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Title: Oral History Interview with Harold Fleming, January 24, 1990. Interview A-0363. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Fleming, Harold, interviewee
Interview conducted by Egerton, John
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Mike Millner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2006
Size of electronic edition: 164 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2006.
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The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2006-00-00, Celine Noel and Wanda Gunther revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2006-04-28, Mike Millner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of sound recording: Oral History Interview with Harold Fleming, January 24, 1990. Interview A-0363. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series A. Southern Politics. Southern Oral History Program Collection (A-0363)
Author: John Egerton
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Harold Fleming, January 24, 1990. Interview A-0363. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series A. Southern Politics. Southern Oral History Program Collection (A-0363)
Author: Harold Fleming
Description: 230 Mb
Description: 51 p.
Note: Interview conducted on January 24, 1990, by John Egerton; recorded in Washington, D.C.
Note: Transcribed by Jackie Gorman.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series A. Southern Politics, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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Interview with Harold Fleming, January 24, 1990.
Interview A-0363. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Fleming, Harold, interviewee


Interview Participants

    HAROLD FLEMING, interviewee
    JOHN EGERTON, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
HAROLD FLEMING:
The SRC [Southern Regional Council] could only do so much and it did it not because it could itself generate the power to change and so on, but that it could opportunistically piggyback on the real forces of change that were really working on the South. Amplify and popularize—and some of it was illusion, but—popularize the amount of change that was taking place in order to try to get some momentum and creditability behind it. This is an obligato to the main theme and the main theme had to played by the forces that wielded power. As it turned out—it became increasingly clear to me—that the real sine qua non went on was to reach the point at which a sufficient number of blacks simply said, "we're not going to have it anymore, we won't take it anymore. We'll break all the rules, we just won't do it."
JOHN EGERTON:
That point came in 1955?
HAROLD FLEMING:
It came in different forms. It came first in the form of litigation. I would date it from 1950 when the school cases were switched, equalization cases to desegregation. That was the beginning of it. Up to that point the whole thing was, as you know, they were all equalization cases. Equalization of teachers' salaries and. . . . They hit them first on higher education. Those were equalization suits, too. The strategy there was a little different because you couldn't achieve equalization in higher education. There was no way to it. it.

Page 2
you had too few. . . . They tried by establishing black state colleges, universities and law schools, graduate schools. Remember the Texas thing?
JOHN EGERTON:
Maybe Thurgood Marshall and them knew that it couldn't be done at the elementary and secondary level either and that the ultimate result would be . . .
HAROLD FLEMING:
That was absolutely the strategy. From the time I got involved in it in mid-'47 it was absolutely clear to me that the really serious people in that movement, however cautious and however qualified and moderate a stance they might adopt, there wasn't a damn one of them that didn't know that desegregation had to happen, and not a one of them that didn't know that that was the right thing to happen. All these other things were stratagems and ploys.
There were some people who were around on the fringes of the movement who perhaps felt that it never had to come to that. They were so few they were meaningless.
What you had in the case of a V. [Virginius] Dabney and so on, these were not people who really felt that you could acheive a just and decent society and a stable new order based on segregation. They knew you couldn't do that; they just didn't want to pay price of saying it out loud. They hoped somehow it could come to pass simply by exposing the weaknesses of the racist South or without ever having to say, "Jim Crow must go."
JOHN EGERTON:
Or it is possible, I think, that some of them really just could not abide the thought that segregation was going to go, that there was going to be a mixing of the races in the South

Page 3
and therefore, they just really joined the other side. They joined the opposition. John Temple Graves in Birmingham would be an example of that and George port Milton in Chattanooga. I also think V. Dabney was another person who really never was ever able to be comfortable with the notion that that was the goal, even long term.
HAROLD FLEMING:
I think people like that really wanted to moot it. They wanted to let that remain ambiguous. Let's work on these very limited goals today to make this a less unjust and more humane society and system and let the future take care of all that. Sure, sometime in the future the people will do things that we don't want to do and that we don't know how to do. But, we want to work at today's little problems, and let's satisfy ourselves. It's not going to happen in our lifetime, anyway.
There was this belief in a very, very so slow a march of change that nobody would get hurt in the process. Everybody would have time accomodate. Most people alive at the time would never have to deal with the naked reality of it in the end. Future generations. It was that kind of gradualism that took the edge off.
I don't think there was anybody to speak of in the movement who ever was a part of that movement, who broke at all out of the purely paternalistic mold of, "we're good to our slaves, our peons, and our servants"—anybody who got beyond that who didn't begin to see and really feel deep down that sometime it was going to have to happen, and that the movement was in that direction.

Page 4
It was a terrible price to pay to cut yourself off from your society, your tradition, and to be ostracized. Everybody knew that was what was involved. To be a pariah. To have people to shun you. . . . The most awful example of it was Waites Waring. This was the awful spectre that haunted people like that. To be cut off and renounced and a pariah in their society.
JOHN EGERTON:
Can you think of anybody white who took that position by the time SRC was formed?
HAROLD FLEMING:
Took what position?
JOHN EGERTON:
The position that Jim Crow had to go and that we might as well face up to that and deal with it.
HAROLD FLEMING:
Sure, there were a few around. Lillian Smith.
JOHN EGERTON:
She's the only one that I can find. Will Alexander did in an article in The Atlantic in 1945.
HAROLD FLEMING:
Yes, but he wasn't much interested in playing that prophetic role. His interest was in strategy.
There were some, like Clifford and Virginia, the Durrs, Dombrowski, Clark Foreman—and they were generally regarded as the people on the left. They didn't have much time for the Southern Regional Council because it was seen as too wishy-washy.
Well, you know, Lillian Smith. . . . That's a fascinating business. I guess you read all that about Lillian Smith and Guy Johnson going at it.
JOHN EGERTON:
And Saunders Redding.
HAROLD FLEMING:
Saunders Redding.
JOHN EGERTON:
Saunders Redding was a very good writer.
HAROLD FLEMING:
Yes, he was.

Page 5
JOHN EGERTON:
Did you know him?
HAROLD FLEMING:
No, only by reputation and performance.
JOHN EGERTON:
He was a good writer and he was one of the best.
HAROLD FLEMING:
Yes, he was. You could find them, but most of them when they got to that point left. They got out of the South, which was exactly what I was planning to do when I went back after college. But then I ran into McGill [unclear] to think there might be something more to it.
JOHN EGERTON:
Odum wasn't out there in the . . .
HAROLD FLEMING:
Odum had a very interesting approach. In many ways he was the godfather of the southern regional idea stemming from his great work, Southern Regions. His idea was to bypass race entirely. He never envisioned a racial advocacy organization. He wanted to see a Southern Regional Council that was addressed to the whole broad development, 20th century development of the South, economically, socially, culturally, in which race would sort of get lost in the grand design, the euphoria of marching into the future.
He wasn't really very happy about what happened to the Southern Regional Council when it turned out that. . . . It's funny that a man of his intellect couldn't have seen that there was no way you could stand in some broad ground. A lot of people wanted to do this. They wanted to be a Fulbright, take the high ground, the world view, the grand international role for this country and the South fulfilling its grand tradition in the nation on these broad issues of industrial development. Henry Grady was a perfect prototype for all this.
JOHN EGERTON:
You don't get any mud on your spats.

Page 6
HAROLD FLEMING:
No, and it's beneath you to sit around and be screeching about water fountains and busses and bus stations and things like that. That's beneath you. Fulbright would never. Hell, he's a man of renown, a world leader.
JOHN EGERTON:
Odum sort of falls in that category.
HAROLD FLEMING:
Well, Odum was in a different line of country from Fulbright and Henry Grady. He wasn't a journalist, he wasn't an international figure, he wasn't a senator.
JOHN EGERTON:
He was a scholar.
HAROLD FLEMING:
He was a major scholar and I think, unlike the others, he was not really in this for his personal aggrandizement. That wasn't what he was about. He was living in his head and he had built the body of work and a vision of the South moving toward a grand destiny of developing and modernizing and leading in the nation. Drawing on all its good traits, so to speak, its good traditions, its insights, its intellectual leadership, its cultural resources. There's a lot to that. But, drawing on those things and in the process without ever having to look at it straight on and talk about it straight out, transcending the race thing, rising above it.
JOHN EGERTON:
In contrast to him, think of somebody like his boss, Frank Porter Graham, the head of the University. A man who by all rights should have been on a loftier plane, more remote, more aloof, more distanced and yet he was in the thick of everything that went on. How do you account for that, the differences? Is it just personality, the two of them? Or were they ideologically, philosophically separated?

Page 7
HAROLD FLEMING:
Oh, I think it's to be viewed in the totality of the personal development of the people involved. That's the only way I know to account for it. You have to look at the person's whole formative history to figure that out as to why they react in a certain way. Dr. Frank was a remarkable guy.
Another guy who was not nearly as saintly in some ways as Graham, but take this tortured, ambivalent creature, wonderful guy, Ralph McGill. McGill suffered over this stuff a lot and his ambivalence which most people today, particularily the younger people, just cannot yet fathom. I can't tell you how many of them I have talked too say, "why did he do this, why did he fink out on this ocassion, why did he say this at one time, why didn't he stand up consistently?" It's like saying, "why didn't that quarterback Montana throw the ball that way all the time?" The answer is that he was ambivalent, he didn't want to cut himself off from his society. He was devoted to his journalistic career and he was interested in a whole lot of things. He didn't want to be narrowly defined as a race mixing advocate as Rastus McGill, which is what they called him in Georgia, the segs. But, he couldn't help himself. He would see these naked examples of absolute cruelty and injustice and he would just respond spontaneously. He couldn't help it.
Frank was like that too. He was less ambivalent than McGill and was much more willing and more readily accepted his moral imperatives. I think it was sort of a ‘with God helping me I can do no other, I've reached this stage of preception about it and I just can't duck it, I can't evade it.’

Page 8
JOHN EGERTON:
When do you think McGill reached that point?
HAROLD FLEMING:
He reached it very incrementally, and gradually. I don't think he reached it fully until very late in his career, his life.
JOHN EGERTON:
Around Brown time or later?
HAROLD FLEMING:
Later. When you say fully he was like most of us, he was still reaching it. It's like saying, when have you fully matured? You don't ever fully mature. But he had gotten very confortable with the role by the bus, I would say. Confortable for him, anyway.
JOHN EGERTON:
Think of him in contrast to Dabney. They were moving almost in opposite directions. They kind of passed out there. If you look at Dabney's record he was liberal on paper. In the early 30s he wrote a book called, Liberalism In The South. He was a classic civil libertarian. He took a lot of positions in those early years that were in defense of individual liberties.
HAROLD FLEMING:
He didn't take any position against segregation, though.
JOHN EGERTON:
No, he never did, except for one time—and even this you have to qualify—in 1943, he took an editorial position in favor for eliminating the segregation laws in Richmond and in the state of Virginia having to do with segregated buses and streetcars and whatnot.
HAROLD FLEMING:
That was the area in which most moderates found it easiest to depart from the full shiboleth of segregation.
JOHN EGERTON:
In any case, he could find a way to speak in a moderate to progressive voice at least enough that he had a lot of people

Page 9
convinced in the early 40s that he was one of the people to look to for guidance, leadership and whatnot.
HAROLD FLEMING:
That's true.
JOHN EGERTON:
But, by the time the bus came he had completely gone over the other edge.
HAROLD FLEMING:
He never became a demagogue on it.
JOHN EGERTON:
No, he didn't, that's true.
HAROLD FLEMING:
He never was a Kilpatrick.
JOHN EGERTON:
That's true. But he acquiesed in that.
HAROLD FLEMING:
He was sort of on probation with his own employers, Tenant Bryans' and those people, the owners of the paper.
JOHN EGERTON:
He acquiesced in the position that Kilpatrick took and in the leadership that Kilpatrick took.
HAROLD FLEMING:
Only in the sense that he agreed not to challenge it.
JOHN EGERTON:
He wrote pieces favorable to Harry Byrd, and he found himself, I think, on occasion, being critical of SRC.
HAROLD FLEMING:
He was critical in the sense that he thought it was unwise to take the course. I told you that story about my role. The sister paper there was the News Leader. The News Leader came out. . . . There was a time there when the News Leader and the Charleston News and Courier, which was a terrible paper, with Tom Waring, both of those papers came out with editorials. They were picking up on something that a paid informer for the House of Un-American Activities Committee testified about. His name was Manning Johnson. He was a black guy and I never laid eyes on him and I don't know anything about him except that at one time he had been a communist in the South. He was one of these recanters

Page 10
who made his living testifying for a fee before the House Un-American Activities Committee and then building on that and making money. He testified that the Southern Regional Council was created by the Communist Party. The whole thing was just lies. I don't remember any substantiation for it, but he said there were several Communist plants in there who brought it into being and played critical roles in establishing it and so on.
On the strength of that kind of stuff, Tom Waring and Kilpatrick and there's another guy who wrote a column on the Richmond paper. He was a German with another name. Bart, I think, comes to mind or Balentine? Anyway, he was a big force on that paper.
Anyway, they wrote editorials denouncing SRC as a—they never quite came out and said communist, but what they said was, a haven of communist fronters or apologists for the Communist Party born in sin and so on.
When that happened I challenged both of those things. Tom Waring in his editorials harped on the fact that we (SRC) had received all this money from the Fund for the Republic which he said was clearly communist in sympathy and direction.
I wrote him a strong letter. He also said that it had its origins in the communist influence. I mustered all our evidence. We had a packet of things. I said, "look at our Board, you say our Board is made up of communist sympathizers. We have Catholic bishops on our Board. We have these people and those people, and these are communists, communitsts sympathizers?" And also I said, "as for the Fund for the Republic, you are saying that

Page 11
because we receive some grants from the Fund for the Republic that makes us communist? How is it that you as an editor took a grant from their special journalism program in which they made grants and fellowships to a variety of editors in the South and elsewhere, among them the Honorable Tom Waring?"
He ran the letter but he cut all of that stuff out of it, particularily the stuff refering to him. And he did, he did take a grant from the Fund for the Republic.
I sent all this stuff to Hodding Carter and he was furious. Hodding was on the Board. There's a guy who didn't pull any punches. Hodding wrote a letter to Tom Waring that would have blistered the hide off a goddamn rhinoceros. It was wonderful, it was marvelous and I will never forget it.
On the Richmond thing—I say I did these things but probably our president at the time signed the letter—we wrote a letter to Dabney saying in effect, "we have avoided trying to drag you into controversy because of your intimate association with the founding of SRC, but this is too much. Your fellow newspaper in Richmond says editorially that the SRC was founded by communists. Nobody was more intimately involved in that process than you. Nobody knows better than you do that that's a downright lie and we feel that you have to come forward. You can't just wash your hands of this and let that stand on the record by a paper that is part of the organization you serve."
Oh, how he suffered, he wrote back and said, "I really haven't felt it to be my role to serve as critic of the editorial

Page 12
policies of my sister newspaper. This puts me in a terrible situation."
We wrote him back and said, "we certainly sympathize and understand your plight. The last thing we are trying to do is to cause you difficulty or pain; however, the issue here is one in which we think surpasses these kinds of questions and reaches the point of what people of good conscience can permit to happen without challenge. This is the kind of thing that did Germany in and we really expect more of somebody of your character and stature. If you choose not to do it and with great sadness we are going to feel it necessary in defense to make public in whatever way we can the fact that you were involved and your role in the creation of the Southern Regional Council."
JOHN EGERTON:
When was this, Harold?
HAROLD FLEMING:
It was in the late 50s. It was after I became the executive director which was in '57. It was somewhere between '57, '58.
JOHN EGERTON:
What did he finally do?
HAROLD FLEMING:
He wrote an editorial, more in sorrow than in anger, disputing the sister editorial. He did what he should have done. It was written in very statesmanlike terms but really setting the record straight. I'm sure it was hard for him and it probably incurred the wrath of his masters up there. He really owed it to SRC not to let them get away with that bullshit.
I must have that stuff somewhere. Certainly it is in the files of the Council.
JOHN EGERTON:
I would like to see it if you come across it.

Page 13
HAROLD FLEMING:
I'll check that out.
JOHN EGERTON:
I've looked at some of his letters and a good bit of the SRC material, but I couldn't find it.
HAROLD FLEMING:
I must have it. I hope I've got it. It was very satisfying for me when that editorial came out. I spent an awful lot of time with that kind of stuff.
JOHN EGERTON:
Do you think there's anything to the notion, as I was saying a minute ago, that McGill and Dabney seemed to have begun at opposite poles and ended up . . .
HAROLD FLEMING:
I don't know about beginning at opposite poles. Were they that opposite when they began? Dabney was just ahead of McGill on the track.
JOHN EGERTON:
That's true. But he was on paper as a more progressive person than McGill was in his early years.
HAROLD FLEMING:
McGill was a sports writer when he started on The Constitution. One of the facts that got him on track was the Rosenwald Fellowship.
JOHN EGERTON:
In '38.
HAROLD FLEMING:
Old Dr. Will [Alexander] was a shrewd old boy in many ways. He really knew how to use that Rosenwald Fellowship business. He could spot power and he knew how to use that to get these people on the track, so to speak. You can't tell whether they might have done what they did anyway later on, but it sure put them on a faster track.
JOHN EGERTON:
What kind of guy was will Alexander?
HAROLD FLEMING:
I don't know. I didn't know him all that well. I knew him late in the game. He was always very positive and laudatory

Page 14
to me. He was a mixture of things. He started life as a preacher then he got into the YMCA movement. He was a very worldly man. He was part politician, part preacher, part reformer, a strategist, part philantropist, he was all hooked-up with Mr. Rosenwald and the Rosenwald Fund. He was closely tied in with the Roosevelt administration.
JOHN EGERTON:
He spent quite a bit of time up there, actually.
HAROLD FLEMING:
Yes, he did. He was a kind of a . . . very skillful and assiduous mentor. He prided himself on being a talent spotter in the South. Spotting latent talent and nurturing it and mentoring. That was his creation that program, that "investment in people" thing. Certainly, the southern part of it was.
JOHN EGERTON:
What was his family situation like? He would go away from home and be gone for months.
HAROLD FLEMING:
Yes. I don't think it comes out in the Stokley-Dykeman book, but he was quite a womanizer, too.
JOHN EGERTON:
I sort of read between the lines and got that feeling.
HAROLD FLEMING:
They had a hard time dealing with that because it was a biography.
JOHN EGERTON:
Having been a preacher his lifestyle changed quite radically it seems to me.
HAROLD FLEMING:
I don't think he was a pulpit type preacher, not for very long anyway. He was one of those ordained folks who was in organizational work from way back. When he founded the Commission on Interracial Cooperation, along with others, this

Page 15
was an outgrowth of what he was doing with the YMCA after World War I. So, he was always an organization man, but he had the mantle of preacher and prophet. He knew everybody and he had lots of connections and influence and he knew how to use it.
JOHN EGERTON:
On race, do you think he was pretty traditionally paternalistic or did he have some real vision of what the South needed to do that was in any sense prophetic?
HAROLD FLEMING:
Well, he was better than most in terms of sensitivity and handling questions. But, everybody was paternalistic, every white. With the nature of the times the only way you could function was paternalistically, almost. There was no way to be egalitarian because there wasn't any equality. If there ever was a time when paternalism was in flower and had it uses was in the South between the Civil War and after Reconstruction failed, roughly up to Brown, up into the 1950s.
I never recall—as I say, I say, I wasn't close to him, I didn't see a whole lot of him—any time he was grossly, and I can recall plenty of other people. I spent a lot of time cringing in those days at some of my elders and betters, how they handled themselves with blacks and what they said and how they said it. They were totally unconscious of the fact that they were really an embarrassment to their race.
I never recall anything like that about Dr. Will. He was a very shrewd old bird, and I think very sensitive to that kind of thing. Whatever he was feeling he wasn't about to put his foot in it through his conduct or his language. For example, he and Charles Johnson were great buddies and collaborators.

Page 16
JOHN EGERTON:
And sincerely so.
HAROLD FLEMING:
Oh, yes. They had great respect for each other and they were friends.
JOHN EGERTON:
Did they socialize? Did they spend private times together?
HAROLD FLEMING:
I just don't know, but I wouldn't be surprised.
JOHN EGERTON:
Did their wives?
HAROLD FLEMING:
I doubt it. I don't think their wives were in this at all. I think that was fairly characteristic.
I think probably both of them would have judged that ordinary kind of socialibility and socializing would have been counterproductive. I don't think Charles Johnson was ever tempted to go over to Chapel Hill or wherever and play croquet on Dr. Will's lawn. I just think that wasn't prudent. Some of us had enough trouble with that much later on.
JOHN EGERTON:
Let me ask you to digress just a minute and talk a little bit about your own personal journey to 1947. You've told me a lot of this and I've got it in various places and my notes or in my head, but put it in the context of this conversation. Your own experiences that preceeded your coming to Atlanta and working for SRC in 1947, just talk about that a little bit.
HAROLD FLEMING:
You mean coming back to Atlanta?
JOHN EGERTON:
Yes, coming back to Atlanta. You were actually born in Atlanta or were you born over in Elberton?
HAROLD FLEMING:
I was born in Atlanta. I didn't go to Elbert County to live until the Depression when I was about eight or nine years old.

Page 17
JOHN EGERTON:
You were born in '22.
HAROLD FLEMING:
Yes. I grew up in Atlanta and aside from the time I spent at the homeplace, I lived in Atlanta until I went off to college.
JOHN EGERTON:
What was the homeplace in Elberton?
HAROLD FLEMING:
It was the old homeplace where my great-grandmother and great-grandfather brought up the whole family including my grandfather. My bachelor great-uncle devoted his life to taking care of his mother in her old age and he kept the place after she died. He lived there alone until the Depression came along. Everybody else had gone.
My mother grew up there. Her mother died when she was tiny, when she was born, actually. She grew up on the place and was raised by her grandmother. So, that was the old homeplace, but we had family all around there. Her father, my grandfather, was an upstanding citizen of Elberton. He was the justice of the peace.
JOHN EGERTON:
You didn't live there, you just went there summers and that kind of thing?
HAROLD FLEMING:
Yes, up until then. And what happened is that we went there for a summer and we didn't leave because of the Depression. Because our father couldn't support us. we never talked about it with Uncle Willie. It was just one of those things, very southern.
JOHN EGERTON:
How many in your family?

Page 18
HAROLD FLEMING:
Just my mother, my brother and I. There was Aunt Jessie who married a very nice man and lived twelve miles away. Family was all around there, cousins, aunts, uncles and whatnot.
JOHN EGERTON:
How long did you stay there?
HAROLD FLEMING:
It was two or three years. I don't quite have the months straight as to when I went there. It was probably two and a half years.
JOHN EGERTON:
Then you went back to Atlanta and finished high school?
HAROLD FLEMING:
I did later. I went to the fourth and fifth grades in the country. When I went back to Atlanta I went into the sixth grade.
JOHN EGERTON:
You graduated form Boy's High School in what year?
HAROLD FLEMING:
1940.
JOHN EGERTON:
Did you go right into the Army?
HAROLD FLEMING:
No, I went to Harvard.
JOHN EGERTON:
Straight to Harvard from Boy's High?
HAROLD FLEMING:
Yes.
JOHN EGERTON:
How far along were you at Harvard when the war took you away?
HAROLD FLEMING:
Well, what happened was when the war came they didn't call us up immediately. One of the options was to sign on and enlist in the Enlisted Reserve Corps if you were in college with the understanding that you were then subject to call at anytime. It wasn't quite like the regular draft.
What happened was they accelerated everything. I went into an accelerated program at that point. I went to classes during the summer and everything was squeezed and accelerated. I got

Page 19
within a semester of finishing, in fact, less than a semester. I wasn't called up until March of '43. I would have finished in June. Then I came back in '46. I wasn't discharged, nobody was discharged, no officers were discharged. I was let out in June of '46. I spent the summer in Atlanta and went back to Harvard in September of '46 and finished up in June of '47.
JOHN EGERTON:
You ended up having to go a whole year to get just the little bit you needed.
HAROLD FLEMING:
Yes, I was an honors candidate. It wouldn't have been profitable to go back for a semester because I had to take those honors exams and things. And, shit, I had forgotten everything I knew. I needed a year. I have a very full year and it was a fun year, a good year. I got back into extracurricular activities, the radio station and all kinds of things.
JOHN EGERTON:
Your experience in the service involved some commanding of Negro troops, didn't it?
HAROLD FLEMING:
That was very critical, of course. Most people, when they learn a little about my background, jump to the conclusion that, oh well, shit, you went to Harvard so I see what happened to him. It wasn't quite like that. Even before I went off to college I lead a kind of double life. I was a good ole boy when that was politic, but I was also associated with what would pass for eggheads in that situation. I read a lot and I guess the best way to characterize it is that I was still pretty much a victim of my upbringing and so on. But, I felt that I had achieved a state of enlightment that justified my looking with

Page 20
disdain on redneck stuff and on the crasser forms of prejudice, discrimination and so on.
But I didn't know any blacks, and I had never seen Atlanta University in all those years—I didn't even know where it was. I knew what it was but I didn't know where it was. I say I didn't know any blacks, I knew black servants and black domestics. I had a certain degree of intellectual liberation on the question. I would have denied vigoriously that I was prejudiced or part of the southern ethos on this.
But the fact is, I was pretty damn unenlightened and remained so in those prewar and several years at Harvard. There was nothing there that would encourage anybody to become certainly not a reformer if not an abolitionist. Most of the guys I knew there were. . . . There were only two blacks, I think. There were a handful of black undergraduates. I only knew of two when I was there in those years. The whites were no great shakes. There were the prep school guys and the guys from Illinois and so on. They weren't that much different from us.
That's why the Army was critical. It was purely accidental that I ended up as an officer with black troops. In those days there were no other kinds of officers. All the officers were white. It was a very traumatic kind of experience. I don't think anybody could have been prepared for that. You were a white straw boss in a very discriminatory segregated Army, and you felt discriminated against. You lived where they lived. Even though you were an officer and you were white you were a

Page 21
second class soldier because your privates were black, as they say.
JOHN EGERTON:
How did it happen that you got that assignment?
HAROLD FLEMING:
It was pure accident. That's what they needed when I came down the pipeline.
JOHN EGERTON:
The pipeline being Commissioned Officer's school?
HAROLD FLEMING:
Well, yes, but that's another story. I was in the field artillery at Fort Bragg. I was drafted and after I was inducted I went to Fort Bragg which was the Field Artillery Replacement Training Center. I had a wonderful return address, the FART Center. Most of the guys who took basic [training] with me were shipped out in very short order to Italy for the invasion of Italy.
I got acute appendicitis at the critical time there and was operated on at the base hospital. In those days when they did it it was like something between a ceasarian and a hysterectomy. My recuperation time was quite long so I did not ship out.
While I was convalescing they assigned me as a clerk in the headquarters called the Courts and Boards Section, which was court-martials and various boards, selection boards including OCS selection. I never gave OCS a thought because I wasn't eligible. At that time you could be a rifleman in the infantry if you had 20-200 vision—corrected, I mean—but you could not be an officer. There was some funny idea that you needed to have perfect vision to be an officer or near perfect, but you could be very easily be a grunt firing a rifle when you had 20-200 vision. I never did understand that, but I knew it.

Page 22
Most of the guys I knew, who were my college friends, knocked themselves out to get into something called ASIP, Army (Something) Training Program, which was a real deal. They sent you back to college for one speciality or another. Maybe a language speciality, studying Japanese, or most anything that was thought to be valuable to the Army. And so, you became a college student again. And God, people fell all over themselves trying to get into that program. I didn't and I think God I didn't, I guess. They wiped the program out and shipped them all over to Italy and in no time about half of them were dead.
Instead of that, as I said, I was convalescing from that operation. I got the assignment with the Courts and Boards Section. It was great and I got to know the officers of the Courts and Boards Section. They were a good bunch. Kind of lazy and crazy, a little bit like "Mash." I felt pretty much like a civilian, not quite, but I didn't have to go out and march, jump through hoops or meet reveille. All of that were things of the past. I was really quite comfortable there, you might say.
Then a directive came down which said, "we are urgently in need of officers for the quartermaster corps and we are waiving the eyesight thing for candidates." Some of my buddies there who were officers and who were also with the selection board for OCS said, "Come on, Fleming, why don't you make something of yourself? You are sitting around here as a PFC and they are going to replace you with a WAC one of these days anyway. Here's your chance. Why don't you apply for OCS?" I did, they shamed me into it. They said, "you will never have it so good. You

Page 23
will sit in a office in a warehouse somewhere and work crossword puzzles and your mamma will think you have been discharged."
I did apply and I went through OCS. The first thing they told us when we got there, they said, "look, whatever you've heard about the Quartermaster Corps forget it. We've put on a new phase here in this man's war. We've had the Battle of the Bulge and what we have discovered is that service troops have got to be able to fight and therefore you are going to get infantry training here at OCS. It is going to be the same as Fort Benning." And we did.
JOHN EGERTON:
Was it at this point that you were put with the black unit?.
HAROLD FLEMING:
I graduated from OCS and it was just at the point where they had a very big need for white officers to command the black service troops—quartermaster companies and platoons—because they were doing a build-up for the invasion of Japan, the prespective invasion of Japan. This would have been a mammonth operation, of course, and what they wanted to do was station us at Okinawa as soon as Okinawa was secured. It involved an enormous need for service troops. Service was everything, it was support really. It was trucking, running the supply dumps, the gasoline dumps, the clothing dumps, the grave digging, the whole support mechanism that was required for a million man Army or whatever they had in mind to invade Japan. That's how I was assigned as was everybody else, my comtemporaries, when graduating from OCS. That's what was happening at that point.
JOHN EGERTON:
Were you sent out to the Pacific?

Page 24
HAROLD FLEMING:
Yes.
JOHN EGERTON:
Were you out there when the war ended? Where were you?
HAROLD FLEMING:
In Okinawa.
JOHN EGERTON:
In other words, waiting to make the landing.
HAROLD FLEMING:
Yes. We got there about a month after the island was declared secure. There were still Japanese guerillas roaming around. They did for quite a while. But, clearly what was going on—they weren't worried about that anymore—they were worried about building up the forces. There was a steady build-up on that island while I was there until victory Day.
I became a company commander and was there until I was shipped home the following June. I was there for about one year.
JOHN EGERTON:
You were shipped home in June, 1948.
HAROLD FLEMING:
June, 1946.
JOHN EGERTON:
And you were on Okinawa when the bombing of Hiroshima took place?
HAROLD FLEMING:
Um-hm [Yes].
END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A

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[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
HAROLD FLEMING:
. . . . The first thing I heard, usually you heard things first by word of mouth. Somebody had been in headquarters where they had a radio and somebody had heard this and that and so, it was pretty imperfect. But, the first thing I heard—I can't remember the exact date of Hiroshima, but I imagine this would have been much later that day or the following day that most of us heard anything—that the United States—it wasn't even called a bomb—had used a new weapon, a fantastic, super powerful, super weapon against the Japanese. The rumor was that the war would soon be over.
My reaction, which was universal, was that we were—hooray! Thank God! I didn't question it. Then gradually one learned more about it. Then the next thing that happened—you'd be interested to know, maybe—the rumors spread like wildfire that the whole island was supposed to be in a state of alert because rumor was that they quite expected the Russians to invade.
JOHN EGERTON:
I remember all of that.
HAROLD FLEMING:
God almighty, that depressed me, needless to say.
I don't think anybody talked about the ethics of that [the bomb], not at that time. It was regarded as a godsend.
We had Japanese POW's and this was another cross one had to bear commanding black troops because our men were often assigned to guard them as guards of work details, not as round-the-clock guards. They would send out detachments of Japanese POW's.
For example, I had charge of the work force for the gasoline and oil supply dump for all of Okinawa. Our biggest problem was

Page 26
to keep these dumb clucks from going and hiding behind a great mountain of barrels of gasoline and lighting up a cigarette.
There was a lot of heavy equipment, cranes and all those things which I was responsible for. We had the Jap POW's and some of my men were assigned, while they were working, to stand guard over them. The big fear of the brass, who were mostly southern—that was to be expected because most of the brass in the Army was southern—was fraternization between the black soldiers and the POW's. They didn't trust them worth a damn.
Long before they took the amunition away from other units they blatantly, they didn't make any bones about it, made us turn in every round. I protested about it and it was not a very smart thing to do. I asked, "why? There are still Japanese guerillas on this island. We have brought several of them in. We are out there vulnerable to this and the other companies are keeping their amunition." He said, "damnit, you know why." I said, "I think I do, but I don't think it's fair."
JOHN EGERTON:
At that point you are just twenty-three years old. Do you think your sensitivity to all this racial stuff had been heightened by your experience in working with those guys or were you still pretty much . . .
HAROLD FLEMING:
This is what did it for me. I mean, it was a very good way to learn about race relations. In the first place, you could really see it plain if you had any sense of fairness and if you weren't just under the total mercy of your prejudices, you could see. And if you got to know any of these men at all and there were some very nice guys, great guys, and there were also a bunch

Page 27
of guys who were so alienated or so coarsened by life that they were not admirable people at all. They were people you wouldn't trust around the block, they would kill you it they thought they could get away with it.
It was not the noble savage thing at all, but it was just the sheer human experience of, "good God, how can these men stand it, why do they do it?" Here they are being called on to follow the rules, shape up, be a good soldier, work your ass off, be ready to die for your country and then they would crap all over you without apology. "Not a single one of you blacks bastards is good enough to be an officer even with your own people. You don't get the Quonset huts, you stay in the tents and mud. All the Quonset huts go to a white unit that landed yesterday even though you have been here six months."
It has that kind of stuff, and I understood why they were bitter. The amazing thing is that they functioned at all. The tendancy was for a lot of them was to use passive resistance with their officers and that was their way of retaliating. "What are you doing here, Jones? Didn't I assign you to go over there and do that?" The response would be, "Naw sir, boss, I don't know nothing about that," a bunch of step-and-fetch-it kind of stuff but done very cynically. Sometimes—very near insubordination—they all had techniques made to screw you good. The whole idea was to drive you up the wall.
I just took a tack with these guys, I said, "Look, you are not Step-and-Fetch-it, and I'm not Simon Legree, and this bullshit doesn't go with me. Jones, you know you're suppose to

Page 28
be over there. I know you were supposed to be over there, I know you've got brains, I know you are not an idiot, so get over there and don't let me catch you goofing off again." This worked pretty much, not with everybody. It worked better than letting them suck you into playing your role while they played their role. The role, you get tougher and meaner and harder.
What a bunch of dumb bastards, these young white Yankee officers. They would come to me and say, "I just want to tell you, Captain, that I feel you got a bad deal and you're from Georgia, aren't you?"
I said, "yes."
"I just want to tell you that I understand how you people feel down there and the first thing I'm going to do when I get out of here is get a charter membership in a Kiu Kiux Kian."
I said, "look buster, you don't know anything about what I feel and I don't want to know what your views are. I don't want to hear any talk like that around here again. If you value your life, shut your mouth and do your job and don't go in for any of this racist crap because you're going to get killed." Some of them did, you know. It was not a smart thing to do.
I didn't philosophize about it with anybody much except Gaylord Nelson. He was my best friend over there.
JOHN EGERTON:
Was he in a similar role?
HAROLD FLEMING:
Yes.
JOHN EGERTON:
Did you know others that you subsequently kept up with?
HAROLD FLEMING:
Not really. Gaylord is about the only one. I've seen a few others since but we haven't maintained a relationship.

Page 29
Gaylord found a guy who was in my company—a corporal—and he turned out to be the Director of Foreign Student Affairs at Howard University. He just stumbled on to him and he brought us together in a surprise meeting. I was surprised he would even want to see me. We had a good time reminiscing and so on. I said, "what did he say when you told him?" Gaylord told him that I've always said that I thought it was unjust as hell. He said I was a follower of Bob Lafollette, a wisconsin progressive, and what did I get from these men but a bunch of shit? They would come in there and say, "you're from Georgia and you're a great guy. There's no justice in the world." I said that to him and he said, "well, he was about as good as you could hope for under the circumstances." I thought that was high praise myself.
Anyway, that's how it all happened. When I came back I was sick of the whole goddamn business. I was mad at the Army and mad at the system. And godalmighty the two-governors controversy broke out in Georgia and the Arnall thing went down the drain, and Talmadge came back in. . . .
JOHN EGERTON:
Did you go back up to Harvard that fall?
HAROLD FLEMING:
I went back that fall. I spend the summer in Atlanta and went back that fall. Then the two governors thing broke while I was up there. Instead of M.E. Thompson, who was no great tower of strength, succeeding Ellis Arnall, it turned out in the end to be Herman Talmadge.
JOHN EGERTON:
That summer you were here was when the Walton County lynching took place.
HAROLD FLEMING:
Yes, that's correct.

Page 30
JOHN EGERTON:
You were in Atlanta that summer when that happened?
HAROLD FLEMING:
Yes.
JOHN EGERTON:
You remember that pretty well?
HAROLD FLEMING:
Yes, I do.
JOHN EGERTON:
Can you relate any personal antecdotes about it in terms of where you were when it happened and what you thought about it or anything?
HAROLD FLEMING:
No. All I can say is that it laid the base for total disgust that built up over the succeeding year. I wasn't even thinking about any kind of reform or crusading at that point. But the idea of settling and having a normal life in that setting when that kind of thing could take place and where you could have a guy saying the things that Talmadge said, reelected governor after all that—Eugene was reelected. I just felt I had to get out. When I came back—the key to all this, you said, "how did you get there?"—by far the most important piece of that was this Army experience. I felt I would actively become an activist of any kind. God knows, I hoped, gone on maturing in attitudes and that kind of thing. I don't think it ever would have occured to me to get into organizational work challenging the system.
JOHN EGERTON:
Why did you come back? You got away, you went back to Harvard, you could have never looked back if you didn't want to.
HAROLD FLEMING:
I was just coming home to see my family. I didn't come back to go to work. In fact, I had already put out my letters. I had written several publishing houses in New York and to everybody I knew up that way that I was going to be coming up

Page 31
there in September. Summer was a terrible time for job hunting anyway.
I had one or two encouraging letters back saying they would like to interview me. I thought that was what I was going to do.
JOHN EGERTON:
Fall of '47?
HAROLD FLEMING:
Yes. So, this was all accidental this business of settling . . .
JOHN EGERTON:
'46.
HAROLD FLEMING:
No, '47. I went back to the school that summer.
JOHN EGERTON:
You got out of the Army in '46 and stayed in Atlanta that summer. You knew you were going back to Harvard that fall. You went back and graduated in '48.
HAROLD FLEMING:
In '47
JOHN EGERTON:
I mean, graduated in '47.
HAROLD FLEMING:
June of '47. I went back to visit the family and to just have a little breather. As I said, the summer was a poor time for job hunting anyway. I wanted some relaxation. Between the Army and college I had been working my ass off.
JOHN EGERTON:
But, just by quirk you ended up getting this job?
HAROLD FLEMING:
I read the Atlanta Constitution and here was McGill's column on the front page. About one out of every five columns he was saying something quite startling on race. I was naturally amazed, I didn't realize, a) anybody was doing that, and b) that anybody could get away with it.
Just out of curiosity I went to see him. I called him up and asked for an appointment and he said to come on in. I went and spent an hour with him. I told him where I was and what I

Page 32
had been doing. I really was doing this out of curiosity, what kind of guy is this, have I misread the situation? He said, "no, you haven't misread the situation, don't be misled by these columns of mine." He said, "I just feel every once in a while compelled to write something about this crazy system. We are in for a terrible time. It's going to be years and years of it. If I was you I would just get the hell out. You've read it right and you probably made the right decision."
I said, "well, I'm still impressed with what you are saying down here." He said, "I'm paying for it." [laughter] He said, "Before you go, I think you can find something interesting. There's an outfit here called Southern Regional Council that's an interracial organization. It's a very balanced, decent, and courageous group. I think you would feel better about this if you found out a little about them and that there are people down here who feel the way you do and who are trying to do something about it against the odds."
"That's news to me," I said. "It does sound interesting."
He said, "hold on a minute."
He picked up the phone and called George Mitchell and he told him he had this fellow in his office and asked if he could see him and tell him a little bit about the Southern Regional Council. George said to send him over right then.
I walked over to Auburn Avenue to see George Mitchell. After we talked for quite awhile he said, "are you in any rush to get up there to New York?"

Page 33
I said, "I don't have any deadline." I hadn't planned to go until early September and this was then early August.
He said, "I just lost my Director of Information. He went to work with the steelworkers and I would have lost him anyway because I don't have any money to pay anybody here." Rosenwald had run out of existence, the Rosenwald Fund. He said, "he left me with a half-finished publication. I don't have much money but I can scrape up somehow to pay you if you hang around here for a few weeks and finish it up for me. Can you do that? It will give you a chance to find out a little more about the Council and how it works, who our people are and what they think."
I said, "sure, that sounds okay."
He said, "I wish I had some money because I would offer you a job."
I said, "oh, well, that's alright."
JOHN EGERTON:
And you left fifteen years later.
HAROLD FLEMING:
You know how that goes. That's how that happened. It was purely accidental. Everything that has ever happened to me was accidental.
JOHN EGERTON:
That's what history is.
HAROLD FLEMING:
Yes, a series of accidents.
JOHN EGERTON:
Let me just read you a list of names and you give me just a sort of thumbnail. . . . Peg these people up on the board for me in terms of their vision or their wisdom or their sensitivity to . . .
HAROLD FLEMING:
Are these all people I know?

Page 34
JOHN EGERTON:
These are all people you know. [Howard] Odum, we mentioned, Mrs. [Jessie Daniel] Ames . . .
HAROLD FLEMING:
I never knew either one of those people very well personally. They were pretty much out of the scene when I was around.
JOHN EGERTON:
They were still around but really very much in the background.
HAROLD FLEMING:
Odum was holding court in Chapel Hill and Mrs. Ames had left.
JOHN EGERTON:
She was gone by then?
HAROLD FLEMING:
Yes. I met them, but I knew them mostly by reputation.
JOHN EGERTON:
Alexander, we talked about. Ira Reid?
HAROLD FLEMING:
He was a very impressive fellow. very bright and very articulate. He had a certain number of adjulators on campus and so on. He was a guy who handled himself well and probably a bit vain. He was a man not to be triffled with but very entertaining and very, very smart. He had a considerable reputation. He was the associate director of the Southern Regional Council for a time but not as a full-time in-house employee. His work was at Atlanta University but he was held that as a kind of part-time, honorific thing. I think he was a very positive influence on the scene there. He didn't last a very long time.
JOHN EGERTON:
No, he left. What about Charles Johnson?
HAROLD FLEMING:
I think he was a very wise man and an admirable person. I think the only thing that anybody might say to fault him is that his reputation as a scholar and writer was. . . . He was heavily indebted to graduate students whose work he incorporated.

Page 35
But hells bells, I think that's fairly standard stuff on campuses and the idea is that when you get to be senior you can do that yourself. It's like interns and doctors. I was very impressed with him.
JOHN EGERTON:
Was he one of the visionaries?
HAROLD FLEMING:
I think he was. By today's standards he probably would be considered an accomdationist, but that would be true of so many people. I don't think he was. He was a man of natural dignity and considerable intellect. Unlike most black college presidents he didn't throw his weight around.
JOHN EGERTON:
Sort of a diplomat, quiet, behind the scenes.
HAROLD FLEMING:
Quiet. Well, what I mean by that is that he was not dictatorial or authoritarian, which most of them were. That was a very authoritarian occupation.
JOHN EGERTON:
What about Gordon Hancock? Was he a difficult man?
HAROLD FLEMING:
Well, he was a virginia gentleman in technicolor, I mean, he just happened to be black. I don't mean he didn't take his blackness seriously, he obviously did, but in manner, attitude, and so on. He had this wonderful and gray Vandyke beard. He was a very dapper man.
By the time I got to know him he was showing some age. He was very protective of his reputation and role in all these matters; the creation of the Council. Capable of confrontation. For all the fact of his dignity and bearing and reputation—I don't know whether he was better when he was younger—I didn't think of him as a heavyweight.
JOHN EGERTON:
Not in Johnson's class?

Page 36
HAROLD FLEMING:
No. I don't think so.
JOHN EGERTON:
What about P.B. Young who was one of Hancock's associates?
HAROLD FLEMING:
This is P.B. the elder. I knew his son somewhat better. P.B. was one of those . . . I don't know whether he was self-made or not but he was like a self-made man, a bit tyranical. One of the things I remember was that we had a program going to try encourage reform in the southern newspapers. When covering the news of the black community and the use of courtesy titles and all those things we put out a little publication called, Race in the News. Mrs. Tilly and her church women took it around to their local editors and said this is what we want you to do. It really was quite effective. It got a lot of coverage and Pop wrote it up in the Times. In the southern papers it helped to sensitize them. One of the things we recommended was that they hire black reporters not just to cover black news.
I got a letter from P.B. Young resigning from the Board on the grounds that we were trying to put the black press out of business. That tells you a little something about how protective and really hopelessly old-fashioned some of that crew were.
I didn't know him as well personally as I knew some of the other people. I don't mean for that to be the sum total of the man. He played a constructive role, positive role in black leadership in the South.
JOHN EGERTON:
What about Benjamin Mays?
HAROLD FLEMING:
Great guy.

Page 37
JOHN EGERTON:
One of the best?
HAROLD FLEMING:
Yes, absolutely terrific. He was courageous, he had humor, he was a wonderful speaker, majestic presence, coal black with the gray hair. He had absolute integrity and honesty and I liked him a lot. I think he deserved every bit of praise he ever got. He ran a really first-rate college.
JOHN EGERTON:
Lillian Smith?
HAROLD FLEMING:
I didn't get to know Lillian Smith until later after she had relented about her view of the SRC. I found her quite delightful when I listened—you sort of sat at her feet in those days. By the time I got to know her she had such a reputation and was such a somebody that it wasn't quite a natural relationship. I liked her and admired her greatly, her courage. But, I did feel that she was, particularly in the earlier years, with her indictment of the SRC—a lot of merit in that position—but she did tend toward the ‘holier than thou’ more than was to my taste. But, I think as she got older and mellowed some of that faded away.
JOHN EGERTON:
Kind of self-righteous earlier?
HAROLD FLEMING:
She had reason to be proud of her role. She really was, compared to most people, in a protected position. She couldn't be hurt economically and as a woman she was shielded somewhat from the kinds of consequences of her behavior that befell others. Her national reputation was a kind of protection.
I just felt she was really a little harsh in her judgements of lesser mortals that perhaps weren't in quite as much

Page 38
protective positions as she was. They couldn't quite afford to spit in the eye of white southerners.
JOHN EGERTON:
I went back and checked on several people to see what role they had with the Council if any. I was a little surprised at some of these. These are among the people who never served on the Council, McGill, even though he was a founder he was never a member.
HAROLD FLEMING:
That doesn't surprise me.
JOHN EGERTON:
John Temple Graves, Jonathan Daniels, George Fort Milton . . .
HAROLD FLEMING:
Jonathan Daniels, are you sure?
JOHN EGERTON:
I can't find any records and his name doesn't appear in any of the Board lists. Lillian Smith and Frank Porter Graham.
HAROLD FLEMING:
I don't know why but I thought Jonathan Daniels had served a term or two.
JOHN EGERTON:
Never there and then some who were there . . .
HAROLD FLEMING:
Who was the other one besides Graham?
JOHN EGERTON:
Lillian Smith.
HAROLD FLEMING:
Oh, you know about Lillian Smith.
JF: Yes, I know about her.
HAROLD FLEMING:
Lillian Smith, however, in later years—I don't know that she was ever on the Board—she took part in the SRC affairs. Then, of course, as you know they named a literary award after her. That was while she was still alive, I think.
JOHN EGERTON:
Why do you think McGill never . . .
HAROLD FLEMING:
McGill didn't do it because of his precarious, his uneasy relationship with his management.

Page 39
JOHN EGERTON:
Did he feel that uncomfortable with it?
HAROLD FLEMING:
Oh, shit. They leaned on him so heavily that you can't believe it. He was like Peck's bad boy. His keeper was Jack Traver, who was a son-of-a-bitch in many ways. Though he was devoted to McGill, his role was to keep McGill out of trouble.
McGill just thought it was the better part of valor—we all understood it, nobody felt miffed and we weren't pressuring—and besides, we used—if at anytime we needed to exploit McGill's connection we had the record there of his role as a founder. He never repudiated and always spoke well of the Council. That was more valuable to us than having him on the Board. He editorialized all our materials and statements and so on.
JOHN EGERTON:
It seems strange to me after Foreman was gone, after the paper belonged to the Coxs, the so-called liberal Coxs from the North, the democratic liberals from Ohio . . .
HAROLD FLEMING:
Then there's Tarver, having played the protector, became the master himself.
JOHN EGERTON:
Does this say anything at all about the role that newspapers played in all of this, the essentially negative role that newspapers played? By the time we got to Brown the newspapers were not very much in any pretense of trying to help lead the South out of the morass of segregation or anything of the sort. Some of the papers earlier on, it seems to me, had been reasonably progressive.
HAROLD FLEMING:
Some of them were.
JOHN EGERTON:
They seemed to get less so as time got closer to the crunch. They got quieter.

Page 40
HAROLD FLEMING:
Some of them did, but some of them were quite good. Almost none of them, with a precious few exceptions, were really fully squared on the issue. They all tended to shuffle.
JOHN EGERTON:
None that I can find came out ahead of Brown and said, "we need to address this issue." I can't find a single paper that did that.
HAROLD FLEMING:
What you can find are papers that said, "we need to prepare for whatever the court says and prepare to do it in good faith." You didn't hear them say, "God, we sure hope the court orders desegregation." I don't know of any papers that said that. Maybe the Courier Journal.
JOHN EGERTON:
No, even they didn't.
HAROLD FLEMING:
Even they didn't?
JOHN EGERTON:
No. They endorsed the Brown decision after Brown came down, but they didn't in any sense prepare people for Brown.
McGill in his column once in a while do better at that than some of the others, but even McGill was not saying too much. McGill was still sort of fighting the rear guard battle on a lot of these things. He never could come around on things like FEPC or anti-lynching. It's so ironic, that newspaper in 1933 endorsed a federal anti-lynching bill.
HAROLD FLEMING:
When?
JOHN EGERTON:
1933.
HAROLD FLEMING:
I didn't know that.
JOHN EGERTON:
Yes, and fifteen years later you wouldn't have caught them dead saying anything like that.

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HAROLD FLEMING:
Well, you can really understand that though. I'm a little surprised to hear they did endorse it in 60s. Well, what happened is that as the issue heated up the backlash really got severe. You could get away with things in 60s that you couldn't get away with in . . .
JOHN EGERTON:
That's my point.
HAROLD FLEMING:
That's absolutely true. I got away with things in the late 40s that I couldn't get away with, not with impunity, once Brown got heated up. That went on all through the 50s the more the tension built coming from all the change. The more that decended on the South the more punitive the South got and the bigger the price. You know, interracial association was if you were discrete about it you could get away with quite a bit when I first started. It got to the point where you were taking your life in your hands in some places.
JOHN EGERTON:
Let me ask you about one other angle of this that I've begun to think about a lot. I have started reading a good bit about the whole anti-communist hysteria. In going back to the early House Committee [on Un-American Activities] days of Martin Dies and John Rankin and one or two other southerners who were central to that activity, the thought occurs to me that as the racial thing heated up the whole fraternity of southern Washington politicians came to see in the anti-communist movement and the national fear on this issue a club to hang over the heads of southerners who were pushing for social change along racial lines.

Page 42
HAROLD FLEMING:
Where are you dating this from? All the way back to Martin Dies?
JOHN EGERTON:
Well, yes, but . . .
HAROLD FLEMING:
They were using it long before McCarthy.
JOHN EGERTON:
Yes, definitely before McCarthy. And Dies, that goes back to '38, that's when he started that Committee.
HAROLD FLEMING:
I well remember it.
JOHN EGERTON:
He and John Rankin were the godfathers of that thing through those early years. By the time they got into the mid 40s the War was over and all these new people were popping up. They were saying, people like Sid McMath in Arkansas or Jim Folsom, or Claude Pepper, and Frank Graham, I think they really thought about it. I don't think this is just some happenstance. I think there was a certain Machiavellian quality to some of this. Is this possible?
HAROLD FLEMING:
Sure. So much of that stuff hoked up. I mean, they made McCarthy look like a testament of truth compared to these guys. Have you read any of that HUAC stuff?
JOHN EGERTON:
Yes, I have been reading a lot of it.
HAROLD FLEMING:
It's incredible. I mean, if you know anything it's incredible, the system. The very fabric of lies and these sleeze balls they hired to testify would testify to anything. I'm convinced that they wrote the testimony—the staffers of Dies and Rankin and so on. These guys would just parrot it for a price. There is no question that it was flagrantly used. The only question in my mind is I don't know to what extent they convinced themselves on this. I think that they really did feel that race

Page 43
mixing was a communist plot, part of the communist strategy. There were some who were smart enough to know better but very damn few.
JOHN EGERTON:
More than that I think they thought that anybody, any white person, who would advocate something like that had to be a communist. What else could he be? He sure as hell couldn't be a red-bloodied American and do that.
HAROLD FLEMING:
I think that what I'm saying is that it was cynical and they used it cynically, but I'm not sure they didn't believe it themselves.
JOHN EGERTON:
Let me ask you a couple more things. Harry Truman put together that civil rights committee in 1948 and I find some evidence that one of the things that proded him to do that was that he was so outraged by the Walton County lynching that he made up his mind that he had had enough of that. He didn't really didn't have any strong feelings on race, I don't think. It wasn't that segregation bothered him particularly, but that particular incident really outraged him.
HAROLD FLEMING:
Something was eating on him because he took an extraordinarily strong position the first time. I mean, it was unbending. He didn't walk away.
JOHN EGERTON:
He never backed away from it a bit. Frank Graham and Dorothy Tilly served on that committee and the document that they put out really turns out to be the first official statement of the federal government of the United States against segregation. It is a very unequivocal statement. It came out in November 1947.

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HAROLD FLEMING:
I remember it well.
JOHN EGERTON:
It was four years later before SRC could make such a statement and if I'm not incorrect you wrote that statement in 1951.
HAROLD FLEMING:
The Council Board commissioned such a statement in 1950. That was conterminous with the NAACP switching its school cases, I don't mean the two were linked.
JOHN EGERTON:
I was going to ask you coincidently?
HAROLD FLEMING:
I mean, when people have said to me that it is unconsciousable that the Southern Regional Council was so late in declaring itself forthrightly across the board against segregation. I say, the NAACP did it at the same time. This is true, too.
There is a difference in that this was a national committee appointed by the President and the federal government. In other words, it was operating in a national context. It's a hell of a lot easier to do that than if you are operating in a purely southern context. Its members were absolutely beyond reach for reprisal and that kind of thing. I mean, their careers couldn't be destroyed, their families couldn't be threatened or reached.
Miss Tilly was beyond those things anyway. You didn't mess with Miss Tilly. She was unintimidated.
Look at the other members on there. Frank Graham was also a special case. The rest of them, Boris Shishkin, nobody was going to bother him. The other members, Cary, I think, and Sadie Alexander, their positions were enhanced. Charles Wilson of

Page 45
General Electric, he was the good Charles Wilson as opposed to the other one.
But, it was a remarkable statement, no question. What was most remarkable was Truman's total committment on this. They didn't come out with something that he found unwelcome at all.
JOHN EGERTON:
Do you think when that happened that he wouldn't get elected in '48. Were you pretty fearful that he was not going to win?
HAROLD FLEMING:
Very fearful. I will never forget that night sitting up until all hours to hear that he had been elected. Of course, some of the leftist folks had gone around the bend with Wallace and it was thought that that was really the final nail in the coffin, that Wallace would pull off enough votes. It didn't happen, thank God.
JOHN EGERTON:
Neither did Thurman, which was the other side.
HAROLD FLEMING:
No, that's right. Thurman, the Dixicrats. . . . That whole thing is just amazing.
JOHN EGERTON:
Thinking back on that now it does seem really quite astonishing that he was able to win with those two parties against him.
HAROLD FLEMING:
It's unbelievable almost. I often feel there is some danger of the romanticizing the Truman presidency a little bit. At the time I remember I was very irked with him on a number of things.
JOHN EGERTON:
Well, the communist was one.
HAROLD FLEMING:
He started the loyalty oath business, you know.

Page 46
JOHN EGERTON:
He got us in trouble on that pretty badly. Played into the hands of people like Martin Dies and John Rankin and Eastland and the rest of them.
HAROLD FLEMING:
Well, he started the National Security Program and some of its excesses. God knows he was nowhere near as bad as what followed. And also, I was not thrilled with the way he handled Korea and the Truman Doctrine.
Truman was the same way when he was right and when he was wrong. He was totally adamant and couldn't be swayed. When he was admirable he was very, very admirable, when he was bad he was bad.
JOHN EGERTON:
Jumping ahead to the last item. The Ford Foundation's Fund for the Advancement of Education put up the funds for the Ashmore study. How did that happen? Who made that happen? Whose idea was that? Where did the genesis of that come from?
HAROLD FLEMING:
Well, the Fund had some very bright and able leadership. I don't really know whose idea it was. As far as I know the idea came from the staff and leadership for the fund for the advancement itself.
JOHN EGERTON:
Throw out a name or two.
HAROLD FLEMING:
Well, there was Al urick who was the president.
JOHN EGERTON:
Was anybody southern involved in any of that?
HAROLD FLEMING:
Besides the president, there was Bill Kuntz and John Scanlan.
JOHN EGERTON:
Was anybody southern involved in any of that?
HAROLD FLEMING:
No, not in the Fund for the Advancement itself.
JOHN EGERTON:
What about in Ford Foundation?

Page 47
HAROLD FLEMING:
Ford had nothing to do with it. He probably would have tried to prevent it if anything. See they created the Fund for the Republic to get this kind of stuff out of their hair so they wouldn't have to deal with it.
JOHN EGERTON:
What was it called, The Fund for the Advancement of Education?
HAROLD FLEMING:
Yes.
JOHN EGERTON:
Was part of the fund for the Republic?
HAROLD FLEMING:
No, no. There were several spinoffs.
JOHN EGERTON:
Of Ford?
HAROLD FLEMING:
Yes. Because the Fund for the Advancement of Education was essentially involved in education. And they approached this as an educational question. The feeling was, "look, the Supreme Court is going to issue a decision that could be the biggest thing that happened in education in this country in our time. Shouldn't we be doing something to prepare people to provide information?"
This thing was in no sense intended to be an advocacy even indirectly. It wasn't conceived as an advocacy thing, it was conceived as an informational and service kind of thing. It was to help people to know how to cope, what the history is, what the demography is, what the background is. It was not to be to take sides or urge the court to go one way or another or anything like that, or to urge any particular solution or ruling.
JOHN EGERTON:
Did they turn to SRC to look for someplace to make this work or did they put this package together?

Page 48
HAROLD FLEMING:
They wanted this to be as respectable as possible. They first tried to peddle it into all the universities they could think of in the South that had any prestige, but none of them would do it.
JOHN EGERTON:
Including Chapel Hill?
HAROLD FLEMING:
Including North Carolina.
JOHN EGERTON:
Of course, we have to remember this is post Frank Porter Graham.
HAROLD FLEMING:
Oh, yes. Nobody would do it, none would take it on. It was too high of a potato. I didn't know anything about it or have anything to do with it until it was all decided, I mean, until they were ready to go on it. I came in through the a side door, actually.
They couldn't get any southern university to take on the sponsorship of it. Time was flying and the court decision could come down at any time. So, they said, "shit, we will do it ourselves. We'll sponsor it and put up the money and get it done."
Then, on some other issue, I can't really tell you now, it has slipped my mind since it has been so long, but they knew Harry Ashmore, he had done some things under their aegis through cooperation with them and they thought well of him. Harry had a good reputation and he was not the certified liberal, and wrongly perceived crusader that he later became. And they decided they ought to get Harry to be the head of it. They needed somebody, they needed a name to put on top of it or something. Harry,

Page 49
after some back and forth, agreed to do it. As he said, "running for the son-of-a-bitch without opposition."
JOHN EGERTON:
And he put the rest of the staff together?
HAROLD FLEMING:
No. Bill Kuntz, that fund, really played the lead role there. Harry said, "look, I'll do it, though probably I shouldn't."
He first talked to his publisher, of course. He said, "they have asked me to do this and I know the consequences and I don't want to do you guys in and your paper in here."
Old man Haiskill and even Moore and Patterson said, "if you don't do it you will really be letting the side down." So, he had their backing.
He said, "I'll do it, but I've just finished some stand and if you'll get a good operation to do the research and the spade work and so on. . . ."
The main thing he really consented to do was to write the report called, "The Negro in the Schools", what became The Negro and the Schools. So, Kuntz and I don't know where he got his name, although it is not so surprising, taped Phil Hammer to direct the research phase.
JOHN EGERTON:
Who did Hammer work for at that time?
HAROLD FLEMING:
Hammer at that time worked for the Southern Office of the National Planning Association, something like that. So, he took leave and the first thing he did was to ask me to take leave from SRC and work with him on it.
Then we got John Griffin, Mozell Hill, Hylan Lewis and I may be forgetting some but not many. Our job was to get all these

Page 50
scholars, there were forty of them involved, on the case with assignments and commissioned papers and so on. The idea was to do a series of items. Some of them never got published. The one Guy Johnson was supposed to produce was never finished.
There were several, notabaly the statistical one. What does it cost? What will it cost? That was Griffin and Swanson. There were maybe one or two more. The main one and the one that got out first was the national run of The Negro and the Schools, which is basically an Ashmore-ized version of what Phil and the rest of us produced in the research phase.
We really did that fast. We gave them a research draft. Everybody else went home but I stayed on the case to be a liason to Harry and between Harry and the research phase of the project.
JOHN EGERTON:
That book came out on May 17, 1954. Was that an accident. Nobody knew ahead of time.
HAROLD FLEMING:
That was a pure accident.
JOHN EGERTON:
Because nobody knew when the decision was coming. It just happened.
HAROLD FLEMING:
You haven't talked to Harry have you?
JOHN EGERTON:
Yes. He will probably talk some more.
HAROLD FLEMING:
I have a feeling that the book was read by—and I think Harry thinks so, too-that advanced copies of it were in circulation and could have very well have been made available to the justices.
JOHN EGERTON:
Of the Supreme Court.
HAROLD FLEMING:
Or some of them anyway.
JOHN EGERTON:
Or at least their staff people.

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HAROLD FLEMING:
There was a foreword written by Jackson, a retired justice at that time.
JOHN EGERTON:
Robert Jackson?
HAROLD FLEMING:
Yes. But the date was just pure coincidence. Nobody had any idea. The whole thing was rush rush. We kept thinking that any Monday it was going to come out.
JOHN EGERTON:
Do you remember Brown day real vividly? Do you have any specific recollection where you were that day and what you did that day? Did you celebrate Brown or did you go hide? What did you do?
HAROLD FLEMING:
I talked to John Popham on the phone. Front page of the Times the next morning—lead story from the South—quoted three imminent southerners on what this meant and so on. They were Herman Talmadge, Jimmy Byrnes, and me, Harold Fleming.
It was a perfect mixture of feelings. I felt elated, I felt terrified, and I felt awed. First of all, obviously I was happy that we didn't come out on the wrong side of the thing. I had not expected them to go as far as they did. [unclear] and unanimous. Everybody bitched about allowing all this time and so on—"deliberate speed"—but when you look at the options that were available to that court, there are all kinds of weasly things they could have done. Like phasing it in according to the population
END OF INTERVIEW