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Title: Oral History Interview with Joseph Califano, April 5, 1991. Interview L-0125. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Califano, Joseph, interviewee
Interview conducted by Link, William
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, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 68 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
© 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:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-10-16, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Joseph Califano, April 5, 1991. Interview L-0125. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series L. University of North Carolina. Southern Oral History Program Collection (L-0125)
Author: William Link
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Joseph Califano, April 5, 1991. Interview L-0125. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series L. University of North Carolina. Southern Oral History Program Collection (L-0125)
Author: Joseph Califano
Description: 44.2 Mb
Description: 22 p.
Note: Interview conducted on April 5, 1991, by William Link; recorded in Unknown.
Note: Transcribed by Karen Brady-Hill.
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 Joseph Califano, April 5, 1991.
Interview L-0125. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Califano, Joseph, interviewee


Interview Participants

    JOSEPH CALIFANO, interviewee
    WILLIAM LINK, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
WILLIAM LINK:
Yes, hi, Mr. Califano —
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Okay, go ahead.
WILLIAM LINK:
Yes. How are you?
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Good.
WILLIAM LINK:
First of all, let me just make sure that you understand that I'm tape recording.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
That's fine.
WILLIAM LINK:
That's okay. Good.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
How do you tape yours? Is it hooked to your phone?
WILLIAM LINK:
Well, actually I have a direct connection. It's like the jack hooks directly into the machine.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Yeah, that's great.
WILLIAM LINK:
So it gives a clear connection. A clear recording. Let's see. I'd like to start off just to ask you some—if you have any sort of general reflections or observations about Bill Friday, based on

Page 2
what you know and your past experiences with him, both with regard to his leadership style, to the extent that you can comment on that. And decision making —policy making style.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Well, that, I mean, you know, in terms of, you know, he chaired an education task force during the Johnson years. That's when I first came in contact with him. And he did a superb job. The issue, I think, the burning issue, at the time, as I recall, was whether federal aid to education should focus on poor children. Or was it that they should be general aid to education, which was the desire of the NEA and the Republicans. And he came down for aid—to keep focusing the aid on poor children. And I know he did a great job on that. You must have that date, '67 or something like that.
WILLIAM LINK:
Yes.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Then we came down to the University of North Carolina to look for ideas, when I used to make a tour every spring to various campuses around the country to get ideas for Great Society programs for the next January. And the other contact I had with him was over the issue of desegregation. And there we disagreed.

Page 3
WILLIAM LINK:
On the latter, I guess you had extensive, fairly long contacts over —
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Pardon me?
WILLIAM LINK:
Your contacts with him on the latter, that is the on the case of desegregation, were over several years. Two years or so.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Well, you have to put that—my contacts with North Carolina were over a few years. I had almost no direct contact with Bill Friday. I think I did send people down there. I think I sent David Tatel, who ran the Office for Civil Rights. And I sent Dick Beattie, who was then probably the General Counsel of HEW, down there. But I'm not sure I ever had a direct conversation with him on that subject. I just can't remember.
WILLIAM LINK:
Let me back up a little bit and ask you about the early development of the desegregation case, with regard to North Carolina. In the spring of 1977 the case was thrust to your attention, I guess, because of the order of Judge Pratt.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Right.

Page 4
WILLIAM LINK:
Which required that your department do something and develop a set of criteria in the spring of '77. And that—the chronology of that, I gather, is somewhere between April and July, the criteria were developed. I wondering, as best as you can recollect, I know this has been fourteen years, what do you remember as being the main considerations and objectives, insofar as you had contact with the criteria. I know you —
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
And really—let me just preface everything I say that if the documents show something different, go by the documents.
WILLIAM LINK:
Yeah.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
And not by my memory. The objective was to promote the desegregation of higher education. The techniques, as I recall, were to, you know, have courses in white colleges that were not in black colleges, and vice-versa, among other things. We expected, as a general matter, that North Carolina would have been, since Friday was regarded as a progressive—one of the most progressive southern educators, that North Carolina would have been one of the first states to agree. As it turned out they were

Page 5
the last to come to terms with desegregation. I guess what we did not account for was the number of black colleges in North Carolina, which I guess created a serious problem for Bill Friday.
WILLIAM LINK:
Made it a more complex problem, you think, from his point of view? Or your point of view also.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
I don't know whether—Look, I know one thing, in my years at HEW, that when we tried to desegregate or enforce civil rights laws for women, for the disabled, for hispanics, we had virtually no resistance. When we tried to enforce the civil rights laws for blacks, we had resistance everywhere.
WILLIAM LINK:
That was true all along —
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
North Carolina was no exception. That was true north, south, east, and west. But, in this case, North Carolina was by far the most resistant of the southern states. I think it was numbers. I think there was just larger numbers of blacks. Larger numbers of black universities. And that's why the resistance was larger. But you'd have to ask them. I can't judge their motives.

Page 6
WILLIAM LINK:
In general, in the negotiations, that involved the Department, there was—obviously, you were a very busy person and you delegated responsibility. At certain points you must have been involved. Did you work through the political leadership to any great extent, for example, Governor Hunt, did you —
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
I'm sure I talked to Governor Hunt about it. But, not —
WILLIAM LINK:
Not a lot?
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Just to urge him to do it. I mean, I talked to other southern governors. You have to remember there was another thing going on at the same time. I was in the middle of the anti-smoking—I was mounting the anti-smoking campaign. And there was, you know, North Carolina was the number one state fighting that. And that was being fought by Governor Hunt. Jesse Helms was trying to get riders on appropriations bills to take away our funds for any anti-smoking effort. I mean it was—so, it was kind of—I mean, there were cartoons. In fact, I've got one on my wall. They did cartoons of me down there. Political cartoons. So, it wasn't—just trying to see this one. [pause] Uh, [pause] I mean I just—I think that problem, that complicated and made less effective

Page 7
my ability to deal with the political structure. I could call the governor of Virginia, I could call the governor of Alabama, or the governor of Texas, and the governor of South Carolina, I didn't have any problem. And I could call Jim Hunt, whose a friend of mine, but there was, you know, he was under—he was at war over the smoking campaign. Hunt and Jesse Helms went to President Carter asking to fire me. So, it was not a, you know, we weren't having a—it was—that element, in terms of making the situation more complicated. The element of the ability to have a discourse with the political leadership was very difficult in North Carolina.
WILLIAM LINK:
So there was a definite connection between the desegregation case and the smoking—the whole smoking campaign.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Well, it made the political—it made my ability to use the political structure to get the colleges desegregated, it really hindered my ability to use the political structure.
WILLIAM LINK:
One of the things that I hear a lot of, and I've talked to a lot of people from—about this case from the University's point of view. And one of the things that you hear a lot of is that this perception,

Page 8
on their part, that the University was being singled out. And I'm wondering how you would respond to that.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Well, I think you can look at the other states. I mean, I don't think North Carolina was asked to do anything that the other states weren't asked to do. I—so, in that sense I don't think they were being singled out. I mean, they were singled out in the sense that they became the only university, the only state, that wouldn't agree. And, you know, it was not easy on our part either, because you have to remember we were sitting there with Judge Pratt. I mean, a Federal judge, sitting in Washington, DC, with a clerk, or two, desegregating the school, higher education systems, of what, eleven states, or nine states?
WILLIAM LINK:
Yes.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
You know, a case that would never have occurred had the Nixon administration just gone along on some rational pace. And desegregated and enforced the law.
WILLIAM LINK:
Did you —

Page 9
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
I tried to get relieved, you know, from all those court orders. On the ground that we were ready to enforce the law. Because I had another court order with another judge who was running the Office of Civil Rights.
WILLIAM LINK:
So, you were feeling considerable pressure?
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Well, it was pressure from the court.
WILLIAM LINK:
From the court?
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Sure. See, at one point Joe Rauh, who was—I don't know who he was representing. Who brought that suit?
WILLIAM LINK:
LDF.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
I guess he was representing them. But, was he?
WILLIAM LINK:
Yes.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Yeah. Joe Rauh, I think he was—was that the case in which he moved to have me held in contempt?

Page 10
WILLIAM LINK:
That's right.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Yeah. Griffin Bell sent me a hacksaw.
WILLIAM LINK:
That's right.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
[Laughter] Yeah.
WILLIAM LINK:
You recounted that in your memoirs, as a matter of fact. Yeah. Tell me about the—what you recall about the general condition of—you mentioned there was a kind of policy of neglect toward the OCR in the Nixon administration—Nixon and Ford administration, I guess.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Yeah. Well, they just didn't enforce the civil rights laws. They didn't enforce the employment laws. And they didn't enforce the education laws. They weren't requiring school plans. And that's what brought all these cases to court.
WILLIAM LINK:
Yeah. And so you were—one thing that was on your mind when you became Secretary was to revive the office and —
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
No, revive the office, and I also did—and maybe I did it in the Office of Civil Rights case,

Page 11
distinguished from this case. I don't know which case. I went to court in one of the cases or got Justice to go to court on my behalf, and asked that we be relieved of the court order, and let us run—that we would enforce the law, that it was a new administration, and the judge wouldn't let go.
WILLIAM LINK:
I see, so technically the office was under the court's control?
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Right. In fact, if you go back—now, I can't—it was the other case. I wanted to change the whole system by which the Office of Civil Rights considered cases. Now, most of these are individual cases. This is not the school case. And in that situation—and I was inhibited in making that much efficient, by the court order. So, I took a few shots at the judge, at some Bar Association meeting, somewhere along the way, and he got very pissed-off.
WILLIAM LINK:
Uh-huh. How did you perceive the office as operating? I know in your Governing America you mentioned that your predecessor, as Secretary, had warned you that the OCR was—or could have been, had the potential to be semiautonomous, independent —

Page 12
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
I didn't, I mean, I tried as best I could to bring that whole department under control. I put a very good guy in there, David Tatel.
WILLIAM LINK:
And were you confident —
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
The first General Counsel I named was Peter Libassi, who had run the office in the Johnson administration, in the end. So I thought I had the ability to control it. I think we brought it under greater control, you know.
WILLIAM LINK:
In the lower bureaucracy, mid-level bureaucracy was —
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Well, I mean, it's a combination of leading them and controlling them.
WILLIAM LINK:
Yeah.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
I wished I was as good as they think I was now.
WILLIAM LINK:
Yeah. Tell me about your sense of being in sync with David Tatel. Did you always feel as though whatever he did was something that you were happy with?

Page 13
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
No. I mean, like anybody else, I mean, we agreed and disagreed. I mean, I had a lot of very bright, I believe, very bright, talented, and aggressive people working for me. And by no means, with respect to any of the them, did we always agree.
WILLIAM LINK:
Yeah. That's something you wanted, I guess, was disagreement.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
I wanted guys to tell me what they thought.
WILLIAM LINK:
Yeah. Yeah. What about the White House? Tell me about the—obviously the White House was under considerable pressure on this case and the tobacco case.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
I think I recounted everything —
WILLIAM LINK:
Everything you recall in the book?
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Everything I recall about the White House in the book.
WILLIAM LINK:
Yeah.

Page 14
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
And you can rely on that. I mean, I checked, everything I wrote in that, every quote in that book I checked with the people that said them.
WILLIAM LINK:
Oh, did you? And I was wondering was you—you have a very specific account there, was that based memory totally, or?
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
On which now?
WILLIAM LINK:
In the book.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
On the OCR thing?
WILLIAM LINK:
Yes.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
No. I checked with people.
WILLIAM LINK:
Oh, you checked with people directly.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Yeah. That was not—I had a young man working for me, I guess, for about eighteen months.
WILLIAM LINK:
I see.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
— on that. And we called people. I'm very proud of that. I mean, I—in that whole book

Page 15
the only complaint I got was from a guy named Bob Myers, who's a social security actuary guru, who questioned two of the numbers in the social security chapter. But aside from that—and I don't think he was right, they were certainly debatable—but, aside from that nobody questioned me on any fact in my book. Well, maybe they will when you interview them. I don't know.
WILLIAM LINK:
Yeah. Tell me about the breakdown of the negotiations in 1979. I don't want you to repeat what you said in the book, but I'd like for you to elaborate. One of the things —
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
I can't even—I have no—I just don't remember.
WILLIAM LINK:
Don't remember? Yeah.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
I'm sorry. Have you talked to Dick Beattie?
WILLIAM LINK:
No I haven't. I've been kind of—I wrote him a letter today, as a matter of fact.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Okay. You should talk to him. You talked to Tatel. You might also talk to Hale Champion.

Page 16
He wasn't deeply involved in it, but he was involved. He's up at Harvard at Kennedy School of Government.
WILLIAM LINK:
Is there anyone else who comes to mind that —
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Those are the ones I remember.
WILLIAM LINK:
Those are the key ones. Let me ask you just one final question about this case. In retrospect, do you think there is anything you would have done differently? In terms of prosecuting the case? Or in terms of—this might be an unfair question, but—
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Well, I just don't—I'd have to go back into it. I mean, with the things we could have done better, I'm sure there were things. But I think under the circumstances we did it about as well as we could. In my own mind I always had misgivings about having a federal district judge sitting in Washington desegregating school districts in eleven states, or whatever it was, around the country, and the ability to do that intelligently and fairly. Two, I never understood the kind of wholesale resistance—I mean, you know, I sent Tatel down—we had—you know, I sent Tatel and somebody else down there to go visit these black schools because I thought if we could get

Page 17
North Carolina citizens to see the dramatic difference in quality, I mean, they were both separate and unequal, that we might be able to get a little support from them. And thirdly, this is not a misgiving but I, you know, I would not underestimate the added difficulty brought about by two things: One, the large number of blacks and black colleges involved, which clearly increased the resistance of Bill Friday and his board, and the white establishment down there. And secondly, the anger of North Carolina financial community and tobacco community over the anti-smoking campaign, which made it very difficult for politicians like Jim Hunt, who's basically a responsible person, not basically, he is a responsible person and a good governor. And I think Friday was a very good university chancellor. But it made it very difficult, if not impossible, for Hunt to seem to be dealing with me. You know, whereas, I think in Virginia I was dealing with Miles [Mills] Godwin, who was a, you know, had been a very much more conservative than Friday, or Hunt, much more opposed to desegregating, but in two or three phone conversations we had a deal. And that—but he didn't have any, you know, I wasn't carrying any baggage in Virginia, any added baggage.
WILLIAM LINK:
The black colleges, of course, had a certain set of vested interests here.

Page 18
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Well, absolutely. And that created its own set of problems that I didn't mention that. But that was true everywhere. Now, maybe the numbers in North Carolina made that a little more difficult. That was true everywhere. They had their own bureaucracies. They wanted to run their own universities. They were all scared they'd get swallowed up.
WILLIAM LINK:
Right. Did you have much, I mean, what was exactly the role of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund?
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
I just couldn't tell you.
WILLIAM LINK:
It wasn't anything that you —
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Nothing that reached me.
WILLIAM LINK:
That reached you? Yeah.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Have you talked to Tatel?
WILLIAM LINK:
He—we're going to talk eventually. I'm looking forward to talking to him. Let me go back to the Task Force, the White House Task Force. The Task Force didn't get anywhere, I gather. The report that

Page 19
was written wasn't adopted, in fact didn't it get sort of buried? Is that accurate to say?
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Well, I'd have to go look at it. I mean, we had a lot of task forces. As far as what you mean by adopted, in terms of it—it had one important effect, which was that we had ammunition to keep the government focused on putting its education money in the hands of poor people. That was important. When you get down to specific recommendations I think you find with respect to all of those task forces, and there was scores of scores of them in the Johnson years, that we did—we accomplished most of what seemed to make sense to us.
WILLIAM LINK:
Uh-huh, I see. Any final sort of reflections on Bill Friday that you'd like to add— I mean, general sorts of things?
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
No, I mean, I think he's—I think it's—is he still alive?
WILLIAM LINK:
Yes.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Have you interviewed him?
WILLIAM LINK:
Yes, at some length.

Page 20
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Yeah. I don't know. I mean, I think he always struck me as a first-class guy. And I think he was just, you know, caught in something.
WILLIAM LINK:
Yeah. And was caught between forces that—inside North Carolina that affected his —
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Yeah. Black colleges. Difficult board.
WILLIAM LINK:
Yeah.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Difficult political situation.
WILLIAM LINK:
Sure.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
And at that stage in his life, among the things he was willing to stick his head up for, this was not one of them.
WILLIAM LINK:
Yeah. And your dealings with the board, you found the board to be, or your impression of the board, at least, was that it was pulling him?
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Yeah, you have to—Tatel and Beattie will both be very good on that.

Page 21
WILLIAM LINK:
They'd have more detail?
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
A lot.
WILLIAM LINK:
Well, this has been very helpful and I certainly appreciate you taking the time. I know you're —
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Okay. And as I said I'd add Hale Champion to your list of people.
WILLIAM LINK:
Okay. And he's at Harvard.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Yeah. Harvard School of Govern—Kennedy School of Government.
WILLIAM LINK:
Do you think Libassi is —
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
I'd add Libassi. Yeah, I'm sure he was involved in that.
WILLIAM LINK:
Yeah. Okay.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Alrighty.
WILLIAM LINK:
Thank you again.

Page 22
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Okay. Good luck and I look forward to seeing your book.
WILLIAM LINK:
Okay, I'll send it to you.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
All right, thank you.
WILLIAM LINK:
Thanks a lot.
JOSEPH CALIFANO:
Bye-bye.
END OF INTERVIEW