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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Terry Sanford, May 14, 1976. Interview A-0328-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

North Carolina's one-party system increased gubernatorial power

The one-party system led to greater power for North Carolina governors. Consequently, the governor effected great changes. Sanford cites Kerr Scott's governorship as an example.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Terry Sanford, May 14, 1976. Interview A-0328-1. 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

TERRY SANFORD:
It seemed to me that the governor of North Carolina is so many things, and that you couldn't do much without him. I think in one place in But What About The People as I recall the way I wrote it, that I became determined to run for governor when I was in the Senate. Now I'd already made up my mind when I wanted to, but you had to vascillate somewhat. It really was so demanding and challenging and so all-consuming. And that's the trouble with politics in a way. I never did want to devote my life to politics. Still, I wanted to be governor. I wanted to be governor because there were a lot of things I thought the governor could do. And I think in the Senate here I am on the education committee, and I don't have a thing to do with education, the governor does. And I said right then, all right I'm going to be governor and education's going to be my issue, or something like that. Well, that's not the first time, I don't think I suggested it the first time, that I thought about it. But it just reinforced my determination if you're going to do anything, you had to do it from the governor's office. That is, in a substantial way. I certainly wanted to be governor when I was an undergraduate at Chapel Hill. I'd say almost every freshman from North Carolina wanted to be governor, and many of them talked about it. None of those that I can remember talking about it ever got there. I was too shy to talk about it, probably, but later I got too smart to talk about it because I figured that was a good way to set people against you until you were ready to know what you could do and would do. And then at that time, it had to be pretty much a dream. You were just too far away from it. But I could see by the time I was ready to leave the Institute of Government how I could put it together. I talked a great deal with my very close friend, Paul Thompson, who then was at Chapel Hill taking a master's degree and probably was my closest friend in life. He died, now, seven or eight years ago. He sort of grubstaked me. He loaned me $500 to go to Fayetteville. You couldn't save any money at the Institute of Government. It sounded like a lot of money, but paying off my loans at Chapel Hill and other things, I didn't have any money. And I needed enough to pay my rent and live a few months. Five hundred dollars was a lot of money. But I just decided that's what I wanted to do, that I was going to be governor. I was going to run for governor.
BRENT GLASS:
Not Senator, not . . .
TERRY SANFORD:
No, I really didn't want those jobs for several reasons. The more I saw them, the less I wanted them because I didn't want a political career. And I might say I haven't had one. I spent more time practicing law than any other one thing. I'm on the way, maybe, if I don't get unlucky, to equalling that period of time at Duke. But I certainly never intended to have a political career. I just sort of happened into some of the later things. I never saw myself as a judge, except briefly. Then I really didn't like that relatively inactive posture that you had to assume. I didn't see myself as a Senator in Washington putting up with all the petty things you have to put up with. I wanted to be governor. I wouldn't have minded being governor twice, just because you can hardly get all done that you think needs to be done in one time. And so Fayetteville played a role in that, my going to Fayetteville. I was looking, among other places, where can I practice law, and also where can I build a base to run for governor. I also knew that you ran in this state not really with any organization, but with your own personal organization. The one-party system had dictated that. I could see that Broughton had his organization, Umstead had his organization, in spite of the sometimes melding of various organizations through Max Gardner's influence. But by that time, Max Gardner was dead. You had Kerr Scott's rag-tag, branchhead boy organization that was forceful but very much minority.
BRENT GLASS:
What do you mean by branchhead?
TERRY SANFORD:
That was his word. The branchhead boys, meaning that the boys that lived not in the towns but back up the branches, at the head of the branch, and it became a favorite expression of his, his branchhead boys.
BRENT GLASS:
Did he include you in that?
TERRY SANFORD:
Well, it's a rather loose designation. No, he was wise enough to know he had to have the other influence to win. The votes aren't at the branchhead. But what there were, he got them because he championed the rural telephones—of course, rural electrification was pretty well moving along by then but not telephones—and particularly rural roads. You see, he built more rural roads than had ever been built in one four-year period anywhere in the country.