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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Guion Griffis Johnson, July 1, 1974. Interview G-0029-4. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Choosing not to run for state office

Johnson discusses being approached to run for lieutenant governor by Robert W. Scott during the early 1970s. Because of her support for Scott's administration and her work with the Democratic Party, the Scott administration thought she would be a good candidate. Johnson, however, chose not to run because she thought that the state was not yet ready to elect a woman to this office. Moreover, Johnson feared that the fact that she and her husband had long been supporters of desegregation might work against her as well.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Guion Griffis Johnson, July 1, 1974. Interview G-0029-4. 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

They wanted someone who would support them. I had been speaking to the Young Democrats and I had been speaking to the Democratic Women, to the State Convention and had been going around speaking to the district meetings of Democratic Women ever since the fall of 1947. I had been involved, accepted on the state level, but not on the local level. (laughter) So, Mabel came to see me and said that the governor wanted me to run for lieutenant governor and I said, "But I have no money." "Oh, but money will be no problem. You'll get all the money you need, and we'll help you with the organization." And I said, "I'm sorry, I cannot do it. For two reasons. When I enter some program, I want to succeed. I have enough ego to want to win. I have enough common sense and pragmatic approach to this to know that I cannot win. No woman can be elected lieutenant governor in this state for a long time to come, and I don't want to be the first woman defeated." Then I said, "In the second place, I'm vulnerable." She said, "You're not vulnerable, either. You know that the governor wouldn't want you to run for lieutenant governor if you were vulnerable." I said, "I think that any person who has had any strong committment toward desegregation or towards the improvement of the lot of the Negro is vulnerable. And you know quite well that my background will be delved into by the opponents and they will find that I am the wife of a man who was the first director of the Southern Regional Council. I'm the wife of a man who was almost kicked out of the University because of his stand on race."
Had there been a lot of publicity when that happened. Was it in the papers?
Yes, yes. There were banner headlines in Atlanta and this went on for several days. I was in St. Louis making a speech and got this telegram when I was making the speech and I put it in my notebook and forgot about it, because I was so absorbed in what I was saying and then in the discussion that followed and then some man had sent a note up saying," Please have lunch with me afterwards." And this man was from Detroit and I thought that this was an opportunity to find about the Detroit Planning Council and how their Community Chest program works and this is going to be interesting and it was not until finally when our luncheon engagement was over and I thought, "Oh, I'm exhausted, I'll go to the room." And then I remembered my telegram. And here was this letter from Guy saying, "Don't worry, everything will be all right." And that was all. I didn't know what had happened, what was the matter. I tried to reach him by telephone and could not. I thought that something had happened to Edward. Maybe Edward had been run over by an automobile. That was before he had his accident. 1 1 It was almost a year after the accident! I cut my trip short and dashed back to Atlanta. I said, "What has happened?" And it was all in the newspapers. But people have a very short memory. But in a political campaign, they dig it up. You go back and get all the dirt you can on your opponent. Not that I think Luther Hodges would have run that kind of campaign, because I think that he was politically naive and he wouldn't have known it. But then there were other opponents who were long standing conservative politicians who were also running for lieutenant governor. So, that's the only political connections that I've had.