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Title: Oral History Interview with Guy B. Johnson, December 16, 1974. Interview B-0006. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Johnson, Guy B., interviewee
Interview conducted by Hall, Jacquelyn
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, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 216 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
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:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel and Wanda Gunther revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-01-04, Mike Millner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Guy B. Johnson, December 16, 1974. Interview B-0006. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series B. Individual Biographies. Southern Oral History Program Collection (B-0006)
Author: Jacquelyn Hall
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Guy B. Johnson, December 16, 1974. Interview B-0006. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series B. Individual Biographies. Southern Oral History Program Collection (B-0006)
Author: Guy P. Johnson
Description: 346 Mb
Description: 77 p.
Note: Interview conducted on December 16, 1974, by Jacquelyn Hall; recorded in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Joe Jaros.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series B. Individual Biographies, 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 Guy B. Johnson, December 16, 1974.
Interview B-0006. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Johnson, Guy B., interviewee


Interview Participants

    GUY B. JOHNSON, interviewee
    GUION JOHNSON, interviewee
    JACQUELYN HALL, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
JACQUELYN HALL:
I wanted to ask you . . . really what I am interested in focusing on is the end of the Interracial Commission and the beginning of the Southern Regional Council and your role then in the new Council. I thought that we could start back a little bit by talking about your involvement in the North Carolina Committee for Interracial Cooperation, how you first got involved in that and some of your general impressions of its activities.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Well, that goes back to 1924, I guess, the year we came here.

Page 2
I think that fall I went to a meeting of the North Carolina Interracial Commission in Raleigh and, at least, I met some of the people involved and soon became a member. And I remained a member until the thing had changed it's name and all, to the North Carolina Council on Human Relations and later was disbanded.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was the state office in Raleigh?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Yes, as far as they had one. Actually, they never had a full time secretary, because they never raised very much money. But for some years, they cooperated with the Virginia Commission and employed a secretary named Reynolds, L.R. Reynolds. His home was in Richmond and he would come down here occasionally, much too infrequently for our good. And mostly, he would just travel around and visit places and talk to people, and then at the annual meetings he would be there telling how many miles he had traveled and how many people he had seen. And he would have this card index he had made up of names, there would probably be several thousand names that he had collected. So, we were paying half the salary and Virginia the other half, but actually very little was getting done. And eventually, the North Carolina Commission decided that they couldn't go on with this arrangement and they felt that they were getting very little attention from him. Now, he had an address, an office in Raleigh. I believe that it was at Mr. Gurney Hood's office, he was on the state banking commission. And he would use this address for his correspondence and he would come down and send out mail, but the return reply mail to him might lie there for a month.
GUION JOHNSON:
Guy, wasn't the name of the organization the Governor's Commission on Interracial Cooperation?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Well, I don't think that it was ever that. The governor made the original appointments and . . .

Page 3
GUION JOHNSON:
The governor issued the invitations. That's it, I knew that the governor was very intimately involved.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
That was a little strategy, you might say that . . .
GUION JOHNSON:
Gurney Hood, wasn't he?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
No, in the earliest days, I'm not sure that Gurney was involved. I think that he came in later, but Dr. Alexander was among those who thought up this notion of organizing these state commissions with a little tinge of officialism. And so, they persuaded the governor of the state to issue the call for the first meeting and of course, they would select all kinds of prominent people, white and black. And you would get this impressive looking letter . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
From the governor?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
. . . with the state seal on it, signed by the governor. And this was the way that most of them got set up. And in North Carolina, and I suppose some of the other places, at the annual meeting, the governor would make an evening address. And this was open to the public and all of this had the effect of lending a little bit of offical sanction to the Commission and making it seem respectable in a day when it was really just not popularly accepted that the races got together at a meeting.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who was the governor of North Carolina when . . .
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Oh, when the original call went out? That would have been . . . that must have been around 1920, '21 . . . we weren't here then. Who would it have been? Morrison?
GUION JOHNSON:
Yes, Cam Morrison.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
You could look back in a North Carolina guidebook or something. I have here, I think, down here in the basement, a copy of a letter from

Page 4
Governor Gardner, O.Max Gardner. This was much later . . .
GUION JOHNSON:
That was in the late 20's.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
He was calling for prominent people to come to the annual meeting and take part in this Interracial Commission. So, that was one little trick we had of trying to make the thing a little respectable. Well, as I was saying, the North Carolina and Virginia Commissions finally stopped their arrangement and let Mr. Reynolds go. He moved to Texas and just what he finally did, I'm not sure. I think that he worked or tried to get a position with the Texas Commission. I believe that I saw him one time when I went to Texas after I had gone with the SRC. But I'm not sure what became of him. He was a genial, well-looking, pleasant, well-meaning man with no real idea of how to . . .
GUION JOHNSON:
No idea of organizational work.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Very ineffectual. Now, from time to time, they had projects, mostly made possible by some special grants. I think that the General Education Board in those days was making some grants.
There was a man, Mr. N.C. Newbold, who was State Director of Negro Education. In those days, there was complete segregation and very little money appropriated for Negro schools and in fact, the high schools being almost non-existent for Negroes. It was a bit unusual to find the states getting worried about doing something.
GUION JOHNSON:
Dr. Newbold was a very gentle person, too.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
He was very shy.
GUION JOHNSON:
Extremely shy, he talked in almost a whisper.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
But he had a lot of sense in his heart and he was known around the country as one of the very best of the southern state agents for Negro education. And under his influence, since he was a kind of spokesman, you see,

Page 5
. . . he was a white man, but he was a spokesman for the blacks. And he was the one who pushed through the legislature increased appropriations for Negro schools and colleges, etc. So, he gradually began to make a lot of progress in getting the appropriations improved for the Negro schools. Now, since he acquired a regular reputation around the country for this, he had a little standing with some of the foundations. And one foundation, probably the General Education Board and possibly Rosenwald and very possibly both of them, made little grants from time to time. Now, just to mention a few of these little things: For example, he had a grant to do a bibliography of the best source materials on the Negro. The idea was to get this out where librarians could see it and encourage them to get a basic collection on the Negro.
GUION JOHNSON:
Where did he send his kit? He prepared a kit of books . . .
GUY B. JOHNSON:
No, that's another . . .
GUION JOHNSON:
Another project? Did that go to the libraries or to the public schools?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
To the libraries. That's going to be my second . . .
GUION JOHNSON:
I'm sorry, I'm talking ahead. [laughter]
GUY B. JOHNSON:
So, he got Dr. Edgar Thompson of Duke to collect, to assemble this bibliography and, oh, I suppose that there were four or five hundred entries, which I think that he based on what was in the best libraries, especially Duke and Carolina. And then they published this. It was a very slim little volume and I forget what it was called, but it was basically a bibliography of the Negro. And I suppose that it was quite useful to some of the librarians who, in those days, usually had very little on this subject. And especially for the Negro libraries themselves. So, that was useful. Then,

Page 6
another thing, he had a little grant . . . he and I got up this notion of a small traveling library which could be circulated to various schools, white and black. So, I chose the books. I suppose there were about twenty of them. They made a shelf about this long, and of course, his grant paid for the books and for the freight and so forth, and I got some students over at A&T College woodwork shop to make a nice little case . . .
GUION JOHNSON:
A beautiful case.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
. . . a beautiful case of various types of woods, all nicely matched and waxed and varnished. It was like a moveable shelf with a handle on top. And then they built a little case with a lock on it for the traveling. You could just set them in this thing, close it, lock it up and it was ready to be shipped. Well, I did correspondence with a lot of schools and wound up with a list of those who wanted to use it. It was free, you see. They just told when they wanted it and we would ship it and then we would put the key to the lock in an envelope and give them the name of the next recipient. And supposedly, they put this where people could use the books, and put them back in and they would forward it to the next place. Well, this thing circulated quite a bit. I don't remember how many schools, maybe not more than ten or fifteen at all, and we lost very few of the books. I thought that we would lose a great many, but not many. And then, there was one other little project that he had a grant for, and that was to encourage meetings and contacts between white and black college students. And he called this the Division of Cooperation in Education in Race Relations. In addition to being a project of the North Carolina Commission, I think that it was also something of a project in his official office as state director . . .
GUION JOHNSON:
He also got the cooperation of the religious groups, the

Page 7
YMCA, the YWCA and the Wesley Foundation and the Newman Foundation and then the MYF, the high school program. And this project went on for years. I remember going to Duke after we came back from working on the Myrdal study, and speaking on the impact of the war on the Negro. And students from A&T in Greensboro, from North Carolina Central and Duke and Carolina and Meredith came for this little meeting on the campus at Duke. So, this was a part of the continuation of this.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Each school would select its students and Dr. Newbold's money, you see, paid for travel out of this and usually the host university or college would provide a little lunch, and so they would have a program. Some students would talk about what was going on on their campuses and then, usually, there was someone, some older person from the Commission or wherever, who would have something to say. And this had the effect of bringing together a lot of students from both races who might never have had any contact with each other otherwise.
Let's see, can you think of any other projects, Guion?
GUION JOHNSON:
No, I don't.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
These were the main ones, I guess. And if it hadn't been for these special things, there wouldn't have been much to show except for the annual meeting and an occasional district or regional meeting that would be set up.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What actually went on in the annual meetings? Were there meetings in between the annual meetings, or was that the only time that the official members actually got together?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Unless they would set up a special regional meeting. I remember that some people would say, "Well, it's so hard . . . down at the coastal region, you don't except many of these people to get to Raleigh or Greensboro or Durham, so why don't we set up a meeting at Greensville or somewhere like

Page 8
that." And there were one or two of that sort and maybe a few in the west.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How many active members were there, people who actually took an interest and worked in some way?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Well, if it came down to that, I don't know whether you could count more than a hundred, I doubt it.
GUION JOHNSON:
I doubt it.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Sometimes at the annual meetings, especially when they were having it in Raleigh and having an evening session in the House, then . . .
GUION JOHNSON:
Yes, and the governor would speak and then you would get a larger attendance.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Then you might have several hundred.
GUION JOHNSON:
More whites than blacks, on those occasions. But when the governor wasn't speaking and no big out-of-state speaker was present, then there would be more blacks than whites. And the meeting would degenerate into testimonials about discrimination, and this was led chiefly by the Negroes. I remember Mr. Belton especially, from . . . was it Elizabeth City?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
I'm not sure, somewhere like that.
GUION JOHNSON:
I think that it was Elizabeth City.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now, are these the annual meetings that you are talking about?
GUION JOHNSON:
These are the annual meetings.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
There would be open discussion, usually some sort of a program, somebody would speak. And of course, when they had the secretary, Mr. Reynolds, we . . . well, we did have Cyrus Johnson and . . .
GUION JOHNSON:
Yes.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Well, when we had a secretary, he would make a report, of course, on his activities.

Page 9
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was Reynolds' first name?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
L.R. I never knew what it really was. He never signed his name in anyway or called himself anything but "L.R. Reynolds."
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was there a separate women's committee?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
No.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Never?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
No, the women were involved in it and . . .
GUION JOHNSON:
But they were a minority.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Yes, that's true. We had people like Charlotte Hawkins Brown who were pretty active.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What were the proportions?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Well, I don't know, probably in the general membership, I think they would be fairly high. Probably still a minority, maybe forty or . . .
GUION JOHNSON:
Well, Mr. and Mrs. Gurney Hood, for example . . .
GUY B. JOHNSON:
But in office holding or committee chairmen or anything like that, I don't think they . . .
GUION JOHNSON:
No, they weren't. It was a male dominated organization.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Gurney Hood?
GUION JOHNSON:
Yes. He was Commissioner of Banking. And Mrs. Hood was president of the Women's Society of Christian Service of the Methodist Church. You see here again, the Methodist Church . . . all through the South, women took an active role and they were usually members of the Women's Society of Christian Service of the Methodist Church, because the Methodist Church put so much emphasis in its discipline on social problems, promoting good relations.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How do you account for that difference between the Methodist Church and say, the Presbyterian Church?

Page 10
GUION JOHNSON:
Well, I think that perhaps the philosophy of predestination of the Presbyterian Church had something to do with their moving slowly toward interracial cooperation. But the Methodist Church always, from the very beginning, when it was first organized in the United States, made a plea for the Negro participation. You see, this is a history of the Methodist Church in the United States that . . .
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Well, the first . . . what do you call the annual . . .
GUION JOHNSON:
The Annual Conference?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
The Annual Conference.
GUION JOHNSON:
Which was held in North Carolina.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
After the American Revolution, they had a plan for the abolition of slavery.
GUION JOHNSON:
Yes.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Which they adopted.
GUION JOHNSON:
Yes, which they adopted. I remember in going through the early records for the history of the Methodist Church for my Ante-Bellum North Carolina, I found a complaint of some of the Methodists in Wilmington, that the ministers and the missionaries were making too much of bringing in the Negro. And that the Methodist Church in Wilmington was composed predominantly of Negroes. Now, this was, you see, during the Revolution and just after. So, I think that this accounts for the interests of the Methodist Church. And the women, of course, carried on. They felt that they could do things that the men could not do and so they pushed the frontiers back a little bit.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Wesley and Asbury and those fellows, they really preached social responsibilities, didn't they?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you know Mrs. W.A. Newell?

Page 11
GUION JOHNSON:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
She was Superintendent of Christian Social Relations for North Carolina.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
That's right.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was she active in the Interracial Commission at the same time that you were?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Well, I'm trying to remember. I'm not so sure that she was very active, but it is a name that goes way back and I think that she was involved.
GUION JOHNSON:
I could not attend many of the meetings.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Gertrude Weil was very . . .
GUION JOHNSON:
Yes. Our babies were small at that time and often the meetings were at night and somebody had to babysit, and so I stayed home and Guy went. Occasionally, if the meetings were in the afternoon, I would go with him.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why weren't Methodist women more active in the Interracial Commission?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Why were they or why weren't they?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why weren't they?
GUION JOHNSON:
In North Carolina.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Well, I think that this was a pattern in practically all organizations, wasn't it? Women were usually not very . . .
GUION JOHNSON:
You mean in an organization where both men and women participated?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Well, yes. Because women had so many organizations of their own, you see, and there were not a great many bi-sexual organizations and when you did have one, you could count on the males dominating it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I'm thinking of two things. One is that it seems that the church

Page 12
itself is an example of that kind of bi-sexual organization in which women really tend to . . . it's built on the membership of women, on the local level, but completely run by men. And I was wondering whether the Interracial Commission did utilize women in local interracial committees and doing the kind of local level work, although the officers tended to be men. Or whether women were not active on any level, really.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
There would usually be at least one woman on a committee.
GUION JOHNSON:
On state commissions. One black and one woman. State commissions were appointed, and this has persisted almost to this day. The women in North Carolina were not as active as the women in Georgia. The Methodist women, all denominations, were far less active in North Carolina than in Georgia. That's the reason that when we came back from the Southern Regional Council I said that Georgia was far more liberal, basically, than North Carolina.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
I remember one type of thing that women were often involved in in the early commissions, and that was trying to do something to improve the grounds and getting some shrubs or flowers or something around the colored schools. This was the sort of thing where I guess the men were quite willing to let them take the lead.
GUION JOHNSON:
That was women's work. And if there were refreshments, the women prepared the refreshments. That again, was women's work. [laughter]
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about Charlotte Hawkins Brown?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
She was very active.
JACQUELYN HALL:
She was very active?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Well, yes, I think that her name appeared on the list of what was called an executive committee, or something.

Page 13
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did a woman like her tend to be not relegated to those kinds of women's activities as much?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
She was fairly forceful and spoke her mind. For those days, she could be quite plainspoken. Of course, you know, she was head of the Palmer Institute.
GUION JOHNSON:
Yes, and she was extremely busy trying to raise funds for the Institute. And of course, when she died, the Institute almost folded and then finally did. It needed a dynamic person such as she was to hold it together and to get funds, in the North, chiefly, because they were mostly students from low income families who could not pay a high tuition. It was always a struggle for her. She had to spend most of her time raising funds and administering them. She did not have time to give to extra-curricular activities.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were there any annual meetings where resolutions were passed or stands taken? Were there any controversial issues about the direction of this commission?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Yes, occasionally, there were resolutions. I would have to go back and look through a lot of the old papers to be specific. But there were . . . oh, I'll tell you one thing that was a long standing project, and that was to do something about a school for delinquent girls, wasn't it?
GUION JOHNSON:
Yes.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
The colored girls. You see, there wasn't one. They had a white school.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Now, that's the kind of thing that tended to be a woman's project in some states.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Yeah.

Page 14
GUION JOHNSON:
And it was the Negro Federation of Women's Clubs that really got moving and got that program through. It was supported by such people as Dr. Newbold and Gurney Hood, in state government.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did white women work on that?
GUION JOHNSON:
Yes, but not to the extent that the Negro women did. There was strong leadership there. I'd like someone to make a study of the history of the Negro Federation of Women's Clubs.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
That was the type of thing where there were probably several resolutions, where they were urging the state to move on this project.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did the issue of segregation ever come up?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Oh, well, there was one time that I remember. There was a young Negro editor in Raleigh. What was that paper? Not the Raleigh Times . . . the Carolina Times. He was of West Indian origin and inclined to be a little more articulate than the natives, and he went to a meeting of the commission in Durham. And here they had the usual talk, nice discussions and they very rarely got any heat, any real controversy. But after lunch, he got up and said, "I've been listening to this and I'm fed up. Nobody has put his finger on the real problem, and that is social equality. And until an organization like this has the guts to say that that is the problem and we are all willing to get up and say that this person of the other race is my equal socially and every other way, and we are willing to have equal contacts, then there is no solution to this. Why don't we get down to brass tacks?" Well, you could just see them, fearful around the room and several people trying to get the floor, and one or two of the blacks got up and wanted it known that this man didn't represent their thinking. He was a sort of threat, he was rocking the boat. And some white man said, "Well, this is not anything that we can do

Page 15
anything about, it's not our function. Let's forget it." But there really was a stir for awhile. That's the only time that this . . . he didn't call it "segregation", you know, but "social equality."
JACQUELYN HALL:
That's interesting.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Occasionally, somebody, a black member might have a harrowing or pathetic experience to relate and get them stirred up a little. And several would get up and express sympathy and outrage, but nothing would be resolved.
GUION JOHNSON:
I remember these testimonials. "In Elizabeth City, on such-and-such a day, this terrible thing took place." Or, "One of our acquaintances was arrested and thrown into jail and beaten up and there was no evidence at all against him." These things would come up.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did any of these testimonials expect some kind of response? What were they expecting?
GUION JOHNSON:
They were hoping, I think they were hoping. I remember that Mr. Belton said to me after one of these occasions (it was at a meeting in Durham) that he had been coming to meetings like this for ten or fifteen years and that we always expressed concern and always pointed out these fears, but he said, "I have given up hope. Nothing will ever be done." He said, "We talk about it, and then we go home and forget about it."
GUY B. JOHNSON:
There was just nothing . . .
GUION JOHNSON:
And he felt that it was the failure of the whites to take action, to follow through on these problems that the blacks had presented. He did not see that the blacks could do anything, that their hands were tied. But . . . who was it that started these Negro Betterment Leagues? When I was on the Commission of the Status of Women and was writing about organizations

Page 16
for them, I had gotten a list from Dr. Larkins of some 115 Negro Betterment Leagues in North Carolina, which amazed me. I had no idea. And they were working quietly among themselves to do all they could to better their own conditions, but they were not working through the political structure. They felt that they were more or less blocked. [interruption]
JACQUELYN HALL:
I was wondering whether at the time you felt dissatisfied either with the goals of the Interracial Commission or its effectiveness in achieving them? If you could put yourself back into the historical . . .
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Is this the state commission or . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
This is the state commission.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Well, after some years, I began to get rather skeptical of the value of any organization like this. And not just an organization that was concerned with race, but practically anything. I went through a sort of cynical, skeptical period, in which I think that I had the philosophy that all of these activities that most organizations carried on were really rather trivial and had very little to do with the achieving of their announced goals, but that they had a lot to do with the personal functions, you know. That is, what they did for the members who were taking part.
And, well, I suspect that this is still pretty much the case. Anyway, I came to where I just had very little use for these things and actually, I just, I guess that there were years that I didn't have anything to do with the North Carolina Commission. Especially when I got very busy and was going here and there and I just thought that it was a waste of time to go to these meetings and hear the same old stuff. But now, let me say this. I think, considering the whole intellectual climate and legal climate of that time, there was actually almost nothing that could be done in a fundamental way to make any changes. And the most that one should

Page 17
have expected from such organizations was that they simply kept a little better communication going between the races. And as I have often said in the past twenty-five to thirty years, if there is one thing that these Interracial Commissions did, it was simply to make interracial meetings respectable. And that was some achievement in itself. I think they helped occasionally on some other things like pushing toward this school for delinquent Negro girls, or bringing these college kids together. There were some tangible things that you could point to and say, "It had a little part in making some progress." But the hard rock problems of poverty and employment and equality education and the isolation between the races, you just couldn't make any real dent in these kinds of things with any kind of organization. So, its achievements were limited, but still, I'm inclined to think that it was worthwhile, even if it did nothing else except keep an avenue of communication open and make interracial meetings respectable. Now, I felt the same way about the general commission, the Southern Commission in Atlanta, but it had more resources and was able to do some really important researches. For example, Arthur Raper's work on lynching, his work on farm tenancy and various other research projects that it sponsored. Or the pamphlet material that Dr. Eleazer wrote and distributed, especially America's Tenth Man . . . I suppose the thing had about a million circulation. Things like this, plus their location in Atlanta with access to media, and they could serve as a kind of a sounding board for the better South. I think that all in all, they had some good influence, more so than the individual state commissions. But even so, this was still a limited influence. It had to be, considering the segregation laws and the climate of opinion, the alienation between the races that came right on out of Reconstruction and lasted well on up until after World War I. And in some

Page 18
respects, even after World War II. Considering all that, it was just unreasonable to expect any great change that could be wrought by a mere organization.
JACQUELYN HALL:
At the time that you were pretty disillusioned with these voluntary interracial organizations to do anything about racial problems, what did you see as possible solutions? Where would you have looked for hope? In the '30's, say?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Well, I thought along two lines there. One was that the black people themselves, if they really organized and worked hard at it, could do a great many things themselves that were not being done. And secondly, that blacks could be more outspoken and militant than they actually were and still get away with it. I think that there was a strong tendency for them to overplay the caution and the "don't rock the boat stuff, you know". And if somehow, they could have raised the whole level of . . . well, militancy, gone up the scale a little bit, the world wouldn't have gone to pieces, they wouldn't have been lynched. In other words, I thought they were too cautious. And then thirdly, I felt that until there was really some basic change in the structural situations, in other words, the legal aspects, that things wouldn't really see any drastic change.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you ever involved at all in the NAACP? Which was working to change the legal . . .
GUY B. JOHNSON:
No, I would send them a contribution occasionally, and that was considered sort of daring. You wouldn't advertise it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were there strong NAACP chapters in North Carolina?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
No. For a long, long time, there were scarcely any in the South. Some of the larger cities might have one. And they never had their annual convention in the South until 1939.

Page 19
JACQUELYN HALL:
They had it in Atlanta?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
No, they had it in Richmond. That was the first time. That recalls an incident which involves meetings in the South and also involves me and the NAACP. I had been asked by the Virginia State College for Negroes to give their commencement address in 1939. And I prepared this address, or I started, and I was greatly delayed by other things, one of which was getting ready to go to New York and starting to work for Myrdal. And I finished writing this speech partly on the bus going to Petersburg and then put the finishing touches on it in a classroom at the college after I got there. So, I just had the one manuscript copy. I gave the address and it was on Negro leadership and strategy. And the basic point was this, that the NAACP for all its leadership and efforts in this legal field, lacks a really big, broad base of support among the black masses, especially in the South, where they need it the worst. So, I praised them for what they had done and the legal tests they brought and the cases they had won and all this. But I said that I thought they were weak in terms of adult education, of trying to sell their program to the common people. And I said, well, for instance, they have never had an annual meeting in the South. And I know that this goes against the grain, but if they are out front working for these black people in the South, then I think that their leaders might suffer a little inconvience and hold a meeting in the South and get a look at things. Well, I went on like this. And another illustration was this, that if you could get rid of say, the poll tax, and allow many more blacks to vote, someone ought to be paying attention to how many of them actually take advantage of this. And you ought to have a program out there to get them to vote and teach them something about participation.
And I said, "For example, a professor right here, a black professor, has made a study of the poll tax in Virginia . . . " (You know, this used to be a prerequisite to vote, you had to take your poll tax receipt with you to show

Page 20
that it had been paid before you could register and this was very enforced against the blacks and used as a means of not allowing them to register . . . ) I said, "For example, this black professor found that in Virginia two years ago, 39,000 Negroes paid their poll taxes and should have been qualified to register;
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
GUY B. JOHNSON:
. . . and how many of them registered? 13,000. One-third." And so, you see, I was plugging for some kind of adult education program to get out there and stir up the masses. To do more for themselves and to do more to take advantage of things that were open. Well, I went on from there to New York and started working for Myrdal. And then the following weekend, I happened to get ahold of one or two of the Negro papers, and here again, I always took four or five of these things and read them, all through my career . . . I felt that it was very important to do this and I had my students read them. So, here the Norfolk Journal and Guide had a tremendous blast at me on the editorial page, a very distorted write up on the front page of the speech, and the headline said "Commencement Speaker Says that Negroes Should Not Vote." Something crazy like this, you know. Well, and then an editorial written by a friend of mine who was the editor . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
P. B. Young?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
P. B. Young, the same one. It just roasted me. Well, the Chicago Defender likewise. They had an editorial, the same fake write-up, the Baltimore Afro-American, the same way. I just hit the ceiling. Well, a few days later, Walter White . . . (he had probably been trying to get me down here and he found out that I was up there in New York) and he called me and said, "Look, we heard about your speech down in Virginia and we are going to have a special

Page 21
feature on this in the next issue of Crisis." I said, "Look, don't take this newspaper stuff for the truth. It's the worst distortion that I have ever read. I will get this thing typed up and bring you a copy." "Well," he says, "We've already got this thing written up and I guess that we will go on with it, but if you will hurry, maybe we can get your response in." So, well, I did, I wrote a response, and I wrote to these editors of the papers and I should have known that for all my high regards for the Negro press, it was and is, after all, a special group. No matter what, they sometimes engage in some pretty yellow journalism . . . or in this case, black journalism. I had occasion several times where something had been written up that I knew about, and it had no relation to what actually happened. So, I shouldn't have been too surprised. But, I sent these papers copies of the address and asked if they would please read this and tell me where in it there was anything that had any resemblance to what the young reporter had written up. And the reporter was a man . . . he was working for Young in Norfolk. Now, he never came to me, I would have been glad to talk to him, to let him borrow the mansucript for awhile, you know, and to make accurate excerpts. This, again, this is sorry journalism. You know, you've studied journalism, you've covered a speech and if so, you very likely go to talk to the speaker. Well, most of them didn't even answer it. And even my friend, P. B. Young, said, "Well, we have confidence in this young man, and so we will have to consider his report fairly accurate." I had a crazy letter from Carl Murphy of the Baltimore Afro-American. I'm sure that he didn't read the speech, but he wrote me and said, "Dear Mr. Johnson, we consider the sources of the newstory concerning your commencement address to be fair and reliable and we shall consider them to be the truth. We oppose your choice as a commencement speaker at Virginia State for the following reasons . . . " He had had a very nasty editorial . . . He

Page 22
said, "One, you are a southern white man. Two, you work at the University of North Carolina, where you know damned well that if you open your mouth for any kind of equality between the races, you would be kicked out at once. Third, the Negro will have to fight his own battles and certainly without the help of a prejudiced white man like you. And Fourth, Adolf Hitler . . . " This was 1939, just two months before the war . . . "Adolf Hitler and the Irish Republican Army cause a lot of grief and criticism, but you have to admit that they get what they go after. Sincerely yours, Carl Murphy."
Well, it turned out that during this same period, I think just a few days after I went to New York, the NAACP was having its first southern meeting at Richmond. And I went. A little later, there was a young fellow from Baltimore who did a small piece of work for Myrdal. I was talking to him about this, I said, "Oh, you work for Carl Murphy on the Afro-American?" "Yes." And I told him about this and he said, "Oh, yes." He just laughed about this and said, "I remember that. Mr. Johnson, you shouldn't let that sort of thing get under your skin, that's just journalism. I have written many a piece like that. A paper has got certain lines, and you learn the line and . . . well, just don't let it get you down." But I must say, I was mad.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I'll bet.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
I've got that famous letter and I've always said that I thought I would frame it, but it will go in my papers for the Southern Historical Collection.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Let me skip on ahead for a little bit . . .
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Yeah, we'd better.
JACQUELYN HALL:
We don't have very much time. When did you first realize that the Interracial Commission was about to be dissolved, or that some kind of

Page 23
change was in the offering?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Well, I think that in 1940, in the early 40's. I was here with Dr. Odum, discussing how he thought that it had about outlived its usefulness and . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was he dissatisfied about?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Well, I suppose that he was dissatisfied because they just didn't seem to be doing very much. Let's see, I guess that Raper had gone, Dr. Alexander had become so involved with, well, first with the Rosenwald Fund (I think that he was the vice- president) and then later with the Farm Security Administration in the New Deal . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
I think that actually it was the other way around, first with the Farm Security Administration and then with the Rosenwald . . .
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Ah, yes, it may be. You see, he was living outside of Atlanta and rarely saw the Commission and . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why didn't he find a new director?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
I don't know, this sort of puzzled me. I don't know if they didn't have enough money or I don't know if he was getting any salary still as director, I just don't know. That would have to come out of the old Commission records. But at any rate, it was floundering around and it had mostly Dr. Eleazer, who

Page 24
wrote pamphlets and speeches, and Mrs. Ames, who was doing the only really good work that they were doing, especially when she organized the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching. And . . . oh, and Emily Clay, who was secretary-treasurer, this was about it, you know. So, well, I think that Dr. Odum shared my skepticism about how much good things like this were doing and he thought that they were doing less than they had been earlier. So, he would mention sometimes that they would possibly disband, or what he really hoped for was that they could set up this plan for a Council for Southern Regional Development. You see, he had worked this thing out with charts and blueprints as a part of his interest in regionalism. So, I was familiar with that. This was his notion of something that ought to be done, but it would take a lot of money, it would take several millions of dollars from the foundations and this, I think, was in his mind as something that might replace the Commission or build upon it and replace the program. But it was much broader than race, you know, with industry and education and culture and what have you. So, when the Negroes had their Durham meeting in '42 and issued their famous statement, he was all for the whites getting together in Richmond and making their statement. I think that all the while, he saw in this maybe the chance to implement his plan for a regional organization. So,

Page 25
finally after the Durham statement, the Richmond statement and then the bi-racial meeting at Atlanta, where they voted to organize the Southern Regional Council, he really thought that this could be something big.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you aware of the conflict between Dr. Odum's purposes and Mrs. Ames' purposes during those meetings?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Not particularly, because you see, I was not involved in those meetings. The Durham meeting was blacks only and the Richmond meeting was one for the more elder white statesmen. And since Dr. Odum was it from here, I was not involved in that. So, I didn't know until '43, late '43, what was up. After the Atlanta meeting, he told me about what they had resolved and that they were going to set up a council. I knew no more about that until Christmas vacation of '43. I'll get into that, if you want to know my decision to go down there.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
But to answer this other question, I didn't know any details about the conflict between Odum and Ames on this. I later was quite into it. Well, during Christmas vacation of '43, Dr. Odum and I believe Dr. Alexander, came to my office one day and said, "Well, we want you to do something. We want you to be the director of this new SRC." Well, I said, "When would this be?" "Oh, next week, you'd go on the first of January." I said, "Well, this is rather sudden." I knew that it stood to

Page 26
reason that they had tried to get one or two other people and hadn't. I later found that it was my friend, Bill Cole, at the University of Tennessee, who had had the good sense to say no. So, I was really in a quandry. Here I was, working happily away, doing research, and we had hoped to finish the research on the Lumbee Indians and get out a book. Well, I talked to my wife, she wasn't very enthusaistic, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt like I couldn't turn my back on it, because I for years had been fully in agreement with Odum's notion about the importance of some regional organization and getting at these problems on a regional basis. And I had made speeches in which I had said something of this sort. So I finally said that I guess I would have to take it. My wife was then lecturing in the Navy V-12 program at the University. It was the first time in all these years that she had had a break to get into the history department. She was teaching naval history and strategy to these military trainees. And so she was not very pleased at the idea of moving and I said, "Well, maybe I can make it a short stay. Maybe I can go down and help get the staff together and get going, and maybe sometime in the next year. I can come out." Well, she said that she felt she had to finish out the school year, until June. So, we agreed that she would stay here and I would go on to Atlanta. So, I think that on New Year's Day, '44,

Page 27
I got on the train and went to Atlanta. And it was really a rough time. Now, Dr. Odum and Dr. Alex had told me that the Commission people would resign: "That's part of the plan. Except for Miss Clay, We need her, she knows all the financing and the secretarial end of it. So, we just can't start off without her. But the others are all out. You've got a clean slate, you can go ahead and build up your staff and get this thing going." Well, I found that this was not quite true. Eleazar had resigned, in an emotional scene, I understand. Of course, Mrs. Ames had not. Well, I had known her for years and had a high regard for her and considered her a good friend. And I tell you, I was really in a quandry here. Why did they tell me this, you know, when she had not resigned? I thought at first that she had resigned and maybe she was going to be around a month a taper out. But then Miss Clay said, "No, she has not submitted her resignation." Well, I was as busy as a beaver. For example, one thing I had to do, every few days I had to get out and find a new place to live. You see, hotel rooms were rationed, and with travel, you know, you couldn't count on a reservation. I never tried to go by plane, because you just let some lieutenant or colonel come along and want the space, and you were bumped off. It was the same way on trains. You couldn't get a Pullman and if you did, you might be bumped by the military at the last minute.

Page 28
This was all right, you know, you stood it as a part of the war effort. But a number of times, I got on a train to go somewhere and there wasn't even a seat in the coach. I stood up halfway from Atlanta to Raleigh one time. It was way up in South Carolina somewhere, before I could get a seat. And you could not occupy a hotel room for, I think, more than one week. So, I would get a few days at the piedmont and then I would have to check out and go look for another place, and there were days when I felt that I spent half the day just trying to find a place to live. I finally got a room, I rented a room, near the Biltmore, and that eased that problem. So, there was that sort of problem. And then these interminable visitors, you know, coming in as if this organization was already going full blast and they wanted to talk and talk. And then there was the whole business of looking for staff. It was very hard to find them. You know, people were also "rationed" and sort of pegged into their jobs unless they had an awfully good reason to change, and it was very hard to lay hands on people for this kind of work, anyway, in normal times. And in war time, it was doubly difficult. And then, we were pointing up toward the charter meeting, which came up in February and we had to have lists of people to come and letters to prepare. We had to have some by-laws ready to be acted on, rules of procedure for this outfit. I worked day and night. Many times, I went up to my office and worked until midnight. So, I sort of let this thing with Mrs. Ames rock along for awhile, wondering if she was

Page 29
going to bring this up and tell me that she had resigned or not. [interruption]
JACQUELYN HALL:
So, we were talking about your arrival in Atlanta and your difficulties in trying to get the new staff of the Southern Regional Council put together.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Yes, and I've already mentioned the general atmosphere of war time and the rationing and the scarcity of everything, the scarcity of personnel, and we were, I guess, talking about the problem of Mrs. Ames' supposed resignation. I don't know that there is much to add to that, except that she finally . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, she was working full-time in the office and . . .
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Yes, she was continuing.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was she doing, exactly, at that time?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
She was, as I recall, carrying on correspondence with these various women's groups that she was working with, through ASWPL, but nothing very active in the field at the moment. I don't think that she went out anywhere on any field trips. Well, I . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, she had been trying for the last few years of the Interracial Commission to revive the state councils, the state interracial commissions. Had she been successful in that at all, or . . .

Page 30
GUY B. JOHNSON:
No, not much. They were all sort of declining. Partly, I think, this was financial, in that the Southern Commission for quite a while, you know, had a fair sized budget and could give a little bit to the states, but the General Commission budget in Atlanta decreased, and as we mentioned the other day, Dr. Alexander was gone practically all the time. So, there was some lack of leadership at the top and some lack of interest in seeing that they got funded as they had been. And the result was that the state commissions were not getting as much help as they had been. And then also, their newness, I think, had worn off and many people had gotten sort of tired and disillusioned with them. They didn't have very much that they saw that they could do, except hold meetings and talk. And many of the blacks, of course, had gotten fairly disillusioned with these things.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you remember how that was expressed? I mean, do you remember particular blacks . . .
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Oh, mostly, they just stopped coming to the meetings. And I'm sure that in several of the state commissions, the meetings just dwindled down to almost nothing. So, these things were dying on the vine and there wasn't much chance of trying to revive them, unless you had some more vital program and

Page 31
you had some money, especially some money. And here, the SRC was in a bind also, because it didn't have any money. Do you know what our budget was that first year?
JACQUELYN HALL:
What?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
About $40,000. Today, that would pay the executive director's salary, George Esser, for a year.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What happened to Odum's, Alexander's and Johnson's . . . I guess that Charles Johnson would probably be the third major person involved in setting it up?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Right.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What happened to their plans for raising large amounts of money for Odum's Southern Regional . . .
GUY B. JOHNSON:
This council? Yeah. Well, two things. I think that one was that they were all very busy men who were very good at making big plans, but did not really push through vigorously with the foundations on possible big grants to the Council. And the second thing was, of course, the war. The war had already created quite a lot of racial tensions. There were riots in Detroit and Harlem and Mobile, and of course, this kind of thing was what started the Council in the first place, these interracial tensions, but the tensions, I think, also had some affect on the foundations. It made them more cautious and they didn't know just

Page 32
what lay in the future and they weren't being as generous in their grants to organizations like the Council as they had been in earlier years.
JACQUELYN HALL:
It would have had an opposite effect then, from what the race riots after World War I had.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Yes, but even then, there were only one or two foundations that had any interest and that was Rosenwald and the General Education Board. And I think that the General Education Board felt that since it had supported the Commission all those years, that it was about time for them to find some other source. Foundations, you know, have cycles of interest. They will go into certain fields for maybe ten years and then they will want to get out of that and maybe do something else. So, this was one of those cycles where there was just not much support available for something like the Council. So, our budget was very low, it was about $40,000. It might have been $41,000 or $42,000, but not much more than that. That had to cover all the salaries, all the rent and everything.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And did that money come out of the Rosenwald Foundation?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
It was General Education Board mostly and a little from Rosenwald. As I recall, I remember that the General Education Board gave us around $100,000 over three years. So, that's a little over $33,000 a year. And Rosenwald gave us

Page 33
something less, possibly $10,000, I'm not sure.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, Dr. Alexander was with the Rosenwald Foundation by then.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Yes, it was very discouraging to find that, especially in the succeeding years, you know, that we were not improving much.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you talk directly with him at the Rosenwald Foundation about grants for the SRC?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
No, I don't think that I ever visited him there. And of course, he was down, I believe, at the charter meeting, although I wouldn't want to swear to that. But at some part of the early stages, he was down here. And I might see him once in a great while at some conference in Washington or somewhere, but not very frequently. I probably had a few things to say to Dr. Odum about, you know, the discouraging financial look, but nobody seemed to be doing something about it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What reasons did they give?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Well, I don't recall, it's just . . . you know, it's always hopeful. "You know, we are going to see if we can't do something for you." You know, very brief little discussions, in which they always kept your hopes alive. But, you wondered.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So, there you were with no money and very little . . . well, what staff did you have?

Page 34
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Well, to begin with, once Mrs. Ames actually resigned, we had Emily Clay, the secretary, we had an associate director, Dr. Ira Reid, from Atlanta University, part-time. Then, myself and two typists, or secretaries. That's what we started with.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Tell me exactly how Mrs. Ames' resignation came about. I have looked through the Odum papers and found a whole series of correspondence about the problem of what to do with Mrs. Ames, and then there is no correspondence during this period in which she evidently left. And so, I really have never been able to find . . . suddenly she left. And then she writes to everybody saying that she had resigned, but how that exactly came about . . .
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Well, I am not familiar with this correspondence to Odum, but does any of it involve me, I mean, the ones that you have read? It's possible that there are one or two things, I'm not sure, but . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
I don't remember.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
It was more likely between Dr. Will and Odum and Charles Johnson or . . . well, Mrs. Ames . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
The general gist of the earlier correspondence is that Odum should tell her that she is supposed to resign. And he evidently doesn't do it and . . .
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Oh, yes. That was the hitch, he didn't make it clear or forceful enough. And the result was that although they

Page 35
came in, when they asked me to be director, and told me that the whole staff was resigning, that I would have a free hand, that actually it was not true. I don't know who was at fault there, very likely Odum. He had . . . he was not very gifted at dealing with delicate personal problems like that. He would kind of put them aside and try to work his way around them, you know. Maybe he thought he had made it clear, when he actually hadn't, to Mrs. Ames. Well, anyway, this dragged along for about a month and finally one day, I believe that it was one Saturday that I was working at the office all day, and she was there all morning. And she said, "I want you to come out to lunch with me, we should have a good talk." And so, we went to a little place nearby, probably sat there for two hours. It became quite late and there was nobody in the place, so we had plenty of privacy. And so, she said something like this, "Now, I know that I have been a great problem to you, that you were no doubt told that I was going, and then you've come down here and found that I haven't resigned. But, I want you to know that I don't blame you for this or am holding it against you and I hope that we are still good friends, but it has been rather trying. I have not felt very good about it, but I do want you to know that I am resigning and I'll attend the charter meeting and then I will step aside." Well, it was very sad. I think that I discussed it a little with Josephine Wilkins, who was a very staunch friend of Mrs. Ames. And of course, she was

Page 36
one of the original board members of SRC and for many years on the executive committee. And she had great sympathy for Mrs. Ames' position and regretted all this having to happen. Well, I mean, it was just a little discussion. She had, no doubt, often talked to Mrs. Ames about it, so she knew what was going on. Well, then not long after this, (this would be somewhere before the middle of February, as I recall,) we had the charter meeting and . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
So, this conversation took place just before the charter meeting?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Yeah. Quite possibly a week or ten days, but not too long before the charter meeting. And then, about a day or two before the charter meeting, Josephine came in one day and said, "Mrs. Ames is in terrible shape, she can't sleep and she is . . . I'm worried about her." I said, "Well, I hope that she can snap out of it and get to the charter meeting." And Josephine said, "I hope so, we are going to try to get her to take a sedative and maybe get some rest so that she will be all right." And I think the morning of the charter meeting, the report from Josephine was that she just wasn't too sure that Mrs. Ames was going to make it. She said, "We gave her some medicine and it just had the wrong effect. It didn't help her sleep at all, she is just climbing the wall." But she showed up, a little late, but she

Page 37
came into the charter meeting and you could just tell at once that she just . . . she just looked wide-eyed and wild, almost hysterical. This medicine . . . I don't have any idea what it was, it was supposed to calm her down. I had something like that once, that a doctor prescribed for me to sleep, and it just knocked me wild. So, you know, people react differently to these things, but you could just tell that she was just as tense as a drumhead and her eyes were dilated and wild looking. So, I thought, "Poor woman, there is no telling what will happen. She just might pop at any minute." And she almost did. So, after some of the preliminaries of organization, Dr. Odum presiding, he called on her to say something. He praised her for what she had done with the Commission and all that, and coming from him, you know, I could just see that it was making her feel worse. Well, she got up and talked quite at some length . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did she say?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
She started off fairly calmly, you could tell that this was a little talk that she had been turning over in her mind and getting ready for . . . how she had appreciated the opportunity to work with the Commission all those years and she hoped that all this work had been of some value to the South, etc,, etc., She had great joy in knowing so many fine people around the South, and all this. And especially the women she had worked with and she

Page 38
paid a lot of praise to the churchwomen of the South . . . and of course, they really had been the backbone of the whole thing for a long time. And then, she began to get more keyed up and got to talking about women and their role in this whole business of race and how important it was that the white woman and the Negro woman get together and get a better understanding of what this was all about, that white women were still very much accustomed to thinking of the Negro woman in terms of someone who does something for her, you know. She has the old domestic servant complex, a paternalistic notion about the Negro woman. And many of them have servants and this white woman wakes up in the morning, and she hears dear Suzy coming in, she always has a key, you know. And she breathes a sigh of relief because Suzy will cook the breakfast and get the white woman's husband off to work and the white woman can go back to sleep and get a little more rest. Well, she dramatized this . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
It's so interesting.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Yeah, and well, this went on and on . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
On about the theme of the domestic servant?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Yeah, and how there should be a better understanding, more realism on the part of the white woman toward the black woman, because if they got to working together as real equals, you know, then they could do a lot to clear up all this mess.

Page 39
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did she talk about white women and black men?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
No, that wasn't a part of it, as I recall. And then, she had her little farewell oration. And here, she almost broke, her voice got higher and more and more taut and finally, she managed to bring it to a close and she was just short of a hysterical outburst.
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Well, her good friend, the Reverend Dr. Ashby Jones, (he was quite an old man, he was a Baptist minister, much beloved in Atlanta) had no doubt been talking with her, and he understood the situation, and he was hurt because she was leaving the new organization, and her talk sort of stirred him up and he jumped up the minute that she started to her seat, and started talking. And he was saying something like this, "Now, Mr. Chairman, we have listened to this wonderful woman and I am so deeply touched that I think that this Council cannot afford to lose the services . . . " and he was going to launch into a personal plea, I think, or maybe putting it to a vote, you know, that Mrs. Ames be kept on the staff. And Dr. Odum let him go for just a half minute or three-quarters of a minute and then Dr. Odum jumped up and put his arms around Dr. Jones and said, "Now, Dr. Jones, you know that we love you,

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we all love Mrs. Ames and we appreciate what you are saying. We have many items to cover today," and all this time, he just started easing him toward his seat and he got him set down . . . talking all the time and then he went right into it, "Now, the next thing on our agenda is . . . " So, he swept that aside and probably there would have been quite a controversy. I don't know what would have happened. Very likely, if the thing had been put to a vote, that "this body wants to retain Mrs. Ames on the staff," it would have passed, maybe. It would have been fine with me, I would be quite satisfied to have her remain. Or, I would take the resignation and start afresh, as I thought I was going to do. So, that was the end of that little episode.
JACQUELYN HALL:
In the last part of her speech, in the farewell part, did she began to say any specifically bitter words or . . .
GUY B. JOHNSON:
She verged on it just sort of subtly. There was a little bit of an edge in a couple of things that she said about Dr. Odum and Dr. Alex, yeah. I wish that I could remember the words, but I can't. But I was quite aware that she meant to be a little sharp with them, and she was. Well, now, that was one of the highlights of the charter meeting. And of course, in addition to that, we adopted the by-laws, which would govern the procedures. Now, this had been another one of my chores in the

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first month there. Nobody had thought of preparing this sort of thing. Our very good counsel, Leonard Haas, no doubt would have gotten around to it eventually, but he was a very busy lawyer. And when I found out that nothing had been done on this matter, we were about two weeks from the charter meeting and I figured that I had to work on it myself. And I wrote the by-laws, which with a few little changes, were adopted and became the governing rules for the Council. So, we adopted them, and we elected Dr. Ira Reid, the sociologist from Atlanta University, as associate director. And we elected the board of directors, I suppose that there were something like sixty people chosen. They were white and black and they included the leadership from the Durham, Richmond, and Atlanta conferences, with some spaces left open for some further additions later on.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was there much overlap between the CIC members and the the new SRC board members?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Well, that . . . yes, there was some overlap, but I'm not sure how much. I would guess that around a third were CIC carry-overs. Well, then another thing that happened, another highlight of the meeting, was the afternoon discussion of policies. Here, they got into the controversy over segregation. Should this Council come out right now with some strong declaration against

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segregation, or should it not? Well, there were good arguments on both sides and some very good talks made. And you could see some of the white members, of a moderate stripe, getting a little worried about having so much discussion over this question. And some of the more militant black members getting a little disgusted, you know, that this thing wasn't something that you could vote on at once and declare yourself against segregation and all that. The prevailing view was that, first, there is not a damn thing that this organization itself can do to stop segregation, because this is in the law and there is no hope of changing these laws anytime soon. The nearest hope is from the courts, who might change the interpretation of the Constitution, which of course, is what eventually happened . . . but that as an organization, you could do no more than individuals could and had been doing for a long, long time in their personal relations, you know. In other words, having equal personal relations, having Negro guests in your home and all this sort of thing. But that the main bulwark of segregation was the laws and if you made some declaration against segregation, you weren't going to do any good, and if you hoped to have some kind of a mass support, mass membership, you would probably frighten off any chance of this, you see, if you said that the main thing was segregation and "we're going

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to be fighting that." Well, interestingly enough, some of the whites were for the anti-segregation statement and some of the blacks were against it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, really?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who were the whites who were for it?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Oh, I couldn't attempt to recall now, exactly who was . . . oh, for the statement. Well, as I recall, Clark Foreman was one and several other people, white and black, who were in his Southern Conference for Human Welfare.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you remember who the major proponents of both sides were?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
I think that Benjamin Mays spoke in favor of a statement and certainly Clark Foreman. Beyond that, I'm afraid that I couldn't recall, but one thing I do recall, is that the Negro editor, Carter Wesley, from Houston, who of course, was a very militant man, and very anti-segregation personally, said, "My position is wellknown. I don't have to tell you that I despise segregation and I think that the laws are unfair and unconstitutional. But, after all, we have got to consider what will be our best strategy here in trying to make some appeal to the people of the South, trying to get some support, trying to get people to work with us. And I am quite

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willing to forego the pleasure of sponsoring a statement against segregation for the sake of what I hope will be some better response among the southern people . . . a stronger organization, you know, to work on the things that we know we can do." Well, it was just purely a matter of the best tactics to use, you see. And this was the prevailing view, and so, they decided not to issue any statement against segregation. But that was the highlight in terms of policy. It took up quite a bit of time.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did Mrs. Ames involve herself in that argument?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
I'm sorry, I just don't remember. That would be important, but I don't remember. My impression is that she didn't. My impression is, in fact, that she had probably left the meeting after the lunch.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Actually, I have seen the minutes of that charter meeting, and I don't believe that they show her speaking.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Yeah, my impression is that she probably left at lunch time and was not there for this discussion. Well, all this took quite a while and one result was that they didn't actually get down to any brass tacks on what policy they would have and just what they would ask us to try to do. To me, it was a very frustrating, disappointing session. About the time that the meeting was breaking up, I recall, it was starting to rain and it rained like the Devil all through the night. It just

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happened that that very day I had had to get out and find a new place to live. And I had wound up with sort of a penthouse room in the old Atlantan Hotel. It had been, I'm quite sure, originally a place where some of the staff lived, some of the Negro staff. Because it had just the barest sort of furnishings and a bathroom that must have been forty years old. And it was built in sort of a big box like thing on the roof of the hotel. And I lay there with that rain beating down all night and thinking about what a hell of a sorry meeting we had had, how lacking they had been in any kind of a firm statement about policies or programs. And I got to crying. I just lay there and cried. Well, that was the way it got started. And if you would like to know a little about what we tried to do that first year . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
I would, but maybe before we go on with that, let me back up and ask just a few little questions. Why didn't William Cole take that job, do you know?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
I'm not sure. I never really asked him, I guess. I had some reticence about it, because in those days, I wasn't sure who had been approached. And I would see him occasionally, especially at Southern Sociology meetings and he had been a good friend for many years, but I never did bring this up and say, "Lock, I understand that you were approached and you didn't take it. Why

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not?" My guess is that Bill was quite happy where he was, that he did not have quite enough action orientation in race relations to want to leave his job where he was happy and comfortable and stick his nose in this kind of thing and maybe get it knocked off. That's my guess.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, there is some discussion in the correspondence about the Vanderbilt administration not being willing to give him a leave of absence in order to do this and not approving of his being involved in this. But I've wondered if that might have been partly a way out for him.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Was he at Vanderbilt then, or Tennessee?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, it was the University of Tennessee, yeah. Excuse me.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
That might have been involved, that they might have said that, "Yes, if you go, you have to resign." Now, on this, I was very fortunate. I told Odum that I would take a leave, that I would take this thing for one year and try to get it going and then I would probably want to come back here to my job. So, it was put through the trustees and all as being on leave. Well, at the end of that first year, I felt that things were still pretty shaky and I would like to have a little more to show for the effort. And also in the meantime, you see, my wife had moved down and she had

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gotten into all kinds of things and had been made secretary of the Georgia Conference on Social Welfare, which corresponds with the North Carolina Conference of Social Work, you know. And she was, contrary to her first expectations, was now just getting into things and thoroughly enjoying being there. So, all this together, I decided that I had better stay another year. So, now whether Odum ever officially got that leave extended or what, I don't know, but anyway it stayed on the record, I think, as a leave of absence for three and a half years. Or rather three and two-thirds years. [interruption] I guess that I mentioned this, because as it turned out, one of the trustees here tried to keep me from coming back. That's another story, but if you want it, I'll come back to it later. Let me just sort of summarize what we tried to do the first year, once we got this charter meeting out of the way. Well, first, on personnel. I've already said that it was very difficult to get anybody and we took Ira Reid as the associate director, but we could only get him part-time. I wanted a full-time associate director, so we would have a full-time white and a full-time black. But, he didn't have enough commitment to this job that he wanted to give up his job at Atlanta University and work full-time for the Council. So, he . . . what it amounted to was that he kept his full-time job at Atlanta University and took the part-time job as the associate director. This turned out

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to be very unsatisfactory. He was a very bright man, I had known him already for years and I appreciated his talents. He was a fine speaker and writer and a very handsome-looking man. But from my point of view, he didn't have much dedication to what the Council was trying to do. And he was naturally giving most of his time to his job at Atlanta University.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How do you account for that lack of dedication?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Well, I suppose that like a good many of the black intellectuals, you know, this interracial organization work was just a lot of froth. It was all right to belong to it, but it was just nothing, a lot of talk and then, of course, to a large extent, they were about right. Well, Ira would . . . we would agree that he would go to some conference somewhere, Tennessee or Kentucky, and make a speech. And he wanted to travel by plane. Now, in those days, you know, planes were not terribly dependable and very much subject to the weather. These days, they will take off and land through anything, almost, with all this automatic gear. But in those days, it couldn't be done. So, he would make a plane reservation to say, Louisville, Kentucky and then find out at the last minute that the plane couldn't fly, you know, too much rain. Or he goes to get on the plane and he is bumped by a military man, and they had the right, you see. They loaded all

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of them up and if there was any space left over, all right, then maybe you could get on. Time after time, he would miss these engagements and this wasn't good for the Council's public relations. He said that he just couldn't ride the trains, they were too uncomfortable. Well, he was entitled to think that way, but I felt a little differently. And time after time, I would go places, Memphis, Nashville, Raleigh, Florida, on the train. And I think that I said the other day that once I stood up half-way from Atlanta to Raleigh. And another time, I went by bus to Birmingham or somewhere and then a train to Memphis and it was a very wearing trip. Now, perhaps one shouldn't do that, you should take better care of yourself, but I thought that I had these obligations. Well, and then . . . sometimes when Ira had time, he might be off in New York or somewhere on some jaunt of his own or for the university, and maybe I didn't even know about it until he had come back. Perhaps he had discussed it with me, there might have been something that he could have tried to do with some foundation in New York while he was up there on somebody else's expense account. Well, the upshot was that I felt that I just needed very badly a full-time right hand man, or you know, the equivalent, to be helping. Now, jumping ahead a little, I mentioned this problem to Charles Johnson and I

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mentioned it to Dr. Rufus Clement, the president of Atlanta University, who was Reid's boss. And I must say, eventually, Dr. Clement handled it. Probably, he simply told Reid that he ought to devote his full-time to the one or the other, something like this, and Reid resigned. And sometime . . . I guess in '45, we got a full-time associate director, Dr. Harold Trigg from North Carolina, a man I had known for years. A man who could work best with just ordinary people, run of the mill black and white. He didn't have the polish and the luster that Ira Reid had and didn't appeal to the more intellectual types, but I think that he did us a good deal of good.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What had his . . .
GUY B. JOHNSON:
He was an educator. He had been originally under Dr. Newbold in the state Department of Education. And then later, a professor at Elizabeth City State College. And let's see, later he became president. Probably, that was after his Council work. Well, in looking for other personnel, sometime very early in that first year, we looked around for a good public relations person. And here we had a very sad experience. I talked to newspaper friends and the Associated Press and people like this and they didn't have anybody to suggest. So, one day, I believe that Josephine Wilkins suggested that there

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was a very able young lady . . . we might as well call names here, I guess.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes, feel free to.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Margaret Fisher, who was eager to get into some work like the Council work. And she was very interested in the New Deal programs and all this, you know, a great admirer of Mrs. Roosevelt and President Roosevelt and so forth. She had had some minor job in some regional program under the New Deal in the Atlanta office, I forget what it was. Well, I said, "Well, we certainly need somebody. I'd like to see her." So, she said, "I'll arrange a little party and you can meet her." So, she had a little party with Lucy Mason and one or two others, and Margaret Fisher and myself. And Margaret Fisher was a very amiable, pleasant person, who had begun, I think, in music and was a singer, soloist in a church choir in Atlanta. And well, naturally, this didn't pay much, and she had taken this other New Deal job, the name of which I forget. And now, she was eager to get into some race relations work.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was she a young woman?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
She was youngish, well, let's see . . . at that time, I was forty-three. I suppose that Margaret was thirtyish, or early thirties. So I asked her to come down later to the

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office. And she came a day or two later and we talked awhile and I finally felt that maybe we should take a chance on her. I had explained that we needed somebody who could deal with the press, especially the AP and UP and the local newspapers, and somebody who could supervise and do the writing of pamphlets, news releases, etc., etc. Just, you know, PR work. And she felt that this would be fine, she was sure that she could do it and Josephine and Lucy Mason had put some gentle pressure you know, so I decided to hire her. Well, it turned out to be a great mistake. Margaret had really had no actual experience in this kind of thing. She . . . she had some sort of mannerisms, I guess, that would put people off.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Like what?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Well, like walking down the street smoking a cigarette. (interruption by telephone) Well, let me see, what else.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did she perform the job?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Practically not at all. I began to get some flack from people, like Ralph McGill, editor of the Constitution. And from the . . . oh, Pop Caldwell, who was head of the AP office in Atlanta. Ralph said one day, "Who is this girl that you've got doing public relations for you?" I said, "Well, she was recommended by Josephine Wilkins and Lucy Mason and seemed a

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pleasant enough person and I thought we would try her." "Well," he said, "she doesn't know a damn thing about how to handle public relations." Well, perhaps she had been in his office or been down to see somebody at work on the Constitution and he would report on something that happened, her manner or her apparent lack of savvy about the job she was doing. So, time and again, I began to get comments like this and then comments from someone who had seen her going down the street with a cigarette dangling in her mouth, you know. I must say that this rubs me the wrong way, too, whether it is a man or a woman. I think that it is sort of an unesthetic type of thing for anybody to do. And well, mainly, I found that Margaret was not getting down to any kind of work on say, writing us some leaflets for example, which we could use in promotion. You see, we had a plan in that first year, we had a great hope of having a mass membership. So, we were getting ready to circularize thousands of people and tell them, "Look, you can belong for a dollar a year." And we needed several leaflets and we had pamphlets that we wanted to revise, especially America's Tenth Man, which had been very popular, and we thought that was a good thing to carry on. Well, I just gradually got the impression that this woman was just sort of dilly-dallying along and enjoying talking to people and

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writing letters, but she just didn't seem to know how to get down to doing what this Council needed her to do. And she often spoke of her admiration for Mrs. Roosevelt and how she had met Mrs. Roosevelt at some meeting in Atlanta, I think, or Birmingham or somewhere. And Mrs. Roosevelt had told her, "Now, anytime you come to Washington, you let me know and I'll ask you to tea." This seemed almost an obsession with the girl, she would keep mentioning Mrs. Roosevelt and how eager she was to get to Washington, and one day she came in and said that she had a little plan. She believed that there were things in Washington that she could do that would be very beneficial for our public relations. And I said, "Well, Margaret, what?" Well, she ticked off several things which just seemed to me to have nothing to do with the problems that we were facing in Atlanta. And I said, "Now, look, you know that we have very limited funds and what little travel money we have, probably had better be used for me and Ira Reid to go to these state commissions and see what we can do with them." Well, she said that she was going to try to work it to get this trip for the good of the Council and without the Council having to pay for it. But she certainly thought that the Council would profit by it and she hoped that the Council could pay for some of the costs. And well, I didn't say, "Yes, you can." I thought that she understood, you know, that I did not see that this was something that we should pay for. Well, a few days later, I heard that she

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had gone to Washington. [laughter] You know, this is almost farcical . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
But at the time, though, I can imagine . . .
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Yes . . . now, let me see, did she send some kind of message? I don't know whether it was to me or to Josephine Wilkins. Somehow, I got the word . . . well, I probably shouldn't say this. I started to say that she wanted some money sent. I am probably wrong on that. It's probably later that this came up and she contended that I had committed the Council to a part of these expenses. And we did wind up paying some. Well, anyway, she . . . as I recall, she did call Mrs. Roosevelt. In fact, I strongly suspect that she had written her beforehand and had set up this engagement for tea. And that's the reason that she went, you see, she was just not going to miss this for anything. And so, when she got back, oh, she was just walking on air. You know, she was honestly like a little child, thrilled over having had tea at the White House. And every day you would hear her telling somebody about this. She just couldn't get over it, it was the greatest thing that ever happened to her. And so, more time went on and nothing getting done. And let's see . . . I discussed it with her a little one day and she said that we shouldn't expect her to carry all this PR work, none of which she had really done up to this time, that unless she had a helper or a secretary of her own or something, you know, that there was not

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much that she thought she could do. Well, there we were, getting along with two typists (one of them could take shorthand, the other one couldn't) and, you know, Reid, Emily Clay and myself. And that was the staff. And with our budget, you couldn't go looking for somebody else unless you thought it over pretty carefully as to what this person was going to do for you. Well, and so after a little while longer, I just decided that I just couldn't take any more of this, that nothing was getting done. It came to, say, some news release, and I would write it. The executive committee might have met, you see, and they might have some little statement to put out about something and you could give her the dope and two or three days would go by and nothing would happen. So, it would be up to me to get the thing out. I decided that, "Well, look, this woman is just playing around, enjoying being here, but has no facility for really getting down and doing the work that we need." So, one Saturday, I . . . Saturdays are always the great day . . . I called her in and I think that we sat there in my office for the better part of the day and we just thrashed all through this. I told her that I was sorry but I just felt that probably she was not equipped with the experience and training to do what I had in mind. And well, you know, it was worse than the Mrs. Ames' thing, but it was the same kind of very embarassing situation. Worse, in that I was actually having to fire some body.

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And I have never liked any position of power and authority and I don't like to hurt people's feelings. My wife says that I have always let people like Dr. Odum run over me, you know, because I didn't want to have any quarrel, or something. Well, so I found it very difficult to tell her that I would like for her to resign, but we finally got to that point and she was resistant and emotional and said that . . . "You hold it against me that I went to Washington, don't you?" I said, "No, I think that going to Washington was fine, but I still say that it had little or nothing to do with what we need to do here in public relations." And she said, "But the contact with Mrs. Roosevelt, just think how important that could be to us." I said, "Margaret, Mrs. Roosevelt is Mrs. Roosevelt and it's fine . . . many people know how she feels and of course, this is helpful. And she is very much loved in some places and hated in others." . . . you know, all this anti-Roosevelt stuff was going around. Dr. Odum wrote a book, Race and Rumors of Race, in which he had a whole chapter on the Eleanor Clubs, these mythical things. Well, she said that she thought that she had been doing what the Council wanted her to do, though she felt that it was not too clear as to
[END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[TAPE 2, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]
GUY B. JOHNSON:
exactly what we wanted. I said, . . . "Well, I'm sorry, I certainly feel that it has been made clear enough to you." Well, she wasn't so sure that she understood exactly what her role should be. Well, it may well

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be that I hadn't been forceful enough, you know, but that's another way that I deal with people. I tell them once, or I give them one memo and suggestions and I assume that they are going to go off and do it. Well, anyway, it was sad, but I saw no alternative, and so she resigned and naturally this led to some quite bad feelings for awhile between me and Josephine and Lucy Mason. Because they were her very good friends.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why were they so supportive of her?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Well, I decided later (in fact, I got it sort of by "the grapevine") that Margaret was being let out of this New Deal job and that she was frantically looking for a job. And her good friends were helping her out. And I said to Josephine once, "Look, you know, I'm sorry to have to do this, but Margaret simply didn't have the experience and training in this field and I was sort of relying on your recommendation." And she said, "Well, now, Guy, I did not push this woman." She was on the defensive about it. And maybe she was right, she hadn't actually pushed, but the whole context was, "I want you to meet this woman, I'm going to have this party and so on and so on . . . and I think that you ought to consider her for this job." Well, in my mind, that is pressure, you know, to a certain extent. But I was at fault, in that I should have

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gotten letters from any previous employers. I should have had a work history, and I could have seen, maybe, that she wouldn't do. But, you know, here you are desperate for somebody to get to work and you suddenly hire somebody and you have done the wrong thing.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How were you going about trying to recruit staff? How did you put the word out?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Well, of course, we had put the word out through a number of the leaders at the charter meeting and in the executive committee. And I wrote several people, like Virginius Dabney, P.B. Young and others, to see if they knew anybody. And nobody seemed to have any suggestions. You know, lots of people had gone to war and others were pegged into their jobs and it was really tough.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What about Mrs. Tilly? Wasn't she in Atlanta?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Oh, yes. Mrs. Tilly was around. And sometime, I guess either that first year or the second year, we took her on part-time to more or less continue the work with church women's groups that Mrs. Ames had been doing.
JACQUELYN HALL:
That's something . . . I was never able to find very much material about Mrs. Tilly's role, because since she was there in Atlanta, there isn't the correspondence that . . . How active had she been? What was her relationship to Mrs. Ames' work toward the end of the Interracial Commission?

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GUY B. JOHNSON:
She was very close to Mrs. Ames and had done quite a bit of fieldwork, helping Mrs. Ames and the Association for the Prevention of Lynching.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Some people have told me that Mrs. Tilly was the real worker behind the thing and . . .
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Well, yes, I've heard this too and . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
That Mrs. Ames had the ideas but that Mrs. Tilly carried them out. That's what I've heard.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Well, yes, I wouldn't discount that too much. Well, we were fortunate a little later >(I'm sorry that I can't remember what month, but I think that it was sometime toward the end of 1944), someone knew about a young man named Ray Warwick, who had been doing public relations for labor, I believe, someone in the labor unions. And he was very much interested in the Council and interracial work. So, we found out where he was, got ahold of him, and he came down and we talked. And he had had good experience and was well recommended, and we hired him. And the contrast between him and our previous person was just so great, I just felt like Santa Claus had come! I mean, this man, he set right to work, working on our literature, revising pamphlets, preparing leaflets, doing news releases. And he soon was very friendly with the editors and the wire services and he knew a lot of the labor people. So we began

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to move on the PR front. Now, another thing we did that first year, in fact, rather early. This was before we got Ray Warwick. I had decided on my own that I would like to have a publication called New South and that we would change over the Southern Frontier, which the Commission had been publishing . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Had it continued to come out?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Oh yes, yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who put it out?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Well, mostly Dr. Eleazer and then, Mrs. Ames. Yeah. Then, for the first couple of issues after the Council started, I did it. I would have to go back and search the record to see exactly when I did this.
I may be mistaken as to the time that we changed over, but I thought that it was in '44. Well, at any rate, I had decided that since we had a new organization, why not a new publication, and New South would be a good name for it. I talked to Ira Reid about it and he thought well of it. And I guess that I put it up to the executive committee and they said o.k. Oh, that reminds me now of something about Clark Foreman. I had a call one day and it was from Clark Foreman. And oh, he was just angry. He says, "Look, I hear that you are planning to publish something called New South." I said, "Yes, we are writing the stuff right now. We will soon have the first issue ready." He said, "You

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can't do that." I said, "Why can't I?" He said, "That's . . . the Southern Conference has plans to publish a New South." I said, "Well, look, since when?" He said, "We've often had this in mind." I said, "Well, now, look Clark. You have not published anything called New South?" "No." "You don't have anything in hand or any plans to immediately start publishing?" "Well, no." "You have not copyrighted the title?" "No." "Well, now, you don't own this title any more than anybody else and we are ready to go and we have been authorized to do it and we are going ahead." Oh, he was just mad as hell at me. I must say that I had several experiences with him like this. So, I was not one of his strong admirers.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, tell me a little bit more about the conflict between the Southern Conference and the Southern Regional Council, about why he dropped out of the Southern Regional Council.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Well, when I said dropped out, I think that this would be that he just didn't show up at meetings as much as he had been the first year.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Had there been some incidents that foretold this estrangement?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Well, as I said, I think that the Southern Conference sort of felt threatened by the new organization. And

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Clark Foreman and Jim Dombrowski kept wondering about some division of labor, just how you would distinguish between the functions of these two things.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were there discussions about how . . .
GUY B. JOHNSON:
There was a little discussion at our charter meeting. And then, occasionally when I would see one of them, there would be a little discussion about it. And the general feeling was that the Southern Conference is an action organization, political action, etc. It doesn't claim to have tax exemption, because after all, it is frankly in the business of trying to influence legislation, etc. The Council is chartered as a non-political, educational . . . etc., with tax exemption. Tax exempt on its corporate income and donors exempt on their contributions. And it would work through educational and non-political programs and that was generally understood, I think. And this was another reason, incidentally, for the feeling during the charter meeting, when they were discussing segregation statements, that, "Well, if you are going in for that, you are working for legislative change and just might as well kiss your tax exemption good-by. And then, you are not going to get very many people to donate to it." I thought that, at least to me, it was clear enough why we were rivals, of course. But there

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were things in which we did not overlap. In the educational and propaganda spheres, it was very much alike, but in their direct political action, they were different from us. But the fact is, see, they were running into troubled waters financially, and were casting about trying to see how they could organize more groups around the states and get more contributions coming in. I don't know how familiar you are with their history, but you know they started out with a bang with people like Mrs. Roosevelt and Frank Graham and all that. And then gradually, the radical group did their boring from within, which was a left-wing philosophy in those years. And they got control, pretty much, of the inner machinery of the outfit. And this is why in . . . let's see, after the war started in Europe, before Hitler went into Russia, that when some of the members wanted to condemn the Nazi aggression and say that our country should stand with the West, you know, and help in every way possible, this was voted down, The theory was, as these speakers put it forth, "that's just a European quarrel." I don't know if they called it bourgeois or not, probably not, but a "bourgeois fight between some European people, and we have no business . . . "
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you at that meeting?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
No. No, the fact is that I never attended a

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Southern Conference meeting. When it was being organized, Clark Foreman made a trip to Chapel Hill, talking to various people and telling them about the various plans and asking them to come to the organizational meeting. He never called on Dr. Odum, who was sort of the father of regionalism. Rupert Vance, who was an outstanding scholar, you know, on the Southern people . . . he didn't call on him. He didn't call on me, we didn't even know that he had been here until later, when we began to hear people talking about it. He called on a socialist professor, Erikson, in the English department and some young fellow in the John Reed Club and people like this, you know. Graduate students and the campus radicals, you see.
And so, . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
I'm surprised, because in those early years, at least, they tried to get fairly respectable, influential people.
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Oh, yes. They had a lot of people like this, yeah. And I never understood why at least he didn't call on Odum or Vance or me.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did he ever make an effort to contact you?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
No. Except that I would get the literature; he put me on the mailing list, you see. Now, they did a lot of this. They would send the Southern Patriot out free to hundreds and maybe thousands of people. And of course, they would ask you to suscribe or make a contribution. I think that maybe one

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or two years I sent maybe five dollars, but that was the extent of my participation. Well, that's in a way petty, but just to be perfectly frank, I had felt some misgivings about some of the people involved in it from the beginning. And I didn't care to get involved in it and later, I was glad that I didn't. Because there was no doubt on God's earth but that it was pretty well taken over by the radicals. And as I started to say a while ago, after they defeated this resolution about the war, condemning Hitler's aggression, then, the next meeting that they had after Hitler had gone into Russia, oh, they passed a ringing resolution condemning this aggression. Well, that was a pretty good give-away. This was the sort of ideology that they had. Poor Frank Graham, this nearly killed him. Now, he was their president and I think that he had been simply misused by them, because he was so earnest and so naive that he didn't know what was going on. And there he was, during the previous session, plugging for this resolution condemning Nazi aggression and seeing it voted down and he just couldn't understand it, you know. It just killed him. And then when they came up later and suddenly it was a "holy war," because Hitler had invaded Russia, then he saw what was up.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, I gathered that in the process of arrangements for the Atlanta meeting and in some of the things that went on

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there . . . although this is not something that Clark Foreman told me, that he had . . . that he has felt in the past that he was mistreated in some way by the Southern Regional Council, or has not been given his due by the Council. Do you have any feelings on that?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
No, I don't know what that could be. Because after all, I'm not quite sure that he was elected on this board, he was not on the executive committee, I don't know what else he would expect.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I may be wrong, but . . .
GUY B. JOHNSON:
But you see, he may be referring to some of these conflicts with me, like this New South thing. Now, here I had read their literature all these years and there is not one word about their planning to publish a New South. I knew that the man was just pulling a big bluff on me and just because maybe he and Dombrowski had felt that someday they would publish something by this name, but I wasn't going to be put off by this. He was quite angry about it and . . . then on another occasion, I had a very unpleasant session with him and Dombrowski, which . . . and you wouldn't believe this, but it almost came to physical blows. We kept hearing little things from some of our members as to what Clark Foreman had said, or what Dombrowski had said and finally, a staunch member from North Carolina told

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me something that he had personally heard from one of these men, I forget which, either Foreman or Dombrowski, to the effect that the Southern Conference and the SRC were sort of dividing up the territory and that North Carolina would be open for the Southern Conference and some other states would be fore the SRC. I forget the person who told me, but he was a long standing friend. I had the greatest confidence in him, he wouldn't come to me telling me a lie, you know. And he had heard this himself. And it was similar, but a little stronger than the other things we had heard. The others were, well, were more reasonable, you know, that the Southern Conference was the action agency and the Council was non-action. Often, it had sort of a derogatory flavor. And that it would be better if there wasn't overlap and those people who are interested in action should give to the Conference and those that were not interested in action should give to the SRC.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Nobody wants to admit that they are not interested in action. [laughter]
GUY B. JOHNSON:
Right. Well, in about . . . shortly after I had heard this thing from North Carolina, a man from Louisiana was in the office and said that they were considering setting up a state branch of the Southern Conference and he had heard something of this same sort of thing, about the difference

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between them. Now, he himself was a member of the SRC, but there was a group pushing for the Southern Conference and he felt that they were not being fair to the SRC. And so, he wanted to know just what the difference was and what he could tell these people who were interested in setting up a branch of the Southern Conference. And I let my hair down a little and I told him about this North Carolina thing and I said, "Now that, of course, that was said by Foreman or Dombrowski, it is just absolutely false. We don't have that kind of division of labor. We divide on action as against educational and propaganda work. " [And I told him that frankly I had some reservations at times about the truthfulness of some people, like Foreman and Dombrowski. Well, he went home and apparently, he confided this in someone who was really a strong friend of Foreman and Dombrowski and by the time it got back to them, it was greatly enlarged, you know. So, one day late in the afternoon, everybody was gone, and I was up there in the office all alone. I thought that I had locked the outer door, but I hadn't. And I heard somebody knocking loudly and trying the door, and I heard it open and here, down the hall and into my room came Foreman and Dombrowski. They were in town because the next day was the annual meeting. This was probably in '46. And boy, I could tell at once that Foreman

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was mad, he was wide-eyed. And he said, "I've got a fight with you. You have gone down to Louisiana and done . . . " I said, "Now, wait a minute, I haven't even been to Louisiana." "Well, you have said so-and-so and you have written so-and-so." I said, "No, that's not quite right. Now, I have said some frank things in all seriousness to a friend, but it is not quite what you are describing here." Well, he said that he knew damn well that he could trust the person that told him and he knew that I was lying, and he got very belligerant. And he began to swear at me and Dombrowski chimed in, although I think that he was a little embarassed. And Foreman was on his feet and coming around toward the back of the desk and I just sat there and kept quiet and finally he calmed down. And they said something like, "You ought to have the hell beaten out of you, and if you don't get up there in that meeting tomorrow and make a public apology for what you have done, then you will have to take the consequences. I said, "Well, I am not willing to do that, but if I have done anything and it has been interpreted wrong and has served the Conference badly, I am sorry. It was not my intention, and I am certainly not going to get up and make any public apology on this matter."] Well, they got up and stalked out and that was the end of that. Well, as time went on, we got more things

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going and we did get some more staff. Oh, let me say that we tried hard on this business of mass membership. We spent a lot of time on that and we brought in some money and we got enormous mailing lists, We bought specialized mailing lists . . . lists of women leaders, lists of all kinds of professional people, black and white and what have you, thousands of names. And we sent these letters and leaflets and told them that we wanted a mass membership and if they would send one dollar, that would make them a member. And it looked good at first, some months you would get in several hundred and it kept climbing and eventually, sometime up in the second year, 1945, it got as high as about 3200 members and that's as high as it ever got. It just seemed that that was the limit. And pretty soon, it was obvious that actually most of these people were just going to pay their little dollar and get our publications. A few might go five dollars and a few ten dollars and once in awhile, by special effort, somebody would actually come across with a hundred dollars. But the most that we raised from these 3000 so-called "members" in one year was something like eight to ten thousand dollars, more like eight thousand. As I recall, it averaged somewhere close to three dollars a head.
And as time went on, it was obvious that this sort of thing was actually a financial burden. That

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if you promised them New South plus the pamphlets, pretty soon you were going to be paying more in printing and postage and so forth to service these people than you were getting from them on the average. And so we began to recede from this idea of a mass membership. And later on, as you may know, sometime up in the years after I left there, they made this new policy official, that there be no more members as such, and they went back precisely to the thing that the old Commission had, namely that the Council is a big board of directors. So, that little experiment in mass membership didn't pan out at all.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you have an idea what the proportion of blacks and whites . . . black and white response, was?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
No, I don't. Many of them would be people that some of us knew and we could tell, but there were many just little ordinary people who just wanted to pay their dollar and we had no way of knowing what their race was. I suspect that the majority were white, because certainly the miling lists that we bought were much more likely to have white names on them, I think. You know, people's names would be on the list in the first place because they belonged to some organization or they suscribed to some journal or something of that sort, and they were likely to be white. Well, let's see, in '45, with the war closing, when we thought that we could see the war

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winding down (it was still pretty hot in the Pacific) . . . I organized a conference on the post-war South. Now, you know the Southern Conference in its original meeting had emphasized the South, Problem Number One. And I wanted this conference to emphasize The South, Economic Opportunity Number One. So, that was our subhead, you see, The Post-War South, Economic Opportunity Number One. Well, the idea behind this was that this would be something bigger than just race, I kept trying to get back to Odum's notion, you know, that this Council ought to be something besides race relations. And this turned out to be almost impossible. Sometimes I would propose something to the executive committee and one of the black members would say, "Well, that's not relevant enough to our problems." And some of them felt this way about that conference. And I had to argue with them and tell them that it would be open to everybody, that we wanted black participation. So, they finally authorized it. We got busy, we got some businessmen, lawyers, educators, black and white, or at least we invited them. And we set it up at the Biltmore Hotel. We had a morning session and an afternoon session. We had some government people there. And we got an expert on freight rates. This was one of our little non-racial ideas. You may not be aware of the long standing freight rate situation, by which ever since the Civil War, the Northeast has dominated this. And with Pittsburg owning

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the Birmingham steel works, if you were an Atlanta contractor getting steel out of Birmingham, you paid precisely the same amount as you would have from Pittsburg. Now, to some of us, this was about as dirty as you could get. But all done under the authority of the Federal government, the Interstate Commerce Commission and all that. And we went in with some other organizations as parties to a law suit to try to get a federal court ruling on this, and they turned us down. So, we thought, "Well, we will try to make a little splash in this conference." So we had this expert, a lawyer on freight rates, to make one of the leading speeches. And he got a right good press on it and I think that it had a little bit of effect later on in stirring up the southern governors. This was really the key. So damn many of these people were a part of this whole business structure, you know, that they didn't much care for reform in freight rates. But finally, you got the southern governors a little agitated about it, and then later, years later, the Federal government did change these rates. They are much more equitable today. Well, this was one of our little notions. And then we had people talking about industry, post-war employment problems, I think that someone talked about returning veterans and what have you. And we had a young man down from Washington who had been a researcher for one of the Congressional commissions,

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I think the McCarran Commission. He had done a very good job, and he was very much up on all kinds of economic, industrial conditions, trade, cotton economy, and all sorts of things.
JACQUELYN HALL:
McCarran?
GUY B. JOHNSON:
I think that's what it was. Now, what this was about, I don't remember, but they had a report that was considered very important. It probably had something to do with trade and commerce. Well, I thought that it was a very interesting program. But, it turned out that only a couple of blacks came. Here we had hoped to get people like P.B. Young, Gordon Hancock from Richmond, and all kinds of people to come. And whites came from long distances, we had a good crowd. We had a Negro businessman from Florida, he had a little part on the program and I guess that is the reason that he came. And there were one or two others, and that was all. But we had a good program and good press and then later, we put together the main papers and got out our little publication called The South, Economic Opportunity Number One. Oh, an interesting thing happened. Right at the end of this meeting (this was in April of 1945, April 12 or 11) . . . this young man from Washington had been talking, he was the last speaker. And he did a very good job. He was a Yankee, he was not a southerner. I had not known him before, just a little contact after he had come to Atlanta. And he wound

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up something like this . . . "Of course, the problems in the South are, in the final analysis, going to have to be solved by the people in the South. Don't put too much reliance on the federal government or the New Deal or anything up there. They can do something, but they are not going to solve these problems. Mr. and Mrs. Roosevelt are not going to solve them. They are your friends, but they can't solve them. You are not going to solve anything by going up to Washington to have tea with Mrs. Roosevelt." Those were practically his last words. And then I got up and thanked everybody and adjourned the meeting. And we were going out into the lobby and someone came running and said, "Mr. Roosevelt is dead."
So I tried to get everybody's attention and told them that Mr. Roosevelt had just died at Warm Springs. And then later that day, Josephine Wilkins stopped me and said, "Guy Johnson, you put that man up to that?" I said, "Up to what?" She said, "That last speaker up there saying, ‘You don't solve anything by going to Washington to have tea with Mrs. Roosevelt.’ " I said, "Josephine, I never put him up to anything, he has no acquaintance with any of this business about Margaret Fisher. Just forget it." Then, of course, that summer the war did end. We had employed George Mitchell, who had been with the southeastern

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regional office of PAC, that Political Action Committee of the CIO. He had worked in the 1944 election campaign. And so, after he had wound up the chores in that election (I guess that it was probably already '45) we employed him to do a project on the post-war conditions for Negro veterans. And especially employment of Negro veterans. And for this, as I recall, we had a little special grant. Probably from the Rosenwald Fund. Enough to pay his salary and a field worker and maybe a secretary. So this expanded our staff and put us on to a very good project. And he did some very good work. He had a nice, very effective young black man who went all over the South. He was a very amiable, friendly type who could go and talk to the white businessman, employer, and butter him up and . . .
END OF INTERVIEW