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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with George F. Dugger Sr., August 9, 1979. Interview H-0312. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A variety of jobs precede a lengthy legal career

Dugger provides a sketch of a varied working life. Driven from a chair factory by the sawdust, Dugger served in the army, including combat in Europe during World War I, and went on to hold jobs as a textile mill superintendent and a high school principal before earning a law degree and practicing for fifty-five years.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with George F. Dugger Sr., August 9, 1979. Interview H-0312. 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

Tell me about yourself. How did you become a lawyer?
There was no high school in Elizabethton in 1910. I went to the little school at Gap Creek through the eighth grade. I was going to a private school, Harold McCormack. It goes by the elementary school here now. But it was an academy run by the McCormacks of Chicago; it was a private school. I went there two years. In 1912 there was no high school to go to. My father got very sick, and younger children and all, and I had to quit school. So I got a job at the chair factory down here, helping make seat bottoms. I got five cents an hour, and I worked ten hours a day, sixty hours a week, and I got three dollars. Well, I took that home with me, and I worked there for two years, and then I got made a foreman, and I got twelve and a half cents an hour. I bought me a horse and a wild West saddle, and I rode everywhere. I liked to ride, and I learned to ride that horse. Then in May of 1914, they had no way to get rid of the dust in there, and I only weighed 118 pounds, and I was conscious that I wasn't getting along very well. I got to thinking about, "Well, what can I do?" I didn't know noplace else to go, so I resigned and went to the Army. I wound up down in Mexico in 1916, and I was a messenger boy for General Patton when he was a first lieutenant, and he taught me a lot of things. I sat out at the door to General Pershing's headquarters--he had a big tent--and any messages he had, he give them to me. They didn't have any telephones, they had no walkie-talkies, and the only way they could deliver messages to officers in outlying areas was by some soldier. So General Patton would give me a order, and he taught me a lot of good things. He said, "Now, Dugger, that old colonel over there, you be awful courteous to him, because if you get fresh with him he can put you in the guard house and keep you there, and I couldn't get you out. So you'll have to be awful nice to him, because he drinks a lot. But don't you give him this order till he signs a receipt. The best way to do it is to hold that order in your hand and say, ‘Colonel, Lieutenant Patton instructs me not to give you this order till you first sign the receipt, because he's got to show General Pershing that you've got the order.’" [END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A] [TAPE 1, SIDE B] [START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
Then I came out of Mexico in February, 1917, and then I got with a motorcycle company, and I travelled the highways inspecting telephones and so forth along the border over there. Then they came to Chattanooga, and I was just a boy--I was only seventeen when I went in the army--and I hadn't seen my family in three years. So I came to Chattanooga, and I got a pass home for five days to come home and see my family. Then later on I wound up in France. I was one of the youngest officers in the army. I commanded a company, and I have a citation over there from General Pershing, and up there is one on the wall where I led the company in a charge and captured eighty prisoners. And I've got the French Croix de Guerre over here on the wall. And that picture over there is General Leonard. He was a second lieutenant in Mexico in 1916, and then he graduated. He's the man that captured the Bridge and shortened the War. He was commander of the Ninth Auto Division; he was a lieutenant general. He came to Fort Bragg, and I was the oldest soldier serving, so he invited me over there when he retired. They had a parachute jump and everything else, and me and my wife and son from Marstown and his wife went over there and stayed at his home two or three days, saw everything. And he came over here and made a speech on Roan Mountain and stayed at my home. He died about two or three years ago in San Antonio, Texas.
When you came home from the army, what did you do?
When I came home from the army, I got discharged in October, 1919, and there was no way to get any work here. The chair factory was running, and they only paid a dollar a day, and I didn't want that. I had been drawing $201 a month in Germany. (I went to Germany and stayed there for nearly a year.) I left here and went to Pawtucket, Rhode Island, where I had some army friends, and I got made superintendent of a textile mill, and I worked at night. Up there it got down to zero and twenty-six below zero; we were right on the Narragansett Bay. I had an English engineer who was teaching me, and I was going to be a manufacturer's representative. My captain had come from Texas, and he lived in Boston. That was about forty miles away, and I got a letter from him. It shows you how your life changes. I went up to see him at his home in Boston. He said, "I've been thinking about you. You're twenty-three years old now. I want you to go to college." I said, "I don't know how I'd get in." "Well, you're not too old. You go to college, and I can get you a $250 scholarship through the YMCA. I've already got it arranged for you." Well, I only had two years in high school. I decided to try it. So I came back home and got a job surveying the road to Roan Mountain. They had contracted it out then, and they had a man that stayed up at Hampton. I had learned in the army as a sergeant to survey and make a map by scale. I'd just learned it on my own. So I went to get a job, and he wanted to know what I could do. I said, "Well, I made a map." [Interruption] I told him I was ordered to make a map to the German border, riding a horse. The major called me one night and said, "You're the only one that can make a map. Now you'll get on this horse, and you'll count the steps of the horse. This horse will step so many inches, and you give him his rein and he'll never vary." So we went to the German border and made the map. I got back. I told him, "Well, they told me that the general was going to take 27,000 men over it, and if he got lost, me and the major both'd go to jail. And he didn't get lost." So I got the job. He laughed. He said, "You mean you can make a map riding a horse?" I said, "Yes. In the army they train you how to make a rap riding a horse." The horse steps so many inches, and you just figure it out and draw it." So I got the job, and we surveyed the road to the top of Roan Mountain. We worked there, and the Tweetsie came in every day, and we had no place to go. We worked in the dining room, had our office there, and in the fall I was trying to get into school. So I went down on the train to Tuscom College, because my high school principal in the Harold McCormack Academy here was a professor at Tuscom College. Fortunately, the records had burned, and he didn't remember everything. They gave me an examination, and I had gone to every army school that there was. I had gone to dozens of schools, and I was a pretty good student. I answered their questions, and they entered me in college as a freshman with two sophomore subjects. That got me in. I stayed there that year. Being out of school for eight years was an awful pill for me. I passed everything, but I didn't make any too good grades. Then I went down to the University of Tennessee. I was determined to get a good education. I had waited so long. I went to the University of Tennessee, and the dean registered me. He said, "This is the first time I've ever been called upon to enter a man without a high school diploma. What do you mean?" I said, "I left and went in the army after two years in high school, but I educated myself. I took the examination." He finally admitted me, and about twenty years after that I went back to the University to hire a lot of them to come here to the plants to study that gas down there. He was President, and when I went in I said, "Dr. Hoskins, do you remember me?" "Oh, yes, you're the man that didn't graduate from high school." I said, "Well, I went here one year. Elizabethton was so small that I didn't think I wanted to be a lawyer in Elizabethton. So I decided to go to the University of Georgia, where I had a lot of friends, and I transferred to the University of Georgia in the fall of 1922. I went there three years, and I graduated with first honors. I had the highest grade that was ever made at the University of Georgia. I had 96.32%." But I was married, and I studied all the time. I had no money to spend at anything else. My older son is now fifty-six, and he was born when I was a freshman in the law school at the University of Georgia. He's a Georgia cracker. But the University now is one of the great law schools of the nation. The University of Tennessee is a good one, also. Then you want to know what I've been doing. I've been practicing law for fifty-five years.