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Title: Oral History Interview with Virginius Dabney, July 31, 1975. Interview A-0311-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Dabney, Virginius, interviewee
Interview conducted by Jordan, Daniel Turpin, William H.
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Mike Millner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2006
Size of electronic edition: 440 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2006.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2006-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2006-12-31, Mike Millner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Virginius Dabney, July 31, 1975. Interview A-0311-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series A. Southern Politics. Southern Oral History Program Collection (A-0311-2)
Author: Daniel Jordan and William H. Turpin
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Virginius Dabney, July 31, 1975. Interview A-0311-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series A. Southern Politics. Southern Oral History Program Collection (A-0311-2)
Author: Virginius Dabney
Description: 490 Mb
Description: 129 p.
Note: Interview conducted on July 31, 1975, by Daniel Jordan and William H. Turpin; recorded in Richmond, Virginia.
Note: Transcribed by Joe Jaros.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series A. Southern Politics, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Interview with Virginius Dabney, July 31, 1975.
Interview A-0311-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Dabney, Virginius, interviewee


Interview Participants

    VIRGINIUS DABNEY, interviewee
    DANIEL JORDAN, interviewer
    WILLIAM H. TURPIN, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
This is an interview with Virginius Dabney, retired editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch at his home in Richmond, Virginia, interviewed by Dan Jordan and William H. Turpin. Today is July 31, 1975.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Mr. Dabney, we'll be talking today about massive resistance. To set the stage, we first talked about Virginia on the eve of the '54 decision. For example, there is a notion that the Byrd organization in 1954 was in trouble. Is that a valid observation?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, I think that it was in trouble. The campaign between Battle and Miller had shaken things up considerably and the fact that Battle was saved by the Republicans going into the Democratic primary showed that there was a pretty ticklish situation.
DANIEL JORDAN:
How about the Young Turks?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, they had realized that there was a real question in the legislature as to the validity of the machine's policies. They felt that the organization had been too parsimonious in supporting necessary services, schools, welfare, health, and so on.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Would it be fair also to say that Stanley was not among the stronger of the Byrd governors?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I would say that was the understatement of all time. [Laughter]
DANIEL JORDAN:
The organization, nonetheless, was based on southside Virginia?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, it always had been. That was the center of its strength and the real core of the massive resistance to improvement.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Long after the fact, Benjamin Muse wrote that he thought the chance of compliance in Virginia in '54, before the decision was announced, was fairly good. He based that on the fact that Virginia had a good history

Page 2
of race relations and he had interviewed some officials. Would your recollection be along those same lines?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes. I didn't think that we were going to have all this trouble that we did have and in the early stages of the period before massive resistance actually began and after the decision of 1954, it looked as if we were going to have a fairly smooth reception of the decision.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What was the immediate official reaction to the decision of May 17th?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
There was calm, I think. Stanley was not excited and he spoke in a restrained way about it and gave the impression that he was going to be working to make it effective without any hullabaloo, and he said he was going to consult both races and sounded very conciliatory.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Was that the mood as well throughout the state, were there immediate defiant cries in Virginia?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I don't remember any, I don't think there were.
DANIEL JORDAN:
In a delayed reaction, there was defiance in the southside section of the state.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Later on, yes, indeed.
DANIEL JORDAN:
And there is a famous meeting at the Petersburg Fire House.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Would you tell us a little bit about that?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I really don't know much about that, I just have heard of a meeting and I think it was mostly the hard-core resisters from southside who decided that they were not going to take it.
DANIEL JORDAN:
And even later in '54 an organization was created called The Defenders of State Sovereignty.

Page 3
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, [unclear] and then they gradually branched out with branches all over the state. The head of it was a very mild-mannered man named Crawford, and Barrye Wall, the publisher of the Farmville Herald, who was also a mild-mannered individual. Both of them made it a point not to let anybody wave the Confederate flag, which I thought was quite astonishing from that group at that time. So, they weren't out to murder anybody like the Ku Klux Klan, or even to whip anybody at night or anything like that. They were quite within the law and were determined never to integrate.
DANIEL JORDAN:
How would you compare the Defenders with the White Citizens Councils that were popular in many of the deep southern states at this time?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I'm not that familiar with the White Citizens Councils, so I really can't say. I don't know whether they ever condoned violence or not.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Well, they were very militant and drew their constituency from all classes in southern society.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Including some Ku Klux Klansmen, I suppose?
DANIEL JORDAN:
Including some Klanners.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
They were more questionable than the Defenders in Virginia.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
What was the makeup of the individuals in the Defenders?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Oh, I think they were just average citizens, businesspeople and professional people who were not willing to take this decision and were determined to do everything they could to prevent it from going into effect.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Would you say that they were mostly middle class and up?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I would say that they were, yes. The ones that I knew were. I didn't have any contacts with them, really. Jack Kilpatrick was very

Page 4
close to them and went to their meetings and all that. I never saw anything of them at all except that occasionally Crawford came into the office and made a few remarks as to what they were doing.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Governor Stanley in August of '54 appointed a committee that became known as the Gray Committee. What was the public's notion of what the committee was supposed to be doing?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think they were trying to work out some kind of plan that would meet this decision and obey it without causing too much disruption in the state. As far as I know, when it was first appointed, the prevailing view was that it was not going to defy anybody or shut down schools or anything like that.
DANIEL JORDAN:
It was an all white committee. Was there a sense that this was a mistake, that Stanley should have in fact brought black leaders into it?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, I think it was a bad mistake. The way they did it was to make a rule that the whole commission had to come from the General Assembly and that elimated the blacks because there weren't any in the General Assembly. Stanley had said, as I mentioned, that he was going to consult both races. He called in about four or five leading Negroes to his office, and his consultation consisted of asking them not to pay any attention to the Supreme Court's ruling. [Laughter] Not to try, therefore, to integrate.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Now, the NAACP was very active in Virginia at this period. Do you recall your reaction to it, and do you recall the statewide reaction to the work of the NAACP?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think that most Virginians felt that the NAACP was too far

Page 5
to the left and was pushing things too hard, and we couldn't live with the kinds of things that they were trying to do right away.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Was the NAACP working mainly in the courts?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, I think so.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What about the Virginia Council on Human Relations, which was created in February of '55? A group of moderates, as I understand it.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I've forgotten who was the head of that, do you remember?
DANIEL JORDAN:
I don't believe that they had any notable Virginians, but they included a lot of ministers and a lot of educators, and the notion was that they would somehow or another create a climate that would make possible better race relations and acceptance of integration when it came to it.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I remember their operations in a sort of hazy way. I think I know some of the people who were in it. Nowadays, what they were trying to do sounds reasonably proper. At that time, most people were opposed to it.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Another group was the Virginia Society for the Preservation of Public Education. I believe that Armistead Boothe was involved in that.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, that's right. I believe that came along after the massive resistance thing started, didn't it?
DANIEL JORDAN:
It sort of picked up at that point. Do you recall its impact or the public reaction to that?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think most people felt that they were out of step with the majority sentiment, and that what they were trying to do was premature, that you couldn't bring the state along right away with these things that they were trying to put into effect.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
A couple of leaders of this Society for the Preservation of Public Education, Armistead Boothe and Robert Whitehead, who were also a couple of the Young Turks in the '50s. Was this generally true with

Page 6
the people who made up this society, could you categorize them as anti-Byrd people?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
They were independents, at least you could say that. And they were ready to oppose Byrd when they felt they should, which got them in trouble with the organization permanently. This was one of the shortcomings of the organization, they couldn't take any dissent of that sort.
DANIEL JORDAN:
About this point in time, the Richmond Press Club appointed a committee to evaluate the busing of the students and I believe that it was headed by a man by the name of Hugh Rudd, and its report suggested that Richmond could handle the problem and that desegregation could be a reality without violence. Do you recall that report and the response to it in Richmond?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Very vaguely. I knew Hugh Rudd and he had been on the paper and left to practice law. I do not remember the details of that. I think it is remarkable how much you know about all of this; and I am impressed.
DANIEL JORDAN:
In May of 1955, the Supreme Court issued its supplemental decision and suggested that action had to be taken with all deliberate speed and the district courts would supervise the implementation. Do you recall Virginia's reaction to that decision? Some say that it is a sort of a victory for the South in a way, that it would be left to the district courts and no set timetable?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, I think that there was a sort of mild sigh of relief, we were getting a little time to get ready for this and it wouldn't go into effect immediately. Yes, I think that was helpful.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Now, the Gray Commission issued its report in November 1955.

Page 7
Would you characterize its recommendations?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, they were for token integration and local option. An area that wanted to integrate could do so, and where they opposed it, as in the southside, they could segregate.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Was this a surprising conclusion, given the composition of the committee? I understand that there were a lot of southside legislators in it. Garland Gray was, of course, a key man in the Byrd organization, and yet this seems in retrospect a rather moderate recommendation.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
It does. It is a little bit puzzling to me now. I can see how some of those on that commission wanted to have token integration but I don't understand how some of the others went along, especially Gray. Of course, he later on completely reversed himself, but that was under pressure from Senator Byrd. I don't really understand how they got that through.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Do you think that Byrd knew what was going on while the commission was deliberating?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, surprisingly enough, he apparently didn't, because he hit the ceiling when he found out about it and made everybody that he could control turn right around and turn somersaults.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
In your book, you pointed out that Byrd very carefully . . . I'm sorry, I'm out of sequence.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Now, the aftermath of the commission report was a statewide referendum on whether or not a convention would be called to modify the Virginia constitution. That referendum apparently elicited a lot of public interest. It was held in January. Do you recall some who were for and against the referendum?

Page 8
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, I think the Byrd people were for it. The Armistead Boothe group were against it and practically all the newspapers were for it. Stanley was for it and he led various moderates to believe that if this went through, they would have local option and go along with the Gray Commission's recommendations. And they went along and served as front men for the whole program, and then after it was ratified in the referendum, the Byrd organization proceeded to turn right around and in effect, repudiate the very things that they had led the public to think.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Now, Byrd at the time of the referendum, made some public statements, but in retrospect, they were sort of cryptic in that they could be interpreted in various ways.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Right. He and Blackie Moore, the speaker of the house, [unclear] were both very careful not to personally commit themselves to what was being passed on in the referendum. That is, they didn't commit themselves to local option. After the thing was ratified, they technically were in the clear, but I don't think that Stanley was, because he, according to Dabney Lancaster, flatly told Lancaster that this was part of the plan and if they won in the referendum, they would have local option, which is exactly the opposite of what happened.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Do you think that this was a ruse on the part of Senator Byrd, or do you think that he didn't realize what was happening until it got to the point that it was almost a law?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I don't see how he could have failed to realize it, as interested as he was, because he was right in the middle, and if he didn't know what was happening, it was the first time that he didn't.

Page 9
DANIEL JORDAN:
Do you think that the public at large felt that because Stanley and other Byrd organization men supported the referendum so vigorously that they were in fact speaking for Byrd?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I certainly thought so and I think everybody else did.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Well, the aftermath of the referendum was, of course, a convention and writing into legislation some of the commission's recommendations, but at the same time, a formal massive resistance sentiment is growing and we won't recount all the highlights of that, but Byrd is making statements in Washington, and the Southern Governors' Conference was held in Richmond and there were certain maneuvers beginning in the legislature. Speaker Moore, I believe, wants to move faster than the legislature does in the spring of '56. Then another key element is the notion of interposition and I would like to discuss that a bit. Could you talk about the origins of interposition and then what it was supposed to do?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, as I recall it, interposition originated with the Alien and Sedition Laws just before the turn of the nineteenth century and the theory was advanced that the state had the right to interpose its sovereignty between itself and the federal government, between something that it didn't want to do and the federal government. That theory was forgotten and washed out as far as I know, by the Civil War, and everybody had considered it dead until a lawyer in Chesterfield County named William W. Old exhumed this thing and wrote a pamphlet, I believe, urging that it be adopted again, or resurrected to meet this situation into which the state had been thrown by the Supreme Court decision. Kilpatrick read

Page 10
that pamphlet and he grabbed the ball and ran with it and made a really astonishing campaign in which he convinced a lot of people that this was the answer to the whole problem. He himself did not believe that it was, but he somehow conveyed the impression that he did, at least to me. He was writing people at the time that he knew that this was just a temporary expedient.
DANIEL JORDAN:
He also, I think, wrote in that vein that it was a sort of public relations thing, an attempt to put the whole question in more favorable terms and to buy time, but there was no evidence of that in his editorials, would you say?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I didn't see any. I was surprised to find later that he was that skeptical about it.
DANIEL JORDAN:
And it had some influence beyond Virginia, apparently?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Very much. The News Leader reprinted his series of editorials in a pamphlet and sent it all over the South—to governors, I guess, or to other key people—and four or five states adopted interposition resolutions, as did Virginia. There was a great deal of excitement about it and lot of people thought that Kilpatrick was Moses and the whole thing was going to be solved.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Did the General Assembly of Virginia adopt a nullification resolution?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
No, it was introduced with a nullification provision, but then it was taken out, fortunately I think that one or two resolutions adopted in the Deep South were completely for nullification as the best kind of defiance, but Virginia didn't.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
A former associate of Kilpatrick said that during the campaign

Page 11
for interposition, prior to the meeting of the General Assembly in 1956, and prior to the adoption of this resolution, Mr. Kilpatrick was working a little more close than you would expect for an editor with the Democratic Party of Virginia. He was, in fact, writing position papers on interposition, the whole concept, for the Democratic Party. Have you ever heard that?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, I have. I had just forgotten. He was meeting with Byrd and with the leaders.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Did you ever meet with them?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
No.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
[unclear]
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I wasn't in the inner sanctum. [Laughter]
DANIEL JORDAN:
In the late summer of 1956, there was a special session of the General Assembly that passed the formal massive resistance legislation. Would you comment on the nature of that legislation? What did it do to try to stop the schools from being integrated? What kinds of laws?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, was that the Stanley legislation?
DANIEL JORDAN:
Yes.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That was legislation which provided for shutting down the schools rather than integrate, basically. That was it.
DANIEL JORDAN:
That seemed to be the heart of it. Now this meant, of course, an end to local option considerations, because local option might lead to integration.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes.
DANIEL JORDAN:
And I think that people placement boards were created as a sort of first line of defense. Now also in that special session, a number

Page 12
of laws were passed to try to cripple the NAACP. Do you recall the nature of those laws or the response of the public to that?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
There were some technical legal terms like bailments or something like that. I don't know what all the terms mean.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Publication of the membership of the NAACP was one thing.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
They were simply trying to harass the organization. I don't think the legislation stood up.
DANIEL JORDAN:
They were, I think, uniformly thrown out in court later.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes.
DANIEL JORDAN:
But they were sort of seen as an attempt to harass and restrict an opponent.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Undoubtedly.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Do you recall any public response to this? I know that NAACP in white Virginia got to be very, very unpopular and they must have supported this thing.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
No, I don't recall any response.
DANIEL JORDAN:
The grand strategy of massive resistance as unfolded in the legislation was to avoid the Brown decision. Would that be fair to say?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
In effect to avoid it, yes, I think that's true.
DANIEL JORDAN:
And this meant that the organization had changed its stance from a notion of maybe going along with it in a token sense with local option, to total confrontation, and this gets us to a really key point which is, why did Virginia, did the organization, go for massive resistance?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, I think that it is pretty simple, because Harry Byrd decided that he just simply couldn't take it and he wasn't going to take

Page 13
it and he was going to do every conceivable thing within the law to thwart the place. He put the heat on everybody in his organization. Those who didn't go along were in the outer darkness. It's just as simple as that, I think.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Why did he decide that he couldn't go along with it?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, he had a very deep feeling that integration would be disastrous, and would ruin the state and the country and we couldn't have it. He was going to do the utmost that he could to prevent it.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Did it have any effect on Byrd's decision that the fact that the southside, which was his strongest support, had a very large black population, which would have been affected first and strongest by integration, and that perhaps to keep the support of the southside, as he was having trouble with his machine, he went along simply for the fact of political expediency.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I don't think that was his express motive, but I don't think that the southside's attitude hurt his decision at all. It helped him make the decision in that he was glad to be in the same bed with southside and at the same time do what he thought was right.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Do you think that it was his personal feeling toward the Negro or do you think that it was because of his entire outlook as a conservative?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I really don't know. It is a hard thing for me to analyze.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Did you ever make any editorial comments on Byrd's . . .
DANIEL JORDAN:
We might hold that until later, if you would like, just to keep it separate if we can. Did Byrd believe that in all of this, Virginia was leading the southern fight against some

Page 14
alien force?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, Byrd said several times that Virginia was the key to this whole fight, and if Virginia went down, they wouldn't be able to hold the line. So, he did feel that this was the crux of the whole thing and that Virginia should stand firm.
DANIEL JORDAN:
And it was easy to make a sort of states rights case here because Virginians like to remember their stand in 1860 to '61, as well, I suppose.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
True.
DANIEL JORDAN:
We have a famous quote coming out to the effect that this was to keep the organization in power for another twenty-five years. Nobody knows who exactly said that, does that ring true at all? That puts a positive expedient element to it.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Somebody may have said that, but it was the most stupid statement of the decade because it didn't keep them in power at all, and it led to the disintegration of the organization. Nobody has been able to pinpoint the origin of that statement, whether it was made by some leader in the organization, but anyway, it didn't work out that way and it was a very short-sighted view.
DANIEL JORDAN:
In retrospect, it seems that the federal government was not particularly aggressive in this period. There is some sort of notion that Byrd had some special influence with Eisenhower, and Byrd, of course, was a very powerful senator and chairman of a very powerful committee. Do you recall at the time any notion of that?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
No, I don't know anything about that.

Page 15
DANIEL JORDAN:
So, I guess that a corollary is that massive resistance might work because Byrd was so powerful that Eisenhower could not afford to really be aggressive, whatever his own views might have been, that he politically couldn't have afforded to alienate people like Byrd. Well, moving on, in 1957, there was a very important gubernatorial election right at the height of massive resistance sentiment between Almond and Dalton. Would you comment a little on the candidates and the issues?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think massive resistance was the issue and practically nothing else was. Judge Almond is a very able lawyer, who made a good record in Congress, put in a brief here and there and had a good record as attorney general. He was persuaded to give up his congressional seat to become attorney general when the incumbent died suddenly, and he thinks that he was given the go-ahead for the governorship when he agreed to become attorney general.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
That was in what year? He was nine years as attorney general.
DANIEL JORDAN:
'50, I believe, or '49.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
About that time, I can't remember exactly. He knew as attorney general that this massive resistance business wouldn't stand up. He knew the resistance was going to collapse. When he came in as governor, he was susceptible to all the pressures that were on him at that time, and he made some pretty wild statements, as he is the first to admit, notably, when he knew that he had to turn around. He didn't let on that he knew it and made a really damaging speech saying he had "just begun to fight." He turned around eight days later. That was a sad blunder, as you know. Dalton was a high-minded, able man. He made a good campaign. He was less extreme in his statements about the race problem.

Page 16
He almost won and Byrd came in, on account of the road issue, and turned the tide. Also, President Eisenhower had sent troops to Little Rock, which stirred up a frightful lot of feeling against the Republicans and that hurt Dalton very much. I don't think that he could have beaten Almond anyway. Almond was a fine campaigner on the stump, a lot better than Stanley, who had been a miserable campaigner when Dalton ran against him four years before. So there wasn't much of a chance that Dalton could have beaten Almond anyway, but Almond's majority was much larger because of Little Rock.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Now Almond, of course, was all out for massive resistance and didn't Dalton come out for local option?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think he did.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Was he branded as an integrationist in the public mind because he stated what had previously been the recommendations of the Gray Commission?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, in a lot of people's minds I would say that he was, because by that time all this antagonism had been whipped up against the Gray Commission report, the original report.
[Portions of this tape side are inaudible due to the poor technical quality of the tape.]
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Almond got into trouble with Byrd because he endorsed Martin Hutchinson for the Federal Trade Commission. Hutchinson had run against Byrd for the Senate a few years before and that was an unpardonable sin on Almond's part to endorse Hutchinson, no matter how qualified he was. I didn't see that he had any great qualifications. Anyway, Almond endorsed him and that became public and

Page 17
I think that was the time that Stanley got the nod. Anyway, whatever the exact sequence, Stanley did get the nod for one reason or another, other and then when Almond wanted to run four years later, Byrd didn't give him the nod, and he sent a trial balloon up for Garland Gray that didn't get off the ground. Byrd finally just gave up. Almond was too popular and a good campaigner, and there was no hope of beating him.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Was Almond a kind of an outsider within the organization?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
He became that. He was an insider when he agreed to give up his place in Washington and take a cut in salary of one-third to gratify the organization and become attorney general. He was very much, I guess, on the inside then, temporarily, but he didn't stay there very long.
DANIEL JORDAN:
There is a notion that as a personality type, he didn't really fit the organization, that he was pretty much a self-made man, and he was more of a flamboyant orator than many of the other Byrd organization people. Is there any validity to that?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I shouldn't think that would have any bearing, that he was a self-made man and a flamboyant orator. Another flamboyant orator, Willis Robertson, also was not in the inner circles, but I don't think that had anything to do with it.
DANIEL JORDAN:
One final question about the '57 election. Is it fair to think of it as a referendum on massive resistance? You've got Almond going all out for massive resistance, but Dalton's position was a little less clear. He was for local option, so it seems to me that that clouds things and is it possible to say that because of Almond's decisive victory the people of Virginia stood behind massive resistance?

Page 18
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That might be an unsound conclusion; it is not quite that cut and dried, I wouldn't think. It certainly tended to be that way, that the majority went for the man who was for massive resistance.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Well, Almond, of course, was elected and . . .
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Let me ask one question about this. You said earlier that he had expressed doubt that massive resistance, that integration could be prevented while he was attorney general. Did he express this publicly?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
No, he told friends that he realized that this whole jerry-built structure was going to collapse.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
And he was the man who was actually involved in . . .
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
He had to defend all these things, yes.
DANIEL JORDAN:
He also, I believe, was quoted as saying that he told Stanley, "I don't think that it will work, but I will do anything that you like," as attorney general.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, he did.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Well, he was elected governor and he was inaugurated in Januaray of 1958 and in his inaugural address he made very clear that for the concept of massive resistance. Of course, litigation was going on in the courts all the while. In the fall of 1958, schools were closed by order of the governor.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That's right.
DANIEL JORDAN:
And what reaction in Virginia at large was there to the closing of the schools?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
A lot of people were shocked by it. I think that they hardly realized that it was going to come to that and when it did, it was a traumatic thing for a lot of people. They began wondering how they were going to continue in this direction. Shutting down schools seemd like a

Page 19
good way to destroy the state. I don't think it was well received by very many people.
DANIEL JORDAN:
As time passed, I gather that greater pressure developed to open the schools.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes.
DANIEL JORDAN:
It is often said that a key event in the sequence of the shift of opinion was a statement by Kilpatrick before the Rotary Club here in Richmond, editorials in both Richmond papers, and then a meeting at the Rotunda Club in Richmond of prominent business leaders in December. Is that a fair assessment of one of the key points of the shift?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, I think so. Kilpatrick was so conspicuous in the other direction that when he said something ought to be done, that was a signal to the whole crowd, I think, that it was time to begin some new ideas and begin some new directions.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What about the meeting at the Rotunda Club? Do you know anybody who was actually there or what was said? I gather that the names have never been listed.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, I know some who were there.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Without mentioning any names, now.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, the general thought was that this was hurting the state's image, and was going to hurt the state in its industrial development and that business-wise, it was going to create great opposition on the part of industrialists to move into the state where there was a danger of shutting down schools and the whole thing was counterproductive.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Almond, of course, was there and these were very important

Page 20
people in Virginia. Had any of these people previously supported massive resistance? Is this a case of people who once thought that this might be the way of deciding that it wasn't and that something ought to be done?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
The ones that I happen to know did not support massive resistance. I don't know whether any massive resisters were there. I have heard Judge Almond quoted as saying that that meeting did not affect his thinking at all.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Were there any newspaper people there at all?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
No.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
No publishers or . . .
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
No writers or anything, the word gradually leaked out that there had been a meeting.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
There were no publishers there as opposed to reporters?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I don't think so.
DANIEL JORDAN:
In the meantime, of course, there were some key cases testing some of this massive resistance legislation, a case before the Virginia Court of Appeals and one also before a federal district court and on Robert E. Lee's birthday, January 19, both courts announced their decisions which found that massive resistance legislation was unconstitutional, as judged by the Virginia constitution and by the U.S. Constitution. I have got a couple of questions about that. One is, to your knowledge, was there any collusion as to the timing of those decisions?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Not to my knowledge, but it is a most astonishing thing that they happened that way, I never have understood that.

Page 21
DANIEL JORDAN:
What was the public's general reaction to this decision, as opposed to Almond's? I'll pick up Almond in a second here.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think that most Virginians, even those in Prince Edward County, felt that they had to obey. The fact that Prince Edward did obey is pretty indicative of what the average Virginian thought. These people who were trying to work some way around the decisions apparently felt all along that they weren't going to go the last mile and have another situation like Alabama or Mississippi and have a lot of federal troops and the governor going to jail, although Harry Byrd wanted Almond to go to jail.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Did you ever have a chance to discuss the cases with the judges involved, especially Judge Eggleston who gave the majority opinion?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
No, I never did.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Well, Almond's reaction was, of course, a statewide televised speech on January 20 which he later called, I believe, "that damned speech."
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That's right.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Could you tell us a little about the speech and why you think that Almond gave it?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
He never has been able to explain it to himself, much less to anybody else. I have talked to him two or three times. In fact, I got the interview with him in which he first used the term, "that damned speech," and said that he was sorry that he had made it. He said that he was tired and frustrated and that if he had talked to Josephine, his wife, he never would have done it. He had just gotten so worn out with the whole thing that he wasn't thinking clearly, I guess. He wanted to show that he was going to do everything that he possibly could to prevent this

Page 22
thing from happening. He didn't realize that he was saying things that would look simply ridiculous ten days later.
DANIEL JORDAN:
It was a very emotional speech, very firm speech and apparently, Senator Byrd was very pleased with the speech.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Oh, he telegraphed him and congratulated him and when Almond tried to repudiate the speech ten days later, that was when Byrd broke with him.
DANIEL JORDAN:
And eight days later, of course, there was a special session of the General Assembly and Almond said in effect that massive resistance was over. He asked for some immediate changes in the laws to comply with the court decisions and appointed a commission, I believe, to investigate the possibilities of Virginia's future course.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That's right.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Could you tell us a little about the Perrow Commission?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Chairman Perrow was from Lynchburg and you might want to mention the way that they got the thing through the legislature to appoint the commission. The "committee of the whole" device was used so that the whole senate could vote on it instead of having it voted on in committee, where it would have been killed without a doubt. They had barely enough backers in the senate overall, and by getting a man who had just been operated on brought in on a stretcher to cast the deciding vote, Carter of Fincastle, they got it through. Almond appointed the commission and the commission made a report which wasn't greatly different from the Gray Commission's original report. So they got back on the track again with local option and so forth.
DANIEL JORDAN:
It was a very tough fight, but in effect, Virginia went back to the Gray Commission.

Page 23
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That's right and Lindsay Almond deserves a great big hand, despite his fumbling and mistakes along the way, for what he did in the final showdown.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Well, a key question here would be why did Almond switch? Why didn't he become, say, a Wallace, and stand at doors and go all out? Why did he say, "Well, we've had it, it's over and we've got to change and massive resistance didn't work?"
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, basically because he wasn't the type of person that Faubus was or Wallace. He never intended to defy the law or stand in any doors. He knew that it wasn't legal and he was going to abide by the law.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Some say, and you mentioned this earlier, that his wife had some influence on him. Is that easy to overstate or . . .
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I've heard him say twice that if he had paid attention to Josephine or consulted Josephine, he wouldn't have made "that damned speech." I don't know whether he had talked to her on that particular point, I gather that he did get her advice fairly often.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Did you read the account, I think that it is by Francis P. Miller, who said that Almond almost virtually locked the doors on the General Assembly during that time to get them to agree to the recommendations that he was making. Does that sound too dramatic to you?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, is that a figure of speech, that he "almost locked the doors?"
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Well, I think that Miller said that he did lock the doors when they got them in and did not let them out.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Sounds rhetorical. Considering the people involved . . .
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
It would have caused a real riot, yes. [Laughter]

Page 24
DANIEL JORDAN:
There is a sort of a notion that, not in a direct sense, but a notion that Almond sold out for a judgeship here. Does that have any real credibility? Later on, we know that Kennedy wanted to appoint him to a federal district judgeship here and Byrd apparently didn't like that. Kennedy made an interim appointment and now he is on the Court of Patents and Appeals, but was that a reward?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I never heard that. I think Kennedy might have looked around for somebody who had a moderate outlook on this issue and zeroed in on Almond, but I wouldn't attribute that sort of a motive to Almond.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Is it true that Byrd delayed the appointment?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
He almost wrecked the whole thing. If the Times-Dispatch and other papers hadn't hammered on Byrd time and again that it was unworthy of him to be doing that, he never would have given in.
DANIEL JORDAN:
I believe that in Kilpatrick's papers, there is correspondence on the fact and it shows that Kilpatrick favored the appointment of Almond to the district judgeship. Are you aware of that?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I didn't know that.
DANIEL JORDAN:
And that Byrd, of course, was very against it and one of the ironies of events is that Almond did not get the district judgeship and then later on, of course, Robert Merhige did. He came much later, but Almond today would be the judge.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, but he would have retired by now. He has retired.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Yes, but he would have been on the bench. Just to pursue this ironic development one step further, the thinking is that if Almond had been the judge when the consolidation question came up, given his general

Page 25
philosophy and judicial temperment, that the decision would have been other than Robert Merhige's decision.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That is, the counties and Richmond?
DANIEL JORDAN:
Yes.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think probably so, yes.
DANIEL JORDAN:
So, in a way, Byrd unwittingly had contributed to the making of a situation that he hoped to alleviate and made it worse.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
It was overruled in the final analysis.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Oh, that's true.
Almond said after the fact that "I lived in hell," that he apparently suffered some social ostracism and the like from having broken with Byrd, and it was something that he regretted very much because he admired Byrd. Are you aware of any of that kind of pressure on Almond? After the fact?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, I think that undoubtedly he was spoken of sneeringly as "Benedict Almond" and things like that. He had a lot of bad hours because of it and I am sure that some of his long time friends broke with him, the people in the inner circles of the Byrd organization in particular.
DANIEL JORDAN:
And some of his later legislative proposals apparently were blocked in part, he thought, out of spite.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, primarily, I guess. He is not bitter about it at all now.
DANIEL JORDAN:
He did, when he switched, carry some of the organization people with him, did he not? These would be moderates, I suppose?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes.

Page 26
DANIEL JORDAN:
Who would some of the organization men that came with him be? They agreed that massive resistance had run its course.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I can't be sure about that.
DANIEL JORDAN:
One final thing about massive resistance and then we would like to discuss briefly an overall evaluation of it and that is Prince Edward County, the problem preceded massive resistance and the problem, of course, outlasted massive resistance. What was Virginia's reaction to what was going on in Prince Edward County, the closing of the schools permanently and the fact that black children were denied an education for awhile?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That would depend on whom you talked to. Some people thought that it was great and others thought that it was outrageous. I think that it would divide more or less along the lines of those who were for massive resistance, those who went down the line to the end, and those who weren't.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Do you recall the role of Colgate Darden in trying to do something about the problem?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I don't remember his having any role in it until he was chairman of that movement to get Prince Edward's schools open. don't remember him coming out publicly.
DANIEL JORDAN:
That's what I'm thinking of, that chairmanship. Was he criticized for that?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I don't think so to any great extent. By that time, people were modifying their views.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Well, to move to a final very important category, a general evaluation of massive resistance. In retrospect, what is your assessment

Page 27
of the significance of it?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think it was a bad mistake. I think that they should have gone along with the Gray report. I was always opposed to it. I was not the owner of the newspapers and couldn't go after it the way that I would have liked to.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Right. We want to pick up this in some detail here shortly.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
OK. I don't see why it couldn't have been worked out reasonably well on the basis of the Gray recommendations with local option, and we would have come to the present posture in time. I don't think that you could have integrated everybody at once in 1954 or '56 or '58. There was too much opposition in Virginia to that, but by gradually infiltrating the schools with a few blacks and then more, I think it would have worked, as it did in North Carolina.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Would you comment on Byrd's role and responsibility for massive resistance?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think he had the major responsibility for the whole thing. I think that if Byrd had gone along with the Gray Commission report, there wouldn't have been any massive resistance, I'm sure of that.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Is there any question that massive resistance was a calculated as opposed to an impulsive development? I mean, that Byrd and his organization knew full well what they wanted to do. It was not an emotional and immediate response.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I'm not sure at just what point Byrd made up his mind. I think that he was in Europe when he heard about the Gray Commission report. He immediately decided that it wouldn't do. Just exactly how that developed, I don't know.

Page 28
DANIEL JORDAN:
Why do you think that there was a two-year delay, in effect, between the Supreme Court decision in May of '54 and the passing of the massive resistance legislation in the late summer of '56?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, let's see, when was the Gray Commission report issued? Do you have any idea?
DANIEL JORDAN:
It was in November of '55.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, that is almost '56 then.
DANIEL JORDAN:
That's right, that is better than a year after.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think that explains the delay in large measure, the waiting for that Commission report and when it did report, it took a little time to evaluate and digest that. Byrd came up with his adamant opposition and all that took some time to work out.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What about the impact of massive resistance on the Byrd organization?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think it was a divisive factor. I think that it put off a lot of the moderates who didn't think that was the way to go, and instead of consolidating the organization's hold on the state for twenty-five years, it had exactly the opposite effect.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Benjamin Muse suggests that one of the tragic aspects of massive resistance is that it encouraged the actions of other southern states. He felt that people looked to Virginia and that there was a pull for moderation and the fact that Virginia chose to go the route of massive resistance, in fact, made things much worse elsewhere. Is that exaggerated?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
No, I don't think it is, and I think interposition was the crux of it. These people were sold on the idea that this was manna from heaven; they were all sitting around waiting for someone

Page 29
to tell them how to beat this thing, and here came interposition, which they had never heard of and it sounded great.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Would it be fair to say that massive resistance in the full course of the events of the time did not affect Virginia's basic racial attitudes? That at the beginning of massive resistance and at the end, most Virginians did not favor integration, but that the question had become clouded by the fact of whether you obeyed the Supreme Court or whether you wanted public education, but was there a consistency of racial views?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think that's true, yes.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Did any public figure, to your knowledge, come out in favor of integration as a good thing as such, as opposed to compliance with orders?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I don't believe that anybody did.
DANIEL JORDAN:
One final question about massive resistance, it involves an interesting thing to me and that is the presence of some secret doubters. We have Almond, we've already mentioned him, as attorney general saying that he didn't think that it would work, he would draft the legislation, but he didn't think that it would hold up. Technically, Albertis Harrison had some doubts as well.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, he did.
DANIEL JORDAN:
And I believe that you wrote of David J. Mays, you suggested that Mays, who was very important in the Committee on Constitutional Rights, and his diary reported that he was in fact telling people secretly that it wouldn't work. Is that fair to make?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I was trying to remember when I said that.
DANIEL JORDAN:
It was after his death. You wrote a feature editorial.

Page 30
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Oh. Yes, I knew Mays and incidentally, his diary is impounded for twenty-five years and he told me two days before he died that they were going to have to rewrite the history of massive resistance when his diary came out. I don't know what it is going to reveal. I imagine that he has got some things that went on in his private contacts. He was right in there with Byrd and the rest of them. He knew what they said and thought.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Apparently he himself, privately and secretly, believed that it wouldn't work.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That's right.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Would you comment on this, it is sort of interesting. There might be others here, but here are three of the most prominent people, Almond, Harrison and the distinguished lawyer, David J. Mays, all of whom secretly were saying that it wouldn't work but publicly were associated with it.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, they got caught up in this fury, you might call it, and I don't mean that they were hysterical, but so many people were or nearly so, the legislature included, that it was really almost impossible to get anywhere with any arguments to the contrary.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What would have happened had any of the three or anybody else have said publicly what they were saying privately? Would it have been political suicide?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think so. Mills Godwin, you know, admitted that if he had done anything but what he did he would have been dead politically in no time.
DANIEL JORDAN:
I think that is all I have in terms of sort of the public

Page 31
history of massive resistance and Bill, I think, now wants to ask about the role of the paper and your involvement.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
I want to ask just a preliminary question. You were talking about Stanley, Thomas Stanley, and you said that he was not a good governor. How did he get to be governor?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, he had been speaker, and the speaker is sort of on the political escalator, and he did a great many favors for a lot of politicians.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
I think that you suggested that he was a strong contributor to the Democratic Party.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That's absolutely right; he contributed to a lot of campaigns. He made gifts of one sort or another, he had good friends in the legislature who had obligations to him, and he just got to the point where I suppose Byrd felt that he couldn't turn him down.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Do you think that he bears a primary responsibility for massive resistance because of his leadership or do you think that any politician would have knuckled under to Byrd?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I don't think he bears any primary responsibility because I just think he did what he was told. He was under the gun and Byrd told him what had to be done and he did it.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
I would like to talk, Mr. Dabney, a little bit about your role as an editor, and the role of the Times-Dispatch editorial page primarily. I gather that because of your long background as a moderate certainly and perhaps even as a liberal in the South, that you did not personally endorse massive resistance. At least at the beginning, you were able to argue against it, but it reached a certain point where your

Page 32
hands were simply tied because of the management of your newspaper and then this happened for a certain length of time, after which you were able to present your position as you wanted to. Is this a fair picture?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, I suppose so. I would concur with that. D. T. Bryan and Alan Donnahoe were the two key people in the management and were both completely sold on Kilpatrick's interposition and the whole movement of massive resistance and anxious to do everything possible to carry it out to the utmost limit within the law. They were perfectly sincere about this. I just didn't agree with them and the Times-Dispatch never did endorse interposition except as a gesture and we always said that it could not include any nullificationist elements.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Was there an editorial endorsement of this with these specifications?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
There was a kind of a left-handed endorsement of interposition as a gesture, provided there were no nullificationist elements, or words to that effect.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Do you think that this is the point at which the management, that is Bryan and Donnahoe, arrived at this hard massive resistance point of view?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
At which point did they arrive at it?
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
During the time that Kilpatrick was talking about interposition.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, I do.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
In other words, you had a fair amount of freedom prior to that time to argue your views. Then you are saying in effect that Kilpatrick might have been an influence on Bryan and Donnahoe?

Page 33
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Oh, I think he was, because his views synchronized with theirs, they were right in the same groove and they thought that this was a great idea, this interposition thing, and they were responsible for republishing the editorials and sending them around. At least, they paid for publishing them, I guess Kilpatrick sent them around. I believe they were also entirely clear in their minds that they weren't going to have any defiance or any going to jail by the Governor and all that kind of business after the courts had spoken.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
OK, now Kilpatrick made his speech to the Rotary Club in late 1958 and I think that you said, or maybe it's Mr. Muse that said, the next day you had an editorial backing away from this and after the next cycle, Mr. Kilpatrick had an editorial also backing away. Did anything happen there in management that could cause Kilpatrick to say this, or to cause you to write an editorial?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, it was all pretty well coordinated. I knew that Kilpatrick was going to make the speech and it was all done with the agreement of Mr. Bryan and Mr. Donnahoe, all of whom had concluded that the jig was up as far as massive resistance was concerned. One thing that you wouldn't know, several of us went to see Harry Byrd in Berryville to tell him that we were not going to back massive resistance anymore and he didn't want to take him by surprise.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Who was this that made this trip and who was it, can you tell me?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Tennant Bryan and Kilpatrick; K. N. Hoffman, T-D columnist, and I. I think those were the ones. Young Harry was there with his father and we just told them politely that we knew this thing wasn't going to hold up much longer and we couldn't

Page 34
go along indefinitely. Harry Sr. was not happy at all. He was not unpleasant about it, but he obviously didn't agree. Young Harry said nothing.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think Byrd thought that Governor Almond ought to go to jail in all-out resistance. I am pretty sure that is exactly what he thought.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Can you remember the date of this meeting?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
No, I can't.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
But it was apparently after the schools had closed?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Oh, yes, it was in the fall of '59, I think . . . no, '58.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Do you know who initiated this, was this initiated by either you or Mr. Kilpatrick and agreed to by Bryan and Donnahoe, or was it something that they had suggested?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Something that they had suggested.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Just a minute, Bill. In that meeting, did you suggest any alternatives to massive resistance, or was it mainly a matter of saying that the papers would not continue to support it?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I don't think that we suggested any alternatives.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Did the senator try to convince you otherwise to continue to support it, or did he just express his displeasure?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
No, he just looked unhappy and said the people of Virginia wouldn't like that, and things like that.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
I'd like to just settle some points here that I would like to touch on. I guess that I could ask you one question and then touch on the points. I would like to know whether the Times-Dispatch's position on

Page 35
these points and your position and/or your personal feelings, whether you were or were not able to do something and did you notice anything significant on other state newspapers? For example, in the first Supreme Court decision of 1954, how was this received by the Times-Dispatch? What was the editorial reaction to this, what was your personal reaction? What were other newspapers in the state doing at that time?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, we didn't think that the end of the world had come and we said that this was a very momentous decision but we thought that we could live with it and the law should be obeyed. It was nothing very spectacular one way or the other.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
What about other newspapers in the state? I'm particularly interested in Lenoir Chambers?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think that his viewpoint was similar. Of course, he was more liberal on the whole thing all the way through.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Would you say that Mr. Chambers was an integrationist?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
No, I think he believed in obeying the law and not in shutting down schools.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
How about on the Gray Commission? What was your editorial, your official position, what were your feelings on the Gray Commission report?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I thought that was what should be done, to move into the new era gradually and not suddenly and give people time to adjust to it.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
OK, I meant specifically on the appointment of the Gray Commission, that is, all members of the General Assembly as opposed to a biracial group of citizens.

Page 36
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, I know that we were very much against Stanley's exclusion of blacks from everything, and we said so. He agreed to include them and it was an inclusion that was meaningless. I thought that the Commission was stacked with southsiders.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Were you aware at the time that his only conference with blacks was to call four or five of them in and ask them to disregard the Supreme Court decision?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think I was. I can't remember exactly when I was aware of that.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
OK, any point during this chronology where you began to get pressure from the management to do something that you didn't believe in, I wish you would tell us. The Virginia Council on Human Relations, did you have any personal involvement with them?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
No, I did not.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
You had been quite active in prior interracial groups.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That's right.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Was there any pressure or any request to join or requests that you not join?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I don't think that it came up at all.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
How about the 1955 decision? Was this pretty much the way that you felt about the '54 decision, a leisurely pace that . . .
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That was the "all deliberate speed" decision.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Yes.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, I thought that presented a reasonable amount of leeway and practibility in the thing.

Page 37
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
When the Gray Commission report came out in November of 1955, there was this local option and elimination of compulsory attendance was one of its [unclear]. Do you remember the position that the Times-Dispatch took on any one or all of those points?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
It was a long time ago, but I am pretty sure that we endorsed the Gray Commission report.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
As you said before, because you thought that this was a fairly easy way . . .
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
When the Commission met the following year, it met in March of 1956, it was obvious that they were not going to buy the local option thing. What were your feelings on this, this was after Senator Byrd had not apparently said anything about local option and the assumption was that he was in favor of it until the convention met. What were your feelings at this point? Do you know what you said and did?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I know that the most conspicuous episode at that time was when Blackburn Moore announced that he was going to try to get through the legislature in '56 resolutions or bills that would prevent any sort of integration at the upcoming session of the schools that fall, '56 and '57 school session. He tried to get through or said that he was going to try to get through some sort of measure to block any kind of integration, despite anything that happened. It was exactly contrary to what everybody understood. We went after him very hard on that. We said that it was a breach of faith and that he had no right to bring up any such plan.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
When you say, "we," you mean the Times-Dispatch?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
The Times-Dispatch led the attack on that.

Page 38
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Was there any reaction on the part of your publishers in this regard?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
No, he was in favor of my doing it. What happened was that I was in Charlottesville and I read what Moore said on Sunday and I drove back to Richmond and called Mr. Bryan on the phone halfway to Richmond, told him that I thought it was outrageous, and that I would like to go after Moore the next morning. He said, "All right, go after him."
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Now, this was in early '56?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think that it must have been, yes.
DANIEL JORDAN:
The spring of '56 is when Moore was trying to get this done for the session of the schools opening in the fall.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That's right.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
This was, of course, after Kilpatrick's interposition campaign and after the adoption of this . . .
DANIEL JORDAN:
It was sort of at the height of interposition.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
I think that it was about February that it was adopted, the February General Assembly. This apparently was when the management was moving towards acceptance, full acceptance of massive resistance. I am a little bit surprised that they would have allowed you to go this far after that point.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Well, there is a sort of time factor involved. The massive resistance legislation came in a special session that was in the late summer, and in the spring, you've got a lot of opposition, but no massive resistance proposals. I think that there is a sort of key meeting in early July when Byrd called in some lieutenants and they decided that they were

Page 39
going to go further.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
So, while your management was in favor of interposition, perhaps they weren't really hardened on massive resistance until later in this period.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Right.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
I might suggest that in the neighborhood of July or when the General Assembly was enacting these Stanley bills in August, I think . . .
DANIEL JORDAN:
August to September when . . .
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
This may be the point when your management really hardened on massive resistance.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That's right.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
You say that prior to that time, they supported interposition wholeheartedly with Mr. Kilpatrick, but that you still had a relative amount of freedom to say what you wanted?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That's right.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
When the bills were enacted to harass the NAACP, were you able to oppose these bills, or how did you feel about them personally? What were other newspapers saying?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
My recollection is very vague on that. I don't remember whether we said anything or not.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Do you think that this was a major part of massive resistance?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
No, I don't think so and I don't believe that people took it very seriously.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
You mentioned that you had a meeting with Byrd in 1958. Had you ever met with Byrd prior to this time on anything that was concerned with massive resistance?

Page 40
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
No, that was the first time.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Do you think that Mr. Kilpatrick ever met personally with Mr. Byrd?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think that he probably did.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Had you had any correspondence with Mr. Byrd?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I might have had it about something else, but not about this particular thing.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
You don't remember him writing to you for support or for against something that he didn't like that had appeared in the paper concerned with massive resistance?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
No.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Did your newspaper ever take Senator Byrd to task for his leadership in this? The one thing that I've noticed is that even Mr. Chambers, who was violently against massive resistance and apparently had the freedom to write what he felt, would attack the state leaders, but I don't think that I ever saw a personal attack on Byrd's leadership.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I didn't know that was the case. I hadn't followed him closely.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Have you ever made any comment on Byrd's leadership?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I don't remember doing so.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Did the paper or yourself have any inkling of the massive resistance legislation that was to be proposed in that special session in September of '56? Did you know what was coming before the session met?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I didn't. I suspect that Kilpatrick did, but I don't know.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Were you good friends with Kilpatrick?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, I wasn't very intimate with him.

Page 41
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Did you ever talk about the positions of the various papers, get together over a cup of coffee or . . .
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
No.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
It was just more or less a business relationship?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That's right.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
In the gubernatorial election of 1957, did the Times-Dispatch support Almond?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes.
DANIEL JORDAN:
You did write, I believe, that both candidates seemed to have solid qualifications and should be respected and things like that. This was an editorial in the Times-Dispatch to that effect.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, there could have been, I don't remember exactly.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Was the decision to support Almond . . . I know that things like this are usually in consultation with the publisher, did you go along with the support of Almond or was it imposed on you or was it initially agreed that here was a man who was better qualified than anyone else?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I don't remember the details on that. I am trying to think back and put myself in that period. I want to recall exactly what happened. I was always friendly with Lindsay Almond. I knew that he was aware that this whole "massive resistance" thing was going to fold up in time.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
You were aware of that at the time?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes. As attorney general, he had made that clear in a private conversation.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Well, if you don't have any feelings of resentment about that, is it fair to assume that this was not something that was imposed on you without at least your agreement?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I'm not sure about that, what are you saying . . .
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
You don't think that it was something that you were forced

Page 42
to do. If you were forced to do something that you were strongly against, you would probably have a feeling of resentment toward Bryan about that.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
You mean in regard to massive resistance?
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
No, the endorsement of Almond.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
On, I didn't object to endorsing Almond. I was in favor of that. In the first place, I didn't think that Ted Dalton had any chance of election. I thought that it would be perfectly futile.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
What was the position of other newspapers in the state at that time? Did they generally endorse . . .
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
My guess is that most of them endorsed Almond. Maybe there were some who went for Dalton, I don't know, but it would surprise me if they did.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
In the fall of 1958, when they started closing schools, what were your feelings at this time?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I was very depressed about it. I thought that it was a disastrous thing if they kept on doing it. It was the law and Lindsay Almond didn't like it any better than anybody else.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Did you foresee that there would be schools closed in 1958?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I was afraid so in view of the legislation providing for closing.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Did you ever editorially argue against closing schools or warn about the possibility of closing schools?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I don't think that I ever did. I would like to have. I would like to have gone after Prince Edward because of what they did, but I never was able to do it.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
This was one of the times when your hands were pretty much tied?

Page 43
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes. I would like to say that I was not permitted to say exactly what I wanted, in all fairness to Bryan and Donnahoe, if I were the owner of a newspaper and had control of it, I would feel that I was the one to decide what the paper was to say on something that I felt very deeply about. In other words, if I felt as Mr. Bryan did about massive resistance, I would not have wanted the editor to go off in the opposite direction and have the influence of this paper that I owned asserted contrary to what I believed in. So, I didn't feel that I had any deep grievance against Mr. Bryan. I was very sorry that we didn't agree, but I think that most newspaper people would be in agreement that there isn't any way to operate a newspaper except for the owner who has the majority of the stock to have the final say when he is deeply involved in some public question. That is one of the sad things about being an editor, unless you own fifty-one percent of the stock, you can't do everything that you want to do. I was given freedom on many things, and to say things that Mr. Bryan didn't agree with. In this particular one, he felt so deeply about it that he didn't give me the freedom.
DANIEL JORDAN:
I believe that you said earlier in another interview that in all your years as editor, this was the only instance in which you were put in this kind of a position. That the massive resistance question was the only time in which . . . the only serious question.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think so. I believe that it was.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
We all recognize, I think, that when you own a paper you have certain rights. Not only do you draw a profit, but also on major issues, to make your feelings known. You think that this was really a strongly

Page 44
felt, well thought-out position by Mr. Bryan and that it was not something that he was doing for political expediency, it was something that he was doing because of deep-felt convictions?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, and not only that, but I think that he was almost to the point where he wanted Lindsay Almond to go to jail. He was right in there with Harry Byrd. I think that he felt that Almond let us down. He never said it as specifically as that, but he shook his head and was very unhappy at the whole thing ending and the resistance folding up.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Did you tactfully attempt during this period to bring Mr. Bryan around to another way of thinking?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
It was absolutely futile, I could tell that. He had been won over and was completely sold on this course of action. I did say that I thought it was going to wreck the state and that shutting down schools would turn Virginia into an educational slum, which had no effect at all, so I didn't see any use arguing further.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
But you did speak to him of this?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I did.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Did you ever consider the very harsh alternative of resigning?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I considered it, yes. I also considered where I would go, and whether I would be entirely free to say anything I wanted to any more than I was here. You can't find a publisher that agrees with you on everything. That is just an occupational disability of the whole business. There are always going to be times when you don't agree with the publisher on some key question. I thought of going elsewhere, and when I would think of a paper, assuming that I could get on it, I would then say, "Do I agree with them on everything?" and I would conclude that I didn't.

Page 45
DANIEL JORDAN:
Were you under pressure from friends who knew your own personal beliefs to try to fight management more? Did anybody write you or call you or talk with you?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Are you at liberty to say who some of those people might be? Were they public people?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, not public people, just people that I knew.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Why do you think that Mr. Bryan and Mr. Donnahoe in late 1958 initiated this change in position on the part of the newspapers and then actually go to see Senator Byrd? Why did this happen at this point? Do you know anything about it?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, they knew that this decision was coming, or these decisions, and they had been advised by lawyers that they were going against massive resistance. My personal opinion is that Alan Donnahoe talked Bryan into going along with the reversed position, because I had a strong impression that Mr. Bryan never did want to change his point of view. I think Donnahoe convinced him that it was the only course to take and that we ought to inform Senator Byrd, who was an intimate friend of both of them, and had been supported by the papers so much, that we ought to, in kindness to him, not spring it on him that we were going to reverse our position.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Wasn't there a rather active involvement by a number of state businessmen about this time, pointing out the danger to the economy of closing schools, the fact that companies would not come into the state if they did not have a school system?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes.

Page 46
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Do you think that this may have been for Donnahoe, who was the general manager at that time and concerned with business interests for the newspaper and that this may have had some effect on him?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
It might have. I think that he is one of the smartest people that I ever saw and I think that he just realized the jig was up.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
That there would be severe economic problems for the state?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
If we went on trying to buck the thing after the courts had ruled, that we would be in an untenable position.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
A number of businessmen went to Almond in this period. I understand that Frank Batten, who was the publisher of the Norfolk papers at this time was included in this group of business men. Do you know if Mr. Donnahoe might have been in this group of people that went to see Governor Almond?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I don't think he was.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
I talked to Judge Eggleston some time ago and asked him if he could evaluate the influence of newspapers, specifically the Virginian-Pilot, which was arguing against closing schools prior to the school closing. He said that he thought the influence of the Virginian-Pilot was negligible and that the influence of the Times-Dispatch and the News Leader, because of their position in the capital and their statewide circulation, was immense. The influence of these two newspapers had a great deal to do with the success that massive resistance had. Do you think this is a fair evaluation of the influence of these two newspapers?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, insofar as what happened is concerned, I would say that the Virginian-Pilot didn't have as much influence as ours because it

Page 47
couldn't change anything that was going on. The Richmond papers were going along either actively or passively with the prevailing view of the Byrd organization. Whether their influence brought about what happened or whether they just went along with it, I don't know. But I do think the News Leader had a great deal of influence. Much more than we did, because we were sort of wishy-washy and didn't say much one way or the other. I wanted to go one way and Bryan wanted to go along with Kilpatrick, so we just stayed pretty much in the middle, but the News-Leader was way out in front all the time.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
You would say that they were actively supporting massive resistance while the Times-Dispatch was passively supporting it.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Were you writing editorials concerning this passive support of massive resistance?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, I was writing practically all of them.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
In other words, if there was support of massive resistance, even at the passive level, you would have written the editorial?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I didn't write all of them, I would like to make an exception on that. There were two or three occassions where I was not willing to take such a drastic pro-massive resistance stand and Alan Donnahoe wrote them.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Alan Donnahoe actually wrote some?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
He wrote two or three of the most vigorous massive resistance editorials.

Page 48
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Were they signed or did they just go through as . . .
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
No.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
So, there may have been some points there where the Times-Dispatch was more actively supporting massive resistance?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, temporarily. I remember two editorials, one of which ended with "We've just begun to fight," and the other ended with "We've just begun to fight." [Laughter] I suggested that he take that out of the second one and he did.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
How did you and how did the Times-Dispatch view Almond's change or his positions after 1959, that "damned speech."
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
We supported him after he came out in the legislature for a different course of action.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
By this time, the Times-Dispatch and the News Leader had pulled back from massive resistance?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Right. And the courts had spoken out against it.
DANIEL JORDAN:
You interviewed Almond, too, about this time, didn't you? After his speech.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Sometime in there, because I wrote a piece for U.S. News and that was when it was. That was when he spoke of "that damned speech" for the first time.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
This hysteria that you talk about is not typical of the Virginian. Do you think that Kilpatrick was responsible for a lot of this?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I would have to say that I do, yes.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Why? Because of his way of writing . . .
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
He is a very brilliant writer and he put this thing in such terms that you would think that he had the word from on high as to how we were going to get out of this dilemma.

Page 49
DANIEL JORDAN:
This doctrine of interposition was at the same time immediately condemned by political scientists and historians, I believe.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Did David J. Mays condemn it?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Did he do that publicly?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
No. He told me that "interposition is neither legally nor nor historically sound." I told Tennant Bryan what he had said, but without effect.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Powell also condemned it, I assume.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, it was an interesting occasion when he did so. There is a group here called the Forum Club, which is, let's say, made up largely of the power structure of Richmond, and they meet once a month. Kilpatrick was moderator one month and I was moderator another, we alternated. We would talk about current events. Interposition was running at the forefront of the agenda at that time, Kilpatrick was moderating, and we were talking about interposition. Lewis Powell had been tipped off or urged by somebody in New York over the telephone to make some comments on interposition when he got to the meeting. He didn't have time to prepare anything much; he just thought about it on the way down on the plane and came to the meeting. It was one of the most amazing and astonishingly effective performances. Although he hadn't had time to prepare anything, and he tore interposition to shreds. Just off the top of his head without any notes or preparation. It was really devastating. Kilpatrick was just sitting there looking as sick as could be.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Did anybody challenge Lewis Powell on that occasion? Anybody in the audience or Kilpatrick?

Page 50
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Kilpatrick made a few feeble remarks.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Were there any letters to the editor of the Times-Dispatch from people of substance in the legal community to the effect that interposition was a pretty weak stance?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Maybe, I don't remember any.
DANIEL JORDAN:
It is sort of interesting that should be in a position of determining things like interposition, the fact that there wasn't an outcry as to, although apparently Powell and others did privately, recognizing that. Do you think that a pattern is sort of setting in as we talk about this of people sort of forfeiting their public responsiblities?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, I think that some of them did. Maybe I did. I think that it was an era in which people should have spoken out when they knew that things were going in a way that might prove disastrous.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Would you do anything differently if you were in that position again? Is there anything in retrospect that you think you could have done, or should have done?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I don't know what I could have done short of resigning.
[Remainder of this tape side is inaudible due to the poor technical quality of the tape.]
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
The New York Times on January 5, 1969 had an article on your retirement headed, "An early backer of Negro rights retires as editor," by Ben A. Franklin. One paragraph in there says, "The Virginia editor," talking about you, of course, "the Virginia editor's admirers also said that Mr. Dabney had badly and tragically come to be regarded

Page 51
as an apologist for Virginia's leading role in the South in the late 1950's for devising schemes of massive resistance to the Supreme Court's 1954 school desegregation decision." Do you consider yourself an apologist at this time?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, that is hard to answer. That's a tough question. I suppose that passively, I was an apologist in that I did not come out publicly and say what I thought. I mentioned a while ago that if I had done that, I would have had to resign and I just didn't know what I would accomplish by that. I would have had to go somewhere else and on some other paper and move my family and all that. Whether I would end up in any better position, I don't know. I didn't know of any paper with whose policies I was in total agreement. I did not like these editorials that Donnahoe wrote. Since I didn't write them, I solved my conscience to some extent.
DANIEL JORDAN:
I don't have anything else except that in looking at the problem in retrospect and in mentioning Lindsay Almond in particular, what is the feeling of the people who lived through that era and who were active participants in one way or the other on massive resistance? Would you say that there is a particular sentiment that is dominant, or would it depend on the person that you are talking with?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think it depends on the person you are talking with. I heard Mills Godwin say that massive resistance can be defended on the ground that it bought time for Virginia to adjust to this radical decision that changed the whole way of life in this part of the country. I would say to a lesser degree that I think some sort of delaying action was necessary but not massive resistance. I think the Gray Commission would have provided a sufficient delay for

Page 52
adjustment. That was why I was opposed to massive resistance. I think that there was a better alternative.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What about Mr. Bryan and Donnahoe? Did they express their opinions in retrospect about it, to your knowledge?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
No, I don't know.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Nobody at the time, did they Mr. Dabney, say that the purpose of what Virginia was doing was to buy time?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, I think some did. They knew the resistance would not stand up.
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]
DANIEL JORDAN:
. . . and I think that we have covered the business about Cannon's quickness to sue and people being afraid, although it is certainly appropriate to suggest that publishers were leery.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Do you think that we ought to go back and pick up the books?
DANIEL JORDAN:
Well, that's a clear category, perhaps we should start with the books again. Mr. Dabney, a very important part of your career has been the writing of some significant books. I wonder if we might take them in sequence and you would comment on how you came to write the books and something about what your purpose was and

Page 53
get a little something about the response to the books. We will start with 1932 and Liberalism in the South.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, I was asked to write that by the University of North Carolina Press, and when I accepted, they asked me to provide an outline of what I had in mind. I did outline it for them and they said to go ahead, and gave me a two hundred dollar advance, which seems too good to be true now. I think Mencken had a good deal to do with my being asked by the University of North Carolina Press to do the book. He had been in touch with them. I had done some writing for him, which he seemed to like. There was an article for the American Mercury and Baltimore Evening Sun's pieces on the editorial page, to which he also contributed. I wrote there about prohibition and crazy performances of people in Virginia, such as Ku Kluxers and fundamentalists and people who objected to the statue of Columbus being erected in Richmond because he was a Catholic. There was also a piece about persons who were trying to get anti-evolution bills and Sunday fishing bills through the legislature. The first thing that I wrote was an attack on the Byrd machine, which got me in trouble with the machine temporarily. They forgave me.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
You were writing for the News Leader at that time?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
At that time, I was a reporter on the News Leader and Dr. Freeman, who was editor of the News Leader, admonished me about my piece on the Byrd machine, since I was a reporter covering the governor's office, and I had touched the current governor in the article, Governor Trinkle. He was not exactly an inner circle Byrd governor, but he had been the machine

Page 54
candidate against Henry St. George Tucker. So, I should have had better sense, because I was dependent on his goodwill to get news, and I certainly couldn't be attacking him and getting news.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What was the purpose of the book, Liberalism in the South?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, I was very much honored to be asked, and I was going to write it if I possibly could. I was interested in the subject and felt that I could fit into what they wanted me to do. So, I worked on it very hard and it appeared in a couple of years.
DANIEL JORDAN:
But to cover the content, did it have a particular thrust or a particular thesis?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I suppose that the thesis would be that liberal thought was the most important thing that had carried the South forward in the past and would guide it forward in the future.
DANIEL JORDAN:
And you started with the Revolutionary generation and traced the ups and downs of that liberal thought?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
All the way down to the 1920's.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Was the book more than just a review of the traditions? Was it also an expression of your opinions at that time?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, it was. It was, in a way, an expression of my philosophy.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Did the book help to shape your philosophy? By being forced to think through the whole sweep of southern liberalism, did it help you to clarify your own values?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, it did very much. I had to think through these issues and principles, in order to set them down on paper, and it helped me

Page 55
to formulate my own creed.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Was there any controversy in the aftermath of publishing it? Were there people who might disagree with what you said in it?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, I can't remember specifically any instances, but I know that at that time I was considered to be a fairly advanced liberal and "pink", as the saying went, and whereas the views that I expressed then were not greatly different from those that I have now, they were pretty far ahead of a lot of people.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
For that time.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
For that time and that place.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Did the book sell?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
No, it didn't sell well, it came out at the bottom of the Depression. I think there were 1500 copies, and they all eventually were sold, but that was all.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Now, your next book in 1942 was Below the Potomac.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I was asked to write that by Appleton-Century. I had just been lecturing at Princeton on the New South. Mr. John L. B. Williams of the publishing firm was a Princeton graduate and he knew about my lectures and so he asked me to more or less bring Liberalism in the South up to date, that is, a book about the South of ten years after the Liberalism in the South period, which is what I tried to do with race relations, TVA and the economic and social problems of about 1940.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Did you offer some solutions for these problems or just identify the problems?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I tried to. I presented a thesis as to the race problem, which involved at that time "separate but equal" treatment of the races,

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on the theory that the South wasn't ready for more advanced solutions. I thought that we could get complete equality of facilities and treatment, that it might work for awhile.
DANIEL JORDAN:
And you drew it in part, I believe, from some of the philosophy of Professor Corioiu, who was a great constitutional historian at Princeton.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
He was at Princeton and I was lecturing there, and he expressed the view that "separate but equal" could be supported legally if there was complete equality. In education, he thought that if there were first-rate regional institutions for specialized subjects like medicine or veterinary medicine or engineering, where a state didn't have first-rate institutions, they would have a regional institution for blacks and another one for whites. He thought that would be legal if approved by Congress
DANIEL JORDAN:
What kind of response did you get to that book?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
It was favorably reviewed, just as the earlier one was, and it did not sell well. It was published about five months after Pearl Harbor and everybody was so absorbed in the war that the problems of race and TVA and everything else went by the board temporarily.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Do you think that your views on these issues changed much over a ten year period?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Not very much. I think that my views were pretty largely the same at the time I wrote the two books. It is important to realize that when I wrote both of them, I was not asking for abolition of the segregation system. People who thought that I was so far ahead of things at that time would now think that I was conservative on that issue.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
You were just in effect asking for equal facilities, equal treatment, which was considered a very far liberal advanced theory?

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VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I also was asking for abolition of the poll tax, which was objected to very strenously by the powers that be in Virginia.
DANIEL JORDAN:
In 1949, you published Dry Messiah, which was about Bishop Cannon, and what would be the origins of that particular book?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, I tried to get it out at the time that Cannon was on the front page of all the papers in the United States; he was a very controversial figure involving prohibition and the Catholic-Protestant issue. Of course, he led the revolt of the South against Al Smith and aroused anti-Catholic sentiment and he was very strongly attacked in the press all over the country. He was such a controversial and greatly publicized figure that I thought a book about him would be very much to order, but I couldn't get any publisher to bring it out because of his capacity for suing everybody that criticized him. He would have sued the publisher at once and I believe the suits would have tied up the publication of the book. Books couldn't have been sold until the suit was settled. So, it was a real risk.
DANIEL JORDAN:
So, it was not published until after Cannon's death?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, about five years after his death. He died in '44 and the book came out in '49.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Did you have access to any of Cannon's papers?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I did not, because his son wouldn't give me access. He viewed me with alarm or suspicion or both. He knew that I had been very unsympathetic to what his father had been doing all down the years, and I think that he felt I was not a proper biographer of his father. So, I never got Cannon's papers, except the ones that were published and some that I

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got from Carter Glass that hadn't been published and which were very damaging to him.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Some years later, I believe, the press at Duke University published Bishop Cannon's own story. That is, after the publication of your book. Did you ever read that and would it have changed any of your judgements?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
It wouldn't have changed anything. I reviewed it for the New York Times. It had very little that I didn't have. There is one thing that nobody had access to and never will have access to; Cannon wrote an autobiographical work which got lost on a bus somewhere in Texas. He had it with him and left it in a bus station or on a bus or something, and nobody has ever found it until this day.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Do you recall the reaction to that book?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
It got good reviews. Most of the newspaper men and newspapers were sympathetic to what I was saying, it was reviewed in both Time and Newsweek, which was kind of miraculous. It did not sell, Cannon was a dead pigeon, a dead duck at that time, In addition, prohibition was a dead issue and nobody gave a hoot about Cannon anymore.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Would it be fair to say that the style of Dry Messiah was influenced by Mencken?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I guess it was.
DANIEL JORDAN:
As opposed to your style in uniting your two previous books.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I guess so.

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VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I was influenced by Mencken a good deal; I probably wrote more like Mencken earlier than I did later, but it was in newspaper articles and things like that.
DANIEL JORDAN:
In 1971, you published Virginia, the New Dominion. How did that book come about?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, when I retired, I knew that I wanted to write something, and I tried to make up my mind what it would be. I went to see John Jennings and Will Rachal at the Virginia Historical Society and told them that I wanted to write a book about something and what did they think was needed. I suggested a biography of Richard Henry Lee. Also, I didn't think that there was a really good one-volume life of Jefferson or Robert E. Lee, but I didn't feel competent to do either one, but I did tentatively toy with the idea of Richard Henry Lee. Both Jennings and Rachal said that a history of Virginia was badly needed and that they wished I would do that. It appealed to me more than the other things anyway, so I took their advice.
DANIEL JORDAN:
And how did Doubleday, who published the book, come into the story?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, that's a funny thing. About a month after I had that conversation with John Jennings and Will Rachal, Doubleday wrote me and asked me to write a history of Virginia. It was a marvelous coincidence. I told them that I couldn't begin writing anytime soon because I wasn't going to retire for three years, but I would make an agreement to do the book after I retired and in the meantime, I would be researching it. I researched for three years in my spare time and wrote it in two years after

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I retired.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Now, Doubleday had, I believe, published Matthew Page Andrews's book on the history of Virginia in the 1930s. Is there a particular reason why Doubleday has been so much of a friend of Virginia history?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I don't know. There is a young editor there, Sally Arteseros, who apparently was familiar with my writings. She commented on several things that I had written when she wrote this letter and she had read what I had written not only in my books but in magazines. I don't know how in the world it happened, but anyway, I was so impressed by her having read what I had written and her having picked me out to do this that it played a role in causing me to sign a contract.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What kind of a history did you hope to write in that book? What type?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, they asked for a narrative history, so I tried to write a narrative history. There is a certain amount of interpretation, and it is almost inevitable that some of your views will get in there, but a narrative history is what they asked for. I believe that it was your purpose to try to give some credit to certain groups of Virginians who traditionally have not received much credit.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes. In researching the subject in those three years

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before I began writing, I came to the conclusion that the Scotch-Irish were very much underplayed and the Germans, and everybody in the southwest—in fact, that whole part of the state had been underplayed, since the books on Virginia had centered on Richmond and Williamsburg, Jamestown and Yorktown. The Hampton Roads area had been underplayed also. I felt that the subject ought to be given a more balanced treatment.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What kind of research did you find yourself doing? It would be impossible to do primary research with manuscripts for the full sweep of 350 years.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
It was not only impossible, I didn't even try. I looked at hardly any primary sources, unless Ph.D. dissertations and M. A. theses are primary sources, at least they are unpublished sources. Nearly everything else that I used had been either in books or magazines, tracts or pamphlets.
DANIEL JORDAN:
And you did draw a lot, I believe, on theses and dissertations done at the University.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
They dealt with the period since 1865 and were really most valuable.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What kind of impact did the book have?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
It got a very favorable reception, more than I expected, both in reviews and sales. It is in its sixth printing, including paperback, and has sold nearly twenty thousand copies, mostly hard backed, about fifteen thousand hardbacks.
DANIEL JORDAN:
I know that the reviews have been very favorable, but have the reviewers said anything that you felt was unfair criticism about the book? I'm not aware of anything, but I'm curious.

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VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I'm not aware of anything, either. There are not really any adverse criticisms, it's really remarkable.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Your project just completed is a history of Richmond. How did you come to write a history of Richmond?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I saw in writing about Virginia that there wasn't any good history of Richmond, there were fragmentary histories. [unclear] cover certain periods, such as Mordecai's down to the Civil War, which is very good; Little's, which is not as good, down to about 1850; the Asbury Christian book, which is as dry as dust and also inaccurate in many ways, but useful as an assemblege of facts, most of which are accurate and many of which are not, down to 1912. Then there is Mrs. Stuart's book, 1921 or '22, which is of course, over fifty years ago and is episodic and focuses on certain individuals and episodes without really going thoroughly into the background of politics and race relations, in fact, there is practically nothing about race relations, politics, and related matters. And economics, it just leaves that whole field out.
DANIEL JORDAN:
There is a resource for Richmond that I think a lot of people don't know about but you do, that is Wirt Cate's manuscript.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
It's very valuable, yes. I wanted to mention that. He intended to write a history of Richmond and spent about three years researching it in very great depth. He has gone to a lot of original sources and has written about fifteen hundred pages of material including notes and index. So, it is a very readily used resource down to the Civil War. He didn't get beyond that and he never got to the point of writing

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that for publication, although I had a letter from him a year or two ago which said that somebody was probably going to publish it if he could bring it down to date. Some things have changed, even for the period that he wrote about. Buildings have been torn down and things like that. So, he has been extremely helpful, and another very helpful thing is a series of scrapbooks that Mr. Bernard J. Henley is compiling on Richmond newspapers. He has done twelve or thirteen, beginning with the year 1736, with the first newspaper, The Virginia Gazette, and coming right on down. He is copying the most interesting and informative items in every newspaper published in Williamsburg and Richmond since that time, which is a godsend for people who are doing research in those papers. Have you seen them?
DANIEL JORDAN:
I know about them. Mr. Henley I gather is kind of a chronicler, isn't he?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, he just copies, that's all.
DANIEL JORDAN:
But they are very valuable.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, things that you never would see; you can't spend your life poring over newspapers, and there are items concerning events in Richmond history that I never would have seen if I hadn't gotten them from him. Then, I ran into a scrapbook that turned up in the city library of over a hundred articles published in the Richmond Times in the 1880s and early '90s by Dr. William P. Palmer who was quite an historian and physician. He started the Calendar of State Papers. He was vice president of the Virginia Historical Society and his articles are good. They are not footnoted, but he gave me insights into Gabriel's Insurrection that I haven't gotten anywhere else. He found some other things that

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I haven't seen anywhere else. I've got a chapter in the book on Gabriel which is partly based on some things that he was able to dig up.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What about illustrations for the book?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I've been working on them. I spent two hours in the Valentine Museum this morning. I'm going to have forty-eight pages of illustrations, which will be seventy pictures. I've got a good many that haven't been published and I think they are very interesting and important.
DANIEL JORDAN:
You might mention a couple just to get some fresh material.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, a watercolor of Belvidere, the home of William Byrd III, which was built in the late 1750's and was burned accidentally a hundred years later. No trace of it remains. A very handsome house. I have a pastel of "Polly" Marshall, which I think has never been published. It just turned up recently somewhere up North and is owned by a Richmond collector, a very pretty young girl probably in her twenties. A drawing of Irene Langhorne, who married Charles Dana Gibson, a great beauty of her era, an unpublished crayon drawing by her husband, Charles Dana Gibson. And some excellent foible and caricatures of himself and Charley MacDonald and caricatures by MacNelly of himself and the late "Mike" Houston.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Will this be a narrative history similar in style and tone to your Virginia?

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VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That's it exactly, the same sort of thing, beginning in 1607 and ending in 1975. There will be four hundred and some pages of text and a total of a little over five hundred pages with bibliography, index, and notes.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What's the publication schedule on it?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
It won't appear until the fall of '76, because Doubleday wanted it for fall publication. They could publish it next spring because I've given them everything except the foreword and that's just a few pages. I do have to get the pictures to them but that's all.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Do you have a project in mind after this one is wrapped up?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I don't know; I'm not ready to say. [Laughter]
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
I was struck by your statement that you looked around, when you were first beginning the book on Virginia, that you knew you wanted to write something when you retired and that you didn't know exactly what you wanted to write. Why do you say that? Most people, when they retire, they think about retiring. You've been writing all your life, didn't you want to take a rest?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I didn't know that was an unusual position that I took. I wanted something to do. I didn't want to play tennis seven days a week and read the rest of the time. I would go more or less out of my mind if I didn't have something to occupy me more than that. I don't want to be overworked either. When I was rector of VCU, I

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really came very close to a breakdown. After I got over that hump, I just haven't scheduled things that require such tremendous effort. However, I've been ahead of schedule with this Richmond book. I had until December 1 of this year to finish it and I enjoy writing because if I am doing something that is clearly not a waste of time, I want to keep on doing it. I'm going to write some more.
DANIEL JORDAN:
I wondered if we might talk now about your general work habits. What I had in mind is the kind of thing that Dumas Malone wrote about Freeman when he wrote an introduction to one of Freeman's Washington volumes. He described exactly how Freeman wrote his history. Would you mind commenting on how you write your history from the standpoint of a schedule?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I have a schedule of sorts, but it is nothing like Freeman's, you can be sure of that. His was unlike anybody's in the world, I suppose, what with getting up at two o'clock and working until he went to bed at seven and scheduling everything by the minute and hour. That would be intolerable from my standpoint. When I'm writing a book, which I am doing most of the time these days, I try to work from about 9:30 in the morning until 1:00. I am pretty well tired out at 1:00, which is lunchtime. I have lunch and then I usually lie down for three quarters of an hour or an hour and usually go to sleep for part of that time. I then either play tennis, which I do three days a week, or I go into town on some mission or another, or if it is good weather, I take a walk a couple of times a week for two miles, or I go to some social event and relax and then have dinner at night. Afterwards, usually my wife and I just read or look at TV if there is something good on TV; we don't look at it very much, only when there is some special thing like a

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news program or "Upstairs, Downstairs." I generally read at night more than anything else and do a good deal of research. I do it without working at a breakneck pace and getting worn out with it.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Do you write and research simultaneously or do you research and then write it and research again?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I write on a certain period during the morning and I may be reading on a later period at night. I will have finished reading about the period, of course, before I write about it. When I am getting ready for the next period that I'm going to write about, I read at night and make notes.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Do you have a certain number of drafts in mind when you start formal writing?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I'm lucky if I write two double-spaced pages in that period from 9:30 to 1:00. About four or five hundred words, around two hundred and fifty to a page. I don't generally get that much written. I write it over several times, either then or when I begin the next day. I never get the thing right the first time, or the second time, usually.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Do you normally make an outline before you start writing?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I outline each chapter, yes. I try to outline the book, too, roughly, and I always outline the chapters.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Do you try to keep a certain schedule like a chapter by a certain date and another chapter by another date and so on?

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VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, in order to meet the deadline for the publisher, I try to do that. I generally in my mind figure roughly that it will take me from a month to six weeks to do a chapter and then I figure out how many chapters there are going to be and then I can tell roughly how long it's going to take. I have interludes in there, vacations or whatnot, for it does me good to get away and not have it on my mind. But, nothing does as much good as tennis. If I am groggy and tired and very tense or bothered, if I can play three sets of tennis, I just feel like a new man. Every time, it never fails.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Do you compose on a typewriter . . .
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes.
[END OF TAPE 3, SIDE A]

[TAPE 3, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 3, SIDE B]
DANIEL JORDAN:
. . . We might move into your work in Virginia history beyond your books. I would like to mention several projects that you have been actively involved in and sort of get your assessment of what you did. It seems to me that you have made contributions by helping restore awareness to certain episodes in Virginia's past. One example would be a sort of Virginia Paul Revere, Jack Jouett and his ride. A specific question would be, what is significant about Jack Jouett and how did you come to write about him, because I think that you have written several articles?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I saw that Jack Jouett was a neglected Virginia figure and back in the 1920s, I was trying to write some magazine articles and I thought that he would be a good subject, particularly since nobody seemed to have ever heard of him outside of Virginia. So, I did write an article which Scribner's published in June 1928 and then another for American Heritage, in the early 1960s. I rewrote the whole thing for them and then the Ironworker

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asked me to write about him again, and so I wrote it for the third time, a second rewrite.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Who was Jack Jouett, just in the general sense?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
He was a citizen of Charlottesville who early in the game joined the patriots and signed the "Albemarle Declaration," renouncing allegiance to King George. He was in or near Cuckoo Tavern on the night of June 3, 1781 when Tarleton came through on the way to Charlottesville in an effort to capture Governor Jefferson and the legislature. Jouett decided to outride Tarleton and he went by a circuitous route of about forty miles, three times as far as Revere rode and it was rough terrain, no roads to speak of and how he did it, I can't imagine. Fortunately, there was a full moon and he made it all right and warned Jefferson early in the morning before got there. The legislature was in Charlottesville, most of them; a few were at Monticello with Jefferson, and most of them got away. A few were captured, including Daniel Boone.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Another episode that you called to mind was the first Thanksgiving.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I thought I could write something interesting about that because of the misconceptions about Thanksgiving, and where the first one took place. I really was surprised at what I found when I got into it. The first New England Thanksgiving, had no religious aspects at all and the participants were a bunch of gluttons and wine bibbers, Puritans at that. It is really remarkable that they would have carried on like that. I think that they offered a prayer, but that was the extent of their religious observance, whereas the so-called "rollicking

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Cavaliers" had a religious observance for the first Thanksgiving in 1619 when they landed at Berkeley Plantation. I just looked into the whole background of Thanksgiving and pointed out that this was the first one that had been scheduled for an annual observance and that it had been completely neglected. The Berkeley Plantation people leaped on that and reprinted my article, which appeared in the Saturday Evening Post, and had it on the table at Berkeley. They organized an annual orgy, an elaborate observance, and charged everybody some ungodly amount, six or seven dollars, to come down there and hear somebody orate on the subject. [Laughter] This seemed to me to be making far too much of this priority. I really ought to mention that Clifford Dowdey wrote a book in which he mentions the first Thanksgiving, The Great Plantation, and I think that really was the first public mention, so I don't want to claim any undue precedence. However, the Saturday Evening Post at that time had an enormous readership and the article did stir people up.
DANIEL JORDAN:
In the 1920's or after, did you have any interest or associations with restoring Williamsburg?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I was on the board of the Institute of Early American History, I believe the first one. I attended those meetings, but I don't think that I really belonged there. My knowledge of colonial history at that time was about as fragmentary as you could imagine. Everybody else on the board was a really eminent colonial historian; I suppose they wanted somebody from journalism, I don't know what else. I got paid $75 a day, which seemed to me to be an absolute gold mine and in 1940, that was equal to about $300 a day now. About all that I did was go down there and listen to these historians talk.

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DANIEL JORDAN:
Did you support the idea of a restoration?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
It was already underway.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Well, in the 1920s, it sort of got started, didn't it?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, this was in the '40s and it was well underway.
DANIEL JORDAN:
You were also on the editorial board of the University Press of Virginia and perhaps still are, I'm not sure.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
No, I'm not.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What was the nature of your service there?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, we just met every three months and discussed what sorts of books we should publish and what policies should be adopted. They moved into a nice new home there at the time, which was a rewarding experience for me, I enjoyed it. I'm sorry to say that in the last three years, I haven't been on the board and there has been very little emphasis on anything since the Civil War. I can't find that they are publishing anything at all about current affairs or of a controversial nature, on the race question or the Byrd machine or anything else since Jay Wilkinson's book and a few things of that nature. They just dropped that type of thing and I am really disappointed. In the catalogue that comes out in the spring and fall, they mention about fifty books that they say are worth notice, and they leave out all these current things. I really can't understand it.

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DANIEL JORDAN:
Did you have a hand in the publication of Jay Wilkinson's book?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I had a hand, yes, I talked to Victor Reynolds, director of the press, about it before he saw it.
DANIEL JORDAN:
You have been active in the bicentennial celebration, and could you describe the various roles that you have played and perhaps the various groups that you have been associated with?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, I am on the Richmond Bicentennial Commission and I go to meetings there pretty nearly every month. We've organized various things, we have a very good director, Kent Druyvesteyn. He does most of the actual work, along with Edwin Cox III, the chairman, who is very active, too. All the board does is go to meetings and lend some support to what these two do. We helped to get up the Patrick Henry celebrations and they went off pretty well. We got underway a writing of the history of the Revolution in Richmond, which has been partially completed by two authors, but is having to be done over for publication.
DANIEL JORDAN:
How about your participation on a statewide level? I believe that you have been asked to serve on some committee there.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I haven't done a thing. Three months ago, the chairman asked me to be a consultant and that is all. Nothing has happened since that, and it is all right. I'm not anxious to be consulted. [Laughter]
DANIEL JORDAN:
You are also active, I believe, in a private bicentennial organization. the U.S. Bicentennial Commission.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That's right. I'm chairman of the trustees of that and it is a private, non-governmental agency which is trying to produce things that are useful and valuable to people who want to observe the

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Bicentennial. Some of these things are pretty expensive, decidedly so, collectors' items and such things as replicas of George Washington's pistols, beautiful silver mounted pistols. Also the pistols that Hamilton and Burr fired at each other with, both of them reproduced exactly at great expense. There are also some bone china plates, a dozen of them with with color portraits of prominent figures in the Revolution. They are being sold to collectors and we are getting out a book which may not make any money at all. I've got the jacket here if you want to see it. It cost a great deal to produce. The authors are quite distinguished people, the editor excepted. Henry Commager has written a magnificent twenty thousand word introduction and the brief sketches of fifty patriots of the Revolution are by the people on the back of the jacket, Morison and Commager and Bruce Catton and Merrill Peterson, Alistair Cooke and others.
DANIEL JORDAN:
And you, of course, served as editor of the book which you have entitled The Patriots.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That's right.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Now, was there a controversy with this organization which led to the resignation of certain trustees?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
It wasn't any serious controversy at all. For example, Admiral Morison served for a couple of years and helped us and wrote three of the sketches for the book and we are on very friendly terms; but when we brought up the matter of the Hamilton-Burr pistols, for some reason he said that he was opposed to that and then he said, "I've been worrying about some of the other things that you have been doing and I'm not sure that I agree that all of them belong as parts of the Revolutionary

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observance." Well, that surprised us because one of the things that we had gotten out was a series of plates of Winslow Homer's paintings, and of course, they had nothing to do with the Revolution; they were mid-nineteenth century or later. We chose Homer because the National Gallery of Art in Washington said that he was the most thoroughly American painter and we thought that this society ought to be concerned with the origins of American culture as well as the actual events of the Revolution. We sent Admiral Morison a set of the plates, and he was delighted with them; they had his name on the back with the rest of the trustees, and he wrote us a letter of fervent thanks, and said that they were beauties and he was glad to have them. Later on, for some reason, he decided that some of the things we were doing didn't belong in the Revolutionary concept that he had. So, he said that he would rather just get off.
Then, Alistair Cooke had made several statements, including a speech to Congress, that he thought all commercialization of the Revolution was wrong, that nobody ought to commercialize the Revolution in any way at all. His conscience got to gnawing at him; he was one of our trustees and was being paid a trustees fee. He said very pleasantly that he thought he ought to get off, too, because of that utterance, particularly, that he had made to Congress. He also wrote three of the sketches, and is relatively happy with the whole situation, but he just thinks that he ought not to be a trustee. Vann Woodward was on it at first; we ran an ad in which we had his name along with Morison and the other trustees for the plates. It was in The New Yorker and he hadn't realized that we were going to use his name in advertisements. We had neglected to tell him and somebody got after him about it. He told me that somebody did, and said that it made

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him kind of unhappy to be kidded by people about having his name used in a commercial enterprise like that. So, we said that it was perfectly all right for him to resign, so he did.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Has there been any criticism beyond these examples given of the fact that this is a commercial, private, profit-oriented organization?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I haven't heard any. I'm sure that some people perfectly sincerely think that nobody ought to do anything commercial that is connected with this great anniversary. That is a perfectly valid point of view if they want to think that. I didn't put up any money for any of these things. Those who did, put up more than $20,000 to publish the book, The Patriots. To get that money back, they've got to sell a lot of books. Those color plates, twelve color portraits, along with black and white illustrations, are quite expensive. And everybody had to be paid to write those fifty sketches. They were paid $300 a piece, a total of $15,000. It is entirely possible that the book will turn out to be a philanthropic proposition on the part of the people that put up the money. There is another philanthropic proposition, a musical number composed by Morton Gould specifically for the Bicentennial. The U.S. Bicentennial Society put up $5,000. There is a stipulation that nobody except the composer is to get any money out of this. A New York organization also put up $5,000. So, that is pure contribution to observance of the Revolution.
DANIEL JORDAN:
I don't want to belabor anything, but did you also write a letter that was published in the Boston paper blaming . . .

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VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, I had forgotten about that.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Was that in response to an editorial or . . .
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
It was to something that appeared in the Boston paper. It was a signed piece about commercialization of the Revolution and it linked us with a lot of people who were getting out T-shirts and red, white, and blue ice cream, things like that, just getting out a lot of trash, ashtrays and I don't know what all. We didn't like being linked with that sort of thing. We do have a very tasteful series of things that we are doing and we are not being blatantly commercial about it, I wouldn't say. But of course, it is being done in general for profit. The trustees get an annual fee and the underwriters get whatever profit there is. There hasn't been any so far.
DANIEL JORDAN:
You received a very high honor in being selected as the president of the Virginia Historical Society, which is one of the oldest in the country and I think one of the best. What was the nature of your service as president of the Society?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, it was very much like the other presidents, probably not as good as some of them.
DANIEL JORDAN:
You attendance was better than John Marshall's, who I believe was the first president, but didn't appear at too many meetings.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I was pretty regular in attending. Of course, we meet every month, except in one or two summer months, and the president presides over the meetings and every president, prior to being elected president, has been on the board for quite a long time. I was elected about 1950 to the board and was on the Publications and Library Committees, and chairman of Publications. I sat in on those committee meetings, presided over some of them. Then

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I was vice president and then president. I don't think that anything very much was changed during my term except that we did away with the annual business meeting in the afternoon, which was a complete waste of time as far as I could see because nobody came. The board came and maybe twenty-five or thirty other people. Half of them were sent over to the meeting from the Historical Society, members of the staff. It really was a joke. So, what we did was to liquidate that affair, it had been going on I don't know how long. Each committee chairman read his report and it took up a lot of time, and nobody much listened, except other committee chairmen and the board. We just did away with all of that and put the reports in the April issue of the magazine. It was a relief to get rid of that and have just the election board members at the annual meeting at night, which had been in the afternoon, too.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Not long ago, Mr. Dabney, you made a formal speech at the College of William and Mary in which you attacked Fawn Brodie's work on Jefferson and Gore Vidal's historical fiction on Burr and in a sense, defended a different notion of the Founding Fathers. Would you comment on how you came to give the speech and what you hoped to do in the speech and then the reaction to the speech?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, when I was asked to make it, I couldn't think of what I was going to say and I racked my brain for months. Finally, it popped into my mind that nobody, as far as I knew, had really confronted Gore Vidal and Fawn Brodie about their two books, which I thought were pretty awful in many ways. They have had huge sales and been favorably

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reviewed by some people, to my dismay. So, I told the chairman of the board of William and Mary what I was thinking of doing and he was delighted; he told the president and he was delighted. I got to work on it; I think I worked on it for about a month. That's one of those interludes when I wasn't writing much on my book. I consulted various people, Dumas Malone, Julian Boyd, and Merrill Peterson, and got them to comment on Brodie's book. All their comments were unfavorable. They had not commented publicly to any extent. I convinced them that it was their duty to come out and say what they thought about anything as distorted as this which was giving people such perverted ideas of Jefferson's career. Malone was the most hesitant because he felt that he would be attacking another author in his field, but I agreed to put in the speech that he was reluctant, and so he came through with an awfully good statement including the one about graffiti, which I thought was about the best thing that anybody said; to the effect that "anybody could write graffiti on walls, anybody could write dirty words, but it was shocking that they were so richly rewarded," which got him a brickbat from Brodie in Time. I'm sorry about that because I didn't want to get him in that sort of a controversy. Well, I wrote the thing and it was quite well received, I thought, by the audience. I got a lot of letters from all over about it; Time printed a substantial extract and the William and Mary people sent it out to a lot of different publications and apparently the AP and UP used some, and the Richmond, Norfolk, Lynchburg, and Raleigh papers carried big extracts. So, it got a fair

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amount of distribution and I got a huge lot of letters, most of which were entirely favorable. There were some from history professors that said I had performed a service. I never did hear from Brodie or Vidal. I don't know whether they ever saw it. Brodie read what Time had and replied to that. Time had a pretty good summary of what I said about Jefferson but little about Washington.
DANIEL JORDAN:
It would be correct to say that your objection was not with the notion of treating these famous people as human beings, but with what you consider to be a distortion?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Exactly so. I had been advocating treating more figures in American history as human beings and have tried to do it myself in my book on Virginia, but I certainly didn't advocate writing things about them that weren't true, especially things that were very derogatory.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
What were the names of these two books?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Fawn Brodie's Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate Portrait and Gore Vidal's Burr: A Novel. But whereas it was a novel, the author said it was "history, not invention" and the publisher made some outrageous statements on the jacket to the effect that it was an accurate picture of Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, and so forth; that it was a brilliant account of the greatest era in American history. Actually, it was the most grievous series of distortions that I have seen in a long time.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Are there other areas that you would like to comment on as to your contribution to Virginia history at large?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I don't think so.

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DANIEL JORDAN:
All right. We might move next to the field of journalism and we will keep in mind the idea of stopping at five o'clock.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Do you want to try to get that? We've got a couple of others here that—
DANIEL JORDAN:
Well, do you want to move to comments on present-day Virginia?
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
I think that it would be better to do that. You know, we've covered a little bit about his journalism.
DANIEL JORDAN:
This is more in the way of leadership, you were president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, for example, and we would sort of be curious as to what you did in that role, if you brought about any changes or the nature of the service, kind of?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Do you want to talk about that now?
DANIEL JORDAN:
Well, Bill, what do you think?
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
That's OK.
DANIEL JORDAN:
I believe that in the time left, we can cover that rather than get into the middle of something else.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
We don't have but about ten minutes.
DANIEL JORDAN:
That's right.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Which leaves the current assessment of Virginia.
DANIEL JORDAN:
But we don't want to rush through it.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
No, we don't.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I don't mind your coming back next week.
DANIEL JORDAN:
That's very generous. [Recorder is turned off and then back on.] We would like to talk for a few minutes about your leadership in the field of journalism. You have held some very important positions, and I wondered if you would characterize the

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nature of those positions? You were a director and then president of the American Society of Newspaper Editors.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, I was on the board, I think, for thirteen years and was elected president in '57. I could have been president sooner, that is, they wanted to elect me president five years before I was elected, but I couldn't take it at that time on account of the press of other duties; I was able to take it in '57. I was just in the office nine months, as it turned out. I had the shortest term of anybody because of a quirk in the schedule. They decided to meet in San Francisco as a very special feature in July instead of meeting in April. I was elected at San Francisco in July of '57. I would have been elected in April of '57 if they had met in Washington as they always did prior to that time. So, I took office in July and served until the following April of '58. It really didn't make any particular difference, but I had only that much time. What the president does is mainly try to keep the thing going with the aid of a paid staff and appoint the committees and work with them on various things like freedom of information and the program for the next convention and getting speakers for that. It doesn't involve any very momentous or earthshaking responsibilities. I just tried to carry on my duties as best I could.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Were there any controversies during your presidency?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I don't think of any of any magnitude, no.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Now, you were on the board of directors for the United Press International for Virginia.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
No, I wasn't on that, you've gotten it mixed up.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
The Associated Press.

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VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
No, I've never been on either of those.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
I was going to ask you what you as an editor were doing on the board of AP or UP.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
As an editor, I could have been on the AP board. We took AP all along, but we didn't take UPI at that time.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Until very recently.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What was the story behind that, I've never heard it.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
What?
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Why the Richmond newspapers had a falling out with UP?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I didn't know there was a falling out. I didn't know we ever took it.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Well, it was my understanding that the Richmond newspapers never took it because there had been a falling out with UP back twenty or thirty years ago.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I never heard that. Maybe there was.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
I noticed that you are a fellow of the Society of Professional Journalists.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That's right.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
What period and was there anything in that period other than the traditional stuff that you did?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, as I understand it, the board just votes on two or three people every year and gives them that particular recognition, and I got a telegram saying that I had been elected and I went to a meeting and was given a key.

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DANIEL JORDAN:
Well, I have about seven minutes to five and I think that rather than start on another category, we'll . . . but this leaves your work in the field of education, which I believe we can tighten a little now that we sort of know what we have covered. Essential to personalities, are comments about present-day Virginia. That will be next Thursday at ten o'clock. Is that all right, Bill?
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
That hour and day suits me, but I can do it anytime.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That's all right.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Any time during the day will be all right with me. [Recorder is turned off and then back on.]
[END OF TAPE 3, SIDE B]

[TAPE 4, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 4, SIDE A]
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Today we are going to talk about Mr. Dabney's contributions to higher education, or to education, and also his assessment of some personalities of the past and present and present-day Virginia.
DANIEL JORDAN:
We would like to start with an addition to the last interview which had to do with response to Mr. Dabney's major works and we asked the question to the effect of Mr. Dabney's reaction to what critics had said about his various works, and Mr. Dabney wants to add a comment about a review of Virginia, The New Dominion.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I neglected to add that a review of my Virginia, The New Dominion in the Journal of Southern History, written by Robert Jones, was partly unfavorable. I said previously that I did not recall any unfavorable reviews of that book, but his review was about half favorable

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and half unfavorable.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Do you want to comment on the nature of his criticism or just leave it as the recollection that this was a partially unfavorable review?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
No, I don't believe that I will go into any detail. He in general said that I had made "many incorrect observations." He didn't mention any of them in the review and I wrote and asked him what they were, and he gave me a detailed account of what he thought were the incorrect observations.
DANIEL JORDAN:
One of the major categories we would like to discuss today involves your work with education. In general, I would like to comment on some of your highlights of work in this field and get you to assess what you did, the nature of the work itself. You were the chairman of a statewide conference in 1966 called by Governor Godwin to assess current Virginia commitments in the field of education. What was the nature of that conference and your chairmanship?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
The conference was called by the governor to stimulate interest in better appropriations for higher education and the public schools. Both categories of education were dealt with in the conference and it was well attended from all over the state. The Mosque was filled on the lower floor and partly in the mezzanine. There was great enthusiasm. The program went off very well and the reaction was excellent. Governor Godwin made, I think, eight speeches after that in eight sections of the state in order to stir up grassroots sentiment for better education and better support for it. He, of course, at the next session of the legislature, backed general obligation bonds and a sales

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tax, both of which were essential to the progress that he achieved.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Now, what was your role in the conference, as chairman? What exactly did you do?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, I helped to organize the conference. I presided. I made an opening statement and a closing statement and introduced the speakers.
DANIEL JORDAN:
You mentioned Governor Godwin's support of a sales tax and a bond referendum. Did you support that partly from a pay as you go approach?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, we supported both of them in the Times-Dispatch and I did personally. The time was ripe for both changes. It was obvious that Virginia couldn't possibly go forward in education and various other areas without these additional funds.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Had you supported either before this time? Either personally or editorially? Either sales tax or bonds?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
No, I don't think I had.
DANIEL JORDAN:
You held very important lecturerships, one at Cambridge and one at Princeton. I wondered if we might talk briefly about each. First the one at Cambridge.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
It was what was called the Fulbright Conference on American Studies. It was a conference held annually at Oxford or Cambridge for several years with the support of Fulbright funds and Rockefeller funds. It happened to be at Cambridge the year that I went. They had about eight lecturers from the United States on various categories of interest, all of which were supposed to be things that professors in English and Scottish universities would be especially interested in. We lectured and had informal discussions for several weeks. I was there for

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three weeks. Some remained longer, but I couldn't stay that long. It was a very stimulating experience. There were, I suppose, maybe seventy-five professors from all over the United Kingdom who were interested especially in the United States.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What was the content of your series of lectures?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, I was given a free rein to choose any subject that I wanted to, I was the only newspaperman in the group.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Had there been other newspapermen before you, or were you the first editor?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I was the first one. I chose three very lively topics, almost too lively. Namely, Anglo-American relations, the race problem in the United States, and Senator Joseph McCarthy.
DANIEL JORDAN:
This would be 1954 and I am sure that the Supreme Court decision would already have been given in May.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That's right, it was a few months after the Supreme Court decision.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Do you recall your general thrust of your comments on race relations?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think that the general thrust was that we could live with this decision; that it was something that was inevitable; we did not know exactly how it would work out in this part of the country and were apprehensive concerning certain parts of Virginia which had made it clear already that they did not intend to comply, if they could possibly avoid it.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What about McCarthyism?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
It was at its height at that time. It was the most talked about subject in England apropos the United States. My feeling was that

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McCarthy was a disgrace to the country and a disreputable scoundrel, to put it mildly, who was getting much more attention than he deserved. The British press was unbelieveably absorbed in the McCarthy issue. They had him on the front page nearly everyday. I tried to explain that I had no use for McCarthy and also that I thought he was being played up entirely too much in the papers.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Would you tell us a little now about your lectureship at Princeton in 1939-1940?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Dr. Thomas J. Wertenbaker, the famous historian at Princeton, was on sabbatical for the session of 1939-40 and he needed somebody to fill in; he needed several people to fill in. He asked me to fill in for the second semester of that year from February to May. I went to Princeton every week and gave two lectures on successive days, and a seminar each day, all having to do with the New South.
DANIEL JORDAN:
This was a very difficult physical routine, I would imagine. You continued to be editor at the same time?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes. I was trying to keep from getting fired as editor and also from getting fired as a lecturer. I had to do a tremendous lot of work in preparing these lectures, since I hadn't done anything like that before. I then had to go up there for two days. I went overnight on the sleeper, and was unable to sleep on the car satisfactorily the whole time. I had to change trains twice to get there, on top of having to go in the sleeping coach. Coming back, I left in the mid-afternoon and had to change trains to get back that night around ten o'clock. I was usually pretty well exhausted when I arrived.
DANIEL JORDAN:
And Princeton, I believe, had a sort of marketplace system whereby students, if they didn't like a course, could simply withdraw.

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VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That's right, they could sign up for the course and then after they heard one or two lectures, they could drop out. Fortunately, none of mine dropped out; in fact, several came on.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Did you have any guest speakers in your lectures?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, since one aspect of the New South was TVA, I had Wendell Willkie, who was then on the verge of being nominated for president, and who had then been extremely active in the TVA controversy, in opposition to TVA. I tried to get David Lilienthal, who was the leading spokesman for TVA, to appear with Wilkie in order to give a guest lecture in opposition, but he was unable to arrange it. It went off very well; Willkie was quite attractive as a lecturer, and he was not unduly biased on the issue.
DANIEL JORDAN:
This was in the spring before his nomination later in the year?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
In April or May of 1940. The lectures went at least until the middle of May and he was nominated, I think, the next month.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Did you also have Allen Tate as a lecturer?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I had Allen Tate as a lecturer on the agrarian movement in the South of which he was a leading spokesman. I had been critical of the agrarians in some respects and some of them didn't like at all what I had said, and I got Mr. Tate deliberately because I didn't have any feeling of animosity toward him. On the contrary, I wanted to understand what they were doing, and they had misunderstood some of the things that I had written. Allen Tate was very pleasant about it and gave a very good lecture.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
How were you critical of the agrarians?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I had said or implied that they were out of touch with modern thinking. I believe I said in one piece of writing that I

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understood that they were opposed to electric lights and preferred candles and were against modern plumbing. [Laughter]
DANIEL JORDAN:
Did your lectures have any particular theme or thesis, or did you simply try to review the major contours of the New South?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
The latter. I just began at the beginning. I used a good deal of the material in my book, Liberalism in the South, and came on down to the present.
DANIEL JORDAN:
I see, did these lectures provide a basis for your book, Below the Potomac?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Just in a general sense. There was no direct similarity at all. They just dealt with some of the same subjects.
DANIEL JORDAN:
You were, Mr. Dabney, for a number of years on the Virginia committee to help select Rhodes Scholars. Could you tell us about your major service there and any memorable experiences?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
They always chose somebody who was not a Rhodes Scholar to be chairman. That's how I happened to be chairman. All the others were Rhodes Scholars and I was on that committee for five years. We met the night before with the applicants, talked to them and tried to get acquainted with them at dinner. Then we met with them the next morning singly and interviewed each of them for about twenty or thirty minutes. I presided over those meetings. We selected two out of the group and they went on to Atlanta to the regional finals.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Do you recall any particular candidates being unusually outstanding?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think A. E. (Dick) Howard, who was a graduate of the University of Richmond and the University of Virginia law school, was the most exceptional young man I ever saw, insofar as his record was concerned. I never have

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seen such a record of A grades right from the beginning on through. He also was talented musically. He was a leading ROTC officer, got an award for the best such officer in the United States, and very prominent in campus activities. He had the best balanced record that I have ever seen.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Do you know what he is doing?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
He is on the University of Virginia law faculty.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Now, you are a member of the board of advisors for the Duke Southern Studies in the Sciences. What did that involve, Mr. Dabney?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That involved absolutely nothing. [Laughter] The president of Duke left soon after it was created and nothing more was heard of it.
DANIEL JORDAN:
A more meaningful note in your career in education would be 1967 when you received the Distinguished Service Education Award of the Virginia Education Association. What was the nature of that award and for what did you receive it?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Primarily, I am sure, because the inscription said so, because of the Governor's Conference on Education of the preceding year over which I had presided.
DANIEL JORDAN:
You made a very important contribution as the first rector and then later a trustee of Virginia Commonwealth University, and you helped preside over the formation of the school itself. This is awfully important and I'm sure rather complex, but could you first tell us what your role was and then secondly, some of the problems in creating the university?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I was appointed to the board of the newly created university, which consisted of the former RPI and the Medical College of Virginia. They were combined in 1968. It was assumed by all that Edward A. Wayne, chairman of the commission that had recommended the union of the two institutions,

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would be the first rector. Unfortunately, for some reason he was unable to accept, although he was able to serve on the board. Since they couldn't select him, they looked around for somebody else and landed on me. I had had no experience at all in such a position, either as a member of a college board or as a rector. So, I was quite new at the job and had much to learn. There were many problems, which would occur in any such situation in merging two such totally dissimilar institutions, one of which was an old, well established one and the other relatively new and not first class, mainly because it had never received adequate appropriations. Anyway, I undertook this job. It was a tremendous ordeal and strain. I was trying to carry on my duties as editor along with it and then to complicate matters, when we began looking for a president of the combined institution, Mr. Wayne, who was chairman of the search committee and also of the executive committee of the board, got an infected gall bladder and was out for six weeks with an operation. I had to take that over, also. I did the best I could with it and finally got Dr. Warren Brandt as president. During the same period that this was happening, Dr. Roland Nelson, who was president of RPI, one of the constituent institutions, left to accept another presidency and the president of the Medical College, Dr. Blackwell Smith, became ill and was unable to carry on his duties. So, we were loaded with the task of getting somebody to take those two positions at least temporarily, along with somebody to head the combined institution. We finally managed all of that and I survived. [Laughter]
DANIEL JORDAN:
Was there any question about what the position of VCU was to be and how it might be different from other institutions in the state?

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VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, that was a good question because there is a different mission and it was emphasized in the Wayne report recommending such an institution. The recommendation was that it be urban-oriented above everything, that it would try to solve urban problems, peculiarly problems that arise in urban communities, and that are not typical of problems that confront most institutions. So, from that time forward, VCU has tried hard to address those problems.
DANIEL JORDAN:
I know that your work with VCU was a great ordeal, as you have indicated, but also it was a great contribution. Yet, I believe there was a sort of unpleasant ending to your service. Did a small number of blacks object to your being involved with the university?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, there was a sudden outburst from a small group of blacks who said I was too conservative, and that they wanted a new rector. I didn't do anything. The governor publicly expressed the confident hope that I would remain, and I replied that I certainly would fill out my term. I had already decided that I could not continue as rector much longer on account of the strain involved, which had halfway undermined my health. I had told some of my associates on the board that I was going to get out as rector. When this thing broke, I felt that I couldn't get out right away. So, I waited three more months and then retired as rector but remained on the board.
DANIEL JORDAN:
You were also on the board, I believe, of Episcopal High School. What was the nature of your service there?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, the alumni voted to elect their representative, and I was elected, I think three times. I served about fifteen years. At first,

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there was very little action by the board about anything. Everything was very routine. Things moved along very smoothly. Mr. Hoxton, who was very revered as the headmaster, was in charge of everything and there was not much in the change of curriculum until some of us on the board became aware that there was a need for change and we managed to put through some additions to the curriculum—such subjects as music and music appreciation. In my day, the courses were Latin, Greek, mathematics, history, English, government, French, German, Spanish, and geography, and rudimentary physics and chemistry.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Mr. Hoxton, how do you spell his name?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Archibald R. Hoxton. H-O-X-T-O-N.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Bill, do you have any questions?
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Yes. You were the first chairman of the executive committee of the Southern Education Reporting Service, which took as its task to report on school desegregation during the 1950s. Would you comment on that?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes. I was in Washington at some conference, and several of us were asked if we would come to a conference in Nashville sponsored by the Ford Foundation and talk about setting up a reporting service which would report factually and objectively the events affecting the racial situation in the South following the Supreme Court decision of 1954. I went to the meeting and was elected chairman. We set up this organization and obtained a first-class newspaperman in each of the seventeen southern and border states to report events monthly in his state. We published a journal, we obtained a first-class director. The first one was E. A.

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(Pete) McKnight, now editor of the Charlotte Observer. The next one was Don Shoemaker, now editor of the Miami Herald, both excellent men and the operation was a very good one. They made a real contribution, I think.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Who were some other southern editors involved in this?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Those on the board, as I recall, were Charles Moss of the Nashville Banner, Coleman Harwell of the Nashville Tennessean, Tom Waring of the Charleston News and Courier, P. B. Young of the Norfolk Journal and Guide, a black newspaper; Charles Johnson, president of Fisk University. I don't remember any others.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Were you reporting the Virginia news?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
No, Overton Jones, associate editor of the Times-Dispatch, did the Virginia news.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
He did the entire state of Virginia?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, and did it extremely well.
DANIEL JORDAN:
We move now to the second major category of today, which is your assessment of some of the major personalities you have known. And we recognize at the outset that your associations in many cases would go a long ways and it would be impossible for your to fully recount all the experiences that you have had with many of these people and we are necessarily limited to a capsule assessment, but I wonder if I mention these names if I could get your evaluation of their personalities and their qualities as an editor or a writer or what, and your association with the people. We will start with Dr. Douglas Southall Freeman.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, he was probably the most brilliant individual I ever

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knew; he was a sort of a machine when it came to his working schedule. He began at 2:00 A.M. when he got up and ended at 7:00 P.M. when he went to bed unless he was involved in some special program or meeting with some group. He was not an easy person to know. I think he was so preoccupied with his tasks and his many writing jobs that he had, most of which were extremely well done, that he devoted himself almost entirely to those things. He was always very kind to me and helpful in my work and did me some genuine favors. He was deferentially referred to by practically everybody as "Dr. Freeman." Hardly anybody called him by his first name or felt that they knew him well enough to do so.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Did he doff his hat at the statue of Lee, as some say?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That is absolutely correct. He drove in his car by the Lee statue every morning before daybreak and doffed his hat en route to his office. He not only did it every day, but he did it for the camera when Life magazine had a series of pictures about him.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Was he a very religious man?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, he was very religious. He was a leader in the Baptist Church, and he delivered a sermon every Sunday morning on the radio, lasting about twenty or twenty-five minutes.
DANIEL JORDAN:
How did he respond to your progressivism and liberalism in the '30s?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
He was always very friendly and he never took any exception to my views and seemed to be anxious to help me.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
What did you call him?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
"Dr. Freeman." [Laughter]
DANIEL JORDAN:
But his views would have been other than your own? Was he more

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on the conservative side in social questions?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, he was. He tended to be that way.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What kind of an editor was he? This is a sort of concluding question and then we have to move on.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, he turned out an enormous amount of copy. For years he wrote all the editorials in the News Leader and frequently book reviews, and along with that, made innumerable speeches and and wrote those monumental books. It was really incredible, the amount of work that he turned out.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What about Mark Ethridge?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
He was a dynamic liberal of the southern school. I had been in touch with him before he came here as a publisher, and he was here only briefly. I had been in touch with him when he was in Macon, Georgia, and we had some correspondence about my book on liberalism, and he was very nice in his comments on that. When he was in Washington, he had been previously on a fellowship to the German-speaking countries given by the Oberlaender Trust, and when I applied for that, he recommended me and I got one, and went right over there. Then he came here as publisher a couple of years after that and was a very effective publisher and very much on the liberal side, which got him into a great controversy with Senator Harry Byrd. They almost came to blows when Colonel Slover, the publisher of the Times-Dispatch, arranged for a meeting between them. I've forgotten where the meeting occurred, whether it was . . .
DANIEL JORDAN:
Perhaps in the Jefferson Hotel?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
It may have been. I read somewhere that it was, but that

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wasn't my impression. I was thinking that it was in Washington, but I'm not sure. Anyway, they had some pretty sharp words and as long as Mark Ethridge was publisher, Senator Byrd was very unhappy about the Times-Dispatch.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Why did Mark Ethridge leave the paper?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
He left because the Louisville Courier-Journal wanted him and badly needed somebody to work with Barry Bingham, who was then very young and inexperienced. Barry was quite liberal. He wanted a liberal like Mark Ethridge and the Courier-Journal was in pretty bad shape, it wasn't a good paper at all at that time. Mark spoke of it as a "rotten newspaper" when he went out there, but he soon turned it around.
[END OF TAPE 4, SIDE A]

[TAPE 4, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 4, SIDE B]
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
What was the source of the controversy between Ethridge and Byrd?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Byrd was hostile to Roosevelt's New Deal, the paper was largely favorable to the New Deal and it took sharp issue with Senator Byrd on specific issues and got him very much upset.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Now, you said that Ethridge was publisher of the Times-Dispatch but you also mentioned Colonel Slover. What was he?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Colonel Slover was the principal owner, who lived in Norfolk and took an interest in our policies, particularly when we were not backing up Senator Byrd. He was interested in somehow getting us turned around.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What about Jack Kilpatrick?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Jack Kilpatrick is one of the most able newspapermen that I have ever known and as good a writer as I have known in journalism. He is

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very smart and quick, ambitious and aggressive. His editorials attracted a lot of attention, particularly in the matter of interposition, which was an ancient theory, that had been largely forgotten, from the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It was exhumed by a lawyer in Chesterfield County named William Old, who wrote a little pamphlet saying that interposition was the answer to the troubles with the 1954 Supreme Court decision on integration. Jack read that pamphlet and immediately took off editorially. He wrote a series in the News Leader loudly espousing the principles of interposition. He got everybody, not everybody, but many people, greatly excited about it and many believed that it was the solution to all our woes. The governor, Tom Stanley, and the legislature, most of them, fell for it completely and enacted interposition resolutions and went all out for interposition. Kilpatrick's editorials were put into a pamphlet by the paper and distributed widely all over the South with the result that four or five southern states passed interposition resolutions of their own.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Do you think that this was a responsible function of an editor on Mr. Kilpatrick's part?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, at the time that these editorials were appearing, one would have thought in reading them that he was convinced that this was the answer to our problems. It appears now from letters that he wrote at the time, and his papers are at the University of Virginia, that he did not think it was the answer and that he was confident that the courts would overturn the principle of interposition when they got around to it. That was what happened. So, his argument now is, I believe, that he was buying time, that he was trying to elevate the level of debate, as he puts it . . . I don't think that he achieved the latter

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objective at all. He did buy time.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Do you think that this is a legitimate function of an editor, to attempt to buy time in a situation like this?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think that it is legitimate to try to buy time; I don't think it is legitimate to do it by unethical methods.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Do you think the interposition resolutions, or the whole question of interposition, was unethical in that it never could have worked?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, I don't like to attribute unworthy motives to anybody, but I don't think that he should have embarked on that crusade if he knew that it was not based on sound argument.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Why do you think he did that?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, I think that he did it, as he said, to buy time and to elevate the level of debate. That was his view of it.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What was the nature of your personal relationship with Kilpatrick?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I was never intimate with him, but I wasn't unfriendly, either. We never had differences of any magnitude. He went his way, and I went mine.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Would the same be true of your professional relationship? You were editor of one paper and he of another and you worked for the same management in a sense, but did you go your separate ways there, too?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, we did that deliberately. We didn't try to be different when we didn't actually differ, but we thought it was better and the management thought it was better that the two papers not be seeing eye to eye on everything.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Did Dr. Freeman choose Kilpatrick as his successor?

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VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That's my understanding. He was his assistant when Dr. Freeman resigned and I'm practically sure that he did.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Wasn't Mr. Kilpatrick considered somewhat conservative when he first came here? I understand that he was, for example, against the Newspaper Guild, which was a conservative position at that time. Wasn't he considered fairly conservative?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
You mean when he came as a reporter, a young reporter?
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Yes.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I really didn't know about that. He has always been considered conservative, as far as I know. I never heard of him being anything else.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
I'm sorry, I missaid that completely. He was pushing for the Guild when he was a reporter here, which is a fairly liberal position.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I didn't know that.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
That is my understanding.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I'm surprised to hear it.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
That there was a change to the conservative slant, maybe and perhaps because of Dr. Freeman.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I don't know.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Any other questions about Kilpatrick?
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
No.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What about Henry Louis Mencken?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, Mencken was a sort of Jekyll and Hyde character, most people know. In his writings, he was a scold and a shrew and a gentleman with a meatax, the bad boy of Baltimore, and people pictured him as going around and hitting people over the head with clubs, but he actually

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was a very mild-mannered individual with people that he found congenial. He was pleasant and helpful and exactly the opposite of what people pictured him to be. My first communications with him were in connection with the American Mercury and I managed to get an article on Virginia accepted by the Mercury. Before that, as I have noted, I wrote some pieces for the Baltimore Evening Sun's editorial page to which Mencken also contributed, and he apparently liked what I wrote. After I appeared in the Mercury, I met him here at a dinner that James Branch Cabell gave. There were about eight guests in Cabell's home and I met Mencken there for the first time. When I met him, he said, "Well, I declare, I thought that you were an old man." [Laughter] He had evidently confused me with my grandfather of the same name. He had read something about my grandfather, apparently, who was a newspaper editor in New York in the 1890s and was mentioned in one or two books about New York newspaper editors. He was on the Commercial Advertiser.
After that, Mencken and I were friendly and he suggested to the University of North Carolina Press, according to my understanding, that I was the person to write a book for them in the 1920s on liberalism in the South. William T. Couch, the director of the press, had consulted Mencken for suggestions and Couch invited me to write this book, which I agreed to do. I was even paid an advance of two hundred dollars, which you wouldn't believe, since university presses now make you put up several thousand dollars of your own almost always. Why they should have elected to pay an advance to an unknown reporter on the Times-Dispatch when they weren't any too well-off themselves, I can't figure out. I went ahead and wrote the book and it came out in 1932. I then began working on Bishop Cannon, who was a character of great notoriety

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beginning in 1928 when he led the fight in the South against Al Smith, who was running for President. Cannon attacked him on religious grounds and also because of his anti-prohibitionist views. I wanted to write a book about Cannon, and Mencken was all for that. I tried to get several publishers to bring the book out after I finished it, and none of them would do it because Cannon was suing everybody right and left and he would certainly have sued the publisher of such a book, since it would have been very unfavorable to him. He would have tied it up in the bookstores and stopped the sales. Financially, that was a big risk for any publisher to take. So, I couldn't get the thing published, and I rewrote it in its entirety and got it published by Knopf, with Mencken's very correct help, in 1949, five years after Cannon died.
DANIEL JORDAN:
You've mentioned a couple of times in the course of these interviews that Mencken had enormous influence on your writing. Do you mean that in a stylistic sense or in terms of the kind of subject that you were interested in?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think he influenced me more than anybody except my father. He was all the rage in the middle 1920s when the American Mercury appeared. The younger generation of newspapermen and would-be authors were captivated by Mencken's iconoclastic and muscular style, and he influenced a great many of us in our thinking and our writing styles. He did influence me in both respects, and I think that it was reflected in some of my writing in the earlier days, and in my book on Cannon to some

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extent.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Did you have occasion to see him in person frequently?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Not frequently. I saw him only once in addition to the time that he was at Cabell's. I went to Baltimore for the purpose of seeing him and talking to him about my Cannon manuscript, which I had sent ahead for him to read, and he was very complimentary. He wanted Knopf to publish it as I had written it. Knopf said that it was too long and too detailed for the average reader, and I agreed to go along with him and cut out sixteen thousand words. I think that improved it for nearly everybody except Mencken. Mencken was so heated up about prohibition and "wowsers" as he called them, political parsons and everybody of that ilk, and he wanted to put in everything for the benefit of future generations.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
You kept in touch with Mencken by telephone or by letter?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I had a good many letters from him over the years, all of which are in the University of Virginia library. They are really not notable in any particular respect, although they were very characteristic his original style of letter writing, with ridiculous references "to the holy saints" and things like that, "May the holy saints be good to you," was typical. [Laughter]
DANIEL JORDAN:
What about Lenoir Chambers?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Lenoir was a very able editor and a very lovable individual. He was easy to know and warm in his friendships. He came from North Carolina to Norfolk and was on the Greensboro paper and then on the Ledger-Dispatch. He became editor of that and then editor of the Virginian-Pilot.

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WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
He succeeded Louis Jaffe?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That's right, and he and Jaffe both got the Pulitzer Prize for editorials, very deservedly. He was not as colorful and as graceful a writer as Jaffe, but a very good one. Jaffe was really unique, I think, in his style. He was one of the truly great editorial writers. Chambers wrote an extremely fine biography of Stonewall Jackson, the best biography of Jackson, I believe; two volumes.
DANIEL JORDAN:
And you felt that should have gotten the Pulitzer Prize for biography?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I did. I felt that it should have gotten the Pulitzer Prize for biography in the same year that he got it for editorials. It would have been unprecedented, if he had gotten both the same year.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Now, Chambers took a more liberal position on the question of integration of the schools in the 1950s. Did you correspond with him about that or do you recall any reaction to the fact that Chambers condemned massive resistance outright?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I didn't correspond with him about that. I respected his views and knew that he had those views. I would have gone along with some of them if I had been in the same relationship to the management of the Times-Dispatch that he was in with respect to the management of the Virginian-Pilot. The management there was opposed to massive resistance and so was he.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
You know, it's funny, Mr. Dabney, that Joe Leslie, who was editor of the Ledger-Star, took a completely opposite viewpoint from Mr. Chambers. I thought that was fairly enlightened on the part of the management at Norfolk?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I did too.

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WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
That they allowed one person to go one way and the other to go the other.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Joe Leslie was about as conservative as anybody you could find.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
I think that the reason for this may have been that Frank Batten, who was a relatively young publisher, gave his editors a little bit more freedom.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think that's right.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What about Jonathan Daniels?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Jonathan was a good friend of mine over many years. I met him when we were both in college. We were at a house party up in northern Virginia in the horse-raising and mint julep belt. [Laughter] A very good time was passed for nearly a week, going to dances and rampaging around. He was always a delightful individual personally, very witty, an easy conversationalist and a good writer and always very liberal, like his father. Both of them were dyed-in-the-wool Democrats, always were and always will be, and proud of it. Their paper, the News and Observer, was a party organ and they made no bones about that, either. They believed in the Democratic Party and candidates, first, last, and all the time. They didn't believe that any Republican could possibly be any good, as far as I can make out. They always took the side of the Democrats and the News and Observer still is, as I understand it, one of the few down-the-line party organs in the United States.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Did you know that Mr. Daniels is running a weekly newspaper down someplace?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, Hilton Head, South Carolina.

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WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Hilton Head?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes. I had some correspondence with him and reviewed a collection of his columns from the Hilton Head paper, and the News and Observer has now bought the paper.
DANIEL JORDAN:
That is sort of interesting. Scotty Reston has a paper, too, doesn't he?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That's right.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Is this what retired editors do? Reston is not retired, of course.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I just read yesterday that his son had taken over that paper, did you read that?
DANIEL JORDAN:
Yes, I did.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
You know, I had occasion to judge some Carolina papers, Press Association judges them, and I ran across this Hilton Head paper and I thought, "God, I can't believe how good this all is, this weekly newspaper down there." The editorial page was fantastic and of course, it went into the winners pile and it wasn't until it was in there for awhile that I looked and saw that Jonathan Daniels was running it.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What about Ralph McGill?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I didn't know Ralph McGill as well. I knew him pleasantly; I met him at ASNE meetings and I went to Atlanta in connection with a Saturday Evening Post article that I was writing on the race question. At that time, Clark Howell was publisher of the Constitution on which Ralph . . . I guess he was editor at that time. Maybe he wasn't, but he was writing his column, anyway. He at that time had to follow the conservative policy of Clark

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Howell and he gradually evolved from that after James Cox became publisher, into a liberal of advanced views. He presided over a conference in Atlanta of white southerners who were called together after the Durham Conference of Blacks in 1943, which had issued a manifesto asking for certain concessions on the part of southern whites. These whites came together in Atlanta to respond and did respond. Ralph was chairman of that conference and that was the beginning of the Southern Regional Council. Later on, the Southern Regional Council met regularly and I attended most of the meetings. As long as I was attending the meetings, it was favoring the "separate but equal" facilities in the South. It did not advocate abolition of segregation. Later on, when I was no longer able to attend the meetings, the organization came out for integration. I resigned.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Now, McGill moved towards the left on racial questions himself in the 1960s. Did you correspond with him at all or follow his writing in that period?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I didn't see him, except very seldom. His son was here in Richmond, and maybe still is, on the staff of an advertising agency. Ralph came here to see his son and I saw him once or twice then. We didn't have much conversation, I just ran into him casually. I didn't know he was here, I just ran into him.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What about Ellen Glasgow?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I assumed throughout my acquaintance with her that she was a typical spinster lady without any love affairs at all. I didn't know she ever had any or even any beaux. I thought she was just a literary character who wrote books and I proceeded on that assumption throughout her lifetime. I knew her very

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pleasantly and she was helpful and cordial. She invited my wife and me to various parties at her home, especially one big one. Actually, I guess there were two big parties. One of them was for the Modern Language Association at which professors of English from all over the country were here. She entertained them. Another time, she had a reception at which Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas were the chief guests and we were invited. She was complimentary about my writing. I wrote an article about her for the Herald Tribune Magazine. Cabell was asked to write it and he declined and suggested me. She was very pleased with it and so was Cabell, or they said they were.
After her death, I was utterly bewildered and astounded to learn of her love affair with a married man for seven years, a married New Yorker. How far that went, I never could make out. She didn't say, but she wrote of her deep love for this man, and it was apparently more than she ever had for anybody. She had various rendezvous with him in secluded places, including Switzerland. She recalls that she learned of his death when she was abroad; she knew he was dying, that he had a fatal illness, and she learned of his death from an item on the front page of the New York Herald, Paris edition. Several people have said that they were going to get that edition and start researching to see who that was, but nobody has been able to figure it out. She gave him the name of, "Harold," I believe . . . no, that was the name she gave somebody else. "Gerald," maybe. Anyway, she gave him a fictitious name and nobody has been able to find out who he was as yet, or just what happened. After he died,

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she was just depressed for years, plunged into the depths, and her books reflected that. Then, she came out of it and had several other love affairs, and was engaged several times, and all this came out in her The Woman Within, published after her death. She also revealed her long-standing engagement to Henry W. Anderson, a leading Richmond lawyer, and only her intimates knew that they were engaged during all that time. I had never heard about that. At her funeral, I was a pallbearer, and I saw Colonel Henry Anderson there in her home, with just the pallbearers and a few invited guests. I understand now that he wasn't invited; he had broken with her completely in the end and so, Miss Bennett, her housekeeper, was aware of her sentiments and didn't invite him to the house but he came anyway.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Was Miss Glasgow an eccentric?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I wouldn't call her an eccentric. She was a literary person. She was a bit eccentric in that she had a very great fondness for dogs. She was incredibly devoted to one dog in particular and which, it happened, was given her by Henry Anderson. It was a Sealyham puppy and named Jeremy, and Jeremy was very much in evidence at all times, a very cute little dog with a blue ribbon around his neck. He would greet guests at the door and jump up and down. When Jeremy became ill, Miss Glasgow virtually became ill herself, and she had the best medical advice, not veterinarians but leading surgeons. She had Dr. Stuart McGuire, the leading surgeon of his time in Richmond, to operate on Jeremy. [Laughter] Jeremy finally died and she had him buried in the garden of her home on

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Main Street. When Dr. McGuire sent a bill marked "services for dog," she was furious and said that he should have written, "Services for Mr. Jeremy Glasgow." [Laughter] That is an absolute fact, I confirmed it. The man that she said it to told me just last year that that was a fact. He is her cousin, Glasgow Clark, and he said that was the literal truth, that she said the bill should have come for "Mr. Jeremy Glasgow." So, she was certainly peculiar in that respect.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Was Jeremy buried with her later?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, that's right. Jeremy and another dog. I forget the other dog's name. Both of them had been buried in the garden, but they were exhumed and put in her coffin through a specific bequest in her will.
DANIEL JORDAN:
In her coffin?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes. In the coffin with her.
DANIEL JORDAN:
And they are in Hollywood Cemetery together now, I believe?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That's right.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What about James Branch Cabell?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Now, he was peculiar. I don't think there's any doubt. [Laughter] He was peculiar from the word "go." He was a genius and had a genius's mannerisms and eccentricities and peculiarities. He was a brilliant individual and was greatly affected, deeply so, by two things that happened in his youth—when he was at William and Mary and right after he left there. When he was at William and Mary, he and some—
[END OF TAPE 4, SIDE B]

[TAPE 5, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 5, SIDE A]
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
—friends became intimate with the librarian there, as I understand it. They were accused of

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homosexuality and there was an investigation. Cabell was completely exonerated. Owing no doubt to his literary capacities and very remarkable abilities as a linguist and poet and so on, he may have given the impression of being a homosexual, but he was acquitted.
Then, he moved to Richmond and was a newspaper reporter. He was living on Franklin Street, the 500 block West, when late one night, about two o'clock in the morning, Jack Scott, a prominent bachelor and man about town, who was fairly well intoxicated, came out of the Commenwealth Club and walked up Franklin Street. He was rather near Cabell's house, on the next block, west of the Commonwealth Club. Cabell lived at 511 and Jack Scott was out in front when he was attacked by somebody and bludgeoned to death on the sidewalk and fell dying in front of E. T. D. Myers's house at the corner of Belvidere and Franklin. The Burns detectives were called in by Scott's family and they made an intensive investigation for some weeks and the case was on the front page of the papers here until all of a sudden, everything was hushed up. It dropped out of the press, and there were all kinds of whisperings as to what in the world had happened, why it had been hushed up. Well, nobody really knows, except the assumption is, and Miss Glasgow or somebody was quoted, I don't want to be wrong about this, somebody was quoted as saying that Jack Scott had seduced a girl outside of Richmond somewhere and that her brother had gotten revenge. The theory was that Scott's family did not want all this to come out, as to the alleged seduction, and so they called the detectives off the case and hushed it up. I don't know whether that's true or not, but that theory was published in one account that I read. Cabell was viewed with suspicion

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by some people. Cabell's mother had separated from his father for unknown reasons. The theory was that Jack Scott had something to do with that, that he had been paying attention to Mrs. Cabell. I don't know whether that is true at all, but the rumor was that he had, and that James Branch Cabell, her son, had become infuriated with Jack Scott and hence had murdered him. There appears to be no ground whatsoever for the theory that Cabell had anything to do with the murder, and I can't think of anybody less likely to murder anybody than James Branch Cabell. He was a retiring recluse, a literary man who lived in his study with his typewriter. His mind dwelt among imaginary people in faraway medieval France, and I am just as certain as I am sitting here that he had nothing to do with that murder.
DANIEL JORDAN:
But it did have an effect on him?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
These two charges, both of which were never substantiated, must have made a deep imprint on a young man just beginning his career. He was publicly, at least in gossip, alleged to have been involved in two things of a criminal nature. This is believed by students of his work to have had a great influence on his writing.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What was your personal relationship with Cabell? Did you see him from time to time?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes. My future wife lived next door to him at Dumbarton, and I was naturally in that area quite often. Her family knew the Cabells from some time back and I became acquainted with them then, mainly with the first Mrs. Cabell. She was the outgoing one and he was the recluse, as I said. I did not see much of him until a few

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years later. I was asked to his home several times to meet various writers, including Mencken. I consulted him on my book about Bishop Cannon, asked him whether he thought that it was a good thing to do, and he said that he did, but I did not have many contacts with him.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Were there any professional jealousies between Glasgow and Cabell?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
It didn't come out until after her death. They were great friends as far as everybody could tell, and he did her a great service when she was ill, aiding her with at least one and maybe two of her important books; he even rewrote parts of them. After she died and her posthumous book came out, she made no acknowledgement whatsoever of his help. Furthermore, in her book, she revived those discredited charges, while saying that they were soundless. She should never have revived this long-forgotten gossip, and Cabell was furious. He did a chapter about her in his As I Remember It, which is one of the most brilliant things that he ever wrote. He pretended to be complimenting her as a great lady, but it was the most tongue-in-cheek series of compliments that I ever read. He really took her apart and revealed her pettiness toward other writers, how she made vicious remarks behind their backs, and what a high opinion of herself she had, and such things as that, all of which may have been true, for all I know. As far as my contacts with Miss Glasgow went, she was a very attractive, good-looking, sociable, outgoing lady who liked to entertain and who no doubt liked favorable publicity. She made it clear that she did, and openly confessed to me once that she thought it was time that southern writers did a little logrolling and praising of each other as

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the New Englanders had done years ago. Her correspondence reveals the most amazing logrolling. She would tell Stark Young what to say about her books, for example. He would write her and say, "What do you want me to say about this novel?" She would write him back, and he would duly put that into the pages of The New Republic. Have you read that?
DANIEL JORDAN:
No, I haven't.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That's in the book by Stanly Godbold, Ellen Glasgow and the Woman Within. It's the book that gives the real lowdown on her, not all unfavorably, but things like that are right there in black and white.
DANIEL JORDAN:
I know we need to move on, but I have one more question about Glasgow and Cabell and they are important. What, in a general sense, was Richmond's response to them?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Richmond's response was not what it should have been. Richmonders, in general, did not have the admiration and the favorable feeling that I would have expected them to have. Their books didn't sell in Richmond as well as they should have. Miss Glasgow's books were nothing like as esoteric as Cabell's, but a good many Richmonders just took them as something that was happening; they didn't get very excited about them. Then, when she came out with They Stoop to Folly and The Romantic Comedians, many Richmonders thought she had showed Richmond in too unfavorable a light. Mencken characteristically said something like "she described fornication among the bluebloods." Cabell, of course, was

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very esoteric and hard to make out. A lot of Richmonders found him incomprehensible and were unaware that he was poking fun at them in some of his profound writings about Poictesme.
DANIEL JORDAN:
To move on to other figures, what about Emily Clark?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I was a reporter on the News Leader when Emily Clark was the society editor. She was probably the homeliest individual that I ever saw. [Laughter] Really, she was utterly bewildering, she was so hard to look at. She must have detested being society editor because she didn't like a lot of the society people that she was writing about; their entertainments and social events would be shown in her private writings as being viewed by her with considerable contempt. She loved to be in contact with literary people and was genuinely happy to be on a first name basis with people like Joseph Hergesheimer and H. L. Mencken, but we have got to give her credit for having achieved something important with The Reviewer. Through her friendships with these people and her literary ability, she worked that up into a really important project for Virginia and the South. It was a pioneering thing with an almost unbelievable list of contributors, thanks to her getting the help of people like Mencken and Hergesheimer. She wrote to a great many of these authors that she had in one way or the other become acquainted with, and got contributions for no pay at all. She got Cabell to edit three issues, with the result that a great deal of attention was attracted to Richmond, which, however, hardly read The Reviewer at all. I think they had two subscribers in Richmond. [Laughter] Nevertheless, you have to credit her with really accomplishing something.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What about John Powell?

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VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
John Powell was a long time friend of my family, really a genius as far as music was concerned, and a great pianist who made a profound impression with his musical ability in his earlier years, in Europe as well as in this country. He fell afoul of the musicians' union. He refused to join it, no matter what. It pretty nearly wrecked his career. In fact, I think it did, because he couldn't get bookings without going through the process that everybody else was going through, and he just became almost not able to play. He got some concerts in one way or another, but they became fewer and fewer. He was a man of the most intense convictions. I never saw anybody who felt more deeply about something when he became interested in it. When you talked to him, you would think that he was about on fire. His eyes just blazed. You never saw such conviction. Well, that was good in a way but he got off on tangents, particularly on the race question, on which he really became totally hipped.
DANIEL JORDAN:
He supported, I believe, a law in the 1920s.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, he was really a crank on that subject.
DANIEL JORDAN:
It all had to do with . . .
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Race purity. He thought that one single drop of Negro blood made you a Negro and he was instrumental in stirring up sentiment for that and for segregationist legislation. At Hampton Institute, the custom had arisen to have mixed audiences in the auditorium there. The faculty was partly white, a very small minority. Powell heard about this mixture there and he began agitating that something must be done about it, and he became obsessed with the race problem. He finally became disgusted with me because I couldn't see his point of view, and didn't do anything along the lines of what he wanted me to. My relations with him were not what you would say were strained, but he certainly

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viewed me askance on account of that. He just couldn't think that I was in my right mind not to see what he saw, that we were all going to hell in a basket on account of the lack of complete segregation. He became infuriated with everything that was happening as a result of the NAACP suits. He said that these leaders were some of the most dangerous people in the universe and so on.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Did he want you to take a position editorially?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Oh, yes.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What about Helena Caperton?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I didn't know Mrs. Caperton well. She was a figure in society here. She had, I believe, six daughters and one son. All of the daughters were attractive and some of them very much so. She, I must say, was quite a pushy lady. She was well born herself and was aware of the fact and didn't fail to push her daughters in various ways. I think that any mother would do it quietly, but she was pretty obvious about it.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Was her writing well received?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
She wrote some short stories, one of which got in the O. Henry Collection, "The Honest Wine Merchant," it was called. Most of her writings were superficial newspaper articles and things like that.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What about Lewis Powell?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, he is one of my best friends, so I am probably not objective. He has always been a leader in everything that he has undertaken. He was at the head of all his classes from the beginning at McGuire's School. He was president of the student body at Washington and Lee.
DANIEL JORDAN:
I guess we should sort of focus in on this, I know that it is a topic that you could speak at great length on. What are some of his

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personal qualities?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
He is very easy to know and has a lot of friends. He has a good sense of humor, not very obvious, it is subtle and dry. He has tremendous energy and always has had. He is so slender and almost frail, that you wouldn't believe that he played on the basketball and baseball teams at McGuire's and tried to do the same thing at Washington and Lee, but his physique just wouldn't take it, he had to give it up. I don't think he has ever weighed over 150 pounds and he is six feet or more. I am just guessing at his weight and it's not exact, but he is almost delicate looking. Yet the amount of work he can do, mental work, is absolutely astonishing. Why he hasn't killed himself, I don't know. As a lawyer, he worked either six or seven days a week most of the time. He tried to play tennis occasionally, but apparently couldn't find the time. He has had hardly any relaxation. He has done a great many civic things that everybody knows about and has been chairman of various agencies, things like the Charter Commission of Richmond and the city school board during the height of the furor over integrating the schools. He was, to a great extent, responsible for the fine transition in Richmond, he along with H. I. Willett, the superintendent of schools. Lewis Powell has rendered all kinds of civic services of that sort, and has made important studies of various questions.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What about David Mays?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
A very brilliant man, brilliant lawyer, an aggressive type of lawyer. He was very sure of himself, almost too much so.

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Judge Powell is much more modest. David Mays is a real student of history and as able in that respect as in the law. He spent twenty-four years writing his masterful life of Edmund Pendleton, which is a contribution of great significance. As he said, "it was a book about an unknown subject by an unknown author and it got a Pulitzer Prize."
DANIEL JORDAN:
Did he do some of the researches, as I've been told, during the noon hour when he would just walk over to the state library?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Oh, yes. He did a great deal of it that way. Also, he would go up to Caroline County where Pendleton grew up, and just sit there for hours, absorbing the atmosphere of Caroline. He uncovered the papers in the "Fran Robinson affair" a couple of blocks from his law office in the archives of the U.S. District Court. They had been lying there all these years.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What about W. J. Cash? Did you ever have any connection with him?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I never knew Cash. I admired his work and when he published his magnum opus, The Mind of the South, I asked the Herald Tribune to let me review it, and they did. I was favorably impressed with the book, but I have to confess that I have never been as favorably impressed as most people have been. I thought it was excellent, but the fact that it is now a classic that is quoted by practically everybody who writes about the modern South, I have never quite understood. But be that as it may, I am a small minority in that respect. As I reviewed it in the Herald Tribune, I did not praise it in those terms, although I did praise it highly. I made a

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few criticisms, which Cash took great offense at and I got a letter out of the clear sky in which he in effect accused me of criticising his book on the South because I had written in the same field. I had hardly gotten my breath from reading that when another letter came in which he apologized and said, "Please forget that I wrote that letter, I'm sorry," or words to that effect. He was obviously mentally depressed. I didn't realize it until not very long afterwards when he hanged himself, to everybody's regret. He must have been having a nervous breakdown of some kind.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What about Colgate Darden? As a person opposed to his public record.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
A very attractive man, always makes friends easily. I was attracted to him as soon as I met him. He was able to become successful as a political figure because of his personality, in part, and also from his ability. He had both in substantial degree. When he became governor, he was well liked, as was his wife. She was pretty and attractive. At the University of Virginia, he was unpopular with the students for years and also, I believe, with the faculty, partly because he did not come out of the academic world and he instituted various innovations that neither the faculty or students liked, at least at first. But when he left, he was highly regarded by everybody, I think, certainly a great majority, and made a great contribution.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Clifford Dowdey?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I have known Clifford from the time when we were both on the News Leader as reporters. He was always a good writer. He wasn't on the News Leader long; he left Richmond and was away for many years

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in New York and Hollywood. I have always been congenial with him and we have worked together on a few things. I don't mean that we have written anything together, but I've gotten him to read several chapters from my last two books and he has consulted me in certain ways. He has never mingled in Richmond to the extent that he could have, but has had a narrow circle of friends. He has some of the eccentricities of a literary man. He admits—and I don't think this would come under the head of eccentricities—that he drank entirely too much for some years. He has gotten over that. He became the leading authority on the Army of Northern Virginia after Dr. Freeman's death and wrote several books in that field. He also wrote at least one good novel and several good books of nonfiction, not about the Civil War. He is now semi-retired, and his health is not good.
DANIEL JORDAN:
How about Dumas Malone?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I've known him ever since he joined the University of Virginia faculty in the mid-1920s. He was my father's first assistant in the Department of History. I always thought he was very attractive personally, very able. He was a fine teacher of history at the University of Virginia and at Yale, and also at Columbia and then he was director of the Harvard Press and since then, has been back at the University of Virginia, completing his definitive life of Jefferson.
DANIEL JORDAN:
I believe that Biographer Emeritus is the term.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That's right.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Is there a personal tie even now? Are you the godfather of one of his children?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I was godfather for his first child, a daughter, and I have been in touch with him off and on ever since the 1920s. We have been

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friendly and he has helped with some of my writings. He also helped me with the speech I made at William and Mary on Gore Vidal's and Fawn Brodie's writings. Several of us were wondering why he had never gotten a Pulitzer Prize for history and biography and we got together last year and I wrote a letter of nomination and he did get it, which was long overdue.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What about Jay Wilkinson?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Jay is a most remarkable young man, as able as any young person that I know. He is not only a good writer, but he was very quick to catch on to radio and television and has been a perceptive and fluent commentator on the radio on election nights in Richmond.
[END OF TAPE 5, SIDE A]

[TAPE 5, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 5, SIDE B]
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
He began writing on "Harry Byrd and the Changing Pace of Virginia Politics" at Yale, and Yale gave him a year off in his senior year to work on it. He turned out the book in the quickest time and with the best results that I can recall. It was extremely well written, and considering his youth and the time in which he did it, I have never seen anything quite like it.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Did you help him with that manuscript?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I read the manuscript. I didn't make many suggestions. I thought it was extremely well done. I read his recent book too, and liked that.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Bill, do you have anybody?
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
No.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Well, we would like to close by talking about present-day Virginia and getting your assessment of the latest developments, say, and we might start with race relations. What is your assessment of the

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present state of Virginia race relations, and the future?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I have a largely optimistic feeling about the race situation. I think that some of the things in the development of integration are going too rapidly. There have been some excesses that I deplore. I do not feel happy about busing as it has evolved. I don't think it has achieved the results that were hoped for. But I think the relations between the races are reasonably good. We have never had any serious riots in Richmond or Virginia. We are moving ahead amicably, I believe, and I think Virginia is in about as good a shape as any state in the Union, insofar as its race relations are concerned.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Mr. Dabney, you said that there were several excesses, and you mentioned specifically busing. Is there any other area that you think race relations have been less than desirable from your viewpoint?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, I thought that the whole thing went too rapidly to get the best results. Maybe I am wrong about that. I know that if you say that, you are always subject to the argument, "Well, isn't that always said when some great reform is suggested and pushed through?" So, I just have to say that when it happened, I wasn't quite ready for it, but now I think that on the whole it has evolved fairly well.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Why do you think there have been no riots in Virginia and there have been in other states?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think the fact that Virginia's people know how to get along with each other, no matter what their race, has been a factor. Also, I think Virginians are more friendly and understand one another better than some others do, and are less prone to violent methods when they disagree. Although, if you think back to the dueling era, that doesn't make much sense, does it? Since that time, I think we have become more gentlemanly in our disagreements, and are less apt to come to

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blows and have violent upheavals.
DANIEL JORDAN:
What about the present state of Virginia politics?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
The present state of Virginia politics is not to my liking. I think it is in a state of near disruption if not chaos; it is unpredictable and nobody knows what will happen. I am afraid that it is moving in the direction of the electing of Henry Howell as governor, which I do not view with the least pleasure.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Do you think that the Byrd organization is defunct?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think that it is completely defunct insofar as what we knew as the Byrd organization is concerned. The demise of the organization is good in some respects, I must confess. It was too conservative in various directions. It did have the virtue of seeing that honest, able men and women were elected to office. That was almost uniformly the case and today, I don't know of any flagrant examples of dishonesty, but I do fear that in the situation that we are confronted with, there is not nearly as much assurance as to the future on that score.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Do party labels mean much any more in Virginia? We have a Republican governor, for example, but of course he was a great stalwart in the Byrd organization and was a Democrat through most of his career.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
No, I don't think party labels do mean much and that may be a good thing in some respects, because there is such a thing as being too hidebound to being Republican or Democrat. But, we are tending to go in the other direction, it seems to me.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Don't you see a realignment of the conservatives and liberals, regardless of party labels now, and as a basically conservative-liberal realignment?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think that's more nearly here than it has been at all, yes.

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I thought I saw it in previous years and it didn't happen, but I do think that it is more likely to happen today than in the past.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Why would you fear or dislike the idea of Henry Howell being elected governor?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I think he is too far to the left; he is too much in the pocket of the labor unions. I think he is unreasonably anti-VEPCO, and just in general, too ultraliberal for my taste.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Do you think that there is still a great power in the county courthouses, or has that changed as well?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
There is some power there, all right, but it certainly isn't what it was and the whole basis of that power has been eroded, if not eliminated, in view of the abolition of the poll tax and the voting rights law. The control that was exercised by the courthouse rings has just been almost eliminated.
DANIEL JORDAN:
You have written about southern liberalism and you are regarded as a southern liberal. What about the present state of southern liberalism? Is it something that you are still sensitive to and concerned about and interested in?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, that's something that has puzzled me for years, to make up my own mind about southern liberalism and my own liberalism, or lack of it. I was considered liberal in the twenties and thirties, beyond most southerners. I then became what was apparently more conservative and yet the policies and practices and principles that I favored in the twenties and thirties are largely those that I favor now. Nearly everybody either favors them now or has been willing to accept them for one reason or another, so these principles no longer seem very liberal.
DANIEL JORDAN:
If you were to update your book and write about southern liberalism covering the last thirty or forty years, what kinds of subjects

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would you deal with and would you deal with it much in sympathy? I am wondering if the continuation of tradition is there and what is it, if it did continue?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That is something that I find hard to answer. Some of the things that are happening in the South are so different from earlier days. For example, take your state of Mississippi. I believe that there are hundreds of black officeholders and that isn't necessarily a bad thing; I just can't foresee where we are heading in these areas where blacks are becoming more numerous than whites. I am just so accustomed to having whites in control that I am having a hard time adjusting, I must confess, to having black governors and black mayors and black everything else. The thing that bothers me, I suppose, is the fear, and I admit it is a fear, that in time they will take things over and go so far in the opposite direction and in the direction that we whites went into, wrongly, I admit. That is, we enacted legislation that was definitely to our benefit and to the hurt of the blacks, and I am now afraid that the blacks will get control and go headlong into legislation that will be unfair to us. I am in favor of fairness to all, theoretically at least. I don't know whether I can accomplish that in my own mind, even.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Do you think that the South as an identifiable region is becoming less meaningful? Whether it is liberalism or anything? That the South has become blurred into the rest of the country to the degree that it is just not possible to talk about "southern liberalism," or southern anything?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
More and more, that is certainly the case. As we do away with, either forcibly or voluntarily, many of the things that differentiated the South from the rest of the country, we must move into an era where there

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is less difference and more uniformity. In a way, I hate to see that. I think the South has traditions and a heritage that is worth preserving and we are gradually seeing these things eroded by legislation and custom and practice.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Do you see anything that is still peculiarly southern, that you could identify either in a good or bad sense?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, I think that southerners are more leisurely and more friendly and slower in their movements and actions. I don't know whether it's the climate or tradition or what. I think the background of the South is a colorful one and the history is one that we like to think of in many ways. I hate to see everything becoming uniform and lacking color, with no picturesqueness or very little, and I am afraid that we are moving in that direction.
DANIEL JORDAN:
Bill, you have some questions about the press.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
Yes, I wanted to ask you just a couple of things to get a general view on newspapers. A lot of people are saying that television is supplanting newspapers. I wondered what you think of newspapers now, generally speaking, and what will be here in ten, twenty, or thirty years, having spent your life in the business?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
I don't see television supplanting newspapers. I think that it has cut into the circulation of a good many papers and several magazines, but there are areas that newspapers cover that television can't cover and never can, as operated today. I see many technical changes in newspapers, different methods of production, for example, electronic things that I don't begin to understand, but which are coming and which will perpetuate newspapers, in my opinion. Television has a role, I think;

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it is often a rather distorted role and a pernicious role. I don't mean to say that all newspapers are public benefactors, either. Some of them are pernicious, too. But the newspapers are here to stay. I believe that they are technically better than they ever were and that the newspapermen are better trained than they ever were. I think some schools of journalism are worthless and others are extremely good; training in a good school of journalism is a benefit to any aspiring newspaper man.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
How about the role of the newspaper editor? In the past you have had people who were identifiable as leaders in the community. I am thinking specifically of you and Louis Jaffe, Ralph McGill, all of these people and now, I guess you would be hard put to name more than three or four newspaper editors in the country. What do you think will be the role of personal journalism in the future?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
It does seem to be going out, as you say, and I don't quite understand why it should. I guess editors are being more restricted in their utterances and apparently that is the case in many instances. The newspaper has become sort of a business proposition with an anonymous voice which is not identified with anybody. I really find it a little difficult to understand why, particularly in the South, why it isn't just as easy as in the past for any individual to become known as the editor of a newspaper.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
If you were coming out of school right now, would you consider becoming a newspaper editor in this sort of anonymous state?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Yes, I think I would. I don't understand why it is the way it is. Why isn't an editor now able to make an impression on his readers? He can do exactly what he did before in a given instance, assuming that he has a reasonable degree of freedom, which always has to

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be assumed. I suppose that in the old days, when a man could start a newspaper with just a few thousand dollars, and he didn't expect to have more than a few thousand circulation, he could get out there and say anything that he wanted to. He was running the show, and, obviously, he would have a much better chance to become well-known. But in the time that I have seen the papers develop, I don't think that he has the same chance, in view of the financial and business aspect, to become known today.
WILLIAM H. TURPIN:
You have to sometimes take opposing sides or unpopular stands. I imagine that now this sort of shakes that delicate balance of business that you were talking about, although there are some newspapers that anonymously take unpopular stands. For example, the Washington Post at times takes unpopular stands, but I expect that you might be hard put to name who the editor of the Washington Post is, the average person, or the editor of the New York Times.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
That's true and it's a peculiar thing. I don't know why that is. Maybe it's because they have so many editorial writers and such a huge staff, that no one person is given the credit or discredit for whatever is happening.
DANIEL JORDAN:
I have one last question. Your friend Mencken a long while ago wrote something to the effect that after he was dead that if someone cared to remember his spirit, they might wink at an ugly girl. I believe that's what he said. If you could write your own epitaph, how would you like to be remembered, Mr. Dabney?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, that is a hard thing to answer off the top of my head. I really find it difficult to put that in a few words.
DANIEL JORDAN:
It is an awkward question and if it is too awkward, we can

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disregard it, but are there some things that you would like to be remembered for?
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
Well, primarily for my journalism and books. If I am remembered at all, I suppose that it should be for those. I don't imagine that any minor character like myself would be remembered for anything very much.
DANIEL JORDAN:
No, that's not true, and I think that these twelve hours or so of tape will correct that. Well, thank you very much, Mr. Dabney.
VIRGINIUS DABNEY:
It was very pleasant.
END OF INTERVIEW