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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Marion Wright, March 8, 1978. Interview B-0034. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Remembering Harold Fleming and George Mitchell

Wright returns to recalling SRC leaders. He describes Harold Fleming, who showed exceptional leadership skills. Wright also remembers George Mitchell's difficulties in dealing with women.

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Oral History Interview with Marion Wright, March 8, 1978. Interview B-0034. 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.

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George Mitchell, as I say, succeeded Guy Johnson, and Harold Fleming succeeded George Mitchell. Harold, as you probably know, was an Atlanta boy fresh out of Harvard who had become interested in the race problem. He went to see Ralph McGill, the Editor of the Atlanta Constitution, for a job. He wanted to write, presumably on social issues. McGill, who was on the Board of the Southern Regional Council, or who at least had been one of the signers to get the charter, told Harold, "We don't have money enough to employ a man for that particular field, but there's a little organization around the corner here, the Southern Regional Council, that's got a little paper, and it seems to me that you'd be just the man for that job." So Harold applied to George Mitchell, I guess, for the job and was given the job of editor of this paper. He was an immediate success in that job. It was much more than merely editing this paper; he established rapport with all newspaper people, and particularly the representatives of the New York Times. They had a southern correspondent based in Atlanta, and Harold was always on friendly terms with people like James Reston, Claude Sitton (who is now the Editor of the Raleigh News and Observer), and so on. He knew the newspaper business, so that he could prepare a release which they would use. Most releases seem to be argumentative and protracted; Harold's were concise, to the point, and thoroughly logical The newspapermen appreciated it. Consequently, we always had a good outside press as well as the Atlanta papers. The Times and the Washington Post were great allies of ours. That was Harold's particular forte. He had gifts also as an organizer, but his forte was to put into words which would be readable and acceptable by publishers ideas that the Southern Regional Council wanted to get circulated. He was an enormous success in that.
How did he differ from George Mitchell in his attitudes?
Actually, George Mitchell had great difficulty getting along with women members of the staff. I think he would probably have to have been one of the original male chauvinists. But he and Harold were devoted to each other, and when George stepped down he said, "I've got to make way for a better man than I am." He felt it sincerely, and I don't say that he was correct in that statement but no one could overestimate Harold's value.
Why couldn't he get along with the women in the Council?
I have discussed that with his wife sometime, and she is not so sure that that is correct. But he seldom had a woman employee whom he thoroughly appreciated. Katherine Stoney and Mrs. McLean. We had a Mrs. Somebody from Florida. He had rows with all of them; why, I don't know.