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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Thomas Henderson, October 28, 1999. Interview K-0228. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Pride in skilled work of tobacco buying

In this excerpt, Henderson discusses that despite the fact that he never rose in the ranks of the tobacco industry, he became well-known as a skilled tobacco buyer. His comments indicate a sense of regret for not having experienced mobility, but also illuminate a sense of pride in having established a good reputation as a skilled laborer.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Thomas Henderson, October 28, 1999. Interview K-0228. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

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] . 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]