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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Dale Bumpers, June 17, 1974. Interview A-0026. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Describing the "emerging South" in contrast to the "New South"

Bumpers offers his thoughts on the nature of the southern political landscape during the early 1970s. Whereas some contemporaries were beginning to speak of a "New South" in those years, Bumpers argues that a more appropriate term is the "emerging South." Bumpers explains this concept, focusing specifically on his experiences as governor of Arkansas, and emphasizes the importance of social and economic changes that were characterizing the South in new ways.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Dale Bumpers, June 17, 1974. Interview A-0026. 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

Let me ask one final question. We're doing a book on the South. The premise or assertion is that it is different than the rest of the country, politically and governmentally and so on. In your period of experience with the national government, Congress and other, around the country, are there any basic differences between the South and other regions of the country?
There's probably 5% difference in a number of people who would still be considered very conservative as opposed to the rest of the nation. But, you know, television and modern transportation has eliminated virtually all of that, the last vestige of those differences except. . . . There are still certain things that are the result of our geography and of our culture that still exist. And some of it I hope always will. When people say do you consider yourself a spokesman for the New South, I always say "Well, I don't like to use the term New South. I like to use the emerging South or the maturing South when I'm talking about economically and socially. But I never say New South because when you say New South you're sort of, by implication, saying we've abandoned the Old South. And there are a lot of things about the Old South that are worth keeping. The rural nature of the South for example. The intense concern of one person for another at the local level which has always been in existence in the South." Those are good traditions which I hope we never abandon. But philosophically and politically the South is very much like the rest of the nation. Even George McGovern got as many votes in Arkansas as he got in a lot of other states out of to South.
Would you mind elaborating just a little bit on what you see as the emerging South?
Yes. When I say the emerging South, I'm talking about socially and economically. Socially, the blacks in the South are probably as well off right now. . . . Certainly educationally they're better off in the South than they are in many sections of the country. And the South will begin to bear the fruit of their education of the blacks. They're already beginning to reap the benefits of educating blacks. And two, economically the South is rapidly becoming as viable as any other section of the country. The beautiful thing about the South is, you see, we have developed late, industrially. And it's my hopethat we're going to be able, before we industrialize much further. . . . One, you know we can be selective. We're trying to be selective in Arkansas right now. We're not inviting just anybody and everybody to come into this state that wants to come. As a matter of fact I'm not inviting just people into this state. Population growth is not one of the goals I've sought since I've been governor. We've increased our population by 6% in the last two years. And that's a little disturbing to me because that creates special problems and particularly in certain areas. But this is true all over the South. People are coming here because of a sort of different life style. I'm referring specifically to Arkansas. There is a leisurely life style. There's a strong work ethic in this state, but we have a leisurely, slow life style that is very appealing to people who come from metropolitan, urban areas in the midwest and the northeast. And they are coming here in great numbers. Industrially, they are coming for the same reasons. One, the South economically isn't past the point where there're good markets for their products in the South now. Levi Straus for example just located one of their biggest distribution centers in the United States in Little Rock because they can reach all the markets in the South and Southwest from here. And of course this adds to the economic growth of the state. So economically, last year for example, Arkansas had a 17% increase in the percentage of its per capita income. The highest in the nation. I haven't checked the other states in the South, but I expect you'll find that probably Georgia, Florida and maybe South Carolina were probably right in there pretty close to Arkansas as having tremendous increases in their percentage of per capita income growth. So what I'm saying is, the emerging South still has an opportunity to avoid a lot of pitfalls. And if we will take advantage of the experience that states such as New Jersey and Pennsylvania and California had, we can maintain this rich natural heritage that we have and still accommodate our own people as well as those who come here. And accommodate them with the same life style that we have enjoyed in the past and hope we'll enjoy in the future. Land use planning has more benefits for the South than it does any other section of the country, because we have more land left to preserve. We're the last real frontier so far as land is concerned.