Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with William Dallas Herring, February 14, 1987. Interview C-0034. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Debate over the purpose of a community college education

This excerpt illustrates the power of the governor to shape community college education in North Carolina. Herring recalls "bootlegging" a liberal arts education into the community college system. After Governor Luther Hodges resisted including anything in community college curriculum that was not strictly vocational, Governor Terry Sanford allowed liberal arts instruction under the guise of technical education.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with William Dallas Herring, February 14, 1987. Interview C-0034. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

I should tell you this about that. We started bootlegging the liberal arts and sciences into these IEC's and Technical Institutes during the Moore administration. It just happened, coincidentally, that Holland McSwain, who was president of Tri-County Tech in Murphy, used to be superintendent of schools in Caswell County, and Ed Wilson 13 knew him very well, and I had known him over the years. 13 Ed Wilson, Sr. of the Department of Community Colleges, former legislation from Caswell. He went up there as the superintendent of schools in Murphy, and then he became president of this institute. He said these mountain people are so far away from Western Carolina [University], it's almost like going to the beach. I forget how many miles. It's almost a hundred miles across some of the most rugged territory in the state. They won't go to Western Carolina. Well, the thing for us to do is to take Western Carolina to them. All that's lacking is a little bit of money. It didn't take much money to pay the mileage of the professors over there to come over here to Tri-County Tech and teach them whatever it is they need to know, if it's college level stuff. They're graduates of the high school, and they want to study some college math, by golly, get somebody to come over here. We'll pay for it. Somebody went and told Governor Moore what I had gone and authorized. And somebody in his administration didn't like that idea at all. I don't remember who it was, the budget people. Dan Stewart 14 was awfully busy—he was the C&D man—heading off things we were doing in community colleges. 14 Former management person with Carolina Power & Light Company, Raleigh, then head of the Department of C & D. He was afraid we were going to convert them to community colleges and leave out the vocational, technical training. I went to see the Governor and told him what we wanted to do. I said, "These people are good people. You ought to know. You came out of the same stock. I know your family from colonial days when Roger Moore settled in Brunswick County and his people trickled all the way up there and hid in the mountains. And now you've come back to be our governor." Kidding him about it. And he agreed that that's the route he thought they took. I said, "Well, what is wrong, tell me what is wrong with teaching a woman that's married—her husband works all day—a little math and getting somebody from Western Carolina to come over. We can get fifteen or twenty of them together and teach them this thing." He said, "Not a thing wrong with it. So ahead." That's where we started it. It enabled us to extend, through the extension idea, the senior institutions working with these junior institutions to get college parallel, liberal arts and sciences. Hodges wouldn't agree to it. Sanford opened the door if we could change the institution to a community college. We got some liberal arts as long as we called it technical English or technical math or technical physics. It was sort of a second rate kind of thing. It was legal to do that. We just had to wait for political and public opinion to catch up with it. But it was really Moore who said go ahead with it. 15 15 Formal contracts were signed for off-campus centers to be located on technical institute campuses but operated by public or private senior institutions, thus creating de facto comprehensive community colleges.
JAY JENKINS:
That's the technical institutes.
WILLIAM DALLAS HERRING:
Yeah. So we did it, and they couldn't stop it once the people got a hold of it. They wanted it. It made too much sense. Well, Bob Scott came in. Bob supported me. He never failed to do whatever I asked him to do in my support of the community colleges. He was a member of the board when he was lieutenant governor. He was criticized for not attending all the meetings. That was a relatively minor thing if he knew what we were doing and opened the doors for us, especially in the legislature. Then Jim Holhouser came in. Jim was, of course, a good man, but he was a Republican. They wouldn't let him do anything. Jim had been in the legislature and knew the ropes and was realistic about it, but he was supportive. And he used his influence to get the people on board to support positions that I was taking about that and public school education.