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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Paul Green, May 30, 1975. Interview B-0005-3. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Fred Beal, Clyde Hoey, and the politics of labor violence

Green remembers Fred Beal, a labor organizer who fled to Russia after a second-degree murder conviction in the death of a law enforcement officer during the violent Gastonia Mills strike in 1929. With the help of Green, Beal turned himself in, and Governor Clyde Hoey seemed to promise leniency. Later, however, he told Green he intended that Beal would serve out his sentence.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Paul Green, May 30, 1975. Interview B-0005-3. 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

Well, I don't guess that I told this to Billy Barnes, but to somebody recently, I talked about Fred. As I say, when I got back from Europe and read about this trial in Gastonia, my heart was in sympathy with Fred Beal and there was a girl, a Wiggins girl ….
Ella Mae Wiggins.
There was a ballad written and I heard her sing it when she came through here. I thought about trying to write a play, but I never did. So, I had some correspondence with Roger Baldwin, this head of the Civil Liberties Union and Roger had already put up bail for Fred, $20,000, and he was going to brought in for trial. Anyway, he was free on that bond, and as I remember, and I may have some of the facts wrong, you would know maybe, he skipped to Russia, and I would hear about Fred. I know that he wrote a book or two.
Proletarian Journey.
Yes. But as I remember, I don't have any correspondence with him from Russia. I was surprised one day to get a letter, and I don't know why he wrote to me except that maybe I had been in some cases and he had read about them. Anyway, I had a letter from him and he was, I think, in New Hampshire. He had come back from Russia and he had said, "I would like to surrender and take my punishment." Evidently, he had had enough of Russia, like Paul Robeson and Richard Wright and all those fellows. So, he said, "Would you arrange to have me returned to justice? I would like to do it through you." So, I wrote him a letter and said, "Sure Fred, I will be glad to do anything that I can." So, back and forth and I think that maybe I had a letter from his counsel. He had a lawyer, and he said that he would come to Raleigh on a certain day and that he would, if I would get a room at the Sir Walter Raleigh Hotel and let him know what room, he would come to that room at a certain hour, ten o'clock in the morning, and surrender himself to the law. Well, I said, "O.k." Then, I got to thinking about it, that I should have some witnesses. So, I told Frank Graham and said, "Frank, would you go with me and help receive Fred Beal?" He said, "Sure, Paul, I'll be glad to." Then I called Jonathan Daniels, the editor of the News and Observer and said, "Jonathan, how about this?" He said, "Sure." So, on that particular day, Frank and Jonathan and I went over there. I had made a reservation and let Fred know. Anyway, we were sitting in this room waiting and pretty soon, there was a knock on the door and there was Fred. I had never met him before. He was a sort of a short fellow, had sort of red hair. With him was somebody, his counsellor. After a few minutes, we chatted a bit and the man with him said, "Well, Fred, good luck." He shook hands and left. In the meantime, I called Governor Clyde Hoey. So, the governor was waiting for the four of us to walk up Fayetteville Street to the governor's mansion, the old statehouse. We go in and meet the governor. Governor Hoey was very glad. He said, "Mr. Beal, you have done a noble thing and as governor, I'm going to remember this. I am going to see that this accrues to your credit," and so on. I thought that Fred would be out in thirty days, that's what it sounded like. So, we turned him over to Governor Hoey and the sheriff comes in and we shake hands and they took Fred away to the penitentiary in Raleigh. Now and then, I would write to him. He didn't stay there very long and the first thing that I knew, I had a note from him and he had been moved to the tough farm, Caledonia Farm, way down in eastern North Carolina, where they put the bad guys. He wrote and said, "Your governor sent me down here." Anyway, the governor promised me, he said, "Paul, before I go out of office, I'm going to do something for Fred. I am going to lighten his sentence a great deal." I tried to pin him down as to how much it would be. He had done so much and the governor was going out in about six months. I tried to urge him to make it a year, but I never got any answer. Well, it came on and pretty soon, I knew that it was the next week that the governor was going out of office. So, I called Governor Hoey. I said, "Governor, I would like to get in to see you if I could." He said, "Sure, come on over." I said, "I want to talk with you a little bit about Fred Beal." He said, "Oh, sure, sure. Come on over, Paul." So, I go over and this time, I go alone. I don't bother Jonathan and Frank. I talked with the governor and said, "Now, governor, you are going out of office next week and I want you to remember about Fred Beal." He said, "Oh yes, I remember Fred. Fred did a good thing in turning himself in. But I am not going to take a day off. He has got to serve his sentence." His face got hard. I said, "But, governor …." He said, "No, no. You brought him in here and turned him over and we took him to prison and had him examined and you know what? He had syphillis." I said, "Well, I hope that you got him cured." He said, "He had syphillis, I'm telling you. I sent him to Caledonia Farm and I reckon that they took care of him down there. When I found that out, I said, ‘No, not one day."’ That's the truth.