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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Zeno Ponder, March 22, 1974. Interview A-0326. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Ponder inherited liberal Democratic views from his father, a former Union soldier

Ponder is descended from soldiers on both sides of the Civil War. His father passed on a passion for liberal Democratic politics to Zeno and his siblings. This politically mixed heritage fit the tone of most Madison County residents, who preferred not to fight on either side of a war.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Zeno Ponder, March 22, 1974. Interview A-0326. 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

BILL FINGER:
Was . . . was the family feuds and the Democratic-Republican split a lot of it rooted in the Civil War in the mountain counties. Did that have any influence on your family?
ZENO PONDER:
Well, certainly it had an influence on my family. My father, son of Robert Ponder, was one who fought with the Union, not because of the Democratic-Republican element but because he just did not believe in slavery. My grandmother, bless her heart, I guess she was destitute and being a widow with two children to bring up during that era, I don't fault her, but she married Josh Reams, who was part Indian. And he was a veteran of the southern element. He had fought for slavery and fought with Lee's forces.
BILL FINGER:
This is your . . .
ZENO PONDER:
This is my step grandfather. My father's step father.
BILL FINGER:
Your father's step father.
ZENO PONDER:
Now when my father grew up, of course his mother talked to him about what his father had done. Robert Ponder. Josh Reams, his step father talked to him about what he had done. So there was a woman who had lived and given birth to two sons of the union and, incidentally, she gave birth to two sons of Josh Reams, a Confederate soldier. The political implication as I see it, coming from . . . through my father and on down to the children, was simply that we took the view that we had very little if anything to conserve. We were liberal and the Democratic party was liberal in its views nationally, state and county. So we were for that form of government which would give us a better opportunity to involve ourselves and enjoy some of the goods, some of the good things of life.
BILL FINGER:
A lot of the people that were on the union side in the Civil War, they continued in the Republican tradition. Isn't that right?
ZENO PONDER:
Well, its true, and a good many of the people here in Madison county were not, up until the Civil War—they had no roots here in Madison county. They came in from the Piedmont, retreating back into the hills where they were less likely to be picked up and put in prison or put on one side or the other. So they were renegades. They were good people, they just didn't believe in fighting. You know, we had people during Viet Nam what didn't believe in fighting. We had people during the Civil War. We've had them during every war.