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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Marion Wright, March 8, 1978. Interview B-0034. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

SRC logistics

In an excerpt that will be useful for researchers interested in the SRC, Wright discusses some of the organization's logistics, such as the relation between the SRC and its smaller affiliates, and internal discussions about how it should operate.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Marion Wright, March 8, 1978. Interview B-0034. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JACQUELYN HALL:
Was part of his argument to them that the Supreme Court decision was probably going to be coming down in a few years? Was there that kind of awareness that this was about to happen and that preparation was needed?
MARION WRIGHT:
I think all of us who were on the inside of the Council were quite sure that that decision would be made. The question was when and how rapidly the change should be made. George got that grant which put us in much better position than before. From the beginning of his connection with the Southern Regional Council, he saw it as a stopgap arrangement by which state councils will be formed, being members of the Southern Regional Council. They would establish themselves to the point that the state would take over their duties as a function of the state. That idea would never have occurred to me, and I don't think it occurred to anyone else except George. But he had a firm belief that if you had the state council in each state of the South and it demonstrated fairness and thoroughness and good, sound judgment, politicians would ultimately take it over. And that's happened, of course, in a good many cases. I think Kentucky was probably the first one that established its own official council of human relations. North Carolina set up what they called the Good Neighbor Commission, I believe. So far as I know now, every state has the equivalent of a state council on human relations. I've always given George credit for great vision in having thought that far ahead. I saw it always as a group of volunteer workers that would meet once a year and get out a little paper and conduct some research, but it never occurred to me that actually the states would take it over, which they did.
JACQUELYN HALL:
There was a good bit of conflict, though, later on when the Council started abandoning the state councils or wanted to put their resources more into the work of the Atlanta staff and less into the operations of the state councils? How did you feel about that question?
MARION WRIGHT:
I was in favor of making the Southern Regional Council a closed rather than a mass membership organization. And that was the issue, whether we should continue to have two or three thousand members scattered over the South with no special responsibilities, or could we not function more efficiently if we had, say, a hundred members that had a board of directors and so on. I'm firmly convinced that was a wise decision. And by no means did we cut the connection or burn our bridges with the state groups. They, I think, should have felt that they were on their own. They had resources that they could tap, and we'd always maintain pleasant diplomatic relations. But I'm sure that the Council functioned much more efficiently when it functioned as a fairly small unit. The further you get away from democracy, perhaps the closer you get to efficiency, and that was the point there.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you feel, too, that the state councils were more conservative, or was the opposite the case?
MARION WRIGHT:
This is a misapprehension among a great many people. There was no effort to downgrade the state councils or to feel that they are any more conservative than we are or any more liberal than we are. It was a matter of the interest in an efficient operation. We had a headquarters in Atlanta and gave counsel, advice, and a certain percentage of the finances to the states. They ought to initiate their own programs. A program for South Carolina may not be what would be needed in Louisiana by any means. So there never was any attempt to downgrade them, but the state councils, I think, got that impression, which was quite erroneous.