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Oral History Interview with Terry Sanford, May 14, 1976. Interview A-0328-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    Terry Sanford begins the interview by describing early impressions of his hometown of Laurinburg, North Carolina, and his family background. He notes that his interest in politics was awakened early—both by his father's support of underdog and liberal candidates and by the 1928 Alfred Smith presidential campaign. Sanford describes the Democratic political dynasties and discusses how the Democratic Party maintained its political stronghold on North Carolina as a result of effective political organizations and the state's one-party politics. Sanford's political education began in earnest as a student at the University of North Carolina, where he became influenced by the progressive and liberal politics of UNC president Frank Porter Graham and sociology professor Howard Odum. UNC's law school also served as a political training ground for Democratic candidates, says Sanford; there, he learned organizing and campaigning strategies from the Chapel Hill-influenced political leadership. He ran as president of the Young Democrats, an established political training group. Sanford discusses the growing rift between the conservative and progressive factions within the Democratic Party, which ruled politics in North Carolina at the time. He recalls the 1950 race-baiting senatorial campaign against Frank Porter Graham and Willis Smith. Learning from this, Sanford vowed to defend his platform aggressively against his opponent's negative campaigning. Sanford explains his decision not to run for governor against Luther Hodges in 1956, due in large part to his relative lack of political experience. After his decision, Sanford gained more political experience through the established ranks of the Democratic Party and run successfully for governor in 1960 against segregationist candidate I. Beverly Lake. Toward the end of the interview, Sanford offers his thoughts on the administrations of his three gubernatorial successors: Dan Moore, Robert Scott, and James Holshouser.
  • Economic migration patterns for white and black North Carolinians
  • Central power and campaign tactics of the mainstream Democratic Party
  • The 1928 Al Smith presidential campaign
  • Influence of Chapel Hill and Frank Porter Graham on Sanford's political progressivism
  • UNC School of Law developed North Carolina leaders
  • Divisions within the Democratic Party
  • North Carolina's one-party system increased gubernatorial power
  • Impact of Young Democrats and Frank Graham on Sanford's political endeavors
  • Sanford parallels his later political campaign with Graham's
  • Use of defensive campaigns
  • Sanford describes his political leadership ethics and tactics
  • Sanford assesses the leadership of his successors
  • Sanford explains his decision to not run for governor against Luther Hodges
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • Subjects
  • North Carolina--Politics and government
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.