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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Guion Griffis Johnson, May 28, 1974. Interview G-0029-3. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

The Institute for Research in Social Science and reactions to it at UNC

Johnson continues to discuss perceptions of the Institute for Research in Social Science during the 1920s and 1930s. Serving first as research assistants and then as research associates, the Johnsons were closely involved with the Institute during its formative years. Here, she focuses on Howard Odum's efforts at fundraising as well as misconceptions of the Institute and addresses how other academics at UNC understood its work as socialism.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Guion Griffis Johnson, May 28, 1974. Interview G-0029-3. 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

MARY FREDERICKSON:
How long had he been here when you came?
GUION JOHNSON:
We came in the fall of 1924. I think he came in 1921 or 22. He had not been here long.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
And the Institute? He was just getting . . .
GUION JOHNSON:
Just getting it in 1924. He had received funds.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So the Institute had just started.
GUION JOHNSON:
Yes, we were the first members chosen. Guy and I and Katherine Jocher and one or two others.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So he had been brought as head of the sociology department?
GUION JOHNSON:
Yes, by Dr. Harry W. Chase, who was then president of the University. He and Dr Chase had received their doctor's degrees together at Clark University. So Dr Chase was familiar, was a long standing friend of Dr Odum's.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
And Dr Chase continued to be very supportive . . .
GUION JOHNSON:
Oh yes. Dr Chase was very supportive of Dr Odum.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
How long was he president?
GUION JOHNSON:
He left for the presidency of New York University in the late 20s and Frank Graham was chosen as president of the university.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
From what you said, he maintained this . . .
GUION JOHNSON:
Oh, yes. Frank Graham was a liberal. He had finished the University here and had gone to the London School of Economics and his indoctrination into liberalism took place in London, at the London School of Economics. He studied with Harold Laski [END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A] [TAPE 1, SIDE B] [START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
MARY FREDERICKSON:
You said that Howard Odum was so very good at collecting money for projects that he wanted to do. Where was his support coming from?
GUION JOHNSON:
Yes, he was. Largely from the foundations in the North. From Rockefeller Foundation, Carnegie Corporation. I do not know whether he had any Ford Foundation support or not. But the Rosenwald Fund also. Rosenwald was located in Chicago. Rosenwald helped him support the Institute.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Was Guy involved at all or were you involved in . . .
GUION JOHNSON:
Fund raising? Only in that we were the ones usually assigned to go meet visiting dignitaries in Raleigh or in Durham and bring them over. Dr. Odum told us before we came up from Texas that we would need a car. (laughter) So we bought a car, which we had not possessed. And that little Ford, that little model T Ford, went on many a trip to Raleigh and Durham to pick up various members of the Foundations who were coming to see what we had done and check on the progress of the Institute. And we would entertain them. We would often have . . . Mrs. Odum was not very well and Dr. Odum did not like to have dinners and parties at his house. And so he would often ask us to have the dinners, which we did.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What was the feeling of other people on the faculty outside of the sociology department, about what was going on in the institute . . . Did it change over a long period of time?
GUION JOHNSON:
Yes, it took a long time for the attitude of other departments to become more liberal in their thinking and more appreciative of the pioneer work which Dr Odum was doing in the Institute. I remember going, in the 30s, to a little party at the home of an education professor 1 and having the professor come in——it was a bridge party——and having the professor come in and say "Well, how's my socialist friend getting along?" I ignored it. 1 Minor Gwyn. Dr. Gywn was a tease and liked to needle even his best friends. He may have been mocking some other faculty member, but even so his remarks were significant. He was not addressing me. Then he came over and put his . . . patted me on the back and said "How's my socialist?" And I said "What do you mean, socialist?" And he said "Well, you're in the Institute for Research in Social Science and sociology. And sociology and socialism are the same thing." Then a professor whose wife was a good friend of mine——his field was French——once stopped us as we were going to a friend who was ill. And she said, "Please come to see me. You haven't come to see me." And I said "Well, the only time I'll have will be Sunday afternoon because I'm so busy working. We'll run around Sunday afternoon." "Fine," said she. We were met, as we walked up to the door, by her husband and he said "I'm sorry, but Mary cannot see you." I said, "But Mary asked me to come and I told her I was coming." "I'm sorry, she's feeling very bad now and she can't come. She can't come to the door or get up and she can't see you so I'm going to have to ask you not to come in." I said "Well, I'm so sorry. Please tell Mary how sorry we are that she's not feeling well and we hope we'll be able to come back again." And he said "Don't bother." And I said "What do you mean, don't bother?" In the meantime Guy was standing there, you know, his eyes protruding in astonishment. I said "What do you mean?" and he said "Well, I personally don't care to associate with anyone who is concerned about the field of work that you two are engaged in."
MARY FREDERICKSON:
And he was a professor here?
GUION JOHNSON:
He was a professor. 1 1 At that time, he was a graduate assistant and we were research assistants in the Institute for Research in Social Science. He had later received his doctorate the same year that Guy and I had, and had been retained on the staff just as we had been.