Title: Oral History Interview with Daniel H. Pollitt, April 5, 1991. Interview L-0064-7.
Interviewer: McColl, Ann
Interviewee: Pollitt, Daniel H.
Abstract: This is the seventh interview in a nine-part series of interviews with civil liberties lawyer Daniel H. Pollitt. In this interview, Pollitt focuses on the Speaker Ban controversy as it unfolded on the campus of the University of North Carolina during the mid-1960s. According to Pollitt, conservative state legislators enacted the Speaker Ban because they opposed the wave of student activism at the University of North Carolina during the early 1960s. Pollitt explains that he saw it as a campaign of anti-intellectualism. After outlining how the Speaker Ban was passed by the General Assembly on the sly during the last day of the 1963 legislative session, Pollitt explains the reaction of UNC President William Friday and UNC Chancellor William Aycock. Opposition to the Speaker Ban was widespread on campus, and Pollitt, as a member of the American Association of University Professors, bided his time until the next legislative session of 1965 by monitoring the enforcement of the ban and speaking out against it. Pollitt explains that the threat by the Southern Association of Colleges and Universities to repeal accreditation of North Carolina schools provided the impetus for the General Assembly to withdraw the ban in 1965. He describes how the General Assembly nonetheless encouraged the trustees at North Carolina colleges and universities to enact similar regulations on their own. The interview concludes with Pollitt's discussion of how he participated in putting together a lawsuit to challenge the new regulations and how Herbert Aptheker, an avowed communist, was brought to UNC to provide fodder for the lawsuit. Ultimately, the Ban was ruled "unconstitutionally vague." Pollitt's comments in this interview reveal how southern legislators and comparatively liberal universities (UNC in particular) often found themselves at odds during a tumultuous era of social change.