Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Elizabeth Pearsall, May 25, 1988. Interview C-0056. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Thomas Pearsall's effective leadership

Thomas Pearsall's personality convinced white farmers to support the Pearsall Plan by allaying their racial fears and by arguing the futility of resistance to racial change.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Elizabeth Pearsall, May 25, 1988. Interview C-0056. 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 CAMPBELL:
I know that on several occasions right after the committee was instituted, he met with some black people, some black leaders, and I think one NAACP leader from Greensboro, in particular, was very outspoken against the plan. How did that affect your husband? Was he upset that these people weren't going along, or did he sympathize with them and realize that, yes, they have a legitimate…
ELIZABETH PEARSALL:
Yes, but he was too broad in his thinking not to. Tom always thought on the broad level. They had a right to their opinion but something had to be worked out above private opinions. And he went around a lot at night to these little country schools where there would be just a little knot of farmers or something— these would be white people—would go round to allay their fears. And he would always go alone. That was part of the strategy. One night he didn't come in until 2:00, and I just thought, oh my Lord, somebody's shot him. I found out he'd gotten stuck and had to go wake up a farmer and get pulled out of the mud and all that. But he almost put it over by force of his personality. And his belief in right, and that it had to be done. And it would be done slowly, and we are not going to secede. We had tried that and that didn't work. We were going to obey the law of the land.