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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with William and Josephine Clement, June 19, 1986. Interview C-0031. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Courtship, marriage, and family connections

Josephine and William Clement describe their whirlwind courtship and marriage in 1941. William Clement had been married before, as he describes earlier in the interview, and was widowed with a small child to raise. In 1941, he met Josephine Dobbs while working for North Carolina Mutual and they were married shortly thereafter. Here, as elsewhere in the interview, the Clements place a great deal of emphasis on the importance of family by describing her parents' reaction to and support of their union.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with William and Josephine Clement, June 19, 1986. Interview C-0031. 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

WALTER WEARE:
I wanted to get back to the Dobbs-Clement tradition here. I'd like to hear more about this dramatic meeting between you two.
WILLIAM CLEMENT:
Oh, let me tell that! (Laughter) Well, as Josephine said, my brother was the manager of the North Carolina Mutual district in Savannah. C. C. Spaulding and Mr. Wheeler and I were making this tour in the state of Georgia, in connection with the thirtieth anniversary of North Carolina Mutual. So Arthur and his wife said, "we have a young lady that we would like for you to meet, and her name is Josephine Dobbs." She taught over at Savannah State.
JOSEPHINE CLEMENT:
It was Georgia State then.
WILLIAM CLEMENT:
So, what happened: Josephine was very much in love with another gentleman. So, she had a very good friend who was detatched, and her name was Dorothy Scott. Some good things come about meeting people at the night club. So, we went to the night club that night and there was Josephine and her friend, and then Dorothy and I. And so, I saw Josephine and I looked at her and thought, gol-lee: I got to meet that young lady. So Dorothy made the mistake of going to Havana, Cuba.
JOSEPHINE CLEMENT:
Yes, the University of Havana. She taught Spanish. We taught together at Georgia State.
WILLIAM CLEMENT:
She left that summer to go there. In the meantime, we did make a trip to Atlanta, and Josephine took her friend Dorothy up there. Mr. Dobbs - I was running around taking both of them out, and he said, "By the way, Josephine, who is Bill coming to see?" She said, "Dorothy." Well, anyhow, Dorothy left, went to the University of Havana to study that summer, and in the meantime, I had to go back to Savannah for a meeting of the National Insurance Association, and we started going out together. That was the beginning of it, and we started from that point on. And I remember George Cox: he was there, and he was a very good friend - I always looked up to him and he was really my mentor - so one night, we were going home, and I said to him, "Mr. Cox, you want me to drop you off at my brother's?" (That's where he was staying). I wasn't, I was driving up seven, eight miles, like a thunderbolt. He said, "I'll ride on up there with you." He's told that story over and over again. Bill has told Josephine how smart he was, how alert, and lo and behold, he made the dumbest decision. (laughter) Bill was trying to get a chance to really spend a little time with Josephine, and there I was, "no, I'll ride on up there with you." And we'd come back together. But you know, our courtship - in the meantime, I had to go back to Charleston, get Alexine. And bring her down, we had weekends - I have a letter in my file that our daughter wrote to Josephine when she was five. She wrote how much she enjoyed the weekend, and so forth. And as I said, this was a three-way situation. Our courtship lasted six months. We were married within six months. And I think Mr. and Mrs. Dobbs kind of pushed it along. What happened was, when she finished summer school, I was in Atlanta, and we would ride and court every night, and come back drive up in front of the house and sit outside and talk. And I thought Mr. and Mrs. Dobbs were asleep. And so the next morning, Josephine said, "you know, Mom and Dad were awake."
JOSEPHINE CLEMENT:
I was a grown young lady, teaching, had a career -
WILLIAM CLEMENT:
So finally, I think she kind of said, "Josephine, I had agreed that we were going to get married, possibly at Christmas."
JOSEPHINE CLEMENT:
My mother said to me one day, "I really can't understand where you and Mr. Clement find to go every night." [laughter] I said to Bill, "I think it's time for us to say something."
WILLIAM CLEMENT:
We'd better say something. And so finally, I told Mr. Dobbs I'd like to see him. (His office was right across the hall from my office.) I was supposed to see him at three o'clock. He had a way of going home and sleeping, and Josephine told him to be sure to wake up at three o'clock. So finally he woke up and came down there, and I went across the hall to start talking. I never did get an opportunity to ask for her. He started talking right away; he knew what I wanted to do, what I wanted to say, and everything, and all he said was, "Bill, I want you to be good to Josephine, and if you can't treat her right, always bring her back home - see, I love Josephine." So finally, we went home to dinner, and Mr. Dobbs made this announcement, and Mrs. Dobbs didn't like it. Oh, gosh, you could tell. She's a very fine person, a lovely person -
JOSEPHINE CLEMENT:
She had been left out.
WILLIAM CLEMENT:
She had been left out. And so she said, "Well, it seems as though I should have something to say about things." And there I was, now -
JOSEPHINE CLEMENT:
She didn't raise up often, but when she did, she made her point.
WILLIAM CLEMENT:
So finally - this is September then - Josephine had to go back to Georgia State to start teaching, and so I stayed next door to a friend, and so finally, Mrs. Dobbs and I got together, and she would invite me over for breakfast, and we became perfect friends, and she was a beautiful person, and I'm telling you truly, I never met anyone better.
JOSEPHINE CLEMENT:
She didn't know Bill that well then.
WILLIAM CLEMENT:
No. Mr. Dobbs knew me, by North Carolina Mutual, but she just didn't know me. And she didn't know who this guy was who after six months was going to come and take away her daughter and didn't even ask for her. [laughter] But she finally lived with us ten years, and was a tremendous gift.