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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 >>

Seeking support from various constituencies

Scott describes some of his constituencies and how he tried to win their support. He met with African American leaders and educators, eventually securing their endorsements.

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

I was going to ask, at this stage, in fact, in most of the history of the Democratic party, African-Americans, or probably at that time referred to as Negroes, were an important source of potential support, although many of them had just recently gained the right to vote through the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Did you make or feel that you should make any overtures to that community in your process of making your decision to run?
Not so much overtures. That particular segment of the rural population would normally gravitate toward me anyway, because of my father, who had appointed the first black to the state board of education, and again, being a populist, rural roads, rural schools, those kinds of things that benefited blacks quite a lot. It wasn't a given, and when we talk about the governor's race I'll talk about that a little more; but I didn't make any particular overt approaches to them, or any other group. Now, when I got into the campaign itself, I did, and I'll talk about that later, as well as to the Greek community in certain [unclear] .
But for example, at the stage of the primary, you not only had Melville Broughton as an opponent, or another candidate, but you had Reginald Hawkins, who was, I guess, the first black to run for governor of North Carolina, in 1968. Did that cause you any concern about the possibility of getting the nomination, with the possibility of some of those votes, maybe a significant number of votes that you thought might go to you because of your father, not coming to you?
Yes, it caused some concern, but in a sense, and I'll have to say this is in retrospect, the fact that you had Reginald Hawkins out there running, and Melville Broughton, that positioned me in the middle. And so there was a feeling then on the part of some of the conservatives, "Well, you know, Bob Scott is not getting all the liberal vote, they're voting for Hawkins." And as you know, there are all shades and degrees of conservatism. And what I tried to do was broaden—if I was going to be in the middle of the road, then I was going to broaden that middle of the road, and crowd the conservatives over closer to that ditch, and the liberals over to that ditch, so that they didn't have much room except for over on the shoulder, and I had the broad center. That's the way it turned out. I'm not sure I had that straight to begin with; it just worked out that way. So Reginald Hawkins' entering into the race did not cause me that much concern. Of course, I would have liked to have had all the votes. I recall that I went before the—this is when I ran for lieutenant governor—the very influential and even powerful black leadership group in Durham, the Committee on Black American Affairs, they called it then, or Negro Affairs, I suppose. Well, you know, this was new to me, and I knew it was customary that the candidates go. So I went before their group, and I remember Nick Galifionakis, who was running for Congress at that time, was also there. And Nick is from Durham, and he knew a little bit about it, so he sort of coached me, and said, "You just go in there and don't try to be somebody, just be who you are and answer their questions, that's the way you're going to be likely to get their support." Well, I went in there, and they called me in and started to ask me questions, how did I feel about this issue, how did I feel about that issue, and I told the crowd, I said, "Well, you know, that doesn't affect the office of lieutenant governor; the lieutenant governor has nothing to say or do about that issue." Most of them were national issues—voting rights, all those kinds of things. And, as it turned out, I did not get their support in the first primary. Now, some of the black leadership in Durham at that time, they were friends of mine, and they wanted me to get the support of that group. But I didn't get it. So, in a post-mortem of that, and before the second primary of the race for lieutenant governor, they said, "Now, you didn't handle that right." I said, "Well, they kept asking me questions about which I didn't know much about and had nothing to do." He said, "That doesn't make any difference. They wanted to know how you felt about it, whether you had any part in it or not, they wanted to know your feelings." The next time, in the second primary, they didn't have a meeting of the whole committee, which was a large group. They had an executive committee. And so I appeared before the executive committee. And the executive committee kind of told me in essence what I ought to say about some of these issues, and they in turn recommended me to the full committee, and I got their support in the second go-round. Cliff Blue got their support in the first go-round, as I recall. But anyway, at some point in time, in the latter part of my term as lieutenant governor, I began meeting and some dialogue with officials of the North Carolina Association of Educators, or Educator's Association it was back then, and other groups like that, particularly them, though. And I met with highway contractors, about roads and all that kind of thing. You know, naturally they wanted more money for roads, and I said, "Well, that's probably going to mean another gasoline tax." And one of the things with educators was, we'd been talking for a number of years about public school kindergartens, and it seemed to me like it was time to stop talking and start doing something about it. So it was out of my discussions with them came the proposal for public school kindergartens. Well, how you going to pay for it? Well, that's when I put the tax on cigarettes, or asked for it, and eventually got it. Because the tax on cigarettes and soft drinks, the reason it was to be two cents, you know—excuse me— [pause] It was to be a nickel a pack tax on cigarettes, no soft drinks involved. That's another story, it would take a little while; if you'll make a note, I'll come back and tell you about that fight. But, anyway, it was to get close to a hundred million dollars into the general fund in order to finance public school kindergartens. And I think we actually got ninety-seven million, or something like that. But that was the beginning of that program, and that was why I recommended a tax on cigarettes.