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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 criticized by fellow Methodists

Sanford's decision to endorse John Kennedy raised vicious controversy among other members of the Methodist Church. Though one bishop supported him, his own pastor showed his disapproval by dropping him from church programs.

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

In any event, because I announced out there, whatever I said was greatly distorted. I said that I wanted North Carolina to be with the winner, not just have a vain vote. Well, that got interpreted that Sanford simply wanted to be with the winner, he wasn't voting on principle and our communication with the papers was just very, very bad. I got hundreds and hundreds of vicious telegrams, some abusive telegrams. Some would surprise you. They are all in Archives.
Was the religion factor a big one in some of this reaction?
Religion and race. At any rate, the Methodist Church virtually excommunicated me. I never did fully forgive the preacher of my own church, who withdrew the invitation to be the Laymen's Day speaker. It so happened that that didn't bother me, but it irritated me that he felt he had to do that. And then, there is some day celebrated . . . every Sunday has got some name in the church, you know, and in October, there is something to do with breaking away from the Catholic Church and which has to do with the independence of religious thought, and he announced that he was going to preach an anti-Kennedy speech. So, I sent him word . . . I had been chairman of the board there for eight years . . .
This is in Fayetteville?
Yes. I sent him word that I was coming to church and if he preached that sermon, I was getting up in the middle and walking out and that I thought that would get some attention. I did not go and he did not preach it. In any event, it was very vicious. Now, by a coincidence, as I was leaving the Carolina Hotel to go to the airport to go to Los Angeles, I ran into Bishop Garver, the bishop of the North Carolina Conference of the Methodist Church. And he said whatever he said and I said, "You know, bishop, I might end up being for John Kennedy." He said, "Go to it, boy." Now, he was very supportive, he was a much more enlightened person than my particular preacher, who is now dead. So, it was a shocking thing to them.