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Title: Oral History Interview with Leslie W. Dunbar, December 18, 1978. Interview G-0075. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Dunbar, Leslie W., interviewee
Interview conducted by Hall, Jacquelyn Bresler, Helen
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 Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2006
Size of electronic edition: 212 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 recording: Oral History Interview with Leslie W. Dunbar, December 18, 1978. Interview G-0075. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0075)
Author: Jacquelyn Hall and Helen Bresler
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Leslie W. Dunbar, December 18, 1978. Interview G-0075. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series G. Southern Women. Southern Oral History Program Collection (G-0075)
Author: Leslie W. Dunbar
Description: 392 Mb
Description: 66 p.
Note: Interview conducted on December 18, 1978, by Jacquelyn Hall and Helen Bresler; recorded in Renick, West Virginia.
Note: Transcribed by Helen Bresler.
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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Interview with Leslie W. Dunbar, December 18, 1978.
Interview G-0075. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Dunbar, Leslie W., interviewee


Interview Participants

    LESLIE W. DUNBAR, interviewee
    PEGGY DUNBAR, interviewee
    JACQUELYN HALL, interviewer
    HELEN BRESLER, interviewer
    BOB HALL, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I'm not a person who has great dramatic things happen to him. I don't think I could ever be converted on a road to any Damascus. So I don't want to give you the wrong impression about this story I'm about to tell you. It meant a lot to me, but I think it also tells a little bit about what Emory was like then, and, more important, about what we all were like in the late forties and early fifties. Mentioning that Political Science Club—that's what we called it, it was a club of political science majors—reminded me of another thing that happened. I suggested to these majors that we have somebody from Atlanta University. They had never thought of that. Bell Wiley has helped me. Bell used to go out to various things at the Atlanta University Center, and he took me with him once or twice. So I'd met a couple people there.

Page 2
I'd run across Bill Boyd. I think all I'd done was shake hands with him. Bill Boyd was Professor of Political Science at Atlanta University. And the Political Science Club authorized me to invite Bill Boyd to a meeting. I think I mentioned this to Lynwood Holland, and I learned that he had never met this man. Nobody in my department had ever met him. This whole episode was a real learning experience for me, because I reflected on that. No one in the Emory Political Science Department had ever met the Professor of Political Science at Atlanta University. Also, they didn't know what his specialty was.
I called him up, and I asked him to come out and talk. He said, "What do you want me to talk about?" That sort of stumped me. I don't know quite how I got through with that, but I got over the idea somehow that he should come out and talk with us about race relations. So he came. He was probably in his late thirties at that time. He was a cold, very reserved fellow. He had a certain stature around the city. Blacks thought of him as a prime intellectual. He died about two years later, of leukemia.
He had this manner about him. He was one of those people who just demanded, by his manner, to be treated like a peer. There was nothing "southern" about him at all. He'd gone to the University of Michigan, and he was a specialist in international relations. As he told me later, he had seen where Ralph Bunch went and was setting his career in the same lines. Colonialism was a special interest. He began talking. There was just this bunch of students and me, one evening, out there at Emory, and I really went through a whole lot of intellectual development that evening. As he began to talk, I knew that I should not have asked

Page 3
him to talk about international relations. All of these students were southern, but he began telling them what it was to be a black man in the South. He began describing what he and his family went through when they drove to Washington—how you had to know where to stop, how you had sometimes to go to the woods, and all that. I sat there, and I heard all this, and I just had never thought of it before. I really hadn't, in those terms. There'd been a big thing in Atlanta, Hopalong Cassidy had come to town. All the kids wanted to go and see Hopalong Cassidy. We'd taken Linda down there. Now he talked about Hopalong Cassidy. He said, "My child came home and wanted to see Hopalong Cassidy. What did I tell her?" An elephant had died in the damn zoo at Grant Park, and all the kids in the schools were taking up collections to buy a new elephant. We sent a dime. He said, "You know, they took up a collection at the zoo in our child's classroom to buy a new elephant. How do we tell our daughter that she can't go see that elephant once it's bought?"
He kept saying all these things, and I kept listening. I'd never really thought in these terms. That was a second revelation I had, but I had another one. It suddenly dawned on me that he hadn't said a single thing that I needed to hear, in the sense that anything that he had said, I could have figured out for myself if I'd ever given it one moment's thought. If I had ever asked myself what a black man has to endure driving his family north, I could have figured out every bit of that scenario. But I'd never done that. He hadn't told me a thing that I needed to be told. I've felt that way ever since, mostly, although black people keep educating me. After very nearly every bit of education

Page 4
I've ever had, I've been able to lean back and tell myself, I didn't need to be told that. You just really should not have to be told.
After all this was over, Bill Boyd and I went back to my office. I'm not usually a very self-divulging person, but I felt that I should be. I said, "I want to apologize to you for asking you out here to talk about race and the South. I should have asked you out to talk about international relations, and I apologize." He was not an out-going fellow, but he sort of nodded. For the rest of the time I was in Atlanta, he was somebody I could talk with. It was really a great shame that he died. He would have been an important figure. That experience meant an awful lot to me.
HELEN BRESLER:
What is the significance of the fact that you could have figured all that out? Do you think it shows how limited people are when they try to think about problems?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I think it shows that the existence of injustice of almost any kind in this world is something that ought to be apparent, even in detail, to a thinking person. A significant cause of the continuation of injustice is the willful blindness we have to it.
You asked me a little while ago, how I became a liberal, and I said that I was intelligent. You said that there were intelligent conservatives. I don't know whether I would altogether agree with that. I might, depending on your definition of conservatism. I think that the blindness that kept me, at that time, from knowing what a father went through driving his children from Atlanta to Washington. . . . I wouldn't have wanted to say it was willful. But it is willful in sort of a larger sense, that we determine upon maximizing our

Page 5
private happiness. All of us do. You erect blinders that work for you. You have to ask yourself how it is that anybody can appeal to your sense of justice, or your sense of conscience. You can ask yourself that question on various levels. If you and I have an argument about what is justice, for instance, and you say that justice is so and so, and I say that justice is such and such, at least underlying the argument is some kind of assumption that we have the same conception of justice. That's the old problem of ethical definitions. In a similar kind of way, when a bunch of people demonstrate in front of a Toddle House, they are saying, "If you had thought about this before, we wouldn't have to be doing this." I think that's what I meant. I suppose somebody plopped down from Mars would need to be told these things, but all of us have taken in the life of our times.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I don't think it's just a matter of intelligence that separates the people who are willing to see and the people who are not.
HELEN BRESLER:
You could logically figure out the injustices of the system by just thinking about them.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But that wouldn't necessarily make you willing to give up your piece of private happiness in order to change things, just because you saw that they were bad.
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
That's right. I suppose there is a difference in people's tolerance of injustice. Some people are willing to live in a comfortable relationship with a level of perceived injustice, whereas to some other people, that level would be intolerable. (omission) You can perceive injustice, but there are finite limits to what anyone can accomplish. I think we are more sinsible abou the finite limits to what we, as individuals, can accomplish than to the finite limits of corporate action, when we're part of a corporation like the American government. We need

Page 6
to take thought about things like that. On the other hand, the kind of injustices that blacks were, and are, talking about feeling in this country were always well within the finite limits of what we can do. They are today. I think the most amazing thing in today's life is the quietness of the young blacks in the cities. I cannot believe that doing something in the way of decency for the young black population of this country exceeds the finite limits of American government today. Certainly doing something to prevent another generation like this.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So the summer you spent with SRC changed you?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
At the end of that summer, it just didn't make any sense to go back to Mount Holyoke. I felt like I was part of this, and I wanted to come back. It just made sense to be here.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Harold Fleming was a very different sort of character than George Mitchell, wasn't he?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Yes, very different. I think, in many ways, Harold was harder to figure out than George Mitchell. All of his instincts are conservative. Yet, here is a guy, who, fresh out of Harvard, with his A.B. degree, came back to his home state of Georgia, in the late nineteen forties, and seeks a job with the Southern Regional Council, and stays at it. How do you explain that kind of a fellow? I have a great liking for Harold. He turned out to be a great asset to SRC. He went up there to New York and raised all that money. He introduced an element of excellence around that place, too. I wince sometimes when I read stuff coming out of SRC now. People get their grammer all messed up. Harold was perfectionist. I'm fairly good at that kind of thing myself. George, Harold, and I had a sort of sense that, in

Page 7
addition to all else, quality ought to come from this place. Some other things that Harold stood for were not the greatest. I used to think that everything Harold did, he did for an audience of one, that audience being Ralph McGill.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why Ralph McGill?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
McGill and Harold were good friends in an older man and younger man way. The fact is, it was McGill who said, "Why don't you go to work over there?" If you took Ralph McGill, and Mayor Hartsfield, and maybe one or two other people, you could say that was Harold's audience. He was always trying to make SRC the sort of organization which they would recognize as good and valuable and strong. That doesn't mean that he was following them all the way, but anything we did had to be seen by them in a good light. Part of that is that Harold imbibed McGill's strong anti-communism. Harold was not a terribly directive fellow. If Fred Routh wanted to go up to Highlander, Harold would say, "I wouldn't do it if I were you," but he didn't stop Fred from going up there.
George Mitchell had been chairman of its board for a while, and when he left and Harold took over there was an abrupt severing of all relationships with Highlander.
A person like Lillian Smith, whom McGill had this vendetta against. . . . McGill was a great man, and did much good for the South, but he also, like the rest of us, had his faults. But we had nothing to do with Lillian Smith as long as Harold was in charge.
Harold can make himself useful in ways that are just amazing. People used to ask me, "What does Harold Fleming do, and what does the Potomac Institute do," and I finally told Harold one day that I was going to

Page 8
begin charging a consultant fee for interpreting that. It gets even harder now to say what they do. Harold is an advisor, and a director, and whatnot. He's now on everybody's board of directors. If somebody needs something done—well, to begin with, the Community Relations Service. He went over the the Department of Commerce, and he set up the Community Relations Service, which LeRoy Collins ran. He set up the Defense Department's first employment discrimination program. He could play that role in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, go in, as a private person, without pay, and do those things. He's continued to do those things. When the National Committee Against Discrimination in Housing was in chaos, and I would have let the thing go under—Ford somehow had got a stake in it, and didn't want to let it go under, so got Harold Fleming to reorganize the thing. He's just extraordinary. He's a very different person, right, from George Mitchell.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do his organizational or administrative skills enable him to do that? He can just see how things should operate?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
And he knows how to get people to do things. People trust Harold. I trust him. He was not a figure like George Mitchell. On the other hand, someone like Ruth Alexander disliked George. In fact, he didn't get along with women. He also was not especially liked by black people. We had a happy office there with Harold, probably happier than when I was there.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why didn't George Mitchell get along with women?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I don't know. Ruth used to tell me he was anti-woman, and didn't believe that women could do anything. Mrs. Tilly was never very happy about George Mitchell either.

Page 9
JACQUELYN HALL:
I know that in the public reports that SRC put out during the early days of Harold Fleming's tenure, that the word "professionalism" started to be used a lot. The idea seemed to be that it was necessary to be both morally right and professional about how things were done. It was a new set of values, really.
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
That's Harold. I always think of Harold Fleming and Jack Greenberg sort of together. You know who Jack Greenberg is? All right, here's a young guy, coming out of Columbia Law School, in the early nineteen fifties or late forties. Why does a guy, at that time, decide to go to work for the NAACP? There was none of the glory that attached to that in the sixties. Jack Greenberg did it, and he's done it ever since. His predecessor on that job sits on the Supreme Court, and two of his ex-subordinates are judges, and he'll never even make a judgeship. He continues to do it with the one thing that has distinguished the Legal Defense Fund's work, especially under Greenberg—quality. Jack Greenberg cannot stand to lose a case, which has something to do with why they won't take some cases. They don't want to lose them. Absolute quality comes out of there. The stamina of a Greenberg or of a Fleming, of just continuing at this stuff after all the glory and glamour is gone. . . . They did it in the tough days. They did it when things were much tougher than at a later time, in the forties and fifties.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Harold Fleming didn't like to see a word like "nigger" in print. Even if we were quoting Roy Harris or some racist, he would be very reluctant to let the quote read "nigger." Usually we didn't. He had a fastidiousness about this kind of thing. He had, of course, his own moment of change during the war. Harold commanded a platoon of black soldiers.

Page 10
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was your job in the SRC (Southern Regional Council)?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I went there as Research Director. We started putting out good pamphlets, good special reports. [Laughter] Harold (Fleming) left in early 1961, and I became director in March, 1961.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When had Harold taken over as director?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Nineteen fifty-seven.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you at SRC during the Little Rock crisis?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Not during the first one. The Little Rock crisis went on for several years. I was there during the rest of the school crises.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was the relationship between SRC and things that were going on in Arkansas?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Well, why do you want to talk about Arkansas? Could we talk about one of the other states? I was not there in 1957, but just generally after that, the relationship was. . . . The Human Relations Council out there was headed by Nat Griswold, who was not one of the most energetic people, though he was a good man. It was active, more or less, in Arkansas problems. We also had, especially while Harold was there. . . . Harold was a close friend of Harry Ashmore. Many of Harold's friends were newspaper guys. He was an absolute genius for working with newspaper men. That really began SRC's role, which I was able to carry on somewhat. But I just inherited it from Harold, being a source for the newspapers.

Page 11
Harold and Ashmore were close personally in many other ways, and still are. Ashmore has now got Harold on the board of Center for Democratic Institutions, one of the ninety-nine boards which Harold serves.
We had a relationship with that women's group that emerged out there to keep the schools open. We used to have a little tension in my years there, because we felt, over in Atlanta, that we should work with groups other than, and as well as, the Councils on Human Relations, and sometimes they didn't think we should. We had a direct relationship with the "Save our Schools" groups, which emerged around the South, including that one in Little Rock, which was as good as any of the bunch.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you know Harry Ashmore?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Yes, but I've never known Harry well.
JACQUELYN HALL:
The reason that I was asking specifically about Arkansas is that a former student and a friend of mine is writing about the civil rights movement in Little Rock. She knew I had been doing some work on the Southern Regional Council, and she had asked me how involved SRC was in events in Little Rock. I know that there was an effort after 1959 to influence the response that communities made to school desegregation, by saying, "We must prevent another Little Rock." It became a kind of rallying cry.
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Any little scrap of evidence we could put our hands on that Little Rock was suffering economically, we would use that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How much success did you have in influencing business leaders? I know that was always a hope in that time.
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Yes, it was a kind of pathetic hope, I think, and remains one. I developed a very strong allergy, which I haven't yet gotten over, as a matter of fact, to that whole kitsch. The phrase used to be, "reach the

Page 12
power structure."
Your friend, who wants to study the Little Rock situation, could well broaden the study of the whole role of women in that school problem around the South.
I'm always a little irritated when Andy Young says, as he does about once a month, that the businessman took the leadership in the South and changed things. He even made a speech about a year ago in which he said, "Long before the Supreme Court ever handed down its decision in 1954, businessmen in the South were quietly doing this and that and the other thing." This is part of his calculated attempt to persuade South African people to do something, I think. . . .
BOB HALL:
American Corporations to do something.
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Yes. But it irritates me, and annoys me, and is a perversion of everything. The record around the South, on the school question, over and over again, is that businessmen never did a damn thing until the situation had gotten to the point where dissent was allowable. That job of making dissent allowable was a job done over and over and over again by citizens' groups, which were predominantly women. That was the case at Little Rock, although I can't remember the name of the group right now.
JACQUELYN HALL:
We have an interview with Mrs. Vivian Brewer. . . .
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
She was great! She was a leader. . . . There was an even older woman than she, Mrs David Terry, and then under them was a whole cadre of others. And this happened all over the South. Somebody like Patt Darian cut her teeth in this work. The first time I ever met Patt Darian was when she was one of a bunch of women in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1964. And Winifred Green was one of that Mississippi group.

Page 13
JACQUELYN HALL:
Where in Mississippi was Winifred Green?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Well, I associated her with Jackson. I don't know whether that was where her home was. She was married at that time, I guess Green was her married name.
There was a woman named Florence Robins, who's now, I think, the director of the Washington, D.C. A.C.L.U. Florence used to live in Atlanta. She's got a different name now because she's got a different husband. Her first husband died. Florence used to live in Atlanta, and she was sort of an ascerbic girl from New York. Her husband had a job in Atlanta. Florence was active in things, and wrote a piece about Atlanta for Harper's or Atlantic, in which she was trying to describe these women of Atlanta. I always remember one line that she used. She said every meeting they have, they sit around and they talk about how to reach the power structure, and after a while you realize they're married to it.[Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
Are there other women's groups that were important in the different states that I might not know about?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I think always in the context of the school scrap, but the group in Atlanta. . . . What was it first, Peggy?
PEGGY DUNBAR:
Save Our Schools, was it?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
No. It ended up being Oasis, but before that it was called something else. In Norfolk, you had the Norfolk Women's Committee for Equal something. And you had the group in Mississippi. Those groups in New Orleans were primarily women.
JACQUELYN HALL:
These were two groups working for the same thing that didn't have anything to do with each other, and Paul Rilling was mediating between

Page 14
them. What were the differences between them?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
None that I knew of. They just felt like they were out of different social classes or something. I could never see any difference at all between them. They insisted on putting out their own literature, and holding their own meetings, making their own statements.
There was a group in Mobile—do you know Jim Woods? Well, Jim Woods wife was a leader in things down there in Mobile. Jim lost his job as a result of it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did the husbands of these women do? Were the women in these various groups mostly well-to-do women? Do you have any sense of what their social class was?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I think most of them were well-to-do, middle class or upper middle class. Certainly, most of the Atlanta women were. Yes, most of them were.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why were they more outspoken than their husbands?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Well, you can answer that. [Laughter] I don't know that many husbands got punished, but some did. I think probably there was a tolerance around the South for. . . . You know, women weren't considered always responsible. A man couldn't be blamed altogether for what his crazy wife did.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Your feeling is not so much that there was a real difference of opinion within families, between husbands and wives, but more that women were not as subject to economic reprisals?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I think so. Certainly, there was some reprisal that went on. Poor Jim Woods got shoved out of Mobile. I remember a fellow who had been a student of mine at Emory, a guy named Emory Daniel. He'd gone on to

Page 15
law school, and he was on the prosecuting attorney's staff of the Stone Mountain Judicial District, which used to include DeKalb County, and Gwinnett, I think. I've forgotten. That's what it was called. His wife took part in. . . . I can't even remember what she took part in. These were good Sunday school people, and she took part in something that said something about civil rights. Anyway, he got fired, quickly. He was called in by the prosecuting attorney and the judge, and they said, "Is that your wife?" And he said, "Yes." "What are you going to do about it?" And he said, "Nothing." So they dismissed him. I actually made up a little work for Emory down at the SRC while he was looking around for a job, which I don't think he ever later put on a resume. He got a job then with one of the Atlanta law firms, and probably did better, and he's probably a good conservative man of the town now.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was Mrs. Tilly around during this time?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Mrs. Tilly was there all the time I was.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Tell me about Mrs. Tilly.
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Well, what do you want to know? [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did you think about her? Did you get along with her?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Oh, I did, yes. How could one not get along with Mrs. Tilly? Mrs. Tilly was a presence. I didn't always know what she was going to do. She was a member of the staff of the SRC only because we were going the same place she was going. It was a different relationship than I had with any other staff person, I'll put it that way.
I remember the first time I ever met Joe Rawl. I was in Washington for some reason, and I'd gone to dinner out at, in fact, I may have been spending the night—do you know Daniel Pollitt?—well, Dan used to spend

Page 16
his summers in Washington and I was at his home. He had a group of people in, one of whom was Joe Rauh, who was, of course, his mentor and partner. I'd never met Rauh before. It happened that there was an ADA convention at that time. Well, Mrs. Tilly was a big ADAer, in addition to other things. Joe was regaling this whole assemblage about this little old woman from Georgia, and the things she would say, and I've known her for a long time, and you just wouldn't believe it, and so forth. And I think at that time Mrs. Tilly was on crutches or wheel chari—she was always breaking bones, she broke so many bones that after a while you really didn't get alarmed; someone would come over and say, "Mrs. Tilly broke another leg."—at any rate, Joe finally turned to me. He said, "You ever meet her?" [Laughter] I said, "Yes, in a crazy kind of way she's supposed to work for me." [Laughter] He said, "You mean she's at the Southern Regional Council?" And I said, "Yes." "I never knew that!" [Laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
She really operated as an independent agent?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Oh yes, she just took on various identifications as she went along. Mrs. Tilly's primary identification was as a Methodist woman. That was central, and other things were. . . . But she had a great feeling about SRC, so that's really not altogether true. I always remember Mrs. Tilly coming in and speaking to me after the announcement was made that Harold was leaving and I was taking his job. She said this was going to be fine. We are going to miss Harold so much, he'd done this and he'd done that, and she didn't know how anybody else could do it, and so forth. And then she said, "But you, Leslie, you have got a spiritual aroma about you." [Laughter] Mrs. Tilly was capable of malaprops like that. [Laughter]

Page 17
She had her fellowship of the Concerned. They would come once a year, and I enjoyed meeting those ladies. Through her Fellowship of the Concerned, for instance, I got to know people like Virginia Durr, who was a faithful member of the Fellowship, and would always come.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How much connection was there between Mrs. Tilly's activities in the Fellowship of the Concerned and these Save Our Schools women's groups around the region?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Very little.
JACQUELYN HALL:
They were two separate things?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
It was almost impossible to get Mrs. Tilly to articulate into something else. She was going her way. I never saw Mrs. Tilly have any problems with anybody. Of course there were in the past—Mrs. Ames. I don't think she ever went out to try to help any other group.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did she see her function as inspiring her own group of women that would gather together?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Yes, and teaching, doing that. And actually, they did things, in their quiet way. She could call up people, and people would do things. Something in the old Women Against Lynching pattern. I would not be able to say that during the 1960's, Mrs. Tilly played a strong role in things that were going on at that time. But I think she meant an awful lot to a lot of people. She meant a lot to a band of women, in particular, who were not her age, but sho were well along in middle age. And she was also a presence within the church, within the Methodist Church. She was a factor they had to deal with. She had her various interests. The United Nations was another interest. The fact that she had this commitment to the United Nations was something that, in a way,

Page 18
the Methodist Church in Georgia had to take account of, because she was a presence. She belonged, herself, to a no-good church. I forget the name of it. It was on Rock Creek or near. She wore that particular church as a sort of badge of suffering. She thought it was a piece of shame that she belonged to that instead of one of the better Methodist Churches.
JACQUELYN HALL:
By "better," do you mean more liberal?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Yes, a little more liberal. Like Glen Memorial would have been more liberal.
One year—and she had worked for this for so long—she got her church to agree to sponsor the annual American Association of the United Nations meeting in Georgia. This was a great triumph, and Mrs. Tilly lived for triumphs like that. It also involved me in what I always think back on as one of the most poignant evenings I've ever spent. She got as speaker Dr. Frank Graham. Well, that was another triumph. The triumph was not getting Dr. Frank Graham, the triumph was that her church would have Dr. Graham. Because, you know, years ago, they wouldn't have had him there. So, he came down. I met Dr. Frank, and took him to his hotel, and sat around and talked a bit. He said, "Well now, who's going to be there?" I said, "I don't really know that Dr. Frank. It's Mrs. Tilly's meeting." "Well, I'm sure my old friend, Benny Mays, will be there." I said, "I don't think he's going to be there." He said, "Oh, I know that any meeting of Mrs. Tilly's, Dr. Mays is there." I said, "I don't think so." He said, "He must be invited." And I communicated this to Mrs. Tilly, and she said, "Oh Leslie, we have to cross one bridge at a time." I spent the next several hours mediating between these two

Page 19
extraordinary people, both of whom I venerated. Of course, Mrs. Tilly won: there were no blacks there. Dr. Frank was out of the say so. It was her talk, you know. It was really one of the most poignant evenings I've ever had.
HELEN BRESLER:
When you assumed the position of Executive Director, what was your view of the Council and its role in the South? How did you contribute to it? For example, the whole thing of the use of the press, and the role of the Council as interpreting events to the press, and how important that was to the Council's role as an agent supporting change. How self-conscious was the staff of that role?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you get that question? Do you think of yourself as having been taught by Harold Fleming, or as following in his footsteps, or did you have a different sense of what the role of the Council should be than he did?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I think I came to have a different one. I've never been terribly good in anything I've done at conceiving strategies and staying with them. I think I felt in 1958, '59, and '60, that the work of the SRC was to be a leading part of a great mind changing going on in the South. I think that pretty well accorded with Harold's view. I think the kind of publications I started putting out in 1959 and 1960 represented the best I could think of at the time, of the sorts of things we could do along that way. I think, at the time I took over, in 1961, that was still my view. We were primarily aimed at the white South. We were working within a context of a great historic mind-changing. Our role was to be something of a guide to it. So far as I might have ever formalized anything, that would have been it, I think.

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The victory of John Kennedy in 1960 seemd to open up new opportunities. It's been forgotten pretty much, I think, that the sit-in movement, which began while Eisenhower still had a year to run in office, proceeded all during 1960 with almost no encouragement of any kind from Washington. It was about as close as anything I know of, in past or present, to being an all southern movement, and it did win some very notable victories. In a sense, it was all southerners dealing with themselves. I was impressed by that. We all went into 1960 feeling very grim about things. The sit-in movement was a great spirit-lifter. It had profound effects, of course. Among them was that it changed the mood in the South from a sort of dreary pessimism—grimness. . . .
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Things had been very hard and very tough, but spirits were lifted. And then Kennedy brought in a lot of new people, and people suddenly began coming down and talking to you. There was a whole elan that developed there.
At the annual meeting in November, 1960, a number of the Kennedy people came down. I think, a year before that, Harold had managed to bring the Field Foundation down to Atlanta for a board meeting. Stevenson, who was then President of the Field Foundation, came. That was a kind of invigorating thing to a lot of people at SRC. It was these good people from the North coming down to cheer you on. By 1960, it was different. Harris Wofford and a few others came through Atlanta, and you suddenly felt that you were on the same side as the people running the country.

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Not only we at SRC felt that way, of course, but much more important, those kids out in SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) and people down at SCLS (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) and others felt that way.
Sometime near the date of Kennedy's election, Harold got a little extra money from the Rockefeller Brothers. We put together this project, which eventuated in a publication you may have seen around, called The Federal Executive and Civil Rights. It was a very heady thing for me, because I did that. Harold got the money, and he said we'd do this thing, and he asked me to do it. The process of putting that together was, to me, almost more important than the result. I got Dan Pollitt to do a first paper, and then I recruited twenty or thirty people to review Pollitt's paper. Then we had a meeting up in Washington, where I got about a dozen people to come. We all sat around for a whole day at the Hotel Willard, talking about it. That meeting was attended by several people who were, by that time, in the Kennedy Administration. There was Harris Wofford, and Adam Yarmalinsky, and Berl Bernhard, who was a likable fellow. I can't remember whether Burke was there or not. Anyway, we began to feel like we were part of that thing going on up there. And Harold left to set up at the Potomac Institute, his main function was to be a sort of private outpost for the government, which is the way it was until Kennedy was assassinated.
HELEN BRESLER:
Was he encouraged to do that by key members?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Well, I don't know. It was Stephen Currier's idea, but Currier was always talking so closely with people like Burke Marshall and others that, who knows? This is parenthetical, but the main

Page 22
advantage of the Potomac Institute. . . . Whenever I'd go to Washington, I'd end up in the evening at the Potomac, and around five o'clock the liquor would start flowing. Everybody would come in there. You'd see everybody, Burke Marshall, Seigenthaler, Harris Wofford, all dropped by for a drink. All kinds of associating would go on. I told Harold his chief function was dispensing liquor.
I think, by the time I took the directorship, I was not only thinking of SRC as playing a part in the mind-changing in the South. I was seeing it also as being part of this thing coming out of Washington, and as being supportive of the leadership coming from there. I changed my mind about that at Albany, when I got into conflict with the Department of Justice. It was my emancipation from the view that we could play a role supportive of. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did other things happen along the way before Albany that began to change your mind, or was it a very sudden change?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Well, Albany was not sudden. Albany went on. I can remember once saying to Burke Marshall over the phone that he must stop trying to play a mediating role, or at least to stop asking me to be part of it. I didn't say it quite that tactlessly. Thenceforward, Burke stopped talking to me, that is, he stopped talking to me about Albany. And I think that was my emancipation from the role of being part of the government.
HELEN BRESLER:
Can you give an example of how you did succeed, and then how the Albany thing did not?

Page 23
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
It's become fashionable, in the way things unfortunately become fashionable in our so-called intellectual circles, to say Albany was a failure. Well, it may have been. But Albany was a failure, I think, objectively, of the Department of Justice. They were new to the job—we were all new, in a way, then. The Department, through Burke Marshall and others, refused to exercise any kind of an official role, and tried to be informal mediators. What I told Burke that day was to stop trying to be a private person. Again, I won't claim that those were my words, but that's what I was saying. "Stop trying to be a private person. You're the Assistant Attorney General of the United States. Go down there and act like an official." And they did not do that. Their intention was to mediate, to settle it, to get everybody. . . . And it did not work. People ended up in terrible frustration in Albany. It had as much to do as anything with the souring of some of the younger SNCC people. It had a good bit to do with embittering relationships between SNCC and SCLC. Everybody came out of Albany feeling frustrated as hell, mad as hell, bitter as hell. I think the Department of Justice has a fair share of that blame.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was Burke Marshall the main representative of the Department of Justice who was on the scene at Albany? Was Harris Wofford also there?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Harris got shunted aside very quickly. He had played a role in the campaign. He'd been Kennedy's so-called Civil Rights Advisor. I don't think he ever fit in with those people. I think he wanted to have the job that Marshall got. Harris just isn't tough and all that. Anyway, he ended up being the White House Advisor on Civil Rights. But he didn't really have any. . . . The White House Advisor on Civil Rights was Robert Kennedy. Robert Kennedy's advisor was Burke Marshall. Harris was sitting

Page 24
in that position, but he had nothing much to do, really. I think he went off, with some relief, to the Peace Corps. They sent him over to Africa. As long as John Kennedy was President, the civil rights thrust of the Kennedy Administration came through the Justice Department, under his brother, Burke, and John Doar, and John Seigenthaler.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were John Doar and John Seigenthaler in Albany?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I just don't know. I can't remember whether they were down there. Seigenthaler was a troubleshooter. He was not a lawyer, of course. He was Kennedy's aide, and just did various things, including getting his head bashed in badly in the freedom rides. I admire Seigenthaler. I like him. I suspect he was sort of a hawkish fellow, but he's a man of integrity.
I went down a year and a half ago to Atlanta for that Easter march about prisons. I was startled when I looked around the line marching, and there's John. How many other newspaper publishers just went off on their own to march against prisons in Atlanta? He's that way.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was Burke Marshall in direct contact with SNCC and SCLC leaders that were in Albany? Did he know what was going on there?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Well, Burke is an extraordinarily intelligent guy, so I assume Burke knows what's going on wherever he is. The one thing that the Kennedy Administration meant to the civil rights people was a chain of communication. Yes, Burke talked to them. He knew them all.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Then Burke Marshall was their communication to the White House?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Oh yes. Or John Doar. John was a holdover. John was in the Civil Rights Division under Eisenhower—he was a Republican—and he was there when Robert Kennedy came in. He stayed. He's so much a kennedy. It's hard to imagine anybody more in the Kennedy pattern than John.

Page 25
I never met Robert Kennedy more than three times. Did you ever hear about that little off-the-record lunch that we had? I think this sort of symbolizes a lot that was happening then, too. It suggests some of the naivete, and the stupidity, and the ignorance, and everything else that was going on. Early in 1961, Robert Kennedy asked Ralph McGill, or maybe McGill suggested it to Kennedy, I think that's the way it happened. At any rate, the idea was that McGill was to bring a few southerners up to the Department to give a seminar for Robert Kennedy and some of his leaders. So, McGill recruited a bunch of us. I think he pretty much turned the recruiting over to Harold, who by this time, was already in Washington. So, we went to Washington to have lunch with the Attorney General. I can't remember everyone who went. The only black I can remember being there was John Wheeler. I think Will Campbell was there, and Johnny Popham was there. I think Claude Sitton was there too. There were probably about ten-fifteen of us. We all assembled in the Attorney General's anteroom at the appointed time, and then were led through the Attorney General's office. It's huge, like an auditorium. He wasn't at his desk, but we were led by that, and behind his office was the Attorney General's private dining room. That's where we were all taken and seated. Kennedy made his appearance, and walked around and shook hands with everybody. My first realization was that he had a very limp handshake. That's something I guess a lot of politicians develop, because they don't like to get beat up. The small features of that lunch stay in my mind more clearly than the big ones. I don't know whether we were given seats, or whether we just sat down, but I ended up sitting next to John Doar, whom I'd never met before. There was Kennedy and Doar and Marshall, and

Page 26
there must have been a couple others, maybe Goodman and maybe Seigenthaler. The other thing I remember is that we were all brought in some chicken dish, except Kennedy, who had corn chowder and the other Department of Justice people had corn chowder, except John Doar, who had the chicken. So right then, I began to think pretty well of John Doar. He was the only guy there who wouldn't follow the leader. This is the way that meeting went. Kennedy, at some point, turned to McGill, and said, "All right, Mr. McGill, it's your meeting." And McGill made some statement, and then we went around the table, and each of us in turn said something. I seemed to be about midway around, and I didn't want to repeat things that other people had said. As each person said something, I eliminated that from my mind. I ended up making a little statement about the Citizens' Council. During all of this, Kennedy just sat and looked in the most non-expressive, but non-approving, kind of way. He seemed still pretty suspicious of all of us. We'd all been adjured that we were not to discuss this meeting with anybody. Finally, the circle was completed, and it got around to whomever was last man, and Kennedy said, "Thank you, gentlemen," and he got up and left. And that was it. The rest of us stayed there, minus him. We talked for a while. That was the state of the Kenedy Administration's top level approach at that time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Had you written "Federal Executive and Civil Rights" before that?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Oh yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So that had been circulated in the Kennedy Administration?

Page 27
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
That had been circulated. That was a big hit up there. They consumed that. We had to reprint a couple of times.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did they respond so positively to that? What was the impact of that report?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Because it told them to do what they wanted to do anyhow. It didn't tell them not to seek legislation, but it told them that these are things you can do without legislation, and that's what they wanted to do. They were not going to take on Congressional battles, but the White House was prepared to make a number of significant executive moves. There were some things they were not prepared to do. You know, the big agitation in 1961 and 1962 became housing. And the slogan became, "The President could do this with a stroke of the pen." That phrase, "stroke of the pen," became a slogan. There were things they were not prepared to do, and housing was one of them. But there were a lot of things they were prepared to do. Our little book itemized these things for them—"things that are available to you with your powers." I know it had a lot of influence, because they did a lot of those things. We put out one the next year, in 1963, which chronicled how much of that had been done. It was pretty impressive.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you talking to anyone in the Administration as you were writing "Federal Executive and Civil Rights?"
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Well, we got it out before they got into office. No. Except at that meeting that I told you about at the Hotel Willard, where we had about a dozen people go over the thing. There were a couple of them there. No, I think I was very independent in writing the thing. There was also a sense that they wanted all of this, "Tell us what to do, and we'll do it,"

Page 28
that kind of thing.
I think after Albany, though, I continued to see SRC as playing this mind-changing role. And I continued to see SRC as playing a role supportive of other people's leadership, but the other people were no longer the Administration, the other people were the blacks. I think that, fairly consistently after Albany, anything we did at SRC was predicated on the conviction that the leadership here was black, and that our role was to be supportive of their leadership, but somewhat independent of it, in the sense that we could be critical, and also in the sense that we could sometimes help avoid mistakes. I don't know whether we did that or not, but we tried. From the time we set up the Voter Education Project, it seemed very clear to me that the Southern Regional Council's main role, during the tough days of the early sixties, was to help the black organizations, specifically through VEP, but in other ways too. I remember making my report at the annual meeting, maybe in 1961, and saying—we'd just set up the Voter Education Project—and I said, "This has to be a case where the tail does wag the dog." I meant that, too. I don't think we ever did anything after that that I could see would have an adverse influence on VEP.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What's your sense of why the Justice Department acted as it did in Albany? Why wouldn't they be more aggressive, and use the powers that they had?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I think there were a lot of reasons for that. To begin with, John and Robert Kennedy had a very cautious. . . . At that time, I don't think they had any personal commitment to civil rights. I'm not sure that John Kennedy ever acquired one. He may have. I think that Robert Kennedy probably did. They did not in 1961 and '62. They also had an exaggerated

Page 29
estimation about the reservoirs of responsibility or good will among white southerners. Keep in mind that Griffin Bell was John Kennedy's campaign manager in Georgia in 1960. The closest friend of the Kennedys in Georgia, and maybe in the whole South, was Bobby Troutman, in Atlanta. I had a peculiar relationship with that scoundrel. Bobby Troutman was a friend of the Kennedy family's. Keep in mind too, that John Kennedy had a personal friendship with Senator George Smathers, one of the rascals of American politics. He and John Kennedy were personally close. Thirdly, I think, Kennedy, coming out of the Senate, had a strong sense about the potency of these people who ran the Congress of the United States. He had these notions of what you had to do to get along with them. He came into office on a platform of narrowing the missile gap, and doing more about Castro, and going wherever freedom calls us, and other such things as that. Those were the main things in his mind, and the getting along relationships with southern congressmen meant a lot to him, as I guess they have to mean to any President.
As a result, he'd appoint these terrible people to the bench, Robert Elliot, right out of southwest Georgia, being one of them, for instance. They did not want to do anything to antagonize that crowd.
You know, if you take Burke Marshall and put him down in any situation, Burke is going to try to talk the thing out, to reason it out. That's his nature. He wrote a little book—gave some lectures at Columbia University Law School around '63 or '64—called federalism and something. Burke Marshall was one of the last state's righters around. He really was, at that time. He believed that. He didn't believe

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in federal power intruding. I'm not sure that Robert Kennedy was sophisticated enough to have beliefs like that. Everything in the nature of all of them impelled them to communication. They loved to talk.
HELEN BRESLER:
Did you know James Grey?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I never knew him, but he was the editor of that terrible newspaper down in Albany.
HELEN BRESLER:
He's now the major. Do you know what role he had?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Well, I would assume he had none particularly, with them, because he was a Republican. He was a vicious guy.
There was one of those old-line Georgia politicians down there—Ed Peters maybe—who they were close to, and whom they did stay in a lot of communication with.
Albany was a bad one all around, except for people writing about it. You still get a lot of writing about it.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
JACQUELYN HALL:
I know something about how VEP came to be set up, and why it happened that the Southern Regional Council became the conduit for the money to VEP. I've read some of your letters to your executive committee

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after you came back from the meeting in 1961, where it was suggested that SRC should be the conduit for the money. It sounds like that just suddenly happened in that meeting. Is that true?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I'm going to take strong exception to that word "conduit." In Climbing Jacob's Ladder, Pat Watters' and Reese Cleghorn's book, the section in there about the origins of VEP are historically accurate, to the best of my knowledge, they having been written under my direction. Also, there's a little pamphlet that we put out at SRC once. It's about the movement. There's one little section in it about the Voter Education Project, and I wrote that, and it's accurate I think.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So this is on the record?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
There was always a feeling that something had to be hidden here, and I don't think I ever did anything to encourage that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
A feeling from whom?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Well, various people who wanted to be suspicious about how the thing began.
I first heard about the idea from Harold. He asked me to come up to Washington, and I did. I met with Burke Marshall and Stephen Currier, and they had had prior meetings, but this is where I came in. I don't think there's any doubt about the fact that the idea for concentration on voter registration began with the Department of Justice. Whether it began with Robert Kennedy or with Burke Marshall is immaterial. They were identical twins in these things. They talked to Currier. Marshall was very close to Currier, and so was Wofford, and so was Berl Bernhard. Berl Bernhard was the Executive Director of the Commission on Civil Rights. Currier had established a close relationship with all these fellows, and

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they with him. He had the money. It was a great sorrow that Stephen and Audrey went down in that airplane in 1967. They were not like the Ferrys by a million light years, but they played a role equally important, and they had a whole lot more money.
I came in at that point. The idea was very startling when it was broached to me. I don't remember exactly what went on in sequence after that, but we did have a couple more discussions. I will tell you that in every single discussion in these early weeks and months there was an understanding that there would be much more money made available than was, and that the Kennedys would see that money was provided, in addition to Currier. It was never said clearly that the money would be from the Kennedy Foundation, but that the Kennedys would take some responsibility for shoveling some money in, which they never did.
One meeting led to another. Everything moved pretty fast. By the end of the summer we had this thing pretty well organized, and we hadn't begun talking about it until April or May. We had a couple of meetings in New York, and you apparently read a report that I wrote after one of them.
John Wheeler was of enormous help to me in that I was a new boy, and I'd never met most of these people, and certainly they'd never had to deal with me. Roy Wilkins and Whitney Young were the only ones I knew. I knew Whitney before he left Atlanta. But they'd never had to deal with me, and it just made life bearable that John Wheeler sat beside me. I don't know whether people realized it, but John had a lot of stature with the civil rights leadership at that time in New York.
Anyway, we put it together. I think I may have made my own contribution to VEP by insisting on a couple of things. One is that we would

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not be a conduit.
JACQUELYN HALL:
That the decisions would not come from the Taconic Foundation.
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Secondly, I insisted at the very beginning, that VEP money would go to the five main groups but we would also reserve our right to distribute money to other groups. That was not what Wilkins, King, Young, et. al., had in mind. They resisted that very strongly. They had in mind that VEP would get a chunk of money, and we would then meet and decide how we could divide it up among them, and that was it. We didn't do that. They got their largest share in the first distribution, and from then on, their share began to decline, until, by the time Vernon Jordan took over, they were getting hardly anything.
JACQUELYN HALL:
SCLC?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Well, the big five. The money was going to local groups.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kinds of groups did the money go to?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
There were all kinds of little groups, all around the South, who would do voter registration. In Durham, for instance, you had your Durham Negro Voters' League. It didn't make any sense to give money to the SCLC, for example, to organize voter registration in Durham.
In administering the voter project, we had our biggest trouble with SCLC. They weren't any good at voter registration. They wanted money for their own uses, and we had a couple of tense times with them.
HELEN BRESLER:
With whom?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Well, there was Wyatt Tee Walker, and others. I remember once that Martin asked us to have lunch, and Wiley and I went over to one of those Negro restaurants, Frazer's I think, and had lunch with him, and Wyatt, and Abernathy. Abernathy was pretty unhappy with us.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Because you wouldn't give them as much money as they wanted?

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LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
That's right. Martin was much more understanding. During the early organizing days, Martin had said he wanted to meet me. He didn't really know me, and he wanted to talk to me. We couldn't work it out at any other time, so I went into the office one Saturday and he came. He and I sat in the office, and he got to know me [Laughter], at least enough to agree that the Southern Regional Council should do this thing.
HELEN BRESLER:
He had made the motion?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
He had told somebody, like Currier or Marshall, that he didn't know Leslie Dunbar well enough to know whether he wanted to do all this. So, I think I was told that, so I called him up and said, "Let's talk."
JACQUELYN HALL:
I have in my notes that this meeting was on August 23, 1961, and that Martin Luther King was the first one to say let's let the Southern Regional Council. . . .
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Yes, I think he did. This is what we were all building up to—a sort of a formal motion—and he made it. At that meeting Whitney Young began acting up, and saying all kinds of things.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Also, very perceptively, you said at the time, that "Although the NAACP is being sticky about this thing right now, I feel sure that they're not going to be our main problem down the road."
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Whitney had realized that he didn't have much to offer. The Urban League had virtually nothing going in the South at that time. They had a local league in Atlanta, which was quasi-independent of the national. They had one in Little Rock, and one in New Orleans, and there wasn't much more than that. Whitney had realized that he didn't have much to offer, and that he wasn't going to get much out of this. So he got to be pretty sticky in that meeting.

Page 35
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was he wanting?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
He wanted money. Everybody wanted money.
JACQUELYN HALL:
The NAACP was complaining not that they didn't have much to offer, but that they historically had been in the forefront of voter registration efforts, and they didn't want it to seem that they were on a basis of equality with these newcomers in the movement. How did you deal with that?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
It was never dealt with in total peace and harmony.
One of the other contributions I made was to decide on, and recruit Wiley Branton to run the thing. Wiley was a lawyer from Arkansas, and a good NAACP type. He'd handled the Little Rock case with Thurgood Marshall. Wiley is tough, and has a healthy ego, and wasn't really deferential to anybody, especially the NAACP. He was able to make decisions and be pretty tough about them. So I didn't have to deal with them so much. He did it. Wiley's just become Dean of the Howard Law School.
NAACP was a problem all the way. They had a man named Brooks, who was based in Richmond. He was in charge of their voter registrtion work all over the South. He wasn't worth a darn. Under Brooks was a man named Patton. Patton was from Alabama, and was based in Birmingham. Mr. Patton was field director of voter registration. Some of Wiley's tactics were to get money directly to Patton and away from Mr. Brooks. Mr. Patton's main interests were: (a) in getting some people registered, and (b) in protecting the NAACP's eminence, and sometimes the priorities were switched around. He, at least, was a worker.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When I asked the question about how the decision was made to make SRC a conduit, I wasn't really thinking of SRC as just a funnel for money that was controlled somewhere else. But given all the conflicts and rivalries

Page 36
among all those organizations, it struck me as being significant and rather amazing that, at that time, there was enough trust among those groups in any other organization that they would let SRC be in control of that money.
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I think the answer to that is that this was the only way that they were going to get anything. The other part of the answer is that we were the only group that they would have trusted enough to do this. We were the only possibility.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Well, certainly, the SCLC was not going to the NAACP, and vice versa, and there was no other group. I just don't think that occurred to anybody. It was Stephen Currier's thought that we should do it. He felt close to SRC, and he had come to be very close to Harold, and he liked me. We had a trusting relationship. He was an odd sort of fellow, but a good man. I think Stephen said, "If you want my money, it's got to be something like this."
HELEN BRESLER:
Was that just because it's too hard to divide money five ways?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Yes, and also, we were tax exempt, and none of them were. We had to get a special ruling from the Treasury, you see. The ruling said that we, a tax exempt organization, could receive this and distribute it to non-tax exempt organizations for this specific purpose. Bill DeWynn handled that with the Treasury.
There was this son of a bitch, this guy who was working for the CIA, Mitchell Rogovin. I'm sure you know him. He was the CIA's guy within the Internal Revenue Service, and then represented the CIA before the Church Committee. He had become a big liberal lawyer in Washington, doing all the

Page 37
legal work for people like the Institute for Policy Studies, and Highlander. He was over at the Internal Revenue Service, and DeWind and I went over to see him about the tax exemption for this new project. That was the only time I ever worked with him.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about Jack Anderson's accusation that SRC was given CIA money?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
It's just not so. I never really think one should need to counter that kind of stuff. The Department of Justice did originally get Currier interested in the thing. The three foundations which supported VEP were Taconic, which was Currier's, Field, and Stern. They were the three basic supports. Currier brought in Field. Harris Wofford made his contribution by persuading Sterns. I think Harris had a personal relationship with Sterns. Later on, we got a little money from the Rockefeller Brothers, who gave us no money at all until Winthrop Rockefeller wanted to run for governor in Arkansas. They asked if I'd take some money for a campaign in Arkansas, and I said, "No, we don't take any earmarked money." Then they said, "If you had more money, probably then Arkansas would get a little larger share of your larger pot." And I said, "Well, that's probably right." I already had all I could do to keep Wiley Branton from dumping everything into Arkansas. So that's when we got some Rockefeller Brothers money. We lost money from the Democratic National Committee because Wiley and I were uncooperative.
At the Democratic National Convention in 1964, the party sold advertising in their brochure. Big corporations gave a lot of money for space in the brochure. This was apparently illegal on some grounds. They ended

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up with a whole lot of money, several hundred thousand dollars which was illegally attained. An idea developed that some of this could be given for voter registration. They had a man named Mat Reese at that time—he's still around Washington as a lobbyist—and he was working for the Democratic National Committee. He came down and talked to us. Wiley and I went up to Washington and had a meeting with Bailey, who was then the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. This was at the time of the 1964 campaign. Bailey said, "We've got this money, and we're interested in increasing black registration, particularly in certain places." We explained that we didn't take any earmarked money. We'd be glad to have their money, but it would be publicized, and we couldn't take it if it was earmarked. That went on for about an hour and a half, and that's the last we heard of that. That money, incidentally, lingered around with the Democratic Party for a couple of years. They didn't know what to do with that. We did those things, we didn't take the Democrats' money.
As far as I know, the truth of that CIA money is that the Norman Foundation did take some CIA money as a conduit for some things that the CIA was doing in Africa. One of the Norman's had a personal interest over there in Africa, and they were glad to be of service. People at that time, felt that that was the way you were of service, and they did it.
Whether New World ever did or not, I don't know. Vernon Eagle was just about the closest friend I had in foundation circles until he died. But, knowing him as closely as I knew him, and knowing his background and his political opinions, I do not find it inconceivable that Vernon would have helped out his friends. The Norman stuff is out in public. It was documented.

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But nothing ever got documented about the New World Foundation. Vernon was very close friends with people like Katzenbach, and a few others. These were guys he'd known. I would not find it inconceivable that Vernon and Gil Harrison had helped out some of their old friends. Vernon and Harrison were old American Veterans' Committee leaders—that bunch who ran the CIA in the early gung ho days were all AVCers, all liberals—all that crowd at OSS were liberals. It would not be inconceivable. But we never got any money from the CIA.
HELEN BRESLER:
Do you think that VEP would have gotten more money if it had been the sort of operation that would have given money back to SCLC and NAACP?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
That's conceivable. I could have walked out of Bailey's office with a couple hundred thousand dollars.
In about 1963, Currier started doing something else. He began fund-raising for the civil rights movement. He began holding breakfasts, and calling rich friends for the civil rights movement. Again, following his own instinct that he didn't like to make these decisions, he set up two groups, one to receive non-tax exempt money, and one to receive tax exempt money. One was called the Council of United Civil Rights Leadership, and that's where this little pin, which the National Urban League people still wear, began. You know, the little pin with the equal marks on it? That was Currier's design. He liked to do things like that. He designed that pin. Now the Urban League has taken it over. One of Currier's fund-raising notions was that people should sell these for a dollar. I used to keep a pile of them on my desk at SRC, and any time somebody came in, I'd try to sell one. The other one was called Welfare and Education Defense Something. He co-opted Wiley.

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If you said something to Wiley and he didn't like it, he'd just walk away. If he disagrees with you, he keeps quiet. That kind of toughness was good with some people. Wiley was serving, then, two roles. He was running VEP, but he was also the staff person for these other two things.
Currier was out beating the bushes raising money. About once a month, Wiley would have to go up to New York. Currier had these lunches at the Carlyle Hotel, and there'd be King, and Young, and Wilkins, and Jim Forman, and Farmer, and Dorothy Height—for whom Currier had a special fondness—and Wiley, and they would cut up the pot that they had that month. Wiley said that some of the sessions were pretty awful. They'd decide who was going to get how much of what. According to Wiley, the usual thing was for Jim Forman to come in and claim it all. SCLC would say that it wanted it all.
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
You said that VEP might have gotten more money had it gone directly to these outfits. Well, this channel was set up for money to go directly to them. I would assume that whatever they got would have been the limit of whatever might have come in.
HELEN BRESLER:
I was just wondering about when you said that the Kennedys were saying that big money could have come to a voter registration project.
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
They just were not as good as their word. I don't think some rich people feel that kind of thing.
HELEN BRESLER:
I wasn't saying feeling. If it was a way for them to serve, and in some ways, to buy off, five different organizations at once by putting a big lump of money in there, and saying, "Here, get off our backs. Here

Page 41
is a project for you to do, now do it." But VEP didn't serve that function. It was another whole operation. It wouldn't have helped them to generate a lot of money to go into that. They would still have to deal with the others.
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I just don't think the Kennedys thought in terms of digging into their pocket. I have a friend, Harold Willens, who is a West Coast industrialist, and money-raiser for good causes, and liberal. We were at his house last summer, and he was contrasting two movie actors, whom I will not name at this moment. Both are conspicuous in all liberal things. His remark was that one of them actually gives money, and the other one has never given a cent to anything. Paul Newman gives money. The other one gives only his name and identification. I think the Kennedys are like that. It never occurs to them to dig down into the money.
I'll tell you a story about Stephen Currier and John Kennedy. It's one of those little vignettes that's engraved in my mind. In 1963, after Birmingham, Kennedy began running all these meetings at the White House. He had lawyers in once, and he business people in once, I think, and so forth. It's the kind of thing he should have done before. One meeting was for the civil rights leadership. In those days, I was still thought of as part of it, so I went to the White House. It was my one time up there for consultation. Everybody was there. Currier, because of the role he was playing, was invited as one of the civil rights leaders. He was the only person of a money role who was there. Currier sat on my left, and Lyndon Johnson came in and sat down on my right. Robert Kennedy and the others were sitting around the back. Somehow or another, I had gotten over into the middle of the stage, probably because Currier

Page 42
wanted to be there, and I was sitting almost directly across from the President. At one point Stephen got the floor, and in this very intense kind of involved way he had, he said, "People have been talking about what had to be done," and he began to talk, as he should have, about money, since he was a moneyman. Somebody had proposed that the Administration do this program or that program, and he kind of seconded those things. Then he leaned across to John Kennedy, and said, "And they need private money." All of a sudden, it was just two rich men confronting each other. It was not one person and the President of the United States. It was just, "And they need private money." It was one of Stephen's higher points, in my book.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Besides the fact that the Kennedys seemed to have been implying that they would actually put money in this. . . .
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
They didn't imply, Burke Marshall said, and I just thought he knew what he was talking about.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did they also promise protection of voter registration?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
You're damn right they did! I may have written a memo about that. We had a meeting at Potomac, in 1962 or 1963. This was the time when all the SNCC kids were getting bashed around in Mississippi. It was pretty serious. It got to be awful. A group of us came to Washington to confront Marshall. I must say, nobody could ever say that Burke was lacking in courage. He confronted the whole bunch of us, some SNCC people, and a couple of people like me, and a few others. We talked for a whole day there. The theme of the meeting throughout was, "You promised us, and you're not delivering." We went over and over that ground, with Burke saying, "I cannot do it, I cannot do it." "But you

Page 43
promised." "I can't." For six hours or so we did that.
It was at that meeting that a plan was conceived which was begun but aborted. Up to that time, the SNCC people had been furtive in Mississippi. They were still getting caught and hurt. Houses were burned down. They were trying to work undercover. At that meeting, the thought was expressed that this was wrong, that people ought to get out in the open. If they were going to get shot at, it had to be out in the open. We had to stand up. A further idea was expressed that a particular place should be chosen in Mississippi, and everybody's efforts concentrated on it, out in the open, to force the hand of the Administration. Almost before you could go home and think about all this, things began to happen in Greenwood. A quick decision was reached that Greenwood would be that place. The work in Greenwood was being led by COFO (Council of Federated Organizations], and everybody was to pitch in. For a couple of weeks, everybody did. SCLC was out there, and Dorothy Cotton, and Anelle Fonder, and the NAACP even did something. The Greenwood campaign was to force the Administration to provide protection. Everything there was out in the open, was the first out in the open action in Mississippi. After a couple of weeks, John Doar went into court and tried to get an injunction based on the First Amendment. Then he compromised after they let some people out of jail, and he dropped this action, which was a tragedy. The Greenwood thing got aborted when King decided to undertake the Birmingham demonstration. That shifted all the attention.
Yes, they promised protection.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Given all of the competitiveness among the different organizations, I'm surprised that SRC didn't get more criticism, or become

Page 44
alienated from various organizations because of this squabbling for money. I don't know of criticism about this.
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Well, thank you. I think we did a fairly good job. I think Wiley is principally responsible. Vernon Jordan got into it too. I guess Vernon's title was Assistant to the Executive Director, but then he got two titles. He was Assistant to the Executive Director of SRC, and Assistant to the Director of VEP.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You first hired him as your assistant? Where did you find him?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Vernon was the Georgia NAACP Director. I'd met him around town someplace. I think I first met him at Frances Pauley's house one time. Paul Rilling left to go elsewhere, and I gave Paul Anthony Paul Rilling's job. And Paul Anthony became Field Director. Paul had been "Assistant to", and then I found Vernon.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How much money did SNCC get for voter registration drives in comparison to these other organizations?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I couldn't tell you any longer. If you took SNCC plus COFO, there's no doubt in my memory that SNCC would have received a larger sum of money than any of the other big organizations. That's not altogether accurate, because COFO also included CORE [Congress of Racial Equality]. COFO essentially was SNCC and CORE in Mississippi, but SNCC more than CORE. After the first year, when we had just made a gesture in the direction of the Urban League, they didn't get anything. We insisted with SCLC that we would not give them money for general voter registration programs. They had to say where. And that became difficult.
JACQUELYN HALL:
In a recent documentary about the life of Martin Luther King, and

Page 45
other popular versions of the history of the civil rights movement that I've seen, SCLC definately has center stage, and SNCC was definately less important.
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
The most effective voter registration work that SCLC did was what was called the Citizenship Education Program, which was funded by the Field Foundation. This was separate entirely from VEP. It had nothing to do with me either. It meant a lot. The Citizenship Education Program got set up in 1961 or '62. It was an outgrowth of things going on at Highlander. It was under the administrative jurisdiction of the United Church. The field grant always went to the United Church. That is pretty much why Andy Young got involved; he was a United Church minister. Andy came back south, hired by the United Church to head the Citizenship Education Program, as its Director. All during the movement days, Andy was on that payroll. He spent most of his time in Atlanta, working for King, and nobody objected to that, but his payroll spot was always over there.
Septima Clark, Dorothy Cotton, and Anelle Ponder, and a few others, they did a job. They brought these people in from all over the South. Fannie Lou Hamer is the most distinguished alumna, but she's certainly not the only one. Women pretty much ran the place, under Andy, who was sitting in Atlanta. That was important work. They taught these people how to take a literacy test, and they taught them how to go back where they came from to teach other people how to take the literacy test. That was a real great contribution. They had that center down at McIntosh. One time, when that got unusable, they used Penn for about a year. It's too bad nothing like this goes on now, because we sure need it. It continued to go on for several years.

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After I got up to Field, it didn't seem to me to make a whole lot of sense to continue funding this through the United Church. I thought SCLC ought to be responsible enough to handle the money itself, so the grant was shifted to SCLC. It was the largest single grant the Field Foundation made, at the time I went up there, and it stayed that way for a while. Field was pouring one hundred forty or one hundred fifty thousand dollars a year into that, in addition to what it was giving VEP.
It was the whole support.
Andy is a great flatterer. Every now and then he remembers that he's now a member of the board of the Field Foundation—which I hope, after next month, he'll no longer be, because I don't like members who don't come to meetings—and he comes to a meeting. He came to the meeting of the board right after Carter's election, and enthralled the other members of the board and Mrs. Field by saying that the Field Foundation had elected Carter. He would not have been elected had they not had the Citizenship Education program, not compiled this list of contacts all over the rural South whom he could call on. I don't know whether the Foundation wants to take credit for Carter or not. I didn't want to do it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kind of influence on the other programs of SRC did foundations have, in the sense of saying, "We're interested in doing this kind of thing. Would you like to write a grant proposal for this, or do you want to do this." How much would that push the program in a certain direction?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
We didn't have any Ford money while I was there. I used to go up to Ford. I kept knocking on the door every time I'd go to New York. We had some interesting sessions, including one that you may have

Page 47
heard about. Jack Greenberg arranged for a couple of us to go see Heald. Jack, and Martin King, and Wiley Branton, and I went to see Henry Heald. That meeting began with Mr. Heald walking into the room where we four people sat, and looking at Jack Greenberg, and saying, "I thought you said you'd bring one or two." He'd brought three. It went downhill from there.
I had other meetings with Mr. Heald. John Wheeler and I went to see Heald one time. I spent a great deal of my last year negotiating a grant with Ford. It was made possible by the fact that a good North Carolinian, named John Ehle, went to work there on the staff. John took a job at Ford, and told them he was going to stay a year. As soon as he got there, he called me up, and said, "We got to work out something." So I put that together. The grant was announced the day my resignation took effect, and John also left that same day. There was one little part of the original Ford grant, as John and I negotiated it, which was put in at John's suggestion. That was just happenstance. North Carolina had just fired its Prison Director, and John wondered what he was going to do. So he called me up, and he said, "Can't you get something in this thing about prisons? Don't you want to do something about prisons?"
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was his name Lee somebody?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
No. He was Lee somebody's predecessor.
Anyway, I stopped off in Raleigh one time, and met the man, just to talk to him. At John Ehle's suggestion, I put a prison project into that thing. By the time the grant came through, that man had been appointed Prison Director in the state of Oregon. So Paul Anthony was stuck with the prison project.

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I didn't take direction from foundations. I think SRC has got into a lot of trouble since by doing that, especially with Ford and Rockefeller. I must say, I had good teaching. When I was there, almost all our money came from Taconic, Field, Rockefeller, and then we got small amounts from people like Norman, in New York. The Rockefeller Brothers' money was a project, but it was its so-called leadership project.
(You asked me a while back if we tried to meet businessmen. Well, we used to have Benjamin Muse on the staff. Ben's job was to travel around the South, and meet leaders. Ben was just wonderful. He was my chief support, and counselor, and advisor. Somebody ought to write that man's biography.
I can truthfully say that the Field Foundation and Taconic left me completely alone. The Rockefeller Foundation did too. In 1960, the Rockefellers got a lot of pressure from someplace that they should do something. They did the most innocuous things they could think of, which was to give the National Urban League and the Southern Regional Council grants. I would never have gotten through without that money. I had $50,000.00 a year from the Rockefeller Foundation, and I never heard a word from them. Except that once a year, they would call me up. I would go up, and would have lunch with the staff, and I would tell them about the South. They'd thank me, and they'd give me a check for $50,000.00, and I'd go home.
HELEN BRESLER:
They didn't literally give you a check, did they?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Literally, sometimes. They used to hand you the check. Leland Vinny would say, "Well, as long as you're here we might as well save the stamp. . . ." [Laughter]

Page 49
HELEN BRESLER:
What was the total budget of the Council during those years?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I never had over $275.000.00. VEP never had over $300,000.00 or $350.000.00. Out of that $275.000.00, we would contribute to the state councils at least $50,000.00. We ran on about $200,000.00. Without that Rockefeller money, we just could not have made it. Field and Taconic would give us $25,000.00 each, plus $25,000.00 each for state councils. New World would give about $20,000.00. I got a grant from Sterm just once, for $30,000.00, plus they were contributing to the first VEP. And you pieced out the rest of it from Norman, New York, and others. That's the way it went. Rockefeller Brothers I think was $40,000.00.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was there any ongoing tension between the state councils and SRC about whether SRC should give more money to the state councils, or whether the money should go to the central staff and its work? How did you feel about those things?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
In every annual meeting, there were two or three people, led by two men from Virginia—a Quaker fellow and a Congregational preacher. At every annual meeting, they would get up, and they would call on the Council to reject my budget, and to put more money into it for the state councils. They'd go through that. They got about the same number of votes at every meeting, I think, and then we wouldn't do it. There was Father Foley, from Alabama, who would make that motion, too, or he would speak strongly to that motion. The Quaker I was trying to think of is Dave Scull, of Virginia.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How effective do you think the Human Relations Councils were? That was George Mitchell's idea. He believed that soon SRC would fade

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away and be replaced by strong. . . .
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
The truth is, when I took over at SRC, I hadn't had much personal experience with them. I had spent my time at SRC sitting there and churning out reports and pamphlets. Such times as I spent out of the office I spent learning my way a little bit around the black community.
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I did not have a strong conviction about the Councils in 1961. I think as the years went on I learned to value them much more. In learning to value them much more, I got more and more impatient with some of them. We never succeeded in building councils on human relations that could survive. They were never much better than whoever was the executive director. They went up or down depending on who you got at any given time. We had some good directors, and we had some dillies. I don't think the record of any council is consistent throughout. The only council we had which had developed to the point that it could continue as an ongoing organization was the Virginia Council. At least, that's what I had thought in 1965, when I left, but it crashed after a couple of years. I think there was a period in the late sixties or early seventies, when Paul Matthias was with the South Carolina Council, that it looked like a stable and lasting organization, and then it went apart. It could not survive the shock of Paul's leaving. But I think that the councils were a necessary idea. It's a little too bad that nothing like them exists right now. The Mississippi Council still exists, and it probably would not exist except that the Field Foundation has continued to give it some money. It had good leadership when Ken Dean was there. Then Mike Raff directed it for about seven years. Mike

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succeeded in getting it some other financial support besides Field. But it's in real difficulty now. For the first time, it's got a black director, and that's the way it ought to be. I'm not sure they've got the right black director. Anyway, things are going through a distressful time there, and nobody knows whether the Mississippi Council is going to make it or not.
I always leaned over backwards—and I'm really convinced I leaned over too far backwards—not to comment on SRC decisions after I left. It was a sad decision when SRC resolved not to take financial responsibility for the councils any more. That was in 1969 or 1970. After I left, they continued to have money, in fact had a great splurge, because we got money for the state councils out of Ford. So there was more money. The Ford grant for the Councils was not going to be renewed, Ford did that for only two years. The worst that that could have meant would have been that the councils would have been cut back to where they were two years before. That's always hard to do, but it's not impossible. It became impossible. Paul decided SRC should drop any . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did they decide that?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
That's a very good question. I don't know. I tend to think it was just part of Paul's withdrawal from things that he could not. . . . It preceded by only a year or so the decision to drop VEP. It did not have to be done.
JACQUELYN HALL:
VEP did not have to be separate from SRC?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
It did not. I even got a legal opinion for them that it didn't have to be done. In my own mind, I have never been satisfied that Paul Anthony carried that into his executive committee. He was operating

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under both his own desires and the prodding of the dumb lawyer they had in Atlanta. I also believe that he was being prodded from New York, maybe by Ford or Carnegie, or maybe by both.
Having cut itself off from one sort of popular base with the human relations councils, SRC then cut itself off from its devotedly built-up base in the Negro community. It was just a damn shame. It just ruined the. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
I had no idea that there was any choice about severing VEP. Why did they decide to do that if they didn't have to do it? What was the advantage to doing that?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I obviously cannot think of any.
JACQUELYN HALL:
They must have thought that they would gain something by doing that.
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I think that Paul wanted to be rid of this set of problems. I believe that there was guidance from New York.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why would the Ford Foundation want SRC to sever itself from VEP?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I don't know that it was Ford, I just believe it. I believe that it was Ford or Carnegie, or maybe both. I think, at that time, they may have felt that this was not legally necessary, but maybe politically necessary in relationships with IRS. Beyond that, it has always been difficult for me to understand some of the higher thinking that goes on foundation circles.
HELEN BRESLER:
You're talking about the 1969 tax reform act, in relation to what foundations could and couldn't do, and in relation to compromises that were made in Congress that would allow a certain latitude.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You're saying that they were too cautious?

Page 53
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I would really have to refresh my memory before I talked about some of the technical things. Some voter registration provisions were written into the tax reform set. And the whole discussion in Congress was in terms of two groups, the Southern Regional Council and the League of Women Voters, they had to write the law so that these noble efforts could continue. This is in the legislative history of the '69 act. The act, like any act, gets drafted in sometimes sloppy ways. One provision of it that they relied on down in Atlanta, to say we have to divest, was the requirement that you could get no more than twenty-five percent of your support from any one source. The way the act got written, that could be read to mean that SRC would have to get no more than twenty-five percent of its support from any one source. This was certainly not the intention of the act. The act just meant that in relationship to voter registration. But it was not clearly written that way. With all the legislative history that they had behind it, it would have been small potatoes for a tax lawyer to argue this point. I had talked to Bill DeWind, who was the best tax lawyer in New York, and who'd set up VEP to begin with. I had his opinion on this matter, which I phoned down to. . . .
HELEN BRESLER:
That foundation executives, the top echelons . . .
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
That's my suspicion. I don't know that. Based on some conversations I've had with a couple of them, and just allusions that have been made, I've always suspected that Carnegie and maybe Ford . . .
HELEN BRESLER:
Because they might fear further restrictions on foundations if

Page 54
they have violated. . . .
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
As I said, I have a hard time following the thought processes of some of the foundation people. I think also, you could just fit it into other strategies that they had. You know, "We don't want it to look like too much money is going to one organization, we better split it up. And therefore, we'd better split up that organization." You know, that kind of thinking. It does happen. Also, "we want SRC to do some things that it probably couldn't do as well if it had VEP attached to it, like study southern agriculture, or all those other great studies that can go on. It shouldn't be contaminated." This kind of thinking was going on up there.
HELEN BRESLER:
From VEP's point of view, do you think it was to their detriment that they were cut loose in that way?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I think it has proven to be that. This shift took place in the last days of Vernon Jordan. Vernon knew he was coming to New York and didn't give a damn. He felt, "If that's what they want, that's what they want, I'm leaving here anyhow." John Lewis was going to become the new VEP director. Paul had had the problem of Vernon. He could not control Vernon. Vernon was a better known person than he, and becoming more so. I don't think Paul wanted to have to take responsibility for John Lewis. I think John was glad to get out from that. I think John was glad to see his thing on its own feet. I think he was mistaken about it, but I know he felt that way at the time.
HELEN BRESLER:
Were you in communication with executive board members, Josephine Wilkins, for example?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
No. I wish I had been. I was wrong, I should have lobbied with them. As I said, I had always bent over backwards. . . .

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JACQUELYN HALL:
Why didn't you want to continue taking an active role in influencing policies.
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Because I didn't think that was the role of the foundation man. I was sitting up there fussing about other foundations that were doing that, and I didn't want to do it myself.
HELEN BRESLER:
Did you not talk. . . .
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I didn't talk to anybody but Paul and John.
HELEN BRESLER:
From then on? You really stayed out of the executive ranks of people after you left? It was more just as friends?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I really did. I stayed out. I've been dragged in several times, and usually with not terribly pleasant results, as in this big problem two years ago when SRC got bankrupt. Well, we were here (in Renick) and that damn telephone never stopped ringing. George and Mary Esser came here and spent a weekend, and Ray and Julie Wheeler were here the weekend before, and Josephine Wilkins was calling me every day. I began to wonder what my role was, because people kept asking me things, and nobody did anything I ever suggested. [Laughter] Except to ask it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did Paul Anthony become Executive Director of SRC rather than Vernon Jordan or somebody else?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I think, had I stayed there another year, that it would have been Vernon. I had some crazy notion about not trying to choose a successor. Harold was much smarter than I. Harold left, and said, "This guy ought to do it, that's the way it ought to be." But I was not that smart. Paul had been there a long time. He'd been there longer than I had. He very deeply wanted the job, and everybody knew he wanted it. I don't know if he said it to me, but he said to somebody that if he didn't get it he'd leave.

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I made up a little list of five people, and gave it to them. Paul was one of them. I can remember, at the last minute, seeing how things were going, and really having great reservations about Paul I called up a couple of people, Josephine being one of them, to say that there was one other person they ought to think about, this history professor up at the University of Virginia, Paul Gaston. They didn't know him at that time. John Wheeler wanted them to consider Vernon. I had some feeling myself that Vernon just hadn't quite earned it. That's why I say that if I had stayed another year, I think I would have felt that he should have gotten the job. I was also a little miffed at him at the moment, because he'd decided to broaden his experience, and he'd taken a job at OEO. I was a little annoyed at him for doing that.
It was an interesting thing, when Paul left the whole world wanted that job. We had Hodding Carter, Paul Gaston—everybody wanted it. When I left, people were not standing in line rooting for the job. I think my own first choice at that time would have been Carl Holman, but Carl would not come back South. But that's the way it came out. After a couple of years, I began to think I had been wrong about my reservations about Paul. SRC had been active in doing things.
The first assignment I gave myself when I got to New York was to get VEP re-funded. I had been unable to get it re-funded from down there. Currier, who was the key figure, didn't seem to feel that he wanted to do that again. I had been totally unconvincing with Max Hahn, who was my predecessor at Field. The first thing I did when I got to the Field Foundation, I talked to some of our people, and I got some money pledged, and I went to Currier. And we got VEP re-funded. That's when Vernon Jordan

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came back from OEO to SRC.
Then, for one reason or another, most of which had to do with the times in which we were living, they suddenly got assembled there at SRC, under Paul, what I've always felt was the reatest staff I've ever seen in any liberal organization anywhere. At one and the same time, you had there Vernon, Paul Gaston, Reese Cleghorn, Pat Watters, John Morris, Marvin Wall, John Lewiss—after John worked for us at Field for a while, he went back—Al Ulmer was still around. Mrs. Tilly was still living. My prison man, John Boone—they were all there. Paul was presiding over this.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was Maggie still there?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
No. The first thing I did when I left was to get VEP refunded. The first thing they did when I left was to get rid of Maggie Long. She was gone within a few months of my leaving. They all ganged up on Maggie, Paul, and Vernon, and Pat Watters, and they got rid of her.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
They didn't want her.
JACQUELYN HALL:
She edited New South one time, didn't she?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Yes, that's right. She edited, wrote, criticized, deflated. I had a good time with Maggie. We put out that little New South. Paul was always agitating to put out a more ambitious magazine, and when I left he did. He put out the quarterly. He got Reese Cleghorn putting out South Today. That was succeeded by Southern Voices, and then that got by nothing. So the succession was from that nice little monthly all through that to nothing. Now they've started putting out Southern Changes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So you had this great group of people assembled. Quite a lot of

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money was coming in?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Oh, yes. They got lots of it. Once Ford began making grants.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did Ford start giving them so much money after you had been so unsuccessful with Ford all those years?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I negotiated that first grant, which was announced the day I resigned. I've often felt like digging up my old proposal, because it didn't seem to me Paul did all the things we said we were going to do in that proposal. I don't know where I'd find it. I don't know. Once an organization like Ford makes a decision like that, it's like taking a cork out of a bottle. Then every time they thought about the South, they thought about the Southern Regional Council. They began shoving money down there. Then after George Esser left their staff to take over, they really began. . . . George was an honest man. He always had in mind that SRC should be something like a sub-foundation of Ford, never quite realized that.
JACQUELYN HALL:
A sub-foundation in the sense that SRC would then give out money to other. . . .
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Well, SRC would handle Ford's investments in the South.
HELEN BRESLER:
And many other people's.
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Yes. When I first heard that SRC had a $400,000.00 deficit, I couldn't believe it. How do you have a $400,000.00 deficit? What does that mean? Then they got that all settled. Ford gave them a retired controller from some great corporation to go down and straighten them out, and he did. Ford gave them some money to make up this deficit, and then a year later they had another huge deficit. I

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couldn't understand that at all. George Esser had the reputation of being a manager, which made it all the more difficult to understand. I was never much of a manager, but I usually knew within $10,000.00 how much money we had around the place.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was Ruth Vick still keeping the books when all that deficit started?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I think they had got beyond Ruth. There was only one explanation that I could think of, and in part it's true, but I don't know if it's the whole truth. They were spending next year's money. That is, they would have a grant for three years, and they were using it up. Knowing George Esser, and knowing his relationship with those people up at Ford, I just don't think George Esser did those things on his own. I cannot help but believe that a whole lot of telephoning went on. I just cannot think that George Esser was so clumsy as to all this by himself, because he's not that kind of a guy.
Why would Ford send some controller down there to straighten everything up, and he leaves it all straightened up, and then a year later you find it isn't straightened up. That doesn't make sense either. Patt Darian went in there when she became president, after Vivian Henderson died. She went in there and occupied a desk, and began going over all the books. That's when things all came apart.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What do you mean? She discovered that something was wrong?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
She discovered that they didn't have any money, and that's when George Esser's resignation was asked for. You didn't know that?

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JACQUELYN HALL:
I didn't know that she was the one who discovered that. Wasn't somebody keeping the books?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I thought so. I can't understand all this. No explanation ever made sense.
HELEN BRESLER:
Do you think the foundations thought the organization was expendable?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I don't believe those fellows think that way. I don't think that question would have occurred as an option. The kind of question you asked, I don't think would occur to Mike Svirdoff, for instance. It just would not. Svirdof would play a lot of things close to his chest. Keep in mind that SRC is solvent now. Why does Ford keep coming along and making them whole again? They must feel some responsibility. I may be very unfair, on the other hand, how else can you explain what happened?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Even before George Esser came in, and all this strange money stuff started to happen, things at SRC were in very bad shape.
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Because that great staff began unravelling. Reese went away, Paul Gaston went away, Vernon went away.
[END OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]

[TAPE 3, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE B]
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
It's second guessing, but I did tell Paul at the time. . . . He'd sent the black staff manifesto up to me and talked to me about it, and said, "What shall I do?" And I read it, and I said, "These are all pretty moderate aims." I did suggest something to him like, Tell those people what wonderful people they are, and how glad you are to work with

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them on these things." It didn't look like all that much to me. But he didn't want to do that. The very thought that these co-workers could be thinking these things—would be doing this—that shook him. Of course, at this time Paul was developing his own sad and personal problems. He should have gotten out of there at least a year before he did, and maybe two years. I think I did say once that Paul should go. I thought that his doctor should see that he went, but that didn't work either.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When did you leave SRC?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
October, 1965.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did you make that decision to leave and go to the Field Foundation?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I seem to run from grood treatment to. . . . I really got to the point where even though I was treated pretty well, the thought of going to New York once again just. . . . How long does one want to stay at that job? I just thought maybe I'd been there close to long enough, though if I could have had another year, I might have liked it better. Also, there was no great big salary there. Like everybody else I had problems like that. I think, from a personal standpoint, I needed to leave. I think, from a personal standpoint, it would have been better if I'd stayed another year. Anyway the job at Field became open at that time. I was prepared to leave within a year or so, and the job came open then. It just seemed to make a whole lot of sense. Where else could I go where I could continue to work at those problems that interested me? So I went.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did you learn from being on the other side of the process

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of funding and taking funds?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I would like to have thought, in the SRC days, that the fundraising part was not the big thing I had in my mind, whereas the fundgranting part is the big thing you do have in your mind. I don't know that I've learned anything much. [Laughter] I had to learn not to say that it's harder to give the money than to receive it. [Laughter]
HELEN BRESLER:
What were the demands being placed on your position when you left? Did you feel that SRC's role had changed, and that it was time for a different kind of leadership?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I don't think I thought it was time for a different sort of leadership. I thought my leadership was probably ok. The Ford grant was going to cause change, whether I was there or not. In the first place, it was the largest sum of money we'd ever had from any one place. In the second place, as I had conceived it, it put us into a whole lot of different things. I can't remember all that I had in that proposal, and I think some things didn't come out the way they were. I know, for one thing, I had put a lot of emphasis on having a kind of public policy monitor—a public policy section. We'd have a couple of people thinking about public policy problems, and trying to provide guidance to new legislation, both on the state and national level. That would have been different. It would have been like elevating the old "Federal Executive and Civil Rights" to a large project.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Are you talking about federal. . . .
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Yes, but we were also going to do some things about the state. One of the last little projects I got set up before I left there turned out to be a fizzle. Maybe it would have been a fizzle had I stayed. Jim

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Hollowell was teaching political science at Berea. He was to take a couple of state governments and do for them something like "Federal Executive and Civil Rights." That is, what lay within the power of the governors to do. Jim was working on that at the time I left. It all fizzled out. I can't even remember the reasons why it fizzled out.
I thought one thing wrong with all the monitoring projects set up under Esser and Peter Petkas was that all their focus was on the Federal Government. I thought that SRC, traditionally and historically, should have as its first concern the southern states. So I would not have confined. . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Once you went to New York for the Field Foundation, you were then in the position of hearing about and funding or not funding all kinds of different things that were going on in the South. Did you get a different perspective on what was most significant, or what was happening from your position there than you'd had in Atlanta as head of SRC?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Well, somewhat. If you keep in mind the scale of differences—the amount of money coming into the South before 1965 was much smaller. I was playing a little bit of the role that George Esser wanted to play later on. The people at Field and Taconic and New World were habitually consulting me, as they had consulted Harold. There were very few grants made in the South by Field, Taconic, and New World, up until 1965, that I didn't get asked about. Some didn't ask about all, like Max Hahn. I was never a great admirer of Myles Horton. Max knew that, and he didn't talk to me about Highlander. What I'm trying to say is that I had had a couple of years experience at trying to think about other things happening around the South as well as SRC. The one significant perspective I got after a year or so at Field was that we decided we were going to take a special

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interest in Mississippi. That was for several reasons, including getting involved by happenstance in the CDGM battle out in Mississippi. We did, had we have had, and whether we chall continue, I don't know. Except for that kind of special emphasis on one state, I don't know that I got any greatly different view about the South than I had. I did have to go through a painful time up there, learning about non-Southern and non-black problems. In particular, it was trying to thread one's way through the morass of New York City. I don't know about other people, I ended up after ten or twelve years feeling. . . . There's some things that we did in the South that I can look back on and say, "Yes, I'm glad we did that." But New York City gives you very few satisfactions. That's not only my case, but I think it's the case for a lot of people. I knew absolutely nothing about Puerto Ricans. I still don't know much. I found Puerto Rican people the least easy to come to have some feeling of. . . . I have appreciated learning about Indians. Partly through Max Hahn's personal interest—he liked to dig—Field was one of the very few places, as late as 1965, that paid any attention at all to Indians. We didn't do much. Maybe the total would be $25,000.00 per year. We managed these things in a kind of paternalistic way with Indians, but not about blacks. But at least we had our foot in the door, and Indians knew about the Field Foundation, such few of them as did anything. It has been in the years since that Indians have been taken up by some of the other foundations. I began meeting Indians when I first went up there, and I made a couple of trips out West. Peggy went with me on one, and Tony on one. I greatly valued that exposure and that experience. Then Chicanos, who I somehow find easier to know and to talk with than Puerto Ricans. I guess

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the first Chicano grant we made was to Chavez. He came to see me in 1968, and brought somebody from ACLU. We made a grant in 1968 to Chavez—to the ACLU's old Roger Baldwin Foundation—to provide him with a lawyer. After Chavez, I got to know other Chicanos, especially down in Texas, San Antonio and south, down to the Valley. I found that a very satisfying experience and relationship. I just wish we had more money to do more with. I don't know that I've changed perspecitves about the South.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What have been the most satisfying experiences for you overall?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Well, I think a big mind-change did take place in the South in the 1960's, and I had some part in it. I look back on that with a good feeling. I'm glad I had a part to play in VEP, in organizing it, setting it up, getting it going. I think VEP meant a tremendous lot to a lot of people and to the country. I think since I've been at Field there have been opportunities to do things that have also meant a lot. For example, the whole CDGM scrap down in Mississippi, which was terribly intense, and went on over a couple of years, and on so many levels, including deeply emotional levels, and as things which ended, seldom end, as a kind of victory. You don't win so many victories, but you remember the ones you had. To take on the Federal Government and lick it appeals to me. I think the hunger campaign that we got into in 1967, '68, and '69.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Is there anything you would do differently if you had those years to do over?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I'm not that much of a reflective person. I think Imight add one other thing. It means something to me that we now have something called the Center for National Security Studies, that the ACLU has a project in national security, that the Center for Defense Information continues to have

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an existence. I think I had something to do with all that. I don't think I've done anything in the last few years, though.
PEGGY DUNBAR:
I think, at the Field Foundation you really initiated a lot of projects that grew and had influence on other foundations.
HELEN BRESLER:
How did your interests develop in that field?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
I might go back and give you that answer I did before, that is, that I am a halfway intelligent person. Actually, I got into all that out of emotional anger, or something, about amnesty. and sort of one thing led to another.
HELEN BRESLER:
For draft resisters?
LESLIE W. DUNBAR:
Yes. We set up the ACLU's amnesty project. I think that the fact that amnesty was made something of a public issue, and carried on to the present time, had a good bit to do with our sponsorship, not only of that, but of a lot of other things, Americans for Amnesty and whatnot. I personally recruited about twenty people to sign a statement which we put out as individuals in October 1971, which may have been the first statement in behalf of amnesty. We didn't get much attention for it. Peggy and I paid for a breakfast for the press in Washington one day, and had a couple of our signers, Chuck Morgan, Andy Young, Rauh, and we met the press that morning to tell them about amnesty. Not many of them came, and not many of them did anything about it. But I think it began a movement that we kept alive.
END OF INTERVIEW