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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Robert W. (Bob) Scott, February 11, 1998. Interview C-0336-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Scott's upbringing shapes his values

Scott's professional ethics stem from his "White Anglo-Saxon Protestant upbringing," a young life rich in lessons about hard work and trust. These values made Scott "abhor" anyone who misuses their position, and he offers one example of a North Carolina resident who, shortly after the election, shocked Scott by offering him a bribe.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Robert W. (Bob) Scott, February 11, 1998. Interview C-0336-2. 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

One last thing on the executive leadership that I wanted to talk with you about—we've touched on this some. This is the question of ethics, in every administration. I would assume that most governors come to the position with some idea of what kind of ethics they want to distinguish their term and the behavior of the people that serve during their administration. What I'm interested in is whether you came to office with some kind of an ethical code, and how realistic that proved to be.
Well, I think I did, and I don't think it was such a conscious code; it was just build in, as a part of the value system I had, again, going back to my youth here in the rural community, with the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant upbringing. The work ethic was strong. I expected a person to be as good as their word, and those things that were instilled into me by my parents, mostly by example, some by instruction, by my church and by my community and my teachers. So, yeah, I had that. You know, I didn't weigh every decision. I'm sure those values were in play, but I wasn't conscious of them. I had an interesting experience one time in the governor's office. This was in the early days, when I was beginning to make appointments. And by the way, back then, I think it's still true to some extent today, the governor takes office early in January, and of course his immediate focus is getting ready for the inauguration, the inaugural address, and then when the legislature convenes, the State of the State message to the legislature. And the staff, what they were working on was this appointments business. So a lot of people are coming, saying, "I would like to be appointed this," or somebody would be coming on their behalf. And I had this man who was an active supporter of mine, contributed, I don't know, not a huge amount of money, but—, and was a respected businessperson. And came to me, and—in fact, during the campaign, he was very interested in the highway commission. He had a master plan for highway development in North Carolina, it was a concept he had, as somewhat like—what is it they call it today? The highway plan is the five-year plan or the ten-year plan that they have today. Well, he had one in his mind, and his idea was major corridors here and there [unclear] And he had talked to me about that during the campaign, trying to get me to incorporate the idea into my speeches. After I was elected, he came to talk to me, and I was never so shocked in all my life, that this individual offered me five thousand dollars, cash, if I would appoint him to the highway commission. Now, I'm convinced to this day that he did not do this for personal gain. He lived in the city, and as far as I knew most of his money was in stocks and bonds. But he was really hung up on this plan he had, and he thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. And what he wanted to do was be in a position to implement that plan. He made that offer to me in the governor's office. And I could hardly even respond to the man, I was so surprised and shocked. And I told him that, well, he didn't have to offer me, I was either going to do it or not do it, and I had not made up my mind on who the members of my highway commission were going to be, and I appreciated his interest and understood he was interested in highways in the state and so forth. But when he did that, I knew I did not want him. He sealed his fate right then and there. Now, I'm not saying that to make me look good and all that, but those kinds of things—I abhor anybody who uses a position of power and influence, or who will try to buy that power and influence, for their own good. I fuss at somebody, they can make a wrong judgement about a lot of things, but if they misuse the powers of their office, I don't have much use for them. Also, when a person tells me something, I expect them to try as best they can to fulfill that, even though they may not actually be able to for reasons they can't control. Good faith. And loyalty, I put a lot of stock in loyalty. Going back to your previous question about my appointees, of course, every governor goes through the business of getting a lame duck, at some point in time, and of course in my case that came in my fourth year. And I could sense the pulling away, even by my cabinet people that I had appointed. It got so bad that, I think it was in November or December before my term of office ended, that I called them all together, over in the auditorium of the state library, and closed the doors, and laid the law down to them, if you will, and said that I was going to be governor until my successor took the oath of office, they'd better understand that, and since they served at my pleasure, I didn't care if it was two days before I went out of office, I would replace them. That was in some ways a threat. But I wanted to remind them of that. Loyalty, to me, is very, very important. There have been some who have, in some ways, criticized my administration a little bit, friends who said, "You were loyal to a fault. You were loyal to your people." Well, you do something for me, I'll be loyal to you. I don't mean to sound sanctimonious about all that. That's part of my feeling. And it goes back to this thing about the values and ethics. Hard work—I was instilled with the work ethic, and I brought that to my office. My wife, honestly, in [pause] —no, I guess this was when I was head of the community colleges, later on. She got the staff, unknown to me, together and told them to make room for me to have some rest, some [unclear] , stop running me… They said, "But he's the one—!"
"He's running us", huh?
So the work ethic was strong, and integrity and honesty.