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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Albert Gore, March 13, 1976. Interview A-0321-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Gore's first campaign and lessons learned

Though Gore lost his first campaign, a run for superintendent of Smith County, Tennessee, he learned some valuable lessons, especially the importance of chasing any available vote and the benefits that came with running decent, smear-free campaigns. Because of his uprightness, when the man who had defeated him in the campaign passed away, Gore gained the support of his enemy's former supporters.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Albert Gore, March 13, 1976. Interview A-0321-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

DEWEY W. GRANTHAM:
I wanted to ask you about your election as superintendent of education for Smith County. That was your first political campaign, I take it?
ALBERT GORE:
Well, my first political campaign was for county superintendent, but I was unsuccessful. I learned quite a lesson, several lessons however. I remember on election night there was a large crowd standing in front of the courthouse, Carthage's. The votes were being tabulated and the returns given. The editor of the county paper had a large blackboard in front of the courthouse, the lights trained upon it. For various offices as each civil district would report, why, he and his helpers would mark the votes. So, as all the votes were in, it appeared that I was the winner by 100 and some votes. But then they opened the absentee box, the absentee ballot box, and I lost by 184 votes. And I learned that my distinguished opponent who was incumbent county superintendent had dispatched a team of loyalists to Detroit, Akron, and various places in the North where Smith County boys were working, and they secured the votes from enough of those that I lost the election by the absentee ballots. [laughter] Nothing illegal. I just, I didn't do it. Somehow, it hadn't occurred to me, so I learned that you look for votes and you get votes from whatever sources you legally can do so. I later profited by the experiences. I had another experience there.
DEWEY W. GRANTHAM:
Let me interrupt to ask you if that first political campaign occurred in 1930?
ALBERT GORE:
Um . . .
DEWEY W. GRANTHAM:
You were elected, I believe, in 1932. Perhaps it was 1928.
ALBERT GORE:
I think it was . . . no, no, it was later. I think it may have been the year before. It was in the Democratic primary in which I competed. I think it may have been, it may have been '30, but I rather think it was '31. The reason I think that, soon after this election, the incumbent superintendent and my successful opponent passed away. [END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A] [TAPE 1, SIDE B] [START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
ALBERT GORE:
The interesting story there was, having had many political battles, sometimes winning, sometimes losing, and several of his battles had been characterized by bitter personality conflicts, charges back and forth. But I made no criticism of him at all. He seemed to be grateful for that, though I recall going to see him some months after our contest and talked to him about a possible position as teacher. He asked me where I would like to teach. I designated a large Democratic community in which he had defeated me. And laughing, he said, "I'm not going to put you there, you'd beat me next time." [laughter] We had a pleasant relationship. Incidentally, I didn't get a school at all. I proceeded to get a job operating a peddling truck for a hardware and furniture store. But within a few months, Mr. Hufflines went to the hospital of necessity, and they discovered a malignancy. I was told that on his deathbed, he asked a group of his close friends who had loyally supported him, who had successfully opposed me, to support me.
DEWEY W. GRANTHAM:
As his successor?
ALBERT GORE:
So I found that when the contest to fill the vacancy after his death occurred in the county court, I was suddenly receiving support from both factions. It was quite a revelation. All this had an influence on me throughout my career. At no time did I make a personal assault in any of the political battles that I had.