Early experiences with politics in North Carolina
This excerpt offers a look at Faircloth's political history. After describing some of the governors who led the state, Faircloth remembers that at age twenty he was invited to a political rally. In his recollection he was—to put it mildly—the most capable person there. When Scott became governor (in 1949), he made Faircloth a county manager and soon had some of his own tractors working very profitably for the state road-building program. Faircloth later assisted Frank Porter Graham, appointed to the Senate by Scott. He does not seem to have thought much of Graham. Faircloth continues his description of North Carolina politics after the conclusion of this excerpt.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Lauch Faircloth, March 22, 1999. Interview I-0069. 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
JM: How did you become to be appointed to the Commission?
LF: Well, going way back in politics--. This has nothing to do with business. I was as a young man. I had the produce business and [other] businesses going. I really had not had a lot of interest in politics. Kerr Scott was running for governor and generally was not conceded to have much of a chance because the people that had controlled North Carolina politics for five or six governors were supporting another man. Of course that group was what was referred to as the Shelby Mafia. Or, the Webb Dynasty was what they were referred to more often. Are you familiar with that?
JM: Um hmm.
LF: Of course, they had gone through a series of governors from O. Max Gardner to Blucher Ehringhaus -- going east and west. Blucher Ehringhaus [was] from Elizabeth City. Next was--. Oh, he's from Shelby. He had all the long hair. I'll skip it temporarily. Then, after him, was [the governor who] wore a front tailed coat. [He had] long rolled up hair. He fathered Blucher Ehringhaus. Oh, everybody loved him. He went to the Senate. He died in the Senate. Anyway, following him was Mel Broughton, out of Raleigh, and then behind Broughton went back to Greg Cherry. Greg Cherry being from Gastonia. The next move was to pick a man from the east. The man selected was a man named Charlie Johnson who was state treasurer who was actually from Burgaw, Pender County. Scott was Secretary of Agriculture. So along came Scott and, of course, I was in farming. Actually, I wasn't old enough to vote. I was twenty. I was born in '28. All the agriculture people were supporting Kerr Scott and the road programs. The County Agent called me one day and said they were having a political event for Kerr Scott. I didn't know who the hell Kerr [was]. Maybe I had heard the name, but I didn't care. But, I had to work with him, so he wanted to know if I would come to the meeting. I said, “Yeah.” I don't think he knew how young I was. I know he didn't. Anyway, I went to the meeting that night. Hell, there wasn't anybody there. The County Agent didn't show up. There were two drunks and two cripples and two retardees and myself and Kerr Scott was there. Well, he wanted to know if I would be his county manager. I told him that I didn't know anything about managing a campaign. He said, “All you got to do is nail up a few placards.” I said, “All right, I can do that.” That was my great surge into politics. Well, he was elected governor. All the political structure in the state had been for Charlie Johnson. I mean the total county here, the political hierarchy was for Johnson. Clyde Hoey was the man I couldn't think of. Of course [Kerr Scott] had initiated this huge road building program. Well, I had some tractors. I had some working for the state, which was very, very profitable. The state rented tractors, and they furnished the driver and the fuel. It was such a push to get his program going until I had several [tractors] working for the state. I was trying to run my business and was single. He called me one time to come up to Raleigh--.
JM: Kerr Scott did?
LF: Yeah. Of course, I went. I knew that Mel Broughton died. It was Mel Broughton. I think I'm right there. Mel Broughton died. He was in the Senate. I think it was Mel Broughton that was in the Senate. Is that right?
JM: I can't recall, actually. That's okay.
LF: A Senator died. Scott appointed Frank Porter Graham to be a Senator. I never will know exactly why. I don't think he was close to Frank Porter Graham. Scott was conservative. Graham was a liberal. I do not know this [for sure], but there was a strong feeling that he probably appointed Graham to get him out of the University system. I suspect that was true. Once he appointed him, he couldn't walk off and leave him. But, he almost did. He called me to go to Raleigh [and asked] if I would--. I believe I had a dealership by this time, I’m not sure. Aanyway, I had cars available. He said, he wondered if I would “drive Dr. Graham somewhere.” Another things that brought it on, [was that] Graham's campaign manager was from here in Clinton. A man by the name of Jeff D. Johnson was managing Frank Porter Graham's campaign. He was one of those people--. Of course, I never had been to the University. I had not attended there and had no real interest in it. But, he wanted to know if I would drive him somewhere. I said, “Sure. Where do you want me to take him?” He said, “Well, I want you to stay with him a month or two.” I said, “A month or two?” He says, “Yeah. You can do it.” He says, “He needs help. He's the worst politician I've ever known. He needs somebody to look after him that understands politics.” I said, “Governor, I guess we've got some good help and I can do it, but it's certainly not something I'd planned to do. I don't know Dr. Graham at all. I know he's a fine gentleman, but I don’t know him at all.” I said, “Besides, I would think that I'm a lot more conservative thinker than he is.” He says, “I know that. That's the reason I want you to go. You're what he needs. You can speak the language of North Carolina and the politicians, and he doesn't.” So anyway, I wound up picking him up -- not everyday, but I traveled with him pretty regularly for about ten months.
JM: Here in North Carolina?
LF: Oh yeah. That's where he was running -- predominately from Greensboro, Charlotte east. I went into the west with him some, but practically always when he was east, I was with him. He was a wonderful man. He really did not have a lot of concept of the art of grassroots politics, but he was a very fine man. He kept telling me I ought to go to college. He kept saying, “You could go. You'd make a bright student.” I said, “Dr. Graham, I'm--. Of course, at that time, they thought about school differently. I guess this was 1950. What was I, twenty-two? I told him I didn't believe that I wanted to do that. He says, “I worked. You ought to go.” I told him that I had already quit that. Anyway, I traveled with him.