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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Calvin Kytle, January 19, 1991. Interview A-0365. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Lillian Smith's liberal views and tutoring the daughters of white segregationists

Calvin and Elizabeth Kytle describe their perceptions of Lillian Smith as a fervent advocate of civil rights reform in Atlanta, Georgia, during the late 1940s. Noting tension between Ralph McGill and Lillian Smith regarding McGill's declaration that Smith was a "zealot," the Kytles recall that Smith often tutored the daughters of white southerners—some of whom were known segregationists.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Calvin Kytle, January 19, 1991. Interview A-0365. 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

JOHN EGERTON:
What about Lillian Smith? Did you all know her?
CALVIN KYTLE:
Jamie and I interviewed her.
JOHN EGERTON:
What impression do you have about her as regards to these issues, race and social change at that time?
CALVIN KYTLE:
The time Jamie and I talked with her she was really very bitter about the Atlanta Constitution for one thing and Time magazine for another, because they had been vicious . . .
ELIZABETH KYTLE:
Ralph McGill wrote a column about her once and it started off, "Lillian Smith is a zealot."
CALVIN KYTLE:
The one she really hated was a man named William Howland who was with Time. He had said something to her about, "you've used all the other four-lettered words, why don't you use this one," or something like that.
ELIZABETH KYTLE:
He was rude to her.
CALVIN KYTLE:
Terribly rude to her. So, I don't know that any impression I have would of her would be very reliable. I ought to dig out some of these interviews for the sake of my own memory. She told Jamie and me about her experiences with the fathers of some of the children that were in her care. And her main point was that a lot of these men themselves were segregationists, racists, reactionary, but they didn't want their daughters to be that way. So, they deliberately sent their daughters to her knowing that she was of a liberal mind.
JOHN EGERTON:
That's interesting.
ELIZABETH KYTLE:
That's queer, isn't it? I mean, even if they sent their sons', but their daughters? who might marry one?
JOHN EGERTON:
That's so interesting to me and I must say a little bit suspect. Not that she would say it but that she really could support it with facts because of the very reason you say. If it's true then there was a deeper undercurrent of conscience here than we were lead to believe, then or now. If it was not true I think it maybe says more about her wish or aspirations as a consequence of what she was doing then.
ELIZABETH KYTLE:
If it had been true couldn't they have taught them that at home instead of sending them to Miss Lillian?
JOHN EGERTON:
Yes, it does seem so.
CALVIN KYTLE:
She mentioned a man who had been attorney general in Georgia. He had the reputation of being a very outspoken segregationist. He had sent his daughter there and told Miss Lillian that he was doing it for this reason. I'm trying to remember his family's name. You know, that's interesting because I remember there was a family named yount in Atlanta that had several daughters. The youngest of these went to Miss Lillian--whatever the name of her camp was--and I remember Mrs. Yount telling me and several others, "it just absolutely ruined Boopsie, just ruined Boopsie. Boopsie would never be the same again. It was just terrible what Lillian Smith had done to Boopsie."