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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with William Dallas Herring, February 14, 1987. Interview C-0034. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Governor Moore resists involvement in pro-integration decree

Herring describes Governor Dan K. Moore in this excerpt, and perhaps reveals something about the delicate political positioning of southern politicians during desegregation. He describes a historic moment, when the State Board of Education was poised to decree an end to segregation. Moore wanted nothing to do with it.

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

JAY JENKINS:
You're already touched on Dan Moore, very deliberate but a very solid…
WILLIAM DALLAS HERRING:
There's one thing I must tell you about him. We got the final word from the U.S. Justice Department that the schools of North Carolina had to be integrated. It was some kind of form, resoluation number 442—something like that, I've forgotten exactly. The staff people from U.S. Justice were continually coming down there, even from the days of Wade Moody, to tell us that we had to—that we couldn't do this, we couldn't do that. We would ask them what is legal, and they wouldn't tell you. We got this resolution, and I felt it was an historic moment in the history of the state. The State Board of Education had to decree that the schools could not be segregated anymore, anywhere, at anytime, under any circumstances. We were really without authority to make that kind of high policy for the state, and it was out of context. I said, "We must go over and report this to Governor Moore so it will not be said after we sign it that we did this on our own." You know, he was a Superior Court judge, and that was his whole posture as governor. He didn't decide until after everybody else had filed their briefs, and then he said you write the judgment, and I'll sign it. Well we went in there. Pritchett was the senior member of the board and an attorney and understood it. Dr. Carroll was present. I asked both of them to speak to the governor in the presence of the board and tell him the nature of our visit and what we had. Dr. Carroll took the lead, and Pritchett supported him. He didn't say anything. Dr. Carroll repeated some of the same things that he said because the silence became awkward. I felt like saying, "If it please the court, what the hell is your judgment [laughter] ?" He leaned back in his chair, smoking a cigar—if I recall correctly. Dr. Carroll said, "Well, Governor, that's the situation. What is your counsel?" He said, "Gentlemen, it's your problem." That's all he said. It astounded me. I just was not expecting that kind of an answer from him. I don't say that critically, I'm just putting the facts of record straight. We thanked him and got up and left and went back and signed the paper and nobody paid any attention to it, but the Justice Department [laughter]