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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Robert W. (Bob) Scott, February 4, 1998. Interview C-0336-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Governor W. Kerr Scott's work habits

Scott describes the not-so-glamorous life of a mid-twentieth century North Carolina governor. His father "was gone all the time," briefly consulting with his farm employees before his early-morning drive to Raleigh. Scott remembers also his father's habit of meeting his constituents under an oak tree, and the egalitarianism of his community that precluded a special status for him and his family.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Robert W. (Bob) Scott, February 4, 1998. Interview C-0336-1. 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

JACK FLEER:
Now, during this time, when you were in high school and then transitioning into college, your father was serving in public office as commissioner of agriculture, and eventually as governor during that period of time. Was politics a subject of discussion between you and your father?
ROBERT W. (BOB) SCOTT:
No, not at all. As a matter of fact, I'm glad you asked that question, because it's probably something that I can comment on that I think maybe deflates a myth. I was not raised at my father's knee, in terms of politics. He was gone all the time, as commissioner of agriculture and as governor. I remember, as commissioner of agriculture, he would leave out in the mornings at about seven o'clock to drive to Raleigh. That was before interstates, of course, and he drove NC 54, a winding road into Chapel Hill and on to Raleigh. He would meet with the farm foremen and maybe his employees before he left. And then he would get in about six or six thirty in the evening, unless he had a meeting somewhere, which was rather frequent. My mother almost ran the farm; she kept the records and the payroll and all of that. But my dad was not there. Occasionally I would go with him on trips, particularly if he was going to one of the agricultural experiment stations where they would have field days, they would call them, I was free to run around and so forth, but I really didn't go with him much. And we were not close, really, father and son. There was no animosity there, but my mother was the one who was at home, she was the anchor person, and so I was not raised at his knee. And even later, in college, again, he was gone a lot, plus the fact that as a young college student I really didn't want to be around my parents all that much. I preferred living in the dorm. And even when he was governor, except for a couple of summers—summer school, I didn't live in the mansion. I stayed in the dorm. I would go out there once in a while and get me some food, try to get a little extra money, something like that. But I was not that close to him. So the father-son relationship was not that close. Again, no animosity, no problems. He had expectations of me, and I respected and in some cases feared him, as a father. I knew if I didn't adhere to what he believed in, I'd have to answer for it.
JACK FLEER:
From a career standpoint, do you think his expectations were merely related to this Hall Fields community, the rural part?
ROBERT W. (BOB) SCOTT:
That's conjecture on my part, but I would have to say yes. I think he envisioned me taking over the farm. Because his father was a farmer, he was master farmer in the days of Dr. Clarence Poe and the progressive farmer and all that. And farming was a tradition. My father had expanded our farm operation, and when I came back from the service I expanded it still further, in terms of what we were doing. And I was really into it. I thought that was the way I would go.
JACK FLEER:
Around the dinner table, with your mother and your brother and sister, or with other members of the family, or even when your father was at home, was politics ever a subject of discussion of any consequence?
ROBERT W. (BOB) SCOTT:
Not in the family. I'm sure it was with my mother and so forth. But there's eight years' difference between me and my sister, and nine years' difference at least with my brother. So you might say they didn't want to fool with me as a young kid brother. And I didn't care to be around them. I was sort of a loner, in that sense. I had a happy childhood, but I didn't have siblings that I played with, because their interests were different, they were older. Politics was not discussed that much around the table, or else I wasn't paying any attention to it—now, that could very well be. Now, my father had lots of people who would come here, to his home, where I was a child. There was a big oak tree out there, and his friends used to say he held court under the oak tree. What he would do, his friends would come on Sunday afternoon. Now, he took a nap after church, after lunch on Sunday. That was one thing you did not do: you did not wake him from a nap. Along about two-thirty or so, he'd get up, and people would come, and if they came before that, we'd just ask them to wait. They would sit out there [unclear] under that tree, and politics was talked, a lot of it. People came to see him about politics. But again, I was a young kid, I was playing, I didn't know about all this, didn't understand it.
JACK FLEER:
And among your own cohorts who were roughly your age, the fact that your father was involved in politics, was that noted or commented upon?
ROBERT W. (BOB) SCOTT:
Not in the community. We were very democratic in this community, there was no feeling of, what am I trying to say, favoritism or another tier. We were all very much the same. My father was a populist, in a sense. He would get out there and do whatever the other men in the church would do in the community. One of the traditions of our community for years was that, quote, we bury our own dead, end quote. And by that I mean that the men in the community—I don't care what your standing in life was, socially or economically or anything like that—they would gather together and they would dig the grave for the person to be buried. As time went on, of course, that practice was stopped, and they had the professional gravediggers for the mechanical means of digging graves, but when my father died the men of the community came together and dug his grave. That always impressed me, that they would do that, because he was one of their own. When I was in the governor's office, and I'm jumping ahead here a little bit but it relates to this point, it was an hour's drive from the state capital. We lived in the mansion. My children were small. And most Sundays, we came home to worship in this church. A lot of times we'd try to spend Saturday and Sunday here. And I remember one of my children asking about it one time, why did we come up here every Sunday? I said, "This is our home and this is where my friends are. These people will be the ones that will come to our funeral. They are our friends now, they have been our friends in the past, and they will be our friends in the future. There are friends that we have, a lot of them in Raleigh, when we are out of office, they are no longer your friends; they'll be acquaintances." And I've tried to instill that in my children, that this is where your roots are, don't ever forget it, don't ever get, quote, above your raisings, end quote. And I think [unclear] , because all of them are here, except one daughter who's a missionary, and she and her husband are in Africa.
JACK FLEER:
So they continue to live in the community, so to speak.
ROBERT W. (BOB) SCOTT:
They are all within sight, here.