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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Mary Price Adamson, April 19, 1976. Interview G-0001. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Adamson's role in Henry Wallace's 1948 campaign for the presidency

When Henry Wallace decided to run for president for the Progressive Party, Adamson coordinated his campaign in the South. Following this segment, she describes the important stops they made, the resistance the encountered and the ways race affected their experience. To illustrate this, she relates what happened when Wallace came to Durham.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Mary Price Adamson, April 19, 1976. Interview G-0001. 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

MARY FREDERICKSON:
I wanted to ask you about the Wallace campaign and had a little bit of trouble with chronology involved in the campaign. I wondered when the decision was made that you would head the party in North Carolina and run for governor? Did you decide to step down from your job with the Southern Conference and work full time on the campaign and run the campaign for Wallace in North Carolina?
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
I'll try to be brief about it. Calrk Foreman and Palmer Weber, you will remember that I said it was through Palmer that I got my job working for the Southern Conference . . .I remember quite well that they call me up from New Orleans and said that Wallace was going to make a speaking tour of the South and to see about what kind of support and reaction he would get. He was trying to make up his mind about whether he should run or not. They suggested that since the affairs of the committee for North Carolina were not in a very active point at that time, that I organize that speaking tour for Henry Wallace. Well, I was amazed. I did not have the background and so forth to do a job like that. But here again, "O.K., I'll do it." So, I went off on this and we had large public meetings in Atlanta, in New Orleans, in Louisville and in Norfolk. I think that's all of them and they were fairly successful. What I had todo was to go to all these citiies beforehand and try to get the committees organized to make the arangements and . . . .
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So, you were not at all restricted to North Carolina, you were involved in setting it up for the entire southern campaign.
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
Right, what a mouthfull and how in the world I had the temerity to do it, but Palmer and Clark were not ones to say no to. They had decided before hand that it would be a good idea. So, I went ahead and did it the best that I knew how.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Who would you contact in each of these cities?
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
They, being Southern Conference officials, they had knowledge of people who might be the progressive forces in communities and so they gave these introductions to people in those places who were asked to bring together in the communities the people that they knew who might be in this, that I would be in town on such and such a day and could we have a meeting?
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Do you remember some of the variation in support that you got in different places?
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
When the meetings actually took place?
MARY FREDERICKSON:
No, did the support that you were able to garner in these cities vary considerably?
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
Yes, it varied. The Atlanta one was practically running itself with such a strong base, and the New Orleans one, because by that time, the Southern Conference had its office there. That pretty well ran itself, but then in Louisville, there was a real problem and in Norfolk there were problems about it.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
You said that when you were first contacted, Wallace was trying to decide whether to make the decision to come South or not?
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
No, he was trying to make the decision about whether he would run or not.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Yes, whether he would run or not. Did you have an opinion about that, did you advise him one way or another?
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
My advice was not sought, but . . .I mean, I wasn't in the position to be advising, but I had my own opinion and I was enthusiastic about it because I was very disturbed about the Truman, the Cold War fight and I was alarmed about it, it seemed like facism to me and I had made up my mind against facism, that I would do what I could.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So, you were enthusiastic and hopeful. Did you see it as a long shot or did you see it as something that could happen?
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
I hoped that something could come of it, but if I were a betting person, I would not have put a great deal of money on it, shall we say. (Laughter) But one plays a long shot, I understand that, I'm not a gambler, but you do. (Laughter) The situation was really bad and Wallace had taken an excellent stand in this business between him and Truman and it was quite clear cut as far as I was concerned.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
When did you first have contact with him and meet him?
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
You know, I've sort of forgotten about it, the time that I remember most about it was when we were flying, it must have been from Louisville to Norfolk, we had to spend a night in Cincinnati in travel. With nothing else to do, he said, "Let's go to the movies." So, we went to see the Walter Mitty movie, I remember about that. Then we flew on to Norfolk and we got to Norfolk, we couldn't land. So, we circled the airport for an hour or so and I remember that quite well, his calm and not getting alarmed about this. He acted like a brave soldier. So, those were among my most vivid memories of the personal contacts. Then, in the course of time, I saw him at other times and my name is always for some reason or another, brought in. I was sort of photogenic at that time, not pretty, but I was photogenic and it startled me that so often when there was something about Wallace, there is apt to be a picture in which I am shown.