Title: Oral History Interview with G. Sherwood Stewart, September 21, 2002. Interview R-0194.
Interviewer: Peterson, Sally
Interviewee: Stewart, G. Sherwood
Abstract: Raised in Smithfield, North Carolina, as the son of a tenant tobacco farmer, G. Sherwood Stewart knew at the age of ten that he wanted to become a tobacco auctioneer. Enamored with the level of skill required of auctioneers, Stewart put his passion for the career to early practice, learning the skill from local auctioneers C. E. "Snoxic" Stevenson and Jimmy Jollet. At the age of fifteen, he auctioned off some of his father's tobacco and within the next few years, he had carved out a decisive niche for himself. Often surprised by his youth, tobacco warehouse owners from Georgia to South Carolina to North Carolina to Kentucky came to know his talent as an auctioneer. From the late 1950s until the turn of the twentieth century, Stewart honed a unique auctioneering chant, combining clarity with elements of comedy, and garnered an impressive reputation throughout the Southeast as a particularly skilled auctioneer. Throughout the interview, Stewart offers numerous engaging anecdotes about his experiences as an auctioneer. Researchers steeped in the history of the tobacco industry will be particularly interested in Stewart's insider perspective on the relationship between buyer, seller, and auctioneer. Additionally, he stresses the centrality of the auctioneer to the sale of tobacco, focusing on their unique role of providing balance to tobacco sales and ensuring fairness to both buyers and sellers. Stewart offers some brief ruminations on the impact of the gradual transition away from auctioning tobacco towards the sale of tobacco via contract, suggesting that the quality of tobacco might have been adversely affected as a result.