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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with William Dallas Herring, February 14, 1987. Interview C-0034. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Governor Hodges ably handles desegregation crisis in North Carolina

Herring believes that Luther Hodges was the right governor for North Carolina during desegregation because he was able to navigate between the demands of integrationists and the protests of segregationists. Herring's efforts to do the same, in his opinion, resulted in his branding as a segregationist.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with William Dallas Herring, February 14, 1987. Interview C-0034. 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, there are some things you can't get on one page. You have to be concerned about bringing somebody along in the decision process. You have to be a little skillful with that. The impact that Hodges had on the state was tremendous. I think he was the right man for the time. You never quite knew whether he was for integration or segregation or indifferent to the whole idea. He kept even those closest to him fooled for the whole period of the time he was in office. He had to contend with Dr. Lake, who was the deputy attorney general, and you know his ardent belief in segregation, and Tom Pearsall and that group of the old guard, and then the younger crowd, the professional educators who wanted above all else to see that the schools were preserved. After all, in Farmville, Virginia, they were closing them down. The governor of Virginia, the governor of Alabama, the governor of Arkansas, a number of southern governors were talking the same line—massive resistance to it. It severely frightened us. I came up as you did, Jay, believing that segregation was a way of life. We had that as a law, and it never occurred to me that we would ever change it. It was a shock when it came, and I had been taught to uphold the law. I wrote a little paper for the Pearsall Commission. You heard me mention Judge Varser who had been on the Supreme Court. Well, I'm not a lawyer, but I tried to be logical in my statement. Judge Varser read it and complimented me for an analytical statement about the problem and the possible solutions to it. This man Chafe 19 at Duke got hold of a copy of it and published in his book that I was a redneck, because [laughter] I opposed integration. 19 Chafe, William H. Civilities and Civil Rights. New York: Oxford University Press, 1980. [For a convincing refutation of Chafe's statement about me see Batchelor, John Ellsworth. Save Our Schools: Dallas Herring and the Governors Special Advisory Committee on Education. (1983) Masters Thesis, UNC-Greensboro. I didn't oppose it. I was just trying to find a way through the maze that we were confronted with, and the lawyers were indifferent to.