Documenting the American South Logo
Loading
Title: Oral History Interview with Asa T. Spaulding, April 16, 1979. Interview C-0013-3. 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: 236 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, 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 16, 1979. Interview C-0013-3. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series C. Notable North Carolinians. Southern Oral History Program Collection (C-0013-3)
Author: Walter Weare
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Asa T. Spaulding, April 16, 1979. Interview C-0013-3. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series C. Notable North Carolinians. Southern Oral History Program Collection (C-0013-3)
Author: Asa T. Spaulding
Description: 483 Mb
Description: 62 p.
Note: Interview conducted on April 16, 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.
Editorial practices
An audio file with the interview complements this electronic edition.
The text has been entered using double-keying and verified against the original.
The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
All quotation marks, em dashes and ampersand have been transcribed as entity references.
All double right and left quotation marks are encoded as "
All em dashes are encoded as —

Interview with Asa T. Spaulding, April 16, 1979.
Interview C-0013-3. 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:
[text missing]
We had never been able to get a black even nominated for the county commissioner's board. Lincoln Hospital had problems getting aid from the county. And one of the trustees came to me to see if I would run for county commissioner, because they felt that without a voice on the board, the chances were that the doors of the hospital would be closed. He put it to me this way. He said, "You owe it to the community. You're the only person who would have any semblance of a chance of being elected. And for you to refuse, it would be turning your community down." Well, you know, that's something to put on your conscience. Especially with all the sickness of my family, and all my children were born in Lincoln Hospital. So I thought about it, and I said, well maybe it's true. And here's a good chance for me to find out whether the demonstration that took place in the civic center on that night was genuine. I went down the day of the deadline that morning, and filed as a candidate for county commissioner. So I ran and was elected. There were thirteen people running, incumbants as well as new ones, in the primary. The person who had been on there I think about fifteen years or more. And had always led the ticket. He's an undertaker. So he was campaigning everytime he buried a body. And he was the largest undertaker in town. He was very popular. In the primary he beat me by five hundred-and-nine votes. In the general election, I beat him by more than the five hundred votes that he beat me in the primary. In other words, I led the ticket. So the demonstration manifested itself not only in the civic center but at the polls. I had a

Page 2
tremendous white vote all across the city, and carried several of the white precincts.
WALTER WEARE:
That was in '68?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
'68.
WALTER WEARE:
And was it in '70 that you ran for mayor?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
'70 or '71. No, it was '71. The election for mayor was off-year from the elections for county commissioner. I didn't plan to run for re-election in '70, but they came back to me and said, "Now you've opened the door, the only way we can be sure to keep it open is for you to run again." Well, I did run. I was elected, and led the ticket then. So in '71, people were displeased with the person they had as mayor, and they were going to make a change. And it was suggested that I run. Well, it was so late. Because Hawkins had been out, and all of my friends— especially in the white community, and some of the blacks—he had commitments from. They wanted to get rid of the incumbent, and if he, Hawkins, would run, they promised to support him, both financially and otherwise. I hadn't indicated that I was giving any consideration to doing it. So he had all these commitments. He had commitments from the Seamans, from the Powe firm, from the Bryants, and everybody else. But there were others who wanted me to run. So I sent a letter to one of these people saying I was being urged to run, and if I ran, would they support me. And they came back and said that they were sorry that they didn't know earlier; they had no idea that I was even considering it. They knew I was on the board of county commissioners and had led the ticket and all, and could probably stay there as long as I wanted to. And they didn't think that there would be any likelihood that I would be a candidate. And they had naturally committed themselves to Hawkins. And in politics you don't go back on your word, you know, when you commit yourself

Page 3
to a person. That's one of the rules of politics, that your word is your bond. So anyway, I had a good bit of grassroots support. And I went on through with it. And I won the primary. I beat him by twenty-six votes. Despite all the support of the leading citizens and the power structure downtown.
Well, some of the questions that they were using: "Are you going to let a black be the mayor of Durham?" "Is Durham ready for a black to be the mayor of Durham?"
WALTER WEARE:
Was the press raising this issue, too?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No. By word of mouth. They were contacting the different ones and even contacted some of the blacks that had pledged to support Hawkins. Well, I can understand that. Because they were working with him on the city council and all; they had wanted to get rid of the incumbent. Naturally they had promised that they would support him if he ran. I had not announced that I was considering it. But anyway I got enough encouragement to cause me to go ahead and file. And, of course, you know the results. So there had to be a run-off between him and me. The thing that provoked me—because I was told the Friday before. Well, as a matter of fact, I had some of the political leaders down in East Durham to call me and tell me that I needed to come down there and speak to those people. Because he had been down there, and the things that he'd said, a lot of people were being turned off. And also I did not go back to the tobacco factory, where all the laborers were working, between the primary and the election. I got the support at the primary. He had visited them, and had his representitives making the contacts down there. And in addition to all that work that I didn't know was going on—I didn't work as hard as I could have worked between the primary and the election. But on election day, I was visiting the different precincts. I had been, from the time the polls opened until

Page 4
five o'clock that afternoon. And I didn't have my radio on. I was going from Pearson School precinct down here, I guess, to Hillside precinct. Kenneth was with me. He turned the radio on. The first thing I heard was, ‘Black millionaire running against white real estate dealer’. I declare they couldn't have fabricated a bigger lie. Hawkins could have bought and sold me three or four times. But that had been going on on three of the radio stations and the t.v. almost all day. And nobody had mentioned it to me. Well, naturally the people at the precincts didn't know it; they were working and all. And I was circulating. So that's the way that I heard it. I came in and I called WDNC—a large listening station. They were running it. And I demanded that they issue a statement, or withdraw that anyway. It was untrue, and so forth and so on. And you know what they said? They were just as sorry as they could be, but they thought it was a fact, and that it had come to them from the UPI in Raleigh, and they thought it was authentic. That's why they were running it. They gave me the number of UPI. I called them. They said they got the information from Durham, and since I lived here, and it was a Durham contest, they thought it was authentic. They had sent it out to all the radios. I told them it was not true, and I demanded a retraction. And about thirty minutes later they came back with the retraction. Well, that was going on towards six o'clock. They said that they had checked their sources in Durham and had found that it was not true, and that they therefore retracted it. Well, the damage was already done then.
WALTER WEARE:
The polls close at seven or eight?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Seven, I think it was, or seven-thirty. And it was six then. But in the meantime, at Watts Street School precinct—I was there that afternoon. The polling was very good that morning. For a good many blacks.

Page 5
That afternoon I stayed over there for a half an hour and didn't a single black come to that poll. They had been hearing this. And there were a good many low-income people there. They were saying, "Well, hell, if he's a millionaire, no point in my going out voting." The teachers down at the college had a group of college students working for me down in the black neighborhood here. They had heard it. They went home. Wouldn't work anymore. They went home around noon and didn't work anymore. They were volunteers, you know. They said, "Dammit, if he's got a million dollars, if he's a millionaire, he ought to be paying us for it. I'm not going to get out there and work for nothing. Not for a millionaire." Well, I didn't even know the thing was going on. Well, anyway, all those things were happening. It was just too late. Even after all of them had retractions. The damage was done; my workers had stopped [Laughter] . And the tide had turned.
WALTER WEARE:
I don't want to sidetrack that, but it brings up an interesting issue, that you probably had as much insight on as anybody, and that's this notion of class conflict in the black community. Some suggest that it's actually greater than in the white community. That feeling runs higher. Over your life, do you see that as a big issue?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
If it has been in the past, I don't think it's so today. And in saying that, I'm not saying it has been in the past; I don't know. Because what I have always tried to do is move around with all people. As much as my time restraints would permit me. Because you see a person in as many things as I was in, and on the go and moving, things you have to do, there's only so much time that you have to actually mingle. And I've been able to mingle more since I retired, than I was before. And I think I have a better feel of the pulse of the community since entering public life, than

Page 6
I did before. So I cannot throw any light on that situation. I guess a lot depends on to whom you talk.
WALTER WEARE:
But in general, abstracting yourself from it, do you think this has been an issue in the so-called black middle class? There's sometimes the charge that when somebody makes it, then they forget about the people.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I'm sure that during the boycott in 1968 that that became a definite issue. And it's something that my wife had to face. Because the fact that she had organized another group. Even though this group insisted on equal representation, black and white, on the committees and things. I told her this. "The best role that you can play is that of a mediator, or arbitrator. You have the protagonists on both sides. If you line up with either side, you'll destroy your effectiveness and credibility with the other."
WALTER WEARE:
One group wanted there to be an all-black committee, and there was the other group of white women who had never sat with a black person in their life.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
And not only that. The community, the merchants association and everybody else—in other words, if they say you're just an addition to the black solidarity committee, there's no reason for us to talk with you at all. Or even negotiate. If you take the role that you're trying to get the facts of the case, and get them out to the public, and let the public decide. Just like Nehru I was telling you about. The State Department told me they had to use Nehru as their means of communication with the Russians. And the State Department was in favor of, and understood his position and all. And it was the only way he could be useful. Because if he was in our camp, they wouldn't be talking with him anymore than they would direct to us. And it was on the basis of that experience in 1956, that I knew if they took a position for either, it would destroy their effectiveness with the other.

Page 7
And I was right. Time proved that that was the role for them to play. But in the early part of it, especially when the negotiations were hot, they were accused of being more a part of the problem than a part of the solution. And the things that I did in public office. It was during, I think, my first term. Because when I went there, we had no blacks in the courthouse in any of the positions. It wasn't my first term; it was second term that the farm agent for the county, a black man succeeded the white farm agent before. See, when I was elected, the first thing I did was to write the other four commissioners a letter—I think it was a page-and-a-half— telling them that now that I was a member of the board and would be working with them, I wanted to share with them some of my thinking, and some of my philosophy. And I thought that if we wanted to play the role of leadership in the community, we ought to play that role, and not be reacting rather than acting. They knew about the demonstrations that were going on, the boycott and all of that, and how they were putting a premium on violence, and boycotting, and protesting. How that was the only way they could get anything done. And I didn't think we ought to wait until we had demonstrations down there in the courthouse and things of that nature. And I sent it to them at their homes. And I started it off in a way that they would start reading it and would go on and finish reading it. You know, you can turn a person off in the beginning, and no matter what you say thereafter— something they might even accept. So I just started off, and step-by-step. And they had an appreciation for it. You see, I could have waited until in a meeting, and some issue came up, and could have made a big speech and embarrassed them, or taken sides with somebody, which would have embarrassed them. And the matter of our working relationship for the rest of the term would have been destroyed. But I told them in front and had hopefully

Page 8
stimulated their thinking. And the result was, when this white farm agent for the county reached retirement age, the county manager, knowing my position, went down to North Carolina State University, and talked with the people down there. You see, the extension for the farmers was under there. And they knew Carl Hodges. He was assistant to the county, and had been for many years, well-trained, A & T State University. Very competent person. He said, "Now forget about his race and just give me an objective opinion as to whether or not you think he can handle the job and can get along with the farmers." And they told him they thought he could do it. And with that information, he went to the other members of the commissioners, and imparted the information to them. And then he came to me and told me what he had done, and wanted to know if I was in favor of it. I told him I thought he did the right thing, yes, and I thought if the man was competent he ought to be given the position. And I appreciated the effort that he'd spent in trying to pave the way for him. Well, we had the meeting and his name was on the list for consideration. And he was approved unanimously. Because the proper groundwork had been done. And he was excellent. All the farmers, white and black, think the world of him. He's been there since either '69 or probably '70. So it's been nine years now. And he's a very popular person. And then more and more blacks were brought into the courthouse without ever any protest or any demonstrations resulting from it.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you think you could have been as effective with the protest on one side to work against?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No. That's why, you remember, I went back and said in every stage of the building of North Carolina Mutual, and the equipment that was needed in completing its job. And I said you need all of these things. Just like that black boycott.

Page 9
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
ASA T. SPAULDING:
In Noble Ancestry and Descendants, written by J.H. Moore, pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church in Wilmington, NC. Printed in 1949 by the Lin [unclear] Print Company in Wilmington, North Carolina, we find the following about the Columbus County community. It is entitled "Our Native Community: Trunk of a Great Tree." [Spaulding reads from book, including list of prominent families in Columbus County.]
WALTER WEARE:
So you've got both sides pretty well worked out as far back as possible. Have you ever heard of the Mitchell family?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes. A reference is made in here. Here they are, Mitchells, yes. [Reads list of early families in Columbus County community from same book.] Now, this Chavis. I don't know whether this was the Chavis or whether he had connections, but you remember the Chavis in the history of North Carolina who taught the governor's children, had a school?
WALTER WEARE:
John Chavis? He was also a minister—if it's the same man—in a white congregation.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
That's right. And many of the governors and others were students of his. There is a Chavis in this group, and it could be that he's the one or a descendant of his was the one.
WALTER WEARE:
There's enough there to keep historians and geneologists at work for a long while. I asked about the Mitchells because there's a black playwright in New York City, named Loftin Mitchell.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I know him, Loftin Mitchell. And his brother is blind and helped him write that. And is one of the professors at the University of Scranton.

Page 10
WALTER WEARE:
The brother?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
The brother. And he's been down here and doing research on Dr. Moore.
WALTER WEARE:
Well, I had correspondance with him several years ago.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
This is Dr. Louis T. Mitchell.
WALTER WEARE:
And his brother, Loftin, who wrote that book.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I saw it. Did you ever see it?
WALTER WEARE:
Oh, yes. It's on the black theatre in the United States. Black drama, I think.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I saw it in Washington. At the National Theatre.
WALTER WEARE:
Oh, you're talking about an individual play. He also published a book, which is a history of the black theatre in the United States.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, is that right?
WALTER WEARE:
Yes, called Black Drama.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, if you didn't see that play that was on Broadway in New York, and came to Washington. And President Ford and members of his cabinet went to see it and they really enjoyed it. Rockefeller went to see it. It was based in Harlem. Oh shoot! What is the name of that thing?1 And it went to Chicago and ran a long time. About four years ago. It think it's still playing some place. But it was Loftin Mitchell.
WALTER WEARE:
Yes, and he comes out of that community.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, yes. I knew their father, John Mitchell.
WALTER WEARE:
Well, have you ever talked with these and others about why it is that that community was so productive of people, whether it's businessmen or playwrights, or preachers?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, it just seems to be something in the genes down there. I don't know wherever it came from. Because it didn't just start, you know.

Page 11
Just like any settlement in any place. Some people came in from some places, just like the Moores came in. What are their origins, or whether some of them could actually trace it back to some of the early settlers, who were over here long before the slaves were over here.
WALTER WEARE:
E. Franklin Frazier in his book called, The Black Family in the United States, he has a chapter in that book about a community. He doesn't name it but it sounds very much like this. Was he ever down here doing research?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Not that I know of. Probably I wasn't up and around. Unless it was when I was in school in New York. Unless it was in the late twenties. See, I was away from '27 to '32. I knew about Franklin Frazier and I knew he was at Howard University and all about his writings and all. I don't know when you were here whether you heard about the meetings that Booker Washington and DuBois, the Merricks, Moores, and Spauldings had. One that they had at the White Rock Baptist Church for a period; what was called a fact-finding conference. Have you come across anything like that?
WALTER WEARE:
I have documentary things, but I've never heard anybody speak of it.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, it was called a fact-finding conference, and it was during Booker T. Washington's time, before I came to Durham. Just like Booker T. Washington used to carry all these top-flight people to speak at Tuskegee to speak, financiers and all. And I know you've heard of his famous Atlanta speech. And they say he was really an orator. And I was old enough to know about him, but I was still on the farm in Columbus County. So I never did get to meet him.

Page 12
WALTER WEARE:
But you heard about him in Columbus County?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, yes, I heard about him, and knew when he came to Durham. They had that group of intellectuals and businessman. And, as I just mentioned, DuBois was in the group. And, in all likelihood, Franklin Frazier, if he was old enough.
WALTER WEARE:
He might have been a little later, but there was that tradition.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
And after Booker Washington died and R.R. Moton succeeded him, he came here and would meet with these people. And when Booker Washington came, they toured the state with his lecturing. But this particular meeting that I'm referring to—just like the meeting that was called to organize the National Negro Insurance Association in 1921, I believe it was. And the National Negro Business League. Well, the National Negro Business League preceded these other organizations.
WALTER WEARE:
That was about in 1900.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
That's right. The National Negro Business League covered all the businesses that blacks were engaged in. And then as the time passed, it branched out to undertakers, the insurance companies, grocery stores. It could have been around 1916, or 17, but they called this a fact-finding conference. I heard about it and read about it. And from what I remember from discussions, the whole idea was to take a look at the Negro community, Negro progress. Where they are and how they got there. And to try to plan or chart a course for the future.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
ASA T. SPAULDING:
North Carolina Mutual used to, before it had an auditorium large enough to, hold their meeting at White Rock Baptist Church. They

Page 13
had their agency meetings—when the district officers would come here—in the White Rock Baptist Church. That's where John Merrick made his last speech. He appeared before these district managers, agents from the states in which they were operating. He came in there with that foot removed and made his last speech. He said, "I want this company to live for men to support their families, and God knows it." I don't remember the rest. "And it will live." I think that was his concluding statement.
WALTER WEARE:
And Dr. Moore picked it up from there?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes.
WALTER WEARE:
We haven't talked about a number of those figures, particularly Dr. Moore or C.C. Spaulding. In talking to you before, Dr. Moore had a heavy influence on your life.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, yes. They looked to him for leadership in the area. He was a senior citizen. You know, they called Merrick, Moore and Spaulding the triumverate. I presume you've heard that referred to. And it seemed to have been a good combination. Merrick was a very personable individual, made friends easily. He was quite an extrovert. Dr. Moore was the silent thinker. And they always said still water runs deep. And that he was the thinker in the group. And C.C. Spaulding was very outgoing, agressive, extroverted. Public-relations minded. Dr. Moore was not concerned about advertising anything he did. In other words, he didn't believe in getting on the house top and shouting it: he believed in doing it for the sake of doing it, because it was the thing to do. That's why he would go, if a patient didn't have money to pay for a prescription, he would take the prescription to the drugstore, pay for it, and have it delivered to the home. I think I told you this the first day: if they were without heat, he would have a half-ton of coal sent, and paid for it. And many of his patients he never sent a bill to.

Page 14
WALTER WEARE:
He died when? In twenty-?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
'23. April 29, 1923. I think it was around twelve or twelve-thirty. I remember it as vividly as if it were today. Because I had just come from church. He lived next door to White Rock Baptist Church. And I had come out of the church and started up the steps into the house. And L.J. Spaulding was coming out. He said, "He's just passed." Although I knew he was sick, it was just so sudden, it upset me.
WALTER WEARE:
He was not a man—according to the stories surrounding him—who would brook much opposition from the Jim Crow world.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well he didn't back off in talking to the whites at all. He was not—and this is an opinion of mine, from all that I heard about him, and my association with him from 1918 until he died. And seeing him talking with whites. I told you about trips we made down to North Carolina State College to see Dr. Brooks, the president of North Carolina State, when he was trying to get the Rosenwald School in in this state.
WALTER WEARE:
Oh, yes. You mentioned that.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
And W.C. Jackson was president of the Women's College in Greensboro. See, they were state leaders. And I would drive Dr. Moore at nights to have meetings with them. And in what writings they were ever able to find of him, some of them were very direct and not apologetic at all. He didn't try to be a diplomat. It could be because of the amount of white blood that was in him. [Laughter] See, the thing that they say about the master of father of Ben: "He just didn't see how he could make a slave out of Ben. With the white blood coursing through his veins, he just rebelled against it."
WALTER WEARE:
So Dr. Moore might have been assisted in that he was very fair.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, he was very fair, but his hair was not of the quality of a white person's hair.

Page 15
WALTER WEARE:
But when he stood up and spoke directly to white people, they might have reacted differently than if he had been a black man?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, I think the fact that he was fair, and another thing about it: he was a thinker. And he was very logical. When he opened his mouth he had something to say. You know, there are some people who carry on a lot of conversation on just a lot of things in general. Well, he was a philosopher.
WALTER WEARE:
So he would weigh his words?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
And I remember one thing that he said. He said, "Never repeat anything you hear that hurts." In other words, if someone tells you something about a person, gossip or anything, don't repeat it. Repeat it only if it helps.
WALTER WEARE:
Did he have any trouble voting do you think? Did he vote?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Let's see. He died in '23. I don't know whether blacks had started voting in Durham that early or not. I really don't know.
WALTER WEARE:
He ran for office, I know, for county coroner, way back in the 1880's—one of the last times it was possible in Durham for a black to run for public office. But after disfranchisement, after Wilmington race riot in '98, and so forth, it's not clear who was voting. But this is a way of getting us back into politics. And I think what's in the back of your mind when blacks started voting has to do with maybe the Durham Committee?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No. It preceeded the Durham Committee. The Durham Committee followed it and helped give vitality to it.
WALTER WEARE:
What's your earliest memory, then, of this political activity, organizing the community?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, there were a few of the leaders back there who did vote. They were forerunners of the Durham Committee, and this is what gave rise to the Durham Committee. They were what you might call ‘block leaders’, or

Page 16
‘ward heelers’. And they would have a group of blacks that they could influence to vote. And the white politicians, when time came for election, they would always seek them out, and make them promises, and give them some money to get their people to vote, take them to the polls. And the new generation coming along saw that as retarding the progress of blacks instead of improving it.
WALTER WEARE:
Who was in this new generation you're thinking of now?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, James Taylor at North Carolina College, R.L. McDougald—see,R.L. McDougald was very fair; he was often mistaken for white. He worked on Wall Street for a while, before he came back to Durham, before he went to the navy. He was a runner, I believe they call them, a Wall Street runner. You couldn't tell him from not being white. And a lot of people in Durham didn't know he was not white. He joined the navy. I think he joined, because at that time you were drafted to the army. And, being fair, he had no problem getting into the navy.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you think he served in the navy as a white person?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I don't know.
WALTER WEARE:
That would be interesting. Because the navy was the most exclusive.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
That's right. But I know that he served in the navy. And the thing about it, he never would pass for white. When he came back to Durham after his service in the Navy, it was an insult to consider his as white. He made no bones about it any time, that he was a Negro.
WALTER WEARE:
We're talking about the 1920s now?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes.
WALTER WEARE:
We were talking about your experience with Harlem the other day, about the new Negro movement, the Harlem Renaissance. Did that filter down to Durham? Was there a feeling here that something was changing?

Page 17
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Ch, yes. Because you see what was happening: so many blacks, even from Columbus Country, would go to New York. And they would come back on business, you know, the families. And that's one thing, communications, what's going on, by word of mouth, and you see people, and you hear about where they're working and things they're doing: it creats an awareness.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you remember R. McCants Andrews?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Ch, yes. He was the first black lawyer in Durham. First black to practice in the Durham courts. He was a Harvard man. He didn't back up for anything. I guess you've been told that before.
WALTER WEARE:
So he, McDougald—who else would be kind of leading the way?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, Dan Martin, who was one of the employees of North Carolina Mutual, was a most astute politician. Dan Martin, after the Durham Committee was formed, he was heading up the political division of the Committee. The white political leaders always sought him out.
WALTER WEARE:
White political leaders?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes. And the precinct captains and all of them. And the labor unions. And he'd go into meetings of these politicians. And he didn't mind using his profanity. "Damned if we're going to do this" or "Damned if we're going to do that" or "If you want so-and-so, you've got to do this." And the older whites resented it. But the younger whites saw that he could deliver. And that was the beginning of the different groups here. At that time, back in the thirties, the politics in Durham was controlled by a very small group of whites. And the city council was controlled by one man.
WALTER WEARE:
Who was he?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
John Sprunt Hill. You've heard that, haven't you?

Page 18
And employees of his in his diverse businesses would run. And he'd back them financially.
WALTER WEARE:
This is Watts Hill's father?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Young Watts Hill's grandfather.
WALTER WEARE:
Yes.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Watts Hill, Sr.'s father. And then Percy Reid, who was the county attorney, had a large following. And the Bryants were very strong. So you'd have a group of people who more or less determined the politics in this community.
WALTER WEARE:
So Martin would go to them?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
When Martin came upon the scene, there was a clash between him and his group and them. And then an alliance was formed with the later labor union, a coalition. And they began to get more and more power. And then when they got enough power to unseat the county chairman.
WALTER WEARE:
This condition was between the labor union…?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
And the Durham blacks.
WALTER WEARE:
The Durham Committee on Negro Affairs.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes. And they unseated the chairman of the democratic party, and put a younger, more liberal person in.
WALTER WEARE:
Who was that, do you remember?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Leslie Atkins. I don't remember whether he was the first one or not. But he was in the early ones. I think he would be first of the younger breed to become the chairman of the democratic committee.
WALTER WEARE:
Are both blacks and whites in these labor unions cooperating in this coalition, or is it just black workers?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Now, I don't mean that they had one hundred percent cooperation, but by this coalition they got enough of them with the black vote

Page 19
to elect X number of people. The majority, where they got so strong they were able to more or less determine how the election would go.
WALTER WEARE:
The Durham Committee is established in what, 1935?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
1935, I think it was. '35 or '38, but I think it was '35.
WALTER WEARE:
Now you say the precursor to this was people like McDougald, Dan Martin and others?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No, no, no. They were in it when it was formed.
WALTER WEARE:
But in the twenties?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, earlier. Well, you had Buck Waller, who was a black and ran a meat market. And his market was up here on Fayetteville Street. And others up in West Durham area. Spotted around in different areas, who had a following. Businessmen would all go there. You know how people would gather to discuss things. And each one, if he controlled twenty-five or fifty votes, after all. Because the number of people who turned out and voted were not spectacular numbers, at that time. A guy could pick up twenty-five, fifty, or a hundred votes that way.
WALTER WEARE:
Now there's a distinction to be made here between the meat market man and somebody like Andrews.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yeah, and McDougald and Martin.
WALTER WEARE:
The meat market man is a ward heeler who's selling votes.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, the Durham Committee, that was one of its ironclad policies: we're not for sale. We will vote for you if you take the positions that we stand for.
WALTER WEARE:
If there's any one person in the black community who would get credit for the Durham Committee, would it be this man, Martin?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, everybody recognized him as being chairman of the political committee, and they followed his recommendations pretty closely.

Page 20
See, the Committee was divided into subcommittees. They had the political arm, and he was chairman of that political arm. He has stood up in some of these meetings and had some pretty hot clashes with the older heads. I remember one meeting he was in, and one of the older white political leaders—there was some position they were taking on something. Martin was opposed to it, and one of them was for it. And he, Martin, stood up and said, "I'm going to use all the influence I have to defeat it." And this white man made the mistake of saying, "Well, you'd better wait until you get some influence," He didn't know how much he had [Laughter] .
WALTER WEARE:
Martin said this to him?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
The white politician didn't know how much influence Martin had. But when the results were in, he found out.
WALTER WEARE:
When did John Wheeler come to Durham?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
John Wheeler came in 1929. He was here at the time that the Committee was formed. He had been here about six years I guess.
WALTER WEARE:
Was he too junior?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
He was junior. The first chairman of the Durham Committee, if I remember correctly, was C.C. Spaulding. And I think he was followed by R.N. Harris. I'm not sure of that. And then James Taylor, one of the professors at North Carolina College, was chairman for a while. And I think Stewart followed Rancher Harris. And then when Stewart was elected to the city council—now there's a gap right there I'm not certain of. I thought at one time, that M. Hugh Thompson, the lawyer, served a term as chairman of the Durham Committee between Rancher Harris and Stewart, but I'm not sure of that.
WALTER WEARE:
I'll have to ask Mrs. Turner about that.

Page 21
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yeah, but anyway, that was the only break. Because my recollection was: C.C. Spaulding—now whether James Taylor succeeded C.C., and the Rancher Harris, or whether Rancher Harris succeeded C.C., and then James Taylor, and then Stewart, and then Wheeler.
WALTER WEARE:
The person who was the head of this might not perhaps be the most active. C.C. Spaulding, obviously he was too busy.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, he would attend the meetings, and they would have the meeting discussions and they would agree on things.
WALTER WEARE:
But it would be people like Martin.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Who would do the work, do the foot work.
WALTER WEARE:
What about Conrad Pearson?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Conrad Pearson was active.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you remember an attorney named Cecil McCoy?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, yes. Cecil McCoy and Conrad Pearson were the ones who brought the first suit against the University of North Carolina for admission of Raymond Hocutt.
WALTER WEARE:
That's why I mentioned his name. I wanted to ask you about that case, if you could remember that.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, yes, I remember the Hocutt Case. That was written up, you know. They got plenty of publicity on that. And then Hastie, Bill Hastie, came down here, you know, and argued the case. And, man, he was so smooth in that courthouse. All of them had to respect him.
WALTER WEARE:
This is William Hastie from the NAACP?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yessir.
WALTER WEARE:
Can you reconstruct your feelings about this, what it meant to you as a young person in this happening? It must have seemed revolutionary, perhaps?

Page 22
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No, I can't say that I considered it revolutionary. You know, the older people would probably be more inclined. But there's something about youth [Laughter] that's a little more adventuresome, and will take chances. The conservatism is usually amongst the older people, and the liberal thinking is by the young. What's the old saying: ‘Old men for counsel and young men for war’? Isn't there something that goes like that? I think that's at least a truth based on observation. It seems to work out that way.
WALTER WEARE:
Were you seen as kind of a hothead in those days?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No. I'll tell you. You see, there are some people, if they reach a position of leadership, it's something they go and seek, and work hard for it. I don't know where it originated or how it started, or what caused me to do it, but I always had a philosophy, I guess, of going to prove my worth. I'd rather the job seek the man, than the man seek the job? And I guess back of that is a feeling that if the people put you up, you have a pretty good foundation, a pretty solid foundation. But if you, in other words, sell yourself, it doesn't mean that once you're in a position of leadership, you won't assume the responsibility of that leadership. I feel that it takes all kinds of people to make our world to form society. You couldn't do much with all hotheads; we'd always have revolutions.
WALTER WEARE:
How do you think other people saw you in the 1930s?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, during the black boycott—the black boycott came the year after I retired. But I was still considered very influential in the community.
WALTER WEARE:
This is '67?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
'68. And I attended some of the black boycott meetings.

Page 23
And I remember when Howard Fuller was here, and how he was criticized. And I was written a letter by one of the white citizens, wanting me to use my influence to try to get Howard Fuller away from here. This was before I retired. And I wrote back that—I think the illustration I used was that if you have rough edges on a rock, sometimes you have to create friction. Well, take this. If you've got two rough rocks and you want to smooth them, you've got to rub each other together to grind that roughness away. So you have friction. And friction will generate heat. But you must understand what you're trying to do, is to get smooth rocks, for whatever purpose you want them. And the same thing in human relations. Where you have rough situations, if you really want to improve or change it, you've got to recognize that these things must come. I took the position that, where I didn't necessarily agree with Howard Fuller in everything he did and everything he said, and the ways in which he expressed it—I tried to look beyond that. And I guess the bottom line of what I was saying, I thought he was serving a useful purpose. And then I remember later on, Ben Ruffin was one of the leaders of the black solidarity committee. And the white community tried to drive a wedge between Ben Ruffin and me. And it was something they were engaged in. I don't know whether it was UOCI—United Organizations for Community Improvement. You've heard of that? Well, Ben was active in that. And at that time, I think I was still president of North Carolina Mutual. And someone tried to drive a wedge between him and me, and asked him what about Asa Spaulding? Is he supporting it? And Ben's answer was, "Well, Mr. Spaulding has his way of doing things and I have mine. So, let him do his thing his way, and let me do mine mine." Or words to that effect.

Page 24
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]
ASA T. SPAULDING:
And this is repeating again, but to bring it into context, I also spoke my piece about Louis Austin and how people would criticize him and his editorials. I said that I don't agree with every editorial that Louis Austin writes or the position he takes, but I will defend to the last his right to do it, or say it.
WALTER WEARE:
Were there others in the black community that you disagreed with or were sometimes critical of other than Austin or Fuller or Ruffin?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
It wasn't my manner of trying to mold them into my mold, because I thought that they had a role to play and I thought that it was a necessary role. Have you ever had change take place without reformers? And haven't there been changes to take place that nobody would want to go back to the old way? Either group? So I don't know whether it's because of my background, my readings, my exposures, and just my meditation and thinking. But there is a place for everything. We may not always know what that place is, or how important it is, but there's a place for it. You look at nature, out that window there, or that door, and you see those trees growing. And who is it that considers himself wise enough to comprehend the scope of things, and say it should be this way, or, it should be that way, or, this person should be doing that. So I feel that I have a right to my position, and you have just as much right to yours as I have to mine. Now the question is, can we sit down and talk and not both try to talk at the same time? While one's talking, let the other one listen. And if so, then there's a possibility of our seeing eye to eye.

Page 25
WALTER WEARE:
Did that happen? Did you have meetings with men?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Many times that happened.
WALTER WEARE:
Would someone like Fuller take a different position in talking to you than he would take in public, for example? Or Ruffin?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
We didn't talk personally, individually, many times. But at times when we worked together, it was not this clashing going on.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you think that on their part that they were aware of this philosophy?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I think the word would get around as to what kind of person I was, what I would or would not do. I think that. And I think that they understood, because I don't remember any of them overtly, or in the press, attacking me. Louis Austin attacked me once in one of his editorials, and called me some pretty bad names. But it didn't affect my relationship with him. And I always said that"the Carolina Times was one of Durham's true assets, and so was Louis Austin." And I remember when they got ready to honor him, I headed up the group. And I think I personally raised more money for the purse than any group. I think I personally raised almost twenty-five percent of what was raised. And I went to some of the white people, who, at one time, were very critical of him. I wrote a letter. I sat down and I thought it through well. At least I thought so, and evidently did. I pointed out what it meant—and made the statement in there—that regardless of our differences of opinion, when we consider the assets and the liabilities of the changes that have taken place and the things that had been prevented in this community because of the Carolina Times, he was deserving of this kind of recognition. I've forgotten how much we raised, but I think I raised twelve hundred or more dollars for the purse.
WALTER WEARE:
Is there any reason to believe at all that Louis Austin might have

Page 26
known that by attacking you, that he could appear radical on the one side, and you more conservative on the other, and perhaps there was an area of compromise? That is, was there ever an understanding?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, he and I never clashed. Even after that editorial I didn't go and see him and criticize him anything about it. I just accepted it.
WALTER WEARE:
In effect, though, do you think it might have worked that the powerful whites would see this conflict and therefore maybe be willing to settle for an area of compromise? That Austin or Fuller or whatever could keep them stirred up and that they would have accepted more than if they hadn't been around? And that that gave you some ground to work with?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I guess from what you're saying, maybe it raised a question—I don't know. But I'll put it this way. It could be that I was seen as a stablizing influence in the community, by both groups.
WALTER WEARE:
But Austin or Fuller never came to you and said, "Look, we'll raise hell, and then you'll say this, and then we'll get this out of it."
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No. There were never any deals made. That is, between me and any of them.
WALTER WEARE:
This may get us back to the mayoral race. That was 1971?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I think it was. There's one other thing, though, before we go to that. We were talking about Ben Ruffin and things.
I remember UOCI. These were a group of people, low income and so forth, and so on. And they got together and wanted to do something to improve their lot. It was the United Organization of Community Improvement. And they came up with the idea that they wanted to get in business. And what kind of business they could get in. And they decided a grocery store, because all had to buy groceries.

Page 27
And they wanted to organize a grocery store and to raise money. And they needed twenty-five thousand dollars to get an SBA loan. And this was after I had retired. I think it was the first year after I retired. And I was busy at that time; I had gotten connected with General Electric to do some consulting work, and also the Ford Foundation. And Ben Ruffin and Nathan Garrett came to my office to see if I would help by being chairman of the committee to try to raise the twenty-five thousand dollars. If the relationship had been a strained relationship, they wouldn't have come to me for that. And really I didn't feel that I had the time or anything else. Because I had just moved into my office—if I am recapitulating it as it was—and was trying to get lined up and trying to keep my contacts and do the consulting work and all. And had no help; I did have a girl come in part-time, certain days of the week. To make a long story short, I explained to them what my situation was and told them, "I just don't see how I can." And they wouldn't take no for an answer. I didn't say no, you know, but it looked like I was getting there. They said, "Well wait, you just think about it tonight and let us come back and see you tomorrow." And sure enough I did. After they left I got to thinkingabout it. I said now, here is a group of people who are trying to do something for themselves, and they're always criticized for wanting to be on welfare, and never wanting to do something for themselves. And also the charges that have been made over the years that the black middle class, or middle class, forgets those on a lower level, or does not reach down to try to help pull them up. If you get up, you forget about trying to pull them up. I came home and talked to my wife about it that night. The first place, they were going to run it. And in trying to get it set up, they wanted two classes of stock, A class and B class. I don't recall which one was to be the voting stock, but the voting stock would

Page 28
only be sold to the low income people, so that they would always be sure to have control. Well, you know what the reason was for: to elect the directors, officers, and operate it. And those who were sympathetic toward them and willing to make an investment in it, would get the other class of stock. Now, I don't recall now whether or not the one limited to the non-voting stock would be permitted to buy one or two shares out of a certain number, or not. But anyway, there was no way that the low income people could lose control. That was firmly fixed with the limitation of stock. So I talked to my wife about it and we went over everything. You know, thinking about these things and what people would say about it. And I said now, these people need to be encouraged instead of discouraged. And one way to bridge gaps—and this might be an opportunity—that is, coming to me to help bridge a gap in the community. To make a long story short, I decided to do it. And when they came back the next morning to see me, I gave the answer yes. So we went through the rationale of the whole thing. And I arranged—I don't know if it was the next day or the end of the week—for a press conference. The press and the T.V. and the radio to announce the formation of the committee and the purpose of it, and that we needed the twenty-five thousand dollars. And I used as part of my argument that here is a group of people that's trying to do something for themselves. And instead of criticizing I feel that we ought to encourage them. And two things would come out of it. They would either make a go of it, or, if they didn't, they could see how hard it is to operate a business and be more sympathetic to the people and the problems that they have in trying to run a business. So it would be an educational experience. So something good would come out of it. And we had this press conference and we had the stock classes and certificates planned,

Page 29
and set up a campaign. And the T.V. man, white, who came to the press conference bought the first twenty-five dollars worth of stock. He was so impressed with the rationale of the purpose and so on. In other words, whether it succeeded or failed, he would give that as a contribution for the good of it. And instead of twenty-five thousand dollars, I think we actually raised thirty-one thousand dollars. And a lot of people who bought it didn't ever expect any return. Well they didn't, and they didn't expect any. They felt it was worth the effort. And sure enough, they were able to get the SBA loan to either buy the land or lease the land, I've forgotten which now. And they built this store on Mangum Street, North Mangum Street. And had it well stocked. But, in the meantime, Mangum Street had become a one-way street, and it was inconvenient to get in. And most of the black community was on this side of town. There was a black community over on that side, but to run a grocery store, you know, and especially your fresh vegetables and things of that nature. And getting someone who understood the art and science of buying, and cost counting and everything else. Well, it operated for a while, and it never did get to the place where it broke even, and so it went by the way. But they did form the United Durham Corporation and got funding. So out of this UOCI came UDI, and out of that came UDC, United Development Corporation, which now has this tract of land off of Fayetteville Street, with this industry coming in there, the industrial park. So the descendants of UOCI, just like a family tree, it's still going and going well. It looks like it's really going to make a significant contribution.
WALTER WEARE:
The idea is to provide jobs through industry here.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes. So, I have never let differences prevent me from doing a good deed when the opportunity comes to do it.

Page 30
WALTER WEARE:
In the mayoral campaign were there wide and deep differences in the black community over that?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No. I think the only situation there—and I'm guessing, which I don't like to do, because you can do an injustice to people. But I think the people whose full support I did not get was because of their allegiance to Hawkins and commitments to him before I became a candidate.
WALTER WEARE:
This is in the black community?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
That's right. Because I got very good support on the whole, from the black community. And with him getting white votes, how could I have beat him by twenty-six votes in the primary? And he was so disappointed that he didn't come to election headquarters that night.
WALTER WEARE:
After the primary?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
After the election at the primary. See, all the candidates usually meet there and have statements to make. He didn't come to make any statement. It was such a surprise to him, I guess. And the campaign for the primary was kept on a high level. If there was any race issue injected into it, I never heard of it. It didn't surface.
WALTER WEARE:
The fact that he didn't show up, did you ever think deep down that he was capable of that? And we left off talking about this sour note in the closing hours of the general campaign where race did apparently become something of an issue.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes. Well, who injected it or why, but I do know it came out over the radio, three radio stations. "Black millionaire running a close race against a white realtor." And the UPI definitely told me, because I contacted them, they said well they were running it because they "thought it was authentic, that it was true." Because the information came to

Page 31
them from Durham. And I had them all to recant it, but it was at least six o'clock before they recanted it. The damage had been done then.
WALTER WEARE:
As you look back on it, do you think that made the difference in the outcome of the election?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I'm pretty sure it did. Because people are still telling me they're sorry I didn't win. And some of the people who went to the beach and went fishing that Saturday said they were "so sure that I was going to win that they didn't stay here to vote." And when they came back and heard what the returns were, they really "felt like kicking themselves." And these were white people telling me this. They just felt that I was going to win. Whether that's true, or whether it wasn't I have no way of judging. But these were things that were unsolicited by me, and I didn't even know. Because they were not people that I asked, "Did you vote for me?" They just came back and by their own confession, they were surprised and disappointed.
WALTER WEARE:
Was there any other evidence of something being injected into the campaign up to this point?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No. I think it was Wednesday before I found out how much was going on, and how many places he was going to campaign, or those who were working for him were going to campaign. I told you about East Durham, down here, where I got a call as to what was happening down there. And I know that I did not go back to the tobacco factories between the primary and the election. And I know that he and his workers did go back. Either he and his workers, or he or his workers, because I was told.
WALTER WEARE:
You think that could have made a difference?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
It could have made a difference. Because, you know, voters, they feel that if you want their vote, you ought to pay them some attention.

Page 32
And then, a voter can feel that, "Well, he's got it made." I don't know whether they felt that way or not. But you never know what's in a voter's mind.
WALTER WEARE:
If you had to do it over, do you think that was a tactical problem?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, there were things I recognized as weaknesses in what I did between the primary and the election. I could have improved a great deal.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you have any regrets about not winning?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No, because after people came back afterwards, about how sorry they were, and whether or not I was going to run again. I said, "You've had one chance to vote for me, and see what happens. Why should I consider running again?" And another thing: some people also—because I definitely had some people whose word I trusted, especially some of the white voters—said they really wanted me to stay on the Board of County Commissioners. They felt that I was needed there. And that everybody seemed to be happy with the services I rendered, as evidenced by their vote every time I faced an election, whether it was in the primary or the election. Because I did not resign when I ran for mayor. See, the terms overlapped. The county commissioners were elected in the even years, and members of the city council and the mayor in odd years. So I went on back and completed my term. And then later, though, the thing wouldn't die, and people still kept urging me to run again, and it really was more so than it was for the first time. More people were urging me to run again.
WALTER WEARE:
For the same office?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
For the mayor. And it reached the point where I really considered it. And I had a coupon printed in the paper, raising the question: Should I decide to run for mayor? If you would support me, return this form. And they came from all sections and people. And there was so many, 'til I made up my mind to run. But in the meantime, through a medical checkup, it

Page 33
was determined that I had sugar. And I was put on a diet. And I wrote my physician a letter, to ask him whether or not he would advise me to run or not. [interruption]
He had put me on a strict diet.
WALTER WEARE:
This is diabetes?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes, that's right. I was getting along pretty well I thought. But he delayed. He said it bothered him, because he thought if I ran that I would win, and he was afraid that if I did, it might break me down. Because he said he knew what a serious nature I was, and how sincere, and how I took things seriously. This is what he told me afterwards, because I didn't hear from him until I had to call him, because I had to make up my mind, and I couldn't wait any longer, because I had to file the next day. This was on a Sunday that I reached him and asked him for his opinion. He said could he come by and talk with me that afternoon. I think it was around one o'clock or three o'clock, something like that. So he did. He said, "Well, here's why. In the first place, because you are black and would be the first black mayor, you would feel that it was encumbered upon you to solve Durcham's problems." And you know it had its problems. Businesses were moving from downtown and things were going down. And he said, "You wouldn't leave your work at your office; you'd bring it home with you. And I just think that that would be too much and you'd feel, as I said, that being a black mayor, you wouldn't want not to succeed." My wife was sitting in here, right in this room. And I said, "Well, Dr. Johnson, a person's got to die from something. Is there anything bad about dying in service? Couldn't worse things happen?" And he said, "Well, you know, I don't know. If your health failed you and you were incapacitated for the rest of your life, and became a burden on your family, that might be considered." And you know, as I thought about that—because I knew so many people who were in rest homes,

Page 34
[unclear] And I've always said I never wanted to be a burden on anyone—a burden on society or a burden on my family. But he said, "Well now, if that happens, unless you were going to commit suicide, it could be pretty rough." So I said, "Well that's my answer, I won't run." And my wife was so glad. [Laughter]
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]
ASA T. SPAULDING:
So that afternoon I wrote a statement to the paper, saying while I was seriously considering being a candidate, upon the advise of my physician, I would not be a candidate for mayor. I took it to the paper that evening, and it came out in the Herald the next morning. Because the filing date was at noon, I think, that day. So that's what kept me from running. I was going to run. I had made up mind I was going to run, because of the kind of urging that I was getting. And people who had not voted for me before. And people still, until now. I said, "You ought to be ashamed of yourself. At my age now, and you had a chance if you wanted me [Laughter] ." They said, "Well, we've learned a lot since then." Because they haven't been too happy with the kind of leadership that Durham has had. And I did have some ideas in mind. I had established myself well, not only locally, but in the state, and nationally and internationally. And I had contacts that I could've made. Corporate contacts and things of that nature. And I had in mind things that I was going to do, since I was retired and could do it. If I became mayor, I was going to make it a full-time job. And I would be in my office for anyone who had problems—no matter who they were. If they wanted to come and talk with the mayor, they could find me there. Someone that they could talk to. I haven't

Page 35
revealed this to anyone else. And then I had also made up my mind that I would be there at nights, certain nights, so people could see me by appointment—people who were working in the day and wanted to be able to talk with the mayor. They could see me between the hours of seven and nine o'clock at night. And another thing: I was going to take one day, or one afternoon, or sometime during the day, every week to go to some part of the city and talk with the people in that area as to what their problems were.
WALTER WEARE:
This wasn't generally known in the campaign? These were your private ideas?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
These were things that I had made up my mind I was going to do the second time. After I had so many people urging me to do it, and I had made up my mind that I would do it, I began thinking of the things that I would do, and probably the things that would be said during my campaign. And I believe until this day that I could have won.
WALTER WEARE:
Of course if you did those things, your doctor might have been right.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
[Laughter] I believe until this day I could have won.
WALTER WEARE:
What was generally the reaction when you accounced that you wouldn't?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, people expressed their regrets. And a lot of it was hard for me to disabuse even though I gave my reason, which was the reason. I had won in the primary for the third term and withdrew before the election. You know I told you about that because I got these offers from Boston and New York for consulting services. And I knew that if I were going to be a public servant and asked people to support me, I owed it to them to be present to represent them at the meetings, as well as interim. You know, because problems come up between meetings. And that I could serve them.

Page 36
And unless I could do that, it just wasn't fair to the public, to ask them for their support and then let them down. And I knew that this other area offered opportunities to render a larger service and on a broader scale. And between the two that's what I should do. So that's why I did not run in the general election. So that was '68 to '70, '70 to '72. Somehow it seems to me like it was probably '73.
WALTER WEARE:
That you withdrew on the mayoral race?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Because of my doctor's advise.
WALTER WEARE:
Your doctor was the key figure in your deciding not to run. Was there one person who was most influential in moving you to run, both the first time and the second time? Somebody who stands out?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No. Just people on the street would meet me and say it.
WALTER WEARE:
Who called you on the phone: was there anybody who was kind of your closest political advisor?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, there were some of the people who probably would have done more than they did, had it not been that they already committed themseves. See, my mistake in the first election—another mistake I made—was not to have let it be known earlier, or not to have gone to the people. Just like they were about my running for county commissioner the first time. I knew there were hazards, being black. And the current Mayor never would say whether he was going to run again or not. So I wrote him a letter and asked him whether or not he was going to run. And I wanted him to be the first to know that I was considering running if he didn't run. Well, the people wanted someone to run against him. And if the contest had been between him and me, I would beat him. But in the meantime, the whites in particular, as well as the blacks, were tired of the then Mayor. I'm sorry. This part I certainly

Page 37
wouldn't want to come out now. I don't like to use names in things, names of people who are living.
WALTER WEARE:
You want me to shut this off?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes. Well, you already have that part in there.
WALTER WEARE:
[Laughter] Well, maybe you can talk about the general thrust of it without mentioning names if you don't want to.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, you were asking me about people and names and things, it gets you into that kind of thing. [Laughter] [interruption]
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Let it go at this: I have reasons to feel that I could have defeated him. And in the meantime, since Hawkins was involved, and everybody knows he was involved, he knows that he contacted people and had their commitments and I know it, too. Because too many of them told me that. And that's why they would have been willing to support me, if they had known before they had committed themselves. What they were concerned with: they thought they had had enough of the previous administration and wanted a change. They knew that I was a county commissioner, see, and was already on the board. And it never entered their thinking that I would consider switching. And, therefore, as to the choices and possibilities, they felt if there were going to be a contest between the incumbant and a new man, that the only person on the scene—because he was already on the city council—who looked like he'd have the best chance of defeating the incumbant, was Hawkins. And therefore, they told him, if he would run they would support him. Not only in the matter of trying to influence others, but financially. So he not only had the support from the influence, but from their financial backing. Well, you see, that limited my possibilities.
WALTER WEARE:
Did Incumbent answer your letter? You mentioned you wrote him.

Page 38
ASA T. SPAULDING:
He wrote me back and thanked me for writing him and letting him know that if he were running that I would not run. [Laughter] . That's the way he put it. I wrote him back. I said, "In order to keep the record straight, I did not say that if you ran I would not run. I said I wanted to know whether or not you were planning to run, because I would not want to run without your knowing that I was considering it." So I never did hear anything more from him.
WALTER WEARE:
Was he kind of playing a game with you, do you think?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I think he was really thinking of running. He really, up until that point, was thinking of running. And then Hawkins, maybe a day or two after that, went to Incumbent and told him definitely that he was going to run for mayor. And, of course, then Incumbent decided he would not run.
WALTER WEARE:
Did he support Hawkins then?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
If he didn't support him, he didn't support me either. Because he had no reason to want to support me.
You see, where you've been accustomed to white leadership and the premium you put on white leadership. Running for city council is one thing, because you're one among many. But if you're running for mayor, you're running for the number one spot. You're not running for one of six spots.
WALTER WEARE:
It's highly symbolic, isn't it?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
That's right. You're running for the top spot, the one spot. And that calls for a lot of soul searching on the part of the people. Just like when I ran for county commissioner the first time. From the most unexpected sources of whites, to come up tell me very frankly, very openly, "Well, Spaulding, I've never voted for a Nigra before, but I'm going to vote for you." For county commissioner.

Page 39
WALTER WEARE:
These would be white people at all levels? Leaders?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yeah. And from East Durham, textile mill person. So, I think you know when you say textile mill what relationship in the thinking there is. I just mentioned that person, but a number of people who had never voted for a black person before, were going to vote for me. And that had to be true because the polls showed it.
WALTER WEARE:
You think up until the time of the black millionaire smear?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
That turned a lot of blacks off.
WALTER WEARE:
The black tobacco workers, do you think they were in your camp?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
And low income people, and people in housing projects, and things of that nature. Because you see there was already a feeling amongst some blacks that the blacks at one level didn't have empathy for blacks at a lower level. When I say lower, I don't mean the matter of character or anything else, but the matter of income.
WALTER WEARE:
Where was the Durham Committee in all of this? It's no longer called the Durham Committee on Negro Affairs.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, the Durham Committee endorsed my candidacy, but I wouldn't say that everybody in the Committee supported my candidacy enthusiastically because of their previous commitments. As I indicated two or three times, I was late in letting anybody know that I was thinking about running. As I remember correctly now, it was not too far in advance of the deadline for filing time. Without referring to any records and being able to pinpoint it, I think just in looking back, that probably my first contact, or even the letter that I wrote to Incumbent Mayor, might have been about a couple of weeks before the time that I needed to make my decision.
WALTER WEARE:
How influential, in your judgement, was John Wheeler in politics?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Very influential. Because, one thing about it, John was very

Page 40
much respected because of the position he held, too. He rubbed a lot of whites the wrong way, because he would take a position and he'd stand up and defend it. And, you know, I can understand this. If you haven't been accustomed to a thing happening, you know [Laughter] it upsets you when it's done. You don't get used to it. Just like when I walked into that Pullman car that first time. But after so long, you know, more and more, you get accustomed to it. It may not be what you want, but you accept it. There's a long distance between tolerating or condoning, and supporting.
WALTER WEARE:
I suppose it's a matter of public knowledge; I don't really know. Was Wheeler a strong supporter in your campaign for mayor?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I think he was. I would never say that Wheeler would lie about anything. And I think if he was part of a group that would give you his endorsement, that he wouldn't go back on it.
WALTER WEARE:
And he was head of the Committee then.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
There was some debate in the Committee, so I understand. I was not a member of the Committee at that time. I am now, because I'm head of a precinct. When I went to the Committee and asked for its support, I understand they had quite a problem trying to decide what to do. Because they knew Hawkins was running, and yet it was the Durham Committee on the affairs of black people, now what are you going to do? There's a black running for an office and you have no reason for not doing it. Are you going to desert him for a white candidate? I think that had some bearing in its decision to support me. I can't say that was true, but I can see how it could be true. [interruption]
ASA T. SPAULDING:
If there's any record of any of the Spauldings, after the name of Spaulding originated, ever becoming slaves, I have not found or heard

Page 41
of any record of it. So my guess would be—and I guess it's a little stronger founded than just a guess—that when Ben Spaulding was given his freedom, and through his own enterprise was able to accumulate what he did. And as far as we've been able to trace, the rest of the Spauldings were descendants of his. From that time forward they were never slaves. They were free before the Civil War.
WALTER WEARE:
That land base in that area?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
That's right. That probably also supports the statement that I read from the Noble Ancestry about being known as free issues? Because they were never slaves. That was what it was. Does that make sense to you?
WALTER WEARE:
Oh, yes. [interruption]
ASA T. SPAULDING:
"With your record and your standing, why would you waste your time running for county commissioner? Why aren't you running for the state legislature; why aren't you running for congress?" And I said, "Well, first place, my roots go down here. And this is one area that I have neglected more than others." Because I've been very active on the state level, on the national level, and international level. Except in my activities with North Carolina Mutual, wherever it went. But to actually come right down face-to-face, person-to-person, I haven't done it. And just like building a house on stilts, rather than a foundation. Because your basic foundation is your local community.
WALTER WEARE:
Had you been precinct chairman before?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I'd never been.
WALTER WEARE:
But had you been, say, before you ran for mayor the second time—hypothetically—would it have made a big difference?

Page 42
ASA T. SPAULDING:
It would have made a big difference. It could have made a big difference.
WALTER WEARE:
In a sense, you're more active, politically, now, after the fact than you were before.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Because I wasn't politically active at all before, except to go and vote. Because at the time I wasn't mixing my business with politics, because sometimes you can really make enemies [Laughter] —business enemies.
WALTER WEARE:
Before we had this interlude talking about the Spaulding family, we were talking about the mayoral race and about John Wheeler….
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Did you ever see the article I wrote about his death?
WALTER WEARE:
No.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I'll see if I can find a copy of that. But go on with what you were saying.
WALTER WEARE:
There's quite an aura that hangs around him. And, in fact, he was one of the persons they wanted interviewed in this project, and there are three or four people in the community, perhaps, who knew him a long time, and you are one of them.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, he and I were roommates when he came to Durham.
WALTER WEARE:
I was wondering if you'd talk about him a little bit. [interruption]
WALTER WEARE:
You were roommates. And your initial impression? Just your feelings about him, and what you think was the difference he made in Durham? How Durham might have been a different place without him?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Don't I say that there? [Referring to article Spaulding has written.]
WALTER WEARE:
Well, maybe not as fully as if you just talked about it. Let me

Page 43
lead you into it this way: there's the feeling that—maybe a little bit like yourself—that he was a man who kept behind the scenes, did not seek a great deal of public acclaim, yet he was always doing something.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
He was very much out in front, though, and the appointments he got and the positions he served, and connections that he had.
WALTER WEARE:
He never ran for public office, though, did he?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, some people say there was a reason for that. Sometimes you make a lot of enemies, you know, when you're fighting a cause. What's the old saying? When you attack city hall.
WALTER WEARE:
You can't fight city hall.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
And things of that nature. Now I'm not saying this as my opinion, but I'm saying it as an opinion that has been held by some. First, John was somewhat of a proud person. And I think that it's necessary to have some pride or self-pride. Otherwise you won't do anything much. A person without pride, what do you have to appeal to? I'm not sure that John would have been willing to offer himself to the public, to the electorate, if he had reasons to feel that he wouldn't come out victorious.
WALTER WEARE:
And you think that it's unlikely that he would have?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Because he had rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. Because of the positions he took, and would have to take. Even as chairman of the Durham Committee.
WALTER WEARE:
When you first met him in 1929, did you see this in him?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, he wasn't involved in politics. He hadn't gotten involved in community affairs or anything else. He had just finished Morehouse; he came here right out of school. And teller at Mechanics and Farmers Bank was his first job.

Page 44
WALTER WEARE:
But this strength and aggressiveness—if that's the right word?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, it hadn't shown then. Because until he became active in community affairs and activities—and then you see it was long time between the time that he came here, and his becoming chairman of the Durham Committee. Which was really the battlefront for the Negro causes.
WALTER WEARE:
If D.B. Martin, as you indicated, was the man early on, would Wheeler….?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
He made a lot of enemies. Dan Martin would have never run for office. With all of the political force that he had, acumen and all, I doubt seriously that Dan would've ever run for public office, if he'd lived,
WALTER WEARE:
Was Wheeler aware of this? That it was unlikely that he could ever come out ahead?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, I don't know. Because it's hard to tell what a person's aware of, unless you sit down and discuss it with him.
WALTER WEARE:
That's what I'm wondering, if he ever sat down and talked about these things.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, he knew how people felt about him, naturally. Because in conversations and all, the battles and the run-ins that he had.
WALTER WEARE:
Was he contented in that role? Was it true that he was directing things behind the scenes as much as anyone?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I think that definitely that he was, very much. Well, you take the president of the United States—all of them. They'd always send up trial balloons to find out which way the wind was blowing before they went out there themselves. Roosevelt was a master at it. And so have they been all the way down. And Carter has his cabinet members to come out and say some things first—especially if the thing's going to be very delicate. He

Page 45
at least wants to get some feel of the pulse, or which way the wind's blowing before. Because when you come out yourself, and you're the kingpin and all, and you send up a trial balloon and it flops, what does it do to your credibility? And as I have observed, the way people operate, they take it on whether it's from the courthouse to the White House. People always like to send out feelers.
WALTER WEARE:
And you think John ever sent out those feelers?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I wouldn't know, and I wouldn't want to speculate.
WALTER WEARE:
Is it fair to say that without him the Durham Committee may not have become what it was?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Let me say this. Not because it was John Wheeler or anything else, but I think anybody in the role that John Wheeler was in. If he had in mind running for public office, he probably wouldn't take the stand and be as contentious and as tenacious.
[END OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]

[TAPE 3, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE B]
ASA T. SPAULDING:
He likes to succeed in what he's trying to do and where he's trying to lead people. And sometimes, even no matter how much ambition you may have, if you're going to put the good of the public above your own selfish interest, you may have to sacrifice yourself for the good of the public.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you see him as a kind of sacrificial hog, then? In black politics in the South?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, I think that if he was just wholly political and a striver for public office, that he might have been more careful about some things, and positions that he took, than he would have otherwise, because

Page 46
afterall. You see, you can do some things if you're independent that you can't if you're not. And because his livelihood and means of survival was not dependent on being the employee of a white institution—because his support came from the black community. I'm talking about economic support. And his base of his political strength was in the black community. And being a black, too, and if you're going to be worthy, sometimes you have to give yourself for a cause if you believe in the cause. And if you don't do that, then you become a hypocrite, and that soon will show up. So I have no way of knowing whether he inwardly, or had secret ambitions, that were not fulfilled or not. I just have no way of knowing it, because we never discussed it.
WALTER WEARE:
I was really more interested in your assessment of his role and the process of politics.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I think he served a role that was needed and that he was peculiarly fitted to serve it.
WALTER WEARE:
It's a striking point as to how he was invulnerable, to a certain extent from white sanctions, because he had independent financial base. Do you see that as true, in a larger sense, for the whole Committee?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, I think it's not because that. Afterall, his family—he came from a very proud family. I forget now whether his father or his mother was from Kentucky.
WALTER WEARE:
His father, I think.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
And his parents were well-educated. His father was president of Kittrell College before he came to North Carolina Mutual. He always stood well. I don't know how far he could trace his lineage, but back to his parents, and probably beyond that, they were upstanding, straight-forward people. And it was a part of his heritage.

Page 47
WALTER WEARE:
If we look at the Durham Committee, it's been Dan Martin.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
He was the political arm of it.
WALTER WEARE:
And it's been Wheeler, and it's been Stewart. It's been a number of figures who were associated with black financial institutions who did not owe their existence.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No chairman of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People survival depended on the white community, or was on the payroll.
WALTER WEARE:
Political scientists are fascinated with this Committee, because they think that it brought the vote to Durham long before other Southern cities.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
The economic situation here: here you have three black institutions that control over two hundred million dollars in assets in a city with less than fifty thousand blacks. Now, can you duplicate that anywhere? And for years—I don't know what it is now—Durham had the highest per capita home-ownership, black home-ownership, than anywhere else in the nation. Because with these financial institutions and making loans to blacks, when they couldn't get them from white institutions. And had it not been for these institutions here, the home-ownership in this community…Because what happened—I think I told you. When we got to the state of Pennsylvania, no blacks there could go downtown and get more than five thousand dollar loans from any institutions. It didn't matter what security they had. And that was the city of brotherly love, in Philadelphia. When North Carolina Mutual entered there in 1938, right just coming out of a Depression, it set aside a half-million dollars to invest in mortgage loans for Negroes in the city of Philadelphia. Well now a half-million dollars today, with inflation and everything else, doesn't sound like much. But a half-million dollars in 1938, in one city, and for blacks? And we weren't operating in Philadelphia three years before that white market, those lending institutions, began to open up.

Page 48
And for years, way back, blacks in Durham have been able to go to the white banks, and white savings and loan associations, because these other institutions were here, and they knew if they didn't make them, we would. And then, as I was talking to some of the people at Metropolitan and others not so long ago, we were talking about it, going over some of these things. And in these institutions, they had to make loans, or in the eyes of some people at least. Well, in the first place, I can see why the white institutions in Philadelphia didn't, because blacks had not established any credit, or been considered responsible, or able, or would repay those loans. But when North Carolina Mutual went in there, and when they looked at this black institution, and their foreclosure rate, and found that it was no worse than theirs, and in some instances better. Because there was one thing that a black wanted and that was a home. And he would sacrifice a lot of other things to keep the payments up on that home. Well, what's the next step? Either those blacks are smarter than we are, if they can make loans to black mortgage holders and survive. If they can survive on it, we ought to be able to do it, too. So that's what I mean, when you try to measure North Carolina Mutual's worth and its contribution to this country, and to the economy, there's no way to do it. Because it's been an example of what a minority group can do, under a democratic form of government and in the free enterprise system. And when North Carolina Mutual was organized, it was being predicted that the Negro race would soon be no problem, because they'd all be dead. And here comes a group of blacks and organizes a company and builds on these people, whose mortality they thought was going to result in their extermination.
WALTER WEARE:
Now that a lot of these problems have been faced and conquered and are a thing of the past, in part, that is if one sees the North Carolina Mutual as a creature, to a certain extent, of the Jim Crow world where there

Page 49
were not institutions to give blacks services.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yeah, I know where you're leading; go ahead [Laughter] .
WALTER WEARE:
What's the future of this institution?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Who knows what the future is of any institution? I'll say what John Conner said.
WALTER WEARE:
Secretary of Commerce?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes. I was looking at that statement. It was in one of those things I brought down here. He spoke at the luncheon banquet.
WALTER WEARE:
When was this?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
At the dedication of our home office.
WALTER WEARE:
In '66?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes. [Searches for document. Spaulding reads.]
"The Secretary of Commerce, John Conner, in his address referred to the dedication as a'proud moment to the citizens of Durham, for North Carolinians, for Southerners, and for all Americans, especially for our Negro citizens. For we dedicate here today a house that they built. And from the beginning they built their house upon a rock.' The Secretary continued, ‘This great company has been tested. It has weathered two World Wars, a major Depression (when a lot of white companies failed, when the banks were closed by Roosevelt; only two banks re-opened in Durham, and Mechanics and Farmers bank was one of them; and other whites had to be reorganized), numerous recessions, and worst of all prejudices and discrimination as ancient as civilization itself. It not only has weathered every storm and overcome every handicap, each time it has emerged stronger than ever. It was built through the faith of the policyholders, no less than through the faith of the active workers in this organization.’ Secretary Conner concluded,

Page 50
‘So we meet here today to honor those who are serving their fellow men and the nation through this great business organization. When there was little opportunity, they made opportunity; when there was little hope in the world, the found abundant hope in their hearts; when there was little faith in their ability, they developed faith in themselves. These people and this company are a symbol for all the world of what free men in free institutions can do in a free and democratic society. They have added not only to the stature of America in the world community of nations, they have added to the stature of the human race. Man can stand taller for their actions."’
Now unless we are ready and willing to admit that the present generation of leadership at North Carolina Mutual are less competent than their predecessors, then we have no cause to have great concern about its inability to weather the storms of the future. I know that situations are different and all. But none of the people who organized it knew anything about life insurance. People were predicting that the company would fail. And it would have failed in that first year, had these three men not taken the money out of their pocket to pay that first claim. The crisis came. Because their integrity, their determination, and all of the other adjectives you want to use, was such that they were not going to betray the confidence of their policyholder by failing to pay that beneficiary. And that was a turning point in this company. I don't know whether it was my last report to policyholders, or the one before that, that I referred to the fact that North Carolina Mutual had to make brick without straw. But they did it. Sometimes necessity is the mother of invention, if you have the kind of people with it. Whether or not future generations are willing to make the sacrifices. See, one thing about North Carolina Mutual, and the attitude of the generations that have gone before, they were more interested in building an institution

Page 51
than they were in building themselves. The question might be raised whether or not we find much of that attitude today, or whether everybody wants to get rich quick. Up until through my administration, we always bragged of the fact that North Carolina Mutual had never made any millionaires. Some mutual company people tried to encourage some of them earlier, or raise the question why they didn't have a stock company. Lookat the surplus. That fifteen or twenty million dollar surplus—whatever it is—a few stock holders would own it. But the officers and directors of North Carolina Mutual don't own any more of that surplus than any other policyholder does, in proportion to the amount of insurance they have. Now whether or not, in this kind of age, that those who are entrusted with the safe-keeping of this institution—they have better education; they've been to better schools; many barriers have been knocked down; a lot of blood, sweat, and tears has been put into that.
WALTER WEARE:
But isn't that the point, if the barriers are no longer there, if one no longer has to be up against it, is it possible to keep that same level of dedication?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well the thing about it is, if you have the stuff in you to want to build, to build for people. But if you're thinking only in terms of yourself, no, you're not going to do it. And I can't foretell whether they're going to do it. I think they have as good an opportunity—and it should be better—to survive some of the things that those who'd gone before had to come through.
WALTER WEARE:
But isn't there kind of a dilemma? If America changes so that race becomes less an issue?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, if race becomes less an issue, why shouldn't North Carolina Mutual have more white policyholders?

Page 52
WALTER WEARE:
Then at some point it would lose its ethnic identity?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, now, you were talking about would it survive as a company. Whether it will survive as it is ethnically, I can't give you an answer to that.
WALTER WEARE:
I was thinking about this interesting situation with the black colleges in North Carolina. Do you see any parallel in that?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
That's what I don't know. There's a stage in history for everything as it is. And as those stages change, it no longer serves a purpose. Some organizations that were ever so essential during their day and time, and probably without them, you'd have a different civilization than you have now. There have been many times when the question has been raised on whether the NAACP had served its usefulness, its day and generation. But the NAACP still seems to find something to do, although it's had more difficulty getting financed. As far as the need for its services, it still seems to be. And the same thing with the Urban League. If I could believe that people are innately good, and always strive for the higher good, and that the majority was going to do that, I would have one view. But I find, as I go back through history, and look at the number of people being killed in Iran today, and how Idi Amin's atrocities are there, I agree with the man who said, "Man's inhumanity to man makes countless millions mourn." Human nature, does it change that much? We put on a certain veneer in our civilization and all, but when the chips are down, when a person is threatened, what do they do? Go right back to that beast.
WALTER WEARE:
So you think that the Mutual is kind of a social institution among things like the Urban League and NAACP that will have to be evervigilant?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
You've got to justify your position. And I don't know but

Page 53
that's how it should be. If you can't justify your existence, what are we here for? To make a contribution? I see two kinds of religion that people can have, only two. One is the rake religion and the other's the pitchfork religion. The person who is raking everything to himself is self-centered. Me and my wife, my son, John, and his wife, us four and no more; it doesn't matter what happens to anybody else. And the other is willing to share. He's willing to scatter, and it'll come back to him after many days. And I think not just in North Carolina Mutual is it concerned about its future. I think any institution that can't justify its existence. I know that's probably not the kind of answer you want, but I don't know any better answer to give you. Because really, I think what happens to North Carolina Mutual is going to be determined as much by the kind of leadership it has, as the kind of circumstances with which it's confronted. You know they had a picture on Broadway, a stage play. I didn't get to see it; I was on my way to another and happened to see it up on the marquis: "Don't bother me I can't cope." Well now, I've never been a person to feel that I can't cope. And if I had been, there would have been many times when I'd have just thrown in the towel. Because anyone who has a defeatist attitude, he's defeated before he begins.
WALTER WEARE:
And yet you're not too optimistic about the future, are you?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes. I'm optimistic about the future. Because I look back over civilizations. And I think I mentioned this: a lecture at the University of Michigan. If you draw a chart, you'll find that whether it's in the economy or in civilizations or what, it moves in waves, ups and downs. Sometimes it's pretty steep, you know, and all. But if you draw a curve through those waves, as I see it, it's constantly moving upward rather than downward. We have a more humane society today than we had hundreds of years ago.

Page 54
We didn't have Social Security; we had county homes or poor houses. We didn't have social services; we didn't have a lot of things that we have. Despite all of man's meanness and all of his cruelty and everything else, he's constantly striving for something better. And I think there are forces at work that make that thing so. You can oppress and suppress for a period, but sooner or later the cries of the oppressed are going to be heard by somebody. And that was driven home to me more clearly when I stood on Red Square in Moscow and was told the story of the peasants. All they were asking for was a little lightening of their burdens. And instead of listening to their petition or anything, the order was given by the czar to shoot them down. And they were just massacred; blood ran all over that Red Square there. And before it was all over, he had to leave in a nurse's outfit to escape. Well you see, what happened, this thing was building up, building up, building up, and therefore it gave them an opportunity for a cause. What did he have, other than an appeal to a suppressed people, an oppressed people? And Friday, you know, I think we were talking about Iran, and the Shah and all of his army, his elite army, his billions of dollars, his power. Three years ago, if anyone had told you that a bearded-faced man with no army or anything could topple that dynasty, would you have believed it? I know I wouldn't have.
WALTER WEARE:
The United States government didn't believe it.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
So when it comes to this matter, after all. The downfall of people and nations is caused by their own doings.
WALTER WEARE:
What do you think about the economy at large? What do you think about the free enterprise system?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, I look at it this way. And I know what I'm about to say

Page 55
now is pessimistic, and yet it doesn't mean it's the ultimate. But let's just look at it. If we are not smart enough for it not to happen to us, I can see the Russians bleeding us militarily, economically, and every other way, to the point—and where inflation is like it is and all—they can just sit on the sidelines and keep problems going everywhere. And we're bleeding ourselves to death. Khruschev may have spoken wiser than he knew when he said, "We're going to bury you."
[END OF TAPE 3, SIDE B]

[TAPE 4, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 4, SIDE A] [text missing]
ASA T. SPAULDING:
And this person said, 'Oh that isn't anything; don't worry about that; that isn't anything I can't take care of." And because he had confidence in this person, and knew him, he no longer was worried. And sure enough, it wasn't anything, and he straightened it out. I don't know what it was, some problem. And another thing; I guess this has some relevance. A man at a sawmill had something to be fixed. And he sent for a mechanic to come and fix it. And he just took his hammer and hit two or three places and listened to the sound and all, and checking a few things. He had a wrench and a hammer, and sure enough he found where it was, and he tightened a bolt, then told him to try it now. And it worked. He went away and he sent his bill, twenty-five dollars and fifty cents. The man asked him to itemize it. He said, "Fifty cents for tightening the bolt, and twenty-five dollars for knowing which bolt to tighten." [Laughter]
WALTER WEARE:
In this matter of change over three-quarters of a century, in the twentieth century, the technology obviously is something.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, yes. Technology is responsible for more people being in

Page 56
the mental institutions, I think, than we have any idea. Our technological age.
WALTER WEARE:
On the matter of social change, what would you tell those grand-children, things they take for granted now, like technology? Like going to a restaurant and eating, and travelling across the country and staying in the Holiday Inn or whatever. Is that the most dramatic part for your generation, in changes in race relations, or what?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I'm sure you know it's hard for a person to put himself in someone else's place and say what to them. Because when you live through a thing, see, it's gradual. And just how you're affected is one way (different) from being catapulted into something suddenly. Whatever it is. The matter of being shocked and not being shocked depends upon the suddeness of it. And just as I said, one reason parents can't communicate with children is the age gap and technological gap and everything else. Well there's the social gaps. I think Norman Cousins put it this way, "Man has exalted change in everything but himself." He still wants to abide by the old status quo, old way of doing things. Technologically we've advanced so rapidly and man adjusts, or changes his attitudes, so slowly that you have a misfit, out of joint. Attitudes can't adjust as rapidly as the technological age requires it to. So you find people going off into drugs and off into all these other things. They're looking for escapes, something to break the monotony. They're floundering; they don't know; they can't find themselves. Because of their environment. It's so sudden, so complex.
WALTER WEARE:
Would you have believed, though, in the nineteen fifties, well let's say even in the nineteen sixties that within ten years that some of these barriers would break down? Little things: being able to eat and go to theatres?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes, well I'm sure of that. Just like I said, three years

Page 57
ago, we wouldn't have thought, nor would our government have thought, that what we're faced with in Iran would have happened. It's the same kind of things, just on a different scale, on a different level, different area. These things happen so fast that people can't appreciate changes taking place.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you take those things for granted now? It's been not even a quarter of your life. When you walk in the Jack Tar Hotel now, do you still find yourself thinking about a time when you couldn't do those things?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No, I'm passed on to thinking about something else.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you think that whites have changed that rapidly, too? That is that everybody takes it for granted now?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Oh, I think most of us, in the matter of public accommodations now. Especially those of us who are not provincial, who haven't been anywhere and haven't been exposed. I'm sure there are some people—some of these public housing things of that nature—whose world is still that small.
WALTER WEARE:
But in general would you agree that the so-called civil rights revolution, what it used to mean: integration, that that's behind us, and that we're looking to something else now?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Now you ask me questions that I don't have any thought-out answers to, and I'm just reacting, responding without any thought as to whether it makes any sense or not.
WALTER WEARE:
That's the way I want it.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I'm not so sure what we want.
WALTER WEARE:
Well the problem is not integrating at Woolworth's now.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I think you asked me what we want next.
WALTER WEARE:
What do we need next? If the civil rights movement is over and yet there's not equality.

Page 58
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I think we need to search out the things that are universal, as to time and place, and circumstances. I think we need to do as much of that. Because those are the things we're going to have to adjust to. And those are the things we're going to have to come back to. We say truth is relative. Well, yes, truth is relative. But I think there is a truth that is static, and that's what we're searching for. We haven't reached it. There's so much we don't know. We talk about all that we've learned. And there's some people who say there's more yet to know, than all of the books and everythings else that have passed. And you hear people talking about there are more scientists alive today than during the whole past. It just means, I don't know what there is out there that's yet to be unfolded. Jack Kennedy was talking about putting man on the moon. He said in ten years. And I was down there on Cape Canaveral to see Apollo 11 take off and land on the moon. And Neil Armstrong to get out and walk on the moon. "One giant step for man", what was it? Anyway. Fifteen years before that we didn't even have the concept of wanting to put a man on the moon. We didn't know what we wanted. But in the unfolding of things—I guess what I'm saying, without being a Darwin—things evolve. We either have evolution or revolution. Sometimes if evolution moves too slow we have revolution. If it moves too slowly. But I think that things have to change.
WALTER WEARE:
To bring us back to a very mundane level—I talked about the business community with you a moment ago—is it still possible for a black child in America to move up through the ranks? Is this American Dream still aviable one?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I thought you were going to ask me, is it possible for a black child to become president of the United States.

Page 59
WALTER WEARE:
Well, what do you think?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I don't think it's impossible. Now the difference between possible and probable. Fifteen years ago, you wouldn't have thought that Andrew Young would be ambassador to the United Nations. I guess there are contradictions in a good many of the things I've said, and it's because we're not capable of being omniscient enough to be consistent.
WALTER WEARE:
I'm just wondering, as the old racial barriers have fallen, that at the same time there are structural barriers there that have nothing to do with race, that make it more difficult for people to move up than it might have been in an earlier time—now this is just speculation; I want you to react to it. So that you get a situation where people can be locked into the bottom, into these ghettoes that we talked about, but not for racial reasons.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
How do we know that they are locked in permanently? Ten years ago, what was our attitude toward the Arabs? Did we consider them significant as a nation? Did they know what they had? Did they know that they could bring America to her knees, an industrial complex to its knees? Did they know that?
WALTER WEARE:
No. They clearly didn't.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
What woke them up? And when it dawned on them, it shocked this nation, didn't it? When that oil was cut off. Our planes go by: oil. Our ships, our military depends upon oil. Our industrial complex depends upon oil. And now we're courting them. Vance goes to Saudi Arabia, Blumenthal goes to Saudi Arabia. That's why I think anyone who attempts to be a prophet today has to be a wiser person tham I am. We can speculate. I think of some of the things I've put in the time capsule at North Carolina Mutual—so obsolete now. And that was, oh, not too many years ago, to be

Page 60
opened in 2000. I'm glad I won't be around when it's opened. [Laughter] For people to see that I was so short-sighted.
WALTER WEARE:
Well, some people see this as a crisis now. That if you could wave a magic wand and remove all racism throughout the land, that there would still be this problem with black persons at the bottom. And it wouldn't be for racial reasons that they couldn't get unlocked.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, I don't know about that.
WALTER WEARE:
That the American economy is not going to be able to accommodate them.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Man thinks he can control everything. But when the floods come and the tornadoes come, and [unclear] through Wichita, Texas, he was at the mercy of the forces of nature. Sometimes I think man has gotten high up, and he's no higher than an ant, is he? And yet he can strut around as though he was God. And in doing this, I don't mean to discredit ego, because I think that is the thing that propels. I guess all that I'm trying to say is there are so many things we don't understand, and so many things that we're wrestling with, and yet it is not a thing to be abhored. Because I think we're all in a developing process. I think we're all passing through stages, evolving into something better, I hope. Look at periods that we have to go through. We have to go through them as individuals; we have to go through them as nations. I don't know what that ideal is, toward which we're working, but I think we all reach it. In other words, I guess I look at the more desirable goals as receding goals, ones that you never reach. The higher you go, there's always something else out there. I put it either Friday or Saturday: no matter what one achieves, or how successful he is, that is not an end, it's only a stopping place for the night on the road, for greater achievements. Because as surely as the

Page 61
day follows the night, there will always be new summits ahead. We haven't reached the ultimate. Now you go back to primitive man, if he could come here today and see what's going on, wouldn't it be a revelation to him?
WALTER WEARE:
It's what was in my mind. I was thinking, say, in 1931, the day after C.C. Spaulding had been beaten in a drugstore in Raleigh, if you had gone to sleep and awakened in 1979, you know.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
That's why I say, this matter of placing limits. And to make predictions, to a certain extent, you may be placing limits. I believe in open-endedness.
WALTER WEARE:
If we can't predict the future of the world, what about the next ten years fo Asa Spaulding?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I wish I knew.
WALTER WEARE:
What are your immediate goals?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
To try to get my autobiography written [Laughter] .
WALTER WEARE:
Trying to get some supper here.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
And hope that it'll be worth the effort.
WALTER WEARE:
Is your health good now?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Pretty good. I'm still going.
WALTER WEARE:
The sugar?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
It's under control. I'm not on any medication. It's controlling by diet.
WALTER WEARE:
If somebody put an ad in the paper saying, ‘please clip out this coupon if you would support Asa Spaulding for mayor’ and they sent those back in, what would you feel about that?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
You know, I stopped saying that I won't do anything. My wife and I often talk about it. People ask me to do this and ask me to do that, and my first inclination and impulse is to say, "No. I feel I've done

Page 62
enough. Don't want to be bothered with it." And yet through persistence or upon reflection I yield. And so many times, those have been things that have brought great satisfaction to me. In looking back over my life, I guess the one thing I could say—and this is a good way to sum it up—I've seen so many steps that have been taken. No matter what the promptings were that caused it. And I've seen so many different places, that has led the chain of events from one thing to another. I've about come to the conclusion that before I refuse anything, that it's got to be the result of more than just impulse. I think of the things that I could've cut myself off from, if I had been too resistant.
WALTER WEARE:
Maybe this is an unfair question, but what's been the most satisfying of all those things that you haven't been cut off from?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
All the things I've done have been satisfying.
WALTER WEARE:
Nothing stands out above everything else?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
I don't know. Because you measure different things by different yardsticks I guess. And it comes back to a sense of values. I said a moment ago, I think, that an act or a deed, you don't know how far-reaching that can be, or the word that you speak to a child or somebody else— you don't know how it will affect his life and the course it will take. I don't measure things in monetary values. It's service. There again, in rendering service, you don't know where it means most. I know people who have influenced my life. Some may have known and some may not have known they were influencing it. That's why I told you, I try not to hold things against anybody. Why waste your time and energy for that? You suffer more than the person against whom you hold it. Isn't this a good stopping point?
WALTER WEARE:
I think it is.
END OF INTERVIEW
1. "Bubbling Brown Sugar"