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Title: Oral History Interview with Daniel H. Pollitt, November 28, 1990. Interview L-0064-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Pollitt, Daniel H., interviewee
Interview conducted by McColl, Ann
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2008
Size of electronic edition: 60 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.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2008-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2008-02-19, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Daniel H. Pollitt, November 28, 1990. Interview L-0064-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series L. University of North Carolina. Southern Oral History Program Collection (L-0064-2)
Author: Ann McColl
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Daniel H. Pollitt, November 28, 1990. Interview L-0064-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series L. University of North Carolina. Southern Oral History Program Collection (L-0064-2)
Author: Daniel H. Pollitt
Description: 63.8 Mb
Description: 15 p.
Note: Interview conducted on November 28, 1990, by Ann McColl; recorded in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Unknown.
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 Daniel H. Pollitt, November 28, 1990.
Interview L-0064-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Pollitt, Daniel H., interviewee


Interview Participants

    DANIEL H. POLLITT, interviewee
    ANN McCOLL, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
ANN McCOLL:
This is tape 2 in the series with Dan Pollitt.
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
I told the dean and I told the President of the University who was John Caldwell who later became the Chancellor at State and he was trying to fight all these bills as well as he could. I knew about such things, so I sort of became his unofficial attorney. We were pretty close and I liked him very, very much. But I decided not to do it and I think there was a philosophy professor who decided not to do it, and three or four architects from the School of Architecture who decided not to do it. So I didn't want to make a big fuss, but the student newspaper people knew that the philosophy professor wasn't going to do it, so we got some headlines. So then it was to take effect at the end of the school year. I'd been there two years, so I looked for a job. I went to the University of Missouri where there was some interest in me and the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia and then here. Those were the three schools that wanted to interview me. I decided I'd like this far better.
ANN McCOLL:
How come?
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
Well, at Missouri I didn't really like the dean. I went to Pennsylvania and stayed with Maury Gelblum who had been a classmate of mine at college, and later he came here as Assistant Dean. But it was that time of the year when slush, there was a lot of slush and dirty snow all over the place. I liked most of the people I met there at Penn, but they seemed to be a little bit cold.
Then I came here and it was dogwood and redbud season,

Page 2
you know. And the air was so nice and I stayed with a professor at his house. Everybody here was so nice and obliging. I was the first one since Bill Aycock. This law school had a hundred years or more, but it really doesn't. And President Chase, after World War I…. After World War I, in 1920 we'll say, it had been…. You could come here for one year and you'd take the Bar and if you passed it, you were through. If you didn't pass it, you came back for a second year. So this was a two year law school which was really a cram course for the Bar. The faculty consisted largely of retired state Supreme Court judges. So President Chase in 1920 decided to have a modern law school. He would get people who knew the case method of instruction. He decided to get the best people he could and the salary was high. He decided to get the average of Harvard and Columbia and Chicago and that was the salary here. So the salary here was better than you could get anywhere else. He attracted a number of very good people, eight or nine or ten of them during the very early 1920's. And maybe two or three left. And in the late 1920's and early 1930's, like 1931, they hired two more. Then they hired Henry Brandis in 1937. Then they hired Bill Aycock in 1947. Then he became the Chancellor in 1957. Then they hired me and nobody had been hired really for ten years and before that between Henry Brandis which was for ten years. So when I came here in 1957, most of the people had been hired in the 1920's and they were very nice old gentleman, you know, who were all still very active doing things that I thought were very worthwhile.
ANN McCOLL:
What kind of things were they doing?

Page 3
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
Well, if you don't mind, let me run down. This building is the Van Hecke-Wettach Building. Van Hecke was the former dean for two terms or three terms and he was the first Kenan. When the University started the Kenan Chairs, he was the first one to get a Kenan Chair in the whole University.
ANN McCOLL:
What is Kenan?
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
That means you're distinguished. So in any event, he met me at the airport when I arrived with his wife Jesse. And the airport then was much, much smaller and it was eight o'clock at night. We drove out of the airport and he turned the wrong way. We were almost to Raleigh before he decided that…. His wife Jesse kept saying, "You're going the wrong way." And he said, "No I'm not. I know how to drive. I've been here before." It was sort of pleasant, you know. And then we turned around and came here and we went to Herb Baer's house which is right up here on Gimgoole Street where I was to spend the night with him because his wife was away and we had hot chocolate and cookies waiting for me. So the Van Hecke's and Herb Baer and I had our refreshments and then to bed, you know. But the thing was I refused to take the oath.
ANN McCOLL:
In Arkansas.
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
In Arkansas. And everybody knew and there was no question. I'm leaving because I won't take the oath. And so, "Why won't you say you're not in any subversive organizations?" Well, it was a matter of concern to people. So, in any event, that's what we talked about mostly in my interviews here. But Van Hecke told me an interesting story. He had come here very

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young, you know, three years out of law school or something, in 1922, maybe and he stayed here two years and then he decided he didn't like the dean who was Dean McCormick of McCormick and Evans. So he got a job at Kansas and they went out there. In 1924 there was the Presidential election and Lafollit of Wisconsin was on the ticket; he was the third party ticket. Every year the law faculty and the State Supreme Court judges would have a dinner party at the downtown hotel and they would wear tuxedos and the women would wear evening gowns. And at this particular year, they had a mock election; something to do. They marked their ballots and put them in the ballot box. It turned out that there were two votes for Lafollit. And the newspapers went crazy. Which of the State Supreme Court judges is secretly for Lafollit? And so Van Hecke admitted that it was he and his wife that had voted for Lafollit, whereupon he got fired. Then North Carolina offered him his job back and he returned. He had been the President of the American Association of Law Schools which was all the law schools maybe two years earlier, maybe in 1955. They'd investigated an academic freedom violation at Dickenson Law School and Van Hecke found there'd been a violation and told them to rehire the people and that sort of thing. But the guys didn't want to go back. One came to Arkansas and became a close friend of mine down there. But they wouldn't pay his transportation, so he called Van Hecke and Van Hecke got after Dickenson. He was really aggressive in protecting this guy's rights. Frank Graham was a good friend of Harry Truman's. Frank Graham was interested in the problem of migratory farm workers.

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So he told Truman that Truman ought to appoint a Presidential Commission on the problems of migratory farm workers. So he did and he made Van Hecke the chairman of that committee. It's a great study. It's really a great study. I had been the Chief Counsel for the farm workers, which is the migratory farm workers.
ANN McCOLL:
When were you that?
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
When I was with Joe Rauh. So I'd known about Van Hecke and he was a very nice guy and he cared about people. He kept on, he taught equity which they don't teach anymore and labor law which he didn't particularly like and was glad to get rid of. But he was also the Chairman of the State Industrial Commission which deals with appeals when people are denied Workman's Compensation. That was part time, but he was the chair of that all the time he was here, so that's what he was doing. Now Wettach was the other name and Wettach was about the same age as Van Hecke.
ANN McCOLL:
Which was?
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
At that time, sixty-five. But he had come here in 1922 or '23 and had stayed here. He had been the mayor of Chapel Hill while he had been a law professor and then he started the Carolina Press and was the chairman of the Carolina Press.
ANN McCOLL:
What is the Carolina Press?
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
A publishing company. They publish all the books. He cared about publishing scholarly books and so on. So the first morning I was here after we'd had our hot chocolate and cookies, we got up the next morning and went to the Wettach's house to

Page 6
have breakfast. Wettach had a lot of books and he told me that he was a publisher and these were all the books that were published and he was reading two or three manuscripts and so on. And I like to read books, so I was impressed by that. Later on we got to be friends and he taught Constitutional law. There used to be parties of the faculty; ten people and they would always be one a month at somebody's house. He told me that in World War I he had been a Naval aviator and there had been very few. Very few. I mean, there were fifty at the most. He was stationed in England and every day he was supposed to fly the British Channel and bomb something in Germany or somewhere. And the planes were not very good, so in at least one out of every five sorties he would land in the British Channel. They had pontoon airplanes. They used to carry a fishing line. They'd sit there and fish waiting to be rescued. [laughter] He was such a pleasant looking person and mild and Van Hecke was mild in his appearance. But there's all that steel there, you know. Then he was married to Mrs. Wettach who was very nice. She couldn't stay for breakfast. She fixed it but then had to leave because they were opening St. Thomas ward that day. It had just been built and they were opening it that day. She was very active in the Catholic Church. She told me, she said, "Do you have any children?" And I said, "Yes, I have two." And she said, "How old are they?" And I said, "One is five and one is three." She said, "Well just because you're on the law faculty doesn't mean your children can come to my day school." She had the only day school in town at the time. She said, "I have a

Page 7
waiting list and you get on the waiting list and you take your turn." And I sort of liked that. I hadn't thought about day school, but there they were. Then Porter [unknown] and Freddy McCall and there's the McCall Award that goes to the best teacher. Freddy McCall had graduated from here as an undergraduate where he played on the baseball team and had been in the band. So he went off to I forget, Vale or Harvard Law School. Then when he finished top of his class he was offered a job here teaching at the law school or teaching classics in the classics department or the assistant coach of the baseball team.
ANN McCOLL:
What a choice.
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
He decided he would come to the law school and be the assistant coach of the baseball team.
ANN McCOLL:
So at one point, we had a law professor who was the assistant coach of the baseball team?
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
Yes. Freddy McCall. His interest was music. He played the tambourine and the drums in the N.C. Symphony all the time. He was in charge of the fundraisers for the N.C. Symphony. They'd always have the kick-off party for the big donors at his house which is right across the street. His wife, Mrs. McCall, was in charge of music education in the school system here. She wrote some song books with Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie. She was very cosmopolitan and Freddy had played in college days and after in the summers on ocean liners going back and forth. He played with Skinny Ennis or some bands that later became fairly big-time. He was a tap dancer, so at the parties he would always do a little tap dance for the folks.

Page 8
ANN McCOLL:
Now was he about the same age as…
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
He came here in 1922 or '23 and he taught real property. He was on the Law Revision Commission. When I came he was revising a probate code and then he revised the property code. So these guys kept their hand in a lot of things. Then Herb Baer with whom I stayed taught admiralty and conflicts of law and I have his book on admiralty right up there which he was writing at the time. He had been a trial attorney in northern New Jersey and he'd had a heart attack. The doctor told him he could never go into a courtroom again. So he went to Cornell Law School and got an advanced degree for a year. Then he wrote to all Southern law schools saying it's the southern clime. "I can't have winters and I can't climb stairs. So you have to have an elevator or else it all has to be one level." So he went to Wake Forest. Wake Forest offered him a job. Then in World War II Duke and Wake Forest and Carolina had one law school; they all merged and had it here. He was the dean of that since he had the heart condition and couldn't do anything. Then he stayed on. So he did not come here in 1920, but he was the same age, maybe just five years younger than the others and his interest was the library. He was the chairman of the fundraising group, Friends of the Library and he wrote his book. He liked to do electrical repair work. He had his part. Albert Coates was here. Albert came here in 1923 or something. And his story is that he taught criminal law. He'd come right from law school and he hadn't had any practice and he regretted it. So he had a distant cousin who was a highway patrolman in this area, so he decided to ride with

Page 9
his cousin and find out what really goes on. So he did and then his cousin said, "We know what we're doing, but we don't know if we're doing it right. Can't you give us some lectures?" So he started to give lectures to the highway troop. That was the origin of the Institute of Government. That was his life. He started it in the late 1920's with the Highway Patrol, the Police Academy. He started the Police Academy and then it grew into all the other things. His first associate was Henry Brandis. He hired Henry Brandis to be the first staffer at the Institute of Government. Later they had Terry Sanford and God knows who all. So Albert kept the Institute going. When I came here, the Institute, the building, had just been completed.
ANN McCOLL:
The one that they are in right now?
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
Yes. So when I came here I had two hours with every faculty member and Albert took me to see the building. Then we went to his house and had some port or sherry or something. The right hand door of his car would not open, so I had to get in the driver's seat door and go in the back and climb around on to the front seat. He said, "That damn door. I'll have to get it fixed one day. I told my wife." And he was oblivious of that sort of thing. He had his eye on big things. So that was Albert. Henry Brandis was the dean when I came here and he was an undergraduate here and then went to Columbia Law School and worked for a big New York law firm and did tax work. Then Albert Coates hired him to come back to be in charge of teaching tax related people how to be better tax things. Then he also had a job at the state Internal Revenue Service or bureau, whatever, being a reviewer or

Page 10
the brains, the think-tank. Then he was hired here in 1937 or thereabouts. He was the first one hired since Dalzell came here in the late 1920's.
Then nobody else was hired except Bill Aycock and then me. But when I came here, Henry Brandis took me out for dinner. He was then the head of the World Federalists which is what it's name implies, one world. He had gone when Frank Graham had been at the U.N. He had been sent to Indonesia which had just won its independence from Holland and there were a lot of tribal disputes and there were disputes with Holland still. So Frank Graham went there to mediate the dispute between Indonesia and Holland. He asked Henry to go with him as his assistant. So Henry went there and that hadn't been too much earlier. And then he was Executive Director of the World Federalists which almost stopped him from being the dean because some trustees didn't like a World Federalist being the dean, but he survived it and was the dean. And when I came, he was about to run for the school board. I asked him, "That's pretty low," you know, I thought, to run for the local school board. And he said they were going to start integrating the schools here and he wanted to make sure it was done the way it was supposed to be done. So that was very, very nice. John Dalzell, whom I mentioned, came here in the very late twenties from Minnesota and he too was a one worlder. When he died he left his property, his house here, to the Union now with Great Britain, which had been very active in the thirties. His interest was international law and the United Nations. He was in charge of the debate and stuff. He also taught at N.C. Central. And the story there is

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that there is a Supreme Court decision around 1938 which said that…. Up to that time when blacks had applied in the Southern states for colleges or graduate schools, the state had paid their tuition to go to the great ten. Then the Supreme Court said, "No, you can't do that any more." It was a graduate school. If you have a graduate school, you can't send the blacks out of state. You have to let them in or you can start their own graduate school, whereupon North Carolina decided to start a law school for blacks so they wouldn't come to this one. They put it at N.C. Central at Durham. Van Hecke was the first dean. They asked him to do it. The first faculty were our people and Duke people.
ANN McCOLL:
So you had worked part time at Central?
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
Yes. Whatever you taught here you'd teach over there. But they only had five or six of them. It was a couple of years before they hired a black to teach there. But John Dalzell had been an original teacher there and he wanted to teach there. He kept up his courses there and his courses here. It was his ker that we didn't have any black faculty. Nobody did. He made the motion that we bring the black faculty from N.C. Central to come over here and teach. He was not a firebrand at all. But that was John Dalzell. His interests were international law.
ANN McCOLL:
Did the school do it?
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
We offered a job to their dean who is a great fellow and this must have been in the very late fifties. He accepted. He was going to come over and start the summer school when it would be easy and he had a house there and there were no

Page 12
problems. But he called us and said he'd gone to see his doctor. His blood pressure had gone up and his doctor had told him he'd better not take the risk. The thought of integrating the University…. He was a man in his fifties, mature and looked like Paul Robeson; very nice guy, but it was just too much for him which is amazing to think that.
Then I think there might have been one other who was Frank Hanft. He'd come from Minnesota as well. He got out of Harvard Graduate School. He'd been at the University of Minnesota undergraduate and law school and had worked in the Attorney General's office or something. Then he had gone to the Harvard Graduate School to get his advanced law degree. He told me when he got out in 1927 that N.C. paid more that any other law school and he'd never been South, so he came to look at it and came when the rosebuds were budding and came here and stayed. He brought his friend John Dalzell a year or two later. Frank Hanft was very active in the Methodist Church and he wrote a couple of books on a lawyer's brief for Christianity or that sort. He had a very large men's Bible school. Right after the war, he had fifty of the law students that went every Sunday to his Sunday school class at the Methodist Church including Bill Aycock and Dick Phillips and all of them. Then when Bill Aycock was made the Chancellor, which would have been 1957, his rival was Frank Hanft. Those were the two final contestants. They chose Bill Aycock. So Frank taught the commercial law courses and his concerns were…. He'd been a colonel in the Army Reserve and the Army and he was interested in the plight of the veteran. So that's the faculty I

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joined. Ten of them. All of them in their sixties except for Henry Brandis. All of them had been here. They used to have the freshmen and an orientation program of three days which ended up with a dinner and then we always had the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court say something. Then Henry Brandis would introduce the faculty. When I was there, my first night, so to speak, he said that collectively there are thirty-two years average experience. Everybody came, they enjoyed it, they found a niche and they stayed.
ANN McCOLL:
So you were in your mid-thirties?
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
I was in my mid thirties.
ANN McCOLL:
How did it feel to be younger than the rest of the staff?
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
Well it felt rather odd. I was the kid on the block. I was the young man. "The young man." And you know, the students couldn't empathize real well with all the people in their sixties who were very polite and gentlemanly and very knowledgeable. You couldn't question them about something. You couldn't ask Freddy McCall if he was wrong on the [unknown] case or something. But we came here and Suzie was born that August. We came in September and she was born in August.
ANN McCOLL:
This was your third child?
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
Third child. And all the time that I was refusing to sign the loyalty oath and was looking for jobs, my wife was pregnant. So we were thinking the other day it was sort of a brave thing to do, but it didn't occur to me at the time that it was any thing other than what any ordinary human being would do.

Page 14
ANN McCOLL:
So what was ultimately the reaction of the faculty here about…
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
Well, then I had to go see…. Oh, there's one other. Breckenridge. He had come here and his son had been a CO in World War II, so everyone [unknown] refused to sign the oath and we had these philosophical discussions. They hadn't been quite as friendly at Pennsylvania. "What are you? Some sort of a kook?" [laughter] Then we had to go see Bill Aycock who was the Chancellor. He had just started. No he wasn't the Chancellor yet. House was still the Chancellor. We had to go see House and House said, "Well, we have some forms that we require you to disclaim, but they are administrative forms. We made it up to head them off. So, I think what I'll do is you don't have to sign and I'll make believe we don't have them anymore." [laughter] So that took care of that problem. Then they wanted to let Bill Aycock know about it, too. So Bill Aycock said, "Well, if we're out of forms, we're out of forms." So that ended the loyalty oath here at UNC.
ANN McCOLL:
Oh, so that was the last? They never used them after that? They lost the forms.
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
They lost the forms and never got new ones. Chancellor House then retired. He told me later that he signed my appointment and retired and I never knew exactly what he meant by that, but that was the last official act he did. Bill Aycock took over and I took over Bill Aycock's courses.
ANN McCOLL:
So what were you teaching when you started here?
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
Negotiable instruments.

Page 15
ANN McCOLL:
Once again.
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
Once again. And sales, maybe. I forget. Oh, we had a course in legal method for all first year students.
ANN McCOLL:
Sort of like the research and writing course that we have now?
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
That sort of thing, but more in depth. We had a case book and so on. So I taught that and then shortly thereafter, Dick Phillips joined the faculty and he and I taught the legal method course. So that's how I came here and what I met. I came here in the springtime and it was just beautiful. All this time, I'd gone to Washington every summer and worked for Joe Rauh and we came down from Washington and we found a delightful little house on Rogerson Drive with all sorts of flowers. So we thought that this would be an ideal place to stay until the kids were ready for the first grade. That was thirty-four years ago. I really had no expectation of staying more than a couple of years.
ANN McCOLL:
In Chapel Hill?
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
Yes. And then what happened we can talk about the next go round. But I got involved in social problems and this seemed to be the cutting edge place where the problems were tough, but also, I was protected. So I had a safe haven here and I could sally out and do justice and then run back. So it was hands on type problems.
ANN McCOLL:
Do you want to stop now?
DANIEL H. POLLITT:
Yes, I think I do.
END OF INTERVIEW