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Title: Oral History Interview with George Esser, June-August 1990. Interview L-0035. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Esser, George, interviewee
Interview conducted by Weaver, Frances A.
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Kristin Shaffer
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2008
Size of electronic edition: 520 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2008.
© 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.
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Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2008-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2008-01-04, Kristin Shaffer finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with George Esser, June-August 1990. Interview L-0035. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series L. University of North Carolina. Southern Oral History Program Collection (L-0035)
Author: Frances A. Weaver
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with George Esser, June-August 1990. Interview L-0035. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series L. University of North Carolina. Southern Oral History Program Collection (L-0035)
Author: George Esser
Description: 827 Mb
Description: 184 p.
Note: Interview conducted on June-August 1990, by Frances A. Weaver; recorded in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Jovita Flynn.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series L. University of North Carolina, 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 George Esser, June-August 1990.
Interview L-0035. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Esser, George, interviewee


Interview Participants

    GEORGE ESSER, interviewee
    FRANCES A. WEAVER, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
This is Tape 1-A of an interview with George H. Esser, former member of the staff of the Institute of Government in Chapel Hill and former executive director of the North Carolina Fund. The interview is taking place in my home on Elliot Road in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I am Frances Weaver. It is June 13, 1990.
George, I thought it would be a good idea if we started in the present and talked about what you have been doing since you came back to Chapel Hill, and then go back and reexamine some of the forces in your life that lead you into your dedication to the causes of poverty and the amelioration of the racial problem in the United States. So what are you working now? What is your main effort?
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, since June of last year I have been retired in the sense that I haven't been recently paid [Laughter] for my efforts. I'm working on three or four things. One is I'm working with Senator Sanford in trying to come up, with other organizations in North Carolina, a plan for a program in northeastern North Carolina to do with basic causes of poverty. I am on the board and very active with the Board of the Indian Cultural Center and active in the effort to build an Indian Cultural Center near Pembroke. I've been working with North Carolina Indians since the days of the fund, so I have a lot of friends in that community, and I'm interested in helping them achieve the kind of both economic status and status in society that a small minority has to work harder to achieve. I'm

Page 2
chairman of the local community action agency which takes some time. I'm a little more active in the church than I was, a member of the vestry for the next two years at a time when a lot of money has got to be raised to bring the capital facilities up to standard. And I remain active with a number of organizations that I've been working with in the last five or six years, sort of as an elder statesman. It is interesting to me that organizations like Rural Economic Development Center, MDC, the Legal Services Resource Center, the Center for Community Self-Help, others that are concerned with some of my own concerns, continue to call on me for involvement in their programs and, from time to time, for help and advice. So I enjoy that.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Working with Governor Sanford, in what way do you work with him in the effort you mentioned? Senator Sanford, I mean. [Laughter]
GEORGE ESSER:
Senator Sanford, well, that shows our age. Senator Sanford has a young black staff member, Katharine Wellman, who got involved with a study of the northeast done by an organization in Washington, I believe it's an organization of the Roman Catholic Church. Anyhow, they had done—I'll find that name and supply it to you—a study of the northeast and poverty in the northeast and racial relations as they effect economic opportunity in the northeast, and it was pretty grim as we all know. Even though that was the first part of the state that was settled, it also has more limited natural resources and certainly more limited human resources. So Katharine Wellman got Terry interested in doing something there, and Terry thought, well, we

Page 3
had the North Carolina Fund in 1960; maybe we'll have another effort in the early nineties comparable to that. So he called me and I agreed to help him. It's a quite different situation than it was in the 1960s, but there are governmental agencies and foundations that are very much interested in the kind of programs and leadership that are evolving in some of those organizations I mentioned a few minutes ago in North Carolina. And they feel that for rural economic development there is probably more leadership and more institutional resources in this state than any other state, certainly in the Southeast, maybe in the country. So I'm working with those organizations and with Terry and with foundations to try and find a handle for a program that won't be just another—well, we could not get funded just another program. But we could get funded an effort that might really advance us in terms of knowing how to deal with poor rural areas. One of the things that we were trying to do is to get leadership from the counties and from that region, which is not limited to attracting jobs but which recognizes that improving human capital, education, housing, health, etc., is probably in the long run more important than vocation or other resources. And you're making some—we believe that there are some people in the northeast that understand this.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Now, who are the leaders there to whom you turn?
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, right now we're working with local grassroots leadership. Eventually, before this would become any sort of a public program, we would have to involve that just economic development leadership but county commissioners, state

Page 4
legislators, and town bodies, and some of the economic fiefdoms which are…
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Who are those economic fiefdoms?
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, there's some agricultural. In other words, there's some large farms. There are some, not many, but a few large industries.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Are they North Carolina industries or they industries that were…
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, the seafood industry is probably North Carolina. Perdue is, Del-Mar-Va, you know, his operations are in Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina as well. There's one large paper company, International Paper Company, that's active in that area. But there isn't as much big industry in that area as in other parts of the state.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
If you go northeast, do you go all the way to the ocean? Does that include tourism at all?
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, I'm not sure whether it, we would involve those counties, yes. We would involve Dare and Currituck and Hyde. On the other hand, the coastal area is not the area where the economy is so badly off.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Most intractable poverty.
GEORGE ESSER:
The environment may be bad, may be under a threat, but there are probably plenty of jobs, not necessarily the best kind of jobs. I've always been very cautious about pushing tourism because many of the jobs are custodial. On the other hand, many of the service jobs—we say we're becoming a service economy—that I've dealt with in other projects in the last five or six

Page 5
years don't pay very much either. On the other hand, if you can provide a community base, a non-profit base, for, let's say, a retirement community, the people who are performing those custodial jobs are more likely to feel job satisfaction if they are involved somehow in the ownership or feel a sense of ownership for that project.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Have you tried that kind of experiment?
GEORGE ESSER:
In working with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation in the last five years, one of the things that I did was help support programs for the elderly in different ways, but with community sponsorship and community ownership. For example, in Jackson, North Carolina, under the sponsorship of the local health clinic, which is also a non-profit corporation, we have finished and now opened a facility for the elderly that includes fifteen units of housing, eighteen rest home beds, sixty skilled nursing home beds, and the county senior center, all in one location across the road from the health center. Well, you've got in that county then those jobs of concern that support both health care and elderly care are focused in sort of a non-profit community. They're paying as well as other—they're more competitive in North Hampton County, the salaries, though low, are more competitive in North Hampton County than they would be in Charlotte or even Raleigh. Plus the fact that this is an opportunity, I mean, for example, that retirement home, half of the skilled nursing home beds and rest home beds and all of the housing can go to people who have, really, no income except support from Medicaid. So that you have a facility where the

Page 6
custodial workers may not make a lot but they see their own being cared for.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I see what you mean, yes, yes.
GEORGE ESSER:
And they see that the community, they are contributing to the community.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
A sense of pride.
GEORGE ESSER:
And their own people are being helped by that community.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Are we talking whites, blacks?
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, they are having trouble getting whites into the apartments. They are having no trouble at all getting whites into the nursing and rest home facility, about 50-50 right now. There is no difficulty in getting people who, the feasibility study said get 50 people who can pay the full rate, 50% of the people who can pay the full rate to offset the 50% of the people who only get Medicaid. And they've had no trouble maintaining that proportion. There problem right now is getting enough skilled nurses.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yes, universal problem.
GEORGE ESSER:
But fortunately we've got a very able young man, who's father is head of Family Medicine at this School of Medicine, as administrator up there and he wants to see it work. But we've supported other efforts, for example, The Shepherd's Staff in Belhaven where the churches… Belhaven is a little town and a major land area, not many people. And yet, the churches in that area have come together and worked together, and not only provided services to frail and isolated elderly, they have now,

Page 7
with our help, secured forty units of housing which will be a congregate facility in Belhaven. And they except most of the people to have been formerly engaged in agriculture or outside of town. But they need a place where they can be inside of town. So I think that, you know, in rural eastern North Carolina we have not taken full advantage of the demand and need for service to the elderly and for service to the children. And in both cases those services have economic aspects, and there are resources today which, for a relatively few dollars, you can create both service centers and secure operating costs.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
What are some of those sources?
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, for example, Medicaid, Medicare, subsidies for day care. North Carolina probably is one of the leaders in terms of using public, governmental resources for health centers for the poor. For only for the poor, I mean, in rural areas it's for everybody.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
This comes out of state funding, federal funding?
GEORGE ESSER:
Both state and federal. For example, the health clinic in Jackson is the only medical facility in North Hampton County except for two doctors in their sixties.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Oh, I see. Is East Carolina not working?
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, Jim Bernstein who heads that program in Raleigh and has headed ever since it was established, under Holshouser actually, says that it's easier to attract doctors from out-of-state than doctors from in-state.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Really, isn't that interesting.

Page 8
GEORGE ESSER:
Some of them. But for example, Roanoke, [unclear] in North Hampton-Halifax County, has, I think, five doctors and then Littleton has one and there's one in the Hollister-Warren County area. I don't think any of them come from a North Carolina medical school.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Isn't that interesting. That's fascinating. Are there any black doctors settling in the east?
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, that's one problem. There are a few. But Dr. Ken Reeb, who is the director of Family Medicine at the University here, I saw him recently, and he told me that one of the things that they have learned recently is that young men and women who are most attracted to returning to rural areas are natives of rural areas. Therefore, the medical schools are beginning to recruit more heavily from rural areas in order to have an opportunity for a good proportion to return to rural areas.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I see, I see.
GEORGE ESSER:
That's a new twist. I sat on a task force soon after I got back here for the Dean of the Dental School. At that time the dentists in the state wanted them to reduce the number of persons admitted to dental school because there were too many dentists for the number of opportunities according to the dentists.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Were they driving the price down [Laughter] ?
GEORGE ESSER:
They were driving the price down, I think. But if you looked at it, there were not many dentists. There were not many black dentists, and many of the rural counties were not being

Page 9
served. So we reported to Ben Barker that we could not recommend reducing the number of students admitted to dental school so long as there were major unserved areas in the state, and he understood. I think that he cut down something like one or two students a year, but that was mainly to keep the Dental Society off his back. But there are major areas and there are programs that seek to locate doctors and dentists in rural areas and to serve minorities. I think that probably they're being more successful through the health centers that the Office of Rural Health Services helps administer than they are through that program that Mrs. Allison heads. It's a University program that seeks to place minorities in rural areas.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I see. That's a name I know but I don't…
GEORGE ESSER:
Lavona, I believe her name is.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yes, that's it.
GEORGE ESSER:
But it is still a problem, getting adequate health care and dental care for poor people in the east and particularly black poor people.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I would think so. How about teachers? Are they willing to go into the rural schools? Or do we have many rural schools left?
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, they're more consolidated. There aren't as many community schools. You drive along eastern North Carolina, and it's astounding to me, you find high schools way out in the country but not in the little towns. They're located so they serve several little towns.

Page 10
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Like what we have out here, or used to be out of town, the high school.
GEORGE ESSER:
But for example, in many counties you will find East North Hampton and West North Hampton, East Robinson and West Robinson, North Robinson it is. Anyhow, it's geographical more than by town. It's easier to find minorities, it's easier to find black and Indian teachers than it is black and Indian professionals. That does not necessarily mean you're the best teachers, or that the whites that teach there are the best teachers. But they are fully staffed, whereas, I mean, the professional situation is not only one of the… Let me give you two further examples. There is no black CPA east of Durham.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I'm astonished.
GEORGE ESSER:
There is no black contractor in the state of North Carolina.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Not one?
GEORGE ESSER:
Not one, and the reason is—a general contractor, let me be more precise. There are lots of small black contractors. There is no general contractor who is eligible to be bid for or receive contracts for major transportation projects, like interstate highways, or airports.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
University buildings?
GEORGE ESSER:
Or University buildings.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I see, yes.
GEORGE ESSER:
So you can have lots of sub-contractors. But the subsidy required to get a competent black contractor an

Page 11
opportunity to bid and receive a contract runs between half a million and a million dollars. The funds for that are available.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
From where?
GEORGE ESSER:
From the federal government, if the state will do what is necessary to gain those funds. I guess it was while, I forget, this was about four years ago that we tried. The state Transportation Department wanted to give a contract to a black firm, but they were unwilling to do what had to be done. You see, for example, it takes a lot of time and expertise to prepare a bid. So the first time around you've either got to have a contractor is has got the resources, the working capital, to assign people to prepare a bid, or you've got to subsidize the bid preparation effort.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yes, I see.
GEORGE ESSER:
And also, you've got to give a firm access in some way to working capital so that they can buy the equipment and operate for the first month or two, and it takes some money.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
And you can't give them the experience that they need to even make an estimate on costs, can you? Are there any penalties? Suppose there's a building at the hospital being built with a large influx of federal money. Is there any penalty for not having minority participation?
GEORGE ESSER:
Oh yes. They must have, under many programs, 10% performed by minority owned sub-contractors. They cannot get the required percentage in the state highway, and I think they've made a genuine effort. In this case they knew something about it. But they didn't get, because, you see, they've increased

Page 12
their expenditures. You know, this new highway. So they've had to ask for waivers. But now there's another effort being made, and I'm not up-to-date with it, I believe by the Minority Economic Development Institute at North Carolina Central, to work out an opportunity for black contractors to become general contractors. When we made the effort four years ago, we found a contractor in Charlotte that we thought within two or three years would be in a position maybe to, with his own resources…
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
To do it.
GEORGE ESSER:
To do it. But I have not been close to it the last year so I don't know what…
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I see.
GEORGE ESSER:
But it's a real problem.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Of course it is. This lack of the black professional is critical. And of course, as we see it every day in the newspapers, it applies to black teachers at the college level, the black Ph.D.'s in the Humanities.
GEORGE ESSER:
That's right. I mean there was an article this morning about [Laughter] —I get so amused at J. J. Kilpatrick—he waxed very, he was very irritated by a situation that developed in some college in Virginia. They had advertised for somebody to teach biology, but made it very clear that they wanted somebody who was black.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
That's right. I saw that. [Laughter] That's as far as I read.

Page 13
GEORGE ESSER:
But it amuses me that in every one of those columns that Kilpatrick writes like that, he will admit that he was wrong with respect to discrimination but…
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
But [Laughter] .
GEORGE ESSER:
But he doesn't like the solution. [Laughter]
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Well, George, in this work that you're doing or have done since you came back to Chapel Hill, are you working with the people that you knew or some of them in the days of the North Carolina Fund?
GEORGE ESSER:
Occasionally, I mean some of them are people, for example, one of the most effective people in economic development in eastern North Carolina among the blacks is a company called a Worker Owned Sewing Company, which really means Tim Bazemore. Tim Bazemore worked for one of the programs of the fund twenty-five years ago. So it's been fun to work with him. On the other hand, it is frustrating to know that Tim is one of a kind and you don't see any… The Worker Owned Sewing Company in Windsor is a worker owned company and has about seventy-five people, who both have a share in the company and work for the company.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Is it a mill?
GEORGE ESSER:
It's a cut and sew operation. But Tim has done a very good job with it. They don't get paid a great deal but anything that's left over, they get at Christmas as a bonus. But on the other hand, Tim is not easy to get along with and while he has brought people in from time to time that he says are going to take his place, they leave before Tim does.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I see [Laughter] . Is this a full-time job for him?

Page 14
GEORGE ESSER:
Oh yes. But on the other hand, he is one of the real leaders in the black community in Bertie County. So I've worked with Tim. On the other hand, in North Hampton County, when I was working with that retirement project there, there was nobody there directly involved that I had known twenty-five years ago. So it varies according to, in Goldsboro I was working with people I had known. In Elizabeth City I was not working with people I had known. On the other hand, after we take a break, I think how I got into that and how I found what the opportunities were would be of interest.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Oh yes.
GEORGE ESSER:
You see, I was in Washington and I decided that health-wise and career-wise, I mean, I wasn't going to go any higher than I had gone. I had a very prestigious sort of position but the stress was getting… My son John took me to lunch and lectured me for three hours, and I listened to him and I realized that he was right. So that's when we decided, it took us a year to work it out. But when I came back here, I didn't have any real, well, I had one job I was doing, but I didn't have a lot of consulting assignments. I was of an age that I didn't want to get involved in building a major firm.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yes, you mean a major consulting firm.
GEORGE ESSER:
Where I had a lot of responsibility for other people, raising money for other people. So I decided I would do it on a low key basis and do it myself, and anything that I needed I could buy, if I needed help, and occasionally I've done that. So I started out very modestly. I was doing one job for a friend of

Page 15
mine out in Illinois, and a few things began developing in North Carolina and finally an old friend of mine, who had been vice president of the Ford Foundation, Mike Sviriridoff, called me in June of 1983—let's see, I moved here in February—and wanted to know if I could help find the money to initiate a program under the Local Initiative Support Corporation in eastern North Carolina. The initiative for this had come from Irwin Miller of the Cummings Engine Company, which is half owner of Consolidated Diesel in Whitakers, North Carolina. And when they agreed to go into Whitakers, a big company and paying, they were paying then $12.00 an hour when the average in Rocky Mount was $6.00 and $7.00, you see.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yes, fantastic.
GEORGE ESSER:
Of the 500 parts, roughly, in a diesel engine, they contracted for 497. And they wanted some of those parts to come from minority owned firms.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I see, they did?
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, Irwin Miller is one of the most socially responsible individuals and companies, Cummings Engines is a company, in the business. Irwin Miller has been on the Ford Foundation board. He's been president of the National Council of Churches.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
What's his background?
GEORGE ESSER:
I'm not sure. It seems to me, it sticks in my mind that the family was initially Quaker. But they have made their money from the manufacturing of engines, and their headquarters in Columbus, Indiana, which is just south of Indianapolis. And I

Page 16
had known the company before. When I was at the Southern Regional Council, I had gotten grants from the Cummings Engine Foundation.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Well, I diverted you. We were talking about their pay at $12.00, as compared to $6.00.
GEORGE ESSER:
So I went up to see Mike, and the way that Liss operated was, he had created the organization at the time he left the Ford Foundation as a way of attracting banks and insurance companies and other corporations into investing in primarily real estate and to some extent business in depressed areas of major American cities.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Urban?
GEORGE ESSER:
Urban. North Carolina was then, and remained, and not now in it, but it was the only rural project that Liss supported. And they supported for two reasons, well, three reasons. One was that Irwin Miller had suggested it, and he had been on the Ford Foundation Board, and he had promised some help. A second was that Juanita Krepps was on the Liss board, national board, and she was interested. And a third was that the Ford Foundation did provide and still provides major help for LISC in and through its Urban Poverty Program. But its Rural Poverty Program said, "We will be interested in providing some of the foundation money to match corporate money from North Carolina if you have a project in North Carolina." So Mike called me in New York and said, "Do you think you can help raise half a million dollars from North Carolina foundations and corporations, such as banks, to match half a million dollars that is available, part grant and part

Page 17
loan, from the Ford Foundation?" And I said, "Well, I'd like to try." So we worked. Juanita helped in the initial stages. We first did a study of opportunities for a program in eastern North Carolina, east of Raleigh and Durham and Fayetteville. Nathan Garrett from Durham and Art Campbell, a black staff member from LISC whom I had known….
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
And Nathan, of course, you'd worked with for years.
GEORGE ESSER:
Yes. The other person was a young man named Bill Duncan, who was then head of an organization in eastern Kentucky that was doing some imaginative things. And we did a study, a quick and dirty study, but we said, "Yes, there's a lot of opportunity for community based economic development—that is, non-profit corporations that either want to operate a business or build and own and operate housing or commercial real estate. Now, in the cities the ownership of housing, particularly apartment houses, the operation of that housing, and to some extent commercial real estate, had been a lot more successful than support of manufacturing, let's see, or the actual economic development. One of the things that we learned was that in eastern North Carolina it took a while, but that housing was not as much a priority in eastern North Carolina as jobs.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yes.
GEORGE ESSER:
Now, there is some priority for housing, particularly now. It's greater than it was five years ago, but five years ago there was a lot more interest on the part of leadership in communities in creating jobs for people rather than building houses.

Page 18
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Well, that comes first, doesn't it? We've got to turn this over.

Page 19
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
George when we turned the tape over, we were talking about the Local Initiative Support Corporation and the funding that you sought in North Carolina. You said that you and Juanita Krepps and others had worked on that effort. Where did you find the resources to support this organization?
GEORGE ESSER:
Well first, Babcock Foundation had committed $200,000 in 1982. Before I came back to this state, the request had come into LISC from Irwin Miller, and George Autry had arranged for Mike Sviriridoff to come down and talk with Governor Hunt and Joe Grimsley. And they had gotten $200,000 from Babcock but had been turned down, for reasons—I was not involved—but it was probably the Wake Forest commitment, they'd been turned down by Z. Smith Reynolds after having been encouraged to submit a proposal. So when I got into it in the fall of 1983, first of all, the question was whether it should be a project that focused around Rocky Mount and its labor market, meaning Halifax and Wilson Counties or whether it should be a bigger area because there was so little community based leadership in the region. The study team that I mentioned before recommended that the area be eastern North Carolina because we didn't think that money could be raised in the Rocky Mount area commensurate with the requirement or that the local leadership would be supportive. And our initial canvas of potential in the region—that is, that I knew or Art Campbell or Nathan or Bill Duncan had discovered—was pretty well scattered. So after we made that recommendation, we knew we had $200,000 from Babcock, and we knew that we had

Page 20
$500,000 from Ford. So Juanita and I organized a meeting in the late winter of 1984, I guess we held it at the Europa, for banks and other corporations and foundations. And I won't say that it was a greatly successful meeting. Mike Sviriridoff came down and talked and made a very good presentation. But this was before North Carolina's banks had been really exposed to the possibilities in low income communities, and the Community Reinvestment Act was not yet a reality to them. So while they said, "Well, we'll do a little bit," or they were equivocal, it was the foundation's that were really… Babcock put up $200,000. Cummings Engine Foundation put up $50,000. North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company committed themselves to make loans up to $100,000. Then we had a $20,000 loan commitment from Mechanics and Farmers Bank, and a $5,000 grant and a $5,000 load commitment from People's Bank. Let me see, we started out with $420,000. Well, I can supply that. But that was in January-February, and we made follow-up visits to most of those people, and we'd gotten some responses, some turndowns and some support. In May Saul Chafkin, who was Mike Sviriridoff's vice president, called me and said, "Look, Ford has made this $500,000 available. You've got $420,000 available. Let's assume that you're going to get the funds."
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Another 80 you needed or thought you needed?
GEORGE ESSER:
Another 80 we needed. But let's move ahead. So I said alright and so we did. So the project formally began some time in May, and early in May Mike was down here to receive an honorary degree at Duke, and he said, "I wonder if I can have

Page 21
breakfast with you." Well, I was leaving that morning. We took him to dinner the night before. Mike is an interesting person. One of the things that I knew from knowing for 25 years that I knew he would enjoy doing was going to good restaurants. So I took him to La Residence and he was really sold on that. But the next morning he said—we had talked about establishing an office in eastern North Carolina and we'd talked about Garrett and Sullivan managing it, and Mike said, "I've come to the conclusion that we probably don't need a full-time person, but certainly for the first two or three years we would like you to be responsible for the project, to use Nathan for technical assistance, but for you to spend up to," well, it came out to two-thirds of my time for the next couple of years. And so I considered that, I was very pleased. I really was. So I talked with Nathan and we decided that, Nathan was going to law school. DeWitt [Sullivan] was involved in running the organization. And they said, "With you running it full-time, or basically full-time, it will have better oversight than it would if we hired somebody." So beginning in May of '84 I began putting about two-thirds of my time into that project.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
How do you launch something like that? Who were the people you turned to?
GEORGE ESSER:
I did this on a very low key basis. I had been involved in—well, the North Carolina Fund was what I would call a high intensity basis because it was sponsored by the governor and it was announced in the governor's office so everything had to be formal. I decided that if I was the primary employee and

Page 22
that the secretarial help came from Mary [Parker Esser], and was operated out of my basement office, that I didn't want, I couldn't afford the kind of logistical response I would have to make if we announced that there was a grant and loan program in support of community based development in eastern North Carolina. So what I did was over the period of the next six months, in addition to trying to raise some money, I spent most of my time visiting projects that I had heard about or people that I had heard about.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
What kind of projects?
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, let me give you two or three examples. I already knew about Tim Bazemore, and Tim called me. He had been talking to Art Campbell. Tim had already gotten a loan from LISC, which is now paid off, before I got started. He'd been talking to Art, and Art said, "George now is dealing with eastern North Carolina. Why don't you call him?"
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Who is Art Campbell?
GEORGE ESSER:
Art was a former employee of mine at the Southern Regional Council, who headed a southern program for LISC out of Chattanooga, Tennessee, that was supported by the Lynhearst Foundation. So I got that call very quickly after I had started this. So I went down and spent an evening and a morning with Tim, and what he wanted to do was—this was a project that did have fund roots. There had been a very, sort of radical organization created in the late '60s under the leadership of a man you may remember, Golden Frinks.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Oh yes, indeed.

Page 23
GEORGE ESSER:
Called People's Program on Poverty [PEPOP], and they had raised a little money and bought some land which was never used. Well, it had been used for a building. There was a building on part of it. They wanted to convert PEPOP from a for-profit into a cooperative to help serve black farmers in Bertie County. We decided we would give them $2,500, and we provided some other resources, I mean, got them access to other resources, and eventually they did convert into a cooperative. They did not, however, move beyond that. We thought they were going to come back to us for a major loan for a market, which they never did. I learned that the people who were in closest touch with the leadership, with people who could provide leadership for community development corporations, was Legal Services. There are seventeen of those corporations scattered across the state, about half a dozen in eastern North Carolina. So I made it a point to spend a good day, at least, with the leadership of each of those corporations. So I got their assessment of what was possible or what was going on in their area. Then in some areas I had friends. There is an organization down in the east that was created back in the '60s, that I helped create, called the North Carolina Rural Fund for Development, and a former Fund employee administered that. Headquartered in New Bern and had basically federal money. But I went to their annual meeting down in Atlantic Beach, and while there I met Caroline McKuen of the Watermark Association of Artisans in Elizabeth City, and I learned that Frances Inglis was chairman of the board.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Oh yes, that's Frances Drane Inglis.

Page 24
GEORGE ESSER:
Right, and I was very much taken with Carolina. I went down to see that operation. I hadn't thought about producing craft organizations such the '60s. But here in the coast of North Carolina there was a cooperative that really had some innovative ideas and was doing good quality work, and Caroline McKuen was a very effective administrator. She said, "I would like to see that Watermark is represented at national shows. I can sell enough at national shows to really make it worthwhile." So I arranged for, I had a little advisory committee.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yes, you referred to us and I wondered.
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, we had a little advisory committee that was composed of one representative from each of the donors.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Did you meet regularly?
GEORGE ESSER:
We met four or five times a year. The way it was set up was that if the advisory committee approved a project, a LISC officer with that approval had the authority to approve grants or loans up to $50,000. Anything from $50,000 to $150,000 required a committee of the LISC board to approve, and anything above $150,000, at that time, required a full LISC board approval. So we started off with very small projects. So I would write them up. There was a protocol for writing them up, and I would write them up and basically got them approved. And all of a sudden we began getting little…. Also at that time I was chairman of the advisory committee to the School of Social Work for a program called the National Child Welfare Leadership Center. Glenn Wilson was on that. I was talking to Glenn one day—Glenn is an amazing person [Laughter] —I'll never forget. This is a little

Page 25
tangent. One day he told me in 1984, something about Miles Horton receiving a honorary degree at the University of North Carolina. I said, "Glenn, you must be kidding." He said, "No, he really did. I'll send you the program." And by gosh, he sent me the program and it was true. I said, "How in the world did this happen?" [Laughter] But anyhow, I was talking to Glenn and Glenn said, "You ought to call Jim Bernstein. He is interested in seeing the health centers do some things." So I called Jim, and Jim said, "Can you go to the east with me next week." I remember we went up August 31, 1984. So he picked me up, he and his assistant picked me up, and we rode down and met with the doctors and the administrator at Roanoke-Amerant in Jackson, North Carolina, and then went on the Gates County and met with another group at Gates County. I guess the important thing is that I did enough traveling and talking to people like that, that I had confidence in them. I began to get a sense of some very interesting people that had possibilities. Now, at the same time—don't ask me how you make these judgments—I had a request from a casket company.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Is that Dallas Herring's operation?
GEORGE ESSER:
No, this was a black owned casket operation. In Tillery, North Carolina, northeast, and they not only requested a grant or a loan from us, but the first time I met Martin Eakes.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
What's that name, Mark?
GEORGE ESSER:
Martin Eakes, who is director and founder for the Center for Community Self-Help in Durham, young, white lawyer, Davidson graduate, native of Greensboro, and who now has a very

Page 26
fine operation going. But he is the first to admit that he had some wrong ideas in the beginning and that he changed. He was interested in worker ownership at that time, and he tried to talk me into a loan to this casket company in Tillery. Nathan Garrett, his firm was involved in every decision that I made. Nathan said, "That is not a good risk. I know that operation." So I told Martin we weren't going to do it. Later, Martin got some resources, made a loan. It was a disaster, and he will say to me today, "You taught me something on that casket operation." Well, I guess what I'm saying is that we had a fair number of requests but everything was by word of mouth.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I see. Get the word out and people knowing people, and trusting people's judgement.
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, actually there was a later, in January we agreed to give legal services, a state wide operation—I had gotten to know the executive director. He lives here in Chapel Hill. He's a fine young man.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Who is that?
GEORGE ESSER:
Richard Taylor. Lives out on Mount Carmel Church Road. We gave Legal Services Resource Center, which is a support organization for the Legal Services Program, a grant of $24,000 which they matched. They conducted a program of workshops for board members and staff members of community based organizations in eastern North Carolina. They had one regional meeting that I talked to. That was probably the largest group of people that I talked to about this program. They reached about 50 organizations, but out of the 50, only about three or four had

Page 27
the discipline to get down and actually submit a proposal that we could fund.
Let me see, I need to go back a little bit. When I went out looking for opportunities, I was not only looking at the opportunities for sponsorship of economic activity by non-profit corporations with leadership from the poor community, we were also, as a result of that quick and dirty study that we had made in the fall of 1983, looking for opportunities for helping minority owned enterprises in eastern North Carolina. Because we had established that the proportion of number of businesses and size of businesses owned by blacks or Indians was very far below the proportion of population in that area. So when I went out, I was also looking for opportunities for demonstrating, only the importance, but the feasibility of loans—it would have to be loans; we couldn't make grants—to minority owned businesses. Then somewhere in the spring of '85, after I had been around, we said, "Well, we don't have many resources. we really ought to," Nathan and I said, "present the advisory committee with a proposal for how we would use the funds that were available." Now that we know some of the people, some of the opportunities, some of the landscape, we ought to put this in a more formal agenda. And I guess I really ought to provide you with some of that material.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Well, it will be in your papers and they'll be in the Southern.
GEORGE ESSER:
That's true. Anyhow, we came up with eight things that we were going to test informally, from construction and operation

Page 28
of facilities for services like services to the elderly or daycare to housing to helping some of the black owned credit unions to helping establish a black general contracting firm to support of cooperatives. There were some things that we did pretty well and some things that were…. For example, we made an effort on the minority contracting. We didn't succeed. We didn't find anybody initially who was interested in housing except housing for the elderly. We had a good bit of that. And I think later we did run into that. But in the meantime, you see, we had had an election in November of '84 and Martin came in.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
That's right.
GEORGE ESSER:
And the firm of Garrett and Sullivan, Nathan had supported Martin and DeWitt had supported Edmisten, and the real reason that they split was that they had learned when Reagan was elected, they lost all their Labor Department contracts. So if they weren't protected both ways, as a firm they would suffer. Well, Martin was so grateful for some of the leadership that he found in Nathan, and Nathan was very clear with Martin that he wouldn't go so far as to support Helms. So anyhow, Martin let Nathan know that he would be interested in another effort to interest banks and other corporations in this program. So you couldn't do that during the General Assembly, but early in August Nathan called me and said, "The governor's office called and said they would like do it on August 25." I think that was it. Anyhow, I was supposed to be at the beach. Mike Sviriridoff didn't like to leave Martha's Vineyard in August.

Page 29
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I don't blame him.
GEORGE ESSER:
But we finally worked it out, and Mike flew down, and I came back from the beach. John was with us. So John drove me up and went with me. He didn't go in the Governor's Mansion. And the governor really put on a first class show. I mean, he had a nice dinner, and he got the top people. It was just a—and he had done homework, so he knew what…. We had a very good meeting. So as a result of that, we had to do a lot more follow-up. Everybody wanted to talk to me individually, and I sensed that it would be good. We'd set this up with Martin through Nathan. So either Nathan or Dewitt Sullivan, his partner, accompanied me to every meeting, and we spent right much time. It was not cheap to raise that money, but finally raised $50,000 each from First Union and NCNB, $25,000 from Wachovia, $150,000 in two separate things from Z. Smith Reynolds, another $50,000 from Cummings Engine, another loan commitment from North Carolina Mutual. We raised a fair, and we got $20,000 from Carolina Light and Power. So we did a fair amount of that. So the banks were more interested in minority business enterprise. They didn't really understand, they finally understood this retirement community in North Hampton County. As a result, one of the things that we had established was the there was probably more interest in minority leadership and interest on the part of blacks in being part of the entire economy, and not limited to a black business district….
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I see.

Page 30
GEORGE ESSER:
In Onslow County and probably in Wilmington than there was in a place like Rocky Mount or places like that. So we set up a separate project, sort of an informal project, in Onslow and New Hanover counties. For two years we explored the possibilities of doing loans down there. There was a woman who worked for Garrett and Sullivan, and we arranged that she would spent about three days a week down there.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
What was her name? That's a terrible thing to ask everybody, sorry.
GEORGE ESSER:
Just a minute, I'll think of it. we had also established an arrangement that summer of 1985 with—there is a governmental program that's available. It's a combination of Small Business Administration money and Council of Governments' relationships, and there are several organizations in the state that are multi-county that have access to Small Business Administration loans and some other public loans. In this case in New Bern there was an organization of this kind called the Neuse River Development Authority. we discovered that while they had no great track record in terms of supporting minority businesses, that they were not opposed to that. If we decided that we were going to support a business that was located in their area, they were willing, for a small fee, to take money from LISC and make the actual loan and collect the note and to transmit the money to New York. It was clear that we were dealing with old loans of 5 to 10 to 25 and up to 50, and this was smaller than most operations that LISC was supporting in the cities. In the cities they tended to support major housing

Page 31
rehabilitation or something where 100 was the lower limit and where they were dealing with up to 500,000 or a million. So we entered into this arrangement with the Neuse River Development Authority which had responsibility for Onslow…. I don't think, yes, we worked it out. If we had had major loans in New Hanover, they would have handled those. So we could have that project. It was put together in a very informal way, but actually we were able to…. We learned some things that we haven't probably put as much into writing as—we put that into writing though. And we found out that minority businesses, there were fewer good potential minority owned businesses in the area than we thought because many of the people who talked a good game, had problems that we couldn't deal with, like having gone into bankruptcy or having failed to pay their withholding tax.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I see.
GEORGE ESSER:
And, you know, what we thought were some really good business opportunities turned out to lousy business opportunities because the owners could not qualify.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Couldn't do it.
GEORGE ESSER:
For credit. But we also learned that there were a lot of people who had good ideas with respect to manufacturing something or providing a service, but did not have the foggiest idea how to handle money. There are several things like that. But in all of Onslow County we ended up making, well, we had one cu down there. We found the only black doctor in the county, and Wachovia Bank and Trust Company had accepted his mortgage for his house but had turned him down for a $3,000 loan for a piece of

Page 32
equipment in his office. He was OB/GYN with a specialty in fertility. Well, he was from the Caribbean, so he was not the normal kind of black. He was more articulate. So we helped him get a loan to permit him to buy an office near the new hospital. He'd been the only doctor in town who had not been able to find an office near the new hospital because he couldn't afford it, and the banks wouldn't lead him the money. Now, we had to force him to do things like—we found this too—that a good many of the people that we were interested in making loans to, we first had to see what their personal holdings were. We found several minorities who were seeking loans to survive in business, but who had done things like buy horses or boats or owned jewelry or things like that. So in that case we had to get him to sell some of his….
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Divest himself.
GEORGE ESSER:
Divest himself. But in the long run, he ended up on the Jacksonville NCNB city board.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Did he really?
GEORGE ESSER:
Very successful.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
That's a success story.
GEORGE ESSER:
You've probably seen, you haven't seen a picture of him but I'm sure you…. In the summer of '86 there was a set of quadruplets from a white, Camp Lejeune family, and he was responsible in his fertility clinic for the quadruplets. [Laughter]
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
That is really success [Laughter] .

Page 33
GEORGE ESSER:
So anyhow, we had that program. We started by saying that we had these things we were testing sort of. So at roughly this period, there were beginning to be other programs developing that were parallel to or related to what we were doing—the Center for Community Self-Help in Durham. Martin went out and hired some very able people, including a gal from the Ford Foundation, Kay McKee, who's been in rural poverty programs up there. And they established a credit union and, to make a long story short, today they have assets of 20 million dollars and they are making a name for themselves with banks in the state for being able to loan money for housing and for commercial development.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
That's terrific.
GEORGE ESSER:
To people who are poorer than those who normally go to banks.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
That's remarkable. I've got to turn this off. My light is flashing. We'll pick it up at the next session.
GEORGE ESSER:
All right.

Page 34
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
This is tape 2-A of an interview with George Esser, former member of the Staff of the Institute of Government and former executive director of the North Carolina Fund. The interview is taking place in my house on Eliot Road in Chapel Hill. It is June 21, 1990. I am Frances Weaver.
George, I reviewed the tape from last week, and there are a couple of questions I need to ask you about it. Shepherd's Staff, I wasn't sure exactly what that was. You referred to it in relation to Belhaven.
GEORGE ESSER:
The Shepherd's Staff is a non-profit corporation, established and supported by churches in eastern Beaufort County and in Hyde County. It was formed to provide services to frail and isolated elderly people in that area, but it has also been interested in expanding its services and has recently secured a large loan from the Farmer's Home Administration to build units of housing for the elderly with congregate eating facilities in Belhaven. And LISC helped the Shepherd's Staff first do its analysis of need in the Belhaven area and secondly to secure free development services, such as a lawyer and an architecture. Jud Mayfield, an Episcopal minister who is really the glue that holds the organization together, is a remarkable person. He has persuaded the diocese of East Carolina, for example, to donate half of his time, plus $20,000 a year, to continuing to work with the Shepherd's Staff.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I see, and his name is Mayfield?
GEORGE ESSER:
Judson Mayfield.

Page 35
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
And then you referred to a Roanoke-Amerant?
GEORGE ESSER:
Roanoke-Amerant Community Health Group, Inc. is the name of the non-profit corporation which sponsors medical services for most of North Hampton County and part of Halifax County. It was established by, and with the support of, the Office of Rural Health Services of the state, and is regarded by them as probably the best administered rural project in the state. This is the organization, the doctors and the administrative staff, who had the idea of building the community for the elderly, which now exists across the street from Roanoke-Amerant. Roanoke-Amerant provides the medical services for the retirement community.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
At the end of the tape last week you were talking about Glenn Wilson and how you learned from him that Myles Horton was going to get an honorary degree. I'd like to know one number, can you tell us about Myles Horton, and number two, why that pleased and surprised you that he was to get an honorary degree.
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, Miles Horton from the mid-50s, he was from Appalachia, and in the '50s he headed the Highlander School which was located near, I forget exactly, but quite near Sewanee, University of the South. And for example, Martin Luther King used the Highlander School as one of his first retreat areas.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I've heard of that, okay.
GEORGE ESSER:
Miles has a great, grassroots organizer and educator, a superb person, but he was obviously unpopular with the segregationists and the status quo people generally. Eventually the state of Tennessee confiscated the, which I do not

Page 36
understand, but anyhow, they confiscated completely the piece of property that was being used by Highlander near Sewanee. But later Miles started out with a piece of property in Knoxville and later still went out east of Knoxville in a rural area, and there is today a very attractive, sort of a small conference center at New Market that Miles built in the last 20 to 30 years. Now, Miles died just a few months ago. But he was a great person, a great advocate not only for poor and minorities but for the Appalachian mountaineer, for people who generally had been passed by by society. And he tried to involve continually in helping to better themselves, not only individually but as a people, a community, a neighborhood. And Highlander School is quite active today, quite strong today.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
And you were pleased that we gave him an honorary degree?
GEORGE ESSER:
I was not only pleased, but I was amazed because this University has not been known for reaching out to the people who were unpopular because of views they advocated that were, you know, to me and you perfectly legitimate views of society, but to the business and governmental leadership they are often anathema.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
And trouble makers [Laughter] ?
GEORGE ESSER:
And trouble makers. So it was very pleasing to me to have him recognized. This would have been quite consistent with Dr. Graham's approach.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Absolutely.
GEORGE ESSER:
And he probably knew Miles Horton well.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I think he did.

Page 37
GEORGE ESSER:
But in my association with the University, both directly and indirectly in the last thirty years, I have not been struck with the way the University reaches out to protect and shelter and nurture unpopular but legitimate points of view.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Well, it was a triumph, I think, when he was honored.
GEORGE ESSER:
And who was it last year, oh, Marian Edelman.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yes.
GEORGE ESSER:
That was a great recognition, you see. But I think Miles was probably greater. Marian has legitimized herself.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yes, she has.
GEORGE ESSER:
But Miles was still sitting on the mountain and talking revolution in a sense [Laughter] .
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
That's right. Marian Edelman, I can almost hear them saying, "Boy, we get a black and a woman all in one." [Laughter]
GEORGE ESSER:
That's right. Well, Marian, have you ever heard Marian give a speech?
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
No, but I see her on McNeill-Lair.
GEORGE ESSER:
She can talk faster, you know, the words just kept tumbling out. She does not use notes. Oh, she has a piece of paper in front of her, but she's always looking at you. And I've known Marian for over twenty years, and I just think she in a terrific person. A researcher that I respect very highly once told me in Washington that the best research, that is policy oriented, done in this country is done my Children's Defense Fund. She really is not, like many persons that came out of the '60s, advocating out of a loose understanding of society.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yes, an emotional.

Page 38
GEORGE ESSER:
An emotional, but she really gets the facts down.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Very important. I know that Dr. Harold Howe [former director of the Learning Institute of North Carolina and former U.S. Commissioner of Education] has worked with her in some of the stuff he does.
GEORGE ESSER:
Oh, she's great, and she's from Bennettsville, South Carolina.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I think that's wonderful.
George, you mentioned Nathan Garrett a number of times. I would like to know about him and your long association with him.
GEORGE ESSER:
Nathan Garrett, his father is still alive in his nineties. He's a pharmacist who came from Carrboro, North Carolina to Durham, I think, after World War II. But anyhow, Nathan grew in Durham, went to Yale, and later to Wayne State. He became a CPA and during the early years of the Fund John Wheeler, the banker from Durham, who was on the Fund board, suggested to me that Nathan would like to come home and he would like me to talk to Nathan. Well, Nathan and I hit it off very quickly. He joined the Fund staff in 1964 as the controller, I believe was the initial title.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I believe so. It's in that document you made.
GEORGE ESSER:
Eventually I made him Deputy Director of the Fund, and as part of our spin-off from the Fund, we spun several hundred thousand dollars off to an organization called the Foundation for Community Development, which was intended, and for five years did, to encourage grassroots community development, including economic development in North Carolina generally. Several of the

Page 39
so called CDC's, which started with Bedford Styvasent Corporation.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
What's a CDC?
GEORGE ESSER:
Community Development Corporation. The first one was in Bedford-Styvasent, which is supported by the Ford Foundation and initiated under the leadership of Bobby Kennedy. Some of them ran into difficulties, political difficulties really, some of them operational difficulties, in the early '70s. The Ford Foundation withdrew support from those that had advocacy as a function. They continued to support those that were primarily economic development, but advocacy was creating problems. OEO, the Office of Economic Opportunity, did the same thing. So the FDC, which I would regard as an intermediary organization—that is, it was helping organizations at community levels get established. One of it's first primary staff was Howard Fuller, who was a superb person and a good friend of mine. He's been much misinterpreted in North Carolina. But anyhow, when it became clear that, while United Durham Corporation would continue to get support as an operating CDC and that some other in the state did, money for a statewide organization to support and encourage new community ventures was not forthcoming from either foundations or the federal government. So rather than see it go bankrupt, Nathan simply closed it out. He had helped bring another CPA from Detroit to the Fund, Dewitt Sullivan, and so he and DeWitt, who was then controller for MDC, established a CPA firm in Durham called Garrett and Sullivan. Now, Mike Sviriridoff of the Ford Foundation and later of LISC knew Nathan

Page 40
through me. And he suggested that it would be good—well, I forget who suggested it first, but anyhow—there was general agreement that anything that I did in eastern North Carolina would be done using Nathan and DeWitt for support and for access to the black business community. We had no problem, I don't know anybody that I have worked with on an informal basis more effectively than Nathan and DeWitt, particularly Nathan. We see each other. We see problems the same way.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Wonderful, yeah.
GEORGE ESSER:
That doesn't mean that in some things, some ways, we don't differ, but in differing [Laughter] we understand each other. So he was very much involved, he and DeWitt, his partner, were very much involved in the early years of the LISC movement. Then DeWitt went back to Mississippi, and the firm broke up and reformed itself. Now, the primary partner to Nathan is a young man named Walter Davenport who operated out of Raleigh. The firm is known as Garrett and Davenport. DeWitt is still associated with the firm in Durham but from Mississippi.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
From Mississippi, and Nathan were back to law school at a point we would consider….
GEORGE ESSER:
Nathan went back to law school.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
An advanced age.
GEORGE ESSER:
And got an LLD degree. Now I think he's a full-time professor in the School of Business at NCCU. But he's also doing, for example, I helped him get tied up with—there is a national non-profit organization called Seedco, which works with universities and local depressed communities to develop

Page 41
redevelopment efforts that are jointly sponsored by community development corporations in depressed and the university. Nathan is helped Seedco develop such projects with some Ford Foundation support in four southern cities, including Charlotte. So he's serving as a consultant. But I was able to link Tom Seesell—Tom is actually, you may recognize his son, Adam Seesell, who's one of the major reporters for the Independent.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Oh, that's a name I, yeah.
GEORGE ESSER:
Tom is a native of Chattanooga but a graduate of Wilson School at Princeton. I knew him at the Ford Foundation twenty years ago. So he's an old friend.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
It's a network, isn't it, George?
GEORGE ESSER:
It's a network.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
[Laughter] It really is very much a network.
Is Nathan, would you describe him as part of black power in North Carolina?
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, very much.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Or does he provide access for you?
GEORGE ESSER:
It's very interesting. when Reagan won in '81, Garrett and Sullivan had a lot of Labor Department contracts, which immediately were terminated.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
You mentioned that on the tape.
GEORGE ESSER:
They decided that they were never going to let that happen again. So Nathan supported the Republican ticket in '84 and '88, the Republican state ticket. He's never supported Jesse Helms, but he supported Martin, and for that reason he has had real access to Martin. And Wanda, his wife, is a member of the

Page 42
Probation Commission. I would say that probably the vote for Republican candidates for statewide office, let's say governor, only five or six percent, but it includes some able people. I think it's better that there be some access on the part of people like Nathan to people like [unclear] Martin, than that there be no access at all. Or that it be done by people who are really hustlers. I'll never forget the shock out in North Carolina when Floyd McKissick supported Nixon in 1968.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yeah, we weren't here then, but I guess so [Laughter] .
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, the payoff on that was Soul City. And he got the support of the federal government. And I won't say, you know, Soul City went bankrupt, but even today there are—well, Soul City exists physically, and there are people in the area who participated in that who have been successful. And it made a lot of difference in Warren and Vance counties.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Did it?
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, for example, warren County today has a black controlled Board of County Commissioners and County Manager.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Wow, yeah, and that, you think, is directly related to Soul City?
GEORGE ESSER:
I don't think it would have happened with Soul City. Now, that doesn't mean that, in warren County you've also got some of the worst relationships between—well, you've got more tension between white and black leaderships then you so in, let's say, North Hampton.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Where in the black leadership in this state now?

Page 43
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, I think that it's primarily concentrated in the major cities in the Piedmont.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Businessmen?
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, some businessmen but lawyers are the leaders, the Dan Blues, the Mickey Michauxs. Now, obviously Harvey Gantt is now a lawyer.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Howard Lee?
GEORGE ESSER:
Howard Lee, well, Howard Lee is not a lawyer but he's a leader.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
And he's part of the black power structure.
GEORGE ESSER:
That's right. Incidentally, I'm not, you know, Howard Lee's got a tough election.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Tough election, yes, he does.
GEORGE ESSER:
Because that district includes Randolph and Moore.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yes, always there's Randolph to consider.
GEORGE ESSER:
But there are some black leaders in the east, but they do not tend to carry nearly as much clout, not to control nearly as many votes, nor to be venturesome. There is a lot more protection of turf, in terms of jobs and the school system and the community action agencies, the government, on the part of the blacks in the east than there is, let's say, in Durham or Greensboro or Winston or Charlotte. Well, the black political present in North Carolina is just like—twenty-five years ago, I remember, I got a call at the Fund one day from Arthur Tyler, [unclear] Tyler, in Rocky Mount, and he said, "George, I'm ready to negotiate about jobs in the department store but I want to talk to one person and they want to send thirty-five in here." And I

Page 44
said, "Well, Arthur, you've got to talk to the thirty-five because they don't trust any one person."
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I see, I see.
GEORGE ESSER:
And that's pretty much true today. And there is nobody, with the possible exception of Jesse Jackson, who can turn out the black vote. A lot of going to depend in November on whether the black vote really turns out for Harvey Gantt.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yes, whether he can do it.
GEORGE ESSER:
You don't have the overt hostility as much in the college campuses as you did in, say, the late '60s and early '70s. But you can go to occasions, college campus or in a black community, where you feel uncomfortable. There is still hostility to the prevailing society, hostility to the barriers to opportunity. And this is particularly true among the younger ones, men and women. I think that we have made tremendous progress in the last thirty years, but I think we've got a long way to go.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
And that's one thing they don't want to hear from us, is "look how far we've come."
GEORGE ESSER:
That's right. No, as a matter of fact, we are now at a time in history where young blacks do not remember the conditions of the '50s and early '60s.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
That's true. They don't know what it was like to live under segregation, legal segregation.
GEORGE ESSER:
And they don't understand—those civil rights leaders who made a name for themselves in the late '50s and '60s are not

Page 45
well known to the young black generation unless they have continued to provide leadership.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yes, true.
GEORGE ESSER:
And I don't say, we were talking about Nathan a few minutes ago, I don't say that Nathan is a great civil rights leader, but Nathan is a very good bridge between the prevailing white political and business structure in North Carolina generally and the….
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
The essential man, I mean, an essential to the whole process.
GEORGE ESSER:
And to the black community. And he is well respected in the community that is probably not, you know, the community that is most hostile to white society. But he is well respected in that community, and so I think that it's important for there to be somebody who can have that sort of access to both centers of power and centers of hostility.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Exactly, exactly.
One thing I want to talk about a little bit, George, before we go back and talk about your youth in Virginia, and that is, when you were talking about your work in the east, we didn't really talk about agriculture, and that's a major component down there. I want to know what's going on and what the state in thinking and maybe North Carolina State Extension about the problems of agriculture in the east of North Carolina.
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, I'm not as well informed generally on agricultural policy as I should be. I think it is interesting, however. First of all, the small farm is disappearing, and with

Page 46
it the base of the black community in farming. The black farms that are remaining are very heavily along the northeastern rim of North Carolina, from about, well, let's say, 1-85 east. Now, it goes down more than one layer in some areas. I ran into a lot of anger against Farmer's Home, for example, since '84. Farmer's Home would, under some administrations, encourage people to take more loans than they needed, and then under the Reagan administration, until it was stopped, they were trying to foreclose.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Call them in.
GEORGE ESSER:
Call them in.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Was that a deliberate ploy to run the small farmers out.
GEORGE ESSER:
Oh, I think so, yeah.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Probably.
GEORGE ESSER:
There was more symbolic language used, such as, belief that you paid your on bills and so forth, but there was no recognition on the part of the… And we had a perfectly terrible man named, well, a terrible man? He was probably very moral, I don't know. But he was not interested in poor people or black people, and he was a Heims protegee. The director of Farmer's Home under Reagan, named Larry Godwin…
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
That's a name I remember.
GEORGE ESSER:
You would get projects right up to him, well, Roanoke-Amerant got right up to him. And the Farmer's Home arrangements for loans for construction in rural areas was much better than HUD's, but he decided that available money should be spent on

Page 47
rescue stations and volunteer fire departments, etc. I do know that the poor black community, and here we're talking about more of the small farmers in northeastern North Carolina, do not have confidence in the Extension Service. They have confidence in some extension agents who are black, but they do not have confidence in the service itself. I think that it is clearly true that the Extension Service has been very weak in its leadership for crops to replace tobacco.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Critical problem for North Carolina.
GEORGE ESSER:
In the '60s it played among with outreach to other organizations in the community so that it was doing more than either advising farmers or advising urban gardeners.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
You mean it got involved in the political process.
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, for example, in the '60s they experienced with something called Area Developments Associations. And one of the community action agencies that we supported in the east actually started with the Choanoke, the Area Development Association which is composed of whites with a few black leaders in the North Hampton, Hertford, Bertie, Gates area, no, Halifax, not Gates. But that effort died. Today you've got a very interesting, and I think effective, non-profit organization that was established under the leadership of Bob Jordan, called the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center. And it is doing some things that the Extension Division meant have done twenty-five years ago. But it's providing studies of problems. It's supporting demonstration projects. For example, it is administrating the money that the General Assembly provided for three purposes. One

Page 48
was support for predominantly minority owned credit unions in the east. Second was the new black owned, black based, community based, CDCs primarily in the east. And the third is administering the so-called Micro Enterprise Loan Program, which is based on an initiative that developed in Bangla Desh fifteen years ago.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Really?
GEORGE ESSER:
Of creating small groups of, in Bangla Desh it was farmers, in this case it could be automobile mechanics and small business people, people who are interested in small businesses. But loans of up to, well, initially, I think, it was $2,000, and then a second one can go up to $5,000, and then a third up to $8,000. There is a test process. Small groups were formed, and let's say there are eight. That group helps determine which person in that group gets the first loan.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Interesting.
GEORGE ESSER:
And they cannot get another loan for anybody in that group until the first one has gotten a loan and is paying it back.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
A little community pressure.
GEORGE ESSER:
Yeah, and if he doesn't pay it back, the whole group is censured.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
That's an excellent….
GEORGE ESSER:
So its being tried in several places in North Carolina with money from both the General Assembly, which don't think that the leadership of the General Assembly [Laughter] came up with this idea—it was mainly somebody, I forget who, put the idea in

Page 49
there but the black caucus got the money, about half a million dollars. Well, I have been on the advisory committee to create or to start the Micro Enterprise, and I'm on the advisory committee to allocate the money to CDC's. The people that Billy Ray Hull has put into that, he does not have a large staff but he has got a very good staff. And Bill Friday is chairman. Billy Ray Hull is the executive director of the Rural Economic Development Center, and he is an agricultural economist who was in the Hunt administration. But he's a very able young man, and, I think, has done a much better job than people thought he would do.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Wonderful.
GEORGE ESSER:
So he's been very sensitive to minority leadership, leadership from grassroot organizations. So that on one hand you've got Bill Friday as chairman, and you've got people like—well, up until he died—the man at BB&s, Vincent Lowe, as vice chairman. Ed Bishop is a very prominent member, but so is Kate McKee of the Center for Community Self-Help, and so is Valerie Lee of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation staff. And I think it's very interesting, too, that Valerie is chairman of the T.V. board at the University.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
You know, I saw that. I was aware of that. Is she connected to Howard?
GEORGE ESSER:
No, but I've known Valerie. She was married to a black man from Henderson, from Vance County, named Jim Lee, and they have been amiably separated for years. But Jim got a Ph.D. in

Page 50
Communications at the University, and Valerie started the first black owned public radio station in North Carolina.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Really, where was that?
GEORGE ESSER:
It was based initially in Warrenton. Then when LISC started, we provided the loan funds to enable her to buy a new studio in Rocky Mount, because radio-wise that area was served by, I forget what the call letters were. After she went to Reynolds, which was a good move on Reynolds part, and good for the state, they had trouble raising money, and it's eventually died. But it worked for a while, about fifteen years.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Well, George, I think we better go back and take a look at who you are, where you were born. Let's go back to the beginning and reflect on, as you tell me some of these things, what it was in your life that shaped some of the attitudes you have now, as you went acquiring these attitudes. So you were born in?
GEORGE ESSER:
I was born in Norton, virginia, which is in wise County, Virginia, almost out to the western tip of the state of Virginia.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Is that coal county?
GEORGE ESSER:
It's coal county. My grandfather, let's see, the Essers were German. The first one immigrated to this county about 1800 from Germany. The family, there's not much information on this, but the family myth is that he was fleeing from the Bonapartists or the Bonaparte Revolution. But anyway, he settled, or the Essers settled, in the anthracite area of Pennsylvania, north of Bethlehem, in a town that is now known as

Page 51
Jim Thorpe, but it's actual name is Scotch-Irish, Mauch Chunk. Actually there were several white wealthy families that initiated there that I have run into since. But my grandfather's father, my great-grandfather, died when my grandfather was about ten, and he went to work when he was quite young during the Civil war, and went with the Stonego Coal Company. Well, I don't know what it was known as in Pennsylvania. But anyhow, he came to virginia in 1896 to open up a coal mine in southwestern virginia on land then owned by the Stonego Coal Company.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
What was his name?
GEORGE ESSER:
His name was John Alfred Esser. He was my grandfather, and I remember him pretty well. He died when I was eleven years old. He was married to Esther Hyndman.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
That's your middle name.
GEORGE ESSER:
She was from a Scotch-Irish family in Mauch Chunk, and I don't remember—she died when I was eighteen months old. But her sister, who was unmarried, lived with us, the old extended family, until she died the first year I was in college.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
George, we've got this light. I'm going to flip this over.

Page 52
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
George, we were talking about your grandfather, John Alfred Esser. And your father, his son, was?
GEORGE ESSER:
George Hyndman Esser, and he was born in 1880. So he was sixteen when his father moved to virginia. His father asked some of his business associates in southwestern Virginia where he should send his son to college. Among the people he asked was C. Bascombe Slemp, who later began Congressman and then was Calvin Coolidge's private secretary, Eugene Hyatt, both of whom had graduated from VMI. So they urged him to send my father to VMI. So my father ended, before he had even seen southwestern Virginia, he ended up traveling from Pennsylvania to Lexington, Virginia and entering VMI, which was something of a shock to him.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Shock [Laughter] , I guess. In 1896, it would have been a shock.
GEORGE ESSER:
At that time, you know, they had no Christmas vacation. I think one year his mother came up and spent Christmas in Lexington to be close to him. So it was something of a shock. That was 1896, and he stayed there until—incidentally, I think it's interesting, too, that in the same county in Pennsylvania that my father had entered from there was another young man, who my father knew at VMI if he didn't know him in Pennsylvania, named George Cattin Marshall [General of the Army, World War II, Secretary of State, Marshall Plan].
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Really?
GEORGE ESSER:
He was a year behind my father at VMI.

Page 53
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I didn't know that, George.
GEORGE ESSER:
From the same county in Pennsylvania.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
That's amazing.
GEORGE ESSER:
But in the fall of 1900, my father was the class of, the fall of 1899, I guess it was, there was an epidemic. I believe it was meningitis, and the school was sent home. Was closed in October, and the cadets were sent home. This was my father's senior, or first class, year. And by the time they came back in January, he was working, I think, at—my grandfather was then superintendent of the mine at Dorchester, Virginia, which is near Norton—and I think my father was working for him. Anyhow, my father did not go back and so never graduated.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Never quite finished.
GEORGE ESSER:
Never quite finished. He was sorry in later years that he didn't, but at that time there weren't nearly as many people getting college degrees, and it was not as critical. So for the next twenty years, my father worked in the coal business, sometimes with his father, who had a great talent for making a mint and then losing it. When he went into bankruptcy for the third time in 1928, that was it. I know that he went out on his own first, I think, in 1904, 1905, and the Depression of 1907 wiped him out. Anyhow, when he did not have a big operation going, my father would be working for somebody else. And actually, for several years before and about the middle of world War I, my father was superintendent of a mine near Charleston, Virginia, but still not married.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
When did he marry?

Page 54
GEORGE ESSER:
He met in 1919 and in 1920 married my mother.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
And her name is?
GEORGE ESSER:
And I will pick her up in just a minute. But I would say that—let me see if I can characterize that area—southwestern Virginia at that time was very much into coal mining, logging, exploiting resources. There's a very good, it's not a great book, but a very good book called Miners, Mill Hands and Mountaineers, written by a professor, I believe, at Appalachian. But it describes what happened between 1880 and 1930 in the area from Charleston south to Birmingham. And those mountains were taken over by out-of-state coal and lumber companies who came in, and that's what I grew up with. I grew up with the coal mining business. When I was born, my grandfather owned a large mine at Esserville, which was four miles from Norton. My father worked very closely with him. At that time, which was just after I was born in 1921, we had money. I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth, I guess. Grandfather had built a large house, and right next to it my father and mother built a large bugalow-style home. We had everything we wanted. But by 1926 when I was six, the bottom had dropped out of the coal business, which it historically has done before every major depression, and by 1928…. My grandfather had invested in a new tipple, a new processing of coal, and he couldn't pay off the loan. So they went bankrupt in 1928, and we lost our homes by 1930. So I remember the Depression very vividly.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
So the Depression, there was no recovery during that period?

Page 55
GEORGE ESSER:
Oh no. Then my mother was from an old Virginia background. I think you know and I think I'm proud of, but as my mother said, it's something you live up to rather than live on, one of my great-great-great-great-grandfathers was Thomas Jefferson. My great-grandfather, who married Jefferson's great-granddaughter, was also a farmer in the Charlottesville area. He invested all his money during the Civil War in Confederate bonds, and so when the boys came home from the war, there was nothing. That was the Taylor branch.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Your mother's name was what?
GEORGE ESSER:
My mother's name was Martha Randolph Taylor, and her father was Jefferson Randolph Taylor. He was one of the boys who came back from the Civil War, and there was nothing. He was in the Rockbridge Artillery, I think. He came back. He graduated from the University of Virginia, spent a couple of years tutoring large plantation—you remember David Bruce, the ambassador to Paris—when his forebearers owned a plantation near Danville, and my grandfather tutored there for a couple of years. Then he studied law and practiced law in Charlottesville until age, he was about thirty-seven, no, forty-three. He was born in 1842. He left. All his brothers had grown up. His sisters were at the farm near Charlottesville. My grandfather, who was not married, went to Alexandria and entered Virginia Theological Seminary, and spent three full years there, at age forty-three. When he graduated, there was not a place for him in the diocese of Virginia, but the diocese of West Virginia, he became [unclear] resident there. His first church was in Moundsville, West

Page 56
Virginia, which is up near wheeling. In that town was a couple, members of his church, named Olden, and her sister, Mary Hubert Bruce from Winchester, came to visit. It was an immediate, she and my grandfather struck it up, and they were married in Moundsville, I think, maybe it was Winchester. But anyhow, they were married in, I believe, in 1888 or 1889. I've got it somewhere at home.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
That kind of thing, I hope, would be in your papers. But they were the parents of Martha Randolph Taylor?
GEORGE ESSER:
They were the parents. She was the first child. But think of this now, when Martha Randolph Taylor—I'm going to have to clarify in a minute—their first child was born in 1892, my grandfather was fifty. They had one other daughter, Mary Cary Taylor, who was actually my mother. My grandfather then went from Moundsville. Actually Mary Cary was born in Oakland, Maryland. Then he went to Texas. I used to ask myself, how in the world did he get into Texas. Well, actually his wife had some cousins in Texas. But they didn't like Texas, so they moved back. They ended up in [unclear] , Virginia, where he spent the last fifteen year of his life and his ministry. He only retired a few months before he died. He was seventy-seven when he died. At that time my mother and her sister had both graduated from Farmville State Teacher's College, which then was a normal school and only required two years. My mother, Mary Cary, was teaching in Portsmouth, and Martha was living at home and taking care of her father because my grandmother had died in 1907. He retired in April of 1919 and died in July, and here were two girls, at

Page 57
that time Martha was twenty-seven and my mother was twenty-five. They had to get out of the rectory. They, for the first time, were alone. So they applied to the school system, both of them were teachers, for any place in virginia were they could be together. And the only place that was available was in Norton.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Norton, Virginia. I wondered.
GEORGE ESSER:
So that's who they got to Norton, Vvirginia. Because they applied late and that was the only place available. At that time you came in my train from Bluefield if you're coming from the east, and there's still one friend alive who was on that train.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Good heavens. That's remarkable.
GEORGE ESSER:
Who was also coming to teach. I used to hear and I still hear every time I see her about the train coming in and being met by John Ira Burton, the principal, and being taken to Mrs. Martin's boarding house on Main Street. And that night there was a shooting on Main Street [Laughter] . They thought they had ended up in….
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Dodge City.
GEORGE ESSER:
Dodge City, rather than Norton, virginia. But they soon thereafter moved to rooms. You know, at that time they didn't have teacherages in Norton, and teachers got rooms with other room.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
In some places they moved around, you know, a month here and a month there.
GEORGE ESSER:
That's right. But they both lived with Dr. Carr and his wife. They'd been there about a week, and they were walking

Page 58
down the street with Mrs. Carr, and a car passed, a little Dodge roadster. And Beth turned to him and said, "Now, there is the most eligible bachelor in Norton," and that was my father. A year later my father and mother were married. Because, you know, at that time you didn't actually have to have, you married and the family base and so forth. So they married from the home of a great aunt—we visited her grandson just a month ago—in Norfolk, and they were married at St. Paul's Church in Norfolk. After the wedding, they took a boat from Norfolk to New York.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
The Clyde Line, I bet you.
GEORGE ESSER:
And then went on to Montreal. I was born a year later.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Let's get you birth date.
GEORGE ESSER:
My birthday is August 6, 1921. They were married in 1920. Then the second, my brother, was born on December 28, 1922.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
And his name is Cary.
GEORGE ESSER:
He was first named Jefferson Randolph Esser after his grandfather, and five days later my mother died from pneumonia, and so they added the Cary. So it's Jefferson Randolph Cary Esser. This has always been a problem for him, and when he went in the Army, you know, they don't accept the third name. So it was Jefferson R. Esser, and everybody except me and my wife know him as Jeff [Laughter] . And I must say that his wife is very understanding about it. But anyhow, there my father was, well…
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Two babies.

Page 59
GEORGE ESSER:
Actually three weeks later his only male first cousin, who was staying with his father right in the house right behind, got pneumonia and died. And so my grandfather decided it was a good time to take my grandmother to Florida to forget all of this strain, and she died of a heart attack in the St. Petersburg Hotel. So my father had two young boys. So he wrote Martha.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
The sister?
GEORGE ESSER:
The sister, and said would you come take care of the boys?
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Where was she at this time?
GEORGE ESSER:
She was a teacher in Roanoke. So she wrote a first cousin that we knew and in whom she had a lot of confidence, and said, "Would it be proper?" I've got the answer. And he said, "By all means. You've got to see that those children are raised." [Laughter]
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Those little nephews are raised, yes.
GEORGE ESSER:
So she came to Norton and moved in. Actually for a year and a half there was a full-time nurse for my brother, but after that…. From my earliest recollection, why, she was there. I've later discovered, she later told me that he asked her to marry him in 1928. I'm citing this because I think it gives an insight into me, and she said she would do it until he was—that was after he had gone bankrupt. And she said that she would marry him after he'd gotten on his feet economically, because she had been through so much poverty. I mean, Episcopal ministers, particularly in rural churches, didn't get much.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Oh no.

Page 60
GEORGE ESSER:
And certainly in the form of dollars. And she was very sensitive through out her life to…. There was a time in the early '30s in the depths of the Depression when my father broke his leg, was in the hospital, and he had no job. And the only income we had was a monthly annuity that a distant relative of mine, the daughter of my great-grandfather's sister, who lived in Philadelphia, and I mean, they had plenty of money and the Civil War had not wiped them out. She left an annuity to my grandfather which continued through my mother's life. At best, it was $50.00 a month. During the Depression it was something like $37.50. But for a couple of years that was the only income we had. So I, you know, remember moving out of our house. We camped out in the bit house until the big house was sold. And my father was in the hospital with a broken leg, and we had to move from the big house into a small house that Martha—"Mash," I called her—had discovered and rented. She was responsible for moving everything, for storing the furniture, and this old aunt of my father's, who was then about seventy-five and was no help at all—I mean, she wanted to help but she just couldn't help—was there. And she eventually went with my father's sister for three years and came back. It was tough.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
It was very tough.
GEORGE ESSER:
I don't know. I was never a very entrepreneurial person. If a job came my way, I was glad to have it, but I was not good at creating jobs. And I was not good at, you know, I tried delivering papers and things like that and it was not very good for me. But I was sensitive to the meaning of what a penny

Page 61
meant and what a nickel meant. I suppose that Mash's standards and my father's difficulties made quite an impression on me. Also I think that Mash always felt that I was influenced, in part at least, by my grandfather's, the Episcopal minister's, example. Remember now, I grew up in a Republican family.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I hadn't realized that.
GEORGE ESSER:
My father did vote for Franklin Delanor Rooseveit in 1932.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Then did he switch in '36?
GEORGE ESSER:
Yeah, and he voted for Coolidge and Hoover in '28. It was perfectly natural. They were a Republican family. So when I went, high school was a breeze for me. Mash and my father always wanted me to go to VES but we didn't have enough money for that. Now, beginning, let's see, my father in 1933 got a job with the Relief Administration. He did, and I was old enough to see what that meant to people.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yeah.
GEORGE ESSER:
Because we would travel around to projects where people were working.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
So you could see it, yeah.
GEORGE ESSER:
Then he worked for the NRA Code Enforcement in 1934, and that meant that he had to travel all over southwestern Virginia to mines. We would all, you know, they were great about doing things like saying, "Well, we'll go on a picnic." So while he was at some mine, Mash would take us to the banks of some stream or something and we would have a picnic. But I got to know southwestern Virginia. Then the Trade Association executive

Page 62
died and my father was elected first secretary-treasurer and then later president of the Virginia's Coal Operates Association, which job he held from 1935 until he died in 1956. It didn't pay, you know, it was not a magnificent salary but it was a solid salary.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
It came in every month.
GEORGE ESSER:
And it enabled him to live comfortably the rest of his life.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Had Mash waited this long to say yes, or were they married before 1935?
GEORGE ESSER:
They were married. He took that job and about a week later, it was unusual, my father said, "I've got to go to Middlesboro," which was an old coal town that really has a fascinating history—it's a town in Kentucky right across Cumberland Gap—"on Saturday and let's all go." So we went down and we went to the old hotel and had lunch, and after lunch, he drove up in front of the Episcopal Church. My father got out and went in. He came back out and the rector turned to have been in theological school with my grandfather. So he opened the door to the car and looked back at Cary and me and said, "How would you like to have a mother?" Well, I burst into tears, and all of a sudden they were worried. And I said, "No, I was doing it because I was just happy about it." So we went in and there was an old lady who was witness and they were married.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Well, how nice, George.
GEORGE ESSER:
But that was twelve years after she came to take care of us and raise us. So I didn't have what you would call a

Page 63
traditional background in that sense. But I was very, very—I mean, I admired my father and respected him. And I think I was probably as close to him as anybody was, except Mash. But there's no question about the fact that Mash was the person who probably had the greatest impact on me, to whom I was really closest, I realize even more as time goes on. Now, she didn't understand when I later—the first time I voted for Truman it was a real family crisis. [Laughter] But she didn't understand everything I did, but exactly she had a lot of responsibility for helping have a respect for everybody, an understanding that people need an opportunity. That you can get up your dignity although you have no money. That equity and fair play and justice are important. She didn't understand very much about law but she understood about fair play. She was just great in that way, and I'm sure that that is one of things that had great impact.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
She was also aware of her Jefferson heritage?
GEORGE ESSER:
And she was always, I mean, it was in her line it came down, and she would always say, "You don't live on that. You live up to it."
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Well, that's an enormous influence on a young person.
GEORGE ESSER:
Knowing that, what I read about Jefferson had a real impact on me, too. I don't say I have ever been a great scholar. There's some things I read intensively, but I don't, my son, John, is a much better scholar than I am. I'm not a very good scholar. I tend to read too fast to be a good scholar. But anyhow, I early understood that Jefferson really stood for things

Page 64
that the Roosevelt administration stood for more than the Republicans.
This didn't really bother me as much because I went to VMI. Went to VMI because it had been in my family, and father had gone there, and my mother's cousins had gone there, and it was cheaper. But, I guess, in retrospect I hit it just at the right time. Well, Pearl Harbor came during my last year.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Ah, you stepped right into a commission.
GEORGE ESSER:
I was the last class that stepped right into a commission. I told somebody the other day I'm probably the last generation that has never taken a test in the Army. I mean, traditional exams, but psychological testing or classification testing, that sort of testing. I never took a test like that. But I went through the war.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Where did you serve?
GEORGE ESSER:
When I went to VMI, they had calvary, infantry, and artillery. And everybody that I had known had been in the calvary. So I signed up for the calvary, and that meant that learned to ride horseback, which is a great privilege. But it wasn't very useful [Laughter] to war.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
That's right. Not in the Second World War.
GEORGE ESSER:
I had my degree in chemistry, believe or not. So they took six of us who had degrees in chemistry and transferred us to the Chemical Warfare Service because the Chemical Warfare Service had so few officers. That was a break, too, because it meant that by September of 1942, when I had only three months into the service on my part, I was company commander of a company of officer candidates in an officer candidate school. I had just

Page 65
turned twenty-one the previous month. I had officers whose average age was thirty-eight.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Where were you stationed?
GEORGE ESSER:
At Edgewood Arsenal, Maryland, which is twenty miles north of Baltimore, just south of Aberdeen. I'll never forget, I mean, there was a former first sergeant who was then a second lieutenant, and he roomed next door to me. On the night he arrived, I stayed up with him all night, practically, drinking bourbon. But a couple of days later, I had another second lieutenant who had just gotten his commission, but he was from civilian life. He was about thirty-eight, and he didn't like one of my orders, and he said he wasn't going to obey it, and I said, "You will or." So I walked out, and there was actually a tent area and this little orderly room, little porch, and I was standing on the porch. Ed Selinsky, who was the former first sergeant, went up to this guy and says, "You obey the lieutenant or you'll have me to put up with as well." [Laughter]
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
[Laughter] That helped.
GEORGE ESSER:
So I had no more problems with Lieutenant Preston. But anyhow, at VMI I read widely but I was in the sciences so I didn't have a lot of courses that actually made me think about where the world was. You know, today they do a lot better job in, I think, any engineering degree or any scientific degree in giving some better background. Oh, I had a course in economics and it was sort of a joke. The man that was teaching history was a lot more concerned with the developing European war than, understandably, he was in the past. So I went into the war, and

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I ended up, let's see, I left Edgewood and went to California with a new unit, and ended up as a company commander of a combat company that fired a 4.2 inch mortar, which is a pretty wide mortar. It fired the equivalent, it was the size as 105 hundred millimeter shells. That is, the same diameter, but it had a lot more high explosive and white phosphorus in it. On the other hand, it didn't have nearly the range of an artillery weapon. There were three companies, and each company had twelve of those, and we were sent to Europe in late 1944. We didn't get into combat until February of '45, and the war was over by May of '45.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Did you go into France?
GEORGE ESSER:
We landed in France, and actually our first combat was in Holland and Germany. I ended up on the other side of the Elbe River. Actually saw the Russians.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Did you meet the Russians?
GEORGE ESSER:
Yeah, met the Russian troops. Another experience that lives with me is I was in the second day, I guess—we were liberated the afternoon before and the next morning I was at a concentration camp.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Oh, were you?
GEORGE ESSER:
So I saw, I'll never forget talking to a man who was there who had been a professor at the University of [unclear] in Belgium.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yeah, Joy and Bill Murphy go there. He teaches at [unclear] from time to time. They're going this fall.
GEORGE ESSER:
By the time the day was over, that man no longer lived. So because we had been sent in late, we were also returned home

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early because we were destined to go to Japan. They dropped the bomb, so I did not have, because I had not gone in until '42, I didn't get out right away. But I had already decided before I left VMI that I was not going to pursue chemistry. Because I learned, from taking calculus as a matter of fact, that I could think well two dimensionally, I did not operate well in the three dimensional things like calculus and differential equations and engineering generally. And I've never regretted that.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I would think not, yeah.
GEORGE ESSER:
So all during the war I was thinking what I was going to do, and I ran into a man who said, "Why not go to law school?" It was funny. He was the one who encouraged me to think of Harvard instead of Virginia, and he ended up going to Virginia and I went to Harvard.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
So directly from the military, in what, 1946?
GEORGE ESSER:
I went up to, and this, you know, my son and daughter, a couple of days ago I was telling them this and they found it hard to believe, I went to Boston from Edgewood in February of 1946. Went over to Harvard, and I had an appointment with an old professor who was in admissions. I went up to his office in the bowels of the library, and he met me. There was also a man there who was Dean of the School of Law at the University of Iowa. So we sat around and they talked to me. They asked me what I'd done in the war. And sometimes they would go off on their own. I was there over two hours and finally he said, "well, I believe we'll let you in."
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
You could come in?

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GEORGE ESSER:
So I was admitted to Harvard. I was also admitted to the University of Virginia. And when I left home in June of 1946, I told my parents that I would let them know where I ended up. It was not until I called from Worchester, Massachusetts, that they knew I was going to Harvard.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
And you had the G.I. Bill?
GEORGE ESSER:
And I had the G.I. Bill which pretty much covered all of the expenses.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Makes a difference.
GEORGE ESSER:
Makes a difference.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Oh, it was a wonderful thing. That light is flashing. We'll talk next time about your decision when you graduated from Harvard to come to the Institute of Government?
GEORGE ESSER:
Okay.

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[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
This is tape 3-A of an interview with George Esser, former member of the staff of the Institute of Government and executive director of the North Carolina Fund. The interview is taking place in my home on Elliot Road in Chapel Hill. It is June 27, 1990. I am Frances Weaver.
George, when we broke up the other day, we were talking about your decision to go to Harvard and I want just to touch on a couple of things. Can you give me a capsule summary of Harvard at that time, of the Harvard Law School? What it was like and what it was like for you?
GEORGE ESSER:
What it was like, there were over two thousand students. In the post-war period, why they had continuous semesters.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Oh, straight through.
GEORGE ESSER:
They didn't go back to the old two semester a year program until 1949. So I went seven straight semesters from June of '46 until September of '48. And there were three graduating classes in 1948; in February, June and September. It was a good experience. There were lots of people in law school at that time who were from all over the country who would not have normally gone to Harvard Law School. The elitist tradition of Harvard was clearly broken. Not that there weren't many eastern prep school people there, but they did not predominate.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I see.
GEORGE ESSER:
Nor did they win all the honors, you know, the president of the Law Review or whatever. So it was an

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interesting place to be. I loved Cambridge and Boston.
I had interesting roommates and I've stayed very close to Jim Barnett whose father taught law at T.C. Williams in Richmond. I met [him] the day I was admitted to Harvard, but he married into one of the old families of Massachusetts and practiced in Providence. And they have a lovely summer home about forty miles from Providence, south of Fall River in Massachusetts. But it's interesting. We've stayed very close and we go to see them a lot and they come to see us occasionally. Well, one night over twenty years ago, before we moved to Atlanta, the phone rang about ten thirty and it was Faith, the wife. The oldest son had come to Chapel Hill to see his girl friend and she had rejected him and he had taken a hundred sleeping pills.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Oh, George.
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, first of all, she sensed that he might do something drastic and she had gone back and found him. At that time there was a doctor named Lou Whitmore or something of that nature.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Lou Welt?
GEORGE ESSER:
Welt.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Lou Welt. He was a great doctor, right.
GEORGE ESSER:
And he was an authority on overdoses of drugs. And they kept that boy in intensive care for two weeks and Hilliard Caldwell was the primary attendant.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Was he really?
GEORGE ESSER:
And Jim and Faith arrived here at midnight and I had gotten an up to date report through Bob Lindsay and that boy

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finally recovered. He had all sorts of emotional problems, but he overcame them. He got a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Texas. He's married. And Lou Welt, of course, is dead. But I mean, Jim and Faith think that Chapel Hill is a very special place.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I would think so. Had you known Hilliard Caldwell before this first encounter?
GEORGE ESSER:
Yes.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
You had. In other activities in Chapel Hill. George, were there any North Carolinians at Harvard Law; friendships that carried over when you came here or acquaintances?
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, yes. Well, Alec McMann was a good friend of mine in law school, and he and I came to the Institute together.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I see. I didn't know that.
GEORGE ESSER:
Then Rich Preyor was in my class.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Was he? I didn't know that.
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, he actually took a vacation, so he graduated a semester after. Reed Thompson, who is now in Washington, who was from Pittsboro was a good friend. Pred Bynum from Rockingham, North Carolina was a good friend. Harry Martin, I knew. He wasn't a close friend, but he's now Justice of the Supreme Court and lives in Chapel Hill. So I did make some friends and some friendships that have carried over. And I made some very good friends of people who practice today in Philadelphia and New York and Providence. But because I didn't enter the practice of law, other than the friendships that I have maintained, like Jim Barnett and Ray Gouth, where there was a real personal element, I

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haven't had the professional relationship with law school classmates that I might have had.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
The ABA type professional associations?
GEORGE ESSER:
Yeah. And so I haven't seen many of them. And the only time I went to a law school reunion, which was in 1983, I didn't particularly enjoy it. Mary and I went up to Massachusetts and joined Jim and Faith and we were together and that was the main pleasure of the reunion, was seeing Jim and Faith. Neither of us saw people that we were fond of in law school.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yeah. Yeah. That's the way of reunions, I think.
GEORGE ESSER:
Yeah, so I have no regrets about VMI. I have no regrets about law school. I have friends in the social action field who are also Harvard Law School graduates who never practiced. They were not in my class, but Bill Brinker is a very good friend of mine. He graduated about 1960 and he's never practiced and probably will never practice.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yeah. Is it an unspoken bond when you meet somebody? "You went to Harvard, too?" sort of thing?
GEORGE ESSER:
Yeah, particularly if you are in an activity that doesn't generally bring law school graduates into it. It's very interesting to find not only law school graduates, but Harvard Law School graduates. You know, you have a bond that it different at any rate. But I think another thing that is important, Fran, is that it was while I was in law school that I really faced the realities of political affiliation. I still had the Virginia patina of conservatism and I found it was difficult

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to deal with some of the liberal thought I found there; and not only among students, but among faculty. And particularly on questions of equity and fair play and justice. And so before I left law school, I had clearly swung from sort of the accepted affiliation with the family Republican attitudes to Democratic. And one of the funny things was that my father kept up my…. Virginia at that time, had a poll tax and right after I graduated, I was in North Carolina but I was eligible to vote in the 1948 elections. And when he found that I had voted for Truman, he almost disowned me. I mean, he just couldn't understand that.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
You didn't pay your poll tax anymore.
GEORGE ESSER:
He didn't pay my poll tax for that purpose. [Laughter] And I had, you know, some difficulties doing it. You know, in making a decision quite frequently you'll have a psychosomatic symptoms and I remember that spring before I graduated was a rough spring. I was also president of the Law School Forum, which was an organization that brought different points of view to the law school. And I kept pretty busy. In other words, I guess I did not probably study as much as I should. I made some A's and I made some C's. It was clear that I could handle law school. It was clear that on some things, I did very, very well. On other things that I wasn't as interested in, I didn't do quite as well.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Seems like a valid choice to me. So what led to your decision to come to the Institute of Government and maybe not go into the private practice of law?

Page 74
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, let's see, in the spring of 1948 we had a summer term remaining. Law firms did not go to the law schools in the same way that they do now, nor did they compete in terms of salaries and all the way that they do now. But I wrote several lawyers or law firms that I knew. But I saw an advertisement or a note on the bulletin board one day that Albert Coats, a graduate of the law school from the University of North Carolina would be there. Well, first of all, I talked to a couple of residents of North Carolina who didn't know him well. But I remember [unclear] Reilly that talked to Harry Weyher, who at that time, I thought was a very decent sort of guy; turns out to have become a very, very conservative lawyer.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Really? Wy?
GEORGE ESSER:
W-E-Y-H-E-R. He was from Kinston. Two of my professors had been at Duke before the war; David Cavers and Lon Fuller. And Cavers was very pro my thinking about coming to the Institute of Government, but he said, "Don't stay more than four years." Lon Fuller really didn't know much about the Institute, but Cavers encouraged me. So, Mr. Coats came and I forget the conditions of the interview, but obviously, you know, he could make a very fine impression on an impressionable young man. And so at the end of that interview, I had agreed to pay a visit to Chapel Hill during the break. So I went home and I remember it was May and hot. But Mitch and I drove down and we stayed at the Carolina Inn and Albert and Gladys wined us and dined us; went to the Institute and met and talked to a good many people. I recall Cliff Pace and Henry Lewis.

Page 75
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Henry was on the staff then?
GEORGE ESSER:
Henry was on the staff in 1946.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Right after the war?
GEORGE ESSER:
Yeah. But I don't remember, for example, Terry although Terry was still a member of the staff then. That was the year, actually, that that fall was a sort of a watershed year for the Institute, because lerry had left during the summer, but in the fall Alec and myself and Dick Phillips and Don McCoy all came.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
All joined the staff?
GEORGE ESSER:
All joined the staff. And I think that was sort of a watershed. I mean, because those four people had a real impact on me. But at any rate, we had a very good visit. I remember it was hot and then Mitch and I went on from here to Richmond and eastern Virginia. And sometime in the summer, I forget exactly when, I accepted the Institute offer to my father's dismay. He never did understand precisely what the Institute of Government was. He had me type out a sheet of paper that he used to keep in his wallet and when people asked him what his sons were doing, why he would pull out the sheet of paper to describe the Institute. So I accepted and let's see, we had our final exams and graduated in September and I stayed up long enough for Jim and Faith's wedding. And then came home and had a few days at home before I came here. I came here on the first of October, 1948. And Alec came the same time.

Page 76
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Did he?
Did you know when you came that you would also be doing some teaching in the University? was that part of the deal?
GEORGE ESSER:
That was part of the deal. In some ways it worked. In some ways it didn't and I think that the test that it didn't work, in the long run, is that very few Institute people teach today in the University.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yes. Today. But you taught?
GEORGE ESSER:
Today. But I taught. In the law school, we taught as surrogates for Albert Coats.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I see. I see.
GEORGE ESSER:
Even grading papers and all; we did the work, but they were his courses.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I see.
GEORGE ESSER:
Now later, when we began teaching in political science and other departments, planning and other departments, while he approved the assignment. I mean, whether or not we taught, he did not take part.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yes, I see. So you were on your own then?
GEORGE ESSER:
So at that time, when I taught in planning and political science, I taught in my own name. And in law school, I was teaching parts of Mr. Coats classes.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Of Mr. Coats classes. Yeah. George, were you sought out by political science and planning? I mean, did John Parker suggest this would be a good idea? Or was it a mutual thing?

Page 77
GEORGE ESSER:
Mr. Coats was funny that way. He wanted the Institute to be involved but he wanted it under conditions that the Institute controlled.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I'm not surprised. Jealous of your time.
GEORGE ESSER:
Phil was the first to get involved.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
That's Phil Green?
GEORGE ESSER:
Phil Green, yeah. He was the first to get involved with Jack Parker. It was after four or five years that it became as close as it did, but I got pretty close to political science. Fred Cleveland and then Don Hamond, of course, was from political science and he was one of the few non-lawyers at the Institute at that time.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yes. Is he a Ph.D. in political science?
GEORGE ESSER:
Yeah.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I see.
GEORGE ESSER:
Mr. Coats did not understand why we wanted to be involved in the rest of the University. I don't know why he didn't, but he didn't.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I thought that was his dream.
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, his dream was involvement by invitation with control given to the Institute.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I see.
GEORGE ESSER:
He did not like cooperation and he did not like to think that the Institute was contributing to the good reputation of somebody else.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
He wanted it out of the Institute?
GEORGE ESSER:
He wanted it out of the Institute.

Page 78
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
All stars to the Institute.
GEORGE ESSER:
Yeah. Now, I think, on reflection that the negotiation he did to get faculty status for the staff at the Institute was a real triumph, on reflection. I don't know that many people could have secured that.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
No. I know Albert's techniques, however.
GEORGE ESSER:
But on the other hand, you know, it was sometimes humiliating to know what was going on. He could be paranoid, he could be protective of the Institute, he could be provincial in his attitude about the Institute. You know, he didn't believe anybody else had a good idea.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yeah.
GEORGE ESSER:
That is in the social sciences. In terms of the arts and the humanities and literature and so forth, I think that he was a very, very good University citizen. But in terms of the social sciences, he had a feeling that love was the social science. And he could not reconcile his dreams with those of Howard Odum or Rupert Vance or people like that. And when I got involved later in the mid-fifties, with the Institute for Research and Social Science—Gordon Blackwell and Fred Cleveland and Dan Price and others—first of all, Mr. Coats wouldn't let me be an official member of the Institute.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
He wouldn't?
GEORGE ESSER:
No. I had to do that informally. And secondly, he got really upset when I managed to get a hundred thousand dollars of a six hundred thousand dollar grant from the Ford Foundation set aside for the Institute.

Page 79
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
You mean the Institute for Research and Social Science?
GEORGE ESSER:
No. I mean the Institute.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
The Institute of Government. But you got it?
GEORGE ESSER:
I got it.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
What jurisdiction did Mr. Coats have over this?
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, I obviously came to the Institute of Government and after we got it, we had trouble spending it, because he would say, "God damn it. We gave up a chance to get a million dollars." And he never got over the fact that I was close to the [unclear] And that he never got a real big shot at a Ford grant.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
He never got a hearing?
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, he got a hearing, but he never got close in terms of a commitment. And he could not understand that. And of course, he had retired from the Institute when I finally left the Institute. But he always expressed wonder that I could get so much support from the big, large foundations. And you couldn't tell him how the Institute was perceived by other people. He didn't understand that, because he was the one who knew everything about the Institute.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
That's right.
GEORGE ESSER:
On the other hand, he hired good people. Now, he would let some people go, you know, for months without actually even talking to them.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Really?
GEORGE ESSER:
And if you could operate, you know, without a lot of supervision, you could get things done.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Without his interference?

Page 80
GEORGE ESSER:
Without his interference. Well, for example, one of the things that I achieved and it's still going on at the Institute, is I put together the first informal but year long training program for city managers and officials of city government. And later, it was extended to counties and it's still going on thirty-five years later.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I see.
GEORGE ESSER:
And I think it's something like fifteen hundred people have been here. Do you remember Williard Graham?
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yes, indeed. The executive program.
GEORGE ESSER:
Okay. He came and he established the pattern for the executive program. All I did was take that pattern for public officials.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I see. And apply it to the….
GEORGE ESSER:
So, they came every two weeks for two to three days from October to May.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Exactly like the executive program.
GEORGE ESSER:
Yeah. Now we didn't have as much money or we didn't charge as much either. And it was a joint thing between Alec McMann, Phil Green, Don Hamond, Jake Wicker and myself and then others from time to time. But initially, that was it. And you know, over the years it became stabilized and it became accepted. Initially, the League fought it, the League of Municipalities.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Oh, turf battles?
GEORGE ESSER:
Turf battles, you know. But they found it hard to fight education. And so finally, they gave up on that. And

Page 81
there was always a turf battle between Mr. Coats and the League for years.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Well, I could understand that.
GEORGE ESSER:
Particularly Alec and Phil and I had to deal with that, and we finally beat that with the power of our involvement rather than his involvement. And eventually, they named their building in Raleigh for Mr. Coats.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yes, isn't that interesting?
GEORGE ESSER:
But I knew the man who started the League back in 1934, Pat Healy, in Washington. And Pat used to tell me about his perception of the battles with Mr. Coats in the thirties between the League of Municipalities and the Institute. And the resources were limited. We were fighting a turf battle. But Mr. Coats could go for months and sometimes more than that time without significantly interfering with somebody and then something would come up, an issue would come up and he would get involved. And sometimes he would mess things up pretty badly.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Really?
GEORGE ESSER:
Yeah. His involvement would mess things up.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Very emotional response to things, would you say?
GEORGE ESSER:
Very emotional and very paranoid. He was a very paranoid man. And he could take his fears about other individuals or other institutions and erect Machiavellian schemes for combat.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I see.
GEORGE ESSER:
And then call staff people in and talk for hours about this.

Page 82
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Really?
GEORGE ESSER:
And just lay out his schemes. Even if you didn't agree with him, he didn't hear you. And very often, we didn't agree with him. Now, some people could help him more than others. I don't know. But both Phil Green and Jake Wicker had stretches of serving as sort of the chief of staff for Albert Coats. And how they did it, I don't know, because in a position like that, he could be consuming of time. If you talk to Mary Green, obviously you can't. But talk to Peaches. Peaches is sort of bitter about it.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
The hours he demanded.
GEORGE ESSER:
The hours and calling at all hours of the day and night. And he didn't do that for most of us.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Total dedication. He expected it.
GEORGE ESSER:
Or morning, noon and night, week day and on a Sunday. And you know, when I came he was astounded to learn that I was teaching Sunday school. And I said, "Well, Mr. Coats, it means a lot to me." "What? I want the Institute to mean as much to you."
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Was he jealous of your interest in the church, do you think?
GEORGE ESSER:
Oh, he was jealous of anything that took away. Now he wouldn't admit this, but he really was. He was jealous that took away from total commitment to the Institute.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
He's done it himself.
GEORGE ESSER:
Yeah. And he wanted total commitment and he could not understand when there wasn't total commitment. And he didn't

Page 83
really understand that people sometimes wanted a break from that unremitting pressure. Now that didn't mean that the staff was not willing to put the Institute first. That was their job. First of all, you had obligations to your children. Mr. Coats had no children. To a wife and children. He had a wife but she was involved in everything he did.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Her life had been dedicated as well.
GEORGE ESSER:
And I will say this. when my father was very ill right after Christmas in 1955, I called Mr. Coats and I said, "I think I should stay here." "Stay as long as you think is necessary." And he really was good about it.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Generous about it.
GEORGE ESSER:
And you know, those things came first, but he didn't sometimes understand about children.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I bet.
GEORGE ESSER:
And he didn't understand about your desire to work with other people in the University or in the community.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
What were his racial attitudes, George?
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, I don't think they were bad, but they were subordinate to the Institute. And the first thing that I recall that happened was there was some sort of meeting somewhere other than the Institute and I think it involved law enforcement officers. But there were both blacks and whites there. And one member of the staff, Don Hamond, sat down with some of the black participants at lunch. And this really upset Mr. Coats. The building was finished and opened in '56 or '57.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
That's about…. Yeah.

Page 84
GEORGE ESSER:
And we had our first conference for newly elected municipal officials in May of that year. And in '57, you see, it was right after the Pearsall plan.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Right. This is early.
GEORGE ESSER:
So we had about a hundred people register and they came in on a Sunday afternoon. And there was no way of telling from the advance registration material, so a lady came up and she was a city councilman from Kinston. Well, I registered her and I assigned her a room and then I went to tell Mr. Coats. He was in the office that afternoon. Well, it was a real bad…. But you know, he survived it.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Afraid of the spillover? Afraid of the press?
GEORGE ESSER:
That's right. And you know, as an example of his fears: he once had a little money, a little Foundation money, and he used some of it to buy dinner and football tickets for a commission that was working with the Institute. I mean, someone like Spencer Bell. Well, Henry, what was his name? He was state auditor?
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Oh, Bridges.
GEORGE ESSER:
Bridges was auditing the University books and he raised some question about the expenditure of those funds. Well, it just about sent Mr. Coats to the hospital.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Well, yeah. His integrity had been in [unclear]
GEORGE ESSER:
And the staff did not regard it as that serious, but he did. And I guess what I'm saying is that he knew that on race that morally he was bound to support desegregation, but politically he was worried that he would lose state

Page 85
appropriations if people recognized that the Institute was regularly serving, at that time, black officials. So it was tough on him, I think. He would have found it difficult, however, to have dealt increasingly with the black citizens of North Carolina in the sense that I did in the sixties.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I'm sure he would.
GEORGE ESSER:
And yet, I would think he was proud of the fact that dealing with those issues was coming from a former staff member at the Institute.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Ambivalent. And of a generation when the leap was very difficult.
GEORGE ESSER:
That's right. It was a very, very difficult belief. You know, I don't think that personally he had any really real bias, but professionally, he was out to protect the Institute and he was not going to let things like that interfere.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yeah. Well, he wasn't the only one. There were other administrators who shared that anxiety; that the University would go down the tubes if faculty took positions on this.
GEORGE ESSER:
I'll never forget. Now, this was a long time ago and I don't know how it happened, but Mary and I were out one evening for dinner and we had a baby-sitter. We only had one child then. Cary was born. And for some reason, we went by Whitehead Circle. Maybe we were looking for the McMann's. I don't know. Anyhow, we passed Bill and Ida's house and we said, "well, by gosh, we haven't seen them for a long time." So we went in and they were there and the hearings on the Pearsall amendment were on. Now Bill was already acting president.

Page 86
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
So this would have been '56.
GEORGE ESSER:
And the moment the famous confrontation between Roy Coats from the legislature and W. Robert Mann took place. And within five minutes, the phone rang and it was Roger Kyser. You remember Roger Kyser?
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I do. He was a legislator.
GEORGE ESSER:
From Scotland County. Well, Roger had his strong points, but race was not one of them. And he wanted to know, "Where'd that schedule come from?"
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Born and raised in South Carolina.
GEORGE ESSER:
[unclear] South Carolina. And Bob is still in Chapel Hill.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I see him around town. He writes letters to the News and Observer all the time. He's become a real libertarian. But I'll never forget that moment. That was one of the great moments.
GEORGE ESSER:
Yes, it was. It was a great moment. 10 tie things up with Mr. Coats. Albert Coats was a great man.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Unquestionably.
GEORGE ESSER:
A great man. He loved North Carolina. He loved this University. He loved the Institute. Nobody could have matched him in building an institution as he did.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
That's right. Pioneered.
GEORGE ESSER:
He had a good sense of talent. He attracted able people and as I say, in giving them freedom to operate on the whole, he gave us a chance to build that institution. It was his dream, but it had to be built in terms of relationships with and programs for groups of public officials.

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FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yes.
GEORGE ESSER:
And if he had not had the right people…. And he understood that and that's why he would go to Harvard to recruit. And so he recruited well and he provided support in terms of faculty status and salary. Now there were times when the salaries weren't up to…. You know, he would get eleven month salaries that compared with nine month salaries. And he didn't like you to have other sources of income because you were working twelve months out of the year.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Twelve months and he would have made it thirteen if he could.
GEORGE ESSER:
Yeah. But on the whole, he was a great man and he built a great institution. I think that one of his impacts on the institution is very sad. And that is that it is a very provincial institution even today.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Oh, that's too bad. We've got to turn this over.

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[END OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]

[TAPE 3, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE B]
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
George, it was about this time when you had been at the institute a few years that you met and married Mary Parker. Let's talk about that a little. Where did you meet Mary?
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, it was a funny thing. I knew about Mary long before I met her. You remember Davis Powell?
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yeah, D.B. Powell?
GEORGE ESSER:
Yeah. Well, D.B., when he was here at the University, D.B. started the job that I think Jim Little still has. Personnel testing. well, anyhow, I knew D.B. very well and we all went to D.B. 's… He was one of those who ate at the Inn every night. One of that group. And we all went to his wedding in Alta vista and when his first child was born, they asked me to be godfather. And I went to Alexandria for the baptism and at the baptism was Martha Parker who was Mary's older sister. And she had been in the National Gallery of Art staff with Temple.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Uh, huh. Temple Powell.
GEORGE ESSER:
So, that was the fall of '51. In the spring of '52, Fran Alexander called me and said that Mary Parker—and I said, "Well, I had heard of her." "Well, she's a friend

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of my mother's and she is at High Point and she's coming over to talk." I forget. The Women's Auxiliary or something. And she said, "would you come by and have dessert about nine thirty?" And so, that's where I met Mary.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
At Fran and Sid's.
GEORGE ESSER:
At Fran and Sid's. And that was in spring of '52. I remember my first date with her was the day before Easter. And she had left High Point in May and went back to Beaufort and then spent the next year at the National Cathedral School in Washington. So instead of having her close by, I had to go long distance. And the first time I went to Beaufort was a June weekend about 1952 and it was hot. Oh, it was awful hot. It was over a hundred degrees and that was before air-conditioning was common in cars.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Or in houses.
GEORGE ESSER:
And Mary's sister said to her husband, "John, do you think that young man is interested in Mary?" And he said, "Any damn fool that would drive all that distance in this heat must be." [Laughter]
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
So, when I met Mary at Christmas time that year, I remember the Alexanders.
GEORGE ESSER:
That's right. After Christmas, she came here and the Alexanders had a party.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
That's right. And by then, were you engaged?

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GEORGE ESSER:
And we were engaged, yeah. We became engaged—let's see—Mary's sister, Martha, the one I had met in Alexandria was married in Beaufort at thanksgiving and it was between that time and Christmas that we became formally engaged. And as I recall, why you—is it Elizabeth or….
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Elizabeth is why I couldn't come to your wedding.
GEORGE ESSER:
That's right. I thought so.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yeah, let's see. You were married in….
GEORGE ESSER:
We were married in June of '53.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Well, see, Elizabeth was a baby. She was born in January, '53. Yeah. But I remember Fred went down and Henry Lewis went down.
GEORGE ESSER:
That's right. Alec Heard and I came to Princeton.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
You came to Princeton in November, '51.
GEORGE ESSER:
In the fall of '51.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
And then of course, you're Stewart's godfather and Fred was John's godfather.
GEORGE ESSER:
John's godfather. That's right. So we had a real inter-family feeling for each of the family.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yeah, right. Peggy and Cary are friends to this day. And Stewart and John would be if they ever saw each other.
GEORGE ESSER:
That's right. But it's very interesting that…. Well, and of course, I have felt close to…. I have been

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concerned about Elizabeth ever since…. I'll never forget the wonderful way that she represented the family.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Oh, I've heard about that, George. That sets me off. Yeah, I've heard about that.
GEORGE ESSER:
At the memorial services. And then I was in Washington when she came to Washington for the internship.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
When she had the Presidential Internship. I think she consulted you, actually about what to do.
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, actually, you see, my organization administered the program. So I would see Elizabeth from time to time, so I was very much interested in what she was doing. And we had been at her wedding at the yacht.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Oh, yeah. You came down for the wedding. You certainly did. Up for the wedding; guess you were in Atlanta, right?
GEORGE ESSER:
We came to the wedding. Up for the wedding. We were in Atlanta at that time. So, I think that, you know, Elizabeth had handled a very, very tough situation just beautifully.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
She really has, George.
GEORGE ESSER:
Of course, all your children handle them.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Well, Elizabeth is now Deputy Director of one of the divisions of EPA.
GEORGE ESSER:
I know. She's a very [unclear] person.

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FRANCES A. WEAVER:
She's just really doing…. Anyway, we were talking about Mary Parker. You all settled….
GEORGE ESSER:
And Albert and Gladys came to the wedding.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
They did?
GEORGE ESSER:
You know, Mr. Coats behind the wheel of an automobile is like David Yates behind the wheel of an automobile. You really took your life in your hands when you rode with him.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I never drove with him. Thank heaven.
GEORGE ESSER:
And I'll never forget that Mr. Coats, in that little Ford, Mr. and Mrs. Coats were parked off of the highway across the street from Mary's parents. And he got in the car and he put his foot on the brake and the rear wheel spun down into that sand and all of a sudden, it took off like that. And we didn't know whether he would get it straightened out on the highway or not. But no. Ceremonies meant a lot to him. To both of them. And they loved going to weddings.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
They did indeed. And they took great personal interest in the lives of each of the Institute staff.
GEORGE ESSER:
Anyhow, they had us to breakfast.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Oh, they had a breakfast for us, too. Yeah.
GEORGE ESSER:
But, the music at our wedding was Purcell, not "Here Comes the Bride." And Mr. Coats said, "Well, you're

Page 93
not properly married." So he had Gladys play "Here Comes the Bride" when we went in to practice. He's a character.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I remember he put us…. when I was first taken by Fred to meet the Coats, he wanted to know the particulars of our courtship.
GEORGE ESSER:
Oh, yes.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Right down to where and when Fred proposed. And Fred told him. [Laughter] I was so surprised. But that was the kind of interest he took. And you really felt he meant it. He wanted to know.
GEORGE ESSER:
Oh, yes.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
And what's more, he never forgot.
GEORGE ESSER:
No. He could be very, very charming and very, very meaningful. Of course, it took Mary—as it took you—some time to get used to him. In our first year of marriage, we had a little dinner party and we invited the Coates and the Coates forgot. And they thought about it after we had served dinner and they called and they came on out. And we'd already served dinner.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I think we were there, George.
GEORGE ESSER:
Yeah. And Albert insisted that he wanted something to eat. Well, it was roast lamb, as I recall, and it had gotten cold. Mary always felt that he overdid it that time. [Laughter]

Page 94
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
That was very like him. Very like him. Well, you all lived first on North Street?
GEORGE ESSER:
No. We lived first on Greenwood Road with Adelaide and Howell Walters.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Oh, that's right. That's right.
GEORGE ESSER:
I had gotten that little apartment a couple of years before and we lived there and it was great for Mary because Mary Margaret Russell was in one side and Gladys and Cliff Lyons were on the other and Adelaide and Howell were a lovely couple. And so, it meant that—Mary felt that, you know, she could really sort of take…. And I'll never forget that one time I came home and she had made stew. And I said, "Well, this doesn't taste like stew that I am familiar with." So she went over to Mary Margaret and Mary Margaret said, "Well, did you put so and so in it?" I forget what it was. It was cornstarch I think to thicken it a little bit. And that was what she hadn't done. But it was great to have the kind of…. That was a lovely neighborhood. And then we moved from there to North Street. Miss Alice Jones cottage.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Miss Alice Jones cottage. That's where I first met you father. He came to visit there.
GEORGE ESSER:
Yeah. And then, it was after that—it was when we were living there, that we had had Cary and John was on the way and we needed more space. When I look today at the

Page 95
problems that young faculty have in getting homes in Chapel Hill and remember how fortunate we were in the fifties….
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Five percent mortgage? Five and a half?
GEORGE ESSER:
Five and a half, you know, and the land was cheap and I think that the difference—what permitted us to make the difference, was the amount that I got each year from Reserve duty. About a thousand dollars and it made the difference. We weren't paid at that time at the Institute quite as much as the University rates for faculty. But it soon got up to that level. But when I think about the fact that we were able to build then, I just am very grateful.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
We were lucky to come at that time. George, Mary worked at that great institution, the Chapel Hill Kindergarten. Mrs. Weddock's kindergarten.
GEORGE ESSER:
Mrs. Weddock's kindergarten. And you know, there is no telling how many children in Chapel Hill benefitted by that.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
It was remarkable. It was a remarkable thing.
GEORGE ESSER:
As Mary says, "Her one claim to fame was that she was the teacher of James Taylor." [Laughter]
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I do believe she taught James Taylor, but is it not…. I always heard—I don't know whether it's true or not—that a couple of those Taylor children were the only children Alfa ever expelled from the Chapel Hill Kindergarten.

Page 96
GEORGE ESSER:
That is possible. As a matter of fact, when I come to think of it, I believe I do.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
They were so independent.
GEORGE ESSER:
They were so independent and listen: Trudy was an extraordinarily unusual woman.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yes, she was. And her theories of child rearing….and she did have theories. It didn't happen by accident, those children.
GEORGE ESSER:
No, no. She intentionally did things. And I'll never forget going to—when I was with the Ford Foundation—flying from Raleigh-Durham to New York or Boston with Trudy. And it was after James had first made his reputation. And it was while she and Ike were still together. But it was an extraordinary conversation [unclear] because she would advance these theories that I could hardly understand.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Well, many of us couldn't. And each one of those children, after troubled adolescence, I think four of the five have emerged as professional musicians earning a good living.
GEORGE ESSER:
Oh, that's right. Livingston and James and the daughter.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
And Huey did it for a while and Kate did it for a while.
GEORGE ESSER:
Isn't that amazing?

Page 97
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Really. Well, it was fascinating. Well, I knew that Mary had had that experience and that the Taylors actually had been….
GEORGE ESSER:
That's right and you know, Alfa and [unclear] McKinney were very good for Mary.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Oh, yes. And Alfa was an amazing and gifted teacher for what she was doing.
GEORGE ESSER:
She was a very, very fine teacher. And there was a whole generation of Chapel Hill children who benefitted who will never forget "Little Fish, Little Fish." [Laughter] Somewhere we were—Canuga, I believe—in the mid sixties and some family gathered and we were supposed to do something as a family and we took one of the little skits from Mrs. Weddock and acted it out. We had a role for everybody in the family. It was great. And today the kids will remember those things.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Oh, yes. Mrs. Weddock. She was a great Chapel Hill…. Really an institution in the town.
GEORGE ESSER:
That's right.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
George, we haven't really touched on what assignments you did at the Institute and how that might have carried over into the fund.
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, let's see.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Well, assignments first and was there a carry-over to the fund?

Page 98
GEORGE ESSER:
When I first came to the Institute, Mr. Coach had never…. I mean, every staff member who was there had dealt with a function of government. I mean, Henry Lewis dealt with tax assessment and tax collection. And when Phil came, he took on planning and when Ale came, he took on local government finance. At the time that Ale and I came, Mr. Coats had agreed for the Institute to make a study for Charlotte and Mecklinburg County on the consequences of consolidation.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Oh, really? That early? I didn't know that.
GEORGE ESSER:
Oh, yes. And it was a much better study from the point of view of the functional elements of city and county government than the legal and other aspects of bringing it together. So he asked me to do a study of city-county consolidation throughout the country. Well, I found a book by a man that I later—I mean there was a lot in the library—but there was a fairly recent book by a man I later got to know pretty well named victor Jones from california that dealt with—historically—with city-county consolidation from the point of view of political science. And I had a lot of arguments with Mr. Coats about what we said about…. I said, "We've got to end up with a legal charter." But I said, "The history is not found alone in law or statute or ordinance." And well, he didn't want to go. He wanted everything to be in terms of what the law was

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and not what the actual background and the politics of it and so forth. Well, I was involved—except for the legislative session of 1949—I was involved in that study for a year and a half and then I later picked it up again in the late fifties when we did the thing for Durham. But from that, I was sort of assigned a general responsibility for municipal government. And so I dealt with a city as a—city government—I dealt with all of city government, but if it was planning or tax collection or so forth, I would consult or it would be done by Ale or Phil or Henry or Don. But that's how I happened to develop the first school for newly elected mayors and councilmen; the first management course for managers. Well, I handled some little functional matters like privilege license taxation by cities and other things like that. I was the only staff member and later Alec did this for the counties. But I was the only staff member who looked at the total of city government. And the role that city government played in an urban community. Over the years, I found that it was a lot harder to get my hands around that kind of assignment than planning or budgeting as Alec had or tax assessment like Henry had or purchasing like Jake had. On the other hand, it gave me a lot more insight into what was happening in the country. And I was the only staff member who got interested in what nationally, was being done. I went to a national conference

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on metropolitan government in East Lansing, Michigan. And I wouldn't have gotten an invitation if I hadn't written a man who later became a very good friend of mine; Bill Cassella. And that was the meeting at which I met Paul [unclear] who later joined the Ford Foundation.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I was going to ask you, did this lead to your association with people like [unclear] and the foundations generally?
GEORGE ESSER:
That's right. I would never have known then if I had not been looking at the total community. If I'd been looking at a function, I never would have gotten involved. So, I got to know a lot of people, not only on the campus but increasingly, throughout the country. And I got to know Paul and the people at Ford Foundation when…. well, let's see. Back in 1955, the Institute for Research in Social Science established a committee on urban growth and there were, you know, quite a number of people active in it. But I was the only person from the Institute and I guess it was because I was already teaching in municipal administration in the political science department, that I mentioned that I heard about this. And I said something to Frank Leyland or somebody like that and they said, "well, why don't you come to this meeting?" And so I started going to IRSS meetings and I got to know Bob Bagger. Do you remember Bob Bagger?
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Oh, I remember Bob Bagger. Yes, indeed.

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GEORGE ESSER:
Bob Bagger was the first person I ever met who would intentionally create a problem so that he could observe what the consequences of the way people responded to the problem. I liked Bob, but Andy Scott…
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Jim Prothrow, was he active?
GEORGE ESSER:
Jim Prothrow. And I met all of those people. And the sociologists and I got to know Gordon very well.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
And Rupert Vance, was he retired?
GEORGE ESSER:
I knew Rupert pretty well. I've known Reba better than I knew Rupert. But I admired Rupert to no end. And Gordon and I struck up quite a friendship but it took Gordon a while and me a while to understand that I could not make a commitment for the Institute; that I could open the door, but I couldn't make the commitment.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
You weren't Mr. Coats representative.
GEORGE ESSER:
That's right. But that's how Paul, I think, initially proposed that first urban studies grant to the University that a certain amount be reserved for the Institute of Government to carry the results of the research into the state. Well, it was interesting to me—that was '57—and Paul Novasocker is a very, very imaginative person and he carried the Foundation's interest in urban problems through several stages. I mean, first there was commissioning direct research. Secondly, there was supporting local institutions devoted to research. And he

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asked me to…. In 1959, I took some vacation to do some consulting for Paul in Kansas City and Dayton and Miami. And I met some interesting people there. Then the Ford Foundation decided that well that wouldn't work. And then they decided that they were interested in an urban extension function for universities like agricultural extension. Well, that didn't work. Then they got interested in education problem in the cities and finally, the so-called gray area programs.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
That came out of Ford? Out of Paul Novasocker's fertile mind?
GEORGE ESSER:
Out of George Novasocker's fertile mind.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Was he vice president then?
GEORGE ESSER:
No. He was…
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
A program officer?
GEORGE ESSER:
He was a program officer.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Henry Heild was president?
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, anyhow, I kept up with these changes in emphasis by, you know, seeing things in newsletters or by seeing Paul at…. I remember meeting Paul at a couple of national conventions. And by that time, we'd gotten to know each other pretty well. And so, knowing what the current interest, though I was not able to follow through, but I did know, in the fall of 1962, John Healy had gone to work for Terry Sanford and they had gone to New York and Terry had

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made the famous statement, "I need your ideas more than your money," and so a rather large—seven or eight staff people—were coming to North Carolina in mid-January, 1963 to look at the state and to begin to work out a program to deal with the problems of North Carolina. So John Healy, with help from George Stevenson, was preparing the agenda for the week. And John and I knew each other, but very, very…. I mean, we knew each other [unclear] , but somehow, John called John Sanders and said that he wanted to…
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
John was director of the Institute? John Sanders?
GEORGE ESSER:
Yeah. And said he wanted to come over and get some ideas about the agenda. And I forget how I was identified. I must have had some prior conversation with John Sanders and I must have said to John—I'll have to go back and check this—but somehow I must have said to him that a focus during the week on traditional urban functions like city planning was not what Paul Novasocker was interested in.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
That's in your 1970 tape. You point that out to either John Sanders or John Healy or both.
GEORGE ESSER:
But then at that meeting which I'll never forget, came on…. We met on Christmas Eve afternoon, 1962, I made that point to John directly. John Healy and John Sanders. There were three of us, but why it was only me in there, it must have been I had said something to John Sanders that led

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him to it. So as a result of that, John Healy asked me to help during the visit and then later the Governor asked John Sanders to sort of informally approve my helping on the whole process during the spring. Okay. My choice of looking at the government of urban communities rather than a function, led me to look at, to be concerned with…. I'd become interested in metropolitan government because of my first assignment from the Mecklinburg study. I had helped develop curricula for both broadly based short course for newly elected mayors and council and for managers. And I had to think about, you know, what do you say to people? What do they need to know other than functional things? What do you say about management? That was a tough one for me to understand, but it was tougher still for Albert and some members…. Henry Lewis to this day, does not like the concept of thinking about management.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yes. I can see that. You just do it. [Laughter]
GEORGE ESSER:
And you know, maybe that's why the Institute staff did not regard Henry as a very good manager because he…. Well, anyhow, so looking at the governance of urban communities and then seeing changes come in the fifties and being exposed to what was happening in other states and going to national meetings and getting to know people like Paul Novasocker and Bill Cassella who was with the National Municipal League and people like that. Yes, I did have

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an….and then seeing that the suburbs were draining off the people more money and leaving the slums and depressed areas of the cities, so that gradually, I got a much different perception of the problem of urban governance than most people at the Institute and the reason was that I wasn't looking alone at North Carolina cities. Not that you didn't have problems in North Carolina cities, but our cities are mighty small compared to…. Now, we're growing. If we had had then the type of agglomeration that the Research Triangle represents today or the Triad, it might have been different. But I had to recognize that it would be hard to make of North Carolina, even though there were things…. Well, I wrote the annexation law that still is effective in North Carolina. It's looked on as one of the best in the country.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Really? When you are annexing property into an urban community?
GEORGE ESSER:
Yeah, and I'll never forget…. I mean, Bob Stape…. I was working one night at the Institute and Bob Stape was there and I said, "Bob, let's figure out a standard." That standard is still in the law. Something like a population density of something like two people per acre; something like that. He just pulled it out of the air. You know, Bob was a city planner and well, that's the

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reason that in North Carolina you have fewer incorporated suburban municipalities.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Oh, I see.
GEORGE ESSER:
Because the cities in North Carolina, with some exceptions…. I mean, you have a few around and you have some cities like Charlotte that have grown out to be [unclear] whatever. But you don't have new incorporation in the…. As a city grows, it generally takes it in.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Takes it in. Yeah, so you avoid the Saint Louis and Birmingham model with all those incorporated cities with their own schools. Yeah.
GEORGE ESSER:
That's right. That's exactly right. So, I guess, in the long run, the fact of looking at the total urban community and then seeing the diversity in…. The demographic diversity, the problems that were involved in race and income and employment, so I guess, you know, I wasn't trained, necessarily, to do the North Carolina Fund, but I had developed the sensitivity to the issues that enabled me to do it where it would have been very difficult for people with other backgrounds could have done it.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Of course. How about a North Carolina network? Did you know the people in the municipalities?
GEORGE ESSER:
I knew because so many had been to school and been through courses that I had organized and you know, there is no question in my mind that the network of people that I

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knew enabled me to avoid a good many problems. Now in some ways, there were some managers, for example, who understood better than others. John Gold in Winston Salem, former police chief; remarkably sensitive man. I'll nver forget he came to see me with some members of his council after the Fund was established and said, "George, we have got to change our electoral district so that more blacks are elected."
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
He did?
GEORGE ESSER:
And that was in 1965, as I recall. And I worked with them and they came up with a plan to do it. Bill Veeter in Charlotte was very professional, but he understood that…. But I'll never forget I said, "Bill,"…. After I learned, you know, that highways were convenient ways of fencing off people that you didn't want to be involved, one day I said, "Bill, how did you determine the location of Independence Boulevard?" He said, "By the price of land." And you know, that's right. But, the price of land was such that it effectively meant that all of the slums were cut off from Meyers Park and Dillworth and the residential areas. I mean, the people in the slums would have to cross that busy highway to come over.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
To come over. Like a Berlin wall. [Laughter]
GEORGE ESSER:
That's right. But I think that the network of people that I knew in North Carolina in the cities and

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towns, they didn't always understand what I was doing at the Fund, but I had established a relationship that on the whole, got me out of a lot of trouble.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I'll bet. You'd know who to call.
GEORGE ESSER:
I knew who to call.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
George, I came to North Carolina some forty odd years ago from New York. I still am surprised at the network of power in the state and the difficulties outsiders when they have when they confront it. Is that still true? You know what I mean? An insider just does a heck of a lot better in North Carolina than an outsider.
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, I think that's right. And I think the University is the reason. People got to know each other. And for a long time, this University overshadowed any other institution. Today I don't think it's as much true.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Well, we don't control the legislature anymore, do we? Our alumni?
GEORGE ESSER:
Our alumni don't control the legislature and you've got a lot more political power that is exercised by the business community that is from out of state. The managers are from out of state in many more situations than…. And what we have seen in the last few years in Winston Salem simply confirms the trend rather than establishing the trend. The trend has been that way in the textile industry a long time ago. But now RJR and

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Piedmont…. But you know, institutions like that, with the exception with the Raliegh News and Observer are newspapers. They are no longer part of the network.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yeah. Well, that means then, that actually, maybe that network isn't anything like it was, if at all.
GEORGE ESSER:
No, I don't think it is.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
It was the network that essentially might have done Paul Sharpe in. He simply couldn't get it, you know. It was impenetrable.
GEORGE ESSER:
But you know, one of the most valuable things I ever did was when I agreed with Mr. Coats to come here. I walked in a portion of the Harvard Law School library that had general reading, not legal books, and I found there the multi-volume autobiography of Jocephus Daniels. And I read that before I came and that helped me better understand what was going on in North Carolina from the beginning than anything I could have possibly done.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Wouldn't Jocephus be pleased. My light's blinking.

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[END OF TAPE 3, SIDE B]

[TAPE 4, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 4, SIDE A]
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
This is tape 4-A of an interview with George Esser, former Assistant Director of the Institute of Government and Executive Director of the North Carolina Fund. The interview is taking place in my home on Elliot Road in Chapel Hill. It is July 10, 1990. I am Frances Weaver.
George, we've agreed that the written record of the North Carolina Fund is so extensive that there's no point in going back with day one and every episode. That's already on tape and in an extensive interview, but what I thought would be interesting is to talk about some of the people who shaped the North Carolina Fund and your thoughts about them and their contributions; which means, of course, that we start with Terry Sanford who was governor of this state at the time. I'm curious, why Terry Sanford? What is it in Terry that was willing to take the risk that was implicit in the North Carolina Fund?
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, Fran, Terry Sanford is a very, very interesting person to me. He was not…. Mr. Coats always said, "Terry branded him." But Terry wanted to go into politics and he was a good campaign manager for Cory Scott and he won as governor. And he showed real courage from the very beginning as governor. You know, I think

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supporting John Kennedy was an act of courage. And it later turned out to have very practical results in my judgment. I think the Research Triangle Park succeeds today because Terry Sanford supported John Kennedy. In other words, I think the Federal government brought the facilities to Research Park that would not necessarily have come if Terry's support of John Kennedy and later Luther Hodges going to Washington, because Terry supported Kennedy started in motion a string of events that ended up with that HEW agency coming to the Research Triangle Park and making it financially feasible. One of the things we may sometimes forget is that Romeo Guest and the people who had the loan were ready in 1964 to declare bankruptcy.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I didn't know that.
GEORGE ESSER:
Now, it came under Lyndon Johnson. But that was while Lyndon was still trying to be another Kennedy. So I think the fact that Terry Sanford was campaign manager for Cory Scott in the Senate race in '54 probably defines Terry better than any other single act. According to, you know, the Paul Lueke definition of traditionalist, modernist with the third sort of modernist is the middle of the road. And then citizen power ideology over on the left. He defines Terry as modernist with a few aberrations. Farrell Gillery of the Raleigh News and Observer says that Terry is a modernist with a real citizen power philosophy. My

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experience with Terry has been the latter is true. Now Terry is obviously very sensitive to what business [unclear] . You couldn't be a governor, you can't be a lawyer and you can't be a president of Duke University. And you can't win a Senate race without being sensitive to that. But Terry took leadership in integration; he encouraged experimentation in economics. Now lerry understands that this is a tobacco state, but he also went down there to Central America and organized a commission to look at how you could strengthen the economy of those countries. The same time that the Reagan administration was all for using force. Well, I think Terry understands. But I think he's a good politician as well. I was thrust in the role of being sort of an activist, particularly in the race issue, but also on economic issues. I had no problem with that intellectually. I had problems with it on how to implement that role, because I'm not that kind of a personality. But from the very beginning, it was clear to me that the pord Foundation was looking to the Fund to support the rights of black North Carolinians. And it regarded John Wheeler, in particular, as their sort of…. They were very sensitive to the way Wheeler regarded policy at the time. And if Wheeler had said, "This is not going to…." well, wheeler had to say, "This looks like a good thing to me," before they made the grant. If he had said, after they made the

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grant, "It's not going well," then they would have withdrawn the grant. So, I don't think that you had to be explicit in saying this to Terry any more than to me, but I learned a lot from John Wheeler.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
And he was then North Carolina Mutual?
GEORGE ESSER:
No, he was president of Mechanics and Farmers Bank. He was involved with Mutual, but he was without question the strongest black leader in North Carolina and one of the strongest leaders nationally. He was close to Lyndon Johnson, for example. John was not an activist and yet he was not going to oppose activists. As I say, I learned a great deal from John Wheeler, not only about the way black North Carolinians perceived society and what they felt about the kind of progress that they felt was necessary, but also, he was a good politioian. And you got a good sense of the art of the possible from John.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
He was willing to concede that? What was possible in the area of race relations?
GEORGE ESSER:
Oh, no question about it.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
He wasn't a violence man, for instance?
GEORGE ESSER:
No, not by any means. Nor was he really…. He had questions about Martin Luther King.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
A moderate himself?

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GEORGE ESSER:
Well, I remember—I guess it was '63—John had no intention of going to Washington for the speech at the reflecting pool?
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
"I have a dream?"
GEORGE ESSER:
"I have a dream." Had no intention of going. Now he supported it, but he was not going to be out there. John did not go to Martin Luther King's funeral. Durham was ablaze at that time, so he felt that…. And he was supporting Howard Fuller then. As a matter of fact, that particular time, Wince Grabarek, the then mayor of Durham, hated to say it, but Howard Fuller kept Durham from burning up at the time of Martin Luther King's death. And finally, Grabarek admitted it. Well, John Wheeler, on the other hand, John knew how to push democratically better than Martin Luther King. He knew how to use his banking connections and he knew how to use his governmental connections very skillfully. And he backed us at the Fund, backed me, one hundred percent. One hundred percent. But getting back to Terry, I think that Terry was successful because his instincts were with the people. Secondly, he got smart young people working for him who reflected the same goals.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
John Healy among them?
GEORGE ESSER:
John Healy, Tom Lambeth and Joel Pleishman. Now George Stevens was really more conservative. And that man

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who was the press secretary and who died recently, I really don't remember his name.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I can't remember his name, either.
GEORGE ESSER:
He was not as innovative and change oriented as Lambeth, Fleishman, Healy and later Evans.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yeah. I'd forgotten Ely worked for him.
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, Ely helped him write that book on…
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Ely's first book. [Laughter]
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, it was Sanford's first book, too. But Ely and David Etheridge came down and you know, David's son lays tile for a living.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
He did it for me recently.
GEORGE ESSER:
He did?
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yeah, and I didn't know that he was David's son.
GEORGE ESSER:
He lives in the house next to Cary's studio.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Oh, does he really? Yeah. He's a nice boy.
GEORGE ESSER:
Nice young man.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I didn't realize that he was David's son until I went to the fundraiser for David Price and he was introduced. And I said, "That's my tile man."
GEORGE ESSER:
Yeah, that's exactly right.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Well, Terry brought John Healy in and it was out of John's…. Or was it out of John's?
GEORGE ESSER:
It was out of John's…. well, Terry wanted to get national. He wanted to get some funding for exploration

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of solutions to problems of [unclear] And so, you see, John didn't come with the administration right after Terry was elected. John didn't come until halfway through the term. But I wasn't working with him at this time, but Terry and John and others, I guess, made a very famous trip to New York in, I think, September of 1962. And they called on Henry Hield at the Ford Foundation and Terry made his now famous statement that, "We don't need your money so much as we need your ideas."
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
That must have really hit them. [Laughter]
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, that really attracted.
And so out of that came this plan for a team of Ford Foundation staff—turned out to be seven—to come down in the middle of January and spend a week. And I believe last time I told you about the Christmas Eve meeting that later that I got involved. But none of these staff were North Carolinians or southerners.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Ford Foundation staff?
GEORGE ESSER:
Ford Foundation staff. And yet, Terry understood precisely what they were interested in, but he was also clear with them, not in detail, but I mean, precise…. But generally the barriers that he had faced; which was one of the reasons why we were a non-profit corporation. And of course, ford's experience in other cities: in Boston and Philadelphia and Washington and New Haven and Oakland was that non-profit corporations did provide the flexibility

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that was needed to bring both governmental funds and private funds together to experiment with service delivery. Now I think that at that time, the Ford Foundation really…. There is a dispute as to whether the Ford Foundation staff and it's gray areas program or some of kennedy's people in the so-called Committee on Juvenile Delinquency program were clearly citizen power ideologists. Whether there was more paternalism in believing that you can do more by improving service delivery and removing barriers to people receiving services, well, that was certainly Ford's initial impulse. It was Terry's; it probably was mine. It was only as we got to know more and more about the black point of view and not only what happened in the rest of the country, but what was happening right here in North Carolina; that all of us, Terry included, understood that you had to involve people in more than making better services available. You had to involve and include them in the process.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
You had to actually include them in the process?
GEORGE ESSER:
Now, Daniel Moynihan wrote that book in which he heavily criticized citizen participation. And you know, the Economic Opportunity Act was a mistake from the very word "go" in terms of Congress demanding that it be nationwide in application. It should have had another three or four years on a demonstration basis. And the problem with any government program is that—particularly one like that—as

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soon as you run into a problem in one agency, then the pressure of Congress, the political pressure and the bureaucratic pressure is to adopt regulations that make it impossible for that problem to arise in any agency. So, eventually, you get to the point where the non-profit community action agencies are today, where there's very little they can do because of the regulations that have been passed. But we weren't at that stage in the middle '60's, but I would say that as long as Terry was chairman of the Fund board, which was until the mid-summer of 1967, there were a couple of times that he got upset. One was when I sent an integrated team of North Carolina volunteers to Laurinburg—we had a project in Laurinburg—in 1964 and Roger Kiser called him and gave him down the road and he called me on a Saturday morning and was very upset with me because he didn't know about it. Well, then he went off for a weekend. Jack Mansfield and I had to survive that weekend somehow. Jack Mansfield was a staff member who was running the volunteer program. By the time we saw Terry at five o'clock on Sunday afternoon, he had completely around. And he said, "Of course you had to put it in at Laurinburg."
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yeah. It was his hometown stuff. [Laughter]
GEORGE ESSER:
You had to integrate everywhere that you sent a team. And he said, "I understand that." And that was the

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kind of support that…. I mean, sometimes, you know, it hurt him politically a little bit.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yes. I'm sure he was very sensitive to that.
GEORGE ESSER:
And at the same time, he was very supportive of the Fund and the Fund's staff. He was not always supportive of some of the staff, particularly the local staff. But we didn't hire the local staffs. But I think that on the whole I would say that I am a great admirer of Terry's because he's been a successful politician reflecting, for the most part, the same values that I think are important; more than any political leader in North Carolina. More, I think, than Jimmy Hunt.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yes, I think so. I think so.
GEORGE ESSER:
Plus the fact that Terry is not as plastic as Jimmy Hunt.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
No, he's not. He's really not. [Laughter]
GEORGE ESSER:
And you know, I like Jim Hunt, but Jim was more like Albert in this respect. He wanted the record to show in advance that he…. He wanted to make sure that everything went smoothly. Terry was much more willing to take a risk on people and programs; which gets to Healy. Healy was without question, the most innovative mind that I've ever seen.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I've known that George, since we were college classmates.

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GEORGE ESSER:
And John Healy really is much better as an idea person in the private or public sectors than he is writing books. But, look at some of the things that…. And you know, support came from the national foundations because they were great ideas. The Governor's School, sending Shakespeare around the state, the Fund, the Learning Institute, the School of the Arts and the zoo. It was John's idea. I mean, it was carried out by a later administration, but it was John's idea. And you know, John would sit there in that little office in the state capitol and he picked up the phone and the next thing you know, he's be talking to somebody in Detroit, Michigan or New York or Washington and I am sure that I was sitting there when he had his first conversation about the zoo. And I said, "John, the very idea of a zoo in North Carolina?" And he said, "You have to have these ideas before you never can tell." And you know, apparently, the Steadmans have put up the money that's necessary to make the zoo a reality; I mean, in addition to public money. But John never saw a telephone he didn't like. Once he had an idea, he moved.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
He moved on to the next idea.
GEORGE ESSER:
But I mean, he moved to implement that idea. And we did a lot in that spring of 1963 in going around. You know, John would call Bill Clemmons, for example.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Was he then chancellor at Boone?

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GEORGE ESSER:
Yes, he was at Boone. He would say, "Bill, you know, I think we need to pull together a group in the mountains." And before long, why you had a group meeting at the New Ray Inn on a particular evening. And Bill was responsible for it. He used Pete McKnight and Craig Phillips and Craig was at that time Superintendent of the schools in Mecklinburg.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yes, and [unclear] on the paper in Chariotte.
GEORGE ESSER:
He used Jim Gray. So, you know, I mean, we would go and I was with him on a lot of these things. And we would go up and have a meeting and talk about…. By that time, we knew that we were talking about what do you do to improve education and opportunity, particularly in the depressed areas of cities and in the poor counties. But it was amazing to me. Now, I did most of the drafts of the proposals.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
After the idea, you were the draft man.
GEORGE ESSER:
John turned me, really, to think through how this could be implemented. But, you know, on key things he was something. The day in '63 that… John could coin the phrase "war on poverty."
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
You know, I'd heard that. And that is John's?
GEORGE ESSER:
That's John's. It was coined the afternoon that the Ford Foundation president and staff came down. Or I guess it was the day before we were to announce the grant.

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It was the week after they came down. But in the press release, John used the term "war on poverty." And that was months before it was used in washington. Now, you know, there are people in North Carolina who will tell you that the community action was initiated by the North Carolina Fund and so forth. It was not. It was in both a few gray area programs and a few of the programs were supported by the Committee on Juvenile Delinquency of the federal government, so that I have always resisted that. But war on poverty I say is John's.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
George, let me ask you about John and the University. Did he ever make the attempt to have some of these programs like the Governor's School, the School of the Arts link itself—which had a relationship, I realize, to the University—but did he try to get them into the University and was rebuffed or did he discount the University and go outside? There was a lot of controversy about School of the Arts, you know. "It should be in the University. Why is it going over there?" And that kind of thing.
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, John was in a controversy at the University at the University in '61 or '62—1 forget—in which he wrote articles—I forget whether they were in the News and Observer or Chapel Hill news.

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FRANCES A. WEAVER:
He wrote an article in the News and Observer and it was on the front page of the prospective in which he said the University was not doing its job in the state.
GEORGE ESSER:
I'll never forget. Henry Clark once organized…. This is, I find, one of Henry's interesting paradoxes: his support of the fraternity system. And I was by appointment of Chancellor House—I never did understand this—I was chairman of the committee on fraternities and sororities for a while. And we had a meeting—I guess Fred was there—but anyhow, Henry organized a weekend at the Whispering Pines in 1961 or '62, but it was after John had written that article. And John was there and so were Bill Aycock and Jimmy Godfrey and there was never any direct confrontation, but it was then that I became really conscious of how the South Building really reacted to that article. As I recall, Jim Godfrey and Bill Aycock made it quite clear in a sort of a semi-public conversation waiting for breakfast Sunday morning. John was actually, in my judgment, was, you know, he was very conscious of what the political limits on the University were, but he felt that imagination was not being used. Now he did not go so far, you know…. He felt that programs like the North Carolina didn't belong in the University. But the School of the Arts could have been if the University had provided that sort of support. But I'm not sure that even if the involvement of the University had

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been proposed, that the [unclear] for example, would have given as much support as a school, as a division of the university as they have semi-independence.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
John's argument was, if I remember—of course, he was very interested in the arts himself—that we had no application of art in the University. It was all history and theory.
GEORGE ESSER:
And that screwed it up. I mean, you know, there's a little bit in the art school, but it's controlled. And the—good Lord—the Playmakers: the students are even farther removed from the performing arts and you know, I'm not a great admirer of the Playmaker Repertory Theater.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
No, neither am I, George. The students don't have a chance anymore.
GEORGE ESSER:
That's right. And we were talking with that…. You know, speaking of history, Lambert and Isabella Davis invited us for a drink the other night.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Oh, really. Old neighbors from Greenwood.
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, and also, Mary and Isabella swim together. And then Isabella and Mary discovered that some friends of ours in Washington were also cousins of hers. So, we sat down and among the things that we discussed was the Playmakers. You know, she was one of those townspeople who acted a lot. And so the Playmakers, then, was a much more

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vital part of the University than it is today. I think John's instinct was right. Okay. Pete McKnight.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Okay, let's talk about Pete. He was drawn in early.
GEORGE ESSER:
He was drawn in early. [pause] At that time, the driving force of the News and Observer was Jonathan Daniels. And Jonathan sort of made a fetish of independence. But Terry felt the need for involvement in the media. Pete was pretty active in local and state policy. I mean, speaking and taking part in forums and obviously interested and so from the very beginning, he was involved in this whole quest for funding. And when it came time to put a board together, Pete Rose, who was editor of the biggest newspaper in the state and from Charlotte, made him very desirable; his participation very desirable. And it's a very common to have both a chairman of the board and a president, so he was made president and he was chairman of the executive committee. In other words, the full board was thirteen, the executive committee was five. Terry was not on the executive committee. Terry was chairman so that Pete was the person I turned to for a lot of detailed things. And Pete and John Wheeler and Hollis Eadens.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
President of Duke.
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, he was at that time with the Babcock Foundation. And I believe Ann's….

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FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Ann?
GEORGE ESSER:
Forsyth. And Tom Pearsall. But Pete was a good president. He was very supportive of me. I liked Pete. I never did understand the later developments in the private lives when I knew that Gail was not making John happy because Gail didn't want any children. And to have her divorce and suddenly marry Pete and provide Pete with a daughter was just beyond…. I liked Pete's first wife, but she was an alcoholic. But I don't know that Gail and Pete had a real happy life, but they stayed together and then Pete progressively went blind and ended his life rather sadly in a nursing home.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yes, I know. I know. I've talked to Gail about that.
GEORGE ESSER:
I talked to Gail after I got back, but I probably knew more about it from Jim, you know, the reporter who's now president of Knight-Ritter.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Well, Rolf Neil was over then. But not then. I've forgotten it. Oh, the one that wrote the book. Is that the one you're thinking about? I can't remember his name.
GEORGE ESSER:
In a moment, I'll remember it. But he's a good friend of mine and is now at the top of the knight empire. I'll think of it in a minute. But Pete was very supportive. Pete I would put as a modernist who could be persuaded to

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put the citizen power name on some issues. Now Pearsall, on the other hand, was a traditionalist who could be persuaded to be a modernist on some issues. Now, I had known Pearsall in the church. And he and I had been on a committee at the Episcopal Church and so I knew him pretty well and I saw a lot of Tom and I had a lot of…. Tom and I had mutual respect for one another, but Tom believed intellectually in civil rights, but he just couldn't…. He was a paternist. And so he finally resigned from the Fund board on the [unclear] or it was the student groups in the summer of '67.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Student interns. Went into Rocky Mount and other places.
GEORGE ESSER:
Student interns. Went into Rocky Mount and other places. And eventually, nothing came of it except that it was clear to me then that there were people in Rocky Mount who were trying to torpedo us and they were able to get to Pearsall, but you know, I think Tom was sorry in later years. I talked to Tom but I didn't see Tom again. I talked to him on the phone several times. And when he died, I wrote Elizabeth and she is always a sad person. It was her money, you know.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yes, I know. I know.
GEORGE ESSER:
And I think Mac has a good citizen.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I think so. He's not as involved at the higher policy levels as his father was from the time I knew

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anything about the University. Tom, of course, was a member of the executive committee for years.
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, you see, Tom had been Speaker of the House and of course, in the fall of '63, he was planning to run for governor. I don't know exactily how Terry did that. But in the early days of the fund, Terry was involved in persuading Pearsall not to run so that Rich could.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Really? I didn't know that.
GEORGE ESSER:
Terry felt, and I think properly, that Pearsall would draw votes away from Rich in the east, but that Pearsall couldn't carry the Piedmont. And which is probably right, too. And so, in both Fund meetings and church meetings that fall, Tom would be sitting there and all of a sudden there would be a phone call or someone would drive up and there would be a very intensive conversation and so finally, he decided not to run.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I wonder whether it was a disappointment to him. Hard to know.
GEORGE ESSER:
Oh, it was very much a disappointment.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Well, George, we've talked about John Wheeler. What about Rosa Parker. Mrs. Parker.
GEORGE ESSER:
Mrs. Parker was Luther Hodges sister.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
In-law?
GEORGE ESSER:
No, she was his sister.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Luther's own sister. I see.

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GEORGE ESSER:
And she was married to Mr. Parker. And she was a jewel.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Fred always thought so.
GEORGE ESSER:
She was a jewel. I think that Rosa obviously had grown up very conservatively, but she was a lot less conservative than Luther. She was willing to take the risks. She had compassion. She loved the University; she loved the state, but she knew that both could be better. And while the Fund was still on, in 1967, Terry was going off, but he said, "You know, we need to expand the Fund board." But that was at a time of national, I mean, you know, rioting in the streets. And so, we needed more support. So somebody said, "Well, why not bring Luther Hodges, Junior in?" And somebody asked Rosa and she said, "I'll take care of him." So when he started coming, she would sit Luther right beside her and she'd say, "Now Luther, you vote the way I do." [Laughter]

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[END OF TAPE 4, SIDE A]

[TAPE 4, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 4, SIDE B]
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
…Rosa Parker, and you were about to say something about the Manpower Development Corporation.
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, in 1968, when we got very much money from the Federal government and other sources to create the North Carolina Manpower Development Corporation, as a spin-off from the Fund, Luther Hodges, Junior was proposed as chairman and he accepted. And Rosa encouraged him to accept. And I guess it's interesting to me that thereafter, I think Luther was much more liberal and modernist in his approach to issues of the state of his father because he had been associated with the Fund of MDC.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yeah. He learned something.
GEORGE ESSER:
And actually, he had his campaign manager, in 1978, George Autry, who was president of MDC. But Rosa was great.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
How was Rosa selected? who knew her and who wanted her on there?
GEORGE ESSER:
Oh, that was Terry's choice.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yeah, well, I can't think of a better woman at the time, you know.
GEORGE ESSER:
Because he felt that it needed more women and Forsyth, who was a much more difficult personality who had

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not been involved in public issues before, but who was very supportive of the Fund.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
She's from Winston?
GEORGE ESSER:
She's from Winston. She was the only child of Z. Smith Reynolds and Ann Tate. And you know, Ann thought that John Healy—or thinks that John Healy—hung from the moon. And she has supported John. John has helped her spend her money. Not the Reynolds money, but the money that came from her mother's side. You see, her mother is actually somehow related to the Cannons and also there was some money from a Staffer family in Baltimore. And John, for ten years or more, used Ann's Staffer money to recruit young black men and women to go to prep schools in the south and later the east.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I've heard that. I'd forgotten that.
GEORGE ESSER:
But that was Ann Forsyth's money.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
And John's idea.
GEORGE ESSER:
And John's idea. I haven't seen Ann as much since I got back, but I understand that since Frank died, that Ann has snapped back and is better than she's been for several years.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
That's wonderful.
GEORGE ESSER:
Hollis Eadens was the only staff person for the two foundations at that time.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
And he was from Babcock?

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GEORGE ESSER:
He was from Babcock. He had not had a very happy experience at Duke. But he was very supportive and I personally was very fond of Hollis and Hollis believed that we had to do something about the racial problem. And he understood that we were dealing with issues that many of the Reynolds people would not understand. But he was always supportive. It would have been very easy for someone in Hollis' position to say, "well, you know, the way that the Fund is going, I don't…." Hollis didn't take that view. Hollis was very supportive. Initially, out of the thirteen member board there were two blacks. And Sam Duncan was the president of Livingston College in Salisbury. His brother was one of the last commissioners of the District of Columbia and his sister, Mrs. Koontz…
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Elizabeth Koontz was the name we were looking for the other day. That's right.
GEORGE ESSER:
Yeah, Elizabeth Koontz was the first black president of the National Educational Association. And she died just a year or two ago. Sam was great. [pause] I have known in the past, several presidents of black institutions back into the '60s and early '70s who literally worked themselves to death. Sam was one of those. He was always shoring up and I don't think Livingston has ever been the same without Sam. But the Duncans were from Salisbury and so he was home and he regarded the Fund as an

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important venture on the part of the state and so he was always very supportive of me. And I really respected him and valued his friendship. The other person that…. Well, there are two other people that I would like to comment on. One is Wallace Merkinson.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
From Wilmington?
GEORGE ESSER:
I guess, a modernist. But I had known Wallace in law school briefly. And he had taken a Master's degree at Harvard when I was there. He was married to…. Do you remember Shep Mayan?
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yes.
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, Shep's wife and Wallace's wife were sisters from Jacksonville, Florida.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Oh, I see. From Jacksonville. Yeah. Kin of Tracy's.
GEORGE ESSER:
[unclear] And so Wallace was sort of our bastion in terms of protecting our flanks in the Southeast. We did not have a project in Wilmington and Wallace said Wilmington didn't deserve a project. But Wallace had real courage in defending the Fund and the Southeast.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
What did he do for a living?
GEORGE ESSER:
He's a lawyer. But I haven't seen…. I've talked to Wallace a couple of times since I came back. I've not seen him, but he's a good man. But he was very supportive throughout the life of the Fund.

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FRANCES A. WEAVER:
How about J.C. Brown?
GEORGE ESSER:
When we got to the point where Terry was going to retire as chairman, the question is who would succeed Terry as chairman. And I remember the meeting where we discussed [unclear] at the Grove Park Inn. And Ierry suggested J.C. J.C. was then executive of the Iarheel Elective Membership Corporation; the Coops, which were then much more liberal force in this state because of J.C. I would add. They were perceived as a more liberal board, and actually, they provided the first dollars that Bob Scott had to run for governor. And I guess that Ierry proposed J.C. because it would ensure that we would have support from Bob Scott. And that was true. I mean, now, by the time Scott was elected, we were through. But some things that we regarded as important were still on the…. J.C. and I became very good friends and I used to see…. J.C. then moved to washington and for a while his office was close to mine and we used to meet at a little bar for lunch. Sometimes, accidentally. But we have seen J.C. several times since we've been back. But he was greatly disappointed by Bob Scott as governor. And he was also disappointed that the elective coops were going much more conservative than he, which is why he left and went to washington. I think that now the Bergman administration in washington of the coops is much more to his liking. But…

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FRANCES A. WEAVER:
What do you suppose he expected from Bob Scott that Bob didn't do?
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, you see, I'll tell you another story. J.C. called me in the fall of 1968. It was after the election; after Nixon won and Scott had won. And he said, "George, would you go with me to see Bob Scott?" He said, "Ben Rooney and all of those people are fine, but Bob needs the equivalent of a Tom Lambeth and a Joel Fleishman and a John Healy in the office if he's going to be a great governor." So we went over and Bob had been given a little office in what was then the new Department of Administration building. And we sat down and spent an hour and a half, I guess and Bob was very…. And J.C. said, "You're going to be a great governor, but you're going to have to first find employment for your election staff that permits you then to step out and find the smartest young people that you can to run your office." And Bob said, "I think you're absolutely right." And then turned right around and maybe with one exception, put the election staff right in the office. And while there were some things that Bob did like the University and reorganization of state government generally, he didn't have the imaginative new ideas that the Sanford administration had. And J.C. was very, very disappointed. very, very disappointed.

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FRANCES A. WEAVER:
That's interesting. George, we talked about Paul Novasocker the other day.
GEORGE ESSER:
Oh, one other…. I left one other member out. When Dan Moore was elected, it was a great shock, you know, to Rich and to Terry to lose, but when Dan was elected Terry went to Dan and said, "Now look, we've got the North Carolina here. It's reaching out to the problems of poor North Carolinians, black and white, and if you don't want to be on the board, how about let's making a spot for Mrs. Moore. And Dan agreed. So Janelle came on the board. And there was one member of the board who knew wheeler very well. Gerald Cowan who is a retired banker from Asheville; a very nice guy. Not a strong man, but very nice. So she came on the board and she came to the meeting in the spring and then for a variety of reasons, we didn't have any meetings until the fall. And that fall, you know, really began with both state and national activism efforts and she resigned in…. I forget; November or December. And so I called Gerald and Gerald called Janelle and so finally, she wrote me a letter and said that it was not because of the program or anything. She just felt that there were other things that demanded her time. But that she thought we were doing a good job and so forth. And then, dipping down briefly to Dan; Dan was never very supportive of the Fund—and he was certainly a traditionalist—but he was very

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conscious of the fact that we were a non-profit corporation. And people would call him and say, "You've got to do something about the North Carolina Fund." And he would say, "You've got to go see the board of the North Carolina Fund." He said, "There's nothing I can do."
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
It's not part of state government.
GEORGE ESSER:
It's not part of state government. So I respected that and I had a chance to tell that to Dan before he died. He and Janelle were at…. Soon after we came back, the North Caroliniana Society gave a dinner and honored John [unclear] And Dan and Janelle were there and I told Dan that I very much remembered affectionately, his not trying to bring a heavy hand to state government. But you know, he was not the worst governor we've ever had.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Actually, the Fund operated four years when he was governor, because Terry only had one year after…
GEORGE ESSER:
That's exactly right. Yeah. That's exactly right. And you know, Ed Rankin cooperated with us, John Hampton cooperated with us and his assistant, Dave Coltrane—Terry put in but Dan kept—cooperated with us. So that, you know, we didn't have overt opposition. Charlie Carroll was opposed to everything that the Fund or the Learning Institute or anything that Terry proposed.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I see. He was head of education?

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GEORGE ESSER:
Yeah. He was the elected person. I asked [unclear] about the time that he and I went in to ask Charlie Carroll for a contract from the department to the Learning Institute—not to us—to evaluate the grants from the Ford Foundation through the Fund to the department. And we came out after three hours and Doc looked at me and said, "What did he say?" [Laughter] Oh, my. It was something. But it was not only that Doc was interested in being Commissioner of Education, but you know, the opportunity to take leadership in education was really not there because Charlie Carroll was always standing in the way.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Between Doc and what he would have liked to have done. And Doc's a risk taker. I mean, he would have done some experimental stuff. And the relationship between the Fund and LINK?
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, we were one of the…. Let's see. The sponsors of LINK were the Fund, the Department of Public Instruction, the University of North Carolina and Duke.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
So you were one of the grantors? I see.
GEORGE ESSER:
Right. And we each…. I forget. That's in the paper.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yeah, that'll be in the papers. well, you did talk about Paul Novasocker the other day; about how you knew him and your initial working with him on the memo. what relationship did he continue to have to the Fund?

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GEORGE ESSER:
Well, Paul was very conscious of the fact that the programs that Ford had supported in major American cities and the state of North Carolina were politically risky. And so he had initiated a strong monitoring program; that is, he had people on his staff that he would send to New Haven or Boston or Oakland or wherever frequently, and have them file reports on how things were going. So that he was keeping up with what was going on. And then every three months or so, why he would have the staffs meet of all of these projects. And we met in Miami and Washington and New York and Oakland and Puerto Rico. Quite a number of different places. So that there was a real corporate feeling between the Ford staff and the gray area staffs that included not only Mike [unclear] who later was a key member of the Ford Foundation, [unclear] But Sam Dash, the lawyer who was Erwin's counsel on the Watergate thing.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Oh, on the watergate hearings.
GEORGE ESSER:
Was director of the project in Philadelphia. And so I knew Sam and there were a number of people who had gone on to bigger and better things. And it was a very heady time, too, because a number of projects were in political difficulty. And at that time, the Ford Foundation was like it is now. There was no domestic and international staff. The staff operated world-wide. So here was Paul with a good staff, but he was the person with the ideas and innovative

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mind and you know, he had projects in Calcutta and projects in England and projects all across the United States. And it was very hard to get him unless you were in trouble and you didn't try to get Paul unless you were in trouble. And when we have these meetings, he would be there but he would go out and his secretary would bring him these things that had to be decided and he was always on the phone. And I just don't know how he handled that particular—I would say, 1961 to '66—but when Hield retired and George Bundy came on—I forget the exact…. But I remember Paul calling me and saying you know, "I need a few days off." And so I arranged for him to get a house at Caswell Beach. And we were there at the same time and a friend of mine, Jack Mansfield, who was at that time working for me—I was unhappy with the situation—but Jack arranged for a doctor in Goldsboro, whose name I forget right now, to take us over to Bald Head. And I remember walking down a hot, sandy road in Bald Head Island in the late summer of 1965, and Paul saying, "I don't think I would survive with George Bundy." And he didn't because Bundy didn't handle it very well, but anyhow, it got to a point where it was clear that Paul had to leave. And eventually he did leave and Governor Hughes of New Jersey took him on as head of the Department of Community Affairs. And Paul dealt not only with a lot of racial emergencies at that time, but he is the one who

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conceived the plan for developing the [unclear] Complex and Sports Facilities.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Did he really? He was another idea man.
GEORGE ESSER:
Yeah, that's right. And you see, he hired John Healy for the year…
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
So, it was Ildesocker who got him into Ford?
GEORGE ESSER:
Right. Oh, yeah. He worked with Paul. And the year after, Terry went out of office and that's where John met Rosemary.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yes. You know, they lived in the same building with Doc and Sibby Howell in New York?
GEORGE ESSER:
Oh, really?
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Isn't that funny?
GEORGE ESSER:
And I think Rosemary is great. She's a lovely person.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I do too. I think that's been a very successful, very successful marriage.
GEORGE ESSER:
So then Paul was succeeded an economist who was already on the Ford staff named John Jacomin who was only in that position a year and a half before he became president of Haverford. And was still president of Haverford when John went there. And Jack was a strange sort of a person. He's the person—and you may have read about—who would take off for three months every couple years and go into garbage collecting or salad cook and so he did that and he was

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indeed [unclear] He really developed it when he was with Haverford. So Jack was the key man at the time that Jim Gardner attacked the Fund. And Jack came down [unclear] . He came down on a Monday morning and by noon the next day he said, "You're doing exactly what we gave you money to do. Keep at it." So he went back and [unclear] . But Ford always had people…. Paul always had people who visited us and then in 1964, a big team came down and it's covered in that tape and made a big examination of every project and then in '67, I believe…. Maybe it was '66. There was another big one and it ended up with a dinner in winston Salem where Paul made an address and Charlie Babcock made an address. But Paul was the person who had the ideas and I don't think Paul has gotten enough national recognition, but he is certainly recognized in the Foundation world. And let's see, he went from New Jersey then and he was also teaching at Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton. And it was when he had left state government, but he was still teaching that he got the offer to be Dean at the Graduate School of Education at Harvard. And he went there for ten years and you know, things became easier on the one hand and harder on another. Paul is a diabetic and the very fact that he can see today is because he was always knew where the new technology was going to develop to help his eyes. But he was Dean for ten years and he was a good Dean, I'm told. He also was

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partially responsible for Daniel Moynihan being in Congress, because Paul would not give Daniel Moynihan an extended leave and Moynihan wanted something [unclear] the second Nixon administration. And Moynihan had left, but he had not been granted leave by the department of [unclear] so he came over under Francis [unclear] faculty of the School of Education and Paul would not give him an extended leave. Maybe it was to [unclear] Anyhow, that's when Moynihan decided to run for Senate when he came back from wherever it was. But Paul is now retired and is not well. He's had a heart attack and Barbara, his wife, has got some progressive disease like MS. So it's hard on them.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
What was Mike Smerdoff's role in the Foundation? Was he Program Officer?
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, Mike is another interesting character. You know, if there were two people who had had, one way or another, impact on me it's been Paul and Mike. Or have helped determine what was happening to me. Mike was from Connecticut; never went to college; started out in UAW and became state director of UAW and then state director of AFL-CIO. Then in the Kennedy administration, he became Deputy on the Alliance for Progress and then he went back to Connecticut and Lee—Governor Dick Lee of New Haven—got him to…. When the Ford Foundation developed it's gray areas

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program in 1962, Dick Lee hired Mike or got Mike to accept the Executive Directorship of the program in New Haven.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
The New Haven program. That one. That was the famous one.
GEORGE ESSER:
And the chairman, incidentally, was Rubin Holden who ended up as president of Barn-wilson. But you see, Ben was secretary of Yale University. And so, I first met Mike in April of 1963, I had to make some sort of a…. I went to Stores, Connecticut on some sort of program, but I used that time to stop in New Haven and meet Mike and to see a little bit of…. I've never seen such frenetic activity. I mean, Mike was sitting there with a table on each side and two or three phones. He later changed that style. So Mike and I have been friends since 1963. And at the first Fund board meeting, I invited Mike down to Durham to address the North Carolina Fund board and to tell them the kind of program that he had developed in New Haven. Well, then Mike was hired as a consultant by John Lindsay to recommend a reorganization of human resource functions in the city of New York. And he recommended a commissionership which he and John Lindsay offered it to Mike and Mike took it. And I guess he held the job for nine months. But when Jack Coleman left, Bundy offered the vice President for Domestic Programs to Mike Smerdoff. And so Mike was at Ford from 1968 until 1980.

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FRANCES A. WEAVER:
So he and Doc Howell would have come along together?
GEORGE ESSER:
Oh, they were contemporaries.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Doc was vice president for education.
GEORGE ESSER:
That's right. And they had a high mutual respect for one another. And Alec was chairman.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
And Alec was chairman of the board with George Bundy president.
GEORGE ESSER:
That's right. So you know, I don't know. It was a very interesting group of people. Mike was not as innovative as Paul. He also was further right along the spectrum. He was very wary of community organization, of activism. And he believed more in well run programs that cooperated with local organizations but did not provide funds to community organizations. And basically, you know, he probably moved the Ford Foundation somewhat to the right, but he probably saved the Ford Foundation. You know, the Foundation world will never get over George Bundy's testimony to Congress in the spring of 1969.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I've forgotten what he did.
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, he just didn't support the Foundation world very much. And you know, I like George, but I forget the exact details, but he didn't [unclear] And the Ford Foundation, at that time, was…. Hield certainly was not…. It could stand in those days a lot more sparkle in policy. You know,

Page 146
like first class flight from here to New York. It's all right from New York to New Dehli. [Laughter] And the dining facilities and everything was first class and therefore, it was fair game for congress. Well, first of all, it is important to know that Mike wanted the Fund to continue after he came on the staff. But I felt…. Well, first of all, Terry felt that it would be better for it to close and I felt that we'd used up a lot of nickels, so we said, "No, we're going to close it." Now it's important that I say that because rumor came out of winston Salem that I was able to scotch it with Emily wilson and yet Ford was opposed to extend it. But Ford was the one that proposed extension.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yeah, yeah. I think you get that in the memo you wrote to Mike Smerdoff which is in the record. I think you get the senses that Ford would like it to continue and your memo is telling him why you felt and others felt it shouldn't.
GEORGE ESSER:
So then Mike asked me to come on the Ford staff and that's how I ended up. At first, they were talking about a position…. It was never very clear. I mean, the negotiations were never very satisfactory, but it was a position in New York which would have been program officer. But eventually, Mike said, "well, you know, really, it makes more sense if you would stay in Chapel Hill and travel the

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south for us." Well, that worked out in many ways very satisfactorily, but it was not satisfactory in terms of I was an advisor, not a program officer. And I covered a lot more projects and knew a lot more that was going on, but I didn't have any authority. But I think that throughout, the Ford Foundation was very supportive of the North Carolina Fund and whenever any issue arose, like the summer of 1969 after the Fund had closed its doors, the police chief of Greensboro went before a House committee—McCormick was from Arkansas—and claimed that the Fund sent communists into…. So you never saw such an organization that the Ford Foundation amass evidence to provide Congress. Just tons of paper. And I spent most of the summer that summer dealing with that issue. And you know, I went up to…. Roger Wilkins was at that time…. Mike had appointed Roger, really, as one of his four key positions in domestic affairs. And Roger had one of them. Roger and Mike never got along. Roger, you know, was the coordinator of the Mandela visit.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
That's right. I knew that. I saw that.
GEORGE ESSER:
And I was very fond of Roger. Roger flew down and we went over to Greensboro and met with Jack Eiam, who was the mayor, and with the police chief who I had known for fifteen years. And I said, "this is ridiculous. First of all, you never raised this with me." [unclear] And they

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admitted they didn't have any proof. I knew that one of the people they were concerned about wasn't a communist. But only one. But it never happened again, but that was an awful summer because I had to be sensitive to all those issues. But Mike was very supportive in situations like that. So I would say that Ford was very supportive of the North Carolina Fund all the way through and felt that it was a very successful.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I would think so.
GEORGE ESSER:
But on the other hand, so does [unclear] and Babcock. And I would like to make a point about Charles Babcock. Charlie then handled both Foundations. He was very conservative, but he also knew that the Foundations had to be on the forefront of society. And you know, there were occasions when Hollis would call me and say, "You ought to come and see Charlie." Or Cary would call and say, "You ought to go see Charlie." And I would go see Charlie and Charlie tried out some of the things that people had given to him. And I would give him my response and he never failed to find my response satisfactory. He would say, "Keep at it." And I used, you know, concepts of justice and equity; concepts that he could hold onto. And so, you know, I felt very comfortable with Charlie and I was very sorry that he died. And I think that, you know, his daughter, Katherine, has really been to…. She was the member of the

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family—she and Nancy from the Reynolds Foundation—were the two members of the family that really bridged the gap between Charlie and where it is currently. And Mary, you see—Mary Mountcastle, who was with MDC—is Katherine's daughter.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Oh, so Katherine is married to Ken Mountcastle?
GEORGE ESSER:
Yeah.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yeah. Okay, I know him.
GEORGE ESSER:
Barbara Lassiter could have been effective, but she was sort of a screwball. Betsy was a sad case. I mean, Barbara once asked me to dinner in New York and Betsy was there and Betsy drank brandy by the tumbler full all evening. And then of course, the brother, Charlie, was an alcoholic. But Charles was a good business man. But he didn't agree with everything we did, but he didn't have any reasonable basis for opposing it. And we would say, "We want it for these reasons." So he was very supportive. And then when the Reynold's Foundation did its history…. Emily Wilson. Are you familiar with that?

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[END OF TAPE 4, SIDE B]

[TAPE 5, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 5, SIDE A]
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
This is tape 6-A of an interview with George Esser, former member of the staff of the institute of Government and former director of the North Carolina Fund. The interview is taking place in my home. It is August 30, 1990. I am Frances Weaver. George, when we broke up last time, we were talking about members of the board of the North Carolina Fund and today I'd like to talk about some of the staff members of the North Carolina Fund. I'm particularly interested in Howard Fuller. He was so active in the '60's in the civil rights movement in North Carolina as well as being a controversial figure on the University faculty briefly. And I'd just like to talk about him. I don't even know what role he played in the North Carolina Fund. Can you just take it.
GEORGE ESSER:
Howard Fuller was a native of Wisconsin who had taken graduate work at Western Reserve Case in social work and when we created the eleven community action agencies in North Carolina, in some way his name came from Case Western Reserve, maybe through John Turner—I don't know, who was then dean—to Morris Cohen and we referred it to the Durham project and he was hired by the Durham project; and I think in 1965.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
This was a community action program?
GEORGE ESSER:
It was a community action…. It was Operation Breakthrough in Durham. The executive director was a social worker who—I don't know what happened to him—but he had a lot of good qualities. He was named Foust. But Howard soon demonstrated both his charismatic leadership, his appreciation

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for real community organization; that is, encouraging people to take a hand in their own lives, of neighborhoods to organize and come to the City Council or come to the County Commissioners and demand equal treatment in such mundane things as garbage collection, street lights and street paving and so forth. And over a period of time—and I think that the actual events are in some of the other tapes—he developed a black community in Durham that was asking for equal treatment of the poor and the middle class black community in Durham, the John wheelers and the John Stewarts and the Charles Watts and others were not taking part in the street demonstrations, but were very supportive of Howard. And the mayor of Durham, who was at that time named wince Grabarek, and Wince was a decent sort of man who did not understand what position history had thrust him into, was very much afraid of Howard and very outspoken against Howard, though later he did have the decency on the night that Martin Luther King was killed, to say that Howard Fuller had saved Durham from burning up; which he did. Anyhow, I had hired and employed a black staff member who came with very fine credentials named Jim McDonald. When he came to us he had been executive director of the Minnesota Human Relations Commission. And Jim was working with a the black programs. Well, no. First he headed a special Manpower Development that we had in eastern North Carolina centered in Rocky Mount, Newbern and Laurinburg. And then in '66, I brought him on the regular Fund staff to work with the black who were in the east, primarily, and the Piedmont cities. Jim was intellectually committed to the same things that Howard

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was, but he lacked charisma and—and this was very important from my point of view—Jim would so something, and there are things reflected in that 1970 tape that tell this, Jim would take action such as in the [unclear] situation in Burke county, and then want me to support him.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
After the fact?
GEORGE ESSER:
After the fact. I gathered from friends, including Nathan Garrett, that Howard was the reverse. That he would tell you what he was going to do before he did it. And therefore, you were able to prepare and to support him.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
That's right. And you could answer the questions when they came.
GEORGE ESSER:
So, I forget the exact incideht, but in the spring of 1967—it's covered in that 1970 tape—Jim took one action where he wanted my support and where I thought he'd gone too far. And where Nathan thought he had gone too far. But we were very much aware that if we were not careful, that he would organize the Durham black community and the Fund black staff against us. So I forget whether it was Nathan or myself came up with the idea, "Well, why don't we hire Howard Fuller in his place?" Because we knew Howard was stronger and had better roots in the black community and would be a better Fund staffer. So, one Saturday morning Nathan and I called Howard Fuller and had a meeting with him and Howard was very much interested. And Howard understood what the problems were about Jim and he said, "Don't let that worry you." And so finally I called Jim in and I said that we felt that the relationship should terminate, and I said, "You

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should know," before he could say a thing, I said, "You should know that we've already hired your replacement, Howard Fuller." Well, if you have ever seen a man who had a needle release all the hot air. He was flabbergasted. Really flabbergasted. And we had no problem with the black community. That summer we had a lot of problems. We got a grant from OEO to hire some fifteen or twenty students as interns to place in black communities in eastern North Carolina and Dan Moore was Governor and all of a sudden, you know, in Rocky Mount, in Newbern, in williamston and Raleigh and different cities, why the black community was coming in and asking for equal services. well, the mayors began to get very, very upset. And that's the issue around which Jim Gardner…
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
When Jim Gardner picked up on it. Yeah.
GEORGE ESSER:
Not only Jim, but who was the other Congressman from…. Larry Fountain.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Larry Fountain did? How about Robert Morgan? was he active?
GEORGE ESSER:
No, no. Fountain and Jones to some extent, though Jones was never very articulate. But Fountain was…. The Federal bureaucracy was afraid of Fountain, because Fountain was chairman of the Senate sub-committee on labor. well, anyhow, I've covered that in some detail but Howard throughout, was consistent in saying, "Well, we're only asking for equal rights," and I found it very easy to defend that. And I had no problem. And then the next year, we had the Martin Luther King death, but the next year we were also—I have forgotten, but it's in the

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1970 tape—somewhere between December of '87 and March of '68, we created the Foundation for Community Development and Howard went with Nathan on that. And I think he was still with FCD when the University organization issue arose; the custodial workers. Because Howard was not the only person that I was, you know…. I was supportive of Howard in his efforts. I was also supportive of Bill Coats, the principal student chaplain at that time and his effort to be a communications link between the workers and the power structure.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Was this the food workers as well, or was this earlier? The custodians?
GEORGE ESSER:
This was food workers as well. And then after that came Malcolm X University.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
And what was his role in Malcolm x?
GEORGE ESSER:
Well he created it.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Howard Fuller did?
GEORGE ESSER:
Oh, yeah.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
George, I'd forgotten that. I guess we were out of the country then.
GEORGE ESSER:
You were. You were India.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
That's right.
GEORGE ESSER:
He created Malcolm X University and he had Nathan's support. And he had left. And again, it's in that 1970 tape. I forget. For a while, see, he took a Mohammedan name. And so he moved to Greensboro and Greensboro was an interesting choice. I think it was partly because of his wife, at that time—his first wife still lives in Greensboro—but Howard attracted some

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students. He later told me that most of them have done very well; have entered education bureaucracies or social work bureaucracies or municipal bureaucracies. The only one that I knew that was, as the police chief said in the '69 issue, was communist—we all knew it was communist—and Howard was trying to save him. Named Nelson Johnson. And he was still a communist at the time he was involved in the 1979 shootings.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Was he really?
GEORGE ESSER:
But the others have had very mundane careers, really. I mean, no, I say mundane, but they have followed mainstream choices. But the reaction of this diocese to the national church's grant to Malcolm X University was something that I will never get over completely. The diocese, well the giving fell off markedly. And our vestry…
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
At the Chapel of the Cross?
GEORGE ESSER:
At the Chapel of the Cross. Adopted a resolution which criticized the presiding bishop, Bishop Praser, Mason Thomas, who was then a member of the vestry but was also chairman of the diocesan committee to review grants from the national church to the diocesan projects and which approved the project unanimously. And criticized Mason and there may have been somebody else. And it's a 1970 resolution and that resolution is still on the books in the parish and I think probably should stay. Although, you know, I was not on the vestry at that time, but I remember several people who were. And I think that it was…. Tom Thrasher was still alive and still rector. And Mary and I heard that it had been passed by a vote of nine to three. And we

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requested a hearing and Mary and I went down for three hours one night and we changed one vote.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
And this was a resolution in opposition to the national church support of….
GEORGE ESSER:
The national church had made a grant of forty-five thousand dollars to support Malcolm X University. And the people who were on the vestry with responsibility in the University had been so upset by the food workers' and the custodial workers' strike, that they objected and as I told Peter Lee later, when Howard closed Malcolm X University, he had the humility to call a press conference and say, "Well, it didn't work." But I said, "The church did not have the grace or the humility to call a press conference and say, 'we were wrong in accusing him of being a communist."' And so forth. And so I said, "I will never feel the same about the church."
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
It was tough. Those days were really tough. I heard him on the radio not long ago. Howard Fuller, that is. You hear him on "All Things Considered," and public radio.
GEORGE ESSER:
Yeah, and you see, in 1983 John was already at Madison and I was asked to be on a member of a team reviewing…. I knew that Howard had gone back to Wisconsin and had finished all of his work for his Ph.D. except his dissertation at Marquette. But I was at the University of Wisconsin on a team evaluating the public administration program. And a member of the faculty at the University was telling me about…. All of a sudden I realized that Howard Fuller was who he was talking about. He was

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Secretary of the Department…. Well, it was equivalent to the Department of Personnel.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I see. For the state?
GEORGE ESSER:
For the state. So, I called Howard that weekend. He was living in Milwaukee and commuting and he was pleased to hear from me. And we had lunch together on Monday and he introduced me to his staff. He said, "This is the man who backed me wherever I went in North Carolina." And I've talked to him two or three times later. And he comes down to North Carolina every now and then.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Does he? Was he ever officially a member of the faculty or attached in any way to the School of Social work?
GEORGE ESSER:
He could have been. Now that I've forgotten.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I think, George, that when I was doing papers, I think that there was a major controversy over his appointment and then gradually, he just left. But that's all hazy in my mind.
GEORGE ESSER:
I believe in 1969 or '70, he was a lecturer at the School of Social Work. I forget who was…. I believe that that man Anderson, from Pennsylvania was Dean at that time.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I think you're right. That's the bells, yeah.
GEORGE ESSER:
And Anderson was a very decent guy. He was not as good an organizer or fund raiser. John Turner was very good. John had all sorts of obstacles when he came as one of the first black deans. But he has done a terrific job and one of the things that he did was getting Jack Tate to commit himself to the leadership for the School of Social Work.

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FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Absolutely amazing. Of course, Dolly late has a lot to do with that.
GEORGE ESSER:
Oh, I'm sure of that. But Jack is like a bull dog. And you know, there are very many similarities between Jack and Albert. You know, they are the kind…. And Jack spent a lot of his own money in lobbying for the General Assembly. When he started working with John Turner, the School of Social work really, was something like twentieth on the list. And Jack said, "It's going to be number one." [Laughter]
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I tell you, if you want Jack late on your side for any big thing, he's….
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, anyhow, I have a feeling that it was Anderson who certainly brought Howard into lecture. Now whether Howard had full faculty status, I'm not sure.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
But it made many members of the faculty very uncomfortable and the administration.
GEORGE ESSER:
I'm sure. But to sum up, and Howard today is head of the Department of Human Resources for Milwaukee county, which is one of the largest human resource welfare jobs in the country. And I, you know, I think Howard is an outstanding person. And I think that he was very good for North Carolina. He showed up the superficiality of support for integration that many political leaders and academic leaders had.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
He called their bluff.
GEORGE ESSER:
And I have no apology. In fact, that's one of the things I'm proudest of is working closely and supporting Howard Fuller.

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FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Well, I would think so. I would think so.
GEORGE ESSER:
And you know, I have known the leadership in the South, and I would put the black leadership…. And I would put Howard Fuller right up there among the top ten. Howard Fuller had more…. a lot of those who were successful in other southern states were a lot less emotionally stable than Howard. A lot less emotionally stable. And I just think Howard is a great person and made a significant contribution to this state.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Let's talk a little about Billy Barnes and his work with the Fund.
GEORGE ESSER:
Billy Barnes was recommended to me by John Ehle. At that time, he was in Atlanta and was the southern reporter for Business Week. And let's see, Billy came to the Fund in January of '64, let's say. He's a native North Carolinian. So he's been back here twenty-six years.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
How did John know him? Do you know? Is he a graduate?
GEORGE ESSER:
Oh, yes. And I think John knew him through an interview. I'm not sure that John had him as a student. I think John knew him through an interview. But Billy is not a great journalist, but he's a great person. And he took the heat. He gave the best possible support in the Fund days. He would massage the angry reporters or you know, there were a lot of young reporters who wanted to find something wrong with everything. And he taught me, he said, you know, "when the reporters come and thrust a microphone under your mouth, you have to respond." And he said, "How you respond," and he says, "You don't have to tell them anything," but he says, "You need to

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respond." And he would always say, "Don't get upset about things that are written about you critically. People forget things in twenty-four hours." And so I learned the hard way, I guess, that you just forget things.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Just ride it out.
GEORGE ESSER:
Just ride it out. So, Billy was very creative. He wrote a newsletter, he had a system of regular news releases, he had a system of regular radio releases. I think we had a radio network of over fifty stations that had a little five minute tapes. He produced a movie. He did a survey with Oliver Quail that, even today, stands up with the very good reflection of the way people thought in 1968 and it was not very complimentary to the state. And then Billy decided to stay here to be a freelancer. And he's now, I mean, after many years of hard work to make it, he's now got a very good, lucrative relationship with IBM and is doing very well. And at the same time, Anne began her career after the Fund, you see. And I think Anne's been a very good both local and state politician.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I'm very proud of Anne Barnes. She's done a lot of good work in Raleigh.
GEORGE ESSER:
And I think, you know, she had to find herself. [text deleted] But Anne... I think that Chapel Hill is very fortunate to have people like Anne Barnes and Joe Hackney.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Aren't we? Oh, yes indeed.

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GEORGE ESSER:
Representing us in the General Assembly. But during the '60's Anne was not active. But Billy Barnes was a fine supportive…. And has remained supportive. And any low income community that asked Billy for help and can you know…. Billy does not charge them. Well, he does not charge them, you know, more than a minimum. But I know the Indians and several black organizations have called on Billy regularly throughout the years.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Well, is this for PR advice?
GEORGE ESSER:
PR advice or preparation slide shows. He's done several slide shows for the Indians. And he is a better photographer than he is a writer. And he's got a very extensive file of photographs.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Well, you know Jerry Cotten at the North Carolina collection should get in touch with him.
GEORGE ESSER:
Oh, she should. He's got something like thirty thousand of them.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Oh, he should do that. I will call Jerry today. That would be wonderful.
GEORGE ESSER:
And he's got them filed. Once Cary worked for him for a few days, filing, and when he uses one, I mean, when someone asks for one, he'll get a small payment for it. He's got a very fine photograph collection.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Well, Jerry should talk to him about the ultimate disposition of that collection. Absolutely. what about Lucy Watkins, George? I've met Lucy at your home a number of times.

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GEORGE ESSER:
Lucy is the daughter of Eric Rogers who edited the Scotland Neck Commonwealth, and even though he sold it to the Parker interest and they sold it to somebody else, he at the age of ninety-one or two, is still writing editorials for it. Still lives in Scotland Neck. Eric was from Charleston, Maryland. Lucy, senior was from near Farmville and during the…. I knew Eric. He was assistant director of the Department of Conservation and Development under Hodges, I think. And he was very active in the Episcopal Church. So I knew him long before this. And then I knew [unknown] Suzanne, who was his youngest daughter who was Everett Jordan's receptionist. And in 1964, I got a call one day from Lucy saying that somebody—I forget who. Maybe it was Suzanne told Lucy to call me—but anyhow…. Oh, it may have been Bill Cochran because Bill worked with Everett Jordan. And anyhow, Lucy was being divorced and wanted to move from Ann Arbor to Chapel Hill with her three children. And I took her on as administrative assistant and one way or another, she worked with me from '64 through '76. She went with me to the Southern Regional Counsel at the same time I did. She's a very fine writer. She's also a poet. I mean, she's that sort of person.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Is she really? I did not know that.
GEORGE ESSER:
Yeah, she's a real poet. She has her master's degree from LSU. Did additional graduate work at kenyon. Married a very weak man that's now married to somebody else. But that's another story. Lucy could write, she was a good program developer. She was a very good buffer between me and the staff.

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So, she was a very nice person; a very calm sort of person, but steely. And she shared the goal with the Fund. So then when everything broke off and I went with Ford, why there was a position for a full time position and then I had a little money left from the Fund, so I had Lucy as a full time assistant because a full time job meant a lot to her. And James Lee Burney, who was also very able—he's not a good writer, but was a good politician—I kept on with Fund money for practically the whole time I was with Ford. He's now and has been for the last almost twenty years, the lobbyist for the Tarheel Electric Membership Corporation. But James Lee was a fine…. You know, with Nathan as deputy and Lucy and James Lee as sort of both conceptual and political support, I really had a fine staff. Now there are other staff that were never as strong, but in terms of private staff, I mean, you know, administrative assistant, that sort of thing, I was very fortunate.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Where is Lucy now?
GEORGE ESSER:
Lucy is doing research for the Center for Education and Policy which is one of the centers that the Legal Services Corporation created for national support of legal services.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Is she in Washington?
GEORGE ESSER:
She's in Washington.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
How about DeWitt Sullivan, George? He later went into business with Nathan, didn't he?
GEORGE ESSER:
Yeah. He was brought by Nathan. He was a native of Mississippi who had gone to school in Mississippi and California. He had a marriage that didn't work out and then he came back to

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Mississippi and then took graduate work in Detroit. And eventually, was a CPA in Detroit. And when Nathan came back, Nathan said, "You know, we've got more financial work." Because we were handling, not only three or four million dollars a year, but we were handling a lot of different accounts. I mean, you know, with grants with to maybe twenty-five or thirty organizations a year and that sort of thing. So we needed another person, so we made an offer to Dewitt and he came down. Then later, DeWitt went with MDC when Nathan went with FCD. And then later, they started a little after hours tax firm or CPA firm and then in 1972, why they did full time. And that partnership lasted until '87 or '88. Dewitt became a very influential political leader in the black community. He was very close to Jesse Jackson. He was close to the leadership in this state. And while Nathan was taking his law degree, why DeWitt was running the firm. Now, I have never understood precisely, what happened. DeWitt always said and Nathan always affirmed that DeWitt inherited this land in Hattiesburg, Mississippi and decided to move back to Hattiesburg and sort of semi-retire. Well, the only problem was that the firm wasn't producing the kind of dividends that he expected. And a year later, he came back and he set up his own little firm both in Mississippi and here. And they separated. And I, you know, kept my business with Nathan even though DeWitt had handled more of my business. It was really Nathan who was my first friend. But that was a sort of tense thing for me to go through. Who do you take your business to? But DeWitt is a very able tax man, CPA, very

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knowledgeable. For example, for years, he was on the state board that administers the state health plan. Insurance plan. And so he is politically well-placed and married to a beautiful and talented who is a dancer. Kay is a very fine person. And I feel that…. And his children have done well. His daughter and his sons. But something happened between DeWitt and Nathan, so I can't tell you what the final result is, but certainly, while he was with the Fund and the years in between, he made real contributions to North Carolina.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
How about George Autry? He was with the Management Development.
GEORGE ESSER:
I don't know, Fran. It's turned out beautifully. It all started when Martha McKay was working for me at the Fund in 1967. And Martha had a brother, Bob.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
She had two. Bob and John.
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, I never met John. John died or was killed or something. But I had met Bob when he was working at OEO, because he was working at OEO with a wild character named Bill Haddad who had married a [unclear] . He was a Lebanese and he was Inspector General for the Office of Economic Opportunity. And Martha worked for them for a while. well anyhow, Bill left OEO even before Sarge did. And Bob went with him and they set up a firm. And they got interested in Manpower Development and they struck up a relationship with the Association of Manufacturers and a very nice young man named Wright Elliot. So we were developing a project and so anyhow, that year, I was involved in program development phase with Martha and Jim Burney and Bill Haddad and

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Bob Clampitt and Wright Elliot and others. And so we finally got a grant of a million and a half dollars from OEO to set up this Manpower Development Incorporation. In the process, I had another staff member who thought he was going to get his hand in that and didn't. And I had an awful time with him, but I finally got rid of him. His name was Rockwell Patio. But anyhow, some businesses in North Carolina were very unhappy that we got this grant, but at the same time, we had to find a director. Martha and I were sitting around after six o'clock one night trying to figure out who to…. And I didn't know George at that time. I simply knew who he was and she said, "Let me call George. He might have an idea of someone." So Martha called George and said, "George, we're looking for somebody to head…." George, at that time, was Senator Irvin's constitutional rights staff member. She said, "We're looking for somebody to head this organization. Can you recommend somebody?" So they talked and George called back in a half an hour and he said, "why not consider me?" So, George came down and we had him interviewed and we had arranged for Luther, Jr. to be chairman of the board.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Of the Fund?
GEORGE ESSER:
No, of the…
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Of the Manpower Development.
GEORGE ESSER:
And so we introduced George to…. And then I remember we went to New York one time soon after that and introduced George and Luther to Haddad and Clampitt and Wright Elliot and several other people in New York. So that was September or October of '67. And George is still there.

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FRANCES A. WEAVER:
George is still there?
GEORGE ESSER:
Twenty-three years later.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
It was a success.
GEORGE ESSER:
It was a success. And the man we chose for the Housing Corporation, Bob Walter Smith, known as Bob, retired a year and a half ago, but he was hired the same year. And so, Nathan of course, is still around, but his organization was terminated. So of the three organizations that I personally created those two were staffed by the same people for the whole time. And then, with Terry's urging, we supported LINC and that was never very successful. You know, the Learning Institute?
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
The Learning Institute never worked. why, do you suppose?
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, I mean, after Doc left…. Doc was fine. But Gordon McAndrew, you know, I never felt that Gordon was quite on the straight and narrow. A female staff person accompanied him on every trip he took. And I don't know. And I forget. There was a scandal associated with that. So he had left. And then the next person who came on also had a scandal. And finally, that then finally killed it. And of course, the Superintendent of Public Instruction never liked it anyhow.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Charlie Carroll and Craig Phillips?
GEORGE ESSER:
Charlie Carroll and then Craig was more supportive but Craig got very bureaucratic himself.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I've got to turn this off. That light is flashing.

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FRANCES A. WEAVER:
George, what about Morris Cohen? You have mentioned him several times in talking about the Fund and I need to know something about him.
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, we knew from the very beginning, that we would have to do a lot of training as part of the Fund effort. And we got Morris from, again, from Case western Reserve to head our training program. And Morris did a very good job, I think, in a straight training role. I mean, we trained the very first Vistas in this country.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
I know that. That's incredible. wonderful.
GEORGE ESSER:
We trained the community action technician grant that we got with Eleanor Winston's help, of over a million dollars. Trained sort of generalists to go into counties and help match resources with problem people. Well, there were a lot fewer resources then than there are now. Next month this county is having a Human Services Coordination workshop with some forty organizations represented and I think thirty years ago, maybe only two or three of them existed. But then we got, in 1966, into a philosophical debate within the staff on whether you achieved change from an educational base, a consensus base or whether conflict was essential. Conflict was an essential element. And Morris was uncomfortable with that suggestion that conflict was an essential element. And Morris did not get along for that reason really well with all of the black staff. Now, he and Howard got along pretty well together. And then Morris was a…. I don't mean Morris was opposed to conflict, but he was worried about the impact of conflict. And so when he got an

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opportunity to join this social work faculty in Chapel Hill in 1967, he took it. And we really racked up our training program.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Did you? Was he also training the interns? was there any training for the interns?
GEORGE ESSER:
The interns, in 1967, he did not train. Howard trained them. He trained the interns in…. well, we had the North Carolina Fund volunteers in '64-'65. He had some enrolled in the '65 training and then we had various kinds of training that he headed. And he was a good academic sort and with a very practical bent. But he did not know how to deal with the question of racial anger. And he couldn't understand it, even though he was very Jewish. But it's very interesting to me. Morris joined the faculty and he came to see me from time to time in Atlanta or in Washington. But just before we came back to Chapel Hill, he became enamored of a student from South Africa, of all places, and he got an invitation to teach in a South African University for a year and he never came back.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
You mean he's in South Africa?
GEORGE ESSER:
Has been since 1982. And I don't know what happened to her. She was living here and I never saw her. I'll have to ask Billy. He knows. But I must say that I'm chastened by the number of people that I had in the Fund who could not maintain their marriages. I'll get to some others in just a minute. [Laughter] You know, I just could not…. And you know, Jim Burney and Lucy used to laugh at me and say that I was the last person to know when anything was going on. It just didn't occur

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to me and all of a sudden somebody would say, "well, you know, X and Y are playing around." And it just didn't occur to me.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
How about Mike Brooks?
GEORGE ESSER:
Mike Brooks was a graduate of the Department of City Planning. Regional and City Planning here. was recommended to me by Jack Parker and he was the first person that they had, I think, one of the first persons, at any rate, who was interested in human resource planning rather than land use planning. So I interviewed Mike and he was obviously a very, very smart person. And he came with us early in the summer of 1963 and he put together the original fact books on poverty in North Carolina that were competently done. Mike was another who was very uncomfortable with the black rage. And eventually, he left in '67. He was very uncomfortable with Howard for my…. I can understand his being uncomfortable with Jim McDonald, but I could not understand his being uncomfortable with Howard Fuller because I thought Howard Fuller was a very honest person and that we had the best opportunity to measure what the problem was in dealing with people like Howard as well as people like Nathan. Mike did one thing, however, that I always felt was a problem. we got—I forgot where we got it—I think from OEO. we got a large grant, about a quarter of a million dollars, to undertake a study of poverty in North Carolina. Some aspect of poverty; it's on the '70 tape. And the contract was entered into with RTI. And somehow or another, the people who were doing the contract, who were carrying it out, made a mistake in the sample. And Mike didn't catch it. And all of a sudden I realized that we had

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spent the money and they had made the mistake and the results were not what we hoped it would be in terms of validity. And yet, I couldn't very well sue them because it would embarrass Terry and it would embarrass the liberal wing of the Democratic party. So, I remember we had a meeting with George Herbert and his staff and they were all very sorry but they had no further resources and they would do the best they could, but the study did not have the validity it should have had. And I've always felt that Mike should have stayed on top of it.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
On top of it. Drop the ball in the,,,
GEORGE ESSER:
Now, Mike actually went to the faculty of the University of Illinois. I think he was later chairman of the Department of Planning at the University of Illinois. I'm not sure where he is today. He's another one whose marriage did not work out. And I don't know exactly where Mike is today. But I could find out, but I just haven't…. But he did a good job in the early days of the Fund when it was important that we have good basic information. And he did a very fine job.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
How about John Strange?
GEORGE ESSER:
John Strange was the reverse of Mike and Morris Cohen in that he…. He was a native North Carolinian; graduate of Duke. Took his Ph.D. at Princeton and was referred to me, actually, by Paul Ildesocker. And John did understand black rage and was good in dealing and was a supporter of community organization. And he came and worked part time with the Fund and part time teaching at Duke. And we had another grant to evaluate community organization processes in North Carolina communities.

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And John wrote a very good analysis of that. And Durham was a very good example at that time. And then John went to washington and then to Rutgers and into the University of Massachusetts. And he was doing very distinguished work as a political scientist and he was married to a very attractive girl from [unclear] from Durham. And I understand from Seth warner and his wife that he has run off with his secretary or something like that. But John understood black rage and black concern. I mean, you know, things went so fast in the sixties. It was very hard to find people who were stable, who understood what was going on and who could be supportive of the black community, but also have good contacts in the [unclear] And it was not easy. And John was one of the best that I had. Intellectually, He was probably the best. From a practical point of view, I don't think he was any better than either Nathan and DeWitt on the black side or Lucy and Jim Burney on the white side. They continued to communicate well in the black and white community. But that was a continuing problem. Things moved so fast in the sixties that where we were in '63, in terms of, not only integration, but you remember in '63 and '64, whites were welcomed into Mississippi and in '65- '66 they were not welcomed.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
That's all spelled out in Al Lowenstein's papers and when Smith became really radical….
GEORGE ESSER:
Yeah, and we spent the night with a couple in New Hampshire—I worked at the Ford Foundation—who met in Mississippi in '63 and were married in '64 and you know, that was part of their experience. And we talked about that. So, you

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know, we survived at the Fund on that issue. But it was not easy and it was an interesting thing. There were people who didn't really understand what the Fund was doing that way. Julius Chambers said to Mike Svirdoff one time back in the sixties in New York, Julius didn't understand what we were doing. But Julius was doing a good job with the legal issues, but he didn't know what was happening statewide on the issues.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
At the community level and all the other aspects of that.
Well, George, the Fund wound up in 1968 and your final report to Mike Svirdoff is so compelling and so complete in its statement about why you and the staff felt that it shouldn't continue. I'd like to know just personally…. I mean, I know you supported your staff and I know what you wrote to Mike, but did you personally feel the time had come for the reasons filled out in the…
GEORGE ESSER:
Yes, I did. I realized that I had used up all the nickels that I had. I had a lot of nickels, you know, from the institute days, but I think that it wise and the other reason, Fran, that it was wise is that Terry had said in '63, "I don't think it ought to go past five years." And I tentatively agreed to that, and I guess Terry would have supported me if I had said, "No, I believe we ought to continue." But I had pretty deep respect for his political judgments. And he said in '68, "Well, I think we probably ought to terminate it." And I think he was right and I think I was right. I mean, I think we were right. We had used up…. You know, I think that we had tested out credibility on some issues dealing mainly with the black

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community, but I don't think we had lost our credibility. And I did not want to... I mean it was very uncertain in '69 exactly how this was going to play out. Nixon had been elected, but the most recent, you know, where we remembered the spring and summer of '68 and it was a pretty rough summer. And also, I could tell that we had to separate ourselves from the community action agencies. And that we were too much identified with them. So I have no problems about that. I find it interesting that the foundations are still looking for intermediary organizations. I think intermediary organizations sometimes…. If we had concentrated on the research, let's say like Children's Defense Fund, that would have been one thing. Or like NC policy, you know, the ones that publish Insight, if we had done that, then I think it would have been one thing. But the fact that we were involved in movements, I thought made it important that we probably terminate. Now, I think the fact that both MDC and LHDC and particularly MDC have survived is important and they're important links. And of the community actions agencies that we helped support, ten of the eleven are still going.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Still going? You have said on an earlier tape they've become pretty bureaucratic, pretty entrenched.
GEORGE ESSER:
That's right. I don't think they're near…. well, part of it is the leadership, part of it is the structure of support from the Federal and state governments.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Well, George, when the Fund closed, you went with Ford as project advisor?

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GEORGE ESSER:
Well, I've never been absolutely satisfied with the way those negotiations went. I think that when Mike got that long memo, he said, "Well, I will follow your judgment," but he said, "then I would like you to come on the Ford staff." So we talked about that back and forth and the initial idea was that I was prepared to move to…. I remember talking to Fred about it. I was prepared to move to New York and then Knight said, "Well, why don't you think about staying where you are and being our advisor for the south." Well, it was a lot easier.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yeah, and with children.
GEORGE ESSER:
And with the children. And they worked out a very nice arrangement, so I got an office uptown at 212 Rosemary. Mel Rastis had owned the building. It was right behind the old School of Social Work is now, behind the old institute. And Lucy came with me and Jim Burney was able to handle [unclear] with some remaining Fund funds and we got a little black gal, Terry Cobb, from Chapel Hill as secretary. And that was February of '69. And I was there June of '72. I found it interesting. I was both advisor to the Division of National Affairs and was dealing primarily with social problems, but I was also dealing with some with the Public Administration issues and governance issues. And I was available. The way it was handled I went with Ford staff on the initial visits to new projects. That was with Hillary Feldstein whom we visited this summer. I did a lot of traveling. And Hillary always said, "without you I never would have gotten to understand what I was doing." But I also did a

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lot of monitoring. After grants were made, I would come in and, you know, interview and write up how projects were doing.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
A lot of travel?
GEORGE ESSER:
A lot of travel. I was traveling anywhere from five to fifteen days a month. And you know, some of it was very pleasant. I realized in '71 that the pressure was finally off, but then I was an advisor. I was not a program officer.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Right. Sounds like little chance for creativity.
GEORGE ESSER:
So, that meant that I was not making the final decisions. And paul Ildesocker sensed this and had me visit him for three days. And the only feelers that I got that I should have followed up on, I had a feeler from both social work and education at this institution, but I had a real feeler from Joel at Duke. And I think I probably didn't…. Well, I didn't want to feel obligated to Terry. And I don't think it would have meant that much, but I think that Joel was a little surprised when I went to Atlanta because he had in mind asking me to join the Institute [unclear] staff. And in many ways, that would have been good and in many ways it would have been bad. In retrospect, I was not very happy in Atlanta. Mary was not very happy in Atlanta, but our children were very happy. And so, as a result of moving to Atlanta, I think that our children, all three of them, were better off than if they had stayed in Chapel Hill. And they enjoyed being in Washington. Washington was all right, but I was not unhappy to leave it.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
That was really bureaucratic.

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GEORGE ESSER:
That was really bureaucratic. And you know, when I think about Atlanta, I have to feel that it broke the mold. It broke the Chapel Hill mold for the children and at a time when Chapel Hill was…. Well, as you recall when you brought them back, it was not a good time to raise children.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
It was very difficult. In fact, we often felt—and I feel to this day—that the best thing that happened to my children was getting out of Chapel Hill in 1968. And the India experience was an A+ on top of that, but getting out of Chapel Hill…
GEORGE ESSER:
I think you're absolutely right. Fred and I had lunch one day, I remember, down in the western part of Chapel Hill in late '67 or early '68 and we both agreed that it was probably important to the children, as well as for us.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yeah, yeah. You could get stuck here. George, the years of your relationship with the Southern Regional Counsel are well documented in all the literature and papers of the Southern Regional Counsel; many of which I think now are where? Morehouse College? Where did they put them?
GEORGE ESSER:
Atlanta University.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Atlanta University. What I really want to talk about is number one: What goals you went to the SRC with and number two: Who were the people on the SRC in those years who you feel weilded the greatest clout? I have the list of the executive committee here that I xeroxed out of an annual report.
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, I felt that when I first went there, and in retrospect, I guess I went there more for my respect for vivian

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Henderson first and Ray Wheeler second. And I still feel, I mean, they were great people. I felt that the staff at Southern Regional Counsel, from my observation in working with the Ford Foundation, of being closely thrown [unclear] As far back as '68, I remember bringing the Fund staff and the SRC staff together for a retreat at Jackal Island. And the SRC staff had gotten pretty bureaucratic and did not have the right communication with the black community that I felt was important.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
And they were, at that time, the whole purpose of the SRC was research into civil rights and the black condition.
GEORGE ESSER:
And it was not only research. It was leadership.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Leadership as well as research?
GEORGE ESSER:
Yeah. And so I made an effort, first, to get black staff. And I think that the two primary black staff people that I chose had many strengths, but they also had weaknesses and the weaknesses eventually were…. Harry Buie was deputy, but I got him by saying, "You and I are going to have a collegial relationship." And there was an Episcopal minister in Mississippi. He had done a lot of good things, but Harry was not only very bright and we shared many of the same values, but he was also out for Harry and he was a manipulator. And so, then there was a graduate at Princeton named George Harris who Paul called me about. And George had a lot of good ideas, but he was the kind who could talk and write and you thought he was sort of a brilliant director, but he could never quite finish it. So, changing the staff in the long run was a very difficult task. And Vivian, the president of Clark College on the Ford board of

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trustees, Vivian understood and agreed with me on what was going on and what I had to do. As long as he lived, we had our financial problems, but he and I were in agreement.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
And he was president?
GEORGE ESSER:
And he was president. When he died, all of a sudden, it blew up. It was obvious that…
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Was it a power struggle in the board?
GEORGE ESSER:
Yeah, and Pat Derian was right at the heart of it.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Was she? I wondered. I saw her name on the list and I wondered about that.
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, she was right at the heart of it. And she didn't…. I don't know if it was personal or what. She was worried about whether we were financially…. But she was elected president and she never realized how much I had to do with her being elected president. But I thought it was important because she was vice president, that she be elected president. And the people I thought were not friends…. I was trying to expand the concern of SRC to include poverty in the south as well as race relations in the south. Julius Chambers wanted to stick to race relations.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Race only? That's interesting.
GEORGE ESSER:
Paul Gaston was the man who teaches at the University of Virginia. And Paul is very bright, but he wanted to stick with race. Ray Wheeler understood what the poverty issue was, but Ray was a very fine person, but he never understood the finances or the financial issue, the financial problems. So when

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Vivian died, it was clear to me in retrospect, that he was the one who was holding the board together.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Ray Wheeler was?
GEORGE ESSER:
No. Vivian. And so Pat came in as president and she spent a month—I knew something was bothering her—she spent a lot of time putting together a financial analyses. You know, you look at some things from a financial analysis point of view and it says, "A" and you look at it from another point of view and it says, "B." Well, they were looking at it completely different than I was. Plus the fact that my leaving cost them about a million dollars in grants that I had arranged. They never understood that. They were looking at the short range and I was looking at the long range. So we had a very stormy meeting in May of 1976, three months after Vivian died. And it was obvious that they wanted to pull back on purpose. They wanted to pull back on staff and they didn't agree with some program things I had proposed. So after dinner, they went into an executive session and Mary and I went to a movie. And we came back and there was a call there; Pat wanted to see me. And she said, "We had a meeting." It was only nine out of eight…. Some staff were very upset with me. They felt that with a full board…
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
You mean it wasn't the full board?
GEORGE ESSER:
It wasn't the full board. And they felt with a full board that…. It was a vote of five to three. They asked for my resignation and I was fed up with them. And so I said, "Okay, You know, I'm not here to fight for myself."
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
And to fight a board.

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GEORGE ESSER:
And to fight a board, and so I agreed to resign. And we did not have a very…. The thing that really burned me up was that from March until it was all over, they never asked me…. They took their interpretation of the books and they never asked me for my interpretation of programs or of anything. And so I said, "Okay."
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
So they winged it as a board without….
GEORGE ESSER:
And so I said, "Okay, if that's the way you feel about it." I mean, I wrote…. And then they tried to cut my severance that they had agreed to. Well, it was not much. It was five months. And I said, "No, you've agreed to it and I've announced it." And I announced it as my decision because I felt that it was important that the SRC maintain a good image in the region. And I think that the young man or the man who has been the director in the last twelve or thirteen years, Steve Suitts, is a good man. I have no problem with him. But I do not have good relations with many of those people.
I do have with some, but I was down there in Atlanta six weeks ago and I had dinner with a former staff member who supported me all the way. And John Griffen, who is president of the Southern Education Foundation, who is a member of the board, was very supportive. But I have no regrets about…. I have some regrets. I mean, I obviously, on the accounting snafu, I obviously should have been watching things at home a little closer, but on the whole, I do not look to Atlanta. I think that SRC could have been a lot more influential and that's what I was trying to move toward in determining the future direction of [unclear] I got to know Jimmy

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Carter. We accepted a contract to help the Southern [unclear] Policies Board in its first commission on the south study. And I'll never forget. You know, people say, "well, why didn't you go with Jimmy after he went to washington?" And I said, "well, I felt that first of all, I didn't want to be…." Pat Derian was very prominent in the Carter [unclear] And I just didn't want to be around.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Tell me something George. Hodding Carter was on the board. Are they not now married?
GEORGE ESSER:
Oh, yes. They were married that year.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Were they married at the time?
GEORGE ESSER:
No, they were married in '76.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Had they been married previously?
GEORGE ESSER:
Oh, yeah. Pat was married. Derian was her first husband's name. He was a doctor. He was Lebanese or something like that. She was a nurse and her education. She was from Danville, Virginia. But I'm not a great fan of Pat's. I mean, I think she's got a very strong sense of values. Hodding, you know, is [unclear] part time last year. And I saw him at church here a couple of times. And I'm very fond of Hodding. And Hodding, I think, is fond of me. But we don't see eye to eye on Pat. [Laughter]
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
To say the least. And so you went from Atlanta to Washington?
GEORGE ESSER:
Yeah. And I was sought out in Washington and I, you know, I think I did all right in Washington. I helped build a young organization into a more professional organization. But it

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was not easy to raise money. And I was getting tired of it. I had been at that for ten…
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Since 1963?
GEORGE ESSER:
Well, yeah. And I'd been at it from a survival point of view since '72. I mean, everything. I had to raise my own salary. And so in the fall of '81, John was living at home and working with a law firm in Washington and he said, "Let's go to lunch one day." And so we talked for three hours and he said, "You know, stress is getting to you." And I said, "I acknowledge that." And so when the new chairman came in, why I told him that this would be my last year. And he and I agreed that it made a lot of sense for both of us. Because I was sixty-two by that time, and I, you know, didn't want to stay. Pat Reagan was already in Washington. It was not an exciting place to be.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Right.
And the years since, I gather from our earlier tape, have been very exciting and productive since you came back.
GEORGE ESSER:
Yeah. Well, listen, yesterday I talked to this young man up in North Hampton county and they now have sixty-one out of seventy-eight beds occupied in their nursing home facility. They've got all of the housing occupied. They've got the senior center. And one of the things I hope to do this spring is to write the report on the coverage of the last five years or the last six years, because it's only been in the last year that the things have gelled. And now I've got five or six very successful case studies to do. So we made the right decision coming back here. But I do think that…. But you know, it's interesting. It was very hard to impress on people at the National Academy the

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importance of black membership and women membership and I had a lot of problems in insisting that every year when we elected fellows that they had to have both black and women on the ballot and that if they weren't elected by the membership, the board had two or three it could elect. It had to elect. And I think that finally, it began to penetrate. But professionally, I don't think that equality for either minorities or women—I mean racial minorities or women—has really taken hold in this country.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
Yet.
GEORGE ESSER:
Yet.
FRANCES A. WEAVER:
That's a grim note on which to terminate this.
END OF INTERVIEW