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Title: Oral History Interview with Thomas Henderson, October 28, 1999. Interview K-0228. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Henderson, Thomas, interviewee
Interview conducted by Thompson, Charles
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Mike Millner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2006
Size of electronic edition: 244 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2006.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2006-00-00, Celine Noel and Wanda Gunther revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2006-07-19, Mike Millner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of sound recording: Oral History Interview with Thomas Henderson, October 28, 1999. Interview K-0228. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series K. Southern Communities. Southern Oral History Program Collection (K-0228)
Author: Charles Thompson
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Thomas Henderson, October 28, 1999. Interview K-0228. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series K. Southern Communities. Southern Oral History Program Collection (K-0228)
Author: Thomas Henderson
Description: 213 Mb
Description: 65 p.
Note: Interview conducted on October 28, 1999, by Charles Thompson; recorded in Greenville, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Unknown.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series K. Southern Communities, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Interview with Thomas Henderson, October 28, 1999.
Interview K-0228. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Henderson, Thomas, interviewee


Interview Participants

    THOMAS HENDERSON, interviewee
    CHARLES THOMPSON, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Well, first of all this is Charles Thompson from the University of North Carolina and it is October 28th 1999. And it's ten o'clock in the morning. We're here in Greenville, North Carolina on Rosewood Street not too far from the university. And Mr. Tom Henderson is here who's lived in Greenville for a very long time. But we're going to talk about some of his experiences in the tobacco program. But if I could I'd like for you to—. I heard from your daughter, Martha Henderson that you were born in Virginia. I was thinking maybe we could talk about how your life went from the beginning.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well I thought about I would trace it back it being it started that's where the English people found [unclear] tobacco in Jamestown in 1607 when they made that—. That's the first permanent English settlement.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And they found out that the Indians had tobacco and they were smoking it. And I don't know how other ways they were using it, the tobacco. And so they took that tobacco and they sent some to England. And it was dispensed at apothecary shops, which is a drugstore, as medicine. And so then as the population grew the natives—Englishman and farmers started raising tobacco for home consumption over here. And it went from East Tidewater, Virginia up to around Lynchburg and down to Danville. And from Danville it went down to central—eastern North Carolina.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
You mean it was [unclear] .

Page 2
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And, of course, these people from up there had to teach the people down here about it. It was one man going to plant—. He wanted to plant ten acres of tobacco in Goldsboro.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
When was this?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Huh?
CHARLES THOMPSON:
When was this you're talking about in Goldsboro?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
When?
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Yes, sir.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Oh, it was way back yonder. See very few people were raising tobacco in North Carolina.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay, well this is back when they first thought about taking it to—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
When they first started out. And he wrote to his people in Danville, said he wanted—he was going to plant ten acres of tobacco and he thought it would take ten pounds of seed. And so they wrote him back that ten pounds of seed—. They didn't have that much in stock or everywhere—. He probably would need a teaspoon full to plant ten acres. And so, anyway, it spread over eastern North Carolina. And Pitt County raises more tobacco—Virginia-type tobacco than any other county in North Carolina or any county anywhere. And Wilson is the biggest tobacco market in the bright tobacco business. And Greenville was known as second. But they raised thirty-five thousand acres of tobacco in Pitt County, probably twenty-five thousand now. I don't know. And—

Page 3
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Well let me find out a little bit about you before we start getting too much into your tobacco experience. Can you tell me where you were born?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
I was born in a little town—Brookneal, Virginia.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Brookneal, Virginia.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Five hundred people.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Is that close to Danville?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
It's sixty miles from Danville. It's northeast of Danville. It's between Danville and Richmond.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay. It's north. And that was tobacco country, too, wasn't it?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Yes.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And you were born on a tobacco farm?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
No. I was not born on a farm. My father, at that time, was a deputy sheriff.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Oh, okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And we lived out about three miles, two miles, two and a half miles from where this town was.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And you were—what was the date on which you were born?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
August 14th 1914.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Nineteen fourteen. Was that during World War I?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
That was the year it began. We got into it in seventeen.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And I had one brother-in-law killed in that war. And I remember a lot of people—particularly when they came back—. See I was born in fourteen and then by

Page 4
eighteen when the war ended I can remember things from what when I was four years old.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right. Can you tell me about some of those things you remember when you were four?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well I can tell you that there was—we had a tenant there before the war started and his name was [unclear] and his wife was named Flossie. They lived on a tenant house.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Pollard Panel?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Pollard Penell.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Penell, okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And he was drafted. She stayed there on the farm. And he came back and became a very successful black man.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Farmer—he had several farms and that just [unclear] Pollard. But my mother and daddy were very fond of the man and his wife.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So your daddy owned land but he wasn't a farmer. He didn't directly farm it so he—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
He rented it out.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
He had tenants living on the place. And there were tenant houses on the farm?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
I think only one.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Only one and that's where the Penells lived.

Page 5
THOMAS HENDERSON:
But I remember seeing Pollard Penell the day he came in in uniform. It was long about when I was four years old. And Flossie was out our house, his wife.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And they had children?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
They stayed there and had children. And then—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Was this when he was leaving or when he was returning.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
When he was—after the war.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Well he came back safely then.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Yes. He got back safely. And he became a very successful farmer. He owned several farms as time went on. And he was a very intelligent man. And, of course, I don't know what became of him after that. He went his way and—. I know while he was there my mother and daddy had a lot of respect for him. They liked him very much as tenants.
But, anyway,—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And you were a boy then. You were four years old. What do you—what else do you remember about growing up there?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Oh, I [Laughter] —I had my first experience chewing tobacco at six.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
At six?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
We—my brother—half-brother and another boy in the neighborhood we went over to where [unclear] had his tobacco barn and we got us some tobacco.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right. It was hanging up in the barn.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
It was hanging in the barn. It was being cured.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Well your daddy didn't raise that but Mr. Penell did I guess.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
No. This was a different farm. This was a different farm.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay.

Page 6
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And we went over in the woods and started chewing it. And I was beginning to get sick. Well I had sense enough—I was six years old. That was 1920. And I went home as fast as I could, went upstairs and got in bed.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And I slept. Well lunch came and they couldn't find me. Mama found me and we were all eating lunch. And she said, "Son, why did you go upstairs and go in the bed—get in bed this time of day?" And I said, "I chewed some tobacco." [Laughter] So that was my experience chewing tobacco. I never wanted any more.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So you went on—you grew up in Brookneal and lived there through school. Is that right?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Yeah. And I attended Lynchburg College one year.
Well I came to East Carolina Teachers' College.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Oh you did.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
I was there the first year they had any students.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And which year was that?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Nineteen and thirty–two.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay. First year they had students.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
First year they had any men students to amount to anything. There were about seventy-five boys and nine hundred girls. And I had a beautiful girl. Somebody said, "How in the world did you get a pretty girl like that as scrawny and as skinny as you are?" I said, "Well, I was one of seventy-five and there were nine hundred to pick from." And I picked this girl. And that's the only reason I got her is because I had on pants. [Laughter]

Page 7
Her senior year I kept on with her. She was a beauty queen. She was chief marshal and a lovely girl. And so I think she's still living. She was married in Duke Chapel. And she was from the—. The boy she married was from Fair Bluff. You ever hear of Fair Bluff?
CHARLES THOMPSON:
In North Carolina, yes, I have.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
It's down not too far from—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Lumberton?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Not too far from Lumberton and Mullins, South Carolina.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
It's right on the border. And this man was a big farmer. But anyway—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So most—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
We had the first football team over here at East Carolina.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Is that right?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
The first basketball team. And you see that—that's a baseball field over there. And the man that built that baseball field was Milton Harrington. He graduated from Duke and he couldn't get a job. So he came down here and played baseball at East Carolina. He became president of Liggett and Myers Tobacco Company. And it's Harrington Field.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right. Well tell me before we get on to Liggett and Myers and all that—and I want to. What was it you—can you tell me about your parents and what they taught you about what you might want to do with your life. And how they raised you there and why you wanted to go to East Carolina Teachers' College. I'm curious about that.

Page 8
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well, you don't know much about it but you've heard about it and read about it. It was in the midst of the Depression.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And nobody had any money. I had a brother—half-brother living here. And I graduated from high school and I wanted to study dentistry. And he said, "Mama, sent him down to [unclear] ." He was on the tobacco market and he went to Georgia and then he come back here to [unclear] and then he goes to Kentucky. So his wife was at home quite a bit of time myself. And he said you can stay with me and he can go over there. And you know what it cost?
CHARLES THOMPSON:
I have no idea.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Thirty-seven dollars and a half a quarter. And they furnished everything except your pencil and paper. That's how hard times were.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And your parents said, "Definitely go." They—your parents definitely wanted you to go off to college.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well that's right. And I know when I left here I realized I was not getting what I wanted to get. They were teaching you to be a teacher. So really they were going over what you would teach when you got to, say, high school level. And—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
But you decided to go to East Carolina because it was the closest school, it was the most affordable?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Because it was most affordable.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Most affordable.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Because it was amazing how everybody was in the same boat.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.

Page 9
`
THOMAS HENDERSON:
These girls coming off the farm their hair was bleached. They had on Oxford shoes. But in three months you couldn't tell them from the city girls.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
I see.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
I mean it was just amazing.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
You mean their hair was bleached by the working in the sun.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
The sun—bared headed. And it was—. But as I said I talked to a black man years later. He said, "Mr. Henderson, we had a good time. See we worked hard and we made a dollar a day." But said—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Working in the fields.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
There in the fields. And said, "We stopped working at three o'clock on Saturday."
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And said, "When we'd stop working we'd have a dance." [Laughter] And said, "We [unclear] barefooted dances and have the biggest time." [Laughter]
CHARLES THOMPSON:
That's a good—. Well, what about—. Had you worked before you went off to college? Did you have to work at home?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Yes. I worked. I worked in a grocery store, anything. My preacher asked me, said recently several years ago. Said, "How did you get in the tobacco business?" I said, "I was looking for a job, any job, anywhere."
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Was this after college?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
This was after college. See I had to give up the idea of studying dentistry because I couldn't get the money.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Because this was the Depression.

Page 10
THOMAS HENDERSON:
This was the Depression. It took a $1,000—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
To go to dentistry school.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
To go to dental school. And you know what it costs today? At least twenty-five thousand a year. So—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
But this was—. So you—. Before we leave your high school years that you worked at grocery stores and you worked your way through school.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well, I was—just spending money. See my father was—. Well, he got in the insurance business.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Oh, after he left deputy sheriff.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And he did very well. But I had some money of my own to spend I worked five hours a week—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
When I was in high school.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And you saved up that money to go off to college with, I imagine.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
No. I saved some money. But I bought my clothes. And I helped my daddy. And it was hard. But, as I said, everybody was in the same boat.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And you can't imagine but—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Were your parents both from farms?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
[unclear] back around here. My daddy's daddy was very well to do. He owned after fifteen hundred acres of land. And now my mother's daddy, his father gave him a farm. He was a big—. He had twenty-five hundred acres of land and he gave each one of his boys—and he had six—a farm. And his grandpa's part was two hundred and seventy-

Page 11
three acres. By the way, in that respect grandpa was in the Civil War. And he was at the first Battle of Bull Run.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
He was.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And he was a Gettyburg in Pickett's division. And he thought he was—he was the third in rank. And they were going up in rank, you know. And he was in the third and the two fell before him and so he was in front.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
He thought he was the only man that looked over the federal [unclear] works, but he wasn't because [unclear] . And they completely decimated that division.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
The North Carolina division was the worst hit.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
[unclear] Virginia.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Virginia, too.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
[unclear] Virginia. But my grandfather was a very modest man. He said he never—in the war—he never knew that he killed but one man. And he and a friend were walking on a battlefield and this Yankee was wounded and he picked a pistol and was fixing to shoot one of them. And grandpa had to turn around—he had his rifle and shot him and killed him right there. And he said, "That's the only man I knew I killed." He said, "I shot at a lot of people and they fell. But there may have been ten other people shooting at them."
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And mama said he loved to talk about the war. And he despised Abraham Lincoln. But after he got older he realized that Lincoln wasn't as bad a man as he

Page 12
thought. And he said if Lincoln could have lived, the South would have faired much better than they did under Lincoln—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Under Grant.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And under Grant—. Grant was not the caliber of man that this Abraham Lincoln was.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right. And you remember this grandfather talking about the Civil War?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
No, no. No. No.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
This was—. These stories are—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
My great—my grandfather—my daddy's father was sixteen or seventeen years old and he guarded bridges. Now my grandmother's father loved his horses. And he walked down in the pasture one day. And walked up to this mare and slapped her on the shoulder and she reared and kicked him in the abdomen. And it killed him. It was a ruptured—ruptured—. Wasn't anything they could do about it. He died in about three days. But mama said he loved to talk about the war. And he was captured just before Appomattox. There was thirty-nine men in a ditch. And they—the Yankees were coming and they caught them in this ditch. And they surrendered. And they told them, said, "The war's going to end shortly. But if you promise not to take up arms, you can go home." Well they were thirty-five miles from where he came from. And—but he was relieved when he surrendered. He was about to leave at Appomattox. And after that he came home. And lived until he was sixty-four. And he was a farmer.

Page 13
And now my mother's—my grandfather's wife 's people—. There were four brothers and they were all in the forces of the Confederacy. Three of them were killed. Only one got back home. And their names were Lawson.
But let's get back to the tobacco business. I—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Well that's right. We were going to—. You had said that right after—. You went to college here for one year to become a teacher.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Then I went to Lynchburg College.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Then you went to Lynchburg College.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And after that—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
That was the teachers' college as well.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
No. No. Lynchburg Christian College it was. But it's now Lynchburg College. And it's a small school but a very good one.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
It's on the—. You've heard of Hampton Sydney College. Well it's about the size of Hampton Sydney College.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
About nine hundred and some students.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well, no—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Now it is.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
I think there were about three hundred and some.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Three hundred, then, okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
But it was a good school. And I know I had a friend that we were both going to study dentistry. And he said his daddy gave his a $1,000. And he said, "Now

Page 14
son, that's it. No more." But he had an aunt living in Richmond. And she said, "You come down here and you can stay at my house and go to the University of Richmond."
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well that was Charlottesville, I believe. And he became a dentist. And—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
He was your best friend.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
He and I we played together. He had a motorcycle. We'd go down to—he had some relatives down in Campbell County. And we'd go down there. And I remember we were coming back and we'd got back out to the [unclear] . And he put me out at my house. And he was going down the back streets to get home in the dark with his motorcycle. But he was a nice fellow. A nice young man and we enjoyed the company of one another. But I came down here to—. My brother [unclear] here. My brother moved to Durham. He got promoted to supervisor for Liggett-Myers Tobacco Company.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So your brother was older and he had already started working—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
He's three years older than I am.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Second husband—my mother married brothers.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Oh.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Her first husband died in '32. And my wife—my daddy was a widower. And he died and she married my daddy. And so it was a case of your children, my children, our children.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right. Okay. And so you were twenty years or more behind some of the other.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And he was very successful.

Page 15
CHARLES THOMPSON:
You had how many brothers and sisters in all? I mean you say yours—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
There were fourteen of us.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
All combined.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
All combined.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And you were the—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
I was next to the baby.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Next to the baby. Okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Next to the baby.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Next to the baby.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Thirteenth.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Yeah, thirteenth. And my [unclear] was—. Sometimes my daddy would tell it. He said mama would call him and say, "Steve, come here." She said, "My children and your children are fighting our children." [Laughter]
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So you had an older brother whose name was—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Kenneth Henderson.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Kenneth Henderson who had already taken a job—. Now this was back during the Depression as we talked about. And he had already been promoted by the time you were out of college.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Kenneth – [unclear] worked under my brother. And he became president and my brother was the one who [unclear] . But he was fifty-nine years old and Milton was about forty-five. And so they made him president. It was two that were supposed to be made head of the lease department. And my brother was so disappointed. But [unclear] this fellow

Page 16
Milton [unclear] . He came in Kenneth's office and he'd say, "Kenneth, said if you don't help me I am going to [unclear] " and began to cry. He said, "If anybody ever deserved this job you do." And said, "I came in here to tell you that you will have to help me if I am to succeed." And so he [unclear] him but he was really disappointed.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
I'm sure he was.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And [unclear] story about why he didn't get appointed which something personal that had its effect on him getting the job.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right. But this was—when—you—you finished at Lynchburg College, is that—?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
No. This was about two years. I had two years.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
You had two years of college and you decided to go to Liggett-Myers for what reason?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
He got me a job.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
He got you a job.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
He got me a job keeping books at night.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
While you were still in school?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
No.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
This was after.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
I'd given up the school idea.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Do you remember why you gave that up?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Yes. I didn't have no money.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay. Well that's a good reason.

Page 17
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Yeah. That's right. There was no way. I told you about the boy that had the thousand dollars.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
He parlayed that with his aunt's help where he could go to school. I didn't have an aunt that I could call on.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
I guess you remember him driving off on his motorcycle with plenty of money to go to school. That must have been a disappointment.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
No. We kept up with one another. He had to—. See it cost about a thousand dollars to go to med school then. And—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Which was a lot of money in the Depression, we know that.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Yes, sir. You better believe it. And I went up there to a fraternity dance when he was up there. And that's the last time I ever saw him. But—where was I?
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Well we were—. I wanted you to start with how your brother got you a job at Liggett-Myers. You had run out of money and were not going on into college. But he had gotten you a job as a bookkeeper at night.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Right. And I worked there for six months. And—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
This was in Durham?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
In Durham.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And they must have—. I've forgotten the man's name now that was head of that office. There was about seventy-five people working there. And he told me—. I asked him, "I hope I can come next season. Look forward to coming back." He said, "No. I told you it's time that I would not need you anymore after this time."

Page 18
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And so it was very [unclear]
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Were you living with your brother at that time?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Yeah. I was living with my brother.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And that's your first time that you came to North Carolina?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Except to school.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Oh that's right. You were—. Oh, okay. You came for one year and then you left and then you came back.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Right.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And so I—.
Kenneth got me a job with a small tobacco company in Henderson—I mean in Smithfield. That's where my wife is from. It was Cunningham and Stables Tobacco Company.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And I went there to work in the factory. And they paid me $80 a month.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Doing what were you in the factory?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
I was really factory superintendent. And I was twenty-two years old.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
My goodness.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
I had about a hundred and fifty folks working there.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
They're making cigarettes?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
No, no. This was [unclear] . It's a market there. And we bought tobacco on that market and we processed it. We stemmed it or we put it up in bundles. And we had orders. And we put up some tobacco on speculation.

Page 19
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And we had about three hundred hand stemmers that stemmed tobacco by hand and—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And how did that work—the stemming work?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
All right. Well they stemmed this tobacco—they had on aprons and they'd fill the apron up. And they kept the stems and you paid them four cents a pound for the stem. And at the end of the week they weighed the stems. I would weigh the stems and I would pay off on Saturday. We'd pay off with money.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So they're stemming the tobacco by hand?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
By hand.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
There were these aprons and they're dropping the stems in their aprons.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Yes. I reckon so. I don't remember exactly what they did with the stems.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And you were the supervisor at that point going around to—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well I had—. Yes. I was everything. I looked after that stemming room. And I looked after the leaf room. I looked after the receiving room where the tobacco went through the redrying machine and was put in [unclear] and weighed and tagged and carried to a storage house. I kept the time for all employees that were [unclear] and made payroll.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And did you develop—?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Huh?
CHARLES THOMPSON:
You must have gained the trust of all those people through those years. I mean they had to trust you with all their hours and their—

Page 20
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well the people—. We paid—. We weighed the stem. We paid them four cents a pound—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
For the stems. And—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Did you mark it down in a book or did you—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
I put it down. I would weigh stems twice a week.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And you won't believe this. We had—we were losing some tobacco by—it was getting damaged. And the man that was president of that company said, "I want you all to stop." We were weighing stems at five o'clock Friday afternoon. And about nine I would start making the payroll.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And he said, "I want you to weigh stems at nine o'clock and make the payroll when you get through." But we get through at eleven o'clock. And I—by myself, we'd start on that payroll for three to four hundred people. And it would take me until five.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Five in the morning.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Five in the morning. Well I got—. I was good at it. I didn't make mistakes. But I did to start off with. But a man told me, said, "Don't try to do it too fast." And I got so I could do it [unclear] . And [laughs], if I do say so myself, I was pretty daggarned good. At five o'clock I would finish the payroll. And we had a seventeen-year old boy to help me. And at five o'clock, I'd go by my room. I didn't have a car. And I would shave and put on a clean shirt and walk a mile to breakfast. And then I

Page 21
would come back and get there by quarter to seven to let employees in on Saturday morning. And at twelve o'clock I paid off. And—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
You were just twenty-two. You could stay up all night.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well it worked [unclear] . They—it wasn't right. They worked me to death. But I was tough. I grew up on a farm and I was used to work. And—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Now you grew up on a farm. I was wanting you to tell me about growing up on a farm and how—. You had talked about working at a grocery store. But you worked on a farm then when you were—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well, some, not much.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Not much. But I worked in a grocery store.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
But that's after—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
We—at that time I was going to Brookdeer High School and I graduated from Brookdeer High School.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And we had moved to town. The Depression—. My father—we had a store and a nice home and he went broke during the Depression. And so we moved over to Brookdeer and I went to Brookdeer High School and graduated. But during the summertime and after school, any time the man would let me work, I'd work. And I usually worked until ten o'clock Saturday night.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
But y'all probably had a garden and y'all had hogs.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Yes. We had a hogs.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And a milk cow and all.

Page 22
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Had a garden. And we did a lot of small—. See I had a younger brother. And so my daddy—. We planted corn and we had a good garden. And we ate well. But my mother would say, said—she patched our clothes and said, "There's no excuse for dirty clothes or clothes with holes in them. I can patch the holes and I can wash the clothes. And [unclear] you can hold your head high."
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Good. So that taught you how to work hard. And when these people made you stay up until five in the morning you had these values of hard work and—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
I was determined. Of course I made up my mind I wasn't going to do that anymore. And so—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
You worked there for how long?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Three years.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Three years.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
They didn't raise my salary in the three years.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
They didn't?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
We got $80a month. So—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And this was what years—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Nineteen thirty-two. No. What a minute. Lord have mercy I've lost—. I went down there in '36—'37, '38.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay. So this was right during the beginning of the tobacco program.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Yes. That's right. And so I came to Greenville and got a job with Mr. Charlie Howard president of Greenville Tobacco Company. And he offered me $125 a month.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
That's quite a jump.

Page 23
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Yeah.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
From eighty.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well the man that was—the company that I worked for was Cunningham and Stables. They decided that they were going to split up. We had a plant in [unclear] and one in Greenville and one in Smithfield. And Stables came to me and said, "If you will go with me over to [unclear] Springs I will make you an officer in the company. And you will run the factory and I will pay you $175 a month." So I called up Mr. Howard and I told him the situation. And I said, "Mr. Howard, would you release me from my promise?" He said, "Yes." So I went to work over there. And I worked there three years. And that company went broke.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
This was in Smithfield?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
No. That was in Fuqua Springs.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Fuqua Springs. Right.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
So it's really more complicated than that. But I—. That's when I came to Greenville. And the company went broke. And Mr. Garrett hired me.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Well how did Mr. Garrett know about you? Were you—?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well a man told me, said, "A person [unclear] drinking." And he said, "You go down there, I think you can get the job." And so I came to Greenville and Mr. Garrett said, "I'll have to talk to the folks in Richmond before I hire you. But I will let you know right away."
CHARLES THOMPSON:
This was—. Had you ever been a buyer before that? You were—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
No, no—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
You were a bookkeeper basically.

Page 24
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well I was—. I beg your pardon. The last year I was in Fuqua I followed sales for quite a bit. I had—. Also I had to run the factory. So I had double—double duty. And they worked the living daylights out of me. And so anyway, Mr. Garrett wrote me a letter. It said, "They told me to hire you." If that if I didn't—. They wanted you because they knew your brothers and they were good tobacco men. And so they gave me a [unclear] . And incidentally, Mr. Garrett, one of the first things he told me, he said, "I want to tell you something." Said, "I have always thought the tobacco buyer that wouldn't take a drink of liquor wasn't worth a damn." But I didn't drink and he knew it. He was talking to me. Fifteen years later he was talking to me. He had forgotten it. He said, "You know—he called me Tommy—he said, "You know, Tommy. I used to think that a tobacco buyer that wouldn't take a drink of liquor wasn't worth a damn." "But," he said, "I've changed my mind." And that was his way of telling me that he respected me. And I thought a lot of that.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right. He did remember after all, didn't he, that he had said that to you.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
No. I don't think he remembered.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
No?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
I think he just changed. I could be—. I think he kind of thought that a buyer that wouldn't take a drink was a sissy or something. And I just changed his mind about that.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Can you tell—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
It was a most satisfying thing to me. He had a stroke later—a number of years later. And one Sunday—one weekend I got home and my wife said, "Mr. Garrett

Page 25
wants you to come out to his house." He was an invalid. And so I went out there. And usually when you went out there on Sunday he was very [unclear] . [Laughter] So I didn't know what was up. And I—we talked a little bit watching t. v. And then he said, "Let's go up to my room." So we went up there and he said, "Tommy, I don't know what to do about it." Said, "John Hodges—I don't know. He was the man who was nominally in charge it sounded like.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
In Lumberton. But he had—he had gotten old. He was not doing a good job. Well Mr. Garrett had gotten this younger fellow and he was doing all the work. But Mr. Hodges was very jealous. And he made an awful—made it awful for this fellow. And he said, "I'm afraid if I fire—if I retire John it'll kill him." And I said, "Well, Mr. Garrett, I want to tell you. That's your problem." And he [unclear] to me. He said, "I know it is." I said, "But it can't go on. Gary Simsky cannot do the wrong with Mr. Hodges riding him like he is." And he said, "I'm afraid if I retire him it'll kill him." "Well," I said, "you're going to have to do something." And he retired him. And [unclear] Hodges outlived all of them. And anyway—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Well there are a couple of things I want you to not leave out of your story that you've mentioned. You said—you mentioned your wife. And we know that you were married and still are, of course. But when did you meet your wife? Was this after—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Out in Smithfield.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
While you were working there.

Page 26
THOMAS HENDERSON:
While I was working there. She was a pretty girl. And the first time I ever saw her she and a friend were riding horses. And I told her she came by the factory to get a peek at me. [Laughter] And but she looked real sweet.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
She and her sister riding horses up to the tobacco—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
She had on a—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Warehouse.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Bowler hat and a jacket, a black jacket, and jodhpurs. And she really—. Well both of them were dressed just like—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
With English saddles.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Yeah. And the way it all came about this friend of mine we'd go up to Raleigh and go to the picture show every now and then. And he had a car and I didn't. And he—one weekend he said, "Let's take some girls." I said, "All right. But I don't know any girls." He said, "Take that little Boyette girl."
CHARLES THOMPSON:
That little what girl?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Boyette. Her name—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Oh, Boyette, okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Was Boyette. And so I asked her and she said she'd go. Well his girl and my girl were real good friends.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And I married my girl but he didn't marry his. [Laughter]
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So what movie was that—that picture y'all went to see? Do you remember?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
No. I have no idea.

Page 27
CHARLES THOMPSON:
This was in—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And we went to one more time. And I lived only about a block from where she lived. She lived with her grandmother. Her mother and father were dead. And it was three of them: one boy and two girls. And they lived about a block from where I had my room. And so I had to go by the house when I walked downtown. I didn't have a car. And so anyway, we'd go to church together. I got her going to church and—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And which church is this?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well she was a Methodist and I was a Baptist.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Um-hmm. But you decided to start going to the Methodist or—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
If I went with her. But—. And we went together about a year. And so I asked her to marry me. And she was twenty years old. And she said, "I'm too young." And I said—. She said, "I might marry in two or three years." I said, "In two or three years I might not want you."
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Uh-oh. [Laughter]
THOMAS HENDERSON:
So after a while we decided to get married. And her aunt—she had an aunt that was a lawyer. And we went in to talk to her. One night I had a date we were sitting out on the porch.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
In Smithfield?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
In Smithfield.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Her aunt lived there?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Yeah. Her grandmother and aunt lived there. Now the aunt was about forty years old and not married.

Page 28
CHARLES THOMPSON:
It's unusual to have a woman lawyer in your family during those years, wasn't it?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Yeah. But she was a good one. She really has quite a history. Her law partner was her boss. And he realized that she was a smart girl and he talked her into going to law school. And she got admitted to law school. And he took her in as a partner. And he—it's a long story. But, anyway, he turned out—he became president of Nationwide Insurance Company.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
That's a huge company.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
From a [unclear] little town of twenty-five hundred people to a big company like that.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So, anyway, you were sitting on the porch of this aunt.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
So we went in. She was in the den. And we told her what we wanted. She said, "Well, do you make enough living to live on?" I said, "I think so." She said, "Well, the sooner the better." [Laughter] So she was very blunt. I came in and I said, "What have I gotten myself into?" [Laughter] But it all worked out fine.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And your wife's name is—?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Doris.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Doris Boyette was her—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Doris Boyette.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And she—she continued to live with her grandmother until you got married?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
She lived there until we were married.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And you were married where?

Page 29
THOMAS HENDERSON:
In Smithfield in her church?
CHARLES THOMPSON:
In the Methodist church.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
In the Methodist church.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And that was what year?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
That was in 19—let me see, it must have been in 1939.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Thirty-nine. Okay. So you've just celebrated your sixtieth wedding anniversary.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
That's exactly right. We've been married sixty years.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay, so—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Sixty-one in January.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
That's—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
I'm going to digress from what we're doing. I'm going to show you a picture of my wife in '40. You know she has Alzheimer's.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
I—your daughter's told me something about that.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
She doesn't know my name. But she does know she loves me.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Oh that's wonderful. [Footsteps as Mr. Henderson leaves the room. Recorder is turned off and then back on.]
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Very pretty woman. So what—did she have a career?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
She never really did. She worked about ten years off and on.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right. I thought she looked very professional in that picture.

Page 30
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Like a schoolteacher perhaps.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
She worked over here at the college. They had a student fund activity fee and it had grown. And [unclear] who is business manager of the college asked her if she would do that—take care of that fund. And it was started off at $75,000. And it grew real fast. And finally they kept—. She was wanting to start at one day a week, then two days and then three days. Then they wanted her to go for a whole week and so she quit. She had children and she felt that the children were more important than the job. And so she had—got more help. Students got to coming to her for advice. And she went over and she said, " [unclear] I don't have time to do that and to keep up with my [unclear] work." And he said, "Doris, you keep on doing what you're doing. I'll send you help." And so she stayed there until it got to be a regular job and she quit. Because our children were still—they were in high school. And she was very conscientious about the children. In fact, I told her one time, I said, "If you don't let these children walk some, their legs are going to fall off." If they had to go a block she had to ride them.
[Laughter] I've gotten off on personal stuff. Let's get back to the tobacco business.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
That's good. Okay. I do like to hear some personal—. Th—but there was one other piece that I wanted you to talk about before we get away from it. And that is that you said that your boss mentioned that a man has to drink in order to be a good tobacco buyer. And I'm just wondering about your decision not to drink. That came from your religious—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
My mother's influence.

Page 31
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Your religious background and your mother's influence. Okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Yeah. Well, my father—my father when I was six years old or seven—. It really upset my mother when he drank. He didn't get drunk or anything, but he'd take a drink. You could smell it. And it really bothered her. And so I think she kind of—she had a—. Auntie [unclear] to tell you why she was so fond of my mother.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Good.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
When I was born they said that I was the ugliest, scrawniest little old baby they ever saw and wouldn't grow. And one Sunday my daddy says, "Carrie, that boy is hungry." Well it was—. Then you couldn't nurse a baby breast feeding. It was terrible.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And so that was a slam on her and she—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Carrie was her name, right?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Huh?
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Your mother's name was Carrie?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Carrie.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay. And your father's name was—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Stephen.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Stephen. Okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
So he said, "Well nobody's going to be here until we give him something to eat." So he told my half-brother, he said, "You hitch up my horse to the buggy." See this was about 1915. He didn't have a car, couldn't afford it. Most people had cars. And it was about two miles to town. And he went over there and bought some prepared baby

Page 32
food and brought it home. And they fed me at two o'clock. I didn't wake up until the next day at two o'clock. I was starving to death. And my aunt told me that, "You were the scrawniest, ugliest little old baby I ever saw." [Laughter] But mama, I think, she kind off—maybe I was a little bit special to her because I was weakly and—. She used to tell me, said, "Son, if you work a lot you'll grow big." And said I'd be down in the field working and said—I'd be just working away and she'd say, "Don't go big." But my half-brother—and he is half, but he's a great big old boy. He had his. He wasn't inspired.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So you respected your mother a lot. And that was—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
I—but she taught me songs. She was very musical. And one Sunday—. She liked to walk in the pasture and the woods. And she would take me. One time we were in the pasture walking and I got behind. And so she turned around and said, "Thomas, come on." And I said, "Mama, I'm a coming. I'm a coming for my head is bending low." You are familiar with—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Oh yeah.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
She had taught me that song. [Laughter]
CHARLES THOMPSON:
For my head is bending low.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
But she was a wonderful mother. Very intelligent, but big as a—. She wasn't about five, five-four, five-five, didn't weigh but a hundred and ten or fifteen pounds. She was a small woman.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
But very, very intelligent. Now, where were we?

Page 33
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Well, we were back at your decision to come to Fuqua, wasn't it? We were talking about that and then you were hired in Greenville.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Yeah. Mr. Garrett. I worked—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Mr. Garrett.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
I worked with them until I retired. Well, [unclear] cease to exist about four years before I retired. They built these big huge, big plants. They built one in Wilson, one in Smithfield, one in Danville and one in Henderson. And they took—. See there was—. Every one of those: Tentson, Wilson, Greenville, Rocky Mount, all those towns had plants that had tobacco plus they—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
All of them Liggett-Myers?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
No. All of them were Universal Leaf Tobacco Company.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
We bought the requirements for federal [unclear] . And they are the biggest cigarette manufacturers now. But at that time they weren't. [unclear] Reynolds was the biggie.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
What do you mean "bought the requirements"?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
The tobacco that they needed to make cigarettes.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay. You bought all of Philip Morris' tobacco.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
All of the black tobacco. And then there was burley tobacco. Burley and bright are the two big constituents or parts of tobacco over the cigarettes. Now they have Greek and Turkish and other foreign in small amounts for flavor or something. I don't know.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Well, this—.
We're still in the 1930s around the New Deal Program. I'd love to hear you talk some about what you remember about Roosevelt's tobacco program

Page 34
starting. I mean, before that there was tobacco, right? How did it begin to go into stabilization and all of that?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well, that was a—that was a—that was under Roosevelt. And they called it the co-op. And it was set up under the Department of Agriculture. Each county had a Department of Agriculture business. And they supported the tobacco program. They got a grading program. And once they got to grading tobacco. And each put their grade—that represented what that tobacco would—the government would pay for it.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And you could buy a dollar more and the companies could buy it. Some of it they didn't want and it went to the government. Other part of it they paid way over more than that because it was in demand. That was the kind that was in demand. But the times—during the hard times—the government was giving as much as twenty-five percent of the tobacco [unclear] . And so they had redried—and tobacco was redried. And they would sell it to the companies that wanted it.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Now the allotment program started about the same time.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
That's right. And that—so they could control it.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right. Because there was beginning to be too much production when the government bought it.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
That's right. It got to be—it got to be a big thing. But they are managed—it was handled very well, I think, because they sold that tobacco to anybody that wanted to buy it.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And it was—it paid for itself. And—

Page 35
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And this was the stabilization—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
That was stabilization. And they had the grading service there. They graded this tobacco after it fell on the floor.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
This was in Raleigh or just everywhere?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Every tobacco market had the graders.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And they was grading before we bought it.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And they had support. For instance, a B3F would have a fifty-four cents that would support the fifty-four cents. If it didn't bring in fifty-four cents, it went to the stabilization.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And it worked because eventually the tobacco companies would need that tobacco and have to buy it.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Sometimes they would need it or they would sell it sometimes to foreign customers.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Oh, okay. I see.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Where it was wanted. And it was not a losing money proposition. It was a money making proposition.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And it worked.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And it worked.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Now do you remember what year it was started? Where you were maybe when—

Page 36
THOMAS HENDERSON:
I was—I think it—in the thirties. It started in the thirties during the Depression.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right, right.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
It was a result of the Depression. And it was started and it was under Roosevelt. Now I don't remember the year because, you see, I got in the tobacco business when I was—really the first year was '36.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And that was bookkeeping. And then '37 I got to working with tobacco.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And do you remember when you were working that the tobacco program started—the cooperative or was it right before that you started or do you remember things changing?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
I was right in there somewhere. It seems to me maybe like it was '36.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right. It does to me, too.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
I'm not positive about.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Maybe '37 by the time it was enacted. But right around the time you began tobacco buying was when farmers were seeing their allotments and a support price and so on and so people began making money.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Yeah. That's right. It was a good time for farmers although they complained. But they were doing better than they ever had.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right. Because the government had gotten into it and was helping.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Right. It was really a complicated thing and it—. I had a friend he was an investigative—he investigated illegal things going on on the warehouse floors. And I [unclear] tobacco—didn't have to but I took pleasure in it.

Page 37
I'd get [unclear] sale and I'd [unclear] tobacco. And I was in a warehouse. It was one that wasn't used anymore. We were using it to store tobacco in. And I was grading tobacco and I saw about ten piles of tobacco that the top of it was different from the bottom. You could stand off to the side and see it. And I avoid it. So it made me mad. And I talked to Mr. Garrett about it. And I said, "Mr. Garrett, the head of the investigative end of the tobacco—oh I've forgotten what we called it then—is from [unclear] and he's—I grew up with him and he's in charge of that. And he will do—come down here and do what I ask him to do." He said, "You call him." So he came down there and I talked to him. I said, "Jr.—". And I told him what happened. He said, "Tom, I'll be there in the morning." And so he went down there and he talked to this fellow named Fry, and said, "We have caught you." And I showed him this tobacco.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Was this a farmer who had stacked it that way—a farmer—?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
No. It was a house.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Oh, a warehouse.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
A warehouse. They have a leak man. He handled it—it was tobacco they had bought and sell and they mixed it—some cheap tobacco on the bottom and best tobacco on the top. And I avoid it because I buy it by the top [unclear] . So it scared the man to death. He said, "If I catch you one more time." See the tobacco was supported by the government and if he took that support out there wasn't nothing to hold it up there. It would just come down.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So in other words you could threaten him and say, "We won't support you."

Page 38
THOMAS HENDERSON:
That's right. If you do it—if I catch you one more time your support's gone. Boy that made a Christian out of him you can bet your best—. And I thanked him. He didn't live long after that. He was my age or a year younger. And I don't know why he didn't live longer. It's funny about how life—those who live and don't live. But we paid—we grew up together. We played baseball—used to be on a baseball team.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
In Brookneal and that's—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
This was just sandlot ball. In Brookneal at one time they had a semi-pro team that was—. Danville was in it. It was Class C ball. And Brookneal had a good semi-pro team and tobacco folks were backing it. And the tobacco folks were backing this team in Danville. So the folks in Brookneal tried to get the people over in Danville to play them and they just laughed at them. And finally they worried them so much they said, "Well if you want to play us then bring your team over here." They said, "It won't cost you a penny. We'll pay our own expenses." And Brookneal beat them three straight or two straight. So then they tried to hire all the players. [Laughter] And my brother was playing on that team. He was a good pitcher. He was a nice—he was nice size. He weighed about a hundred and eighty pounds. And it's like he had a lot of friends. And this fellow was in charge of [unclear] and he told me, he said, "When you walk and you six or eight men together and Mr. Henderson was in them," he said, "he always stood out." That he was a nice looking fellow. He didn't look at all like me. [Laughter] But he was—mama's oldest son. But where were we?

Page 39
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Well here's what I'd like to talk about is give me this scene of what it was like to be a tobacco buyer. When you started this job in the thirties what were you doing and how could you tell that there was good tobacco and bad tobacco?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well it was a matter of learning. This was bright tobacco.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And tell us what a bright tobacco is.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well it's burley tobacco and bright tobacco and—let's see. There's Maryland—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Tobacco grown in Maryland, a special kind. But bright and burley are the principal kinds.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And the government supported them. And—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Does bright grow better in North Carolina than anywhere else? Is that why there's so much here?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Yeah. I think climate had a lot to do with it.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And, of course, in eastern North Carolina at that time, farming was by mules and horses, mostly mules.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
But as time went on tractors took over. And this flat land they could just—they could just plant anything. And the quality of the tobacco was good. Now Doris, my daughter, married a Taft. And his mother was a Winslow. Now Mr. Winslow was a big farmer. I mean a big farmer. He had—I don't know exactly. But I think he

Page 40
had about ten thousand acres of land. And he grew as much as eight hundred acres of tobacco.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
When was this? This was—.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
This was back before the war.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay. World War II.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Two, yeah. And he had—. And he also sold mules. He'd go to Missouri, and buy a trainload of mules and bring them back here. And he had had lots one across the road where he could put a hundred mules in it. And he sold them to farmers that farmers wanted them. But he was bound to have been a smart man to have had an operation of that kind and do it successfully. And he had—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Now I was always under the impression that tobacco was grown on such small acreages because one family couldn't tend that much. But this one grower had eight hundred—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Tenant system.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And he had how many, a hundred tenants?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
He really had probably had hundreds of tenants. Now on that—there's a farm over across the river that Joe Taft's mother, my son-in-law's mother owns. And it's about four hundred acres in it. Well you could see there's some of them still left—cabins that these blacks lived in.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Most of the tenants were black.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Um-hmm. Most of them black. During the war that changed the blacks went up north where there was work.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And factories.

Page 41
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And factories. And so—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And the whites became tenants?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Huh?
CHARLES THOMPSON:
There became more white tenants during the war?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
No, they—. Well, I reckon so. But it became mechanized. They—. And when the war was over a lot of blacks came back and the jobs were gone. So they didn't—a lot of them came back but it could sustain only so many. So not as many blacks as there was.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
In agriculture at least.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
In agriculture. And of course, blacks became more diversified and they became able to do things that they hadn't done. And so they—it just eased itself out I think probably to the betterment of everybody concerned.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Do you think that when blacks went off to work in factories in the north that their lives became better than they were as sharecroppers?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well they came—could do more than one thing and that's farm. They got to doing other things and then became more diversified.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Well let's get back just a little bit to the tobacco crop itself and how you knew the difference between a grade A tobacco and a grade C tobacco.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well, it's—there are "x"s that's [unclear] and [unclear] .
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay. FX—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
FX1, FX1L and FX2L, FX3L and then they have [unclear] , PQL, P2F, P3F, P4—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And you could tell by looking at those—

Page 42
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Yeah.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Would the sand lugs have more holes in them?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
There would be peas. Sand lugs came off the bottom.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
You could tell when they were dry. How could you tell?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well it's—well in the first place a look, a [unclear] were thin and usually sand on them. The rain, it would—sand would get on them.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And the leaves just looked smaller and not as full.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well some of them are good and some of them are clean. It depends on the farmer. Now they had tobacco harvesters. They didn't do as clean a job as hand harvesting.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
No. You remember when everybody was harvesting all of it by hand.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
That's right. That's right. Now except up around where I came from they cut tobacco. They would cut it up. They had a tobacco knife. But the smaller of it, if somebody had ten acres up there, that's a big allotment. Down here ten acres is just ordinary. But they split that stalk open—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
With a knife.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And then—it was sharp on both sides—and cut it off. And they had a stick. Somebody would hold a stick. And you'd throw that plant, the whole plant, over across that stick. And when you got—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Did the stick stab through the leaves?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Huh?
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Did the stick go through the leaves?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
You split the stalk.

Page 43
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Split the stalk and you split it with that knife.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And you cut it off down where you didn't split.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And that made something to hold it. Put it on there. And when you feel that stake—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
I got it.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
You lay it down and somebody'd come with a wagon and—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So half goes on side of the stick and half on the other side.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
That's right. That's right. And so—now where were we?
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Well, we're talking about grading tobacco and knowing—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Yeah. That's a [unclear] . The next would be cutters. That's on up. And that tobacco's bigger. And so usually the good cutters were very expensive. And good leaf—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
About the top, the middle of the stalk is that what you're talking about.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
The opposite top—. If they let those suckers, the tips get ripe usually that did well. But they—. If wasn't as easy to cure the tips as it was the tobacco under.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And so—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Now this was all cured and it's called bright leaf because it's cured by—well, early on, by wood or by kerosene or—

Page 44
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well, oil—. They used—it depends on the heat, see. Now it used to be—have furnaces and they'd fire with wood from outside. And they had pipes going around, flues they called them.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
A stovepipe going around the room.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Around the room and the heat would rise and dry the tobacco out. And then they—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Was that a better quality than when they went to the oil heaters or was it—could you notice a difference?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well there's all kinds of tobacco. And there were good kinds of tobacco that were fruit cured. And there were good kinds that were bad. There were good kinds that were cured with oil and gas. They had gas. And –
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Seems like wood might give tobacco a slightly different flavor, just the way—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well it looks like that but down here there's very little tobacco was cured with wood.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Back where I came from the allotments were so small a man that had ten acres up there he had a bigger lot. Here ten acres is nothing. There's plenty of people that has forty, fifty, sixty, seventy as much as two hundred acres of tobacco. And it was—down here was where it was grown most. My little town [unclear] sold three or four million pounds that was it. Down here in Greenville when I came they were selling seventy million. And they—come on down there now—. This year I heard someone sell a million. I don't even go down there. It's so different.

Page 45
CHARLES THOMPSON:
How is it different?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well, in the first place, you've got women in it. [Laughter] They've got women graders, women buyers and I don't like it. I remember [unclear] Davis warehouse in Fairmont and this woman—I knew her—got in the sale right ahead of me. But she was just spectating, you know. And I just—I didn't—I said, "Sarah, go up there in front of [unclear] he'll buy more of your tobacco than I am." She made me—I couldn't think. And I was working making a living. She was a doll. She looked good but I didn't want her messing up my work. And—but now they have women graders, women buyers, women everywhere. And—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And when you—that warehouse scene is so fascinating to me. Let's go back to the thirties and forties when people were still farming with mules. What did it look like inside of that tobacco warehouse as you were doing the buying? And what did it sound like and so forth?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well you—it used—used to be on t. v. auctioneers, the chant. But you don't hear it anymore.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Did you like that chant?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well, what I liked in an auctioneer was one that was it was clean. You could understand. Some of them's hard to understand.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right. [Train whistle.]
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And the best one's the ones that did a good job and they had some sense. I was [unclear] Planter's warehouse in [unclear] —. We bought a lot of tobacco in Fairmont. And I bought the first nine piles in a row. And it was cheap tobacco, common tobacco. And we got to four piles of real good tobacco. And that auctioneer didn't give me a buy. I

Page 46
was so mad. [Laughter] It's a wonder somebody didn't whip me back then. And I sat down on a pile of tobacco. There was another row over here and I sat down on it. And Morris Daniels was running the warehouse. He said, "What's the matter, Tom?" I said, "Morris I bought the first nine piles of common tobacco in this row. And you get up here to some good tobacco, I didn't get a one [unclear] ."
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So a good auctioneer is going to look—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
He's going to look after me.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
He's going to look after you and everybody else and try to be fair to everybody.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Yeah. That's right. And Morris came over there and said, "Tom, I don't blame you one bit. And I'm—certainly in another year I'm going to do something about it. But I can't do anything about it now." But he was telling that auctioneer he was going to fire him. And I reckon he did. Because anybody that didn't have any more sense that that ought not to be splitting tobacco. If— [unclear] got the first pile. Then—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right. To say "thank you" for buying the nine.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
That's right. But, anyway—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So there—so this was the scene. What are the auctioneers saying to you as you buy it? I mean to a lot of us you can't understand them at all. But you can understand a little bit. He's telling you the price.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
He's chanting and—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
What's he saying basically?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
He's saying, "Twenty-five, five [unclear] , six, seven, eight" whatever his chant is.

Page 47
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right. He's saying—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
[unclear]
CHARLES THOMPSON:
He's saying a price.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
You get your ears attuned to that sound and you don't have any trouble except some sorry ones. They [unclear] . They're hard to understand.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And how do you let him know that you want to buy that pile? What do you—what signal—?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well you're bidding [unclear] just to look at an auctioneer, he's supposed to take your bid.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Oh, okay. Just make eye contact.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Eye contact and—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And that means "yes."
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Yes. And so—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So you didn't raise you hand or—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well if it's—sometimes when all of it's—. You've got ten, fifteen piles of tobacco and it all looks just alike, well, everybody puts their hand up on whatever it is. If it's seventy-seven or eighty-seven or a dollar seven, or whatever. You add the two up and that means a seven, see. And—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay, two, okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And you understand and you know what to the auctioneer he's crying. And—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So you got—. There's a series of people walking along. There's—the auctioneer walks first?

Page 48
THOMAS HENDERSON:
He's on the other side of the room. And then you've got a starter. He starts the pile of tobacco at what he thinks it's near what it's worth.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And he's not really buying. He's just—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
He's the warehouse—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay. He starts it.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And he's got—he hires—the warehouseman hires the auctioneer.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And behind the auctioneer is a [unclear] . And he will buy a pile of tobacco, pile of tobacco for the warehouse if he thinks it's not selling good enough. And then after that—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
The warehouse over and above the stabilization organization can buy its own tobacco. I didn't know that.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
What's that now?
CHARLES THOMPSON:
The warehouse can buy tobacco—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
It can buy tobacco, yes.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So you got—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Anybody can buy it.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So you got the starter and then you've got several buyers. You're buying—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well, most of the time there's about eight buyers.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Liggett and Myers, there's you—

Page 49
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Liggett-Myers, American, Reynolds, Imperial, [unclear] . Then you'd have your dealers like [unclear] Company and Interstate Tobacco Company and—what in the world is the name of the place over there [unclear] ? But, anyway, it was a small kindly. Piedmont Leaf Tobacco Company.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right. And what are they buying it for? They're—I've never heard of them.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
They'd have foreign customers or they may be buying it for Liggett-Myers. They may be buying it for Reynolds. They may have put in a special order to get more blackamores.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Oh so if you—. You could be buying for Liggett and Myers and then there's another person buying for them.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
We bought tobacco for—we knew it was going to export.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Oh, okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And we dried in our plant. Or we might be buying it for a foreign, small foreign manufacturer. And [unclear] we used to buy a lot of tobacco for Carreras in England—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Oh, okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
—and Galifer in England.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Did they make pipe tobacco or something like that?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well, mostly cigarettes.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Well, I've heard a lot of people talk about the quality of tobacco and the feel of it and how much pride people used to take in it. Could you tell that—how that was?

Page 50
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well the quality is what—. Now the way they handled it, it makes it look good and you'd give them a little bonus for quality.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Now you could tell some farmers were more meticulous than others.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Yeah. That's right. But the main thing was what kind of tobacco it was. Whether it was heavy—it could be too heavy. It could be too much green in it. It could be too burned. It could be not matured. A number of things that as you learn with experience—. The most successful day—one day that I ever had—foreign sale. I went in the warehouse in Fairmont. And I walked towards that floor of tobacco. It was Monday. I said, "This is the best row of tobacco I have ever seen in my life." And I had seventy-two cents. That was a long time ago. Tops was seventy-two. But nobody else had it. And nobody else had over seventy. Well you can imagine what that did. I bought forty-nine percent of that sale.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
You mean you were given permission by your company. Is that what you said?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
They gave me the prices to pay for it.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Oh you could go to seventy or seventy-two.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Seventy-four.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Seventy-four.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
But they said, "Go in at seventy-four and then back up until to find your competition , and after that split." But if you've got five piles there you bought the first one at seventy-four, the next one at seventy-three, the next one at seventy-two. And then

Page 51
maybe somebody would bid seventy-two that didn't get [unclear] but you'd get the last one. So you got four out of the five piles.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
I see. So that way you could figure what they had permission to buy it at.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Yeah.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And you had the highest permission.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
I had the highest permission. Never had—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
What'd they call it, the ceiling price or how did they refer to it?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well, you have a starter.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Starter, okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And he's the [unclear] . He starts the tobacco and he's a good judge of tobacco. And usually—. And it was really a lot of fun, very competitive. And, of course, [unclear] then tempers would fly.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So the best day of tobacco when you bought forty-nine percent of it. Was that the maximum you could buy? The government have certain controls that would not allow you to buy a majority or was it just—?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
You could buy all you wanted to.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
You could buy a hundred percent.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Yeah. And I bought forty-nine percent of that sale, which is almost unheard of. And good tobacco like that and I never had another time when it was exactly like that.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
What year was that?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well that was—. What made it so special, that—. You know you have kinds of tobacco that was disease resistant. They were not as good as the old line variety.

Page 52
This floor was ninety percent old line variety. The kind that all the companies wanted. And I was the man in the driver's seat. I just—I couldn't get over it. It was just like taking candy away from children. I had everybody in my hand. And the best tobacco—it's the best pulled tobacco I ever saw in my life.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And were these—when you were buying that were there farmers standing around by their piles?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Oh yeah. They wouldn't be in the way but they would be where they could see, and they had every right to be. And they would go behind it. And if it didn't bring what they thought it could they'd turn a ticket. They'd tie the ticket out. And that mean that they rejected it.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
While you were still there you could tell if that was rejected or was it after you'd passed on—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well you go on down—you're thinking about what's down the road.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
You're not thinking about what's behind you.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
It's fast. I mean you have to be on top of things. You're walking at a normal pace it seems to me.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
That's right. You've really got to be alert.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And if you want things to go on—. I'm a small man, a very insignificant looking man. But I was [unclear] foreign sale up in Yadkinville. And there was a grade of tobacco that sold—I had thirty-four cents on it. It was heavy. I don't know what—they were going to use it for chewing, I reckon. And that's [unclear] . And the Piedmont Leaf had

Page 53
thirty on it. So this fellow was supervising for Piedmont Leaf. He said, "Listen, [unclear] nobody got that tobacco put you and me. We can split it at thirty." I had thirty-four. He didn't have but thirty. Now if you—I was insulted. That he would think [unclear] and I bought every damn pile.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
At thirty-four.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
At thirty-four [unclear] . And won't me to spend it and give him half of it at thirty. Never work.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
So in other words when you mentioned insignificance you—people often thought that they could boss you around.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Oh he thought—he thought—I was a little old buyer that didn't know what I was doing. And I knew a whole lot more about tobacco than he did. And I had—my boss [unclear] was president of that company. And he told me right out there, he said, "Tom, if there ever was a man in the tobacco business overlooked it was you." And he said, "I tried to do something about it, but I couldn't." And I appreciated it.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
That was nice.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Because I was a good judge of tobacco. Huh?
CHARLES THOMPSON:
That was nice of him to say that.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Yes, it was. He was nice—nice man and we were good friends. He had a boy that's a doctor here. He's an ear, nose—he's a—not a Rhodes Scholar, but a Morehead Scholar. His mother and father had three boys that were Morehead Scholars. And that pays all expenses, everything.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right. Including a year abroad.

Page 54
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Yeah. But—Billy was a nice boy buy he wasn't worth a dern when he came to work at—but he made a lot of money. Billy's sixty years old now, I reckon.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Well it seems to me that you were quite successful in the tobacco business. What do you mean by overlooked?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well, I—I never supervised.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
I never rose. At the end I was doing what I did when I started, buying tobacco.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
But doing it better.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
I had a friend. We started off together. He was younger than me but he was a handsome fellow. But he wasn't a good judge of tobacco. But being handsome and nice looking it helped him. He went right on up, right on past me. And he got up to the top. And then it came out that he wasn't a good judge of tobacco. And he went down just as fast as he went back up. And I felt so sorry for him. I felt so sorry for him because he really didn't do it. He just happened to be a nice looking fellow with not that much judgement. Well to show you—we [unclear] . Well these three graders depended on me—and I'm bragging now. That when they didn't know what to do with tobacco they'd call me. And I liked to do it. And I was pretty good at it. And so one day [unclear] a black man at the door waiting for me to come in to go to the regarding room. And he asked, said, "Mr. B says to come on up there. He's waiting for you." So this man— [unclear] and I went on up there. And I was [unclear] . Dick ventured an opinion on a pile of tobacco. And old Van was a great big old fellow. He used to [unclear] .

Page 55
And he said, "Dick, you're a good fellow and I like you. But you don't know a damn thing about tobacco." [Laughter] But it was really it was a good job. I was happy at it. I thought I was good. And I reckon I was pretty good. I worked at it. And I had—the people that I worked under—this Mr. Hodges was my boss for a long time. But he drank liquor and he got up to about sixty years or more and began to go back. But a supervisor came in one day. He supervised down in Memphis, Tennessee. And he came up to Hoperville where I was [unclear] sale. And Mr. Hodges was in the warehouse with me. And he was [unclear] and then he left. And about that time after he left the supervisor from Memphis, Tennessee came up and said, "Tom, [unclear] Philip-Morris, they don't want it." And I said, "All right, I'll sell it back." He was a supervisor. I was not a supervisor. So I got back in sales and I stopped buying it. And [unclear] the next thing I knew [unclear] catch me by my coattail—it's cold out there [unclear] . He said, "Son are you missing tobacco?" I said, "You mean that [unclear] tobacco, Mr. Hodges?" He said, "Yes, Phillip-Morris." I said, "Well, their son was in here and he told me not to buy anymore." And he walked up about that time and said, "Yeah, Mr. Hodges. Phillip-Morris doesn't want this tobacco." Mr. Hodges looked at him and said, "Sonny, I'm in charge of this market. And as for telling Tommy Henderson how to buy tobacco, you'll never know as much about buying tobacco as he does." [Laughter]
So the fellow said, " [unclear] ." Well, Mr. Hodges, he liked that.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
That's nice. Well, was it—what did it mean for the economy of North Carolina of really all of the tobacco states for tobacco to be doing well. What did it do for the—

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THOMAS HENDERSON:
It's not doing well now.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Well, when it was tell me how—what can of affect a good tobacco market had on everything from children going to college to all that—the farms doing well.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
When the tobacco market was open—. This was a tobacco town.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Greenville.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Purely a tobacco town.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And what does that mean "tobacco town?"
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well it was a—it had businesses that farmers supported. And they sold about sixty million pounds up and it was a lot of money. And these businesses profited by these tobacco companies buying this tobacco. So it was a—. And it was—really everything worked together. But it became a change during the war.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
How?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Huh?
CHARLES THOMPSON:
How did it change?
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
You talked about mechanization but—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well there wasn't enough people to raise this amount of tobacco that they'd been selling. And so—and your help was not as—had the expertise that people did before that. And—but they didn't draft tobacco buyers.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Oh okay.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
They said there was a necessity to the economy.
But some of them—some of—it depended on the draft board. Now they—I was 1–A one time. But I had two

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children so they never bothered me. I had one friend that they called him but I don't believe he had any children. That's before his child was born.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
CHARLES THOMPSON:
We are recording. This is still October 28th and this is the second tape with Mr. Tom Henderson in Greenville. And we don't have very much time for this side. But he had some more stories about tobacco he wanted to be sure to tell. And so we'll talk as long as we can.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Okay.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Now you said you were a little—you didn't want to talk as much about yourself this time but you wanted to talk about tobacco. And I hope you'll talk some about how you feel about tobacco, the program or whatever you would like to say.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well I wanted to say—. Is it going?
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Yes, sir.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Okay. What I wanted to say is outside of the tobacco business.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Outside the—
THOMAS HENDERSON:
[unclear] I [unclear] prejudiced. My preacher asked me once said, "Why did you go into the tobacco business?" And I said I was looking for a job, any job, anywhere. And it was in 1932 I graduated from high school. And I am of a nature a religious person. And I was told by my parents not to smoke until I was grown. Well when I went off to college I thought I was grown and I started to smoking. Not to—in fact a pack of cigarettes would last me two weeks. But as time went on it was quite habit forming. And I drank—I mean I smoke a lot. But my

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mother told me that, said, "Son I hope you'll wait until you're grown because I think it could be—it'll stunt your growth." Boy I didn't need anything to stunt my growth. [Laughter] So, but anyway, I started smoking. And I'll tell you a story. This fellow was a tobacco buyer and his name was Cosby. And he said that he drank. Now he wasn't a heavy drinker but at parties he'd drink. And he said, "You know, I can go to a party and have two or three or four drinks and tell the dirtiest, filthiest jokes and just laugh." And said, "When I could get over that I would be so ashamed the next morning of it." And the tobacco business—the people who raise tobacco, who know anything about tobacco knows that tobacco is not good for you. I smoke cigarettes and tobacco pipe for over fifty years. And I know it wasn't good for me. But neither—no one says anything about liquor. And my Bible says it's not what goes into a person that defiles him but what comes out. And I am of the opinion that more people have started down the road of perdition when they take one drink of liquor. They will do things that would not ever thought about doing. And some of the greatest saints I ever knew smoked tobacco or used tobacco in one form or another. And I think it needs to be said in defense of people who raise tobacco that they are not setting out to hurt anybody. And I have known some pretty good folks that smoke, as good as anybody that'll ever live. And I think that needs to be said. You don't hear anybody talk about taking drinks.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
But more things have happened as a result of a few drinks that never was—it never was—. And one of the—a real good friend of mine he was in the tobacco

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business. He was going—he came home for lunch and he was going back to work. He's treasurer of his company. A man drunk ran a stop sign and killed him. And it happens every day. And those people—. And those people do irreparable damage. They robbed that fellow. He was in his prime. He was in his forties and he had family: wife and children. And they robbed him of that. And I feel very strongly about it. I'm like a friend of mine. He was a pretty good farmer and he went down to the church with a check. He didn't tell me how big it was. And he said, "I've come down here and see if you want the money that I have. But I want to tell you, it's tobacco money. You don't have to take it." [Laughter] The preacher said, "I'll take it." [Laughter] So I was in the tobacco business most of my life although I know tobacco is not good for you. And I quit on my own accord. Nobody stopped me. I quit when I was seventy-nine years old and I quit just like that and I quit. And it would be better off it nobody smoked. But it'd be even better off if none of us took a drink of liquor.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Right.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
And tobacco is not the only thing in this country. When my little girl—oldest child—was about fifteen or sixteen years old she was invited to go for a weekend at a prep school. And my boss had a daughter at that time, same age, and she was invited. And I said, "Are you going to let [unclear] go to that thing?" He said, "Right now, my little foot is down." He said, "I don't know how long it'll be down." Well I said, "Well my foot's down and it's going to stay down. My daughter's not going up there to spend the weekend a fifteen-year old girl with a bunch of boys. No siree."

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But it turns out his daughter got sick and my daughter was going—they were going together. And so it never came to fruition. But I'm—I think parents' responsibilities is more than just looking after your children at home. It's to establish moral principles that they can live by and grow old by.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Yes.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Now having said that, I think I've said enough.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Okay. This—there's just one last question I'll have for you. You said you didn't think the tobacco program or that tobacco was doing well economically and so forth. Do you have some assessment of that or some final word that you'd like to say about where you think the program's going, what the state is giving up as it loses its tobacco.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well there are a lot of people worried about it. But, of course, Greenville has changed from a tobacco town to an industrial town. And it makes a lot of difference. When we came down here in the fall downtown was bedlam—wagons and trucks and everything going to warehouses to get a load of tobacco. And, of course, that's gone. And people—the older people like myself—they miss it. I go down here and get a haircut downtown. And, of course, the warehouse was—across from my barber's shop was a warehouse. And that's gone. All the warehouses that were downtown are gone. And so Greenville is not—it's not even the same—. When I was over here in school in 1932 there were about fourteen thousand people here. And there was about—between nine hundred and a thousand students.

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Today there are eighteen thousand students and there's [unclear] fifty-five thousand population here in this town. So it's changed a lot. And incidentally out of those few boys many of them did real well. There was a boy that I saw the other day that was eighty-seven years old. His name was Albert—McAlbert. And his folks were in the lumber business and he became a neurosurgeon. And he lived in Florida and he died the other day. And I know there was a boy named [unclear] Mills who became an ear, nose, throat specialist. And I have a friend, Jimmy Carr, one of the nicest fellows that I ever knew in my life. He is at a small university—well, he's retired now. He's eighty. He's a year older than I am. He's [unclear] years old. But he was at this small university and was assistant to the president. And then [unclear] football coach when he was [unclear] , school of nursing and he was chairman of that committee. So he was a man that could do a lot of things, and one of the nicest people. And, of course, he paid the nicest compliment. He's got—he had four boys and he named his last one after my boy and me. [Laughter] And he calls me every several weeks or so, you know, and we talk. And he's just the nicest man you ever saw. But there was some fine boys over there at that time. And there was no—the girls couldn't go downtown [unclear] . And now that was [unclear] I don't know. But there was a—two Wake Forest boys came down and were going to date two girls at Cotton Hall. And they pulled out their cigarettes after they got inside and was going to smoke. And Miss Morgan was the dean of women. And their offices were in that dormitory. And she came out in no uncertain terms—they couldn't smoke in their dormitory so they went on outside.

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And while they were out there talking a man walked up and greeted them and got to talking with them. And then he went on in but he had a pipe in his mouth. And they said, "Hey! You can't go in there with that pipe in your mouth." He said, "I think it'll be all right." And he went on in. That was Dr. Wright, the president of the school. [Laughter] But it was a happy time for a lot of people. And, which everybody was in the same shape. Now my brother he bought a car about every other year. He would buy a nice Buick automobile for about fourteen hundred dollars, Roadmaster. And he was making about forty-five hundred. Now Dr. Wright, who was president of the school, got $5,000 a year at that time. He died. I don't know if he—it made have been ten years after I left there. And Dr. Meadows was made chancellor—or they didn't call them that then. But he did some things that were wrong and they put him in the penitentiary. Dr. Meadows. And I don't remember now what it was all about. And then they've had some really remarkable— But the farmers or people in Greenville and Pitt County got that school here. They had one fellow named—what in the world. Hayward Dale. They said they had a ballot and to vote on it. And said he ate up enough negative ballots so it would carry it and they got the school. [Laughter] So the farmers as well as the towns' people are responsible for that school being here, which is a very interesting—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And when you say farmers you mean tobacco farmers.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Tobacco farmers. Most all tobacco—all farmers had some. Pitt County raised more tobacco than anybody else in the United States. And—
CHARLES THOMPSON:
And tobacco will continue to be grown, won't it?

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THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well I reckon but it'll drive them to a slow death. But you don't see anything about alcoholic beverages anymore. Back yonder when they got—used to have the ABC stores started [unclear] it was all against liquor. And they stopped—made it illegal and nobody ever thought about tobacco. But then they started on tobacco and you can't hear anything but something bad about tobacco. And I may go to the devil but I—right now I don't think—I don't think I'm heading that way. I mean I think it's like an old man used to say. He came from Scotland, I believe. Mr. Bybe. And he chewed tobacco. And his preacher, our preacher, would preach a sermon every now and then against tobacco. And Mr. Bybe got him a chew of tobacco and put it right in the front of his mouth and he walked up right in front of him. He was a little man. He said, "I want you to know I'm going to chew my tobacco whenever and wherever I feel regardless of what you say." [Laughter] And well most everybody did drink and smoke. Never thought about smoking as being evil and maybe—maybe I should. But I haven't been too bad a man. I've been sometimes that I wish I hadn't said something. [Laughter]
CHARLES THOMPSON:
But smoking is not something that you feel bad for.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
No. I was—what I was going to talk about a little bit was—tobacco started in Jamestown in this country. And it gradually encroached Virginia. And there's a kind of tobacco grown in Maryland. And—but Virginia, southern West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Kentucky.

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THOMAS HENDERSON:
Now they are bright tobacco there. Kentucky, Tennessee and some in West Virginia and some tobacco grown in Ohio that's pretty closely connected with the tobacco grown in Kentucky. And Indiana and that's burley. And some in Missouri. I know my brother was [unclear] supervisor. He'd have to go to reserve once a year. They had—and there was a congressman from Missouri. His brother was in charge of [unclear] and he came from Missouri originally. Leaky Fowle his name was. And he didn't die—I mean he didn't live long. I don't know what happened to him.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
But you were going—you said you were going to say something about tobacco after it left Jamestown and so forth.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Well I—it gradually spread. It gradually spread. I reckon I said pretty much what I—. Brookneal had a tobacco market that was a hundred and fifty years old at fifty or sixty years ago. So it's two hundred years old [unclear] tobacco [unclear] . And they had a warehouse called Liberty Warehouse. It was wooden. And it had a liberty bell and it'd ring—when the sale started they'd ring that bell. And that burned—it was all wood. But now they sell—they never did sell over two or three million pounds. But now they sell seven or eight million. They've come a long way. And there good—it's good tobacco. I can't think of tobacco—I don't know—it went on down to Georgia and Florida. And—but it was—as I told you it was originally fifty year. And the Indians were the first ones to use it and it was used for medicinal purposes in England. And nobody—I read that somewhere years ago. It was—the government controlled it and the drugstores—and they were called apothecary shops carried tobacco. And it was sold for medicinal purposes. And it's come a long way.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
It has. Well thank you so much. I know you have to go eat lunch now.

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THOMAS HENDERSON:
I wish you'd come back.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
Well I hope I can. We've had a really good talk. And I think I've gotten a lot of good information on tape. And we may be able to get a chance. But I always like to consider each day a finished project and hope that we can come back.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
Where do you make your home?
CHARLES THOMPSON:
In Chapel Hill.
THOMAS HENDERSON:
In Chapel Hill. Well that's—you met Martha up there.
CHARLES THOMPSON:
That's right. And we had a good talk on the phone about me coming here. So I'm glad that we finally met and that you did have lots of stories to tell. And I thank you very much.
END OF INTERVIEW