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Author: Clayton, Eva, interviewee
Interview conducted by Nasstrom, Kathryn
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Mike Millner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2006
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Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2006.
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Languages used in the text: English
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2006-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2006-12-12, Mike Millner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Eva Clayton, July 18, 1989. Interview C-0084. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series C. Notable North Carolinians. Southern Oral History Program Collection (C-0084)
Author: Kathryn Nasstrom
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Eva Clayton, July 18, 1989. Interview C-0084. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series C. Notable North Carolinians. Southern Oral History Program Collection (C-0084)
Author: Eva Clayton
Description: 117 Mb
Description: 28 p.
Note: Interview conducted on July 18, 1989, by Kathryn Nasstrom; recorded in North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Jovita Flynn.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series C. Notable North Carolinians, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Interview with Eva Clayton, July 18, 1989.
Interview C-0084. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Clayton, Eva, interviewee


Interview Participants

    EVA CLAYTON, interviewee
    KATHRYN NASSTROM, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
This is Kathy Nasstrom for the Southern Oral History Program interviewing Eva Clayton on July 18, 1989. I'd like to begin with a general question about family background and if there are particular family or educational experiences you'd like to note here in terms of your interest in civil rights and the commitments that you've shown and the kinds of work you've taken on.
EVA CLAYTON:
Well, let me just say a little bit about my background. I'm from a small but relatively, [by] North Carolina sizes, relatively large community. I was born in a place called Savannah, Georgia. Came from a typical small family. There were only two of us, my brother and myself. My father was in the insurance business, and I gather in some ways, though he was not part owner, he was part of the leadership. He was insurance director for the state of Georgia and had a staff of, I guess it was, 50 people. My father only [had] an eighth grade education formally, but later went on to take his GED and went to whatever they call the insurance institute. So, he's what you call an itinerant business person. My mother, similar situation, was a teacher but never graduated from college. She went to normal college, which was in those days equivalent to a junior college. One of the things that strikes me [about] both my parents is an undying loyalty to one business. He worked for one company for forty-two years. That's something I probably said I wasn't going to do. But also out of that experience both my brother and I both said we were going to one day own that insurance company.

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That didn't happen, but anyhow, that was somewhat of a notion. My father was the kind, gentle, patient, understanding person. My mother was understanding but very demanding, high standards, workaholic, A-type, and probably, if [she] ever had the education, could have been anything in the world she wanted to be. And never doubted for a moment her abilities. Confident and somewhat arrogant, knowing who she was, and that, but for color, she was superior. So I had that knowledge. My mother also had the understanding that her father was white, and she resented that. So in many ways I came with that sort of understanding in my bones [unclear] . Both of them wanted for their children to be [unknown] and both of us did that. At first I wanted to be a doctor——missionary. My ambition was to be a missionary in Africa, and at that time in my life Albert Schweitzer was the hero in my life. He was a genius; he was the philosopher; he was a musician; he was a medicine man and also had a religious . . . You know, if you've got to think of somebody you can be, why not pick the very best? But that soon dissipated. So I went to college, with that kind of preconceived notion which didn't materialize. And I don't think I've lost that too much. I haven't gone to Africa but one day I will, but under different circumstances other than being a missionary. So I think that background and those original motivations are very much there.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Would you recount briefly your post-high school education, the schools you went to and the years you spent at those schools?

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EVA CLAYTON:
Well, I graduated from Johnson C. Smith as an undergraduate with a major in biology and general science. At that time I thought I was going to be a pre-med student. I got married and we came to Durham, and my husband's in law school. While he's in law school, I'm in graduate school in biology and did some research at the University of North Carolina. I was in grad school at North Carolina Central. Had children, and didn't go to school for a while after. I think I finished my master's, it's been so long ago, 1963? I don't . . .
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
1963?
EVA CLAYTON:
I think. And I'm not recalling this, but I think that's true. Then I worked for the University of North Carolina in gastrionology for two and a half years while my husband was . . . We lived in Durham a year after that, too. We came to Warren County and again I taught school in the nearby junior college. It was called Kittrell Junior College at that time. It was a school affiliated with the church that I grew up with, the AME Methodist Church. It's no longer in existence. I got involved in civil rights. My husband was an attorney, at that time the only black attorney in our county. I became interested in law school, so eventually I went to law school. I went a year at North Carolina Central, and then went a year at the University of North Carolina. Had my fourth child, and that was the end of my law career. Those are the schools I attended in between having children.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
As I was thinking about questions for this, I did sense that the time line was that you had more or less gotten out of

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college about the time that the civil rights movement, in terms of sit-ins and protests, got rolling on college campuses.
EVA CLAYTON:
I was out, yeah, I was out.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
But then am I right you were working probably at UNC at that time?
EVA CLAYTON:
Somewhat.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Would you recount what you recall about what was going on with college students at UNC at that point, what you remember from other North Carolina communities, and your perspective on it, having just recently finished college?
EVA CLAYTON:
Although I was involved as an employee at UNC, I don't recall very much, my recollection isn't very vivid as to what happened at UNC. I do recall a little more of what happened at North Carolina Central, the students in the marches and the protests in that area. I also recall when we moved to Warren County . . . The movement takes a while, it goes in waves, and so it may be in the college campus, [then] two years and three years later it's in the communities themselves. In Warren County you were about three or four years behind the student movement. There was a movement in North Carolina called, I can't think of the name of it, it was an adjunct of the NAACP, I cannot think of the name. But they were college kids who worked to free, they called them freedom riders, or . . .
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Are you talking about SNCC?
EVA CLAYTON:
It wasn't SNCC. There was something indigenous to North Carolina. At any rate, we requested for that youth leadership to come to Warren County and they helped to mobilize

Page 5
marches and to inspire and to work with the youth that were involved. So in addition to knowing what the college kids did on North Carolina Central, I was intimately involved with the high school kids who protested the local drugstore, who protested [by] going to the various department stores, or those kind of things. So I served as their advisor. But we also were assisted by this youth organization I can't think of the name of, who assigned two people to come to us and they stayed for I guess about four months. It was the sort of thing young people did more than adults, but adults were very supportive. I was there probably more than many other adults were. But it was clearly a youth driven activity. I noticed your comments about your interest in women earlier. I think women were not necessarily the backbone, but they certainly probably contributed far more of the sustaining power, meaning they were there to provide the food, they were there to kind of be the extra protector. They might not have been actually demonstrating, but you found as many women around that drugstore, around the theater, just to be eyewitnesses if something happened to their kids, or to their neighbor's kids. They were the ones who not only provided the food, the transportation, went to the rallies. Men did that too, but men weren't as present or ever attentive to some of those details as . . . The movement didn't change anything in society, similarly, like anything else that's going on in the South, women tend to details, men don't. That's the nature of the difference, and so it was there, too. There were men who stand out in my mind in warren County in encouraging . . . I

Page 6
think if not for those men, the women probably wouldn't have been as free to do it. They were older men by and large. They were, I guess, the same people who dictate in various churches. My church was outside of that community, but I would suspect they were the same people who were the deacons or stewards or things like that. You had older men and probably all age women, but the older men stand up in my mind very vividly. There was an individual woman who stood out in my mind, just as the epitome of a classic woman who was black. She was in the insurance business and I don't think that had anything to do with me selecting that, since my father was. She had taught school and had left it to go into business, and she stood out as doing something quite different from what women were doing. They either were housewives, or they worked for someone, or they were teaching school, or they were a secretary. Ransom, I think her name was. And I think she was the first person that I knew of that ran for local government that was black. She didn't win, but just stood in my mind as being her own person, as being very independent. She wasn't very well off. Her husband, I think, had been a cabinet maker and he came from a long line of cabinet makers, so there was some distinction about that. In fact, I think there's some architectural significance to the Ransom cabinets, because I think . . . But she just exuded independence, and being her own person.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
I'm interested as you describe this period of the early and middle sixties in Warren County, if there are any particular events related to civil rights that stand out in your mind. In

Page 7
some of the larger communities, people might mention the time when Martin Luther King came and spoke in Raleigh or there's certain dates that are established as important. Is there any particular event or time that stands out in your mind as important for Warren County?
EVA CLAYTON:
Hmm. I think there are several, and I just think people go, as communities go, through stages. I think the period of time, I can't think of the years or the year, when there was so much unrest in the streets, when the young people were protesting. And the powers that be attempted to undermine the protest by trying to deputize the black men who were around who were young. I thought that stood out as being a desperate act, but also it stood out in mind as perhaps the peak of the pressure by the young people. That they were so unable to control the crowd that they had to resort to trying to use blacks to arrest their own children. In fact, my husband was one they approached, and there was a [unknown] he was charged with failure to respond to the deputy's call, or something. Anyhow, it was dealt with in the courts like it should have been, and it was an attempt to frustrate and to demean. That stood out. The other one, I remember——not Martin coming to Warren County——but I ran in 1968, and during 1968, in May, if you'll recall, in 1968 we also had a black candidate for governor, his name was Reginald Hawkins. He had scheduled a big rally in eastern North Carolina and anyone in that particular area was also invited and I had promised to join him and Martin Luther King in Wilson. I was the only person in eastern North Carolina at that time running for Congress, but the

Page 8
real motivation was to have the person running for governor come to eastern North Carolina. Martin had promised to come and to be the speaker, and so that was [unknown]. The impact of that on Warren County I think was significant. I think, indeed, it caused people to recognize how serious the issues were. There are other areas in Warren County, I guess for the purpose of your research, you're focusing on the demonstrations more than you are.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Except for more that I'm interested in what the dynamic was related to civil rights in each community. It might have varied widely. So, actually I'd be curious now about this 1968 period, because that, if I'm right, launched your interest, at least formally, in electoral politics.
EVA CLAYTON:
Yeah, well, my being in congress, is a result of my activism in voting registration. I had four, maybe three or four years, prior to that, [when] my husband and I had helped voter registration workshops throughout the county. And my husband had run.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Oh, I wasn't aware of that. When did he run?
EVA CLAYTON:
He ran for the state house in 1964, probably '65, because you don't run even years. So it was probably '65 and '67, or either '63 and '65, but he had run twice. In fact the first time he ran he was able to call for a runoff. He wasn't a leading candidate, but out of that effort and that participation, I was encouraged to run for Congress. Now I didn't expect to win, but I obviously you run to win. In fact I did considerably better than I ever thought I would have, and probably if I knew all that I know now I probably wouldn't have run. [Laughter] I

Page 9
was really interested in voter registration and they really needed someone, a candidate, to focus that, to get people excited, why wouldn't you take the next step, if you're really committed to voter registration? I learned an awful lot in that process. I think I learned how important symbols were to people. Voter registration in Warren County increased by 25 percent. Voter registration in the second district increased by some 12 percent. It was the highest significant registration increase they've ever had in either the county or the district, even since then. But that still wasn't sufficient enough to get blacks at a local level, or blacks substantially at a regional level. I wasn't alone in running. I indicated there was Reginald Hawkins running for governor, there were persons running for county commissioners in our county and other surrounding counties, [also] school boards. So there was an emerging recognition that political participation was the way if you're going to have equality, that you had to have people in positions to make the decision. Now some of that was successful, some of it wasn't, but I think there was a commitment by the leadership and people did take the risk——yes, I'll be a candidate. Even when you knew there was a possibility that you wouldn't be. I think that was there.
There was, in places like Warren County prior to my running and prior to my coming to the county, just a great outward migration for very good reasons. There's a book called Chickenbone Special. It was about the trek from the south to the North for people to find jobs and a better way of life. The

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event of our running, or other people running, the community found just an outpouring of people expressing hope that one day their communities would be the kind of community where they could come back home. Now, all that hasn't materialized, but the sense of pride that something happened somewhere. So I think, those were some of the expectations and the feelings that were going on during that time. After the 1968 involvement, I indicated earlier that I had to learn a lot and I had gotten involved. My involvement, my desire to want to be a missionary, is continued not in terms of being a missionary, but my involvement in church. I received substantial support both from several interdenominational [groups], as well as some foundations. Groups said they'd help in voter registration. There were sources out there available, there was a need, and we organized something called Eastern North Carolina Development Corporation, I think it's called, EDC, yeah, EDC, Economic Development Corporation, Eastern North Carolina Development Corporation. Out of that we established day cares throughout eastern North Carolina, and some of those day cares are still there. In fact, there's an Eastern North Carolina Day Care Association headed by Alice Ballance and one done in Bertie County and Ahoskie, Battleboro, which grew out of that process, which foundations had given. That was the social end of that. It was harder to get a handle on the economics of it, but that's truly where it is. Politics is the road to improve the economics. That has not happened in the main, but why participate in politics if you're not trying to improve the economics and liveability of the people

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who are there? Surely there needed to be efforts, and there still need to be efforts in working with ecomomic development in that area. I think that's sufficient response to that question.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Actually what you're saying there reminds me of, or several themes that you've mentioned, tie in with what I know about Soul City, the vision of economic development in rural areas and then, if I'm right in saying as the Executive Director of Soul City Foundation, you had more work with the social planning aspects of it, as opposed to the industrial area, the building of the city. Is that right?
EVA CLAYTON:
That's correct. However, there was a time when the Soul City Foundation, because it was a non-profit, could qualify for funds to do some building. The building that's still there was called the Soul City Company. The foundation received funds, built that as what they call an incubator. The notion was that small business would have a place to begin, to nurture, and to support each other, and then would go out into the industrial park and establishments. That never materialized, but the building was built by the Foundation. The company actually built the city and planned the roads and proposed the houses and those kinds of things. The Foundation was responsible for health care, was responsible for the cultural programs in the area, the education, the day care programs, and the one I indicated, the industrial incubator, but that's the extent of its involvement.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
By saying that I may have jumped ahead of the story a bit because I think it was in 1973 that you joined on with Soul City Foundation? Is that the right year?

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EVA CLAYTON:
Yes.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Okay. What about the period from '68 to '73?
EVA CLAYTON:
From '68 to '71, I was still actively involved in the organization that was called Eastern North Carolina Economic Development Corporation, establishing the day care programs and the social programs that we had. And '71 to '73 I was with the University of North Carolina heading up their health/manpower program, which was a consortium of schools located at UNC for the purpose of encouraging minority students to go into health careers. I served as director of that. Then the Foundation opportunity came after [unclear] came to Warren County. In fact, he had come earlier. My husband was involved in identifying the land and the acquisition of that, so we were aware even when I went to UNC that that may be an opportunity. The Foundation opportunity came in 1973, when I joined the Foundation to work with them for a while.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
And what brought you to that position, what attracted you about working for Soul City?
EVA CLAYTON:
Oh, there was a lot to attract us to Soul City. Soul City probably is an idea that is [Laughter] probably still too young, and it's ahead of its time, but it's still an idea that's worthwhile. Oh, it was visionary, it was bold, it had the concept, though not the financial backing as it turned out, to be a stimulus to turn around that kind of a rural area. What you were going to do, you were going to bring to bear, in a rural area, urban types of interactions, economic opportunities, and you were going to put in place facilities for persons to be

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recruited anywhere. You were going to have houses, you were going to have the shops, you were going to possibly have the schools. Soul City was proposed as a new town development that would be located in a rural area. So it first had to carve out what would be those local government structures that it would have. It never became a city, or a town, but the local government structure it proposed was to be a——can't think of the name of it. But it's a limited purpose government, and a limited purpose government allow you to build streets, to do the sewage and do the water. In the meantime, they would work through the county. Well, the dynamics of working at that time, through the county commissions was controlled by, most, well, all men, no doubt about that, because I'm the first woman ever to be there. And all white, and usually older men, who were in the traditional power structure. [They] felt threatened by this, felt that here's this new [unknown] going to spend all this money. they resented the fact that they [Soul City planners] were able to get monies for water and sewage and roads in many instances, when they weren't able, or hadn't tried or whatever. And secondly, didn't believe that blacks could plan anything. But amazingly the community did indeed. The idea was bold enough to attract both white and black, was bold enough to attract extremely talented people. In fact it attracted me, you know, I had no doubt about that. If I look now at the people who went to Soul City, one is now the dean of Mehary Medical School, one was the Assistant Secretary of Commerce here, the person who first came to do the health went back to Cook Hospital, which is the largest

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hospital in the country. So the boldness of bringing health services, bringing economic development, was an idea that was very exciting to a lot of people. The foundations were interested, the University of North Carolina received [Laughter] probably more than the Soul City Foundation did, a lot of foundation money to do all kinds of studies on that. At least three research people who have talked about Soul City, there are books now.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Yes. [Laughter]
EVA CLAYTON:
So the idea's without its equal in a community that was that depressed. However, that experience did teach me a couple things. As bold as the idea is, and as imaginative as you can think you would have in motivating and inspiring, you also need to have a politics and the money. And if you have the politics, I think you can get the money. I don't mean politics in the sense of black politics, but politics in the sense of whoever's in power willing to take that risk. And that was not there consistently, you know, when the pressure got too hot or . . .
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
EVA CLAYTON:
. . . saying that the pressure came and there was not the consistent political support. The pressure came in the form of an audit, a GAO [General Accounting Office] audit that was intense and thorough and humiliating, and all kinds of accusations with that. Didn't find one unallowable cost. They found some areas where they said there could have been [better] management. What Soul City was doing, and the complexity of what it was doing——it was an excellent audit in terms of that. But because it didn't have the consistent political support at the national level and at the local level, the first opportunity to pull the support financially. And that was so tenuous, it was so tenuous on good will and public acceptance. Of course, all business in the long run is related to markets, no question about that, but you need to have a support sufficient enough to try an idea. If it's a new idea, why do you think you're going to be able to implement it overnight? Soul City didn't have the time, it didn't have the consistent political support. It didn't suffer from ideas, it didn't suffer from leadership, it didn't suffer for a need, and, in my judgment, the project is still an economic advantage to our country and it will become even a greater economic advantage to our country.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
By that you mean what has remained behind, even though the city never was built on that land?
EVA CLAYTON:
Right. Although the city itself was never there. You have the infrastructure there that's going to be supportive to businesses in the future. You have the infrastructure there that

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has caused economic development to happen in the whole region. Soul City organized the first regional water system in this state, it's the largest one now. And so Oxford has benefitted, Henderson's benefitted, and Warren County's benefitted, far more than Soul City itself benefitted. In fact, that was the compromise. Soul City came up with the idea of tapping the lake with the water. No one else had thought of that. The embarrassment of that. And what you have to do with the politics of that. It started off with, what makes sense, to bring infrastructure here, rather than create the wealth. So that turned out to be a very positive thing and it continuously has been and will continue to be economic development for the region. Now for our particular community of Warren County, the industrial development that's there——we have Owens Illinois, Nikrecho, I can never think of its new name, it was so quiet last year, its name is Nikrecho, I think. Owens Illinois moved there knowing it had water, it had streets, it was an industrial base. There is evidence it is now serving as an economic incentive to our county.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
I'm thinking too in some ways we've gone a little bit ahead of the story here, too, in the sense that,
EVA CLAYTON:
It's hard for me to live in the past. I wouldn't be doing all the things I'm doing if I had such vivid memories of the past.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
That's why I'm the one with the timeline in front of me. [Laughter] I'm thinking that you left while it was still very much a going concern. Is that right? In terms of your primary

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focus, you left for state government in '75, so all of this in terms of the audit was in the late '70s. If Soul City was still very much a going concern when you left, what was it that pulled you away into state government?
EVA CLAYTON:
It was an opportunity to do something different and I am one open to new opportunities. And I grow by a variety of things and I think that's what makes Eva Clayton unique. And the opportunity was for me to be in the cabinet, or sub-cabinet, of Jim Hunt, and I was offered that opportunity and they asked if I would consider it and I said, yes, and I did.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
And an interest in working with Howard Lee, I take it was part of it, too?
EVA CLAYTON:
Oh, sure, sure. And he was the one that made the offer. Yes, yes. That was a particular delight. Howard Lee in 1972 ran for Congress, and again in 1974. And in 1976 he ran for Lieutenant Governor. And both in '74 and in '76, I worked with his campaign. I also worked in '76 with Jim Hunt's campaign. My husband was the county-wide co-chair during that. So those relationships meant that at least my name was there and some opportunity for a contribution in the providing of services to the state of North Carolina. I thought that as a challenge, you know. I'm pleased that I did it.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
It seems that when I think of what was going on in the Department at this point, a lot of it was, at least from reading the newspapers, very controversial things. The funding of CETA [Comprehensive Education and Training Act] and where the money went and that sort of thing, all of which is documented to the

Page 18
hilt in the newspapers. But I'm wondering if you would, perhaps more looking back on it than on day-to-day parts of it, describe what were important issues in that time for you in terms of what the Department was trying to do, what it accomplished, what it was up against, those sorts of things.
EVA CLAYTON:
It accomplished a lot, but in fact what's controversial is amazing. You do get caught up in the day-to-day, being written about or wondering, gee whiz, what's under the dome today, or what's in the editorial pages today. And CETA was certainly the, I don't know if it was a watershed, but it certainly was the whipping boy. And you know, and I do have some introspection about all of that. I don't know why I should be surprised, but I was. It just didn't work, to make victims of poor folks and black folks. Howard Lee is the Secretary of Natural Resources. What does it have? It has community economic development, and I'm guessing this now, but I roughly would say, at least 50-60 million dollars. You had the Office of Economic Opportunity, or OEO; you had community assistance; and you had housing finance in that area. Those four were under community development, and I served as community development. All the things I love to do, all the things I wanted to do, and was consistent with my missionary zeal. Who are you helping? Where does that money go to? Who are the recipients? Okay. Big money in CETA, big money in CETA, big money in CETA. Money coming down so fast and many times you have to send money back. You're knowing people in natural resources, including land resources, environmental management, and I think maybe

Page 19
recreation. You didn't hear anything about those programs. Parks were going to pot just like anything else, I mean, look at the parks now. Nothing, it's almost like they were silent partners. But community development, you heard a lot about. CETA, so you heard more about that than about housing finance, and community assistance, they were of planners, you didn't hear too much about them. But CETA and OEO, yeah, there was a lot. A lot of press, but by and large that press was about two or three events. And the press is selling papers, I mean, I have journalists who work for me now, you know my niece is a journalist. They are taught to get a story. Success doesn't sell any papers. They won't admit that they try to find the negative, but it's far more exciting to talk about community development under CETA when you have the possibility of the union head having a contract. Probably was nothing wrong with that in the first place, I mean, it was a non-profit organization. What was wrong [was] it wasn't managed well. It wasn't any impropriety on who got it, but it made for good reading, you know. My reflection on that, yes, there was a lot of controversy on that, but gee whiz, do I regret having been in the midst of that controversy? Not one bit. I love saying I looked you in the eye and didn't blink. David Stick is one who has chronicled a lot of stuff about Eva Clayton, and I don't mind David Stick because we know exactly where we stand. He wants to write a story and I want to get the facts right. I don't know what his motives are, but I can tell you he's a very good reporter. He's the one that did Soul City, and I couldn't help believe that part

Page 20
of my popularity in state government was indeed related to my being connected to Soul City. I don't think that was the reason I was chosen, it was just the reason why there was a good press. It makes for good reading. There was a contract made to the foundation which I had headed up. Even I allowed myself to think that there was some conflict in that. Now I know absolutely not there. If people can put money in blind trusts and still participate in housing and million and million dollars . . . The foundation for which I worked, for which I have no control, makes an application for forty-eight thousand dollars and I must not sign, in fact I did not sign. The problem is that I signed the amendments, but the contract was signed by somebody else. But I shouldn't have had to avoid signing in the first place. The things they put a black female, or first time black male, through in proving their worthiness, is just completely unacceptable. What do I remember about that? That's what I remember about that. Not about the controversy. In some ways, I'm not so dumbfounded by the fact that the press would do that, as I am dumbfounded by my not recognizing that it would do that. [Laughter] I mean, what else is new? I guess if I had not been dumbfounded, I would have been so cynical in that process. You know, you would still think, gee whiz, there should be a fair chance for people to do that.
But, what were our successes? We got money out to a variety of communities. We made small grants for water and sewage they would never have had. There are towns that are involved right now that have parks and all. Through CETA funds the state and

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the local units governments got far more of the CETA than anyone else. I don't want to say they supplant it, but they certainly undergird their employment assistance by funds that the federal government had that they didn't have. I think the program needed changing, and I think the program is better than it was then. That was a good experience for me, it was really a good experience, both career-wise as well as human relations-wise.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
It was in 1981 that you resigned, about the end of the year, late November. What were your reasons for leaving the departent?
EVA CLAYTON:
A couple reasons. One is that I didn't think I wanted to do another four years. And the reason I had come to that conclusion——I knew I made a contribution, I had no problems with that, and I must say, both Howard and the governor allowed me to make that contribution. But there were levels of frustration that were unacceptable for me, not necessarily by any one person, just by the nature of the beast, you know. And I guess I've always thought I was arrogant enough, and rich enough, I didn't have to take certain [unknown]. And, I thought I made a contribution, and four years is a good time and sometimes you can overstay. And I had an urge to go into business. I gather if it was easier I might have stayed full term, but I think in hindsight that was a blessing for me to have left that early, just get on about the business of doing . . . I had an interesting story related to me by a person who had to work in the mills during the summer through college, no, the person had to work in tobacco before they went to college, and then while they were in college had to

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work in the mills. And each of those things were so hideous and unacceptable, that reaffirmed in their mind why they had to finish college. So sometimes, when things are not as acceptable to you, it's a blessing. I'm a great believer in the provential guidance of God, and you know, sometimes those things come to test you. Hey, this is a good time to get on about what you're about, anyhow. So it was an opportunity to just move on. It wasn't any direct relationship to any one person. It was just I did not feel that Eva Clayton had to go through any enormous amount of headaches to say, "I made my first, I made first." That's no longer important to me, to be the first. It's factual, I was the first black female that ever was Assistant Secretary in a department of North Carolina. But, to have that distinction, to make a contribution under certain conditions that were unacceptable to me as a person, I'm a person before I'm an official. I live with my own dignity, so it was an opportunity to keep all of that in contact, and still make a contribution.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
And then your next step was right here, to Technical Resources International. And what you've said affirms something that I'd guessed, which is that this has been probably been brewing at least as an idea for some time, [that is] to go about what you wanted to do in a private organization where you could direct and control it.
EVA CLAYTON:
It's no different, however, from what I did in the foundations or . . . It's all about empowering people and providing opportunities.

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KATHRYN NASSTROM:
From your resume, to me that's quite clear, because in each of the things that you've listed the descriptions end up sounding quite similar in terms of the kinds of projects that you've worked on and what your goals are. So then my question is, did you feel that in a private organization which you controlled, you would be able to direct these things a lot more? You would not have the outside forces that come at you in state government or electoral politics, you would have control over what you wanted to do?
EVA CLAYTON:
It certainly was. Not that it always resulted in that, but the motivation was that you have the independence that you don't have in the others. Also I was interested in going in business for the economics of going into business. I was interested in making money. I was interested in demonstrating that economic development could mean that you could demonstrate how you have a business and you hire other people. It's the self-determination. And I think that's symbolic. I think what you do as a person is symbolic of what your community will do, or individuals will do, and I've been honored by a number of persons sharing with me that I have been their model. My striking out has caused other women to do the same thing, or even other men, other small businesspeople, to do that. I haven't made a lot of money, oftentimes I have more debt than I have income. It's not a nonprofit, I can't write it off. But more times than not I have fun, more times than not. I wouldn't be coming from Warrenton all the way to Raleigh, or going all over eastern North Carolina doing what I do if I didn't enjoy it. I'm going to

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change it, though, I'm going to try to work a little smarter, not as hard. I read this book, Passages, you know you go through these passages in your life. I'm not in my less mobile passage, but I am in my more thoughtful passage where you maximize your time and you spend somewhat less energies working on that.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
It's been eight years now, here, is that right? What are the major projects that you've worked on, during these eight years?
EVA CLAYTON:
Hmmm. The ones that probably have been most esteemed financially have been writing applications for local government that would enable them to do community development. I've had larger numbers of those, and in some ways, that has provided them the funds to do the streets, the water, and the housing. The other major type, that's been small businesses, a couple stand in my mind. One, a factory down in Windsor [unknown], which employs forty-five people. They own that factory, and for me to be involved in getting money to expand that. Another was an acquisition of a business up here near the airport which started off maybe about ninety thousand dollars. They had a sale amount of four million last year. Another research area type, I've worked with a number of banks in doing credit need studies. What motivates them to use us in the first place is the CRA, the Credit Community Reinvestment Act, which says that local communities should benefit from banks being in their communities. Are you investing in that community? They engaged us to do credit needs studies particularly around lower-income, because we've been very active in community development and in the [unknown] area. That has been of

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particular interest to me. We've done a lot of that. We've done studies looking at the roles of minority credit unions in rural eastern North Carolina, or doing economic development. More recently we've looked at the effect of Richmond vs. Kroson, the effect of Kroson on affirmative action in the programs in municipalities throughout North Carolina. We just finished that. Those are some of the things we've been involved in. More of our clients are small units of governments, who couldn't afford a planner, or they would be banks who need to have a legitimate entity doing their credit need studies rather than themselves (because they're certainly capable of doing their credit needs), or they've been hiring people other than a research firm such as ours. So we do social research and some special issues in those areas. Those have been the kinds of things we're working on.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
With these eight years under your belt doing this, would you comment on the relative success of doing what you want to do through a private organization versus a large state agency.
EVA CLAYTON:
It's in a different arena. I think I have far more legitimacy among certain people now than I might have had before. The participation at the state level gave me far more visibility. I'm not as confident everyone feels that people that get appointed to head up the, have all the experiences of [unknown]. But I really enjoyed having had the opportunity to make that public contribution to the state agency. I wouldn't take anything from it. The sense I have here, I feel I'm in control. And I'm in a small arena. I'm not statewide and my clients are

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maybe ten or twelve communities and governments, over a two-year period. And we may have five banks that are our clients over another two-year period. So we're dealing with smaller people, but the people we are dealing with, the entities we are dealing with, we feel we are freer to make that personal contribution without the constraint of the political implications of who we help. Now all things have constraints, you know, so we all have to work with constraints. But having had both of them, I wouldn't trade one for the other, but I'm glad where I am. I'm at the right place in my life. I wouldn't say I wouldn't go back to public life, but I think I'm at the right place.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
We've got a little bit of time left, so I'd like you to comment on your continued work in electoral politics, in this case through serving on the County Commissioners Board in Warren County, because it seems that almost exactly as you were coming to do the work here, you were also establishing yourself in that area of politics.
EVA CLAYTON:
Serving Warren County commissioners has been a particularly unique experience. Warren County is a rural county. It has many problems and limited resources. And Eva Clayton has served as chairperson for that, this is six going into seven years. We have made a tremendous impact on that community. However, being a Eva Clayton or having a majority black on the board, does not change the reality that Warren County still has tremendous problems. Local units of governments are facing just tremendous amount of demands, with increasingly less resources to come from the federal government, so they're

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going to have to overburden what is already a limited base to build jails——we're building a jail, we're renovating our courthouse, we're building a new middle school. We had the largest bond referendum ever in our county, ever in the history of our county, because we had so many needs, and the citizens supported it. But we still have to struggle, to try to find how do we increase that base. I think minorities serving at the local level is there, there's opportunity there. I have had that opportunity and I think have made a contribution in that. So I'm pleased about that. Where I go from here, I think that's an open question. I haven't yet decided whether I'm going to run again. I think eight years may be enough, but I would encourage other people to serve at the local level. I think it's an area where you need talented people. Now I don't say that as arrogant as it sounds, but I did bring a certain level of expertise. I've worked in local government, I was a chief planner for the state as the community development assistant, so planning's what I do here. So I'm constantly reading regulations and those kind of things. But there is not enough persons willing to serve on local unit government who have the talent. In fact, in my judgment I'm not personally willing to serve in public positions who have the talent anyhow [unknown]. It's almost as if the talented people say, hey, I don't have to take that abuse, you know, I don't want to get involved. So what happens when that attitude prevails is you are governed by less skillful, less experienced persons when the skillful and experienced people are too busy doing their thing, and walk away. It's uncompensated service.

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Warren County doesn't have the resources to compensate anyone, so you don't go there thinking you're gong to supplement your income, you're really going to lose income, because you're going to have to give so much of your time. But it's an area that needs to be done, and I think it's an area that gives tremendous rewards, because you can see it, you can see it. When that school is built I will see it, when that courthouse is, I will see it. Also, when they don't pick up the trash, I'll see that, and plus everyone knows my telephone number. You get the complaints immediately, but you also get the benefits, I think.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
I see that we probably just have a little bit of time left. Is there anything you'd want to add or elaborate on comments made so far?
EVA CLAYTON:
Hmm. I think not.
KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Okay. Thanks very much.
EVA CLAYTON:
Okay.
END OF INTERVIEW