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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with David DeVries, November 23 and December 2, 1998. Interview S-0010. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Conservative influence of donor foundation

The influence of the Smith Richardson Foundation, which supports the CCL, has made the organization somewhat conservative, DeVries believes. This conservatism reveals itself in CCL's efforts to improve the private sector, not to mention the fact that the organization was composed mainly of white males.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with David DeVries, November 23 and December 2, 1998. Interview S-0010. 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

But I think of it as some conservatism in terms of not necessarily politics but in somewhat trying to stay with the status quo. I think of it as the jest that is often used that a Southerner will be polite to you until he has to kill you. But the reliance on civility and keeping things in a status situation is I think one of the ways I would characterize a Southern institution. I certainly would characterize the UNC-Chapel Hill as a Southern institution.
I think of it not so much as a Southern institution but it is clearly, and has been from day one, a strong conservative influence on that institution driven by the fact that its principal benefactors represent a family that is one of the great industrial families of the U.S. And also, a family that has sparked conservative thinking in the economic and political domains over the decades. The Richardson Foundation, if you look at who it's funded. All you have to do is look at who got money from the Smith Richardson Foundation over the years. And Irving Crystal I don't know if you're acquainted with his work, but they sponsored work by people like Irving Crystal in the 70's and 80's that led, that that was the intellectual bedrock of the Reagan administration. So the research and the conservative thinking and the political and economic domain in the 70's and 80's in part is due to the Richardson family. So whenever we would go in front of the board, those assumptions just played out in the evaluations they made of the work of the Center. Had we gone out early on and not focused on corporate America, the board would have been disappointed. One of the big coups, I remember one of the huge coups with the board was a project in which we were supported by IBM. Three of us got IBM in the late 70's to sponsor a research program. And my God, just taking that to the board, that gave us at least a couple years breathing space as an institution. So that was what they valued. They valued us being connected with the mainline American corporations being seen as legitimate and being able to be of use to those people. That was a value set that was inculcated in us very early on. So if that's Southern, I don't think it's so much Southern, but it is conservative in the sense that our job is to promote the existing institutions, particularly in the private sector. To prolong them and make these important institutions even more effective. And I felt that pressure regularly. Beyond that, you've got the reality that these were basically, 95% of the people around us were white males and that carried with it its own set of assumptions and prejudices and all of that. So yeah, I mean, I doubt I could have been in the role I was in had I been a female or an African-American, that's clear. We were called by Bill Friday "the young turks." And that had its own specific kind of image in their minds.