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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Lloyd E. Griffin, August 20, 1982. Interview C-0135. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Role of the North Carolina Citizens Association in the election of Willis Smith to the United States Senate

Griffin discusses the election of Willis Smith to the United States Senate over incumbent Frank Porter Graham in the senatorial race of 1950. Although Griffin does not explicitly identify the North Carolina Citizens Alliance as the arbiter of Smith's election, he does indicate that "friends" of the Alliance were integral to Smith's victory. His comments are demonstrative of the power this coalition had over political processes in the state.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Lloyd E. Griffin, August 20, 1982. Interview C-0135. 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

BEN BULLA:
If I understand it right, The North Carolina Citizens Association was largely responsible for Willis Smith going to Washington. Is that correct?
LLOYD E. GRIFFIN:
Well, there's a long story connected with that but Willis Smith went as a Senator to Washington with the right much help he got.
BEN BULLA:
From the Citizens Association?
LLOYD E. GRIFFIN:
Well I won't say the Citizens Association [laughs] .
BEN BULLA:
You're very modest.
LLOYD E. GRIFFIN:
But anyhow, I was on his side and he won out over Frank Graham. Do you know how that happened?
BEN BULLA:
No.
LLOYD E. GRIFFIN:
Frank Graham's wife's folks live right down this street here, and naturally they participated. Most everybody in Edenton figured that Frank Graham was going to win, but there were a lot of people around Raleigh that didn't care whether Frank won or not, so they wanted somebody to run against him. Willis Smith was interested in going to Washington, but he did not know whether he could win or not without a big campaign and a whole lot of money being spent. So after the campaign had been going on for some time Willis got out and campaigned around about and became encouraged, but he still wasn't convinced he was going to win. So a lot of things happenend - I could see a lot of what was going on from my windows up in my office. What happened was: The Graham folks were so confident that they were going to win that they had the machinery all set up to take his picture to announce his having won so it would be in the next morning's paper "Frank Graham Wins - Willis Smith Defeated" - but before dark came - looking out of my window - those folks had so persuaded Willis Smith that he couldn't win that he sent for the secretary, down at the Sir Walter Hotel, to come up there so he could tell him that he wasn't going to run. Well Everett Jordan was sitting there with me looking out the window - I'm not real sure it was Everett - I'd better not say that - but anyhow here came the fellow out of the Sir Walter Hotel, going up to Willis Smith's office to get his release that he wasn't going to be a candidate any longer. We saw him going up there and we saw him slowly coming back. But - in the meantime some other folks got hold of Willis Smith and said, "Now look, you are going to run. We are going to put you in!" And he didn't know what to do or say so he leaves his office and goes home. Meantime these fellows go around to Willis Smith's home and told him, "Smith you are going to win this thing. You get in it right now and you are going to win." Willis did not know what to say but he finally agreed to get in it. So these folks went back around to the hotel where the machinery was all set up to take pictures but no picture was taken. Why? Because Willis Smith had not turned loose of the material to show that he had gotten out of the campaign. In other words he was going to run. Of course not many knew about it - still no announcement that Frank GRaham had won - so the newspaper boys were wondering what in the Sam Hill had happened and who in the world was causing Willis Smith to run. But Willis started running, made a winning campaign, and won as you know. And I saw it - I was looking at it.
BEN BULLA:
The folks who changed Willis Smith's mind were from the North Carolina Citizens Association weren't they?
LLOYD E. GRIFFIN:
I won't say it was the Citizens Association - I would say that many of them were friends of the North Carolina Citizens Association.