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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Edward L. Rankin, August 20, 1987. Interview C-0044. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Importance of leadership in the success of the Pearsall Plan

Rankin reiterates his position throughout the entire interview that strong political leadership was central to the success of the Pearsall Plan. He again stresses how the Pearsall group had a difficult task in front of them, in terms of the necessity of mediating being different groups such as the schools, segregationists, and those who supported integration. The manuscript to which he refers the "Transcript Session on the History of the Integration Situation in North Carolina, Saturday, September 2, 1960 in the Governor's Office at the State Capitol" and is referred to throughout the interview.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Edward L. Rankin, August 20, 1987. Interview C-0044. 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

EDWARD L. RANKIN, Jr.: From the manuscript, here's a quote from Paul Johnston dealing with an overview of the complex situation facing Governor Hodges and the Pearsall Committee: "We were just discussing the whole basic problem here, and I once outlined this thing for Tom Pearsall in a little diagram, and it lends itself to a pencil drawing. But in words it boils down to this. We found ourselves in a position of segregated schools with a populace that was, at least for the most part, determined to keep them segregated, and with a decision that was going to be binding on all of us and insisted that they not be kept segregated. That was our present position. We knew that any lawyer or right thinking layman with decent legal advice and honest legal advice, as the Pearsall committee members were getting, must conclude that eventually, not when or how, but eventually, there's going to be some Negro children in schools now exclusively white. That had to come about because of the force of national public opinion, the effectiveness of the decree. Now given those two things, of where we were and where we knew we had to come out, the question that remained for us was how to get from where we were to where we had to come out and not disgrace ourselves. Of course, a very important factor in that, in order to do so, this is the key of the leadership part, in order to do anything to get from present status to future conclusions, you had to maintain control." That's basically it. Paul stated clearly the importance of positive leadership. Hodges and Pearsall understood that, you see, somebody had to do something. The governor says, "I accept responsibility. I'm working with the Pearsall Committee. We are making these efforts." At the same time, from all sides the bombshells were coming in, threats to his political leadership. How do you maintain political control of a tense situation where we are working toward a solution, and we hope to find some solutions, and we'll do all these things? We are telling the school people, we're going to save the schools. We are telling the segregationists that you're never going to have to integrate. We'll work it out. You're not going to have to send your kids to school with blacks if you don't want to. Yet at the same time, move constructively toward the future where integration was inevitable. It's an incredible set of circumstances. When you look back at it, it's almost miraculous that it worked out as well as it did. I think that's what makes it such an interesting episode in North Carolina history. I would say to historians who have the advantage of assembling all available facts and intrepretations, this should be a very valuable document because it's factual. It's what these five "insiders" wanted to leave for the record, and their comments are based on their own personal knowledge. I don't mean that all the facts are there. It's not the whole story by any means but the manuscript, I think, reflects their best recollection of what they were trying to do, and their great gratitude at the end that it did work out to the benefit of our public schools and the people of North Carolina.