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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Terry Sanford, August 20 and 21, 1976. Interview A-0328-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Endorsement of Kennedy's presidential bid controversial in the South

Sanford shocked other southern politicians by endorsing John Kennedy's nomination for president. Robert Kennedy sought his support because Sanford's support was more valuable than that of racist politicians, but Sanford made the endorsement in order to help reform southern politics.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Terry Sanford, August 20 and 21, 1976. Interview A-0328-2. 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

Well, in about three days, of course, they had all kinds of evidence that I had talked to Bobby. I hadn't attempted to conceal it. We were waited on by a waiter there, they were registered into the motel. I just didn't think beyond that one question and my own personal irritation with that particular reporter. So, I got in all kinds of trouble. They accused me of taking half a million dollars from the Kennedys and that stuff persisted right on through the fall election and I had to answer it, Kennedy had to answer it. I never got any money from them. As a matter of fact, Bert Bennett and I personally signed a fifty thousand dollar note to contribute to their campaign after the convention, to put up the money until we could raise it for the party. We made the first contribution to the national election, the national campaign. So, it was the other way around, but I did get into trouble by saying what I did. Now, where did we start? Where do you want to go from here? I've led you now three months around.
What I want to follow up on that with is, did it surprise people in the North Carolina delegation when you did announce for Kennedy?
Surprise is far too mild a word. It stunned and shocked them. That, of course, was the effect that the Kennedys wanted. They didn't have anybody from the South that they wanted to be for them. They had John Patterson from Alabama, who was such a racist that they wouldn't even let him announce that he was for Kennedy, but they wanted somebody and they wanted me and the election was the last Saturday in June or the fourth Saturday in June, probably the last, and the convention started about the first week in July. There were only about ten days or so inbetween there. I immediately went to a South Carolina beach and stayed at a friend's house to rest up a little bit and I was in touch on the phone with the Kennedy people, Bobby. And after talking with a number of my close friends, Bennett agreed with me, as I was beginning to think, "Absolutely. This is the future of the country, this is the way that it is going. Why should we vote for Lyndon Johnson, who is all right in many ways, maybe, but he's not going to get the nomination. It's just the old sop to the South, you voted for Richard Russell and then you voted for somebody and then you came back and supported the ticket and said, ‘But I didn't vote for that radical northern Democrat, but now he is the Democrat and I'm supporting him.’" Well, I didn't like the hypocrisy of that and I thought that there ought to be a new South. So, I began to lean toward him. The only thing that kept me from making an immediate decision, I was scared of the politics. I was just scared of the repercussions and you know, you don't want to sacrifice yourself needlessly.