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Title: Oral History Interview with Frederick Douglas Alexander, April 1, 1975. Interview B-0065. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Alexander, Frederick Douglas, 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 Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 60 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
© 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:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-02-09, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Frederick Douglas Alexander, April 1, 1975. Interview B-0065. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series B. Individual Biographies. Southern Oral History Program Collection (B-0065)
Author: Bill Moye
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Frederick Douglas Alexander, April 1, 1975. Interview B-0065. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series B. Individual Biographies. Southern Oral History Program Collection (B-0065)
Author: Frederick Douglas Alexander
Description: 54.8 Mb
Description: 11 p.
Note: Interview conducted on April 1, 1975, by Bill Moye; recorded in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Unknown.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series B. Individual Biographies, 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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Interview with Frederick Douglas Alexander, April 1, 1975.
Interview B-0065. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Alexander, Frederick Douglas, interviewee


Interview Participants

    FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER, interviewee
    BILL MOYE, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
BILL MOYE:
What I'm trying to do is to look at some of the recent happenings in Charlotte especially the consolidation attempt you made down there in 1971. Let me just say for the record that I'm Bill Moye, and I'm talking with Sen. Fred Alexander in his office at the Legislative Building on 1 April 1975. My understanding as to your background is that you have been very active in Charlotte for a long period of time. A number of years. Both through the funeral home but mainly as manager of the Double Oaks apartment development. Very active with your brother Mr. Kelly Alexander. Then, ran for the City Council in 1965, served as mayor pro tem, I believe, in '71-'72. Ran for the senate in '72 and was elected last year, '74. Like I say, I'm concentrating on the consolidation issue. I'm wondering, who raised it? Was it primarily the Chamber of Commerce who pushed the idea?
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
You mean originally?
BILL MOYE:
Yes, sir.
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
Well, I…It was a combination of city leadership, some of it chamber-oriented, yes, that were the motivators back of our first attempt at consolidation.
BILL MOYE:
Was that…I've heard it said that the chamber initiated a lot of the talk about it, got some study committees established, pushed to get the enabling legislation passed in the legislature, got the Charter Commission established. But, on the whole, maybe they realized, devided they had more on their hands than they had initially wanted. That perhaps the Charter Commission, through various of its recommendations, maybe went beyond what the chamber had hoped for initially.
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
Well, that may have been the general idea of some people, but I cannot see how the Charter Commission could not have gone in the direction in which it did. In the manner in which the enabling legislation was brought about. The fact that, if you were going into a new charter, that it was fitting and proper that you discuss all of the elements involved in such a

Page 2
charter. I would think this is what happened. Perhaps all of the areas we touched meant that you were covering a broad spectrum of community philosophies that maybe nobody wanted to touch. I don't think it grew out of the fact that they had bit off more than was expected. I think of course once you got into it you realized how much it really involved. The work of the commission, as such, I think was a dedicated effort.
BILL MOYE:
You think that it was the type of people who were chosen to serve on the Charter Commission that brought up these ideas? The broader suggestions about the district representation and the equal representation.
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
Well, I think that there were many persons on the committee at its beginning that perhaps had not foreseen the depths of community problems that they would move into in attempting to resolve a charter. I think they grew in stature with their responsibility from the point of view of knowledgability and acceptance and, at least, a willingness to listen if they did not agree. As far as representation is concerned, I think that the majority of the members of the commission certainly realized that no form of new government could be implemented that did not give an expanded opportunity for total community representation. I think whatever consolidation they go into at such time that they ever do it will still have to accept the fact that a broader spread of representation will have to be a part of the charter of consolidation. [Phone ringing]
As I was saying, any attempt at consolidation will have to consider an expanded form of government. It will have to be a broad spectrum of representation that will put into the government a more representative group than we have now. As it is now, most of the representation comes from a certain section of the town. This is where we are now. This is the way it was then.
BILL MOYE:
You have supported consolidation all along?
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
Yes.

Page 3
BILL MOYE:
The argument was made by some that a lot of times consolidation is an effort by the white power structure or whatever, seeing an increasing black population in the city, perhaps to dilute the strength of that black vote. Was that not the case in Charlotte?
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
I would think that that was a part of the thinking through some of our citizenry, and you must recognize that. That was a strong factor in its defeat. I would not say that was the main factor in its defeat, but certainly it was a strong factor in its defeat. Not that it would afford more black representation solely, but it would afford more general representation. It would dilute what had been.
BILL MOYE:
You see as much of a class sort of…
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
Exactly. Exactly. You must understand that. The problem of increased black representation is to be there. Some of it that district representation is bad because it will bring a weakened structure into the government. Which they infer from that is that you will get representatives from some sections of your community who do not have the capacity to govern. This is their thinking. Well, I've seen some of all kinds of representatives in government regardless of where they come from. I just can't subscribe to the philosophy that district representation gives you bad government.
BILL MOYE:
Was this consolidation attempt made…The chamber started out with it. Due to the nature of the situation, especially because of the people who were appointed to the Charter Commission. Got into broad issues concerning…
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
The Charter Commission was composed of a cross-section of citizens. I think it was well representative of citizens, both city and county.
BILL MOYE:
What do you see as being the real reason behind consolidation at this time? I mean it had been an issue that had been talked about for a number of years, but it seems to have sort of sprung fairly suddenly when it did. Was there a crisis of any sort that

Page 4
prompted…
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
[interruption]
BILL MOYE:
Why did consolidation…What prompted the issue to come up when it did?
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
Well, I think it was a general recognizance of the fact that consolidation is necessary to resolve many of the problems that affect a growing community like Charlotte. There are many problems that face Charlotte that can't be resolved on a city-county level, as such. The restrictions of two governments comes into play. The complexity of the philosophy of peoples in two areas comes into play. You take transportation, for instance. We cannot adequately resolve our transportation problems from a community point of view unless we are dealing with a total area. You follow. The stricture or the constraints of laws that permit counties to only do some things and cities to only do some things, and the crossing of boundary lines which have the constraints of law. It makes it impossible to arrive at solutions to some of the problems that are necessary to move the community forward.
BILL MOYE:
Was the water and sewer situation one of the major…
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
Yes. All of these…We have, in a sense, consolidated situations as it is now, but a total consolidation sets up the fact of dealing with one government. You begin to develop a one-government thinking. Certainly… [text missing] Specially with many of the people problems that will affect not only the country but our local communities can be resolved from a one-government approach rather from a two-government approach. You follow?
BILL MOYE:
Some of the opponents say, "That's just going to be another level of government. They're all passing the buck down there now. That's just going to make them one step higher up someway and less in touch someway with the people." You contradict that view.
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
Yes, I do. I say that you come closer in contact with the people from a consolidated government than you do in two-level

Page 5
government as we have today because your representation is broader. You get inputs in government from elements of your communities that you don't get otherwise. So, I'm not a believer in the fact that that type of philosophy would cover.
BILL MOYE:
What do you think…The broader representation, the meeting the needs of the people, more equitable, perhaps, taxation, better able to plan and provide services…A lot of these sound very idealistic, in a way. There have been those who say, "Maybe what we should have done was just sort of combine the…Do away with the city council and just let the county commission run the county, and, then, maybe, eventually we could work out some of the problems." Why was such a thorough and, if it was, idealistic attempt made?
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
Well, I think it was, regardless of what some may tell you prompted the move, I think it was the acceptance of a general philosophy growing, as I said, out of a sense of dedication of those who assumed that responsibility and community to work for a consolidation. Bear in mind there were many people who didn't know what they were going to wrassle with when they set out. There were many who had no idea of the concept of consolidation. There were many…
BILL MOYE:
Sort of a nebulus idea?
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
Yes. There were many who learned much from the act or the attempt of consolidation. There were some who were convinced on more levels of it being worthwhile. See? Now, when you speak of idealism, you must bear in mind that the whole concept of government is idealistic. It's a question of whether you try to make it work to serve peoples' needs, or whether you feel that you've already developed everything that is necessary and let nature take its course from this point on. I say that, if you destroy the idealism back of government, then you destroy government, and you become decadent in your philosophies and your existence. Your communities will die on the vine.
BILL MOYE:
I think, perhaps, what was behind the choice of the word

Page 6
idealistic is that none of the, neither of the two party chairmen were on the Charter Commission, and, maybe, that the Charter Commission in going so thoroughly into all areas of government built up a lot of opposition among the employees and the various groups of government by going so thoroughly into…
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
You must bear in mind that change is the hardest thing in the world in our society to accept. It's a strange thing. The philosophy of a democratic society is based on an acceptance of change. The structure of our government grew out of a document that was so well written until it allowed for change. I don't know whether they had the real wisdom to how thorough their intellect and their…Put upon the tressel board a document that was malleable, that could adjust itself and stretch to change as our document has done. I think it's a marvelous thing. It's the people that can't change. Who live under that document. This is the struggle of government today. Trying to accept and wrassle with changes.
BILL MOYE:
Do you think that one of the problems in getting this charter passed was just the general reluctance of the electorate to change. I mean a lot of the opponents made a…
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
A part of that was it. Then, I think that, too, was a part, as you say, of a realization that maybe, of some citizens, that "we don't want to do all this changing we thought we wanted to do." The strong desire to support the change, or to bring the baby you have birthed to manhood, was lacking.
BILL MOYE:
I've heard the comment that Charlotte in a way made a mistake in that. Of course, this apparently was Jacksonville's second attempt, but they had commitments from the power structure, had money in the bank as it were, before they wrote their charter. That Charlotte went about it somewhat differently and didn't have the commitment from a lot of the powerful forces in the city.
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
But, you must bear in mind that comparing Jacksonville's

Page 7
structure with our structure is a different situation. Jacksonville was forced into a consideration of consolidation because of the problems that they had in government. The beautiful thing about Charlotte's attempt at consolidation is that Charlotte did not go into it because it was forced to go into it by a corrupt government.
BILL MOYE:
Charlotte has had…
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
Fortunately, we have had a clean government. We have had the luxury of existence under a political leadership where we have not had corrupt governmental officials or corruption existing in departmental heads or corruption in government totally that was such a cancer that the only way that the only way to get rid of it was to cut out the cancer. Charlotte went into consolidation clean, and, maybe, that was it's mistake. That we had no corruption to force us into an acceptance of a new form of government to get rid of the corruption. You see? So, I don't fall over backwards when people attempt to compare or make a comparison of our consolidation with Jacksonville because…Or any other place. In fact, Charlotte is the only place that went into a consideration of consolidation or a study of consolidation not being forced to do it to get rid of some internal problem that, as I say, was a cancer to their governmental operation. We were going into it clean.
BILL MOYE:
You think that made it difficult to persuade people that a change was necessary?
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
Well, you are attempting to persuade people from a philosophy rather than from a cause celebre that said, "Looka here, this is the only way we can get rid of the problem that we got." So you see, we did not start out saying, "Here's our problem. We've got a problem that we've got to resolve." It was just a question of philosophy. Whether or not we are ahead of the game and we can do by consolidation some of the things that we find that legal constraints, for instance, keep us from doing as it is. Some of the things that we need to do to improve the community can be easier done through a consolidation

Page 8
rather than two levels of government. You see? Things perhaps being practically, in a sense, alright as they were, who wants to bother with change? That's one element of it. Then, you find that you've got the political element where you've got…And, this is a narrow-minded view that existed that is indeed unfortunate. A point of political philosophy was based on the fact that, of course, a consolidation would also, perhaps, uproot the politicos and would also bring in a new political force, a new political direction, a new political leadership.
BILL MOYE:
That would challenge and perhaps…
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
The status quo. Perhaps many of the political leaders would have been left out of the picture or eased out of the picture under a consolidation. Of course, they didn't want to see that. Of course, they didn't want to see the strength of control diluted by poor folks and black folks having a say-so in the governmental process. You see?
BILL MOYE:
You think that this latter point was maybe a major reason for the defeat? I mean, this came right at the time of the school busing.
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
I think that the education issue and everything all at that same time…I think you have some, a lot of this type of feeling that was a motivating force to be against consolidation.
BILL MOYE:
It seems that one difficulty, perhaps, that the campaign supporting the new charter had was, as you said, the opposition had benefit, to some extent, of an emotional issue, perhaps deriving out of the school busing…
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
Out of the school situation.
BILL MOYE:
Whereas the supporters did not have such an emotional…
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
Cause celebre. Other than a philosophical approach to charge.
BILL MOYE:
You talked about the political office-holders. I'm wondering, what about the parties? Were the parties…It seemed that a lot of the opposition leaders were Republicans. Some conservative Democrats. But, it seemed like perhaps more of the, what party structure there is in the Democratic party was more likely to be for and the Republicans to be opposed. Is there any real reason for…

Page 9
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
Well, you must bear in mind that you are moving, too, in an area where the Republican philosophy of conservatism is beginning to show itself, too. It was to move to ascendancy. All of these were factors. You must bear in mind that the arch-conservative philosophy of the Republican party, built on a law and order theme, is still prevalent. It was very prevalent then. As I said, you have much of the conservative philosophy raising it's head and asserting itself. Because it could see control weakening under consolidation, under an open government so to speak. You see?
BILL MOYE:
SO that…
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
And, you're going to put control into too many hands, which makes it difficult for arch-conservatism to advance. So, you've got to bear in mind that you also came face-to-face with people's prejudices. Then of course, you had the county problem of where there was a county feeling that they would be absorbed into the big city and it would be more costly to them than it was as it is now. The matter of taxing was also a problem as it affected the county. Then, you also had the problem of county representation. Where the county was fighting as hard for representation on the county level, or adequate representation as the minorities, poor folks and black folks, were fighting for a broader spectrum of representation in the government period.
BILL MOYE:
Was there a difficulty in the lines for the districts? Is that one of…
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
No, it was not the difficulty in the lines for the districts. It was the difficulty in the, serving the people in the county. That they would be adequately represented, and that they would not be taxed out of proportion to their control.
BILL MOYE:
There seemed to be, perhaps, also something of a … The newspaper refered a couple of times…Sort of a mood of protest. Sort of anti almost anything on the mood of a lot of people. Several incumbants on the county commission and the school board had been defeated. Recreation tax had been defeated.

Page 10
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
That's what I'm saying. All of these were the expressions of people's own personal fears. You had a personal prejudice being expressed.
BILL MOYE:
Towards anything specific or just sort of a general…
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
Towards anything. As I say, you're in the midst of your educational problem with busing, and minds were all disturbed. You had a lot of this general protest period. The age of rebellion, so one could say.
BILL MOYE:
Difficult to get anything positive…
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
Because it was difficult to get a clear mind of understanding because everybody was more or less keyed to the busing, the educational system. Everything was being resolved based on their feeling toward the educational system. All of these were the various elements that were involved in the total consolidation. Attempts to just pick out which was the real issue…You've got a complexity of issues in it. As I say, we had no strong cause celebre that was eating at the body politic of the total community that was forcing this community into a consolidation as other communities had been forced into one. We come into it with an honest intent. Other communities were forced into it out of necessity to maintain and save the government.
BILL MOYE:
You going to try again down there?
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
We're hoping now. The existing council, and this happened before I left council, initiated an attempt to see what can be done now about consolidation. We just haven't been able to get cooperation from the county on it.
BILL MOYE:
Is a lot of the problem that so many people are moving out of the city limits? I mean, is that as much of a problem as just providing the services and working about the water and sewer?
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
Well, I think you have to consider all of the problems in a community. You don't leave out any of them. All of these are problems, too.
BILL MOYE:
Would you like to see the same sort of provisions adopted

Page 11
in a new charter?
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
Most of the proposals in the charter that was proposed are good. There are some, maybe, that, perhaps, they could look at again, but the general provisions are good. There are many things in the existing proposal that are still sound. In fact, there are some things that, perhaps, nobody really wants to talk about now that would have to be left out. You could not leave out a broad span of representation. They would have to include district representation whether they wanted to or not. That's a fact of life. They're not going to be able to come up with a charter to get around that, and they're going to have a battle trying to dilute the district representation when they get it by at-large representation. You still, when this comes about will have a battle on the type of representation that you get.
BILL MOYE:
Are most of the black leaders still supporting consolidation?
FREDERICK DOUGLAS ALEXANDER:
I would think that the majority of black people would support it, I don't know. This thing called black leaders is a non-entity to me because I never understand why black people have to be termed leaders. They don't have white leaders, and I think this thing called black leadership messes my people up more than anything made.
END OF INTERVIEW