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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Martin Gerry, August 28, 1991. Interview L-0157. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

North Carolina's unique potential to integrate successfully goes unmet

North Carolina had a unique financial, human, and institutional capacity to integrate successfully, Gerry argues in this selection. He expected that the process would yield more success than it did.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Martin Gerry, August 28, 1991. Interview L-0157. 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.

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I mean, I think it's a great vehicle ߞI'm sure you've exploredߞI will say this: I think North Carolina, in comparison with all of the other southern states that I've dealt with, except maybe Florida, and that's questionable, clearly had the capacity to do the most. And if it didn't do the most, in a sense of really significantߞI mean, capacity meaning the human capacity, the financial capacity, the institutional capacity. You know, when you talk about North Carolina in the same breath with, say, Arkansas, they're just fundamentally different. They're not the same thing at all. Where Arkansas had the capacity of accomplishing is, what I'm saying is, tremendously less. And I think in terms of outcome, from what I can see, and that's very superficial, they never did that. Now, whether that was because of the politics or the leadership, whatever it was, it wasn't capacity. And that's the one thing that I think I stillߞit keeps me wondering about North Carolina.
All this made North Carolina a special case?
In a way.
Deserve special attention.
Well, had we gone down to Oklahoma or Arkansas and started arguing about veterinary medicine schools, it's kind of like arguing about nuclear fission in the Olympic[?] times. I mean, they were just trying to get the damned university to run. They weren't in this level of detail. They really did haveߞI mean, the leadershipߞit's hard to describe thisߞbut if you took the top five people in the leadership of several of those states and looked at them in comparison with Bill Friday's people, you know, there just wasn't any comparison in terms of capability, support systems, and resources. I don't know why or how but, I mean, it's clear to me, obviously, North Carolina put a lot of money into higher education. And Friday had doneߞand had some extensive investments. That obviously had a lot to do with that. So, to me, there was a lot more to work with. Now, you can argue that that made it a lot harder and maybe it did. But that's the balancing act I would do with North Carolina. Because of the ten states I'd sayߞand even Florida, Florida might be the other one to discuss. But there just wasn't that much there. Virginia is an interesting case because of Jefferson and the University of Virginia. And, indeed, Virginia at the time put a lot of effort into the University of Virginia. But it didn't system-wide. Now, that's changed some. But North Carolina really had a lot going. That's, you know, just an observation. If you looked at, you know, what happened in the six states I wouldߞhad it been a question of just everybody doing the same level of effort I would have expected the outcomes in North Carolina to have been a lot better. Because I think they started from a much better base.