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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Daniel H. Pollitt, February 22, 2001. Interview K-0215. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Racial justice beliefs influence decision to join UNC's law faculty

Pollitt describes his physical and political journey to the University of North Carolina School of Law. His previous work as a civil liberties attorney increased his passion for assisting underrepresented people. As a law school professor at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, Pollitt engaged with other liberal-minded colleagues, yet he discovered that the Arkansas community merely supported civil rights goals as a political expedient cause. Frustrated with the hypocrisy, Pollitt took a teaching position at UNC.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Daniel H. Pollitt, February 22, 2001. Interview K-0215. 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

DAVID POTORTI:
When you were working for this law firm, did you already have—it sounds like you already had—that sort of liberal slant.
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
Oh yeah, I sought them out. That's what I wanted to do.
DAVID POTORTI:
Did that solidify your liberal leanings?
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
Yeah, it made me more angry. [Laughter] I mean, hell, you represent all these people being trampled upon.
DAVID POTORTI:
So you liked teaching.
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
I liked teaching, and I wanted to get out of Washington DC. We had two young children. So a job opportunity came at the University of Arkansas, in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where I could teach constitutional law. I had been offered jobs at far more prestigious institutions, but the subject matter was business-type law, and I don't know anything about that. And I didn't want to. It was not my idea of a way to spend your life. So I was there for two years, and that was during the Faubus—Orville Faubus was the Governor. And they had "The road to hell is paved with Little Rocks," is what we would say. And I was in the thick of it. And there were a handful of lawyers who believed in integration in Arkansas. But where I was, in Fayetteville, they integrated right away. And it was very easy, because they didn't have any schools for the African Americans, and they bused them about 60 miles away every day to Fort Smith, which is over a mountain. So to integrate you just stopped busing, and then there's complete integration. And that was done, saved a lot of money. And it was mostly a university community, and there was no problem. And then they passed a disclaimer, oath law. You had to swear you had never been a member of the NAACP or contributed to it, or were a member of an organization on the Attorney General's list. Or if you don't, you don't get paid. So I didn't sign it, and I didn't get paid. And I left.
DAVID POTORTI:
But obviously some people did.
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
Most people. There were five or six of us. The whole architectural school refused to sign, and they all went to Rice as a group.
DAVID POTORTI:
The architectural school. Isn't that interesting.
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
Yeah, they no longer had an architectural school. [Laughter] Maybe they wanted to go to Rice anyway, I don't know. But then I looked for a job, and I was offered one here. And they knew fully well why I was looking for a job. And so I came here as one who had refused to sign a loyalty oath..