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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Sidney Leneer Pete Underdown, June 18, 2000. Interview I-0091. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Ministerial background helps Underdown succeed in the furniture industry

Parks Underdown originally intended to go into full-time ministry rather than the furniture industry. His ministerial qualities showed in how well he related to people throughout his career.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Sidney Leneer Pete Underdown, June 18, 2000. Interview I-0091. 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 you were going to tell me something about what Parks wanted to do in life.
PETE UNDERDOWN:
Parks wanted to become a Presbyterian preacher, and he actually went to Presbyterian College. Grandpa sent him down there. This is before he came to Bassett to stay with us. And I can remember him wanting to become a preacher, and he went to Cincinnati, where Aunt Johnsie was living at the time, and went to seminary up there for a year. And I can remember him standing on this little porch upstairs on the front of Grandpa and Grandma Underdown's house. And I can remember him standing up there with a bible in his hand, practicing preaching to people outside there. But somehow or another Grandpa decided Parks shouldn't go back to the seminary and that he should got to work. [laughs.]
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
How old was he when he was practicing preaching?
PETE UNDERDOWN:
Let's see. About 22.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
So he had been to seminary?
PETE UNDERDOWN:
He'd been to seminary. He went to seminary before he ever came out to Bassett.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
And you think it was your grandfather's decision that he not go back?
PETE UNDERDOWN:
Right.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
Do you think he wanted to go back?
PETE UNDERDOWN:
I think Parks wanted to go back. I really do.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
Was it an economic decision, that his father didn't have the money?
PETE UNDERDOWN:
Oh, no. Grandpa used to carry enough money around in his pocket in gold certificates to send you to college for five or six years. [laughs.] Just in his pocket alone. He never suffered for money at all at any time during his life. But he felt that for some reason or other Parks should pursue some other course in life other than preaching. He probably thought that Parks would starve to death at preaching.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
He didn't think he was a good preacher?
PETE UNDERDOWN:
Well, preaching was kind of hard to come by back in those days, and I think he kind of felt that Parks didn't have the natural ability. While he had great natural abilities in other lines, he didn't think Parks necessarily had the ability to make a preacher, or make a real good preacher. And probably Dr. Gus McLean, who was the pastor at First Presbyterian Church in Lenoir, might have influenced Grandpa just a little bit about that.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
What did you think of his preaching when he was practicing from the porch?
PETE UNDERDOWN:
Well, my brother and I kind of sat down on the ground, and when he was way up there above the front porch preaching, we sat down on the ground and listened to him, and he never convinced us that it was the right thing to do [Laughter] , so maybe Grandpa was right that it wasn't. But I really in my heart feel that Parks was sincere about this thing and that he really meant to become a good preacher. And his success in the rest of his life indicated that he probably would have made a good preacher.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
A number of people have told stories that show that he had a really strong connection with people, that he was always really able to relate.
PETE UNDERDOWN:
Relate to people. He really could. Sure could.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
Which is certainly part of being a preacher.