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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Hodding Carter, April 1, 1974. Interview A-0100. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Mississippi's economic transformation

Carter reflects on the significance of the automated cotton picker on Mississippi's economy—the machine transformed the state. He agrees with the interviewer that the "R&D Center" (possibly Mississippi State's Southern Rural Development Center) is playing a significant role in guiding Mississippi's economic development.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Hodding Carter, April 1, 1974. Interview A-0100. 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

JACK BASS:
Let me ask you about one other thing, the R&D Center. How significant is that in the future of Mississippi?
HODDING CARTER:
I think what it stands for and what it tries to do is very important. You know, I don't think it's always successful. And I think that sometimes Its downright wrongheaded. But—let's put it this way. Mississippi is not going to get itself out of being last relatively by doing, you know, standard, conventional things in any area. I mean there's just no way. We don't have enough self generated capital. So any ways we can find shortcuts, any ways we can find more efficient ways to operate, whether it be in education, industry or whatever, those ways are important to us.
JACK BASS:
If you look at what has happened the last 25 years in terms of moving into a modern society, in terms of modernization—I'm not going to define the term, but look at it from that perspective—is there any single force in the state that has more impact than the R&D Center, institutionally?
HODDING CARTER:
The cotton picker. It's completely changed the face of the state. We're no longer an agricultural based state simply because our labor force is no longer on the farm.
JACK BASS:
Is no longer needed on the farm.
HODDING CARTER:
That's what I mean. It's not on the farm and I'm being facetious when I say the cotton picker. I should say automation on the farm. The picker, pesticides, herbicides.
JACK BASS:
Hasn't automation on the farm had the effect of removing that aspect of public policy dominated traditionally by the Delta, that it forced upon the state to adopt a public policy to protect farm labor?
HODDING CARTER:
Yes, of course. I was being serious. What I'm saying is that almost all changes are a consequence of the state no longer being a purely agricultural economy. And also the consequence of literally thousands and thousands of blacks faced with being released from very close bondage. unknown . Now, in so far as an institution goes, if that's what you're asking me, made up of some human beings, the R&D Center has had a tremendous effect. I'm not sure that I would give it the preeminent role that you're suggesting. One thing is it hasn't been here long enough. I mean it was Paul Johnson's real baby—the fact that it had its genesis elsewhere is irrelevant. I mean it's only as new as Paul Johnson himself and it didn't have enough money for some of that time to really do anything.
JACK BASS:
I guess my real question should have been, does it potentially?
HODDING CARTER:
My God, that's what I say. It is absolutely—what it represents is essential and fundamental if we're ever going to move. I'm talking now in terms of economics and community development.