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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 >>

Weighing the personal impacts of holding the office of governor

Scott reflects on some of the personal impacts of holding the governorship, from the effect of his position on his children to his and his wife's desire for privacy. Much of his children's difficulty stemmed from status anxiety—they did not like to arrive at school driven by a chauffeur, for example. As for Scott and his wife, they felt a bit silly being under constant supervision and tired of their social responsibilities.

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

JACK FLEER:
Let me ask you one final question. It's a very personal question. You had five children and a wife when you were in the governor's office. What was the impact of being governor on your family life, while you were governor?
ROBERT W. (BOB) SCOTT:
Well—I should have my wife talk with you about this. But—our children were very young, and living in the governor's mansion—this was an artificial world for them, although they didn't realize it. They were in a position to be pampered-have their every wish looked after, there were plenty of staff and servants, there were not chores for them to do. And they turned out well in spite of that, I'm not sure why. But I know our youngest daughter, at that time, who was kindergarten age, attended kindergarten [unclear] , and my wife happened to walk in on her one day when she was on the telephone in the house, calling downstairs to the kitchen and ordering a sandwich, a chicken sandwich. Well, that didn't happen again, to our knowledge. And she was a young child, she didn't know that wasn't a thing she was supposed to do, because she'd seen me pick up the phone and ask them to bring up some orange juice or whatever thing like that. And it was difficult on them, because they had to go to school—this was in the days of busing and they went to different schools, and the older ones, who went to junior high [unclear] —junior high or middle school, I forget which—the chauffeur would drive them to school, but they hated that. In fact, he would go in civilian clothes; they'd made him park a block from the school so they'd get out and walk. And they didn't want—they would hear other students at the school talking about their parents, because those students had heard their parents talking about it in their homes, "The governor did this," and they would hear on the radio and television and all that. And so I know they heard the negatives. I didn't know it, my wife didn't know it, until really after we'd left the governor's office. Then my son, who walked to school right up the street—the school's no longer [unclear] —which was only about two blocks from the mansion, he was assigned there. But he was like the preacher's kid, he had to fight his way home every day. And he didn't want to go. They had to because of the tension of the time and the security—they had to sign out if they wanted to go spend the night at a friend's, and they would [unclear] , you know, checking to see who this was, a friend of theirs. We had to try to impress on them that we had to know where they would be at all times. We got the wall around the mansion, you know, during my administration. It was authorized during the administration of Governor Moore, but they didn't want to tear up the yard during the inauguration, so the wall was constructed, the gates and wall were constructed, during my administration. Well, the kids, they were always wanting to slip out and go up the street to the Dunkin Donuts place. Somehow they would find a way to get either under that gate or over the wall, somehow, they would slip out at night and go. All this is to say that they had a very comfortable life, and they survived and turned out to be good kids anyway. My wife and I, we both cherish our privacy, and to this day [unclear] today because we cherish our privacy. We've attended all the teas and receptions that we care to attend. I was asked to be—it was very interesting. When I left the governor's office, Elon College was searching for a president—I think I told you this.
JACK FLEER:
No, you didn't.
ROBERT W. (BOB) SCOTT:
Elon College was at that time searching for a president, or getting ready to. That year I was chairman of the board of Elon College Trustees. And they asked me, would I be interested, since I was going to be right here. And I brought up the subject with my wife, and she said, "If I have to stand in one more line or attend one more tea, I think I'll throw my ring out." [unclear] To this day, we enjoy company, and conversations like this are a delight, we relish it. But large crowds, standing up, making meaningless cocktail talk, we avoid it if we possibly can. And it's nice to be able to go into a department store now to buy a shirt or just shopping, the person waiting on me is less than forty years old, they won't recognize me.
JACK FLEER:
Had you taken any special efforts to prepare your children for this sort of public role?
ROBERT W. (BOB) SCOTT:
No. We tried to prepare them for the return to a private role, during the time we were living in the governor's mansion. We were only one hour's drive away from my home here at the farm, and we would come up here, and the children wanted to know why often we came up here every Sunday, and sometimes for a Saturday, we could have some [unclear] . We didn't stay indoors for the entire weekend. And even if Jessie Rae or I had responsibilities, usually it was me, we would try to send the children up here. Because I told them, "These are your neighbors and your friends. These, where we're living now, your friends here, are going to be gone in four years. These are the people that are going to be coming to our funerals, and they will be here to help when the political friends are all gone. So I tried to help them to understand and realize who their real friends were, and that they ought to know [unclear] Just rarely [unclear] —we had been back here, oh, two months, and the minister of our church approached my wife initially about being on some kind of committee in the church or doing something. And she told him, she said, ("I happened to be standing there, I wanted to go through the floor) she said, "So, [unclear] , if I got an invitation right now to sit on the right hand at the Last Supper, if I got an engraved invitation to attend the Last Supper right now, I would decline with regret." [Laughter]
ROBERT W. (BOB) SCOTT:
"If I got an engraved invitation to attend the Last Supper, I would decline with regret." So we were both tired, and we wanted to come back here and be by ourselves. And we always, when we came up here on the weekends, the tension was such—everybody was security-conscious, and the law enforcement people didn't want to just bring us up here and let us have a weekend free. For a while, they had a state trooper parked out there in the driveway all night, the poor guy sitting there in his patrol car—if he slept, I don't know or how he was relieved. Finally I said, "This is ridiculous. If somebody wants to shoot me, they're going to shoot me. But if in doubt, it's not all of you that's going to get shot, it's going to be us or them that gets shot." And so they finally put a highway patrol radio in my bedroom, so that I could call the highway patrol very easily, and they kept troopers—they might not have been sitting out there in the yard, but there wasn't any period of time when there wasn't one here. Well, the first time that things sort of entangled us…