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Title: Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975. Interview G-0023-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Durr, Virginia Foster, interviewee
Interview conducted by Thrasher, Sue
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Mike Millner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2006
Size of electronic edition: 588 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2006.
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Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2006-05-11, Mike Millner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975. Interview G-0023-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0023-2)
Author: Sue Thrasher
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975. Interview G-0023-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0023-2)
Author: Virginia Foster Durr
Description: 789 Mb
Description: 223 p.
Note: Interview conducted on March 13, 14, 15, 1975, by Sue Thrasher; recorded in Wetumpka, Alabama.
Note: Transcribed by Joe Jaros.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series G. Southern Women, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975.
Interview G-0023-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Durr, Virginia Foster, interviewee


Interview Participants

    VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR, interviewee
    CLIFFORD DURR, interviewee
    BOB HALL, interviewer
    SUE THRASHER, interviewer
    JACQUELYN HALL, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
The Great Depression was in progress and there was no money left whatever and nothing that they could sell and nothing that they could borrow and nothing that they could do except starve to death. So, the Red Cross workers at that time had no cars and they had to go on the street cars to investigate these cases. You see, the greater part of the complete destitution was in these towns around Birmingham, these sort of industrial suburbs like Ensley and West End and Gate City, where the big corporations like the Tennessee Coal and Iron Company and Republic Steel and those places were. So, Rachel London, who was the president had the idea that we would form a motor corps and take these Red Cross women around so that they could certify more people, you see. If they had to go on the street car, it took them forever to go from one place to another. So, we did. The Junior League formed a motor corps and we took these Red Cross workers around and I began taking Mrs. Bishop around, who was a Red Cross worker, and a very intelligent and fine person and finally, we found that she had some connection

Page 2
to Cliff, one of his cousins had married a Bishop, so there was kind of an in-law relationship there. I became very devoted to her. She was just overcome with the weight of the misery that she was trying to deal with in this way and so, I began to take her out one day a week and then I think that I . . . he said that I did it every day, but I really didn't, I. . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
I want to tell you how I was suffering. I was walking the whole way, fully two and a half miles and back every day. It was every day of the week once you got started.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I had a cook and I had a nurse. I don't know what I paid them, but I know that it was mighty little. They were so thankful and delighted to have a place and food. Everyday black men and black women would come to the door begging for work. They would work for fifty cents a day or for anything. Then, the white people would come begging for work and they would work for anything. It was just mass misery. But I began to get the full extent of the scope of it when I took this Red Cross worker out and saw whole areas just flat out broke. What the corporations had done was, they had shut down everything, you see, because they couldn't operate

Page 3
at a profit and the people who were living in company houses, and you know, they had these company stores where they traded in scrip, they would be paid in scrip rather than in money. Now, the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company, which was a part of US Steel, they let the people stay in their houses, but they cut off the light and water and there was one water tap on every block. They would have to go to this one tap to get their water. There were no lights, no electricity and no heat. Then, at Republic Steel, Tom Girdler was the president of that and I conceived this mortal hatred of him, because they wouldn't let the poor people even stay in their houses. They drove them out and put in guards to shoot them if they came back. And those people, a lot of them, were living in coke ovens. You know what coke ovens are? They are kind of a brick beehives where they smoke the wood. You know, coke is made out of wood, isn't that right, Cliff?
CLIFFORD DURR:
Coke is made out of coal. Charcoal is made out of wood, but it is something of the same process.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Anyway, these little beehive ovens, they would crawl in there like animals and keep the rain off. So, I saw more accumulated misery in the shortest time that you can imagine. I saw more children with rickets and these poor

Page 4
pitiful women and the men so ashamed of themselves. But the thing that really bothered me the most was, they were like the people who blamed them for being so poor, they blamed themselves for being poor. They never did say, "We are in this situation because US Steel doesn't treat us as well as they treat the mules." You see, they fed the mules in the mines and the animals, whatever they needed to keep going, but they didn't feed the people. They fed the mules! But they never once said, "The United States Steel Company or the Republic Steel Company is to blame, they are the ones that laid me off." There was no wrath or indignation. They would always say, "Well, if we hadn't bought that old Ford or if we hadn't gotten that radio." They were so full of guilt about themselves. It was just the way that my mother and father were full of guilt because they lost everything. They didn't blame it on the cotton market, they blamed it on themselves. These people were the same exactly. They blamed it all on themselves. And these preachers would come around. You would be in this cold house trying to certify that a woman or man was absolutely penniless so that he could be certified for the two and a half dollars a week and some damn preacher would come in. He would tell these people that they had sinned and that was why they

Page 5
were suffering. He would pray with them. You know, I got to where I wanted to kill them. I really thought that to come into these starving people in these cold houses with rickety children and tell them that they had gotten that way because they had sinned! And to tell them that they had to come to God or they would all go to hell! Well, I really got such a strong bias against preachers at that point that, particularly these hell fire and damnation preachers, that I haven't gotten over it yet. There was no rebellion, there was no feeling that they were being done in. There may have been a few people around there that felt it, but if there were, I never ran into them.
SUE THRASHER:
Was there any kind of political organizing going on with the Unemployed Leagues or the. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Not that I know of. Hugo Black was out running for the Senate and I am sure that he was telling them that if they would elect Roosevelt, that he would do something for them. I don't even remember . . . and telling them how awful Hoover was, but of course, they voted the Democratic ticket anyway.
SUE THRASHER:
You didn't hear of any kind of. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I never heard of a single thing. I remember about one small bit of rebellion that I heard of. I

Page 6
went to a house with Mrs. Bishop and there was a woman there who was in labor and she couldn't go to the hospital. This was a white woman and there were other women with her. Her husband had been working for the steel mills and for some reason, he was still kept on, but he was on the swing shift. When they went from day to night, he worked twenty-four hours. As far as I can remember, they kept a few men on to keep the machinery working. Well, here she was, having a baby in this cold house with other little children around and she wouldn't send for her husband. She was so scared that he would lose a little money. . . .I just remember that as one of the things, how awful it was, because she was actually frightened to call him from the twenty-four hour shift. I think that Mrs. Bishop finally got a doctor for her or got her in the hospital someplace. But the accumulation of misery mounted so that I found myself just reading to go into these houses. I just thought that I couldn't stand it, it was just too much. I just couldn't bear to even hear another complaint. Well, about this time, bless God, Hugo won the race for the Senate and he went on over. . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
That was the second time he had run.

Page 7
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yeah, that was in '32. He went back to Washington with Sister and his family. They had the two boys then. He got elected . . . I don't remember who ran against him . . . Kilby. Yes, and Kilby accused my sister . . . Hugo was going all over the state and Sister went with him and acted as his secretary and so he was paying her what a secretary would cost. You see, she had been in the Navy and she knew how to typewrite. And in the course of the campaign, Kilby accused Hugo of paying his wife and cheating the government. And oh, Hugo got so furious! I never saw a man get so mad and after that, he just lit into Kilby tooth and toenail. Oh, he was so mad! And he beat him. He got elected and they went on back to Washington. And at that point, Mother and Daddy came over to live with us. Well, they rented the house and they thought that they could get some rent for the house, because by then, everything that they had in the world was gone. Well, Mother began to develop the symptoms of what in those days they called "melancholia." She wouldn't eat and she couldn't sleep and her mind seemed confused and was just rapidly going down. So, finally, there was an institution there called Hillcrest, and she went out there and

Page 8
that was a horrible period, because she begged and begged to come home all the time. She cried and that didn't work. So, that was a horrible, horrible period. Things got worse and worse in Birmingham. Well, finally, Roosevelt got elected, you see and my father . . . that campaign saved his life. What with losing everything he had and Mother becoming so melancholy. Today they call it "depression", but in those days they called it "melancholia." She was so helpless, you see, she just didn't know what to do and all of her pride and now having to live on her sons-in-law. It just killed her, it ruined her. Then, Daddy just plunged head first into the Roosevelt campaign. That just saved his life, he just worked and worked for Roosevelt and stayed at the campaign office. That was the hope that he had. Sure enough, he did get a job when Roosevelt was elected, what was it called . . . National Emergency Council. That was a kind of a public relations part of the New Deal and he loved that, he made speeches and so on and. . . .
SUE THRASHER:
Was that in Birmingham?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes.
In the meantime, Cliff was having trouble down at the Alabama Power Company, where he was the lawyer. Do you want to tell that, or shall I tell it? [reel tape is changed at this point] . . . at the same time

Page 9
that my father came over to live with us and my mother had to go to the sanitarium, Cliff also left the law firm. Now, this was in early 1933 and he left the law firm where he was a full partner. He got fired, there seems to be some little difference of opinion about that, but he is here and I would rather that he tell you about it than me.
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well, before I get on that, Virginia was talking about [unknown] the milk program. [unknown] Virginia did that herself and put it across. And I can remember your blackmailing the Southern Dairies Association, too. They had quite a reputation as gangsters and here was a chance to reinstate themselves in public esteem a little bit. That's a long story and here is another thing that Virginia didn't mention and I think that it was rather important. She came home one night and was talking about these families who had nothing, not even a dime for the movies. They had no outlet at all and so they were tugging on each other and taking it out. She said that if they just had some kind of recreation and all at once, she broke off the conversation and called the chief of the fire department. She said, "Everytime I pass the fire department down there at Five Points, I hear somebody tooting away in the back on a trombone or a bass horn. Have you firemen got a band?" He said, "Well, sure, we've got a good band down here, but there is nobody around

Page 10
to listen to us." So, Virginia said, "If I get an audience for you, will you put on a concert?" He said that there was nothing the boys would love better. So, the next thing I knew, she was calling the mayor. This was nighttime. She said, "I want to get the city auditorium next Sunday at 2:30." The mayor said, "Well, I don't know what you want with it, nobody else wants it, but you must promise not to tear it down and you can have it." So, then she called the newspapers and announced that they were having this free band concert at 2:30 on Sunday in the city auditorium. Well, we were eating breakfast and the phone rang and it was the chief of police. He said, "What is this about you putting on a concert with the firemen's band? The policemen have got a hell of a lot better band than the firemen." So, Virginia said, "Bring them along, let's see." So, this thing began to build up and volunteers began to show up and these people began to flock in. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
We had sing-alongs, too.
CLIFFORD DURR:
Virginia insisted that there be sing-alongs to let the people participate, too. Well, some guy showed up, I think that he was an insurance salesman or something, but he was one of the best masters of ceremonies that I have ever

Page 11
heard and with a line of chatter that was magnificent. So, every Sunday, we were having this free concert and show that really got going about the time that we went to Washington.
SUE THRASHER:
Now, who would come to these? Would these be the people that you would be going out to. . . ..
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, honey, I don't know. Anybody could come. I suppose that anybody did come. Of course, no black people came. The city auditorium was closed to black people and of course, the black people were terribly in want. Now, through Mrs. Bishop, we did go to some black families and they were eligible for relief. As I can remember, the relief, which was two and a half dollars a week, went mostly to these people of Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company and Republic Steel and the big northern corporations who were down there and who had shut off everything. Well, anyway, that was in 1933.
Now, you didn't tell why you left the power company.
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well, you see, this was the law firm and the power company was just one client. The senior member of the firm was the brother of the president of the Alabama Power Company and he pretty well controlled the business. He was a son-of-a-bitch if there ever was one.

Page 12
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Not Mr. Tom, you mean Logan.
CLIFFORD DURR:
Yeah, Logan Martin, not Tom. Tom was a hard working man and a rather decent fellow. Well, there a whole series of things that went on and increasingly unpleasant, but finally, Logan just started firing people. So, [unknown] even before a meeting of the members of the firm, I was above the line and my percentage was low, but I was sharing the profits and he was the top man and he drew more than anybody, about almost as much as the rest of us put together. He was a bachelor and had no responsibilities at all. So, without consulting the firm, he started firing people, a lot of young lawyers and stenographers.
BOB HALL:
You weren't a partner?
CLIFFORD DURR:
I was a partner.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
You see, they had a big retainer from the power company.
CLIFFORD DURR:
We had some young lawyers who were just working there. I was above the line, but the lowest man on the top totem pole. I can remember that the head stenographer came to me in a great state of excitement, we had one stenographer left whose husband had left her and she had a baby. Mrs. Cole came to see me and said, "Can't you do something about Mrs. So-and-So? Judge Martin has just told her that she is fired. She's got no family

Page 13
and she has this baby and I am afraid that she is going to kill herself." So, I went into Martin and I asked if we could keep her on. He said, "Will you pay her salary?" I said that I had a wife and a baby but I was willing to take my share of the cut, so that we could keep the thing together. Also, some of the younger lawyers were married and had children and I protested against their summary dismissal. They didn't even get a week's notice or anything of that sort, they were just fired. So, he said, "Well, unless you are willing to pay their salaries. I'm not." The other members of the firm would agree with me and were very upset about it, but they wouldn't take a stand.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
What about that old judge?
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well, he didn't take a stand. You see, Judge Foster was the first partner and he had been on the State Supreme Court and . . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, tell them how Logan hated Hugo, though. That was one of the things. He just despised Hugo Black, more than anybody in the world. Tell them what he said about Hugo.
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well, he ran the politics. He never did any legal work and he had separate files and a separate secretary.

Page 14
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
This is Logan Martin you're talking about?
CLIFFORD DURR:
Yeah. And when Hugo ran for the Senate the second time, I found out that one of the vice-presidents, old Colonel Mitchell, His brother was Sidney Zollicoffer Mitchel, who was head of the Electric Bond and Share. and came from the next county over there in Lollaford, Alabama. He didn't like Kilby and so we began talking about the situation and he would call me up to his office and would get on the phone with the power company local managers and tell them all to vote for Hugo Black and the senior member of the firm was going all out to cut Black's throat. Well, between Colonel Mitchell and me, we carried the power companies for Hugo. Logan didn't like that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was the name of this firm?
CLIFFORD DURR:
Martin, Thompson, Foster and Turner, it was then. It later became Martin, . . . (Foster went to the Supreme Court) . . . Martin, Turner and McWhorter. Thompson was appointed to the state court. There was a good deal of argument about whether he fired me or I resigned. I was going to start practicing law in Birmingham on my own, and in the depths of the Depression.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
You've got to tell about Will Dunn and how nice he was. He lent us some money to live on for awhile.

Page 15
He didn't lend it to us, he told us he would lend it if we needed it.
CLIFFORD DURR:
So, I had a fishing camp down along the river and the river was not too popular in those days. I told Virginia that the best time to take a vacation was between jobs. So, we had a little Chevrolet car that we sold and we got about $350 for that and we got my brother to drive us down with some groceries and he was going to come down on the weekend and bring us some more groceries. It was spring, beautiful down there and we had spring fires. I found out where the fish were biting. We were near Clanton, about fourteen miles away. So, a fellow drove over in a truck and said that somebody, he said, "I think that it's New York, is trying to get you on the telephone and they said that it was very important and so, you come go with me." So, we went to Clanton and it was Hugo and he told me that the Reconstruction Finance Corporation was looking for corporation lawyers and they had asked him for recommendations and he had given them about a half dozen names of people in Alabama who he thought were qualified and he said that if I was interested in the job, I had better go right on up there.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
The banks were beginning to close.
CLIFFORD DURR:
I was supposed to head up the insurance

Page 16
program to start with, but the legislation didn't get through. So, I went to Washington and Stanley Reed was then general counsel for the RFC and he hired me. The next thing I knew, I had never represented a bank in my life and I knew nothing about banking, well, two of us set up the whole banking program for the recapitalization of the banks. And Jim Alley, the fellow that was working with me was made general counsel. Reed was appointed Solicitor General and Alley was made general counsel and I found myself, with no banking background at all, head of the program to recapitalize the banks.
SUE THRASHER:
How long was it after you left the law firm before you went to Washington?
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well, we had been down on the river for about a week.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Now, before we leave Alabama . . . I'm just about to leave. [Laughter] I want to tell you two episodes that I think you will find interesting. One was, while we were down there on the river, there were a lot of people who were refugeeing on the river. People were just starving and all, no money at all and there was a lot of land, islands, that the power company owned and nobody lived on and what they would do, is that they would come down and

Page 17
build some sort of shack out of anything they could. They called them "Hoovervilles." They would fish in the river, which was full of fish, and then just live off the land, like they had gone back to nature almost. So, while we were down there, one night, Mr. Mims, who had a fishing camp . . . but nobody came to it, because nobody had any money, he brought down his whole family and one of these families that were living on the island and I was terrified because here were ten or twelve people and I didn't know what to give them to eat, you know. Mr. Mims was a [unknown] kind of a funny fellow and he played a guitar and they sang a lot of the old songs and somebody got up and sort of danced, a buck and wing dance but I knew that I had to give them something to eat. And I was terrified because I didn't know what to give them. I went back in the kitchen and fortunately, I had a five pound sack of sugar and I found some chocolate and I made some fudge. Well, honestly, do you know that those people had not had any sugar for months and months. They hadn't had anything sweet. You see, sugar is one thing that they couldn't buy and they couldn't grow and the sugar cane wasn't around. If I had given them the most marvelous meal in the world, they couldn't have been any more thrilled than

17A page
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Was working for the abolotion of the poll tax and that went on for years and years. As I say, finally we got it signed out of committee, and it. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
It passed in the House, right?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
They would sign it out of committee and pass it in the House and it would go to the Senate and be fillibustered to death. And of course, the fillibuster, everyone from the the South would do it. The only support that we got from the South was Claude Pepper, who introduced the Bill to abolish the Poll Tax several times, and he did it because they had abolished it in Florida by state action and also in Tennessee. So, we had Estes Kefauver and Claude Pepper. Those were the only two. Estes Kefauver is dead, but Claude Pepper is still living, if you can get him to talk.
SUE THRASHER:
How about North Carolina and Louisiana, hadn't they abolished it also?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, of course, we did get. . . .
SUE THRASHER:
North Carolina had abolished it in 1920.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
We did get help from Frank Graham of course, but I can't remember getting any help from any other North Carolina politician. Of course, Frank Graham got to be Senator eventually and did help.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I think it was also abolished in Louisiana, by Huey Long.

Page 18
they were. They not only ate every piece of fudge I made, but the children came in and took the bowls and licked the spoons and they were just thrilled because they hadn't had sugar for weeks and months. They hadn't tasted a bit of sugar. We thought that we were having a pretty tough time at that time and I realized that we were just living on the fat of the land, because although Cliff didn't have a job and we didn't know what we were going to do, we knew that we always had somebody to fall back on, you see. I told you that his brother-in-law had offered to lend him any amount of money that he needed. I realized that these people were completely desperate.
Now, what I want to tell you now . . . you'll be interested in this because it ties in with Ted Rosengarten's book. You asked me if I ever met any organized political groups when I was working out in the industrial areas. No, I didn't, but I did come in contact with the Communist party. This was in 1932, in the depths of the Depression, 1931 or '32. It was just the period that Ted wrote his book about, All God's Dangers. So, you see, the Communist party was organizing the sharecroppers up here in Talapoosa County and of course, you know that H.L. Mitchell and the socialists were organizing the sharecroppers over in Arkansas . . . and Claude Williams, too. Well, I didn't know any of this. I had no idea of it. But I came down with

Page 19
my little girl to visit my brother and mother-in-law in Montgomery . . . this was before Cliff left his firm . . . and this is rather complicated, but I will try to make it plain to you . . . my mother-in-law had as one of her dear friends, a Mrs. Nash Read. Her mother was a Baldwin. She had been Jean Craik. Now, the Baldwins were always and still are, in a measure, the great family of Montgomery. Mr. Martin Baldwin was head of the bank and the Baldwins were always the most aristocratic and the richest people and also had control of the credit. So, that made them extremely prominent. Mrs. Read's mother had been a Baldwin and she had married a Mr. Craik, and she had three daughters, Jean, Dolly and Sheila. Well, their mother and father believed in culture and travel and while they were never terribly rich, they went abroad and they studied and they spoke languages. Jean got very much interested in the child labor movement. You see, they were working seven year old children up here at the mills, of which Cliff's grandfather was president of at one time, I'm sorry to say. But, you know, I never knew the old gentleman, but Mrs. Durr was rather ashamed of the fact that he was Chairman of the Board and this was going on. This was, you see, back after the Civil War. The attitude that they took was that they were saving these children from starvation, that the tenant

Page 20
farmer was so poor and these poor little children, they were helping them by giving them jobs in the mills. It never occurred to them that they were not doing a benevolent act. Can you imagine that? Isn't that strange? Of course, it's the same attitude that they had in England when they started the mills and put the women and children in them. Of course, Mrs. Durr, Cliff's mother was very much ashamed of this. She thought that it was terrible. Well, anyway, Jean Read got very interested in getting rid of child labor. She worked with whoever was heading that movement in Montgomery. Then, her sister, Shelia, married Paxton Hibben, who was a famous journalist during the 19-teens; he went to Russia and covered the Russian Revolution and he died and is buried in the Kremlin wall. He was the nephew of the president of Princeton. So, he was one of the contemporaries of John Reed, you know, that wrote Ten Days That Shook the World. Both of them are now buried in the Kremlin wall. Then, the other one was named Dolly and she married a Mr. Speed from Louisville who was extremely aristocratic. There is something, I think, called the Speed Museum there and the Speed Seminary. They were someway connected to Abraham Lincoln's wife, you know that she came from Kentucky.
So, in any case, Mr. Speed died and Dolly was left with this girl and boy. I think that their fortunes had gotten low then, so she took them to Vienna to educate them, you see. To give them culture and teach them music and languages. Well, they got to Vienna during the Dolfuss period when the socialists were in control and they were fighting against Hitlerism. There was a very strong Communist movement. That was when the Fascists attacked the Karl Marx Houses and had a great gun battle, you know. I tell you who writes about that. It's Lillian Hellman in her memoirs called Pentimento. Have you read it? Well, there's a fascinating article in there about her carrying money in her hat to Vienna and this girl being disfigured by the Nazis and killed and so on. It was that period that they were living in Vienna. So, the two young ones, in their late teens, became absolutely passionate anti-Hitlerites and joined the Communist party. This was in the early 1930's, about '31 or '32. Or maybe before that, around 1930. It was just when Hitler was coming into power. Things were getting very bad in Vienna and so, Dolly Speed . . . who had become a Communist too . . . she brought her two children back home. She had no money, this time as I recall, so she came and lived in Montgomery with her sister, Mrs. Nash Read. Well, Mrs. Nash Read had married a man who had a lot of money and she had a beautiful old house and it was all fixed up with a beautiful garden. She was the leading society lady of

Page 22
Montgomery. She was it. Her food was the most delicious, she wore the prettiest clothes, she gave the nicest parties, her garden was the most beautiful, her house was the most tasteful. She was head of the little theater and put on these wonderful plays. If anyone had a ball, she decorated the ballroom. She was a woman of tremendous talent, she had great artistic talent. Just to go to her house was a poem, you know. So, when I was visiting with my little girl, I went over for tea. And oh, this was in the early summer and you can't imagine anything so delightful. You would sit by this lovely pond with water lilies and Jean would be such a gracious hostess and then Ben, the butler, would come out with the most marvelous food that you would ever taste in your life. Things like puff pastries, you know. Really, it was marvelous. And then there was Jean and Dolly and Jane Speed, Dolly's daughter, who was a Communist and so was Dolly. Now, what happened to the son, I don't know. I never met him. But anyway, Dolly was trying to make some money by taking pictures and so she admired my little girl so much and we arranged that she would take pictures of Ann by the pool. I have a lot of them somehere, they were lovely pictures of Ann with no clothes on . . . she was about three or four then, with her little blond curls and sitting by the

Page 23
waterlily pool. So, I got to be quite fond of Dolly. This went over a period of some time. I didn't know what a Communist was then any more than a man in the moon.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But you knew that she was a Communist?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh yes. Mrs. Read would say . . . she had sort of a high society voice and she would say, "Oh, isn't this darling? This is amusing, Jane and Dolly are Communists! What do you know about that!" [Laughter] Well, Jane was a a red-headed girl and she didn't laugh like it was a very laughable matter. She didn't think it was very funny. As I said, I didn't know what a Communist was from a man in the moon. Hugo had been called a Bolshevik, you see, because he was on the side of the labor unions. So, I associated everybody who was in a labor union with being a Communist. I just took it for granted that if you were in a union or for labor, you were a Communist. So, I gave it a rather general definition. But I did hear from Dolly and Jane something about the horrors of what had happened in Vienna, you know, but it made very little impact on me,. . . .I was so divorced from it, that [unknown] Hitler was just a name and so was Dolfuss and Vienna. It was as if it was another world. I did come into contact with Dolly and Jane. Well, they were the ones at that time,

Page 24
you see, who were helping the sharecroppers union up here in Talapoosa County. They were, I'm sure, the two white women who were sitting at the table when Nate Shaw was tried. Although, there was, as I found out lately, a Marxist study group in Montgomery, who also supported the strike. Now, they are some of the most prominent and richest people in Montgomery and they will tell you about it but they won't have their names used. I told you that I could arrange for some interviews for you and I told Ted the same thing, but they won't have their names used. You have to do it with no names, because they are terribly respectable. But you see, Jane did support this strike, and Dolly, too. And then the Marxist study group. And then, bless God, the shooting broke out. Well, at that time, Mrs. Read, as I understand it, I wasn't present at that time, Mrs. Read began to stop laughing about Jane and Dolly being Communists and "isn't that amusing?" She said, "Leave, I can't put up with this." She had a son, too, named Nicholas Read and she was afraid that they might influence him. She was anything but a Communist. Anyway, Jane and Dolly then came to Birmingham and I will have to take them up later, when I take up the Southern Conference, because they were still there, being Communists and running a Communist book store when the Southern Conference started.

Page 25
SUE THRASHER:
Would Dolly be a daughter or a grandaughter of the Baldwins?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
She was the grandaughter. Well, her mother was a Baldwin, she was the grandaughter of old Martin Baldwin. Dolly was Jane's mother you see, and they had become Communists in Austria. Well, anyway, I will leave Jane and Dolly in Birmingham running their Marxist book store.
In the meantime, after Cliff got this job in Washington, he thought that he might only be up there for a few months. You see, Roosevelt had just taken office, he went in in March and so this was about April. So, I arranged for the baby, Ann, to stay with her grandmother for awhile and I went on . . . or did I take her with me? No, I think that I left her in Montgomery for a little while and I went on up to the Junior League Convention in Philadelphia. I was still the vice-president of Junior League at that time. Well, this was a great big convention of all these well off young ladies from all of the eastern seaboard. I realized at that time, this was about June or May after Roosevelt had come in in March, well, at this convention I first began to hear the criticisms of Roosevelt and Mrs. Roosevelt. You know, how they had been so rich and aristocratic and socially prominent but they had taken up

Page 26
the cause of all these people who were completely inprovident. You see, this was a great word that people used. You hadn't provided for the future, you see. You were poor and it was your own fault. You see, no one in Birmingham blamed the Tennessee Coal and Iron Company, even the people out of work didn't blame them. Nobody blamed them, these big Yankee corporations. Now, I did. By that time, I was just getting furious at these Yankee corporations, particularly Tom Girdler, he was the one that made them go out of their houses and live in cake ovens. Well, anyway, I went to the Junior League Convention and I heard this criticism from the young ladies and. . . .
SUE THRASHER:
And in the meantime, Cliff was already working in. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Cliff was already there in Washington. Then, I went to Washington and we lived with Sister and Hugo for awhile and then I went down and got Ann and we lived in an apartment. But while I was at the Junior League Convention I met a girl who was a real estate agent in Washington and she said, "Where do you want to live?" Her name was Ann Carter Green. She was a sort of a dilettante real estate agent. She went and put me in touch with one of these. I said, "Where . . . well, you know, I would like to live sort of out in the country where people are

Page 27
poor and genteel." She said, "Well, you have described Seminary Hill." This is where the Virginia Episcopal Theological Seminary was. "It is out in the country and everybody is poor and everybody is genteel. They rent their houses for the summer and I will try to get one for the summer." So, we rented the Zabriskie house, he was one of the professors at the seminary. It was a perfectly beautiful old house, brick and sort of like an octagon. We were just delighted with it, great big oak trees around. It was the most beautiful kind of refuge that you can imagine, it was [unknown] a lovely place. So, we lived on Seminary Hill all the time that we were in Washington. We bought a house there, an old farm house with two acres of land for $6500. [Laughter] Imagine? Well, the land was so cheap then, the Depression was still on. So, we lived at Seminary Hill and Cliff was working at RFC and he was working day and night, terribly hard. I had brought a nurse with me, she acted as nurse and cook. I still never thought that I could possibly get along without servants, you know. I just never dreamed that it was possible.
So, anyway, I began to . . . after I got settled and started to look around me, I went with my sister to a lot of things. You see,

Page 28
Hugo was a senator from Alabama then, and she took me to a lot of parties and to do the usual Washington things, you know. To Call on people and to meet those in the courts and Congress. I met Mrs. Roosevelt at a garden party. Well, now, Mrs. Roosevelt was not considered to be a beauty, as you know, but I thought that she was absolutely lovely. She was a tall slender woman and had brown hair and beautiful eyes. It was the lower part of her face, you know, that was ugly, the jaw and teeth. But she gave the impression of just such beauty and graciousness and charm and cordiality and I was just crazy about her. I thought that she was just perfectly wonderful. Well, I heard that Mrs. Roosevelt worked for the women's division of the Democratic National Committee. Then, the RFC ladies began to invite me to a lot of parties which I found extremely dull, because they would be bridge parties and awful Washington luncheons at some hotel that served that awful limp chicken with peas and oh . . . terrible! The whole thing was as boring as it could be. So, I asked Cliff, I said, "Look, if I have to go to these parties for you to get on in Washington, it is going to kill me because I just despise them. They are so boring and they only invite me because you are head of the banking section. They don't care anything about me." So, he said, "Well, if I can't

Page 29
succeed without your going to these parties, I don't think that I will succeed anyway, so . . . " Well, he told me that I didn't have to go to those horrible bridge parties anymore. So, I decided that I would volunteer for the women's division of the Democratic party, mostly because I was so crazy about Mrs. Roosevelt and I knew that she worked with them. I thought, "Oh, this will be lots of fun." So, I did.
Now, I won't go into my private life at that time except to say that I had had another baby and I went to a very good doctor up there. They had told me in Birmingham that I could never have any more children, because I had had these two bad miscarriages, but I went to a good doctor up there and I had our little boy. And although Cliff was only making $6500 a year, we had a cook, a nurse and a yardman. . . .
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
We had a cook, a nurse, a yardman and a washlady. The yardman and washlady, of course, weren't full time, but you can imagine how little they were paid. I think that we paid the cook eight dollars a week and the nurse maybe eight a week and the yardman about two or three dollars a day and I suppose that we paid the washlady the same

Page 30
thing. And you know, there again, I was totally blind.
I paid what was the going wage, you see. . . .
And it never occurred to me that I was . . . you know, Cliff was making $6500 a year and we were sending money back home to my mother and father who had lost everything . . . in the meantime, they had moved back to their house and we had gotten a lady to live there with her family and look after them, or look after my mother who had come back from the sanitarium and we were sending them money. My brother had a job then with the New Deal and was sending them money. And so, they were back in their own home. . . .
SUE THRASHER:
Was your father still working in Birmingham for the National Emergency Council at that time?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, he got that job later. Anyway, after he got his job, we didn't send money but we were always going to have to be prepared to do so, you know, we didn't know how long the job was going to last. It lasted several years, though, I believe. But in any case, $6500 a year, which Cliff was getting, was not a great amount of money, but the point was that in those days, things were so much cheaper and the servants were so much cheaper. I had free time, you see, because I had the cook and nurse and even though I had the two children. I was free. So, I began to go into town and work at the women's

Page 31
section of the Democratic Committee. It was very pleasant, because the woman who was the head of it was named Mrs. McAllister from Grand Rapids and she was a very attractive woman and Mary Evans . . . what was her name . . . Mary Thompson Evans, a very attractive southern girl from North Carolina was the second in command. Well, what they were working on oddly enough, was that they were trying to get rid of the poll tax so that the white southern women could vote. You see, the women's division at that time was working on something they called "The Fifty-Fifty Plan", whereby the Democratic Committee would be composed of 50% women and 50% men. Now, there was no mention in the Democratic National Committee at that time of black people, very few of them voted in the South. Of course, they did in the North. But the southern women didn't vote, either. They had come to the conclusion that they didn't vote on account of the poll tax. You all know what the poll tax was, it was put on around 1901 to disenfranchise the Negroes, but it disenfranchised everybody who was poor, because in Alabama, for example, if you missed a year, you had to go back and pay your back taxes before you could vote. And if you started paying when you were forty-five, and if you hadn't paid from the time you were twenty-one, you had to pay $36 before you could vote. It was an accumulated poll tax, you see.

Page 32
Well, I had had personal experience with it in Birmingham, which made me realize how stupid it was and how difficult. Because when I was twenty-one years old, before I married Cliff, my father was always a registrar and one reason was because they knew that he had never registered any black man. He used to come home from the Board of Registrars and say, "I swear to God, there was a damn nigger there today who had been to Harvard. Harvard, mind you! And you know, you just couldn't hardly think of enough questions to ask him that he couldn't answer. But, I did." So, he never registered a single one.
Well, I took this completely for granted too, you see. Daddy was just upholding pure white southern womanhood and the white supremacy. You see, I accepted all of this. I had been surrounded by it all my life and I accepted it. But anyway, I got registered when I was twenty-one and I paid a dollar and a half for my poll tax. Well, from then on, when I would go down to vote, they would say, "You haven't paid your poll tax." I would say, "But I did pay my poll tax." I didn't know that you had to pay it every year. You see, I was as stupid as that and I had been for two years to Wellesley. So, I would sign an affidavit that I had paid my poll tax. When I got married, Cliff went with me to vote and found that he had

Page 33
to pay about fifteen dollars so that I could vote, because all these affidavits that I had made out didn't mean a thing. [Laughter] They had found out that I hadn't paid my poll tax. So, I got a first hand lesson in paying poll tax. So, Cliff thought that I was so terribly stupid for not knowing that I had to pay it every year. But anyway, when I started working for the women's division of the Democratic National Committee, they were working on getting rid of the poll tax for the women of the South. O.K., you leave me for the time being and I'll branch out in other directions. You're going to leave me as a young married woman on Seminary Hill in an old farmhouse that we fixed over, with a little boy and a little girl and two full time servants and two part time servants and an automobile, and in a lovely, quiet neighborhood, which I adored, but I also wanted to be in Washington in the midst of all the excitement, because the New Deal to me was perfectly thrilling. Cliff was saving the banks and the telephone was ringing and some man would say, "Mr. Durr, if that money is not here tomorrow, I'm going to jump out of the window." And bless God, they did jump out of the window sometimes. You know, it was a terribly exciting and thrilling time to be there. So, although I loved Seminary Hill, I also liked to be in the excitement in Washington.
BOB HALL:
Were you reading things, were there political

Page 34
things in print that you could follow?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Not much.
BOB HALL:
This Mrs. Nash Read and her . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Mrs. Nash Read and Dolly and Jane and all? No, I wasn't reading any Communist literature. All that was just purely social, you see. It had nothing to do with politics for me and as I say, Communisim was just as foreign to me as Buddhism would have been. But anyway, there in Washington, I began to get interested in the Democratic party and the women's division and they were interested in getting rid of the poll tax and I got very much interested in that. You see, I was slowly becoming a sort of a feminist. I had had a great resentment, I now realize, and an unexpressed resentment of the role that southern girls had to play. You know, nice southern girls always trying to get a husband and fooling the men and having to be so pleasant and putting up with everything that you had to put up with to be popular. But it hadn't come to the surface,. . . .it was still sort of gestating inside of me. But I must have felt it because I plunged into this fight to get rid of the poll tax for the women of the South with the greatest gusto. I would go there every morning and of course, I was an unpaid person

Page 35
but I clipped and read the newspapers . . . I did begin to read the newspapers and that was a great help to me. So, about this time, Clark Foreman came back into my life. You know, I told you that I had met him when I was at Wellesley and he was at Harvard. I saw in the paper one day, a picture of this very handsome dark-haired girl walking on Connecticut Avenue with a big cape swinging behind her and it said, "Mrs. Clark Foreman, one of the young beauties of the New Deal Set, who has recently come to . . . " Her father was the chief of protocol at Ottowa in Canada at the . . . what do you call it, you know, the man who is sent out from England to be the head of the Candadian government . . . Viceroy! No, that's in India. Anyway, whatever it was . . . what do they call it? You know, there is some nobleman who comes out and is the titular head of the government of Canada.1
Well, Mairi's father was the chief of protocol, which was a permanent position and she had been brought up in that sort of atmosphere around the court, so to speak, but her family was not rich.But they moved in sort of court circles and she was quite fashionable and beautiful and very stylish.
JACQUELYN HALL:
She was a journalist.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes, she was a journalist herself and her

Page 36
name had been Mairi Fraser, her family were all Scots. So, I wondered if this was possibly Clark Foreman's wife. I hadn't seen or heard of him since I left Wellesley. So, I looked in the book and found him and called up and said, "Mrs. Foreman, are you the wife of Clark Foreman from Atlanta?" She said that yes, she was. I said, "Well, tell Clark that I called, I was Jinksie Foster from Alabama." So, he called that night and the friendship was resumed. He came out that following Sunday and brought her and he had come up . . . after he left Harvard, he had gone to the London School of Economics and had studied socialism, you know, the British brand. Then, he had gone to Russia and studied communism and while he was over there, he became aware of the race issue. You see, he was brought up like I was, he just took it for granted. So, he didn't become a socialist or a communist, but he did decide that he would come back to Atlanta and take part in the race issue. And since you interviewed him, I know that you remember that he had that horrible experience when he saw the lynching when he was at the university. So, he did come back and he worked with Mr. Will Alexander, you know, in this Interracial Council and then he worked for the Rosenwald Fund. Anyway, Ickes, who was the Secretary of the Interior, had asked the various interracial groups to recommend someone to work in the

Page 37
Department of the Interior to see that blacks got their fair share of jobs in public works and so forth. You know, Ickes also got to be head of the Public Works Administration, and also to try to desegregate the Department of the Interior. You see, the bathrooms were segregated and the cafeteria.
So, Clark arrived in Washington with a beautiful young wife whom he had met on the boat and promptly hired a Negro secretary. Well, this caused an absolute storm throughout the whole government. Here was a young white southern boy, who came from a good family, the Howells, you know, of Georgia and having a black secretary. Of course, they immediately accused him of the woman being his mistress, you know, that he slept with her. Well, of course, that was absurd. She was a very efficient secretary, but I forget her name. Well, he was the first person that broke that barrier of having a black girl as a secretary. So, he was a great believer in racial equality and was working at it. So, that Sunday afternoon when he came out, he began telling us what he was going to do and what he was doing. Well, my Lord, I just fell into a fit! I just couldn't believe it. We got into the most awful fight that you have ever known in your life. Cliff said that he had to take the wood basket out of the way because I would have brained him or he would

Page 38
have brained me. Because you know, Clark is not tactful at times. He said, "You know, you are just a white, southern, bigoted prejudiced, provincial girl . . . " Oh, he just laid out at me. And of course, I had known him so well and we had been just such good friends and I got furious and I said, "You are going back on all the traditions of the South. You, a Howell of Georgia going back on all of it. What do you think of the Civil War? What did we stand for?" White supremacy, of course. [unknown] Boy, we got in a horrible fight. So, they left. So, Cliff said, "Well, I don't think you'll ever see him again." But we did, they called us up the next week and invited us to dinner.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did Cliff think about all this?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, of course, Cliff believed like me, but he didn't holler about it the way I did. I hate to say it, but we had both of us been surrounded by it since infancy, and we had this terrible double vision. We had both been raised by black women whom we had adored and trusted and on whom our lives depended and yet, at the same time, we were brought up to think that all black people were inferior. So, we did have this double vision, if you know what I mean, which I am sure contributed somewhat to our later changing our point of view.
But anyway, we saw a great deal of the

Page 39
Foremans and through them, we met the Goldschmidts, who were from Texas, Wicki and Tex. Wicki worked for the WPA, in fact, she worked for Aubrey Williams. And that's how I met Aubrey Williams and he had come from Alabama, you know, from right outside of Birmingham from . . . oh, what is the name of it?2 It'll come to me later. Well, Aubrey was at that time working for Harry Hopkins and the WPA, you see. So, we got to be good friends and they lived out in Virginia and had a big old house over in Arlington and Anita and Aubrey used to have parties on Sundays. Oh, all kinds of people would come, Helen Gahagan Douglas and Pete Seeger and Allen Lomax and all kinds of people. There was a lot of music and playing and singing. That's where I met Pete and Allen Lomax and we began to build up a group [unknown] of New Deal friends. You see, by this time, I was beginning to enlarge a little bit, if you know what I mean and particularly there in the Democratic committee.
SUE THRASHER:
Were there any black women in the Democratic committee?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Not a one. The only black woman that I ever saw was Mrs. Mary McLeod Bethune and she was working for Aubrey Williams. Aubrey got into this . . . you see, through

Page 40
Clark, I met some black people, the girl who was working for him for instance, and then he had some assistant . . . I forget his name right now. But anyway, I met some black people through him, they would have them to their house, you see, for dinner. Oh, my goodness, that was . . . [interruption while original reel is changed] . . . Where were we?
SUE THRASHER:
You were talking about Clark and. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, yes, and his assistant, Robert Weaver.
I'll get to him later and pay my respects to him, but anyway, Clark had blacks to dinner and that's when I met Mattievilda Dobbs. Do you remember her? She was Maynard Jackson's aunt, his mother was a Dobbs. The singer. Well, I remember very well that Mairi in her sweet way said, . . . Mairi and Clark were much more into the musical and artistic world, because neither Cliff nor I had any musical or artistic tastes, but Clark and Mairi were very much into the cultural life of Washington, the symphony and the arts. They really both loved it. Mairi painted, you see and they went in for modern art and we didn't know what it was. I remember that we went there one night and they had a marvelous new painting that they were thrilled to death over and they asked us what it was and we said that all we could see that it was an old tin wastebasket. It turned out to be some marvelous symbolic painting by Ben Shahn, I

Page 41
think, and anyway, we were completely out of that part of their lives. We didn't even know or appreciate it. I never had any training in art and I was blind as a bat and still am, for a matter of fact. If it doesn't look like what it is supposed to look like, I am just lost. Even Picasso. And oh, they adored Picasso and all those one-eyed people. You know, music, the only people I could ever appreciate was Pete Seeger, Allen Lomax and the country folk singers. I still love them, but you get me above them and I'm lost. But in any case, you see, Clark had known Mr. Dobbs very well in Atlanta nad had worked with him in his interracial work. So, they arranged for Mattiwilda to have a concert in Washington in some quite famous place where they had musical events and she called me up and said, "Jinksie, could you possibly come over and arrange about the tea." She had a servant, but "I have to go to the reception but could you please come over and arrange about the tea because I don't want to leave the cook in the kitchen with nobody to help her out." So, Cliff and I went over and we set up the tea table and I made sandwiches and all. So, when the Dobbs all came back, Mattiwilda had made a tremendous hit. Everybody had stood up and cheered and they were all thrilled beyond words and I don't know how many Dobbses there were, there must have been fifteen. So, I served The Phillips Gallery

Page 42
the tea, quite a reversal role, as you can imagine, for me. Here I was serving tea to this black family. You know, they were so charming and sweet . . . I don't think that you have ever known Mrs. Dobbs, I'm sure that she must be dead by now. That was Mattiwilda's mother, who would have been Maynard's grandmother, but she was one of the sweetest, most charming women that you have ever known. She made everybody thoroughly at ease. She had lovely manners, just those wonderful southern manners, whether they are black or white, when you run into them, they are just sort of like oil on the waters, everything is smooth and lovely and charming and sweet.
So, through Clark, I began to meet a lot of black people and through Aubrey, I met Mary McLeod Bethune and then through the Goldschmidts, I met Lyndon and Lady Bird. You see, Tex was in the Interior Department too, and he was in the dam building or water conservation or whatever they called it. You see, at that time, when Lyndon first got elected as Congressman, there was another very attractive man from Texas named Alvin Wirtz, who was the Assistant Secretary of the Interior and they were both just hell bent on the Lower Colorado River Authority. You know, that was to dam it up to irrigate some land. Well, then Tex Goldschmidt was active at the bureau that controlled all of this, maybe that was Public Works. Well, anyway, there

Page 43
were the Lyndon Johnsons, The Alvin Wirtzes, the Clifford Durrs, the Clark Foremans and then Nancy and Mike Straus, they were there quite often. He was also in the Interior Department, and Abe Fortas and his wife. We had a little circle, [unknown] and we began to meet maybe once a week for dinner and we became very, very friendly with each other. Lady Bird had just come up from Texas, you see, and Lyndon was a young Congressman with a great big adam's apple, as thin as a stringbean. We used to laugh and call him "The Drugstore Cowboy," because he always wore cowboy boots and all. And you know, when I think of Lyndon's later life when he was so maligned and being called just such a vicious and cruel . . . he was the sweetest young man. Of course, we were older than he was, we were ten years older, but he was the sweetest young man and I just adored Lyndon. You all won't believe it, I know. I just loved him dearly and I loved her dearly and I still do. You know, we are just back from visiting her. Because you see, I knew them when they were this young couple, just out of the South, like new laid eggs, almost, it was so . . . and so young and so sweet. Very charming and then Alvin was a very attractive man and had a very cute wife. But the thing that impressed me about Lyndon in those days, when he wanted to go after something like the Lower Colorado River

Page 44
Authority, he did not miss a trick. He cultivated everybody in the Interior Department and he sent presents at Christmas and he was always on the job and always there remembering birthdays and everything else. He was a constant politician. He never took his eyes off the Lower Colorado River Authority. Anyway, he got it and then he got electricity for the Pedernales River where his home was. We are just back from there and everything around there is electrified, but you see, when he grew up, there wasn't any at all. And no irrigation and it was awful dry.
Well, anyway, at that time, I also met Mr. John L. Lewis. Now, do you want to hear about that, because he plays a very big part in the Southern Conference? The Southern Conference is just about to come.
SUE THRASHER:
What year are we at now? Is this '35, '36?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes, '35 or '36.
JACQUELYN HALL:
The Hugo Blacks weren't really a part of that circle?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No. Heavens, they were much higher. You see, he was a Senator than. He was elected in '32 and by then he had become one of the great New Deal Senators. He had worked on all of the Roosevelt things. We did see a

Page 45
great deal of them. And at their house we met, we were there constantly, but we met an entirely different set of people, people like Lister Hill of Alabama, he was in the House then and Claude Pepper, who also came from Alabama. . . .
SUE THRASHER:
Claude Pepper came from Florida.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, he came originally from Alabama. He came from the same county where Hugo came from Clay County He comes into the story too, because he was a great champion of the anti-poll tax bill, you see. Then, we met Lowell Mellett, he was in the White House at that time and he became a great friend. And the Thurman Arnolds. He was in the Justice Department then and we became friends. Oh, we met everybody. We met Bob LaFollette. This is my next story. What had happened was, you see, they passed the Wagner Act very soon in Roosevelt's administration, giving the unions the right to organize under Clause 7-A. And at the same time, they passed the . . . what was chicken case? [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Interstate Commerce. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
That was under the Interstate Commerce Act, but what was that case . . . where they declared it unconstitutional. The NRA, National Recovery Act, well, under the first National Recovery Administration, they gave the

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business the power to sort of form into organizations that regulated themselves and they also gave labor under 7-A the chance to organize. And of course, the NRA was later declared to be unconstitutional, but then, they passed the Wagner Act, which gave labor the right to unionize and set up the Labor Relations Board.
So, about this time, I met Mr. John L. Lewis. Well, John L. Lewis at that time, you see, had fallen out with the AFL and was forming the CIO and used the 7-A to organize the CIO and there were tremendous labor struggles going on and Mr. John L. Lewis just loomed over Washington like some great big giant, he had tremendous character. So, the way that I met him was again purely social. One of my neighbors on Seminary Hill was named Brookings and her husband was with the Brookings Institute and his father had started that and this Mrs. Brookings went to the Wellesley Club. She was always begging me to go to it because I had gone to Wellesley and so I did go with her occasionally. But that bored me to death, too. They were as remote from what was going on as the man in the moon. So, through Mrs. Brookings, I went to a tea one afternoon and met Mrs. John L. Lewis and she was a very charming woman. She was very sweet looking and had been a school teacher and she spoke beautiful English and she dressed well. She wasn't a fashionable woman, but she was

Page 47
a very lady-like lady, very charming and sweet. So, she was very pleasant to me and asked me to come and see her. She said, "You know, I have a daughter, Kathryn, who I want to meet some of the younger people." They had bought this beautiful old house in Alexandria which was one of the Lee Houses. So, I was longing to meet Mr. Lewis since he was so prominent in the news, you know. So, Cliff and I went there one Sunday afternoon and called on the Lewises at her request. Well they lived in this marvelous old house there on the corner of Lee Street, I believe, and right on the main corner, beautiful garden in the back, you know. One of those magnificent old houses with great high ceilings. It was beautifully furnished and Mrs. Lewis was just lovely. They had a butler that met you at the door on Sunday and they had a chauffeur [unknown] and a cook and maid. Mr. Lewis was living in great style and in very good taste.
The house was beautiful, the flower garden was beautiful, the furniture was beautiful, all beautiful old antiques. So, I met Kathryn Lewis. Well, I don't know whether you ever saw Kathryn, but she weighed about 300 pounds, she had some sort of glandular trouble and she looked like a great balloon, you know. Very small hands and feet, but

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this enormous body and naturally, she was quite sensitive about it. She must have weighed 300 pounds, maybe 250. But she was huge. So, she was quite sensitive but I found her to be a very bright girl and witty and funny and she was her father's assistant. I got on well with Mr. Lewis and Cliff did too, so we had a very pleasant social visit. Then, they invited us back for a reception that they had and anyway, the friendship slowly grew. Kathryn and I used to have lunch together occasionally.
SUE THRASHER:
How old was Kathryn at that time?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, I was in my thirties, she was in her late twenties, I suppose.
SUE THRASHER:
Did we get the story you were telling yesterday about John L. Lewis remembering your name because of Cliff's father?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I think we did. Well, in any case, then you see, what happened in the South was that the Wagner Act and the NRA were fiercely fought. One of the people that organized for it was John L. Lewis and he sent down lots of young Communists. You see, he wouldn't have a Communist in his Mine Workers, there was a legal barrier there against them, but all these young Communists . . . there were quite a lot of them at that time because the capitalist

Page 49
system appeared to have fallen on its face and of course, Roosevelt and Cliff and all of them were trying to revive it. But these young Communists thought it was beyond hope, you see and the Communist party at that time was much more open. The unemployed had been organized by the Communists and it was still sort of vague to me but I just thought that they were people who were for the labor people. So, anyway, these young Communists got beaten up and held in jail incommunicado. I don't know how many of them got killed, just any number. It was really awful and then of course, you know, that damned old John Rankin of Mississipi, he was so awful. About that time, I met a girl named Ida Engeman who was from Mississippi and had gone to Wellesley. Her name had been Ida Sledge. Now, this really will floor you, so I will have to say it slowly. [Laughter] Ida Engeman was Tallulah Bankhead's half aunt. If you want me to explain that, I will. [Laughter] Well, Will Bankhead, who at that time was speaker of the House, when I was in Washington, Will Bankhead, from Jasper, Alabama, you know, the son of the Senator Bankhead who was the head of the penitentiary and rented out the convicts and who was the one that Cliff was telling you about last night. Will Bankhead, when he was a young man, had married Miss Ada Sledge from

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Mississippi, who was a very beautiful and aristocratic lady. She then bore him two daughters, Eugenia and Tallulah. Then Miss Ada Sledge died. If you go down to the museum, in Montgomery you will see Miss Ada Sledge's wedding dress and her traveling dress, her trousseau all there in a glass cage. She must have had a waist of about fifteen inches. Anyway, she died when Tallulah was born and so her father, Mr. Sledge, married again and had another daughter named Ida and that was the one that I knew. She had gone to Wellesley and had come back down to . . . she had gotten extremely upset about the plight of labor and had gotten much more radical than I was and she had gone to work for the ILGWU and was trying to organize in Mississippi. Well, she got run out of Mississippi twice, at the head of a mob practically, although she was kin to the aristocracy of Mississippi. So, I met her because her mother was a friend of my aunt's . . . all these connections! So, they got us in touch with each other because Ida was living near us on Seminary Hill in that big complex of apartments and married to George Engeman. Her children were more or less my children's ages and we got to be friends and remained so up unto her death which just took place last year.
Well, anyway, Ida gave me some idea of what was happening in Mississippi, which was that people were being put in jail and

Page 51
killed and so forth. And then Bob LaFollette started the he arings which are the most significant set of hearings that have ever been held and if you all don't get them, steal them or buy them . . . we had them, but like so much of our stuff, I gave it out to people to read and I can't find them. But all of this is contained, the beginnings of everything is contained in the LaFollette Committee hearings, in every part of the country, California, Ohio, Alabama, Mississippi and in Harlan County of Kentucky. Now, this is where I got my education. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
I didn't think that they held any hearings except in Alabama. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, all over the country.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But not all over the South.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, Kentucky, but they held hearings in Washington for months on end. You see, we had a son and he had died. He had appendicitis and they didn't diagnose it right and they took him into the hospital and it burst and they didn't have any penicillen in those days and he died.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When did that happen?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Even dates like that, I can't remember . . .
SUE THRASHER:
He was about five years old?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, he was only three. We got to Washington in 1933 and I got pregnant very shortly thereafter and so it must

Page 52
have been about '36, that he died. So, I was terribly distressed and I began going to the LaFollette hearings, they sort of diverted me. Then, I got so interested in them and I finally got into them and I really learned all the economics and everything that I knew from the LaFollette Committee. I would go in every morning with Cliff and come back with him. Again, you see, I still had my first little girl, Ann, and I had Lucy by that time, too, my second daughter. But I had servants, you see. Still had a cook, still had a nurse, still had a yardman, still had a washlady. So, I would go in with Cliff in the morning and stay all day long at the hearings, just absolutely fascinated by them. You just can't imagine how dramatic they were. The Harlan County hearings, here would come in these great big tall people out of the woods of Harlan County and then in would come in a gunslinger or deputy sheriff with a gun on his side, of course, they made them leave their guns outside, thank God. They were the scariest looking people I ever saw. And the thing that was so horrible about the whole thing in Harlan County was that the man who had shot down the fellow they were complaining about, there was so much shooting . . . but they were all kin! First cousins, second cousins, brothers, in-laws. Harlan County was divided between the [unknown] operators and the United Mine Workers, but every family was split. So, you just

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felt like there was murder and death in that hearing room. You just didn't know if one of those big old tall men would pull out their guns and shot somebody. They did have to leave their guns outside. That was dramatic, because they would face each other in confrontation and of course, the mine owners would say that they had nothing to do with it, they were just for law and order, you know, and they didn't do a thing. All these guns and dynamite and all, they had nothing to do with it and so on. Oh, such a bunch of pious lies you've never seen! So, then I heard the Little Steel Strike in Ohio. That was so dramatic because the people that owned the steel mills had started these cities like Canton, Ohio and they were nice looking gentlemen with white hair and they owned the steel mills and they owned the town. They would say, "But we started the town." And LaFollette would say, "But you bought all these guns and machine guns and killed all these people at the strike." "But it is our steel mill and the idea of these people even thinking of organizing the workers. We treat our workers nicely, we've always treated our people nicely." It was exactly like slavery times, except they paid them. They lived in company houses, you see and had no union at all. Then, I remember one preacher had taken the side of the strikers and he had been promptly fired by a benevolent old gentleman. And they said, "Why did you fire

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Reverend So-And-So? Was it because he encouraged the strikers?" He said, "That was my church. My father built that church. My grandfather built the town." It was his town, his church, his steel mill. That was as dramatic as you can imagine. Then, the automobile workers strike, now that was something. Oh, all the beating up and carrying on. You will never believe that our [unknown] friend . . . the one that got to be president of UAW and became such a big red-baiter. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Reuther?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Reuther. Yeah, well, he was a big organizer at that time. You can't believe it, but he really was. Oh, they all got beat up and shot. But this was the kind of things that would happen. A man would get on the stand, an automobile worker, and he would say that he had tried to organize the automobile workers and he would tell about what he had done and how they had been beaten up and forced out. They would ask if he knew of any informers in the union and "No, not to my knowledge." So, they would bring a man on that looked sort of like an automobile worker and they would say, "Do you know this man?" [unknown] "Do I know him? He's my best friend, we have a cottage up on the lake together. My children and his have played together since they moved inot the neighborhood." Then, of course, it would turn out that this fellow would be an

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informer and had been an informer the whole time. Well, at that point, you never knew what was going to break out. They had to hold some of these guys because they really wanted to go out and sock them, you know. It was not only the fact of being betrayed, but of being betrayed by their friend. So, I went through all that and finally, they came down to Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company. Well, boy was that a fight! By that time, I had gotten to know all the people on the committee, we were devoted friends. John Abt was the head counselor as I recall and Luke Wilson was on the staff and Charlie Flato, who is coming down to see us this spring and wants [unknown] to write something for you all, and Harold Weinstein, and that big fellow from Kentucky named Ed Prichard. He was sort of loaned from the White House. He was one of the "hot dog boys," Felix Frankfurter's law clerk. He was from Harvard . . . [Laughter] Oh, they always called them the "hot dog boys." And he always wore beautiful white linen suits, he was just the perfect picture of the old Kentucky colonel, you know. He didn't have a mustache, but gracious manners and an extremely attractive fellow. You know, he got put in jail for stealing votes and the people that knew him never could believe it. We didn't doubt that he might have stolen the votes, but we couldn't imagine how he got caught!

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We couldn't see how he could get caught in anything like that, because he was a brilliant fellow and he was just so smart. We liked him very much indeed. I'm sure that if he stole the votes, he stole them for a good cause, I'll say that. [Laughter] He was a delightful young man, I must say. Now, who else was on that committee, I can't remember, maybe some of the other names will come to me. But anyway, they were all very nice young men and we had lunch together, and I got to be a real fan. I was down on the front row all the time. There were a whole lot of other people, too, which is too much to go into. All the lobbyists of the labor unions were there and a lot of labor people were there. It was a real exciting summer and it did take my mind off my little boy's death, I must say. At least during the day. And then when they finally got to old Tom Girdler and Republic Steel and what he had done to the people in Birmingham and Girdler himself got on the stand and was confronted with all this . . . well, that was a great day, you can imagine. But when it got to the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company, they told all about these fine men in Birmingham who had formed this committee to fight the unions, of course. See, Bull Conner had been head of the steel mill police. The Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railroad Company at that time, as did most of these

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other organizations like the Little Steel in Ohio, had private police forces. In addition to the city police forces, they had private ones. So, Bull Conner had been head of the United States Steel private police force. Then, you see that Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad ran Birmingham, practically. We ate when they were prosperous and didn't when they weren't. So, they got him elected to be the police chief of Birmingham. Then, Crack Hanna took his place as head of the steel police and remember this, because he is the one that beat up Joe Gelders, had him beaten up . . . he got to be head of the National Guard here later. Crack Hanna got to be head of the US Steel private police force. So, this long thing was spread on the record about these fine gentlemen who had formed this [unknown] order and keep out all these organizers and all the things that happened with organizers, held incommunicado and all. They had held them sometimes for six months. Now, the guy that you were telling about, was Don West's brother-in-law. Now, he had another brother-in-law who came down there, I'm sure that he was a Communist, I forget his name now, because he went under two or three different names now, as I recall. And he was brought up and held incommunicado for six months

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it turns out, in this jail. He couldn't even get in contact with anybody. Nobody knew whether he was dead or . . . .
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Nobody knew whether he was dead or alive.
JACQUELYN HALL:
In Birmingham?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
In Birmingham. Well, he had to go out to Colorado because he had tuberculosis, which he got in jail.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Is this Jack Barton?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I don't think so. I don't remember his name, those young Communists in those days changed their names so often. I can't remember what name he went by then, but I just remember running into him in Denver and saying something to him and you know, he wouldn't recognize me and he wouldn't admit that he had ever been there. He wouldn't admit that he had ever taken part in it or anything. You know, you said that Annette Ross was the same way. They had a rough time and the ones that got out and went their way, they didn't even want to be reminded of it. At least, this guy didn't. Maybe it was Jack Barton, I can't remember it. You see, there were so many of them. The same thing was

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going in Mississippi, you see. And anyway, some of these fine high priced gentlemen who had formed this committee were the fathers of my friends.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did the committee have a name?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, I don't think so. I can't remember. I think that it was just a citizen's committee or something. You see, they all formed citizen's committees everywhere to keep them from organizing. But these were some of the fathers of my friends and the leading men of Birmingham, the men that I had been brought up to think were the leading men of Birmingham. So, I did something that I look back now as showing how foolish and stupid I was, I couldn't believe it. I thought that it was all just a total . . . I just didn't believe that these men could do that or keep people in communicado or have them beat up or disappear. And of course, Joe Gelders you see, he was the sort of focus of this hearing. Anyway, I will just say that I sent telegrams to all of my friends' fathers, these high class gentlemen, saying, "I have heard today in the LaFollette Committee you accused of such and such and I am sure that it is not the truth. Please refute this unwarranted lie." [Laughter] I just couldn't believe it. You know, people like Victor Hanson, who was

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head of the Birmingham News and lived on the next block up from us, oh, all kinds of people.
SUE THRASHER:
But you believed it about Harlan County and all the other places?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
But I didn't know them, you see. I knew these men. They were the fathers of my friends who had been so sweet to me all my life and were the leading citizens, so you know, I just didn't believe it. Well, I got some of the most embarrassed letters back that you have ever seen. They didn't send any telegrams, but . . . "My Dear Virginia, I do not think that you understand what has gone on here in Birmingham. I can assure you that our only objective has been to maintain law and order and we had nothing in the wide world to do with all this shooting and killing and holding incommunicado. That was absolutely not our intention." They just excused themselves completely.
But anyway, but this was the first time that I had heard the name of Joe Gelders. What had happened to him was that Crack Hanna's police had picked him up one night and taken him over the mountain [unknown] and they had beaten him and jumped on him and left him for dead. He had managed to crawl to the roadside and somebody picked him up and took him to Clanton and he was

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terribly hurt. When he died, they had an autopsy and they found that his chest was just a mass of cartilege and bone that had been crushed by this stamping on him, you see. They not only beat him, but they stamped on him and jumped up and down and left him for dead, took all his clothes off of him. But he survived, you see, and at this hearing he was sort of the central figure. This is all in the report, have you got that?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, it's all in that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
The National Committee for the Defense Political Prisoners or. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Is that the name of it? I forget. Well, anyway, I got terribly interested in this fellow from Alabama who had been beaten up so bad and left for dead. He was kind of the hero of the hearing. I don't think that he testified, as I recall, but I heard all the testimony about it. I came home and asked Cliff if he had heard of him and he said, "Why yes, he was at the university with me," and he knew him well. Then, I remember that I knew his brother and it all came back to me who Joe Gelders was. In Birmingham, we had always had a very rich community of Jews. They owned the big department stores, you know, and a lot of businesses and they were a very wealthly community. There were poor Jews, but I didn't know

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them. [unknown] There were not many, I don't think, not in Birmingham. Anyway, the Gelders lived up on the Red Mountain, which was the fashionable southside area and had a big house. I went to school with Louis Gelders who was Joe Gelders brother. He was a younger [unknown] about my age. And Louis Gelders and I had been through school together for years and we were friends, not close friends, but then Joe Gelders had an older sister named Emma Gelders. Well, Emma was quite a well known name in Birmingham, everybody called her a Bluestocking. She had gone to Smith College and graduated, which was very unusual in those days, you see. That was before my era. So, of a group of girls in Birmingham, Emma Gelders and Amelia Worthington and Mary Park London and Martha Toulmin, they were the Bluestockings, these four girls. Then, there was another one, but anyway, they were the ones who had all gone to college and they read books, gave papers, they were Bluestockings. I can hear my father saying, "Well, I saw Mary Parks London downtown today, she'll never get a husband." [Laughter] "Never. Mary Parks London is just entirely too educated for a woman." So, I thought that these women were rather set apart because they would never get married. Everybody said so. But, they all did. [Laughter] My father thought that they never would. And

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they were suffragists. This was a big thing, insisting on the women's right to vote. Then, it came back that I remembered about Emma Gelders. Well, she married Roy Stern and went up to New York to live. So, I decided that when I came back down to Alabama, I was going to look up Joe Gelders and see what kind of fellow he was. So, I did. I went by myself and looked at the books down at the office and I can't remember whether it was the National Committee to Protect Political Prisoners or the National Civil Rights [unknown] Defense League, or what . . . if I can look through all my files, I bet that I have got some letters from them, if I can ever find them. Oh, if I had ever had sense enough to keep all this stuff, but you know, I just threw it all away. I have got letters from Hugo that I threw away and from Lyndon Johnson, Joe Gelders, Jim Dombrowski, Clark Foreman . . . I just threw them all away. You know, you never thought of it as being historical or anybody being interested in what you were doing except yourself. And you know, we had a lot of opposition. We didn't feel exactly popular.
But I did go to see Joe Gelders, wherever his office was, and there he was, tall and thin and I thought he was a good looking fellow and he looked like a Jewish prophet, kind of beautiful blue eyes and with lovely manners. Then, he had this darling wife named Esther Gelders, who was

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Esther Frank and came from Montgomery. She was very lively and cute and very pretty and a typical kind of southern belle type, chatty and made you feel at home. He had never heard of me before, I think. Anyway, I started to say that I had heard about him at the LaFollette Committee. He said, "Let's go out in the park." I said, "What?" He said, "Let's go out in the park." I said, "O.K." So, we went down in the elevator and sat in the public park. He said, "You know my office is wired." I said, "What for?" He said, "Well, I just know that it is. They've got taps on my line everywhere and you know, everybody that comes in, they know who it is." That was the first time that I had every heard of the FBI, you know, wiring people or tapping them or anything. So, I thought that Joe and Esther Gelders were just a lovely young couple. They were older than I was, but just by a few years. I thought that he was a lovely young man, handsome, charming and well mannered. I told them how terrible it was to come back to Birmingham and find that everybody was so against the New Deal and hating Roosevelt so, hating Mrs. Roosevelt so . . . you know, that was the time of the Eleanor Clubs, they claimed that the blacks had formed Eleanor Clubs and would push people off the sidewalks and they would make an engagement to come and wash or cook and wouldn't come. They were supposedly doing everything to irritate the white folks. And people believed it, you know.

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Absolutely. I heard it a thousand times. "I'm sure that my cook has joined the Eleanor Club." Or, "I'm sure the washwoman has joined the Eleanor Club. Everyone of them has. You can't walk downtown anymore because they will come up and just push you in the gutter." [Laughter] And you know, this really distressed me. This was on the race issue and I hadn't gotten to the race issue yet, but I hated for Mrs. Roosevelt to be so maligned because I was so devoted to her. You see, working in the Democratic National Committee, she used to invite us over to the White House for tea and lunch and that was quite exciting for me and thrilling, you know. Anyway, the union thing wasn't mentioned much, that was too awful. That was just something that nobody spoke of, because you see, they had/finally organized the steelworkers by that time. There had been awful lots of shooting and trouble. But anyway, Joe and Esther were delightful and I was devoted and we agreed to stay in touch and if he ever came to Washington, he would come come by to see me. O.K., now this is about 1936.
Well, in the meantime, Cliff had joined something called . . . what is it, I forget. Well, anyway, it was a group of young southerners in the New Deal, Clark Foreman and. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Southern Policy Committee?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
That's right . . . how did you know all this?

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JACQUELYN HALL:
I've been studying. [Laughter]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, you want to ask me any more questions. [Laughter] Southern Policy Committee, that's right. These southern young New Dealers would meet and have dinner together once or twice a month and discuss things about the South and you know, it was all white in [unknown] the first place and it was all kind of these high echelon people, you know, in the Senate and the House and in the New Deal agencies and they would discuss freight rate differential and that was a big thing, you know, because that was really something that they felt was holding the South back terribly. So, Clark Foreman was very active in this group and . . . Oh, Lord, I have to go back again. But in the meantime, you see what had happened was that Roosevelt ran in '36 and got an enormous vote, a perfectly huge vote. So, he decided that he would purge the southerners who were blocking him, because all these New Deal bills were being blocked by southerners. Most of the southerners, particularly Senator Walter George from Georgia. And the main thing was, you see, that Aubrey Williams and Harry Hopkins were paying the WPA people, white and black the same and this was, "ruiningg the nigras." They wouldn't

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work for a dollar a day anymore and this was just absolutely going to ruin the whole South. "Paying the nigras more than a dollar a day was going to ruin the whole structure of the South." Because what they felt that all they really had to offer the North was cheap labor. We had such a low opinion of ourselves, southerners did, in those days. A lot of them still do. So, they think that they have to knuckle under to the North and tempt them with cheap labor. Well, Roosevelt began his . . . you've read all about that, I'm sure, this purge. Of course, with all these people, he didn't win with any of them, except I think O'Connor of New York, he purged him. But George got elected with a bigger vote than ever. And you see, when Roosevelt was trying to purge George, he had made a speech in Milledgeville, I believe, in which he said that fascism and feudalism were just about the same thing and that fascism came out of fedualism and the South still had the same outlook as feudalism. Well, that made the people in Georgia mighty mad and they came out and voted for George. Of course, there weren't that many people that voted. At that time, there were about 13% of the people, now, this wasn't of the population, this was of the people of voting age, about 13% voted in Alabama, maybe 10 or 12% in Mississippi, maybe 15% in Georgia. This was a proportion of the voting population. And you see, people who fought in the

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first World War were relieved of the poll tax, but still, we had this little tiny vote. The oligarchy ruled the South. And I think that in Tennessee, it may have been 17%. Now, you all can. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Is this 17% of the population or. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, this is a percentage of the potential voters, of the people over 21 who could vote. So, this was a tiny little minority you see.
Almost no blacks voted and no women voted then to a great degree. You see, I was working on that. We hadn't gotten to the point yet of working on the black vote but we were working on the women's vote. Anyway, Clark Foreman had come down and taken part in that, the fight against Senator George and the purge and of course, he had been very reviled in Atlanta as an agent of the New Deal and so forth. He had a pretty tough time, you know, because his family were fashionable and belonged to the Piedmont Driving Club and all and they took it hard for Clark to turn against his family and class, as they said. So, when Clark came back from that, he was really het up about the South and there was another fellow in there named Jerome Frank who was a brilliant man, he got to be a Yale professor, but he was then working in the Agriculture Department and he was the one, you know, that proposed or was there when they had the big row about killing the pigs and tearing up the cotton and the corn, you know. And

Page 69
I was telling Sue earlier, you didn't have to be so smart in those days, you know, you didn't have to be ideological to know that something was very wrong when you saw people dying of starvation and yet, cotton was being plowed up and pigs were being killed and corn was being plowed up and butter was being . . . I don't know, left to melt or something and they used corn to stoke the furnaces with. And you didn't have to be very bright, if you know what, I mean, you didn't have to have some great study to know that something was wrong about this, that people were dying of starvation not because there was too little, but because there was too much. You get the feeling that we had of living in a made world. Anyway, Clark came back and he and Jerome Frank decided that he would get out a pamphlet on the South and he got Cliff and Jack Fisher, who later became editor of the Atlantic, and Tex Goldschmidt, and Cliff has got a copy of that here, you must have that, Report on the South, and there is a letter that Cliff wrote to the President saying that the South was the paradox of the nation, rich in natural resouces and the poorest of all. It got to be known as "The South, economic problem number 1." That's what the president said about it. Well, anyway, that was written. . . .

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JACQUELYN HALL:
What part of that did Cliff write?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
He wrote the part on credit, I think, or banking. So, they had written this, a lot of it got written in my drawing room,and the fights that they used to have.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What were the controversies among these people?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
You will have to ask Cliff about all this. I wasn't in on it, no women were allowed. I just had to feed them, you know. [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
O.K., I've got the picture. [Laughter]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
You see, I was always bringing in coffee and food, but they were fighting each other. You will have to get it from Cliff, because I wasn't present, except rarely, and then I wasn't allowed to take part. I was still not taking part in things like that at all. Well, in any case, they wrote this pamphlet and then they got a lot of very distinguished people up from the South to certify it.
He's got the pamphlet with all their names on it. Have you got it?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
O.K., well now, just about this time, which must have been the spring of '37, or the summer of '37, because the first Southern Conference was held in the fall of '38, isn't that right? Well, I think that it was the early summer, because

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the primary, you see, in '37 had been when these people ran. You see, Roosevelt had been elected in '36, and the Senators and Congressmen were elected in '38, but they ran in '37. Hugo had been put on the Supreme Court by that time. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes, in '38.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Was he put on in '38 or '37? I think that he was put on in '37.
JACQUELYN HALL:
He took office in '38, perhaps.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well . . . it's absolutely stupid that I have forgotten dates, because I can remember all about it just like it was yesterday, I could up and fill a whole reel on that, it was. . . .
SUE THRASHER:
He was re-elected in '32 and he was getting ready to run again in '38 and. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes, but the primary was in '37 and he took office in '38, and he may have been running, but he was put on the Supreme Court by that time.
BOB HALL:
The election was in '38, but that wasn't. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, he was put on the Supreme Court after the big Supreme Court fight, you see he took Roosevelt's side in all that and that is one of the main reasons that he was put on the Court. And I swear to God, I can't remember

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whether it was '37 or '38. I know that the Southern Conference met in the fall of '38.
SUE THRASHER:
And he was on the Court at that time.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
He was on the Court at that time, but I believe that he had been put on the Court in '37, but maybe I am mistaken about it. I wish that I had a better memory for dates, but I have some sort of weakness about numbers, they just slide out of my mind. You know, that's one of the southern lady traits, you can't balance a checkbook. I never did succeed in arithmetic.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, this might get off the subject too much, but I wanted to ask you about this, the controversy over Blacks membership in the Ku Klux Klan. Did you want to talk about that now?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Let me come into Hugo later, because I've got to bring all these threads together or they will be just be oblivion and cobwebs. Well, I've told you about Clark Foreman going to assist Roosevelt in the purge in Georgia and about how badly they got beat. So, he came back and he did that work with Georgia for the National Emergency Council, which was kind of the propaganda wing of the New Deal. So, when he came back, that was in the spring of '38, the purge must have taken place in the spring of '38, didn't it?
BOB HALL:
I think that the election would have been

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in November of '38.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
In November of '38. Well, anyway, do you want me to go back and look it up?
JACQUELYN HALL:
We can look it up.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, anyway, Clark came back and he got Cliff and all these people together and they wrote this report on the South and this was going to be a kind of a launching force for some action on the South. Then, he brought up all these distinguished people from the South to certify that this was a good thing. Their names are all in the report. O.K., but just about at this time, I am still a friend of the Lewises in Alexandria, but I had no connection with them officially or through labor or anything. I was friendly on the social level and had become quite friendly with Kathryn by this time, but I was invited to a luncheon given by a Mrs. Bryant, whose husband was head of the banks and there at the luncheon, I met Mrs. Bryant's sister, who was Lucy Randolph Mason. Well, you see, the Mason's were another big aristocratic family from that area. They had a house down the hill from where our farmhouse was, of course, they didn't own it any longer, but it had been the Mason house. You know, George Mason, who had the big house down on the river and was the Mason who was the author of the Civil

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Rights of Virginia and you see, there was also a Mason who had gone to England with Slidell as an emmisary of the Confederacy and you know, the Masons were one of the great families of Virginia. Well, Miss Lucy Randolph Mason. . . .but they were like a lot of old southern people, you know, they got poor. So one of the Mason girls married Mr. Bryant who was the head of the bank in Alexandria and he was also considered very aristocratic. Mr. John L. Lewis banked with him. You see, John L. Lewis and his wife wanted very much to be identified with Alexandria. In fact, Kathryn once said to me that her mother's one great desire in the world was to be taken into the garden club. She never was. But you know, they joined the geneological society and Mrs. Lewis wanted to identify with this gentility of Virginia.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And did John Lewis want that, too?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I really think that he did, yes. I really think he did. He also wanted to identify later with the big corporation overlords. But Mr. Lewis had been a miner and he had come from Wales and his family had worked in the mines and Mrs. Lewis had been a schoolteacher and I think that she taught him to read and write. He was a very massive and very brilliant man, you know, he had those big

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eyebrows, but a very courteous manner. He talked with such an accent that it sounded like a Shakespearean actor, almost.
But Mrs. Lewis was a very well educated woman and lady, you know, and she wanted to associate with ladies and gentlemen. [unknown] She loved northern Virginia, she loved the gentility of Alexandria and the old houses and the gardens. I think that she loved the black servants, too, the butler, the maid, the cook. It's a very pleasant life, I can assure you. [Laughter] And at that time, it was a very cheap life, too, because the servants were so cheap. But in any case, I met Lucy Randolph Mason. She was terribly excited at this luncheon because she had been hired by Mr. Lewis to be the public relations expert for the CIO and to be settled in Atlanta. She was a very pretty woman with white hair and blue eyes and very delicate looking, you know. And oh, the epitome of the Virginia aristocratic lady, you know, the delicate bones and all. She was just thrilled to death that day and nobody else at the luncheon knew what she was talking about, you know. To be a public relations expert for the CIO? Good God! Can you imagine such? So, she and I got to be friendly because I knew what she was talking about and we had a little private conversation and I thought it was marvelous that she was going to Atlanta to

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be the public relations expert for the CIO. She had come to her brother-in-law, Mr. Bryant, who was a banker, and he had told her to ask Mr. Lewis if he would interview her, because she had been working with the YWCA and she had gotten tired of that. She just thought that it was hopeless and she wanted to get in the labor movement some way. So, Mr. Lewis was smart enough to see what an asset she would be to him in the South, because you know, she could go to see all the editors and all the sheriffs and you know, they would just instinctively get up and take their hats off, they couldn't sit in her presence, you know. I guess they thought that they would see someone like Bella Abzug, [unknown] just charging on like a Mac Truck, but then here was this beautiful little old lady with pink cheeks and blue eyes and white hair and she always dressed in a very neat sort of maidenly way and she had this lovely Virginia accent, you know. She said, "gyardon" instead of "garden," she was just the absolutely, just the epitome of the Virginia aristocratic lady.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was it about the YWCA that had discouraged her?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, she thought that these girls didn't get paid enough. How could you work with a lot of

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girls in a tobacco factory if they just weren't being paid enough? How could you save them from a life of sin or to bring them to Jesus or whatever? [Laughter] You know, they weren't making but about fifteen dollars a week, maybe, and she just thought that wasn't enough. No, she had a very strong developed social consciousness and she also had been a friend of Mrs. Roosevelt. She had known her through these various YWCA, laboring girls projects, these do-good projects. Well, anyway, about the middle of the summer, which must have been the summer of 1938, I'm sure it was, I got a call from Joe Gelders, who I had met just once before. And he said that he and Miss Lucy Randolph Mason were in Alexandria and wanted to come out and see me. So, they did come out and they had just been to see Mr. and Mrs. Roosevelt at Hyde Park and what had happened was this: Joe Gelders had gone over to Mississippi to Tupelo, I think, where John Rankin was a Congressman and he was the most vicious of all, although he wasn't as bad as Jim Eastland got to be, that son-of-a-bitch, I mean, that polecat, that cottonmouth moccasin, that rattlesnake [Laughter] that "common lowdown poor white trash." [Laughter] Is there anything else that we can think to call him? Well, anyway, John Rankin was just awful, you know, he was anti-Semitic and anti-black but he was for the New Deal in that he was for the TVA, the public electricity. But he was just adamant about any

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labor unions. Then, he began all this Communist business and I heard a lot about that from the LaFollette Committee, too you see, everybody that joined the CIO was a Communist, oh, just everybody was a Communist. And I still thought that if you belonged to a labor union, you probably were a Communist, that was just what I understood about it. So, anyway, Joe and Miss Lucy said that they had been to see the Roosevelts up at Hyde Park and told them the terrible conditions that were happening in Mississippi, you know that they had had all kinds of burnings and murders and beatings up and defiances of the law there. There was a Jimmy Collins as I remember, who was a famous case and he got to be almost as famous as that girl in Carolina, what was her name, Ella Mae Wiggins. You've heard of her, they wrote a song about her and there is a whole novel about her called To Make My Bread. Well, Jimmy Collins was trying to organize the textile workers in Mississippi and he was beat up and so forth and so on and it was about this time, you see, that Ida Engeman got kidnapped and run out of town in a nightgown.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was she organizing for the textile workers?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
She was organizing for the ILGWU. So, anyway, they had gone to see the Roosevelts to tell them

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about these terrible conditions in the South. And Mr. Roosevelt was still feeling pretty sore, you see, because he had failed in his purge and everybody had voted for the people that he was trying to purge in the South. So, the Roosevelts had agreed to call a meeting in the South in the fall to bring together the New Deal elements of the South. So, Joe and Miss Lucy were asking me if I would help them with it in some way, you know, trying to get Hugo Black interested in it maybe, or Cliff interested. So, I told them at that point about Clark Foreman and how he had had this group going, the Southern Policy Committee and the pamphlet that they had written, so they all got together. Now, I can't tell you all the details of them getting together, but they all got together finally. I mean, the New Dealers and the Southern Policy Committee and the labor people and then, you see, the black people, because they brought them in.
Now, you will have to find all out about how the black people got there from somebody like Dr. Charles Gomillion or Louis Jones. Or Myles Horton, because they know it. But I just remember about the labor people being there and the New Deal people being there and the liberal people being there. So, they all got together in Birmingham in November of 1938.

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And so, I went down as a representative of the Women's Division of the Democratic National Committee.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did they sponsor you for. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, yes, I had a badge on saying that I was a delegate from the Women's Division. So, Cliff had been asked to make a speech on credit because he had written a thing on credit for that little pamphlet Economic Problem #1. Then, they had decided to give Hugo the Thomas Jefferson Award. So . . . this is taking a lot of time, I think it is interesting, but do you. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, it's fantastic.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
You think it is?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Absolutely.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, what happened was, Clark Foreman was going and Tex Goldschmidt I believe went, so anyway, I went and stayed at my mother's house. My mother and father were still living in that old house. She had a kind of a nurse housekeeper that was keeping the house and I think that Daddy still had a job then with the National Emergency Council. But mother was still in a terrible deep state of depression, melancholia. Then, Hugo came down. So, Cliff had gone to Texas with Jesse Jones for a meeting of the American Bankers Association. So, he got there after I had gotten there and after Sister and Hugo had gotten there. Oh, they had asked William Dodd, you

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know, who was the Ambassador to Germany. You know, William Dodd, who was a great professor at Chicago. They had asked him to speak, because the fascist thing was rising then and he was going to speak on the threat of Hitlerism, I think, Well, that was still kind of new to me, if you know what I mean, I wasn't into it that much. I mean, I knew about it, but it still was far off and vague. So, Hugo and Sister got there and they had come down on the train with Ambassador Dodd and when they got to our house, they said, "Ambassador Dodd has gone out of his mind, he's as crazy as a bat. I don't know what in the world has gone wrong with him, but he has lost his mind." And he had. He had some terrible kind of mental block and he was supposed to introduce Hugo you see, and they had to lead him off the stage because he couldn't pronounce words any more. Maybe he had a slight stroke, I don't know. They got that guy who was a columnist in the newspaper there and who later became very, very reactionary, John Temple Graves. I think that he introduced Hugo.
Hugo gave a perfectly marvelous speech, quoting Thomas Jefferson all the way through it. Mrs. Roosevelt was there that night and we were strictly segregated. All of one side of the city auditorium was black and the other side was all white. Because, you see, Hugo got there the last day of the meeting, but I had been there for several days before and I went to the

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first meeting, which was on Sunday night. Cliff hadn't come then, but we met there with all of these people from all over the South. There was Joe Gelders and there were Jane Speed and Dolly, you know and this fellow Rob Hall, the Communist Secretary [unknown] for Alabama. Then, there was a lot of labor people there, there was Bill Mitch and the mine workers people were there and so were the steel workers and Mrs. Bethune was there and of course, Frank Graham and all the North Carolina people were there. So, Frank Graham was elected temporary chairman and he got up and there was a lot of singing and praying always at southern meetings, particularly where there are [unknown] blacks, you know. We prayed and we sang. So, we were all integrated, just sitting all over the auditorium in little groups. Myles Horton was there, you know, people from . . . by that time, I had been to the Highlander Folk School, but that would take another tape to tell about the effect that it had on me, which was really terrific.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Can we go back to that?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, we can, but I will talk for three or four weeks or months if you are going to carry in all these various things. But I must say that the Highlander Folk School

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did have a tremendous effect on me. But in any case, we were all sitting there in the auditorium, and as I said, we were all integrated and they elected Frank Graham for temporary chairman and there were a lot of announcements of things and the program and so forth. We were going to have a meeting the next morning to elect a permanent chairman and then break up into workshops. So, when we came back on Monday morning, the whole place was surrounded by Black Marias, surrounded on all four sides. Every police van and Black Maria in the city and county were up there and the whole place surrounded by policemen, inside and out. And there was old Bull Conner saying that anybody that broke the segregation law of Alabama would be arrested right then and there and taken to jail in that Black Maria and no if and, and buts about it, he was going to watch it. There was a great debate as to whether they could get together on the stage. We accepted the fact that under the laws of the city of Birmingham, we had to be segregated, blacks had to sit on one side and whites had to sit on the other. There was a great debate as to whether they could sit and stand on the stage together. You just can't imagine the state we were in when we had this terrific debate as to whether two speakers could pass each other on the stage, one black and one white, or stand together, you know. So, they

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accepted that, the people who were running it, you see, Frank Graham and others, they accepted that. So, they divided with blacks on one side and whites on the other. And Mrs. Roosevelt had come by that time and she took a folding chair and put it plumb right in the middle of the aisle and said that she would not be segregated. And they were scared to arrest her. After all, she was the wife of the President of the United States. [Laughter] So, she got by with it.
Well, the first day, they had workshops and as I remember, Cliff came in and he gave his workshop on credit. There were a lot of people like Donald Comer of Avondale Mills and General Persons of the First National Bank, people that the New Deal had helped out of the hole and were still kind of New Dealish. But soon, of course, the labor unions, the blacks and the radical groups, there were socialists there too . . . oh, what was that man's name, I despise him so . . . a big socialist. What was that fellow's name? Isn't it funny that you forget people that you hate so? I thank God that you remember the ones you like . . .
SUE THRASHER:
Where was he from?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, he was from Georgia, and the. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Frank McAllister?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Frank McAllister! [Laughter] Oh, God, how I hated that fellow! Well, the first thing he did, he came up

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to me, he was like Uriah Heep, you know, just smiling all the time and wanted to know if he could take me home, because Cliff wasn't there at the time or something. I said that that was very nice and so, he took me home. He and this other fellow named David somebody who was also a socialist. So, they wanted to know if I knew that Joe Gelders was a Communist. I said that I guessed he was, I hadn't thought about it very much. They wanted to know if I knew that Rob was a Communist and Janes and Dolly and all these people were Communists.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Dolly was at the Birmingham meeting?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes. And I said, "Well, Mr. McAllister, you know, these people are all doing the same thing that we are doing, they are trying to fight against the poll tax, get the labor organized. They are doing what the New Deal wants to do." "Well, Mrs. Durr, you are young and naive . . . " H.L. Mitchell says that at that time, the socialists thought that I was a Junior League dilettante. He told me that the other day. I said, "Well, H.L.. you remember me at the Southern Conference?" "Oh, of course I remember you. We all thought that you were a Junior League dilettante." [Laughter] Of course, I thought that I was the greatest thing in the world, facing up to the lions of Birmingham and coming down to the

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meeting at all. So, I can assure you that none of my friends came, the ones that I was raised with. So, in any case, he began to throw suspicion on this one and that one, you know. I got awfully mad at him and I said, "I think that you are just trying to break the whole thing up." Which he was.
Because the socialists . . . now, I like H.L. Mitchell, he lives in Montgomery and I still see him often. I think that H.L. did a great job over in Arkansas, but the point was that at that time . . . now, H.L. has changed. You know, he doesn't red bait the way that he used to. But those socialists, by God, the Trotskyites, it didn't matter what came up, whether it was the size of a peach or nothing, I swear, you couldn't decide where you were going to lunch without them bringing up the damned red baiting. "Are you sure you want to have him to lunch? We think he's a Communist." You know, you would just go crazy with it, you couldn't sit down to do anything, you couldn't sit down to have just the simplest meeting on procedure without this thing starting up. They were crazy on the subject. I have never people so nutty on anything in my life. I still don't understand why they were so nutty about it. They still are, I reckon. Do you think they still are? Are they like the Maoists and the Revisionists, you think now? Or even worse? You know, here we were in Birmingham, Alabama . . . (well, with the Maoists and the

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Revisionists, I get mad, too.) But here we were [unknown] sitting down in Alabama, trying to protect the rights of people to organize so that they would make more than two dollars a day, trying to get people the right to vote so that they couldhave some influence on the. . . .
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
some influence on their lives. Doing things that just were absolutely fundamental, right on the lowest level of political and economic democracy and these socialists and Trotskyites did nothing in the world but red bait. It made me mad. And if you didn't go along with them, then they red baited you. McAllister red baited me to fare-thee-well from then on out. It really was something and it made you mad, too. I still get mad when I think about it. I used to think that the Trotskyites were some form of fleas, I didn't even know what they were. [Laughter] They always made me itch everytime they were around . . . [Laughter] But in any case, then things began to get kind of tough and then they brought

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in a lady named Mabel Jones West who was sort of hired hand for the writer Ku Klux Klan, I think. She was at the Morris Hotel and her reputation wasn't the best, to put it mildly and she was one of the one that they have proved shot at Joe Gelders or encouraged someone to shoot at him through the window. I never did get it straight whether she was with him when she shot at him or whether she bragged about having encouraged people to shoot at him. But she . . . well, he was living some place out of Birmingham and they came by one night and shot in his windows. But she was one of these . . . she looked like a used Kleenex, you know. [Laughter] I can't describe it any better than that, one that had been blown on for some time, snot. Anyway, she launched this terrible attack on the Southern Conference for Human Welfare from the extreme right wing, we were all a bunch of reds, you know.
JACQUELYN HALL:
In the meeting? She would do this in the meeting?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, no. In the papers. And she "didn't know what the niggers and the white women were up to." They were eating together and "what did they do at night and where were they staying." The same old dirt, you know. Just get a black man and a white woman in a big auditorium and by that night, they'll be in bed. [Laughter]

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Well, that made me mad, too, you know. It was disgusting and it really made me sore. So, I was pretty badgered, because some friends of mine, they are sweet dear people now and one is dead, but they took me out to lunch. These are friends of my childhood from all through my life, one had been in my wedding, just two very devoted friends. And she said, "Now, Jinksie, I think that I should tell you frankly that I think for you to come down here and encourage this rabble to take over and you are going to go back to Washington and we are left to deal with it, well, I just have to tell you that I think it is the most horrible thing you have ever done. I don't think that you could possibly know what you are doing. You are going off and leave us with this rabble on our hands that will just try to take over everything." She was serious about it, too. And her husband was serious about it. They just wanted to tell me that I was doing something that was just awful. So, I was meeting with quite a lot of opposition.
We had the meetings and the workshops and Aubrey Williams got in trouble. He was presiding over a workshop on relief or something like that and somebody said to him, making a joke, "Oh, come the revolution, we'll do this." Some joke, you know, just a remark. And Aubrey said, "Hooray for the revolution," or some joking remark. Well, it came out over the radio that Aubrey Williams, one of the heads of WPA had said that we

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welcomed the revolution. Well, the first thing we know, Mr. Roosevelt is on the line and said, "What are you and my wife doing down there? What do you mean by coming out and saying you are for the revolution?" Mr. Roosevelt was in no way a socialist, you understand. He didn't believe in the revolution. He believed in restoring capitalism, which he did. Well, Aubrey tried to explain it was a joke, but Mr. Roosevelt kind of got teed off with Aubrey about that, because of course, all the papers immediately seized on that. "Aubrey Williams, head of WPA says `Welcome the revolution." You cannot believe really, the extent to which this went on. I suppose you can if you lived through the sixties. But at that time, people weren't used to it.
SUE THRASHER:
But there were an awful lot of people at that meeting. Wasn't Black there to accept the Jefferson Award?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh yes, I'm getting to Hugo. Oh, yes he came. We were all staying at my mother's house. I told about Ambassador Dodd's mind slipping and having to be led off the stage. Well, it was pretty grim. Poor fellow, something happened to his mind, he couldn't even prononce words. Well, Roosevelt was very upset about this and Aubrey was just joking, but it shows you how this was so current. They fought the

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labor unions on the Communist charge, they fought the New Deal on the Communist charge, they fought Mrs. Roosevelt on the Communist charge. They used it against everything. In the meantime, you see, Roosevelt, far from being a Communist, had withdrawn aid from Spain even. He didn't even help the Spanish Republic, which was duly elected. And the best book on Spain, if you haven't read it, is Claude Bower's book. Have you read it, he was the Ambassador to Spain. It is a perfectly brilliant book and you must read it. I can't remember the name, but it shows that it was a duly elected democratic government that was overthrown by a military push. Of course, Roosevelt went along with all that . . . well, with Cardinal Spelman and the Catholic Church more than anything else. In any case, I am sure that Aubrey made peace with Roosevelt finally. But then, we had a meeting on the poll tax. Well, this was the thing that the whole crowd finally determined was the most important, getting rid of the damn poll tax. Because until they could vote, they couldn't do anything. The sheriffs and deputies and all the people that were keeping them from organizing, well of course, they couldn't vote for them. So, this became the big thing, the getting rid of the poll tax, getting rid of the freight

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rate differential organizing. There must be minutes of all these meetings somewhere. Aren't they somewhere?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes, there are some that. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Where are they?
SUE THRASHER:
They're at Tuskegee and unorganized.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, they ought to be organized. Well, anyway, Maury Maverick was a Congressman then from Texas. He came from San Antonio and he was a dear friend of mine and so was his wife. I just saw her last week in Texas. He was a lovely, great, marvelous man. He was kind of short, he had been injured in the first World War and was kind of humped over, had been severely injured in his back. He was one of the bravest, finest men that I have ever known. You know, a real New Dealer. He was kin to Maury Fontaine, a great geographer and he was very proud of that. [Laughter] We were all so southern that we all bragged about our ancestors. So, anyway, Maury got elected president and he agreed to take it and I was elected vice-president, Joe Gelders was elected secretary of the anti-poll tax committee and the guy that was running this whole show and acting as the secretary for the Southern Conference on Human Welfare was named H.D. Nixon and he came from east Alabama somewhere and he had written some

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awfully good books one named Forty Acres and A Mule, I believe, and he was a professor at Vanderbilt University or had been or got to be. I know that he kind of dropped out of things later, because he was a professor. Did you ever know him?
SUE THRASHER:
I've seen the book.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, he was a lovely guy, he was sort of a mountaineer, pioneer type, popular type. That book just about expresseed was he believed in. But he was a really well educated man, too and an awfully nice man. But he dropped out of the Southern Conference later on. Then, people got scared off . . . Frank Graham was elected president, you see and. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Virginia, when the controversy over segregation came up, is that . . . had you thought about that issue before?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, I was furious at Bull Conner. By that time, I had come around to thinking that segregation was terrible.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How had you come around to that from the time that. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
From the time that Clark Foreman and I had the big fight? Well, just by osmosis, I reckon. See, I

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met Mrs. Bethune and I met various Negro people at the Foreman's house like the Dobbses and these were the first time that I had met them on an equal plame, if you know what I mean. I had always known them before as servants and the mailman was probably the highest educated Negro that I met before I went to Washington. I never met one that could read or write well except the postman and I remember that the postman was a very literate man and I remember going back down and shaking hands with him and saying that I was so glad to see him and called him "Mr." and oh, I got hell on that. My brother-in-law heard me and said, "Now look, Virginia, if you think that you are going to get by with calling the postman, "Mr.', you are wrong. Birmingham won't stand for that."
SUE THRASHER:
Was this Hugo?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, no, Cliff's brother, who is a lovely man, but you see, he was just as rigid as he could be. I remember that. You know, it's like having escaped from a prison, as if you had gotten out of a cage. That's why I get so upset over the blacks that want to put themselves back in a cage, because it was a terrible thing to be white and have to think that everybody that wasn't white was inferior and looking down on them and thinking that they smelled bad, were

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common, vulgar, it's just terrible. I don't know if you can remember how dreadful it was, you are too young. It was so rude, too. You know, I was brought up to be a southern lady and it dawned upon me how rude it was to think that a black was too dirty and smelled too bad to sit by me or had to be segregated. And of course, I had been raised by them and sat in their laps, slept with them and kissed them all my life. You know, this was what was so crazy about the South. This is way you young people have got to eventually . . . and I hope, maybe after I'm dead and gone, that the South will become reasonable. It is getting more reasonable now, I think that you young people are more reasonable and more reasonable things are happening, but the South is still crazy. You see, we grew up with such contradictory feelings. "I loved dear old Suzy, she raised me from a baby and she treated me like a mama and she is the sweetest thing in the world," but "of course, I wouldn't sit by her son on the bus." Think of the men that repudiated their own children. I mean, didn't it ever occur to you that most of the light Negroes that you see in the South had white fathers or white grandfathers? What did it do to a man to repudiate his own child? And to say that he was so inferior that he can't sit on a bus and drink a glass of water. Just think what it did to a man to do that? Can

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you imagine? Wouldn't you think that would do something funny to their brains? To say, "That's my son, but he can't. . . ." Clark Foreman told me the funniest, most awful tale that I ever heard in my life. He told me two. He said that there was a white girl who got pregnant by a black boy voluntarily, you know, voluntarily. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were these stories he told you at the time, in the 30's?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes, this is something that he was concerned with down in Georgia. Anyway, this country white girl got pregnant by this black fellow and so, she had a baby who was sent to a black orphanage, because her family had found out about it. But the mother of the child wanted to see the child after it had been there some time, so she went to the black orphanage where the child was, I guess that the child was four or five, but anyway, it was eating at the table with the other children and the people that ran the orphanage said to her, "Don't you want to sit by your child?" And she said, "Well, I couldn't do it, eat with blacks?" This was her own child! She couldn't sit by her own child! She could have nursed him at her breast, but she couldn't eat with him. And he told me that as a true story. He even told me a funnier story about how down on the Howell plantation,

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they had an uncle or something that had several black half children and they were brought up at his aunt's, sort of in the back yard all together. They knew they were kin, there wasn't any doubt about that, everybody knew that. So, the blacks went up to Philadelphia and this woman in particular did very well. Her son got to be a doctor and she rose in the world. She came back to Atlanta and she called one of the aunts and said that she wanted to see them. She had been gone so long and she remembered so much about them. And Clark said that they had family meeting to see this woman, this half-sister or whatever she was of theirs. They couldn't meet in the parlor, that would be just absolutely breaking every taboo in the South, since she was half-black. They couldn't take her into the kitchen, because she had risen in the world and her son was a doctor, so they decided that the lady that would receive her, she would go to bed and pretend that she was sick and then they could bring her up into the bedroom and all the other aunts could come visit and they could all sit down. He said that they had a whole family gathering to decide this. Well, that's the way things were. It's hard to believe now.
So, anyway, where was I when I got off on this strange. . . .well, anyway, the

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Southern Conference ended with . . . as I say, you must get from some black person and you'd better get it from Dr. Gomillion, because he is getting old too, he's older than I am, before he dies you must learn how the blacks got to the Southern Conference, because this is something that I don't know. I just know that they were there, but how they came, whether it was through Mrs. Bethune, I don't know. There were these Communists there, this small group, Jane and Dolly and . . . well, Joe always said that he wasn't a Communist. He went along with them, but he said he never joined the party. Then, there was Rob Hall, who was the Communist secretary and I am sure that there were a few more, but I don't remember who they were. But anyway, Rob was a good old southern boy, you know, and I met him at that meeting and I liked him all right, we never got to be real good friends, but I thought that Joe Gelders was just marvelous, just a saint, a saint and a prophet, just wonderful. And his wife too, I liked them both too. Anyway, Joe came up to Washington and tried to implement the resolutions that had been passed on the poll tax. So, I believe that he stayed with Pat Jackson, do you remember him.? I think he stayed there. Pat helped us in those days, then he made a switch and got to be a terrific red baiter, but then, he wasn't. Anyway, they worked

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and worked and worked and finally, they got a guy from California named Lee Geyer who would introduce the bill in the house to abolish the poll tax in Federal elections. They tried everybody but they couldn't get anyone except Lee Geyer. He was a lovely man, I forget the name of the district in California that he was from, but he was a splendid person. He was very strong for labor unions and someway, in his district, Harry Bridges' union was quite powerful, so I think that had an effect on him. But he was just a lovely man and you know, he died of cancer of the throat and he never did desert the cause until he was dead. He made one of his last speeches when he could barely talk, his vocal chords were about gone and it was about abolishing the poll tax. So, he introduced a bill and it went to the jusidicairy committee under Hatton Sumners. He held hearings. Well, I can't remember all who testified, Maury Maverick testified and I can't remember it all, this is all official too . . . no, it isn't because they never would print the hearings. Hatton Sumners of Texas absolutely refused to print the hearings, wouldn't have anything to do with it. They had the hearings, they had all kinds of people up there and they were saying that the end of the South was at hand, the Negroes would take

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over and all, just on and on. They just went on and on, but we had the hearings and Geyer did introduce the bill. Now, that went on for years and years. You can get it all out of the Congressional Record and it will tell you who all introduced it, and in the Senate, it was the great Senator George Norris. So, we began to have in Lee Geyer's office, the committee headquarters. Now, this was the poll tax committee of the Southern Conference.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So, you were on that committee?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I was the vice-chairman and Maury Maverick was the chairman. I think that he had been defeated by. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about Gelders?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
He was the secretary. See, he lived in Birmingham and he only came up and. . . .
SUE THRASHER:
He was the secretary of the committee? Or the secretary of the whole Southern Conference?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
He was the secretary of the committee. I forget who the secretary of the Conference was. But in any case . . . I don't think he was secretary of the whole Conference. I know that he worked and worked and had no money at all. I remember coming into Lee Geyer's office one morning and finding him on the front steps. He had been there all night long. He didn't even have a place to sleep.

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I took him out and gave him some breakfast. He had no money at all. How he lived at all, I don't know. He stayed with us a lot and then he stayed with Pat Jackson some and some other friends around town that he stayed with. Occasionally, we would scrape up a little money and have a cocktail party or something, you know, but it was all mighty poor doings, no money available. And Maury, as I recall had gotten beaten by this time and had gone back to Texas and he got to be the mayor of San Antonio and Joe would come and go, so I really was in charge in Washington. I was the vice-chairman, you see. And so, this went on for years. First we had the committee in Lee Geyer's office and the Toland Committee was upstairs and the boys on it would help us out. They told us how to use the mimeograph machine and how to get out a newsletter. That was Colman Rosenberger and Palmer Weber and David Carliner. Well, David Carliner came to work free for us because he had been fired from the University of Virginia for something, I forget all the details of that, but he was in-between things. He is a famous lawyer in Washington now. He represents ACLU and is very rich and prominent and you ought to talk to him sometime, because he will remember all the days of the poll tax committee. Colman Rosenberger went over to the other side and Palmer Weber got rich, but I

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am sure that he remembers all about this, he should. But they helped us. This was the Toland Committee, you know what that was? Cong. Toland was a Representative and [unknown] he had a committee to investigate . . . [interruption on tape, portion inaudible] . . . and Palmer ought to tell you. They all ought to know, if they aren't busy with something else. Palmer is like Chuck Morgan, he always had about ten balls in the air, you know.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Could I go back and ask you a question? Did you say that you were vice-president of the Southern Conference at Birmingham or were you. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I was elected vice-chairman of the poll tax committee, but I . . . was not . . . elected vice-chairman of the Conference.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why was it that the poll tax issue was the one that you really decided to concentrate on?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Because I don't think that people have any political freedom until they have the right to vote. I don't think that . . . I think that is the first recognition of a democratic society, that people have the right to vote. I didn't think that the labor people or black people or women were getting their right to vote.
SUE THRASHER:
Had you or other people encouraged the

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issue of the poll tax? Had you done some work on it?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh yes, Myles Horton had done it. He brought a case one time, it was a case brought in Tennessee and which reached the Supreme Court but they turned it down on the basis that the state had the right to name the qualifications of voters, you see. That is in the Constitution. You see, what we claimed was that this was not a qualification of a voter, it was simply a tax on a vote and these are two opposite points of view.
SUE THRASHER:
Had you or Myles tried to lobby behind the scenes at the Conference to raise the poll tax as one of its main issues?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, no, it was almost unanimous. With the black people, the labor people and at that time, the radicals, there were the Communists, the socialists and so they and the New Dealers and the women . . . there was no woman's movement at that time, I was its only representative. And some of the labor people were all just unanimous about it. They couldn't get anywhere until they had the right to vote. You see, the labor people were being thrown into jail and beat up by sheriffs which they didn't elect. It was almost a unanimous feeling. You see, you've got to read (and I am sure that you have read and it is too long to tell,) but you have to read the whole struggle for the right to vote

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in the South, the fact that it was so long, it had, in time, popular support. Then, after the Civil War was over, of course, you had . . . see, women never got the right to vote. You know that. Then, of course, there was the great issue of the fact that blacks were counted in representation without being given the right to vote. They were counted in population and a black man was counted 2/3 or 3/5 of a person,3 I forget. But you see, the black women were never given the right to vote when the black men were given the right to vote and the black men got the right to vote before the white women got the right to vote. People don't seem to realize that. Of course, it was taken away from them by all these different disen-franchising provisions, all the poll tax and white primaries and so forth. But it wasn't a question of lobbying for it. Everybody wanted it, it was almost a universal desire of the people there. You see, we were at that time, part of a Roosevelt coalition. It consisted of the labor unions, they were sort of the bedrock of it, but it wasn't a question of lobbying for it, but of responding to the demand. I was in it for the women, but my God, the blacks had stronger feelings, although they always said that even when we got the poll tax abolished, they still had the registration restrictions to get around. The Grandfather Clause. So, while they were for it, they always realized that

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their own battle would have to come later, because they would have to do away with the registration provisions and the property and literary provisions. In some of the states, if a man was illiterate, he couldn't vote but he could if he owned $300 or so much worth of property. So, the blacks helped us on the poll tax fights. The NAACP and the black Elks and all the black organizations, you know, got into it. But at the same time, you see, they always realized that they had other barriers besides the poll tax, which was a money tax. It was a question of poverty there, but the blacks realized that they had the special provisions of the registration.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, that's what I wanted to get at really. Getting rid of the poll tax would bring more of the working class white voters into the Roosevelt Coalition instead. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Sure, but at that time, you've got to realize that Mrs. Roosevelt was working with us in the Southern Conference and she was working with black people and with Mrs. Bethune. What we were trying to bring about was an alliance with a lot of different people, this was the first step, to get rid of the poll tax. In the Constitution, a Negro man was regarded as 3/5 of a person and. . . .

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CLIFFORD DURR:
That was in the original Constitution, but of course, all that was changed by the Fourteenth Amendment.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes, well, I am just trying to show that there was this long struggle. They did have a short time when they could vote after . . . and if you have read the books on Reconstruction, and I suppose that the best one is Vann Woodwards, you know, Jim Crow and then The Origins of the New South. But all these disenfranchising provisions took place around 1901. But you see, those provisions were aimed at the poor whites too as well as blacks. This is why I say that the poor whites continually cut their own throats because they voted for the provisions because they thought it would keep the blacks from voting and at the same time, it kept them from voting, too. They continually have cut their own throats because they actually voted to disenfranchise themselves by allowing these things to be put into the state constitution. You see, the Southern Conference also brought a case, I think it was in Tennesee and the man in Birmingham, I think it was Hugo's law partner, named Crampton Harris, he began the case. John L. Lewis, I think, gave ten thousand dollars for that. I'm sure he did. But the Supreme Court ruled that the

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states under the Constitution had the right to set the qualifications for voters. Our premise was that a money tax was not a qualification for a voter. Does that make sense? So, I think that we were right. I don't think that charging a dollar and a half on your vote is a qualification of a voter, it is a just a nuisance tax or a disenfranchising povision. But there was just an overwhelming desire to get rid of it. You see, the Roosevelt coalition was made up primarily of the liberal Democrats . . . people wanted to get rid of Hoover in the Depression, it was made up of poor people, people who were on WPA and then the Southern Politicians went along at first because the South was in such a terrible fix. The South at first was a great supporter of Roosevelt, until they began to be afraid that these government provisions, particularly on the wage rates, would do away with the cheap labor, which was the thing that they felt they had to offer to industry, you see. But then, they were terrified of union organizations, they didn't believe in that. The South was ruled by an absolute oligarchy of planters and industrialists. You see, what happened to the South was that it became a colony of the North. After the Civil War, they came down here, you see and you can just read The Origins of the New South, it's

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all there and so much better than I can express it and in so much detail. But in the first place, they loaded the states with these enormous bond issues to build railroads, you see. And then there was a great deal of chicanery and this wasn't by carpetbaggers, it was by respectable people, so-called. Then the Yankees came down and bought up anything that was of any value. You look around the South today, look at Georgia and Alabama, who owns it? Who owns the Tennessee Iron, Coal and Railroad Company of US Steel? Who owns the big pulp companies? They are mostly owned in the North. Just look at anything in the South that is very big and profitable and see who owns it. They are not owned in the South, they're owned in the North. You haven't gotten Cliff to tell you about his credit . . . you see, the thing is that the capital was all in the North, they had to borrow from the North. And then, there was another thing that was unfair and kept us more as a colony and that was the freight rates. You had to pay twice as much as . . . Cliff, you explain that, you know it much better than I do.
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well, this was the freight rate differential, the rate on raw materials going from South to

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North was very low. The freight rate on finished goods from South to North was prohibitive. The freight rate on finished goods going from North to South was very low. So, the whole idea was to keep the South as a source of raw materials.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
It is just imperialism. It's just the same way that they kept Africa and South America and Asia for so long, just in the same category of a supplier of raw materials.
CLIFFORD DURR:
They had another system they had worked out called the Basing Point System. Steel was manufactured in Birmingham, but the steel produced there was just heavy rail ingot steel and it was shipped north for fabrication in the US Steel fabricating plants. You would think that in order to have cheap steel, you would have little fabricating plants springing up, but the price of steel, wherever you bought the steel, you had to pay the cost plus the freight rate from Pittsburgh, where the fabricating plant was, to wherever you bought it. So, if you wanted to set up a plant within a quarter of a mile of the steel mills of Birmingham and bought steel from them just around the corner, you had to pay the same price as if you had bought the steel in Pittsburgh and paid all the freight from Pittsburgh

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to Birmingham.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
The main idea was to keep all the manufacturing in the North and keep the South supplying raw materials. But you see, the thing that Hugo Black began to fight when he got on the Supreme Court was the Fourteenth Amendment, the idea that a person is a corporation . . . explain that, please Cliff.
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well, the Fourteenth Amendment, up until well into the 30's, was never invoked successfully to protect the rights of individuals. Corporations invoked it, such as a Delaware corporation doing business in Alabama, if they felt that they were regulated too strictly. The public utilities, invoked it if you kept their rates down, then there was a point that you were confiscating their property without due process and so on, under the Fourteenth Amendment. Of course, the Fourteenth Amendment was invoked in Plessy vs. Ferguson, but they lost that case. But the corporations, it was one of their main weapons of defense, they were individuals and protected by the 14th Ammendment.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
You can't imagine what . . . for instance, when I lived in Birmingham and was a young lady making my debut, Mr. Gary, who was then the president of the United States Steel Corporation, George Gordon Crawford

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was the head of the Tennessee Coal Iron and Railroad Company, but Judge Gary was the head of the whole United States Steel Corporation. Well, he would come down to visit his fiefdom in Birmingham and come down in a private car and park it on the railroad at the train station, and then everybody in Birmingham would bow and scrape and Mrs. George Gordon Crawford, who was quite a society lady, would have a series of parties for him. And I remember very well that she called up one day and invited me to come to a luncheon that she was having at the Roebuck Country Club. And she said, "The judge loves to see young people around so I am inviting all you young people and we want you to sing and dance and just give us a background of gaiety. The judge just likes to see a background of gaiety." So, we were just to be a chorus, a background of singing and dancing, swimming and all dressed up just to give the judge a background. Well, we all went. We ate lunch, we didn't sing, we didn't dance and we didn't swim, because all of us had this awful feeling that we were just being asked to be prop characters. We weren't being asked because they wanted us but just to be a background for the judge. The abasement of people when Judge Gary came around: It was just like the king coming down to visit one of his

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provinces. You all ought to read the life of Mr. Milton Smitch of L & N Railroad. He probably had more influence in the South and on the legislatures than anybody else. The railroads were the big lobbyists in those days and were where the money was coming from. You just take a poor country, the way the South was, an agricultural country that had been overrun and what wealth they had in the slaves was gone. And everybody was trying to pick up the pieces and the one thing that they wanted was industry, they wanted to be like the North. They would do anything to get a cotton mill set up or any kind of industry to come down from the North. They were perfectly willing to have child labor, perfectly willing to have the lowest kind of wages. As I told you, one reason that I got the corporate opposition against Hugo was that he got big awards before juries because they had no workman's compensation, you see. What I say is that the South, by the disenfranchisement provisions, was ruled by an oligarchy, some few planters in the black belt had been able to get together a lot of land and still managed to make a living and they were in alliance with the corporate interests in Birmingham, we called them the "Big Mules." And they ran the state as an oligarchy.

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SUE THRASHER:
How much of this was talked about at the '38 Conference? Did you. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Of course we talked about it, but we all knew it so well. Yet, it was talked about, I'm sure, but we didn't have to spell it out, everybody knew it.
CLIFFORD DURR:
That was one of the things that I talked about in my paper on credit.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Where is that pamphlet, you've got it.
CLIFFORD DURR:
I don't know, I can't find it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
By the time that you came to the '38 Conference, you had moved from being a Junior League. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Dilettante?
JACQUELYN HALL:
[Laughter] A Dilettante to having this kind of understanding?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, I don't know that I . . . but I was passionately on the side of labor. I had listened to the LaFollette Committee hearings and I related that to what I had seen while working in the Junior League and working in the industrial districts with their terrible poverty and the fact that they treated the people so badly. They would close down the big industries and throw the people on charity. But they would feed the mules. It was that lack of care for the people.
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[TAPE 3, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]

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CLIFFORD DURR:
I moved to Birmingham in 1925 and at that time, the workers in the steel mills, were sort of the aristocracy of labor, had twelve hour shifts and as Virginia said, twenty-four hour swing shifts from morning. And the coal miners had to compete with convict labor.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
You know John Beecher's poems, well, he has a whole book on this. You see, his father was the secretary-treasurer of United States Steel in Birmingham, but John worked in the steel mills, so much of his poetry is about working in the mills and what it did to the people. I think that they were paid two dollars a day then, or something small. So, the unions were terribly wanted, they would long for a union. But you see, there again, you have that competition between the black and white. You see, I was telling Sue, and I have said this so many times, one of the reasons that the poor whites were so opposed to the blacks was because there was this frightful competition for jobs between them and if they made any protest to an employer saying that they thought they should get more than a dollar or a dollar and a half a day, he would say, "Well, O.K., if you don't like it, I'll get a nigger and he'll do it for 50¢." Well, he would. And the Negroes were often

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used as strikebreakers, because they would bring in a lot of Negroes and of course, you had that competition with convicts by the miners, but there was this terrible competition for jobs. The share-tenant system was one of the most degrading systems in the world, as you know, and when the people could escape from share-tenantry and come to the city and get any kind of cash at all, they felt that they were better off than they were moving around and working in the fields all day. I think that the thing that divides, well, not your geneation, but several before you, is the Depression. My generation, Cliff's generation, Clark Foreman, all of us who lived through the Depression, we really live in another era. Although all of you have seen hard times, I'm sure, and a lack of money, you have never seen the terrible poverty that we saw and the pellegra and the malaria, hookworm, tuberculosis and the awful degradation of the southern people. But as I say, the black issue, the race issue, was terribly important. But at this time, my emphasis was on labor and also on women's rights and it was only later that I came to see that this was all interwoven with the blacks, too.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When you went back to Washington, your main work for the Southern Conference was. . . .

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VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I don't remember getting any support from Louisiana, I do remember Estes and Claude.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about Brooks Hays?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, it may have been something he was for, but he never did anything about it. He is a nice guy and I am crazy about him, but I don't remember it.
SUE THRASHER:
How did the Southern Conference move to set itself up structurally following the '38 convention? Did Gelders or somebody. . . ..
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, I told you that we had the office in Geyer's office, but after a year or two, Geyer died. In the meantime, what we did, we set up a board or committee and anybody that was against the poll tax was a member of that committee. Now, our great support and help of money was John Lewis and the CIO. They were our first support with money.
SUE THRASHER:
Did that go directly to the Southern Conference or to the poll tax committee?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I don't remember, but I think to the Southern Conference. I know that he paid for the case that was taken to the Supreme Court and I know that we had on this committee, the AFL, the CIO, the Railway Brotherhood . . . all of labor, you see . . . we had the NAACP, all the black groups that I can think of, the

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Negro Elks, we had the Methodist Church, all the civil liberties and the civil rights groups, the American Civil Liberties Union. Oddly enough, the one group that wouldn't support us, which I've always held against them, was the Women's Party, because they were so sectarian. They believed in women's rights and the ERA that they were working on back then, they never would support the Anti Poll Tax Bill.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you talk to Alice Paul?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, yes. Those women were the most rigid sectarian women that I have ever seen. They wouldn't talk to you about anything, and we even got the American Association of University Women to go along with us.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Didn't they think that the poll tax discriminated against women?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes, I guess that they just didn't . . . well, they wouldn't do anything to help us or make it a part of their program. They were terribly sectarian, you know, just women's rights. That's what I keep telling the women today, that if you are just going to work for women's rights, you're not going to get anywhere, you have got to work for the rights of other people, too. See, this was the same thing with civil rights, too. As long as they just worked for

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the rights of Negroes, they weren't going to get anywhere either. They had to have a lot of support before they got their rights. You have got to appeal to people on a broader basis than just sectarian rights of groups. And another thing is, you see, and as I see it, the discrimination against Negroes and women is all part of the fight to exploit other people. Because in the rich Negroes, they exploited poor Negores, rich women exploited poor women. I certainly believe in women's rights and black rights too, but the point is that the exploitation, as far as I can see, since the beginning of time has been by the haves against the have nots. You see, there has always been, as I see it and I have read a lot of history, a great desire on the part of people who accumulate money and property and power, to get somebody to do all the dirty work. You know, to do the washing and the cleaning up and the taking out the garbage and the dead animals and nurse the babies and looking after the sick. You see, people like to be relieved from all that. They like to be clean and smell good and live above all that, digging coal and draining out the cesspools. Even in India, they had it on a caste system so that the untouchables were the ones that took care of the outhouse and took out the dead animals and they couldn't even drink out of the village well.

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But that is why I think the thing in human nature that seems to have been there since the beginning of time almost, is the desire to get somebody else to do the dirty work. Now, whether it is women or blacks or slaves or captured . . . for instance, you know, in Africa they used to kill all the captives and then they thought that it was much better to let them be the slaves and let them do the dirty work.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, your first critical exposure came in trying to build a coalition among all these different groups to. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
For the rights of labor and in that I included women because women were so badly paid. Now, we did get this great coalition going. In the meantime, Farley, after this poll tax bill was introduced or maybe before it was introduced, he came down to the Democratic National Committee and told the women's division that they had to stop backing the poll tax bill because it was making the southerners too mad. So, they had to stop it, but the Democratic Women's Division had supported us. Then too, the biggest set back that we had, and this is something I think is quite interesting. After Geyer died, we moved over to the Railway Building. The Railway Brotherhood had a big building on Capitol Hill where they all had their offices and headquarters and they

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and they published a paper called Labor and they had an awful nice guy who was the editor of it, he was a Catholic from Colorado named Keating and we got as a paid secretary then, Frances Wheeler, who was the daughter of Burton K. Wheeler who was the senator from Montana. Now, her sister lived out by us and was a real great friend and I met Frances through her sister, Elizabeth. And Frances was just out of Mout Holyoke, I believe and she wanted to go to work for the United Mine Workers but John L. Lewis had a prohibition in his constitution that not only could no Communists work for the Mine Workers, but no married women could. If you got married, you had to give up your job. He didn't believe in married women working outside the home. So, Frances had married, a very nice fellow named Allen Saylor, who was in the Communications, Federal Communications Commission then. So, Frances became a secretary of the anti-poll tax committee. Her father was extremely popular with the railway people. Why was that?
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well, he had fought that battle for the unions very early. They had tried to defeat him in Montana, he ran as a young radical, to start with, and he headed an investigation of the railroads, that was one of his famous investigations.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
That was when Max Lowenthold was working with him. Now, you must read his book on the FBI if you can get ahold of it, that is one of the great books. But anyway, we had this very large committee and finally, Mrs. Bethune and Mrs. Mary Church Terrell, she was from Memphis and I'll tell you a tale about her too, it's fascinating. But finally, this large committee decided that it would be better to break away from the Southern Conference and be a national committee to abolish

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the poll tax because they saw that it was going to be a national fight, it wasn't going to be just a southern fight. So, we formed this separate national committee. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Weren't you getting your contributions from the Southern Conference?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, not at all. So, the Southern Conference poll tax committee became the originator of this national committee to abolish the poll tax. Actually, we were by far the most active part of the Southern Conference because we just kept on going and getting bigger and having more people backing us all the time. You see, much of the New Deal was mad at the South for blocking all the New Deal measures, too. So, we stayed in this Railway Labor building for quite a long time. Then, what happened was that they had a big fight in the firemen's union, they were trying to get rid of the Negro firemen. You all should remember that that was one of the biggest fights in the railway history, trying to get rid of the Negro firemen and put in white men. The railway people, Mr. Keating continued to be friendly and very nice to us and supporting us in every way, but at this point, the railway unions got all involved in this racial struggle over the firemen. You see, they used to have firemen that shoveled the coal into the engine.
CLIFFORD DURR:
This change came about because it was fine for the blacks to be firemen when they were shoveling coal into the engine, but when they came up with the diesel locomotive, that was a nicer job, so they wanted that for whites.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I would say that it was original sin, it was selfishness, I suppose, but it is the original sin of the human race, it seems to me is

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to try to get somebody to do the dirty work and keep them as low as you can and make them feel that they are terribly inferior so that they will do it. [unknown] Well, anyway, the railway labor people got all upset about these blacks coming into the office and using the bathrooms, that was always the point. So, finally they told us that they were terribly sorry but that they needed the space, but we knew what it was because we had had enough protests. So then, we rented an office on Capitol Hill and moved up there. Well, in the meantime, we had had one . . . now you see, Mr. Roosevelt had been helping us all he could through Mrs. Roosevelt. And you can't imagine what she would do for us, for instance, when Claude Pepper (after George Norris got beat, you see,) he was a Republican and he had introduced a bill into the Senate and we wanted Claude to do it. Well, Mrs. Roosevelt had this great big luncheon for him at the White House and had Mark Ethridge and all the big shots in and gave us . . . the food at the White House was never very good, but it was a nice lunch. There was beautiful flowers and all, she would do these things. She was just wonderful to us. So, after we had been business for . . . we started in '38, '39, we must have been getting up to '40 by then and. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
I think that the national committee was set up in '41.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
'41? Well, we went to see her and it was just at the beginning of the new Congressional year and by that time, Frances had gotten a job with the United Electrical Workers and Sara D'Avila had become secretary. She came from Pennsylvania and she came from a very upper class family, she had been to Vasser. But she had gone to work as a social worker in Memphis and Richmond and she had become extremely radical. I think that she joined the Communist Party for awhile, but anyway,

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she married a guy in the CIO named D'Avila. He was an Italian. Her name was Sara Hartman and so she came to work for us. She was a lovely person and a tremendously dedicated person and very committed and her husband deserted her and she had a pretty rough time for awhile there. But in any case, she was a wonderful secretary and was there for several years, up until after the war was over. It must have been all during the war and up until the time that we finally dissolved in '48.
SUE THRASHER:
In the poll tax fight, were you mainly working to get legislation passed through the Senate?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
And the House, to remove the poll tax in federal elections, you see. This was only in federal elections. The point was, that Congress had the right in federal elections to do away with things like this and. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you try to organize grass roots support?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, heavens yes. We sent out newsletters and letters and had meetings all over the country and had speakers and the unions took it up and all these other organizations that were part of the committee took it up. It became a tremendous issue.
SUE THRASHER:
Did you do much speaking, then? Did you travel and speak?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, I had a family by that time, you know, a pretty large family. I did some speaking, but not a whole lot. I did some, but I used to raise money a lot. Oh, Lord, what did I do? I lobbied and I raised money and I went to meetings and I just worked and worked. It became a kind of . . . Cliff thought that it became a sort of an obsession with me. The children would say, "Oh, Poll Tax!" I was just reading Bleak House, about Mrs. Jellaby, you know, and her African project. I often

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wonder if my children didn't feel the same way. They hated it so.
But anyway, you see that I was in contact with all this tremendous broad sweep of people. We knew that we were backed by the White House and that was quite a. . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
Roosevelt would not come out publicly.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
He did it through his wife, you see. She supported us and came down to Nashville to the Southern Conference meeting which was in 1940, I believe. That McAllister, he began to red bait Mrs. Roosevelt through Paul Robeson, you know, who came down and sang. Further than that, he whispered around that Mrs. Roosevelt was having an affair with Robeson. Isn't that the old nasty thing, a [unknown] white woman and a black man. You know, they could be so nasty that you couldn't believe them. Really, you would just be shocked. You just couldn't believe that anybody could be as low down and vicious and nasty as they were. Oh, that McAllister.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about the Southern Electoral Reform League?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, that was the same thing, the socialists formed this to hurt us. And Mrs. Roosevelt, I have a letter from her, but I think that it must be over in Tuskegee, they had been putting her on the list of people of the Southern Electoral Reform League, so she went down to the meeting and she said they just did it to try to hurt us.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How? What was the. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
By trying to form a different organization. You see, the thing that they were so. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who set up the Southern Electoral. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
McAllister. The same thing. The socialists who

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were always fighting and red baiting and causing trouble and making nasty remarks about people, including me.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Supposedly, they were trying to abolish the poll tax on the state level, right?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, they weren't trying to do anything but make trouble for us as far as I could see.
CLIFFORD DURR:
They were trying to say that this was the only way to do it.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
They only had one or two meetings. I have a letter from Mrs. Roosevelt somewhere, she went down to the meeting and she wrote a long letter back to me and said that it was nothing in the world but a nusiance, they were just doing it to hurt us.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about Moss Plunkett?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, he was a nice guy, he was from Virginia and a lawyer and he was a very nice guy and he went along with this Southern Electoral Reform. I went along with it too, you see. I took the position that I would support anything that was against the poll tax. So, I didn't red bait them, I was on the committee and I went to the meetings when they had them, but it didn't amount to a hill of beans. You see, wasn't their action just. . . .very few of the states were ready to abolish the poll tax and the action was in Washington because it was becoming a national issue and it became a great national issue all overthe country. It was mostly through this Roosevelt coalition, you see. And it was mostly related to the unions.
Because you see, the southerners were always voting against anything that benefited the unions. And my Lord, my brother-in-law, Hugo Black, you know the

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tremendous fight that he put up for the 30 hour week, what was it?
CLIFFORD DURR:
The 30 hour week, which finally became the Wages and Hours Act. I think that the minimum wage to start out with was something like 30¢ an hour.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, all the southerners fought that. I was down with my sister at Point Clear, we spent one summer [unknown] there outside of Mobile on the coast, you see, Hugo was going to run for the Senate. This was '37. The summer of '37, when he got put on the Court. And my sister and I had a house down near Mobile and he was going to come down and begin his campaign in Alabama. Of course, he got tied up in the Senate by the wages and hour legislation, so he never did get there. Then, he got put on the Court. But the people around us at Point Clear were big turpentine and lumber people and they were paying 10¢ an hour and good God, the way that they treated us, you would have thought that we had smallpox. The children would come in from the beach and say that all these people had said that Uncle Hugo was a crook and a thief and a liar and no good. Of course, they were only paying 10¢ an hour. Sister was insulted in Mobile once and then he got put on the Supreme Court and immediately, she went up and joined him and they went to England on a trip and I was left with the children and had to close the house up. I came on back to Washington, that was the end of the summer of '37 and when we got back to Washington, (Cliff had come down and spent a little time with us,) the whole Ku Klux Klan thing broke
and I really think that Cliff ought to tell that because he. . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well, I can give you that article that I wrote, which was for the Georgia Law Review and was. . . .
SUE THRASHER:
Could we come back and pick this up and. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes, why don't we go on with the poll tax. . . .

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VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, as I was saying, we did have one very bad setback, which is very interesting. Now, you see that all this time, the Spanish Civil War was going on. Fascism was rising in . . . there was Mussolini in Italy and Franco won the Spanish Revolution and I first really got upset about foreign affairs during the Spanish Revolution, that was the first time that I ever came to on that. And that was how I got in touch with Decca and how Decca came to live with me, but you have heard all that and know that story.
SUE THRASHER:
I've heard that story, but we don't have it on tape.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, I can't put that in right now. But anyway, though, [unknown] Hitler had come into power in Germany.
So, Sara D'Avila and I went over to see Mrs. Roosevelt. This must have been the beginning of '40, sometime. Mrs. Roosevelt was still going great guns on the anti-poll tax bill. It was '41. . . .
SUE THRASHER:
Had you been to the conference in Nashville in the meantime?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, yes. That was in '40, wasn't it?
SUE THRASHER:
Now, had you met Jim Dombrowski by that time?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, yes. I had gone to Highlander Folk School a lot by then and I was devoted to Jim and I was just crazy about him. He stayed with us a great deal.
SUE THRASHER:
What I am trying to get at is what was going on in the Southern Conference outside of the poll tax fight?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I really don't know. I must have had a very single track mind. I thought that the Southern Conference existed for the poll

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tax and didn't have much of an impression of other things. I had a very single track mind because I really felt that unless people got the right to vote in the South, nothing would ever get anywhere. This oligarchy was just bleeding them to death and would continue to do so. So, in any case, Sara and I went to see Mrs. Roosevelt to discuss our plans for the coming session. By this time, Marcantonio had come into the picture. Oh, that was a funny thing. We had a meeting of the committee and all these people on it, the labor people, said that we ought to get somebody, some person that was sort of conservative because we had been red baited so much, you know. So, there was a . . . this was the labor people advising us. They said that there was a man from New York named Baldwin, Joseph Baldwin who had just been elected from the silk stocking district of New York and he had said that he would introduce the anti poll tax bill. Of course by this time, you see, Lewis had broken with Roosevelt, you understand that. He broke with him after the '36 election and he was supporting Wilkie in '40. So, we had a vote in committee and they said that since we had become so controversial and were red baited so badly, we thought that we had better get a man like Baldwin who was a Republican and he was a very elegant sort of a gentleman who wore a derby hat and carried a rolled up umbrella. So, we went to see him and he said that he would introduce the bill and he would be delighted and he was very charming, very upper class and a very nice man. Certainly, nobody could ever accuse him of being a Communist. So, that was all set. We were going to support Mr. Baldwin's bill. Well, Marcantonio had introduced a bill. I never laid eyes on him. At that time, you see, he ran on the Democratic ticket, the Republican ticket and the American Labor Party ticket. He ran on three tickets and

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got elected on all three. [interruption as reel is changed]
JACQUELYN HALL:
You were talking about your setback.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, yes. Well, we went to see Mrs. Roosevelt and she was perfectly lovely. She had us out for tea on the South Portico, you know, overlooking the Washington Monument and she couldn't have been more gracious and more sweet and kind than she was. So, she discussed what we should do and what she could do to help us and all. So, she said, "You know, before I do this, I think that I had better speak to Franklin and see what his ideas are." So, we had tea, you know and the White House butler came out and I will tell you, being a southern liberal in those days in Washington could be very pleasant. They used to say in the Oxford Democrat that if you were a [unknown] sinner and you got gorier and gorier with your sins, you ended up in the Waldorf Astoria, but if you were a southern liberal, you got into the White House. She had all these people staying there with her, you know, like Tex Dobbs and all these young southerners. They would [unknown] sleep in the White House. She was just wonderful to the southerners, she was just tremendous. So, she stayed away about fifteen minutes and she came back and looked very upset, and that was before she took voice lessons, so when she got upset, her voice went very high and almost squaked and she said that as far as Franklin was concerned, he had said that he wasn't going to touch the poll tax with a ten foot pole and she couldn't have any open part in it either. Because he had changed from Dr. New Deal to Dr. Win The War.
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well, this was even before we got into the war. He was trying to . . . you see, he had gotten his rebuff with his quarrantine speech in 1937, that we had to quarrantine the aggressor. The isolationist sentiment was so strong that he had to back off on it,

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but he knew that we were going to be in conflict with Hitler. So, he went very slowly and the southerners were not isolationists.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
They were ready to support him, you see.
CLIFFORD DURR:
The old League of Nations, the Wilson idea, still prevailed in the South. So, Roosevelt was very much concerned not to offend the southern senators, because he needed them on his foreign policy so badly that he decided that he couldn't offend them on such issues as the poll tax.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
You see, Senator George, who he had gone down to Georgia to try to defeat, was one of his great supports in getting ready for the war. So many of the southern Senators and Congressmen supported him in his war efforts, while the isolationist Republicans in the Middle West, even the Democratic isolationists didn't. And of course, you know that Burton Wheeler fought him bitterly on the war and of course, John L. Lewis did too. So, Mrs. Roosevelt came back and she was upset and said that he had said that and whatever we did from now on, we would just have to do it on our own. Which we actually did, because the war broke out in '42, didn't it?
CLIFFORD DURR:
No, '41. December of '41.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
December of '41, o.k. Well, I went to see Mrs. Roosevelt again and she and I together cooked up an idea that we would get a federal bill through to remove the poll tax from the soldiers. That's a fact. She got Tom Corcoran and Ed Pritchor over again and Ben Cohen, all the big shots in the White House, you know. William Hastie, he was the dean of the Howard Law School there and Dr. Nabrit who was a professor at the Howard Law School. Oh, Mrs. Roosevelt just

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rattled all the big guns and we did have a bill drawn up to abolish the poll tax for people in the armed forces, for federal elections only, you see. And it did get passed and the southerners fought it tooth and toenail. Julie Rankin of Mass. Said that this was the nose of the camel under the tent, you know, just a terrible fight, but it did pass. It was real hard, you know, not to remove the poll tax from a guy that was going to be in the Army and sent abroad. So, we did get it removed from the soldiers in federal elections. That was the first victory that we won.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was the name of that bill and who sponsored it? Do you remember?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I think that it was the Soldiers Voting Act. But anyway, we kept on fighting and Marcantonio, as I was telling you, we went to see him, I had never seen him before, and we told him that we had met and decided to back Congressman Baldwin's bill and would he mind withdrawing his bill? And then, George Bender had a bill, too. He was the Congressman at large from Ohio, he was one of laft's lieutentants, he was a Republican. Bender said that he would withdraw his bill if we would all concentrate on Baldwin's bill. Well, we walked in the office and Marcantonio had a secretary named Miss Johnson who was a very austere New England old maid type, you know. She looked like she had been carved out of granite, but she was a very nice woman, too. So, she introduced us and I had taken along this lady who had helped us on the anti-poll tax fight, named Miss Eleanor Bontecu. She was a great sort of an intellectual who had been dean at Bryn Mawr for awhile and she was working with us. She finally got into the civil rights division of the Justice Department. We sat

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down and we said in a very nice ladylike way, "Congressman Marcantonio, we have come to see you because the board of the national committee to abolish the poll tax has decided to back Congressman Baldwin's bill and we wondered if you would be good enough to withdraw your bill so that we could all concentrate on Congressman Baldwin's bill and we are backing his bill because he is a Republican and we are trying to get more conservative support." Oh, my Lord, Vesuvius errupted! Whew! He sprang up and you never heard such a tirade in your life. "I withdraw my bill and let that Park Avenue fancypants, striped pants, bowler hatted, so and so. . . ." Oh, he just raved on and on. It just blew us out of the office. I have never heard such an explosion in my life. He would not withdraw his bill, his bill was going to be the bill that got through and was going to be the bill that the house backed and as far as we were concerned, we could just go and drown ourselves. He didn't give a damn whether we supported him or not. Oh, he was mad and just furious! Well, we went back and had a meeting of the committee and reported what he had said. You see, he was elected on the American Labor Party ticket, the Democratic ticket and the Republican ticket. As a matter of fact, what he did was, he got the Republican leadership to back his bill, he got the Democratic leadership to back his bill, and of course, he was the only American Labor party person in the country, in the Congress, so he got the American Labor party to back it. He got Baldwin to withdraw his bill. Well, we were faced with this problem that we either supported his bill or we didn't have a bill. So, we had to either eat crow or get out of business. Oh! We had to see him again, you know. He had won, you see and so, he was very nice to us this time. Any help that we could give him, he

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would be very glad to have, he was very pleasant, very nice. He had licked us good, too. We had to really eat humble pie, I am telling you. From then on, we worked together very closely and he couldn't have been nicer or more helpful than he was. His wife and I got to be great friends as well as he. He married . . . he had a secretary who was an austere New England lady, and he married a New England blue blood who was about two feel taller than he was and had done social work and she had met him up in Harlem. She was a charming woman, beautiful and a wonderful person and I used to visit them real often up in New York. He and I got to be devoted friends and he and Cliff got to be devoted friends.
When he died, you were asked to be one of his pall bearers, as I remember.
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well, the newspaper articles said that I had served, but I. . . .was not contacted.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, I think that they wanted you to, but we were out in Colorado at the time, but we got to be very devoted friends. And Marcantonio, you know that he was the son of Italian immigrants and he was the most perfect Jeffersonian that I have ever known. He would work with anybody but he was a Jeffersonian if there ever was one. He believed in freedom of speech and he believed in free voting and he believed in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and he was . . . you could always believe Marcantonio, he never told you a lie. He was one of the most trustworthy men that I have ever worked with in my life. And the Catholic Church, you know, refused to bury him when he died. You see, he wasn't a Communist, but at

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that time, if. . . ..
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, some in the American Labor Party. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes, that's what I am saying, you could have 3,000 people and if 3 were Communist, then you were a Communist front, that's the way that they were carrying on. And the Catholic Church refused to bury him when he died. They wouldn't give him the last rites or anything. But he would get that bill out of Congress every time. He would get it signed out you see, but then it always failed in the Senate. The southerners would filibuster it over and over again. And of course, it finally, it only got passed by a Constitutional amendment and that didn't happen until sometime in the 40!s, I believe;. . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
No, it was later, it was. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Sometime in the 50's or 60's?
SUE THRASHER:
You were friendly with both Sparkman and Lister Hill.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes, I was friendly with both of them, but they never would support us, of course, and I knew that, but I was friendly with both of them. They never would support us at all.
SUE THRASHER:
Did they ever tell you that they were in favor of abolishing it but just couldn't. . . ..
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No. . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
I remember Lester Hill telling Virginia that, "if you guarrantee that this thing is going to pass, I'll support it, because the kind of folks that we'll get from abolishing the poll tax are the ones that will vote for me." But he knew that she couldn't get it through because of the opposition.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Lister Hill was a real New Dealer and he helped. . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
He would have been glad to see the poll tax abolished provided that he didn't have to take any part in it.

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SUE THRASHER:
Did he filibuster it?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh heavens, yes. They all did. I was subjected to one of Mr. McKellar's famous filibusters. He was the Senator from Tennessee, you know. You see, my uncle, as I told you, was the governor of Tennessee and Kenneth McKellar had been a friend of his and a friend of my grandfather's even, I believe. By God, he got in the Senate and you never heard such a carrying on about me as you ever did in your life. He thought that I was an arch fiend, you know, with a bomb in each hand. He was just awful, just terrible.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Is it in the Congressional Record?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh yeah, it's all there. Oh, we were terribly attacked time and time again. The anti-poll tax committee and the Southern Conference and we just caught it. You see, the filibuster prevented it getting passed in the Senate, but the fact that we had made it a national issue and it had become . . . I really believe that the thing that finally got it over was, now we did abolish it for the soldiers in the war, but I do think that the Constitutional amendment passed because in the cold war, we were the great apostle of freedom and it is awfully hard to explain to people why we had a poll tax and people couldn't vote and yet we were fighting the Russians because they were totalitarian dictators and we were the apostles of freedom. You see what I mean.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you involved at all in trying to abolish the Alabama poll tax when you came back here in . . . well, it was modified in 1953.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, no. To some degree. I belonged to the League

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of Women Voters. Miss Halie Farmer did that. She is dead now, but she was a great woman, she was a great worker for the League of Women Voters and all the credit belongs to her. I was just more along for the ride. But you see, at that point, I was working with my husband in the office and I didn't have much time to go to meetings of any kind. But going back to the anti-poll tax fight. You see, I came into contact with this tremendously broad sweep of people. And I must tell you how this anti-poll tax committee died, because it is the way that the Roosevelt coalition died. And the way that the whole liberal movement of the United States died. It turned itself into anti-communism exclusively. Well, when the war was over, the committee still existed and so, there had been a lot of changes in the labor movement by that time. The first thing that happened was, and that was during the war, the AFL and the CIO were split and the AFL refused to come to the anti-poll tax committee as long as the CIO was there. The railway brotherhood had already stopped because they were fighting this race fight. So, we lost the railway people and. . . .
[END OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]

[TAPE 3, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE B]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
So, you see, this is the way that people commit suicide. The AFL was in the power fight with the CIO and they sent word that unless we got rid of the CIO, they wouldn't come to the meeting. We had had this absolute flat out rule that everybody subscribed to, that anybody could come to the meetings, any organization that sent a representative that supported the anti-poll tax. There was a Communist there in Washington . . .

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what was that fellow's name, he gave me a book on Kant, you can imagine how much I got out of that. He was a professor at Johns Hopkins for a long time. God, time does take its toll. I can't even remember his name. I had him out to dinner one night with Cliff and they got into an awful argument. That's when he wanted to abolish the Communist party, do you remember that?
CLIFFORD DURR:
He was switching around. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
He was a legislative representative of the Communist party.
CLIFFORD DURR:
He was an instructor at Johns Hopkins, I don't think that he had tenure or anything like that.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I don't think he had at that time, but he had been. He was a philosopher and he was an awful nice fellow, but after the red baiting got so bad, he stopped coming around to the office. Maybe the name will come to me. He and his wife both finally got put in jail. I can't remember the name right now, but it might come to me later on. But in any case, he was a lovely fellow, just as nice as he could be and a philosopher and very philosophical. He was always giving me books to read like Kant and things like that and other philosophical books, which I never did read, really, because I really couldn't understand them. But when the red baiting started up, he stopped coming to the meetings.
You see, we were surrounded by the FBI. We were always having strange young men come in and saying that they wanted to be volunteers and saying that their names were Joe Smith and they worked in the Post Office Department but they had a few off days. As soon as they left, I would

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call the Post Office and find that no Joe Smith ever worked for the Post Office. We knew that they were FBI people and the first thing that they would always want to do when they came in was to get hold of the mailing list. We would not only give it to them but say that we would appreciate it if they would make several hundred copies of the mailing list because we needed more copies to send out all over the country. So, they would work for hours on end. [Laughter] Then they would say, "Now, we would like to see the list of donors." And we would give it to them, you see, and they would have complete run of the files, it was all open and above. So, we would say, "If you don't mind, we need about five hundred copies of the donor list." So, they would grind them out and would almost drop in their tracks. The only active Communist that I know of that was above board that we had working in the office at that time, was an old lady, well she's not so old now, but she seemed old then, her name was Mrs. Rosenbaum, and she was Eugene Rostow's aunt and the other Rostow, Walt Rostow, his aunt. They had come over here from Russia around 1900 and her father was some sort of religious leader and they had been rescued by this Jewish rescue committee that rescued people from the pogroms in Russia. You see, they were having terrible pogroms in Russia. So, she came over and the family settled here on this big farm near New Haven. Her brother was Eugene and Walt's father. But her mother was a little woman, I never met her, she was dead long before I ever knew her, she was Polish I believe. She got some cows and kept the family alive. The children would milk the cows before they went to school and then they would have to distribute the milk in the afternoon. They worked awful hard. And the old gentleman,

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her father, she said would sit by the fire reading the Torah with his yamuka on his head. He was a religious man, you see, and wasn't supposed to work. But the old lady and his children worked mighty hard. But in any case, Mrs. Rosenbaum was an out and out Communist. She was the cutest thing. She used to make cocoa on the radiator.
CLIFFORD DURR:
I think that you had better slow down, you are getting tired.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, I am just trying to tell how it all broke up. So finally, these FBI people would try to get her and she was perfectly open and frank with them. The FBI was surrounding us but they never really got anything on us because it was open to everybody. It was one of those completely open organizations. Anybody, any organization.
But then you see, first the AFL got mad at the CIO and they had that big fight and they wouldn't come unless we got rid of the CIO. Then John L. Lewis got mad at Phil Murray. You see, John L. Lewis pulled his mine workers out of the CIO. He had supported us very much and given us a lot of money and been wonderful to us, he sent word that if we didn't get rid of the CIO, he wouldn't send his men anymore. So, the man came around, an awful nice guy from Kentucky, I think that he later got to be governor of Kentucky, I can't remember his name either. But he said that John L. had said that if we didn't get rid of those leftist CIO unions, he couldn't come anymore and he was awful sorry, we had gotten to be real good friends by that time, but he never came anymore. So, then by God, the CIO split right open. You see, we had lost the Railway Brotherhood on this race issue, we had lost the AFL on account of the CIO, we lost the mineworkers on account of the CIO and then, by God, the CIO split! That was the last

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fatal blow. It was awful. You see, they kept together during the war and then when it was over and Truman came in and the red baiting started in real full force, I remember that we had a meeting and a fellow named Hoyt Haddock, you know, Joe Curran's union, he . . . you see, Joe Curran had been a Communist or supposed to have been one and then he flipped over and became an anti-Communist. Keeping up with all these people is just almost impossible. And Hoyt Haddock was a great big fellow from Texas who worked for Joe Curran and he used to appear before committees and we used to write his speeches for him, because he wasn't very literate.
We [unknown] found out later that he represented the ship owners and the maritime union, he was playing both sides of the street. We went out to his house once or twice for dinner and we used to wonder where he got all that money, didn't we Cliff?
CLIFFORD DURR:
Oh, he was living in luxury.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, he was serving Napoleon brandy and. . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
I think that while he was working for the union, the ship owners were paying him about $35,000 a year.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, anyway, we didn't know anything about it. We still thought that Hoyt was our friend. So, he said, "Now look, I've just been talking to Phil. He says to tell you girls . . . " that was Sarah and me and some of those other people on the committee . . . "to tell you girls that we will support you and get you money and do everything we can for you. But you have got to get rid of some of these unions that you've got in there." You see, by that time, they were having a purge in the CIO, when they got rid of Harry Bridges' union and the United Electrical Workers Union and the Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers Union and the

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Furriers Union. You see, Ben Gold, who was an open Communist, he was head of the Furriers Union and they got rid of the Marine Cooks and Stewards and they just got rid of all the left wing unions, whether or not they had any Communists in them, but if they didn't have a Communist barrier. So, we sent word that we weren't going to do it and were standing by our principles. Well, Phil Murray sent word back that that was the end of the CIO participation. So, you see that at this point, we were down to the left wing unions, the civil rights organizations, some of the religious organizations and the last meeting that we had must have taken place about '47.
As I look back now, I don't think that it ended in a blaze of glory. Because you see, this was just two years after the war was over. We had a meeting and the Anti-Defamation League, you know, the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, a representative was on the committee and they said to meet at his office. You see, we didn't have offices at this time, money was running out and we were having a hard time. So, he said to meet at his office and we met at his office. We still had a lot of the Negro organizations and a lot of the civil rights organizations and church organizations and some of the left wing unions. . . .
SUE THRASHER:
Who is this man, now?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I can't remember his name, somebody in the Anti-Defamation League. So, we met in his office, which was a very nice office, he was a very nice Jewish gentleman and so he gave us quite a little talk and he said that the Anti-Defamation League and some other Jewish organizations were going to be very helpful and they would raise money for us and would do all that they could to help us and it had just one proviso. He had the Attorney General's list and he wanted to be sure that nobody in the committee was on the list. Well, my husband at that time was head

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of the National Lawyer's Guild. . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
Not in 1947.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, you had been head of the National Lawyer's Guild.
CLIFFORD DURR:
No, I had nothing to do with it until I got out of the government.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, well, anyway. . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
I was fighting Truman's loyalty' oath during those years.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes, you were fighting Truman's loyalty bills, so then Tom Emerson up at Yale was head of it, I believe. But in any case, he picked on the National Lawyer's Guild and something else. There were two or three more. He said that they would all have to get out. I said, "Why?" And he said that they were all on the Attorney General's list. I said, "You mean to say that you are going to use the Attorney General's list to decide who can be on this committee?" And he said, "Now Mrs. Durr, you have got to be realistic. The United States government is starting to purge all leftists and Communists and radicals of all sorts and we have to do the same thing or we won't get any support from the government or various people." I was pretty tired by that time, too, Cliff was fighting the loyalty oath and we had been through the war. I remember that I looked at him and said, "You know, you are the kind of Jew that brought on Hitler." That was the end of the committee. It was a pretty bad ending, I'm afraid. We stood by our principles, you see, but the thing was that people didn't stand by us. Everybody began to purge. The NAACP purged, the unions purged, everybody purged. So,

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then, you see, Henry Wallace came on and we all fell into Henry's crusade and he got beat, too.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you formally dissolve it?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh no, it just fell apart. We didn't pass any resolutions, it just fell apart. Nobody supported it, no money. We didn't have any backers that had money and we couldn't hire an office. You see, you have got to remember that the backbone of the New Deal and the backbone of the anti-poll tax committee and the backbone of most of the liberal things in the country and in the Southern Conference was the unions. Well, when they broke up and got decimated and all, you didn't have any solid support at all. The unions just got split all up.
It's getting hot in here isn't it?
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well, you wanted the fire lit. Do you want the door open?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I guess that I just get hot thinking about this. I can't even remember the man's name, but I just remember saying that to him in absolutely a fury. "You are the kind of Jew that brought on Hitler." What I meant was, that by being so, by going along with what was happening, that. . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well, of course, he was trying to defend his own respectability, that's what they were doing.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
What I meant was that if they had fought Hitler in the beginning . . . I didn't mean that Jews were for Hitler, I just meant that if you didn't fight facism from the start, it ate you up. But then after that, we went into the Progressive party and it made a big deal of this poll tax fight. That was one of the main things. Herry Wallace had supported us all along.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you want to go back and talk a little bit about

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the other aspects of the Southern Conference?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Sure.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I was just looking again at Keneger's book on the Southern Conference and he talks about how at the Nashville meeting in 1942, that. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, it was at the Chattanooga meeting where they had the big fight over foreign policy, that wasn't worth while
JACQUELYN HALL:
You tried to stay out of that, but you were very much on the side of Frank Graham and the people who wanted to pass a strong resolution supporting the Allies?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes, I was on the side of people wanting to pass a strong resolution supporting the Allies. I didn't want to pass a resolution against Russia. I thought that Russia had a perfect right to make a deal with Hitler to buy more time and I thought that anybody who was fool enough to think that Russia had made a deal with Hitler on a real basis of collaboration was crazy in their head. I mean, you couldn't live through that period and read the papers and know what was going on and think that this wasn't just something to buy more time. It couldn't have been anything else. Hitler's whole base of anti-Communism and anti-Russia was too strong. But what happened was, you see, at the meeting in Chattanooga, and I forget what date it was. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
1940.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes, but what was the time of the year?
SUE THRASHER:
In May, I believe.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I think that it was in May. Well, you see that the

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big deal there was that John L. Lewis had broken with Roosevelt and was supporting Wilkie. And he had become a complete isolationist. And so, of all crazy things, I went down to that meeting with Kathryn Lewis, went down with her, roomed with her. That is the first time that I ever went to Highlander Folk School, but I had gotten to be very friendly with her by then and she went down to that meeting to manipulate the miners. They came pouring in there, you never saw such a lot of miners in your life. All over, from Alabama and Tennessee. They had gotten orders to come and they came. Well, there was a very strange alliance, because what few Communists there were in there and the Mineworkers, who were John L. Lewis's crowd, this great big outfit, they were trying to get a resolution passed, you know, against the Allies. What was it, I forget how the resolutions were framed, but Mark Ethridege and Frank Graham and Barry Bingham were there and they were trying to get a resolution passed in support of the Allies. I was a hundred per cent for that and I was rooming with Kathryn who was manipulating and trying to get them to pass this other opposite resolution, which was an isolationist resolution. So, well, our friendship survived and then Joe Gelders, you see, who I absolutely adored and my dearest and best friend, he was doing the same thing with Kathryn. And all of these miners poured in there and so it looked like the isolationist resolution was going to pass. I forget how it was framed but the point was that the miners were absolutely bored to death. I mean, they couldn't have been more bored with all this, "I amend this section of the Constitution or I amend this resolution," and amendments to the amendments. All the folderol that goes on and wait

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for the parliamentarians to decide whether this amendment or that had space for it. So, they all got bored to death and they all drifted out and went somewhere, I don't know where. Into Chattanooga and picked up a girl or something, but they were bored to death, they just all left. You know, when they go to a convention, they expect to have a good time, that's always the great thing and to stay in this big hall with all this going on just bored them to death. So, the isolationist resolution lost, as I recall.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, they compromised and [unclear]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
The first time that I had been to Highlander and I hadn't seen Jim Dombrowski before. Across the hall, I saw this handsome man with dark brown eyes, you know, Jim looked like St. Francis of Assisi, and so he came up and introduced himself and you know, Kathryn was with me all the time. It was the strangest combination because here I was on one side and she on the other, but we still stayed friends.
SUE THRASHER:
Now, we are talking about dates. This is 1940, and you hadn't met Jim earlier?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, I hadn't met him before in my life. I didn't meet him down at the Southern Conference in '38. So, he came over and introduced himself and asked us that if we would like to come up to the Highlander Folk School, he would drive us up for a day or so before we went back to Washington. So, we did. And Jim drove us up and Myles met us and oh, I had never been there before and I just loved it. I adored Zilph ia, you know, Myles's wife who was so beautiful and such a

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marvelous singer. She was just a wonderful person. But you know all that from Claude, how her father was a coal operator and all. I adored Highlander and I adored the people there, oh, I just loved every minute of it. On Sunday, they sent out word all over the mountains that Kathryn Lewis was there, John L. Lewis's daughter and by God, they came out again. I bet there were two hundred miners there. I don't know whether you have ever seen those Tennessee miners, but they all wear black hats, I never saw a one of them that didn't, they are very silent men, you know, and they never would come inside. They all sat out on the front lawn and Kathryn had to make a little speech, you know and Myles got them something to eat. But not one of them would ever take off their hat or come in the house. Not one of them. Now, she got along with them very well, she knew how to talk to them and so did Jim and Myles. My efforts failed, I can assure you. I would say, "Where are you from?" And "You say that your name is Jones? Now, what Jones are. . . ." [Laughter] I am sure that they thought I was some agent of the FBI or whatever. I got very poor response. I had to learn that when you are dealing with people like that, you know, you have to listen. If you talk too much, they are suspicious right off. [interruption while original reel is changed] You see, I identified with the labor movement and it took me a long time to realize that the labor movement didn't identify with me. I remember going to one of the CIO conventions and I was younger and prettier then and was considerably younger and considerably prettier. And I was very earnest and lobbying a great deal. All they wanted to

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do was take me out and buy me a drink, you know. They wanted to have a good time.
CLIFFORD DURR:
That wasn't all they wanted.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, that was the first step in that direction anyway. [Laughter] I had a terrible shock, you see. I thought that all labor men were going to be great, it was going to be just right down the line in our interests, they were going to be just as interested as I was in getting rid of the poll tax and fighting for the rights of labor. I got the biggest shock of my life to see those fat flunkies sitting around guzzling booze and chasing women. That's what they did. That's human. It was a great disappointment to me, I lost a lot of illusions.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now, when did you first start getting disillusioned with them?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I first got disillusioned at this CIO convention in Boston, but I forget what year it was. It must have been about . . . I can't remember. But during that time, I became friendly with John Abt, the chief counsel for the Amalgamated Clothing Workers and he was always very helpful and then, of course, Sidney Hillman was always very helpful. Now, the person that just fought us tooth and toenail and all on the red baiting thing was the head of the ILGWU, David Dubinsky. He was terrible. He wouldn't give us one damn dime and never supported us at all because we didn't have any anti-Communist provision. It got to be an absolute fetish. Of course, that's what helped kill off the Henry Wallace campaign, you see. But this shows the length to which it went. The last year that Cliff was on the . . . wait, do you want

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to ask any more questions?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you want to talk any more about the Southern Conference?
SUE THRASHER:
What happened between the '38 conference in Birmingham and the '40 conference in Chattanooga? Was there a whole lot of red baiting that went on then, at that time, that made it so different in terms of the people who attended? I know that one of the accounts that I read said that the big names of the Roosevelt era were notably absent at the '40 conference, but that they had been at Birmingham.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, I think that's true. I think that the big thing was, you see, that in '38, the conference had the backing of the Roosevelts and Mrs. Roosevelt was there. Now, what happened was that in '40, when they met in Chattanooga, Mr. Roosevelt had turned, as we said, from Dr. New Deal to Dr. Win the War, and he was trying to cultivate the southerners to back up his war effort. So, he neither came nor sent greetings and Mrs. Roosevelt didn't come either. But he passed the word around, I'm sure, among the New Dealers, that "we are not going to fool with that because I have to keep the support of the southerners." Because, you see, he saw Hitler looming and he realized that he had to have these southerners, or so he thought, to fight Hitler. Not only were they in important positions on the committees, but they were interventionists, they believed in fighting Hitler, you see, they were all for the war. They were not isolationists at all. He and John L. Lewis had broken by then and Lewis was leading his efforts for isolation and Wilkie. So, I don't know whether he sent

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down Miles Etheridge or Olivia Curry Jones, but they came as his emisarries. I mean, they came to represent the New Deal point of view and so did Frank Graham. So, while we didn't have the big luminaries of the New Deal, we did have people like Frank Graham and of course, I considered myself a New Dealer, too. But you see, I have always tried to stretch over the chasm, you know, be a bridge between the two sides, but of course, so often, you get lost on it and are fixing to fall into the abyss. But at that point, I did manage to stay friends with the isolationists and the interventionists. But I was 100% interventionist.
SUE THRASHER:
How much of the anti-Communism that went on then was wrapped up with the party's position in terms of the war?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Quite a lot. You see, when the Communist party switched, you see, the united front had been the line of the party for years, by that time. Ever since fascism had begun to rise. During all of the Spanish War, the united front was a great thing, a democratic force and so on. And then, when the democracies, England and France and the United States, refused to support a duly elected government in Spain, and wouldn't even send them even any materials to fight with and while Germany and Italy were supplying Franco with all the munitions and airplanes in the world, at that point, Russia said, "To hell with them." No, I think that even after that, Litvinoff tried to get some anti-Hitler coalition going.
CLIFFORD DURR:
That break didn't come until the Chamberlain deal.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Litvinoff, you see, was a great united fronter and

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he was married to an Englishwoman, you know, Ivy Litvinoff sister of David Low, the great cartoonist who was a . . . oh, she had all the Magna Charta and the Bill of Rights and the English Constitution built into her system. I mean, she believed it as much as anybody could. She had been a Fabian, I believe, and Litvinoff met her when he was in exile when he was in London. The way that we met her it was so funny. We had this neighbor living next door named Charles and Janie Siepman who we were very devoted to, and Janie had been a great student of Esperanto, you know, the universal language.
CLIFFORD DURR:
It wasn't Esperanto, it was a basic simplified language. . . . Basic English.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Simplified English, maybe that was it. . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
They had about five or six hundred words and they would use them to. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, Madame Litvinoff was then married to Maxim Litvinoff and living in Moscow and in addition to being the wife of the Foreign Minister, which he was at that time, she was also a great expert on Basic English. So was this friend of ours, Janie Siepman, was going to China to visit the Lattimores, who were living in China at that time, Owen Lattimore. So, she stopped by Moscow and got in contact with Madame Litvinoff and took some lessons from her in Basic English and got the books and all and she and Madame Litvinoff struck up this very warm friendship. So, when Madame Litvinoff came to Washington as the wife of the Ambassador, and he became Ambassador, Janie renewed the acquaintance and they got to be very devoted friends. So, we had a carpool then, that

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was during the war, wasn't it Cliff? It must have been. And the gas was all rationed, you see, so we had a carpool that went back and forth. One day, we all got together and there was this middle aged, elderly lady, it was in the summer, and she had on a pair of sandles and no stockings and a cotton sort of housedress and no bra and no girdle. It was about a hundred degrees and you know, Washington can be the hottest place in the world, like a soup kettle, just steam. So, the lady had white hair and she looked like a nice lady and spoke English and since Charles Siepman was an Englishman, we thought that she might be a friend of his. We never did get her name very well, you see. So, we were driving out to Seminary Hill and she was chatting away and then . . . what was it she said that made us. . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well, there was a subdivision going on and they called it "revolutionary homes"
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
And she said, "Well, I don't think I see anything revolutionary about that." We thought that was a very funny remark, you know, and we said, "Well, what do you know about a revolution?" And she said, "Well, I know quite a bit about revolutions." We said, "Why?" She said, "Well, I'm Maxim Litvinoff's wife." So, that did make her sort of an expert, although she hadn't been through the revolution. [Laughter] But she was a really delightful woman and it is her son, you see, Pavel Litvinoff, who has been fighting for civil liberties in Russia and has now been expelled. He is over here now. This is a man who was one of the fighters with Sokanof and all those for [unknown] free speech in Russia. He is her son and he was brought up with the English Constitution and the Magna Carta in his bones. Well, he fought and fought in Russia for free speech and constitutional liberties,

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and then, when he lost, he was expelled and came over here. I don't know whether he is here or in England, but he is out of Russia.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Is this the story that you started to tell about how you first got interested in foreign policy and awakened to what was going on?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, the first way that I got awakened to foreign policy was through Decca and Esmond Romilly, right after or during the Spanish War. Dinky Donk's mother and father. You don't know Dinky Donk? Well, Sue does? [Laughter]
SUE THRASHER:
Dinky Donk is Dinky Romilly, who was in SNCC and married . . . lived with, I thought that they were married, but Virginia tells me that they were just living together, but with Jim Foreman. I think you may have met her.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, I was conscious of the Spanish Revolution and. . . .
SUE THRASHER:
Decca is Jessica Mitford.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
The writer, you know. Have you ever read her book called Daughters and Rebels or The American Way of Death and all that? Well, shall I tell that story?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Mitford was her married name?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, she is Jessica Truehaft now. She married Churchill's wife's nephew first. Well, now let's see, I'll try to condense that, but o.k., well . . . let's see. Before the war broke out. . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
You were very much concerned with the war in Spain and. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, yes, I was very much concerned with it. You see, the war in Spain was a tremendously popular war for the democracies, not for the countries, but for the people. You know that For Whom the Bell

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Tolls was written by Hemingway and Martha Gellhorn wrote all those wonderful journalistic accounts of it and then, who was that boy that got killed over there? And then the Lincoln Brigade, you know. Oh, the Spanish War was a very romantic episode in the life of everybody who was active at that time. You see, it was a democratically elected government that was being overthrown by a military usurper. So, I went to a meeting of the Spanish Relief Committee or the Spanish Aid Committee at Mrs. Pinchot's. Mrs. Pinchot was the wife of the ex-governor of Pennsylvania named Gifford Pinchot who was all involved in the forestry fight. . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
He was the first environmentalist, back in Teddy Roosevelt's time.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
And Mrs. Pinchot was some rich lady from New York named Cooper, the Cooper Union family . . . anyway, she was older than I am now, and of course, I tint my hair a little bit, but her's was just firey red, it was just the color of that truck out there, except a little more orange. [Laughter] And she had a very splend figure and her face was pure white and she had big green eyes, you know. She was supposed to be a great beauty in her youth, but she was well into her seventies by then and this firey orange hair made her look rather remarkable, to put it mildly. [Laughter] But she had a great big house and she gave these perfectly marvelous parties for causes and she was a friend of my sister's, you see. I had two levels that I lived on, our level, if you know what I mean . . . maybe three levels. I lived on my Washington level, which was the anit-poll tax, the labor unions, all these fighting and feuding people like that up on Capitol Hill. That was what I was really all boiled up about. Then, of course, I had an extremely active and very intense family

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life out on Seminary Hill, surrounded by all kinds of neighbors and the Episcopal Church and so on. And then through Sister, I had another life, which was much more official and much more exalted than the life I lived, with famous people and well known people. Like Supreme Court Justices. [Laughter] So, through Sister, I met this Mrs. Pinchot and my sister, as I have said 48,000 times, was an angel. She was one to me and was always looking out for me and wanted me to meet the interesting people and see that I got around and did things. So, I met Mrs. Pinchot and Mrs. Pinchot put us on her list. So, we began getting these beautiful engraved invitations, "Governor and Mrs. Pinchot invite you to dinner . . . and to tea and receptions . . . " and on and on. She never served anything to drink, she thought that was terrible. But she had absolutely marvelous food and the most elaborate food that you have ever seen. She would serve pheasant with the feathers on. [Laughter] That was the highest that I have ever gone in the culinary scale. You know, a beautiful plumed pheasant with these tails all bronzed and green and purple and yellow and they cooked the pheasants and then put the feathers back on them, the whole skin back on. So, they would come in with this huge silver platter with this pheasant.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Sounds awful.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, it was beautiful, but it was a little startling at first, I must say. And pheasants are not so grand, really, they are kind of dry. And she lived in this really elegant style and she had butlers and footmen and maids, but nothing to drink. But there was a catch about Mrs. Gifford Pinchot's parties which we soon found out, which was that they were

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always for a cause. Everytime that you came, they were for a cause. We once went for the cause of the freedom of India. I can remember Madame Pandit, Nehru's sister, boiling over with rage about the British Imperialists you know and . . . oh, it really was something. I went to things for China and everything you can imagine! If there was something, Mrs. Pinchot had a party for it. But, you had to contribute, you see. It was done in a kind of a delightful way, you know. Mrs. Pinchot would get up and say, "Now, I know that you dear people want to help our Madame Pandit to overthrow the British Empire . . . " [Laughter] Or Japan or whatever and then you would have to put out the dough. Well, $25 was about the least that you could get by for and Cliff began to get awful nervous about getting the invitations to these parties, because he was still not making a great big salary and $25 was mighty expensive for us for an evening out, even if we did have stuffed pheasant or whatever. So, Cliff said that we just weren't going anymore, he just couldn't afford it. It was very pleasant meeting all these great and famous people and having a delicious dinner and all, but $25 a time, and $50 a month if you went to two parties was just too much. So, Cliff just flat out refused to go to anymore and when he put his foot down, he put it down. He wouldn't go to any more of Mrs. Pinchot's parties. It was embarrassing because you had to contribute something and really, $25 was just chickenfeed. . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well, you and the children had this bad habit of wanting to eat. [Laughter]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
That's right, but anyway, I got an invitation from Mrs. Pinchot and this must have been right at the end of the Spanish War and

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she wanted me to come to a meeting, they were going to start a Spanish Aid Committee or something. And so, I went and . . . who was the head of it? You know, the big New Dealer that has got so fat? Leon Henderson. He was a real nice fellow and had a beautiful wife, I don't know what happened to him afterwards, he just swelled up like a balloon, took to drinking, left his wife and children . . . I never have known what happened to him. He was a brilliant fellow and very nice. Well, anyway, he was there and he got to be head of this committee. And Mrs. Pinchot and I can't remember who all, but there was a couple there, Mike and Binnie Straight. Well, they were a beautiful young blond couple and he was extremely handsome and so, after we had had the tea, you know, I spoke to them and they spoke to me and she looked about like Alice in Wonderland. She looked about ten or fifteen years old. I found that they lived in Alexandria. And he was running the New Republic. Now, let me explain who he was. His mother was one of the Whitneys, you know, the big rich Whitneys and she married. . . ..
SUE THRASHER:
Let's place him. [Laughter]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
That's right. Well, you have to find out where the money comes from, after all, he is worth maybe a half a billion dollars, you know and still is. He's probably worth a billion today, I saw his house last summer up in Martha's Vineyard and the house cost a million dollars I'll bet Well, anyway, he was a very handsome boy and his mother had married Williard Straight, who was a member of the Morgan firm, the J.P. Morgan firm, and he built the railroads in China. Of course, they made a good deal of money out of them. But anyway, he died and she went to England and married a Mr. Elmhurst and they have a famous school called Darlington Hall. It was where Sean O'Casey sent his son. Have you ever read Sean

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O'Casey's autobiography? That is one of the greatest books on the wide world. Put that down. [Laughter]
SUE THRASHER:
The bibliography is growing.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Sean O'Casey, his autobiography. Well, anyway, this was a very progressive school and they took the side of the Spanish Loyalists of the Democratic government, [unknown] Binnie [unknown] and her sister lived there in England and Mike went to Cambridge University. Binnie and her sister and family lived in Cambridge. Her father was American and was over there on some business thing. And her sister married one of the Spanish generals. We met him too, but I forget his name. If I can ever get one of my Spanish histories, I could find it. So, Binnie married Mike and Mike . . . well, I can't say that he was a member of the Communist party, although I was told he was when he was at Cambridge, but in any case, Mike financed people to go to Spain. He was a great advocate of the Spanish Republic and you remember John Cornford, the [unknown] English poet that was killed in Spain? Well, he supported him . . . you don't know him? Well, he is one of the most romantic figures in the history of mankind. Good God! John Cornford. He was a [unknown] poet and there is a book written about him. Haven't you ever read about Virginia Woolf's. . . .
[END OF TAPE 3, SIDE B]

[TAPE 4, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 4, SIDE A]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
haven't you ever read about Virginia Woolf's nephew? Well, these were the great heroes, these were the young men in their twenties who died for the faith, you know. They were all beautiful, all handsome, all wrote poetry and all were just great romantic heroes. And they died in Spain and so, the whole history of the

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Spanish War is just incredibly fascinating. And you see, these young people came from all over the world to fight. Well, anyway, Mike Straight had wanted to stay in England and run for Parliament and Sir John Simon at that time, was the grand panjandrum or chancellor or whatever and Mike wanted to take out British citizenship and Simon wouldn't let him because he had supported these fellows in Spain or had a connection with the Communist party or something. So, Mike came over to the United States and his family owned the New Republic, you see, his mother was a great liberal do-gooder. So, Mike began to run the New Republic, and Helen Fuller, who was a girl [unknown] from Alabama was one of those running it she wrote a book too, an awfully good book, but she is dead now, poor thing, but anyway, Mike lived in Alexandria. He was very attractive and nice and he was about twenty-one I imagine and Binnie was about seventeen and she was absolutely beautiful. And the way that she and I got together was because her grandmother came from Georgia, Mrs. Sheridan. . . ..
CLIFFORD DURR:
So, she could place her. [Laughter]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, this was. . . ..
BOB HALL:
I would never have made it in one of your stories.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I couldn't have placed you. [Laughter] Oh, I bet that I could, I'm sure I could. I'd have you placed in no time at all. [Laughter] But anyway, I won't go into Mrs. Sheridan, but she was a famous southern lady who lived in New York and kept a sort of court and instructed southern girls, kind of like Aunt Mamie, but on a much higher level, if you know what I mean. And so, a friend of mine had gone up and stayed with Mrs. Sheridan, that's how I knew about her. So, Binnie and I got to be very friendly over her grandmother having come from Georgia and I came from Alabama and she began to invite me to parties that she had. That had a little old house on one of the cobblestone streets in Alexandria. Oh,

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they had parties about five times a week. I went to one dinner party, and Binnie's mother, when she got married, had insisted on sending her nannie with her, she was only seventeen years old. So, we were sitting at this dinner party and Binnie was playing the hostess and she had all kind of people [unknown] with all that money and the New Republic too, she had all kind of interesting and famous people there. It got cold in that little old house and everybody was cold and kind of rubbing themselves, you know, and the nannie came in and she could be heard whispering, "Miss Binnie, do you have your woolen drawers on?" [Laughter] Poor Binnie nearly fell out! There we were with all that glamour and . . . well, anyway, we were invited to a party there and she called me up and said that there was a young English couple that was going to be staying with them and he had fought in Spain and would I come to the cocktail party. Well, Cliff said, "Oh, God, I will never go to another cocktail party." He had something about cocktail parties that is extremely deepseated. [Laughter] Well, tell them why you hated them.
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well, that's digressing.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes, it is. Well, he never would go. He just hated them, but I loved them, you know. I adored them. [Laughter] So, I went to the party and there, sure enough, was this young couple, an attractive young man named Esmond Romilly, who had fought in Spain. And he was about twenty then, I suppose, and he looked like Winston Churchill. had a great jaw and these big heavy shoulders and very blonde and blue-eyed and perfectly brilliant and witty and attractive and charming. Delightful. I just thought he was great, you know. And he told us about Spain, you

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know and he was furious at Franco and furious at the United States and furious at the Catholic Church and furious at everybody that I was furious with for not supporting Spain. So, I just thought that he was the world's most marvelous young man. And he had this beautiful wife with him, a young girl with great big blue eyes and dark hair and white skin, slender and beautiful. She never said a word, so I forgot all about her. I just disregarded her completely. That was Decca. So, when I left, I said to Esmond, "Now, I want my husband to meet you, I am anxious for him to meet you." So, we made a date for dinner and then I forgot to invite his wife. [Laughter] Well, she never said a word, she was just in the background there and he was the star of the occasion, you know. [Laughter] So, the next morning, I remembered that I hadn't invited her and so I had to call up real quick and invite his wife and of course, I invited Binnie and Mike, but I wanted to make it plain that I had invited Esmond's wife. So, they came out to dinner and he was absolutely fascinating and charming and thrilling and marvelous again. We had Jerry Voorhies over, do you remember Jerry? He was one that Nixon beat, on the grounds of being a Communist. Jerry was about as far from a Communist as he could be, he was a devout Christian and an Episcopalian and he was also on that Un-American Committee. So, he and Esmond got into a terrible battle about whether the Communists were in control of the Spanish Revolution, you know. And it was a fascinating and marvelous evening. Soon thereafter, the young Romillys went to Florida and he worked in a bar, you know. That's all in the book, you must read Daughters and Rebels, it is a very fine book. So, we got into the war and. . . ..
CLIFFORD DURR:
No, we hadn't gotten into the war then, it. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, but England was at war and it was the period of

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the phony war.
CLIFFORD DURR:
Yes, you know that they had about a year where nothing happened.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, Esmond came up at Christmas to borrow some money to put into this bar, from Mr. Eugene Myer, which he got, and he came out to see us. At that time, you see, England was in the war and I don't know if I asked him about it or what, but he said, "I'll never go to war for England as long as Chamberlain is Premier. He is nothing but a Birmingham broker and he is money mad and those Chamberlains are just money people. . . ."
CLIFFORD DURR:
"Tradesmen."
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
That's right, "Tradesmen." It was a very aristocratic sort of looking down on the Chamberlains. Well, of course, Chamberlain had just sold out England, you know, and just acted sawful. But he said, "If my uncle, Winston Churchill, gets to be Prime Minister, I will go because I know that he will fight." I said, "Why do you know that he'll fight?" And he said, "Because he and his crowd own England and they will fight for what is theirs. Even if they don't own it, they think they do so they'll fight." [Laughter] So, sure enough, the next summer, he appeard again on the scene with Decca and he is on his way to Canada to join the Canadian Air Force and they stayed with the Straights again. Well, anyway, we went to another party at the Straights and they came to another party at our house and once again, we thought that Esmond was the most fascinating creature that there ever was and one of the most brilliant and attractive and so on. His wife was again, beautiful and quiet. So, he came out into the kitchen while I was fixing the spaghetti or whatever and he always called me "Old Virginny," you know, from the song, "Carry Me Back

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to Old Virginny." He was very endearing and he said, "Old Virginny, don't you think that you could keep dear Decca the weekend that I'm gone? You know, the Straights are going up to New York and she will be all alone and I am sure that she will be so lonely and if you will just keep her for the weekend, I can't tell you how I would appreciate it." I said," Well, Esmond, I'm terribly sorry, but I am going to the Democratic Convention in Chicago." This was in 1940, July of 1940. I said, "I am leaving almost immediately." He said, "Well, that will be wonderful, just take Decca with you. We have money and she will be no expense whatsoever and this will take her mind off my leaving and just be great." Well, I didn't want to take her a bit. One of the young men that worked in Cliff's office, Red James, was going to drive me out and another girl and I didn't want her to go. I was going to appear before the platform committee and make a presentation of the anti-poll tax bill [unknown] and I was all busy politicking and making dates to see this person and that. Well, he persuaded me to take her. So, we went by the morning that we left for Chicago and got her. Well, we started out and she stopped in Silver Springs, she stopped every fifteen minutes and said that she had to go to the restroom. Well, the boy that was driving said, to me "You've got a weak bladder and we will never get to Chicago. No one will ever get there if we have to stop every fifteen minutes." I said that I just didn't believe that she could possibly pee that much, it just wasn't possible. [Laughter] I suspected something else and so, I went in and there she was, throwing up her toenails, she was pregnant, you see. Sick as a dog and she threw up and threw up. Well, she threw up all morning and we had to stop a very frequent intervals for her to throw up, but by

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the time the afternoon came on, she began to get better. And when we got to Chicago, she was some better, she would just throw up in the mornings. So, we got to Chicago and we went down to the Sheraton Hotel, where all the big doings were, and who did I see the minute that we got there but Lyndon Johnson. By this time, he and I were great friends. So, Lyndon saw me and Alvin Wirtz, you know that he was the Undersecretary of the Interior. So, Decca by this time was looking very glamorous beautiful and they immediately made us honorary delegates on the Texas delegation. We got big hats and lariats and things and badges to let us in and out. We had the greatest time that you can imagine. So, we sat with the Texas delegation on the floor and had a wonderful time, but what I worried about, they didn't have air conditioning then and the coliseum must have been 110 degrees in the shade. It was horribly hot and the ladies room was just miles away. So, I said to Maury Maverick, "You know, I've got a young English girl with me who throws up all the time and what in the name of God are we going to do?" [Laughter] And Maury had on a great big hat, a sombrero, made out of real fine felt. So, he goes over and sweeps off his hat like Sir Walter Raleigh and says to Decca, "Madame, use my hat if you need it." Well, Decca said that she felt like Queen Elizabeth, she never felt so glamourous and courtly. Fortunately, she didn't throw up in his hat, she kept the hat in her lap all the time, but she didn't ever throw up in it. But we had the most marvelous time because it was just so much fun. That was when Henry Wallace got to be vice-president you know and I was all for him and marched in his parade and waved my cornstalk. It was just a wonderful lot of fun. So, by the time that we got back to Washington, Decca had stopped throwing up so much and she was feeling pretty good. But she came to our house and didn't go to the

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Straights, it seemed that the Straights were still gone. So, I said, "Decca, what are you going to do?" She said, "Well, I am going to go to New York and get a job in a dress shop or something." I said, "Well, you can't go if you are throwing up so much still."
SUE THRASHER:
He had gone to join the air force and leave?
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well, he had gone to Canada.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
He was training up in Canada.
SUE THRASHER:
But he was going to be back.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, yes, he was going to be back but he wasn't going to be back for some time. So, I said, "You stay here until you get over being sick, because you can't possibly go to New York and get a job throwing up the way that you are." So, she agreed. Well, in the meantime, Cliff had gone to Oxford, you know, had been a Rhodes scholar, so he got a letter from Oxford saying that they were trying to send all the dons and their wives over to America because Hitler was threatening to bomb Oxford and Cambridge. You know, they had a series of what they called the Bacdeker Raids, when they bombed places like Coventry, you know, and destroyed the cathedral. You know, it was just smashed flat. Well, Hitler said that he was going to bomb Oxford and bomb Cambridge and bomb everything that was sacred, like he bombed St. Paul's. So, Cliff got this letter asking him to take a regugee, and the lady's name was Mrs. Woozley and her husband was the librarian of Queen's College. Well, Cliff said that he thought we had to take her. She had a baby and he said that we had to take her. Oh, God! In my house at that time, Cliff and myself and Anne and Lucy and Tilla, you see, the little boy had died, and then my mother, my father came up very often and then Decca, that made nine and then there was this woman and her, well, and if the baby came, that would be eleven. Well, you know, eleven people is quite a lot to feed on rations and

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everything that we were on. But Cliff said that we had to take her and so, we agreed to take her. She wrote me and said that she didn't want to be any trouble, but she would need, of course, a private room and bath for herself and the baby and also, would I engage a nanny for her? Can you imagine having to find a nanny? Well, I could see that Mrs. Woozley was going to be a pain in the neck and a lot of trouble and I didn't know if I could manage that or not. I told Decca to stay until Mrs. Woozley came. And then Mrs. Woozley wrote and said that the torpedoing had gotten so bad in the North Atlantic that she really believed that she would take her chances on staying in England with her husband and being bombed than being torpedoed in the Atlantic, which was a very wise decision. So, she wasn't coming and then Decca said that she would be the refugee.
CLIFFORD DURR:
You were looking for a British refugee and you had one right there.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
We had all become devoted to her by then and it was all a big joke, you know. So, she stayed on until her baby came. Esmond came down for Christmas and then he came down to see the baby and then he flew over to Scotland where he was going to be with the air force. So, about March. . . . [interruption on tape] So, Decca stayed and then the baby came, this beautiful child. Her name was Constantia, for the Spanish Revolution, Constantia Romilly, but we called her Dinky Donk because of the way that she acted at the Democratic Convention, she was just acting like a little donkey, this was just a joke, you see. So, we were awfully young in those days and made jokes about everything. So, she was called Dinky Donk. So, in any case, Cliff was on the Federal Communications Commission and he went to New York to make a speech and

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Decca was going to meet us and in the meantime. . . . I could go on about that forever, but I will just have to give you the outline. She was going to meet us in New York and we were going to see her and Dinky off and Esmond had gotten them a place to stay in Scotland where he was. Everything was all settled. Bless God, the night before she was to sail, we got a long distance call from one of their neighbors, Mary Waltom Livingston, and she said that Decca had just gotten word that he was lost coming back from a bombing raid over Berlin. She said that she wasn't going to England and she knew that he was alive. You see, she actually refused at that point to have anything to do with her family, what she called her "fascist family." You see, her sister had married Oswald Mosely, who was a fascist and Unity had been Hitler's girl friend and her other sister married the Duke of Devonshire, he wasn't a fascist, he was just a conservative. Her mother and father had been sort of pro-Hitler and her father had cut her out of his will and she said that she wasn't going back to the family. See, they had gotten married and had run off to Spain with Esmond to fight. So, we rushed back to Washington and there she was just absolutely desolate but she refused to go back. Well, we made every inquiry through the British Embassy that we could and through the air force and she wouldn't believe that he was dead. She kept thinking that somebody might have picked him up or that somebody had rescued him or something had happened, a submarine had come along or something. Then, when we got in the war, Winston Churchill came over here and stayed at the White House and you know, the first thing that he did was to call Decca. That's right. He hardly got in the White House before he called Decca at my house and told her to bring the baby over to see him and he would find out for her about Esmond. Now, she told me at the time, but she won't say

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it today, (and I don't know whether you can put this on tape or have to cut it out, but she told me at that time that he had said previously that he was Winston Churchill's son. That's right, the absolute truth. She told me. You know, the British aristocracy was rather noted for their love life. You see his mother was Lady Churchill's sister and now, if there was any truth to that, I don't know.) Decca today says that the British aristocracy was so twisted up together through the generations that they all looked like each other. But I don't really believe that, he did have that Churchill shoulder and jaw, you know and he had the quickest, most brilliant mind that I ever came in contact with. But anyway, she went over to the White House and Churchill could call all over the world, I reckon, and he got in touch with the commandant and the one that dispatched them to Berlin and the one that brought them back and all that and there was no doubt that he was dead. He was a navigator and they had been over Berlin and had been shot up and when they came back to England, they were limping along, you know, and they got within ten miles of the coast of Scotland and went down in the North Sea in terrible weather and it was terribly cold and with terrible waves. The next morning, they sent out airplanes and hydraplanes and everything that you can think of and boats, but they never found anything but just a big scum of oil. So, they were sure that he was drowned. So, Decca accepted the fact then that he was dead. She used to wake up at nights, you know, and I used to hear her weeping and I would go in there and she would say, "Oh, the water was so cold, the water was so cold." You know how Decca is, she always makes a joke of everything. . . ..
SUE THRASHER:
I haven't met her.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, she makes a joke of everything, you know and

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can be terribly arrogant and upper class, [unknown] and [unknown] just freeze the marrow of people's bones when she wants to. But she really is a very feeling person and terribly emotional, but I must say that she keeps it under very tight control. I suppose that I am one of the few people that ever saw Decca with all her defenses down. But anyway, she went and got a job with the OPA, that was the Office of Price Administration and so, they lived out at the house. Good God, that household! There was Cliff and me and there was my oldest daughter Anne, and my second daughter Lucy, and my third daughter Tilla. Now, Lulu, the youngest, wasn't born until a little bit later. Then there was my mother who was suffering from . . . I brought her up with me.
SUE THRASHER:
When did she come?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
She came up. . . .
SUE THRASHER:
During the war?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
During the war or right before the war, but she was suffering from melancholia and so she just wept and wept all the time.
SUE THRASHER:
And your father was. . . ..
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, he stayed in Birmingham, but he visited a lot. And that was seven people. Then, there was Decca and Dinky Donk, that was nine.
Then, another thing that happened was Lowell Mellett, who had been head of the National Emergency Council lived right down the road and he had become a White House aide and he had a Japanese butler named . . . well, it will come to me in a minute. Anyway, he was a very elegant butler, but when Lowell Mellett got to be a White House aide, the FBI said, "Look, you can't have a Japanese butler that is not even a citizen of the United States in your house when you are on a hot line to the White House." So, Lowell came up and asked me if I would take him. I said,' " Lowell, I can't take a Japanese butler. He can't cook or wash or nurse

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children, you know. I don't have that kind of a household where you have to have a butler come in and bring you cocktails before dinner." He said, "Well, you could just let him stay there for awhile." I had a room downstairs, a servant's room, that had a bath to it. It was a very nice room, actually, we had it built on. So, Yamasaki was his name. And so, he came and [unknown] which nobody knew, he had a wife and baby. Oh! [Laughter] So, here was the Japanese and his wife and baby. That added up to twelve, I think, by that time. Well, he got a job in the neighborhood and Decca hired his wife, whose name was Saiko, to be the nanny for her child, dinky Donk. Well, I must say that the thing that was so marvelous was that she turned out to be an angel, an absolute marvel, a whiz, a wonderful, sweet, kind, a loving woman. She had been born in Hawaii, but she was Japanese and he was Japanese. And he got a job next door at the Seipmans, who lived a rather more formal life than we did. He was the butler. Then, [unknown] my little girl, Tilla, and Decca's little girl, Dinky Donk and the little Japanese Hiroshi boy all called Cliff "daddy." They were all the same age and all five of them would just laugh and say, "Daddy this and Daddy that." He had a hard time explaining how he had a Japanese child and an English child and an American child all the same age.
SUE THRASHER:
Was he still at the RFC then or. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, he was on the Federal Communications Commission then. Well, anyway, Saiko was a marvelous cook, she did everything beautifully. You couldn't imagine anything that she didn't do perfectly. She would clean a room so well that it shined. If she washed or ironed, it was perfect and if she mended clothes, you couldn't see the stitches. Everything that she did was perfect and she was the sweetest, kindest, best woman that I have ever known. Then, there was a white woman working

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for us named Mrs. Daniels. She would come in and work, help with my mother, you see, who was an invalid. Then, she would help with the children and she would clean up and wash. She was a wonderful woman, too. But we had a strange household, I'm telling you. One of the funniest things that happened was that the FBI came all the time.
SUE THRASHER:
And you were still involved in the poll tax and. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, I was still involved in the poll tax, but the FBI wasn't [unknown] on account of me. It was on account of this Japanese living in our house, you see, they had to check on him all the time. It got so that the children would call up and say, "Mama, the laundry man is here." "Mama, the milkman is here." "Mama, the FBI is here." [Laughter] There were always [unknown] two big old dumb goofs who wanted to look around and see if there were any aeriels and if we were transmitting messages to the Japanese. You see, instead of being accused of being a Communist, I was being accused of being pro-Japanese. Well, they went into Saiko's and Yamasaki's room one afternoon, and they found that he had a false trunk, a false bottom to his trunk. Well, they knew that they had him this time, they knew that he was transmitting secrets to the Japanese from this false bottomed trunk. [Laughter] Oh, I thought that he would die in his tracks. He kept pleading with them that it was just personal things, something very personal. So, they ripped out the bottom of this trunk and he had a whole lot, the whole bottom of this trunk filled with pictures of all these naked women. [Laughter] Whew boy! And his wife right there, too. [Laughter] Was he embarrased!

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BOB HALL:
Was the FBI embarrased?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, they aren't ever embarrased. [Laughter] Oh, they did such stupid things. They made us take his camera for the duration of the war. But I did have these two wonderful women helping me, Mrs. Daniels and Saiko. I forget all the details, but it was pretty rough, because we were on rations, you know and I had to do all the marketing and buying and so forth.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I was going to ask if you got involved at all in the issue of civil liberties for the Japanese-Americans on the west coast.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, Hugo wrote the decision interning them.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, what did you think. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, I didn't have much to do with it. Cliff thought that it was wrong at the time, I remember him saying that. I was so busy at that time. I still did the poll tax, but there was another girl there that ran it. A perfectly beautiful girl, great big blue eyes and lovely hair, but I can't remember her name. Wonderful person, Katherine somebody. She ran it, because I was really involved at this point just trying to run the house and all and I couldn't get down there for more than once a week, or sometimes twice.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Kreuger talks about that and intimates that at the national meeting of the Southern Conference, where they wanted a panel on civil liberties and that you were on it. He says that that panel, said that under the pressures of war, some civil liberties had to be removed, that it sort of justified what was being done.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I don't remember any of that at all. Iwas

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engaged in a great fight then with this same McAllister and then there was a textile guy named Lawrence and he was red baiting the hell out of us. So was McAllister and there were some more in the AFL that were doing it. This was right in the middle of the war, too.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about this thing with McAllister. I came across some letters in the Frank Graham papers about this incident in which McAllister said that you said that he said Frank Graham was a Communist.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, he did. He said that Mrs. Bethune was a Communist and so, I said, "Well, if you want to call her a Communist, call her one openly, don't call her a Communist behind her back."
JACQUELYN HALL:
He denied it. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
He denied it, but it was a lie, because I had proof from people who were there and heard him say it. He was a nasty character and a dangerous fellow. I know that he. . . .you see, you've got to understand my position, which still is strange. While I was not a Communist, as long as the Communists were doing what I believed in, which was fighting the war . . . now, when they didn't fight the war, when they had that period of the Stalin-Hitler pact, I said that I thought Russia had a perfect right to do that, because the democracies had let her down and hadn't supported her in the fight against fascism. So, if she wanted to buy more time to make a deal with Hitler, I didn't see anything wrong with that. But what I thought was so stupid and I still think it was stupid, was for the American Communist Party and the people that went along with them, to say that it was an imperialist war and that Hitler's rule was not any worse than the democracies and all that kind of junk. It was crazy. Well, in any case, I thought that red baiting was the most

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horrible thing, it ruined everything. But the Communist didn't red bait, if you know what I mean, they didn't red bait because they were the ones that were always being red baited. Does that make any sense to you?
SUE THRASHER:
Sure. ZZ!
BOB HALL:
Were there people like yourself?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Sure, lots of them. Clark Foreman was one of them and Frank Graham, more or less. He got kind of red baited when he ran for the Senate and he asked me to write him a letter assuring people that he was not a red, which I did. But there were lots of people like me. Well, oddly enough, Barry Bingham and Mark Ethridge didn't red bait, as I recall. And Mike Straight didn't red bait at that time. He had just been red baited himself. There were a lot of people that didn't. There were so many people who didn't know what it was all about, who were still thinking in terms of the local issues, or the down to earth issues of their jobs, pay and stuff like that. This Communist business was always sort of a . . . it ruffled the waves, but it wasn't the waves, if you know what I mean. There weren't enough Communists really, to make the great decisions. If they hadn't been red baited and made into such an issue by the reactionaries, you know, they would have just gone along as a small group who were supporting the war when it came, this,that and the other. What made them such an issue was the reactionaries were always using them to defeat the things that you were working for, like anything, the TVA, or the agricultural administration or the poll tax. Simple things that the New Deal was working for, the reactionaries like Martin Dies red baiting the labor unions, you know, they reactionaries used the Communists to try to kill them.

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JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, the rationale that anti-Communist liberals give for their own red baiting or their refusal to work with Communists is exactly what you are saying, that if they worked with Communists, they could then be red baited and they wouldn't be able to do the things that. . . ..
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, I know, but that's not the Communists' fault. It is the reactionaries fault. And the thing about it is that if you swallow that red baiting, then you are done for, because as you know, they say that "if they come for them in the morning, then they will come for you in the afternoon," or whatever it is. I forget the phrase, but the point is, you see, you can't imagine what it was like at that time, and this is why is why I get on badly with Mike Welch let's say, because I don't see how an American Communist cannot defend free speech and the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. I think that if they want to say, "O.K., let Russia be a dictatorship, O.K." I don't care if Russia is one, if it is. But they defend all the time, you know, things about Russia, saying that it is a free democracy, much better than we have got. I do think that they get people jobs and they have raised the standards of living and o.k., for Russia, that is great. But that is not the United States. And for the American Communists not to defend the right of free speech, and this is what makes it so paradoxical to me, this is why I have these great debates with John Abt by letter, is that they were the most ardent defenders of free speech, when they were fighting for their rights and the Communist unions were fighting for their rights all through he LaFollette Committee. Nobody fought for free speech harder and all through the history of the Communist party, free speech was a great issue. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and all the great battles in New Jersey, were for you know and you go back to the very beginnings of the Socialist party in free speech,

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this country before there even was a Communist party and you find that the Socialist party and the Communist party were the greatest defenders of civil rights, the old IWW. I mean, they died for freedom, for free speech. This is the great legend, the grewat tradition of the labor movement in this country, free speech. Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, who I admired very much, I didn't agree with her during the phony war bit, but the point is that free speech, they would die for free speech and even the IWW, you know, that was their great slogan, "Free Speech." I can get real hot about this.
JACQUELYN HALL:
People have a sort of instrumentalist view of free speech, though. I think a lot of people didn't see those kinds of civil liberties as ends in themselves but they took a stand on free speech and the right of assembly because without that, they couldn't organize.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I don't believe that. Now, I never had a closer, sweeter or dearer friend in my life than Marcantonio and he would have died for free speech. He believed in it as absolutely as a man could believe in anything. And he never did a dishonorable thing in his life or anything that he didn't speak the truth about. He was a great man and a great leader, he did a whole lot for people, you know. And John Abt, this is why John and I have these long arguments, John Abt was marvelous in the La Follettee committee. There was nobody that ever did more than he did for free speech then. Now, why would he come around today and defend the Russians' treatment of the Jews and he is a Jew? It is beyond me, I just get all bogged down in it. Well, anyway, where were we at?. . . . Decca, we were still. . . .. [interruption on tape while original reel is changed]
JACQUELYN HALL:
We were starting to get back to talking about the Southern Conference.

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SUE THRASHER:
I wanted to ask you about the Southern Conference Washington Committee and how that related to the southern office of the Southern Conference.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, you see what we did was, the Southern Conference was not exempt from taxation. It was started as a political organization not tax exempt, you see. The idea was that we could have a state committee in Virginia, a state committee in North Carolina, a state committee in Georgia, in Tennessee and we had one in Alabama that Aubrey Williams was head of. So, the effort was to start state committees and these committees would be engaged in active politics trying to get people to run for office and be political committees. Of course, you see, the Democratic party at that time was such an oligarchy and so closely confined to so few people and we were trying very hard to broaden the base, you know, and trying to get more people to come in and take part in politics. So, Jim Rambowski had his headquarters at highland and Jim and Myles . . . well, anyway Jim wanted to leave [unknown] it after awhile.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now, what was that about?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I never did know exactly. He and Myles . . . you know, Myles was a very strong person, a very strong natured person, if you know what I mean.
SUE THRASHER:
But Jim stayed there longer than, or rather, he stayed there a pretty long time.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
A pretty long time. I don't know how long, but it was a pretty long time. You know, it was founded by Jim and Myles and Don West and so, Jim came up . . . the Southern Conference wanted a secretary and you see, Joe Gelders went into the Army. He was forty-five years old, but when the war came, when Russia got into the war, Joe's one idea was to get into

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the army and fight Hitler. So, he was old and had all this terrible injury done to him and all, and he had stomach ulcers, too, but he joined the army and somehow, he got accpeted.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So, did he work with you on the poll tax committee up until that time?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yeah. Well, he had worked with the Southern Conference in various capacities, too, as I recall. But he had a lot of stomach troubles, ulcers and things. Now, I remember that in Nashville in '42, I remember that in Chattanooga, when they were having this foreign policy struggle and the mineworkers were there. Then, in '42, he was already in the army and he came to Nashville and he was in uniform. But he was transferred out to California and in the meantime, while he was sick and all, Audrey Williams had gotten his wife a job in the NYA, in Birmingham. They lived in a little place called Trussville outside of there. So, Joe joined the army and was transferred out to California and then Esther went and took the two girls and he had some trouble, I forget what it was, from an FBI report or some sort of red baiting that happened out that. But I think that he stayed in the army until the war was over. He was way out in California and while we wrote every once in awhile, we didn't have that close [unknown] contact we had had before. I think that I kept his letters, no, I didn't, and that was the biggest idiotic thing to do. And they never kept any of my letters because they moved around so much.
SUE THRASHER:
Some of your letters to him are in the Southern Conference papers at Tuskagee.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, they are? I didn't know that. Well, in any case, he lived on in California and I think that he worked in one of the universities.

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I can't remember all the dates of these things. He died, you know, when he was in his early fifties.
SUE THRASHER:
Now, Jim came on in '40 or '41?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, Jim came on and became the secretary of the Southern Conference in . . . well, by the time of the Nashville meeting, he was the secretary. I know that Clark and I and all kinds of other people helped him get the job because we thought that he would just be marvelous and he was. So, by the time [unknown] . . . now, at the time of the Chattanooga conference, I think that [unknown] Alton Lawrence was the secretary. Alton was the secretary of it for awhile. I don't know if you can get anything out of Alton now, since he's had such a change, you know. Of course, he would tell it . . . .
SUE THRASHER:
When was Clark elected president?
[END OF TAPE 4, SIDE A]

[TAPE 4, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 4, SIDE B]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I think that he was elected president in Nashville. I know that Frank Graham began to get worried, he certainly didn't like the isolationist sentiment in Chattanooga. But you see, there is this with Frank Graham, and he was a lovely fellow and I was very fond of him and admired him, but he fell into the same trap that others did. Instead of blaming John L. Lewis and the mineworkers for the isolationist sentiment and the resolutions and all like that to stay out of the war, he blamed the Communists. You see, this is so typical of that whole era. There would be three Communists there and three hundred mineworkers, but they would blame the Communists rather than the mineworkers, if you are getting my

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point. John L. Lewis was the power. You see, this is the thing that is so amazing around this particular period. Here was this man with enormous power, enormous following to become a great national and international figure, to challenge the President of the United States, you know, and working for Wilkie, who had upset the whole corporate system with sit-ins. He had become a tremendous power and he still had it. So, he made a tremendous fight down in Chattanooga to get the Southern Conference to embark on this pro-Wilkie, isolationist, anti-Roosevelt stand. And he brought in all these miners and the few Communists who were around agreed with him at that point. But my point is that it was the miners who were the force behind all that. And if those miners had only stayed in the hall, they could have gotten about anything that they wanted to.
SUE THRASHER:
But you don't think that Clark was elected president until Nashville?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I think that it was then. I just don't remember. I remember that . . . no, Clark, you see, went off to the war and stayed for two years or more. Maybe he wasn't even elected in '42. Didn't you get all that down when you talked to him?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes, we have all that in an interview.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, you can check all that, because you see, he went off and served in the war and I don't believe he got elected president until he got back from the war. I believe that was when we had a meeting up in North Carolina.
But anyway, up in Nashville, Jim was the secretary and Mrs. Roosevelt came down again. That was in the middle of the war, you see, and we were all united again to defeat Hitler. Paul Robeson came down and sang. Then, there was a fellow there named Louis Burnham, do you know who

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he was? He was very active in the Southern Conference. His daughter is Margaret Burnham. Well, Louie was a very bright and fine fellow and very smart and extremely nice, an attractive man in every way and very direct and honest. I remember two things that happened there. You see, the race issue was beginning to play a large part now. You see, we had the labor issue, poll tax issue, the war issue and now, we come to the race issue. We met at this hotel there in Nashville, a leading hotel, you know the name of it, downtown. A tremendous big lobby and all . . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
The Hermitage?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I think so. Anyway, we got there and I had just got in, you know, and Jim said, "Virginia, we are having a meeting of the board, you see, I was on the board. I don't know whether I was vice-president then or not. I can't remember. Isn't that ridiculous? I know that I was vice-president of the poll tax thing, but I don't know if I was of the Conference or not. So, we went to the elevator and in the group, there was Mrs. Roosevelt and Mrs. Mary McLeod Bethune, Jim Dombrowski and I believe there was Dr. Charles Johnson of Fisk and me. So, we went to the elevator and the elevator operator, a young black boy said to Mrs. Mary McLeod Bethune, "I am sorry Mrs. Bethune, but you cannot ride this elevator, you will have to ride the freight elevator." Well, Dr. Johnson, I think he was there, but I don't remember him playing any part in this episode. Well, Mrs. Bethune drew herself up in all her majesty and said, "Young man, Mrs. Mary McLeod Bethune is not freight." So, with that, she began to walk upstairs. It was on the fifth floor and she had awful asthma, you know. So, she would pause at every landing and gasp and by the time we got upon the fifth floor, we thought she was dead for sure. We were scared to death. Here we were, the wife of the president and all, and scared to death. Mrs. Bethune was a consumate actress, you know, so we never could be sure just

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how much of it was asthma and how much of it was acting. So, when we finally got up to the fifth floor, she (the following is said in raspy, out of breath voice) said, "Call the doctor, call the doctor." Oh, God, we called the doctor and we called the manager and we called the ambulance and everything that we could think up. Oh, she was dying and everybody was scared to death and terrified and she kept on wheezing and trying to catch her breath. Finally, the doctor came and I don't know what he did, gave her a shot or something and wanted to take her to the hospital. No, she wouldn't go to the hospital. She wouldn't do anything but stay there and make that manager feel guilty. [Laughter] She had that manager just scared out of his mind. You could see it, "Mrs. Mary McLeod Bethune dies in the presence of Mrs. Roosevelt because they wouldn't let her use the elevator." She just scared the living daylights out of that manager. Then he apologized and carried on and at that moment, segregation was forgotten in The Hermitage hotel. No more segregation there. She just killed that right then and there. She was just absolutely incredible. But Louis Burnham had come there the day before and run into it and he had done something that black people somethimes do.. I think that Angela Davis tells about that in her book . . . he put a towel around his head and told them that he was from India. They registered him right off, he got a room and they took his bags up and nobody minded at all. He was an Indian, may have been brown, but with that towel wrapped around his head, he was O.K. [Laughter]
SUE THRASHER:
What was Burnham doing at that time?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Was that when he was with the Negro Youth Conference . . . I don't know. I just remember that was what he did and you've got to remember that he was one of the people that broke the segregation at the hotel, too. Of course, Paul Robeson came down in his magnificence, you see

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and he was one of the most magnificent creatures in the world. Not only very handsome, but you know, he had this overpowering dignity and presence and when he sang, people just rose up out of their seats. Did you ever hear him sing?
SUE THRASHER:
Well, only on records.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
It was marvelous, just terrific. In any case, that Nashville meeting, as I recall, went off fairly well, except for that fight that I had with that McAllister. He was going around red-baiting everybody.
SUE THRASHER:
The Socialists weren't sending people by `42, were they?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
He was there.
SUE THRASHER:
The Southern Tenant Farmers Union didn't let anybody go then.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, I don't remember. I wish I could that . . . You know, that is so long ago and I just can't remember all these dates. I can remember the episode about Mrs. Bethune and I can remember too . . . let's see what else happened there because I know that Louis Burnham was there, that thing about him putting on a turban and then I remember McAllister sliming around telling people that others were Communists and spreading suspicions. And there was a fellow from the textile workers named Roy Lawrence, he was another slimy character. He was always saying to me, "Well, Mrs. Durr, I suppose that you want to know what the ‘workers’ think." He thought that was a really great blow. [Laughter] You know, we had a lot of dumb people around, but he thought that that just got me scarlet, like my bathrobe, to ask me or to tell everybody that Mrs. Durr had to know what the ‘workers’ think. And then, when they get out to mow you down and destroy you, you know, a lot of them

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may be dumb, but they really made a concerted effort, there is no doubt about that. Then, John Thompson, oh yes. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
The big controversy was over John Thompson.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, John Thompson was a saint on earth, poor man, he is dead now. He came from someplace, Oklahoma. He was at the University of Oklahoma and then he went up to Chicago, you know, to the chapel there and he was one of the most saint-like creatures that I have ever known. You see, Jim and Myles and John Thompson and Don West had all been at the Union Theological Seminary and had studied under Harry Ward. He was sort of their guiding light. He was a tremendous old fellow. But I think that the meeting in Nashville went off pretty well, as I recall. I don't remember any particularly . . . except for that McAllister character.
SUE THRASHER:
And then Jim set up a national office in Nashville.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, he had already set it up. He set up in Nashville and then they had that sort of terrible massacre shooting right near Nashville.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Columbia.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Columbia . . . where they went down and shot into all the black homes and all. He set up some sort of . . . now, that shows you another example of how things were. About how difficult things were made. So, after that shooting, I don't remember what triggered it off, but they just rode through the black community shooting at houses, you know and for days, the black people just stayed in their houses with the shades down, scared to go out to get a loaf of bread or a bottle of milk. It was just under siege.
SUE THRASHER:
There was something about a black soldier who had just returned from World War II and he objected to the way that his mother had been treated and so they reacted.

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VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, I remember that Jim and some other people started a committee to protect these people or help these people in Columbia. So, I was a member of that committee and we met in Washington and had a meeting at the YWCA,, I think. There were lots of people there, left wing union people, right wing union people, lots of union people there. Well, then when I . . . the next day, I got a call from Walter White and he said, "Mrs. Durr, we are forming a committee to protect the people in Columbia and I want you to join." I said, "Well, Mr. White, I have already joined the committee." He said, "Mrs. Durr, if you join that committee, you are going to be sorry, it has Communists in it." That same old thing, you know. But he got furious with me. He was just mad as a top. You see, he had gotten to be a real . . . this was so typical. Two committees were formed and the New York committee wouldn't have anything to do with the Washington committee because they had, or New York said that they had two Communists on the Washington committee. I can't even remember who they were talking about. It was incessant, it never let up. You just got so sick of it. But the Washington committee of the Southern Conference was quite active. We used to have these meetings at the YWCA, have luncheon meetings and have speakers and we took up a lot of issues. It was quite lively. Then, we lobbied on the hill for various acts, including the anti-poll tax, so it was really quite an active group. They had that Watergate meeting for Henry Wallace and that got all tied up with being investigated by the Un-American Committee.
SUE THRASHER:
What else do you remember the Washington committee being involved in?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, we had a dinner, the one that I told you about for Hugo, and that was one of the biggest things that we got involved in. Now, as I said, the emphasis had gone from labor to the war and now it was on

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race primarily. And the Washington Hotels wouldn't let Negroes in, you see, they wouldn't let them stay there. So, we gave this big dinner for Hugo. He had been put on the Court. This was after he had spoken at the Southern Conference. I think that I told you about that the other day. I thought that it was on the tape. So, we got all of the Supreme Court [unknown] invited and most of them came and Cliff and I came, he was telling you about his mother's objection to that. Poor man, he was really caught between the rock and the hard place there. His mother on one side and his wife on the other and his brother-in-law. But it was a large dinner and extremely well attended and very successful.
CLIFFORD DURR:
You might tell the way that we arranged to get the hotel.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, the way that we arranged to get the hotel. Well, Bill Douglas's brother was head of the Statler chain and he had married a girl from Montgomery named Florence Peebles. So, Bill got his brother to allow us to have this dinner at the Statler Hotel and this was the first big breakthrough on the hotels in Washington and so, we had this great big dinner in honor of Hugo. As I said, most of the Supreme Court came and it was really quite an affair. Lots of people came and it was a mixed gathering. Of course, we were all red baited too, and people were calling up and being told not to come and there was a lot of hoorah about it, but it went off very successfully.
SUE THRASHER:
Do you remember any kind of tension between Dombrowski and Foreman?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, good God, yes! Talk about being a bridge! It was like walking a tightrope. You couldn't have had two people that were more

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different than they were. You see, Jim was the most meticulous human being that I have ever known. There wasn't a cent that was spent that wasn't duly noted. He was very slow because he was so perfectly meticulous. Every dime was accounted for. Everything had to go through the proper channels. Everything had to be certified and checked and rechecked. Clark was a very impetutious, quick person. He would have a bright idea and he wanted to put it in action right that minute and he wanted to get the money. He would run here and run there to get this done. Of course, Jim had to know why and get a voucher and all kinds of things. It would drive Clark crazy. So, he and Jim were just constantly at odds. It was so difficult. They both had great qualities but they both just got on each other's nerves. We just tried to keep them going together and not flying apart.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What else was pulling them apart besides that difference in styles?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I can't think of anything else, really.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But how did you try to deal with it, to act as a bridge?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Don't ask me. It just seems to me that I spent hours and days of my life trying to make peace between them. But Jim never would say, you see, he's a very controlled and contained person. But Clark would just get mad and break out and it was really difficult.
SUE THRASHER:
Was there any competition between them about the leadership role?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, no. Not at all. Jim was perfectly satisfied being the secretary. He didn't have any desire to be . . . no, no, it wasn't that,

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it was just a complete difference in personality. One was very methodical, extremely careful, particular. Jim was absolutely meticulous. Everything that he does, he plans ahead and does exactly right. Have you ever seen his paintings and etchings and all? Well, I think that they are beautiful works of art but every line is absolutely meticulous. And Clark was just a very explosive, high tempered, very impetuous guy and he always had bright ideas that he wanted to put over. It was a very trying period.
SUE THRASHER:
Did the Washington committee function during that time as a fund raising office and committee for the whole Southern Conference? You were on the fund raising committee.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
We were always trying to raise money.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Where did the Southern Conference get this money, besides from. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, lots of people gave money. We were not exempt from taxes, so we didn't get tax exempt money from foundations. Well, I told you that Luke Wilson's mother gave us money, certainly for the poll tax. Then, there was a man over in Baltimore,4 I can't remember his name, but he gave us some money. We collected money by mail. You see, the unions gave us money, this was the main thing, the unions gave us money. They gave us monthly money. For instance, a lot of the unions just gave us a monthly allotment of money. The unions provided the money in those days for most everything.
SUE THRASHER:
Did the unions stop giving you money when they decided that there were too many Communists in it?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh sure. But that time, it had all broken up, you see. The whole union movement had broken up. They broke up and then broke us up. All the money sort of dried up and all the unions were fighting each other. It got so that . . . for instance, let's take the United Electrical Workers.

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You see, they split apart. I forget, Jim Carey was the red baiter. I can't even remember the names of the guys that were supposedly the Communists. But anyway, there was a terrible fight in the union and they would come to the anti-poll tax meetings, you see, and this would be the same union, but left wing would be fighting the right wing and vice-versa. You would have to go through all that business. This was the thing that just made life so unhappy at that time, this continual fighting and struggling that was going on between the right and the left. Mr. Lewis, of course, hated Jim Carey. I remember him making a remark once very loudly in the hotel there where he used to eat everyday. Jimmy Carey came in with Phil Murray and Kathryn and I were having lunch, I don't think that we were having lunch with him, but were there and he said something like, "There he goes, he must carry his flea with him." In other words, Phil Murray was the dog and Jimmy Carey was the flea. [Laughter] He said that loud enough for the whole dining room to hear, I might add. The fighting that went on in those days was really vicious. The Catholic Church played a big part in that. You know, Murray didn't do anything but that he would consult the Catholic Church. He got to be such a. . . .
SUE THRASHER:
Phil Murray?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yeah, and so did Joe Curran. You see, whenever they stopped being reds and became Catholics . . . you see, they had been Catholics but they became reds and then they went back to being Catholics. They would have to get right with God and the Church and the priest. Cardinal Spellman was a big anti-Communist leader of the Catholic Church. He was the one that kept Roosevelt from sending anything to the Spanish War. Jim Farley, you see, was the chairman of the Democratic Party, and he was a big Catholic. There was Catholic influence

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all this time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I was thinking that we could go on and talk about how the Southern Conference got so involved in the Progressive Party campaign.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, that's what I wanted to go on to. Well, then, as I remember, Clark came back and we had a meeting in North Carolina. I can't remember where it was. (Greensboro, North Carolina in January, 1947) But we still had segregation. So, we met at some hotel there and this is just an episode about Mrs. Mary McLeod Bethune, which illustrates the situation; we had permission to meet in the hotel. So, when lunchtime came, Jim was the secretary and he got up and in the sweetest way said, "Well, you know, I'm terribly sorry, but the hotel won't serve any of our black members and we have arranged for you to be carried over to the Negro school." So, Mrs. Bethune got up and she just let out a real diatribe. She said, "Now, look Jim Dombrowski, when you arrange a meeting, you arrange for us to eat together. We are not going to be shunted off this way." Oh, she got very upset about it and poor Jim was just terribly upset. But Mrs. Bethune refused to go over to the black school to eat. I said, "Mrs. Bethune, you come on up to my room and I will get you a sandwich." I wanted her to lie down because she was an old lady and . . . she didn't have an asthma attact that time, but she was pretty agitated and got everybody else pretty agitated too. Mrs. Bethune could make the most marvelous speech about black roses. You've never heard her rose garden speech? About how she went into this lovely rose garden and there was a pink rose and a yellow rose and a white rose and the red rose and then one day, she went into the garden and there was a black rose, the most beautiful rose of all. She was a masterful orator. She was an amazing woman. So, I took her up to my room and she lay down on the bed and I called down to the dining room

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and asked if I could have lunch sent down to the room. And they said yes. So, I asked for two chicken sandwiches and two glasses of iced tea. Well, in about five minutes, here come in three black waiters, not one but three. They [unknown] set up a table, put on a white cloth and set it beautifully and then they brought up the chicken salad sandwiches and the iced tea and they stayed and served Mrs. Bethune and me, one behind each chair and one to serve. [Laughter] They were trying to show Mrs. Bethune honor, you see. This was their way of showing her honor and they did. And she sat there like a queen and ate her sandwich and drank her iced tea and these three black waiters were just bowing and scraping. She was a powerful woman, I'm telling you. She broke segregation in that hotel, too. That's the second time that she did it. She didn't let anybody fool around with her.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I would like to hear the story about Mary Church Terrell, while you are on stories.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, Mary Church Terrell was an extremely old lady . . . this is a very strange story . . . she was extremely old when I knew her. She was very light and she wore these high boned . . . my mother used to wear them, they were made out of net and had little whale bones and the idea was to hold up your double chin, I guess, or your sagging chin. But they had little frills on top. Old ladies used to wear them all the time. You see, when people got to my age in those days, they dressed like old ladies. They didn't put a henna rinse on their hair and they wore black dresses and white frills and these high collars with these little whale bones, you know. It held their neck up, if you know what I mean. And very attractive, really. Because that awful bloodhound look that you get. I want to have my face lifted, but Cliff won't . . . [Laughter] Everybody when they get old wants to get away from that dropped look. [Laughter]

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CLIFFORD DURR:
What if some psychiatrist looked at your face, what is he going to come out with there? [Laughter]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, I was just giving the difference between old ladies in those days and old ladies now. Everybody wants to be young and then, everyone just accepted the fact that they got old and dressed old and looked old. Mrs. Mary Church Terrell looked old and she dressed old. She wore a little kind of bonnet and always wore black and always had these white frills on and white gloves and pearls and earrings. She was a very handsome woman and very charming and intelligent and very nice. She was the head of the Republican Women. So, she came to the anti-poll tax meetings for years. And we were very friendly and pleasant and so one day, she said to me something about coming from Memphis, Tennessee. And I said, "You know, my Mother's family came from Memphis, Tennessee." And she said, "What was your mother's family name?" I said, "Patterson." She said, "You couldn't be the grand-daughter of JosiahPatterson, could you?" I said, "Yes." She said, "Well, he was my guardian." I said, "My grandfather was your guardian?" You know, this really gave me quite a turn. It just seemed incredible. She said, "Yes, yes. I have a great many letters from him and from your uncle, Governor Patterson, and if you will come to my house one day, I'II show them to you." So, she lived in one of those brownstones in Washington, up on one of those avenues with trees and everything. A nice old Victorian house and it was all furnished with Victorian things inside. You see, her husband had been a judge, Judge Terrell, a Negro judge. So, she showed me these letters from my grandfather and my uncle, and this is the story that she told me, which really shook me up, because it was something else that I hadn't known. You see, my grandfather lived in Memphis and was a lawyer and he went off to war, one of his best

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friends was named Mr. Church. Colonel Church, he was. He was a great soldier in the Confederate Army. So, as so many of them did in those days, he had both his black family and his white family. His white family were big people in Memphis, way up yonder, very rich and fashionable. He also had his black family. He had a son who he gave his name to, called Bob Church, Jr. He gave his son his name, this was really unusual.
SUE THRASHER:
He was black.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, he was half black. So, he gave him his name and said, "Now look, you are my son, I have claimed you and given you my name and I don't want you to ever let a white man treat you like a nigger." Or something like that, I can't remember the exact words. Anyway, it was to hold up your head and be proud. Well, Bob Church, Jr. became the black political boss of Memphis and this was first time that blacks voted after the disenfranchising acts, because he formed an alliance with old Ed Crump and he provided the black vote for Ed Crump. They would bring them in from Arkansas by the truckload and vote them in the Memphis elections. They controlled the city for years and years. And this Mary Church Terrell was old Bob Church's daughter. She had been sent to Oberlin College up in Ohio to school. You know that that was one of the first integrated schools. Then, his son, Bob Church Jr.'s son had some break with Ed Crump after his father died, I never did know the details of that story, but he had gone to Chicago and become part of the political power there, in the Republican party. And Mrs. Terrell, you see, was also in the Republican party. So, she told me all this and she had the letters to prove it, you know.
CLIFFORD DURR:
Well, you skipped a bit there, about how your grandfather got to be a guardian under the will of old Colonel Church. By this will, he

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left some property to his black children and your grandfather got to be the executor and guardian of these children.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes, of the black Church children. Now, that was a very surprising thing for me to find out because that was the first time that I had realized that all these relationships had existed. You know, some of the white men did protect their children, their black children, and educated them. Here in Alabama, Governor Oates, when he was running for governor, they got up in the legislature and said, "Well, what about all those nigger children you've got in the back yard?" And the governor got up and said, "What about them? I feed them, I clothe them, I house them and I educate them. What do you do about yours?" [Laughter] He got elected. [interruption on tape while original reel is changed] [unknown] . . . ..so, I know D. C. segregation was first broken in some chain restaurant. Mrs. Terrell went in and then she was arrested and then the case came in her name and that broke segregation in D.C.
Well, what happened about the Progressive Party was that the Cold War started and Henry Wallace was opposing it and Mike Straight with the New Republic was working with Henry and he made Henry, when Truman fired Henry, Mike made him the editor of the New Republic. Haven't you read all these books on Henry Wallace? Well, Henry had traveled all over the world and he traveled all over the country making speeches and finally, the political action committee of the CIO supported him and the Citizen's Political Action Committee. So, he got quite a lot of support. There was something called the Arts, Sciences and Professions and Harold Ickes was head of that for awhile. All these things would have period of tremendous popularity and people would join them. At the same time, the ADA was forming, which had the anti-Communist provisions in it. The Americans for Democratic Action and so, the lines were being drawn up of the Communists and the anti-Communists. Not the Communists, really, but the people who were not

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against the Communists. In other words, people that didn't insist on these anti-communist provisions in the charters. So, Henry really got enormous crowds because people had just been through one war and they didn't want to go through another war. Cliff had gone to Russia. You went to Russia in '46, didn't you? Well, you didn't think there was any danger of the Russians sweeping over Europe, did you? Well, anyway, the idea was that the Russians were poised to sweep over Europe and the flood gates would open. Well, the Russians were so exhausted and had had such an awfully hard time that they wanted to do away with the Communist Party of America. They wanted to turn it into some political association or something. They would do anything, they were trying to get money under the Marshall Plan, but you see, they wouldn't lend them any money until they stopped being Communists. [Laughter] You know all that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Virginia, how exactly did you get involved in the Progressive Citizens of America? That was the predecessor of the Progressive Party.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, through Beanie Baldwin. I knew him very well, he was in the Agricultural Department and became the kind of the executive secretary. He was a dear friend and his wife. He came from Virginia and he still is a dear friend.5 Haven't you interviewed him? He was one of the reasons I joined. I lived in Virginia. There was no Republican party to speak of, there may have been ten or twelve, Republicans but I never met any. But the Democratic party of Virginia was absolutely controlled by Harry Byrd. It was the Byrd machine. 12% of the voting population voted. It was the lowest of any place in the whole entire country. You were up against an absolute oligarchy, a total machine. The Democratic party was the most tightly controlled thing in Virginia. You couldn't break it to save your life. It was all around

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the courthouses in every county and it was just a tight machine. I got to be president of the northern Virginia PTA, of all things, because I sent my children to public schools. I began to be a citizen of Virginia. I'll tell you how the machine worked, I'll tell you how I got to vote in Virginia. I'll try to make this very brief. This was during the war and I had been elected president of the northern Virginia PTA and the ladies said that I had to become a Virginia citizen. I couldn't testify for the PTA by keeping on voting in Alabama. So, I said o.k., I would become a citizen. I really liked Virginia. Cliff never did become a citizen of Virginia. He was an Alabamian from start to finish. He never even thought about being a citizen of Virginia. So, my neighbor across the way, Mary Walker Livingston, she was Mary Walton McCandlish. Her family was very prominent in Virginia [unknown] Her uncle was the undersecretary of State, [unknown] So, I asked her how I would go about getting to vote. She said, "Well, the first thing that you have got to do is get registered." I said, "Who is the registrar?" She said, "Well, I will have to find out from the courthouse." This was during the war and we had no gas to speak of. But she knew everybody at the courthouse and she called up and found out the name of the registrar and the place he lived. I said, "Well, does he have a telephone?" "No." "Well, how will I know that he is going to be there?" "Well, you will just have to take your chances." So, I got an extra amount of gasoline. The board let me have five gallons to go to register to vote, they did do that. So, I drove out this old road and came to this old country farmhouse and went inside and there was an old lady there and I asked if I could see the registrar, that I wanted to get registered to vote. She said that he wasn't there and she didn't know when he would be back. I waited and waited and dark came on and I had to come home. I went back another time and he wasn't there. No telephone, you see,

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and no way to get in touch with him. I suppose that I could have written him. Anyway, the third time that I got there, he was there. And he was like most Virginians, he had nice manners. He said that he would be glad to register me, he was just delighted. Of course, they didn't have many people registering during the war because nobody could get up there. He said to his wife, "Mamie, where is that poll book?" She said, "I think that we've got it in a trunk in the attic." He said, "Well, you see if you can find it." So, she went up in the attic and rustled around for awhile and she came back and gave us the poll book. She had put it away in a trunk because she didn't think that anybody would come to register during the war. It was so hard to get gasoline and he lived way up there in the country. So, I said that I wanted to register and I had my driver's license, I suppose, something to identify myself with and I said, "Do you have a pen?" He said, "No, I don't have a pen." I said, "You don't have a pen?" He said, "No. Don't you?" I said, "No I don't, I have a pencil." He said, "You can't register with pencils." [Laughter] I said, "Well, let's see if we can't find a pen." So, the old lady began looking around and she finally found an old rusty pen, just about to fall apart with rust. And then he said, "We don't have any ink." I said, "You don't have a pen and you don't have ink?" He said, "Well, I thought certainly that you would have brought your own." I told him that I certainly thought that he would have a pen and ink. I said, "Well, now, what can we use for ink." He said, "I don't know." I said, "You know, this is the third time that I have been here. I've spent fifteen gallons of gas coming here." And he said, "Lady, that's just too bad, but I just don't have any ink." I asked his wife if she knew anything that we could use for ink. She said, "Well, I've got some mecurochrome." You know, that's that red stuff that they used to put on

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boils and things. She said, "Let's mix it up with a little soot and see if we can't make ink out of it." And she did. She got some mecurochrome and mixed it up with some black something, soot I reckon, and it made a kind of a pale red-black ink. Anyway, I got my named signed in the book. So, I got my receipt that I had registered.
SUE THRASHER:
Did you have to pay a poll tax?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Not at this point. Just registered. I was in this precinct, you see, and had to register in this precinct. So, then I came back and said, "Now, Mary Waltors, what do I do next?" She said, "Well, you have to go up to the Fairfax County Courthouse and pay your poll tax." You register in the precinct but pay your poll tax at the courthouse. So, that was about twelve or fifteen miles and I had to go and scrounge around for some more gas to get up there. I went up there and Virginia had a poll tax where you had to pay two years back plus the current year. I had to pay a dollar and ahalf a year and I paid four dollars and a half. You see, I had to pay the two years back that I hadn't paid. So, I thought, "Thank God, this is over. I am registered, I've got my receipt and my receipt for my poll tax." So, the next time that they were having an election, I went down to the place where they voted right down the hill from us and. . . ..
[END OF TAPE 4, SIDE B]

[TAPE 5, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 5, SIDE A]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
. . . so, I went up to Mr. Donaldson who ran the polling place, and said, "Well, I want to vote and check my name on the book." He said, "But you aren't on the book." I said, "Mr. Donaldson, here is my poll tax receipt, here is my registration receipt. I must be on the book." He said, "Well, you are not." I said,

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"Well, I just don't see how that is possible. What in the world could make me not be on the book?" He said, "Did you pay your interest?" I said, "My interest?" He said, "You know, when you don't pay your back poll taxes, you have to pay your interest on them." I hadn't paid the interest on the two years of back poll tax that I paid.
SUE THRASHER:
Why didn't the people at the courthouse tell you?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Because they didn't want me to vote. Nobody in Virginia wanted you to vote, they tried to keep you from voting. This was just one of their ways. They didn't tell me because they didn't care about my vote, they didn't care about anybody's vote unless they knew you. If I had been a member of the courthouse ring, you know, or somebody they knew, then they might have told me, but they didn't want me to vote, I was an outsider, a stranger. So, I couldn't vote. I had to go back to the Fairfax County Courthouse and pay something like 27¢ or 17¢ before I ever finally got on the poll book. Now, I went to Wellesley for two years, I had been working on the anti-poll tax for five or six years. I was keenly interested in things then and did my best to find out the best in information and this is what happened when I went to try to register. Now, this was typical of Virginia. 12%, they had the lowest number of people voting in Virginia of any place in the entire South. It was an absolute Byrd machine. So, when the Progessive Citizens of America was formed, they formed a northern Virginia branch and a lot of CIO people lived in northern Virginia. This was not the Political Action Committee, this was the citizen's committee. Beanie Baldwin was the head of that. So, that's why I became a member, because the Democratic party was so hopeless. You know who ran it in my area was Howard Worth Smith. You know, he was the head of the Rules committee, who stopped every New Deal measure from getting through.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you think that there really was a possibility that

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the Progressive Party could win?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, it never crossed my mind that it would win. But the thing was that in the first place, I was really against going to war again after 1945. We lived in a neighborhood where there were a tremendous lot of military people. We weren't too far from the Pentagon, so we were surrounded by all sorts of colonels and generals and military people and they were always talking about the preventive war and war with Russia. So, I really was scared and thinking that we might be getting into war again.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, how did you think that a third party could keep that from happening?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, let me tell you what happened. This is another story. You see, the Progressive party, I joined the National Citizens PAC, the fact is that I was just crazy about Henry Wallace. He had been a great friend of my sister's and a great friend of Lister Hill's.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Wallace hadn't had such a great liberal record as head of that agriculture Department.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, he hadn't. But he had a great record for not fighting Russia or going into war, so at that time, it . . . well, I met Henry Wallace at Mr. Hill's one day on Sunday for lunch. I sat down and. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now, when was this that you met him?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
This was when he was still Secretary of Agriculture. So, I sat down and there was a very silly sort of a woman at the table with us and she said, "Oh, Mr. Wallace, I have just longed to meet you. You know, I am a great believer in blood. I think that the important thing is good blood. Of course, I am from the South, you know, and we believe that it is very important to have good blood. I know that you are a geneticist and I am sure that you must agree with me." He said, "Well, you know, I'll tell you.

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It's very easy to raise pure-bred chickens. You can put a wire around them and separate them and it's very simple to get pure-bred chickens. It is a little more difficult with hogs, but you can do it, if you get the wire strong enough. And with cattle. And of course, with corn, you have to put the cheesecloth over the tassels so that the wind won't blow the pollen. But you know, the trouble is . . . "perfectly serious, not laughing a bit . . . "they haven't found a fence that is high enough or strong enough to keep the human male from straying." Well, you know, he was perfectly serious about it and I really thought that-he was one of the most delightful men. Well, you know, Henry looked like . . . I used to always think of "purple mountains' majesty" and golden plains of wheat and the West and pioneers and covered wagons. He looked like all that and he was so sweet and so serious and he tried to help us in the poll tax fight. He was a horrible politician, but I just adored Henry and I thought he was great. And Sister adored him. Now, he was fonder of her than he was of me. He had a mystical streak and Sister was able to, . . . she had a kind of a mystical streak herself and they loved to talk about mysticism.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What does that mean, exactly? People always say that he had a mystical side.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, he believed in revelations and he was a great Christian, but he believed in revelations, that people had touch with the other world. But he was so sweet to Cliff when . . . you tell them.
CLIFFORD DURR:
You are wandering all over the place.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
They asked me why I joined the Progressive Party and I'm telling them, because I believed in what Henry stood for and I adored him.
SUE THRASHER:
Was your sister supporting him too?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, heavens no! Hugo would have had a fit, he had one when I did. He thought that I was an absolute idiot for leaving the Democratic party. Well, Cliff didn't leave it either, you see, I was the only one.

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And did I catch it. Cliff was very nice about it, but Hugo just gave it to me up and down. And I really don't believe that he ever did like me as much after that. He tought that I was an absolute, total idiot that left the Democratic party and voted for Henry Wallace. Hugo was a yellow dog Democrat really. He thought that you had to stick by the party and although he didn't think too much of Harry Truman, but he thought that he had to stick by the party.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, after the Dixiecrat revolt, nobody thought that Truman was going to win. It was felt that the danger was that together, the Dixiecrats and the Progressives would cause the Republicans to win. Wasn't that an argument as to why you should stay in the Democratic party, one that people used against you?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, heavens, yes. I got that argument all the time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did you say to it?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
The thing was that Harry Truman was starting up the Cold War both at home and abroad. Now, Harry Truman, I think, wasn't meant or didn't mean to be a vicious man, but he was. He took all this anti-Communism that had caused so much trouble and made things so miserable, he put it into passage . . . you ought to get Cliff into that. He's an expert, you know, he tried these cases. You've got to get at him about this. This is something that he feels is the most awful thing that ever happened.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yet, he stayed in the Democratic party.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes, he did. [Laughter]
CLIFFORD DURR:
I didn't vote, because if you voted in Alabama, you voted for the Dixiecrats on the Democratic ticket . . . for Strom Thurmond.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
So, I supported Henry and I went to the convention in Philadelphia and I thought that Henry was just wonderful. Pete Seeger sang and Paul Robeson sang and it was [unknown] thrilling. I [unknown] loved it all. There

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were all kinds of people there and I [unknown] thought that it was wonderful. Then, I had quite a shock after that because Cliff had been invited to go on this One World Award Tour, this Wendell Wilkie thing and he was one of the people they asked. You know, some people set up in New York this One World Award to honor Wendell Wilkie who had gone around the world and written this book, One World. And you see,. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Before you go into that, could we talk about the Philadelphia convention for a moment? You are talking about the nominating convetion aren't you?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You were on the platfrom committee?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Maybe so, I guess so, I don't remember.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I was just reading Gideon's Army and. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, yeah, that's a great book.
JACQUELYN HALL:
There is this whole chapter about the big fights that went on within the platform committee in the effort to put together a platform. People stayed up all night and. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Not me!
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did Wallace get involved at all in shaping the platform?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
As I recall, the fight was between Lee Pressman and Rex Tugwell. They were always fighting each other. But, [unknown] I know that there were all kinds of fights, but I can't remember what they were. It was all just gibbling and babbling, it seemed to me. What does the book say they were about?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, about many different things. Everybody wanted their issues in the platform.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, yeah, it was just sort of a grabbag of everything. But you know, platforms don't amount to much anyway and people don't get

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elected on platforms, or nominated on platforms. So, as soon as I saw that Henry was nominated, that was all that I came for and all that I was interested in. I don't suppose that I even went to all the platform committee meetings. All that wasn't terribly important to me. So, Cliff was asked to go on this One World Award tour. They would pick someone like Arturo Toscannini, someone who represented the idea of One World, some science or art that represented everybody, you know, music. They picked that guy, that guy that was such a good movie director, John Huston, director of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. But anyway, this time, they picked LaGuardia, who was head of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation. Administration They were trying to give money and cattle and feed and grain and chickens and so forth to people. So, Cliff was asked to go. (LaGuardia, you know, had cancer and he was about to die so he couldn't go.) So, this committee picked about eight or ten people and Cliff was one of them. Then, they picked Norman Corwin over again and they asked Einstein to go and he couldn't go, so he sent his great friend, Dr. Otto Nathan. Then, there was . . . oh, there were a lot and I can't remember them all. Anyway, Cliff took me along. You see, he had resigned from the Federal Communications Commission on the basis of the loyalty oath.
CLIFFORD DURR:
I didn't resign, I just refused to accept reappointment.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
He refused to accept reappointment because on the Commission he would have had to enforce the oath and he refused to do it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did your accepting the chairmanship of the Virginia branch of the Progressive party have anything with Cliff quitting?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, not at all. Nobody thought that that was going to amount to a hill of beans and it didn't. They had already offered him reappointment and he wouldn't take it. It had nothing to do with my being

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in the Progressive Party. All we were doing was just putting some stumbling blocks into the way of the Cold War, we thought. I will just give you this little sideline. We went on this tour and went over on a little boat named Batory, [unknown] and we got to Glydnia in Poland and we were flown down to Breslov which had been Brosau and this was when the Russians changed their line. We went to a big hall and all these intellectuals for peace were there from all over the world and the Russians began calling us hyenas and rattlesnakes and wolves and all these horrible names. Then Ehrenburg got up and he called us all kinds of horrible names and they were telling all these people that America was the danger, that Germany had been defeated but that America was the new imperialist power that was going to conquer the world and they were trying to arouse sentiment against the United States. Well, I had quite a little argument with Mr. Ehrenburg because he kept bearing down on Alabama lynchings, which made me [unknown] sore. I told him that I was for Wallace, I had a big Wallace button on. He had somebody translate, "And who is Wallace? Nothing. Who does Wallace represent? Nobody. Do you think that the great USSR can make its policy on the basis of a handful of liberals for Wallace?" He was just very scornful. So then, when we got to Paris, we went to a big meeting somewhere . . . I saw about it in the paper, it was a big Communist meeting and I wanted to see what they were saying.
CLIFFORD DURR:
I wanted to go to the Folies Bergere, but we couldn't get tickets. [Laughter]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
So, we went to this meeting at La Place [unknown] It was sort of in the red ring around Paris. I wanted to see what they were saying. I had met a lot of these French people at this World Intellectuals for Peace thing. Anyway, there were a lot of fish trade people there and did the place stink!

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Everybody there had an apron on full of fish guts, it was a fish rally. People that worked in fish markets and caught fish and butchered them. They were awfully nice to us, I must say. So, the big shots were up there and one of them was named Jacque Duclos. I couldn't understand them, I just heard them say, "A bas America, A bas America." One of the young men came up to me, and you see, I had on my Wallace button still. He could speak English and he said that he wanted to introduce me to Duclos and those other people on the platform because I was for Wallace. So, Cliff went up with me on the stage and the young man said to these assembled dignitaries, "This lady is for Wallace." Duclos could speak English and he said exactly the same thing that Ehrenberg had said, "And who is Wallace? Nothing. Who does he represent?, Nobody. Do you think that we can plan the future world revolution on the basis of a handful of liberals in . . . " Oh, I forgot. Joe Starobin, do you know him? He was a Communist at that time and wrote for the Daily Worker. He wrote a good book on Viet Nam. Anyway, he came up when I was having this argument with Ehrenburg and said, "Mrs. Durr is a liberal. She is for Wallace, but I am a Communist." And he said to him, "Ha! An American Communist! What do you amount to? Nothing. What power do you have? None. Do you think that the great USSR is going to plan its programs on the basis of a handful of powerless people in the United States?" They were hard. Anyway, their whole line had changed. They were no longer going to depend on liberals, foreign Communists or radicals of any kind. They were just going to fight the United States tooth and toenail.
SUE THRASHER:
Is this 1947?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, this is '48, right after the nomination. So, I came back, we got back in September and I immediately plunged into Henry Wallace's campaign.

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JACQUELYN HALL:
What did you think about those incidents?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
They made me mad. After all, here we were trying to keep people from dropping atomic bombs on them and we thought that we were doing a pretty good job. At least, we were working at it. They might at least have said, "Well, we appreciate your efforts, even if you don't succeed." [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
You know, the Berlin blockade and the. . . ..
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, that was later. So, in any case, I ran for the Senate from Virginia and I got six thousand votes while Henry only got two thousand. But I will give you one little episode in Norfolk, we did do some good.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you decide to run for the Senate?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
They wouldn't even put Wallace's name in the paper. So, we ran local candidates, which we knew never would get elected, but we ran them so that the papers would have to mention that Wallace was running for president. They couldn't ignore the fact that I was running for the Senate from Virginia or that Sara D'Avila ran for Congress. It was just an effort to get something in the papers or on the radio because their policy was just to never mention his name and act like he never did exist. The whole Progressive party didn't exist and it was a complete blackout. Anway, I ran. But down in Norfolk, I will just give you one little episode of the campaign. I got there and we were going to have a big rally on Sunday afternoon for Wallace and he was going to speak. Clark Foreman was traveling with Wallace at that time and he had come ahead to [unknown] make preparations. So, we had engaged the city auditorium and there had been a very firm commitment that they would let us have it unsegregated. We got a good deal of publicity and went on the radio. So, when Sunday afternoon came, we got down to the auditorium

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and the place was surrounded by the police and they said that we had to obey the segregation ordinance. The place had already filled up and they were not segregated. So, they said that we were all going to get arrested. Well, Clark was standing there with me and arguing with the police and he turned to me and said, "Look, let's just run down the aisle and start the meeting and hold them off as long as possible and maybe by that time, Wallace will get here and I don't think that they are going to arrest us with him here." So, we ran down the central aisle and Clark jumped up on the platform and he said, "The meeting will come to order and Mrs. Durr, who is chairman of the Virginia committee and is running for the Senate will preside." I stood up there not knowing what to do and Clark said, "Get somebody to pray."
JACQUELYN HALL:
Clark told this story too.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, we prayed and we prayed. And then the prayer got over and Clark said, "Sing the Star Spangled Banner." So, we sang all four or five verses, it got very weak toward the end. Then, the police were just about to move in, they were on either side of the stage, they were about to swoop in and arrest us and then Henry Wallace appears walking down the aisle just as unconcerned, completely oblivious to everything. So, he comes down and gets on the platform and I introduced him or somebody did, and anyway, he makes a very good speech and gets quite a lot of applause and then people come up and speak to him. So, we had broken segregation in Norfolk, with the police there. We thought that we had done a pretty good job. We went back to the hotel and Henry always went to bed early, so we didn't see him that night, but the next morning, he invited us to all have breakfast with him. You know what he ate for breakfast? Oatmeal and buttermilk! He was a nut about food. And we sat there and there were headlines in all the Norfolk papers about how segregation was busted at the city auditorium. It was busted for

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good, and you know, Henry Wallace never even acknowledged it. He never thanked us, he never said "What a good job you did," or "What a great event this is." He wasn't even aware of it.
SUE THRASHER:
Was that because he was so wound up in himself?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes, that he was so wound up in himself and in what he was doing. He was the poorest politician that I have ever worked with in my life. He had no idea of how to do things. He could be sweet to you, but as a politician, he was absolutely hopeless.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Give us some examples.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, this was one example. Also, he never would take part, you know. If you would go to a Progressive party board meeting, and I was on the board, he would get up and walk out. He didn't want to be troubled with any kind of details. He just wanted to get up there and make his speech.
SUE THRASHER:
Did he actually think that he could be elected in that way?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, but he thought that he could get about ten million votes and that was the first prognostication.
CLIFFORD DURR:
At one time, they thought it would be fifteen million, but he ended up getting less than a million.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
He was a very bad politician and of course, the red baiting just started overwhelmingly and all the unions deserted him.
SUE THRASHER:
How did he respond to that?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, he was terribly disappointed. Well, he got very uneasy and then, you know, he later became a real red baiter himself. He met my daughter at Radcliffe one time and was making a speech there, this was Lucy, and Lucy went up to him and said, "Mr. Wallace, my mother supported you

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in the Progressive party. She's Virginia Durr and thought so much of you." He said, "Well, all I can say about your mother is that she gave me very bad advice." I gave Henry Wallace bad advice?!! Vice-President of the United States and Secretary of Agriculture, it was all my fault that he ran! He blamed everybody but himself. I lost all my respect and affection for him. He red baited and blamed his supporters for his defeat. He wasn't as bad in the campaign as he was afterwards. He just turned on everybody. I think that it was partly due to his wife. His wife just made his life hell on earth. Oh, she hated being associated with radicals and Negroes and people like that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was she around during the campaign?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, she wasn't around, but when he got home, he caught it, I'm sure.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you know that?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, I heard rumors and she was a very stolid kind of plump pretty woman from the Middle West. She liked being in the big time and going to parties and like that. She just hated all of this kind of stuff.
But now, I'll finish up with Henry Wallace and this actually happened. I couldn't have made it up and this made me feel like it was all worthwhile. I got on a train after the election, after Christmas too. It was the middle of the winter and I was going home for some reason, coming to Alabama and I always rode the day coach. I liked it better than the bus and flying was too expensive and so was a Pullman. So, I got on the day coach and it was raining very hard and it was about eight o'clock at night and a very well dressed man got on. He had pigskin luggage and an English raincoat and he just looked rich. So, he came and sat down by me. I had on the usual sort of

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dark dress and white gloves and so on. So, he evidently thought that I was respectable enough. So, he sat down by me and immediately began to explain why he was riding the day coach. He hadn't been on a day coach since he was a boy, but his plane had been cancelled on account of the weather and it was too late to get a Pullman and here he was on the day coach. He was going someplace like Aiken, fashionable place, you know, where they played polo. And he had to get off and make an exchange in the middle of the night. But he just made me understand that he hadn't done this in a long time. He asked why I was on the day coach. I said, "Well, it was the only ticket that I could get." [Laughter] I didn't say that it was the only ticket I could afford. [Laughter] He asked me where I was from and I said, "Alabama" and asked him where he was from and he said he was from North Carolina. So, we began that old southern game of "Do you know So-And-So." So, I knew all the people that he asked me about because I had been to the Cathedral School in Washington and I knew all these girls, or at least knew their names and really did know some of them. [unknown] So, when he found out that I knew these girls, he put me down as being kosher, he knew that I was safe. I was all right and he could trust me to be a good conservative Democrat, I reckon. So, this is what he told me. He sat by me until he got off to take this other train. He said that he was now the lobbyist for the oil companies, he had been in the State Department and that he had then left it and was now lobbying for the international oil companies. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you remember what this man's name was?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
As I remember, his name was Rankin. I can't remember his

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first name. So, he [unknown] went on to say about the danger of the Communists and how difficult it was to fight against them and so on. Then he said, "Now, Mrs. Durr, I am going to tell you something that I know you won't believe, but it is the truth. You know, when the war ended, the United States was the only country in the world that had a viable industrial system except the Japanese in Manchuria and the Russians behind the Urals. If we could have destroyed those two systems, the United States would have been completely in control of the entire world because we would have been the only people in the world that had the industrial machinery to provide the goods that people needed." He said, "You know, we had just about persuaded Truman to have a preventive war." Of oourse, they almost tried to do it by going up through Korea to [unknown] Manchuria. That was MacArthur trying to bomb above the Yalu. I told you about that and all the trouble that we got into about that. So, then the idea was that we should smash those installations behind the Urals, have a preventive war. You see, I had heard all these generals and colonels around me in Virginia talking the same way. Now, Cliff, you heard the same talk didn't you? It was all over Washington. "We've got the atom bomb and they don't. Throw the damn bomb on them and then we will rule the world." He said that they had just about persuaded Truman to have a preventive war. I asked him, "Why didn't he do it?" He said, "Now, I know that you won't believe this Mrs. Durr, but I am telling you the truth, he got scared of Henry Wallace. Now, I don't know if you know of Henry Wallace." I said that yes, I did know of Henry Wallace. He said, "Well, you know, he collected around himself a bunch of scum, pinks, reds, you know, that type. None of them amounted to a hill of beans, just absolutely no power. But you know, it scared Harry Truman and he wouldn't do this as long as Henry Wallace was running that campaign. Not only that, he went out and made a campaign on peace. Of course, after the election was over, he pledged himself to peace." Then, you

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know, the Russians got the bomb or were getting it. So, he said, "You know, we lost the most golden opportunity that the United States ever had." I said, "Well, that's just awful, isn't it?" [Laughter]
BOB HALL:
That's an incredible story.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
That's an absolute truth. I told Cliff the minute I saw him. You see, I fool people. They think that I am just a sweet southern girl who just goes along. . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
That's what I thought when I married you.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
That's right, you sure got fooled, didn't you?
Well, anyway, after the Henry Wallace campaign was over, the Southern Conference split on Henry Wallace. Aubrey Williams opposed it. He and a lot of other New Dealers were begging Henry not to run and were very opposed to it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did Aubrey Williams oppose it?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
The Democratic party, I reckon. Oh, he was real bitter about it. I caught it, I'm telling you. All sides. In any case, the Southern Conference. . . ..
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you waver when. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No. I never did. I never wavered on supporting Henry at all. I was 100% for Henry. Well, here we had fought with Russia against Hitler. They had lost twenty-five million people. Their land was totally devestated. People were exhausted, they had been fighting for four or five years. They had borne the brunt of the war and we were their ally. Now, we come along and want to wipe them off the face of the earth. Don't you think that was pretty ridiculous? I mean, after all, it was pretty stupid. And we couldn't have done it anyway. We would have been bogged down in Siberia for the rest of time. Because you don't think that all those people were going to just let us drop a few bombs and then say, "O.K." Well, look what

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happened in the first World War. We got bogged down in Siberia and all that snow forever and a day. Well, anyway, at that point, the Southern Conference split up. And the political branch, Clark Foreman, Jim Dombrowski, Palmer Weber, Beanie Baldwin, anyway, they all joined Henry Wallace and I did. And then, Aubrey Williams didn't and I can't remember all the divisions, but the Southern Conference just split apart. Then, all of us stayed with the Progressive party. Jim had formed the Southern Conference Educational Fund which was going to be the tax exempt sort of propaganda wing of it. So, that still existed. He went back to New Orleans and began to work on that and Aubrey agreed to be president of that. Then, the Progressive party, after a year or two, just faded out. Henry turned on it, you know.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did Henry Wallace do after the campaign? How did he turn on the. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, you see, it was the time of the Korean War and he got out of it and supported the war. Then, he just became a real red baiter. He finally got so abject that he told Truman that he thought he had done right to fire him. That's all in this new book on Wallace that hasn't been out very long.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Tell me a little bit about the progressive party campaign in Virginia. Did you campaign, did you make speeches?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, yes. I campaigned some, but I didn't make a whole lot of them. I did what I could. I thought that I made some pretty good speeches. I got six thousand votes. Henry only got two thousand. It was like putting your finger in a dike.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How many people in Virginia were there that were actually working with you?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Very few. Not many. I wouldn't say more than twenty-five.

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But you see, the thing that happened was, one of the great miscalculations of the Wallace campaign was that we were absolutely sure that we were going to get the Negro vote. See, Henry wouldn't come south and speak to a segregated audience. Clark Foreman was traveling with Robeson and if Robeson was Jim Crowed, he was Jim Crowed. He refused to ride in the white car and let Robeson ride in the black car. So, the Progressive party campaign really did a great deal to break segregation in the South. I told you about Norfolk. Henry was magnificent in this period, about Negroes. He refused to have a meeting where they were segregated in any way. So, we were absolutely sure, this was the first race for President where a candidate had taken a firm position and come south and said that he would not address a segregated meeting. So, we were terribly proud of Henry and very pleased at this. And we had Negroes in the Progressive party and we were absolutely sure that they were going to support Henry Wallace.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you have very many blacks in the leadership of the Progressive party in the South?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yeah, quite a few here, there and yonder. You see, I was in Virginia and there we did. Not a whole lot, but some. The point was, though, they didn't vote for us. There were just hardly a handful of Negroes in Virginia that voted for the Progressive party and very few in the country. I was so surprised and shocked by that that I went up to Howard College and took a course under Franklin Frazier to see what had gone wrong.
SUE THRASHER:
Did they vote for Truman or did they not vote?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
They voted for Truman. So, I did find out and I found out that black people react just like white folks. They thought that Truman would win and we wouldn't and they wanted to be on the winning side.

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The fact was that Truman had made some gestures toward integrating the army and military, they just went right along with Truman like the other people.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Daniel Lubel says that the blacks voted for Trumans because that after the Dixiecrat revolt, if they didn't vote for Truman, no other Democratic candidate would ever stand up against the southern wing of the party. If it hadn't been for the Dixiecrat revolt, they would have voted for the Progressive party.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
That might have been it. They didn't vote for us. I know that. I think that the Progressive party did some good. I am inclined to believe Mr. Rankin on the train, without it, we might have had a preventive war.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you there when Wallace ran his Campaign to the South and was pelted with eggs and tomatoes?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, I wasn't there. Young Aubrey Williams was there. Aubrey's son supported Wallace and he got all pelted with eggs and tomatoes. I did go down to North Carolina and make a speech at Greenville with the tobacco workers. They had a big rally for Henry Wallace and the man that ran with him . . . what was his name? He was an absolute idiot.
JACQUELYN HALL:
He was an idiot?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, the biggest idiot that I ever met. Glenn Taylor. He wore a toupee.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why was he an idiot?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Just an idiot, I guess. [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was idiotic about him?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Just a fool. [Laughter] He was just a silly man and he played the guitar and he had some sort of vague idea that we ought not to

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go to war or something and he wanted to be in the limelight. His wife was just as miserable as she could be having him in this Progressive party. She didn't like it a bit. She was like Mrs. Wallace and wanted to be with the big time. The man was just a fool. I can't tell you exactly why he was a fool, but he was a fool, in my opinion. Of course, I may not be the last word on it. You all have got to check what I say against a lot of other people, because I am giving you very personal opinions about things. I'm seventy-one years old and I can speak my mind without much fear of repercussion. [Laughter] There's nothing to do to me. I mean, I'm so old now that they can't do very much, so I'm speaking my mind very freely. We went down and had a big rally with the tobacco workers and that was quite exciting. They all came out in great numbers.
The funniest thing that happened there was that this famous blues singer named . . . what was her name? She married one of the Reynolds, the Reynolds tobacco people. She was on Broadway and a big star and sang in that sort of sultry voice, a torch singer. So, she married one of the Reynolds and he was killed in some mysterious circumstances and twenty years later, their son fell off a mountain and was killed. Libby Holman! That's her name.
CLIFFORD DURR:
I remember that Jennings Perry had an affair with her one time.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, Jennings had a love for all the ladies. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Jennings Perry had an affair with Libby Holman? [Laughter]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes, he had an affair with everybody he could lay his hands on. He was a real woman-lover.
CLIFFORD DURR:
I remember seeing her with Jennings one time in New York.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
That's right, and she had on furs and diamonds by the ton.
SUE THRASHER:
This was after her husband died?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes. Jennings was very attractive to ladies. Have you

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ever met Jennings? He's a [unknown] old man now.
SUE THRASHER:
Was her son kidnapped or something?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
No, he was climbing a mountain and fell down the mountain. But the husband was killed, they were having a very fast, gay houseparty with a lot of Broadway people and he just showed up dead, shot. Know one ever knew who did it. There was some suspicion that she shot him. But the story about this tobacco meeting that I went to speak to in . . . Winston-Salem, that's what it was. So, we got there, they had it in a great big tobacco shed where they cured the tobacco. On all the seats, there was a picture of a white woman and a black man. The man was playing the piano or they were dancing together, I think that maybe it was Bo Jangles Robinson. But anyway, it was a black man and a white woman. So,. . . .
[END OF TAPE 5, SIDE A]

[TAPE 5, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 5, SIDE B]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
So, this was a warning, you see. "This is what the Progressive party means." White woman and a black man. Just as the meeting started, it dawned on somebody that this was Libby Holman Reynolds. Wife of the heir to the tobacco company. You know, this was the Reynolds Tobacco Company union. So, you never saw anything so funny in your life. They were in there getting those leaflets up so fast, I hid one, I sat on it. [Laughter] But some public relations man had made one big error. I imagine he lost his job.
JACQUELYN HALL:
It's interesting, because they did exactly the same thing during the Frank Graham campaign. He would go in to speak and they would have these pictures of a white woman and a black man.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I bet that it wasn't Libby Holman Reynolds, though. No, that was a big gaffe. They never did that anymore.

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SUE THRASHER:
Virginia, I'm going to go back and ask you something about '47. You wrote a letter to somebody at Harvard who was coming down and . . . the Southern Conference committee in Washington was still active in '47, right? And you wrote and said that there was something very much like a reign of terror going on in Washington, because of the 800 members, most of them were frightened because so many people were getting fired over the loyalty oath. What was it like then in terms of the early McCarthyism?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
This is Cliff's story. He was right in there fighting and representing those people. This is his story. You will have to get another tape on and ask him because he was the one doing this.
SUE THRASHER:
Just briefly, were most of the people who were in the Southern Conference people who worked in Washington and who were afraid of losing their jobs?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, [unknown] a guy lost a job if he had a record by Paul Robeson. You lost your job if you read the New Republic. You lost your job if they found The Nation in your house. You lost your job if you had been to a meeting of the Spanish War Relief ten years before. You lost a job if you had given a dollar to. . . .you lost it over the most insignificent things.
CLIFFORD DURR:
I wouldn't say that you lost your job on that, but you would find yourself in a loyalty hearing. And then, there was a great danger that you would.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
You sure were scared that you would. And if you didn't lose your job, the fact that you had been in a loyalty hearing frightened everybody about you. Well, people were committing suicide and jumping out of windows. It was terrible, it was a regin of terror.
SUE THRASHER:
Did that drive people away from the Progressive party, or . . .

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VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Certainly it did! Good God, I should say so. It scared them to death. Henry, when he started out on his crusade . . . and then, you see, Mike Straight abandoned us right in the middle of the Progressive party. He had the money, you see, he was the rich big daddy with all these millions of dollars. He had gotten Henry to do this and made him an editor of the New Republic and taken Henry all over Europe and he was backing him 100% and right in the middle of the campaign, Mike cut out. I was sure that the Whitneys brought pressure on him, you know. His cousins in New York. I think that was it, but anyway, he got out and he got out saying that the reds were taking over. It couldn't have been more damaging to us. I know that he had terrible pressure on him.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What state of mind were you in after the campaign and the anti-poll tax committee had fallen apart and the Southern Conference was dead and the labor movement was moving to the right and Cliff had resigned from his job and. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, we had a real hard time of it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you feel. . . .
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
[unknown] I'm a Presbyterian, you know. I knew that I was right. [Laughter] You see, when things get bad, you only have one thing to fall back no. You either know that you are right or not right. I knew that I was right. To have an atomic war against Russia, what could be worse than that? To go against the whole American Constitution and the Bill of Rights and haul these people up in secret meetings . . . when you come down to the nitty-gritty when things get rough, if you don't think that you are right, then you just might as well go home and give up. That's the one thing that keeps you going and you think everybody else is wrong. People would say, "How do you know you are right. Why do you think that you have got the wisdom of

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the ages? Why do you think that you are right? Why do you know that you are right?" Well, if you don't know that you are right, why do you do it? You know, you don't get anything out of it, you certainly don't get fame or glory or money or high position. You just do it because you think that it is right or you don't do it. If you don't think that you are right, just don't do it. You have to know that you are right. At least, you have to believe that you are right. Isn't that right Cliff? Look at Cliff. The thing that is so wonderful is that if you live long enough and get up into your seventies, it turns out that you were right. [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
That's great. Why don't we end this right here.
END OF INTERVIEW
1. The officer in question is the Governor-General, the Royal representative in Canada who performs the functions of the monarch while he or she is absent.
2. Springville, Alabama.
3. A black man was counted as 3/5 of a person.
4. The man's name was Cochran.
5. Beanie Baldwin died in May 1975.