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Oral History Interview with Zeno Ponder, March 22, 1974. Interview A-0326. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    Zeno Ponder helped rebuild the Democratic Party in western North Carolina in the 1950s and is considered one of the most respected and influential leaders of Madison County. The interview begins with his descriptions of his family heritage in the mountains and of local Democratic and Republican traditions. Like many in the region at the time, his father and brother supported the Union during the Civil War. Ponder recounts going to small schools during the Depression and attending Mars Hill College. He also recalls the local employment situation during the Depression and during World War II. He and his wife trained as chemists, but he decided to return to Madison to farm. He became involved in county political organization by teaching in a GI training program following World War II. Working on his brother's run for sheriff solidified Ponder's loyalty to the Democratic Party. The latter portion of the interview describes the growth of Ponder's farm and personal wealth and unique aspects of the political culture in the North Carolina mountains. It ends with his description of the 360-degree mountain view from his living room.
    Excerpts
  • Memories of an impoverished childhood motivate Ponder later in life
  • Ponder inherited liberal Democratic views from his father, a former Union soldier
  • Varying family involvement in political activity
  • Memories of child labor in North Carolina
  • Ponder's mother encouraged him to succeed in college
  • Ponder's wife influences him but respects his decisions
  • Work ethic inspired by his parents' rise from poverty
  • Political involvement begins by representing soldiers to the Madison County government
  • Disappointment in Holshouser's work as governor may turn the state Democratic again
  • Ponder worked on his brother's successful local sheriff campaign
  • Mountain culture prepared Ponder to withstand Republican harassment of voters
  • Republican bankers maintain regional party dominance
  • Madison County sheriff incumbent does not step down peacefully
  • Family and community come together at the Ponder family farm
  • Ponder's shipping industry boosts economy in Madison County
  • Comparing poor white mountain residents with poor black Americans
  • Community and family connections are important to Madison County politics
  • Hopes for continuing strength of character in southern politicians
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • Subjects
  • North Carolina--Politics and government
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.