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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Paul Hardin Jr., December 8, 1989. Interview C-0071. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Black opposition to integrating the Methodist conferences in South Carolina

When Hardin was appointed a Methodist bishop over South Carolina, he tried to merge the segregated conferences. He faced heated opposition from the "Black Power" group in the conference, meaning the black ministers who did not want to lose their influence with the former bishop or the power associated with their sphere of influence.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Paul Hardin Jr., December 8, 1989. Interview C-0071. 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

DONALD MATHEWS:
You got a difficult assignment?
BISHOP PAUL HARDIN:
Yes, but it was fun. [Laughter] It was fun. And I guess in a way the greatest obstacle to a successful merger and the two annual conferences in South Carolina was the "Black Power" group. They didn't want to merge. They had that power block and those men were making, actually making, the appointments, about seven or eight of them in this little tightly knit group. They had the bishop, who's name I don't care to mention, in their hands. And even after he left that conference and went all the way to California, he tried to run that organization by long distance.
DONALD MATHEWS:
They had a vested interest in that?
BISHOP PAUL HARDIN:
That's right. They had all the appointments that were worth having, and if others didn't play ball with them, they'd see that this guy got bumped. It was a terrible situation.
DONALD MATHEWS:
What were the general problems when you came in, the first thing you had to do?
BISHOP PAUL HARDIN:
Well, this was the basic one. I got no cooperation from them. The first time I visited the conference as the bishop, there was almost open discourtesy toward me. And I refused to let it bother me. Finally though, it got so rough that at the end of the first year, I had to remove a man who had only been in the cabinet for two years, one year with the previous bishop and one with me. We would have a meeting of the cabinet and we'd make appointments and we would bind all to secrecy, and before he had been out of the cabinet thirty minutes, the black power crowd knew every appointment we had made! So finally, just about two or three weeks before the annual conference was to meet, at a cabinet meeting, I just said, "I have an announcement to make." And I turned and said to them, "I'm going to have to tell Brother so and so that he will be leaving the cabinet and going back to the pastorate." Well, you would have thought I had shot him. I said, "I regret it extremely, but I have tried to work with him and he has not been willing to cooperate. He has been more concerned about "Black Power" than he has been about the church."
DONALD MATHEWS:
What did they want?
BISHOP PAUL HARDIN:
They wanted to run the conference. They wanted all the best appointments. They weren't interested. . . .
DONALD MATHEWS:
Of the newly integrated conference?
BISHOP PAUL HARDIN:
Well, they didn't want to integrate.
DONALD MATHEWS:
They didn't?
BISHOP PAUL HARDIN:
No, no, they didn't want to lose control of their power block and the appointments.
DONALD MATHEWS:
So they benefited from the situation.
BISHOP PAUL HARDIN:
That was the only conference of any size, the only black conference of any size. You see, they had over three hundred churches.
DONALD MATHEWS:
That's a lot.
BISHOP PAUL HARDIN:
They had about 138, I believe, members of the conference, pastors. So that was the only thing the blacks had, and when they saw that slipping out of their hands with a merger, well, they just fought it.
DONALD MATHEWS:
How many white churches were there in South Carolina?
BISHOP PAUL HARDIN:
About I think somewhere around 850 to 900.
DONALD MATHEWS:
So the ratio was about 8 to 3.