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Title: Oral History Interview with Edward L. Rankin, August 20, 1987. Interview C-0044. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Rankin, Edward L., interviewee
Interview conducted by Jenkins, Jay
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: 148 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.
2007-02-15, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Edward L. Rankin, August 20, 1987. Interview C-0044. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series C. Notable North Carolinians. Southern Oral History Program Collection (C-0044)
Author: Jay Jenkins
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Edward L. Rankin, August 20, 1987. Interview C-0044. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series C. Notable North Carolinians. Southern Oral History Program Collection (C-0044)
Author: Edward L. Rankin
Description: 173 Mb
Description: 51 p.
Note: Interview conducted on August 20, 1987, by Jay Jenkins; recorded in Concord, North Carolina.
Note: Transcribed by Jovita Flynn.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series C. Notable North Carolinians, 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 Edward L. Rankin, August 20, 1987.
Interview C-0044. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Rankin, Edward L., interviewee


Interview Participants

    EDWARD L. RANKIN, interviewee
    JAY JENKINS, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
JAY JENKINS:
This is Jay Jenkins for the Southern Oral History Progam interviewing Ed Rankin at his home in Concord on August 20, 1987. As always, it's nice to see you again. Brings back a lot of memories. You've had a very interesting life and you're still doing two or three jobs. It's nice to see you so vigorous. The primary purpose of this interview is to elaborate on the Pearsall Plan enacted some thirty years ago. I want to start out by asking you to recall those early days with Governor Umstead when you went in as his private secretary when he took office.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Jay, a little background of how I got to know Mr. Umstead. Actually, I had never met Mr. Umstead until he was appointed to the United States Senate following the death of Senator Josiah W. Bailey. As you recall, Governor Cherry had the responsibility of finding a replacement. Mr. Umstead was not only a close friend of Mr. Cherry but had been his campaign manager in Cherry's campaign for governor. He selected Mr. Umstead, who went to Washington to be the junior United States Senator. He soon found that Senator Bailey had long since moved over into the chairmanship suites of the Senate Commerce and Banking Committee which he headed for many years.
The North Carolina Senator's office was understaffed, and there wasn't a whole lot going on there. Mr. Umstead needed additional people. He called to discuss this with Governor Cherry and Governor Cherry in turn discussed it with his private

Page 2
secretary, John Harden, John being a close personal friend of mine and a mentor of mine.
The upshot of it is, I was working in Raleigh. I had come up from Columbia, South Carolina. Well, what happened, I got out of World War II and came back and went to work for the Associated Press in Charlotte as an assistant night editor. Then I was transfered down to Columbia as night editor. I soon found that that was the end of the line, was at that time, of the Associated Press. You filed into Atlanta, and Atlanta decided whether to file anywhere else. We had a line with Charlotte but basically we were reporting to Atlanta.
To make a long story short, John called and said Sandy Graham needed some help and could I come up and work with him at the highway commission. I jumped at the chance. I liked the AP, I did, but I wanted to get back to North Carolina. So I was there.
Mr. Umstead was in Washington. John set up an appointment, and I went up and was interviewed by him. He hired me as his press assistant, writer, baggage smasher, whatever [laughter] . When I walked in the office there in the United States Senate, that was the first time I had ever seen this man, my first contact with him. We spent about forty five minutes together, and he, right off the bat, was kind enough to offer me the job. I accepted. It was an exciting opportunity for me. So I stayed with him through that period, about eighteen months. He was in Washington and, of course, most of the time in North Carolina campaigning against former Governor Broughton who had filed for the seat. The winner was, of course, Governor Broughton—it was

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a surprisingly narrow victory—but Governor Broughton did win. So Mr. Umstead returned to private law practice, and I went with John Harden at Burlington Industries, or Burlington Mills it was then.
JAY JENKINS:
Around '48?
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Yeah, '48. Fran and I were married in '48. We were married June 12 after the primary in May of '48, and moved to Greensboro that fall. It was later because his term didn't expire until the end of the year. So that's how I met Mr. Umstead. Of course, working with him I developed a close friendship and a tremendous admiration—just a remarkable human being, a man of great intellectual ability, absolutely unshakeable character. One thing about William Umstead, of course, everybody knew he didn't smoke; he didn't drink; he didn't curse. But these characteristics were very, they were very much a part of the man.
JAY JENKINS:
He did smoke.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Oh, excuse me. I beg your pardon. Oh, he did smoke, yes. That's another story. You're right. That was different. He grew up on a tobacco farm. He helped work his way through school priming tobacco and working in the fields. So that's another story but that's how I met him. Of course, during the campaign back in those days things were a lot different. I was his driver, and we always shared a room together. I mean we slept in the same room for all those months, what sleep you got, because you're traveling a lot. His pattern was to campaign all day and drive all night to the next place. So we would

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frequently campaign or meet or go for dinner and this and that and the other until 10:00, 10:30 P.M. I never will forget, we were in Reidsville at a Democratic Party meeting. We came out of the meeting, and it was about 10:30 P.M. I said, "Where are we going, senator." He said, "Let's go to Asheville." We had a long day. It started like at 6:00 that morning. That's the kind of thing that the candidates and their staff have to put up with. But to make a long story short, he, of course, returned to private law practice, and I went to Greensboro. I stayed there four years. John Harden was the vice president of public relations, and I was his right hand man and ran the department and whatever. I was very happy with it. We loved Greensboro and enjoyed being at Burlington. Mr. Umstead then ran for governor, and of course, as a volunteer I helped him, and I did some writing.
JAY JENKINS:
This was 1952.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Right. That's right, 1952. So I did what I could to help him from Greensboro. Then I was delighted to see him win the nomination, delighted to see him elected in the fall. That was it as far as I was concerned. One day I got a call, and Mr. Umstead said he wanted to see me. So I went to Durham, and he said he wanted me to be his private secretary. It had never crossed my mind. I didn't know exactly what a private secretary did. I had a long talk with John Harden. I talked with the president of the company, J. C. Cowan, at Burlington and decided to accept. I never will forget, John said, "Ed, I really don't want to lose you but I know enough about the job to tell you it's

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like a post-graduate course in North Carolina [history]. After four years in the governor's office, you will know more about North Carolina than anyone. It's a unique opportunity to learn something about the government and the people of the state." He was very generous. Of course, I accepted, and we started looking for a place to live in Raleigh.
The inauguration date came up and we went up for that and spent the day which was Thursday. Then Friday morning it was very hectic in the governor's office. People just packed in, you know. Of course, when you are a winner, nobody ever voted against you, you know. After you win, that's the way it is. [laughter] They packed into the office, and all wanted to shake hands and get in an early word of advice. Very busy day, and at the end of the day, maybe something like 5:30 or something, Mr. Umstead called me in and said, "We've got to get organized here for next week. We've got to go to the inauguration of President Eisenhower." We've got to do this, and we've got to do that. I made a long list of all these things we had to do. Plus the fact that he had been so busy, and William Umstead found it difficult to delegate lots of things. He was a lawyer by training, and he wanted to dot every "i" and cross every "t". This plagued him, really. As governor, for example, you simply must depend on other people. You cannot look at every document. You cannot read everything. That was a problem that he had.
I made a list, and I went back to Greensboro Friday night, and he went back to Durham.
JAY JENKINS:
This was after the inauguration?

Page 6
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Yeah. This was the week of the inauguration, Thursday night. Then Friday, we were in the office, just one day in the office. So Sunday, Fran and I had gone to church. We came back to our place in Greensboro, and I got a telephone call from Mrs. Umstead. She said that the governor had had a heart attack. His condition was uncertain. They thought he was going to be all right but he had had a heart attack. That's all she knew. I then called the wire services in Raleigh and dictated a brief bulletin about the Governor's sudden illness. The first thing Monday morning, I struck out for Raleigh and walked in that office and it was half staffed. The legislature was in session. The Governor had made his inaugural address. The program, per se, had not been completed. Of course, you've got to follow through on all this. His legislative address said I'm going to have a program in this and a program in this. Much of this was not completed at all. None of the bills had been drafted. So it was a wild period in my life. I say, too, that I got some great help from some fine people. Fortunately, he had Frank Taylor, a former Speaker of the House, who was his legislative liaison.
JAY JENKINS:
W.W. Taylor. No, Frank Taylor.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Frank Taylor was on hand. Of course, his brother, William Umstead's brother, John, was in the House as a stalwart, of course. John and Frank didn't get along at all, never had. They were philosophically different, too. John was very implusive and outspoken and also more liberal politically than Frank. Frank was a conservative and also was a deliberate

Page 7
person. He just operated differently. He listened a lot. He didn't…
JAY JENKINS:
John was very mercurial.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Yeah, true. John was quickly going to tell you everything right off the bat. They were just two different people so they didn't… So I found myself, in a way, kind of referreeing between them. During this period we, of course, had to follow the Governor's condition day by day—we were issued daily medical bulletins and talked to the doctor and so forth. The Governor was in Watts hospital about six weeks in Durham during this first session. Each day Frank and John and I would go over to the hospital—this was after, maybe, the first week—and see the doctor who told us very little, as usual. Often times he would say, "The governor did not have a good night. Just go in and don't trouble him with anything." Just wave and whatever. So literally, sometimes we just stood at the door and said, "Everything's fine. Don't worry about it. All your friends are behind you," and that's it. On the way back to Raleigh, we'd say, "What are we going to do about this?" We'd just make decisions. We'd say, some things you could not wait on. We put off as many big things as we could. But there was a period when the three of us were making the decisions normally the governor would have made. We'd come back and say the governor said go ahead on that or hold back on that or whatever we could do. It was a very, very hairy period.
After about six weeks the doctor allowed him to return to the mansion with the understanding that he would spend most of

Page 8
his time—that he would not go out of the mansion—he'd spend most of his time in his bedroom, and maintain a very rigid restriction of so many hours per day in bed. The Governor was eager and anxious, and he was feeling much better. He was eager to get back, obviously. So he started operating out of his bedroom at the mansion. That was his office. My job was to shuttle people in and out and try to keep his schedule straight and be the go between. We kept a regular flow of people within the time frame that the doctor said he could see everybody each day, very frustrating for Mr. Umstead. I've never known anybody who felt his responsibilities any more. He was that kind of person. Therefore, it just frustrated him that he wasn't able to work full time at a very busy time. But he immediately took charge of his administration, and he was calling the shots. He was working with the various legislative leaders. Gene Bost from Cabarras County was Speaker of the House. Luther Hodges, of course, was lieutenant governor. This went on until May 23. I don't know why I remember the date but May 23 was the first time he walked back into his office in the capitol. This was 1953. So from his first day, first week as governor, in January, he had had one day in the office. Then he was out of the office physically until that day. Then he came back.
He was supposed to be on a limited schedule there. I think maybe half a day or so but he quickly went back to a fairly full day. But he was wise enough—what I didn't realize about Mr. Umstead, he was a very tense person. He was unrelenting on himself, physically, emotionally, everything. He just thought

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that he could do anything without regard to his body. He was a heavy smoker. He was a very light eater, a very light sleeper. He had trouble sleeping. This was a long, long time problem. He did not sleep well. He used to say, on our many trips, "Mr. Rankin, I just don't understand this. We go in the room. You get in bed, and you turn over once, and you're asleep. I'm here counting the counties [laughter] , looking at the wallpaper for hours, and you're just sleeping." I never had any trouble sleeping. He really did. He'd give me a hard time with it. The nature of the man was to go at his schedule as much as he could. But he was wise enough then to shuck off, really, everything else.
I mean he did what he had to do for that legislative situation, for that first year. Appointments to boards, commissions, etc., of course, were a big, major thing that came up and had to be handled. He cut out really as much other things as possible. You know a governor really wears three hats. He's the administrator of the executive branch of government. He is a public figure who's expected to go everywhere and open everything and speak and do whatever it is, educational, cultural, business, commerce. Whatever is happening in the state, they want him there. So he's got a full time job for that. Then he's also the titular head of the Democratic party which is no small thing. It certainly wasn't then. He was expected to, in effect, oversee the operations and to see that the Democrat party organization functioned, and that all the factions worked together, and to be a liaison with the congressional delegation. This took an

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enormous amount of his time. But during those early months, he just really shucked off everything except first priorities in the General Assembly and related matters. He would not accept any invitations outside Raleigh. He would do absolutely minimum in terms of party function. I mean he stayed right with his job. He gradually became to regain his strength in the summer of 1953 and into the fall, and we were very encouraged, very encouraged with him. I think we realized that he was not going to ever be as active as he would normally have been. Gradually he began to expand out into these other areas. Then, of course, I remember we went to—the first big trip I can recall—we went to Lake George, New York to the National Governors' Conference. If I remember correctly, we took Sgt. Harold Minges along, also known as The General, and Lynn Nesbit. Mrs. Umstead didn't go. That was the party.
JAY JENKINS:
Harold Minges was the governor's highway patrol chauffeur.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Highway patrol chauffeur, like you say. In those days, incidentally, nobody ever said bodyguard. Security was not much of a problem. But we were aware of the fact that Harold was there. From time to time as we left on a trip, I'd say, "Harold, you got your gun?" He would often say, "No, I'll run back and get it." [laughter] I mean, you know, it was awkward to sit and ride with it, so he never wore it, almost never wore it. He'd stick it under the seat. That just shows you how little concern there was for security. It was so casual.
JAY JENKINS:
Relaxed.

Page 11
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Relaxed or whatever. I'll finish up here with Mr. Umstead. During the summer, of course, the Advisory Budget Commission was meeting, and Mr. Umstead was intensely interested in this. He wanted to sit in on many of these meetings. He wanted to hear these things himself. So he would begin to go to most of these advisory budget sessions. Then, I've forgotten, it was about August, I believe, about this time of the year, he began to have health problems. He really had respiratory problems. I think congestive heart failure was the cause of his death. He would not be able to get his breath and was just weak, but he went as far as he could.
At one of the ABC hearings, Harold called me and said, "I had to go get the governor and take him back to the mansion. He's really not feeling very well." Then the next thing, they took him over to his doctor in Durham, and he put Mr. Umstead back in Watts hospital. He went through, I've forgotten, one or two of these periods of resting, and you know, they'd work on him a little bit.
As a matter of fact, he was in the hospital when hurricane Hazel struck in October, 1954. That was another wild episode in which—hurricane Hazel forgot it was a hurricane and came in and just came right through Raleigh and everywhere else and played hell. He was in the hospital then. I was in the governor's office. You can imagine what was going on. As the reports came in that this storm was apparently coming inland, I began to get calls from people in state government that said, "Well, they're closing the schools, letting the children go home. State

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employees who have children, they're frantic. What do we do?" I'll never forget. I called several department heads and told them what the problem was. I said, "What do you recommend?" They said, "Whatever the governor thinks we should do, we should do," knowing full well the governor was over in the hospital. They're not helping me at all. They said, "Whatever you think. You tell us what to do." So it became apparent that I had to make a decision. I wasn't about to call the governor and say, "Look, we've got this problem and what do we do." So I called Ed Kirk down at radio station WPTF. I was checking with the weather people. He said, (I'll never forget), "Well, I was just talking with the weather guy in Fayetteville at Pope Air Force Base," or whatever is down there, maybe it was the airport, and he said, "Their weather vane just blew off." [laughter] So he didn't know how high the wind is. I said, "Ed, I think you've convinced me." I called John McDevitt, I think it was, or Dave Cottrane, or whoever it was over there, and I said, "Pass the word to any state employee who wishes to go home, to leave now. They will not be docked for their pay." In fifteen minutes I looked out and the streets, it looked like 5:00. The sun was shining, and I was saying, "Holy smoke, this is going to be the worst mistake that anybody has ever made." [laughter] Then about two hours later, all hell broke loose.
Hazel came through, and I was trapped at the capitol. I couldn't get out. Fran was home with the baby, two babies. Funny thing about that whole thing, we could talk to each other on the phone. The phone connection between us never went out.

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Many phones were out. Finally Harold called me from the mansion. He said, "I think you ought to go home." I said, "Okay, I will." He said, "I'll meet you at the door there at the end of the capitol." So I went down there, and I couldn't push the door open. The wind was blowing so hard, the water was beating in. So I went back and called him and Fran and said, "I'll have to stay here." So I stayed until it was over. That was one of the episodes Mr. Umstead missed, of course. But anyway, he came back but then he had another bout with his health, and he went back into the hospital. As far as I was concerned, you know, when you are so close to a man or to a person like this, you don't really see him as somebody away [from him] does. [Someone] who walks in and says, "Boy, he really has failed." That sort of thing. I couldn't see that. People would tell me that. I guess he was in the hospital about two or three days. I'd have to go back and look it up, when he went back into the hospital. The day of his death was a Sunday. I got a call from Harold.
JAY JENKINS:
It was November…
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
I've got the book. It's in the letter book. I'd be glad…
JAY JENKINS:
We can find it. That's all right. We can get that.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
It was in November, I believe.
JAY JENKINS:
Early November.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Early November. It was Sunday morning (November 7, 1954), fairly early. Harold called me, and he said, "Ed, I just want you to know that I'm taking Mrs. Umstead and Merle Bradley over to the hospital." I said, "Why?" He said, "I don't know

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but I'm just telling you I'm leaving right now. I just wanted you to know." I said, "Do you know of any big problem?" "No, no, no," he said, "I don't know that. But apparently the doctor called. I just wanted you to know." That's all the information I had. Well, that call worried me, and I got to thinking about that, and I told Fran finally, "I'm not going to church or Sunday School. I think I'll stick around here." I tried to read the paper. In a little while I said, "The heck with it. I'm going to the hospital." So I got in the car, and I went over to Watts Hospital and walked in the lobby, and there wasn't anybody around. I asked for Dr.—I can't think of his name, he's now deceased—but the receptionist or person said, "He's upstairs. I'll notify him. You have a seat." So I sat down. In a few minutes, he walked down the corridor.
JAY JENKINS:
The doctor?
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
The doctor came down the corridor. When I saw him, he threw up his hand so I went over to him. We shook hands and I said, "Hi, how are you?" He said, "Fine." And we just began walking down the corridor without me knowing where we were going. Suddenly, right out of the blue, he said, "The governor expired at 9:10 or 9:11," or whenever this happened. Just like that. I was so dumbfounded, I was speechless. Finally I said, "Who knows it?" He said, "Well, Mrs. Umstead and Merle Bradley had been in the room with him. They had just left when he died. I have called John Umstead but he hasn't been able to get over here yet." That's how it happened. I just walked into the

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situation. I guess somebody would have called me later but I mean…
JAY JENKINS:
Sort of casual about the whole thing.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Well, you know how some people are. This doctor, he's a fine man, but his manner was just very low key, just matter of fact—how are you today, shall we have a cup of coffee. I mean, but I was so stunned… So then began another wild period. Of course, I called Fran and dictated a bulletin for her to call the news media. She called the AP, I think, the UP and maybe the News and Observer. I've forgotten now, but that was the way the news got out. Then I did call Luther Hodges and got him at his home in Leaksville. It was almost a blur during that first day. There had not been, of course, a governor to die in office in this century. So there was no precedent. What do you do? I'm talking about from the state standpoint. Obviously a funeral is a funeral. But this is more than just a funeral, you know. So I had to work between the family, and Thad Eure kind of served as Council of State representative. Luther Hodges was calling and saying what could he do and what do you want me to do? Again, it got back, I guess, as much to John Umstead and Mrs. Umstead and me, we just sort of worked it out. So the funeral was planned and held. Then it's funny how life goes. I guess under the stress I was under I had the world's worse cold, a head cold. I felt terribly distraught to start with. Then I had this terrible cold. I was blowing my nose. It was a really hectic time. I do remember that.

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I do remember another little thing. Mr. Umstead's funeral was at the big Methodist Church down town. I've forgotten the name of it now. He was buried in a very heavy coffin. It was big, copper or bronze or something. I mean it was a big thing. I was a pallbearer. The entrance to the church had these long steps that go down to the sidewalk. I don't remember any problem going in but coming out, when we were to take the coffin off of the roller thing underneath, whatever, the little trolley, whatever it is they put coffins on… I didn't realize it but I was the only young person among the pallbearers. Everybody else, I've forgotten who they were, but they were older men. So we started out from the church with that coffin, and the hearse was down below on the street. When we reached those steps, the weight naturally shifted down. We came within an ace of dropping that coffin. There was a young guy from the funeral home walking ahead of us. He looked back and realized what was happening, and he quickly turned and grabbed, just held the end of, you know, he grabbed the coffin and stopped it. I mean with the momentum, we couldn't have stopped it without his help. So I could just visualize the governor of North Carolina's coffin sliding down those steps onto the street.
JAY JENKINS:
I want to take you back, if I may, to May of 1954. That was when the desegregation decision was issued by the U. S. Supreme Court. Governor Umstead had not formulated any response and so forth. He expressed disappointment. One of the, I don't know whether you would call it a legend or not—Irving Carlyle of Winston Salem, who was a close friend of the governor's, spoke to

Page 17
the state Democratic Convention which was held a few days after the decision had come down and not long after Governor Hoey had died in office as a U.S. Senator in Washington. In his speech Irving Carlyle put in a paragraph that said, "This is the law of the land. We must obey it," and so forth and so on. Umstead had not at this time made any official response or taken a position and so on. We newspaper people speculated, had been speculating, if Carlyle was a strong candidate to succeed Hoey. After he made that speech, the governor nominated Sam Ervin. Do you have any personal knowledge of whether that really knocked Irving Carlyle out of the Senate nomination?
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
In my opinion, it did not. As a matter of fact, I don't think Irving Carlyle would have been selected.
JAY JENKINS:
You don't.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
I do not. I do not think that, you know, based on my best recollection after so many years. We had a few deaths while I was there, as a matter of fact, so I went through this senatorial appointment procedure several times with the governor. I learned a few things out of this. A senatorial appointment is more than politics. It really is. Politics is a major component of that decision but an appointment to the U.S. Senate by a governor is about as important a decision as a governor will ever make. He is keenly aware of not only the immediate facts involved, [but also of] the future, the fact that his place in history is on the line. It's just different from anything else I've ever been through, appointments of judges, or to the Supreme Court. There's an intensity of feeling about this among

Page 18
the people, his supporters, the organization, the party. It's agonizing. It's absolutely agonizing. I do not think Irving Carlyle would have been a top level candidate for this to start with. So I don't think he knocked himself out of it. I don't think he was ever in.
JAY JENKINS:
Well, that's very interesting.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Now, Mr. Umstead, another interesting thing about him, he kept his own counsel as well as any man I've ever seen. I mean with me he was as candid as anybody could be but also he didn't, in things like this, he didn't speculate about them. He didn't talk about such decisions before they were made.
There's another thing about Mr. Umstead, unlike any other governor I've ever seen, Mr. Umstead had more close personal friends scattered over North Carolina than any governor I've ever worked for. Much of this went back to his days at Chapel Hill. His class at Chapel Hill were made up of a rather remarkable group of men. They all went back to their home towns, but they stayed in touch. Many of them were in World War I. Many of them were in the American Legion together. Many of them were big democratic workers. They stayed in touch. They would go to the reunions in Chapel Hill. So I could call any one of these persons—one I think of is Jim Hardison from Wadesboro, for example—I could call him at four o'clock in the morning, and I'd say, "The governor, William Umstead, asked me to do this." [And they'd say] "What does he want done?" I mean like that. There was a bond of personal friendship that meant a great deal to these men and to Mr. Umstead. He would talk to these people,

Page 19
individually, about whatever, and they'd advise him. Of course, he was very open and he'd listen to anybody but he kept his own counsel until he made a decision.
It's funny you bring this up because I told Sam Ervin this story three weeks before he died. Hugh Morton and I went to interview him and got a tape. Bless his heart, when we first got there, I didn't think he'd be able to talk because he had terrible emphysema. But he got interested in talking to us and suddenly he was breathing better. We had an interview of about an hour. But I told him this story. When the governor was near a decision, and we knew it was close, Mr. Umstead buzzed me and said, "Get Sam Ervin for me on the telephone. I want to talk just to him personally." I called Ervin's law office or wherever he was. It was Morganton, I think. I got him on the phone.
JAY JENKINS:
The Supreme Court.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Yeah, the Supreme Court but I think he was not in Raleigh. He was in Morganton. He was at his home, I think, or maybe in his law office. I don't remember. Anyway, I said, "Sam, Governor Umstead wants to speak with you. Will you hold on, please?" I put him on hold. I walked in the office, and I picked up the phone for Mr. Umstead. Mr. Umstead said, "Sam, (or words to this effect) Sam, I've been thinking about this a long time. I want to appoint you to the United States Senate." That was it. They talked about how the announcement would be made. It was a big, big day. I think Sam Ervin was the type of person that Mr. Umstead was looking for. Sam Ervin and William Umstead were close personal friends. They both were World War I buddies.

Page 20
They had been through a lot of the same experiences together. Plus the fact, obviously, Sam Ervin was qualified. Of course that appointment, unlike some of the others, stuck. Ervin stayed until he was ready to retire.
JAY JENKINS:
Of course then Luther Hodges came into office. When did the Pearsall plan have its genesis? Mr. Umstead, I believe, started that, didn't he?
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Yeah. Let's stop just a minute, and let me get a cup of coffee. [Interruption]
JAY JENKINS:
As we mentioned earlier, the Supreme Court decision on desegregation came down in May, 1954. I'd like for you to talk about the genesis of the Pearsall Plan. I believe Governor Umstead began it all with the appointment of a committee.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
That's correct.
JAY JENKINS:
Let's talk about that.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Well, first of all, I think it's important to understand that the Supreme Court decision came as a great shock, not only in North Carolina, but throughout the South. The different governers in different states reacted in different ways. Mr. Umstead was shocked by the first bulletin, and the first information I gave him. Of course, we were overwhelmed with calls from the media for comment from the governor. His first reaction, and just within minutes, he said, "I will not have any immediate comment until I see the opinion and have a chance to read it and understand the ramifications." This in itself was rather unusual because other governors were expressing

Page 21
outrage and, you know, all kinds of color statement. Anyway, he did just that. He immediately began work. He called up the chief justice. He began to call lawyers around the state whose judgment he trusted. Of course, he talked with the attorney general. He got copies of the opinion. I mean in a matter of hours or soon as possible. I've forgotten when his statement was released, but it's in his letter book. It's, of course, mentioned in this Pearsall document. He set down with a pencil and wrote out that statement himself. It was not drafted by anybody else.
In effect, he said that he thought that the Supreme Court had made a mistake. The Court did not realize the serious complications they were causing the South and its states but that after all was said and done, North Carolina will abide by the law of the land. It would work toward that end. Unlike some other governors, he did not make all kinds of wild allegations or promises or threats. He expressed his dismay at the problems raised by the decision but said North Carolina would do the best it could to deal with the problems. Again, he had resorted to the same procedure of talking to his many close friends and to those he thought had expertise in these areas. He was good at this. He'd get on the phone at the mansion, and he'd have them come in one by one.
I won't ever forget, Donnie Sorrell, who was an old buddy of his… This was back when the Governor was confined to the mansion. He told me to call Donnie. Said, "I want to talk to Donnie. Tell him to come over to the mansion at eight o'clock." He said, "Tell him to come directly to the mansion. Don't go to

Page 22
the S&W for supper. I don't want him to see or talk to anyone. Come directly to the mansion." I called Donnie and he said, "I'll do it." So I was at the mansion when he came in at 8 P.M. He walked in and said, "William, I did exactly what you said. I drove from my home in Durham directly here to the mansion. So nobody would know who I was or where I was going. I didn't even turn on my headlights." [laughter] "I hope this was okay." Mr. Umstead did a lot of his conferences one on one. Instead of getting a group together, he did a great deal of this kind of intensive, personal talking. What do you think and what about so and so?
He did a great deal of hard work before he came up with the idea that there had to be some sort of citizens' group. Of course, the legislature was not in session, and this was something the governor could do. I can't tell you why he selected Thomas J. Pearsall. It was an act of great fortune for North Carolina. I do think that Mr. Umstead realized that it had to be someone who understood the significance of this great, far reaching opinion. Such a person had to be able to look down the road and see where North Carolina eventually had to end. At the same time he or she had to fully understand the implications, political, emotional, everything else, impact that it was going to have on the people of North Carolina, especially from eastern North Carolina. I think Tom was an ideal choice because he was a former Speaker of the House, a respected person, lawyer, businessman, well known and well liked throughout the state. He was a sensitive person, a person who knew how to work with people

Page 23
in all walks of life. But why Umstead selected Tom Pearsall, I'll never know. In any event, Governor Umstead did name that first committee, and they went to work.
Meanwhile, of course, this was all happening during that same period in 1954, when the governor was trying to follow the work of the Advisory Budget Commission. You know, Mr. Umstead was really up to his eyeballs. So this was all going on at the same time. Tom's account in the manuscript tells about this early period. The truth of the matter, as far as I could tell, Jay, no one knew what the answer was. I mean, above all, there was no crystal ball you could look into. But the one thing that North Carolina did, and I think Tom Pearsall and his initial group and William Umstead understood, was, we've got to have time. We don't know how fast the court will move, or the federal court system will move on this thing, but we've got to have time. People have to adjust to this, and, above all, we've got to save our public schools. That was foremost in William Umstead's mind from the very beginning. How they were going to do it, he and the Pearsall Committee didn't know. But we're going to save our public school system, and we're going to get through this some way. So in that period from May until his death in November, he was involved in these early deliberations. Perhaps it was more the assurance that he understood what they were strugging with. It was a very difficult time.
JAY JENKINS:
And then, of course, Hodges, it continued under Hodges. As I recall, in the 1955 session was when they passed the Pupil Assignment Act. Is that correct? In effect I think they gave

Page 24
the assignment authority to the local board. I know we can't go into the legal end, but…
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
The details of the Pearsall Plan are all in manuscript, plus available elsewhere. Let me just tell you that another great stroke of fortune was that Luther Hodges also chose Tom Pearsall to continue this assignment. Hodges may have known who he was but, I mean, these two men didn't actually know each other. Following Mr. Umstead's death, one of the first things that Hodges had to do, was what are we going to do about school integration and the Supreme Court decision? Here he was in November with the 1955 General Assembly coming up. Please remember that Mr. Umstead and Mr. Hodges were not close at all. I've never quite understood why except that, in my opinion, they had different backgrounds, and their paths had never really crossed much. I think people close to both of them were at odds. In other words, some of the coolness resulted from their close allies saying, "You can't trust Hodges… or that fellow Umstead won't give you air in a jug." There's a lot of that in politics. Those around the king, they don't want anybody else to…
JAY JENKINS:
Yeah. Horn in.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Or they don't like somebody affiliated with the other group, and so you get this. But Umstead and Hodges were polite to each other. Mr. Hodges said this, that he was always treated with courtesy but that, he described it, "There was a coolness."
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

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JAY JENKINS:
There was a coolness, you were saying, between Umstead…
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Right. In the document we are discussing, Mr. Hodges refers to that. He, of course, offered his support in any way he could as lieutenant governor during 1953-54. He suggested that the State Board of Education, which he chaired as lieutenant governor, meet and cooperate and do anything the governor and the committee wanted them to do. Mr. Umstead kept insisting, "That's fine. We welcome your support but let the Pearsall committee work." He kept saying, "Let this committe work," the Pearsall committee. But Mr. Hodges said in the manuscript that the Board of Education did have a meeting and discussed the integration problem and, in effect, authorized him as chairman to do whatever he thought could be done to cooperate.
JAY JENKINS:
Excuse me, I want to interrupt just for the benefit of people who may be using this tape. The document Ed refers to and will refer to at other times is a document that was called "Transcription Session on the History of the Integration Situation in North Carolina, Saturday, September 2, 1960 in the Governor's Office at the State Capitol." Chairman Tom Pearsall and Ed Rankin, the former private secretary to Governors Umstead and Hodges, suggested this taping session be held. It was an excellent idea. The participants were Governor Hodges, Thomas J. Pearsall, Paul A. Johnston, state director of administration, Robert E. Giles, administrative assistant to the governor, and Rankin. This document is on file at the Southern Oral History

Page 26
Program. I wanted to make that clear so people would know what document we were referring to. Now, Ed, of course I've read that other document. What always impressed me was the fact that you had Virginia going the way of massive resistance, and you had other people doing the same thing, and the Pearsall Commission had some internal problems…
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Very definitely.
JAY JENKINS:
… as well with W. W. Taylor, who was the chief lawyer, and Tom Ellis, who was the assistant. Then, of course, Dr. I. Beverly Lake, who was the deputy attorney general, and was most influential, because of Harry McMullin, the Attorney General, who was not very vigorous.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
He had been ill. He'd had a heart attack, and he was not in good health.
JAY JENKINS:
I've always been impressed by the fact that in spite of all those problems, they came up with the plan. What I wanted, I was interested in, I know the legislature, before the governor had that special session in 1956, had briefings. Ralph Howland was called in to help on one of those things. I don't know…
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Ralph was called in. Here's where he came in. Holt McPherson was asked to be chairman of the state campaign to adopt the constitutional amendment. Ralph was asked to come in and help with the passage of the amendment.
JAY JENKINS:
Was that what it was?
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
That's right. He was not…
JAY JENKINS:
What Ralph told me, you'll be interested in this, he told me that Governor Hodges' initial plan was to issue a little

Page 27
small brochure and let that be it in so far as informing the people about what the plan was. Of course, Ralph said he counseled that the Pearsall Committee better have some hearings in various sections of the state.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
I'm not saying that Ralph was not consulted. He was close to all the principles involved.
JAY JENKINS:
Yeah. I just want to know what his role was.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Right. But he was not a part of this.
JAY JENKINS:
Of the Pearsall thing?
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
That's correct.
JAY JENKINS:
He was just trying to sell the package.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Well, he was trying to be helpful. Ralph was regarded as sort of a senior press statesman at that time, and they were interested…
JAY JENKINS:
Well, now, one thing I noticed, and we may be jumping around here, but the governor had meetings with all the legislators from the Piedmont, west, and east. Of course, I was a newspaper man. I remember a lot of those legislators were restive. They didn't think that this was enough and so forth. A lot of them were torn, even though only two of them voted against it. My question was, I got the feeling that Hodges must have gotten pretty firm commitments from members of the legislature from the regional meetings that they had to keep them from going off half-cocked.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Okay. The value of the regional meetings was to prepare for the special session. When you look back at it, it's astonishing—the governor, Pearsall and legislative supporters

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set a goal of wanting to do it in a week. They wanted to come in and knock this out in a week and go home. Of course, you couldn't begin to do that unless the members of the General Assembly knew in some detail what legislation is proposed. They had to look at some drafts of things. They had to talk. They had to satisfy their own interests. Plus the fact that there were some changes in the Plan made during these meetings as of a result of the legislators' comments and questions, not of great substance but helpful—if you do this, then you've got a better chance of passage, not only in the legislature but later in the amendment. Tom Pearsall, I think, with his strong legislative background, probably had as much to do with the success of the meetings, or the fact that the meetings were held. Hodges, who had no legislative experience, was open to any suggestions.
One of the great things about that, Hodges, in many ways, was the opposite of Mr. Umstead. He understood how to run a big organization. You have to delegate. You have to hold people responsible and accountable to you but you've got to let them go, you know. So he was open to whatever constructive suggestions were made. Of course, he was, as you know, a great communicator. So I imagine that Tom had as much to do as anybody in saying…
First of all, you're correct. The legislators were restive. They didn't know what we were doing. Also, they are accountable to their voters. In others words, how do I run for the General Assembly and get elected or re-elected? What is my position? You could have had a hundred and seventy different positions

Page 29
taken. So the meetings were to serve many purposes. It was to above all focus on the Plan as the best approach we know in North Carolina to get through this era, this period, that we're in and to save our public schools and to enable us to move ahead. And it will work. You hope it will work. Legislators tend to be pragmatists… and you've got to hang on to something.
So the meetings were set up. I think the Charlotte Observer or somebody jumped on it—or maybe it was the News and Observer, I don't know—talking about meetings in the woods or something. [laughter] That bothered Tom Pearsall. But anyway the meetings were successful. The astonishing thing, too—to show you how important the issue was— every member of the General Assembly attended at least one of the meetings. I mean there was 100% attendance. If they couldn't go to this one, they went to one over here. You probably saw in the manuscript where John Kerr, Jr.—who was just a great guy, but I mean he was a segregationist from the word go—he went to two or three of them. Somebody leaned on him and said, "John, weren't you over at that meeting over there." He said, "Yeah." Said, "What are you doing here?" He said, "Well, I'm the governor's handyman. [laughter] You know they were working around these folks that they knew were fire and brimstone. But John had agreed to come to help. So some legislators went to more than one, and some of them at the request of Tom Pearsall and the Governor, to say that "I was at the meeting down east and here was the reaction." So that, you know the feeling of that, it comes better from another legislator than have Tom or Paul Johnston say, "Well the folks down there

Page 30
are all for it." So it helped to carry the word, and that was the purpose.
JAY JENKINS:
Well, one feeling that I got just by conversations with these legislators during the special session—and I think that this is something that the opponents didn't recognize—all the impulses of the people that I talked to was going the other direction, massive resistance or some form of it. Jonathan Daniels, of course, was the chief opponent, the editor of the News and Observer.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
On the other side.
JAY JENKINS:
I notice in your document that Charlie Carroll was a little skittish at first, State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Of course that's understandable because he's an elected officer. He might have some legitimate fears, you know. But that's the reason I wondered if you knew whether Hodges got firm commitments. Did he seek to get a binding commitment from all these legislators?
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Not to my knowledge. I didn't attend any of these meetings. Bob Giles went to them. That would be a good question to ask him. Not to my knowledge, but the Pearsall leaders definitely caucused after every meeting and asked, "What's the response? How do we stand now?" I'm talking about the group. They kept in close touch, and they kept in close touch with, of course, the Governor. I'm sure many of the legislators would say, "Governor, I'm with you. I'm going to vote for it."
JAY JENKINS:
I was just curious because…

Page 31
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
No, I don't think any effort… You know, I think the hardest thing—this is one of the great things about historic perspective—was to look back and realize that everybody was floundering. I mean really. Except there was an instinctive feeling in North Carolina among many people that somehow we're going to save our schools. We're not going to destroy our public school system in this process. We don't know how we are going to do it, but we're going to do it. They were coming at it from different ways. I don't mean that that was a clear statement. As you well know T. Taylor came back from his swing around the South and had this proposal to just take the requirement for public schools out of the constitution. That the State of North Carolina would not offer public education. I mean it was as dramatic as that.
JAY JENKINS:
It was W. W. Taylor's and Tom Ellis'…
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
This was T. Taylor. Yeah, W. W., that's right, T. Taylor.
JAY JENKINS:
This was after they went on their great trip through the South.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Yeah, they went on that big trip, you know. They did this dog and pony show down to Louisiana and other states, and they came back with all kinds of…
JAY JENKINS:
Said take it out of the constitution all together.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Yeah, that was one of their proposals.
So I'm saying there were all shades of resistance to the Brown decision. Much of it was just absolute fury and anger at interference of the federal government, and of course as many public elected

Page 32
officials, resented being put in a hell of a spot. I mean this was a terrible dilemma to be in. They don't want to be in this dilemma. They don't want to have to face up to this. So it was a feeling as expressed better maybe in Georgia and Alabama, a lashing out, saying, "Never, never," and all that. The Pearsall Committee, the first one, as you know, was appointed by the Governor. The second was appointed as a legislative authorized group. It served as a catalyst in many ways to take the lighning and the thunder and everything else. Everybody, whether they liked the Pearsall group or not, they realized they were working on it. But the Attorney General was restive. He thought we had to do something. I mean both Harry McMullan and then later William Rodman, they felt that we were not doing enough. In watching these other southern states, they seemed to be getting away with it. They'd get up and say, "No, no, no." Everybody would applaud, and nothing would happen. So North Carolina resisters said, "They're doing it. Why can't we do it?" Well, I don't think there was any doubt that from the beginning that the cooler heads in North Carolina said, "Look, this is not going to work. We're not going to get any relief that way. We've got to find our own solution in our own way." That's to their credit.
JAY JENKINS:
I think one element in this, as a businessman who spent all his life in business, big business, that Hodges was able to get the support of the business establishment in North Carolina behind this plan. I'm sure one argument was disruption is bad for business. Don't you think that was a pretty big factor.

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EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Definitely. Mr. Hodges was a man of many talents. I worked for him for five years. I traveled with him and everything, all over the United States. I traveled with him in western Europe, and I went with him wherever. He could walk in a board room and command the respect of Tom Watson of IBM, or he could go in a crossroads store and sit down and talk to a bunch of guys sitting around a cracker barrel and communicate with them. He had that talent. He was an amazing combination. I've just never seen anybody in public life who had quite that range, maybe FDR, somebody like that had it. There are not many people who had that ability. He was respected by the business, industrial community mainly because he'd been successful. He knew what it was to meet a payroll and do all the things that business people respect. And he had devoted his time to it, and he said, "This is the answer." Yes, business people were concerned. But I think he was able to cut across a wider range. Part of it might be the fact that he had so little background in the Democratic political party. He didn't have a lot of scars from past campaigns. I mean that was a benefit for him really. What business people knew about him was basically favorable. He hadn't had to battle in the political arena. He hadn't had to make a lot of people mad, [laughter] like governors before him had to do.
JAY JENKINS:
Well, now, as you recall those days, did the governor's office get a whole lot of input from the public, and if so, what was the tone of it during this period?
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
We got, it was…

Page 34
JAY JENKINS:
Across the spectrum.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Yeah, across the spectrum. We were battered on all sides. Overwhelmingly correspondence and calls and visitors [said], "Why don't you do something? Tell them (the Federal Courts) to go to hell. What the heck are you going to do?" The majority—then on the other side, those who agreed with the Brown decision, the academic, the liberal people—I don't even like to use that term anymore because it's hard to define liberal and conservative anymore. But back in those days perhaps it was clearer, like Irving Carlyle who said, "Of course, we're going to obey the law." Well, the problem with that approach is, it's over simplistic. You've got to say, certainly, North Carolina will obey the law, but it's going to do this within a framework of the kind of state we are, and where we are, and the circumstances. We are going to have to work our way through it, and at that point in time. That was a very simplistic statement to make. I mean Irving was a great person and a fine man, but just to say, of course, "we'll obey the court opinion" was ludicrous.
JAY JENKINS:
You've got to have public support.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Right. You may, in effect, be absolutely working against what it was that you're trying to achieve by just that simple statement.
JAY JENKINS:
The document that we've been talking about, State Superintendent Carroll was at first sort of indifferent to the thing but later on he came around. Do you recall anything else

Page 35
as a sort of a supplement to what is said in there? Dr. Lake…
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
You're talking about Charlie Carroll's…
JAY JENKINS:
Any general subject matter.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Well, let me say, if you know Charlie Carroll—he's a very fine gentlemen, he really is, first rate—he's the personification of a school man. By that I mean the rectitude of doing things by the numbers, you know. We are going to operate correctly. We are going to show up on time. School's going to open on time. You're going to keep your attendance. You're going to do your studies. He is a school man. His whole life was built around this. Certainly, he understood the ramifications, the political ramifications within the state superintendency of education, the school systems, the county boards and all that, thoroughly familiar with that. [He was] a man highly respected by most school people and legislators. Some of them didn't think that Charlie Carroll was a very effective school superintendent, per se, but they all respected him. This had nothing to do with the Pearsall Plan. They just said here's a good man but he probably is not the best we could have there, but he's all right. Now, when the Brown decision hit, of course, he was in the middle of a whirlwind. I think his reaction was to pull back.
The other thing you have to remember, too, is the fact that he and Hodges didn't get along very well. Hodges looked upon Charlie, I think, as kind of a ho-hum, status quo, and Hodges was an action man. You know, "Let's get on with it. What's the

Page 36
agenda? Let's move." Charlie was more pontificating and reflective and all that. So I'm saying from the very beginning, with Hodges serving as chairman of the state school board while he was lieutenant govenor, he was not impressed with Charlie Carroll as a strong leader. That's what I'm saying, as a leader. So they were not close to start with. As a result Charlie did what a lot of the members of the Council of State do, and other department heads, they set up a buffar. They have a number two person who is their communicator, carries the water and does their bidding. It turned out that Everett Miller was his man. It was an absolute stroke of fortune that Dr. Carroll chose Everett because Everett was well qualified. He was a student of school law, totally objective. I mean, he was dedicated to carrying out his responsibilities, period, a no-nonsense sort of fellow. He and Hodges hit it off like that. Hodges asked him a question, wham, he got an answer, or he said I'll have it back over here in thirty minutes. He was that kind of person. So it worked out very well basically from the state superintendent's office with Everett Miller. It worked quite well but Charlie did waffle, at first. There wasn't any doubt about it. He waffled on it, and I can understand it. He was caught between some very, very tough opposing forces. So as a result, his tendency was to sort of back away.
JAY JENKINS:
Tom Pearsall told me something interesting. I don't know if you know anything about this or not. He said that when T. Taylor and Tom Ellis brought back some of these alternatives or whatever you want to call it, recommendations, that he

Page 37
considered among others abandoning the public schools. He considered that report so incendiary that he took it out in a vacant lot behind the office over there, I think they were in the old health building somewhere…
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
They were in the Agricultural Building.
JAY JENKINS:
Pearsall told me that he took, personally took that thing out and burned it. [laughter]
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Well, that must have been another report because somewhere in there he refers to the report that Ellis and Taylor brought back. He makes a reference to some document as if he still had it. I'm not sure which one that was. The appointment of Tom Ellis was an unfortunate choice. In this document Tom Pearsall admits that Colonel William Joyner, who incidentally was one of the great legal minds in North Carolina at that time and contributed enormously to the success of drafting the law and related matters, but he had recommended Tom Ellis. [laughter]
JAY JENKINS:
I notice that Dave Coltrane recommended T. Taylor. They didn't have a very scientific way of going about getting counsel.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Talking about Dave Coltrane. I never will forget Paul telling me this story. Paul Johnston said that when Dave was running the budget office, they were preparing the budget recommendations for the legislature. He went in Dave's office, and Dave was going over a budget document with a pencil, striking through certain line items. Paul said, "What are you doing?" Dave said, "I'm cutting this budget. It's too much." Paul asked, "Well, what's the basis for your cuts?" Dave, "I'm

Page 38
dividing it by two." Paul, "Why two?" Dave said, "Because it's easier to divide by two." [laughter] That shows you how it was back in those days. Mr. Coltrane decided it was too much money. Some agencies wanted too much. So he just went down and took all these line items and cut them in two. Dave was a good soul and a fine man, and he was trying to help.
Well, you have to remember about T. Taylor and Tom Ellis—they went on to later fame or whatever—I think first of all that both men were well meaning. They were representing a spectrum of thought as was I. Beverly Lake that was counter to reality in my judgment and in Governor Hodges' and others. In other words, they were for bitter resistance at any cost, including the public schools, to not allow integration to happen. But their opposition was very genuine. I don't think at the time that they were using it for their own personal gain, per se. I think they were carrying out what they felt was right for North Carolina. They did create problems for the Pearsall Committee, especially later on in the special session of the General Assembly. Taylor and Ellis were making comments, and they were making some speeches, and they were issuing statements or comments without authority of the committee. But their efforts did not change the committee's recommendations because they didn't concur. Tom understood their position, as did the other members of the committee, and so the Pearsall leaders basically just worked around them. But you understand it wasn't just these two guys. I mean there were other people. I. Beverly Lake, of course, was the major one but Byrd Satterfield, Sam Worthington in the

Page 39
legislature, there were numbers of them who were just incensed and angry. They wanted to strike back at the interference of the federal government. A key player in all this was Paul Johnston, who was just one of the most remarkable men I ever knew and had one of the keenest minds.
JAY JENKINS:
He was Hodges' first legal assistant.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Yeah. I'll tell you a quick story about how Paul came to joing Governor Hodges' staff. So many things are just happenstance. You say, well, how did a man of Paul Johnston's ability and stature end up working for Hodges? They didn't know each other. What happened was this. Mr. Umstead died. As I told you, he had never really completed his staff appointments. I was his only male employee. I was running everything. I was operating the office. I was the administrative person. I signed all the notary commissions and other legal requirements. I was, you know, doing everything, handling media, and writing speeches, and news releases, etc. One of the reasons that Mr. Umstead was very angry at Governor Kerr Scott—of course, they were not close at all—he said Scott wasted a lot of money by having two men in the office. Scott had Ben Roney and John Marshall. Mr. Umstead said, "We don't need two men. You can run it." [laughter] After my first couple of years, I needed help. So following Governor Umstead's death, when I met with Mr. Hodges, of course I offered my resignation. I didn't know Hodges well at all. I said, "I'll leave now, or I'll stay until you get a replacement, whatever you want to do but I understand that the position of private secretary is a very personal choice for you." You know,

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I had a close personal relationship with Mr. Umstead." Hodges leaned back in his chair and said, "Ed, this is all totally unexpected. I never expected to be here under these circumstances. I don't have anybody else in mind." He said, "Why don't we just try it for a while." And off we went. About three weeks later, one day the Governor suddenly looked at me and said, "Ed, everything is going fine." That's all that was ever said. So I'm saying, I had no relationship with Hodges but he kept me on.
After he said let's get on with it, I said, "Governor, there's a couple of things we've got to do. We've got to have a lawyer. All work stuff with the attorney general, fugitive warrants, and things, I can sign my name but I don't know what all this is about. I've got too much else to do. We need a lawyer." So he said, "Well, I can understand that. I'll take care of it." Two or three days went by (this was in late November of '54 and the 1955 legislature is coming, the Pearsall thing's going on, etc.) and the Governor said, "Ed, I've having trouble finding an attorney. I've called two or three people, and you just can't pick up a good lawyer right now. They just can't drop everything and come in." He called the name of a lawyer over in Greensboro, Elton Edwards, and he said, "I've known him, and I asked him if he couldn't just drop everything." Edwards said, "It'll take me three months at least to clear out things so I can come." So I said, "Governor, let me make a suggestion. You're a good friend of Albert Coates, and Albert will do anything in the world for you. I know he's got a lot of

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legal talent over there in the Institute of Government." What I'd do is pick up the phone and call Albert and tell him your ox is in the ditch. You've got to have some help. You need a lawyer on loan for whatever period of time, at least to get you through the '55 General Assembly." Hodges quickly agreed. He called Albert Coates, who, of course, protested that, "I'm stretched thin with my staff." Hodges listened, said he understood and then asked, "Who are you going to send me." [laughter] So with that I got a call from Albert Coates, and he said, "Can I meet you for breakfast in the morning over at the cafe back of the capitol, seven o'clock." I said, "I'll be there." Albert wanted to help, of course, but he explained again his staff shortages. He said, "Oh, we're stretched thin. We've got this. We've got that." I just sat there and looked at him and said, "Who's is it going to be, Albert." [laughter] He said, "All right, I'm going to give you my best man. His name is Paul A. Johnston," and he told me a little something about him. Coates insisted that, "He's on loan, you understand. 'Cause he is a top flight man and I need him." I said, "Well, that's something for you to work out with the governor," but I added, "Can he come tomorrow?" So Paul Johnston came over in a couple of days. That's how Paul came in, strictly on loan, on assignment, and never dreamed that he would stay beyond it. Of course, Paul was a first rate person who immediately jumped in with a great…
JAY JENKINS:
You say he was a key player in the Pearsall Plan?

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EDWARD L. RANKIN:
He was a key player in the Pearsall Plan. Had the ability to run interference between these various people involved, between the Attorney General, Tom Pearsall, Colonel Joyner, and I. Beverly Lake, who was a big player on the scene. Mr. Lake was over there, you know, churning around. Paul was a respected legal scholar. He quickly proved his ability. He was a key person. Now let me say one thing, Paul understood better than most people the challenge facing North Carolina. He said, "What a position to be in. We have to publicly have a goal of opposing integration and doing everything in our power to prevent it from happening while at the same time planning to let it happen. We know we're going from A to Z but we don't know yet how we're going to get to Z, and when we find out, we can't admit we're getting to Z." That's the kind of mind he had. He realized this early on. So he was very much a major player. Colonel Joyner, as I said, was probably the most preeminent lawyer in the group and respected both in the General Assembly and in school circles. His father, James Y. Joyner, had been the patron saint of public schools for years, and the Colonel was a very respected corporate lawyer. Paul worked hand and glove with him. He could work with Joyner, work with Pearsall. He had the respect of the people in the Attorney General's department. He did it quietly and effectively, and yet he really could turn out the work. So he was a key player. Bob Giles later came when Paul became the first director of administration. He also was a valuable and talented member of the team. It was an interesting

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period of time, and this is just a little aside. Excuse me for a minute.
JAY JENKINS:
Now, Ed, if you would, elaborate a little bit about Tom Pearsall and his fellow members of that commission, and how they were able to do what they did.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Well, I think the main thing is the nature of the people involved. Is that still running?
JAY JENKINS:
Yeah, it's running.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
The key players in this were people who had a deep understanding and a deep love of North Carolina, and, above all, I don't think allowed their own ego and their own personal ambition to interfere with what they were doing. And through this understanding they were able to deal with—as Albert Coates said, "Any young lawyer or public official must suffer fools gladly." I don't mean those opposing the Pearsall Plan were fools. I mean the Pearsall Plan leaders had an openness and willingness to deal with whatever the position other people came from because they could really understood how they felt about it. They understood the anger. They understood the frustration. They understood the political sensitivities involved for these members of the General Assembly and for the people in the state government.
I think the Pearsall group was disappointed generally with Charlie Carroll. They didn't think he was a strong leader, and they thought he was not supportive enough of what they were trying to do. But they understood that. So this enabled them to work around and through to try to still move forward without open

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conflict with him or his staff. Above all the Plan tried to offer the reassurance to every white parent that if you don't want your child in school with a black person, they didn't have to go to school with a black person. There are these safety valves available to you. But the ultimate goal was trying to marshall public support to allow time to heal much of the fears and passions, and we've got to save the public school system and rally around that. But you had to be sensitive, careful about how all this was accomplished. As I look back, after reading this document twenty seven years later, here is a small group of people who came through very difficult, tough periods in which there were great passions raised. Governor Hodges, the Pearsall Committee, and others supporting the Plan were battered from all sides, not only the newspaper editorials, the t.v. commentaries, the speeches that were made in which the Governor and Pearsall and the committee and everybody involved were castigated roundly. Yet in this transcribed manuscript, I find no tone of bitterness in any of their comments in 1960 when this was dictated. I find nothing but essentially a respect for those who held different opinions and a gratitude that somehow we'd come through this crisis and managed to save the public schools. How this all came together—it must be the will of God, I think.
JAY JENKINS:
One thing, you had some opponents. My recollection is you didn't have any ground swell of opposition. The constitutional amendments, and so forth, passed about four to one. You had some, I mean, Jonathan Daniels and a few other

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people, but they did a good job of laying the groundwork of acceptance.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Well, in many cases, of course, your opposition like Jonathan Daniels helps you at a time like this. You need somebody on the other side to take a position that, you know, can motivate many people to say, "Well, I'm not going to do that." It is often human nature to react this way: "If he takes that position, I'm going to go the other way." And you're going to have opposition, too.
JAY JENKINS:
One of the ingenious features of the plan was that—while you can call it a safety valve and say you could get a tuition grant or something to send your child to a segregated school and so forth—in intolerable situations you could close the schools but the procedure you had to follow to close that school was extremely cumbersome as I recall. It was not an easy matter to do.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
That's correct. In the manuscript the governor pointed out that Tom Pearsall had a call from a very important person in the state who was very angry about a community school problem situation. The caller told Pearsall: "Now, I want to do something about this problem. I've got supporters. We're here. We're not going allow such and such to happen." So Tom replied, "All right. Here's what you have to do." He sent the legal requirements to him, and Tom said that's all he ever heard about it. [laughter] Whatever the crisis was it didn't happen because when the group took a close look at the local option and tried to

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work their way through the requirements, they must have decided that they were not going to get public support for their purpose.
There's one other thing I'd forgotten, this story. North Carolina and we, in the governor's office, were covered up by national media. I remember one time introducing two New York Times' reporters to each other. They'd never met each other. [laughter] They were in the office at the same time. Didn't even know that the other one was there. That's how big the Times is. But we had a ton of people coming in. We had, for example, I remember a guy, from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He interviewed Hodges. One of the things he said—he'd never been to the South before at all—he said, "Governor, I've been in Raleigh for a day or two. I'm sort of surprised. I always heard that in the South when you walked down the street if a white man is approaching a black man, the black man steps out in the street." He said, "I didn't see that happening." Well, this man was sincere. He was not pulling the Governor's leg. He thought that was how life was in the South. Just to show the misunderstandings there were.
The other story came from Bill Armstrong of WRAL-TV, Raleigh. Remember when President Seiko Toure of Guinea came to North Carolina while on an official visit to the U. S.? How should he be entertained by Governor Hodges in the midst of a racial crisis? Here's this black man, who was a head of state. So there was a lot of, I remember, calling and discussion. We were trying to figure out where to host an official state dinner for him. It had to be a place that was appropriate but at that

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time a hotel in Raleigh would not work. It just wouldn't work. So I suggested, "Why don't we try the Planetarium at Chapel Hill?" The University quickly agreed to take him. Of course, it could not have been better. It's a beautiful place, elegant and all that. And it was successful. So anyway, before President Toure arrived, Bill Armstrong got a call from, I guess, his network, NBC, CBS, whatever it was, and the guy said that he wanted some footage of the visit of Toure. Bill said, "I'll be glad to provide it. What particular phase of the visit do you want?" The man from New York said, "We want that part of it that shows the rioting in the streets when Toure arrives." [laughter] Bill said to him, "North Carolina doesn't do things that way. There will not be any riots." So the man said, "Then I'm not interested," and hung up.
JAY JENKINS:
That's good.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
There was a lot of national media misrepresented, Jay. There was a lot of that in terms of—there's also the story how Mr. Hodges had a go—round with Turner Catledge of the New York Times. The Times' front page coverage of the first school integration in Charlotte where some white kids threw some shavings of ice at a little black girl going to school. Nothing really serious happened. It should not have happened. But there was some taunting and people across the street from the school, shouting and all that, but there was no violence, and no real threat to anybody. The story we heard, and it was on pretty good authority, was that when the ice shavings were thrown, the photographer from The New York Times (or wire service) was not

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ready. So he went to the guy and said, "How about doing that again?" So he could get the picture and that photo appeared on the front page of The New York Times. Is that helpful?
JAY JENKINS:
It sure is.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
From the manuscript, here's a quote from Paul Johnston dealing with an overview of the complex situation facing Governor Hodges and the Pearsall Committee: "We were just discussing the whole basic problem here, and I once outlined this thing for Tom Pearsall in a little diagram, and it lends itself to a pencil drawing. But in words it boils down to this. We found ourselves in a position of segregated schools with a populace that was, at least for the most part, determined to keep them segregated, and with a decision that was going to be binding on all of us and insisted that they not be kept segregated. That was our present position. We knew that any lawyer or right thinking layman with decent legal advice and honest legal advice, as the Pearsall committee members were getting, must conclude that eventually, not when or how, but eventually, there's going to be some Negro children in schools now exclusively white. That had to come about because of the force of national public opinion, the effectiveness of the decree. Now given those two things, of where we were and where we knew we had to come out, the question that remained for us was how to get from where we were to where we had to come out and not disgrace ourselves. Of course, a very important factor in that, in order to do so, this is the key of the leadership part, in order to do anything to get from present status to future conclusions, you had to maintain

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control." That's basically it. Paul stated clearly the importance of positive leadership. Hodges and Pearsall understood that, you see, somebody had to do something. The governor says, "I accept responsibility. I'm working with the Pearsall Committee. We are making these efforts." At the same time, from all sides the bombshells were coming in, threats to his political leadership. How do you maintain political control of a tense situation where we are working toward a solution, and we hope to find some solutions, and we'll do all these things? We are telling the school people, we're going to save the schools. We are telling the segregationists that you're never going to have to integrate. We'll work it out. You're not going to have to send your kids to school with blacks if you don't want to. Yet at the same time, move constructively toward the future where integration was inevitable. It's an incredible set of circumstances. When you look back at it, it's almost miraculous that it worked out as well as it did. I think that's what makes it such an interesting episode in North Carolina history. I would say to historians who have the advantage of assembling all available facts and intrepretations, this should be a very valuable document because it's factual. It's what these five "insiders" wanted to leave for the record, and their comments are based on their own personal knowledge. I don't mean that all the facts are there. It's not the whole story by any means but the manuscript, I think, reflects their best recollection of what they were trying to do, and their great gratitude at the end that

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it did work out to the benefit of our public schools and the people of North Carolina.
JAY JENKINS:
Well, Ed, I certainly thank you for giving us all this good stuff.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Well, I hope it's of some value.
JAY JENKINS:
I think we ought to do a separate one sometime on all your experiences with the state government. That would make a lively topic. [laughter]
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Well, some of this I'm going to be able to get in Hughs' book, some of the pictures and things like this. But I have had a remarkable series of experiences. None of it, Jay, planned. [laughter] I mean I started out as being a newspaper reporter and that was my goal. Boy, if I could get to be a reporter, graduate from college, that would be great. And it was great but suddenly somebody would come along and say, "Hey, how about doing this." The next thing I know I'm over here doing this. I've asked for only one job in my lifetime. I went up and applied for a summer job. John Harden was sitting on the news desk. That's the first time I met him. I walked up on that second floor of the Salisbury Post, and he gave me a summertime job. I worked there two summers, and then during the Christmas vacation of my senior year, Mr. Jim Hurley, the publisher, called me in his office and asked me what I was going to do. I said, "I don't know. I don't have a job." He asked me if I wanted to come to work after graduation. Since that time, I've have ten different jobs. This is eleven, I think. Every one of

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them has been interesting and challenging. But I only applied for one.
JAY JENKINS:
That's great. That's testimony to you, too.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
Well, I don't know about that.
JAY JENKINS:
I think it is.
EDWARD L. RANKIN:
It just shows you what an unplanned missile I am.
JAY JENKINS:
Well, once again, I thank you very much on behalf of the Southern Oral History Program. I appreciate it.
END OF INTERVIEW