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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975. Interview G-0023-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

The Durrs befriend the Lewises

Durr explains how she befriended Kathryn and John Lewis, a relationship that would become very important in her later activism.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975. Interview G-0023-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

So, 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 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, Katheryn, 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 chauffeurand 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 Katheryn Lewis. Well, I don't know whether you ever saw Katheryn, 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 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. Katheryn and I used to have lunch together occasionally.
SUE THRASHER:
How old was Katheryn at that time?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, I was in my thirties, she was in her late twenties, I suppose.