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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 >>

Sanford describes his political leadership ethics and tactics

Sanford made sure he established himself as an independent thinker. He discusses political ethics and his relationships with lobbyists.

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

BRENT GLASS:
How did you know you were doing well? I mean, what kind of things did you get involved in there that were helpful to you?
TERRY SANFORD:
I just made strong friendships. I got along extremely well. I attacked the governor's program two or three times, and I was always on solid ground. I always lost, but at least . . .
BRENT GLASS:
Which indicates that you were right.
TERRY SANFORD:
Yes. But I made my points, and I became an independent person. I wasn't anybody's boy. I was for the governor, against the governor, on the basis of what I thought was correct. I voted against the total appropriations bill because I thought they'd brought it in in a shoddy way; and I accused the sub-committee chairman of doing so, Bill Copeland, whom I later made my legislative assistant. I figured if he could do that to me when I was senator, he could do it to them when I was governor. No, he was a very skillful person, but they didn't intend the Senate to debate the items of the bill. It would have been there another month. That's all right, but it was wrong and I took issue with that. I took issue with the governor's reorganization of the highway commission. But I didn't do anything in an obnoxious way, and I ended up with some very solid friends that were on different issues with me, including the governor, and including the governor's legislative assistant, who was Mr. Frank Taylor. So I knew I'd done well. And that was contrary to Frank Franklin's advice to me, who was an old city council-type politician, wonderful fellow, one of my staunchest friends when I went to Fayetteville. He said, "Terry, I just don't know. I don't believe I'd run for the Senate." He said, "You can be governor, and if you run for the Senate, you might go up there and mess it all up." I said, "But how am I going to be governor if I don't take a chance on messing it up?" He said, "Well, I reckon you have to." In any event, I felt that I'd come out of that with a good name and a good record, and I had appeared as an individual and not just as another name. I'd spoken on four or five principal things that I thought were worthy of my championing, and I hadn't hesitated to assert myself, which you have to do. So I was reasonably well satisfied that in terms of establishing myself at that level, I had about done all I was going to do anyhow.
BRENT GLASS:
What was your impression of the state government scene in Raleigh? Did your experience there change any of the impressions . . .
TERRY SANFORD:
Not particularly because I had been fairly close in my observation of that for a good while. I was stymied a little by the committee system, though that was broken up somewhat. You may or may not remember that Hodges was the new Lieutenant Governor and presiding officer, and at that time, very friendly to me because a couple of his nephews were very close friends of mine. His sister-in-law, Mrs. Rose Parker in Albemarle, was a close friend of mine because her son had been a classmate and one of my camp counselors. So Hodges was very nice to me. He was also a very aloof, arrogant person at that stage of his life, and he made a lot of people in the Senate extremely uncomfortable. He was absolutely at odds with Governor Umstead, or vice versa. I learned enough about the legislative process that I never had any trouble with the legislature when I was governor.
BRENT GLASS:
Did you come into contact with the influence of lobbyists in Raleigh?
TERRY SANFORD:
Oh yes. Oh, of course.
BRENT GLASS:
What kind of influence did they have?
TERRY SANFORD:
Well, kind of a cozy fellowship that didn't do a whole lot of harm except sort of keep the handbrakes on all the time. The truckers worked closely with the telephone lobbyists, and across the board they supported one another. There wasn't a whole lot of special-interest legislation. The chiropractors wanted some kind of recognition, and the optometrists wanted something maybe. They had special people in there pushing—probably should have had. They were probably pushing against the older establishments. The truckers were the most blatant. But I don't recall in that year any big issues that they were working on. They entertained most lavishly. I didn't find it particularly evil, to sum it all up. I never found the first suggestion of dishonesty. If it was ever happened in the North Carolina legislature, both when I was there or when I was governor, I never knew about it and never heard any suggestion of it. The power companies retained some of the lawyers, which I thought was bordering on unethical conduct on the part of the lawyers, to say nothing of maybe the power company. But they would retain a lot of these lawyers around in small counties for a modest retainer of $1,000 a year, or something like that. And if they had a power company issue, those legislators who were lawyers retained were, in my opinion, disqualified for participation in that vote, though obviously they didn't disqualify themselves. That's the only thing that would border on it, and that was perfectly legal, except I would never accept a fee from anybody where I was going to vote on an issue. When I became governor, I severed my ties totally with the law firm and never assumed them again.