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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975. Interview G-0023-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Josephine Foster marries Hugo Black

Josephine Foster, Durr's older sister, had all the qualities Durr lacked: grace, softness and sophistication. As a result, she had a gaggle of suitors. Ultimately she chose Hugo Black, a prominent local lawyer with a reputation as a Bolshevik because of his support for the unions.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975. Interview G-0023-1. 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

SUE THRASHER:
What was your relationship like with your sister then?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, very devoted, I just adored my sister. It's a strange thing, I say so often that I thought she was prettier and more popular and my father loved her to death and all, but I never was jealous of her. Maybe unconsciously I was, but I have no conscious memory of it. In fact, I always felt sorry for her. Now, that's a strange thing, but don't you think that I always felt sorry for Sister?
CLIFFORD DURR:
Yes. Ever since I was in the family.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, Sister was a very sensitive person. She had pride and her feelings got hurt very easily and she was very sensitive and just every little thing hurt her. She was very happy in New York and she loved it, she was independent and making her own money and she was with the Navy and having a wonderful time and as I remember, she was just as happy and healthy as she could be. She just adored it. So, it really was a very good year for me, because I did learn a lot. I wasn't particularly happy in my relationship to Aunt Mamie, but I adored Ella Vaughan, her daughter and thought she was beautiful and sweet. It was a very interesting year. But I came home in the summer. Now, Sister stayed on until she was released from the Navy and then she wanted to stay on in New York, she wanted to come home for a visit and then go on back, because she loved, I think, being independent. But that's where my father just used all the emotional blackmail . . .I know that there is a letter somewhere, one of his letters or one of her letters, maybe it has been lost now, where he just put the screws on her. "If you don't come home, I'll know that you don't love me any more. You are the light of my life and I have always adored you and if you don't come home, I'll know that you think I'm a failure, that you think I can't support you." He just used every possible emotional blackmail that he could to get her to come home. Finally, she gave in and came home, which was too bad in a way, because I think that she never was independent after that, because you see, she met Hugo that summer. While he was certainly a great man and adored her, she never was independent after that, she was his wife and she never had a moment of independence after that. He was one of the most powerful characters that she could have married and that's the way it happened. It was very interesting. You see, she came home and she still had on her uniform and he was just out of the Army, you see, he had been a major. And he was a lawyer and a very successful lawyer, a labor lawyer. Then, he made a lot of money and was in the country club and was a very attractive man. He was about twelve years older than she was. He was thirty-five and she was about . . . let's see, I was sixteen, so she must have been twenty-one or twenty-two.
CLIFFORD DURR:
She was about four and a half years older than you, almost my age.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, let's see, if I was sixteen, she would then have been twenty, twenty-one. She was very young still and he was about thirty-five. Anyway, he had just come back from the Army and had been a major and he lived up the street from us in a house with a lot of other bachelors and he would walk by the house every day. He was a great believer in exercise and would walk by the house every day going to his office and would walk back. He always whistled and would bounce when he walked, he had a very bouncy walk and I thought he wasgood looking. Sister did too, I think. And whether she did it designedly or whether it was by chance, one day he saw her and she had on this uniform, this Naval uniform and I must say, she did look absolutely enchanting in it, so he just couldn't wait to get introduced to her. He belonged to the country club and he met her the following Saturday night at the country club dance. That was always the great weekly event, you know. Well, he never stopped until they married. Good God, I never saw a man work so hard in my life. This was the summer of 1919 and he married her in the winter of 1920 . . . wasn't that it? It took him about a year and a half to get her. She was terribly attracted to him, but he was so dynamic and so different from everybody in her family, you know and so different from her and then, he was considered to be a Bolshevik. All the family friends came to Daddy and said, "Oh, Dr. Foster, you wouldn't let your daughter marry a Bolshevik?" You see, he was a labor lawyer and he represented the unions, so all the corportion people, Mr. Forney Johnston, who was the main corporation lawyer and whose wife was a great friend of my mother's, they were both in the Cadmean Circle, oh, Mr. Forney Johnston, and Mrs . . . I know that Mr. Forney Johnston warned Daddy and Mother against having anything to do with this Bolshevik. You see, the Russian Revolution had just taken place and they didn't have the word, "Communist" then, it was "Bolshevik." Which meant anything radical or particularly connected with labor. In those days, if you belonged to a union, you were a Bolshevik. It was a very general term, you see, and nobody . . . it is almost impossible to realize what a struggle the unions had.