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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, October 16, 1975. Interview G-0023-3. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Poverty and gentility for aristocratic families of Virginia

Though Durr's society in Virginia descended from old money, many of them had fallen on hard times. To illustrate gentility in poverty, she tells the story of Alice Crawford Randolph, a beautiful daughter of a respected academic who stayed with her husband even when he had to work in a torpedo factory.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, October 16, 1975. Interview G-0023-3. 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

Well, the reason what we were accapted to the degree that we were, and we really were accepted, was because the Dean of the Seminary had been a Dr. Crawford, and he had had two, several, beautiful daughters. One of them particularly beautiful name Alice Crawford. And she came down to Birmingham as the wife of an Episcopal minister. And my mother and she were friendly and I had known her, so they vouched for us, if you know what I mean. They had come back to Virginia and he was teaching in a Episcopal school somewhere in Virginia. His name was Randolph. And they were the bluest blood of the bluest blood of Virginia. And they had known my mother, and Mrs. Randolph was one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen. I have seen many pretty women, but she was an absolute beauty. She had perfect features, masses of black hair. You very rarely see black hair that's wavy and curly and very shiney. And then she had lovely white skin and slender figure. She had been proposed to, we always understood, by every millionaire in the country, but she married Dr. Randolph, who was an Episcopal minister with whom she fell in love. She was a devoted wife to him because we got to know them quite well. He finally . . . He was the head of this Episcopal school somewhere in South Virginia, and he failed the son of the Bishop or he failed the son of some big contributor or he failed the sons of some very prominent people in the Episcopal Church. He wouldn't pass them. And there was a great to-do about it because he'd just fail them or expel them if they didn't do right. And so they told him that he was losing money for the school and losing money for the Episcopal Church, irritating the Board of Trustees. You know, he was a man of total integrity and honesty and so he kept on failing them. So they fired him. So he came up and lived in the little house next to us after we'd bought a house on Seminary Hill. And during the War he got a job in the torpedo factory. He'd go off in the mornings with a bucket, you know, a lunch basket in his hands. But I'm trying to give you a flavor of Seminary Hill. And Mrs. Randolph, who was this great beauty and who had been admired by all and . . . she would come out and empty the garbage. And I never will forget-she always wore gloves and always looked like, you know, her hair was fixed, beautifully dressed. She stuck by her husband very loyally. And Dr. Randolph was one of the loveliest men I ever knew, I've ever known. There is a strain in Virginia among all the Virginians that I met. There are lot of Virginians that I didn't like at all. But there is a strain in Virginia of men of integrity, you know, like Cliff, who're going to do right in spite of hell and high water. And he was one of them. And he did it in such a matter of fact way, if you know what I mean. And I would like to add that after the War was over and he got a job as the director of the church in Rome, Italy. And Mrs. Randolph went with him. And as I understand their latter years were, you know, they were very comfortable, and happy, in Rome, Italy. But she was, they were lovely people.