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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Joseph D. Pedigo, April 2, 1975. Interview E-0011-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Romance born out of radical politics

Pedigo describes meeting his wife. Both Pedigo and his wife, Jennie, worked at American Viscose during the 1930s; he did not become personally acquainted with her, however, until mid-decade when she gave a speech in support of inviting African American workers to union meetings. Following her speech, Pedigo began to work more closely with her and describes how they were both among the more radical members of the union and that as a result they became closer to one another. Throughout the interview he often describes how they worked together within the labor movement. Eventually, they were married in 1942.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Joseph D. Pedigo, April 2, 1975. Interview E-0011-1. 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

JOSEPH PEDIGO:
She was in the plant, we weren't married until after she left the plant. I was organizing in Danville, Virginia, Dan River Mills, at the time that we got married. I think that the first time I ever noticed her, she had been recording secretary of the local, but I never paid any attention to her and then out of the clear sky one night, she got up and started off with a long speech … [END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A] [TAPE 1, SIDE B] [START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
… pointing out that there was no scientific difference between Negroes and whites and at that time, we had a Jim Crow local, we had all white and all black local.
WILLIAM FINGER:
She was pushing for an integrated local?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
She was pushing for … she wasn't going that far, she was pushing to invite the Negroes to attend our meeting. This was just out of the clear sky, she had done no preliminary work, she didn't know a thing about local politics and here she was sounding off, shooting the big guns to start with and I was sitting right next to the most respected member of the local, a fellow by the name of Lester Montgomery. Everybody respected him highly and Lester would do anything that I told him to do. So, I whispered to Lester, I said, "When she gets done talking, you make a motion that we receive the delegation of Negroes and I will second it." I got up and moved all the way across the room so they wouldn't connect me with Lester's motion. Well, when she got done, all hell broke loose. For a minute, there was silence and Lester jumped up and made his motion and I seconded it and then you would have thought that we had raped everybody's mother. You never heard such a bedlam.
WILLIAM FINGER:
This was '36?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
This was '35 or '36, somewhere along in there. It was a real knockdown, dragout fight. Of course, she got the hell beat out of her, we all did, the maker of the mtion and myself and everybody else was just howled all over the place. So, after the meeting, I walked up to her and told her that I admired her nerve for putting that on the floor, but, "By God, why didn't you get together with somebody, if you were going to do it, and do a little advance planning?" She was in tears, she didn't know what she was supposed to do. I said, "Well look, for Christ's sake, what we should have done was for somebody to get up and make the motion that you made to start with and then you let two or three other people make a speech and then you come up with that long winded speech of yours after the opposition has shot its wad, then maybe we would have a little chance of getting a few votes. You killed yourself right to start with." Right after that was when we decided to set up a group and start working and we did shortly after that. We pulled our group together.
WILLIAM FINGER:
You never had a name?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
No. We were just a damn bunch of radicals, you know, and local ll, that was the name we had.
WILLIAM FINGER:
How big was the group?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
We would have, I would say, twenty that would be about the maximum. It would average around fifteen people a week. One time, we would meet in a swimming pool in the summer time and another time out in a field and they were often pleasant, social types of meetings. My wife was recording secretary and in an extremely good position to have us know what was going to happen because the local had agenda meetings a week before, five days before the membership meetings. So, five days before the membership meeting, we knew what was going to be on the agenda and we knew what positions we wanted to take there, whether to put anything on from the floor and so on.
WILLIAM FINGER:
So, you were primarily concerned with the policy and strategy within the local ll?
JOSEPH PEDIGO:
Yes, right.