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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Paul Hardin Jr., December 8, 1989. Interview C-0071. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

White pastors hurt their ministries by not taking risks and supporting integration

When white ministers advocated racial prejudice in the pulpit, they underestimated church members with talents to help the church transition to an integrated society. Hardin could back the <cite>Brown</cite> decision without losing his church because an influential member supported him.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Paul Hardin Jr., December 8, 1989. Interview C-0071. 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

What do you think were some of the lost opportunities which white ministers ignored over a period of time?
I think that the biggest mistake most of them made was that they ignored or did not realize the loyalty, deep down, of their members to the church and to Jesus Christ. I think that they underrated, underestimated, what they could count on. I remember when the decision was made about integrating the schools. I called the brightest laymen I had in my church in Birmingham. Multi-millionaire, he'd made it himself in the insurance business, although he never got to be president. Somebody else owned the business, and he did what he did, Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Alabama and all that. Most efficient chairman of the board I've ever had in my life. He never had any communication or did anything about the church that a copy of it didn't cross my desk from his desk. Well, when this decision was made about integrating the schools, I called him over the phone, and I said, "Ehney, I need to talk to you." Ehney Camp, University of Alabama, Phi Beta Kappa. I said, "I need to talk to you." Well, he said, "It's fortunate that you called me. I'm without my car. How about coming by and taking me home, and we'll sit in the car and talk." What we talked about was what had just been happening in court. And I said, "Now, Ehney, this could mean a rough time. I've got to tell you my position, and I want you to know that I'm going to back this decision of the court because I think it's right. And I'm going to call on you and every good man that we've got in the church to be loyal to the Methodist Church and to the courts of our land." He said, "You can count on me." And that was a great start right there because he had tremendous influence. I think a lot of people missed an opportunity to call in key people. Oh well, I think about
But that's important though. I forget right off hand the name of the man but he was a Baptist preacher from Lynchburg who taught at Yale while I was there. And he was saying that white ministers who have already made clear their position on race relations were in a far better position to take a stand for integration after the Supreme Court decision than other people were. He said you had to have established your credibility beforehand.