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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 >>

Durr's confidence in government

Despite the horrors of McCarthyism, Durr felt a great amount of pride in America and, because of her husband's position and her own family history, she felt very safe despite the turmoil around her. She claims that one of the biggest differences between the 1930s and 1940s and later generations was the amount of confidence people had in their government and their administration.

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

So some of the Communists I liked and some of them I didn't like. There was one from-he'd been a professor at the University of Johns Hopkins; I can't remember his name now. He was an extremely sweet fellow. He was always giving me these great heavy books to read by Kant, Immanuel Kant. Well I never could read them. They just didn't make sense to me at all. He was trying to win me over to the cause of Marxism but he started me out on Kant. Well I can tell you starting out on Kant is something that's mightly hard to understand and really never got very much out of it. But he was a very sweet fellow, and I had him out to dinner. Cliff and he got in several arguments, but you see it's something we haven't had since the McCarthy days which was a feeling of absolute safety. You see this is something that has come on since McCarthyism. I was an American. It was my country. I had my administration in the White House. The wife of the President was my friend. I went to the White House for receptions. My husband was in the government. My brother-in-law was on the Supreme Court of the United States. I mean I felt perfectly safe. Who in the world could accuse me of any illegal or underhanded . . . Everything was perfectly open and outgoing. People had different ideas. You see I was either too ignorant or too safe. And I still went out in Washington society to embassy parties and so on. I was safe. And I really don't believe the country's ever felt that safe since McCarthyism. I mean I think at that point when he began that crazy business of accusing everybody of being a traitor, I don't believe the country's ever been that safe again. Because the United States was built on so much diversity and diverse views. And then as I said to you, I was raised in the church and good God almighty, the preachers used to sit around the table at my father's house. I was just a little girl, but I'd hear them argue way into the reaches of the night about things that seemed to me to be utterly insane, absolutely ridiculous. [You felt those arguments were the same as those you were hearing among the socialists and communists?] Exactly, how are you going to get to heaven? And whether you're going to get there by foot-washing or by total emersion or by sprinkling or whether you can . . .You see when I was brought up the Catholic Church was supposed to be the whole of Rome. I remember that expression one time, the whore of Rome. I didn't know what it meant. And so I looked it up and I was quite confused, as you can imagine. But life in those days, it was after, the second world war was over and we'd been through the depression. Things were getting better; they still were not very good, but things were happening you know and people were being fed and the land down here was being-the erosion was being helped and the boys were all planting trees and Aubrey Williams was head of the NYA and he was training all these people. There was a tremendous spirit of life and hope and advancement. [You had no inkling of what was to come?] [Did you have any hints at that time about what was going to happen?] Well now We had some hints of it through Dies, Martin Dies. You see as soon as the LaFollette Committee got started and . . . Dies started up a committee. And he was such a dumbell, you know, he was a big lunkhead from Texas and I think old man Garner got him to start it up. And he . . . There was terrible fighting in the unions like the Ford fights. But Martin Dies was such a lunk head, you know, he called Shirley Temple a communist. And this idiot from Alabama, Joe somebody, he came from Gadsden, he was a Congressman. He was on the Un-American Committee. WPA had a drama section where unemployed actors could put on free plays. And they were trying to get rid of her-I forget her name, Miss Hallie somebody, Hallie Farmer or but anyway she was a very sort of Bryn Mawr lady, you know, very cultured. And she told Joe-Congressman from up here in Gadsden-she said they'd put on a play by Marlowe. Well Joe's first reply was, whas he a Communist? So you didn't take the Un-American Committee too seriously because the idea of it ever striking close to me was just absurd. [But it got even more ludicrous later and yet people took it seriously.] Sure, because more people, by that time things had changed. You see, Roosevelt gave people a tremendous sense of security, you know, in spite of him getting sick and all, he was always laughing and telling jokes. Everytime he'd come on the TV he'd have that cigarette perched in the corner of his mouth. And if you'd go to the White House to a reception, you know, he'd be standing up-I don't know how he was supported, but he was smiling and shaking hands. It was a great feeling of security. The Depression was over. We had a man in the White House who was doing something. And he got elected and reelected and reelected. The people were behind him, you know. And of course I was crazy about Mrs. Roosevelt. I just thought she was great-all of her high-pitched voice-you know she took voice lessons finally. Unions were being formed and coming South. It was a great period. That's what I'm so sorry for you young people to have missed because here it was all through the thirties and even through the war you see we were winning the war. Of course we had backsets. But up until . . .Roosevelt died in '45. '33 to '45 until the time that he died the country was in a feeling of hope if you know what I mean. We were going forward. These irritations, all this Communist business . . . Well I hate to put on record how provincial I was, but coming from Alabama you see I'd gone to Wellesley and I'd gone to the National Cathedral School. But I mean I'd had so little education in the real world, if you know what I mean. So for a bunch of unions in New York to be fighting each other over socialism and Trotskyism and Ludstoneism and Communism. Well it meant just exactly as much to me as whether you got saved by total emersion or dipping. I thought it was just as silly.