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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with I. Beverly Lake Sr., September 8, 1987. Interview C-0043. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Lake's consistent political beliefs

During early years in legal practice, Lake was characterized as a charming populist by the local press. By his 1960 gubernatorial campaign, however, the <cite>Raleigh News and Observer</cite> portrayed him negatively. Lake argues that he maintained his conservative beliefs throughout his practices and gubernatorial race.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with I. Beverly Lake Sr., September 8, 1987. Interview C-0043. 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

Let me go back to the times when you were Assistant Attorney General. You were right much a Populist when you took the cases, weren't you?
Well, I guess that was the way I was characterized. Incidentally, at that time, I was almost the fair-haired boy of the News and Observer which changed very quickly when I began running for Governor. The utilities at that time, were, I thought, outrageously successful in the Utilities Commission in getting almost any rate increase they sought. One morning, when I was over in the staff meeting, Mr. John Paylor, who was the Assistant Attorney General, assigned to the Utility Commission cases, said, at the close of the staff conference--this was on Friday--said, "Mr. McMullan, I've got to be in Washington all of next week." Mr. McMullan said: "Well, that's all right, John. Go ahead." John said, "Well, what are we going to do about the Duke Power rate case, which starts on Tuesday morning?" Mr. McMullan said firmly, "Beverly, didn't you do graduate work in Public Utilities?" [Laughter] He said, "Well, you go on and take over that case." I had no idea what the case was about. I had never seen a case heard in the Utilities Commission. I did not know what the procedure was. So I walked over with Mr. Paylor to see the accumulated evidence. There he had a stack of exhibits and financial reports by the Duke Power Company at least three feet high and two feet wide. So between that time and Tuesday morning I had to get somewhat aquainted with what the case was about. I went into that hearing with, literally, my heart in my throat, fearing I would make some comment and everybody would start laughing. [Laughter] But we got through it all right. Then as a result of that case, Mr. McMullan asked me to handle all the utility rate cases from then on, which I did. Because I was the Assistant Attorney General I was appearing on behalf of the rate payers. It was my duty to represent them the best I could. So I guess I got the reputation among the utilities of being anti-utilities. Actually, my students in the utilities classes at Wake Forest thought I was pro-utilities. [Laughter]
You probably had as much to do as any other person with maintaining reasonable utility rates in North Carolina.
Well, I like to think I did. We had to carry many, many cases to the Supreme Court because the Utilities Commission was composed of very fine gentlemen and very able gentlemen, appointees of the Governor. I thought they had been for years pretty much selected by the then Governors largely on the recommendation of the utility companies, which was understandable because the utilities attorneys knew more about public utilities than anybody else. So the Commission was heavily slanted, I thought. Now, I do not mean any improper influences.
Yes sir.
But just by virtue of their backgrounds, their interests were heavily slanted in favor of utilities. So I took a number of cases to the Supreme Court and was rather successful in many of them. So that's how I got my characterization as a Populist, I guess. Since before the war I had always considered myself a Conservative and still do.