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Title: Oral History Interview with Guion Griffis Johnson, April 24, 1974. Interview G-0029-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Johnson, Guion Griffis, interviewee
Interview conducted by Hall, Jacquelyn Frederickson, Mary
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 Steve Weiss Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2006
Size of electronic edition: 116 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2006.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2006-00-00, Celine Noel and Wanda Gunther revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2006-09-01, Mike Millner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of sound recording: Oral History Interview with Guion Griffis Johnson, April 24, 1974. Interview G-0029-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0029-1)
Author: Jacquelyn Hall and Mary Frederickson
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Guion Griffis Johnson, June 17, 1974. Interview G-0029-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0029-1)
Author: Guion Griffis Johnson
Description: 110 Mb
Description: 26 p.
Note: Interview conducted on April 24, 1974, by Jacquelyn Hall and Mary Frederickson; recorded in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
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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An audio file with the interview complements this electronic edition.
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The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
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Interview with Guion Griffis Johnson, April 24, 1974.
Interview G-0029-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Johnson, Guion Griffis, interviewee


Interview Participants

    GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON, interviewee
    JACQUELYN HALL, interviewer
    MARY FREDERICKSON, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
JACQUELYN HALL:
. . . I missed the connection between Willie Lee Rose1 and how quickly you . . .
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Vann Woodward directed her work and he was down here once giving a lecture, and he said to me following the lecture, "I've been wanting to write to you and tell you that your book on St. Helena has stimulated the research of one of my students. I put one of my students to work on it because I've been interested in it ever since the book was published. And she has had more time to spend on it than you did and has found a lot of material at Yale."
MARY FREDERICKSON:
You had planned originally to go to Yale.
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Yes, I had planned to explore every source. The director didn't even want me to go to Washington.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why was this?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Well, this is the story about how the project was started, and it was extremely interesting. And it [the project] was simply to whitewash the man who was the director who had got in trouble. He was being brought here to the University and there was a big banner headline, all the way across the newspapers, about how this man who was coming to the University had got into trouble. And well, there was a movement to see that he didn't come to the University.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now, who was this?

Page 2
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Well, you can look in the book and find out who it was. [Laughter] And Dr. Odum very quickly began scurrying around getting research funds. He had always been interested in having something done about the St. Helena Island area, and he got the money. He was very clever at getting funds, got the money, and then just bundled us all up and sent us to St. Helena Island to begin on the project. We had to complete it in a hurry so that this man's good name would be brought back and he would be accepted into the University.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And you succeeded.
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
So, we were working against a deadline. But when I wanted to go through as much material as I could get my hands on in Washington, it took almost a legislative act for me to be permitted to look in the Court of Claims, in the Treasury Department, in the War Records . . . and they were scattered all over Washington. And I was six, no, seven months pregnant. And I would have to sign a statement to the effect that I wouldn't use any of this material to bring suit against the United States Government. But once I was admitted for use of the records, I wasn't supervised. Finally, one of the nice men in the Treasury Department felt so sorry for me, because It was hot. Oh, it was so hot. It was in June [unknown] when I was working there. He said, "You just tell me the material you want, and I'll photostat it for you." So, that was a great help, that saved me quite a bit of work. Then I said, "Why in the world hasn't the Government done what North Carolina has done . . . build an archives?" And he said, "I have been wanting that done for years. Because all of our records are scattered all over." I said, "Well, I'm going back. I'll get this done for you. I'm going back to North Carolina and tell Mr. Conner that he's got to come up here and do it."
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Well, he did come up and was head of . . .
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Well, I went to him and I said, "This is ridiculous. I've had to do all of this scurrying around and some of the materials they won't even let me

Page 3
have. You just get Mr.[David H.] Blair — (he was Commissioner of Internal Revenue) —you just get Mr. Blair to get an act of Congress passed and you go up there and organize it." And his eyes got bigger and bigger . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
I bet.
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
And he said, "Do you think they'll let us?" I said, "Certainly they'll let you. You'll have a lot of support from the Treasury Department." Well, he set the wheels rolling and in two years' time, he was in Washington, heading up the National Archives. I'm just so delighted that at least that came about, although he never, never once indicated where he got the idea.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I'm not surprised. [Laughter] How long did it take you to write the book?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
The St. Helena Island?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes.
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
I suppose that, let me see, we went in January and I began at once collecting data and I collected data right on through until . . . and I was pregnant then when I went . . . until I went through the last copying of the old plantation records that I had found. (the afternoon before the baby was born) I located old plantation records all over the South, and went to Charleston and got. . . one old man, Mr. Langston Chavis, wouldn't let me touch the material, but he would take it out of a box in his wall safe and he would hold it up. I said, "Oh, I want every bit of this. Can't I just come and copy this out and you watch me?" "No, my dear, no. I would trust you, but I cannot do it. You tell me what you want and I'll copy it for you." And he did, in the most beautiful ante-bellum script, which I still have down in the basement in my files. Well, anyway, the late afternoon before I went to the hospital to have my first baby, I finished collecting all the data and cataloguing everything. Then, I guess I began writing the next January. He Guy Benton, Jr. was born in late August and in the meantime, I was working on Ante-Bellum North Carolina. Then, I began

Page 4
writing and the book was published shortly afterwards. I guess I wrote that book in about three months.2
JACQUELYN HALL:
That's quite a feat.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were other people working [unknown] on St. Helena Island, while you were in Washington?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
We had Ndulamo which was a summer home that George Foster Peabody had given the two directors of Penn School.3 And the whole staff were there. Some of the men who just worked on brief essays, parts of the project, would come in for a short while. But Guy and I and a secretary, a girl (Jessie Alvenon) who had been my secretary when I was at Baylor College in Texas and brought up here with me, went with us as a secretary for the staff. She was there, and then the director and his wife. We were there from January until June. Then, we went back, well, it was more just for fun than anything else, about a year later, because my manuscript had already been written and the books were being published. We were the only ones who stayed down there during the research project. And from St. Helena, I went to Charleston and to Columbia, worked in the archives in Columbia and wrote to people. I would do a lot of interviewing and would get names of people who might have records. And I went out in the countryside looking for old plantation houses and seeing if there were any family records. Went into the attics of some of the houses, you know.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I'm sure that there are still records scattered all over.
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Oh yes, I'm sure that there are records scattered all over.
I got one beautiful colored plantation book, the James Hamilton Couper Plantation book from Birmingham, Ala. and two of the cash entry books, two huge ledgers, just beautifully kept plantation records and I made the mistake of showing the book to Dr. J. G. deR. Hamilton, and he was so enthusiastic about it that he said, "Oh, would you let me take this to the American Historical Association meeting. I just want to show it to U.B. Phillips, he will be so thrilled to see it." And you know, naive

Page 5
and trusting as I was (I had just received my doctor's degree, you see) and I didn't think that he could possibly have any ulterior motives, and I naively let him take it, having written to the owner saying, "Dr. Hamilton would like to take this to the American Historical Association to show to some of the scholars in the field of southern history. Do you have any objections?" No, she didn't have any objections so long as I thought that the man was reliable and I would guarantee that the book would be returned Well, I told Dr. Hamilton that I wanted it back immediately afterward. I said, "You may have it for two weeks, and that's all." He didn't return it and he didn't return it and I called him and I went to see him. And he said, "Oh, I've got it at the house. I'm sorry, I'll bring it right back to you." And he still didn't return it. It took me about four or five months to get that plantation record. Then, a short time afterwards, U.B. Phillips book came out and the pictures he was using were maps from the Couper Plantation Book. I've forgotten the title of the book, I was so mad with him, I could have killed Dr. Hamilton! He Phillips had photographed the maps and published them in his book prior to the publication of my Sea Island book.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
In Life and Labor?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
No, not in Life and Labor, the book after that. What is the title? You know, I've got a blockage on the recall, because it made me so mad. And he said, "Materials found by Dr. J. de R. Hamilton,". . . let's see, something about. . . "materials obtained through the courtesy of Dr. J. de R. Hamilton."
JACQUELYN HALL:
How could that be? Did you say anything to him?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
I did. I said, "Dr. Hamilton!" And he said, "Oh, this was that stupid Phillips. I don't know what in the world made him do this." Well, of course, this was just. [unknown] George Foster Peabody gave the whole St. Helena Island staff the use of Triuna [unknown] Island in Lake George to write up our findings. So, I was telling everybody there about how Hamilton and * The volume was, indeed, Life and Labor.

Page 6
Phillips had acted. So, [unknown] George Foster Peabody came to visit, and Dr. Jones, Thomas Jesse Jones, who was director of the Phelps Stokes Fund, was there too, for the entire summer. So, Dr. Jones told Mr. Peabody and Mr. Peabody said, "I know Phillips, and I'm going to write him a letter." And he wrote him a strong letter and said, "This must be corrected in the next edition and not only that, you owe an apology." And U.B. Phillips came to Chapel Hill to apologize to me. Dr. Jones said, "Well, you're just beginning on your career. This could be very damaging to the career of a young woman who is starting. I will not let you be done this way."
JACQUELYN HALL:
Amazing. And then, did he correct it in his next edition? Did he keep using the picture?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
I don't know. I've never seen a second edition, so I don't know. I don't know whether it even had a second edition. It was like [an incident related to] my St. Helena Island book, Mrs. [W.S.] Lovell, who lent me the plantation manuscript and the registers, which are now, by the way, in the Southern Historical Collection, did not like my calling one of her ancestors the "general overseer" of the plantation, which he was. And she was furious about it. And she said, "You must correct this in the second edition."
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did she want you to call him?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
General manager.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, yes, not "overseer."
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
She said, "Only low-class white people were overseers."
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, how did you get interested in writing about southern women?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
This has been a concern of mine since I was a child. My mother was the only woman in the county in which we lived, which was in Greenville, Texas, who had a college degree. My mother was for women's rights long before suffrage. So, I think that I got it with the mother's milk. I was interested in the status

Page 7
of all women, but of course, since my area of competence was the South, then I concentrated on southern women. Although, this little thing right here is very superficial. . . [pointing to her essay, "The changing status of the Southern Woman"4]
JACQUELYN HALL:
But so little has been done even now, and when you wrote this, very little had been done.
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Well, I do think the chapters that I have in Ante-Bellum North Carolina go into more detail than I could in this little essay in The South in Continuity and Change.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Have you thought of any other women since I talked to you?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Yes, I have. I didn't make a list, I'm sorry to say, because I haven't had time. This is a very busy time of the year for me, before I go to sleep at night, I'll think. Now, Mabel Penny Hatch, from Raleigh, has been very active in politics from the time that she was a young girl. She's now retired. Her husband is a lawyer in Raleigh. I thought that I would get down to the Raleigh Telephone Directory and look through "Hatches" and pick her out.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, that can be done later.
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
But Mabel Penny Hatch would be very. . . and Eunice Ayers from Winston-Salem.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What has she. . .
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
She has been Clerk of the Court in Winston-Salem for a long time. She also is in politics, probably one of the most knowledgeable women in that area about the status of women in politics.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about women scholars? It seems to me that an unusual number of women were writing about the South in the thirties. All of the excellent sociology and regional studies that were being done were. . .
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Well, Miss Harriet Harring, Do you have her name?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Uh-huh.
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Well, she should certainly be interviewed. Now, she lives at Snow Hill,

Page 8
is retired. [unknown] And Katharine Jocher. Do you have Katharine's name?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes. How is her health?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
She's all right now. She had some difficulty about a month ago, but she's now mobile. She was not for awhile. She was quite ill, in fact. However, I would certainly suggest that you see her when she feels like talking. A young man came by to interview Guy and me on the Institute for Research in Social Sciences. (Everybody is writing the history of the Institute for Research in Social Science.)
JACQUELYN HALL:
But it never gets written.
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
It never gets written, that's the truth. And I suggested that he talk to her at once. He called her and she said, "I'm sorry, but I just do not feel like seeing you." But that was when she was ill, but now she's better and I think it would be quite wise of you to set up an interview with her and let her tell you when she feels like talking. She is knowledgeable, but she is also very discreet. She's not like me. I just blurt out everything. And in Raleigh, Mrs. W.C. Pressley Harriet Pressley is someone whom you would [unknown] she was one of the first women to do broadcasting. She was on radio as an interviewer for years and years. Her husband was president of Peace College.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Is that P-R-E-S-S-L-Y?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
P-R-E-S-S-L-E-Y. Harriet Pressley. And let's see, you know this North Carolina Lives, don't you? People who were writing in the thirties? Margaret Jarmon Hagood, for example, has died.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Is that right?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Yes, and she would have been good. She went from here to the Census Bureau. There is a Miss Whitley, let me see if I can find her address, well, you can find her address in here, [North Carolina Lives] I wouldn't want to take up your time to look for it Now, [unknown] Bill Powell was supposed to have done this, but actually

Page 9
the work was done chiefly by - you see, "Written and prepared under the supervision of William S. Powell" - but Ruth Current was the one who really organized this material [together with a committee of prominent men and women.].
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now, was she in the North Carolina Collection? Who is Ruth Current?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Unfortunately, she, too, has died. She was Home Demonstration Executive in charge of all home demonstration work in the state, with offices at State College. She was one of the movers and shakers in this state; quite a dynamic person and really put - (Mrs. Estelle Smith actually organized the home demonstration work) but Ruth Current followed Mrs. Estelle Smith in this work. I don't see Ruth Current's name listed here on the editorial advisory board. Elizabeth Huey, Mrs. Elizabeth H. Huey is someone that you would need to see. She was State Librarian and has since retired. Lois Edinger is younger than Ruth [Elizabeth] Huey.5 Lois Edinger is at WC (UNC-G) and has been president of the National Education Association. She, I would say, is in her late forties, and is not as knowledgeable about past endeavors as some of these people.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you involved at all with the WPA Writer's Project?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
I was busy finishing up Ante-Bellum North Carolina at that time. No. Occasionally, people would come in and interview me and see Guy, but we had nothing to do with it other than that, just occasional I helping people. Now, Miss Wiley, Mary Calvin Wiley, has died, unfortunately, in Winston-Salem. She would have been a great source for you in the women's movement. But actually, there wasn't too much work being done in the thirties and forties by women in the field of sociology. Herring, Jocker, Hagood, [unknown] were the three who did most of the work. Mrs. Brooks (Evelyn Brooks) worked with her husband Lee Brooks. They were from Massachusetts and they came to the Institute in about 1925 or '26; and she is still living. She can tell you a little bit about what went on, but she didn't get out over the state and meet the people and didn't

Page 10
know the leaders, except in rather restricted areas. But she is a delightful person and her memory is very clear. She's at Southern Pines, in the Penick Home, now.
JACQUELYN HALL:
In what home?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Penick. P-E-N-I-C-K, which is the Episcopal Retirement home for worthy Epsicopalians. [Laughter] Evelyn is a Presbyterian, but she slipped in in the early time when they first began collecting money to build the Penick Home. When they were taking anybody's money.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about women who were involved in other New Deal agencies? I have several people who were involved with the Writer's Project in one way or another. Women were fairly well represented on that.
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Yes, they were.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Those who were collecting interviews and working on the state guides. But I'm wondering about other. . .
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Now, I'm a blank there. I was completely involved in Ante-Bellum North Carolina. I didn't know anything that went on before 1860: I mean, after 1860!
JACQUELYN HALL:
I know the feeling. Well, these are helpful. I thought we might also talk about. . . Mary has started looking at your work, the things that you've written, but I thought that you might be able to give her some guidance about things that you have been involved in in addition to your writing that she would want to look into before interviewing you so that she would have some more knowledge about the context of your work.
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
I don't know whether any of those materials would be available or not. I was active in AAUW and got AAUW to do quite a number of things - take a stand against the Pearsall Act and the only organization that did take a public stand opposing the passage of the Pearsall Act during Luther Hodges Administration and. . .

Page 11
JACQUELYN HALL:
The AAUW is looking for somebody to write a history of their organization.
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Have you heard about that? Have they found someone?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Not any person that's well qualified, that I know of. There have been various histories of AAUW written, but they've all been written by amateurs.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, why would those materials not be available?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Well, for one thing, Leontine Plank (Mrs. Carl A Plank of Asheville) who was president of AAUW for four years, faithfully kept all the records and all the records that were handed to her, she kept very carefully. She had mountains of materials. And when she left office, Miss Mary Graham Shotwell, from Oxford, who had retired (She was one of the first trained social workers in North Carolina. Unfortunately, she too has died) was asked to go through the records and sort out everything that was peripheral, with the result that she destroyed most of the records.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, no. Leaving only the minutes. . .
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Minutes, that's right. Now, the library at UNC-G became a depository for those records. I don't know whether they are still there or not, ome of the records are here in the North Carolina Room, I think. And all of the Chapel Hill branch records are there. Well, let me see, AAUW, and the Federation of Women's Clubs. I've been on the Board of the Federation of Women's Clubs since 1948 and am still on the Board. I organized the North Carolina Council of Women's Organization. That's about all(1) I'm now a board member of the State Youth Advisory Board. I went on in 1970 and will serve through '76. That's one of my chief concerns now. You see, when we were in Georgia from '44 to '47, I was executive secretary of the Georgia Conference on Social Welfare and edited Georgia Welfare, and went all over Georgia helping to organize community councils, setting up juvenile courts, getting volunteers for juvenile courts and was immediately put on the board of the National Public Relations Council for 1 For a more complete listing of activities, see Who's Who of American Women, 1959, 1973; North Carolina Lives, 1962; The World Who's Who of Women, 1973.

Page 12
Health and Welfare Services and became the chairman of the board in '47 or '46. I guess '46, and served through '49, when we came back here and I simply could not be running back and forth to New York. And I was president of the American Association of Executive of State Social Welfare Councils. Now, that's a mouthfull, isn't it? And I resigned from that when we came back, because I was no longer associated with a Conference on Social Welfare. I was not too concerned about this North Carolina Conference, because it was not an action agency and I was interested in action. The Georgia Board permitted me to go into action, so I went all over.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you involved with the Southern Regional Council at all?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Not very much, I felt that I should stay away and let Guy run that. But I was offered the head of the history department at Agnes Scott. Guess how much they wanted to pay me? The president came to see me, visited me to tell me what an honor he was conferring upon me and that "he would be delighted to pay me $125 a month." As head of the history department and the honor of being the head of the history department. . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was to carry you the rest of the way.
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
And I would have had to commute. It would have taken me almost half a day to commute from where we lived on Wesley Road to DeKalb County, where Agnes Scott is located. And it was during the war, no gasoline, you know. So, I would have had to change and change by bus to get there. And he was so disgusted with me when I told him. At that time, I was the executive of the Georgia Conference on Social Welfare and was being paid much more than he offered me and he drew himself up with great dignity and said, "This is the most disgusting work that I have ever heard of a PhD. in history performing."
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, he would turn over in his grave if he could see what a PhD. is doing now. [Laughter]

Page 13
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
I think that's about the broad jist of my — I've been on the national AAUW Board [as a member of the Social and Economics Issue Committee] too, as well as on the state and local.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What were you doing in Texas before you came to Chapel Hill?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
I was born in Texas.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, I know that, but when did you leave there?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
1924.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So, you had gone to college?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
I finished at Burleson College, which was a little junior college in my hometown of Greenville, Texas, then I went to [unknown] that's where I met Guy.
JACQUELYN HALL:
At Burleson College?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
At Burleson College. He lived just eight miles from me, but I didn't know him. And then
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was he born in Texas?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Yes, he was born in Caddo Mills, Texas, and I was born in Wolfe City, Texas. These were two little rural towns in the fertile, black-waxy belt of Texas. Two little farm towns. And my parents moved to the county seat of Greenville because of [unknown] to give us better educational opportunities. And so, I finished Burleson College and then at that time, Guy and I were dating rather heavily and my parents wanted to separate us, so they made me go to the women's college, Baylor College for Women and Guy went to Baylor University. It was forty miles away. Then I was offered an opportunity to stay at Baylor College when I graduated if I would get a degree in journalism. They wanted me to organize a department of journalism at Baylor College. So, I finished Baylor College in late May and by the first of June, I was at the University of Missouri in the School of Journalism there. At that time, it had the best school of journalism - it still does have the best school of journalism - in the country. So, I went to school for three months, went back to Baylor College and taught for nine months, went back to the University of Missouri in the

Page 14
summer and the next fall semester, and by that time, I had a journalism degree.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And when did you get married?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
In September, 1923. And we were there teaching for one year at Baylor College. And then we came up here.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Guy was offered a position at the Institute, or how did you.
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Yes, Guy was offered. He had written two or three articles for Dr. Odum's, Social Forces, Dr. Odum was just doing Social Forces. Dr. Odum liked Guy's work. He has a very simple, forceful style. Mine's more ornate, you know, involved; but his is straightforward. He writes very well, I think. And Dr. Odum was very much impressed with his articles and then, when he got the money to set up the Institute, he invited Guy to come to the Institute. We talked it over, and I said, "I'm not going up there and live on $125 a month when both of us are making excellent salaries here. We've been able to pay off [unknown] college debts, buy us a car, and save for some money in bonds. I'm not about to go up there and starve. You tell him that if he'll give me a job, we'll come." So, Guy wrote him and Dr. Odum said, "All right, we'll give her a job." And he had a vision of my slaving away, doing copyireading for these articles in Social Forces. We arrived one hot day in August and had no place to stay but at Dr. Odum's house. He very graciously said, "You come right on. There's a place for you here while your house is being built. You're going to have the upstairs in somebody's new house and until that's built, you can live right here with us." And then he said, "I have some work for you to do." We were so tired. We came up in our Model T Ford and it had taken us forever on these horrible roads and we were exhausted; but no, you had to get right to work the next day. Copy reading for Social Forces. And he gave me galley proof to read and I could see that the rest of my days were going to be spent as his little slave, so I took care of that right away.

Page 15
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did you do?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
I told him that I had come up to get a doctor's degree, that I would like to have a doctor's degree in sociology, because that was Guy's field, but it didn't really matter to me what I took my degree in, because the only reason I wanted a PhD. was so that I could accredit my department of journalism at Baylor College. The head of the department had to have a PhD. It didn't matter what your PhD. was in.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So, you were going back?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Yes, we had leaves of absence. Yes, we were going back. We weren't going to cut loose entirely from security. So, we liked it very much here after awhile and I changed from [unknown] I took all the courses in sociology that they offered. I said, "I don't know any sociology, I'm just as stupid as when I came". So, I said, "I want to take my PhD. in a field that has some meat in it."
JACQUELYN HALL:
How many people did they have in the Sociology Department?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Not very many.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was it very small?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Yes, it was. Dr. Jesse F. Steiner, who did pioneer work in community organization, and Dr. Odum, and Harold Myer, whose field was largely social problems and recreation. And that was just about it. So, Dr. Odum had us take (I'm very grateful to him for that, since there weren't very many courses being offered) he had us take theories in modern psychology, a seminar course in that under Dr. [John Frederick] Dashiell and statistics under Dr. Marion Trabne in the Department of Education, who was a very competent statistician. So, we were taking courses in economics and psychology, no education as such, except for the statistics.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, was Guy working on his degree, too, or did he already have the PhD?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
No, Guy had a Master's degree from the University of Chicago. Both

Page 16
of us had one year in addition to our A.B. degrees. I had a degree in journalism and Guy had his master's in sociology from the University of Chicago when we came. So, in three years, we had our degrees.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, what kind of work did you do for the Institute?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
I did work on Ante-bellum North Carolina.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you get yourself in a position to do that?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
I was nasty. I went in and confronted Dr. Odum and said, "I came up here; I have a good job in Texas, to which I intend to return. I came up here to get a PhD. I've taken all your courses in sociology. I have spent a great deal of time doing copy work and doing promotional work for Social Forces. I feel that I've done all that I can for Social Forces. My competence beyond what I've done is limited; therefore, I can't do anything else. I do not wish to do copy reading. If I had wanted to do copy reading, I would have taken a job on a newspaper. I've been offered excellent jobs on newspapers. I loathe copy reading. I will do no more copy reading. If you want me to spend full time on my research project, I will do that and I will work twelve and fourteen hours a day at my research and I will get something written for you so that you can have something to show, so that you can have more foundation money." Which was what he was interested in and of course, you have to show accomplishments in order to get renewals [of grants]. I said that I wanted to change from sociology to history. And he was very upset and he said, "It's a dead end profession. You will get nowhere with a PhD. in history." I said, "My aim is not to get anywhere in history. My aim is to get a PhD. and I think that history will be a good content speciality."
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did he think that history was a dead end?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
"No one's interested in history anymore. History is the dead past. You've got to cut lose from that past and go on, and history has been holding us back" Well, of course, the history of the South with its preoccupation with slavery and Reconstruction was holding the South back. He was right there.

Page 17
But he said, "If you insist upon getting a PH. D. in history there's nothing I can do for you anymore and I cannot support you anymore. You will get nowhere as long as you are at the University of North Carolina, because I cannot support you. You will have to look entirely to the History Department for any support that you get." Which was all right. Well, he was just telling me the truth. And this I realized. But he was very unhappy with me and was quite forthright. He said, "All right, go right ahead and work on your dissertation subject. And I will not expect you to work any more on Social Forces." So poor Catherine Jocher took over my job. And she worked seven days a week, eighteen hours a day I'm sure for years and years and years and years and years and finally in her last years here she was made full professor. And she retired here at guess how much: $7500 a year when men who were full professors were getting $15000 a year. She probably won't tell you this.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why was she willing to do that kind of work for so long?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Why was she willing to have no social life whatsoever. She went to church. The church was important to her; she was very faithful to the Lutheran Church. But her social life was zero. And she slaved away on Social Forces and doing other chores too for Dr. Odum.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did she do that? Was she doing her own research at the same time? Was she doing other research?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Well, she was doing some research. I think she had a book on, maybe with Roy Brown, on the administration of Public Welfare. And I don't recall what else that she has written. She

Page 18
has two or three books. I don't think she did any one book by herself. She may have, I may be confused. I really don't recall what she's written.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did she have too little confidence in herself as a scholar to cut loose and try to do something on her own, or was she so devoted to Dr. Odum and the Institute, or
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
I think she was genuinely devoted to Dr. Odum. I do think that is true. She did finally come to have a great deal of self-confidence. She was elected to office in the American Sociological Association, Society, ASS, [laughter] I think they changed it so

Page 19
it wouldn't be ASS. It was at one time. I don't know; this was her life, though.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And no one ever really encouraged her to do otherwise.
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
No, no one ever encouraged her to rebel. I would stop by her office and needle her briefly, but all I would do would hurt her feelings, so
JACQUELYN HALL:
How would she respond?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
With a frozen stare and "you take care of your work and I'll take care of mine." I don't object, I mean, I think she was right. I was never offended.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So, when you went on in the history department, what did you do for money?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Oh, I stayed in the Institute. I became the first research. . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
By saying that he could no longer support you, he meant moral support?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Yes, it was moral support, not financial support.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, that's all right, you could do that.
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
I became the first/research assistant in history in the Institute, you see. All of them were in the field of sociology. There was one in library science, a Mr. Stone, when we first came. He was in the first group that came, but all the rest of us were in the field of sociology. So, I had already negotiated all this [with the history dept.] before I said that I would not read copy on Social Forces.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What had Catharine Jocker been doing before she came?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
She had been in public welfare in Pennsylvania. She was from Pennsylvania. She took her B.A. degree from Goucher. I don't know if she had an M.A. from Goucher or not. But she be came extremely competent and is held in high regard for her work on Social Forces by sociologists all over the United States. When we go to the American Sociological Association meetings, people are always asking us about Catharine Jocker. She's held in very high regard.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why don't you give us a kind of overview. . . you came in 1924, and the dates that you published you first book. Did you stay in the Institute then?

Page 20
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Yes, until the Depression came.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was your position there?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
A research associate, which was associate professor.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So, you were teaching?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
No, no. A woman wasn't allowed to teach. Do you know that one of the board members of the Institute, Dr. L.R. Wilson, who was the librarian, said that no woman (I think that the matter came up as to - I'm quite sure that it came up with the board-about what I was being paid. They were talking about maybe paying Guy more and someone said, "Well, you can't pay her husband more without also increasing her salary, she'll raise hell.") And Dr. L.R. Wilson said, "No woman is worth more than $125 a month." But when we took our PhDs and were invited to stay. We were both invited to stay as research associates. . .
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
. . . When the Depression came, everyone was starving to death. There was a movement to cut the salaries of everyone in the Institute. And there were two of us that were married. Julia Spruill, Mrs. Corydon Spruill, who did the colonial thing, was also working on her book and I was completing the rest of Ante-Bellum North Carolina. And so in 1934, the board met and said that all married women would be dropped and the Institute salaries would be cut, since these were largely foundation funds, only by 10%. Which was wonderful for the Institute staff, whereas the faculty and [administrative] staff were cut by 33/1/3%. So that's when both Julia and I (Julia had a master's degree. She did not have her doctorate) were dropped. Let's see, my first seminar paper in Hispanic-American history was published. So, that was the first thing of mine that was published here. Of course, I had a lot of news articles and feature stories published in Texas before I came up here, but of course, this is just newspaper stuff and you don't keep records. But this paper was on the Panama Congress and the Monroe Doctrine, published in James Sprunt

Page 21
Historical Monographs in 19 — before I took my doctorate — '25 or '26. Probably '26. And then I had an essay published in Social Forces, published in '25, on the feminist movement and I guess that was published first and then the Panama Congress and Monroe Doctrine in the James Sprunt Historical Monograph. Then, three or four of my essays were published in the North Carolina Historical Review before 1930 and then in 1930 it was the Sea Island book. '37 was Ante-Bellum North Carolina and '39, we went to work on the Myrdal study and my. . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
So, between '34 and '39, you wrote and were not working?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
I was working, going to my office everyday, finishing Ante-Bellum North Carolina without being paid a cent. No. This is true.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So, they did let you keep your office?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
I had given my husband an office at Baylor College, permitted him to move into my office. I had two offices. I was public relations director for the college and head of the department of journalism. He had no office, so I said, "You just come right in and here's your desk." So, when Julia and I were hustled out of the Institute because we were married women and our husbands were making quite enough to maintain us and our salaries were needed to help men make a living for their families, I continued to occupy the same desk that I had always used. Guy and I had always, from the time we first came here, shared an office. So, I just continued to go back to my desk and my files were still there and I finished. You see, I had to stop the work on Ante-Bellum North Carolina to do the St. Helena work. And I hadn't written anything else.
So, I did all these other chapters Ante-bellum North Carolina. Well, I did [work on the staff of the Institute] from '30 to '34, I don't remember how many chapters I wrote [during that time] and I finished up [by 1936]. But I decided that I, I was going into one chapter on the economic conditions, I felt that was needed in a social history. I was so weary of the thing and the University Press was eager to get it published so, Bill [W.T.] Couch, who was the director of the University Press, literally took the manuscript away from me.

Page 22
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you involved in other things besides your scholarship?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
No, I did not begin to have any — I was so involved in all sorts of community work from the time I was six years old, because my mother was so active; and when I was at Baylor College and then as a faculty member at Baylor College — that I was exhausted with volunteer work. But when Ante-Bellum North Carolina was published, I wanted to do something else, entirely different. I didn't want to do any more research and, by that time, I had a child in the second grade and the presidency of the PTA was offered me, and I decided that was what I was going to do. We were at Yale at the time and I was elected before I knew it and when I came back, one of my competitors said, "I think it was outrageous they elected you president of the PTA without letting you know, and, of course, you're not going to do it." Well, I hadn't really made up my mind and Guy didn't want me to do it, but that made up my mind. I said, "Of course I am." So, I was president of the PTA. Then during the war before we went to Atlanta, I was active. I issued all the ration books, well, all except the first ration book on gasoline. I did not issue that, but I issued all the others. I was very active with OCD and OPA and went all over the county, fussing around and collecting historical records for Orange County, and all that
JACQUELYN HALL:
While you were issuing ration books. . .
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Yes, that's right. Setting up and training volunteers and writing news releases to sooth the public and inform them about new regulations. And then the V-12 program was set up here and the history department asked me if I wouldn't come and teach modern American history courses to the V-12, which I did. Then, the Navy staff was called to active duty in the Pacific and the history department was left with teaching naval history and strategy and none of the men wanted to teach naval history and strategy, so Dr. Newsome-well, we didn't know any naval history and strategy. It was just work. And Dr. Newsome said, "You're it." So, I taught naval history and strategy. And really enjoyed it. I had a big

Page 23
map of the European Theater which I had up on the board. And one of the boys asked me, "Dr. J., when's the war in Europe going to end." And I said, "Just one moment now. I'm going to put it up on the map. I'm going to Atlanta soon, but this map will stay and when the war ends, you'll see how close I was." Well, I missed it by four days. So, I was so proud of myself. Some of the boys came by to see me and said, "Well, teacher.. ." They would come by Atlanta to see me before they went into active duty. I very much enjoyed teaching in the V-12, but it was very hard work. Because I had to stay just two jumps ahead. I had boys who had been in the North African campaign. Once I was explaining the strategy of the North African campaign and here were these two seamen on the front row and I thought, "Oh, no! They are going to correct me and tell me I'm all wrong. That's not the way it was." But at the end of the lecture - and there were two or three of them on the front row with their mouths open - they said, "My God! Was that what we were doing?" I said, "You didn't know?"
JACQUELYN HALL:
They don't tell you when you're doing it.
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
No, of course not. No one except the higher ups knows anything about strategy. So, with that, I realized I was perfectly safe. Let's see, that's about -
JACQUELYN HALL:
Then, you went to Atlanta?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Went to Atlanta, yes, and immediately [after a few months] began working with the Georgia Conference on Social Welfare, which was an active action-program. I did it so that I would go all over Georgia and meet people and hopefully build good will for Guy and the Southern Regional Council. Because, you see, the Klan was after him. hey rented an office just across from him so that they could watch his activities. And Eugene Talmadge was rampaging. I didn't want to do the Georgia Conference Work. I know how fatiguing organizational work is, because I had had it in organizing the Department of Journalism and I organized the Texas High School Press Association in 1923. (And last year we went to Texas for the 50th anniversary and they gave me a big Trailblazer Award, a medal.

Page 24
I didn't know that anybody remembered that I had organized it. Guess how many youngsters were there? We're doing well in North Carolina to get three hundred and there were about three thousand in Texas I never saw so many. And Wayne Daniels on, who left here to go to Texas to head the department of journalism there, was at the meeting, and said, [unknown] "I just want to thank you for organizing the Texas High School Press Association and for the excellent press that we have in Texas. And the students that we have." I said, "I was with it only one year. Don't give me any credit at all." But it was a lot of fun, I had forgotten about that.
Do you know Josephine Wilkins?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Yes, I do. I saw her in November. I know her quite well.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I guess that actually the Georgia Fact Finding Committee. . . was that still going on when you. . . no, that was before.
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Yes, that was before. If you're doing southern women you ought to. . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
I have interviewed her.
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
You have interviewed Josephine? Good.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But I want to interview her again, I. . .
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Yes. I'm sorry that Lillian Smith has died. She was quite a. . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
I interviewed Paula Snelling. [unknown] We went up to Old Screamer Mt.
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Yes, that was exciting.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, this is a lot of good material to work with. Mary is from Atlanta.
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Oh, you're from Atlanta?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Are there papers for the Conference of Social Welfare?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
In Georgia. I left all my files in the office of the Conference. I don't know what has happened to them. The building has come down. They kept saying to us, "Well, we can't take care of anything that you want done because we are going to tear the building down." Now, this was in 1945 and '6 and '7; and now it's down. And the Conference has moved, and I have been back to Atlanta many, many

Page 25
times, but have never gone back to that office. Well, I've been so busy doing other things. I was extremely busy in Atlanta. I was on the planning board that mapped out the expansion of these highways and bypasses and Grady Memorial. I was involved in this great (it was $11 million when we were working on it and when it was finally built, it was umpteen million, wasn't it?) Well, anyway, this is all very exciting buzzing along these highways because I'm involved in something that I was planning once. And I was on the Community Chest, the liason committee between them and the Community Council when we were involved in getting. Dick Rich and Hal Dumas and the rest were interested in getting rid of a Communist director of the planning council and so on. That was all fun.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What made them think that the director of the planning council?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
He was! He was! And these men put a detective to work to determine if he was or not. So, they asked me to be one member of the committee and Grace Hamilton — you know who Grace Hamilton is, don't you? She's the white-black woman who is now in the Georgia legislature and has been for five or six years. She went in with that first group of blacks elected to the legislature. Now, Grace Hamilton is someone to interview, if you haven't already.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I haven't, and I have looked at her papers at the University and she's a definite. . .
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Yes, well, Grace Hamilton and I — I've forgotten, There were about five of us who were on the committee to sort of find some way to ease the Communist director out and not make a great stir. But, thank goodness, we came back to Chapel Hill, so I was not involved in that furor.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you have your personal papers, or have you given them to the Southern Historical Collection?
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
I have given only — I gave a batch of completed questionaires that I did when I was on the Commission for the Status of Women here in North Carolina. I

Page 26
gave those and then the questionaires that I myself got out on Volunteers in Community Service. So, that's all they have. I have the rest. Attic, basement, under the bed — I have a big fourposter bed in one of our guest rooms and the papers were all in the study. We had guests coming and they the papers were all in the study and I said, "What in the world. . . " Guy's study is over here and mine is over there, and I said, "They just cannot come in this house and see all these boxes in my study." And Guy said, "Put them under the bed." I said, "Well, I've been fighting shoes under the bed ever since we've been married." But I finally said, "Well, that's a bright idea."
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, I really didn't even mean to stay this long. It's suppertime.
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Oh, is it? I'm sorry that you couldn't stop me.
JACQUELYN HALL:
On no, I would love to stay longer. I just didn't mean to stay, when I called you I said that it would be short.
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
And I didn't offer you any more tea and there's the tea over there waiting. And I didn't even finish mine. It finally got too cold; too much milk in it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, thank you so much.
GUION GRIFFIS JOHNSON:
Well, it's been a lot of fun.
END OF INTERVIEW
Rehearsal for Reconstruction
2. Actually, I worked on the manuscript intermittently for about a year!
3. Miss Rossa B. Cooley and Miss Grace B. House.
The South in Continuity and Change
5. I have a Texas friend who was named Ruth Huey!