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Title: Oral History Interview with L. M. Wright Jr., April 1, 1974. Interview A-0333-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Wright, L. M., Jr., interviewee
Interview conducted by Moye, Bill
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Kristin Shaffer
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2008
Size of electronic edition: 132 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2008.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2008-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2008-01-03, Kristin Shaffer finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with L. M. Wright Jr., April 1, 1974. Interview A-0333-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series A. Southern Politics. Southern Oral History Program Collection (A-0333-1)
Author: Bill Moye
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with L. M. Wright Jr., April 1, 1974. Interview A-0333-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series A. Southern Politics. Southern Oral History Program Collection (A-0333-1)
Author: L. M. Wright Jr.
Description: 157 Mb
Description: 34 p.
Note: Interview conducted on April 1, 1974, by Bill Moye; recorded in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Joe Jaros.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series A. Southern Politics, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
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Interview with L. M. Wright Jr., April 1, 1974.
Interview A-0333-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Wright, L. M., Jr., interviewee


Interview Participants

    L. M. WRIGHT JR., interviewee
    BILL MOYE, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
BILL MOYE:
By way of explanation, what I'm trying to do is to write a dissertation on Charlotte politics, generally from about '57, the annexation of '57 to the consolidation vote. And I thought that, especially since you had been connected with the Observer and then had participated in the consolidation, you could introduce me a little bit to just what was going on. I've done some reading in the back issues of the Observer, but I'm only up to November of 1960, so, I've got a good deal to go through, at this point. I've done some reading about the consolidation issue. I read Dr. Schley Lyons' book that he wrote and I've looked through the sort of compendium book thing that Mr. Wicker put together. I thought maybe this afternoon, first of all, if we could get your position straight — I know that you were a newspaperman — and then maybe just talk generally about the Charlotte situation and then sort of specifically about consolidation.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
O.K., whatever questions you have, I'd be glad to answer. This phone is probably going to ring somewhere in the course of this, so can you just cut it off and pick up from there? I find it difficult to work without interruptions, frankly. There's no way to avoid it. Well, as I said, I went to Charlotte in 1958 with the Observer, as a reporter; and spent about the next two years writing about city government and perhaps more about city and county government and perhaps more about education than any other thing.

Page 2
BILL MOYE:
I've read a couple of sort of series things that you did about the financial problem and that sort of thing.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Well, we did some special articles on desegregation, one in each school series…
BILL MOYE:
In Virginia?
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Well, in Charlotte, too, that first year. And then, yes…I did, I don't know whether you've come across them or not. I did a series of articles, Good Lord, there must have been twenty-five or thirty of them, on growth problems. That series, as much as anything else, illustrates the kind of blending of activities that went on in Charlotte and the various business institutions in Charlotte, the Chamber of Commerce, which at that time held a position of leadership that it no longer holds in the community. I had been assigned by the paper to do the series. We were going through the standard kind of thing, some additional annexation was due. They were just getting serious about urban renewal in downtown where all those high-rise buildings are now.
BILL MOYE:
Looks like New York City, almost.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Yes, and we had just taken pictures of the mayor with the first axe on the first front porch coming down, that kind of stuff, the way you start all those things off. There was a lot of hope about being able not only to rebuild the city, but also to try to get some grasp on zoning. At that time, for example, we did not have an exclusive zoning ordinance. It worked, you know, each scale that you went up the ladder, you could build everything under the rule, and when you got to industrial zoning, you could build anything all the way back down to a private dwelling. That kind of situation. It never had really gone past that first round of zoning ordinances that North Carolina cities went through, most of them, right after World War II. That was a part of the concern. There was a good bit of concern about finances. You could project the city's capital needs, or the county's capital needs, particularly in the area of schools, and see that

Page 3
there were going to be some fairly serious problems if they kept sort of casually issuing bond issues.
BILL MOYE:
There was a lot of talk about pay as you go.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Yes. Matter of fact, I worked on one of those committees that came up with some of the ideas about pay as you go and for a period of about four or five years, we actually had the city of Charlotte investing more than a million dollars cash in capital outlay.
BILL MOYE:
That was the Pacing Progress Committee, or something along that line?
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Uh-huh. I wrote those. Herbert M. Wayne was the chairman. He was the president of the North Carolina National Bank. He's dead now. If you go up on North Tryon Street, to their branch office, on the left up there just below the Golden Eagle South, there is a little garden, at the side of that building, which is the Herbert M. Wayne Memorial Garden. It was the first actual physical redoing of a piece of property in the central city. That didn't happen to be in urban renewal, but simply when a private business decided that, "we are going to do some small thing to make the joint look better." And they named it after Herbert Wayne.
BILL MOYE:
Well, then about '60, I guess, you became the city editor of the…
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
I was city editor of the Observer from '60 until '65 and did some writing, though certainly far less than I had done before that. And we had on the average of fifteen reporters, I spent a good deal of time working with them, supervising their work and trying to dig out some of these basic questions that were going along. And then I moved to the editorial page in '65 and that created a different kind of demand on my time, but it left me really with more freedom to get out in the community and work with committees and, you know, take one question and go worry it for several days rather than for thirty minutes, which is sort of the attention span in an average city room if you aren't being interrupted. Then,

Page 4
it was in '69 that the Charter Commission came along. And from my personal point of view, I simply saw that as an interesting opportunity to both sort of stop writing for awhile and go out and become more of an activist in a sense of trying to see if it was possible to do some of the things that we had been philosophically advocating on an editorial page.
BILL MOYE:
You had been sort of involved in it, though.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Some of it, yes I had been involved with both of the Pacing Progress Committee things, one as I recall was in '60 and the other was in '63. And then there was the Central Charlotte Committee, itself. And Herbert Wayne, the same fellow, he and I had become friends in the other group, and so I sort of got lashed into that, not as an official member, but as a sort of a seventh member who sat down at the end of the table and wrote it all down periodically. That was the one that involved the production of the scale model by A.G. Odell, Jr., the architect and just the general design for the central city. The proposal for the Civic Center was part of that. There was at least at one point an idea for a major stadium back over on the west side, just about where Fourth Street runs into Interstate 77 now, in that flat over there by the creek, and that kind of thing. But that first for revitalizing the central city, I think was a very practical set of ideas. But apparently, it was about four or five years ahead of the city. They wanted to take out the railroad tracks that run behind the Civic Center, for example. That track had to stay there because of a long series of negotiations with the Southern Railroad, and it finally occurred to Southern that they owned some of the most valuable property in downtown Charlotte. It had been sitting there, well, it's most profitable use had been as a parking lot for years and years. That kind of thing. Now, some of that property has got, you know, twenty and thirty story buildings on it. But all of that was a part of the thing. We took the first vote in '66, I have to look up some of my dates to be sure, and check my memory. But in '66, we took the first

Page 5
vote on the Civic Center and at that time, the proposal was only for, as I recall, a million and a half dollars to buy the land from the Urban Renewal Project, no money for the building at all. You know, just agree that that was the site, go ahead and get it and have the money to buy it when the title gets cleared up. That will be the city's promise, and then we will see if we can get private business to come in and do the rest. We lost that one, but in losing that one, we gained for the first time, at the polls in that city, the approval of about $5 million for urban renewal in bonds, an issue which had never gone to the polls before in Charlotte. So, all of the Greenville project, portions of the project north of East Trade Street, on which that terrible housing project was built and a small project on South Boulevard where the new high-rise public housing for the elderly is located, down by Pritchard Memorial Church, behind the Y. All the city's share of those were approved at the same time, so, it was not a complete loss in that sense. But the focal point of the central city, it didn't carry. So, it was not, as I recall, until '69 that they were able to go back and take another whack at the Civic Center. By that time, $10 million for the building and everything else, which was approved. So, you know, things do change. Apparently, people in cities do occasionally make up their minds.
BILL MOYE:
Sometimes, it takes awhile.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
I don't get upset about that myself. You sort of conclude that, you know, I don't mean to liken voters to children, I leave that to Mr. Nixon, but you sort are left with an impression that they didn't quite hear you the first time. You sort of feel like maybe you needed to go back and state the question a little bit clearer, sort of like speaking a second time and making a point. There's a feeling of that when you are involved in it. You have to have the nerve to go back, that's part of it, and that's the hard part to get politicians to do.
BILL MOYE:
I'd like to go back a little bit and discuss some of sort of the contending groups or organizations that might be involved. I was sort of intrigued by your

Page 6
comment about how at that time the Chamber was the dominant organization, but it no longer is. I was wondering why that may be so, or what interests the Chamber now.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
In the 1950's and into the very early 1960's, it was frequently said that it was more important, in terms of civic accomplishment, for a leading businessman or anyone who wished to be an outstanding citizen in Charlotte, it was frequently said that it was more important to be president of the Chamber of Commerce than it was to be mayor. I think that in some ways, that was true. There is still, with a slight exception, here and there, and we could probably name them in both the courthouse and the city hall, elected officials in Charlotte, the members of the power structure are not elected officials in that town. Now, clearly, John Belk is an exception. You probably could argue that Milton Short is. But now, his lineage goes back to his father and the Mecklenburg Furniture Industries and, you know, they've been an old Charlotte family…
BILL MOYE:
He's running for Congress.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Same one, right. He's a member now, of the city council. I think it would be fair to say that no one else on that council is a member of the power structure of that city. Now, they are within their own rights politically powerful. Probably Jim Whittington is politically as powerful as anybody there. But he is not a member of the power structure in any other context at all. Certainly not in the business community. He's an undertaker, has limited personal resources. You know, in some circles, he's regarded as too much of a politican by a lot of people. I know Jim very well, like him, as a matter of fact. I've known him for years. But he just isn't there. I guess…well, Bill Harris, the Chairman of the County Commissioners, is a member of the power structure.
BILL MOYE:
Let me ask you…I've come across a James J. Harris. Now is this some of the same…

Page 7
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
No.
BILL MOYE:
This is a different one?
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Yeah. W.T. Harris is Bill Harris. He is the Harris of Harris-Teeter Supermarkets. To my knowledge, not any relation to James J. Harris. James J. Harris is Cameron Morrison's son-in-law. Harris married her a number of years ago and they own or did own, major portions of the land in and around the South Park Shopping Center. As well as other pieces of property all over town. One of their more recent investments was to buy the Wachovia Bank Building. So, there's a good bit of money there. They are into the factoring business for retail establishments and primarily in textiles for manufacturers. That kind of thing, so it's a fairly large fiscal operation that doesn't show up very well on the surface.
BILL MOYE:
When you say power structure, how would you define this? Is this mainly business interests, downtown business interests…
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Well, it was downtown business interests for a long time, I don't mean that you literally have to have a store front on Tryon Street. But the Belks, the Iveys, the principals in the banks, more before 1960 than after, because the principals in the banks prior to that time, before all the banks started merging, tended to be local citizens who had their roots there. You know, we could talk about various kinds of influences on a city like Charlotte. I think there are two or three kinds of influences that are crucial to what has happened to Charlotte in the last fifteen years or so. And also you need to look at Charlotte in terms of what it is. Charlotte doesn't make anything, and if you analyze it from one point of view, it is an information exchange factory. The schools are the largest employers. The Southern Bell Telephone Company, the last time I looked at the figures, is the second largest employer. Not only for local service, but everyone's TV cable runs through that huge building down there on Fifth Street. Well, the

Page 8
newspapers, which are not normally massive employers even in large cities, are among the top twenty employers and those newspapers fan out over two states and serve essentially the same base that Charlotte serves for its wholesale as well as part of its retail trading area. When the banks started changing, which was not long after the ownership of the newspapers started changing, and I don't want to leave out my own institution, because I think that had an influence as well, it became…well, look at a man like Luther Hodges, Jr. at North Carolina National Bank, now. Under forty, so energetic that he can hardly sit still for fifteen minutes. He is as likely to be in Raleigh today as he is in Charlotte. He's as likely to be in Greensboro tomorrow as he is in Charlotte.
BILL MOYE:
Do you see something of a passing to younger people?
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
And a broadening of their business base, and therefore, of their concept of community.
There was a time, when I personally was present, for example, in 1959 when the first black student was going to graduate from the old Central High School from downtown and there was some concern about potential violence if the one black graduating male was to show up at the junior-senior dance…
BILL MOYE:
I've read about that.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
O.K., well, the guy who set that up as a private thing, we can all look back and see that that was wasted effort, but in the context of that time, that was their best judgement and their best means, he was a vice-president of the bank who a member of the Board of Education, you know, who felt a personal stake. Not only from his point of view of business interest in the community and the "we don't want any kind of trouble here" kind of a view, but you know, he had children in the school system, he had lived there all his life and everything else. Well, this is not to say that Luther Hodges doesn't have young children and isn't interested in the quality of the school system, but he will never serve on that School Board. His view is somewhere else. He'll never even run for mayor of

Page 9
Charlotte. And I'm not seizing upon him, I just happen to know, as an example of a rising young executive kind of thing in that bank structure. Cliff Cameron over at First Union, the building out on the horizon (of Raleigh) at the far right, the white tower in there, is his. And there he is, the president of a bank in Charlotte. But this is the Cameron-Brown Mortgage Company, which is what he originally founded and where he started. Now, twenty years ago, when he lived in Raleigh, he was a member of the Board of Education in Raleigh.
BILL MOYE:
That was Cameron Village…
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
No, no. Cliff Cameron, this is another, a guy named York built Cameron Village. This is one example, it was some small mortgage company downtown, but it's the kind of thing that he can be involved in, but he has now moved to the point that in a place like Charlotte, sitting up there on top of that thirty-two story tower and all that stuff, he'll never serve on another Board of Education, or anything else like that. His interests are somewhere else. He was the campaign director for the consolidation effort, and we did some scheduling for him, but on a day when he was not scheduled to do anything. For consolidation, you had a question or something and just picked up the phone, he was just as apt to be in New Jersey, doing business somewhere up there, you know, off on that jet and he would be back that evening at 6:30. You could get up with him, he was readily available, but you know, his dimension of doing business changes. And consequently, the roots of an individual like that, in a community changes the nature of the involvement in a community. And sitting on a small subcommittee of the Chamber of Commerce can get very boring very fast, if you would rather be making a million dollar loan somewhere six counties over. The scope of the business that these men now have the opportunities to involve themselves has expanded massively.
BILL MOYE:
Have you seen many signs of antagonism or something between the older group, who maybe have sort of retained their Charlotte scope and the younger

Page 10
men with the broader scope?
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
I'm not sure that I have. I don't know whether that was because of the timing of the break between the generations, or whether the issues changed in part…some of them did. I would suppose that if there was an age difference, there were more of the old line business community people opposed to consolidation and the younger business types were more likely to be in favor of it. The older folks were sort of content with what they had, not really interested in change. Younger people saw it as progress, or whatever, in some broad sense a sort of point of pride that the community could point to as a rather rare accomplishment, if they could bring it off. I'm not sure that either group in that context was addressing itself to the issues at hand. Who does in a campaign?
BILL MOYE:
Well, talking about the Chamber in the early sixties, there has been a shift in their power or whatever and a shift in their interest, and has the shopping center interests sort of…
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
The Chamber never overcame the dispersal of the central city. That would be my basic analysis of it. The Chamber's strength came from essentially the downtown businessmen and in the late fifties and early sixties, they were invovled, as you may have read…well, if you wanted a bond issue something you went down to the Chamber first and convinced them and they went down to City Hall and convinced those guys. There was a process of working backwards for awhile.
BILL MOYE:
And Observer editorials kept saying, "The Chamber is running the city…"
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Yeah, sometimes complaining about it, because we had elected some other folks down there to make a few decisions themselves. And on the race issue, I think the Chamber took a leadership role, certainly in the desegregation of the restaurants and theaters in '63 and '64, that period. They were still deeply involved enough. Although, that came at a time more under personal influence than

Page 11
any other thing. Ed Burnside, who was then with what was Home Finance Company and which was one of the forerunners of the American Commercial Credit Company, was heavily influenced by Carlyle Marney, the minister over at Myers Park Baptist Church, and it was simply a case of a very conscientious businessman being struck with his moral duty and having it pointed out to him at an appropriate time and feeling that that was the right thing to do. He led that Chamber into that thing, and it worked. I guess that shortly after that, you know, the logical extension of things like the desegregation of accommodations and public schools is "O.K., but now let's start worrying about equal employment." Well, then you start hitting knots. You want them to stop passing resolutions at lunch and go out and start doing something about it in their own businesses. It gets stickier there. You are no longer talking about public morality or the general good, you're talking about specific…
BILL MOYE:
That hits the pocketbook…
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Yeah, and "what color is your secretary?" and that sort of stuff. It's a different kind of problem. I suppose that you could say that to a slight degree, the quality of the elected officials improved. Certainly it's better now than it was fifteen years ago. The County Commissioners fifteen years ago essentially were still, you know, the farmers come to town worried about the folks who lived out in the piney woods of north Mecklenburg County. Good folks, but you know, never knew what a city was. That kind of thing. Enough of the population of Charlotte has changed, too.
I still think that…well, do you read stuff by Grady Clay over in Louisville, on occassion?
BILL MOYE:
I haven't.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
He calls a lot of folks that live in Charlotte and places like that now, he calls them "urban field runners." They are the division managers, or the district office manager types and if you stop and think about it, with the system that business

Page 12
has with its large regional bases, or its national organizations, if you send a man to a place like Charlotte, if he's there five years from now, he's failed. His purpose in coming here is to move up the notch to Atlanta or St. Louis, or Houston, or you know, wherever the next rung up is in that organization. That begins to influence how he acts in a community, how strongly he is concerned about schools…
BILL MOYE:
Or if he gets involved with the chamber…
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Right. They tend to vote yes on schools, because if they have children, they see their children needing additional classrooms. Beyond that, they don't really get involved in much of anything. Charlotte has changed so rapidly, just in the really few years that I've had an opportunity to observe the city and to participate in some of the things that have gone on. I remember distinctly in the early sixties, for example, well…and it also fits into the point that I was making earlier and didn't finish about the information exchange factory .. everybody was upset because Eastern Airlines was converting to jets and something like 150 pilots and stewardesses that lived in Charlotte, because that was the end of the run and for certain propeller driven aircraft, in the evening, they spent the night there. Then, when the jets came, they were moving everybody to either New York or Miami, because they didn't even have time to stop for lunch in Charlotte anymore on those flights. And there was some public concern. The pilots particularly, were well paid; they tended to be active in the community and they would be the presidents of the Jaycees, or this or that, the PTA and all that stuff. They were visible citizens. Well, everybody was upset, but the number, as I recall, was something like 150. Well, there are more than a thousand employees today of Eastern Airlines, out there across the street from South Park, making reservations with computers all the way from New York to Miami. Just a whole different layer of activity that's been thrown in there, that didn't exist and that no one could foresee ten or eleven years ago. So, the thing has changed. The people who come

Page 13
and go come and go more rapidly now. I think that causes them to be less concerned about the abstract quality of government, when you get over into things like consolidation. Schools, they're very concerned about, but beyond that, they don't see themselves as being involved with government. They don't see it as having much of an influence on their lives.
BILL MOYE:
Well, sort of back to the Chamber and maybe an attempt to sort of identify something else, or another group or something in the power structure. Has there been an organization that, say, like the Central Charlotte Association, was that sort of a result of this moving away of the Chamber from the downtown area of influence. I mean, was there an organization of downtown businessmen that moved into that sort of vacuum?
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
I suppose that the Central Charlotte Organization has come as close to that as any group has, and they have been fairly consistent in their public backing of the rebuilding of the new central city. But they did a lot more backing of the paying for the studies on the scale of fifty or thirty thousand dollar kind of investments than the same businessmen have been able to produce since. Herbert Wayne was from NCNB, and that organization…not solely because of him, by any means, although he was a very fine fellow…but primarily because of their growth, they've been able not only to outgrow their sixteen story building, which was built since I went to Charlotte, incidentally, I watched that.
BILL MOYE:
And now, they're building a new center.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
And now, they are building that new plaza that's something, what, forty stories. On the other hand, neither the Belks nor the Iveys have put much into Central Charlotte.
BILL MOYE:
That's sort of interesting. I would have thought that they would have been in the main powers behind it.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Go look at that purple and yellow abstract on the side of Ivey's. Stand in front of the Wachovia Bank Building around there on West Trade Street, and that

Page 14
painting they've got. O.K., that's one kind of investment. They paid some artist to do that, $5,000 or something. And Belk's put a new front, a facade with one of those little founded entrance things.
BILL MOYE:
Well, if that's all they've done, they're not really…I've wondered if that is because maybe they have interests now at South Park, or maybe it's because they have a mayor now, you know, a Belk as mayor.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
I wouldn't relate his being mayor to any of the Belks' business decisions in that sense. I don't think they would either do or not do anything in the central city because he is or is not the mayor. I think that he is sincere when he sees this as sort of his public duty to repay the city which has been good to him and his family and that sort of thing. There's a fair amount of skilled management, particularly in the Belk's side of that operation. I think they look at it just from a cold market point of view and you know, the fact that it would be nice if they would take that block behind them down there, where that hot dog stand is and where the pawn shops are and put up about ten stories of parking and another fifteen stories of offices on top of it and get rid of that ratty Belk's Services building on Fifth Street across the railroad track in there. Or something like that, but they will do that when they think they can make money doing it. And it's very strange. I think that there, we're seeing a kind of a reverse, a lack of faith in the city. And now, John Belk, and I take him to be a very straightforward citizen, maybe not in the town's most intelligent, frankly, but I don't see that it's related, his being mayor or not being mayor. It seems to me that what they have done instead, is sort of begin with some doubts about whether you could rebuild the central city, going all the way back to George Ivey, Jr.'s original proposed site for the Civic Center, which oddly enough, was across Fifth Street from his store. I think they are sort of sitting around to see if this thing really will work, while other guys are down here putting up all these

Page 15
buildings and proving every day that it will work with millions of dollars.
BILL MOYE:
So, they sort of hedge their bet a bit by building, by going out to South Park. I think that probably gives them a little different view on the thing, too. South Park is such a good thing, maybe…
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
At the time that South Park was opened, based on some studies having to do with retailing and income and square footage and all that, you can eventually run down if you talk to enough people, for South Park to make a profit, it had to take in 20% of the downtown retail dollar. And obviously, it's made a profit.
BILL MOYE:
Well, obviously, the downtown retail dollar is not what it used to be.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Now, it wouldn't be a straight subtraction, because that is a regional center and was from the day it was built, even though it's in a residential area. It serves more than just people that used to go downtown.
BILL MOYE:
I'm wondering sort of quickly, I know that lately there's been some neighborhood organizing. I wonder how far back that goes. Is that a very recent thing?
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
It is fairly recent, and I frankly am not too familiar with those movements. Most of them have come since I left the paper. Some of them were beginning to have fair voices during the course of our consolidation hearings that we held at various places. But, I think that it is even more recent than that. I think that one source of that kind of organization was the fact that North Charlotte has been, well, second only to the Greenville section over in northwest Charlotte, has probably been ignored as much as any section of the city, in terms of just general services. Sidewalks, decent paving of the streets, and that sort of thing. The decision some time ago, which was never implemented, to build a hospital out on Randolph Road, fairly deep into the southeastern Charlotte area, also gave rise to two or three groups, some of which I think have managed to continue to have some kind of voice. Not perhaps so much in other areas, except

Page 16
hospital sites, but they sort of have loose alliances. Candidates go to speak at their meetings, they are recognizable kind of entities. Then, the group that Jimmy Patton and Al Pearson and…what's the third guy's name? Well, they were always forming and unforming, the Charlotte Taxpayers Association or some such outfit, like that. That had more of a west side flavor.
BILL MOYE:
Wesley Heights?
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
In that area, yeah. And then, well, Joe Withrow, you know, he ran for the city council, I guess it must have been four years ago, on a pure "let's give the West Side a voice" kind of platform and won, without bothering to tell anybody that he now lives out off of Randolph Road. He grew up over there and his business interests are still over there, so he had a legitimate platform, I wouldn't accuse him of deceiving anybody. As a matter of fact, he's my landlord in Charlotte and is a fine fellow. We get along all right. But I like to kid him about…
BILL MOYE:
I thought maybe what we could do is sort of get a general view and then maybe another time I could come back and…
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Sure. Be glad to.
BILL MOYE:
Specifically about consolidation.
We were talking to some extent about neighborhoods, some of the organizations. What types of organizations are there in the black community? I've seen some references in the early period to some city organizations. The two names most prominent in that early period were, of course, Fred Alexander and Reginald Hawkins. Is there an ongoing political voting organization? Where does Fred Alexander fit into all of this?

Page 17
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Dr. Hawkins had essentially a political base in the black community. Based primarily on his ability to control two or three solidly Democratic precincts. In Charlotte, I think it's fair to say that his political base, so far as voting strength is concerned, never really extended beyond that. Now, he was an activist in a number of the marches, various kinds of demonstrations, most of which in Charlotte were very peaceful, you know, desegregating the Belk's and Ivey's lunch counters, theaters and things of that sort and all. Fairly calm protests kind of context. I think his later efforts, particularly from '68 on, when he ran for governor and tried in some fashion to transfer some of that political activity into some sort of statewide activity fell pretty flat. In fact, the pattern of that voting was that he did not carry a majority of the black precincts in North Carolina. Pretty well ended, perhaps not altogether, because things never have neat endings, you know, but I think pretty well ended any deep involvement that he had with the community. Kelly Alexander…old line NAACP. Been there all his life, his father before him, Fred's brother Kelly works at the funeral home and does part-time NAACP type political work and then Fred, who also has an interest in that funeral home and works as the manager of the Double Oaks Housing Project up there, which incidentally is owned by C.D. Spangler who is now on the School Board, uses that as one kind of job and then takes the money he gets out of the funeral home and uses that in his political campaigns.
BILL MOYE:
So, the funeral home is sort of the thing that supports…
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Right, yes. And they've used that combination very effectively over the years. Fred has the best single shot voting organization that I've ever

Page 18
seen in my life. You can trace those precincts down through there and just take ten minutes to analyze the voting return and see…
BILL MOYE:
He's not been able to transfer that, say in his senate primary?
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
No. Because he is then going on a countywide basis at first, and now that they have changed that senate district to include Cabarrus County, and he is just totally unknown over there. That had a predictable outcome. He could not carry a countywide vote. He does it by getting single shot votes out of the black precincts and then by carrying just enough of the liberal white vote, particularly, he always runs well in Myers Park and does very well. You can go and look at the Myers Park Elementary School district and the high school precinct over there, or the one around Christ Episcopal Church on Providence Road, the old Precinct Number One down at Westminster Presbyterian on Randolph and Colville Road, and Fred will always run third or fourth in there, even, you know, with a guy who lives in that precinct. And that's just enough to kick it over. He was able, over the years, to tip it to the point that, not this last time, but the time before that, he led the ticket came in as mayor pro tem, much to the chagrin of Jim Whittington, who always prided himself on being the mayor pro tem and being the biggest vote getter. So, this time, it was predictable that Fred wouldn't and Jim would get out there and cross Fred with just enough single-shot votes in some of Jim's old North Charlotte precincts to see that he got it.
BILL MOYE:
Well, what happens then, is it [unclear] that's on the School Board…
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Phil Berry is the black member of the School Board.
BILL MOYE:
Is there a different pattern, I mean, does he fit in with this same sort of old line group or is he…
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
No, no. Phil Berry is, I don't know, 35, under 40, was a vice-president

Page 19
of NCNB and left NCNB to join the Farmers and Mechanics Bank which is making a good strong bid for business in Charlotte, now. No, he's the young black executive on the way up. He would draw the same votes, but because Fred and Kelly and folks like that would tend to support him.
BILL MOYE:
Your comment about how well Alexander and, I reckon, Perry would run in Myers Park, I remember reading, I forgot what it was, the phrase something about, "Charlotte believes in the fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man and the neighborhood of Myers Park." Is that still as true as…
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Yes, in a lot of ways. The Myers Park section, I think it's fair to say, contains 90% of the old Charlotte families and probably 50% or more of the really rich young families in that town.
There are kind of adjacent subdivisions that are growing up now, Foxcroft, that's you know, right next to Myers Park…
BILL MOYE:
That's sort of a wedge there in the southeast.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
It has a slightly separate identity, slightly higher priced houses on the average. But that's still the basic neighborhood for the well-to-do families.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
BILL MOYE:
…again, sort of addressing this question of how well some of the blacks run in some of the Myers Park precincts, there have been some comments to the effect that at least on certain local issues, there does seem to be something of a coalition between at least some of the white interests in Myers Park and the southeast and the black community.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
I think that from the beginning of desegregation, really, going back to some of the leadership in the Chamber, some of the leadership in some of the larger churches in Myers Park, other groups of that sort…businessmen who even at that time could see at that point, too, an advantage beyond the city

Page 20
limits of Charlotte. The real impetus, for example, in the desegregation of the public accommodations in Charlotte during the summer of the riots in the streets of Birmingham, and the real reaction inside that situation was "we don't want that mark on this town." Among other things, "It is bad for business." You can talk about all the morality you want, but you can't sell suits if guys are marching up and down the streets in front of your store, whatever your problem is. And there was a lot of reaction there. I think it's fair to say that the average well-to-do family in Charlotte has had for a number of years a fairly strong moral streak. There's a lot of church-going in Charlotte and all that sort of business and a lot of people, while not taking all of this seriously every day, they somehow take parts of it to heart. I suspect that there are a number of people now who ten years ago never foresaw such things as busing, only saw a situation in which a "few black children would come to our schools" kind of thing, might be having some second thoughts, but that's another story. But I think that there has been, in local issues, I think there has always been a good bit of what you would find in the normal definition of the liberal point of view, certainly on race. Not withstanding the fact that they have consistently elected a Republican congressman since 1952. You know, voted for a Republican president…
BILL MOYE:
It's sort of strange.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Yeah. Voted for Governor Holshouser in the last election.
BILL MOYE:
Is it, you reckon, because there is sort of a carryover of that same sort of thing, that it's sort of good for business, I mean, if you consider in education, or if you consider in downtown urban renewal, bonds, something like this, it's good for their business and maybe the blacks see that their jobs in some of this, and maybe some of that orientation doesn't carry over, they don't see quite the same things in state and national elections?

Page 21
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
I think that's part of it. I think there is a fair amount of realization, for example, on issues like urban renewal, that blacks are able to see, the utlimate outcome would mean more jobs, maybe not the most high paying jobs in town, but more jobs than they are exposed to at the moment.
BILL MOYE:
Having talked a little bit then, about Myers Park and the blacks, and then you mentioned something about North Charlotte and West Charlotte, do they sort of feel left out in a lot of this, I mean, the hospital went sort of to the southeast and it seems that there is something of a coalition between the blacks and the upper class white neighborhoods. Some of the lower class whites…
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
More along liberal-conservative lines. The interesting thing about North Charlotte and West Charlotte is that that is where the natural coalition in terms of lack of services and the common demands for improvement of local government ought to be, but those two areas have almost never been able to form an alliance of any consequence I don't know whether it's a function of the inability of the lower income whites to do political business with blacks yet in a town like Charlotte…I guess that's part of it, but they just never do see themselves, it seems to me, as having what to my mind would be the natural alliance. Take the section running from North Tryon Street around through West Charlotte and the black communities, and then on down to Wilkinson Boulevard, West Boulevard, as far down as Clanton Park off York Road, all that there now is fairly solidly black and what is not black is lower income white and then that either black or lower income white characteristic now runs back up South Boulevard and over into some of the peripheral sections of the old Dilworth Community, from which at least a few blocks were taken for the urban renewal section to the high rise housing for the elderly. So, that's a fairly good hunk of the town.

Page 22
BILL MOYE:
You mentioned this Albie Pearson and all, the low tax, you said it was in sort of the western part?
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Uh-huh.
BILL MOYE:
But they never have been able to get up with Fred, or Kelly or whoever the black…
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Not really, no.
BILL MOYE:
… the organizations to get together.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
And Fred has managed publicly, and I don't in any sense accuse him of doing it deviously and all, he managed to identify himself with enough of the basic causes of the white community, urban renewal being one of them, and other kinds of things of that sort, that he would not be benefited politically by doing business with that group.
BILL MOYE:
His constituency then, and the one he really tries to build up, is pretty much entirely the blacks.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Plus that Myers Park type.
BILL MOYE:
Just sort of one thing, there are those who see, not necessarily a conspiracy, because it's historically based, but a definite sort of policy in which urban renewal fits into a sort of a "keep the blacks as much as possible across Tryon Street." I'm wondering if you saw anything, through the zoning, or though the placement of the public housing and that sort of thing, to kind of keep the blacks in sort of a restricted residential area?
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
I really don't think that was a conscious result of that situation. I think there were some people who feared it might happen and obviously, a good bit of it did. But I would have to argue that that was simply a function of the overall economics of the community, the availability of housing and income and so on, rather than a design. The real thrust for urban renewal was based on, you know, "tear the shacks down and put up some businesses that will pay taxes."

Page 23
Since then, we've built a Board of Education and an ABC Warehouse and a church and other kinds of things on urban renewal…
BILL MOYE:
Urban renewal didn't extend the tax base.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
But there are some other things that will pay there. But I don't think you could say, I certainly was not aware of a conscious effort to either get blacks out of there because they were blacks or when they got out, to put them someplace else. One result was that the Grier Heights section, which is kind of a little segregated enclave out Randolph Road, increased substantially. If you go and look at the housing there and the few apartments that have been added and all, a lot of that was people moving out of the Brooklyn section. So, that would be one thing that I think would argue against any deliberate effort to keep everybody in one quadrant of the town. The blacks who now live in the Revolution Park area, I think are largely the result of moving out, if not the first time, the second time kind of moving out of Brooklyn.
BILL MOYE:
One thing that struck me, I haven't been back to Charlotte, I went to Davidson for my undergraduate degree, but I haven't been back really to ride around and…not really since I left Davidson and that's been several years. But then I went down there a couple of weeks ago and did a great deal of riding around and it seemed like a lot of, well, 77 and then that Northwest Freeway and several other things and I remember reading back in '59-'60, when the thoroughfare land was first proposed, a lot about perimeter roads in the southeast and trying to get the developers to dedicate the right of way for the road. The southeastern portion of these perimeter roads don't seem to have come about, but those portions of the thoroughfare that involved moving through the predominantly black areas seem to have been effected, and I was sort of wondering if they weren't able to organize and fight it, or…
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
That's part of it certainly. Now, another part of it is, that most of

Page 24
the construction that you see there is in fact, Interstate type construction and that sort of thing, to my mind, just tends to run over anybody. The grand fight over the perimeter roads in the Myers Park area came in the middle sixties over Wendover Road and unfortunately for one council member named Gibson L. Smith, he lived on Wendover Road, and it was right down his street they were going to put this, and he fought it for two or three years. He finally left the council, and that road is scheduled to go right down by his house or awfully close to it. That's been very slow in coming. Eastway Drive, if you're familiar with that section, that now has the bridge completed over Independence Boulevard and runs over to Overhill Road, that's where it picks up, and then starts off around toward Randolph Road and picks up at Wendover. I don't know whether you're familiar enough with the geography, do you know the section sort of behind Myers Park High and Alexander Graham Junior High School, Runnymede Lane?
BILL MOYE:
Not really.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
There's one section of that road that's finished in there.
BILL MOYE:
I can find Queens and Charlotte Memorial Hospital.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Yes. There's one section in there that's finished. Shortly after they built those schools and traffic built up. It's only three quarters of a mile long, behind the campus of those schools.
BILL MOYE:
Well, all that will…
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
It'll bend right into it. And Woodlawn, running from Park Road around to South Boulevard is finished. That's part of the same circle that begins on Eastway Drive off of North Tryon and eventually is to go, well, all the way around to 85 by the airport. So, some pieces of it are finished.
BILL MOYE:
Well, it's taken a good deal longer, with the right of way rights and all.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Right. And part of that is the fact that the city was putting up a good bit of that money. In contrast to 90% federal for the Interstate.

Page 25
BILL MOYE:
Well…
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Paul Younts died, that's really what happened to the roads in Charlotte.
BILL MOYE:
I was about to ask if he was still…I just read in a reel of microfilm the other day that he had been made the general chairman of the Bicentennial thing… When I first started reading in '57, I think he was the president of the Chamber. He seems to have to been quite a power in the Democratic Party and on the local level.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Quite a fellow. Paul's been dead now about two, no, three and a half or four years. Yes, a politician of the highest sort. Grew up around Pineville, father ran a store down there, or something, didn't have any money. He went off and managed to get a little education somewhere and then served in World War I and came back and started dabbling in politcs and fiddling around with the American Legion and one of the first black-white political alliances in Charlotte was formed between Paul Younts and the white American Legion and Bishop Dale, who was an old line black politician and the black American legion. Dale was a kind of a forerunner of Kelly and Fred Alexander. A somewhat older man. I assume that he's dead now, if he's alive, he would be a man well into his eighties or perhaps even ninety. Paul then took work at the post office and very rapidly became the Postmaster and was very active in national Democratic politics as a committeeman and whatnot, through the postal system as much as anything else, from '36 on and has the distinction, to my knowledge, of being the first person ever convicted under the Hatch Act. I wouldn't cite that as historically accurate but I've heard the story many times. And it was for raising money for Roosevelt's 1940 campaign while he was a Postmaster in Charlotte. And he was raising it through the National Postmasters Association or some similar organization that he happened to be the vice-president or president of or something, you know. And the story goes that he was indeed guilty and was also proud of it, but that

Page 26
after the trial, the judge postponed sentencing for a little while, so Paul went out and got his uniform, he had maintained his reserve status or something, so the day of the sentencing, he appeared in court in his uniform announcing that he was off to serve his country and this sort of thing and so he was, I think, given some sort of suspended sentence for that error of his ways, but it was a conviction that he wore with pride for the rest of his life. That he had got caught raising money for Roosevelt. And I've heard him say, late in the evening on occasion, that "By God, he was one of the few who could prove that he did it," because they convicted him of it in court. All them other people "just said they gave something." But he had a great deal to do, built the first shopping center out on Park Road, built the Park Road Shopping Center, which is still there. He was involved in state politics heavily in the first Hodges campaign, then in the Sanford campaign and was on the Highway Commission during the Sanford Administration. He used to call me up at the paper when he was on the Highway Commission and say, "Now, we got some more money," and we'd figure out what it was and do a story on it, you know, and every once in a while he would say, "but for God's sake, don't add it up. If those people down there in eastern North Carolina ever found out…" But he did very well, and a lot of those new roads that you see now are a result of that politicing that he was doing on that state Highway Commission to get that thoroughfare system off the ground.
BILL MOYE:
One thing that I sort of wondered about, and I think that there are those who say that some of the local political figures like Brookshire and some of these, maybe Whittington and his boys, were…
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Whittington was a protege of Younts. Whittington grew up around Southern Pines, Pinehurst, somewhere in there and went off in World War II and was seriously wounded. That limp he's got is real, he was shot up with a machine gun. And he came back after the War and went to undertaker's school in Philadelphia and then decided to come to Charlotte. He first went into politics

Page 27
in something like 1947, if I remember it right, when the veterans were just returning and everybody thought…
BILL MOYE:
Some kind of soldier's slate or something.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Right, he was on that and they just got murdered by the established office holders around there and so Jim, you know, he was a young man and he figured that he had time and he would just go out and learn how to do it. So, he went to the best teacher in town, and his name was Paul Younts and they began to work together. Jim established himself as an organizer of precincts and a loyal and devoted worker. He spent a great deal of time. Jim's got votes in funny places. He used to be the Commissioner of Little League Baseball and all sorts of organizations that people forget all about, you know. Hell, he's got kids that played baseball that vote for him now, but it was their parents at first. And other groups like that, active in veterans groups. He's done a good bit of work in, well not specifically, but in multiple sclerosis or whatever, all that sort of thing. So, when he ran in 1959, he ran as an independent between an old ticket and a new ticket and there he was sitting, four of the new ticket came in, and he was the fifth man and two other guys who held on, as I recall the situation. He's been there ever since. The next time around, he led the ticket. A quiet, unassuming sort of fellow, much more intelligent than he gives the impression of being. Not very well educated formally. Very self-conscious about it. He's never been invited to join the Charlotte City Club, that bothers him. He never will be invited to join the City Club, maybe if he makes mayor one day, but not as long as he's on the city council.
BILL MOYE:
Well, '59 is sort of interesting in that, well, one might sort of think that Younts would be one of those in on that Citizens for Better Government or whatever that business slate that R.S. Dickson and some of those…
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Oh, no. No, no. Paul Younts would never run for the office himself.

Page 28
BILL MOYE:
Well, it seems like he might be, you know, one of the organizers trying to recruit the candidates or whatever. Well, some of those were Republicans. Dickson came out for four and…
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Well, a couple of those that got on the council at that time, in '59, Randolph Babcock was a Republican. And as I recall, Brevard Myers was. I know that Babcock was, still is.
BILL MOYE:
Babcock was involved in the Better Government campaign.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Right. He's been some committee member or something or other in the Gavin campaign, off and on. Younts did business with the downtown businessmen. Sold them real estate, and he went in and ran their Chamber of Commerce, but he never did do much political business with them. There was a difference there. He had more of the Roosevelt, party of the people concept, of what the Democratic Party was about. And he was much more likely to be sitting around talking politics with Jim Whittington than he would be anybody up at the Belk's or Ivey's stores. In part, because they would understand each other better…
BILL MOYE:
And sort of worked up…
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
And more interested in it, and because that's where he saw the votes. Somebody like Paul Younts, he would look at somebody like John Belk, before John was ever involved in politics, his only thought about the Belk involvement in politics would be, "how many employees have you got in the store and when can we come down there and talk to them during a coffee break." He would never see that kind of business influence as having a lot of political influence in it's, of its own weight. Which I think at the time, was a fairly accurate reading of the situation. He would go up to Sid Croft, used to live up there toward Davidson, characters like that. The old magistrates out in the townships, folks like that and the people that hung around the jury rooms in the courthouses.

Page 29
They were the people that Paul Younts knew in politics and knew well and he could do an awful lot of business with them. The paid poll workers, that was his organization.
BILL MOYE:
Well, his relative decline or something, is this due to the increasing Republican sentiment, or is the Republican sentiment due to his…his organization is evidently nowhere as effective as it was at one time.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
To the extent that it exists, Jim Whittington has it. And he still has the best precinct organization of any single person. You'd make a serious mistake today, if you went into Charlotte, either as a candidate or trying to run something like a bond issue, unless you went to someone like Jim Whittington and sat down and asked him how he felt about it and whether he would be willing to give some help. And the help wouldn't necessarily be money. The help would be of either himself being willing to become involved in it and be publicly identified with it or if he didn't want to go about it that way, providing you with names of people who, sent by him, would work with you.
BILL MOYE:
So, it's sort of personal identification. I'm still sort of wondering in a way, though, the Republicans seem to be more county-based, at least on the local scene and seem to have been opposed, or at least those precincts that vote Republican, were opposed to consolidation. Some say they still are.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Well, to the extent that you could relate that to a conservative point of view, I think that's true.. I think in part, the Republicans had difficulty with the district representation idea. Because they saw themselves getting outvoted fairly consistently when you broke it down to smaller segments. I am not sure in my own mind, somebody like Hank Wilmer would be better qualified to answer than I am, I'm not sure how enthusaistic they were about the partisan election decision in that charter. They had begun to do all right earlier than that in the county. And on occasion were doing somewhat better, but not consistently, in the non-partisan situation in the city. And my impression is that the Republicans felt that they would fare better in a non-partisan situation at that

Page 30
time. Because there is still three to one Democratic registration. But that may be a misreading.
BILL MOYE:
I just happened to see in the News and Observer one day, a little block that Laning or somebody was going to introduce a bill for partisan election local, city council.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
And I think that went through. Yes, Craig Laning, who is one of the old line Democrats.
BILL MOYE:
Yet, I remember from '60, though, that the Observer didn't have anything good at all to say about that…
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
About him?
BILL MOYE:
The county commission race at least. That may have changed.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Yeah. The Observer has always been fairly consistent in supporting partisan elections. They were specific about it in the charter and more recently, as I recall it, they endorsed it for the city. They may have argued that it should have been a decision made in Charlotte, rather by the legislators running down here and sort of doing it for them, but I think they would agree with the decision.
BILL MOYE:
Well, I certainly appreciate your giving me the time.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Oh, glad to do it.
BILL MOYE:
I would like to come back and talk to you some more specifically about consolidation.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Sure, come back anytime. You have to forgive me for not having everything at my fingertips in my memory. Some of it has been some years ago, I tell you.
BILL MOYE:
I thought that maybe you could give me a lot of leads…
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Who have you talked to?
BILL MOYE:
Really, as far as talking, I'm just sort of getting started. I've done some looking at voting records and I've looked at things from the planning commission in an attempt sort of to see where the upper class neighborhoods…

Page 31
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Well, there are several people that you would do well to talk to. No particular order, or anything. Just names that come to mind. Jack Claiborne who is the associate editor of the Charlotte Observer is very knowlegeable about that community. He and I, he started on the paper a year or two before I did and has lived there continuously and went to the editorial page a little bit after I left it, but he has been very deeply involved in that operation for quite a while. A native of Charlotte, incidentally, goes a long way back. You might want to call Bob Smith over at the Manpower and Development Corporation in Chapel Hill, they're over on Rosemary Street there, he's a former editor of the Charlotte News and he was there until about '67, so his first hand knowledge of consolidation would not be that direct, but his knowledge of the community from say 1961 or '62, when he came until '67 or '68, would be very thorough and he's a delightful person to talk with. Also with MDC there is Tom Faison who was on the editorial page of the Observer at the same time I was. These would be people quite easy to get to. There's a lady that I've talked to, her name is Mary Leetta Barnhart, who was getting a master's in history, that I talked to about a year ago, but I've never seen the thesis that she did.
BILL MOYE:
The name sounds familiar, I think somebody at Chapel Hill told me about her.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
I think that she's finished her degree and gone back and married, and I can't remember his name now, but she would be a good person to talk to, aside from her own research, because she worked for the television station there in Charlotte for a number of years before she came back to graduate school. A very intelligent lady, very knowledgable. Bill Veeder who was the city manager from about 1959 to '69 or '70, for about ten years, is now something like the

Page 32
executive vice-president of Carowinds, so he's still in Charlotte and still available.
BILL MOYE:
He's just come, where I'm reading in the paper now.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Right, came from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
BILL MOYE:
And brought his personnel man along.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
And I certainly think that you should talk with Glenn Blaisdale, who was the county manager and was never very enthusiastic about consolidation. Certainly his point of view ought to be taken into account. Did you ever know Mayor Tom Sadler up in Davidson? Was he the mayor, I think he's been the mayor since they founded the college.
BILL MOYE:
I don't know him, but I think…
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Somebody like that would be interesting to talk to from their point of view, consistently opposed to it, of course. Harry Weatherly, who was Glenn Blaisdale's predecessor as county manager and when he retired, became the part-time manager of the only new town that was formed in Mecklenburg County, result of the impetus of consolidation, so you could find Harry out somehwere around Mint Hill someday. And Charlie Lowe, who was chairman of the county commissioners for some very crucial periods in there and who is a member of the power structure in Charlotte and one of the town's staunchest, most liberal Democrats. Good head, it would be well worth your time to look him up. He runs an outfit called Major Appliances, Inc. over on West Morehead Street, a ratty old warehouse building. That's his big black Chrysler sitting out in front. Let's see who else… That's some of them, of course, anybody who was on the commission. Kathleen Crosby, who is a black lady. She's now the principal out at Billingsville Elementary School, not far from the sight of that hospital that we were mentioning earlier, it's just off Randolph Road out there. She'd

Page 33
be worth talking to. Of course, Fred Alexander was on the commission. I would think that somebody like Reitzel Snyder, who's an insurance man, a very concerned young businessman, a couple or three years ago, you know, took a leave from his own business to go out and find summer jobs for youngsters, that kind of involvement in the community. It would be interesting to talk to a non-politician, you know, a guy who does it as something that he sees as his civic duty and a chance to improve things.
BILL MOYE:
Well, I haven't really got a good list up, yet, I want to sort of get a broad section. I don't want to just talk to the city council. I want to go down and just sort of get started.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
And Alan Bailey, who led the opposition, is one of the really good lawyers in Charlotte, and I certainly think it would be worth your time to talk to him. He's currently the president of the Baptist State Convention, as I recall, I believe that this is his year. Gus Campbell, who was on the county commissioners, a Republican, opposed the whole idea consistently all the way through and I'm pleased to say that we fought each other but came out of it friends and still are. He's now the associate superintendent for finance for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System. So, he would be fairly readily available. It might be fun to talk with somebody like Spec Porter over in the county police department, you know, how an administrative unit in one of those governments, or Jake Goodman in the city hall, how they saw that.
BILL MOYE:
Has that actually been done yet? I know that they were talking about that back in '59 and '60, every chance they'd get, the Observer would push that.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
They went out and painted the county cars yellow, now.

Page 34
BILL MOYE:
A distinctive color. Definitely could identify it.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
Yeah, you sure could.
BILL MOYE:
What I propose to do with this, and they'll type me up a transcript of this and I'll send you a copy, in case you want to make any corrections or whatever…
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
O.K., very good.
BILL MOYE:
Then, we can talk in more detail about specifics later.
L. M. WRIGHT JR.:
O.K.
BILL MOYE:
Once again, I do appreciate this.
END OF INTERVIEW