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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with David Breneman, May 10, 1991. Interview L-0122. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Perception of North Carolina and desegregation according to HEW and the OCR

Breneman again discusses the meeting held in Chapel Hill regarding HEW's criteria as they were being discussed for the University of North Carolina system. Describing the meeting as both "utterly cordial" and "adversarial," Breneman addresses the issue of whether or not North Carolina was being singled out by HEW as a scapegoat of sorts for HEW's policies. Breneman argues that this was not the case, although he does acknowledge that the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) believed North Carolina to be disinterested in implementing federal policies.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with David Breneman, May 10, 1991. Interview L-0122. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

WILLIAM LINK:
Whatߞthe receptionߞwhat kind of reception did you have in Chapel Hill? Was it ߞ
DAVID BRENEMAN:
Well, it was utterly cordial. But it was adversarial. I mean, we did not have the feeling we were down there on any kind of honeymoon. And, you know, it was very nice. I think we had a nice dinner. And, you know, Iߞyou know, plain, good hospitality. But there was no question they were on one side of the table and we were on the other. And we were the enemy. And I suppose to some extent we saw them as the enemy, even though oddly enough the three of us were, you know, in our own view probably thought of ourselves as being sympathetic to the interests of higher education. And I found it awkward because here I'd been, you know, a few months earlier working with Bill Friday on behalf of getting Carter elected. And then here we are down there on the other side doing it to 'em. Well, it was a tenseߞthere was a fair level of tension in that meeting. And they were there to pin our ears back in a variety of ways. What I don't rememberߞI don't remember anyߞwhat the stance of the North Carolina folks was to the approach we were taking. I would have thought that might have been somewhat favorable. But I think what they really were questioning was, I think, a number of the criteriaߞI think we must have sent down or brought with us draft statements of the criteria or something. And I think what they proceeded to try to do was just to point out how these things were really very, you know, going to be impossible to do. And were very hard to do. And probably not in the best interests of the people involved.
WILLIAM LINK:
Yeah.
DAVID BRENEMAN:
Sort of on that line of discourse.
WILLIAM LINK:
Was thereߞyou've mentioned that politically Bill Friday and North Carolina were given special handling. Was thereߞin any other sense was North Carolina treated differently? The UNC people, well, after all of this, and, you know, once it got into more of a courtroom sort of situation, claimed that North Carolina was being singled-out, adversely singled-out, was thatߞdid you ever get the feeling that that was the case with Libassi?
DAVID BRENEMAN:
No, I don't know what they would base that on. I mean the criteria were, you know, presumably applicable to all states. Right?
WILLIAM LINK:
Right.
DAVID BRENEMAN:
I mean there wasn't anythingߞthere wasn't a special set of criteria for North Carolina. So I don't know why they would haveߞI'm not sure what basis they would have had for that comment. In fact, I mean if anything, I would sayߞlet me put it this way. I remember two different things going on. On the one hand, there was, as I mentioned, I think a good deal of sensitivity regarding North Carolina and Bill Friday's status, vis-a-vis the Carter administration. And, you know, if anything that would have weighed againstߞthat would have weighed in their favor. You know, we'd have gone out of our way to not do something of the hostile nature in that setting. On the other hand, those people, see, there wasߞmost ofߞmost of us, Libassi, I, Moteef[?], all of us were brand new to this case, really. I mean we hadn't any history of working at it and so on. The people in OCR, some of the long-term people there, had been flogging away for several years on this Adam's Case and the ones in OCR that I can remember talking with were exceptionally cynical about the North Carolina [Laughter] interest in this case. And they did not trust the leadership in North Carolina to have any interest whatsoever in getting anything done. And they sawߞthey really saw North Carolina as a bunch of bad guys who were going to go out of their way toߞso there was a part of HEW operation that was probably more hostile than North Carolina than almost any other state. And ߞ
WILLIAM LINK:
But would have been perhaps concern with breaking North Carolina or making an example of North Carolina? Or is that stretching it too far?
DAVID BRENEMAN:
It could have been. I mean IߞI don't know how that played out. I mean, I suppose this would have showed up ultimately in David Tatel's behavior because he would have been sitting on the staff that felt this way most strongly. So if there is any crick in my memory, I would have thought it would have showed up increasingly through his involvement. I don't know if you've got any evidence of that.