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Oral History Interview with James Pharis, July 24, 1977. Interview H-0038. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    James Pharis began his work life in the late 1880s at twelve or thirteen years of age. He always wanted to be a supervisor, and eventually got his wish, holding supervisory positions in Rhode Island and North Carolina, and managing a weaving room in South America. He rose to a leadership position in his union as well, taking over leadership of his chapter of the United Textile Workers in the 1920s. In this interview, Pharis describes his work life, moving from mill to mill and climbing the ranks of textile mill employment over the course of his forty-year career. He recalls the tumultuous union activity of the 1930s, when efforts to organize his mill dissolved despite workers' openness to the idea; the training courses that helped him develop an enlightened management style; and some of the changes that took place in the textile industry over his forty years in it. He looks back fondly on his career, and just as he improved his position, climbing from a teenage spinner to supervisor, he thinks the industry has steadily improved as well. This interview offers researchers the unique perspective of a middle manager in the textile industry.
    Excerpts
  • Joining the workforce as a young teenager
  • Remembering recreation in the early twentieth century, a management training course, and mill work in South America
  • Unusual ambition in the early twentieth century
  • Keeping his job in a wave of firings
  • Workers do not resist a union, but they do resist its radicalism
  • An employee seeks to take advantage of union presence after termination
  • Confronting a supervisor over unfair treatment
  • Church members harass a non-church member
  • Challenges of acting the middleman between bosses and employees
  • A progressive management style in a textile mill
  • Concerns that black employees receive preferential treatment
  • Improvements over time in the mill industry
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  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.