Title: Oral History Interview with Peter Holmes, April 18, 1991. Interview L-0168.
Interviewer: Link, William
Interviewee: Holmes, Peter
Abstract: Peter Holmes became the Director of the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) in 1973 and held the position until 1975. Holmes's appointment coincided directly with Judge John H. Pratt's ruling in the Adams v. Richardson case that ten southern states needed to implement more rigorous policies of desegregation. After a brief discussion of how he became director of the OCR, Holmes delves into a description of the various challenges the OCR faced leading up to the Pratt decision in 1973. According to Holmes, the OCR had been primarily concerned with implementing desegregation in elementary and secondary schools, although they had begun to investigate the level of desegregation in higher institutions of education, as well. The Pratt decision, however, necessitated a shifting of the OCR's focus towards developing guidelines for desegregation in southern universities and colleges. The remainder of the interview is devoted to a discussion of the various factors that guided the policy-making process and the various challenges and obstacles the OCR faced in implementing those policies. Because the interview was conducted for a research project on desegregation in North Carolina, Holmes tends to focus on his interactions with North Carolina universities and colleges. In particular, he describes his interactions with and perceptions of William Friday, president of the University of North Carolina system, and he addresses tensions between UNC and the OCR both during and after his own administration. Holmes also devotes considerable attention to interactions between the OCR, the federal court system, the Legal Defense Fund (LDF), and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW). Other points of interest include Holmes's response to charges that the OCR was ineffective in implementing and enforcing desegregation and his emphasis on the dual system of higher education in the South as a unique challenge in determining desegregation policies.