Thomas Pearsall's ability to mediate opposing views on school desegregation
Rankin talks about Thomas Pearsall and his colleagues who came up with the Pearsall Plan. According to Rankin, Pearsall and his group understood North Carolina politics and public attitudes very well. Because of that, they were able to mediate the contrasting reactions and demands in order to come up with a solution that was attractive to most, if not all, North Carolinians through their efforts to compromise and cooperate with constituents. He contrasts this to the leadership of Charlie Carroll, the state school superintendent.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Edward L. Rankin, August 20, 1987. Interview C-0044. 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
- 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
EDWARD L. RANKIN, Jr.:
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, Jr.:
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 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.