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Title: Oral History Interview with Charles M. Lowe, March 20, 1975. Interview B-0069. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Lowe, Charles M., interviewee
Interview conducted by Moye, Bill
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 100 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.
2007-02-09, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Charles M. Lowe, March 20, 1975. Interview B-0069. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series B. Individual Biographies. Southern Oral History Program Collection (B-0069)
Author: Bill Moye
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Charles M. Lowe, March 20, 1975. Interview B-0069. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series B. Individual Biographies. Southern Oral History Program Collection (B-0069)
Author: Charles M. Lowe
Description: 107 Mb
Description: 24 p.
Note: Interview conducted on March 20, 1975, by Bill Moye; recorded in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Unknown.
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 Charles M. Lowe, March 20, 1975.
Interview B-0069. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Lowe, Charles M., interviewee


Interview Participants

    CHARLES M. LOWE, interviewee
    BILL MOYE, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
BILL MOYE:
Mr. Charles Lowe at his house in Charlotte on March 20, 1975. I want to say that I do appreciate your allowing me some time to talk to you. Now, let me just get it straight. You've retired from business?
CHARLES M. LOWE:
January 2 of this year.
BILL MOYE:
That was a happy day, I expect.
CHARLES M. LOWE:
It surely was.
BILL MOYE:
Just to run right quickly. You were first appointed, I believe, to the county commission in '61, then ran on your own in '62, didn't run in '64, president of the Charlotte Area Fund in '66, ran again, was elected in '68, was elected chairman, then in 1970, ran again. I've just read in the newspaper up through just the consolidation election in '71. One thing I'm wondering about sort of at the start. How would you characterize your political philosophy? Are you on the more liberal side, or the more conservative side?
CHARLES M. LOWE:
I'm from middle-of-the-road to liberal, I would say.
BILL MOYE:
Which sort of brings me to ask, what's the status of the local Democratic party? Some body's commented, though that maybe the Boy Scouts in the area were about as influential as the, at least the party organization.
CHARLES M. LOWE:
Well, we have had some problems in the Democratic party, locally, state-, and nation-wide, but we have made a strong come-back locally. Dave Kelley has been elected chairman. Dave is a man about thirty-eight years old whom we can all rally around, the whites, the blacks, the rich, the poor, the liberals, and conservatives. I just talked with him a few minutes ago. I think we're well on the way to rebuilding the Democratic party locally.
BILL MOYE:
For a number of years it's been pretty much splintered. Without necessarily mentioning any names, would you say that is because of personalities or because of real philosophical conflicts.
CHARLES M. LOWE:
Because of philosophical conflicts. The Democrats don't fence anybody out. They fence everybody in. The Republicans just take a few people in who are conservatives and are for things. The Democrats are for people. When you take everybody in and let everybody speak,

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well, naturally, you're going to have some wide differences of opinion, but, after it all shakes down, the Democrats do get together and work at things and work well and effectively. This is America. It's not like a dictatorship. In the long run, it's far and away the best form of government we know of.
BILL MOYE:
The Republicans have been quite successful. Strong organization, do you think, is the primary…Concentrating on a certain type of person. Or, are they maybe getting a backlash from some of the racial?
CHARLES M. LOWE:
Well, it's a combination of things. Part of it is…You do get a backlash, of course, from racial things. The Republicans do concentrate, and the Republicans are together. They're well organized. They're well financed. They stand behind their candidates. They turn out on election day. At the same time, this is their weakness, too, because, when their candidates or their philosophy goes against them, they have nothing to fall back on because they have given their all to begin with. They have no reserves. This is the weakness of the Republicans and the strength of the Democrats. We can bring victory out of defeat. They can't. When they go down, they go down hard, and it's a long time coming back.
BILL MOYE:
The reason why I was asking about the party is…One thing I'm interested in as far as the consolidation effort …I'm wondering if there were partisan reasons, maybe, either for supporting or for opposing. Was one party more likely to support than the other?
CHARLES M. LOWE:
Yes. The Democrats were more likely to be for consolidation than the Republicans. The Republicans did not want district representation. They did not want blacks. They wanted things to be at large, in the way of election. They wanted to feel that their party could get a majority. That the white, influential, well-educated would be a majority. Consequently, they were not for it. That's not really what defeated this. What defeated this was two things. One, school system had had quite a blow, and everybody was in a turmoil about this. The second thing, if you study consolidation over the country, I don't know anywhere it has succeeded the first time. Consolidation

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is something that you have got to study and understand and appreciate because, when it all boils down, it's two things. It's better planning, and, while the tax rate rises, it doesn't rise as rapidly. Most people want something more simple, more directly related to them. They want to see more of what they are going to get out of it. They want their notions in it more. This was a thing of reasoning. You don't have as many reasoning people as you do emotional people. This was the real problem. There was nobody really pushing it except a few enlightened people and a few people on the Chamber of Commerce. The blacks were for it but not too strongly. The rural people were against it. The affluent white didn't see where they were going to get anything out of it. The school board members were against it. The Republicans were against it. And, the Democrats were lukewarm. So we were lucky to get any vote at all. [Phone ringing]
BILL MOYE:
If so many different groups were either opposed or lukewarm, what got the idea started in the first place? I mean, the idea had been kicking around for a number of years.
CHARLES M. LOWE:
Well, the chamber had been pushing this idea since about 1962. It does make sense, consolidation. I mean, the buckpassing does stop. You do do better planning. There's no question about it, and there's no question but what, while the tax rate increases, it does not increase as fast. These are things that most people are not concerned about. Most people are concerned about their garbage, their sidewalks, their tax rates, where their kids go to school. These sort of things, what we call bread-and-butter or gut issues, and the high issues? That doesn't really concern them. Really, the chamber and the thinking people, which were in the minority, were pushing it. They got it on the ballot and got it going, but we just had too few of these, unfortunately.
BILL MOYE:
Some people, in looking at consolidation, see it, to an extent, as sort of an urban or civic imperialism. The city seeking to control more area, to control more people. Could that…Would the

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chamber leaders have been interested in that? I mean, seeing a lot of white people moving out into the suburbs beyond the city limits, seeing their voting strength in city elections and rferenda declining because of that?
CHARLES M. LOWE:
Not really. I think just the opposite is true. I think we could have sold consolidation had we gone about it the wrong way. I think if we had told the people "Look, if you don't have consolidation, you're going to have another Atlanta in Charlotte. It's going to be predominantly black. The whites are going to move out. You're going to have a decaying tax base, and you're really going to be in trouble. Consolidation is really the only answer how to get a handle on this thing, and have the whites where they want to be, and maybe where they should be, overall. In the driver's seat." But, we didn't choose to take that route. We tried to sell it on the democratic route of everybody getting fair representation, the whites, the blacks, the men, the women, the rural, and the city. Of doing it right. Well, they didn't buy this. I talked to one of the opponents afterwards, and he said, "Lord, if you had told me what you're now telling me, I would have voted for it." But, we just didn't want to sell it on that basis. We didn't think that was the proper approach.
BILL MOYE:
Somebody said. It was in a couple of newspaper commentaries just before the election and afterwards that a lot of chamber leaders were behind consolidation as the idea of consolidation, but, once you went to the open meetings and the district representation and the anti-discrimination devices, that a lot of people in the chamber got cold feet, and, in point of fact, a lot of the powers in the chamber actively opposed the charter. Perhaps because they saw some of their influence…Perhaps they had been able to get people elected that they had influence with, and they were afraid maybe that the types of people who would be elected by district representation would not take their influence.
CHARLES M. LOWE:
I think there's some validity in what you're saying. I think, to a large extent, in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, there are some noblesse oblige, that some people feel they are born to be

Page 5
of service and that they serve for that reason. I think this has helped, to a certain extent, to have good government. As you mature and you go down the road in life you realize you do have to have everybody, white, black, rich, poor, young, and old men and women, all together to really get a community involved and to really get them to do the things they really want and need to do. When I talk to young people today, I tell them that when I was young how impatient I was with the old leadership and how I wanted to change things. Now that I'm older, I find myself on the other end of the spectrum. I want things status quo. This is human nature, and what you're saying is true. Some of the leadership did look at it and back off. They were for it in theory, but they weren't for it in practice. I think it will take probably another generation, another ten or twenty years before we get consolidation for the very reason you mentioned.
BILL MOYE:
Somebody's also said that this campaign, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg campaign, was handled differently from that, say, in Jacksonville. Apparently what they did in Jacksonville was to get the commitment of the leadership and to get the war chest up before they actually put the charter down on paper, so they had the commitment and they had the funds to wage the campaign before they actually wrote the charter.
CHARLES M. LOWE:
Jacksonville did do it better than we did, but, if I remember correctly, this was their second approach, and this was our first approach. Also, we started out very idealistically that we would have these open hearings and we would let everybody be heard, and we would come up with the very best answers we could to the questions. That we would not have any preconceived answers. I think theoretically we were right. I think practically we were wrong from the standpoint of getting it done. Had we gotten it done, we would have had an ideal situation and an ideal government. You realize as you go through life you don't get things perfect. You start with them imperfect and, then, improve them as you go along. I say today that now, if I had it to do over again, I would respectfully say that we just abolish the city government of Charlotte

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and just let the Mecklenburg County commissioners be the government for Charlotte and Mecklenburg and, then, improve it as we go along.
BILL MOYE:
Any chance for that?
CHARLES M. LOWE:
I think there is some chance of that in the near future, yes.
BILL MOYE:
One thing I'm wondering about. I see the argument for efficiency and providing services and whatnot and the idea of the bread representation and groups perhaps not presently represented in the government having a voice through district representation and whatnot. That sounds, as you say, very idealistic and humanitarian. Now, a power structure generally does not, the influential group generally does not divulge itself of some of its power willingly. What brought some of you folks to want to, perhaps, to spread some of the representation and the power?
CHARLES M. LOWE:
Well, I think we had some very fine, very able men such as Jones Pharr, such as Cliff Cameron, and men of this caliber, who came up the hard way. Yet, they were broad of mind and broad of thought and well-educated, and they realized, in the final analysis, that only the strong can afford to be kind and fair and understanding. They realized, from their own business experience, that, when you give people input into something, you don't make something weaker. You make something stronger. After studying it carefully, they came up with this was the proper way to do it, not to do it halfway or halfheartedly or just get it through, but get it through right. I don't think they were wrong in what they tried to do at all. I think they were right. I think it was the fact that people were not working with their minds. They were working with their emotions. I think history will prove them right. I just don't think we got it as quickly as we could have gotten it otherwise, had we pursued it on a different basis.
BILL MOYE:
Was there any crisis, sort of, in government that sort of prompted the push towards consolidation? I remember reading in the Observer… The chamber had brought up the discussion of consolidation somewhere '62 or '63 somewhere program of work in there for that year. There were several comments in the paper from the mayor and other people that "This

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would be a nice…We want to work towards this. This is a good idea. But it will probably be ten or fifteen or twenty years before we actually get to it. Then, all of a sudden, sort of, in '67, '68, '69, there was a much increased interest. Then, there's the study commission and the charter commission. What…Did the water and sewer situation or anything along this line really prompt this?
CHARLES M. LOWE:
I think there were a good many things. I think some other communities had done it. I think this was part of it. I think the fact that we'd put schools together was part of it. I think that we were studying, putting together and did later put together, the police departments. I think this was part of it. I think a few people who were thinking and being active in government in various ways, whether as elective candidates or on boards, saw that there's bound to be a certain amount of buck-passing where you have two bodies who are overlapping. I think they could see the difference in the planning, whether it be water and sewer, whether it be schools, whether it be police departments, or whether it be such things as even the dog pound. We've got two different dog pounds in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, and it gets right jackassy sometimes. You don't get this done until you do sit down and face it. It's very easy, for instance, somebody calls me up and talks to me from now until ten o'clock, and says, "Now, what can you do about my zoning?" I say, "I'm on the county commission. You're in the city. I don't have anything to do with it." Well, as far as I'm concerned, that's taken care of it, but, as far as they're concerned, they've wasted an hour and nothing's been accomplished. I think these were probably the things that triggered it. I don't really think it was wasted. Let me say that to you very strongly and very quickly. I think this was something necessary. It's kind of like you decide to have a good football team. Well, you hire a coach. You begin to recruit players. You begin to get a better schedule. That doesn't mean you have a winning season, but, in a few years, then, you hope to turn it around and have a winning program. I think this was something we had to go through.

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Maybe the next time or may be the following time, then, we will be successful, but this was just the first step on the ladder.
BILL MOYE:
I see something here. You said you think it will be a while before they try again. Not long after the consolidation defeat, annexing all this territory out here. Is that almost, sort of, the same sort of thing. I mean, annex a great deal. Push the functional consolidation. Is this all sort of leading in the same direction?
CHARLES M. LOWE:
Hopefully it will. Annexation is not the same thing as consolidation, though, because annexation takes care of the people who you've taken into the city, but it doesn't take care of the people who are outside the city, and it still doesn't do away with overlapping. For instance, I live in the city of Charlotte. I'm accountable one to the city of Charlette; two, I'm accountable to the Mecklenburg County commissioners. Well, if we had consolidated government, there would be one group. I would be taxed for services in regard to what services I actually received, whether I lived in the city, whether I lived in the perimeter, or whether I lived out in a rural area or one of the small towns. The thing that was very difficult to get over, and it's still difficult to get over to people in the perimeter, to people in the rural areas and the small towns…They think the city of Charlette is going to come out there and gobble them up. They don't realize they would have exactly the same relationship to consolidated government that they now have to the county commission. This is a difficult point to get across to them. When I was chairman of the county commissioners, the mayor of Davidson would call me and say, "We don't have a very good police force. We want you to do something more about police up here." I would say, "Under consolidation, we can do more." And, he'd say, "Oh, I don't want consolidation. I just want you to give us some money so we can have a better police force." We never really quite had a meeting of the minds because his mind was closed. He was asking for something that he didn't really understand what he

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was asking for. If he had understood it, he would have been for it instead of against it. It's like I went up, and I won't call the gentleman's name, but I went up to Davidson one time to speak on the United Appeal, and he said "We don't want anything out of Charlotte." I listened to him for a while, and I said, "Sir, when you get ready to raise money, where do you come to?" And he said, "To Charlotte." I said, "Sir, isn't it fair? Isn't it a two-way street? Can't we come to you? And, we're going to give you more than we're going to get from you." And, he said, "On that basis, I'm interested." I think that's really what we've get to explain to these people. They're going to get more than they give. When they understand that, then I think they will be willing to accept it.
BILL MOYE:
You think there are a lot of, there's an antagonism between a lot of the people who live in the county and the city government or leadership or chamber? Or, is it just sort of small town versus the big city?
CHARLES M. LOWE:
Well, it's a strange conflict. It really is. If you go out in rural Mecklenburg, and it's hard to find rural Mecklenburg today, and the small towns and you talk to them, they will tell you quickly that they love their life and their way of doing. It's slower, and they don't want anything out of Charlotte. They don't need it and so forth. And, yet, you talk to those same people and you say, "Well, let me ask you a question. Say, what would you be doing if their was no Charlotte?" They'd think a bit and say, "I don't know." I say, "Well, let me tell you. You'd still be raising corn or cotton or wheat or or cattle whatnot, because you'd be in a rural area. While you don't like the city of Charlotte, you have a very pleasant problem. The $50 an acre farm land that your father or grandfather or your greatgrandfather bought and raised cotton on is now becoming urban land worth a thousand, two thousand, three thousand, five thousand dollars an acre. Sure, you can't farm it and pay taxes on it, but you have a pleasant problem. Do you sell off all of it, do you sell off part of it. If you want to farm, you have to go

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somewhere where the land is cheaper. I admit this to you. I understand you don't like to lose your roots, but, at the same time, it's making you a very wealthy person. You have to accept this, and you have to pay taxes just like if you bought stocks or you bought anything that appreciated in value where the Lord has blessed you. You do have to pay more taxes, and things change. They don't stay the same, and you must realize this. Now, if you want your taxes to stay the same or go down, you've got to go to a county where there's plenty of land, where it's losing population, where it needs less services, and you must realize this fact. Then, you can afford to farm it, you can afford to pay the taxes, and you don't have any of these problems that you have in a rapidly growing area."
BILL MOYE:
So, you see it more as sort of the general problem of a growing area, not necessarily something that the city government or some of the city interests have done specifically? I've heard some complaints about the perimeter zoning, and, of course, there was the big todo about the water and sewer and some other things.
CHARLES M. LOWE:
That's part of it, sure, human nature being what it is. Let me put it in this perspective for you. The pattern of human nature is, one, reluctance to accept change, finally accepting it, and, in the final analysis, embracing it. This is true of all of us. I mean, when I was a boy, I didn't want to wear shoes. Well, I got a little older and I got interested in girls and I wanted to wear shoes. Then, I wanted more shoes. And, then, I wanted them polished, then, I wanted to be in style. This is what you do in life. You change as you go along. It's a slow process. It's a gradual process. It's a process of evolution, not revolution, in my judgment.
BILL MOYE:
Let me ask you this. You have supported consolidation all along?
CHARLES M. LOWE:
Right.
BILL MOYE:
You were on the chamber committee there in '68 that first studied it before the actual commission was established, and you've always been a strong Democrat.
CHARLES M. LOWE:
Right.
BILL MOYE:
Now, apparently

Page 11
most of the Republicans were…they seemed…The Republicans and what are called conservative Democrats are the ones who were opposed to the thing. Is this primarily because of the race and the school busing? Heard some comments about Judge McMillan on occasion.
CHARLES M. LOWE:
This had a great deal to do with it. There's an old saying in polities, and there's a lot to it. People don't always come out when they're for something, but they sure as hell come out when they're against something. People were mad, and they were upset. They were just striking back. Not only did we have a "no" vote on consolidation, we needed a new courthouse. We tried to spell that out very carefully, and we couldn't get anything on that.
BILL MOYE:
There seemed to be a period there. They got the civic center bond issue in '69, but there were several school board members defeated, some of the county commission incumbants defeated, the reereation tax went down, four or five issues in the bond issue voted down. Did this indicate some lack of confidence in the leadership or sort of a general protest feeling? Were there some specific things there, or just sort of a general?
CHARLES M. LOWE:
Just a general feeling that the government and times and leaders and conditions were not in tune with what people wanted, the majority of the people. As I used to tell my black friends, and there's a lot of truth in this, if you can't oppress the minority, you sure as hell can't oppress the majority. The majority, rightly or wrongly, felt they had been oppressed. I don't think they had actually been oppressed, but I think they felt they had. Consequently, they were against anything. Let me use myself as an example and not talk about somebody else. I had been as you said appointed to the county commission, and next time I had run and been elcted and was chairman. Then, I didn't run for two terms. Then, I ran again and was elected and was chairman. Then, about '69 or '70, I ran again. I thought I had done my best work and been most effective, and, yet, I barely got elected. I ran fifth, and I'd always run first or second. It was simply

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not anything I had done or hadn't done. It was just a feeling of the people, "Let's get the rascals out and get some new ones in." I can understand this. I've always said, and I believe it, if you stay in politics and you do a good job, sooner or later, you're going to be voted out because you're going to make enough people mad. If you're simply a peanut politician, and you take a poll on everything, you can stay in indefinitely, but you're not much of an officeholder.
BILL MOYE:
I agree. To get off just a little bit…This idea about if you stay in long enough, you're going to make some enemies… There seemed to be a decision made to make a rather thorough overhaul of the whole governmental system, not just a fairly simple combination…Not really that it would be simple, but a simpler method, a less thorough-going change. The decision was made to go to the thorough-going change, and, as someone said, everytime you study this one department and maybe recommend some changes, you're splitting the department by it. There will be some who are for the changes, there will be some who are opposed to the changes. It seems, perhaps, by making such a thorough-going shift in the administration of the government, that this increased the potential number of those who would oppose the charter, maybe in the fire department or in the police.
CHARLES M. LOWE:
I agree with this. I think the more changes you make in anything the more difficult it is to get it across. I don't think there's any question about that. I think if we had simply said that we're going to do away with the city of Charlotte's government, and the Mecklenburg County commissioners will now be over Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, and anybody who's now on the city council who wants to be in government will simply run for Mecklenburg County commissioners, I think we would have stood a much better chance of getting it across. But, it wouldn't have been as bold or as fair as imagenstive or as representative a government as what they tried to produce. I'm proud of what they tried to do. I'm sorry we didn't get it across. Maybe, in looking back, we'd have been wiser in taking a very simple step and then

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refined it, but they were bold, and they were imaginative. They certainly tried to do it right. I don't cold-water them for that one bit.
BILL MOYE:
Do you think that, by going so far, then, that they alienated some of those who maybe initially supported at least the idea? Some of the chamber types or some of the business?
CHARLES M. LOWE:
They did. Very definitely. But, you know, it's a very funny thing. I was calling back to some of those people and said, "Alright, you didn't like this. How about let's just go in to city council and ask them to simply do away with their charter, and let's just have consolidated government on the basis that you want it." At first they'd say, "Yeah, that's fine. Let's do it." Then, they'd think a little bit, and they'd say, "But, wait a minute. The people voted two and a half to one against it. Maybe we ought to listen to the people." So, I don't know whether that was really it or whether they were using that as an excuse. You know, a lot of times, people will tell you one thing, then they will give you their reason, but it's not their real reason as to why they did it. I'm not sure if we'd have won even if we'd had everything going for us. We might have. We'd have come closer, but I'm not sure we would have.
BILL MOYE:
Let me ask you this, now. You've implied, stated it, in fact, and other people have commented on this, that it seems that the opposition got the better part of the emotional issue. Perhaps, to some extent, the pro forces, the for forces, preached the economy, the efficiency, the more representative, the more equitable government. Fairly logical arguments. Only to get hit over the head by all this talk about "ward-heelers" and "going back to the ward system" which seemed to be, perhaps, code words for saying "there are going to be more blacks and maybe more poor whites in government and we don't want that". It seems that the opposition, then, got up…As you were saying, it's much easier to got people to go to vote against, or people are more likely to go to vote against than to vote for. You think that's a… Was there anything that the supporters could have used as an

Page 14
emotional sort of thing?
CHARLES M. LOWE:
I think we could have, looking back. I don't know. Maybe we should have. Maybe we should have been direct and blunt, even though it would have dismayed some of our followers, and said, "Look, if you all sit here and do what we're talking about or you're talking about doing, you're going to defeat this. But, one day, you're going to look up, and you're going to have practically an all black center city. The whites are going to have moved out. Your tax base has eroded. You're going to have blacks running the government. The whites are going to be gone. We're going to be in the suburbs. They're going to be in the city. Is this what you really want? Do you want Charlotte to be another Atlanta?" I think maybe if we had presented it on this basis, maybe we'd have had a lot of support and a lot of understanding that we didn't have. Maybe we should have said this, in looking back, even though I thought at the time and so did the people who were with us that this was the wrong way to sell it. But, maybe it wasn't. Maybe it was the right way to sell it. Maybe the truth would have been the thing to have told. We would have come a whole lot closer, and we might have won.
BILL MOYE:
You see that as a possibility for the City of Charlotte, then? Is that one reason why the city has pursued the annexation policies? Because they…
CHARLES M. LOWE:
I don't think there's any question about it. That's one of the answers for the city, but anybody who studies a living thing, and a city must be a living thing, understands that it must grow. It's a beautiful theory that you draw a circle around something and say that's it. Everybody that's in there we care about, but anybody outside we don't care. Let me give you an ilustration of that. I was sitting on the county commission one day with another Democrat and three Republicans. One of the Republicans was the chairman. He made the statement, "Dern this thing of growing. We don't want to be the biggest city in the South. We want to be the finest city between Concord and Gastonia. We

Page 15
don't want all these people coming in here and all this industry coming in here. We just want to be a nice little, representative good place to live." I said, "Let me ask you a question. Where are you from?" And, he said, "Illinois." I said, "Where's this gentleman from?" And, he said, "Georgia." I said, "Where's this gentleman from?" And, he said, "New York." I said, "WHere's this gentleman from?" And he said, "South Carolina." And, I said, "Of the five of us, I'm the only one who was born and raised here. Why in the hell don't you four fellows go home and let me run the government?" He had to laugh, and he said, "Well, I see what you mean." This is human nature. After we get things like we want it, we want status quo. Until we get ours, we want everything to change. This is human nature. They will get some younger people in there. They will be looking and saying it's inevitable that Charlotte's going to grow. It's a question of how it's going to grow. Whether we're going to do sound planning. It's going to be big. The question is whether it's going to be great through sound planning and sound people.
BILL MOYE:
Let me ask. What sort of…I'm looking at my watch. We've been talking a while. Do you have…
CHARLES M. LOWE:
I'm all right.
BILL MOYE:
I don't want to take too much time. What was the position in the black community? I know that there was a major force for, and the black precincts seemed to vote…Those who voted, in other words, voted for consolidation. Maybe there were a lot of folks who just didn't vote. There were blacks who were for, and there were blacks who were opposed. What was the…
CHARLES M. LOWE:
Most blacks were for it. There was some indifference, of course. But, the blacks who voted were predominantly for it. The blacks are no different than the whites. If they feel they've got a stake in something, they're for it. If they don't see where it's going to be much good for them or much change in their benefit, then they don't care. The informed blacks came out. The informed blacks voted quite heavily for it. The blacks who were not informed or didn't care, why, they didn't come out.

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The blacks supported it better than the whites did. No question about that.
BILL MOYE:
Why?
CHARLES M. LOWE:
The blacks saw a chance for them to get something that they didn't have. More of their people on representative government bodies where they could and should have been. When they saw this, then, they said, "Fine. This is to our advantage. Let's be for it."
BILL MOYE:
Did the fact that Mr. Alexander was for it…Did that automatically been that there were some others against it because they were dissatisfied.
CHARLES M. LOWE:
To some extent, this is true. Fred Alexander is an honorable and able man, and he has a strong and a good following in the black community and gets elected. But, he is getting older, and you always have, as a man gets older, some young turks or bulls coming along who want to say "He has been alright, but times are changing, and he has not changed. We have got to change. What we need is new ideas and new leadership and a different prespective." Yes. There was some of this, but, predominantly, he did a good job of leading his people in the right direction and in getting their support and getting their vote. But, there was some of this. There was no question about it.
BILL MOYE:
Along that same line, in a lot of the referenda on the various bond issues concerning, perhaps, urban renewal, civic center, the sales tax, not really the sales tax, in some school board elections and whatnot seems to be a fairly strong bloe, at least on occasions, of Southeastern precincts and black precincts. Was one idea behind consolidation to extend this voting strength to the county level in any way? Not only, in other words, were a lot of whites moving into the suburbs, but there were a lot of white areas that had opposed the civic center, had opposed the sales tax, had opposed liquor-by-the-drink. They were raising hell about the public housing. In other words, to some extent, challenging the leadership programs.
CHARLES M. LOWE:
No question about it. You have seen a change. I remember

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in '62, '63, '64 county and city government had good relations. Had the good will of the majority of the people, white or black. We were making progress in race relations. We were making progress in schools. We were making progress economically. People did kind of look up to the government and business leadership and go along with it. They thought this was right. Then, it became more into a state of apathy, and then it became a state of almost armed revolt, and then it came into a state of "Damn you, if we can't go out in the streets and beat you, we can sure as hell vote you out." We have seen this change. I feel in time the pendulum will begin to swing back the other way. You think, sometimes, that the thing just keeps on going and going and going. It's just like the rainy weather we've gone through, but the sun always comes out. You do have warm days. You do have pleasant nights. You do this in an economy. People thought things would be good forever, and now they've gotten bad, and they think "Hell, it's going to be bad forever." But, they're not. It'll swing back. I think it's just a cycle we're going through. I think the long-run trend is always up whether it's business or politics or confidence of people or what. It's just part of the cycle. The pendulum's just been swinging the other way. We have to admit it and face up to it. But, it sure is rough while it's happening.
BILL MOYE:
I guess really, in a way, what I'm asking is is there a sort of class or economic base for this protest. You've get, to some extent, upper-class precinots in the Southeast who are to some extent, using, they're benefitting, but to some extent they're using the black vote to achieve to some extent what they want ever the protest and over the opposition, often, of a lot of the middle-class and lower-class whites. Do you see a breakdown like that?
CHARLES M. LOWE:
Well, politics does make strange bed fellows. There's no question about it. An election will come up, and I'll go out to work for something generally. I very seldom work against anything. I will see certain groups that are with me. Well, maybe the time before they were agin me. It just so happens that maybe this one they're for me on liquor-by-the-drink. Maybe on consolidation

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they were agin me. Maybe on the courthouse they were agin me. Maybe on school consolidation they were against it. But, on the other hand, maybe something comes along that they like, and maybe it's mass transit. They say "Okay. I'm for that. Let's buy that." Or, maybe it's sidewalks, or maybe it's the airport. They say, "Okay. These bonds are self-liquidating. Let's be for those." You can't necessarily line up the same people every time you go out to work for any issue. It's a constantly changing pattern.
BILL MOYE:
You say it's more issue-oriented, shifting coalitions and factions more than a sort of continuing…
CHARLES M. LOWE:
This is absolutely right, and anybody that thinks that they've got somebody in their pocket, and they'll always vote for them, they're kidding themselves. People are learning every day to study it and say "What's in this for me and my group?" If there's something in there for them, they're for it, and, if not, they're against it. We're seeing this right now. They've been talking about building down the creek here, and making nice shops and all. It's surprising the people who come out against it, and many of the people who come out against it you thought would have been for it, but they're shifting. They're getting with some of the blacks and saying there are better places. There are higher priorities for our money. Maybe they're right. I think this is good. I think it's healthy. You know, they say the smartest man, you know is your tailer because he takes your measurements anew every time you meet. A lot of people forget this. They want to keep on building by the same old pattern.
BILL MOYE:
Let me ask you this sort of to change a little bit. We've talked about sort of this mood of protest especially in connection with the school busing and some other things. A sort of general mood of sort of pessimism or something. Sort of anti just about everything. Was any of this just sort of the city's just getting so big, look at all these hamburger stands and whatnot, and we've got these topless bars, and we've got a drug problem in school. Things are just getting too big and too complicated.

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The city's just getting too big. Just a real questioning of the type of environment that Charlotte, perhaps
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
CHARLES M. LOWE:
in a persons mind. I get right amused, and I watch it myself. I watch this program, "The Waltons". Well, everybody likes to watch the Waltons because this was a simple time, problems were relatively simple, and solutions were relatively simple. This is a beautiful theory. We can all go back and live in the country. We can all live well and be one big happy family, and so forth. But, if you go out in the country today and live, for the most part, around Charlotte, there's not any country anymore. You run into exactly the same problems that you run into in the city of Charlotte. I tried it. I went out sixteen miles from Charlotte and lived. I found the trucks kept me awake all night worse than anything in the city of Charlotte. I found people came out there and stole just like they did in the city. I found just as many problems or more than I did in the city of Charlotte. So, I moved back to the city of Charlotte. I think this is a dream that's in everybody's mind. When you actually get there, I don't you find this to be a fact. I think people realize this. You've just simply got a new day and age. I remember when I was a boy, they used to shut up all the small towns, and everybody would go to the baseball games. Well, that was great, and you went to the movie, and you went swimming, and that was about it. Well, golly Moses, you've got your pick of many things today, and things are faster. You don't get as much time to sit down and visit and see your friends. There's no question about it. There's a much faster pace. It doesn't make any difference where you live, a little town, the country, a fringe area, or in the city proper, you've still got exactly the same problems. I get right amused. These mayors come in from the small towns, and the first thing they want to talk about is federal grants and police protection and how do we get more water and sewer and we need more revenue. They've got exactly the same problems that the big cities have. You can't go anywhere

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in the Unites States…
BILL MOYE:
Up there in Cornelius and all up there they've got right much of a water and facilities…
CHARLES M. LOWE:
The funny thing about it. Cornelius, Davidson, and Huntersville are now talking about those three cities consolidating. I've wanted so badly to go up there and say, "Why do you all want to consolidate? You've been so strong against it, why are you for it?" They are going to give me exactly the same reasons that we used on them as to why they should have consolidation of city and county government. There's strength in it. Why do a band of sheep get together? Why do quail get together at night?
BILL MOYE:
And, yet, during the campaign, it was "Rescue us from the jaws of death!"
CHARLES M. LOWE:
This is absolutely right. This is absolutely right. People fear something that 's new. It's like I go to the table and my wife's got a dish there, and I say, "What's this?" And, she says, "Eat it. You'll like it." I say, "No. Tell me what it is. I've never eaten that. I'm sure I won't like it." But, many times, if I try it, I find out I do like it and it's good for me. It's that old human nature. I don't want any part of something I don't know anything about. It's kind of like you get a little older and you want to be with your old friends. You don't want to meet somebody new. You don't want to get into a new situation. But, you find out many times you meet them and you like them. Maybe you like them better than some of your old ones. Maybe it's better for you. Stimulates you. This is the pattern of human behavior.
BILL MOYE:
You think that may have been a factor, then, in voting against the charter? Not only were they not really quite sure, maybe, what type of government the charter would produce but this sort of "life is getting so complex in the city, and it would be so nice if it were simple again"? You think that was a reason?
CHARLES M. LOWE:
I think this is definitely…I think we all search for utopia. I don't think there's any question about it. I talked to an old

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friend of mine who was borned on a small farm in Georgia. He retired a few years ago, and I said, "Well, Bill, I guess you're going back to Georgia now?" And, he said, "Yes, I am." He went back to Georgia and stayed a few months, and he came back to Charlotte. I said, "Bill, why did you come back to Charlotte?" He said, "Lord, if I take sick down in that little rural area… They've got one doctor and no hospital. I'd die. Up here, I can get to the hospital, and I'll probably live another fifteen or twenty years." Your thinking changes. You find out there are some advantages as well as disadvantages to all the problems and all the things that go on in a large community.
BILL MOYE:
Well, let me…There is one more thing. Was there anything as a reason for consolidation that had to do with this idea of sort of catching Atlanta and staying ahead of Winston-Salem and Greensboro? They're growing, they're doing this. They're growing, they're doing this. I mean not just, say, look at the problems and want to try to avoid some of the problems that they're having, but in this sort of rivalry to stay ahead and be the largest and be the best or to have this, something that they don't have, or to do something that they don't have.
CHARLES M. LOWE:
I don't think really it was. Some person or group might have had that as an idea, but I think really what they had in mind was that anybody or any group that's progressive looks around. And, if you see somebody else doing something that's better than the way you're doing it, you try to figure out how to do that. I remember years ago I tried to play football. We used to have what we called three yards and a cloud of dust. Then, I remember, Jim Lelane came along at Carolina, and he opened up the game with his passing. Teams all over the country, then, started passing, and the pros went to it. You see some running, as they say, to keep them honest, but primarily they're trying to play a wide-open game and, as they, score a point a minute and so on. I think this is what it was rather than trying to stay ahead of Atlanta or Winston. It was simply saying here's a new vehicle and a better way to do this thing. Let's

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get on the bandwagon and do it the best we know how. You know, you make enough mistakes in life when you do the best you can, and, when you don't do the best you can, you make one terrible amount of mistakes.
BILL MOYE:
Who, then…The chamber was, at best, reluctant, and a lot of the chamber was, in the end, opposed. The small towns were opposed. A lot of the white people in town were either opposed or, at best, sort of luke-warm. Who, in the end, really carried the ball for the…
CHARLES M. LOWE:
For it? There weren't a whole lot of people. The blacks were for it. Some thinking whites were for it. Some leadership of the chamber was for it. That was about it. We were very fortunate to get as large a pro vote as we did. I think we got beat, if I remember correctly, about two and a half to one. Looking back, I tried to figure where the vote came from because practically everybody I saw was against it because they were all thinking in small terms. They weren't looking at the large picture. Some school member said, "I don't like what they're saying about the school board." Some white would say "I don't like district representation." Somebody in the rural area would say, "I don't want to pay for the city of Charlotte's playthings like the coliseum and auditorium." The man out in the little town area he would say, "I don't want any part of Charlotte." So, really, we didn't get too much from anybody. We were just lucky to get the vote we got. [Phone ringing]
BILL MOYE:
Tell you the truth, I don't know…I think we've covered most of the things…
CHARLES M. LOWE:
Well, let me take about thirty seconds if I may. In looking back on consolidation, the theory was right. There were two things. One, you don't generally win it on the first time. The second thing was we did try to do too much at one time if we were going to win it the first time. But, I think we were right in what we did because we laid a good foundation. Anybody that talks or sells consolidation in the future has

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got to look at what was done. Whether they do it right or not, at least they've got to consider it. They can't pass over it and go the wrong way without somebody bringing it up. I think this is healthy because, in a democracy, you do talk both sides. You make a decision, and, if it's right, fine. You stay with it. If it's wrong, you change it. People are disheartened today, and they say, "Look at Watergate." Well, to me, being an old man, I think Watergate was a great thing. I'm sorry that Mr. Nixon led us down the road he did, and I'm sorry that he and come of his cohorts did the thing. But, I am proud of our government and our people for reacting. I think, in the long run, we will emerge stronger and the country will be better off on account of it. So, I don't feel badly about it. I am sorry that it happened, but, in the long run, I think it's good. I feel the same way about this consolidation. I'm sorry that we lost, but I think we went about it right. I think, in the long run, we will be better off, and we'll get better consolidation and will get consolidation on account of the effort.
BILL MOYE:
You think that will probably be several years before…
CHARLES M. LOWE:
It will be some time, yet, because you've got to get a new crowd, and you've got to get a new feeling about something. There's no use to bring something right back up after it's defeated. That's foolish. You wait a while, and you get a new crop, and you get a new feeling, and you get new leadership, and you get a new spirit, and somebody else says, "Yeah, I think it can be done!" That's the only way that progress is made. You don't take the same old were-out ideas and horses and the same old vehicle and get it done. You get new ones, but you build on that. It wasn't in vain. I don't feel that at all.
BILL MOYE:
Some of the proposals, or, at least, some of the studies have been used as basis for implementing some new programs and whatnot.
CHARLES M. LOWE:
This is absolutely right, and you're seeing a consolidation going on piecemeal now. It's working toward consolidation. There's no question about it, and anybody who would sit down

Page 24
and think would say, "Sure. It's going to come to this." The matter is when and how.
BILL MOYE:
I appreciate your talking to me.
CHARLES M. LOWE:
I appreciate your coming by.
BILL MOYE:
I'll send you a copy of this.
CHARLES M. LOWE:
You're very kind.
BILL MOYE:
Any corrections or whatever you want to make in it.
CHARLES M. LOWE:
No problem. I just hope it'll be of some help.
BILL MOYE:
I'm sure it will.
END OF INTERVIEW