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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Geddes Elam Dodson, May 26, 1980. Interview H-0240. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Violence among textile workers

Violence was an integral part of masculinity and honor in the New South. To prove himself in a new job and to gain authority over the other men in the mill, Dodson's father used violence with the approval of the company—even escaping prosecution after shooting a man.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Geddes Elam Dodson, May 26, 1980. Interview H-0240. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

And my daddy was overseer at a little old mill somewhere-I don't remember where it was-but when he took this job, the fellows come to him and said, "You see that fellow over yonder?" My daddy said, "Yeah." They said, "Well, he's the bully around here. He'll run you off." My daddy said, "He won't run me. I ain't the runnin' kind." [Laughter] And you had to work out two weeks' notice if you quit. And so this fellow come in one Friday and got out on payday and come back in the mill about half drunk. And he told my daddy, "I want my time. I've quit." My daddy said, "You know the rules of the company. I can't give you your time. You have to work out two weeks' notice to get your time." And he run his hand in his pocket and says, "You'll give me my time," to get his knife. And so before he got his hand out of his pocket, he was laying on the floor. And my daddy was standing over him when he got up, and he knocked him down the second time. When he got up the second time, he was standing over him and knocked him plumb out the door and pulled it to and locked it. So that night, why, the fellows told my daddy, "He's out there waiting on you." So he had his tool box in the mill, and he got his hammer and stuck it in his pocket. And them fellows waited and followed him out and wouldn't let them fight out there. So on payday he went to town and carried my oldest brother with him. And he was back in the meat market in the back of the store. And this fellow seen him, and he come in after him with his knife open. And my daddy had a pair of knucks [knuckles?] in his pocket, and he just put them on. And this fellow come back there and went to cutting at him, and he'd bust him with them knucks and then jump out of the way of the knife. And he cut my daddy's coat up like shoestrings and never did scratch him. And somehow or another my daddy dropped them knucks, and when he done that he reached back and got that old thirty-eight. Hit him right there and went around under the skin, come out the back of his neck and stuck up in the wall of the store. And [chuckle] he was afraid he'd killed him, and he laid out in the wood all night, thought the law'd be a-hunting him. He was afraid he'd killed him. And had my oldest brother with him. And they found out he hadn't killed him. And so then they fined him five dollars for shooting him [chuckle] , and the mill company paid that. [chuckle]