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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Ferrel Guillory, December 11, 1973. Interview A-0123. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Race plays a role in North Carolina despite the state's progressive image

Despite North Carolina's reputation as progressive, race plays just as much an issue there as anywhere else, Guillory believes. He pulls back the veil of progressivism to expose a conservative legislature with unusual power and limited vision.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Ferrel Guillory, December 11, 1973. Interview A-0123. 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:
So getting back to what Key said, it's overall about the South about race being the basic factor in elections. Do you think that's changed substantially?
FERREL GUILLORY:
I don't know about the south as a whole. I suppose it's in the process of changing. I don't think it's been left out yet. In North Carolina you said it was different, and North Carolina was more progressive, and North Carolina race wasn't much of an issue and North Carolina was a great progressive state. Do you think that still holds?
FERREL GUILLORY:
From what I can tell I think North Carolina's progressive image is more outside the state than inside the state. North Carolina's image increases the further you get away from it.
JACK BASS:
In other words, North Carolina is not really that different.
FERREL GUILLORY:
I found a lot of stuff here that I didn't expect, the low wages, I'm totally unprepared for the low wages that they pay here. Texile industry and all that. As much as I've read about it I was just totally unprepared of that. To be honest with you. I'd been led to expect, and I suppose it's true if you compared a lot of things, that North Carolina State Government is progressing, moving forward and everything, and I suppose that Sanford and Bob Scott and Kerr Scott were progressive men and within Republicans Jim Holshouser I think fairly a progressive guy but I think the government as a whole and especially the general assembly and you got to focus on it a little too, because what it says becomes law no matter what the governor says about it, he doesn't have the veto power, he can't succeed himself so there is no way to test by the vote or all those kind of things. What the governor proposes other than by the general assembly. In this state the governor comes in at the beginning of the session, he makes a speech, and then he can pull and tug, he can trade jobs, try to convince people one way or the other. But when it comes down to it, the power's in the general assembly because it passes law and when the speaker or the lt. Governor as presiding officer of the senate says I order this bill enrolled, it becomes law. It doesn't make any difference what the governor says or anything else. As soon as they do that it is law. My experience with the legislature now runs about a year and I don't find a whole heck of a lot of vision there. There are some good people in there, some good young people who if they emerge as leaders and all that kind of stuff could make a significant effect on the state. But I find the legislature much more conservative than the progressive image of the state leads you to expect. Their rhetoric notwithstanding because I find this state - Key talks about it about how it's oriented to businessmen and all that kind of stuff and how the business sort of ethic has sort of kept it honest but at the government has always protected the business interests of the state . . . .. . . .. I find it sort of worksanother way too, in my experience. They're always worried about the bond market and about whether we can sell our bonds and whether we stay with the budget has to be palanced, but how they estimate tax collections very conservatively, how they're very careful to balance out. And we get all this talk about can we live within our means, or can we afford to float bond issue, or do we have a triple A bond rating and all that, and there is no connection between all that talk and the fact about half the blacks according to a study I was just looking at, in the state live in substandard housing, about 400,000 families in this state live in substandard housing. You don't get any relationship to this conservative financial thing and how that affects whether you're paying teachers enough or whether mental health care here is adequate enough. They always worried first about the bond market, about the conservative financial estimates, and all that instead of, in my view, they ought to switch it around they ought to see what people need first, and then work that out. So that they set up a housing corporation for four years ago, and they didn't put the faith and credit of the state behind the bonds or anything. They made the bonds, they backed the bonds with the mortgages they sold. Big deal, that's no power to go out there and solve problems. It was a very conservative sound financial thing. So how much housing did they provide, $250,000 worth of loans, that's all, nothing, practically nothing. So that's how I see the general assembly. You know, it's a very limited sort of group of people because they don't take a big vision of things, they don't - they just see what they can work out, what they can get by with. They don't have a good staff, the lobbiests there have great power, not because they buy and sell but just because they are the only people there with information and the regular folks in the state just don't have any voice up there, don't have any on-going way to get their views and needs known.