Title: Oral History Interview with Joseph Califano, April 5, 1991. Interview L-0125.
Interviewer: Link, William
Interviewee: Califano, Joseph
Abstract: Joseph Califano served as the Secretary of the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) from 1977 to 1979. In this interview, he discusses the main considerations and objectives of the criteria for desegregating higher education, particularly in North Carolina. Califano assesses former University of North Carolina Chancellor William Friday's general policy-making style, arguing that Friday's usual progressive thinking was restricted by the university's Board of Governors, the state's white political establishment, and the large number of black colleges throughout the state. Califano further explains how his anti-tobacco stance raised the ire of North Carolina officials. Because of these factors, Friday and North Carolina politicians resisted Califano's involvement in the state's higher education system. Contrary to North Carolinians' perceptions, Califano argues that the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) did not single out UNC for its reluctance to desegregate. He contends that the Nixon and Ford administrations failed to enforce civil rights laws, which led to an increased involvement of the federal courts. In turn, the federal courts applied significant pressure on him to pursue the desegregation of higher education. Califano admits that he sought to reframe how the OCR considered cases and remove the Office from the control of federal courts. Toward the end of the interview, Califano evaluates his tenure as a HEW official.