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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Edward L. Gruber, November 11, 1985. Interview C-0136. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Everett Jordan's leadership qualities

Gruber describes the character and leadership ethics of B. Everett Jordan, North Carolina senator and textiles business leader. Focusing specifically on the ways in which Jordan interacted with his employees at the textile mill in Saxapahaw, North Carolina, Gruber explains that Jordan (and his wife Katherine) were mindful of their employees' needs. Moreover, Gruber emphasizes Jordan's competitive drive. His comments demonstrate his perception of the kinds of leadership characteristics that were requisites for economic success in the textiles industry during the mid-twentieth century.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Edward L. Gruber, November 11, 1985. Interview C-0136. 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. GRUBER:
You see beyond all this Everett was not only a man of integrity; a man with a nice friendly smile; he was not only genial, but he was a very generous man. Everett would go out of his way to be helpful. This Everett did - I think he did this so often it became a part of his life; to go out of his way to be helpful. I know, in walking around through the plants, if he ran into somebody, whether they be black or white, and especially black - Everett, If he knew somebody was having trouble at home, or something like that he would go out of his way to see how he, or his company, could do something to be helpful. You know his wife, Katherine, was just like Everett in that respect. I know she worked hard for the church and for the people in the community of Saxapahaw and there abouts. She took an interest in the people that worked in the plant and if some of the mill hands had problems Katherine would look after a lot of those problems the same as what Everett did. If Everett went home and told Katherine about something she wouldn't forget it. She was a great partner; she helped to contribute to many of Everett's attributes. I believe I'm standing on high, dry ground when I say that because I knew Katherine quite well and I'd seen her take off, maybe looking after some of the sick families - maybe some of the mill families. I think that the two of them worked at it all of their life because you just don't do something like that overnite, or you don't do it on a hit or miss basis. You either do it 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, or else you become a phony, and there wasn't anything - any semblance of phoniness that you could attribute to either Katherine or Everett in their relationship with the people - the mill hands in their plants. Does that answer your question?
BEN BULLA:
Yes.
EDWARD L. GRUBER:
Regarding Everett: His magnetism would attract the best out of almost anybody and everybody. If I said something nicely about Ben, it was because of the magnetism of his father that I said it. I said that Ben was probably the only honest yarn salesman that I ever knew; I probably said it because first of all, his father's personalty commanded respect and commanded honesty, and I would give him an honest answer. That's probably the reason I said it.
BEN BULLA:
Ed, I don't want to inject any sour notes, but so far we have discussed his strong points - any weak points at all? Any you have observed? Did you ever hear any of the competition criticize him?
EDWARD L. GRUBER:
[Long silence] The only criticism that I can recall off the top of my head from any of his competition was that he was one hell of a tough competitor. The reason he was a tough competetor was because he knew the business. First of all he was dedicated to quality; he was dedicated to service. Beyond that he knew the business well enough that I would compare him to Charlie Cannon in knowing the cotton market. Now if you want to call that criticism on the part of his competitors then, yes, they criticized him for being a hell of a tough competitor. He was a tough competitor. Everett was not a "Patsy" He was not a patsy for anybody. You could push Everett just so far but no further.
BEN BULLA:
Did very many people ever push him?
EDWARD L. GRUBER:
You see Everett was so smooth, and so clever that if people were trying to push him by the time they would get done trying to push him, it would appear that Everett was pushing them rather than them pushing him. I mean it.