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Title: Oral History Interview with Alester G. Furman Jr., January 6, 1976. Interview B-0019. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Furman, Alester G., Jr., interviewee
Interview conducted by Glass, Brent
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: 204 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, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin 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 Alester G. Furman Jr., January 6, 1976. Interview B-0019. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series B. Individual Biographies. Southern Oral History Program Collection (B-0019)
Author: Brent Glass
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Alester G. Furman Jr., January 6, 1976. Interview B-0019. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series B. Individual Biographies. Southern Oral History Program Collection (B-0019)
Author: Alester G. Furman Jr.
Description: 264 Mb
Description: 64 p.
Note: Interview conducted on January 6, 1976, by Brent Glass; recorded in Greenville, South 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 Alester G. Furman Jr., January 6, 1976.
Interview B-0019. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Furman, Alester G., Jr., interviewee


Interview Participants

    ALESTER G. FURMAN JR., interviewee
    BRENT GLASS, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
BRENT GLASS:
This is an interview with Alester Garden Furman Jr. at his home in Greenville, South Carolina. The date is January 6, 1976. The interviewer is Brent Glass. This is the first of three parts of an interview. The subjects range from Mr. Furman's family background, his childhood and his recollections of his parents, as well as many of his business activities over the years. Why don't we just start Mr. Furman, by having you give me a little about the background of your family.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, my family came to South Carolina in 1755 from Esopus, New York. They were members of the Dutch Reformed Church there. My great-great-great grandfather Wood Furman moved down here. He was a teacher and a surveyor. He was an educated man and he brought with him his one year old son, Richard Furman, who is the one that we all feel is the real head of the family that started the educational process in South Carolina. This young man had no formal education but his father had a good library for those days. There were all kinds of books and of all kinds of philosophies. He learned to read Greek and Latin and he learned a great deal about medicine. Of course, there was no formal medicine in those days practically at all, except that another great-great-great grandfather of mine, named Alexander Garden, was a doctor in Charleston and the families subsequently merged, so to speak, after one generation. Dr. Alexander Garden was a botanist and a naturalist in Charleston. His life was written recently by two botany

Page 2
professors from Virginia, called Dr. Alexander Garden of Charlestown, and it's a very interesting book. It was published by the University of North Carolina Press.
BRENT GLASS:
I've not seen it, but I would like to take a look at it.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, it's a very interesting book. He had a son . . . Dr. Alexander Garden was an old Tory; as a matter of fact, his properties were all confiscated after the Revolution and he went back to England and died in England. But his son, Major Alexander Garden, was an officer in Lee's Legion in the Continental Army and he is the one who made the connection with the Gibbes. And he married a Gibbes. Garden is my middle name.
But this man, Richard Furman, who was my great-great grandfather, at the age of eighteen under the preaching of a Presbyterian minister, decided that while the family had joined the Church of England when they came to South Carolina . . . there being no Dutch Reformed Church down here, he and his mother decided that they were going to join the Baptist organization, which had hardly started in South Carolina. And because he said that he could find no evidence of infant baptism in the New Testament. He said that it all said, "Repent and be baptized," and no infant could repent because they hadn't had that opportunity to sin. That was his basis for it and he became a very, very prominent Baptist minister in the United States and briefly, he had a little church in Sumter County, in the high hills of the Santee, called the High Hills Baptist Church. He left there in 1787 and went to Charleston and became the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Charleston. He was so imbued with the spirit of being independent, because frankly, that's what most people don't realize, they listen to what a few nuts in the Baptist Church say who get up in these

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conventions and proclaim all kinds of things that they think are wrong, that they ought to pass resolutions against. Why, he just quietly went around tending to his own business and being very, very free. I'll give you one illustration of it. He was a great friend of Charles Coatsworth Pinkney . . . I don't know whether you know anything about Charles Coatsworth Pinkney . . .
BRENT GLASS:
A diplomat . . .
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, he signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and his brother, Charles Pinkney, was also a very prominent man in Charles town. But he was a great friend of his, but he was not a member of his church. I have gathered many hundreds of letters from the family, some written to Dr. Richard Furman and some written by him and some of his manuscripts. He has a manuscript there of his sermon before Congress in 1814 and he has a manuscript of 1808 of his nominating Charles Coatsworth Pinkney to be President of the United States. Of course, that was very small groups in those days and if you've read about it, you'll understand. One of the things that always interested me was a letter to him from Charles Coatsworth Pinkney that said, "Dear Dr. Furman, I enjoyed your sermon very much today. I find that the bile is very bad in Charleston this summer and the best specific for it is Madeira wine and I am sending you over two cases. One case of old wine and one case of new wine. I hope that it does you as much good as it has done me. Your obedient servant, Charles Coatsworth Pinkney." Well, I read that one day in the First Baptist Church in Charleston and I said that I couldn't find where he sent it back. [laughter] So many of these people now believe in prohibition, but those people believed in temperance, which is an entirely different situation.

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BRENT GLASS:
Right.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Total abstinence was not part of Christianity in any place, even from the first miracle. So, getting back, Dr. Richard Furman lived until 1825. He was really the leader in the field of education in this state. He sent his children to the College of Rhode Island, which is now Brown University. He sent some to England. His oldest son by his first wife, he was married twice, was Wood Furman and he was at one time the Chairman of the Faculty at the College of Charleston, which was one of the original city colleges. It was not denominational, it was a city college. Most of the great colleges in New England were all started by ministers of various denominations and the reason was because they were the educated people and they saw the need of education.
That's why you find so many colleges, Yale and Harvard, Trinity, Haverford and all those colleges were colleges who were started by ministers who saw the need of education. Well anyhow, he practiced some medicine in Charleston during the time of the Revolution and after. His brother was Josiah Furman and he joined him and was active in the Revolutionary War, but they got him out of that because he was a man who could speak and they sent him all over this up country to try to rally the patriots away from the Tories. The Revolution was really a civil war, if you come down to it. You had a few Hessians and a few high generals of British, but few really British troops here. Well, the Hessians were really the biggest part of the British troops. The rest of them were small, just small garrison troops.
BRENT GLASS:
I've never seen the figures on that, but that would be interesting.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, it's true. It's a civil war just like they are having

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in Angola today, no more business for any of us to be over there except for that economic thing of getting those minerals out of there. That's the reason that Russia is in there. That's the reason that they want to try to keep a hand in there from this country, if you want to come down to it. I think that we ought to all get out of there and let Angola develop slowly. They'll fight each other. Look what's happening in Ireland. I've gotten off the subject but I'll get back to it. Dr. Richard Furman had a great many children. His youngest son was James C. Furman. He was born in 1809 and jumping over several other members of the family who helped with the establishment of the little theological institution in Edgefield in 1826, Dr. James C. Furman took charge of it after it had to leave Edgefield and go over to High Hills of the Santee and then to Winsboro. There's a history of Furman University being written which you can see.
BRENT GLASS:
Right.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
It's being published, I think, by the North Carolina Press.
BRENT GLASS:
I think that it's by Duke University.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Oh, it's Duke University.
BRENT GLASS:
I believe that's what Dr. Blackwell told me, but I'm not sure.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
That will have something, a lot of it, in there. I have not seen it and neither have I seen the manuscript, so I don't know anything about it. Well, then my grandfather, I told you, came out of the Civil War and taught in Kentucky. He came back here and practiced law. He then became Professor of English at Clemson College and stayed there until he retired in 1912. He was then seventy-two years old. He was born in 1840.

Page 6
BRENT GLASS:
What was his name?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Charles M. Furman. He was named for his uncle, who was president of the Bank of South Carolina in Charleston, which is the beginning of the South Carolina National Bank now. He owned quite a lot of land and did a terrific job. When the Civil War came along, Dr. James C. Furman signed the Articles of Secession. Charles M. Furman wouldn't do it, his own brother. He said that he didn't want to break up a nation that his father had helped begin. It shows you how different people in families are. They had just as many differences as could be, they didn't have to be antagonistic about it, but they felt that they should express themselves.
BRENT GLASS:
Now, Charles Furman, your grandfather, fought with General Johnston?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Joseph E. Johnston. He was at Greensboro when they surrendered in '65, after Appomattox.
BRENT GLASS:
And how did he feel about retiring to the North? Did he have any comments about that? Oh . . . he only spent the summer months up there.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
He only spent the summer up there with his youngest daughter . . . well, she's living now. She is living in Massachussetts. Her son is with the American Shoe Machinery Company. His name is Charles, named for his grandfather, Charles Coles is his name and Kitty, as we call her . . . she was my father's younger half-sister but she's only two and a half years older than I am. No, four years older than I am, I believe.
BRENT GLASS:
And what's her name?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Coles. She's Mrs. Marion Coles. Well, going back now, my

Page 7
father was born in '67 in Sumter County and after the Civil War, came here with his father who was practicing law. First went to Kentucky and then came here and he went to Furman University . . . the reason that it was called "university" at that time was because they had a graduate school in theology and they had plans to make it a real graduate schools in other things so that it would be a university. That's why it was called a university when basically it was a college. Now, we had an accredited law school over there from 1919 to 1932 or '33 or '34, and it was done away with by a president who was a man of great ability, but he had a lot of trouble financially and he blamed that for some of the financial problems they had and he did away with it.
BRENT GLASS:
Which president was this, now?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
B.E. Geer. I'm sure that it is all written in that history, although I do not know it. Anyhow, my father stopped college when he was a junior and started reading law. He was admitted to the bar on December 21, 1888 and in that office . . . I was going to take you down there, I don't know whether you have time to do it or not, is his certificate for being admitted to the bar. It's hanging there on the wall now. The truth of the matter was, though, that he was an energetic person and while he was reading law, there was a man named Stone here who owned a great deal of land outside of Greenville and he got him to help him sell lots off of this thing and as a result of that, he got into the real estate business.
BRENT GLASS:
Who did he sell the lots to?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Anybody. Just any person that wanted to buy a lot to build a house.
BRENT GLASS:
This is around 1890, right?

Page 8
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
1888 to 1890.
BRENT GLASS:
Were there people starting to move into Greenville?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, you've asked me something there that I couldn't tell you.
BRENT GLASS:
I'm just curious about why this was occurring at this particular time?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, we'll have to go back a little bit on that. There were people, children of families that were able to build a newer house and they bought the lots. The lots themselves were five or six or seven hundred dollars. I mean, it wasn't any great big thing. Father told me very often that Mr. Stone would say, "Alester, I need a little more money." So, he would ask him to sell a lot and he would sell it for five or six or seven hundred dollars and Father would make ten percent or something like that on it. I know that he told me that in 1893 he had a partner named Mr. John F. Mitchell and they divided twelve hundred dollars as their income for that year, six hundred dollars apiece. That was when the big depression came in 1893. Well, as I say, Father started in that and then he started insuring houses by corporate insurance. Of course, around in New England and other places, Philadelphia and all, they used to have these mutual insurance aid things where they just paid so much in and they all had a little plaque on the door saying that they were insured by a mutual insurance company. Then, the corporate insurance companies started up back in those days and he wrote insurance for these people. He was doing that to make money while he was reading law. Well, when he got through reading law and was admitted to the bar, he

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looked around and saw that his father hadn't done very well in the law, there wasn't much law business at that time, so he just decided not to practice law and to stay in the real estate and insurance business. Then, we get into the question of how the industry had to be brought down here because we had so many people living here up in the foothills of the mountains . . . I laugh and say many times that these people who are talking about aristocracy in this country, there wasn't anything like aristocracy. Most of the people who came over here from Europe came because they were getting away from aristocracy, if you want to know the truth of the matter, and some of them had just gotten out of debtor's prison. Whenever they landed on that coast, they went just as far away from that coast as they possibly could and they went back up here in the mountains and they hunted and scratched a little land for a little corn and they lived and built log cabins. You go out in those mountains that you can see from here and they are just full of them. Well, they had no education, they couldn't read or write and they had begun to drift down into communities to try and get a job. So, at the same time, the textile business in New England was having troubles, as most all fully developed industrial areas do have. And some of those textile people realized that here were a bunch of workers that had plenty of common ability but no education and they came down here and started building mills. They all built them on the rivers.
BRENT GLASS:
For power.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
For power. They would build them four stories high, just like they did in New England. They didn't think about the one storey things

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we got today. They built them four stories high and they used direct drive power from water wheels. There were hand run looms for years, people ran them just by hand. They had to build these villages then around textile mills because the people had no place else to live. Around every mill, they built enough houses for the workers to live in.
BRENT GLASS:
Was your father involved in planning these industrial communities?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well no, there wasn't much planning done. I'll have to be fair. But what Father did was, he got very much interested in water power and he developed two water concerns on the Saluda River outside of Greenville and he developed a power plant down outside of Columbia. He sold this one to Duke and sold that one to South Carolina Gas and Electric Company in 1910 and 1912. But going back, he got interested in organizing a group here that would work to get these industries started and he was the first unpaid secretary of the Board of Trade in Greenville, which was what we call the Chamber of Commerce today.
BRENT GLASS:
Where do you think he got the idea for this?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
I don't know where he got it.
BRENT GLASS:
This was happening in other parts of the South . . .
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Oh, yes. It happened everywhere . . .
BRENT GLASS:
I'm interested in knowing how these people . . .
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, of course, that's twenty-five to thirty years after the Civil War and . . . well, for ten years, this country was occupied. It was just occupied by troops. There were troops right here in Greenville. They were trying to protect the slaves, as they called them, from being

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misused or mistreated. Of course, most of those blacks stayed with those families that had treated them decently. If they had been treated decently, they stayed there, there wasn't any question about that. And they called them "Masty" and "Missy" and they were treated just as well before as they were afterwards. Now, of course, you hear about the Simon Legree's and all that, yes, that happened I'm sure. And in many places, where people had begun to use large areas in farming and they had a large group of slaves and those were the people that they had basic trouble with.
BRENT GLASS:
Did your grandfather own slaves?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
My grandfather did not and my great-great-grandfather, Dr. Richard Furman, freed his slaves. I don't remember my great-grandfather, he died four years before I was born, but his wife lived until 1911 and she had two blacks with her that had been slaves since way back there. And they were with her right up until the time she died. The old home is out here, when they moved to Greenville, they bought a home from a man named Green out here and Eugene Stone lives in it now where that Stone Manufacturing Company is located. He's got the biggest sewing operation in the United States, not all here, but in five or seven places.
BRENT GLASS:
Is that any relation to the Stone that your father did business with?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Yes. It was his grandfather.
BRENT GLASS:
What was the name of the man that your father worked with?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
I think his name was Eugene Stone. Now, I could be wrong. He had a son named R.G. Stone who I knew myself, but that's another thing. Memory can do a trick on you.
So really, my father started

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trying to get these different organizations started and building mills.
BRENT GLASS:
Now, when you say "started," how was he involved in it?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, I'll tell you. In the first place, he went to get the land for them. I mean, they had to have land. It's rather interesting to me, because he bought land for concerns to put a mill on. Some foreign, some local. There were some merchants here who had done pretty well and they . . . for instance, Old Man John Woodside was a merchant on Main Street and Mr. F.W. Poe was a merchant and Mr. James H. Morgan was a merchant and they built the Woodside Mill, the F.W. Poe Manufacturing Company and . . . oh, the Morgan mill was named . . . well, they called it the Sampson Mill, but that wasn't it's name. American Spinning Company was its name. That was some, then the Brandon Mill, Father got the land for that and by that time, people wanted a local interest in it. They wanted people to buy a little stock in it and as a result of that, he would go out and sell, get people to subscribe to the stock I'd better say, rather than "selling" it. He went to get them to subscribe to the stock in different companies. In small sums. A hundred dollars to a thousand dollars was a big sum. Then after they operated for awhile, some of them wanted to sell that stock and they would come back here and say, "You got me to buy this, now would you sell it." So, it started him in the stock business. Then, he used to do a great deal in municipal bonds. I laugh about it often now, because a hundred thousand dollar issue of municipal bonds was a big issue. Today, we don't think anything of ten million. [laughter] That's the difference.
BRENT GLASS:
About how much would one of these tracts of land cost?

Page 13
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Oh, not much. Land was very cheap in those days.
BRENT GLASS:
He would buy from a local farmer?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Oh, sure. The farmer was glad to get rid of some of it, mostly.
BRENT GLASS:
Was there any suspicion on the part of people about bringing industry in?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
No.
BRENT GLASS:
No resistence?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
No, no resistence whatsoever.
BRENT GLASS:
They were pleased?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, they would be getting the jobs, all those people coming down from the hills. Incidentally . . . this is really an anecdote that goes back a little in time. While his father was Assistant United States District Attorney, here were these people that would come in who had been drawn for the jury, or some drawn as a witness. Of course, we had legal distilleries here in those days. They had warehousemen and . . . what did they call them? Well, it was the man who tested the strength of the whiskey, whether it was eighty proof, ninety proof and all that. Classer. That's what it was. Warehousemen and classers. But anyway, they would come down here and what transportation did they have? They had nothing but oxen and a mule and they would have to come down here twenty-five or thirty miles from the up part of the county to the court. At that time, the United States Court only had two districts. They had the eastern district in Charleston and the western district in Greenville. Well, the western district was everything in the upper part of the state and all these people had to come in here. Here were these

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people who would come over here and they would get little fees of a dollar for a witness, a dollar a day or whatever it was, small fees. And then Congress never appropriated that money. They didn't have them like they have it today where you can just go in there and they give you a claim. Congress met the first of December every year before what was then the end of the fiscal year and appropriated money to pay these court claims all over the United States. It was a cumbersome thing, but that was the way it was done. Well, here were these people and they had to come and they had no way to get those things to them and if they got them, nobody could cash them. So, Father would discount those things for them. In other words, he'd get ten percent off of them and they were tickled to death to do that because they would have to go thirty miles back up in the country and if they were on the train, they would have to come from over at Gaffney or Spartanburg and Anderson and those places, they didn't pay them to travel, they just paid them witness fees and jury fees. So, he had a little business that was going. That was another thing that kept him from being a lawyer. [laughter] Anyway, that was the way that he started developing these things and then, as I said, he started getting the land to put buildings on, he solicited subscriptions to the stock, for which he got nothing and the only time that he made anything out of that was when they wanted to sell it and he sold it and got a commission and did a little bond business on municipal bonds. Not himself, because he did not have the capital to buy, but he would do it for these big firms in New York and Cincinnati and Chicago that would give him a commission for buying these bonds for them.
BRENT GLASS:
Did he own stock himself in these mills?

Page 15
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Oh, he got very little, he didn't have any money to buy it with. He subsequently owned stock in them but he wasn't in the original doings because he just didn't have any money to buy it with.
BRENT GLASS:
Was he involved in providing machinery for the mills? Did he get involved with that?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, you see, it was the machinery manufacturers who really started these mills, so in those days, there weren't any banks down in this part of the country that could finance anything. He had no basic connection with banks in New York or those kinds of things to do that. So, in his first twenty years or so, he was just working tooth and toenail to make a living, if you want to know the truth about it.
In whatever kind of business there was anything to make it in at that time. I never will forget that in 1907, we had a money panic. I don't know whether you are familiar with that panic or not. At that time, the currency ran out. You see, before the Federal Reserve printed money like they do now . . . God knows, I think that's what is going to fool a lot of people some day, but the money gave out. They had a number of banks in every community, created more banks than they had business to do and so these banks in Greenville, I think there were seven of them, they formed a little clearing house and they deposited with the clearing house in trust their loans and assets. And they issued these little certificates off that thing for currency. The Bankers Trust Company here, the old People's Bank, used to have a picture frame full of those things of different sizes. They were finally retired without any loss to them, but it was just something for people to use for trading. Of course, there was another thing that did in those times, was the fact that

Page 16
farmers only paid up once a year. They paid up when they got their crop and of course, at that time, this was largely an agricultural community. I know that Father was very active in getting a streetcar started here in Greenville and they put a loop around on the western side of town though that industrial area out there and called it the beltline and that was the only transportation that those people had to get into Greenville, the people who worked in the mills. That's what started a lot of mill stores because people had no transportation and the mills would put up a store there so they could go there and get it. Of course, they all got accused of cheating the people because after all, it became a credit situation and I'm sure there were times when the people were mistreated, but they are mistreated now. You don't have to go back to history to find out about that, it is right here around us. But anyhow . . .
BRENT GLASS:
You were telling about the farmers owing . . .
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, they only paid off their debts once a year. They would go to a bank and borrow several hundred dollars to "make a crop" as they expressed it. They had to buy the fertlizer and of course, they had what they called "factors" in those days and they would factor a man on a farm. They would furnish him not only fertlizer, but they would furnish him with money to buy the food for his help on that farm, for his tenants. All of that went into this whole situation and then they would pay off usually when the crop was collected. So, always the fall was the time in this part of the country when the farmers had money. Now, it is amazing because most of them do more trucking business around here. There

Page 17
is no cotton in this county at all now. They used to raise anywhere from fifty to seventy thousand bales of cotton a year in this county and now I don't think there is five hundred bales of cotton raised here.
BRENT GLASS:
Why is that?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, because in this up country it is very difficult to use machinery on cotton, there are two many hills. They go into flat countee where they can use cotton pickers mechanically and all those things. There is a definite reason for that. So farmers . . . well, jumping over to what I was really talking about, you take in 1914 when the First World War started, cotton plummeted from 11¢ down to 4½¢ a pound and many textile mills who had bought futures on cotton at 10½¢ or 11¢ couldn't cover the margin down to 4½¢ and they went out. Sixteen mills at that time, Father was on the board of some. The Brandon Mills where he was on the board had a lot of troubles. Of course, as we went along, as I said, he developed this power plant out here with the help of Lockwood, Greene and Company who were the engineers out of Boston. Mr. Edwin Farnnier Greene was the head of that at that time and the J.E. Sirrine Company came out of that Lockwood, Greene and Company. Mr. Sirrine was the southern representative of Lockwood, Greene and Company and Stephen Greene was the head of it. They have got a firm in Spartanburg now, Lockwood, Greene and Company and it's a branch of the one in Boston and New York.
BRENT GLASS:
That reminds of the fact that Stuart Cramer was the representative of Whitin Machine Works.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
The old Mr. Stuart, Sr.
BRENT GLASS:
Right.

Page 18
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
I knew him, but I knew his son, Stuart Cramer, Jr. very well.
BRENT GLASS:
And D.A. Tompkins was also a representative in the South. That seems to be a pattern . . .
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Oh, yes. You take Kent Swift, who was head of Whitin Machine Works for many years up in Whitinsville, Mass. As a matter of fact, I was sent up there by a couple of banks in New York to buy that mill back in 1947 or '48.Kent Swift was a great friend of everybody in this part of the country. He spent a great deal of time down here, but that was an old antiquated situation right there, I came back and told the banks in New York, "Let me tell you something, that's Kent Swift and nobody else could run that plant but Ken Swift. You know, that has happened to many, many family owned situations. Here these big conglomerates go in and take them over and then the things don't make money. Take the Fuller Brush Company. They used to be one of the big things and what's happened to them: they are in Consolidated Foods and it is trying to liquidate them now. No . . . it is Consolidated Foods that has got Fuller Brush Company, I beg your pardon. Genesco liquidated S.H. Kress and Co. Now, it is just unbelieveable.
BRENT GLASS:
Right, I guess that is sort of a cycle, though. Because originally, they thought that it was wise to merge with these . . .
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Of course they did. They all thought that it was. There is no question of that, but there is a man here now who was a young fellow who went to work for S.H. Kress and Co. here in Greenville named Christopher Trammel and from working starting as a clerk putting up in the stockroom, receiving the stock coming in and putting it up before it goes

Page 19
out on the shelves, Chris Trammel went from there all the way across the United States working for S.H.Kress and Company and was taken back to New York and made president of it for about fifteen years. When they went into Genesco, he resigned and moved back to Greenville and he's living here now. One of the nicest fellows that you ever saw in your life. Well, let me get back to this other side, because I have digressed too much. When Father got to trying to get industry in here and getting people to subscribe to the stock, in the meantime, that brought in the insurance that he was able to write after they were located and then the stock began to turn into the stock business and he did a little municipal bond business for other people. And he promised me that if I would go to college, I didn't want to go to college . . . a great many of my friends went one year and quit and went to work and I told Father that he quit and went to work, but he was just determined that I would go through. Well, I went through but I don't know that I really got as much out of that as I should have.
BRENT GLASS:
You went to Furman?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Yes. And then he promised me that I would go to Harvard Law School if I would finish college. Well, when I got through in 1914, we were all broke again and I've told this often because it is true, I couldn't have got into Harvard Law School. I never applied, but I know that I couldn't have on my record, I couldn't have done it.
BRENT GLASS:
What were your college years like?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Oh, I loved athletics and loved to dance and just would do as little as I possibly could. I laugh and say that if it hadn't been for father paying the tuition over there, they would have gotten me out in a hurry. [laughter]
BRENT GLASS:
There wasn't much dancing at Furman.

Page 20
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, there wasn't, but I was a member of all the dance clubs at Clemson. Grandfather was over there teaching, you see, and I would go over and stay at his house and go to all the dances there and there were all the dances in Greenville and all. Well, there was always a lot of the student body at Furman University that was dancing.
BRENT GLASS:
Yes, just not on the campus.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Just not on the campus, that's right. I was on the Board of Trustees when we opened it up for dancing on the campus and at that, the students didn't care, didn't want it. All they wanted to do was fuss when they didn't have it. [laughter]
BRENT GLASS:
That's human nature.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, the thing interested me all during that time because I was president of the Board of Trustees all during the time that we were making this move. Oh, I got letters, you would be surprised how many letters I got from people telling what a terrible thing I was doing. I wasn't doing it, but I was a symbol of the Board of Trustees that was doing it and I was getting all the flak. They would say, "Oh, that is terrible, these buildings over here are holy ground and it shouldn't move." I said, "Well, my great-grandfather moved it from Winsboro up here and I believe that he would be willing to go to a better place and better equipped." You've been out there and seen it so you know what we've got out there. Well, it's the best planned campus, frankly, that I ever saw.
BRENT GLASS:
It's beautiful.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
And we worked on it six years planning it. Not building it, it took years to build it, but we worked six years . . . John Plyler was

Page 21
president then, there's his picture up there, the top picture right there. Well, anyhow, oh, I got all kinds of letters for every breed that you ever heard of. But going back, I had a lot of fun about dancing, because I danced all my life and my wife and myself always have. My mother and father never danced and neither did her father and mother, they were just another generation, you know. I laughed, back in 1955 we were having the same flap about dancing in the Baptist Convention down in Charleston and as I said . . .
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
I was digressing a little bit from the real story, but this is an anecdote that comes into it . . . I was down at that convention in Charleston and I was walking across from the old Citadel Square Baptist Church to the Francis Marion Hotel one day at lunch and I saw a young crowd standing in front of the door of the hotel and one fellow was in the middle of them and he was just hammering away and talking about the evils of dancing. I stopped and I listened a minute and he caught his breath and I said, "Pardon me just a minute, but tell me what is wrong with dancing." "Why," he says, "they dance in houses of ill fame." I said, "I'll take your word for that, I've never been in one." [laughter] You ought to have seen those other ministers leave, it was just like a covey of birds. [laughter] Well, let's go back to what I was talking about with Father. I went to work when the war came along in 1914 and of course, everything went down to the bottom again here and my father just said for me to come in here to the office and I went in there and worked with him and I hadn't been in there but about three weeks when he told me to look after a building on Main Street that he had been looking after since 1904.

Page 22
I went up there to look after it and there was some old janitor that wasn't doing a thing in the world about cleaning it up right and I told him to clean it up and the next day I went back up there and they hadn't done a thing and he said that Mr. Cutinoe, who was my father's bookkeeper had said to do something else and I like a young fellow . . . I was only nineteen years old . . . he said, "Well, Mr. Cutinoe told me to do something else"and I said, "Well, Mr. Cutinoe is not running this building now, I'm running it." I was out soliciting a little insurance and some other things and I got back to the office and Father handed me the keys to the safe and he said, "Mr. Cutinoe quit, you're the bookkeeper." Well, I had taken a little simple bookkeeping course in the summer which my father had insisted on me doing while I was in college. It was just a simple course, but I knew enough about bookkeeping and I took it over right then. I used to have a lot of fun, I would work during the day soliciting business and I would go and see my girl . . . we've now been married fifty-nine years and I would go to see her at night and I would have to leave at ten-thirty because her father and mother insisted that ten-thirty was late enough and I would go back down to the office and work until about one o'clock keeping books and be back down there the next morning at eight to get started, but that was the only way I could . . . I had to moonlight, that's what I called it. That's what they are doing today and it's no different from a lot of people today. You just have to do that kind of thing. I left out one thing that I ought to have told you, though. In 1907 when that panic came, there was a gentleman from Spartanburg, I won't call his name, he's long dead, but he used to buy bonds also and he would come over here sometimes to Father and say, "Furman

Page 23
we'd better get our people together and buy this bunch of bonds here," and they would maybe make a joint bid on them together. He worked pretty well in the South, he was over in Atlanta, this fellow was, from Spartanburg. He had a trigger mind, a mind that was just like a computer. If you know anything about buying bonds, you know that it's the net yield on those bonds that you have to figure on and you can figure them with a premium and an interest rate and between the two of them, you can show that the net yield is so much and the lowest one is the one that usually gets the bond. He could figure them quicker than anybody you ever saw. He had no computer, just a pencil. He got over there and he got on some bonds and he said, "I'm the low bidder," and the governor of Georgia disputed him, and he got up and slapped the governor's face and he and the governor had quite a ruckus about it. Well, he came over here some weeks after that and there was no place in Greenville where you could take any person for lunch, or dinner, as we called it in the middle of the day at that time, and Father would bring them down home, we always had a place where another one could sit at the table. While he was down there, he told about this incident in Atlanta and he said to my father, he said, "Furman, you know I'm honest." After he left, my father said, "Son, I want to tell you something, any time a man ever tells you he's honest, you'd better watch him." [laughter] You know, I never forgot that.
BRENT GLASS:
That's a good point because why would someone have to say they are honest if they are?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, it's what you do that shows whether you're honest or not. So anyhow, that was instilled in me way back there, if you've made a mistake just say so and say it right there, the quicker you say it, the

Page 24
easier it is. Well, we were doing pretty well in 1915 . . .
BRENT GLASS:
I was going to ask, you said that the business was pretty bad in 1914, but it picked up after the war got going?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Yes, by '15 we had begun to do quite a little business for the time. I said to my girl at the time, "I believe that I'm making enough now that we can get married." I was making a little under $175 a month and so, we were married in 1916.
BRENT GLASS:
What was your wife's maiden name?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Janie Earle. Her family was the Earle family that came into South Carolina from Virginia and owned a lot of property up around Tryon and Landrum and all that area. I don't know if you've ever been in that part of the country, have you?
BRENT GLASS:
No.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, the old home place up there is known as the Four Columns. Oh, a man from Chicago owns it now, but it was her great-grandfather's home and is a beautiful place. Her father was a general practioner, a doctor for many years. His brother, his younger brother is over at Clemson College now . . . all of them are graduates from Furman University, but Sam Earle was a graduate and went to Cornell and he is a professor of engineering at Clemson and he's ninety-eight years old today and he's over there right now, not teaching of course, but he's got a building named for him and he's living in that hotel over there, that apartment house. Dr. Earl was a great man and one of the greatest engineering professors that I know of anywhere. Anyway, her mother's family were Gilreaths.
BRENT GLASS:
And what was your mother's maiden name?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
My mother was a Hoyt. Her father was wounded in the Battle of Manassas and walked on a crutch for the rest of his life and he was a newspaper man. As a matter of fact, when he died in 1904, I was nine years

Page 25
old, he was printing a weekly newspaper here at that time which he owned.
BRENT GLASS:
What was that called?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
The Mountaineer. His two employees, the printers, one of them was Mr. B.H. Peace and the other was Jones Peace, his brother. B.H. Peace is the man, his family, finally got the Greenville News and Piedmont and his grandchildren now own a great large part of that Multimedia Inc. company. B.H.Peace, their grandfather, was a great friend of mine. I used to go in there as a little boy and count newspapers for what they called an exchange. You know, other newspapers would send them a newspaper and you would send them yours and if there was something in yours that they wanted to clip and use; they didn't hesitate to clip it and use it and vice-versa. I used to count them out, lay the sheets out, roll them up and tie them with a string around them and sell them to the Negroes for ten cents a roll to paper the inside of their house with. Their houses were just like tissue paper, the wind would just blow through them and that was the best insulation you could put on.
BRENT GLASS:
Newsprint?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Yes, and they were much thicker than they are now. But anyhow, that was my grandfather, he lived next door to us and he was quite an old gentleman.
BRENT GLASS:
What was his first name?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
James A. Hoyt, James Alfred Hoyt.
BRENT GLASS:
Are there any other childhood memories that come to mind, anybody who you were close friends with, that you have kept up the friendships over the years?

Page 26
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Oh yes, I've got one right next door to me here now, who was a boyhood friend of mine, W.H. Beattie, whose family were bankers here and with textile mills. His last job was president of Woodside Mill, it was sold to Dan River.
BRENT GLASS:
And you were boyhood friends?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Oh, yes. He's living right next door to me right now. Of course, most of my boyhood friends are dead.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, did you go to a public school?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Oh, yes. I went to . . . well, that's an interesting thing, if you ask about friends and all. I went to public school through the fifth grade and then I was taken out of public school and most of my friends, their families had money, we didn't. And they went to prep schools in Virginia largely, Staunton Military Academy, Woodbury Forest, Episcopal High School and incidentally, all of those schools are still running right now. Bill Beattie went to Woodbury and then he went to Furman for two or three years and came back and then he went to Cornell until the First World War broke out and then he left Cornell and went in the army. Melville C. Westervell, his father was president of the Brandon Mills here and he was best man at my wedding. His father came up from Charleston and ran a little Pelham mill down here, a little yarn mill. My father helped him develop the Brandon Mills and Father was on the board there and had a little stock in it, it was big to him then but it's little now. Then they built the Westervell Mill which is now the Judson Mill, which is owned by Deering Millikin Company. The Brandon Mill is owned by Abney Mills. Of [unknown] course, I used to play baseball in the summer with the mill boys while working in the mill. You were supposed to get a job working and you'd do

Page 27
a little sweeping.
BRENT GLASS:
Now what mill was this that you worked in?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
I worked in Brandon Mills and I worked in Monaghan Mill and I played baseball at all of them. We used to have good baseball in these mills here. I played college baseball. Of course, I couldn't play baseball for money so I had to get a job working for them to play baseball with them and I did that. I wasn't any great baseball player, don't misunderstand me, I was just an ordinary outfielder.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, that's about as far as I got in baseball.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, I had a lot of fun with it, of course.
BRENT GLASS:
These mill communities never became part of the city, did they?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, parts of them did.
BRENT GLASS:
Oh, eventually maybe.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
I want to bring that up, as I got back . . . I went to the First World War and when I got back, Father had accrued quite a little business. I had gone into it at nineteen and I was now twenty-four. I said, "Father, we've got to do more than a one-man job around here." We started underwriting stocks in these mills. That is, when they wanted to build, like the Southern Worsted Company, we underwrote a million dollars of preferred stock and sold it, some common stock. The Judson Mills, the Dunean Mills. We did a good deal of underwriting because we made a connection where we could finance it with the Chemical Bank in New York and my old firm has got an account there now, it has ever since 1919. I had great friends up there and made quite a lot of friends in the First

Page 28
World War who then went to New York. J. Boone Aikens, [Phone ringing] . . . he owns the Security Bank and Trust Company down there and Furman University is going to give him an honorary degree next Tuesday. He went there two years, quit and went to work and married a wonderful woman. She was a student at the woman's college here and they've got a fine family scattered all over the place and he just gave his children a million dollars.
BRENT GLASS:
Quite a nice gift. [laughter]
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Gave each one of them, I think, around $50,000 apiece. That's what I keep telling him . . . I laugh and . . . talk about anecdotes, I never will forget that I used to do a lot of business with him. I started him in the mortgage loan business when we got the Prudential Insurance Company account in 1919 and he was my subman down in Florence. We made mortgage loans all over the state. That's what I started to tell you about, when I got back, I said, "Father, we've got to do more than what we are doing." So, I got the account of the Prudential for all but one city in South Carolina and we loaned money all over. Father had been making mortgage loans for years for his friends in Charleston, bankers and lawyers down there. Lawyers were the executors of estates, very often like the old Boston trustees and he used to make a lot of loans for them. Well, I got this Prudential account and we did a lot of business with them. Then we developed the security business, mainly because the mills then were beginning to look for more capital to enlarge. We got involved in that and of course, that took us on into other types of investment. Now my son, when he took over and I retired fifteen years ago, he had been there and had been made president of the company and I decided to get out

Page 29
his way, if you want to know the lock, stock and barrel of it. I was talking to this man and he said that he was afraid to quit because he was afraid that he might die. I said, "Well, as long as you make J. B. Aiken Jr. president, you can stay there and work as hard as you want." He's coming up here and I'm going to give him a dinner next Tuesday night at the Poinsett Club for about forty people. He phoned while I was at the doctor's this morning and they took it down here and we've got a Clarendon Avenue in Greenville and he gave the man his name and said Clarendon Avenue. I said that I couldn't invite anybody in Greenville more than I've invited. I haven't invited anybody but Dr. Blackwell and the man who wrote the book . . . you see, this man put up the money to publish that book, which I was very happy for him to do it. He has been a friend of mine since 1908 and he's quite a character, I'll tell you that now. Very determined . . . well, I didn't mean to do that, let me go back to the other. When we started after the World War, the First World War, we started out to enlarge and we brought in two other men and we began to develop the business in an entirely different way from what my father had run it as a personal situation.
BRENT GLASS:
Were you now a company?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
No, we were a partnership, we brought them in as a partnership. In fact, we didn't become a company until 1952 . . . I think it was '52 before we incorporated. We dissolved the partnership then and it left so much capital in there . . . when I got out, I got out entirely. I don't own a nickel in it. I gave the people in there the biggest part of it because the insurance business had a great value to it

Page 30
which we didn't figure in book value. I gave them that. Those boys in there . . . two of them went out and made their names. My friends Arthur McCall and Harold Gaddy are both worth over a million dollars. McCall has since $500,000 to three institutions.
BRENT GLASS:
What was the other fellow's name?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Gaddy. Harold is one of the finest people that I ever knew, but he never gave a soul a damn cent. [laughter] He's like other friends, they think that they've got a pocket in the shroud and they are going to take it with them. Frankly, it has been my experience that those people who are generous with their finances to good causes, whatever they may be, never have to worry about things coming back. I never gave a cent in my life that I didn't get something back the next year from somewhere where I was least expecting it. Now, you can say that's whatever you want, but I just experienced it.
BRENT GLASS:
How did your father react to your coming back and saying, "We've got to make some changes."
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, Father said onetime, "We don't have enough business to divide up with other people." I said, "I tell you, if they don't produce, they don't stay." That's when I took over and of course, when '32 came along, it was right down to the bottom again in this country and it was really tough. I had against my father's judgement . . . he was probably right, although I don't know, I think that maybe I got something out of it, but they asked me to help try to save a bank, the People's State Bank, and I worked like a dog in that thing for nearly two and a half years and at one time, I thought that we had it on the road and then they found a false statement of somebody that had given it to them, the man was in the bank, and that wiped out a good deal of what we had been able to build

Page 31
up but finally, it had to close. But we paid that bank down from the time I went in there, from $44 million, which doesn't sound like a big sum today, but it was as big a bank as there was in South Carolina . . . [Phone ringing] . . . And banks went out just all over the whole state. So, we paid that bank down from $44 million to $11 million, which is unbelieveable, if you want to know the truth about it. Of that $11 million, $4 million was secured, it was state and county and city deposits that had bonds up as securities for it. But it finally went down and we liquidated. Gosh, when I think about it, we had federal and bank bonds in there that were liquidated by a New York bank that they had borrowed money for. There was $2 million of them and they were sold for $1 million in 1932, which is a million dollars out of that $7 million gone and in less than six months, those bonds were back to par.
BRENT GLASS:
I would like to backtrack for just a second back to the twenties.
There was a cotton depression in 1921, wasn't there?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, there was a . . .
BRENT GLASS:
Not a depression, perhaps.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Not a depression, no, but in May of 1920, we had begun to feel a real depression coming in. I mean, business was getting poor. The textile business was getting poor and all that kind of business. Then, it picked up after '21, '22 and began to get back on its feet again. The textile business has always been a sick business. It does this way always. That's the reason that the textile business has no business having a lot of debt. It's got no business having any debt at all. When you get them expanding on equity, financing . . . well, it just shouldn't be that

Page 32
way.
BRENT GLASS:
Did the discussion ever come up in these early years of perhaps a city like Greenville, or the South in general, becoming too dependent on one industry?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well of course, there was a lot of discussion and of course, it's only changed in the last few years as we have had a tremendous influx of other industries in here. As a matter of fact, I was on the board of a good many textile mills at one time. I'm on the board of one now, which is a little mill up in North Carolina that I pulled out of the Depression in 1939 and rehabilitated it and the man who I got to go there and run it for us, Mr. A.G. Heinsohn, Jr., is now my age and we'll be 81 our next birthdays and . . .
BRENT GLASS:
Where is that?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Spindale, North Carolina. Charlie Reynolds is the head of it now, an able boy . . . man, I should say. I call him a boy because he worked there when he was very young. They thanked me the other day in a board meeting because they had plenty of money and wanted to buy another mill and I said, "That's the worst thing that we could ever do. This is no time to buy anything, keep that money in the bank." As a result of that, we have been in fine financial shape and we can continue to pay our dividends to the stockholders. Not only that, we kept people on payrolls and kept it running when we couldn't have done it, and that's what textile mills ought to all do. No question about that. But going back to the twenties, you were talking about that, we had a pretty good boom . . . well, I wouldn't call it a boom, but we had a good business atmosphere here from '22 until about '28. Then, this thing started going, the stock market had gone clear out of the world and then in April of

Page 33
1929, I just said to my father, "This is time for us to get out, get out of everything." He didn't like it, he was never a speculator, but he liked to buy things and he liked to stay with them. We stayed with them and we saw stuff that was worth $100 a share go down to $10. That's the kind of thing that happened and after a while, it gets kind of low in the box, you know. Well anyway, it was a very, very difficult period, there's no question about that. So, we started out again right after that and it wasn't long before we helped build these mills, we helped finance these mills and I came to the conclusion that this was the time to sell those houses in those mills. It would make better help because they would be homeowners, they would have an interest in it. I finally persuaded the Judson Mills to sell their houses in '39.
BRENT GLASS:
At this point, you were maybe on the board of directors of this?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
No, I wasn't on the board of directors of Judson.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, what kind of influence could you have to . . .
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, the influence was simply an economic influence. They needed new machinery and instead of selling more stock or borrowing more money, if they would sell those houses and finance it, they would have money to put in new machinery.
BRENT GLASS:
I see. So, you made the suggestion to them?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
I sold it to Mr. Milliken, Roger Milliken's father. He's the man that I first started working with and we sold the houses at Judson No. 2, sold them cheap and immediately, those owners begun to fix those places up instead of acting like a tenant and tearing them apart, they would go in there and paint them and they put a lot of these

Page 34
asbestos shingles on the outside and it made them look like different houses. Then, of course, along came the Second World War pretty soon after that and the textile business got good. They were selling like nobody's business and then after the war, we started again.
I'll never forget, one day I was going to New York on the Southern Railway out here, in the late forties, and my friend, Bob Stevens, who was the head of J.P. Stevens and Company for many year . . . and I had a room on that train and he didn't have any reservations. I said, "Bob, come on in here and stay with me." So, he did. We were in the First World War together at a training camp at Louisville, Kentucky, Zachary Taylor, they called it, Camp Taylor. We were passing by a little mill over there that was part of the J.P. Stevens group, they had begun to merge all these mills into J.P. Stevens corporation and my father was on the board, and I said, "Bob, when are you going to sell those houses?" He said, "Oh, we never will sell them. We never sell houses. I'm not going to run a mill without houses." I said, "Why?" "Well," he said, "we want to control the type of people that are in those houses." I said, "Bob, I want to tell you something, so you remember this. It's not a question of ‘if’ you are going to sell those houses. The question is, ‘when.’ Because you are going to sell them." But we went ahead and were selling other houses. I think that we sold . . . I can't remember it, but there were some 4700 houses sold for the Stevens Company before we quit.
BRENT GLASS:
You acted as agent?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Oh, we sold from Alabama to Virginia and sold those houses and the agent of those mills. We would go in there, appraise them, set

Page 35
them up, finance them and work it out. Some of the mills would rather finance them themselves, they didn't need the money. They would just invest it, we were doing them with FHA on a great many of them.
BRENT GLASS:
Yet, there are some villages that are still owned.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Just a few. Cannon has a good many that he hasn't sold yet. We sold some houses for Cannon, my son has, I haven't. We sold some for them and as I say, we sold for mills all through, from Virginia all the way down to Alabama.
BRENT GLASS:
Was there ever a company named Draper?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
The Draper Corporation?
BRENT GLASS:
Yes.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
It was a weaving company.
BRENT GLASS:
No, I'm talking about another company that designed mills and . . .
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Oh, you are talking about the architect. I don't think that he sold any houses.
BRENT GLASS:
No, but did he do any designing of mills and mill villages?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Not that I know of. There wasn't any real designing of mill villages. They would just have a standard house and would just build them.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, I came across a book that B.A. Tompkins had, a real old one, in which he has all these plans for houses and specifications and all this. A whole chapter of the books was . . .
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, that was a good thing to do.
BRENT GLASS:
I don't know how much it was followed.

Page 36
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, I don't know either, to tell you the truth. The last houses built were . . . well, there weren't many houses built after the Second World War.
BRENT GLASS:
By the companies.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
By the companies.
BRENT GLASS:
Was your father friends with any of these people like Tompkins or old Stuart Cramer?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Oh, yes. He knew them all. You say "friendly," and I'll tell you, frankly, I don't know. I know that there wasn't animosity, let's put it that way. Of course, the ones around here in South Carolina were . . . you're talking about North Carolina, right?
BRENT GLASS:
Right.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Now, Stuart Cramer, Jr., who I knew . . . he was a member of the Augusta National Golf Club with me for many years. His wife, his widow, married a fellow named Maury Smith and I think Stuart went to the Military Academy. I mean, to West Point . . . but her sons . . . she was a Scott, her father was the president of the First National Bank of Charlotte and she is one of the nicest people that you ever saw. They are living up at Linville in the summer and they lived down at Mountain Lake in Florida in the winter.
BRENT GLASS:
While we are on the textile industry, let me ask a few questions that have come to my mind as I have been studying this. One was this idea that these mills were very much in competition with each other. They were all very small, I know, in North Carolina and in South Carolina. Was there ever a realization that "maybe we are sort of beating each other over the head?"

Page 37
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, let me tell you, I was a member of the Merchants Club in New York on Thomas Street, which was the luncheon club for textile people and I kept a membership there for many years because I was in New York for every two weeks or three weeks every month. I used to go around to all these selling agents up there because frankly, I got a great deal of information about what was going on and not only that, did a lot of business with them in their stocks, their individual concerns and at the same time, I was lending money for the Prudential Insurance Company. Well, the heads of those selling houses up there were rather interesting. There were many of them and I went in there once when one of them was saying, "Well, if it wasn't for that So-and-So over there of Spring Mills cutting the price, we would just be fixed." And I would go over to Spring Mills and he would say the same thing about the fellow that I just left. [laughter] Of course, I never said a word to either one of them about what they did, but they all were guilty. There was the Cone Export and Commission Company, there was the Springs crowd, there was J.P. Stevens crowd, there was the Milliken crowd, there was Southeastern Cottons, Cannon had his own business up there, our friend from West Point down there, they had a southern group up there . . .
BRENT GLASS:
There were some smaller ones, too, that were individual.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Oh, yes. A lot of them. Of course, when I got into this Spindale thing, we put in our own selling house in New York. Instead of paying a 6% selling commission for selling those fancy goods we made, it cost us 1½%. It made a lot of difference about a real profit, we've had a more profitable experience with that on selling those goods. But all

Page 38
of them would blame the others for everything. I never will forget, in '37 or '38, I had . . . we had financed the Southern Worsted Company out here for a man named . . . well, there goes my memory again. Anyway, we had gotten a little of the common stock, we'd sold $600,000 of the preferred stock and it was on the P&N Railroad and Mr. Duke used to use the Judson Mills, of which he was the largest owner, he used to use it as really a holding company for investment money and things that would help his P&N Railroad. He had a lot of common stock in that mill at that time and the man who developed it, I can't think of his name at the moment, I know it as well as I know my own, but anyway, he sold it to Herbert L. Lawton and Company, or his estate sold it to Herbert L. Lawton and Company and they did what so many of these corporations have done when they bought a sound property: they took the money out. The first thing that you knew, the stock was in default and so, we had to go into court, the only time that I ever brought a case in my life. We had to go into court under an act in South Carolina, I think that it's still there but I've never seen it lately, it says that if . . . you can demand an accounting with the management and if it is being run to the benefit of one group of stockholders or one of the selling house against the stockholders, you can demand . . . you can ask the court to liquidate it. And the court may liquidate it. It didn't say that it had to liquidate it, but it said "may liquidate it." We brought a case and I got Mr. Milliken, Gerrish Milliken, he bought Judson Mills and he had all this stock over there and I tried to get him to go with us and make a combination and get us a new treasurer in there. That's what we needed.

Page 39
The manufacturing was going all right, but get a new treasurer and take that selling house out of there because that selling house, if the volume of the mill went down, they raised their commissions and if the volume came up again, they would lower their commissions. So, they had a straight line and made just so much money a year out of the sale of that thing and it was absolutely dishonest. So, I tried to get Mr. Milliken to do and his man who was running Judson Mills here was a man named Winchester and he was a nice big old fatassed fellow, if you want to know the truth about it. He didn't want to disturb anything much and he wouldn't do it. So, to make a long story short, I happened to have been asked to join a group of textile people and finance people of textile mills and machinery people at the Biltmore Forest Country Club the first week of October every year. We celebrated our fifty-second year up there this year in October.
BRENT GLASS:
Where is this located?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Biltmore Forest Country Club in Asheville and Mr. J.E. Sirine was one of the organizers [unknown] Ridley Watts was the selling agent in New York and Mr. Beattiewas the head of the Piedmont Manufacturing Company here and they are the ones that really started it. Bob Stevens came in later, but anyhow, Mr. Milliken wouldn't go along on that deal so we brought it to court and we got into court and and the court ordered that the thing be liquidated. Well, that fellow just came right in and made us a proposition to pay 100¢ on the dollar on the preferred stock. They cheated us out of the dividends that hadn't been paid . . . well, they didn't cheat us out of it, I just didn't

Page 40
have guts enough to say, "You've got to pay me all that, too." If I had known what I know now, I would have done it. But we got the principal back and we took a note for it, just put it on a note basis instead of a stock basis, but as a result of that, Mr. Milliken . . . and I've got to ask this of Mr. Milliken, I haven't said a word since I talked to him about it, he told me that I shouldn't have brought this suit. So, Mr. Sirine put me with him as a partner at the golf tournament. Well, I played pretty good golf back then and I went to Mr. Sirrine and said, "Mr. Sirine Mr. Milliken don't want to play golf with me, he's not one of my close friends." [laughter] He said, "I want you and Gerry to know each other better." I said, "It's all right with me, don't worry about that." I went out there and played the best golf that I'd played in a long time that day and here, Mr. Milliken and myself won that thing. They had quite a little tournament. Mr. Milliken warmed up to me considerably and he said to me, "Come up to my room, I've got some Plymouth gin up there that I think you will enjoy." Well, I went up there. He said, "You know, we ought to settle that case down there about Lawton and that thing." I said, "Mr. Milliken, we've already won that case, you didn't know it? Your people didn't tell you that?" He said, "Well, you've just got to come to New York and when you do, you've got to come in there and have lunch with me. I want to talk to you." I said, "I'll be delighted." So, the next time that I went up there, I went in there, it was down on Leonard Street and in those days, they had what you called a store and they had all these samples laying out on flat top tables and they had little lights on the end of a string hanging down there and they all were turned out. I walked in there about twelve

Page 41
o'clock one day and he had a man named Rossi that was his secretary and I said, "I'd like to see Mr. Milliken." He said, "I'm very sorry, Mr. Milliken is in a meeting at the Merchants Association and he won't be available today." I said, "Thank you, sir. Here's my card. He asked me to come in to see him." He said, "Oh, I think that Mr. Milliken would like to see you." You know how those damn secretaries do, they always make you so mad. So, about then, Mr. Milliken walked in. He said, "Oh, Al, I'm so glad to see you. Come on and have lunch with me at the Merchants Club." At that time, they were up on Broadway on the top floor of 325. I joined it right after this thing which was in '39. Well, anyhow . . .
BRENT GLASS:
This lunch with Mr. Milliken was in '39.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
So, I went up there and we had lunch and I said, "Mr. Milliken, you are building a new building down on Leonard and Church . . . " they are uptown now, but this was where they were building a new building. Roger hadn't come into the picture yet, Roger is an able man and his father was an able man except for this: he had a bad fault of supporting anybody he hired whether they turned out good or not. So, to make a long story short, I had lunch with him and we had a long one and we sat and talked a lot and I said, "Mr. Milliken, are you going to take those termites with you from that store down there?"
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

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BRENT GLASS:
Mr. Furman, I wondered if you could tell me anything about the origins of the Textile Exposition. That was in the twenties, wasn't it?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
'16 was the first one and it was held in the Piedmont Northern Railroad warehouse, which had just been built there and it was an empty building and of course, it was a very minor thing but they had such success with it because the machinery manufacturers and the suppliers of materials and things for the textile industry took it up and of course, after that, it had to suspend during the war, during the First World War. And then they started again soon after the war. I think that it was '20, I could be wrong in that, it might be '19, but they can tell you out at the Textile Hall. From then on, it was every other year.
BRENT GLASS:
Who was involved in getting that started?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, there were a bunch of men here in Greenville and Greenville was the center then of machinery representatives representing machinery manufacturers and they were primarily the ones. Of course, a lot of the textile mills and all got interested in it and it went on. You can find more from them, they can give you that out there. Old Pete Hollis, he's 91 years old now and he's a great friend of mine.
BRENT GLASS:
Yes, I think that I should interview him also.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
I think that you ought to sometime, because he did a lot. He did this, and I'll leave it to him to tell you about it. He did the first social work, if I may put it that way, in textile mills that I ever

Page 43
heard of. He started the YMCA at the Monaghan Mill out here with Mr. Thomas F. Parker who was the president of it, not the man whose house we were in today, that was Louis W. Parker. Thomas F. Parker was a distant cousin of his, but he came here from Philadelphia and built the Monaghan Mill and I could have shown it to you while we were there, it was just that whole block was his home and he had a home sitting right in the middle of it and the whole block was Parker's home, a beautiful place.
BRENT GLASS:
And his first name was . . .
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Thomas. Thomas F. Parker. And he took Pete Hollis and he started a YMCA out at the Monaghan Mill and from that, he developed their basketball interests out there and all kinds of physical things as well as a very fine character building organization. And then I never will forget, when they started the . . . each village had its own school and they just operated themselves and he conceived the idea of putting together all those outside of the city of Greenville school districts into what they called the Parker School District. And he became principal, I guess that was the old word they used, of the Parker High School. They didn't have a high school out there before.
BRENT GLASS:
When was this?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, it was in the twenties. Then he developed quite a manual-training program there. He had a loom in there running and spinning frames to teach them about the textile business. You would be amazed, but a great many of the textile men at that time were opposed to it because it was going to cost them more taxes.
BRENT GLASS:
This was being paid for out of tax money?

Page 44
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
They organized the Parker School District and it had to be taxed.
BRENT GLASS:
But in other words, the mills themselves were running the school?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
No, no. It was the Parker School District and they had their own trustees and all that, but they had tax power over those mills and you know, people don't like that, whether it's good or bad, it takes them a long time to understand it. Now, a lot of them finally came around to the position that it did more for the city of Greenville, or as much for the city of Greenville, as practically anything that was done.

Page 45
And the reason being that those people were isolated from the city of Greenville people and as matter of fact, you could tell them when you saw them on Main Street.
BRENT GLASS:
How was that?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, it was just the look in the face, and afterwards, we got so many fine, fine people out of those mills, fine men that went to college and came back and did work in the mills themselves and became overseers or superintendents. The old superintendents were just the boss of the land and it wasn't good for the whole thing. All that took time. That's what I said to you awhile ago, these changes just can't take place overnight.
BRENT GLASS:
I guess that brings up a question that I was thinking about, among many others. One was, did Greenville experience some of the labor troubles that Gastonia or Marion did during that time, and if not, why not?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, I can tell you exactly why not, because by that time, that Parker School District had been running and those people were intelligent and they knew this, nobody could ever debate or argue that a group of people can't form an association . . . you can call it a union or you can call it anything else, for their own benefit. But the trouble was, and it's the trouble with the union situation today, the top men in the union are the ones that get all the money and they have to pull a strike every now and then to make it go. If everything went along smooth, you wouldn't have any members, because "what's the use of me paying dues, I'm not having any trouble." Now, that's the whole secret of that thing and very frankly, . . . I try not to say that I did this

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and I did that in this whole situation, I just . . . of course, we sold a great many mills in toto from one group of stockholders to another. Brandon Mill was one that I did right after I came out of the First World War. And I sold that to the Woodward Baldwin Company, and we started doing a great deal of that type of work. Sold a good many mills. I told you that I sold Harry Kendal of Kendal Mills. Well, his company has gone out of business now, but he was the man who started the gauze business in the First World War . . . Harry Kendall, Kendall Mills and I sold him two mills in Newbury and I went fishing with him up in Maine and I've got the pictures right there now when I went there with him. That's where I got around a lot, you know. If you get around and meet people, you get a lot of other things coming on with it.
BRENT GLASS:
Did these mills have trouble with labor organizations?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
No, we never had any trouble with labor.
BRENT GLASS:
The ones around here, in Greenville?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
As a matter of fact, even today, we don't have a labor union in any one of these mills around here today.
BRENT GLASS:
And you feel that it's basically because of the feeling . . .
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Basically, it was just this: be sure and tell those people exactly the facts about what they are doing, not try to hide anything and not try to cover up something, but the relationship between the stockholders, the representatives being the officers and the mills was always a cordial thing. I don't mean that they didn't have some problem, I don't mean that there wasn't a dissident in there that wanted to change this or that and of course, unions would come by and they would pay somebody and they would send in an organizer or they would pay some people in the mill

Page 47
to try to get other people to sign up, but we never lost an election. We had quite a few elections, but never lost an election around here. You take the Stevens Mill . . . of course, we've got several Stevens Mills around here, they've had three or four elections here, but the union's never won. They won up yonder in North Carolina last year, but it never has . . . I never will forget one time that down at Greenwood, with the Self Mills down there. Mr. J.C. Self, father of the present Jim Self, was a good friend of mine and we sold all those beautiful houses of his down there and he had beautiful brick houses. He just went all out to take care of his people. One time, there was a fellow . . . he had a gateman down there on a gate and he and Mr. Self had been boyhood friends down about fifteen miles below Greenwood and the unions were trying to organize Mr. Self, trying to organize the mills. They came in and they said to this fellow, "Why don't you sign up?" The fellow say, "I'll tell you. If you'll get Mr. Self to sign up, I'll sign up." [laughter] They didn't know that that fellow was sitting out there all that time getting information for Mr. Self. It wasn't covert information, the fellow was just out there listening to whatever was going on. Well, they always worked right around the gate, you could always tell that. That was the time they finally . . . in '34, we had what they called the flying squadrons that came through.
BRENT GLASS:
Did they come through Greenville.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Oh yes. They came through here and they had to call out the militia all over the state. I know that I was at that time on the board of Woodside Mill and I was on the board at the time that they went into Dan River as a matter of fact, but anyway, the man who was the

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treasurer of Woodside Mills . . . of course, Woodside had gotten into financial difficulties and they had to be worked out and they sent a man down, Ellis M. Johnston, who was a brother of Percy Johnston, who was chairman of the Chemical Bank. Now, Percy Johnston had nothing to do with sending his brother down here, because he was in India at that time and Ellis had been up at Bridgeport Brass as a kind of a . . . not a legal receiver but he was doing the same kind of thing down here. He was coming down to straighten out the finances, you know, of a mill. Anyway, he was a great friend of mine and I went out when they . . . they had a little group of mill boys, mostly, in the militia. This was the Chester Company, came over here from Chester and a boy named Cork was the captain of it and he had them deployed around that mill out there. It was a great big mill, that Woodside Mill was and it is now. They were meeting down in a park across the street and they were haranguing them and they got the American flag out and they started up there. The mill officials had made all the people in the mill put down the picket sticks and guns and knives and everything else and deposit them inside the door before they went to work. They didn't want them to have any trouble. I was out there in the office of the mill at the time, in fact, I was down there in the midst of those people listening to those fellows harangue them. So, they put the women up in the front and they took the American flag and they started up to go in and pull those switches to stop that mill, the mill was running. Here you would hear them, clap, clap, clap, running just as hard as they could run. Well, they got up there and one of these little militiamen was standing outside the door and some fellow inside the door, he ran down and got his gun and as he

Page 49
picked it up off that table inside the door, the thing went off. The little militiaman standing outside jerked and his gun went off up in the air. And one of these old women . . . I can hear her right now . . . she said, "My God, they are shooting at us." They all just turned and ran and Cork threw a couple of cannisters of tear gas out there and they disappeared and they never had any more trouble with them. Over at Duneen Mill, Harry Arthur from Union, he's over there now, he was a general in the Second World War . . .
BRENT GLASS:
Arthur?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Harry Arthur. That Arthur family is a great family for Union. He has a bank in Union now. They drove a truck up over at Duneen Mill, I was not there, this is what was told to me . . . they drove a big truck up there and Harry had a little company of mill boys from all around Union and they were around the Duneen Mill and the textile workers union came up there in a flatboard truck and a fellow was standing up on it just cursing and telling them what a terrible bunch of people they were, and finally . . . Bob Henry was running it and they all loved him and old Harry Arthur was a little bitty short fellow and he carried a forty-five on him that was as big as he was nearly. He got a rope and put it around there and he said . . . around the doors of that mill. They were going in to pull those switches, that was what they were always trying to do. They couldn't shut the mill down and they wanted to shut it down. They never could get enough people out of the mill to shut it down. Of course, you know that if you can get all your doffers out of there, you can shut any mill down if your doffers are gone. That is a very key place

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to do it. But anyhow, Harry ordered the rope up and he said, "Now, any man that crosses that line, shoot him, don't ask any questions. The only thing that I ask you to do is to leave that big son-of-a-bitch up there on that truck to me. I'll take care of him." They faded out and were gone and never came back. [laughter] In other words, that's the only time that we ever had any real concerted effort to do anything. We've never had any union situation that was any trouble here.
BRENT GLASS:
Did many of the northern companies . . . I've heard a lot about the scientific management in the North. How influential was that in the South and did that cause any hard feelings?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, they always had a thing that they called a "stretchout" system. I mean, that's what it was. Of course, the whole truth of the matter was that nobody scientifically figured what was a fair load of work on a particular person. Of course, they are all different. For instance, one man might have a dexterity about him . . . of course, a spinner, you can see them put up those threads when they break and it's just a matter of flicking your finger, but you try to put it up and you would have a hard time doing it. The whole thing was built to make a yarn that wouldn't break and it took some real work to do it. Another thing was the quality of the looms. When they first started running looms, they were not automatic looms. They ran but they weren't automatic and eight to ten looms was all a man could look after. Well, I've known the time . . . when I sold those last seven mills that I sold to Burlington from Martell Henrietta in '59, I think it was, '58 or '59 and over at a little mill at Cherokee Falls, they were tending 225 looms with one man. Of course, they had the fastest, best

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machinery you could find. Purely a matter of . . .
BRENT GLASS:
Progress in the machinery?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Progress in the machinery and ability of the person. They had a lot of people who were educated and then, they were doing it on piecework and the more he turned out the better off that fellow was.
BRENT GLASS:
So, does this concern for better efficiency begin in the twenties or earlier?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
It began in the twenties, that's when it really started, back there. Of course, I may be wrong, but I attribute a great deal of the change in the attitude of many of them and the change for help from owning their own homes. Now, you would be amazed but after we sold houses in the Monaghan Mill village out here for instance, that right outside there was a lot of vacant land out beyond that. We cut it up into lots and I had several men that bought their own houses . . .
BRENT GLASS:
These are . . .
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Mill houses, that they were living in, renting, and they bought a lot out there and built a house and rented that house to somebody else. And got ten times what the mill was charging rent for it.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, I guess they were fast learners.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, sure. But that's America. That's what in the United States has been available to people if they became individuals and knew what they were doing and did it.
This man who is working for me, been here seven-thirty years, came here as a young boy, he went to the

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service, they drafted him as a matter of fact, in '42, he went into the Air Corps as a mechanic. They sent him all the way out to the Aleutians, now think about that, a black man being sent to the Aleutians, Attu, Hadak, all in that area right out at the end of it. Well, he stayed out there eighteen months and for eighteen months, he couldn't spend a dime and he came back here and had all the money that you could shake a stick at, you know. His mother, who was and still is a very fine woman, my wife corresponds with her and sends her little presents at Christmas and Pearl sends her something, it has been a very good relationship. This boy, his old grandmother told me when he came to work for me as a young boy, he wouldn't go to school, wouldn't go to high school . . . that was his big mistake. I tried to get him to go, but he said that he wouldn't go and his old grandmother said . . . and I never will forget it. I went to see her at her house and I said, "Well, I'm going to make that boy work, now." She said, "Mr. Furman, I told him that whatever he did, to do well and never be in any hurry but hit a steady lick." In other words, what she meant was, "Don't try to do this and get out, but just do everything thoroughly." That was her language of trying to say that. Well, he's been with me every since. Now, he came back from the war and he went to New York to see his mother and while he was up there he heard about all those fancy prices per hour they were making there and he went up to Bridgeport Brass and he worked up there for a few months. He got married and one Christmas, after he had been out about a year and a half out of the army and in the meantime, we had sold the house that we were living in and we were living in an apartment down at the Pointsett Hotel . . . he appeared in my office one day. He was dressed up, my

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goodness, he just looked like the Duke of Windsor mighty near coming around. He said, "Mr. Furman, I want to come back to work for you." I said, "Preston, you don't want to come back to work for me, you've got all these other ideas now." He said, "Mr. Furman, I'm living on the fourth floor of a coldwater flat up in the Bronx . . . ", or wherever it was up in New York. He said, "I make good money up there but I don't have anything left."
BRENT GLASS:
This is Preston . . . what's his last name?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Bates. He said, "I don't have anything left." I said, "Well, I'm living in a hotel now, I don't need anybody, but I'll give you a job in my office until I get a house. I'm going to get a house just as soon as I can either build one or buy one." So, we bought a house pretty soon after that and I built him a house and he brought his wife down here with his one year old child. I made him pay for the house. I said . . . I have no hours, for instance, yesterday we had breakfast at 8:30. He got here five minutes before that. He and my cook can get breakfast quicker than anybody because we don't eat much. We had lunch and he left right after lunch. Of course, there's nothing you can do with this cold weather. You can't work outdoors and there wasn't anything to do indoors. So, we don't work on hours. We just work when we need him and we let him off when we don't and it has been very satisfactory. Since then, I've bought him another house. He owns the one that I built for him, but I bought him another house over in another section of town, on the west side of town that the Negroes moved into and I bought him a brick seven room house over there on the corner. He has got just as nice a house as anybody you ever saw. And he's paying for it,

Page 54
don't misunderstand me, except I'm financing it for him at 6% when he would have to pay the building and loan company 7 3/4%, but he pays it monthly and that's the whole basis of it. So, it's the relationship, if you want to know the truth about it. There has always been the right relationship. Let me tell you something, there are good Negro families just like there are good white families and they are just as honorable, just as responsible as they are the other way.
BRENT GLASS:
That leads me to another line of questioning that I want to make sure I get in before we have to close, and that is about Greenville itself. You've seen Greenville grow and change and in particular, I was interested in the residential patterns that you have seen change. But before we get into that, I was talking to Dr. Blackwell about the Council for Community Development . . .
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Yes, that took place in '36, I think.
BRENT GLASS:
Right. What kind of impact do you think that had on Greenville?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Not near as much as Dr. Blackwell thinks it did. [laughter] He was here as a young professor, a sociologist and you know, they get awfully enthusiastic. It's like these sociologists that we have seen in these last few years with all these . . . now, don't misunderstand me I think that you have got to study social patterns and I think that you have got to be leaders, but a sociologist generally wants something done overnight. I think that . . . oh, it had it's good effect, but it wasn't any dramatic effect as I believe Dr. Blackwell thought it was.

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BRENT GLASS:
Well, he seemed to feel . . . well, he was aware of its limitations. Let's put it that way.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Yes, I think that's right.
BRENT GLASS:
Were you involved in getting that started?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
No, I was not.
BRENT GLASS:
How about the changes that you've seen in Greenville over all? What would you say would be the most dramatic change in terms of leadership, economics, race relations . . .
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well . . . that's a hard question to answer off the top of yoru head without thinking about it. But on the other hand, there are certain basic things. I think that the hard core families of Greenville have always had an entirely different attidue from other communities in the South. There was never any of this high society side of Greenville. Greenville has been a very democratic place, if I may put it that way. In other words, they never . . . let me tell you, I'd better put it this way. I learned this years ago. It's awfully fine and good to have forebears that have done something in their time and their way and you can honor them for that, but if you have to live off that, you'll starve to death and too many people in some communities thought just because their forebears had done something, they were entitled to something. Well, their forebears worked for it. I've tried my best to tell my children this, you can take off your hat to the past, but you'd better take your coat off to the future and to me, I think that's the best part about Greenville. When a man comes here . . . well, I'll give you an illustration, if you don't mind me speaking in the vernacular kind of. We seem to go back and forth from New York . . . well, we had a little

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fellow come down here from Brooklyn. His name was Shep Salzman. He started a little sewing plant here, it's the Piedmont Shirt Company out here now, they've changed the name recently, but it's the Piedmont Shirt Company. Shep Salzman. I was going to New York one time back in the early thirties and in those days, you had Pullman trains that had upper and lower berths in them . . . you've never seen one, have you?
BRENT GLASS:
No.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
There were upper and lower berths and a curtain came down and everybody climbed in behind that curtain and got an upper or lower berth. In the daytime, they opened up into the Pullman seat. Well, two people could sit the way the train was going and two people could ride here.
BRENT GLASS:
Right. I've been on a train like that in Europe.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, I was sitting there talking to a man and Shep Salzman was right across the aisle from me. This fellow was quizzing him as to what his business was and how long he'd been down here and he said what his business was and then the man asked him how long he'd been down here. "I been there two years and if you been there two years, you're native." [laughter]
BRENT GLASS:
In Greenville.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Yes, that's where he meant. I think that is illustrative of what I just said. In other words, I don't think that you find people here . . . well, for instance, we've got a fellow named Heller who is mayor of our town, one of the finest men I ever knew. Everyone here . . . well, he just beat a fellow three to one when he ran the last time and Max is an

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excellent man. I don't think there are any prejudices . . . oh, I don't mean there aren't any prejudices from one person to another, you know that. There have always been prejudices and there always will be prejudices. Of course, I don't know what religion that you happen to be connected with . . .
BRENT GLASS:
I'm a Jew.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
All right, I'll tell you a very interesting story. You know, that fellow asked me about Dave Levy, he was a Jew, one of the best men I ever knew in my life, a high classed type. Max Heller is the same type. I said one day to Dave Levy, he used to come over and have dinner with us at night when he was in Greenville, and I said, "Dave, I want you to tell me something. I go to New York a lot and in the textile business, particularly in the selling and all around there, I run into many men who are Jews. I have friends among them, some I know well, some I just meet, but I would like to know why a Jew calls another Jew a kike. Among the Gentiles, they all will say, ‘This man is a son-of-a-bitch."’ "Well," he said, "Al, let me tell you. Any Jew who is not present is a kike to another one." Now, that was him telling me, not me. Well, you take the language of the Senate of the United States, the language of Mr. Truman in that oral biography . . . my friend Charlie Daniel in that top picture up there, he was appointed Senator from here by Governor Byrnes in the middle fifties and was up there about two months and the only vote he cast was the vote to censure Senator McCarthy. Well, we had so many friends that were members of the Jewish race and I never could see any difference. When you take Saul Driben of Cone Exporting and Commission Company, Clarence Guggenheim, there never were more generous

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people and you can put Dave Levy in there. I don't think that you find a prejudice around here basically that you find in many places.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, did Greenville have any kind of rivalry with a town like Charleston or on the other hand, when this textile exposition was starting up, was there a town like Charlotte that was perhaps in competition . . .
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
I don't know whether they had any competition, of course, they are all basically in competition. Spartanburg was a community that was always throwing things up to Greenville. I've got a lot of friends over there and they are fine people, there's no question about that, but they used to nearly suffer about it. My father . . . I think I told you about that man from Spartanburg that my father told me, "Any man who says that he is honest, you'd better look out." One time, down in Carpenter Brothers Drugstore, it was down on Main Street at that time, there was a big old mastiff dog walked in the door. My father and this man were standing there buying a cigar or whatever it was; and like all drugstores in those days, they had cats running around there to take care of the mice that were in there. And they had this soda fountain there and this little cat stood over there by the soda fountain and scrunched her back in the air, and this big old mastiff dog just walked by and looked at her and walked on and Father said, "So-and-so, you know, that reminds me of Spartanburg and Greenville. Spartanburg is always spitting up and fussing about this and that and Greenville just walks on by and don't say a word." [laughter]
BRENT GLASS:
I want to make sure that I ask you a little bit about your present activities. What do you find that you are doing and do you have

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any plans for the future and how have you been spending your retirement?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
At eighty-one years old? [laughter]
BRENT GLASS:
Well, they say that life begins at eighty sometimes.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, I told you what my grandfather told me, to live in the future more than in the past. I got off the board of Furman University because I don't think that men ought to stay on these boards after they reach a certain age. I'm not one that believes that sixty-five is the right time for everybody. I think that many people can work later than that and I think I could have. I got out of the business to get out of the way of my son. I want him to have every opportunity and not have somebody saying, "Well, his father did that and his father did this." He's done that, he's just done everything that I could have hoped for him to have done, as far as that's concerned.
BRENT GLASS:
You're not active on any other boards now?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
I was on seventeen boards when I quit and I got off all but one. I told you about it . . .
BRENT GLASS:
Yes, Spindale.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
The mill in North Carolina. I got off the advisory board of Furman University, even. I didn't want to be on that, I didn't want to be on anything that I couldn't say what I wanted to say and be free. Now, you see, frankly I have a hard time finding time to do what I want to do. Oh, I'm interested in all the different movements that go on in Greenville, try to contribute to them, try to take part in them, try to help my church to do a little better than they are doing all the time. None of them are good enough, you know. [laughter]
Of course, I am very much interested in Furman University. That's my avocation.

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I have tried to make contributions to them through the years. I was chairman of the board during the time that this big move was made and we raised a lot of money. We were able to do it against a whole lot of odds, if you want to know the truth of the matter.
BRENT GLASS:
Odds, from what? Financing or . . .
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Financing and people were prejudiced about it. Of course, Furman University has always been an open college as far as race. Now, we didn't have any blacks out there before '54, but we were the first ones in this state that opened up a private college.
BRENT GLASS:
What kinds of comments were there about that?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Oh, plenty. [laughter]
BRENT GLASS:
And you probably heard them.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Oh, I heard them well. I said, "Let me tell you something. The ones that have come out there, if they can pass their work, we'll do something for them. If they are not able to pass their work, they are going to leave. We don't have to send them off, they are just not going to take it." That was true and it has been true and today, I think that out of the two thousand odd or more that are in the college today, I think there are twenty-five or thirty out there and some of them have done excellent work. We have even had some pretty good athletes. We never had a star black football player, we've had some very good ones, there are two good ones out there now, but they are not nationally recognized. We had a boy last year who played basketball and he's now with the Milwaulkee Bucks, his name was Mays, Clyde Mays and in the paper, they had a piece about him Sunday quoting him, he said, "I'm learning a lot up here." He's playing ten to twenty minutes in a game now, going in and out, but he is a local boy.

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BRENT GLASS:
Yes, he from South Carolina.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Yes, from Greenville. And I'll tell you this . . . this might be very interesting to you. When he was recruited to go out there, of course they gave him a scholarship. When he got out there and really got tested, he didn't have the qualifications to get this scholarship. Well, his father lives in New York, his mother lives here and his uncle, who is in one of the maintenance departments at Furman University working, they paid his way through that freshman year when he couldn't play. And he qualified and then they got him a scholarship and he graduated. Well now, to me, that's . . . and I was so interested in the football team this last year, if I may say that, because I used to run after athletics in the twenties when we didn't ask anybody any odds. We played them all. And very small squads we had in those days, but when the Southern Conference selected their academic teams, that is, the members of the teams who have a high rating in academics, of the eleven men, five of them were from Furman University. I don't know whether Dr. Blackwell told you that or not . . .
BRENT GLASS:
No, he didn't.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, to me, that's what we . . . we're trying to educate people. Athletics is good and fine, but if you loose the sight of education, you've got nothing to work on.
BRENT GLASS:
What are some of the other civic organizations that are very close to your heart or interest?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, I've retired from most of them, but of course, we've got the symphony that we supported . . . one thing that I haven't supported because I just . . . years and years ago, when we used to have so many local

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people interested in the little theater and I got so tired of seeing so many of my friends up there trying to be something that they were not, and with not much training . . . [laughter] And yet, we've got one of the finest little theaters and everybody goes to it and says it is . . .
BRENT GLASS:
Right, I read about that.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
. . . that it is really a professional type and of course, we've got a lot of people come in here that have professional training, who have married, particularly women, and they have added a great deal to that.
BRENT GLASS:
How long has Bob Jones University been here in Greenville?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Bob Jones came here in the late forties. And they've done a terrific job out there. Of course, I don't agree with them in many of their ideas about things, but the people are decent people. I don't care what they are in or not in, they are decent people. The old gentleman, Bob himself, he died here quite a few years ago, but they've added their part to this thing. They have certainly contributed something to the community and so I have nothing . . . One time, Lefty Johnson the business manager, he's dead now, he was sitting next to me at a luncheon one day; I don't remember what it was about but somebody raised a point and he said, "Well, we dont' do anything unless we get God's guidance. We ask him to lead us in everything we do." I said, "Mr Johnson, you must not make a mistake then, because I don't think that God can make a mistake." He never answered me. I don't believe that, you know, I don't care what denomination . . . of course, in the Bible there are really no denominations, if you think about. The Old Testament is the Jewish history and the New Testament is the Christian history and that's all it is. Denominations are

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all manmade and I think that thing over in Ireland today between Protestants and Catholics is just simply unbelieveable. Just unbelieveable. And yet, you take what is happening right down there in Israel. Here the Arabs all go right back to Abraham, every one of them and yet, they have been fighting all through history.
BRENT GLASS:
Yes. They fight with each other, too.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Yes, well . . . one day I was in Scotland and I was in Warwick Castle and the first thing they do, they always take you in the weapons room in all those castles and I said, "Well, the trouble with the Scots is that all their history, they have fought the Danes, the Norweigans and the Dutch and the English and if they couldn't fight anybody else, they'd fight among themselves, in the clans." That's the whole basis of it.
BRENT GLASS:
Well, the last question I want to ask you, besides your son Alester, who are your other children? Would you mind naming them?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
No. My other son is four years younger than Alester and he is Dr. Joseph Earle Furman. He is named for my wife's father who was Dr. J.B. Earle Joseph Earle Furman. He's a pediatrician and has been here since he finished medical school. He was in New York at the Willard Parker Hospital in 1949 as a resident when they had that terrible polio epidemic up there. When were you born?
BRENT GLASS:
'47.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
Well, you were two years old then.
BRENT GLASS:
Right.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
They had a terrible polio epidemic and the Willard Parker Hospital down on Twentieth Street and East Side Drive was where they

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concentrated all the polio in New York. I think it has some connection with Bellvue Hospital.
BRENT GLASS:
Right, that's out on the East Side.
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
It was a city hospital, I know that and he has been practicing pediatrics here since '52, I think. Seven years after he got through medical school and trained. He trained in New York and in Philadelphia and Baltimore and then he came here and started practicing. He has three associates with him. Incidentally, his newest associate is a young Jew. So, I just tell you, I think that time is too short and the world too long to have prejudice about anything. You can disagree with somebody, but you don't have to have a prejudice about it.
BRENT GLASS:
Do you have any daughters?
ALESTER G. FURMAN JR.:
No.
END OF INTERVIEW