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Title: Oral History Interview with Asa T. Spaulding, April 13, 1979. Interview C-0013-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Spaulding, Asa T., interviewee
Interview conducted by Weare, Walter
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: 252 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.
2008-02-18, Kristin Shaffer finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Asa T. Spaulding, April 13, 1979. Interview C-0013-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series C. Notable North Carolinians. Southern Oral History Program Collection (C-0013-1)
Author: Walter Weare
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Asa T. Spaulding, April 13, 1979. Interview C-0013-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series C. Notable North Carolinians. Southern Oral History Program Collection (C-0013-1)
Author: Asa T. Spaulding
Description: 335 Mb
Description: 65 p.
Note: Interview conducted on April 13, 1979, by Walter Weare; recorded in Durham, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Dorothy M. Casey.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series C. Notable North Carolinians, 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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An audio file with the interview complements this electronic edition.
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Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
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Interview with Asa T. Spaulding, April 13, 1979.
Interview C-0013-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Spaulding, Asa T., interviewee


Interview Participants

    ASA T. SPAULDING, interviewee
    WALTER WEARE, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
ASA T. SPAULDING:
You take a look at that. I don't know whether you've come across that kind of information anywhere or not. [pause] .
WALTER WEARE:
I've never seen this.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
And I have excerpts from his will, where it's recorded and everything.
WALTER WEARE:
Annabell, who he's talking about, is his sister, Debra. She's my mother's sister; Annabell was my mother.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
That goes all the way.
WALTER WEARE:
So what relationship would that make your mother, then, to Henry Berry Lowery?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I don't know. [unclear] for three hundred years. No, two hundred years. No,Henry Berry was… he may have been her uncle.
WALTER WEARE:
I believe the figure he was talking about was legendary in the county….
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh yeah. Well, he was not only legendary; he was a real person. But there was a lot of legend around him. And he is writing a book, around this whole Lowery family. He (Dr. Earl Lowery) was in Roberson County at a funeral, of my mother's oldest and last-living brother. And he was there for the funeral and he got to talking. And he was telling about he was working on a book. I told him when he was finished with it, I wanted to get a copy of it, because I wanted to trace my family connections.
WALTER WEARE:
Does the Lowery family see itself as Indian on black, or a combination of the two?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No. They didn't ever consider themselves black. As a matter of fact, that's why they have their own separate school. Even way back when they had segregated travelling on the trains, they always sat in

Page 2
the white section. Never.
WALTER WEARE:
So they declared themselves Indians. Your mother, then, saw herself as Indian?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, she was one of them, and yet she married my father, who was about my color. But the way she got into Columbus County was: her first husband was A. McL. Moore. He was one of the Moores from down there. And he was a preacher. And I understand he was quite a speaker. And they used to invite him up there (Pembroke) to preach, at the churches. And that's where he met her. And they married, and he brought her back to Columbus County. Later he died. And my father was her second husband. And there was quite an age differential between her and him (twelve years). She was 100 year old—would have been a hundred-and-one if she'd lived three more months— when she passed in 1965.
WALTER WEARE:
Your mother?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes.
WALTER WEARE:
When did she pass?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
In nineteen and 65. I have that information somewhere. But it's been within the last 14 years. My father was eighty— he was always overweight— when he died in February, 1956.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you remember your mother telling, then, about this Lowery family?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, I visited Roberson County with her.
WALTER WEARE:
But when you were growing up, would she tell you about them?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No. Well, you know, there's one thing about them—I guess the Indian characteristic— they didn't talk much.
WALTER WEARE:
When you were growing up, were you aware, though, that she was Indian?

Page 3
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, yes. Because…is this on?
WALTER WEARE:
Yes.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, put it off for the time being [Laughter] . [interruption] [explanation by Walter Weare of identification of tapes, and of interview process using tape recorder.]
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I have so many pictures that are really of historical value, with no dates, or no places on them. Because I did not, at that time, ever think that I would want them to refer to for any particular reason. And now that's very important. Because, in my autobiography, if you take pictures, people have to know: when, why, where, who. And while I knew the people at the time, and all, some of them have been so long, that their faces are not so sure. And when you meet so many people in so many different parts of the world, it's hard to reconstruct them after twenty-five, thirty, or forty years.
WALTER WEARE:
You have photographs of your family going way back?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No. Of people along my way, where I've been, and people I've met. Just like Chief Justice Warren, when I presented him to receive the citation from the National Conference of Christians and Jews. I remember it happened, and I think it was at the New York Hilton. But I'm not sure. And then others, in the city, and you'd go through the [unclear] . Way back. Have a lot of pictures in there. I can identify most of them, even before then. That was probably in the nineteen fifties. When I became a trustee of Shaw University, succeeding C.C. Spaulding, not too long after that, I started looking around to see what I could do to make a contribution, other than being a trustee, to the development of the student fund. Most of them (students) were from the rural areas of North Carolina. Limited exposures. And the thing that caused it to mean so much to me: it was my exposures that were liberating experiences for me, through which I

Page 4
learned how large the world is, and start the people in it. And why so many prejudices were in the white man. So many of them didn't get out of their own state; didn't know what was going on in other parts of the world. Some, you know, of the elite and all did; but the others didn't. It's the masses of the people where your problems are. I won't say not any of them had them, too, but they had more of them to contend with. So I started a discussion with the president. And I had good white contacts at that time—not only on the state, but also the national and international level. They were corporate heads. If he was interested, I'd be glad to extend invitations to some of my acquaintances to appear there and speak to the student body. And have a question-and-answer period following that. In other words, the idea was to open the windows of their minds to the outside world, and what was taking place in it. So I had people from the state; I had people from other parts of the country; had ambassadors there; had cabinet officers there. So they got a cross-section of world-happening events and people [unclear] And I guess in an eleven-year period, I had over a hundred people of that type. I remember when I had the chief executive officer of Continental Oil Company to come there. He had never spoken to a black audience before. I was able to get him [unclear] . His public relations man came ahead of him, and spent a day-and-a-half over there on the campus, sizing it up, talking with the faculty, talking with the students, and getting some ground-work. So he could go back and report to him, you know, as to where he was going and what he would find, and so forth. And he came over there to see me, and asked me a lot a questions. He said, "Mr. Spaulding, you mind me asking you a personal question?" I said, "No." He said, "How were you able to get Mr. McCollum to come and speak?"

Page 5
WALTER WEARE:
This is the man from Continental Oil?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes. See, because he came over on his own private plane, with communications. As a matter of fact, he could fly to different parts of the world and conduct exec. committee meetings from his plane. They'd be meeting in Houston, and he'd be presiding on his plane [Laughter] . He was that kind of a person. Because he said, "Shaw?" He hadn't heard of Shaw before, his corporation. It was a black school.
And he wanted to know who I'd got to get him. I said, "Nobody. I wrote him a letter, extending an invitation, and he accepted it." That was just a mystery to him. Well, he came. He made a good speech. He was well received. Had a question-and-answer period. And I know it was a refreshing experience to him, because, you know, when you do something that you've never done before, and you feel like that, that it's out of the common. I look upon it as a soul refreshing experience to have. You know, it broadens you. It's a new facet of your life. And that's the way it seemed to him. And after that, a very warm relationship came between him and me until the time that he retired. I had Christian A. Herter, who was Under-Secretary of state. I had Andrew Brimmer, first black member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. I had a good mixture of black an white
WALTER WEARE:
This ability you spoke of, that it was not unusual for you to be working with blacks and whites. It was not a new experience for you. And you related that that might have something to do with your background in Columbus County—your father and the hunting camps. Do you think that's so?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I'm sure it did. As I look back, see, they were building blocks and I didn't know it. And one thing led to another. And the opening of one door led to another. When I first started, and the type of people that I got there, it became easier and easier for me to get top-flight people to accept invitations. Because, when they were told what

Page 6
I was doing—in my letter of invitation I would send a list of the people who already had appeared. This man talks about the strategy of success. I didn't think of it in terms of a strategy, but as I look back upon it, and after this chapter that you wrote on it, I said, this has been a part of a strategy of success, bringing the caliber of people to Shaw University I was able to bring there. And the presidents of these other universities would ask the president of Shaw what kind of a budget he had for speakers there. And they couldn't believe it when he told them it didn't cost the University a dime. Never did we have to pay any of those people
WALTER WEARE:
Shaw, now, was a Baptist institution?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes.
WALTER WEARE:
And all the Spaulding family was Baptist?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No, some were Methodist. I came up as a Methodist until I came to Durham. I was a Methodist until I was sixteen. And Dr. Moore, the one who was responsible for me coming to Durham, was Baptist, and superintendent of the White Rock Baptist Sunday school. Lived next door to the church. After I left Columbus County, he was my "other father." Because I never did live in Columbus County any more, except the year that I went back there to serve as principal of the school. I was on my own from sixteen.
WALTER WEARE:
You left there at age sixteen? And what year were you born?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
1902.
WALTER WEARE:
So you left there….
ASA T. SPAULDING:
October the first, 1918. I remember it so vividly. Because I was going further from home than I'd ever been before.
WALTER WEARE:
And you spent these first sixteen years, then, mostly working on the farm. Tell me a little bit about the school.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
It was a one-room school. And all classes, study-hall and

Page 7
everything, took place in the same room.
WALTER WEARE:
And the term was built around the harvest season?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
The harvest.
WALTER WEARE:
How many days would you actually attend school?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, I think it opend around the first of October, and it actually ran through February. But at the time they didn't have the requirements that until you were sixteen you had to attend school. So, you didn't go full-time until you finished harvesting your crops. Or, you might go a certain number of days. And if there were something that had to be done on the farm, you stayed out and did it.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you remember the teacher? Do you remember the name?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes. I had several. One was Jonathan Spaulding; another was Josephine Spaulding; a little later, Josephine Freeman; another was L.L. Spaulding. He finally became a professor of Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte.
WALTER WEARE:
It sounds like there were as many men as women. Was that unusual then? I tend to think of elementary school teachers as always being women.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, not there. Because it was a matter of the people who went away and got their education.
WALTER WEARE:
And Dr. Moore came back and taught, didn't he? Was that kind of a tradition, to go away….?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I don't think he taught there. He came back every year and spoke at the school, to the students. That's where he inspired me. He and C.C. Spaulding would come there every year and speak at the school there, and at the churches.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you think that there were more men teaching at the elementary level, than one might expect, have something to do with there not being economic opportunities for black men in the larger world?

Page 8
ASA T. SPAULDING:
That might have been. But they did have women, though, when I went back there. I had three teachers and they were all women. I was principal of the women teachers.
WALTER WEARE:
The teachers tended to come right from that community?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
One came from Clarkton, which was about six miles from the schoolhouse. And the furthest away, a lady, Spencer—I've forgotten her first name—came from Lumberton, I believe it was.
WALTER WEARE:
Now this community was essentially rural. There were two towns there, Whiteville?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Whiteville was the county seat in Columbus County. Clarkton was in Bladen County. But it was only nine miles from this community. You see, Whiteville was on the southern tip of the community; Clarkton was on the northwestern tip. Rosendale, which was no more than a railroad station, was directly north of where I lived. Whiteville was directly south.
WALTER WEARE:
Was there a name for this rural community? Was it distinctive in the sense that it had a name that you'd know it when you got to it?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, it was more or less the Spaulding and Moore area. In the earliest part of the ancestry, those were the names, but others began to come in. You see, what happened, just like my mother got down there, you see. The movement in those early years, even before slavery—in other words, they're not nomads as such, but people who were drifting down? Just like in Europe, you know, when certain tribes, or certain groups would come in as invaders and all. So where the people from Roberson County go down there. My mother was the first one to come into that community.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you know anything about the community before she got there?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No, I don't know. Because, see, I wasn't born. Where you heard more conversation would be at church after service. People would

Page 9
gather around the church yard and talk. That's where you had your social life, you know. You were working all day on the farm, every day of the week. Except my father had a habit. And he would get in his horse and buggy and drove from place to place, talking.
WALTER WEARE:
To visit?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
To visit. He would look forward to that, and they'd look forward to his coming, to break the monotony.
WALTER WEARE:
Was that his tradition that he created?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, it was traditional with him. I don't remember anyone else who'd do it.
WALTER WEARE:
Not associated with the church?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Just friends, you know. Some were of the Methodist Church and some of the Baptist Church. Had two of them there. We would go to the Methodist Church every Sunday, except the fourth Sunday. On the fourth Sunday, we'd go to the Baptist Church for Sunday school, and for preaching services, we'd go to the Baptist Church. Because the preacher would come down from Lumberton and preach at the Baptist Church on the fourth Sunday of the month. And they, the Baptists, would come to the Rehobeth Church, which was a Methodist Church, the first Sunday, when they had their preacher. See, the preachers at that time had four churches. One on the first Sunday, the other on the second, and around, make the circuit.
WALTER WEARE:
A circuit-riding preacher.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
That's right. That was in the early nineteen hundreds.
WALTER WEARE:
Is this one of your earliest memories, going to church, or being with your father on these buggy rides?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, there's a little trick I played on him. I don't remember what year it was, but I guess I was about eight. This particular

Page 10
day I hitched the horse up for him, you know, to the buggy. And he got in the buggy. I wanted to go with him, and he said I couldn't go. The buggy had a little covered area behind the seat, you know, where you put groceries and things in there, with a lid over it. I pushed that up and sat in that buggy. And he was driving along, and he didn't know I was with him. He got almost to the first stop where they had a fence with an entrance gate that you [unclear] to open to get into this home. And I knew it had to be opened. Before he got out to open it, I stood up behind him. I said, "I'm here. I'll open the gate for you." [Laughter] He was so outdone he didn't know what to do.
WALTER WEARE:
He forgave you for that?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
He forgave me. And I rode with him the rest of the round. That's one of my earliest experiences of that type of thing.
WALTER WEARE:
What age were you when you started school? Did children start at a particular age?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, no earlier than six.
WALTER WEARE:
Were children assigned duties already, on the farm?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, well, that's one thing about rural life, you know. You have a greater sense of responsibility on the farms at an early age than anywhere else. I notice they mature earlier, and they have a sense of responsibility. They can take on and do things that I didn't find taking place when I first came to Durham.
WALTER WEARE:
Can you remember the first chores you had?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, get up in the morning and feed the mules and horses. Get up around five o'clock and go out and give them their breakfast: the corn and the fodder, whatever, and see that water was drawn for them. That starts early. Then the matter of getting wood in. We cooked with wood and heated with wood, which would come off the land there. It was divided amongst

Page 11
the different ones according to their age.
WALTER WEARE:
How many children were in your family?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Five. Three boys and two girls.
WALTER WEARE:
Where did you rank in age?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I was the third. I had an older sister and brother, and a younger brother and sister. I was the middle.
WALTER WEARE:
We might want to talk about them later, but I want to pursue this matter of life on the farm a little bit. What kind of crops?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
We raised corn, cotton, tobacco, hay, that we'd feed the cattle with. We'd plant a cover crop. We'd plant oats and peas. You'd sow these peas, you know, and cut the vines.
WALTER WEARE:
Field peas?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes, field peas. And of course truck gardens. We had everything that you eat. All the vegetables. We raised our own hogs. Another chore was feeding the hogs. One of the boys was responsible for seeing the hogs were fed. Another of us would see that the mules and horses were fed. We always had two mules and a horse, at least two mules. And, of course, the cattle had to be cared for, and water drawn, you know.
WALTER WEARE:
And what about your sisters? Was there a division of labor?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
They helped in the house.
WALTER WEARE:
Would your mother assign their duties, and your father assign the duties for the boys?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, I guess it kind of just grew up. Well, he would tell who would be responsible for the mules and horses. There was a division of labor. Well, see, the mother and sisters would help. At that time you had to chop cotton. Both thinning the cotton out as well as keeping the grass out of the crop. It was interesting when I went to Central America the first time,

Page 12
and those Central American countries, and see how they were farming. Even there reminded me of India. You know, they didn't have the plows that would turn it. So it was interesting to see the development. I remember when we got our first Oliver Plow.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Did you have when I was born on there?
WALTER WEARE:
Yes, 1902. And we were talking, I think, about the grade-school experience, and life on the farm. And you were talking about your mathematical skills and you developed that: in part from being in school, but also from your father's general store. You worked parttime in the general store; you worked on the farm; and you're also going to school. What age did you begin having these three roles?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, my role at the chores around the home, I'm sure, started as early as six years of age. When we were responsible for feeding the mules and the horse—always had at least one horse—and the cattle. We raised cattle enough to provide beef as well as milk. And my mother always had a garden, and she liked flowers in the yard. She had some very beautiful flowers, all kinds. And also I remember having in the yard a big pear tree. And I've never seen a pear tree more heavily laden, sometimes so much that the weight of the fruit would break the limbs. And, of course, pumpkins, and Kershaw. I don't see any of them now.
WALTER WEARE:
A kind of melon?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yeah. But all of the different fruits and vegetables.
WALTER WEARE:
Did you raise enough of this to sell, or was it just for your own?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Our own consumption; and share with neighbors.

Page 13
WALTER WEARE:
Did your mother and sisters preserve this food?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, yes. She liked to preserve. And another thing, she liked to quilt. It's something maybe some people in this generation don't know what you mean by quilting. But they would have their frames, you know, and quilting. And sometimes they'd have neighborhood quiltings, where there was a rectangular or square frame. They would get the cloth they were using, or scraps, whatever it was, that they would baste to it, and use on top. And different ones would be on different sides, and they would meet in the middle, or start in the middle, I don't know which. But anyway you would be stitching. And all of them beautiful quilts, different colors, because of the different scraps they would be using. I remember that all the quilts that we used were homemade. When we left to go away to school, she'd give us a quilt to take with us.
WALTER WEARE:
Was this a form of entertainment, in part, as well as a necessity?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
It was a hobby with them. It was both useful—it had utility and value—as well as hobby. She would give a quilt away. Another way of how farm people entertained themselves: I remember they used to have corn shuckings. After the corn was gathered and put in the barn, or piled in piles before it was in the barns, the neighbors would come. And, of course, you'd have a feast. You'd feed them. And then they'd go out there that evening and have the corn shuckings. They'd shuck the corn in the barns. People looked forward to it.
WALTER WEARE:
Would men do the shucking?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Men and women. It was just a neighborhood thing, that people would come together and enjoy themselves helping each other. This matter of neighborliness is another thing. They were accommodating. They didn't look for pay. And I remember for years, when people from Durham would

Page 14
come down there, and they could go into their gardens, bring back all of the vegetables and all of the fruit that they wanted, and they wouldn't mind giving them a ham—I mean a whole ham. And think nothing of it. But you don't see that today anywhere. A farm life in a way was a hard life, and yet there were many things in it. It was not exactly communal living, but certainly the matter of the spirit of sharing.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you remember other things that people did as a form of entertainment? What about dancing?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
The dancing was not so prevalent during the time of my childhood. I left there in 1918.
WALTER WEARE:
Was this because of religious restrictions?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
There were some people that were so deeply religious that if a person would dance, they'd want to put him out of the church.
WALTER WEARE:
What about music?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
They had music. As a matter of fact, I remember one of the members of the church had a violin. He'd play at church, a violin selection, sometimes. And they had the church choirs, and pianos.
WALTER WEARE:
Would there be groups that would ever get together and play music and sing; and would any of this be distinctly cultural, having to do with the spirituals?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No, not at that time. As a matter of fact, we didn't have music teachers down there as such, except when one of the teachers at the school or someone had gone away and learned music enough to play it for the choirs and things of that nature. They had no set-up for music teachers as such, where the children went to learn music. And many of them, their singing was by rote, rather than by reading music.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you think that any of this music was created in that community? That it's genuine folk music, created by the people themselves? Do you

Page 15
remember any of the lyrics, for example?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No. I have always said I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket with a lid on it. So, I'm not musical myself. My wife is very musical. I guess amongst the many things that attracted me to her was the fact that she was musical. I like music. But I just never could sing. And if I were to try to sing by notes, where it would be a matter of lifting your voice or softening your voice, I'd be just a likely to do the opposite, unless I was following someone singing. So, it was not until I left there that I developed music appreciation. One of the things down at National Training School, it was then, 1918, was: two things they had down there that they don't have in schools much now. And that was music appreciation, and you did engage in singing, in the music room. That was part of the curriculum.
WALTER WEARE:
That was Dr. Shepard's?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes. And the other was the bible. They had a bible course and all of the students had to take it. I never will forget Mrs. Patty G. Shepard. I think she was an aunt of Dr. Shepard's. She had us to learn all of the books in the bible, and divide them into the different parts. The first five books of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch. There were different divisions, you know. And certain passages of scripture that you had to learn, memorize. Certain psalms that you had to memorize.
WALTER WEARE:
This training had started early in your life, though, you said, through your grandfather on your father's side.
Were you expected to attend church every Sunday?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, yes. We attended church every Sunday. And I'm not saying it was as much religious fervor as it was you got a chance to meet the people in the community, to socialize. See, if you're working six days a week, and

Page 16
right on the farm, you're glad to see Sunday come, to see somebody.
WALTER WEARE:
Was church then a central institution?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes, and when the people would meet there after church was out, they'd stand out there in the church yard for at least thirty minutes. Speaking to different ones, you know, and exchanging views, just kind of bringing them up to what's happening in the community.
WALTER WEARE:
Were there activities during the week, too?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No, except when they had revival meetings, usually in August.
WALTER WEARE:
You mentioned the circuit-riding preacher: was there one preacher who was famous in the area, that everybody would turn out to hear? You mentioned one Baptist preacher.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, the Baptist preacher, a lot of people liked to hear him. The Methodist as well as the Baptist always went to Sandy Plain Church on the fourth Sunday, to Rehoboth Church on the first Sunday. And, of course, I think the Baptists claimed that they had the better preacher of the two, the Methodist or the Baptist. Those were more or less social gatherings because at that time you didn't have movies in the area.
WALTER WEARE:
Was there a kind of rift, religiously, also between colored on one side and Indian on the other—did they have their different preachers?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No. The Indian group was a very small group. Had their own church. The colored, at that time—I'm going to use these words interchangeably because that's the way it was; they were referred to as colored. They could go to the Indian church but the blacks couldn't. They had a few distinctly blacks in the community. They had moved in. Some had followed saw mills into the area. And some would migrate into the area. And generally that's the way it was. You could almost go any place and see someone from down there, and know they were from Columbus County.

Page 17
WALTER WEARE:
By their physical….?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
By their physical appearances. All of them had good hair, long hair, and black. Most of them had long, straight hair.
WALTER WEARE:
Could the person make the decision, then, whether they were going to be "colored" or "Indian"?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, really, the coloreds didn't [unclear] ; they looked down on the Indians.
WALTER WEARE:
Let's say, hypothetically, if you had decided, for whatever reason, that you were going to identify yourself as Indian, rather than colored, would you have been able to do that?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I didn't attend the Indian church from choice.
WALTER WEARE:
But by appearance.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I could have gone. At that early age, I had kind of an antipathy on this matter of race differences, or color differences. Because, while my mother had very different feelings about it, I remember I'd get into discussions with her on the matter. She did not argue much. She'd listen and whatever she had to say, she'd say it and that was it. As I said, she was not very vocal. Part of that Indian trait. The Indians in Robeson County at that time were called Croatan Indians. And that's when John White's colony, when the members went back to England for fresh supplies, and when they came back, and the ones that had been left there had moved. And they didn't find any of them. The settlers. The legend is then, sort of the John White's history recorded, that they had carved on the bark of the trees, the word Croatan, C-R-O-A-T-A-N. And when they returned, they knew that there was a settlement further down the river of Indians. They were called Croatan, and they found, according to legend or history—whichever it is—some of these English settlers had intermarried with these Croatan Indians.

Page 18
As you see in that family tree that I showed you, of the Lowery s. One of the descendents of James Henry Lowery had moved down to Roberson County. And see, the king of England, King George, had given Judge Henry Lowery a grant. And it was either his son or grandson, he settled near Hampton, Virginia, and held court in Virginia. This son or grandson—I'd have to refer to that to see which it was now—moved into Roberson County. And in the will—a copy which I have excerpts from—where he allotted so many hundred acres: a hundred-and-eighty to this person, or a hundred-and-fifty to the other. And also certain slaves went with the land to that particular descendent of his. And then as you trace it on down, to Henry Barry Lowery, one of the descendents of Judge James Henry Lowery—William, I believe it was—prevailed upon one of the brothers, or was prevailed upon, to name a new boy child Henry, in memory of some relative. I don't know whether it was Judge Henry Lowery. But in the meantime, he had married Priscilla Berry. And she was Indian. [interruption]
James Junior married a girl, Priscilla Berry, who was one-half Indian, and moved to the site about 1736. I'll read part of this geneology if you want me to. "His majesty James Lowery arrived in Hampton, Virginia in the summer of 1666, with his wife and three sons. Family records show he was born thirty miles from London. One of his sons, James, married a girl from Williamsburg, Virginia, where the Judge also held court. They moved to North Carolina about 1708, where the Little River joins the Cape Fear. (And notations are here where it can be found, documentation). They had two sons, James and John. John signed the Cherokee Treaty in 1806, because he was an interpreter of several Indian languages. Through his father's influence, James obtained a grant of land from George II in 1732, in what is now Roberson County. However he never moved to Roberson. But his son, James Junior, married a girl, Priscilla Berry, who was one-half

Page 19
Tuscarora Indian, and moved to the grant site about 1736. In 1738, the grant was amended and given to James Junior, who died in Robeson County in 1811. A copy of his will in enclosed herewith." Then it goes on. I have that will in one of the files here. Then it gives the geneology: Judge James Lowery, then James Lowery, then James Lowery Junior, and William Lowery. And this William Lowery was 1750 to 1837, which means he lived eighty-seven years, didn't he? He was a soldier in the Revolutionary War, in Colonel Robeson's regiment. I guess that's why Robeson County was named after Robeson. Then there was Allen Lowery, 1791 to 1867. And then Calvin Lowery, January 15, 1835 to June 10, 1892. This couple had seven sons and five girls. One of the girls was Debra Lowery, who married W.R. Woodell. And one of the other girls was my mother, Annabelle Lowery. Now over here, Henry Berry, according to White's Lost of Colony of 1587. And then Henry Berry the grandson of the above. And I mentioned James Lowery had married Priscilla Berry. Then Betty Locklear married William Lowery. She was the daughter of Dennis Locklear who signed the will of James Lowery. And then Allen Lowery, 1791-1865, married Mary Cumboldt, 1802-1890. She was the daughter of Stephen C. Cumboldt, who was a soldier in the War of 1812. Then Calvin Lowery married Maria Sampson. So the Sampson name is another very prominent name in Robeson County. She lived from March 17, 1839 to March 16, 1908. So that's a part of the geneology.
WALTER WEARE:
That geneology would tend to be white and Indian?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
That's right.
WALTER WEARE:
Is there any kind of record, oral or written, about when blacks came into the area?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, there are not too many blacks that lived right in the—for want of a better word; I don't know whether they'd like it or not—colored

Page 20
colony. It's still more or less a cluster of the Lowerys, the Sampsons, the Barrys, the Locklears, and all of that mixture in the white group. There are some blacks, but they're not a part of that particular area. They have their own church and they have their own college, you know. Pembroke College.
WALTER WEARE:
Would there be persons named Lowery or Sampson who would identify themselves as black?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I don't think so.
WALTER WEARE:
I see. As you travelled through that county, is it identifiable physically?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
As you approach it, you begin to see that you are running into the area.
WALTER WEARE:
You would not find those who call themselves colored and those who call themselves Indian living next-door to one another?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I don't know. Because, you see, I visited that county very seldom. The last time I was there was for the burial of my mother's brother. That was about two years ago. And the time before that was several years. And then when I visited that county with my mother, it was before I left Columbus County, before I was sixteen years of age. I never did go back there with her after I left Columbus County. But her brothers and sisters and nephews and nieces would come down to Columbus County to visit us, from time to time. As a matter of fact, her brother, Dr. Fuller Lowery, has preached at the church that we attend, Rehoboth Church. But so far as the life-style and the changes in it…well, after I left Columbus County, and after my mother and father died, there wasn't much occasion for me to go back there. February the 17th, 1977, I believe it was, I was invited back down there to give a banquet address at the Holiday Inn Motel, where they had a hundred-and-forty people present. For want of a better word,

Page 21
I'll say black and white. And the mayor of the city presented me the key to the city of Whiteville—the second time the key to Whiteville had ever been presented to anyone. And the chaiman of the board of education was there; the bank president was there; three of the members of the state legislature, including a senator, were present; and several others in public life, holding key positions in the community. They came to welcome my return after sixty years. And I've never been more royally treated. As a matter of fact, they had up on the marquis at the motel that I would be speaking there that night. So the people came from all around. My previous trip there was to be the commencement speaker at Southeastern Community College at Whiteville. It was well integrated at that time, black and white.
WALTER WEARE:
When was this?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
If I'd known I was going to be asked, I'd have checked the date.
WALTER WEARE:
Just roughly.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
It was, I would say, about ten years ago, more or less. And the leading citizens of the community were there, black and white. And they came from as far away as Chadburn. Just trying to think back on it, I think probably twenty percent of the student body was black, and/or Indians. And the others were white.
WALTER WEARE:
The Indian community, though, has been more exclusive? It's kept more to itself?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
It's kept more exclusive. But now, down at North Carolina Central University, one of them is a professor, Maynor. And has been there for a number of years. And one finished law school down there, and became a member of the state legislature. All of this has happened within the last ten years, though. So there has been more loosening of their lives, and

Page 22
moving out and become less exclusive.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you think the name of the town of Whiteville bears any relation to this legend about the ….
ASA T. SPAULDING:
About John White's Colony? I don't know. I never thought of that before. But that is the county seat.
WALTER WEARE:
Was there a colored family named White when you lived in that area?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, there were people named White. Colored and white people named White.
WALTER WEARE:
I'm thinking of one particular family, George White, the last congressman before Oscar Depriest from Chicago in …
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes, from that general area. And when I was there, there was a family there. And the head of the family was John White, and he was as white as any white person you'd want to see. And so was his hair. In other words, if you were to see him. And yet, he married a brown skinned woman.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
ASA T. SPAULDING:
The family cemetary down there, or the community cemetary now. You will find the names of the people who were buried there as far back, I think, and maybe beyond, but as I recall, 1777. Long before the Civil War. Which means that they had established families, with their full family names recorded on their tombstones, with date of birth and date of death. There may be some that go even further back in there. But when I've gone back down there, it's usually to spend the day. Go down in the morning and come back in the afternoon. And it's about two hours and a half drive now. It was a little longer when the roads were not quite as good. And I'd go there to a funeral, some relative or something, and while

Page 23
I was there, I'd kind of circulate around, and look at some of the tombstones. I remember distinctly seeing 1838.
WALTER WEARE:
Small land holders?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes, they were land holders.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you think there was a time, earlier perhaps, in the nineteenth century, when there was not so much stigma about the three groups intermarrying?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, I know there was some black and white intermarriage. Well, they were colored then. Today they would've been called black. I remember a man who's name was Andrew Mitchell, Sheriff Mitchell they called him. He looked like a sheriff, too. And he got married to a white woman. I can remember that. She was dead. But I knew him. As a matter of fact he'd been in my home. And his daughter would easily pass for white.
WALTER WEARE:
But the woman who was white, was she from the community or nearby? Or was she an outsider?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I don't know. Because, frankly, I'm not sure—and I've not done the research to try to discover it—where many of the people who were in that community came from. Now the person who I thought was going to write—Professor L.L. Spaulding, who I was talking to you about. I've learned more from him about the community. The Rehoboth Church, which is over a hundred years old, formerly had a white pastor. In the early years. And I remember him telling me that some of the people who came in there, looked like Indians. One woman who really looked like a big Indian squaw, she could weigh, I guess, two hundred pounds. Tall, and long hair that she wore in plaits. She was a light brown complexion. And I think he said that sometime in the early history some Syrians came through there and maybe there was some mixture. Why the community had people who were so similar in their complexions and all.

Page 24
WALTER WEARE:
I was wondering if it were ever seen as a kind of refuge for people.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
It could've been. We don't know. Because, you see, after America was discovered, after John White's settlers came over here, people began to travel. And nomads would come through there. There was a lot of timberland there. And sawmills would come through there and spend a couple of years [unclear] . And they would bring their workers with them. And sometimes one or two would be left behind. I know that's how some of the whites came into the community, because we had a Ray family that lived about a mile, a country mile, from where we lived. And members of his family used to help us on our farm, picked cotton. He stayed there, lived and died there. To the best of my knowledge, he came there with a sawmill, working, you know, for one of the sawmill hands. He settled there.
WALTER WEARE:
What about whites outside this community, as they saw this intermarriage and so forth? Was there tension if someone who was intermarried, for instance, would go into Whiteville?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, at that time, I don't think in that particular area. I can remember—and as C.C. Spaulding pointed out when he went out to Sanford, North Carolina on his first trip from Durham as a salesman; he stopped at Sanford—they didn't have separate white and colored waiting rooms. They had one common waiting room. And he was in this waiting room and went to the ticket counter, you know, to get his ticket. When this drummer saw the dilemma he was in and how, when they got ready to go on the train, to show his appreciation for giving him the quarter to make out the balance to buy his ticket, how he reached down and picked up one of his bags and went into the train, helped him put it on the train. And they sat together from there to Raleigh. It was after that, during the Reconstruction period—1896, I believe, to 1900.

Page 25
WALTER WEARE:
It would be a little earlier than that. But the hardening of race relations does, indeed, tend to come in the nineties.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
That's the information I have. The matter of race was not a big problem as it was in other places. I know it was not as hard then as I found it when I came to Durham.
WALTER WEARE:
So that when you went into Whiteville, you don't remember ‘colored only’, ‘white only’?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh no. I don't remember.
WALTER WEARE:
And what about the papers at your father's store? White and black?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, it was for the people in the neighborhood, all of whom were colored. And now you would say black [Laughter] .
WALTER WEARE:
What about political activity? Would your father vote, for example?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, yes.
WALTER WEARE:
No problems?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No problems.
WALTER WEARE:
Was he formally educated?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, I guess he had the highest education that was provided down there, whatever it was at the time he came along.
WALTER WEARE:
He went to the same school you did?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I think so, because that was the farmers' union school there, in that farmers' neighborhood, where the people in that area went to school. About five or six miles west, I guess it would be, they had another school up there. Now, in that particular area, there were more blacks. Not only calling blacks, but blacks. Now, going south or going east toward Wilmington, I guess you could go ten miles, and the people there, my complexion more or less. More or less the same as the people in the area I was born.
WALTER WEARE:
In that letter you were quoting, it said something about grant's settlement? Was that a term ever used when you were growing up, to refer to

Page 26
the area that he's talking about?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No.
WALTER WEARE:
It's an earlier time.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
You see, if I remember correctly from history, when settlers came to this country, you see, the Indians were the only ones were on it. And when the English settlers came, when they would land, they took. They claimed in the name of the king. And the way they became owners of the land were through grants from the king. He gave them title to the land. That's what this is talking about here. King George gave this grant of so many thousands of acres of land to Judge Lowery. And he passed it on to one of his sons, who settled in Robeson County. See, he was in Virginia. And this son migrated to Robeson County.
WALTER WEARE:
And the Robeson County experience then, seemed to be more Indian and white experience. And Columbus County as more black-white, but some Indian as well. Was your mother educated? Had she gone to school?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I'm sure she didn't have any more than a seventh-grade education.
WALTER WEARE:
But she could read and write?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes, she could read and write.
WALTER WEARE:
You worked, then, in the general store, went to school, and worked on the farm until you were sixteen, and then came directly to Durham?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Came to Durham. Dr. Moore came down there during the summer, after I'd been finished with seventh grade. He asked my father, "What're you going to do with that boy? Where's he going to school?" At that time I was considering going to—it was called Biddle University; now it's called Johnson C. Smith University. The name was changed because the Smith family made a large donation; but it was Biddle University. Some of the people from down there would go there. This professor Lloyd Spaulding who taught me

Page 27
in the early years, and was teaching at Biddle University then. And he had discussed my going to Biddle. See, the universities at that time, that were named universities, were not necessarily universities. They not only offered college training, but also secondary education. Finishing seventh grade, I could have entered Biddle University, at that time.
WALTER WEARE:
Was that true of Shaw, as well?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I'm not sure.
WALTER WEARE:
That was true of Dr. Shepard's training school.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
In 1910 he founded it as the National Religious Training School and Chautauqua. And the next change was the National Religious Training School. The Chautauqua was dropped. And then for religious scruples, because he had to seek funds from private sources. This woman, I think it was, this family, she had great wealth. She agreed to make a substantial contribution if he would drop the word Religious. Well, he had to keep the doors of the school open. And it became the National Training School. That's what it was when I came here in 1918. So from 1910 to 1918, it had changed its name three times.
WALTER WEARE:
When did it become North Carolina College?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
After the National Training School, the next step was the Durham State Normal School. I think that was for either two years or four years. I don't know which. But then the legislature agreed to establish it as the first liberal arts college for Negroes in the state. He had persuaded the legislature to make it a liberal arts college. Then it was the North Carolina College for Negroes. Well, times were changing. They dropped the Negroes and it became North Carolina College at Durham. Because, you see, they had North Carolina State College in Raleigh. To distinguish between the two, this was North Carolina College at Durham. After North Carolina College

Page 28
at Durham—I don't know whether there was another step in there before it became North Carolina Central University or not.
WALTER WEARE:
What persuaded you to come to Dr. Shepard's rather than Biddle?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh. Dr. Moore. Professor Lloyd Spaulding had told my father that the University would accept farm produce instead of payments for tuition, board and lodging. He could send a hog, or beef, corn, other produce, because they'd use it in the dining room.
WALTER WEARE:
Did that, in fact, happen?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No. Dr. Moore came in there. That was what the first plan was, where I would go. And in the meantime Dr. Moore came down on one of his usual visits. I happened to be in the room. He said, "What are you going to do with that boy? Where's he going to school now?" "Well, he's thinking about going to Biddle." "Why don't you let him come on to Durham? I'll take charge of him." And so forth. Well, naturally, because he was to me, a hero, who came from Columbus County. He was one of the seven organizers. John Merrick, and Dr. Moore, and other five. You have that; I don't need to repeat that. You know the story of what happened there. Five dropped out in the first year. John Merrick and Dr. Moore remained. And that's when they brought C.C. Spaulding into the picture. So by that time—that was 1900 to about 1918—the company had quite a reputation. And Dr. Moore and C.C. Spaulding had taken a trip to Cuba. And they had the storm on the ocean, and they were afraid the boat was going to sink. I was familiar with that. So, naturally, it was a great motivation. I grabbed this opportunity.
WALTER WEARE:
Was the whole community familiar with the Durham story at that time?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes. Because, as I said, they would make their annual visits there, both Dr. Moore and C.C. Spaulding. C.C. Spaulding would leave members of his family down there to visit with their grandparents. For a week,

Page 29
or something like that. So the communication between Columbus County and Durham was pretty well established.
WALTER WEARE:
Dr. Moore was seen then by the whole community as a prominent figure.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
And not only that. Well, you know the story of the establishment of the Rosenwald Schools in this state? Are you familiar with that? He was a leader in that. He took the money out of his own pocket to finance the effort. Charles R. Moore and George W. Davis, both of whom could pass for white. To provide better Negro education. He had much to do, working through others, to get the State Supervisor of Negro Education office established as part of the Department of Public Instruction in North Carolina.
WALTER WEARE:
When Dr. Moore persuaded you to come to Durham….
ASA T. SPAULDING:
He didn't need to persuade me [Laughter] .
WALTER WEARE:
Was his motive just to get you to come to Dr. Shepard's school?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No. It was to come here and I would go to the high school. See, they had a public high school here, which was known as Whitted School then. W.G. Pearson, one of the old citizens of Durham, was the principal of the school. So, I went on over there and registered. And was to repeat the seventh grade, because they figured that coming here with the limited school terms that I had had, and I was a seventh-grade student from a rural area, that I wasn't ready to take on the eighth grade in the city. So, at the end of three weeks—I was probably a week late entering the school, getting here the first of October, and public school is already open. So I entered a week or two late. But at the end of three weeks, I think it was, they had the first test. And I remember it was in mathematics and the teacher was a Miss Coleman. I think she was a graduate of Oberlin College. She was good in math. And when the papers were graded, she found that I had the highest grade in the class. She said that I was ready to do eighth-grade work.

Page 30
I had to be able to do eighth-grade work in order to go to National Training School then. So I changed, and entered there, probably a month late—or at least two or three weeks late. But that was no problem. I caught up. For the five years there, I maintained the highest average in the entire school, and won the trustees' tuition scholarship each year.
WALTER WEARE:
When you left, you were given a diploma that was equivalent to what?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
A high school diploma. And by that time, they had a black, or colored, school committee in Columbus County in the school that I attended. And they knew me and they knew of my record there. And they wanted me to come back and be the principal of the school. They took it up to the superintendent. And of course, the superintendent usually followed the recommendation of the school committee at that time. And he approved their recommendation. They contacted me. I had already registered at National Training School in the business department when I got this call. And of course, at that time, Dr. Moore had passed. That was 1923 and he died April 29, 1923. This was September. Frankly, I don't know what persuaded me to go, except here's an opportunity to get some money. It may have been to go back down there. I can't recall, you know, whether it was to go back home, and be a principal of a school. And of course, they were anxious; they really put pressure on me to come back there. And I went. Interesting thing there, some of my eighth-grade students were bigger than I was. These big country boys. I remember one there, he was six feet two and probably weighed a hundred-and-ninety pounds. Another was at least six feet two, but was not as heavy. And one of the first students that I whipped—at that time we could use corporal punishment. I'd go out in the woods there and select my switches and had them in the corner. They had to have study hour as well as class. You were in the same room at the same time. You had to be quiet. And he kept the conversation going, and I spoke to him and asked him to cut it out.

Page 31
And not to let me catch him again. And he did continue. I was on a raised platform. And I called him up there before the whole class and selected my switch. And I reared back, as far back as I could go and came down there across his shoulders. I don't know how many licks I gave him. But I had no more trouble that year from those students. Because I imagine they said, "If he'll take him on [Laughter] , we'd better listen." So I had good discipline.
WALTER WEARE:
And you stayed there as principal how long?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
One year. I think school closed in March. And I came back to Durham. See, Dr. Moore, my first summer here, took me to the office one morning. After I had done my chores around the house and had his car out in the driveway and dusted it off. He got ready to go.
WALTER WEARE:
You lived with him while you were here?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I lived across the street from him. But I later did live there. He said, "Why don't you go on and go with me downtown." And I went on. And he took me upstairs to the second floor of the old building. And he turned me over to John T. Merrick, who was the son of John Merrick, the founder. And he was supervisor of this particular department, department. And there was an addressograph machine sitting in the hallway with a stool. He took me there, and that was my first job. I was assigned to John T. Merrick's supervision, to cut addressograph plates, for premium notices to be sent to policy holders. I've told you this before. His first instructions to me. Now, your plates were cut from the applications for the insurance, you see: the names of the person, the date of birth, and the address. If it's a man, address it as Mr.; if it's a married woman, Mrs.; if it's a single woman, Miss. Because these people living in the country seldom get mail. And when they do get it, it's addressed as ‘John’

Page 32
or ‘Joe’ or ‘Mary’ or ‘Sally’. To get a letter of premium notice from North Carolina Mutual with a title before their names will give them a feeling of dignity and of being recognized. That thing sunk in. I could see that and I knew what it meant, because I'd come from the country. And I knew this matter of calling by first names. Although, in my particular area, as far as my father was concerned, he referred to all the whites by whatever their first name was, and they called him by his first name. There was no title used between either. It was that kind of relationship. But I knew what he was saying was true. So that was my first job. And I worked with the company every summer, while I was at the National Training School. With the money I made as principal of the school that year, and coming back in March and working until September. In the meantime I had discussed where to go to college with Dr. Shepard, and he suggested Howard. So I applied to Howard in September of '24, and at the end of the first year, all my funds were exhausted. So I came on back to North Carolina Mutual and worked two years and a summer. I was an early drop out, but for reason. I took what I made in those two years and that summer. My ambition at that time was to become a CPA. I had worked through the different departments of North Carolina Mutual before going to NYU. We had, as I recall, no more than twelve or thirteen black CPAs in the country.
WALTER WEARE:
Would it have been possible in North Carolina to be certified?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, I don't know. We had a CPA in Georgia, in Atlanta.
WALTER WEARE:
Trained in Georgia?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I don't know where he was trained, but I know he was certified in Georgia, J.B. Blayton taught at Morehouse College, and had a CPA firm.
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]

Page 33
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I had never been conditioned to feel that I couldn't be. If there was something I wanted to be or wanted to do, I felt it was only necessary to put myself to do it. So that's why I went to—I had discussed with Dr. Shepard—New York Univesity School of of Commerce, Accounts, and Finance was one of the best business schools in the country. I applied and I was accepted. That's where I ran into discrimination.
WALTER WEARE:
Did NYU give you credit for your Howard experience.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I don't recall whether I got all of it. (I recall that thing now.) I think I got credit for most of it, because I(know I)finished NYU in three years. I took some extra courses while I was at NYU, because there were certain subjects that I wanted. I took more than was necessary to graduate. And another thing: I graduated magna cum laude, and was the second black to be admitted to the Delta Mu Delta scholarship society, which was similar in the school of business—was the equivalent—to the phi beta kappa in liberal arts college. You had to be there at least three years and maintain the average—whatever it was—for those three full years, in order to make it. I never will forget: a letter came, and I looked on it and saw the Delta Mu Delta key insignia on the back of the envelope. I had heard about Delta Mu Delta, but I didn't know—in other words, I wasn't conscious enough of it to be striving to do that. Because my attitude always in school, was to take whatever the curricula required and try to do your best in every subject. Because it's put there for a purpose. And anything that you learn can't do you any harm and it might stand you in good stead. I remember my classmates, my first year at National Training School. We had to take Latin. First year Latin.

Page 34
WALTER WEARE:
This is at NYU?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No, at National Training School. Oh, how they talked about it, how they referred to it as a dead language, no use for it. But, I found it interesting. I found it challenging. And I found that it helped me to understand the meaning of words without having to go to the dictionary. Therefore, I took all three years. First year Latin, Ceasar and Cicero. I was tops in all of them. The same thing in geography, history—well, every subject I took. I had the same attitude. And that's why I maintained the highest average in the school. The entire school, the whole time I was down there. I won a trustee tuition scholarship. So, there again, I went to NYU, and had the same attitude, in my study habits. And, although at NYU I had to work in the cafeteria during lunch hour and got my meals free. And I worked in the post office as a subclerk in the evenings. And I had to find time in between to do my studying, and come out as I did.
WALTER WEARE:
Now, as I recall, you were telling once before about your living arrangements.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, yes. You see, when I went there, I had applied for admission. They had one dormitory for school of commerce students—Varick House. And I had applied and sent the deposit, and was accepted. If I've told you this, I won't repeat it.
WALTER WEARE:
Well, I think it's important to report it.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
All right. That's where I felt this matter of discrimination probably more keenly than at any time before. And when I presented myself, and had my trunk and all there, delivered there, and went in to obtain my room, they questioned whether or not I had reservations. I told them I had, and I had my receipt for it, and I showed it. And the house manager, or whoever it was—I found out later he was from Charlotte, North Carolina—

Page 35
but he was in charge there, and he came and he saw that I had my receipt, and that I had been admitted. So his approach was to try to persuade me not to insist upon it. He said, "Because, you know, there are a lot of Southern students here, and they will make it miserable for you." Well, he was probably right in 1927. "And the circumstances under which you would have to stay would be most difficult, and it could even result in your not being able to pass your examinations." Well, I listened to him and all. I said, "Still I'd like to have my room." Well, I don't remember all the details of that now, but in the final bottom line of it, he had my check in his hand. And he said, after he told me about how it would be unpleasant, and I wouldn't enjoy it at all and so forth and so on, he handed me my check. And, thoughtlessly, I accepted it. But I went directly from there to the NAACP office and reported the situation in detail. I told them that he had returned the check and I had accepted it. They said, "Well, there isn't anything we can do for you. If you had not accepted that check, we might have forced the issue."
WALTER WEARE:
The sense of the contract was no longer valid.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
That's right. Because he had offered the refund and I had accepted it. So then I had a half-sister that lived up on 144th Street. I remember the address: 242 West 144th Street. I went up there and stayed with her the whole time I was there at NYU.
WALTER WEARE:
That's some distance from NYU, isn't it?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, yes. NYU was down on 4th Street. I had to used the elevated train back and forth over there. So, you see, I'd get from the post office anywhere from eight thirty, nine, nine thirty at night, and would have to get up in time the next morning to catch that train, to be down on 4th Street by eight o'clock. I'd get off the elevated train and

Page 36
have my breakfast at a Greek restaurant right there at the foot of the steps, and go on over.
WALTER WEARE:
Aside from NYU, did living in New York City have a large impact on you as a country boy coming to the big city.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No, no, no. Because when I came here and went to Whitted School that first day, I was countryly dressed, for all that means. And the city boys were well dressed. And I remember I had heavy brown shoes on. And they had these ribbed, between a clay color and a more yellow—try to imagine—brown shoes, and wore long, ribbed stockings. And they wouldn't have anything to do with me, neither the boys nor the girls.
WALTER WEARE:
Was this typical dress from where you came from in Columbus County?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, naturally. You know old farm boys. I had a Sunday suit. See, we had our everyday clothes, and we had our Sunday clothes [Laughter] And, of course, short trousers, that would bloom over the knee. That's what I came here with.
WALTER WEARE:
I see, what were the city kids wearing?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I think they were wearing long pants.
WALTER WEARE:
White shirts, or anything like that, to set them a part?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, they wore their ties and their shirts and all, yes. They dressed better then then they do now. See, this dress, the way they're dressing now, started a few years ago. Where was it? In New England, on the street somewhere, where they'd dress as shabbily as they could? to this country. And then the denims and all.
WALTER WEARE:
So, you weren't overwhelmed by New York City then?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No, I wasn't overwhelmed.
WALTER WEARE:
Of course, you had been to Washington already. Did it have an impact on you, nonetheless? Harlem?

Page 37
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, I enjoyed going to the movies on Saturday afternoons, or Sundays.
WALTER WEARE:
This is the Harlem Renaissance?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
That's right. The Resaissance Theatre was there, and the Savoy Ballroom, and another place over there on Lennox Avenue, Small's Paradise. Of course, I didn't have the money to splurge, but I took in some of the things. But I didn't have much time. I had never had any time for sports. When it was National Training School, four o'clock classes are out, I had to come back home and do my chores around at home. In the morning, I was up at five o'clock to fire the furnace, sweep the house, mop it, dust it, the sidewalks out in the front of it, get the car out, and dust it, ready for Dr. Moore after breakfast. And as soon as I had breakfast—I had my meals there—I had to leave for school. So I didn't have much time here for it.
WALTER WEARE:
What were the sports? Were they the same as now?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, they had football; they had baseball. Down at the Training School they had a good baseball team, as well as a fairly good football team.
WALTER WEARE:
And back in Columbus County, were there sports?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
We had baseball only.
WALTER WEARE:
Were these community teams, or school teams?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Just the school teams.
WALTER WEARE:
Would there be community teams, and leagues?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
It hadn't reached that point at that time.
WALTER WEARE:
While I'm thinking about it: the North Carolina Mutual apparently had a team for a while. Was there a kind of city league in which they played? Who did they play?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
That was a softball league, I think it was. The girls mostly.

Page 38
And then North Carolina Mutual sponsored the John Avery boys' club team, I think it was, the first year [unclear] .
WALTER WEARE:
But in rural North Carolina, in Columbus County, there were not organized baseball teams?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, you see, this was long after that.
WALTER WEARE:
But this is an interesting point about entertainment and how people spent their free time.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, at the noon hour down there at the school, they had a baseball team. But I couldn't make it. They had better players. See, they had what they called captains. And you take this bat. I don't know how you do it. And whoever came out on top would choose his player, and the other would choose another. And they'd always choose the best players. And they had some pretty good players, some good pitchers and base players, and good batters. But I just wasn't that good.
WALTER WEARE:
In New York, then, you didn't have time to….?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Only on weekends was I able to go to a movie or show, or something of that nature. [interruption]
WALTER WEARE:
And you worked in the evenings at a post office?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
That's right.
WALTER WEARE:
I was trying to get at any impressions you might have gotten in the twenties, of New York City.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
When I went to NYU, there were not many black students there. I don't think there was any class that I had where there were more than two, including me. There were some where I was the only one. But I was always a good student. And during study hour or in the library, I had no problem at having plenty of students wanting to study with me.

Page 39
WALTER WEARE:
Harlem at that time was seen as….
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Now, on Sunday afternoons they had the intercollegiate association. See, you had Columbia University, New York University, and City College. And the students would have a forum on Sunday afternoons, from three—I don't remember whether it was one hour or two hours—from three to four, or three to five. And we'd have programs, and people participated, and discussed subjects of interest. Just like they do now. But this was the students in these universities, most of whom lived in the Harlem area, you see. And I think it was held on 125th Street, if I recall now. Regular meeting place. And we always looked forward to that.
WALTER WEARE:
Was your picture of Harlem a positive one, then? This is a period when Harlem is generally seen as flowering.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
That was a glamour time there. Lou Leslie's Blackbirds, you know, of 1928. Florence Mills, the great singer. And all the bands would come there and play at the Savoy or Small's Paradise or the old Apollo Theatre.
WALTER WEARE:
What about the literary set? Were you aware of people say, like Langston Hughes, who was writing at the time?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, yes. In one of my classes of literature, we had to study Langston Hughes and Counte Cullen, the writers of that day. And Claude McKay.
WALTER WEARE:
Did you meet or see any of these persons while you were there?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I met none of them.. I don't think I ever met Claude McKay. And I was just trying to—Langston Hughes. I don't think I ever met him.
WALTER WEARE:
And DuBois was in New York at this time.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, yes. DuBois was there. I remember Fred Moore, the publisher of the New York Age. And Watson. I think the first two blacks to

Page 40
be elected to the board of aldermen of New York City. That was a day when a lot of history was being made. I think my first vote that I cast in a presidential election was in New York City.
WALTER WEARE:
In the election of '28?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I think it was. Because in 1924 I was at Howard.
WALTER WEARE:
So it would've been Hoover against Al Smith in '28.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I think it was. That's where I registered and voted. My first presidential election. So that brings us up to that point. [interruption]
ASA T. SPAULDING:
My last class in the afternoon was from three to four. And he was my instructor, my professor. He was a part time teacher there, while he was a consulting actuary for some of the insurance companies. And he also wrote books and published them. As a matter of fact I used one of his texts of casualty insurance down at the Wall Street Division. And I had done well in his courses. So he focused his attention on me.
WALTER WEARE:
His name was Ackerman?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yeah. S-A-U-L. Saul B. Ackerman. A-C-K-E-R-M-A-N. And this was about three weeks before school closed. He made an announcement that he was going to do something that he had never done before, and it was to have exemptions from the final examination. And there were four students who qualified for exemption. And he read the names, and I was one of them. And when the class was over, he asked me what I was going to do after class. I told him I had to go to the post office; I had to be there at six o'clock. He said, "Well, I'd like very much for you to drop by my office. There's a matter I'd like to discuss with you." I said I'd be happy to. So, I went in and he asked me to be seated. His first remark was: he knew he had learned of my connection with North Carolina Mutual, of my working there during

Page 41
the summer. He had had that much interest to get some background on me. And I guess being a black student and all, he wanted to get some background on it, too. He said, "I'd like to take you and make you the first Negro actuary in America. You can work in my office and get your practical experience, and I'll teach you the theory on the job." In other words, on the job training. The thought had never entered my mind. Because I was there to be a CPA, and the courses I had taken were to prepare for that. This presented a challenge. And I always responded favorably to challenges, and I said, "Gee, I appreciate that. But the officers of North Carolina Mutual are expecting me to come back there the first of June, full time." He said, "Well, I'll be glad to go down there and talk with them, and tell them what I'd like to do." Well, without belaboring it, I mentioned it to them, and they said they'd be glad to have him come. And he came. Took the train, came down in the morning, and went back that afternoon. Met with the exec. committee and told them just what I told you. Of course, C.C. Spaulding was president then, and they expressed their proper appreciation and so forth, for the interest he had shown, and they'd take it under consideration, and hear from them. So, Mr. Spaulding went over to Raleigh to see the insurance commissioner, Dan C. Boney. Well, there was a question in their minds whether or not, if I went and got the training, I'd be able to practice it. Because North Carolina Mutual was operating principally in Southern states. And the actuary society being a closed society anyhow, whether it would be time wasted or not. So, anyway, Mr. Spaulding went over there, and they met with him. And he was very open and very fair about it. He said, "Your company has reached a point in its development, where it needs its own actuary." See, up to that time, we had used all consulting actuaries, all white consulting actuaries. As a matter of fact, the actuary for the Durham Life Insurance Company,

Page 42
E.T. Burr, was consulting actuary at that time. He had been the actuary for the insurance department before he went to the Durham Life Insurance Company. And he and Mr. F.B. Dilts, who was then actuary for the Home Security, had come to the Home Security from the insurance department. And he was a consulting actuary, too. So he told him, "Your company has reached the point where it needs its own resident actuary. If you have anyone in your organization who has the appitude for it, and the interest in it, by all means I would recommend that you encourage it. The only difference I would make was, instead of him following the course that has been suggested, that he go to the University of Michigan." Because the University of Michigan was one of the two schools in the country then that was preparing, scholastically, the actuaries. See, some of the insurance companies, like Metropolitan, were training their own actuaries. They'd take a liberal arts person, finish his liberal arts course, and bring him in there and carry him through [unclear] . It so happened at that time, that the actuary for the North Carolina Insurance Department was a Michigan product, too. So he had a double reason for suggesting the University of Michigan. "If he goes there, he'll get all the formal training and everything else, and will do it quicker, than going through this on-the-job training. Naturally it'll be to the benefit of the company to get it as soon as possible." So he came on back and told me what had happened. And I applied to Michigan immediately—the next day. And fortunately I was accepted, and went there in September.
WALTER WEARE:
This is what year now?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
1930. I finished at NYU first of June, 1930. I borrowed the money to go there, with the understanding that it would be deducted from my salary.
WALTER WEARE:
The money was borrowed from the Mutual?

Page 43
ASA T. SPAULDING:
From the Mutual. And it would be deducted from my salary each month until it was paid off. I signed bills receivable for it. So that was it. Now: my experience at Michigan. I remember the first morning I walked into my class. There was a young man from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I was sitting in the seat next to the aisle on one side; he was sitting in the seat next to aisle opposite me. I walked in and took my seat. I was the only black in the class. He gave me his back. And I saw what he did. But I paid no attention to it. The first week, of course, they'd make the assignments. The course was in mathematics. And the method was to have you go to the board and put your problem and the solution to it on the board. Of course, it couldn't have been a better course for me (laughter) than mathematics. I would always be amongst the first to get the problem solved. And you know, within six weeks, that guy was studying with me. And I remember—I'm trying to remember whether it was a course in finite differences or what—but there was a problem there. And the equation went all the way across the blackboard on that wall. And he was calling it out to me, the problem, as I was putting it on the board. And I had it, and I started with the solution. And he stopped me. He said, "Mr. Spaulding, I hope you will pardon my interruption, but I have a confession to make. This is the first time that I have ever had anything to do, or have met, a Negro, except the maids in our home."
WALTER WEARE:
This is the professor saying this?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No. This is the fellow from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Student. And he said, "I just am so embarrassed. You know, I wish you could go home with me Christmas and could meet my parents." And so forth, and so on. And from then on, the ice was broken, I mean all the bars were down. And the other fellow was from Amarillo, Texas. Art Roberts. We got to be such chums.
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]

Page 44
ASA T. SPAULDING:
The two years that I was there, we developed a fast friendship, and we kept it up. I came back to North Carolina Mutual, and he went to Bankers Life Insurance Company of Iowa. And we kept up our correspondance for years and years. I remember when I went to Iowa on my way to my family to California in 1954—which was twenty-two years later—I called him on the telephone. I didn't have a chance to visit with him. And he was so sorry that we couldn't get together. Because, naturally, we were motoring you see, and we wanted to get where we were going. But I just felt that I should call him while I was there.
WALTER WEARE:
This is the fellow from Tuscaloosa?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No. This is the fellow from Amarillo, Texas.
WALTER WEARE:
Did you ever hear from him again?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Tuscaloosa. We kept up correspondance for a while. But it petered out. I don't know whether I was the fault or he was. I know that I wasn't going to Tuscaloosa, Alabama [Laughter]
WALTER WEARE:
Were you the only black student in the actuary program there, or in those classes?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
There was an Indian student, an East Indian student in two of the courses. There was a Korean student in one of my courses in mathematics. And frankly, I don't remember any other black students in any of those courses at Michigan.
WALTER WEARE:
What about in the student body as a whole? Would you see blacks on campus?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
There weren't many. Very few. And most of those who were

Page 45
there were in the professional schools. Now, there were a few women students from Detroit who were there. And I remember the first woman to stay in the dormitory at Michigan was a daughter of a physician in Detroit. He was a very prominent physician. And she applied and was admitted. I don't know whether they knew beforehand what her race or identity was or not. But I know that she was admitted and stayed there. And, of course, it was very much a subject of conversation, about her staying.
WALTER WEARE:
Now you didn't live on campus?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No. I lived with a private family.
WALTER WEARE:
A black family?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes.
WALTER WEARE:
How was that arranged? Do you recall?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, they had certain available residences, approved residences, for the students on campus. And this was one of them. It was a very nice home. A nice arrangement, not too far from campus. I stayed there the whole two years that I was there.
WALTER WEARE:
Did you feel more isolated though, in that area, than you had in New York? By that I mean socially.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No. Because on the campus, you see, it was only in the evenings. During the day I was over on the campus. I took my meals in the Michigan Union there.
WALTER WEARE:
Had you tried to go to, say, the theatre in Ann Arbor?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, we went to the theatre. That's what I say. This fellow Roberts and I went to the theatre all the time together.
WALTER WEARE:
What about restaurants? Did you notice a color line being drawn?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No. Because of the campus environment; any students who were students at the University of Michigan. I attended a big white church right on the campus. And the minister—oh, he became a bishop shortly

Page 46
afterwards—but he was quite a speaker. And they had a black church, too. I alternated between there and the church that had a black minister. He was a very good speaker, too. Very good.
WALTER WEARE:
So there was a substantial enough black community in Ann Arbor to have a church?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes. Although I don't think he had more than a hundred members, more or less. And a lot of the black families who were there, so many of them worked at the University in some capacity.
WALTER WEARE:
When you took your degree there, did you come immediately to Durham?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes, I came here. And at that time, Mr. Dilts was still a consultant. And in the meantime, while I was at Michigan, the consulting actuary firm from Height, Davis & Height from Indianapolis—I think they came in here the same year —when I say ‘came in here’: North Carolina Mutual—the same year that I went to the University of Michigan. And the company was having problems with its mortality and expenses. And it was just making it through. I mean, as I recall, the surplus was less than a hundred and fifty thousand dollars at that time. They were concerned. So this actuary had quite a reputation; had done a lot of consulting work. I don't know who put him in touch with us. But anyway they came in and put out a new line of policies, industrial policies in particular. But they'd never done any consulting work for a black company before. And they brought the same kind of policies with all the benefits that the white companies were using. And we had an entirely different clientele. And they had a two-year contract with us. So the year that I came back—that was in June of '32—I began to get orientated and get the department set up, and arranged to go to Metropolitan for further study and all preparatory to it. As of January the first, 1933 I became actuary of North Carolina Mutual.

Page 47
WALTER WEARE:
Had you served an internship? Was that the practice?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, at that time, if you call it, those last six months all they did was check what I was doing.
WALTER WEARE:
But that was here, not at their company.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No. All Mr. Dilts did was have conferences with us to see how I was getting along, and anything I wanted to ask him. But, you know, up until that time we had never filed an annual statement with the insurance department in which the gain and loss exhibit was completed and balanced. The first annual statement that you will find in the insurance department of North Carolina with a complete gain and loss exhibit in balance, was the one that we filed for December thirty-first, 1933. And it so happened that my first year as actuary was the year the examiners from the insurance department came in. And when they checked my valuations at the end of that year, they couldn't find anything wrong. And they found the gain and loss exhibit in balance.
WALTER WEARE:
Would an actuary typically be doing that kind of work? It sounds like you were also doing the bookkeeping.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No. We had a statistical department, and I worked with a statistician those six months. When I came in, those first six months was to try to find that fifth point on the compass that the Chinese talk about, which is the most important—where you are. And then North, South, East, and West. So I began to delve into the records and to check on things that they were doing, and so on. Then after I got into it my first year, I went back over old annual statements and made studies of what had been done, and how and why, and things that I thought could be improved upon. And then our mortality, as I recall, was about one hundred and thirty percent of our expectancy. Or I believe one year was about a hundred and forty one. I

Page 48
don't recall now. But all that information we could find in the insurance department.
WALTER WEARE:
What was the chief cause of mortality?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I don't know whether I want to release this particular thing or not, but he increased the premium rates twice in one year. What they would do was make adjustments in the premium rates rather than improve underwriting. I came in here. I studied our mortality. I got all our death claims and reviewed every one of them as to the age of death, cause of death, plans of policies, beneficiaries, relationships of beneficiaries to the insureds, who paid the premiums to see if they were speculation on sick members of the family. See all of that was going on. We really didn't have a well-functioning underwriting committee. And in order to determine that this was it, is why I reviewed all these death claims. Both ordinary and industrial. And then charted it to show what was happening. And where death had occurred within the first year of insurance, and the second and the third, on up to the fifth year. And where they did, what the cause of death was. And then look at the application and the examination or lack of examination. Because I had studied numerical rating system and underwriting at the University of Michigan, and was quite familiar with it, and with looking at that application and seeing whether or not the plan of policy applied for was the plan of policy that should have been issued. Or, whether or not, it should have been rated up, or whether or not it should have been rejected. And when I finished with those studies—I don't know what the year was; I didn't try to remember because it was all in the record—it resulted in… You see, prior to that the medical director alone approved all the applications. And this resulted in setting up an underwriting committee, consisting of the medical director, the actuary and the claims

Page 49
supervisor, who was approving the payment of claims. See, the medical director approved the application; the claims supervisor approved the payment of the claims. I brought the two things together. And the result was I was given veto power by the company. Even if the other two approved it, I could veto it.
WALTER WEARE:
Are these for ordinary policies?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Ordinary or industrial.
WALTER WEARE:
Would you generally have time to look at all of those?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Where the beneficiaries were distant members of the family. See, to have an insurable interest, you must suffer a pecuniary loss in the event of the death of the person. And ordinarily that's husband or wife, or father or mother. And where you find that some cousin has applied for a policy on a younger person, and you go back and check on that, you find that's a person who's already sick, or may even be in the hospital. And death may occur within a matter of months rather than years. And those were the kinds of things that were sifting through. So we set guidelines. If the beneficiary is other than husband or wife, father or mother, or son or daughter, those applications have to come by my desk.
WALTER WEARE:
You think in some cases there was collusion between agents and….
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, there was! You see, if they were writing them, and no question was ever raised, people do a lot of things. So first we had to find out the causes, and secondly, we had to educate our agents. And I wrote articles that appeared in publications on these things, and would list and show what was happening in these cases. It was a part of our education. And after doing that, the next thing we had to do was educate our agents, in underwriting. And as these things developed, our mortality began to come down. And another thing we found, at that time, they hadn't discovered antibiotics. And pneumonia, heart trouble were the principal causes of death.

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And where you had poor underwriting—and this was not just peculiar of North Carolina Mutual; even Metropolitan did it—if a policyholder died from tuberculosis, pneumonia, or heart trouble (industrial policy holders), within the first year, or the first six months, they wouldn't pay full benefits. Because we knew there was speculation. Especially in the matter of relationship of beneficiary was such that there was no insurable interest, And they would pay one-fourth the face amount, or one-half the face amount. And after two years, you'd have to pay full amount.
WALTER WEARE:
The feeling was that the person had been sickly at the time of the policy.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
That's right. And what really was doing, was requiring the applicant to be a co-insurer for part of the risk, for that first year. Or, at most, for the first two years. After that the company assumed the full risk. That's what it amounted to. And if a person is in good health—and most of us after a while, feel like we're going to live forever, you know—you don't pay too much attention to that. Surely I expect to live another year. And it's better to do that than to have my policy rejected.
WALTER WEARE:
These were Depression years, though. You came here right in the heart of the Depression. Was there fear that the company might not survive? Was this an extra burden?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, no. I didn't have a fear that the company would not survive. Because we had been through the bank closing holidays. The Mechanics and Farmers Bank was one of the two banks in Durham that re-opened their doors when the ban was lifted. Some of the others went into receivership. North Carolina Mutual's management had always been conservative. Any mistakes that they made were mistakes of the head, not of the heart. Because after operating for nine years without an examination, one thing they

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knew: that the money that was there didn't belong to them. It belonged to the policyholders. What it didn't take to operate the company belonged to the policyholders. And with that first examination, you'll find written in there: "Everything was found intact." Which was quite a testimonial to ten years of operation without any supervision. The people were of integrity and honor.
WALTER WEARE:
How do you explain that during these lean years that people were either able to buy new policies or keep them up? These are still mostly industrial policyholders?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes. Well, our production, our increase was not as great. As a matter of fact, there were two years there where I don't think we put on any increase. We merely held our own.
WALTER WEARE:
How important was the black community in Durham, at that time, in your volume? What percentage would you say?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
We had pretty good volume.
WALTER WEARE:
Were these persons working for the tobacco factories?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes. The tobacco factories suffered less, you know, during the Depression. [interruption]
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I had to revise all of the policies of Height, Davis & Height. Because they came here with double indemnity and triple indemnity and fifty percent bonus for keeping it enforced for five years in event of death by accidental means. And as many of our people with these old broken down cars and accidents they were having, and the way they were killing each other, the courts were holding that anything was an accident to the person [Laughter] even if he was murdered. In other words they were prescribing for a patient they knew nothing about the peculiarities, the history of the patient. And on the basis of the studies

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and analyses that I made, I knew that the company, under no conditions, could survive. And I had to revise those policies and tighten them up here and tighten them up there. And then the other thing that I did was get special types of policies to try to meet different situations. I combined pure endowment with a whole life policy. In other words, we still issued the whole life policies regularly. And then for classification purposes, where there was questionable risk, we didn't want to reject it. But we couldn't insure them on the regular policy. I combined two hundred and fifty dollars worth of pure endowment with seven hundred and fifty dollars worth of life insurance for the thousand dollar unit. Now what that said: if that person lived out that endowment period, even though it was a whole life policy, he would collect his two hundred and fifty dollars and would continue his insurance with the seven hundred and fifty. And he could buy that in units, see? A thousand, two thousand, five thousand, or whatever. With five thousand, he'd have twelve hundred and fifty dollars of pure endowment, and thirty seven hundred and fifty dollars worth of life insurance, to make the five thousand. And those policies had a good conservation record. Many people collected their pure endowment at the end of the period of the endowment, and continued their insurance [unclear] .
WALTER WEARE:
The endowment feature encouraged them to keep up the policy?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
That's right. And what that was was a certain amount of co-insurance. Because if they died earlier, the pure endowment was not payable. And it was on the law of averages that it accrued to the policy holders as a class. But it was a means of preventing abnormal mortality experience, or above normal mortality experience. There were many innovations that I brought into the company policies I hand't even seen anything like. But they were things I learned about in Michigan. I knew about pure endowments, and

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term insurance. And I knew how to combine the two; you can combine it with anything else.
WALTER WEARE:
Were there complaints from the policyholders?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No, but I had a hard time selling it to the insurance department. I got in quite a controversy with the actuary of the insurance department, when I wanted to change the mortality tables. I wanted to get out some preferred risk policies for the better class risks, and I wanted to go from the American Experience Table, which was the original table, from Shepard Holman, I believe back in 1866 or somewhere back there, it was. And we were using it. And I felt that we had developed our underwriting to a point, and that there were risks that to even look around us, we could see were good risks, and would have a more moderate mortality table. I wanted to use the Metropolitan Intermediate Table of Mortality, of 1912—which was a long way from 1860-something. And the actuary, he didn't know. And I had my mathematical calculations and demonstrations, and I insisted that we could do it, and wanted to do. Well, to make a long story short, I won my argument with him. I'd never had another argument with him the whole time he was with the insurance department. The Burial Association in Chicago had called me in to do some consulting work for them. And they wanted to convert from Burial Association into an old-line legal reserve life insurance company. It had never been done in the state of Illinois. And I went there. And being a black actuary, they didn't know whether or not the insurance department of Illinois would take my work, or go through with the conversion.
WALTER WEARE:
This is in the thirties or later?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
That was in 1944.
WALTER WEARE:
This was a white burial association?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No, it was a black burial association.

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ASA T. SPAULDING:
And so the president, their accountant, their general counsel, and I went down to the insurance department with them with the proposition that I had worked out. Whereby it could be done. How the Burial Association's policies would be assumed when it was converted into the life insurance company, and how the adjustments would be made and so forth and so on. And I had a line of policies for them. So we went down there and brought in the general counsel for the insurance department, the policy analyst who goes through and analyzes the policies, you know, to see that all the provisions conform to the insurance laws of the state of Illinois. There were four of them, including the actuary. But these other three were in there. We'd gone through the whole policy, analyzed it and the method, the steps to be taken. When they had finished all that and were ready for the actuary to come in and give his final approval to recommend to the insurance commissioner, the door opened, and here walks in the actuary for the insurance department of Illinois. He was the actuary that I had the controversy with in the North Carolina insurance department, and that I won. So he asked the others, you know, what their counsel was, and they told him and so forth. And he turned to me and said, "Asa, do you recommend this? Do you feel it's a sound thing?" I said, "Without reservations." He turned to them and said, "If Asa Spaulding recommends it, I'll approve it." Those people who were with me were shocked.
What I want to do now, in connection with my autobiography, I want to get that documentation from the Illinois department—copies of the papers of approval—because I intend to use it in my autobiography. Because my information is that after that was done, the method that I worked out became the standard procedure for the legislation for the conversion. Because Illinois was full of burial associations. It became the standard procedure

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for conversion of burial associations to life insurance companies in the state of Illinois.
WALTER WEARE:
Did you become, then, a kind of consultant to other firms?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, yes. And I understand that within about five years ….
[END OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]

[TAPE 3, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE B]
WALTER WEARE:
Do you think that's true?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Could've been. I wouldn't want to make a judgement on it.
WALTER WEARE:
This one, apparently, was interested in reform.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, I know the insurance departments were so concerned that they did require them to convert.
WALTER WEARE:
Did you have the same kind of impact in the South, or in North Carolina, for example?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, I never had many arguments with any of the insurance departments that I didn't win.
WALTER WEARE:
I'm thinking about other firms, now, who wanted to convert.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I don't think we have any burial associations in North Carolina now.
WALTER WEARE:
There were no other black burial associations in North Carolina?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, yes. they had some more in Illinois. The Metropolitan Mutual Assurance Company of Illinois: it was a burial association.
All of them were converted. But Jackson Mutual Life Insurance Company was the first one. It was Jackson Mutual Funeral System.
WALTER WEARE:
But in North Carolina they had passed out of existence by this time?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Didn't have too many. As a matter of fact, I had no interest

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in it. Had no reason for following it up. And I only got involved in the one in Illinois because this company, for some reason or other, was interested in doing it. Now, whether the pressure was being brought from the insurance department, I don't know.
WALTER WEARE:
Would black policyholders working class people, would they resist maybe going from the old traditional burial society fraternal organization over to a more secular kind of insurance company?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No. Because these fraternal organizations insurance plans: I don't hear too much about any of them.
WALTER WEARE:
I'm thinking now when you were here in the thirties.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, they had the fraternal organizations. Remember the Royal Knights of King David; but it went out of business. The insurance companies put them out of business.
WALTER WEARE:
I'm just wondering if there was some reluctance on the part of the masses to make this change?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, they liked rituals. But people don't pay that much attention to it now. It used to be, every time a Mason died, they'd have the rituals. It's seldom done now, very seldom. People have gotten away from it, the ceremony.
WALTER WEARE:
How important was the….?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
They served their day and generation. I look upon the things that have happened throughout our civilisation in the nations of the world, and the rise and fall of nations. Each one had a role to play. It's part of the changes, part of developing a nation and a people, and a society and everything else. I started years ago to having a brotherhood day and goodwill day on Sundays at our church.
WALTER WEARE:
This is White Rock?

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ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes. I remember in 1963, I invited Abraham Harmon, ambassador from Israel, to be the brotherhood day speaker. And he made a statement that I will never forget, in going back and reviewing history. He said, "It is never given to any man to complete the great tasks of life, but it is given to every man an opportunity to make his contribution toward that completion." You take it in political life; you take it in legislation; you take it any way you want to. The people, just like the national insurance—you know about national insurance? And how long we've been arguing about that? And presidents that have come and gone? And is still with us? At some time it will be; but the person who starts with the idea may never see it. And whether you take it in political life—just like in business. I served my day and time. As I look at North Carolina Mutual, I think there was a day and time for every president that North Carolina Mutual has had. I think he had something special to offer at that particular time. And I think it's fortunate it's that way. It would be tragic if the thing stopped at the passing of a person. If there wasn't somebody else to pick up the mantle and carry on. Would we get anywhere? So, as I look back and study organizations and things of that nature, I was a fraternity man. But to me, now, I just don't have time to fool with it. I feel there's too much time spent for too little. There are other things that are more worthwhile and can contribute more to society, than the time and energy spent on some of these things.
WALTER WEARE:
Did you think this philosophy in the beginning, came in part from your background and values, the kind of traditional values?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, I'll tell you. I think really my continuing to teach this bible class that I have in Sunday school had more influence on my life. At the truth, and all. Starting with my grandfather, the bible has had more

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influence on my life and my philosophy of life than anything else that I know of. And I don't mean to be sanctimonious; I'm not trying to be that. But I think there are certain universal truths. And somehow or other, as I look at things, how they're happening and to people, the rise and fall of people, what causes them to rise and fall: overambitious, vanity. You take Nixon. I voted for Nixon when he first ran. But here was a man who could have gone down in history as one of the greatest presidents that this country has had. Because he had something. He had an asset. But he had a liability that outweighed it. Just like when he took that foreign trip and came back here, bringing those costumes and all. He had something that was just eating at him. He could have been reelected in what was it? 1972?
WALTER WEARE:
In '76 he would have run.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
He could have been reelected for his second term without ever resorting to the tactics he did.
WALTER WEARE:
It was '72, yes.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I mean there was no one on the scene who could have defeated him, but yet, he was so possessed with this overriding ambition that he put his dependence in the wrong things. He opened the doors to China. Many things that he did. And he had the possibility, if he could've just kept himself disciplined. First man to bring the presidency shame and disgrace. Tragic. Both to him, and maybe, to a certain extent, the country. And another passage, "‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit,’ said the Lord". The most dramatic experience that I've seen of that was the Shah of Iran. Two years ago, nobody would have thought it was possible. And the ambassador from one of my very good friends, [unclear] . We became very good friends. I've attended several parties at the Iranian embassy. And I have something sent me by him. Correspondance. But the point is: I think the Shah was

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trying to bring Iran into the twentieth century. But I think he was too far away from his people. And, as to whether or not he recognized that people power is just as important as military power. And when we put our trust, our dependence in treaties and might and power, and everything else, there'd better be some spirit somewhere. You can take the best football team and put it on the field with no spirit. There's something that spirit maketh alive. I think that early training, and the lessons that I learned, and I studied these things. Whether you take it literally or not, or take it symbolically, or whatnot. There are certain universal truths that if you test them in the crucible of history, you find that sooner or later.
WALTER WEARE:
When you came to Durham, you came under the tutelage of people who would reinforce this, perhaps. Is that true or not? C.C. Spaulding, Dr. Moore, especially. And that raises an interesting question about Durham, this notion that Durham was special, a middle class here that was different than say, a middle class in Harlem, or a middle class in Atlanta.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
It's been historically true that the major officers, and not only them but the clerical staffof North Carolina Mutual, have all been church-going people, have taken leading roles in church life. That doesn't mean that they lived a perfect life; nobody does. But they had an ideal; they had a goal; they had a certain sense of values. The frailities of human nature are just such that even if you try to take biblical characters. Paul said, ‘Behold when I would do good, evil is ever present.’ He was always having to fight it, have a struggle. Anyone has a struggle, because there are so many temptations. And you take people who get themselves involved financially, and bind themselves in the of the law. Just like the president of this bank up here, Northwestern. And just like Smith Bagley now, the Reynolds family. Greed doesn't pay. And I have said over and over again,

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in my scale of values, a man's true worth to society is better measured by the contributions he makes to it than by what he takes from it. Because you can't take it with you.
WALTER WEARE:
And these values were here when you came in to Durham, were they not? As you travelled and say, went to Memphis, an important town for black insurance, did you see a different life style there among the so-called black middle class?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Uh huh. Well then, North Carolina Mutual has always said, it was not organized to try to make millionaires, it was organized to be of service to its people. That's why it was organized as a mutual company, rather than stock. Go to Memphis, those are stock companies. It was suggested to the officers years ago to convert North Carolina Mutual into a stock company and make a million. They'd have no part of it.
WALTER WEARE:
I'm interested in the fabric of life here, the social life, how people….
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Social life is important here, but it's not all. You find some cities where people strive to be the social leader. People like social life here, but it's not the all-goal in life. It has it's place.
WALTER WEARE:
What kind of outlets would there have been say in the thirties or forties?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Families, or certain people, they would have parties and things, then, and still have them now.
WALTER WEARE:
But with segregation, there were no restaurants by and large, and no theatres.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No. Well, you see, you had your own black theatres. Had some nice theatres here in the thirties, very nice theatres, and very nice shows—first-run shows. I mean, the movies.
WALTER WEARE:
Were there other forms of entertainment? Were there stage shows, vaudeville?

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ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, they would have their dances. And the sororities would have their parties, you know, and dances, and things of that nature.
WALTER WEARE:
What about music here? Did the big bands come in?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Uh huh.
WALTER WEARE:
Both jazz and…
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes. But where they got too rowdy I didn't go to.
WALTER WEARE:
Was there a kind of distinction then in entertainment that working-class people might prefer one type of music?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, I wouldn't categorize it that way, but a lot of working-class people were just as sober and sane.
WALTER WEARE:
I'm trying to get at this texture of this fabled black middle class in Durham, if they had a distinctive social life and community institutions that would set them apart.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
That's a judgement decision, or opinion, and I'm not sure I can read the innermost thoughts or feelings well enough to make a statement to go down in history, as categorizing it.
WALTER WEARE:
Well, there's this outside view. Frazier wrote about it, saying that in Durham, you find none of the life and leisure you find in Harlem, but rather the Protestant ethic, the work ethic.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
That's true. I'm a firm believer in the work ethic.
WALTER WEARE:
How that translated itself into everyday life. Was there, as he was suggesting, less excitement in a way?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, I'm a firm believer in balance, a balanced life. And you can take that any way you want to. You can look at it from a business standpoint—a balance sheet. If it's out of balance, that corporation is unhealthy; it's not well managed. And it can be out of balance in many ways: in forms of investments, or as liabilities exceeding its assets, or the proportion of assets of one type or another. You have a different expense

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from when it's in better balance. If the chemistry of your body is out of balance, you don't have a healthy body. You may have diabetes; you may have this or that or the other. And I think that thing runs through life. When the forces of nature get out of balance, what do you have? The tornadoes, the floods. In other words—well I guess that says it. I may be—and if I am, I am, I have to be me—I may be from this modern standpoint, an old fogey. But I think there are some eternal values that will hold good anytime. Now, honesty may not seem the best policy to the person who wants to get rich quickly, but he may get it improperly, and then he may wish later he didn't have it, because of the consequences. Another lesson—and I don't want to fill that too full of references to the bible—but you know the parable of the rich farmer, who had such a harvest that his barns wouldn't hold it. Now, he didn't say a thing about sharing it, did he? He said, I'm going to tear down these barns and build me new ones, and put it all in there. And then for what? So that I can sit down and tell my soul to be at ease, because I don't have to worry anymore the rest of my life. He didn't see anybody around him that he could share it with. The thought didn't occur to him. And what does the parable say? Whether this actually happened, I think it's good teaching. ‘Thou fool. This night thy soul is required of thee. To whom shall this go?’ What'll happen to it? All we remember about him is not the good he did, but how foolish he was in his value system. So these kinds of things, and I guess travel and exposures, and meeting all kinds of people and all kinds of circumstances. I had an experience with Idi Amin in Liberia in 1976. And when I read what happened yesterday, I wasn't surprised. Because these things may flourish for a season.
WALTER WEARE:
When you met him in '76 something happened?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No. Just to size the man up. The way that he came into the church that Sunday afternoon to the services. This whole thing just covered

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with—what do you call them?
WALTER WEARE:
Medals?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Medals, yes. And two .44's, one on each side. And he sat through that sermon, and the way he looked, a solemn, mean look on his face. Not moved by anything. I said, ‘Is this a human being? Is it possible for him to have any empathy for anybody?’ And then I heard of some of the atrocities that happened under him, and I saw on T.V. the other night, Shakespeare's "Measure for Measure", and in the end how things turned out. And I thought of that statement, ‘The measure you meet is the measure that will come back to you.’ If you really study life and people, the rise and fall of nations, and things like that, it seems to me like I see a thread running through there that says something. I didn't want to preach a sermon.
WALTER WEARE:
I think that's a good way to end here. [interruption]
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I mean, Johnson was the one who needed to be on the scene.
WALTER WEARE:
You don't think that Kennedy's assasination may have assisted him in some way. That is, that Kennedy was seen in part as his legacy?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, I think the thing that helped Johnson so much was his tenure as majority leader of the Senate. And he knew where all the bodies were; and he had helped so many of those Senators, and their positions, and their chairmanships and all, that he could just crack the whip and they jumped.
WALTER WEARE:
He had a lot of debts to call in.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
That's right. And then being a Southerner, too. He was not a Yankee. Although when he ran for president he was from the Southwest

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rather than the South. He didn't see the country ready to be running as a Southerner; which Carter did run as a Southerner. But a lot of things had happened between then.
WALTER WEARE:
Let's come back to that. As I mentioned, as I was checking over what we had done yesterday, there are some things that occured to me that scholars would be very interested in. One has to do with land. Land is so precious and so important, and as I listened to the tape, I failed to ask you how people got the funds to buy this land, and who they bought it from?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I don't know what the practise was back then, when settlers came here. Whether they had to pay for the grants, or the grants were just made to them to claim.
WALTER WEARE:
I'm thinking about after the Civil War.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, after the Civil War, well, yes, that's a different situation. Back in the early years. See, 1666 was pretty early.
WALTER WEARE:
Yes it was.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Let me see if I can't find something else. Does that letter tell you anything about how much land he gave to different ones?
WALTER WEARE:
No.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
(searching through papers) I have some more information. I can show you the pictures of the two younger people whose grandmother and my mother were sisters. And they're living in Baltimore now. They came over to Washington, the Washington-Hilton, to have dinner with me.
WALTER WEARE:
Now these persons appear to be absolutely white, uh huh.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Now their grandmother and my mother were sisters.
WALTER WEARE:
They're quite aware of their ancestry are they?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, yes. As a matter of fact, they're living in Baltimore, and they had seen news about me in the Washington papers and all. And they

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wrote me; Christine wrote me. Because they are interested in tracing their roots. You know, "Roots" got everybody interested in it. And they wanted to contact me, and for us to exchange information, from my mother's side. And they sent me material. They were the ones who gave me Dr. Earl Lowery's address. So I wrote him.
WALTER WEARE:
Yes, that's the man's name who I thought we ought maybe to read into the record because he seems to know as much as anybody. He's the one who's drawn up this geneology that you read from yesterday. Why don't you read his name and his address there, and also quote….
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I can read the whole letter if you want me to.
WALTER WEARE:
All right. He talks about a book there.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Did I show you this yesterday?
WALTER WEARE:
This is another geneology?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Is this the one I showed you?
WALTER WEARE:
I think the one I saw was…. it's the same?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
It's a copy.
END OF INTERVIEW