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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with George A. LeMaistre, April 29, 1985. Interview A-0358. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Alabamans support the New Deal until it becomes synonymous with civil rights

LeMaistre argues that because Alabama benefitted a great deal from President Roosevelt's programs like the Tennessee Valley Authority, the state lacked the rabid anti-New Deal sentiments present in some other southern states. That changed in 1948, however, when white Alabamans awoke to what they saw as the threat of the civil rights movement.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with George A. LeMaistre, April 29, 1985. Interview A-0358. 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

GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
As a matter of fact, though, the Alabama delegation was not opposed to the New Deal, as I recall, in any degree whatever.
ALLEN J. GOING:
You had no outstanding opposition like you had in some other states.
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
That's right. We didn't have anybody like Bilbo or . . .
ALLEN J. GOING:
Cotton Ed Smith.
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
Right, the ones who made it so difficult for the New Deal to operate. We may have had one or two who reluctantly voted for the New Deal measures, but I don't even recall George Huddleston voting against anything that . . . Well you can see why. The biggest employer in Birmingham was U.S. Steel.
ALLEN J. GOING:
And you had T.V.A. in North Alabama.
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
And the savior of North Alabama was Tennessee Valley Authority. And you just have to look at the Warrior River now and you can see the Tennessee-Tom Bigbee, but Buck Oliver and the Mobile people were all trying to get dams completed on the Warrior River. They got them through.
ALLEN J. GOING:
And then the war industries came along, and Mobile developed those areas.
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
That's right. Blakely Island and Alabama Ship Building and all those things were just booming.
ALLEN J. GOING:
I think the Childersburg plant was one of the largest ammunition—explosive plants in the country. That was Dupont.
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
Yeah, they manufactured explosives too. My oldest brother was stationed over there for two or three years. I don't know what his job was but he was a research chemist with Hercules Powder Company. He had substantial authority over there in Childersburg. This reaction against the administration didn't really begin to show up until Truman was in office.
ALLEN J. GOING:
In Alabama. I think you're right because Alabama, in a way, was unusual among other southern states. There was no prominent opposition—outspoken. You've got Talmadge in Georgia . . .
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
And Russell.
ALLEN J. GOING:
And Russell, and George.
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
And Spessard Holland in Florida. Those were people with a great deal of influence. Joe T. Robinson in Arkansas.
ALLEN J. GOING:
Old Garner in Texas wasn't very happy about that time.
GEORGE A. LeMAISTRE:
That's right. But it had a chilling effect when Truman was nominated after Humphrey made his civil rights speech in the 1948 convention. I think that triggered the opposition which may have been latent all the time. When they began to see that this may lead to the integration of the races, we had some people challenge.