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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Horace Kornegay, January 11, 1989. Interview C-0165. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

North Carolina representative has difficulties balancing family and Congress

Kornegay explains his decision to leave Congress in 1969. Having served as the representative for the Sixth Congressional District of North Carolina from 1960 on, Kornegay discusses the ways in which it was difficult for him to balance the demands of work and family. Arguing that the demands of Congress prevented him from spending enough quality time with his family, Kornegay suggests that his decision to leave Congress was unusual; others tended to leave by "the box"—"the ballot box or the pine box."

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Horace Kornegay, January 11, 1989. Interview C-0165. 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

For the eight years I was there. I was elected and reelected four times - I had a young family and in those days unlike now, they didn't hardly pay you enough to live on - of course they say the same thing now, and I guess it's true because prices have increased substantially - but my family was living down here in North Carolina and I was up there, and we had three young children, and I finally decided that my first responsibility was to my family, my wife and children. As much as I regretted having to make that decision and give up my congressional seat, I voluntarily did that in 1969. I announced in late '67 that I was not going to run so anybody that might be interested in succeding me had an opportunity to get in and start a campaign. I went out of office on January 3, 1969. Several months after I had announced I would not seek reelection to the 91st Congress, Senator Earl Clements of Kentucky, former Senator and former Governor of Kentucky, who at that time was president of the Tobacco Institute in Washington, which is a trade association for the major tobacco manufacturers or for most of the tobacco manufacturers in the country, came to see me and wanted to know if I would be interested in going to work over there. I told him, "No, I wanted to get back to Greensboro and get into law practice." Well he'd keep coming back. Earl had a fascinating way about him; he never pushed you too hard; never hustled you, so to speak, but he had a way of sort of moving up on your blind side. I'd come back during that last session of Congress that I served in. Every time I would come home another group would call on me and say, "Now you be back here, and when Congress adjourns we want you to come back on the board at the church and we want you to get back interested in the Boy Scouts and always somebody you couldn't say no to. They were smart in that respect. I told my wife, I said, "Annie , you know I figured it up today, when we come back here I'll be out for some kind of fried chicken and peas dinner or supper about five nights out of the week. One of the things both she and I were striving for was more time together and more time with the children. I particularly was just hungry almost, for an evening when I could come home and read the paper or look at TV, or talk or play with the children without being constantly interrupted by telephone calls and other things of that sort. When I went to Washington the oldest child was eight and the youngest was one. The older two sort of grew up while I was away in Washington, and that preyed on my mind, and I felt that all the time I was there in the Congress - I told somebody - this may be an over - statement to some extent - some of my friends in Washington who were incredulous that I, at my age of 43 or 44, after having served eight years, would decide to quit. Because the way most people get out of Congress - the story goes - there are two ways to get out and both involve boxes - the ballot box or the pine box, and I had done something that nobody had done in a hundred years almost.I carry a guilty conscience all the time. If I'm with my constituents I feel guilty that I'm not with my family; when I'm with my family I feel like I ought to be with my constituents - that's just the way I'm made up, and the only way I knew to resolve that and lead any kind of a reasonably satisfactory and sane life was to go on back and say that this opportunity - and it was that and I always appreciated it - came to me at the wrong time in my life and I had other commitments that were of equal magnitude in my mind, to me personally. So that's what happened so finally I agreed to stay up there and go with the Tobacco Institute.