trend toward media campaigns. He credits community and family connections as the keys to influencing elections.

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

Now not with Democratic and Republican and when you came in and when you lost control in 64, but what kinds of trends in terms of . . . media wasn't an issue in 1948. Now campaigns are run on television, state-wide campaigns. You had to know everyone individually and try to corner those votes in 1948. Now there is a lot more, seems to be a lot less person to person politic - ing certainly by state wide offices and office-holders. Is that affecting Madison county?
ZENO PONDER:
Actually it's had very little effect in Madison county. And I say that not with my tongue in my cheek. I realize I think what the political situation is here in this county. We still have person to person ties. Call it a machine, call it an organization, call it key people. I think of it strictly in terms of key people. Now on this ridge there are 127 Democrats registered. Down to the mouth of Ivey. There are about 40 Republicans. That is completely reversed to what it was when I came up here twenty-five years ago. Matter of fact there was only 27 Democrats and about 175 Republicans.
BILL FINGER:
You worked hard.
ZENO PONDER:
We have got the thing reversed. Now I'm not saying that I control all these people. But I wouldn't be telling you the truth if I didn't tell you I have a terrific influence with my neighbors—Democrat and Republican. Because if I've got enough intelligence, I'm going to be for what's good for my community. And who can fight a good community?
BILL FINGER:
That's right.
ZENO PONDER:
And these Republicans will tell you "Well, Zeno Ponder, you might not agree with him, but my gosh, he's for Madison county." They'll tell you that. Because they haven't found me in one instance, not one instance, me or my kinfolk—my brothers, my nephews or nieces—being selfish. I just don't go after that in politics. I work. Yes, I work hard to try to be a success in my business. But I don't mix up my church work—which is not enough, I should do more active church work. But I don't mix my church work, my politics, my business. And these people who have little influence, if you will notice, they are selfish people. And human beings don't like to see somebody pick himself up by his own bootstraps. So my comment is that we here in Madison county, I guess we have a machine. We have about a hundred, maybe 150 people scattered geographically throughout the county, who are unselfish. And I believe I can make a dozen phone calls and ask each one of them to contact six or eight key people—that I've mentioned their names: "Would you see Joe . . . check with Bill, check with Hattie." And I bet I could make those twelve calls and have a pretty doggone big influence on a primary or a general election.