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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Robert W. (Bob) Scott, September 18, 1986. Interview C-0036. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Accomplishments as governor

Scott remembers his term as governor during the late 1960s and early 1970s, a period of civil unrest. He is proud that he maintained a sense of relative calm during the civil rights era, and cites two examples of work he is proud of, both of which illustrate an interest in rural community development.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Robert W. (Bob) Scott, September 18, 1986. Interview C-0036. 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, you became governor. A lot of that's on the public record as to what you accomplished and what the fights were, but I'm wondering personally what did you enjoy about being governor?
Well, there were a number of highlights, of course. I'm sometimes asked that do I think is the most significant accomplishment of my administration. I find that very, very difficult to deal with. Remember that during this period of time from 1969 through '72 was a time of great civil unrest in our state. There was the civil rights issue. There was the Vietnam War issue. There was a great deal of marching in the streets and so on. It was a turbulent time, a time of confrontation, unrest, tensions. I spent a great deal of time dealing with those things. I think the great story of North Carolina during the period of the early 1960's on through 1971 and '2 is what did not happen in North Carolina during Governor Sanford's administration, Governor Moore's, mine, and perhaps a little bit of Holshouser's before things began to settle down. Sure, we had some racial tensions. We had some burnings. We had to call out the national guard a few times and those were bad enough. But on reflection, nothing really bad, of a holocaust type thing that some other states incurred. We worked hard with varying degrees of success to try to keep those incidents, to avoid them if at all possible, and to keep them at a minimum, considering the destruction of property and life. We had teams of people working in the public schools. Those people are still here today up in the Department of Public Instruction, Dudley Flood and Gene Crosby, Jim, oh gosh, I can't think of his last name, and Robert Ed Strother, who just retired June 30 in this department. Two blacks and two whites and they would go into the schools of the state when racial situations occurred, and those guys could diffuse an issue about as good as any I've seen. It's true we didn't win them all as evidenced by having to send the national guard into A&T State University to storm the building, which was Scott Hall by the way. We had to call out the highway patrol on the UNC campus. That was the cafeteria strike. It didn't relate to civil rights. That was a wage issue, an administrative issue. Of course, the Wilmington Ten situation. Up in Oxford, we had to call the guard out up there. But, by and large, I think we came out very well given the climate of the times, the tensions that existed. That was the climate in which I operated. I wish it could have been more positive, and we could have directed more of our time and energies to doing those things that we really ought to have been doing. I guess the greatest satisfactions I got were in the little things. Two stand out in my mind even today, one in the extreme eastern part of the state and one in the extreme west. In the eastern part of the state on the little island of Ocracoke, which is in Hyde County or Dare——oh my, I don't want that on the record, I've got to look it up——but anyway they did not have the population there to support a strong public school. In fact the few students they had of high school age had to, they got on a ferry and rode over to Hatteras to attend the school there. The elementary school students on the island had a one room school, if you will. Well, they finally got together enough money to build a nice new school, open classroom concept, but they didn't have any equipment. The county didn't have any money to buy any equipment. It took everything they had to build the school plus some monies they got donated. I was talking to Dr. Craig Phillips, the superintendent of public instruction, about it. He and I worked very closely together during those years. We finally decided that all these vendors that sell this equipment to the state of North Carolina——my gosh, they made plenty of money off the state——they ought to be able to give some equipment. So we approached the vendors and said, "Look, if you want to get some publicity and do a good thing, why don't you give audio-visual equipment, supplies and materials. Let's equip this school like it ought to be done." And they did. There for a long time they had one of the best equipped little schools in the state of North Carolina. They had good teachers there for just a handful of students from grades one through eight or nine. So that was one thing. I felt very good about that. Two was up in the mountains, Avery or Mitchell counties or one of those counties up here. They had an old community up there that originally had a mica mine, and it was a little mining community. The mine had long since closed down. The company had originally built a little water system there for the people in town. Well, when the company, the mine closed down and the company moved out years ago, the water system deteriorated, and those folks up there didn't have any water supply. They were piping water from a spring, and it wasn't reliable. It wasn't sufficient and so forth. They were literally having to walk to get water from a long way. For some reason, they were not able to get any federal funds for some reason to help. Some lady up there wrote me a letter about their condition, and I called up to a friend up there to sort of verify that's what it was. They said, "Yes, that's true. They do have a very difficult problem." They were way up in a remote area of the mountains. I put a staff person on that full-time. I said with all the federal programs we've got——and that was during the period of time when there were plenty of federal programs——I said "to be sure somewhere, somehow we can arrange to get them some money." Well, it make a long story, short, they did. I think they formed a little water coop and got some farmer's home funds or something like that, and got them a little water system up there. I still, occasionally, get letters from those people thanking me and reminding me. It's because somebody would take some time and listen to their problems. Well, those are a couple of things that stand out. Sure, the record shows the bigger things we did, and I won't get into that.