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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with John Ivey, July 21, 1990. Interview A-0360. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Odum and Graham's differing views on the race issue

John and Melville Ivey discuss the relationship between Howard Odum and Frank Porter Graham during the 1940s. According to the Iveys, Odum and Graham generally came together over the issue of race, although they differed in their approach to solving problems of racism and segregation. As they recall, Odum was more concerned with social issues (hence his involvement with the Southern Regional Council) while Graham was more interested in political issues. Their comments here demonstrate how two different leadership styles and problem-solving approaches revolved around the issue of race in the South.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with John Ivey, July 21, 1990. Interview A-0360. 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

MELVILLE CORBETT IVEY:
And new generations, that's right.
JOHN EGERTON:
Would that be a correct assessment?
JOHN IVEY:
That's right.
JOHN EGERTON:
Let's talk about Odum and Vance as personalities for a minute. Did they always work closely together? Were they always good friends, not rivals, but real associates?
JOHN IVEY:
I think so.
MELVILLE CORBETT IVEY:
Dr. Vance had great respect for Dr. Odum. He was like a father figure.
JOHN EGERTON:
How did Odum relate to Frank Porter Graham and some of the other institutions around the campus here?
JOHN IVEY:
Graham in his orbit got tied up with the cattle breeders and Odum through vance and different people with the WPA, whose names I don't recall . . .
MELVILLE CORBETT IVEY:
Frank Alexander, Guy Johnson and his wife Guion Johnson, Harriet Herring was in labor relations in the South. They were all graduate students that came through the curriculum. Zimmerman, I don't know where Eric Zimmerman who was over in the economics department . . . was very sympathetic to regional studies and he and Dr. Odum together were a very strong influence in the University. Frank Graham was very sympathetic to regionalism in the movement. Of course, Dr. Odum was interested in race relations. He has books that he wrote on race and so forth. I think he had one on race that he was writing when he died. Dr. Odum counseled Graham. I think they were fairly close. I know Dr. Odum was always very protective of him, he defended him.
JOHN IVEY:
They came together on the issue of race.
MELVILLE CORBETT IVEY:
Yes, Dr. Odum would always come to the defense of Frank Graham and if there was anything he could do to help him he would help him. They both had their enemies as you well know. There was always an active group trying to get rid of both of them. We knew Frank Graham when John went to NYU. Frank Graham was at the UN working on the Kashmir problem.
JOHN EGERTON:
In the 30's, in the late 30's, before you came here . . . In fact, since you were at Auburn as an undergraduate in '38, I wonder if you by chance went to the Southern Conference for Human Welfare meeting in Birmingham that November?
JOHN IVEY:
No.
JOHN EGERTON:
There was a large delegation of Auburn faculty members and students who went.
MELVILLE CORBETT IVEY:
Strangely enough John's interest in regionalism came from strictly reading. He got hold of everything Dr. Odum had written and he started reading it. He read Zimmerman and he read Vance and so when he came to Carolina most of his experience was out of the books, it wasn't knowing the people or being in the movements or anything like that. It was strictly academic. It made up his mind he wanted to know more about what it was. He really was in pre-med. He was going to study to be a doctor at one time.
JOHN EGERTON:
That meeting in Birmingham, which was presided over by Frank Porter Graham, who made the keynote address, was not attended by Odum and Odum never had any association with that organization. Frank Graham remained active in it for about ten years. It became very controversial. It was branded a communist organization and so forth. Graham stayed with it and Odum never touched it.
MELVILLE CORBETT IVEY:
Dr. Odum was very, very careful about trying not to be touched by the stench of communism if he could. If it came right down to the last battle he would go in and fight. He thought you ought to be smart enough to evade it to begin with. It would be my guess that if he had any type of differences with Graham he thought he probably wasn't careful enough to keep his trail cleared, to prepare his way a little more carefully.
JOHN EGERTON:
Conversely, Odum was instrumental in Southern Regional Council and active in it for the rest of his career.
JOHN IVEY:
He put a lot of time in it.
JOHN EGERTON:
But, Frank Graham never had anything to do with SRC.
MELVILLE CORBETT IVEY:
One was more interested in political issues and the other one was interested in social issues. They just went special ways. It wasn't that they were competitive or anything like that, it's just that their interests in their ability to do good or to do something--they had no clout in certain areas so they stayed out of them. That's the only way that I could see it.