Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Mack Pearsall, May 25, 1988. Interview C-0057. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Benefits and disadvantages of globalism in North Carolina

Pearsall again notes the distinction between his and his father's view of the agricultural business. Pearsall predicts that North Carolina will become blacker and poorer with the economic downturn in the farming industry, but he remains hopeful that improvements to higher education will yield increased upward mobility and better opportunities for the state's residents.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Mack Pearsall, May 25, 1988. Interview C-0057. 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

WALTER E. CAMPBELL:
How do you think your father would have felt about the changes? Would he be glad to see that it's become more industrial and less agricultural, or would he have liked to have had that balance throughout with more of a concentration on, probably, agriculture, do you think?
MACK PEARSALL:
Well, I think he was more interested in the improvement of the lot of mankind than he was in any one specific industry prevailing. He had the philosophy that eastern North Carolina had been very good to the Braswell and the Pearsall families, and that there was a responsibility on the part of the families to return some of that reward that we had reaped from it. And I think you find that manifested in the fact that he convinced my two aunts and my mother to give the two hundred acres for Wesleyan College as a part of that being a new dimension for this area in terms of livability and opportunities for higher education. We can talk about Wesleyan College cycling through now and what it's going to do for this area, and I think that if he were here today, he would be very pleased with what he would see in terms of industrialization, and he probably would like to see more of it so more people could have an opportunity. He would be very excited about the arrival of Dr. Les Garner here at Wesleyan College and Les' new mission to be a catalytic force in helping eastern North Carolina move from where we are, which is in some form of a transition into a global economy where our dependence on agriculture is getting even more threatened with the potential demise of tobacco. The worldwide competition for agricultural products would have run contrary to his theory. He was a great believer in Malthus' theory that the population grew geometrically and the capacity to produce grew arithmetically. I think that is a philosophy that he and I differed on because I observed the technological revolution that was taking place both within this country in terms of productivity and what was taking place elsewhere in the world. He kept believing that there would ultimately be world wide famine, and that, for that reason, the farm community would be able to coalesce in a manner that would allow it to gain a better return to its investment. That has never taken place in my lifetime. I don't believe it will. I think we're even going contrary to that now because there are antagonistic elements even within agriculture, you know. The cow people want low corn prices, and the corn people want high prices. But that was a philosophy that he had. He tried to imbue that into me, you know, Malthus, Malthus, Malthus. There would be this great famine and worldwide, and the prices would go up, and we'd get an opportunity. But that hasn't worked, and I'm convinced it's not going to work. And for that reason, I'm moving out of agriculture because I don't have that psychic commitment that he did. I don't derive that psychic enthusiasm out of it that he did. It's nice to go out and walk around on the farms but it doesn't help to put anything on the table unless you're interested in lifestyle only. I think it is noteworthy and interesting that a recent Wall Street Journal an article came out that talked about the split-level economy in the southern part of United States. And it talked about two recent publications, "Shadows over the Sunbelt" and "Half Way Home and a Long Way to Go." In that article it made the very clear point, and I don't have to go far to the east of where I'm sitting to prove that point, that for years we had a group of short-sighted leaders who wanted to keep low taxes and limited government. They were people who owned land who basically were in those elected positions or they controlled or influenced the people who were there. And they didn't really step out front to try and create a new economic dynamic for the next generation. And there are areas of eastern North Carolina that are now suffering badly because of that lack of farsightedness. The Branch Bank just did a study that shows that out of the forty counties in eastern North Carolina, twenty-five of them are going to get blacker and poorer in the next twenty years unless somebody turns it around. This is a mission that Les Garner has chosen for his college, to do something about the plight that faces eastern North Carolina...