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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 >>

Varying family involvement in political activity

Ponder's mother, Emma Ramsey Ponder, came from a family that included two Republican sheriffs. Her son E. Y. continued the tradition as a Democratic sheriff. However, Ponder's father showed little interest in politics besides voting for his in-laws.

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:
So that heritage is actually very much a part of both families and the way children grow up, whether they end up being in politics or not. But also particularly for politicians.
ZENO PONDER:
Well, actually, Mr. Finger, the politician in my family came in more through my mother than through my father. My mother was a Ramsey, Emma Ramsey. She was the oldest of a family of some eleven children. My mother's father, John Ramsey, was Republican sheriff of Madison county on two different occasions—each a two year term. Her brother, my uncle Chaney Ramsey, who lived here, incidentally, on this same farm that later I bought. It went out of the family at his death and then I bought it back some 25 years later. He was sheriff on two different occasions, each a two year term. And he was a Republican sheriff.
BILL FINGER:
That's your uncle?
ZENO PONDER:
That's right. And my grandfather. They were both sheriffing this county. Both Republican. And little did my grandfather know, I guess, that his grandson—E.Y. Ponder, my brother—would serve 20 years as Democratic sheriff. The second one, the second Democratic sheriff in the history of the county. There was only one before him, for a two year period. That was Mack Burnett. Nobody thought he could be elected. He was plowing corn all day the day of the election. But he got elected. I should say he was plowing for corn. He was plowing the land in the fall of the year for the corn crop.
BILL FINGER:
So your mother's side of the family was really steeped in mountain Republicanism.
ZENO PONDER:
Right.
BILL FINGER:
Whereas your father was less interested in politics than in farming and trying to provide for his 13 kids.
ZENO PONDER:
That's right. He was, had very little interest really in politics and never ran for any office. He voted an independent ticket. He was registered as a Democrat but I know that he supported his brother-in-law, Chaney Ramsey, who was running for sheriff on the Republican ticket. He supported his father-in-law, John Ramsey. He supported Jesse James Bailey. I remember that very well. He signed some documents as a school committeeman at Pleasant View School stating that Jesse James Bailey was a good, forthright young man worthy and capable of being high sheriff in Madison county. So my father was really nonpartisan.
BILL FINGER:
That gives me a good feel then for some of the influences of your parents, both of them, and also the traditions of mountain politics as they affect lots of people.