Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Katharine Du Pre Lumpkin, August 4, 1974. Interview G-0034. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Father's lament for the "Lost Cause"

Lumpkin describes how her father remained staunchly devoted to the "Lost Cause" of the Confederacy for the duration of his life. Although Lumpkin became an advocate for racial equality later in life, she was raised to revere Confederate veterans and to lament the loss of the Confederacy in the Civil War. According to Lumpkin, her father was fairly typical of men who had come of age in the South during the Civil War.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Katharine Du Pre Lumpkin, August 4, 1974. Interview G-0034. 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

KATHARINE DU PRE LUMPKIN:
Well, I was born in Macon, Georgia, and Georgia was my native state, as you'll remember. There were seven living children in my family, of which I was the youngest. And I'm not sure what type of detail … my father … I don't know whether you remember this, was trained as a lawyer. Do you remember? This came by reading law, which was a custom in his youth. But he, for a good many years, he was a product of that period when it was very difficult - the period following the Civil War - when it was very difficult for a young man to find a way of life that was anything resembling what they had known as they grew up and from their childhood. So he moved over into a salaried position for a good many years. Actually, I think at the time of his death, he was - which came, my recollection is, around 1910 - he was beginning gradually to work back in to the law, which was his first love. He'd been in politics some, in, I would almost say, a desultory sort of way.
JACQUELYN HALL:
He worked for the railroad?
KATHARINE DU PRE LUMPKIN:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What railroad did he work for?
KATHARINE DU PRE LUMPKIN:
The Georgia Railroad. I had to stop and think, It no longer exists as such, naturally. It was a smallish railroad. And I don't really remember precisely what the nature of his work was. I should remember, because I would have been in my early teens at his death, twelve or thirteen, something like that. But I was never clear in my mind just what type … I'd been up to his office many times. He traveled, I remember that, but …
JACQUELYN HALL:
Your portrait of your father in your book is a very fascinating portrait of that generation of young men who grew up expecting to be master of their entire environment, and found themselves in the kind of position …
KATHARINE DU PRE LUMPKIN:
You mean, if he had … when you say he grew up, you mean master of his …
JACQUELYN HALL:
Of his plantation and his slaves and his …
KATHARINE DU PRE LUMPKIN:
Yes. This was his rearing, of course.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was this very much in retrospect, your sense of your father, or, when you were growing up did you have a feeling of your father being a man who was not at ease in the …
KATHARINE DU PRE LUMPKIN:
In the world in which he had … I would say he was a man torn between the past and the present, perhaps. Never having given up the past. The very emphasis he placed upon the Lost Cause was — which were his terms, not mine. I mean, these were the terms which, in the period of the first decade of the century, people used when they spoke of the by-gone Confederacy, you see, as the Lost Cause. And we were certainly reared, each of us in turn, to revere the veterans of that period and to do everything we could to help them. I mean, well, of course, naturally those who came out of the ranks of the old Confederate Armies were just ordinary people. They were those who had been brought in. And many of them at this period - not the officers, but the veterans who came to reunions were, many of them, old men - they were getting quite old by this time, those who had fought through the war. Of course, my father only fought the last year, as a boy, fifteen maybe. Those who had fought through it were now old men and were disappearing fast. And lots of them were in need. I mean, they were poor, they hadn't much to live on. And they were great … people would visit, trying to do something for them, to help them, you see, to carry on.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, your own family was not very affluent.
KATHARINE DU PRE LUMPKIN:
Well, not … I may have overplayed that some. [Laughter] I don't mean consciously. I don't at all mean consciously. We were certainly not well to do, by any manner of means, because we were living on my father's salary, which wouldn't have been affluent then. But we always lived in the "nice neighborhood." And … we rented, we didn't own, until just before his death, he had purchased this farm where you find me as a young girl, going to school.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kind of effect did your father's disappointment in the historical circumstances he found himself in and in his own career have on his relationship with his family? I've wondered whether, in that kind of situation, a man would tend to turn very much inward and put a lot of the energy and hope that he might have put into his own career into molding his children and his hope for his children?
KATHARINE DU PRE LUMPKIN:
Into molding them, you say?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes.
KATHARINE DU PRE LUMPKIN:
He was a very active person, in the causes he was concerned about. So I don't think your picture is quite correct. He said the usual things that a husband said, in those days, that his wife was the one who … I've forgotten how the phrases ran in his speeches, though heaven knows I've heard them enough, But just remember, I was quite small, and where a sister or brother a few years older than myself would remember all these things of that period very clearly, and what he was like, my memories would be colored by my awe of him. Because he was a strict discipliarian, and you can see this would overcloud what was really there. But he had a phrase which many speakers had in that time, his wife taught the children prayers, he taught them to revere the Lost Cause.