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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 >>

Family responsibilities and Hugo Black's political career

As the economic conditions in the South worsened, Durr's parents fell deeper into financial trouble. She and her sister coordinated to help supplement their needs as her brother-in-law Hugo Black continued his political climb.

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

So we lived with Mother and Daddy for another year or two and then Cliff was getting awfully impatient to get to himself. He was making more money down at the law firm and had been made a member of the firm, but Mother and Daddy were just harder up than ever. But then Sister and Hugo came home and they were going to stay a year in Birmingham because he had to run for the Senate again in '32.
He had just completed his first term?
Just completed his first term. So what they did, they gave us a chance to move and then they took over the house on Niazuma where Mother and Daddy were. All of this had to be done with the greatest sort of lack of conversation because both Daddy and Mother hated to admit that they were just getting dead broke. So, it all had to be done as sort of a favor that they were doing for Sister and Hugo to let them stay in their house. Everything always had to be surrounded by all kinds of protection to save their pride because they really both just had this terrible feeling of failure and shame at losing everything that they had. In the meantime, I had had an extremely bad miscarriage. The situation at home worried me and I had had a very difficult miscarriage. I had had the flu and then I had had the miscarriage shortly thereafter. But Cliff and I were just delighted to get on our own and we bought a little house not far from my mother's, in the neighborhood, a darling little house. So, I went on over there and we got established. I was leading the life of any sort of young married woman in Birmingham, you know. I was active in the Junior League and in the church and belonged to a bridge club and I belonged to a sewing circle and was making clothes for the children. But more and more, I was aware of the terrible state of the economy. Cliff was with the firm that represented the power companies, so we were comfortably established, fairly comfortably off, but we were helping Mother and Daddy, but we still were fairly well off. But around me was just ruin, ruin and more furnaces shutting up and the town became poorer and poorer and more and more beggars were coming to the door and then this whole fear of being mugged in the night. You didn't want to go from your door to the garage, because there were people lurking in the alley. Just any number of muggings and robberies because people were absolutely desperate. Well, things in the city were getting very bad indeed. Hugo was running for the Senate and he was out all over the state, you know, and finding things bad wherever he went. People were just desperate and he was very much for Roosevelt. And my father was very much for Roosevelt. They hoped that Roosevelt would run and my father had a connection with him through William Fitts Ryan. Well, Judge Fitts, his grandfather, was a great friend of my father's. They had gone through school together, I think, at Southwestern College and they were very devoted friends. Judge Fitts came from Tuscaloosca, the Fitts family there was quite a prominent family. He had married a Miss Smith from Birmingham and they had had a daughter who had married Mr. Ryan, who was a great friend of Roosevelt and one of his political henchmen. So through Mr. Ryan and through Judge Fitts, my father became one of President Roosevelts supporters and he and JudgeFitts went over to Warm Springs and talked to him, begged him to run and became just absolutely eager, passionate Roosevelt supporters. Well, I was aware of all this, but it was still away, I was remote from it. And I was even remote from Hugo's race, although I was devoted to Hugo.