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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Terry Sanford, December 16 and 18, 1986. Interview C-0038. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

The effort to pass the Speaker Ban

Sanford remembers the procedural maneuvering that took place in the North Carolina General Assembly during his governorship, through which the Assembly passed a speaker ban law. The law appears to have been aimed at preventing a Communist, Herbert Aptheker, from speaking on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Sanford attributes its passage to right wing pressure and Secretary of State Thad Eure's efforts to burnish his credentials as he considered a run at the governor's mansion.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Terry Sanford, December 16 and 18, 1986. Interview C-0038. 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

BRENT GLASS:
I just want to backtrack several years for a minute to ask about the end of your first term of your term as Governor and the passage of the speaker ban law. Thad Eure was quoted as once saying that they caught Terry unawares. What did he mean by that? It seemed like a kind of cryptic remark?
TERRY SANFORD:
Well, they knew very well that I wouldn't permit that kind of legislation. It was toward the end. I think within three or four days of the end of the session. Bill Friday had—who was more directly affected than the governor, and of course the governor only because it affected the universities—Bill had closed shop, all but gone home. I was over in Winston-Salem dedicating a Westinghouse Plant or speaking at a Westinghouse Plant for, I believe, a ceremony relative to accidents or something. Anyway, it was one of those things that you didn't have to go to, but we were getting into a more relaxed season. This would have been in the spring of '63. I came back to find, or might have found out by radio before I got back, that they'd passed, on suspension of rules, a speaker ban bill. Well, I got back and, of course, Bill Friday was all agitated. It turned out that it was totally illegal, the procedure used. Clarence Stone who was a pretty good friend of mine—I had done a lot of things for him—but he was a very reactionary, unreconstructed person who was still fighting the Civil War, a wonderful old gentleman really—was a good personal friend but nonetheless he had… Thad Eure had picked this bill up somewhere. It was part of two or three right-wing bills. One of which would have permitted a Council of State chief justices to overrule the Supreme Court, and another one somewhat similar, and this one. Anyhow, a little package of things that hadn't gotten very far in North Carolina. I think all of them were introduced. This one was introduced and passed on suspension of rules. Well, the suspension of rules means absolutely unanimous. There's no way that bill could have been passed if anybody had objected. Well, who was objecting? Ralph Scott was standing on the Senate floor yelling that he objected. Two or three others were doing the same thing. In other words it wasn't a unanimous consent at all. Then they rushed it over to get it enrolled, which meant that we had to have two-thirds to get it back on the floor. Well, I didn't have any trouble getting two-thirds of the vote in normal times, for anything just about. That had been so all during the session. I wasn't lame duck by any means. Everything we wanted, we got, everything substantial. So I started lobbying around, and here's Gordon Hanes who couldn't possibly misunderstand the implications of this. You've got to remember that everybody was absolutely exhausted. It was a fairly long session. They'd carried out the budget. They'd finally, I think, redistricted congress, or maybe it was the State Senate. Anyhow, they'd had two or three things like that that were very tough. It was a long session, and they were coming to the end of it. This might have been Thursday, and they were going to leave on Saturday, anyhow, that close a time. So Gordon said, "What difference does it make? It made old Clarence happy," and said, "I don't see any reason for going against Clarence." Well, that was more or less typical reaction of people that ought have known better. I remembered Gordon so well because that was a shocker. Now I attempted to twist arms, and we called it back out. We got more than fifty percent but we didn't get two-thirds or whatever we had to have. I think it was two-thirds. So then the next move was both the courts and the accreditation organization, the Southern Association of Colleges and Universities, I suppose, in Atlanta. Saying, all right, we are going to remove from accreditation one thing and another.
BRENT GLASS:
The university system or the university?
TERRY SANFORD:
Well, there wasn't any system.
BRENT GLASS:
That's right.
TERRY SANFORD:
Three campuses. [END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A] [TAPE 2, SIDE B] [START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]
TERRY SANFORD:
In the fall, Kennedy was assassinated. The accreditation was doing whatever it wanted to do. I mean, you know, that was not being all that successful. They hadn't, as I recall, taken any firm action. By that time the gubernatorial campaign was getting underway. There's no way you could have done much about it during that. You could have had a special session but it would have been terribly resented.
BRENT GLASS:
And there were not short sessions back in those days?
TERRY SANFORD:
Oh, no no. You could have called, and ultimately Dan Moore had to call, a special session. But there wasn't much you could do in that winter and spring when Dan Moore and Beverly Lake and Richardson Preyer were running. I don't know that if you'd call that same crowd back to repeal it—except I think that we probably had the votes to repeal it. It hadn't been that big of a flap. They had one speaker come.
BRENT GLASS:
Apthecker (spelling).
TERRY SANFORD:
Apthecker (spelling) set off the campus and that was…
BRENT GLASS:
Was the motivation anti-communism or was it the racial concern?
TERRY SANFORD:
No, I think it was simply—I suspect that Thad Eure at that time still harbored ambitions to run for the governship. I don't think he had as much to do with it as Charlie Daniel and some of the Jesse Helms-type right wingers. Now, I would have to go back and prove that but it was the Jesse Helms, Beverly Lake—probably not Beverly Lake personally, in fact, most assuredly not Beverly Lake personally—but that crowd that were the right wingers. This was part of the right-wing package. Thad Eure bragged to the Veterans of Foreign Wars or something, "This is the arm that wrote the speaker ban bill to keep the communist influence out, and if they'd cut it off, I would have written it with this other arm." Well, that was pure demagoguery. I don't even—and not only that I think he's taking credit for something he—I know damn well he didn't write it. He might have copied it. I'm not even sure of that. At any rate, we cut him off from our private bathroom [laughter].
BRENT GLASS:
In the…
TERRY SANFORD:
Capitol. We relented, however. It was like after the sales tax vote, when John Kennedy of Charlotte hadn't voted right, or maybe it was Hugh Humphrey of Greensboro—good friends of Hugh Cannon's, who had my little back counsel's office, back door to the governor's office, and he said, "John, I'm sorry but you'll have to stop hanging your hat in my office." That's when the Legislature met upstairs.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, that's right, that was before the…
TERRY SANFORD:
Kemp Battle of Chapel Hill had a great picture of Thad Eure with a rakish cigarette holder, Franklin Roosevelt style, that he had hanging in his bookstore there, and he took it down. So Thad got his reward but, of course, Thad was no forceful political figure and never was. A great old gentleman, and you know, again, I'm very, very fond of Thad Eure but that was his worst moment in his whole career. How he got carried off on that I don't know.
BRENT GLASS:
Yeah. That's very uncharacteristic.
TERRY SANFORD:
I would have thought by that time that he had passed beyond the stage of wanting to be governor. I don't know exactly what motivated him.