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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Richard Arrington, July 18, 1974. Interview A-0001. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Black candidate passed over for vacant council seat

Arrington describes how, when a vacancy arose on the city council, the council passed over an African American candidate who had been the next highest vote-getter in favor of a white candidate.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Richard Arrington, July 18, 1974. Interview A-0001. 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

RICHARD ARRINGTON:
Well, when the vacancy occurred, some of us pushed for U. W. Clemons and U. W., of course, was the next in line in terms of the number of votes he got. However, met with strong opposition. Most of this was done quietly, but being on the council, being in meetings behind closed doors, I know about a lot of the opposition that goes on. There was, of course, a lot of opposition to U. W. Clemon. We got letters from white attorneys in this town who were opposed to him. And I don't know, U.W. did not run strongly in the white boxes, even those that are supposed to be liberal in this town. I don't know whether it's because of his image as an attorney who fights segregation cases here or what it is. But he is obviously a very capable young man as was two or three of the black incumbents who ran. Very bright, very able young people. But anyway, when it came down to a vote, when the council began, when we began polling the council on filling the vacancy, U. W. Clemon was more or less eliminated on the first informal poll we took as councilman. He simply did not have enough votes among the members of the council. Now to what extent this is the result of pressure from other people on the council members, I don't know. Because a lot of this kind of thing is done quietly. Many people who might bring pressure, say, to keep U. W. Clemon off the council or to keep council members from voting for U. W. Clemon of course were not coming to me to say it. They would not even bother to say anything to me. I think they feel it would be futile. So, many times when pressure is being applied I never feel it directly. It is applied on council members who, I would assume, support positions taken by certain organizations, organizations in the community. But he did not have the votes. It really came down to a minister . . . started talking about a black . . . Rev J. L. Wynne [?] , a black minister. And he was sort of in the running. He was more acceptable to members of the city council in the discussions we had than say U. W. Clemon was. Some of the council members, including some who are considered to be liberal, who are generally liberal in their view points, were dissatisfied with the type of race U. W. Clemons ran. The fact that he criticized the city. They felt that some of the criticism was unjustified. So he was just. . . . He really, in my opinion, only had strong support from about two or three council members when it came to selecting a person. Mr Harring [?] , who was a white . . . appointed . . . was more or less a compromise person, candidate. We had sort of deadlocked on people. Rev Ware [Wynn?], on one hand a black minister, and on the other hand a white business man that was considered to be conservative. And we could not break the deadlock. And so Mr Harring was more or less the compromise candidate. He was sort of acceptable to everybody because he's the county Democratic committee chairman and had worked with both groups and had kept more or less low profile. So he was sort of a compromise candidate.